Author Archives: snmarquez

Week Nine: Digital Activism & Rolling Jubilee

Sasha Costanza-Chock’s  Out of the Shadows, into the Streets! discusses the role that transmedia organizing has on activist movements. In the example of the 2006 student walkouts, Costanza-Chock notes that “rather than attribute the success of the 2006 walkouts solely to MySpace and SMS… The walkouts also functioned as part of a larger transmedia story that has been told, retold, remixed, and recirculated by movement participants across broadcast and social media platforms.” This is important to note because “many activists intentionally think about how to circulate media across platforms” and are creating these plans by discussing with others within the activist circles. This differs from clicktivism in a fundamental way, as clickticism functions with a user passively supporting an online cause without doing any physical work on the ground. Many successful digital activist movements do not just use the clicktivist model, but rather are engaging in a meaningful level both off and online.

An example of this can be seen with an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is called Strike Debt. Strike Debt has created an initiative called Rolling Jubilee, “that buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. The Debt Collective aims to build collective power to challenge the way we finance and access basic necessities such as housing, medical care and education.” This initiative is an example of the extraordinary organizing power of the Occupy movement. In regards to this, one Occupy prominent Occupy member, Drew Hornbein stated, “Occupy is, and I would argue, always has been, a networking engine. It is networking a nonhierarchical system to allow a decentralized network that allows groups with similar passions to interact and groups that don’t realize the overlap.”

Although Occupy uses many transmedia modes of communication to transmit their messages, many of the ideas that define Occupy were fleshed out in person. Thomas Gokey, one of the organizers of Rolling Jubilee, can attest to this: “It really all started because people were talking to each other in the park. This idea has been floating around activist circles for several years now.” While technology is important to disseminate activist messages, what are most important is the on-the-ground and real world work, as well as the ideas shared within these spaces. This allows for a successful activist movement to coexist in both the physical and digital world.

Works Cited

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Out of the Shadows, into the Streets!: Transmedia Organizing and the Immigrant Rights Movement

Nick Judd. “Rolling Jubilee, Occupy’s Latest Web-Enabled Institutional Hack.”

Week Eight: The Myth of the Digital Native

Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham’s, Digital Natives with a Cause?, discusses the advent of the term “digital native” to describe “children born after 1980; youths significantly affected by the rise of Internet technologies; [and] an emerging global population growing up with digital technologies central to everyday functioning.” This report also focuses on the limited scope that academic literature has displayed in regards to the digital native identity, which has lead to “no theoretical understanding or serious expostulation of what a Digital Native identity can mean.” The digital native is generalized as ignorant and dumb, with an addiction to the Internet that leads to poor social skills. The Internet also serves as a place for digital natives to be more confessional and allows for a limited notion of privacy, as well as allowing digital natives to become self-centered and self-important. These are a few of the many negatives that have been focused on in regards to the digital native in literature, but are obviously generalizations.

In an article published in The Baffler called “The ‘Digital Native,’ a Profitable Myth,” author Jathan Sadowski claims the terms digital native and digital immigrant, which first appeared in A 2001 article written by the education consultant Marc Prensky, “are prime subjects for inquiry. In brief, they overlook socio-economic differences, which exist within the younger generations, and do so in a way that creates lucrative business opportunities for education gurus.” Shah and Abraham’s report issues a similar criticism and states that “engagement with youth should focus on their development as responsible and active citizens rather than on their digital exploits or technologized interests.” However Sadowski argues “when we take a look at the data and research, however, it becomes clear that the great divide between ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ is a puff of smoke—one that obscures the actual differences that other factors (like socio-economic status, gender, education, and technological immersion) play in digital proficiency.” What is happening in the discussion about digital natives is that “we effectively erase the stark discrepancies between access and privilege, and between experience and preference. By glancing over these social differences, and just boosting new technologies instead, it becomes easy to prioritize gadgets over what actually benefits a diverse contingent of people. And those skewed priorities will be to the detriment of, say, less well off groups who still lack the educational resources necessary to learn basic reading and writing literacy skills.” The digital native moniker erases many individuals, who, while born after 1980, do not, because of differences in education, literacy, etc, conform to the notion of a digital native.


Week Seven: Kara Walker’s A Subtlety

This week’s reading kept reminding me of the artist Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” , which is “a Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” Consisting of a massive, sugar-coated sphinx-like woman and a number of figures of small boys made of molasses holding heavy baskets, the work has provoked much discussion about selfie culture, race, and sexism.

Many art critic’s have praised the work for it’s powerful message which Cait Munro says, “meant to serve as a commentary on the sugar cane trade, and a cultural critique of slavery and perceptions of black women throughout history, the work is part Sphinx, part racist Mammy stereotype, and is coated in sugar. It features exaggerated features including breasts, a bottom, and a vagina. As Walker told artnet News, ‘Nudity is a thing, apparently, that people have a problem with; not slavery, or racism, but female bodies, or bottoms.’” This can be seen from the incredible number of tasteless Instagram photos that can be found under the hashtag #KaraWalkerDomino. Many critics were deeply offended by the inappropriate selfies, and as Yesha Callahan of The Root writes, “History has shown us time and time again how a black woman’s body was (and sometimes still is) objectified. From the days of the slave trade to even having black butts on display in music videos, the black woman’s body seems to easily garner laughs and mockery, even if it’s made out of sugar.” While many people agreed that these Instagram photos could be seen as such, Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post writes, “If we reveal ourselves to be corrupted, immature or unprepared at ‘A Subtlety,’ the exhibit itself reaches back to corrupt us, too. You can get very close, and even touch the statues, but you do so at cost. To look inside a basket, to pose with a small figure or to try to ascertain the outline of an eye or mouth under dripping, molding sugar, you have to step in the zone of the statues’ ruin.” I feel like the discussion surrounding Walker’s work, especially due to it’s popularity on social media, definitely highlights many aspects of this week’s readings in regards to race, and starts a crucial online and offline discussion.

Check here for more interesting reactions to the work:

Week Six: Stranger Danger

In danah boyd’s chapter “Are Sexual Predator Lurking Everywhere?” she discusses how many parents either restrict their children’s access to social networking sites or forbid the use of these sites all together due to the fear that “evil men are lurking behind every keyboard, ready to pounce on [their children]” (102). This fear, also known as “stranger danger” began in the 1980s, before the Internet became a fixture in everyday life, and was focused primarily on public spaces as places teen could come into contact with “harmful strangers.” With the introduction of computers and the Internet into people’s home, many parents feared the introduction of a public space that did not have physical boundaries. As boyd mentions, this parental fear of predatory strangers was greatly heightened by the show To Catch A Predator, as well as in the mainstream media that greatly focused on stories of suspected kidnappings and sexual predation of teens by people they met online.

When I was in middle school, I distinctly remember watching To Catch A Predator and feeling intense fear of being kidnapped and raped by someone who would find me online. This fear of stranger danger was made even worse by my mother who constantly ran over to my computer every time she heard me typing to see if I was talking to someone online, even though most of the time I was trying to search for something via Google. I definitely identified with Sabrina when I was in middle school; the girl boyd interviewed who lived in a planned community. Sabrina “was cautious and limited her online activities, [but] she was terrified that something would go wrong” (109). I decided to re-watch some clips of To Catch A Predator, as I haven’t seen the show since 2007, and was shocked by how problematic it now seems to me as an adult, especially considering how this show is emblematic of the moral panic surrounding the Internet at the time of my youth.

Not only was that show ethically questionable, as the tactics they used to catch the “predators” were extremely problematic, but also ignored the fact that the Internet is not increasing the number of cases of sexual predation. According to The Shame Game, by Douglas McCollam and also mentioned by boyd:

Dateline has argued that “Predator” serves a genuine public good, but it could be argued that, in fact, Dateline is doing the public a disservice. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech about a major initiative to combat the “growing problem” of Internet predators, he cited a statistic that 50,000 such would-be pedophiles were prowling the Net at any given moment and attributed it to Dateline. Jason McLure, a reporter at Legal Times in Washington, D.C., (where I was formerly an editor), asked the show about the number. Dateline told him that it had gotten it from a retired FBI agent who consulted with the show. When the agent was contacted he wasn’t sure where the number had come from, terming it a “Goldilocks” figure — “Not small and not large.” He added that it was the same figure that was used by the media to describe the number of people killed annually by Satanic cults in the 1980s, and before that was cited as the number of children abducted by strangers each year in the 1970s. Dateline has now disowned the number, saying solid statistics about Internet predators are hard to find, but that the problem seems to be getting worse, a sentiment echoed by lawmakers in Congress.

I can say this show personally affected my life and helped perpetuate the culture of fear that seems to becoming increasingly popular. Instead of nuanced approaches to understanding new media and its relationships with teens, mainstream media prefers to scare everyone and ignore real and more pressing problems.

Week 5: The Selfie Illusion

In danah boyd’s blog post on “Super Publics,” boyd discusses the altered state of publics – what publics look like when they are infused with the features of digital architectures” and “about what it means to speak for all time and space, to audiences you cannot conceptualize.” Many selfie-takers are hyperaware of this extreme form of the public, and increasingly not only take selfies to remind themselves of a specific moment in time, but also to communicate with this super public about their existence. Perhaps this is the reason that according to selfiecity, more females than males take more photos of themselves—to illustrate to the world and themselves their existence, which has been historically ignored in a number of patriarchal societies. At the same time, this could also be the reason for the larger about of selfies posted by women—as these women could be performing for the presumably male gaze. Neither of these claims can be proven unless we ask the selfie-takers themselves, but it is clear than not only women are the ones who feel the need to perform for the super public.

Danny Bowman, a nineteen year old, would spend up to 10 hours a day taking up to 200 snaps of himself on his iPhone. According to the writer Alicia Eler:

In a story of isolation and fear in the digital age, this young boy became completely addicted to snapping and posting selfies. His life was ruled by clicks and likes; in a sense, the internet was his mirror, until, after overdosing on pills and being saved by his mother, he realized that he was more than just his selfie. “Gradually I realised everyone wasn’t looking at me. I didn’t need to check my appearance the whole time,” he told the Daily Mirror.

While this is an extreme case of selfie-taking, it is clear that Bowman was constantly aware of the super public as a source of validation, so much so it consumed his life. However, what he did not realize was that selfies only as an illusion—not as proof of existence, and that the user should be in control of the selfie—not the other way around.

Week Four: “Why Don’t I Look Like Her?”

In Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves, Jill Walker Rettberg discusses the various ways technology shapes our vision of ourselves and of others. In her chapter “Filtered Reality,” Rettberg focuses on the term filter and explores the ways filters are used within social media. Rettberg explains there are both technological filters and cultural filters. Technological filters “allow us to express ourselves in some ways but not in others,” and are similar to affordances that all technologies have (23). Cultural filters are “the rules and conventions that guide us, [which] filter out possible modes of expression so subtly that we are often not aware of all the things we do not see” (24). How people represent themselves cannot be done “without using or adapting, resisting and pushing against filters that are already embedded in…culture, whether these filters are technological or cultural.”

Rettberg shows that “individual devices have technological filters that are themselves influenced by cultural filters” and discusses the app SkinneePix, which lets the user take selfies that make them appear thinner by ‘removing’ up to 15lbs from the image. Rettberg details this as an example of “how we are aware that technology filters our visual representations” (28). I found this example interesting because it highlights the cultural ideal of thinness that is so prevalent within our culture. SkinneePix’s website is, which name itself shows that prevalent culture only sees thin women as pretty and smart, also states: “SkinneePix helps you edit your Selfies to look 5, 10 or 15 lbs. healthier in two quick clicks on your phone. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s fun. Share them with your friends immediately. SkinneePix makes your photos look good and helps you feel good.” Again, the use of words in this blurb is telling. By using the word “healthier,” this app implies the thinner you are, the healthier you are, which cannot be further from the truth.

This small example shows a larger cultural theme at play in our society: how you look is the most important thing. In the article “‘Why Don’t I Look Like Her?’: How Instagram Is Ruining Our Self Esteem,” author Olivia Fleming discusses how Instagram is changing how many woman see themselves in relation to other woman. One model interviewed, who helped put together the un-airbrushed 2014 charity calendar says, “[Instagram] is so much scarier than magazines. At least most people realize that magazines and campaigns have been airbrushed. But young girls are looking at selfies on Instagram and they’re not realizing that some people are using apps to totally change what they look like.” This trend enables social media to have more of a “detrimental impact to the body image concerns of college aged women than advertising or the media generally.” While it is true social media is shaped by both technological and cultural filters, it is important to note when these filters begin to impact the real world, and real peoples perceptions of themselves in negative ways.

Week Three: Me, You, and Everyone We Know

Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, discusses the various reasons as to why adults view teenagers’ online interactions as addictions in “Chapter 3: What Makes Teens Obsessed with Social Media?” What stuck me most about this chapter in particular was the section on “Growing Up with Limited Freedom.” Boyd discusses how “today’s teenagers have less freedom to wander than any previous generations” and how “even in suburban enclaves where crimes are rare, teens are warned of the riskiness of wandering outside” (86). This restriction on movement, both imposed on parents and self-imposed by some teens themselves, coupled with the reduced amount of free time some teenagers are forced to deal with, leaves many teens longing for some type of social connection. As a result many teens “turn to…asynchronous social media, texting, and other mediated interactions” to reclaim sociality (90).

Not only are teens less free as they had been in previous decades, but many are also coming to age without agency. Boyd discusses G. Stanley Hall and his mission to “define adolescence in order to give youth space to come of age without having to take on the full responsibilities of adulthood” (94). While beneficial in many respects, this has also “lead to…contemporary youth also facing state-imposed curfews, experiencing limitations on where they can gather, and getting parental approval before they engage in a host of activities.”

When still in high school, I recall vividly the feeling of being trapped, both by my well-intentioned mother at home and outside of the home with the enforcement of curfews; reading Boyd reminded me of that time. Because of the restrictions placed both on my friends and me, I ended up watching a lot of movies and going online to chat vs. going outside and hanging out. One of the films I watched was Miranda July’s 2005 film Me, You, and Everyone We Know. July’s film, made when the Internet and was still fairly new in the lives of teens, focuses on several sets of characters: a single father with two confused children; a struggling artist and the depressive art gallery curator who she’s courting for a showing; and two randy teenage girls who befriend an older male neighbor with a perverted streak. While all the characters are very different, the main theme binding them together is that all want human connection and communication. However, in this film July shows how far some will go for this connection and the darker side of this need, reminding me of the parental fears Boyd discussed in her book. At the same time, July’s film shows the fractured nature of modern life, for both adults and teens, and how these characters attempt (in somewhat absurd ways) to mend those fractures. This can be seen most profoundly in a chat scene in the film, where two brothers who’s mother just left their family, are chatting online with an older woman. At the end of the day, as Boyd discusses and July shows, teens (and adults) just want human connection.

Week Two: Communication in Digital Spaces

In Nancy K. Baym’s chapter on “Communication in Digital Spaces,” she discusses “what happens to communication itself…when it’s digitally mediated” (39). Many early studies on the effects of new media to express social cues found that while “mediated communication may be better than face to face for some tasks, but for those involving personal identity and feelings, mediation was depicted as inherently inferior” (42). Because of this, it was believed that mediation would make it “more difficult to maintain conversational alignment and mutual understanding,” as well as hide social identity cues, making interactants have greater anonymity and thereby making “gender, race, rank, physical appearance, and other features of identity not immediately evident.” However, according to Baym, it is seen that these studies are either problematic or just incorrect, as they do not fully express the multiplicities of ways that mediated communication functions to replace these so-called lost social cues.

Many groups that use mediated communication create social cues specifically for that group, effectively showing “what people do with mediated communication” vs “what mediation does to communication.” These groups build and reinforce social structures, as can be seen in a Facebook group called Cool Freaks’ Wikipedia Club. This group “is for posting cool/freaky Wikipedia articles that you find, and for discussion about them.”

Header of Cool Freaks' Wikipedia Club

Header of Cool Freaks’ Wikipedia Club

Screen Shot 2

List of Rules

While this seems like a fairly straightforward type of group that users can use to both find and share Wikipedia articles with others, it instead has a list of rules that users must follow or face being banned. These rules exclusively have to do with personal identity, and thereby illuminate the so-called anonymity of interactants, as they specifically state users to “feel free to help discourage racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, etc.”

Cool Freaks’ thereby attempts to create a safe space where all types of Othered identities must be considered when posting an article, with trigger-warnings and content warnings required for a list of topics as well as a list of banned topics that are considered inappropriate for the community, as they create an “unsafe” atmosphere. This group and their methods are an example of what people do with mediated communication in order to enhance a specific type of social interaction, as well as build and reinforce social structures, as people who do not follow the rules or who question the moderators are effectively banned.