Author Archives: Emily

Into the Woods

// Posted by Emily on 11/25/2014 (12:55 PM)

To commemorate our last experience, we headed out to Pony Pasture for a picnic along the James River to “get away from it all.” Since I submitted my law school applications, my time online and on my phone has increased… Read more

To commemorate our last experience, we headed out to Pony Pasture for a picnic along the James River to “get away from it all.” Since I submitted my law school applications, my time online and on my phone has increased exponentially. For the last week, I have checked applicant blogs on the Top Law School (TLS) forum nearly every hour for updates on who’s getting in, and my phone has never more than a foot away. In the spirit of powering down and tuning in, I’ve put my phone on “airplane mode,”and for however long it takes me to finish this reflection, I’m staying off the blogs.

Opinions on the conversational effects of social media and technology (like smart phones, TV, etc.) can be divided into the Turkle and Tufekci camps. Where Tufekci sees social media as a tool to strengthen bonds and “in real life” discussion, Turkle fears that we have sacrificed conversation for connection. Originally, I fell somewhere in between the two “T’s”. Self-reflection and a necessary “wake up call” from my family, friends, and law school admissions consultant/temporary life coach about my obsessive blog and email trolling has pushed me into Turkle territory.

In too-frequently updating my email and reading the TLS forum, I have checked into media and out of my life at Richmond. I’ve spent more time in my room and less time with my friends, growing increasingly accustomed to Turkle’s concept of being “alone together” with the other TLS bloggers. When my group came up with the idea to use the experience to have two conversations, one with phones and one without, I knew that separating myself from my email, even for twenty minutes, would be a challenge, and it was.

Despite my phone-less anxiety, I was impressed with the depth of the conversations we had. We asked each other questions, took active interests in each others’  lives, and there were no noticeable or lengthy lags in our discussion. While it could be argued that the strength of our conversation is evidence of Tufekci’s point, I don’t think our sample of bright, engaged Richmond students represents the average American. Turkle’s examples that he employs to support his claims might be extreme, and as Tufekci points out, he may incorrectly equate social media and social robots, but from personal experience, I think Turkle is on to something when he argues that we’ve come to expect more from technology and less from each other.

For the next few days, I’m going to trade in my forum for family and my phone for friends, tuning out of the anxiety-ridden world of law school admissions and into a calmer reality.


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The Beginning of the End: Final Project on Women, the Internet, and the Media

// Posted by Emily on 11/17/2014 (11:48 PM)

I’ll kick off the posting with a Yik Yak I found a few days ago and screen shotted:


Some food for thought:









1)Read more

I’ll kick off the posting with a Yik Yak I found a few days ago and screen shotted:


Some food for thought:










-Summer 2014: Pew Research Center surveyed close to 3,000 web users & found that more men had reported experiencing online harassment (mostly name calling,) but that women were significantly more likely to be stalked and sexually harassed.

-Findings echo a gendered split in victimization: men more likely to be violently assaulted by strangers, women more likely to be abused by their partners, stalked, and sexually harassed (esp. women 18-24)

-Offline harassment is clearly defined, but online harassment remains an “amorphous” category. Pew Survey didn’t provide context for “harassment,” leaving the term open to interpretation. Received a variety of responses ranging from threats of rape to being called a racist for criticizing a political candidate to chiding for their taste in sports teams, movies, etc.

-Cathy Young from “Daily Beast” thinks that feminist concern about “the Internet abuse of women” has an inherent double standard. Women are treated delicately/more deserving of consideration, and abuse towards men is accepted as the “…rough-and-tumble of public life, to be taken in stride and shrugged off.”

-Don’t know if men or women have it worse on the Internet. “What the Pew study does show is that the Internet is producing a lot of garbage, and men and women are served different flavors.”


-”The Student’s Progress” mural at UVA shows a male faculty member handing a student her bra as his wife comes up the stairs


-UVA has a rape culture problem…rape is normalized “as part of a larger system of attitudes and understandings of gender and sexuality.” Accepts rape as a norm that women have to work to avoid.

-”UVA doesn’t need shock. It needs sustained anger and energy.”–calling this situation an “emergency” implies that this event was out of the norm and insights panic that eventually subsides


-problem of internet harassment rooted in the misogynistic expectation that women are to be silent and subservient

-Internet harassment can’t be shrugged off as occurring “just” online (the Internet is physical and everywhere–there is no such thing as “just” online)

-Internet harassment is a new problem, relatively speaking, but it is not a unique one–it is an extension of the constant & ongoing harassment and violence that women face worldwide–presents new challenges, but the misogyny is ancient

-Ross Douthat (conservative columnist for the NYT) blames modern sexual repression (men are relieving impulses by being virtually abusive) and male anger at women’s changing roles–thinks feminists need to understand this problem as “simply a species of reaction”

-no evidence that the men who are harassing women online are too “shy” to do it IRL, more likely that the men who are abusive IRL are the same ones who exhibit that behavior online (know that this is at least a portion of the pop. because there are forums for men to chronicle their offline harassment of women)

-understanding online harassment as a succession from historical forms of abuse (cat calling, domestic violence, etc) challenges the assertion that it’s a modern phenomenon

-men harass, beat, and rape women because it makes them feel powerful and they expect women to be submissive

-studies show a strong link between a man’s celebration of traditional gender roles and his propensity for domestic violence

-Internet doesn’t create the urge to harass women and it probably doesn’t magnify it either (I disagree with that)–what it does do is make harassment simultaneously more efficient and personal (can reach many women around the world in a short period of time)

-Stalking women online is a much safer bet for the harasser because it’s less likely the cops will come after them, multiple venues for the perpetrator to approach his victim

-need to understand that online harassment isn’t happening in a vacuum–just a new way of expressing a very old sentiment

-long term solution is to keep fighting for women’s equality until any and all notions that they are anything but equal to men are relics of the past


-women’s status on the Internet is proof that technological progress and social progress don’t go hand in hand

-at Summer 2014 VidCon (conference for YouTube creators) women talked about the effects of YouTube harassment on their feelings of personal security and their ability to produce content

-idea that things will get better on their own without intervention is an Enlightenment-era notion–historians call the idea that social progress and technological progress go hand in hand and are inevitable, “the Idea or Myth of Progress”

-Internet has empowered women to start worldwide discussions on issues that matter to them, but they’re not the only ones who see these posts and are weighing in–men can band together to threaten and antagonize women very easily

-female game developers, bloggers, and journalism are easy targets because they’re more public & accessible

- difficulty understanding that the fact that the harassment is occurring on the Internet doesn’t make it any less real–urged to develop a “thicker skin” which turns the problem away from those who are actually causing it

-Katherine Cross (writer): ignorance of Internet abuse called the “Mobius strip: where the Internet is presented as a mobius strip of reality when it’s convenient and unreality when it isn’t–accepts inhumane behavior in this setting as inevitable

-Internet didn’t make men sexist, they were sexist to begin with, just able to express it more publicly & to a larger audience

-YouTube comments, Facebook posts, blog entries, etc. aren’t “just the Internet”

-narrative of social progress deeply flawed

-Enlightenment scholars hailed technology as the savior of humanity–John Locke never could have seen this coming

-”shed the dangerous habit of thought”

5)–this is an NPR interview with Amanda Hess

-complicating this argument is that research into the problem has only just begun

-scholars recently isolating stats that show that women are disproportionately the victims of online threats & harassment

-2006: researchers at University of Maryland set up fake accounts in chat rooms. Female usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit/threatening messages a day, compared to 3.7 for men

-women are a group that is traditionally marginalized IRL, witnessing similar marginalization online b/c the Internet is so connected to our real lives (arguably, it is our real lives)

-users targeting spaces where women are speaking out against misogyny and traditional gender roles as opportunities for gendered harassment

-law enforcement technologically & intellectually ill-equipped to manage the problem–evidence of the disconnect between social & technological progress

-accept that the Internet is real life

-whether or not these threats manifest in physical violence, they’re powerful enough to intimidate & deter women from using the Internet in the ways they want to/should be allowed to


-1/4 women ages 18-24 report being stalked or sexually harassed online (rate is 2-3x higher than for men)

-many websites have ways to block & report offenders, but they can get beyond blocks & little is done with the reports (can create new accounts that allow them to continue old behaviors)

-companies that manage the spaces where harassment occurs are largely male (70% of Facebook employees, 83% of Google’s tech employees, & 90% of Twitter’s tech employees)–may be why the sites aren’t more “tuned in” or motivated to address instances of gendered harassment

-part of the problem is that there aren’t sophisticated filtration systems on these sites that are able to weed out offensive comments–Twitter partnered with Women, Action, and the Media this month on a project that is currently being tested. If successful, it would provide users with an online form to report instances of harassment on Twitter. Twitter would use the data to better understand how gendered harassment functions & how they can better combat it


Some screenshots of recent Yaks (Richmond campus & Philadelphia International)



In response to my presentation on Monday, I got some great feedback from Elizabeth, Damian, and Nicola. Elizabeth told me about Bye Felipe, an Instagram account where users can post screenshots of hostile online reactions they’ve gotten from men after rejecting or ignoring them on dating websites. It’s a total goldmine of information for my project:

Damian sent me two yahoo articles, each with a string of offensive comments, which I think will end up being really valuable as most of my “evidence” up to this point has come from social media sites. Below is a screenshot of a comment posted on an article about Shia LaBeouf’s alleged rape:

Nicola emailed a screen shot of comments on an article about Kendall Jenner’s (part of the Kardashian clan) modeling career that popped up on her Facebook news feed. Kendall is no longer a minor, but I watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! and I remember that suffered a blow from similar comments when she was still a teenager:

What all of this feedback demonstrates is that the harassment and demeaning of women online isn’t just happening on isolated sites. Interestingly, offenders appear not to fear revealing their identities, posting their content freely on public spaces. I would argue that this says something about the state of policing online offenders; they don’t seem at all concerned with being caught or punished. It is also important to take away that no woman, regardless of whether or not she is in the public eye, is  immune to becoming the target of offensive language. Just being and interacting online as a woman appears to open the door for harassment.

I’m most interested in the historical roots of this phenomenon. Women are being demeaned in a new space online, but the act of demeaning them is ancient. 3500 years ago, the authors of the Bible fixed the status of women for centuries in the story of Adam and Eve. Portraying Eve as submissive to Adam set forth enduring gender roles and expectations that have influenced societies all over the world.

Thinking about this problem in such a broad historical context is daunting. Challenging gender expectations that are thousands of years old in a way that demands societal change is even more daunting. If ever there was a time, though, now would be it. The Internet, for all the scary things it is capable of, can connect millions of people worldwide in ways that inspire reflection and empower change.


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Trial and Error

// Posted by Emily on 11/03/2014 (12:35 PM)

While thinking of ways to reflect on our most recent experience, I kept returning to the relationship between online and “IRL” protests, and the question of which was more effective than the other. Mid-thought, I realized that I didn’t necessarily… Read more

While thinking of ways to reflect on our most recent experience, I kept returning to the relationship between online and “IRL” protests, and the question of which was more effective than the other. Mid-thought, I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to answer this question on my own. I googled “online protest forums,” with the intent to post my questions to the protest experts, and the search lead me to, an Anonymous (big A!) forum.

In the spirit of transparency, I must admit that out of fear of entering into the Anonymous world, I hit the “back” button and spent a solid fifteen minutes looking for other forums to post on. Right or wrong, I had visions of hackers seeing my post and deciding to drop documents on me for just fun. Though it was a far-fetched fear, Grigoriadis’ “4chan’s Chaos Theory” and “We Are Legion” made the fear just realistic enough to make me pause. After a self-induced reality check (really, who was going to care enough to drop documents on me?) I bit the bullet, signed up, and posted.


This social media experiment was a total bust. My post was viewed by thirty others on the forum. One lone member, “Anonymous Button,” offered an offensive and thoughtless response (see below). After “We Are Legion” portrayed the members of Anonymous as the rough edges of the activist world who never shied away from expressing an opinion, I was a little disappointed in the lack of turnout. Perhaps I didn’t pose my question appropriately; controversial phrasing might have inspired more users to bite. Can’t win them all, I guess.

“Anonymous Button” wasn’t the least bit helpful, so I thought back to our experience to analyze the relationship and effectiveness of online and “IRL” protests. We spent the first part of the experience posting the #cleanURlake cause to social media spheres on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Yik Yak, and the second part protesting the bacterial contamination in Westhampton Lake in person outside the library. Going into the experience, I was unsure about how the protest would be received on the Internet, thinking that the social media posts would fly under the campus radar, and that a group of students with signs acting completely out of character would be more effective in generating attention.

As of Sunday, our Instagram had 18 followers, the Facebook had 7 friends (all from Digital America,) and the Yik Yak had been “up voted” (the equivalent of a “like” on Facebook) 103 times. Our “IRL” protest inspired a second, much more bitter Yik Yak, which was quickly removed (I suspect due to “down votes” from other members of our class). Though it wasn’t up for long, I think this Yak evidences the twenty-first century inseparable relationship between the Internet and the real world. A Richmond student saw our protest in person, and responded to it in a social media outlet online.





It’s impossible to determine whether our “IRL” protest generated the Yik Yak likes, or if they happened without any knowledge that the protest ever happened. It would be easy to say that the online protest was more effective, because it can be quantified by the number of followers and likes. But I don’t think it’s that simple. In retrospect, maybe no other users on responded to my post because there just isn’t an answer to the questions I asked. We are in an age where online protests and “IRL” protests go hand in hand, and valuing one over the other based solely on effectiveness holds the potential of threatening their dual significance.


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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

// Posted by Emily on 10/14/2014 (10:16 PM)

The last time I hand-wrote an essay-like assignment was my sophomore year of high school. I had a quirky English teacher who insisted that the art of letter writing was dead, so in an effort to revive it, he required… Read more

The last time I hand-wrote an essay-like assignment was my sophomore year of high school. I had a quirky English teacher who insisted that the art of letter writing was dead, so in an effort to revive it, he required that all of our essays be handwritten in letter form and mailed to his house. He docked points for spelling and grammar, so naturally the entire class exploited a loophole in the assignment by typing first and writing second. For Digital America’s third experience, I was in “Group A: Limited Access.” We used our phones–and nothing else–to complete an assignment arguing for or against the inherent inequalities of digital copyrighting. Since this experience gave me the perspective of what it’s like to research and type on a four inch screen, I decided I would put myself in “Group B: Access Denied”‘s shoes by hand writing the entire reflection before typing it up and posting it to the blog.

My outline: 

Writing and researching on an iPhone during the experience was simultaneously frustrating and distracting. Aside from the small screen and sore thumbs, it was significantly harder to find scholarly research in mobile mode. I used Google as my search engine because I knew that Richmond’s “One Search,” while infinitely more reliable, would also be infinitely more time consuming, and we had a deadline to meet. Google’s shortcoming is its lack of readily available academic material. The search results on digital copyright were dominated by opinion pieces and news articles summarizing legal decisions, and finding legitimate educational sources required some digital digging.
Pages One and Two:
The capabilities of smart phones make them the ultimate tools of distraction. I received multiple text messages and emails during the experience. I didn’t pause to open them, but I absolutely would have if I was doing the assignment on my own time, and I think it’s fair to expect that others in my generation would do the same. Laptops contain their fair share of distractions, but they have an assumed academic purpose where phones function first and foremost for socialization. As far as I know, there’s no way to disable a phone’s social apps (iMessage, email, Twitter, Instagram, etc) without also shutting down the wifi, which means writing and researching on a mobile divide is an uphill battle to overcome the formidable opponent of distraction.
Luck and the parameters of the assignment favored my group in ways I almost wish it hadn’t. We were allowed to collaborate in our group of three to research and write our response to the prompt. With our three phones, we were able to divide and conquer to finish the task in a fraction of the time it would have taken if we were writing it independently and had to regularly switch between apps. When it came time to type up the paragraph we had written in the “Notes” app, we lucked out by snagging the last available computer in the pod. Had that computer not been free, we would have had to ask someone to move. In the middle of midterms week when tensions are particularly high, asking a fellow student to switch computers is a risky proposal with unpredictable consequences. In the spirit of authenticity, it would have been interesting to both attempt the assignment independently and to step way out of our comfort zones by asking to use an occupied computer. That being said, I have no immediate plans to research or write anything on my phone, and I’m honestly intimidated by the thought of asking anyone in the library to let me use their computer.
The ability to refuse to do frustrating and uncomfortable tasks is a luxury that people on the advantaged side of the digital divide take for granted. Therein lies a lesson to be learned from this experience: technology is an under appreciated agent of ease and comfort–you really “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” What about those who have never had “it”: reliable and easy access to the Internet? Can you miss something that’s never been yours, or is not having something that so many others have and take for granted even worse? Goodman in “The Digital Divide is Still Leaving Americans Behind” writes about New Jersey teenagers who were trading bus tickets for wifi, and quotes Susan Crawford, a former White House Official who argues for the establishment of Internet access as a basic human right (Goodman, 2013). In direct opposition, Cerf in “Internet Access is Not a Human Right” puts forth that technology is an enabler of rights, but not a right in and of itself (Cerf, 2012). On both sides of the coin is the agreement on the reality of a digital divide, and an acknowledgement that access (or lack thereof) to the Internet is fundamentally life changing.
Without minimizing the challenge of living with limit access to a reliable Internet connection, in a sense, we all experience a digital divide in our daily lives. Golumbia and Adler shed light on high frequency trading, an opaque process that has already begun to shape the financial market. As Adler notes, by nature high frequency trading is an exclusive process that creates new concentrations of power and wealth (Adler, 2012). In this world, power and access is given to a very select few, and the majority is left in the dark with no knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors, in closed networks. Though here access is granted to a minority instead of the majority, it parallels the digital divide our experience mimicked and is evidence of the exclusionary potential of technology.
I’ve heard several professors justify their ban on using laptops in class to take notes with the idea that the act of writing is more deliberate and thoughtful than the act of typing. I can follow that logic, but I’m not sure it applies in the context of longer assignments. My laptop is in “sleep” mode a foot away from me, taunting me with the knowledge that the quality of this assignment is likely different–maybe worse–than it would have been if I had typed it and used the saved time to develop a stronger idea. I’ve only written about four pages, none of which required any outside research, and even after that, I can’t imagine having to do this on a regular basis. I can attest to the frustration of having to hand write an assignment, but my “access denied” is deliberate and temporary. In a few minutes, I’ll go back to my laptop to finish this and the rest of my homework. No temporary simulation can change the fact that I’m never going to know what it’s like to actually not have access to the Internet or technology.
Pages Three, Four, and Five:

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Welcome to Diaspora*

// Posted by Emily on 09/21/2014 (5:50 PM)

Diaspora*? What?

In keeping with a social media response theme, for this week’s experience I joined Diaspora*. Established in 2010, Diaspora* is a social media site that allows users to join or create their own servers (called “pods”) to share… Read more

Diaspora*? What?

In keeping with a social media response theme, for this week’s experience I joined Diaspora*. Established in 2010, Diaspora* is a social media site that allows users to join or create their own servers (called “pods”) to share content ranging from text, articles, photos, and videos. There are pods all over the world; some larger than others. Users have the option to create their own pod to post their content to, or join one based on their size and location preferences. Unlike other centralized forms of social media like Facebook or MySpace, users own everything they post on Diaspora*, which means they have control over how it is shared and distributed.


For our experience, I was assigned the character of Edward Snowden, the infamous former NSA employee who stole and subsequently leaked classified documents to the press. Guided by the belief that the government was infringing on the privacy, internet freedom, and basic liberties of its citizens with a monumental surveillance machine, Snowden methodically searched through close to two million documents, selecting those that would best expose the absence of federal transparency (Greenwald, MacAskill, & Pointras). Trying to keep in character, I googled “social media sites” and pulled up a Wikipedia article that had compiled a master list of social media websites, including a description of their focus (  I wanted to join a site that shares Snowden’s values of privacy and freedom, and Diaspora* fit the bill. Committed to decentralization, freedom, and privacy, in many ways it is a direct reflection of Snowden’s opinions on the ideal relationship between technology and society.

Using the site

Signing up to use Diaspora*, I was prompted for my email, a username, and password. I was never asked for my real name, age, location, or gender. Once I signed up, I was directed to a page that asked me “What Are You Into?,” giving me a space to type in searchable hashtags that other participants had used in their posts. I typed in #snowden-nsa, #edwardsnowden, #glengreenwald, #transparency, #nsa, #chelseamanning, #wikileak, #julianassange, and #surveillance. After hitting “enter,” a Facebook newsfeed-style page appeared with posts that contained those hashtags. Originally, I had planned on sharing something or commenting on a post. I realized that these hashtags relate to matters of national security, and in a panic I had a vision that my words would land me on a government watch list. Perhaps my new friend Edward Snowden is to blame for the paranoia?

Below are screen shots of some posts that appeared on my page. If anything, the conversations captured below should do something to assuage Snowden’s worry that the public has become numb to NSA disclosures. People are talking, and they want to be heard:



What does Diaspora* have to do with our experience?

In Information Please, Poster endeavors to examine the ways we spark confrontations between culture and media. He argues that culture can no longer be understood independent from technology, and that the relationship between culture and technology has made the national global by facilitating new types of interactions across the world. Both Diaspora* and our experience on Wednesday reflect this global interconnectedness. Because of technology, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, Glen Greenwald, Hong Kong, Russia, Chelsea Manning, and the NSA are intertwined in ways they never would have been in its absence. During the experience, we were able to see how the actions of individuals impact entire nations and organizations. Users on Diaspora* are able to weigh in on these matters in a way that doesn’t stand to threaten their beliefs in decentralization, privacy, and freedom. Is this the direction social media is heading in? I don’t know. What I do know is that as our experience and this site clearly demonstrate, opinions, actions, and their consequences will never again be confined to the borders of a single nation.

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90′s Chatroom Response

// Posted by Emily on 09/08/2014 (12:02 PM)

I decided to craft a social media themed response by creating a Pinterest board of topics that we discussed in the chat. Also included on the board are feelings that I had during the experience. The chat room was… Read more

I decided to craft a social media themed response by creating a Pinterest board of topics that we discussed in the chat. Also included on the board are feelings that I had during the experience. The chat room was one of the original forms of social media, where people came together to exchange thoughts, opinions, likes, and dislikes. In many ways, Pinterest operates the same way by giving users the opportunity to locate and comment on sources of inspiration. I pinned about 15 or so topics, ranging from food to music to games, that we discussed in the chatroom. I also pinned quotes to sum up my feelings about the experience, in the hope that this format provides a modern-day reflection of the chat room.

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