Monthly Archives: March 2008

practicing the word ‘no’

The next 6 weeks are going to be brutal. There are not enough hours in the day to do what I need to do. I’m in the throes of my dissertation and the MacArthur write-up. I’m working hard to cancel and push aside everything else. Draft #1 of my dissertation needs to be done by May. It needs to be cleaned up, packaged, processed, and signed by the end of summer. I will be a little more flex during the summer, but I will still be pretty wack until this is out the door.

Please accept my apologies if I say no to you, if I don’t respond, or if I’m otherwise absent. My blogging will probably be sporadic and weird. I’m not reading blogs; I’m barely reading email. My apologies to my friends, to the press, to academics, to everyone. I need to prioritize me for a bit (and not in any fun kinda way since I have no life).

Most of you know by now that I’ve been getting more and more hibernatory, so this probably isn’t a surprise. But I wanted to put it out there, visible and public, cuz I feel uber bad at the number of people I’m having to say no to. Don’t take it personally. Think of me as on vacation. Only I won’t come back refreshed.. Hmm…

Ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows…

(Those wishing me to speak at XYZ in the fall, please contact my agent.)

V-Day 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago, V-Day began with a massive Madison Square Garden production of “The Vagina Monologues.” As a non-profit, the goal of V-Day was to work with artists and activists everywhere towards a goal of ending violence against women and girls everywhere. Ten years ago, I got involved with V-Day. I was one of the first college organizers. I met Eve Ensler in the fall of 1998 and produced Brown University’s production of TVM in February 1999. I continued on to produce another production in February 2000, along with a Tracy Chapman concert (the one that cost me on-time graduation).

Y’all know me. I couldn’t just do my own production… I ended up working to build networks of all of the college students doing productions. I created mailing lists for people who had never been on mailing lists. I began building an online community, volunteering long hours to make sure that people could share information and experiences. This was before most folks had bought into the Internet. After three years of volunteering, I worked full-time for 1.5 years to build out an intranet and online community for organizers around the world. Since then, I’ve gone back to volunteering, mostly so I could focus on my research.

V-Day is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a large-scale production of “The Vagina Monologues” and various accompanying events. These will take place April 11-12 in New Orleans. Those involved in the events include Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Orpah Winfrey, Calpernia Addams, Faith Hill, Salma Hayek, Glenn Close, Jennifer Hudson, and many others. It will be an unbelievable and unforgettable event. And it is absolutely amazing to think of how much has been done in the last 10 years. Hell, at the very least, I expect that most of you have at least heard of “The Vagina Monologues.” Did you know that every single production donates its proceeds to ending violence against women and girls?

If you are unable to attend the celebration, can I ask you to consider donating to V-Day? What we do with that money is pretty radical and life-changing. TVM productions raise money for their local projects – domestic violence shelters, anti-rape education in local schools, etc. The money donated to the organization directly is used for large-scale projects. We helped get women from Afghanistan to Germany so that women would be included in the Constitution. We funded the creation of a school in Kenya for girls who chose to run away from home rather than go under the knife. We’ve funded safe houses on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in Cairo. We’ve run educational, media, and PSA campaigns working to change the state of things. While we’ve done some amazing things, there are still so many more things to do. We can change the world, but we need your help.

V-Day has been one of the most important things that I’ve done. I cannot say enough nice things about the organization, the people, or the energy. I also cannot believe that it’s been ten years. Congratulations V-Day!

seeking research intern

Connected to my role in the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, I’m seeking a research intern. The intern would be responsible for:

  1. Creating an annotated bibliography of all scholarly research related to the issues taken up by the Task Force (e.g., Internet sexual predators, bullying, identity theft, COPPA, etc.)
  2. Creating an annotated list of scholars and institutes working in the field and reaching out to them to see if new research is about to be published
  3. Writing the first draft of a literature review of the relevant research
  4. Other things that might come up…

The ideal intern will have strong research skills, strong writing skills, and an interest in the topic. Timeliness is also crucial – much is needed to be done by mid-June. The ability to self-motivate/self-direct is also critical; I will be doing virtually no micromanagement and the deadline is not movable.

The intern would officially be an intern at the Harvard Berkman Center and will receive the standard Harvard intern wage; living in Cambridge is not a requirement – most interactions with me will take place through email/AIM. The intern must be a student at a university (either undergrad or graduate level) and have full library access. Preference will be given to those in social science fields who are familiar with and can evaluate quantitative methods. The most ideal candidate would probably be a pre-quals graduate student who is working in this area and would love to be paid to do the literature review they have to do anyhow, but I’m not sure that this person exists.

This position will start the moment I find the right person. It will definitely last through June and can last much longer depending on the person’s interest (there’s plenty of related work through December). Hours are flexible; all that matters is getting the job done.

To apply, send me an email to zephoria at zephoria dot org. Include your CV, the names and emails of 2 professors who can attest to your research skills, a sample piece of writing (class assignments are fine) and a cover letter that includes: why you are interested in this internship, some background on your research skills, and whatever else you think that I might want to know.

Feel free to forward this announcement to anyone you think might be interested.

Update: This position has been filled. To my shock and excitement, there was an absolute plethora of amazing candidates that I had to turn down. Of course, that makes it really hard. But thank you to everyone who applied!

If you are a scholar who is publishing in this area who is jumping up and down with excitement, feel free to add citations and names to the comments. I will do a proper call for biblio bits and researchers a bit down the road.

“From MySpace to Hip Hop: New Media In the Everyday Lives of Youth” public forum

For the last three years, I’ve been a part of a digital youth research team. This team is funded by the MacArthur Foundation and consists of scholars at both Berkeley and USC (PIs: Peter Lyman, Mimi Ito, Michael Carter, Barrie Thorne). We’ve been doing large-scale ethnographic studies of U.S. youth, collectively examining different aspects of their lives. The project is almost over and we’re all in the process of writing up our findings. We’ve decided to put together a big public forum event in the Bay Area both to celebrate and showcase what we have found. This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required because of limited space. Register! Come!


From MySpace to Hip Hop: New Media In the Everyday Lives of Youth

What: A public forum on how digital technologies and new media are changing the way that young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

When: Wednesday April 23rd, 2008
Registration: 4.30pm
Panel Discussion: 5-7PM
Reception: 7.30-8.15PM

Where: Hewlett Teaching Center, Building 200, Stanford University, 370 Serra Mall

Register at CommonSense Media. Registration is free, open to the public, but the space is limited. Registration closes April 18th or when the space is full.

Registration Presentations:

  • danah boyd – “Teen Socialization Practices in Networked Publics”
  • Heather Horst – “Understanding New Media in the Home”
  • Dilan Mahendran – “Hip Hop Music and Meaning in the Digital Age”
  • Mimi Ito – “New Media From A Youth Perspective”

(More program information here)

Register Now at Common Sense Media or call the reservation line at 1-415-553-6735

If you can not attend this event in person, we will also be streaming it live to the web.

from faux to real – the rise of kiddie phones

Standing in the toy section of a store in the Hong Kong airport, I was fascinated by the wide array of faux laptops made for children. These machines were designed to look like laptops, but their functionality was extremely limited to a learning-based program with the graphical capability of a Tamagotchi. Faux electronics for children have been around for a while, especially in the world of mobile phones. Lately, though, technology has become cheaper and what was once faux is now real. While children’s laptops are still more hype than reality, phones for children are appearing all over the place. These “kiddie” phones are often smaller, simpler, and more brightly colored.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported on the tide of concern in Europe over the rise in kiddie phones. On one hand, there are questions about the long-term health effects of mobile phones. On the other, there is a parenting concern about whether young children should have phones at all. One of the experts quoted draws a parallel between the mobile phone and tobacco industries. In other words, are companies acting maliciously by addicting kids to mobile phones at a young age? Luckily, since it’s Europe, the furor is prompting a bunch of research.

In the States, kiddie phones have had a different tenor. Here, the safety concern revolves around access to porn and other “harmful” content as well as the potential for dangerous contact from strangers. (Research is not encouraged.) When kiddie phones are available, their uniqueness is less about look and feel than it is about parent-child specific features. For example, the branded kiddie cell phone service offered by Disney was a glorified parent tracking device for parents. Last fall, Disney cancelled the service, citing challenges breaking through the carrier stranglehold.

All of this makes me wonder… What is the appropriate age for children to first get phones? What should be the purpose of those phones? What regulation is necessary? What are the responsibilities of parents?

(This was originally posted at Shift 6. Leave comments there.)

limited email March 16-25

I’m headed to Hong Kong with my partner for Eastover (what happens when Passover needs to be celebrated during Easter because that’s when people have vacation). I will be checking my email sporadically, but don’t expect much in the way of communication – In addition to family time, I’m also using this time to focus on some writing without the internet nearby. ::smoooch::

stupid Scion

As you know, I bought an adorable little Scion back in November. I continue to feel kinda guilty about it, knowing that it was targeted directly at my demographic: young, pre-children, trendy, urban, etc. Today, I received an email from Scion asking me to fill out a survey about “various ‘Front-End’ styling directions.” I like design, I like my car, and I was curious. So I clicked the link. Up came a huge warning page saying the following:

Although we attempt to make our surveys compatible with as many web browsers and operating systems as possible, this survey currently requires functionality only available in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher (on Windows 98 or higher). If you are using Mozilla, Firefox, Netscape, Opera, another alternative browser, or an operating system other than Windows 98 or higher, you will not be able to continue with this particular survey.

::laugh:: Who’s the dumbass at Scion who thinks that the majority of young, urban, design-minded trendsetter types are using Internet Explorer let alone Windows? Seriously now. My suspicion is that the majority of their clientele are probably using “alternative” browsers and probably even “alternative” operating systems. Hello? I hate to bring you up to 2008, but Firefox and Mac aren’t exactly “alternative” anymore.

I wonder what kind of feedback they’ll get. Needless to say, I ain’t dragging out the old Windoze box from the closet to respond.

curing the ills of sociology

I was reading some background bits on Erving Goffman when I came across this passage, commenting on the state of sociology. Having sat through painful discussions of “what is an information school?” and been grilled about my own disciplinary affiliations, I read this and burst out laughing. I always love reading scholars’ takes on disciplinary squabbles, especially when they can step back and see the absurdity in it all. I figured the academics who read my blog might get a kick out of this too.

“I have no universal cure for the ills of sociology. A multitude of myopias limit the glimpse we get of our subject matter. To define one source of blindness and bias as central is engagingly optimistic. Whatever our substantive focus and whatever our methodological persuasion, all we can do I believe is to keep faith with the spirit of natural science, and lurch along, seriously kidding ourselves that our rut has a forward direction. We have not been given the credence and weight that economists lately have acquired, but we can almost match them when it comes to the failure of rigorously calculated predictions. Certainly our systematic theories are every bit as vacuous as theirs: we manage to ignore almost as many critical variables as they do. We do not have the esprit that anthropologists have, but our subject matter at least has not been obliterated by the spread of the world economy. So we have an undiminished opportunity to overlook the relevant facts with our very own eyes. We can’t get graduate students who score as high as those who go into Psychology, and at its best the training the latter get seems more professional and more thorough than what we provide. So we haven’t managed to produce in our students the high level of trained incompetence that psychologists have achieved in theirs, although, God knows, we’re working on it.”

— Erving Goffman in “The Interaction Order” (1983) reproduced in The Goffman Reader (p. xvii)

how youth find privacy in interstitial spaces

The NYTimes ran a piece today called Text Generation Gap: U R 2 Old (JK). (Note: the article is very American-centric – in the States, older folks tend to be texting illiterate.) The article begins with an anecdote of a parent shuttling around his daughter and her friend. They are talking and dad butts in and they roll their eyes. And then there is silence. When dad comments to his daughter that she’s being rude for texting on her phone rather than talking to her friend, the daughter replies: “But, Dad, we’re texting each other. I don’t want you to hear what I’m saying.”

First and foremost, the notion of “privacy” is about having a sense of control over how and when information flows to who. Given the structures of their lives, teens have often had very little control over their social context. In school, at home, at church… there are always adults listening in. Forever more, there have been pressures to find interstitial spaces to assert control over communications. Note passing, whispering, putting notes in lockers, arranging simultaneous bathroom visits, pig latin, neighbor to neighbor string communication… all of these have been about trying to find ways to communicate outside of the watchful eyes of adults, an attempt to assert privacy while stuck in a fundamentally public context. The mobile phone is the next in line of a long line of efforts to communicate in the spaces between.

At the same time, the mobile phone changes the rules. Texting allows people to communicate even when they aren’t at arms length or can’t arrange simultaneous interactions. Because texting happens silently, it’s far more effective as a backchannel mechanism than whispering. Codes are not necessarily about hiding from adults as much as efficiency; deleting sent/received messages is far more effective than codes.

Over the years, parenting has become more and more about surveillance. In this mindset, good parents are those who stalk their kids. Parents complain that their children ignore them when they’re in the same space, preferring their friends. When was this not the case? What’s different now is that there are fewer siblings/cousins running around to team up with. There’s less free time to just “hang out.” There’s no openness to go out after school and “be home by dark” (a practice that used to start in early childhood). With activities and scheduling and this and that, I’m always amazed that children don’t demand more time for friend time.

There’s an arms race going on: parental surveillance vs. technology to assert privacy. We aren’t seeing the radical OMG technology ruins everything stage. We’re seeing the next in line of a long progression. And it’s just the beginning. The arms race is heating up. As parents implement keyboard tracking, kids go to texting. How long until parents demand that companies send them transcripts of everything? What will come next? We are in the midst of the privacy wars and it’s not so clean as “where’s my privacy” vs. “kids these days are so public.” The very nature of publicity and privacy are getting disrupted. As kids work to be invisible to people who hold direct power over them (parents, teachers, etc.), they happily expose themselves to audiences of peers. And they expose themselves to corporations. They know that the company can see everything they send through their servers/service, but who cares? Until these companies show clear allegiance with their parents, they’re happy to assume that the companies are on their side and can do them no harm.

Generation gap and technology ruining everything stories will be forever more. These do sell and they are fun to read. Yet, for parents and teachers and other concerned folks wanting to get a clear perspective of what’s going on, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the intentions and desires aren’t changing… it’s just the architecture that makes the practices possible that is. The refraction of light is changing because the medium through which it is channeled is changing, but the light itself stays the same and to guide our children, we need to remember to pay attention to the light, not the refraction or the medium that’s causing the refraction.