Monthly Archives: October 2008

Please support No on Prop 8

In California, we have a proposition on the ballot that seeks to enshrine discrimination into the state constitution. As one of the first states in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, California took a step in the right direction towards equality. Proposition 8 would unravel that.

Much to my horror, the folks behind this measure have been preying on voters with the least information to get this proposition to pass. They’ve been spreading malicious lies (equivalent to the idea that being gay is a spreadable disease). They’ve primarily targeted the non-white, non-English speaking, low-income voters who are expected to turn out for Obama, saying that if this measure fails, homosexuality will be encouraged in schools, churches will lose their tax-exempt status, and religious believers will be sued for hate crimes. In a letter encouraging the passing of Prop 8, Senator Dennis Hollingsworth states that “unless Proposition 8 passes, acceptance of gay marriage is now mandatory for all of us.”

What happened to tolerance? What happened to non-discrimination? What happened to the erosion of a culture of hate? Senator Feinstein is rightfully pointing out that passing Prop 8 is pure descrimination. Bill Clinton is asking all California voters to reject this measure.

The proponents are very well funded and the No on 8 people are reaching out and begging for your support. They want to run advertisements all weekend to make sure that people are informed. I’ve donated money to this cause on numerous occasions and now, I’m begging you, please contribute.

If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien (regardless of what state you live in), you may contribute to this cause. If you have a few spare dollars or believe as strongly as I do that this proposition must be stopped, I beg you, please contribute. I’ve set up this donation page to encourage you to do so. For me. For all of the LGBTQ people out there who deserve to be treated equally under the law. For all of the beautiful couples who have committed their lives to loving and cherishing their partners who risk being told that their love is not real.

No on Proposition 8: My Donation Page

my views on California propositions (vote NO on 4 and NO on 8)

Voting is absolutely critical. It’s especially important that youth get out and vote so let me begin by sharing this brilliant video:

Now… with respect to CA state propositions… While voting is a personal act, many people choose to vote based on what those around them are voting. For this reason, I think that it’s important to share your opinions and, as appropriate, research. Thanks to my proposition party, I have a decent sense of all of the different propositions and I thought that I’d share what my ballot will look like on local issues in case this is helpful to those of you who aren’t sure what you’re voting. I’m happy to respond to comments if you’re confused as to why I’m going in certain directions. (As for president, I’m DEFINITELY voting for Barack Obama.)

State Propositions:

  • Prop 1A, Safe Trains: YES!
  • Prop 2, Confining Animals: yes
  • Prop 3, Children’s Hospitals: no (yes if you’re in favor of bond measures)
  • Prop 4, Waiting Period: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!!
  • Prop 5, Nonviolent Drug Offenses: still not sure…
  • Prop 6, Police and Law Enforcement: no
  • Prop 7, Renewable Energy: no
  • Prop 8, Definition of Marriage: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!
  • Prop 9, Criminal Justice System: no
  • Prop 10, Alternative Fuel Vehicles: no
  • Prop 11, Redistricting: torn…
  • Prop 12, Veteran’s Bond Act: YES

Proposition 5 is a bit tricky… It’s based on Prop 36 which is really good and really effective, but it also seems to take the choice out of the hands of judges rather than simply making it feasible for more drug offenders to take the rehab path. Additionally, it seems to re-classify violent criminals as non-violent criminals which I have a mega problem with. I’m leaning towards ‘No’ but still looking for more information.

Proposition 11 is also a bit tricky… It’s generally a good idea, but there are some flaws in the actual proposal. Many Democrats argue that you shouldn’t vote for it because it would weaken the Democratic party. I think that’s a lame reason. That said, the randomness factor to the redistricting proposal worries me. There’s good reason to believe that this will have a negative impact on people of color, communities of interest, and other minorities. I’m leaning towards voting ‘no’ because I’m worried about this, but I am still looking to be convinced otherwise.

Btw, for anyone who looks at Prop 7 and Prop 10 and thinks “weee… better energy” think again. These are really screwed up propositions that look good on surface but actually fuck over progress towards green energy AND make a handful of people shitloads of money, including the sponsors…

And for goddess sake, vote NO NO NO NO NO on Propositions 4 and 8. They are evil, downright evil. Proposition 4 is the third attempt to limit minors from the right to choose without parental consent (even when their parents are abusive). Proposition 8 is an attempt to legalize inequality in the form of banning marriages for loving couples of the same sex.


  • Prop A, Gang & Youth Violence: yes
  • Prop B, Update of Low Rent Housing: yes
  • Measure J, Community College: yes
  • Measure Q, LAUSD: torn…
  • Measure R, Traffic Relief: YES

Regarding Measure Q… I don’t like bond measures at all. That said, our schools are in dire shape. That said, Measure Q doesn’t really address the systemic problems or put structures in place to move forward. That said, our Governator is going to further cripple schools on November 5. Way way way torn.

LiveJournal Academic Research Bibliography

Alice Marwick has recently put together a topical, semi-annotated bibliography of academic research on LiveJournal: LiveJournal Academic Research Bibliography. She has tried to surface all known scholarly research concerning LiveJournal. This bibliography was commissioned by LiveJournal (where I’m on the advisory board and played a role in making this happen). This is a great resource for all scholars who are interested in LJ-related issues.

(Note: this complements the bibliography I maintain of research on social network sites.)

Putting Privacy Settings in the Context of Use (in Facebook and elsewhere)

A few days ago, Gilad’s eyes opened wide and he called me over to look at his computer. He was on Facebook and he had just discovered a privacy loophole. He had maximized his newsfeed to get as many photo-related bits as possible. As a result, he was regularly informed when his Friends commented on other people’s photos, including photos of people with whom he was not Friends or in the same network as. This is all fine and well. Yet, he found that he could click on those photos and, from there, see the entire photo albums of Friends-of-Friends. Once one of his Friends was tagged in one of those albums, he could see the whole album, even if he couldn’t see the whole profile of the person who owned the album. This gave him a delirious amount of joy because he felt as though he could see photos not intended for him… and he liked it.

There are multiple explanations for what is happening. This may indeed be a bug on the part of Facebook’s. It’s more likely a result of people allowing photos tagged of them to be visible to Friends of Friends through the overly complex privacy settings that even Gilad didn’t know about. Either way, Gilad felt as though he was seeing photos not intended for him. Likewise, I’d bank money that his kid sister’s Friends did not think that tagging those photos with her name would make the whole album available to her brother.

Facebook’s privacy settings are the most flexible and the most confusing privacy settings in the industry. Over and over again, I interview teens (and adults) who think that they’ve set their privacy settings to do one thing and are shocked (and sometimes horrified) to learn that their privacy settings do something else. Furthermore, because of things like tagged photos, people are often unaware of the visibility of content that they did not directly contribute. People continue to get themselves into trouble because they lack the control that they think they have. And this ain’t just about teenagers. Teachers/professors – are you _sure_ that the photos that your friends post and tag with your name aren’t visible to your students? Parents – I know many of you joined to snoop on your kids… now that your high school mates are joining, are your kids snooping on you? Power dynamics are a bitch, whether your 16 or 40.

Why are privacy settings still an abstract process removed from the context of the content itself? Privacy settings shouldn’t just be about control; they should be about the combination of awareness, context, and control. You should understand the visibility of an act during the moment of the act itself and whenever you are accessing the tracings of the act.

Tech developers… I implore you… put privacy information into the context of the content itself. When I post a photo in my album, let me see a list of EVERYONE who can view that photo. When I look at a photo on someone’s profile, let me see everyone else who can view that photo before I go to write a comment. You don’t get people to understand the scale of visibility by tweetling a few privacy settings every few months and having no idea what “Friends of Friends” actually means. If you have that setting on and you go to post a photo and realize that it will be visible to 5,000 people included 10 ex-lovers, you’re going to think twice. Or you’re going to change your privacy settings.

In an ideal world where complex access control wouldn’t destroy a database, I would argue that you should be able to edit the list of people who can see a particular artifact at the time of upload. Thus, if I posted a photo and saw that it was visible to 100 people, I could manually go through and remove 10 of those people without having to create a specific group that is everyone but the unwanted people. I know that this is a database disaster so I can’t ask for it… yet. Y’all should make large-n combinatorial functions computationally feasible eventually, right? ::wink:: In the meantime, let me at least see the visibility level and have the ability to adjust my broad settings in the context of use.

Frankly… I don’t understand why tech companies aren’t doing this. Is it because you don’t want users to realize how visible their content is? Is it because your relational databases are directed and this is annoying to compute? Or is there some other reason that I can’t think of? But seriously, if you want to stop the social disasters that stem from people fucking up their privacy settings, why not put it into context? Why not let them grok how visible their acts are by providing a feedback loop that’ll let them see what’s going on? Please tell me why this is not a rational approach!

In the meantime.. for everyone else… have you looked at your privacy settings lately? Did you really want your profile coming up first when people search for your name in Google? Did you really want those photos tagged with your name to be visible to friends-of-friends? Or your status updates visible to everyone in all of your networks? Think about it. Look at your settings. Do your expectations match with what those setting say?

(en francais)

the final throes

Last week, I returned to Berkeley to defend my dissertation on the Day of Atonement (ironic, eh?). This involved both a public dissertation talk and a private defense. The public talk was an opportunity for me to share my findings with my department. The private defense was an opportunity for my committee to share their critiques and feedback with me. For those sitting on pins and needles, don’t worry, I passed. What this means is that my committee has now handed me a tree’s worth of paper covered in red pen and 2.5 hours worth of feedback to integrate in the next 6-8 weeks. Luckily, their general attitude was: “Good job! You’re almost there! Here’s a few thoughts for the dissertation and a large stack of thoughts for the book.”

This now means that I’m officially in the final throes of my PhD. I’m not yet Dr. but I’m close… real close… the kind of close where failing to finish is not an option. The kind of close where looking at my dissertation makes me want to vomit. The kind of close where I’ve started dreaming about the next project. The kind of close where I’m no longer convinced that I’m going to fail and where I’m completely shocked that this is for realz. Of course, it’s not yet over… I still need to edit this puppy and get it into a format that the Borg will accept at which point I will need to deftly enact circus tricks to get it through the layers of UC bureaucracy. But still… close! I can see the light!

The whole defense process was pretty emotionally overwhelming. I’m super duper thankful for the most amazing committee a girl can ask for. I call them the goddesses because they have been truly supportive in ways that I wasn’t really prepared for. That said, I can’t help but miss Peter. I wasn’t alone in this thought. Right before my defense, Mimi posted a Tweet that got me all choked up: “happy to get to play proud advisor today though really wishing a certain other advisor was here to share the moment.” We were all missing him. Many of those who attended my public talk had him on their mind and when I got to the end of my slide deck, I concluded with a dedication to Peter. Upon seeing tears in the eyes of people in the room, I had to choke back my own for the second time that day.

It’s weird to be nearing the end and to realize that I’m about to move on to a new phase in my life. Everyone says that post-PhD is much better than grad school. I hope they’re right. My body certainly hopes they’re right. At the same time, it’s been an unbelievable 5.5 years. I can’t help but think of all that I’ve learned and done and the amazing people that I’ve been able to work with. I still can’t believe that Berkeley’s iSchool and my committee let me get away with all that I’ve done. When I started at Berkeley, Peter promised me that it would be the perfect place to cause trouble and grow into my own kind of scholar. He vowed to protect me as long as I vowed to kick ass and take names. I can’t help but smile thinking about those conversations and I hope that, somewhere out there, he’s smiling too.

Handheld Learning in London

I’m heading to London on Sunday to speak at Handheld Learning 2008 with a bunch of other cool smart thinking types. I’ve been remiss in posting this because I’ve been totally focused on my dissertation but I’m looking forward to this event and I think that some of you (especially all y’all Londoners) might enjoy it. w00t!!

Update: The video of my talk can be found here.

teens, dating, friendship, and school dances

When I read the Chicago Tribune’s coverage of why teens have eschewed dates for school dances, I wanted to scream. This shift has nothing to do with “the way young people view personal relationships in the age of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter” (and not just because teens don’t use Twitter in significant numbers yet). And this is certainly not because teens are being “shaped” by these technologies such that they “consider friendship the highest form of compliment, making dating, and sometimes even high school love, irrelevant.” Even in the context of the article, the supposed experts and teens are voicing very different explanations for what’s going on.

School dances have traditionally been structured around mating rituals, dating back to a point in time when parents encouraged teens to go on such structured dates in order to find the ideal partner. This is no longer the era in which we live. Parents are no longer encouraging serious relationships in high school; quite the opposite. Even teens are no longer treating high school as the place to find their future husband/wife. Decades ago, teen dating turned into a different kind of ritual, one driven by status and validation and decoupled from pair bonding. While not having a date had long been stigmatized, the cost became purely social rather than marriage.

For decades after school dances were about pair bonding, teens scrambled to get dates to school dances purely as a form of plumage – a prom date was simply proof that one wasn’t a social pariah. Many teens went to school dances with people with whom they had no sexual relations whatsoever. Yet, by the 1990s, LGBT pressures started mounting actions against heteronormative dynamics at school dances. Some schools started allowing same-sex partners to go to school dances together. In some places, teen girls started repurposing this “freedom” to opt to go to the school dance with their best friend even though there was no romantic interest involved. The date-based school dance ritual began crumbling decades ago in different ways across the country. Thankfully, schools caught up and many stopped requiring dates to attend. This, in turn, motivated many teens to eschew dates altogether.

If you’re an adult, think back to your own teenage years. How many of you hated your homecoming or prom date? How many of you went with a friend of the opposite sex with no romantic feelings? How many of you stressed about finding a date, keeping a relationship going long enough to make it to the dance, or otherwise dealing with the potential dramas of being single for the dance? Now, imagine if the school said that you no longer needed to have a date. And imagine if the social norms caught up so that not having a date was not a stigmatized reality. Would you have gone with friends and simply had a good time? Hell yeah you would’ve.

What’s happening is not a radical shift in teen friendship practices. It’s about the collapse of an outmoded, outdated mating ritual. It has nothing to do with technology. It has everything to do with social norms relieving unnecessary pressures that no one liked anyhow. Teens aren’t going date-less because friendship is suddenly more important. Teens are going date-less because it’s socially acceptable and teens haven’t wanted the pressure to have a date for decades. Dating is much simpler when you don’t have to secure a date for an important night months ahead of time and then fret about the possibility that that tenuous relationship might fall apart. Even teens who are dating would prefer to buy a single ticket, go with their friends, and meet up with their significant other at the event.

Why this is so shocking to people is beyond me. Teen dances are finally looking more like 20-something dances than images of dances from the 1950s. How do 20-somethings to to bars, clubs, and other events that involve dancing? They gather with their friends, and go out en masse. Those who are dating include their significant other in the group and there are often networks of connections to other groups going out. The fact that teens are modeling 20-somethings should not be surprising to anyone. Teens have long modeled up. Why shouldn’t they be modeling contemporary practices instead of those that only exist in the movies?

Please… can we get real about teens? Can we please realize that what they’re doing is totally logical given broader societal norms and not some radical cognitive change?

PS: Teens are still dating and many find having a significant other to be important. Some value that sig-other more than they value their friends, but the old sayings of “bros before hos” and “chicks before dicks” still stand in most communities. But to think that teen dating is gone is completely foolish. Just because teens don’t want “dates” doesn’t mean that they don’t want sig-others.