Tag Archives: internet

musing on child naming and the Internet

I am of the age where many of my friends are having kids and so I’ve been exposed to more conversations about what to name one’s child than I ever could’ve imagined. I’m sure people have always had long contested discussions with their partners and friends about naming, but I can’t help but laugh at the role that the Internet is playing in these conversations today. I clearly live in a tech-centric world so it shouldn’t be surprising that SEO and domain name availability are part of the conversation. But I’m intrigued by the implicit assumption in all of this… namely, that it’s beneficial for all individuals to be easily findable online and, thus, securing a fetus’ unique digital identity is a tremendous gift.

Over the summer, Omar Wasow worked on a project at MSR about transparency and the implications of putting criminal records online. We were both flabbergasted by all of the efforts underway to publish arrest records as well as sentencing records. Omar is interested in whether or not publishing criminal arrest records negatively affects individuals’ ability to rejoin society once they’ve served their sentences. Does this information affect people’s ability to get a job? To rent an apartment? Etc. One thought we had was that it’s a lot easier to live down a record if you have a common name and, thus, are just one of many in a sea being searched.

Most parents don’t want to imagine the implications of searchable arrest records on the lives of their future spawn, but I can’t help but think that it’s pretty absurd to believe that all kids are going to want to be self-branded highly-visible easily-searchable adults. Sure, we all want our kids to be successful, but what if they’re not? And what if they don’t want to stand out? I always thought it was horrific when parents would name their kids ridiculous names that were destined for torturous middle school nicknames, but what does it mean to take it to the next level such that they stick out like sore thumbs online? It’s a lot easier to live down middle school than to live down a persistent digital identity.

I’m not at all sure if it’s better to give a kid a unique name so that they can stand out like a shining star or to go with a more generic name so that they can quietly stay invisible if they want. There’s definitely something to be said for naming a child at puberty instead of at birth, but, well, that’s not really how American society is structured.

Anyhow, I don’t really have any answers on this topic but it sure is entertaining to watch it unfold all around me. If you’ve got any advice that I can offer to my friends from your own experience, please holler cuz it sure is causing lots of folks heartburn.

Upcoming Mary Gray talk on on “Out in the Country: Youth, Media & Queer Visibility in Rural America”

It used to be the case that all of the queer youth living in rural America ran away to the city to find others like them. The Internet has dramatically changed this. More and more, rural queer youth are building out networks of other queer rural youth, helping generate a rural queer identity. Think about what this means for the health and safety of queer youth. Think about what this means for the future of tolerance.

It is with great pleasure that I will be hosting Mary Gray at Microsoft Research on February 10 to discuss her latest book: “Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America.” Mary is going to talk about her findings so that we can get into a fun conversation. This will also be a great opportunity to connect with queer scholars and activists throughout New England so please join us for an evening of fun!

February 10, 2010 from 6:30-9:00PM
Microsoft Research, Cambridge, MA

Talk Description:

Join acclaimed author, Mary Gray as she discusses her latest book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media and Queer Visibility in Rural America (NYU Press), which examines how young people in rural parts of the United States fashion queer senses of gender and sexual identity and the role that media–particularly the internet–play in their lives and political work.

Drawing on her experiences working for close to 2 years in rural parts of Kentucky and in small towns along its borders, Mary will map out how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies make use of social media and local resources to combat the marginalization they contend with in their own communities as well as the erasure they face in popular representations of gay and lesbian life and the agendas of national gay and lesbian advocacy groups.

Against a backdrop of an increasingly impoverished and privatized rural America LGBTQ youth and their allies visibly—and often vibrantly—work the boundaries of the public and media spaces available to them. This talk will explore how youth suture together high schools, public libraries, town hall meetings, churches, and the web that construct spaces for fashioning their emerging queer identities. Their triumphs and travails defy clear distinctions often drawn between online and offline or rural and urban experiences of identity, fundamentally redefining our understanding of the term ‘queer visibility’ and its political stakes.

Register today to join the discussion! After the presentation, Mary will be available for book signings. http://marygray.eventbrite.com/

About Mary Gray:

Mary L. Gray is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research looks at how everyday uses of media shape people’s understandings and expressions of their social identities. She is the author of In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth (1999). Her most recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (NYU Press) examines how young people in rural parts of the United States fashion queer senses of gender and sexual identity and the role that media–particularly the internet–play in their lives and political work.

Call for descriptions: online safety programs

The Risky Behaviors and Online Safety track of the Youth and Media Policy Working Group Initiative at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is creating a Compendium of youth-based Internet safety programs and interventions. We are requesting organizations, institutions, and individuals working in online youth safety to share descriptions of their effective programs and interventions that address risky behavior by youth online. We are particularly interested in endeavors that involve educators, social services, mentors and coaches, youth workers, religious leaders, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and those working in the field of public or adolescent health.

Program descriptions will be made publicly available. Exemplary programs will be spotlighted to policy makers, educators, and the public so that they too can learn about different approaches being tried and tested. Submissions also will be used to inform recommendations for future research and program opportunities.
Submissions should be documentations of solutions, projects, or initiatives that address at least one of the following four areas being addressed:

  • Sexual solicitation of and sex crimes involving minors
  • Bullying or harassment of minors
  • Access to problematic or illegal content (including pornographic and violent content)
  • Youth-generated problematic or illegal content (including sexting and self-harm sites)

We are especially keen to highlight projects that focus on underlying problems, risky youth behavior, and settings where parents cannot be relied upon to help youth. The ideal solution, project, or initiative will be grounded in research-driven knowledge about the risks youth face rather than generalized beliefs about online risks. Successful endeavors will most likely recognize that youth cannot simply be protected, but must be engaged as active agents in any endeavor that seeks to help youth.

Please forward this call along to any organizations and individuals you think would be able to share information about their successful experiences and programs.

Should you have any questions, please contact us: ymps-submissions@cyber.law.harvard.edu.