Tag Archives: social media

Ever have a moment…

…when you’re doing research and you find the one thing that exemplifies every argument you’ve been trying to make and sums it all up perfectly and you’re like OMGOMGOMGOMGYESTHISISAMAZING and then….you realize that it kind of makes you seem irrelevant…? Well. It’s too good not to share so check this out.

Now, having watched that and hopefully agreeing with me about it’s off-the-chart level of cool, I hope you are interested in learning more. This is a project, started by Deputyjoev or Joseph Varisco, where queers from all over submit videos of themselves talking about the role of social media in their lives (qcsms.tumblr.com).Varisco introduces each video with a version of the same intro line…

“Vincent [or Helios or Colin or Grace] is a queer individual who uses the internet…and has something to say” (qcsms.tumblr.com)

Insights provided by folks who have participated in this project so far are fascinating, sexy, revolutionary, obvious, confusing, theoretical, real, sad, funny, and queer. Their experiences translate the theoretical notions of framing into practice by illuminating the role of technology and internet space/community in the blood-and-sweat lives of real people. Real queers. I have to give a shout out to Varisco for thinking of this project before I did–I am jealous, but impressed. 🙂

Here are a few notable quotes that jumped out at me from the videos:

Alex: “I think that’s telling less about the medium, but more about this need to imagine community that is outside of these straight linear fictions” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Vincent: “I’m interested in disclosure as a larger performance of identity and I think that social media had a really important role to play in that” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Helios: “When I first started thinking that I was gay I would hide in my dorm room…just listening to the coming out archives on Youtube and all of these vloggers telling their stories about coming out and I would just listen and think…maybe I’ll finally here one of these stories and it will resonate” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

Grace: “I really kind of started to form…a queer lens. Kind of started to look at things through my identity” (qcsms.tumblr.com).

We are a generation of queers who have found, explored, created, maintained, disrupted, and reaffirmed our identities and relationships online. We are the internet.

Works Cited:

Varisco, Joseph. “A Queer Culture and Social Media Study.” Qcsms. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <qcsms.tumblr.com>.

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Queer and Young Online

Social networks are awesome. They’re interesting; they’re time consuming; they’re confusing; they’re frustrating; they’re…a whole lotta cool. My guess is that you probably spend about 27 hours a day online participating in some sort of social networking. Perhaps you are even multi-tasking, like me, and networking while cooking, singing, cutting your toenails, and doing other important life tasks. WELL GUESS WHAT?!!? Online social networks are a topic of rising interest among academics too!! Scholars are asking what implications social networking and online living might have for social interactions, capacity for memory, empathy, self presentation, and friendship performance (Keller 2011, Boyd and Ellison 2007).

One popular topic for highfalutin investigation is impression management—the conscious construction of an online persona or identity through networked connections and public displays of personal information, true or false (Donath and Boyd 2004). To avoid falsity or inauthenticity, most platforms encourage authentic representations of self by encouraging users to send messages to other users, comment on posts by other users, and use real photographs of themselves to create a sense of personal connection (Boyd and Ellison 2007). Erving Goffman’s theory of impression management explains that we monitor the behaviors and actions of people we encounter and attempt to see through what we perceive as false while simultaneously trying to project a constructed identity that fits others’ expectations of us and our desires for self-perception (Goffman 1959). Social media theorists have adopted Goffman’s system of “front stage” and “back stage” regions in face-to-face interactions to describe online identity formation (Ytreberg 2002).

You know when you finally work up the courage to send a fanmail message to somebody cute on Tumblr and say something like–“So, um, your blog is really cool and stuff. I have hairy pits too. We should be friends.”–that’s front stage. And the rest of the time when you’re just scrolling endlessly drooling over sexy queers and wondering if you might be able to pull off gold lame short shorts? That’s back stage.

In “The Social Media Bible,” author Sakfo describes how social networks develop trust among group of people with a share interest. He explains how the internet has become a trusted, reliable, friend, providing advice and housing confidential information (Safko and Brake 2009). I don’t know about you all, but my relationship with the internet is more nuanced than at least one or two of my offline relationships. The only person who knows more of my secrets is my dog, and she may or may not be telling.

In an article on the creation of online communities of gay and lesbian folks, Robin Queen discusses the importance of language in creating queer space. She writes:

 “The social differentiation of gender differs significantly between queer and non-queer speakers in that the social categories masculine and feminine map on to queer experiences differently than on to non-queer experiences (if they can be said to map on to queer experiences at all). Queer people alternatively appropriate or distance themselves from the stereotypes associated with men and women generally. However, they may also do the same with stereotypes associated with queer people specifically (Queen 1998).

Stereotypes related to gender and sexuality are largely constructed through the use of specific language and, in the vast world of online communication, it’s possible to carefully choose language that disrupts binary constructs–or dichotomous arrangements that pit identities against one another in a seemingly dualistic arrangement. Members of queer online communities generally share a base knowledge of stereotypical—I would argue binary—language that allows them the freedom to experiment with alternative usages.

In my humble opinion,  some similarities can be drawn between the formation of an online identity and the formation of gender identity. Check out my next post where I talk about genderqueerness in all its glory.

Works Cited:

Boyd, Danah M and Nicole B Ellison. 2007. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” Journal of ComputerMediated Communication 13 (1): 210-230.

Boyd, Danah. 2011.“Why Youth ♥ Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning: 119-142.

Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in EverydayLife. New York: Doubleday.

Keller, Bill. “The Twitter Trap.” New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 18 May 2011. Web. 24 Sept. 2011.          <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/magazine/the-twitter-trap.html?_r=4&gt;.

Lewis, Kevin, Jason Kaufman, and Nicholas Christakis. “The Taste for Privacy: An Analysis of College Student Privacy Settings in an Online Social Network.”Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14.1 (2008): 79-100.

Safko, Lon, and David K. Brake. The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Queen, Robin M. 1998. “‘Stay queer!’‘Never fear!’: building queer social networks.” World Englishes 17 (2): 203-214.

Ytreberg, Espen. 2002. “Erving Goffman as a theorist of the mass media.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 19(4):481-497.

Image Credit:

Nail Biter: http://bit.ly/HU9QIg

Stella: Personal photo


Why objectivity is not a thing.

Before I can start throwing down any research, I have to be honest with myself and any potential reader about why I’m doing what I’m doing. You see, I have been a student for seventeen out of the twenty one years I have been alive. Those seventeen years have been interesting. They have have been filled with days and weeks and months of classes where smart people (teachers) told non-smart people (students) the “truth” about the world. Don’t get me wrong, I learned many valuable things over the course of those 17 years. I learned how to multiply fractions, identify misplaced modifiers, successfully raise a tank of zebrafish,

thnx Wikipedia

type 78 words per minute, and write a 100% BSed five-paragraph theme. I learned how to win an argument with my teacher about what Shakespeare actually meant when he wrote that Caesar preferred to surround himself with fat men . News flash: he did not just have a particular fetish for fat men, no matter how many years Ms. Doore has been teaching advanced junior English.

Point is, I did gain life skills. What I also gained was a serious distaste for hierarchical education. As I moved on to higher (and more expensive) education, it became absolutely crucial for me to think critically about my relationship to the subjects of my research. I developed a healthy skepticism and then some considerable rage-against-the-machine-type feelings toward notions of objectivity and generalizability. Consequently, like any good radical private school scholarship white queer kid with a chip on their shoulder–I gravitated toward feminist research. Here’s where it gets academic–I give you the shortened version (can you believe it?) of my full feelings on objectivity.

The process of social research is riddled with questions about relationships, value, and power. Many sociologists and researchers from various other fields rely on a positivist approach, gathering facts at a certain point in time to represent the experience and reality of a group of people (Reinharz and Davidman 15). This particular approach leans heavily on notions of objectivity, generalizability, replicability, and impersonalness, creating a distance between the researcher and the subject so as to prevent a bias in the data collected (Brayton). At its inception, feminism troubled this methodology by looking critically at that distance created. As members of a marginalized group historically affected by a male bias in both qualitative and quantitative research (Brayton), feminists began asking: as an academic, is it possible to deliver an unbiased account of another’s experience, left untouched by one’s own social reality and identity? Feminist researchers understand the research process to be relational—drawing connections between relationships and values. Rather than denying or avoiding the ties between researcher and subject, feminist methodology seeks to identify and examine those ties. As Kim England writes, “ The intersubjective nature of social life means that the researcher and the people being researched have shared meanings and we should seek methods that develop this advantage” (82).

Feminist research requires a close examination of the self as researcher (England 82-83). This introspective methodology is based in two ideas: reflexivity and positionality.  Reflexivity can be broadly defined as a self-conscious analysis of the researcher’s role in the research process itself—not only in terms of execution, but also construction and conceptualization. A large part of practicing reflexivity is positionality, or situating the researcher within a particular social reality in terms of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability status, ethnicity, or any number of contributors to social location (Nagar and Geiger 11). Gergen and Gergen stress the importance of considering the place of the research within one’s own life, both on individual and political levels (Gergen and Gergen 81). A responsible researcher must be prepared to ask themself what sorts of borders are being crossed, in whose interest, and whether there is value in blurring the line between self- reflection and social observation. Practicing reflexivity cannot change one’s relationship to the subjects of the study, nor can it erase the power imbalance that accompanies one’s occupation as a student or academic. Reflexivity does nothing to change the realities of folks who are marginalized, discriminated against, abused, pressured, or forgotten. In point of fact, addressing one’s social position and identity as a researcher within written work accomplishes but one single, albeit crucial, task: to reassure the reader and the subject that the researcher is aware of their relationship to the research and has spent the time and effort needed to negotiate power dynamics created by identity and privilege. With that said, reflexivity is not just a disclaimer to be added at the beginning or the end of the research process—it is a constant effort to reevaluate one’s relationship to the subject and should extend far beyond the start and finish lines of any project.

My perspective as a young, white, English-speaking, American, middle-class, able-bodied, genderqueer person who was socialized as a woman affects the way I approach and analyze literature. My commitment to activism also influences my perspective and gives direction to my research. Negotiating my own relationship to gender, social media, and the binary that has played such a large in part in determining my life experiences and shaping my identity allows me to look at my sources with a critical eye, understanding that each author offers something unique based on their own social reality.

So, to make a long story even longer, I don’t think it’s possible to be objective in social research. Frankly, I don’t believe that striving toward objectivity is necessary or particularly valuable. Acknowledge your privilege, acknowledge your experience, acknowledge your goals, self interested or not. Constantly question your position and challenge your personal assumptions. If you consider your research to be activism–which I do–check out this post I wrote on my ten commandments of activism. Then get to work.

Works Cited

Brayton, Jennifer. “What Makes Feminist Research Feminist? The Structure of Feminist Research within the Social Sciences.” What Makes Feminist Research Feminist. 1997. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://www.unb.ca/par-l/win/feminmethod.htm&gt;.

Gergen, Mary M. “From Theory to Reflexivity in Research Practice.” Method and Reflexivity: Knowing as Systemic Social Construction. By Kenneth J. Gergen. London: Sage, 1991. 76-95. Print.

Gieger, Susan. “Reflexivity and Positionality in Feminist Fieldwork Revisited.” Politics and Practice in Economic Geography. By Nicha Nagar. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2007. Print.

Kim, England. “Getting Personal: Reflexivity, Positionality, and Feminist Research.” The Professional Geographer 46.1 (1994): 80-89. Print.

Reinharz, Shulamit, and Lynn Davidman. Feminist Methods in Social Research. New York: Oxford UP, 1992. Print.

Image Credits:

So, here’s what I want to know.

What meanings do trans* and genderqueer folks find in online communities? How is social identity formed through collective association with content? Communities created on sites like Tumblr and Youtube operate within frames that determine aspects of reality for the individual and the group. My guess is that these communities provide folks the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, create solidarity, access sexual images that reflect their bodies and identities, and explore gender fluidity.

The way I see it, the possibilities for expression of gender and sexual identities in the context of queer online space are expanded far beyond that of performance in public, or even private, offline space—an already transformative and dynamic experience is now situated within an equally malleable platform. Over the course of the next few months I’ll be posting and analyzing content on this blog that will shed some light on these questions I have. I expect to look at blog content, vlogs, and academic articles dealing with both theory and practice. In opening up my thoughts and analyses to a larger audience–namely, you–my intention is to get constructive feedback and set the stage for collaborative ideas. Call me out, call me off, call me up, call me awesome (please), just don’t call me late for any queer, vegan, potluck style community activist meetings. Or whatever.