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Tanja Carstensen

In the course of sociological research about the Internet, an accompanying range of new methodological approaches have been developed to investigate usage, communication, processes of appropriation, and the virtuality of the Internet. However, the exploration of the Internet as a technological and material object as well as the question of how it is involved in human practices are seen more rarely. This paper presents a methodology of software-based recording and an analysis of the interactions between humans and the Internet, which are visible on the screen. Adding methods of usability and market research to sociological Internet research, this enables us to “move closer” to the technology and to get a detailed view of human practices and Internet “actions” on the interface; therewith, it will be possible to investigate how social practices proceed when Internet technologies are involved, how users handle the Internet and to what extent it enables, facilitates, limits, or hinders practices.

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Sex Talk Online

Sexual Self-Construction in Adolescent Internet Spaces

Eszter Szucs

The teen-targeted website gURL. com is committed to providing educational information about sexuality and sexual health to young girls. In this article, I analyze girls' conversations posted on the site to explore how girls mediate the factual information presented, and how they challenge the borders of the scientific discourse on adolescent sexuality. Without overvaluing the freedom of online environments, I assume that the relatively unregulated space of the Internet encourages young women to create their narratives about sexuality and to imagine themselves as sexual beings. My assumptions are informed by the analyses of Susan Driver (2005), Barclay Barrios (2004) and Susannah Stern (2002): in contrast to the disempowering and alienating effects of institutional policies, I call for the recognition of less regulated sites, which imagine youth not as passive recipients but as active agents who strategically work on developing their understanding of sexuality, and on exploring their sexual selves.

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[End] Users as Designers

The Internet in Everyday Life in Irish Households

Deirdre Hynes

This paper presents a study of Irish households, the internet and everyday life. Social studies of technology draw heavily from anthropology, not only in ethnographic methodologies but also in the ways in which such data can be understood and interpreted within the contexts of everyday life. To achieve this, the concept of the domestication of (media) technologies has been developed to describe and analyse the processes of technology's acceptance, rejection and use. Domestication is employed as a structural and analytical framework to achieve an empirical understanding of the domestic user. Based on a critical analysis from an anthropological perspective, the paper will revise the original domestication of the concept of technology. The notion of technological black boxes and I-methodology strategies are critiqued. This paper calls for users to be conceptualised as active agents in the overall design process and not as just end users who become active once the artefact has become commodified.

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Hartwig Pautz

Germany's parliamentary democracy appears to be in crisis. The major parties' membership is in decline and barely existing in East Germany, election turnout is decreasing at all levels, and the reputation of politicians has never been worse. At the same time, however, Germans are more interested in politics than in the 1990s, overwhelmingly support democracy, and are keen on participating particularly in local political decision making. Out of this situation emerged www.abgeordnetenwatch.de— a website that aims to re-establish the link between electors and elected by allowing voters and representatives to communicate via a publicly accessible question-andanswer structure. This article addresses the questions of whether such an instrument can revitalize representative democracy and whether it has done so in the context of the 2009 federal elections.

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Virtually a Historian

Blogs and the Recent History of Dispossessed Academic Labor

Claire Bond Potter

A contemporary history of higher education in the United States is being written on the Internet. Academic bloggers interrupt and circumvent the influence of professional associations over debates about unemployment, contingent labor, publishing, tenure review, and other aspects of creating and maintaining a scholarly career. On the Internet, limited status and prestige, as well as one's invisibility as a colleague, are no barrier to acquiring an audience within the profession or creating a contemporary archive of academic labor struggles. At a moment of financial and political crisis for universities, these virtual historians have increasingly turned their critical faculties to scrutinizing, critiquing, and documenting the neoliberal university. Although blogging has not displaced established sources of intellectual prestige, virtual historians are engaged in the project of constructing their own scholarly identities and expanding what counts as intellectual and political labor for scholars excluded from the world of full-time employment.

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To Russia with love

Hope, confinement, and virtuality among youth on the Georgian Black Sea coast

Martin Demant Frederiksen

Among young unemployed or underemployed men in the port city of Batumi, the regional center of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara in Georgia, the Black Sea is a social and imaginary horizon that signifies both geographical mobility and confinement. Since Georgia gained independence, Batumi went from being a Soviet borderland to being an opening to the West. However, due to visa regulations, “the West”—and the opportunities associated with it—has long been limited to the other Black Sea countries of Turkey and Ukraine. Following the August 2008 war, Russia, although being a much more desirable destination, became out of reach for the majority of these men. Through the notions of social and geographical horizons, this article argues that the young men, despite their sense of confinement, manage to forge alternative connections to Russia via Internet sites, where the online dating of Russian women was used as a means to gain access to Russia via marriage.

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“Recognize the Spies”

Transparency and Political Power in Uzbek Cyberspace

Sarah Kendzior

This article uses the example of Uzbekistan's national security services to consider how the psychic influence of a police state reveals itself online. What happens when the 'spectral double' of the police becomes a point of focus in a medium known for its transparency? I argue that although the Internet gives citizens the capability to organize and interact, it does not relieve their fears and suspicions; instead, it often intensifies them. Despite the 'transparency' that the Internet affords—and sometimes because of it—there are qualities bound up in the architecture of this medium that give rise to paranoia. Using examples from Uzbek online political discourse, I show how the Internet has fueled suspicion and fears about the state security services despite attempts to demystify and assuage them.

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Dearly Departed

Communicating with the Dead in the Digital Age

Jennifer Huberman

This article explores how the Internet is reshaping relationships between the living and the dead. Drawing on data from the online memorial site ForeverMissed.com, it examines why online memorials are increasingly being used to commemorate the deceased instead of the more traditional genre of the obituary. It depicts how the Internet is providing new means for the bereaved to communicate with the dead and how these changes might signal new forms of consciousness and avenues of connectivity. Inspired by the findings of media theorist José van Dijck, I argue that online memorials serve both a commemorative and a ‘communicative’ function, allowing for relationships with the deceased to be maintained and for connections to be made with living others. This article also analyzes the Internet’s role as a ‘techno-spiritual system’.

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Mimesis and Conspiracy

Bureaucracy, New Media and the Infrastructural Forms of Doubt

Michael Vine and Matthew Carey

Conspiratorial thought is one of the hallmarks of late modernity. This article focuses on the wealth of conspiracy theories that crystallized around chemtrails and the Californian drought to examine the genre more generally. It suggests that the particular constellation of certainty and doubt present in conspiracy arguments is a product of the fundamentally mimetic nature of conspiratorial thought, which espouses the contours of the infrastructural environment in which it emerges. In our case, this infrastructural environment is that of bureaucracy on the one hand and the architecture of the internet on the other. Each of these infrastructures helps to shape conspiratorial thought in a distinct manner, and the confluence of the two imparts to the genre its particular flavour.

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Emma Celeste Bedor

Revenge pornography emerged in a flurry moral panic in 2010 when Hunter Moore created the website Is Anyone Up? (isanyoneup.com), where anonymous Internet users submitted nude photos for thousands of unknown purveyors to view. Moore’s endeavor appeared ingenious: What better way could angry exes enact revenge and humiliation on former partners than by displaying their naked photos, against their will and without consent, on a notorious website? The site’s “spirit of retaliation,” apparent from an anthem whose lyrics consisted of “Cheated on me and broke my heart / Gonna show the world your private parts” lives on due to the emergence of other revenge pornography sites, despite the fact that isanyoneup.com was disbanded and Moore recently arrested. Using a critical theoretical framework, this article illustrates that victims of revenge pornography are emblematic of post-feminist and neoliberal hostilities. As such, this article contends that revenge pornography is about revenge and humiliation, not sex.