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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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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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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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Ivan Jablonka

Amid the current crisis in the humanities and the human sciences, researchers should take up the challenge of writing more effectively. Rather than clinging to forms inherited from the nineteenth century, they should invent new ways to captivate readers, while also providing better demonstrations of their research. Defining problems, drawing on a multitude of sources, carrying out investigations, taking journeys in time and space: these methods of inquiry are as much literary opportunities as cognitive tools. They invite experimentation in writing across disciplines, trying out different lines of reasoning, shuttling back and forth between past and present, describing the process of discovery, and using the narrative “I.” We can address the public creatively, decompartmentalize disciplines, and encourage encounters between history and literature, sociology and cinema, anthropology and graphic novels—all without compromising intellectual rigor. Now more than ever, the human sciences need to assert their place in the polis.

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Crafting Future Selves

Time-Tricking and the Limits of Temporal Play in Children’s Online Film-Making

Espen Helgesen

Children in Norway increasingly spend time online, where they play games, create and share videos and hang out with friends. Drawing on fieldwork among immigrant families in Norway, this article investigates the use of avatars to facilitate temporal play in children’s online film-making. By creating animated films starring their own and their friends’ avatars, children playfully engage with a wide range of imagined future selves. Avatars constitute on-screen extensions of selves, allowing inhabitants of online environments to explore and experiment with otherwise inaccessible viewpoints and perspectives. Addressing the limits of time-tricking in children’s temporal play, the article shows how offline conventions shape what avatars can do.

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Femininity Out of Control on the Internet

A Critical Analysis of Media Representations of Gender, Youth, and MySpace.com in International News Discourses

Shayla Thiel-Stern

This article raises issues related to the gendered representation in the print media, particularly English-language newspapers, of girls who use MySpace as foolish innocents who invite sexual predation. It examines the ways in which the stereotyped representation of girls and boys promotes the hegemonic discourses that construct girlhood as a time of helplessness and lack of control, and that blame the technology itself, in this case MySpace, for a multitude of cultural problems. Ultimately, these discourses portray MySpace as a dangerous place where adolescent girls flaunt sexuality, where sexual predators lurk, and where boys commit violence, thus creating and reinforcing a moral panic and extending stereotypes about girls and boys, and about technology.

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Coming of Age with Proctor & Gamble

Beinggirl.com and the Commodification of Puberty

Sharon R. Mazzarella

Puberty and her first period are among the most important rites of passage in a girl's life. Cashing in on this, transnational corporate giant Proctor & Gamble created the website beinggirl.com in 2000, to provide “a forum for girls to explore their collective interests and receive guidance in choosing the right feminine protection products provided by Tampax and Always at the very start of their cycles.” Featuring podcasts, polls, quizzes, an advice column, games, downloads, and a discussion board, beinggirl.com looks like many other commercially-created online spaces for girls. Employing an “experiential analysis” methodology, this article deconstructs beinggirl.com as a site that has both a corporate imperative as well as the self-proclaimed intention of providing a space for girls.

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"i HATE HATE HATE being single" and "why is getting a bf so hard for me?"

Reproducing heteronormative femininity on gURL.com

Jacqueline Ryan Vickery

This article examines the prominent romantic and sexual scripts—the most common being that of a "prince charming" waiting for a girl—found on the "being single" message board of gURL.com. A discourse and textual analysis of the message board is conducted in order to analyze how girls are performing their (hetero)sexual identities. This provides insight into current notions of contemporary girlhood and romantic/sexual expectations. Findings suggest that girls believe that being single is "caused" by something—most often that a girl is not pretty enough or not outgoing enough—so singledom is "blamed" on a lack of (appropriate) femininity. Also, if a girl fails at femininity then it is assumed that she might also be failing at heterosexuality. Girls seem to believe that by becoming more conventionally feminine (outgoing and attractive), singledom can be "fixed" and thus heteronormativity and femininity are reaffirmed.

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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.