Facebook-funded Silicon Valley police station, with free Wi-Fi, opens


You ever read a news headline where every word before you even read the actual article just gives you a sick sensation right in your soul?

This is a resplendent example of White male privilege: a police funded by the rich for the rich, in one of America’s most gentrified White states, generating an economy that largely serves the interests of White men:

a narrow vision of capitalism once again threatens to leave many Americans behind. Our nation’s failure to achieve equal educational opportunity has exacerbated race-based economic disparities and produced two starkly different American economies.

And while women have made strong gains in professional life, they remain dramatically underrepresented in many of the most profitable sectors. Silicon Valley is hardly the only place where this is evident, but addressing it here is crucial to turning the tide. [My emphasis.]

In March, Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote to tech leaders such as  Facebook, Apple, Twitter, HP, and Google: 

Technology is supposed to be about inclusion, but sadly, patterns of exclusion remains the order of the day.

And just to be clear: this unequal distribution and access of technological innovation in Facebook’s case seems to be funding a higher quality police force for elites.

Some people see that technology is value free – as if it simply developed by talented individuals and later adopted by the masses. This view fails to take into account how technology is both shaped by, and shapes, social interaction and how technology reflects social hierarchies. This is an example of how technological progress shapes economic inequality, notions of risk and safety. It doesn’t have to be this way – people make these choices to serve their interests, rather than focusing on collective good.

Facebook-funded Silicon Valley police station, with free Wi-Fi, opens

Inspiration porn is an image of a person with a disability, often a kid, doing something completely ordinary – like playing, or talking, or running, or drawing a picture, or hitting a tennis ball – carrying a caption like “your excuse is invalid” or “before you quit, try”… 

Let me be clear about the intent of this inspiration porn; it’s there so that non-disabled people can put their worries into perspective. So they can go, “Oh well if that kid who doesn’t have any legs can smile while he’s having an awesome time, I should never, EVER feel bad about my life”. It’s there so that non-disabled people can look at us and think “well, it could be worse… I could be that person”.

In this way, these modified images exceptionalise and objectify those of us they claim to represent. It’s no coincidence that these genuinely adorable disabled kids in these images are never named: it doesn’t matter what their names are, they’re just there as objects of inspiration.

But using these images as feel-good tools, as “inspiration”, is based on an assumption that the people in them have terrible lives, and that it takes some extra kind of pluck or courage to live them.

For many of us, that is just not true…

Inspiration porn shames people with disabilities. It says that if we fail to be happy, to smile and to live lives that make those around us feel good, it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. Our attitude is just not positive enough. It’s our fault. Not to mention what it means for people whose disabilities are not visible, like people with chronic or mental illness, who often battle the assumption that it’s all about attitude. And we’re not allowed to be angry and upset, because then we’d be “bad” disabled people. We wouldn’t be doing our very best to “overcome” our disabilities.

I suppose it doesn’t matter what inspiration porn says to us as people with disabilities. It’s not actually about us. Disability is complex. You can’t sum it up in a cute picture with a heart-warming quote.

So next time you’re tempted to share that picture of an adorable kid with a disability to make your Facebook friends feel good, just take a second to consider why you’re really clicking that button.

– Stella Young, editor of Ramp Up, provides an excellent critique of able-bodied social media discourses of disability. Her analysis also represents a thoughtful discussion of social privilege. Read the whole article on the ABC.

Here’s a quick look at a new American documentary on Facebook’s privacy and ethics, Terms and Conditions May Apply. The Huffington Post reports that the film makers continued to secretly film Mark Zuckerberg during an encounter even after he’d explicitly asked them to stop filming him. You can’t make an important point about privacy by violating privacy, even if you’re seeking to condemn that same person for breaking privacy. This very huge point aside, check out the promo, it looks like a good one to watch for the sociology of social media. 

Tumblr and the Presentation of Romantic Self

One of the things that fascinates me is the way a lot of young people seem to use Tumblr, which is basically as a positive, aspirational alternative to the social networking institution they’re accustomed to: Facebook. Rather than forcing them to represent themselves as they are, which I think is Facebook’s major goal, Tumblr allows them to represent the romantic self (or selves) they wish to be. I think this is a big part of the intense emotional attachment a lot of people seem to have to Tumblr.

Facebook is currently #1 in terms of time spent online, but Tumblr recently became #2. I think this is because they both appeal to intense human desires, but I would argue that off the two Tumblr appeals to the more positive.

Buzz Anderson, quoted by Fred Spears in an interview with Pixel Union. (via blech)

Buzz is awesome.

(via joshuanguyen)

Sexualisation of Breastfeeding

In early January, comic author Dave Dorman spoke out against Fiona Staples’ illustration for the new Saga cover. Dorman says this drawing represented an inappropriate promotional poster for children. The illustration (left) depicts a (supernatural being) father standing beside a (supernatural being) mother who is nursing their child.  As Skeptical Mothering points out, breasts are only acceptable in comic books when they are ridiculously sexualised, as per the image used to illustrate this point below.

In early February, The Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian newspapers started reporting that Facebook had been removing photos that new mothers were posting of themselves breastfeeding. The Huffington Post also reported on Facebook’s uneven censorship practice yesterday. As many mothers have pointed out, Facebook does not remove other photographs of scantily dressed women. Facebook’s algorithms clearly need some fine tuning.

These two examples highlight the disparate social standards when it comes to women’s bodies. The public hint of women’s breasts is only okay when it fits within the acceptable standard of “sexiness”, not for other “non-sexy” purposes, such as breastfeeding.

Twitter Censorship a Back-Flip on Human Rights

By Zuleyka Zevallos

Twitter censorship
Twitter censorship

One year ago, Twitter celebrated that it would uphold free speech as a ‘human right‘ for countries that had censorship laws. On the 26th of January, Twitter announced a back-flip on its previous public pronouncement that it was the bastion of free speech:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. Some differ so much from our ideas that we will not be able to exist there. Others are similar but, for historical or cultural reasons, restrict certain types of content, such as France or Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Twitter’s blog includes a link to Chilling Effects, a site that alerts users about what content has been flagged for censorship. The complaints currently listed are about media content. What will happen when the complaints are about freedom of expression for various political activist groups?

Continue reading Twitter Censorship a Back-Flip on Human Rights

“69 Billion Friendships” on Facebook – How Sociology Can Make This Meaningful

By J.C. Duffy, Night Deposits.

Last week, the Facebook Data Team released its social network analysis research, Anatomy of Facebook (on Facebook of course!). They have annotated their algorithms in two academic papers The Anatomy of the Facebook Social Graph and Four Degrees of Separation. Facebook claims their data show that connectivity between people around the world has dramatically increased – so much so that we are only four links away from someone in the most remote part of the world, whether that is a tundra or rainforest. A sociological look at the data dispels this notion. Despite its impressive sample, which includes 721 million active Facebook users and their “69 billion friendships”, Facebook’s findings replicate widely-held sociological knowledge about the way people form social ties. Nonetheless, Facebook’s data has great potential to address important social questions, if we can just set aside those pesky social science concerns about research ethics, informed consent and privacy…

Facebook’s study has an extraordinary sample of ‘active users’ representing one tenth of the world’s population The term active user is defined by Johan Ugander and colleagues in one of the aforementioned academic papers. This refers to someone with at least one friend who had logged on once in the past 28 days from the study’s commencement in May 2011. This is less frequent than the Facebook’s company definition of an active user, but the divergent definitions are not explained. For the record, Facebook currently reports it has 800 million active users and 50 percent of them log in at least once a day. Lars Backstrom, computer scientist and one of the Facebook Data Team’s lead researchers in this study, reports on the aims and key findings. The Team found that only around 10 percent of active users have less than 10 friends, while half have a median of 100 friends (the average is 190 friends). See below for more detail.

Continue reading “69 Billion Friendships” on Facebook – How Sociology Can Make This Meaningful

Social Media Changes Blur Public/Private Divide & Tear the Space-time Continuum

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that this past week has been filled with spectacular changes in the world of social media. The changes seem to be crashing the private/public divide more so than ever before, with Google+, Facebook and, to a lesser-extent, Twitter, emulating one another as they wrestle for a bigger slice of the social media pie. But where does the battle of the social media giants this leave the rest of us users?

Blaugh.com (2010) Google vs Facebook: Slapfight! http://blaugh.com
Blaugh.com (2010) Google vs Facebook: Slapfight! Via Geek Word

Continue reading Social Media Changes Blur Public/Private Divide & Tear the Space-time Continuum