Blog Post

DML 2011 liveblog: Social Dimensions of Emerging Media Forms

[Warning for typoes, potential misquotes and lack of pause for critical engagement...]

This is a panel of short talks with Nimmi Rangaswamy, Tanner Higgen (Moderator), Ellen Vanderhoven and Tammy Schellens, Meryl Alper, Jordan Kraemer.

Tanner Higgin introduces Meryl Alper, PhD student in Comm at USC. "There's a nap for that: Parent-posted YouTube videos of babies and toddlers using Apple devices."

Can't isolate the social from the economic, cultural political dimensions. 

YT video with more than a million hits shortly after posting: 2.5-year-old has first encounter with iPad. Re: Bourdieu's notion of embodied cultural capitalhow is this already not a first encounter, by way of parents' cultural capital?

Apple-affiliated babies: iPhone quilt and iPhone-embedded rattle. Children formed as consumers even before they can enter into consumption.


- children 'acting their age' -- bodily functions (on the potty); parents experimenting with behavior, giving and taking away device to see what the device will do; child using device as mirror, Lacanian mirror stage as iPad stage.

- children as exceptional: my child is the youngest and most exceptional! More exceptional than even an adult! Look what my child can do that Grandma can't! Parental involvement, what involvement? Children as walking ads for Apple.

- Apple tech as exceptional because it can bring out children's exceptional nature, esp for kids with special needs.

Parents publicly displaed eceonomic, social, political & cutural capital. Slide image of babies in tshirts, one with "copy" and one with "paste."

Parents displaying both child and technology as versions of themselves, "Broadcast Yourself"

Politics and negotiation of digital identuity: where are lines of privacy and security drawn?

Cultural narratives: eg child learning with father, very cute and social--yet the game they are playing is how to lock and load a shotgun.

Videos in families are heuristics for childhood memories; public discourses more complex. 



Nimmi Rangaswamy, researcher at Microsoft Research India.

SMSGupShup ("chatter") -- marked as "India's Twitter", with 40 million users. SMS-based network, can be used on mobile or computer but marketed mainly as only costing the small rate of a text message (very cheap in India)

Twitter vs GupShup

GS used mainly on basic, not smart phones--though there is a richer interface available. Twitter more focused on group identity with hashtags, celeberity following etc; no hashtags on GS.

GS Posting architecture: group owners broadcast to group members, but members don't converse among themselves: different than conversational nature of Twitter.

Limited bandwidth of the GS platform enables greater access.

Authoring GupShup: two classes of users, group creators and group joiners who access messages and maybe reply to owner, but don't communicate more widely. Content is impersonal, broadcast: poetry, wisecracks, advice, popular culture shared. So how do people interact? Dominant form is 'I have joined your group, please join my group'--the only way to expand network.

Youth sharing skills for internet use & mobile phone use over GS: how to use free talk time or internet by downloading hacks. 

Researching on the platform: people wanted to maintain anonymity. Power user: "The Lady Gaga from Mumbai"--college student male, active blogger, using GS to expand readership & fame.

Backchannel exchanges as coded economic exchanges -- requests to recharge phone. Can the commercial motivation of these exchanges extend to politics? How do motivatoins get shaped, redirected, for millions of youth on the channel?


Ellen Vanderhoven, Ghent University

The role of parents, media, teachers and peers in raising awareness of privacy in social networks.

Concerns about privacy & security re: sexual harassment, sale of data to companies for advertising, risks of compromising images etc for now (school, work) and future applications. How to raise awareness (among students who do care abt privacy already) & encourage safer bahaviour.

Research at Ghent: 91.7% of teens have FB profile. Studied effects of parents, media, school. In school, teenagers reported that teachers mentioned social media but didn't formally teach. Students weren't familiar with pre existing Flemish educational packages on social media. 

Questions: is there a responsibility for schools to teach this & how could it be integrated into curriculum? Will media focus become intense as issue seems 'less new'?


Tanner Higgin, PhD candidate in English at UCR.

Videogames as Critical Race Pedagogy. His talk is already up as a blog post here:

Creating new games that educate isn't enough--there's a lot to be learned about our culture from games that already exist, and that learning frequently takes place without critical literacies to understand the cultural politics of gameplay.

Travelling between academic, fan and public discourses on games: a huge gap, esp compared to older medium like cinema. Not just the racist & sexual language scene on forums. Dismissive reactions of fans to serious discussion ofthe meanings of play, esp re: race, gender, sexuality. Example of African zombies shot to death in Resident Evil 5 trailer. "it's just a video game" meme on forum posts; on the one hand, defensive against the way games are represented in mainstream culture; on the other hand, defending games as location of white masculinity in which anyone who mentions race is de facto racist.

How to build video game literacies to recognize games' cultural meaning? Has to start with mass market games. In teaching, he takes the historical lineage of images, showing how representations they will recognize as racist are sources for what they see today. 

Players need to understand that race isn't only overt representation but also process within the game. CF roleplaying games, races having different statistics, as in biologically determined race as species. The logics of character creation systems, ranges of difference that games support. Using procedural rhetoric to think about this.

Students can learn through games how race is constructed in the world--including through game technologies. All games teach, and often what players learn is politically regressive: different procedural literacies are needed.


Jordan Kramer, Cultural Anthropology PhD candidate at UCI studying global social media

(technology issues... reading from her phone after trying two different computers!)

Scaling the Social: Scalemaking, Friendship, and Social Media in Berlin

Geographic levels of social organization traced through new media ethnography. 

Scale reflects hierarchical ordering of social space: how are scales like the global, supranational, national, local produced? How are global flows integrated at multiple levels? 

Translocal communities in Berlin: she spent 10 months following groups of friends as fieldwork: young adults mainly in East Berlin. One group formed around experimental electronic music, transeuropean links; another, also music fans, had formed in Saxony & stayed in contact after move to Berlin. East Berlin's hip neighbourhoods scene of sociality that relies on facebook to keep in touch. 

Youth subcultures: Birmingham school definition, Sara Thornton's work on subcultural capital. Translocal community of interest maintained by shared semiotic practices; eg fan communities, festivals, consuming and producing music. Assemblaeges of users, technologies, places. Facebook easily enabling translocal communication--bringing different local & translocal contacts into same space. Local context needed to understand facebook conversations; friendships performed in front of various communities. Multiscalar assemblages reconfigure the scales of social organization.


Q&A: discussion of "omnivorous" and "promiscuous" methodologies



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