Blog Post

Community Standards for Virtual Spaces

Next week, on the day before the HASTAC V Conference at the University of Michigan, our Steering Committee will meet to discuss many of the operational, institutional, financial, and intellectual components of HASTAC. One issue we will discuss is community standards, specifically, how a virtual space open to anyone handles controversial issues such as nudity, profanity, and so forth. One has to be a HASTAC member to participate but anyone, of any age, can surf the HASTAC site. At present, since we are housed at Duke University, we use the policies Duke uses for actual physical spaces to determine what we allow or don't to be posted on the HASTAC website. If images include nudity or extreme violence, or if the language includes profanity we include a link but not the actual image. For example, in the building in which we were previously housed, if there was nudity in any of the artwork in a central gallery through which workers had to pass, the particular art work had to be shielded in some way and a "NSFW" (Not Safe for Work) warning or an "mature content" notification had to be posted.

How does your virtual or actual institution handle these matters? We are community and we would like to hear about specific policies and practices at our member organizations.   
 

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24 comments

I am a little concerned by the idea that a single community's standards (and, it seems, a fairly conservative set) might be imposed on the diverse network of networks that is HASTAC. We, the HASTAC members and Scholars, engage in many kinds of scholarly and artistic digital expression; I, for example, am a queer studies scholar, a discipline which is concerned with unpacking the underlying politics through which we develop conceptions of age appropriateness, profanity, etc, and a discipline which often works with and through representations of bodies engaged in sexual and other kinds of acts in order to highlight the contradictions and exclusions in 'community standards'––asking, for example, for whom does 'the community' work? This post makes me concerned about whether HASTAC will in the future (as it certainly has been in the past) be supportive of members who participate in digital knowledge production by making these kinds of critiques.

If images include nudity or extreme violence, or if the language includes profanity

It is important, I think, that HASTAC consider the implications of what is equated under the heading of 'unacceptable.' Do a nude body and "extreme violence" really warrant the same treatment? Also, I have passed through many, many public spaces containing nude paintings; I find it difficult to imagine them all being shielded.

As a compromise, if content is being posted that offends some people, maybe we could look at organizing some kind of labelling scheme, whereby the contents of posts with certain kinds of imagery could be marked in advance so that viewers would know not to click on them? But I would like to respectfully urge HASTAC to refrain from keeping relevant and important content off the site because it doesn't meet a standard of appropriateness that will always be contested and difficult to define. HASTAC Scholar John Carter McKnight recently posted a plea for scholars not to conform to conservative modes of knowledge production and dissemination, while Micha Cardenas, another Scholar, has asked that we consider the possibilities that digital humanities may offer space for counterhegemonic critique; I hope HASTAC can consider the issues they raise at a site-wide level as well.

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Hi I'm very busy helping with the show but I just want to point out that a discussion of community standards should be based in transparency. This thread was posted because my post of an announcement for an art installation here:

http://hastac.org/blogs/michacardenas/2011/11/18/fauxlographic-elle-mehr...

Contained a flyer image that depicted nudity. The post was edited by the admins to remove the flyer image. The original image can be seen here:

Http://elleelleelle.org/fauxlographic-announcement.jpg

I want to ask about context, because the post is clearly labeled as art. Would we take down an image of Venus de Milo? Or would we not allow images from Abu ghraib that are important historical artifacts? Is hastac.org only going to show content suitable for children? In contrast, these physical posters are up in the ucsd visual arts dept.

Is this another symptom of the lack of appreciation of race, gender and sexuality studies in digital humanities?

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I think Alexis and Micha have done a great job of voicing my concerns already, but I'd like to reiterate that race, gender, and sexuality studies are often the fields that get pruned back in the name of "community standards" (which, admittedly, is very difficult not to read as "family values"). I also can't help but wonder if the image that caused this debate - which features full frontal female nudity - would have been censored if there were only breasts involved. Or if we had featured a National Geographic cover, another classic thought experiment about decency. This is the problem with community standards - they are rarely formulated or enforced equitably, and almost never are free of raced, gendered, and classed expectations of decency.

(on that note, I have personally posted videos of extremely violent, sexually provocative, and profane video game footage on this site whose artistic value is subject to way more debate than the performance Micha was advertising without any problems)

When I think about HASTAC as an acronym, the "Collaboratory" part really sticks out for me with this issue. This is not simply a blog, not just a virtual bulletin board where people are posting about their work or pontificating on stuff that they saw on campus. Not to go back to our old hacking vs. yacking debate, but a collaboratory, to me, implies that we are experimenting, making things  - humanists, artists, scientists, and technologists with works in progress. To restrict that work according to some imagined target audience age limit is both counterproductive and impractical. Are we going to censor our fast-paced, generative forums to make sure no one drops an f-bomb for someone to stumble over later? Should we draft an agreement for all scholars to watch what they say and make for the site in case the children are watching? Does this apply to the Twitter feed featured on the sidebar?

This is the Internet, after all. Alexis is absolutely right to say that imposing one community's conservative standards for physical gallery spaces on a virtual hypernetwork like HASTAC is a little, well, f*cking ridiculous, if I can drive the point home. I can't help but feel like we're getting ready to start up the Internet pornography wars all over again - with similarly useless results. Quite frankly, there will always be other networks for us to post our obscene queer art and rageful, profane anti-oppressive rants. There are easier places online for kids to find free pornography and hate speech. Being paranoid that one might get mistaken for another on our site does a huge disservice to the types of people that are likely to browse the content HASTAC has to offer for more than a few seconds (really, an eternity on the Internet).

I respect and appreciate that the HASTAC administration has opened up this space for us to voice our concerns, but I am anxious about what it means that this issue has come up at all - that the work of a queer activist artist who has been celebrated on this site for her own provocative productions can be censored for advertising the similarly provocative work of another artist. HASTAC has taken it as a motto that difference is our operating system, but enforcing "community standards" in this way seems to run quite counter to this goal.

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It's telling that the comments on this post have come from some of HASTAC's finest scholars. They raise critical - in both senses of the term - points, and I hope and expect their voices are given the weight they deserve in considering HASTAC policies.

I was asked to edit the post that Alexis cites - to remove the XKCD cartoon featuring a four-letter word, replacing it with a link, and to delete a couple of my own uses of said word. I had an excellent, open and respectful discussion with Cathy around it: as someone doing the occasional transgressive-ish work in a conservative environment, I'm sympathetic to the small hypocrisies of dealing with  the powers that be.

It may be my experience as a lawyer that lead me to expect that when you take a client's money, you do a client's bidding. I've certainly seen it proven up in the influence of funders over the nature of work done at my university (and of the sorts of buildings that get built). Working at a fairly progressive institution (Arizona State University) in a deeply conservative state, I've somewhat reflexively developed habits of keeping most of my work "off-books," as it were.

For instance, I don't use my university email for anything other than communications that identify me as affiliated with the institution: the Arizona Board of Regents owns the servers, and they're obliged to turn over correspondence to the legislature on request. Similarly, I've managed to use paid private social networks (Ning) rather than Blackboard, to give my students some greater level of insulation from institutional invasion. I don't need an institutional blessing or imprimatur, and I'm not grant-funded; in return for poverty and obscurity, I get to do pretty much whatever I want :)

However.

It's one thing to avoid violations of actual policy stated by the owners of your servers: that's prudent, if unfortunate. It's quite another to censor onself (or one's colleagues and students) proactively out of the fear of possibly offending someone who might make things difficult at some point - which is what I was decrying in that post.

That's exactly how the panopticon works: not through surveillance and punishment by some outside authority, but by turning us into the jailers of our own minds, by teaching us to silence ourselves proactively. Crude tyranny represses dissent; sophisticated tyranny makes dissent unthinkable.

If the humanities serve any purpose greater than careerist self-replication, it is to give voice to the thinkable but unspoken.

I've indicated on my blog posts here when they're edited versions of posts on my personal blog. There might be a certain clarity and honesty in heading posts with  "CENSORED BY ORDER OF/IN TREPIDATION OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF DUKE UNIVERSITY: FREE EXPRESSION AVAILABLE AT THIS LINK."

The interests of the server owners are not illegitimate; however, it is important that we maintain our integrity in dealing with them (and in actual dealings with them, rather than in our projected fears of them). I'm confident in the good will of all involved, but truly, in dealing with institutions, a spine check never hurts :)

Much gratitude to HASTAC Admin, Alexis, Micha and Amanda for flagging this issue and addressing it with the seriousness it deserves.

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It's telling that the comments on this post have come from some of HASTAC's finest scholars. They raise critical - in both senses of the term - points, and I hope and expect their voices are given the weight they deserve in considering HASTAC policies.

I was asked to edit the post that Alexis cites - to remove the XKCD cartoon featuring a four-letter word, replacing it with a link, and to delete a couple of my own uses of said word. I had an excellent, open and respectful discussion with Cathy around it: as someone doing the occasional transgressive-ish work in a conservative environment, I'm sympathetic to the small hypocrisies of dealing with  the powers that be.

It may be my experience as a lawyer that lead me to expect that when you take a client's money, you do a client's bidding. I've certainly seen it proven up in the influence of funders over the nature of work done at my university (and of the sorts of buildings that get built). Working at a fairly progressive institution (Arizona State University) in a deeply conservative state, I've somewhat reflexively developed habits of keeping most of my work "off-books," as it were.

For instance, I don't use my university email for anything other than communications that identify me as affiliated with the institution: the Arizona Board of Regents owns the servers, and they're obliged to turn over correspondence to the legislature on request. Similarly, I've managed to use paid private social networks (Ning) rather than Blackboard, to give my students some greater level of insulation from institutional invasion. I don't need an institutional blessing or imprimatur, and I'm not grant-funded; in return for poverty and obscurity, I get to do pretty much whatever I want :)

However.

It's one thing to avoid violations of actual policy stated by the owners of your servers: that's prudent, if unfortunate. It's quite another to censor onself (or one's colleagues and students) proactively out of the fear of possibly offending someone who might make things difficult at some point - which is what I was decrying in that post.

That's exactly how the panopticon works: not through surveillance and punishment by some outside authority, but by turning us into the jailers of our own minds, by teaching us to silence ourselves proactively. Crude tyranny represses dissent; sophisticated tyranny makes dissent unthinkable.

If the humanities serve any purpose greater than careerist self-replication, it is to give voice to the thinkable but unspoken.

I've indicated on my blog posts here when they're edited versions of posts on my personal blog. There might be a certain clarity and honesty in heading posts with  "CENSORED BY ORDER OF/IN TREPIDATION OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF DUKE UNIVERSITY: FREE EXPRESSION AVAILABLE AT THIS LINK."

The interests of the server owners are not illegitimate; however, it is important that we maintain our integrity in dealing with them (and in actual dealings with them, rather than in our projected fears of them). I'm confident in the good will of all involved, but truly, in dealing with institutions, a spine check never hurts :)

Much gratitude to HASTAC Admin, Alexis, Micha and Amanda for flagging this issue and addressing it with the seriousness it deserves.

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To expand on what Amanda and Alexis posted, I would suggest that hastac is actually a site with mostly content for adults and if there is going to be a HASTAC Kids that should be a separate site with different bloggers rather than blanket this site with content restrictions.

Also in contrast the ucsd visual arts depertment website also is hosting the flyer for fauxlographic. Art containing nudity is suitable for children because it is art. As chinese artist Ai Weiwei stated in a recent tweet "if they see nudity as pornography then china is stuck in the Qing dynasty."

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These are useful, powerful, smart, thoughtful arguments and ideas on complex and controversial and sensitive topics.  There are several interlinked issues and several competing concerns in our very diverse community and we need everyone to help think this through and, to date, we've really been doing this on a case-by-case basis and clearly that's not tenable.   We don't have all the answers by any means. 

All of these comments and ideas will be presented at our Steering Committee meeting next week at HASTAC V.  Even before this particular post came up, we already had identified community standards as an issue that needed collective attention of the SC.  We had a different community standards statement on our old site.  We have a more generic one now.  But among us who administer HASTAC there is a full gamut of diverse, even contradictory, possibly even contentious opinions even as there is in the membership.  I expect the discussion next week at the SC will be very lively, even heated. 

 

We also have to explore further what institutional rules might pertain here.   HASTAC has no independent legal status of its own.   Membership in the HASTAC network is very loose, simply by signing on to the website.  We collect no dues.  And anyone can browse the site.  That is a wonderful freedom that allows one kind of openness and egalitarianism.  But it also has certain restrictions that we will also be investigating thoroughly.   We have hosted a kids' competition on the site.  We are currently hosting a competition for teachers, including public school teachers.  We are supported by several institutions and foundations that have their own rules. Negotiating all of these diverse constituencies with diverse objectives will be our charge in the next weeks and, again, these comments are very helpful.

 

A question:   Does anyone who is participating in this conversation have experience with a multi-pronged virtual site, with different levels of access, possibly with some parts of the site password protected and others open to the membership at large?   We would love to hear from or about any virtual organizations that have already worked out procedures of this kind that welcome participation by diverse audiences.

 

We invite others to contribute as many ideas and points of view as possible.  We value this very serious, important discussion.  That is what HASTAC is and does.  Thank you for your contributions.  

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I am glad this discussion is taking place. Micha mentions transparency, and the fact that HASTAC is asking the community for its opinion on how to define its own community standards is indeed a positive step in that direction. 

Many important points have been risen already, and I personally think that the implementation of community standards for a network (or network of networks) like HASTAC does not have to be seen as hosting the ghost of censorship, so to speak. I believe that collaborative spaces, online or offline, require clear mission statements and community guidelines, "common-sense" rules that help ensure there is respectful interaction. (I know the meaning of "respectful" is fluid, but bear with me). 

If HASTAC is housed at Duke it makes sense that its own community standards should try to also observe those of Duke's, as long as they do not contradict the digital, collaborative, international, open access and multi-disciplinary essence of the co-laboratory.  

Policy-making is of course a very serious matter, but if I have to give my humble personal view I'd say that HASTAC could have a very open, basic set of community standards of rules, appealing to members´and user's educated common sense (for example, the usual warning about abusive or discriminatory behaviour, spam, trolling, snark, copyright, etc.), and group 'convenors' or 'community managers' could help not police in the surveilance-totalitarian sense, but moderate, ensure that content posted is appropriate within specific scholarly contexts (if you are discussing say Renaissance art , it would be silly to ban references or depictions of naked bodies, for example). As anyone who has worked as an online community manager knows, this is a very time-consuming and even exhausting activity, though. 

In brief, rather than a strict set of inflexible rules, the community standards should be flexible, legible (not too long), visible, discoverable (perhaps shown as terms of service before members log in and somewhere visible where non-members and casual visitors can see them before taking offence at something?). 

I just hope that HASTAC remains open access and without requiring registration to read the resources. On a general note I think we all need to grow up as a society by taking responsibility not only for the kind of content we post, but also for the content we willingly decide to read online. 

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Hi Ernesto, this is the first time I've had a stable internet connection and been able to spend time browsing the site.  What, in 2003 (before Facebook existed even!), were called "community standards," "community rules," or "community agreements"--the rules of participation and "etiquette" for a virtual community--are now included as part of the legal Terms of Service that every member of the HASTAC community signs as a condition of participation:    http://hastac.org/legal   

 

We will check but I'm almost positive these Terms of Service are in compliance with the standards of our institutional home and institutional funders. As we continue this public discussion and also address it in the Steering Committee, this legal agreement, obviously, will be our baseline.   

 

I am filled with admiration for the level of commitment and wisdom in this thread.  Thank you all.  


 

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Hi Cathy,

Thank you for the clarification; I was aware of HASTAC's ToS at http://hastac.org/legal/; I'm sorry if my comment was confusing. If it's OK I'd like to ask a couple of questions about this though,

  • Would the 'community standards' to be discussed during the conference be different document from (instead of based on) the Legal Agreement document? 

and, more generally,

  • Do we think that any new or revised community standards should be stated in 'legal' terms, as enforcement, or is there space for a different 'community policy' document (all these terms would have to be clarified and distinguished I guess) that would allow for flexibility and/or interpretation as different scholarly/academic situations demand it?

 

 

 

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My assumption is that the Terms of Service legal agreement, which includes the components of the old "community standards" document, will be the focus, but others closer to this than I am will need to clarify after the Thanksgiving break.  I don't think the old community rules netiquette document exists any more, except maybe in the archives.  Certainly, the Terms of Service supersede those ancient rules. 

 

(Off topic, but important philosophically here:   I typically have my students create their own netiquette community standards when I'm teaching a class where all the work is online.  It is very useful to have them decide about what content of theirs they do or don't want public and why,  what the rules and tools of peer feedback will be, how to balance openness and diversity of the community to the radically different ranges of social, religious, and moral values and principles of individuals, and so forth.) 

 

I can't begin to say how important it is, to me personally, to see the HASTAC community grapple with these issues and how un-lightly we all take them---and how often we disagree among ourselves too and disagree with rules we are compelled to keep and etc.   As the amazing Fiona says in her comment, "technology" is about these social issues but so much digital humanistic and computational conversation just glides past these as if they are not foundtional.  Thanks again for continued help thinking this through publicly.  To me, that is key.   Fiona apologizes for disjointedness (which it isn't, it is very eloquent) but the messiness of the conversation to me is what counts before one gets to a "neat" and "legal" and "compliant" decision.   That means "openness" to me and is essential otherwise, well, why bother?   Thanks again!

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p.s.  Ernesto, It looks like the term that used to be common for the "netiquette" by which a virtual community defined its rules and norms of particpation has shifted, in the US, from the old term "community standards" (still used in the UK) to the newer "community rules."   Here are examples of some.   It seems most of these virtual organizations have both community netiquette rules and legal Terms of Service.

 

http://secondlife.com/corporate/cs.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/community-standards

http://www.stumbleupon.com/community_rules/

http://www.knowledgeboard.com/about/community_rules.html


----------
Definitions:

Community standards:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_standards   (This definition makes clear that the term has recently taken on a political quality that is very different from how we used it back in 2003 when we set ours up).  There is no entry for "community rules of participation" on Wikipedia but there is:

Netiquette:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netiquette

 

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Thank you very much Cathy for your replies and clarifications.  

With this comment I hope to express better my doubts and general suggestion.

Even though they all share a common conceptual space,  I think I understand the differences between 'netiquette', community rules or standards (often used in the same way even if rules and standards denote and connote important different concepts) and terms of service. What I still don't understand (please forgive me if I'm being dense!) is what is at stake in this discussion. From Micha's post and some of the other comments above, it looks like what will be discussed at the conference is HASTAC's Legal Agreement, the one that until now still clearly warns:

Please be aware that certain communities may contain mature Content, which is unsuitable to minors. Members must be at least 18 years of age to access and view such areas. Founders shall designate a community as containing "Mature Content" where a community has or will have mature Content unsuitable to minors. Founders shall not create a community that contains or will contain mature Content unsuitable to minors without limiting that community to persons age 18 or over and by designating such community as "Mature Content". Members shall not contribute mature Content unsuitable to minors to a community that is not limited to persons age 18 or over and designated as "Mature Content". Content Regulators shall also implement and enforce scanning for Content that is inappropriate for users or of an age-sensitive subject matter, and immediately remove any such Content from their community if the community is not designated as "Mature Content".

Whereas netiquette is general, cultural and learned and adopted with experience (like politeness and good manners in different social contexts) and therefore optional at the user's risk, community standards or rules are a very well defined set of optional and non-optional guidelines. Netiquette has to do with the way users interact online, not with the type of content posted online. Community standards combine guidelines on how users are expected to interact and the type of content they share. Users of several services constantly break the community rules but this does not mean they are breaking any legal agreement. The Terms of Service, though, include and-or link to the community standards or rules, but are supposed to be legally-binding (therefore in HASTAC's case it is called a 'Legal Agreement'). As we all know netiquette is never legally binding. Traditionally, netiquette has developed as users develop consensual acceptable ways to interact within specific settings, community standards or rules are established by community managers and editors and terms of service, the legalese, is written by the lawyers. 

Tumblr for example distinguishes between Terms of Service and Content Policy, and the Guardian distinguishes between Terms of Service and Community Standards. An essential difference between these sites and HASTAC is that HASTAC is a scholarly site; it is meant to be, I guess, an online version of what would happen within a university campus or academic conference. Of course there are important differences (public, global, open access, online availability). Nevertheless, I agree with Micha and others here that it is completely crucial we have clear what we mean by "community standards", and that whatever we mean by these that they are defined with HASTAC's multidisciplinary, scholarly goal in mind. This means that what may be considered 'obscene' in legal terms is someone else's legitimate object of study.

In any case, this might be a good opportunity to publicly discuss the need for the Legal Agreement to represent the needs of HASTAC and its users, and not only the needs of the legal department.  I suppose that is precisely why HASTAC is asking us about it. :) 

Thank you again for allowing us to participate in this discussion! 

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Yes, that's exactly the issue, Ernesto.   This has been an hugely important discussion and will continue to be.   And we are a mixed community since our mission is inspiring change in all modes of interactive learning, not just higher ed but K-lifelong.  So these are complicated issues with complicated answers.   And this conversation is hugely helpful even if no answers are immediately forthcoming.  

 

Here are key community issues that we grappled with in 2003 when we made our first wiki to come up with community rules (I like that term better than community standards which has been taken over and given a twist weI don't like at all):   Components that  make HASTAC unique 

(a) we do not charge dues to anyone

(b) since 2008 or so, we invite institutions to become members by supporting students not HASTAC through the HASTAC Scholars program

(c) anyone can be a member simply by signing on to the terms of service on the website and registering, and you can then post comment and write  comment that are mostly unmoderated.   We have probably a dozen times asked people to remove comments or have ourselves moderated comments when people behave rudely to one another as civility is key to an open, productive network.  We also have when they violate rules of federally-funded institutions regarding partisan support for one or another political party (politics are fine, endorsing candidates is not under federal guidelines).  And of course we have to remove spam porn and other spam all the time. 

(e) no one has to be a member to see content on the site--it is open to anyone

 

(f) our community is everyone.   We are dedicated to vitalizing learning--formal and informal, K-lifelong.  Different parts of the website are of more interest to some members of the community than others but all are open to all.

 

(g) lots of other things I'm not thinking of here

 

Writing community rules or netiquette for such a diverse set of principles is very challenging and that is why this forum is so important.   Why I have my students do this in class is because one quickly sees how each set of  priorities and principles has an impact on all the others, how each move towards "openness" also implies restrictions.  

 

I'm not sure there is any other community quite like it but want to hear of others as they can help guide us too.  No one at HASTAC takes these issues lightly at all.  We also have been told lots of people are observing this discussion and learning from it, including from our openness about its difficulty!

 

Many thanks, yet again.

 

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Hi everyone, 

This is a very short and disjointed note, as I'm cooking for a big Thanksgiving dinner with a big group from out of town, and my attention is all over the place. But I didn't want it to seem like more of us weren't chiming in -- I'm just trying to take a (rare) day away from my computer!

In the meantime, thank you all for posting such eloquent, thoughtful and engaged comments. I mean that completely seriously, and am not trying to be placatating at all. It is still an amazing realization that folks care enough about this as a space, and as a community both present and future, to work to make it the best it can be. That means that even if we're struggling in this moment, we've done something right -- and by 'we', I mean all of us, including you. 

Many of you know that my own academic work deals with some really difficult images (much more 'graphic' than the image which sparked this conversation), and I've had to negotiate how to deal with them in conference presentations and other kinds of public engagements. So this conversation is really critical both because of my deep investment and attachment to HASTAC as a community, the Scholars in particular, and because of my own acadmic projects. And as someone with some insight behind the scenes, I personally guarantee that NONE of this conversation is taken lightly by any of the HASTAC admin folks.

And it goes even beyond "not taking it lightly" - it's really important to all of us. On a personal note, some of you know that I'm often working behind the scenes, to ensure that HASTAC is a space that supports and encourages 'risky' conversations, and that folks who don't consider themselves as public scholars working on important topics, not just feel 'accepted', but invited and celebrated (to use a cheesy term). Those are the conversations that are not often forgrounded in other public forums that discuss technology, they're the conversations that engage technology and culture from a range of perspectives. Where else, in a public forum, can people discuss queer art, technology for teaching higher ed, Greek historical archives and games for kids?! That's not a flippant comment - it's a massively complicated conversation that has only worked because while HASTAC exists to create a common conversation, it also allows us to forground our differences, not sweep them under the rug in the name of unity.

From the outside HASTAC looks like a fairly slick website, with all these people posting different things at all hours of the day and night, seemingly magically coming from all over the world, to post their thoughts and comment on those of others. From the inside, it's taken massive amounts of personal conversations to get people to trust this as a space for their (sometimes risky) work, as a space for their funding, as a space for their time and energy, and a space for learning and reading. All of that is to say - HASTAC is only a success because its members (you!) make it an ongoing success, and we have to figure out how to sustain and build the community as a whole. We don't take your engagement lightly - it's why we're all here! Now I sound like an infomercial, but there ya go.

It's totally obvious and fairly easy when this experiment works. It's like a tailwind - you get a burst of energy and everything falls into place. It's the speedbumps along the way that we have to negotiate, and for that, I am genuinely so grateful that you care enough to push us through them. 

Thanks again and hope to hear from anyone else who'd like to engage!  

Edited to add: Yikes, this comment is so disjointed and I don't have time to edit it! But I'll post it in the name of letting y'all know that I'm here, and will be back soon! 

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This isn't disjointed at all, Fiona. I am very aware of the work that you do to make this space as inclusive as it is and to welcome, respect, and acknowledge less conventional/normative/traditional kinds of scholarship. I am so, so thankful for all your work. 

(And for the work of Cathy and everyone else at HASTAC, too, who have also made this a space that welcomes diversity! But it's through Fiona's front-end work that I have been able to appreciate it most.)

39

Blimey, I wish I could write 'disjointed' comments like yours, Fiona! Not disjointed at all. Thank you for all the hard work! 

36

Just wanted to poke my head back in after a crazy weekend and add to the love fest going on here in Fiona's post. I have some critiques as well, but when dealing with hot topics on the Internet, continually reinforcing support and affection for one another is key to a smoothly operating conversation. Pardon me while I add a smiley to this. :)

Anyway, Fiona, I want to go on record as saying that the work you and HASTAC have done to support scholarship occurring outside of the mainstream Digital Humanities has been invaluable in my career, at least. My experience as a HASTAC Scholar has connected me with so many people that have been really influential to my work, and the opportunites you've given to us over the years have been so amazing!

For me, part of the intensity of my reaction comes from realizing that a space I have come to think of as an online home, in a way, is a bit different than I had understood at first. I think we all just want to see the changes happen in a way that keeps our collaboratory safe for more than just a few groups.

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Agreed!  This is an amazing enterprise, and you've done a wonderful job, along with Cathy and all the HASTAC folks in negotiating *very* challenging issues.

There's a lot of goodwill all around here, and I know we're all together in working to make this a terrific, useful, and comfortable space for a vast range of people and interests.

Happy Thanksgiving!

34

Hi all, now that I finally have a moment to myself, I wrote a longer response. I'm sorry if its excessively long, but it's a subject I've thought a lot about. Thank you. 

http://hastac.org/blogs/michacardenas/2011/11/26/hastac-community-standards-and-interdisciplinarity

 

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I'll blog about this more later but just wanted everyone to know we had a GREAT meeting about this with the Steering Committee and the upshot will be Terms of Service we can live with!   Huge thinks to Micha and Amanda for representing our community so brilliantly and generously.   We will all be better for their incredible contribution.

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At the conference, I mentioned these sites to Cathy as places that HASTAC might look for examples of purposefully inclusive Terms of Service. Both are sites that aim to serve communities who are creating and sharing art that has run afoul of obscenity allegations, as well as existing in copyright grey areas, so they're aiming to maximize freedom while minimizing the appearance of illegality; neither are academic in orientation, which is why I didn't bring them up before, but they may have elements that are useful models. 

The first is Dreamwidth, a code fork from LiveJournal that is basically a blog and social network site; many users are creative media fans, but the site serves many communities. (I have actually used it very successfully as a course blog site; the privacy settings' flexibility make it great for a small intimate class.) Content from Dreamwidth users was reported to Paypal as illegally obscene, and  rather than take the content down, Dreamwidth chose to stop using Paypal to process payments –– even though they are entirely funded by users purchasing accounts. They stayed afloat until they could organize another payment system (they've actually gone through a few) because users mailed in donations by check. Their terms of service covers legalities and is actually more restrictive than I expected, but in conversation with their guiding principles and diversity statement  it feels very different.

The second is the Archive of Our Own, who host fan fiction and art as part of the fan and fair use advocacy nonprofit the Organization for Transformative Works. Their TOS is the result of long negotiations among  a large and varied community about appropriateness and labeling in overtly sexual content. 

(edited to clarify)

 

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Very good selections from Alexis!  It's been about four years since I took a serious look at TOS'es, but I'm familiar with Dreamwidth, Archive of Our Own and Organization of Transformative Works, and they're outstanding examples, both of documents and of community managers really standing behind their communities (which is the tl;dr version of how the first two organizations came to be - basically in response to LiveJournal putting third-party interests ahead of their customers). 

These are excellent sources to mine for ideas and language.

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Thank you, Alexis and John.  Great to meet you both at HASTAC.

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