Albunni, Nada (University of Southampton, UK)
Within the secular city Damascus, a female group is classified and pre-judged without a thought to its mission statement. It is usually understood either as one of the traditional calls for gender segregation, or as a copy of a western feminist movement. Clarifying what “geek” means gave the girls the chance to think beyond the boundaries to liberate their identity from stereotyping. “Geek” bypasses the traditional controversial cloth and reflects the freedom to resonate with their deeper identity, uniting all women through their extreme passionate of the technology and programming.
GirlGeekDinners, GirlGeekCoffee, GirlGeekdom, Women 2.0, to mention a few are in their essence a feminist call, yet it is not merely another call guided by the western perspective, and not a conformation to eastern gender segregation traditions. It is a global identity revealed not by how they dress but by what they do.
Sheryl Sandberg’s three pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite (Sheryl Sandberg, 2010) has been well appreciated by a young local entrepreneur, “girl geek” Sawsan Saeed, as her little experience makes her know how valuable these advices are.
The shared video lectures on the Internet have enabled these young female students to listen to successful women, thus making them their role models. From Limor Ladyada’s open source hardware community, to Ayah Bdair’s littleBits a transnational interconnection becomes possible to all those who are interested in open source hardware.
The Internet has challenged the traditional boundaries and enabled these transnational connections, giving the women the power to break the existing social stereotypes allowing feminism to manifest in a contemporary way.
Coloured Girls in a Digital World: A Look at Feminist Organizing and It’s Impact on Racialized and Indigenous Girls
Birk, Manjeet (University of British Columbia, Canada)
It is often argued within Canadian multiculturalism rhetoric that young women of colour experience only the benefits of diversity through food and music, the daily headlines in our media of violence and racism remind us of a very different lived realities some young women face. Literature that has focused on racialized and Indigenous identities have indicated the need for organizations and programs to cater to the specific realities of racialized and Indigenous girls and women. Research has highlighted many of the reasons racialized and Indigenous girls have been excluded from feminist organizations including the inability to center Indigenous issues within anti-racist organizations and movements , the lack of input and erasure of experiences of racialized and Indigenous girls in the design and implementation of these programs. Furthermore, the challenges of implementing anti-oppression policies and practices within feminist organizations have reduced their efficacy in working with this population. This is all further complicated by increased digital media and its impact on activism and girls identities. In conjunction with this research, I look at the ways in which feminist organizations are responding to the changing needs of young racialized and Indigenous girls and to deconstruct how digital media is impacting feminist organizing and its ability to support racialized and Indigenous girls.
Cernohorska, Vada (Masaryk University, Czech Republic)
My work looks at blogging and new media activism as contemporary feminist strategies. Considering the notions of transformation and change found within the work of scholars focusing on the connection between digital culture and social movements, I raise following questions: How exactly do digital technologies shape contemporary feminism? There are obviously some changes in ways of “doing activism” on the global/local scale. But do these changes imply that the cultural codes at play of representation, movement’s identity and mastery of argumentation have transformed as well? In contrast to work that focuses solely on changes within the organizational level of mobilization and support, I take aim at the more symbolic level of the feminist movement within the lively transnational arena of new media. This aspect could be, I argue, especially relevant in confronting mainstream media representations of contemporary feminism that describe the movement as being “dead” or “dated”.
Cohen, Frayda (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
Since 1990, there has been a rapid rise in the number of Chinese transnational adoptions. In discussing this phenomenon, it becomes apparent that many players are involved, and it is not, as older migration studies might have seen it, simply the movement of a child from East to West. Contemporary digital media offers the possibility for additional analysis. Moreover, the rise in Chinese adoptions also closely parallels the rise of cyber communities and the burgeoning of both phenomena makes their relationship particularly compelling.
Chinese girls, having left their homeland behind, often depend on day-to-day practices to develop social identities. Many have opportunities to participate in playgroups, camps, heritage travel and related experiences. It is through this type of “process and knowledge” that communities are formed and cultural identities constructed (Khan 1998). Increasingly, Chinese adoptees, roughly 95% of whom are girls, have been identified as a discrete community of “Adoptive Chinese Girls.” and this paper explores the ways in which adoptees are using social and digital media to further construct notions of girlhood that are at once uniquely theirs and also perceived to be part of an emerging global culture, a “virtual adoption nation,” that is intimately linked to their experiences.
Dare-Edwards, Helena Louise (University of East Anglia, UK)
This paper will form a case study of two of Nickelodeon’s most recent and successful shows, both of which have incorporated new digital and social technologies into their sitcom-style format. Not only do they represent a shift in popular TV programming for tween-girls, these convergence comedies also complicate traditional notions of media spectatorship and the distinctions between media producers and consumers by encouraging participatory culture and extra-textual interaction.
A multi-media, (web)show-within-a-(TV)show format, iCarly (2007-) invites fans to create and upload videos of themselves which can then be featured in an episode or on the show’s (doubly constructed as real and fictional) website. The symbiotic and intertextual relationship of website and TV show allows audiences to switch between, and occupy, multiple viewing positions and as through different media formats. By tapping into the cultural power available through digital technology to create new versions of female image making, iCarly demonstrates a media model of great value to girls in developing and articulating their own styles and vocabularies of cultural production.
VicTORIous (2010-) foregrounds multiplatform digital entertainment and is semi-narrated through characters’ status updates on ‘The Slap’- a social networking website like Facebook which fans of the show can also join. Updates are displayed on a ‘Pear Phone’, a parody of Apple’s i-products which are also referred to and featured in iCarly. There is further media convergence between the two shows in their joint use of other fictional, but ‘live’ social media websites which promote viewer participation and interaction with characters who appear ‘online’ as real people.
It is crucial to expand the discourse about this new generation of young stars in order to explore how real girls navigate their own identities, fantasies and creative output against the backdrop of current popular girl iconography.
Unpacking ‘performative shamelessness’ and viewer dismissal in Australian young women’s social network site self-representations: protective shields for young women in the online, post-feminist context?
Dobson, Dr Amy Shields (Monash University, Australia)
In the visual representation of a small sample of social network site profiles owned by young Australian women aged 18-21, aspects of ‘sexiness’ and ‘laddishness’ are both prevalent. Young women commonly decorate their profiles with icons and symbols signalling ‘sexiness’, such as Playboy Bunny logos and ‘stripper girl’ animations, as well as posting (often copious amounts of) photos of themselves and their friends engaged in drinking and raucous, apparently alcohol-fuelled, performativity. These kinds of visual representations are often contextualised or framed on the profiles by self-descriptive or ‘sloganistic’ texts proclaiming authenticity, pride and self-esteem, and also, claiming not to care about the opinions of viewers. In an attempt to unpack such textual ‘disclaimers’ provided by young women about their online performances of self, I develop the concept of ‘performative shamelessness’. I engage in particular with Angela McRobbie’s ideas about ‘female melancholia’ (2009) in westernised post-feminist popular culture, and question how to account for the celebratory and self-affirming tone of much of the (even alcohol-fuelled) performativity I’ve encountered in young Australian’s women’s SNS representations, in relation to McRobbie’s theorisations. I suggest that, while celebratory in tone, the ‘performative shamelessness’ here may signal the harshness of this particular cultural space; it may signal the need for self-protection by young women operating in these peer-regulated digital spaces within the broader post-feminist context. Such performative disclaimers about the self may be also one of the few options available to young women wishing to maintain a sense of self-definition in the face of intense social and cultural scrutiny, and often objectifying/sexualising, gazes.
Egan, R. Danielle (St. Lawrence University, USA)
Since 2006 there have been ten popular books, four governmental reports (Australia, The United Kingdom (2) and Scotland), an American Psychological Association task force, approximately 1,169 articles or opinion editorials written in English language newspapers and an untold number of blogs, radio shows and television articles focused on the sexualization of girls. Sexualized media and commodities are said to produce sexualized behaviors (promiscuous or risky sex such as, oral and anal sex, lesbian sex for a straight male audience and exhibition, a loss of interest in intimate relationships now or in the future, cognitive delay due to a lack of attention to subjects other than sexuality, and a host of mental health dangers such as depression and eating disorders) in girls between the ages of 8-12. The conception of causality within this discourse is almost hypodermic—media reception produces monolithic results. When examining recent demographic and ethnographic data on girls, media consumption and sexual behavior a strikingly different picture emergences—girls are more likely to have their first sexual experience later than their parents and they are less likely to be under the influence and have safe sex when they do (CDC 2011; Guttmacher 2009). Finally, we live in a media age that differs significantly from the past where a small number of media sources provided a narrow ideological perspective to a multiplicity of media outlets offering a variety of ideological perspectives including sights where kids can make their own media. What are we to make of this complex brew? I will attempt to offer a beginning answer to this question by examining various claims against the questions, stories and statements made by girls on websites and blogs such as The Black Youth Project, Scarletteen, Queer Girl as well as fashion related blogs. I will also examine a serious of YouTube videos created by girls to challenge sexism, slut shaming and homophobia. Placing popular narratives on sexualization in conversation with girl’s online talk will help foster a more nuanced understanding of the problem of sexualization and the way in which subjectivity is constructed.
“I’m not a whore, I was just assertive!”: Teen girls’ performance of sexual identity in on-line conflict interaction [Withdrawn]
Garcia-Gomez, Antonio (University of Alcalá de Henares, Spain)
Leading edge research in the exploration of the interpersonal dimensions that characterise peer networks sheds light on the construction of girls’ digital (sexual) identity and explores the potential impacts of the internet on teenagers’ development of gender roles and socialization (Galambos, 2004), the ways teenage girls both perform and negotiate their sexual identity on personal blogs (García-Gómez, 2010) or other on-line media (Renold and Ringrose, 2011; Ringrose and Eriksson Barajas, 2011), the offline problems that can occur when the online identity usurps the real identity (Thomas-Jones, 2010), the dissonance between their virtual and non-virtual selves (Livingstone, 2008), and the alarming increase of destructive social practices such as cyberbullying (Kofoed and Ringrose, 2011). Interestingly, these studies give direct or indirect evidence of two social phenomena: the sexualisation of culture and girl’s ladette culture. The latter points to girls’ apparent laddish behaviour as their own code of communication, socialization and maintenance of social hierarchies (Jackson, 2006; Ringrose, 2006). The former calls attention to a process of pornification which shows how depictions of pornography are gaining a presence in non-pornographic contexts (Paasonen et al., 2007; Atwood, 2009; and Evans et al., 2010). The present study suggests that both social phenomena are intertwined and highlights the discursive strategies of sexual aggression which British girls use in their online conflicts on Facebook. In doing so, this study not only uses a linguistic analysis to intertwine these two social phenomena, but also sheds further light on this general trend of gendered sexualisation and specific discourses that illustrate heterosexualised speech acts as an assertive strategy in teen girls’ online conflict interaction.
Gutteridge, Izzy (University of Warwick, UK)
My research explores the ways the Internet has transformed a number of cultural phenomena – tween girlhood, the production of the tween celebrity and tween fandom practices – situated within the context of the sexualisation of childhood discourse. This paper will focus on one aspect of my project: the construction of an online space for tween girlhood through the social networking site Stardoll. I shall explore why the Internet requires us to rethink aspects of girlhood and notions of cultural spaces, and examine how this might shape our methodological decisions.
I will analyse how Stardoll marks itself as a distinctive tween space by enacting both gendered and aged notions. I shall then present a preliminary analysis of the ways in which girls use Stardoll as a site for tween fandom practices and evaluate the extent to which this process has been transformed by the Internet. Finally, I will argue that investigating what activities and interactions girls engage with online can provide a better understanding of their negotiations with the virtual world in light of pervasive notions of gendered risk and opportunity.
Keller, Jessalynn Marie (University of Texas, USA)
In September 2011, fifteen-year-old Chicago-based blogger Tavi Gevinson launched Rookie (http://rookiemag.com), an online magazine for teenage girls. Gevinson, a regular in fashion and blogging circles since 2008, promotes Rookie as a feminist publication, eagerly taking up the “f-word” that mainstream teen magazines regularly avoid.
In this paper I use a feminist, cultural studies theoretical framework to explore how feminism and girlhood are conceptualized on Rookie. I ask: How are feminism and girlhood performed, negotiated, and circulated on Rookie? How do feminism and girlhood work in tandem on the site? What political possibilities does a feminist girlhood hold for challenging dominant discourses about both girls and feminism? Finally, what is the significance of a feminist girlhood being produced in an online space?
I draw upon my discursive textual analysis of Rookie, and my interviews with contributors and Gevinson herself, to argue that Rookie provides an important and necessary space for a feminist girlhood subjectivity to be conceptualized, performed and celebrated. While dominant discourses often position girls as passive, apolitical, and thereby anti-feminist, I maintain that Rookie writers and readers challenge this discourse by embracing feminism as girls rather than future women, creating a new model of doing feminism that utilizes the do-it-yourself production capabilities of digital culture.
Leathers, Tee (University of Maryland, USA)
Scholars, educators, activists, and culture critics alike have taken up the important mantle of exploring and highlighting Hip Hop and its impact on Black youths in the United States and other parts of the globe. Specifically, discussions about Black adolescent girls and Hip Hop are often relegated to talk about how Hip Hop breeds low self-esteem, both from the music and the damaging visual culture (e.g. music videos and soft-porn video shorts/straight-to-video films). Undoubtedly, Hip Hop’s impact on Black youths and youth culture is a worthy concern, especially in regards to the overtly misogynistic and homophobic content that is pervasive within the music largely marketed within the global marketplace. However, this work seeks to go beyond the damaging impact of commercialized Hip Hop music and visual culture to investigate what Black girls are producing from within the culture. Looking at digital videos and social media, we can see “video girls,” Black girls (18 and younger) in their own videos, rapping with each other and to friends and family who access their work through smart phones and social media outlets like YouTube and Facebook. This presentation will explore the digital Hip Hop videos of these Black girls as they rap within circles where they are at the center, and it will also address the global implications of such work in a contemporary context.
Lehtonen, Sanna (Tilburg University,The Netherlands)
Cosplay is a form of performance art where players take on the role of a fictional character usually from Japanese popular media (e.g. manga or anime) through costume and behaviour. This paper discusses cosplay in Finland where the fandom dedicated to Japanese cultural products occupies both off- and online spaces and mainly consists of girls and young women. The focus here will be on a specific online space: the discussion forum Cosplay.fi. Cosplay.fi offers a forum for often isolated cosplayers from different parts of Finland and hosts a community that shares experiences of cosplay and crossplay (performing a character of the opposite sex) and tips about how to make a perfect costume and performance. In discussion threads dealing with crossplay and the pressure to look good, the participants address both the transgressive possibilities and limitations of cosplay/crossplay. While cosplay and crossplay offer possibilities to play with gender identity and challenge normative ways of doing gender, conventional beauty preferences and norms also emerge on the discussion threads. By drawing on feminist discourse analysis and netnography, this paper will discuss how gendered performances are negotiated in a context where fictions of Japanese culture offer inspiration for Finnish girls and young women.
Dress up! and what else? Young girls ‘online social gaming and the negotiation of gender identities’
Mascheroni, Giovanna (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy) and Pasquali, Francesca (Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy)
The paper investigates young girls’ online gaming sites and gaming apps under the perspective of gender social construction and negotiation. Focused on fashion, house keeping and romance, these games offer highly stereotyped patterns of gender identity, and are extremely effective in socializing kids to consumer culture and engaging them in practices of consumption that are both normative and creative, constraining and personalised. Yet, game-based activities represent the second step in the take up of online practices, thus playing an important role in peer learning and literacy building. This tension between highly stereotyped sex roles and the emancipatory function of socializing young girls to ICTs and digital culture makes these games an interesting case study. Based on an analysis of online gaming and group interviews with young girls aged 10-13, the paper aims to 1) identify the gender stereotypes at play in these online gaming sites and apps; 2) understand the role of these games in shaping young girls’ gender identities, investigating for instance whether and how these socially normative representations of femininity are appropriated, negotiated and/or resisted by younger girls; 3) understand how these games contribute to promoting young girls’ media literacy, and to socializing them to contemporary consumer culture.
Kinship and digital media : Networked social world of girls of Tongan descent in Melbourne, Australia
Nishitani, Makiko (La Trobe University, Australia)
This paper examines how daughters of Tongan migrants utilise a social network site (SNS) called Bebo to create and maintain a networked social world. Generally speaking, the children of migrants are thought to have weaker transnational connections than migrants. However, the new digital media enables the girls of Tongan descent to have vast transnational networks. Although the adjective ‘networked’ usually refers to a key characteristic of digital media, enabling individuals to keep ‘connected’, this paper applies the term to illustrate that the girls’ experiences of the digital technology reflect ‘connectedness’ based on kinship networks. In other words, the girls’ social world has been already “networked” and the social network site has operated to strengthen their existing connections. This argument is bolstered by the recent theoretical framework of technology studies which posits that the technologies are socio-cultural structures whose usage reflects the given socio-cultural characteristics of the group. Since studies on digital media focus more on post-industrialised society, cultural factors tend to be less considered. By providing ethnographic case studies, this paper also emphasises that it is important to take into account cultural differences among girls when we study digital media.
Creating technologies of their own: Examining young women’s participation in an online programming community
Roque, Ricarose (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)
Much of young peoples’ experience with technology involves interacting with various forms of digital technologies, from viewing videos to playing games. While young people are good at “reading” or using technology, few actually know how to “write” or create their own. To create means to become a full participant in today’s digital society, to have control over their digital experiences. However, in the various computing settings and activities that foster members to become computational creators, pervasive gender gaps exist. For example, 1.5% of open source software developers in 2006 were women and 18% of the computer science degrees in 2008 were awarded to women. In this study, we examine the participation of young women in an online community called Scratch. Scratch is both a programming environment and an online community where youth between the ages of 8 and 16 have created and shared over 2.4 million interactive media such as games, stories, and animations. Through ethnographic study and design-based research, we examine how young girls, who make up 36% of this community, create and connect with other community members. We also review our design decisions and interventions as well as the continuing challenges to engage young women more deeply in computing.
Rossie, Amanda (Ohio State University, USA)
Positioned at the intersections of two gendered phenomena—neoliberalism and postfeminism—young women in the U.S. have become the “contemporary interactive subject” (Banet-Weiser 278). So, perhaps it was no surprise when, in early 2012, media attention turned to videos posted to YouTube by young women asking viewers the question: “Am I ugly?” While many of the answers these girls received were startlingly cruel, the overarching gendered and racialized nature of the feedback speaks to larger trends in the ways online spaces are not only being utilized by young women to craft their identities but also how interactivity between “producers” and “consumers” of this digital content is negotiated. YouTube allows for young women to participate in the complex relationship between producers and consumers, wherein the language of “choice,” “empowerment,” and “flexibility” co-opted by neoliberalism and postfeminism encourages young women “to be a product within a neoliberal context; she authorizes herself to be consumed through her own self-production” (Banet-Weiser 283).
Using a sampling of these videos as case studies, this paper examines what happens when young girls who use this language to construct themselves as products in a neoliberal cultural marketplace take neoliberal and postfeminist rhetorics online. In this process, feedback “functions more often than not as a neoliberal disciplinary strategy” that metes out rewards and punishments based on normative standards (Banet-Weiser 288). I argue that these videos show one way that postfeminism and neoliberalism give girls the language and the technologies to turn their lives into DIY (do-it-yourself) projects “that can be crafted as one desires” (Harris 2004:8 ) while providing yet another avenue for the spread of neoliberalism and postfeminism across borders and boundaries.
“Dat feel when you’ll never be taken seriously in the atheist/scientific/political/whatever community because you’re a girl. :c” [Withdrawn]
Sadowski, Helga (Linköping University, Sweden)
In December 2011, 15-year old redditor Lunam posted a contribution in reddit.com’s huge atheism sub-forum. The post included a picture of her, holding a popular book on atheism, and had the headline: “What my super religious mother got me for Christmas…”. What could have become an encouraging discussion on religious tolerance, quickly turned into a sexualisation of the young American, which even involved rape threats. Eventually she was even blamed for becoming visible in the forum in the first place.
This form of silencing is common in many virtual communities. But a lot of research and reports about online harassment, trolling and the like usually resemble mere symptom descriptions or are subsumed, as for example by Kira Hall from a cyberfeminist perspective, as ‘cybermasculinity’. In my paper I want to evaluate the possibility to understand cyberspaces in relation to deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation processes in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari, that is as deterritorialisation processes which enable new possibilities for the deployment of human bodies, thoughts and feelings, and as reterritorialisation processes in which these possibilities simultaneously are blocked by dominant forces. The goal is to develop a framework that allows talking about gendered, racialised and other exclusionary practices in transnational online worlds and their communities, that allows to understand occurrences as the one above as not isolated ones.
“At Least There’s a Place Like This:” Community, Support, and Empowerment in Online Message Boards for Pregnant and Parenting Teens.
Sherman, Lauren E (University of California, USA)
Online message board communities provide a unique opportunity for isolated or marginalized youth to connect with others who share their experiences and facilitate support and empowerment. To explore the role of online communities in the lives of pregnant and parenting teens, we investigated the content of message board communities targeted at this group. We hypothesized young women would use the sites primarily to establish friendships and develop a supportive community, rather than simply to solicit pregnancy-related advice. We randomly selected 200 threads from four message boards and performed a mixed-methods content analysis of the original posts and responses. The majority of posts were categorized as “General Updates/ Community Building,” rather than “Pregnancy Advice Solicitation,” in support of our hypothesis. Furthermore, qualitative analysis revealed frequent instances of emotional, instrumental, and informational support even within the “Pregnancy Advice Solicitation” category. Nonetheless, qualitative analysis also revealed several negative consequences of message board use, including the dispersion of unsound medical advice, verbal attacks on members, and glamorization of the pregnancy experience. Our results contribute to understanding of the complex relationship between peer support and wellbeing among pregnant adolescents as well as the growing literature on online communities for marginalized youth.
Teitelbaum, Pamela (McGill University, Canada)
Globally, “girl-friendly organizations” (Kirk & Garrow, 2003) facilitating ‘community’ support for a girlhood culture are increasingly using video and online network technologies to influence policy aimed at eliminating gender inequality resulting from a lack of social, political and economic participation. It can be argued that these organizations are extending their reach through online network environments and engaging with digital interactive online media as an attempt to meet a variety of objectives. These might include sharing knowledge and practices about girl-led programs; stimulating policy dialogue aimed at eliminating gender inequality; and promoting and creating more inclusive environments for girls’ participation. The questions around how this dialogue is developing between and among the various participatory forms of communication within this context remains understudied. My paper draws on the work of Orgad (2009), Eichorn (2001), and Hine (2005) regarding the relationship between data sources, how data is interpreted and virtual ethnographic approaches. The purpose of my paper is to inquire into how a video disseminated by a girl-friendly organization through their online community is circulated and then interpreted by its members. This paper will have particular implications for qualitative internet research aimed at understanding the significance of the interplay between girlhood culture, video and online communities of practice.
Vaisman, Carmel (Indiana University, USA)
Girls still receive a lot of attention as consumers, and less as creators of media and culture (Kearney, 2006). In recent years, the paradigm of Girl Studies (Mazzarella & Pecora, 2007) has described the creative culture of girls, inter alia on the internet. However, the majority of this research focuses on practices of consumption, reception, gender discourse and identity performance, while there is little to no research on girls’ production practices (Kearney, 2011).
This paper offers an analysis of graphic design production, display, and exchange practices on girls’ blogs. It derives from a larger ethnographic fieldwork conducted from August 2004 to December 2007 on Israblog, a Hebrew-language blog hosting community.
The study reveals another dimension/interpretation of the ‘loaded’ concept of “Girl Power”, as ownership of or access to the means of production of symbols. Furthermore, the study accounts for the use of industrial and employment discourses within this play activity, which is organized around a gift economy model. These discourses serve the girls as a strategy to bypass conflicts and/or reframe them as professional rather than social. However, this strategy resulted in confusion between social and professional relationship within the game frame, creating mechanisms of alienation in a space wired for play, sharing and cooperation.
Vitores, Anna (Lancaster University, UK), Gil-Juárez, Adriana (Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain) and Feliu, Joel (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain)
Researches about underrepresentation of women in technological fields report that boys and girls establish different relationships with ICT, mostly due to the strong social alignments between masculinity and technology. This different relationship contributes to the creation of identities as different ICT users, different skills and competitive feelings regarding ICT and, lastly, differential interests in professions linked to it. Indeed, this could explain why even when the so-called “native” digital generation has already accessed to university, no balance has been observed in access to ICT related studies. However, there are still few studies about the specific relationships those digital natives girls establish with ICT and with the ICT field.
In a recent study conducted in Barcelona, Spain, different young women studying Computer Science Studies were interviewed in order to produce their technological lifelines. A qualitative methodological frame is used to analyze explanations and meanings these young women produce about usages of, practices with, and affects towards ICT during her past and present life. We also propose the creation of a technology user typology in order to get to know which technological lifelines do facilitate an expert use of technology. Our analysis highlights that traditional gendered stereotypes about technology are overtly challenged during interviews. However these stereotypes are frequently reified when these women try to make sense of her identities both as women and Computer Science students.
Vlavo, Fidele (King’s College London, UK)
In her investigation of the hackers’ communities during the late 1990s, cyberfeminist Cornelia Sollfrank examined the persistent assumption that female hackers did not exist. The default argument was that hackers were young, white, smart and self-confident but most of all: male. Following this, recent research has discussed the problematic narratives that have constructed the character of the young male hacker and, in the process, have rendered the existence of young female hackers implausible.
Yet, with the increasing media and governments’ attention to hackers, (both in terms of computer criminality and the development of a cyber-economy), the need to further investigate the socio-cultural practice of hacking from a feminist perspective is becoming central to the renegotiation of gender politics in the digital age.
The proposed paper will take as an outset the complex and problematic task of identifying and documenting the experiences of young women involve in computer hacking. My aim is to unpack some of preliminary theoretical and methodological questions raised by this project. I will also begin to discuss the possible strategies that could be develop to address these issues.
Zubillaga-Pow, Jun (King’s College London, UK)
For more than twenty years, cyber theories interrogating the sociological effects of computer-mediated communication have grounded an array of epistemologies and ethics. Yet, as is prevalent among the academic disciplines, studies on the queer and the colonial are pushed asunder from the hegemonies of the West and also the BRICS in recent times. This paper aims to redress this ethnographic deficit by proposing a discursive correlation between Singapore’s queer cyber-culture and the philosophies of Durkheim, Puar and Ranciere.
Reading selected texts from a blog composed by a young woman who identifies as lesbian, this paper argues that the historicization and propagation of what Jasbir Puar has coined as homonationalism have been made more pronounced by the combined social forces of the underlying aesthetic unconscious (Ranciere) within a digital context and the collective effervescence (Durkheim) of the lesbian communities in the homophobic nation-state.
This actual juxtaposition of the everyday phenomena has pitted a complicit discourse of nationalist neoliberalism alongside a politics of homonormative memory. That is, Singapore, with her authoritarian conservatism and a planned economy, has become the critical arbitrator of the theoretical intersections analysed disparately by the three theorists using Australian, American and European field data – the transnational par excellence.
Cowdy, Cheryl (York University, Canada)
WebKinz™ are stuffed toys marketed primarily for girls that have enjoyed phenomenal commercial success since their launch in 2005. Purchase of these toys includes a special code that enables consumers to participate in a virtual, online playground called WebKinz™ World, where they can practice consumption. Alternatively, however, some children play subversively with their WebKinz™ and with media spaces such as YouTube in ways that challenge and contest the limited and limiting options provided by their corporate creators. Youth-created videos such as “The Webkinz Pool Party” remind us, as Lisbeth deBlock and David Buckingham argue, that “in the cultural sphere, globalisation is often a paradoxical phenomenon” (81). Contrary to the notion that children are passive victims in the commercializing process of childhood, the producers of these videos create an alternative online community to the official Webkinz™ World that is child-directed and child-focused, engaging in forms of imaginative, subversive play and transcending impositions of national, corporate, and adult limitations. Taking starrystar33’s “Webkinz Pool Party” as a sample case study of my “kitchen research” on girls’ relationship to digital culture, I suggest that the “YouTube Sublime” (Grussin 2009), for all its “enormity and promiscuity,” provides researchers an opportunity to relate dialogically to the material artefacts and the ephemeral, immaterial practices of girlhood; to trace genealogies of girls’ “fugitive cultures;” and to construct what Claudia Mitchell calls “a new materialism” in childhood and girlhood studies.
Knight, Kim A. (University of Texas, Dallas, USA)
Recently, the launch of the Lego Friends toy line produced dialogue about whether the company had “sold out” by restricting the imaginative play of young girls. Despite the wealth of discussion on the topic, many seemed unwilling to consider the social context and wider range of essentialist media and marketing practices in which the toy line is situated. A cursory glance at the search results for “girl” and “boy” in the iTunes app store reveals that mobile apps directed at young users are categorized along binaries similar to those deployed by Lego. I propose to examine gender binaries in the iTunes app store, using analysis of search results and close reading of specific iOS apps. Particular apps of interest may include “Social Girl” and “Girl Wars,” both directed at young girls. Potential apps for study directed at older audiences include “iArgue – Gender Wars” or “Chick or Dude – The Ultimate Male / Female Gender Detector.” The goal of the presentation is to make explicit the implicit assumptions about gender as they are articulated through individual instances and collections of apps.
Wang, Yinhan (London School of Economics, UK)
An increasing number of young girls produce contents in social media on a everyday basis for the opportunities to express, explore and connect. Public misunderstanding and concern are about whether girls are being narcissistic and vain. Academic works address how girls exercise agency while negotiating structure in the construction of their gendered adolescent identities. This paper will present empirical findings from a completed doctoral project. The project is situated in relation to our hopes and fears about girls’ self-representation through digital media production, and examines the role that photographic self-portraiture plays in girls’ social relations, personal identity and gender identity work. It focuses on the popular Taiwanese social networking site Wretch.cc, and employed quantitative content analysis of 2000 self-portraits of teenagers to understand how they (re)present themselves, and qualitative online interviews with 44 girls aged 13-20 to learn about how they navigate girlhood, body, self-identity and sociality through self-portraiture. The study aims to provide a balanced account of girls’ engagement with new media that considers the individual agency enabled and at the same time constrained by structural factors.