Work In Progress

Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.). (in press, expected publication spring 2015). eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Online connectivity is rapidly becoming essential to social, cultural, economic and political participation, especially among girls and young women who are leading producers of online content. Interestingly, initially utopic predictions from policymakers about the pot of gold sitting at the end of the information superhighway and from critical scholars about the emancipatory potential of participation in digital media are increasingly interlaced with dystopic concerns associated with the mass uptake of networked technologies by youth, particularly girls and young women. Policymakers have tended to focus upon issues such as online child pornography, online luring, cyberbullying and non-consensual disclosure of intimate images. Critical scholars, in turn, have raised concerns about misuse of personal information, online misogyny, racism and homophobia, poor digital literacy skills, and underlying economic models that shape users into consumers, rather than citizens. And yet, all too often, girls¹ voices are left out of theoretical, policy and educational dialogue about online issues that directly affect them. This collection of essays reframes the discussion in ways that make space for more equitable and empathetic responses, rather than polarized utopic/dystopic debate. It analyzes the equality, privacy and gender performativity implications of the digital environment and its impacts on girls¹ online participation; assesses the ways in which stakeholders construct girls in theoretical, policy and educational discourses; and suggests future approaches and best practices that are premised on girls¹ own understandings of their needs and aspirations in an increasingly digitized society.

[More information available online].

Jane Bailey. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). “A Perfect Storm”: How the Online Environment, Social Norms and Law Constrain Girls’ Online Lives. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Bailey articulates an empathetic description of the experiences of the participants in The eGirls Project and a rich vision of their needs as eCitizens. Drawing on the eGirls data, she highlights the gap between the problems that policymakers focus on and the problems that girls would like to see addressed. She then gives voice to the messages that our participants expressly wished to pass on to policymakers. First and foremost, our participants wanted policymakers to know that the online environment can be particularly hard for girls because the publicity it enables — which is a large part of the benefit — also creates a “powder keg” where one mis-step can permanently damage their reputations. They accordingly called upon policymakers to address the ways that online architectures open them up to judgment and shaming if they fail to perform a narrow, highly stereotypical type of “girl”. To get the policy response right, policymakers must stop focusing solely on criminal responses that typically make girls responsible for their own safety. Instead, they should limit the ways in which corporations invade girls¹ online privacy for profit, and regulate media representations that reinforce stereotypes and set girls up for conflict.

Jacquelyn Burkell and Madelaine Saginur. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). “She’s Just a Small Town Girl, Living in an Online World”: Differences and Similarities Between Urban and Rural Girls’ Use of and Views About Online Social Networking. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Burkell and Saginur explore intersecting differences between girls who live in cities and girls who live in rural areas. Using the eGirls data, they compare and contrast urban and rural girls’ experiences on social media. Again, the commonalities are striking. Although rural girls were very aware of their “rural-ness” (unlike urban girls who never defined themselves as city girls) and felt that city girls were much more successful at “amping up” their virtual appearance through the use of makeup and Photoshop, the experiences of both groups of girls were very similar. Both used social media to reinforce their real world connections to people who lived in their communities, and to keep in touch with family and friends who lived far away; and both reported a similar level of pressure to conform to the expectations of peers. However, rural girls were more likely to take online conflict offline, and attempt to resolve issues face-to-face. Burkell and Saginur suggest that this may be linked to the fact that their real-world social circle was more limited in size and space, and also more inter-connected (“Everyone knows everyone”); this amplifies the potentially destructive impact of ongoing conflict and increases the need to intervene face-to-face to repair breaches in relationships. Again, this illustrates the complexities of online life and the importance of accounting for the diverse constraints that girls experience because they are situated differently.

Sarah Heath. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). Security and Insecurity Online: Perspectives from Girls and Young Women. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Heath uses the eGirls data to examine how girls use privacy settings and other technical tools to protect their online security. From the eGirls participants’ perspective, the technical design of the sites they inhabit create particular security risks because they make it difficult for them to control the flow of the information they post there. They were especially concerned by design features that identify them when they wish to be anonymous, or make it hard to maintain a boundary between their various audiences. They were also uncomfortable with the commercial collection and use of their information. However, they actively engaged with their own security, and used a number of strategies to protect it. When faced with interactions that were deemed inappropriate, “creepy,” strange or unfamiliar, they would block or delete users, carefully manage the types of information they revealed, or disengage from particular conversations. In doing so, they demonstrated a strong resiliency with respect to managing their own security.

Matthew Johnson. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship Approaches to Girls’ Online Experiences. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Johnson’s chapter argues that, to date, most interventions have focused on safety issues. This has been particularly problematic for girls, because they are more likely than boys to report that: the Internet is an unsafe place for them; they could be hurt by talking to someone they do not know online; and their parents worry about them getting hurt online. Johnson suggests that media literacy education is a corrective, because it encourages young people to develop the skills they need to use, understand and create with digital technologies. Placing digital literacy within a broader context of digital citizenship also steers us away from punitive responses based on fears about safety; and moves us towards interventions that will encourage young people to develop the empathy, ethical perspective and activist stance that are at the heart of acting responsibly online. He outlines a number of educational initiatives created by MediaSmarts, Canada’s largest digital literacy organization, that promote digital literacy, and urges educators to take gender into account in digital literacy education. In particular, since girls rely on social norms to negotiate a comfortable degree of online privacy, educators who teach online privacy issues should take as a starting point the need for respect for the privacy expectations of others. Similarly, he suggests that educational initiatives that address cyberbullying, sexting and media stereotypes should take into account the gendered nature of these harms, and call upon everyone — boys and girls — to act as responsible digital citizens.

Trevor Scott Milford. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). Revisiting Cyberfeminist Theory as a Tool for Understanding Young Women’s Experiences. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Milford suggests that we can move beyond responsibilization and better protect girls’ online privacy by troubling the dichotomies that too often structure debates about girls and technology. He revisits feminist engagement with technology issues and suggests that binary thinking — offline vs. online; risks vs. benefits; vulnerability vs. agency — has limited our theoretical capacity to challenge policies that constrain girls’ agency in the name of protecting them from harm. By maintaining the tension between poles in a fully integrated online/offline social environment that is both liberating and constraining, we can better understand how girls experience online representations as instances of both agency and vulnerability. Milford concludes that, in this environment, agency can best be promoted by providing girls with control over the disclosure and sharing of their own images. And, since agency can only be fully experienced once we address the constraining impact of the stereotypical media representations that increasingly colonize online spaces, this approach will also help focus policy attention on ongoing, systemic patterns of discrimination and bias.

Priscilla M. Regan and Diana L. Sweet. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). Girls and Online Drama: Aggression, Surveillance or Entertainment?. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Regan and Sweet explore the nature of online stereotypes in greater detail by examining the ways that eGirls participants mobilized the term “drama” to describe the kinds of conflicts they experience on social media. They suggest that discussions of drama are closely linked to “mean girl” discourses that pathologize feminine social aggression and implicitly treat male aggression as neutral. Policy interventions using this lens accordingly over-regulate girls. However, eGirls participants also talked about drama as a form of highly gendered peer surveillance; whereas boys’ behaviours were generally overlooked or accepted as neutral, girls were closely monitored to ensure that their behaviour conformed to gendered norms. In addition, eGirls participants talked about drama as an enjoyable form of entertainment, where stereotypical performances of gender were attended to for pleasure. Regan and Sweet conclude that policy interventions must attend to these alternative understandings of drama and, rather than punishing girls for social aggression, regulate the companies that own social media. By requiring online companies to provide users with more tools to control the flow of their information online, and by restricting the use of media stereotypes in online advertising, policymakers could constrain the environmental elements that encourage this kind of conflict.

Valerie Steeves. (in press, expected publication spring 2015). “Pretty and Just a Little Bit Sexy, I Guess”: Publicity, Privacy and the Pressure to Perform “Appropriate” Femininity on Social Media. In Jane Bailey and Valerie Steeves (Eds.), eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology, Theory and Policy Into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices. Ottawa: uOttawa Press. 

Abstract

Steeves uses the eGirls data to test this claim, and to explore the relationship between privacy, publicity and resistance on social media. Her analysis reveals a complex and contradictory set of affordances and constraints. Although the publicity enjoyed on social media made it easier for eGirls participants to cultivate professional relationships with potential clients and employers, the easy slide between private experimentation and public performance opened them up to harsh judgment, especially from peers, if they stepped outside the narrow confines of a highly stylized and stereotypical performance of femininity. Steeves concludes that resistive and potentially emancipatory identity experimentation is more likely to occur if the privacy of the virtual bedroom is protected from commercial interests that seek to replicate the kinds of stereotypes that constrain girls¹ enjoyment of the public sphere, and if girls are given more control over the virtual traces they leave in the public sphere.

Deborah G. Johnson and Priscilla M. Regan (Eds.). (in press). Transparency and Surveillance as Sociotechnical Accountability: A House of Mirrors. New York: Routledge.

Abstract

Surveillance and transparency are both significant and increasingly pervasive activities in neoliberal societies. Surveillance is taken up as a means to achieving security and efficiency; transparency is seen as a mechanism for ensuring compliance or promoting informed consumerism and informed citizenship. Indeed, transparency is often seen as the antidote to the threats and fears of surveillance. This book adopts a novel approach in examining surveillance practices and transparency practices together as parallel systems of accountability. It presents the house of mirrors as a new framework for understanding surveillance and transparency practices instrumented with information technology. The volume centers around five case studies: Campaign Finance Disclosure, Secure Flight, American Red Cross, Google, and Facebook. A series of themed chapters draw on the material and provide cross-case analysis. The volume ends with a chapter on policy implications.

Valerie Steeves. (in press). Swimming in the Fishbowl: Young People, Identity and Surveillance in Networked Spaces. In Irma van der Ploeg and Jason Pridmore (Eds.), Expanding the Gaze: Gender and the Politics of Surveillance. Toronto: University of Toronto. 

Abstract

This chapter draws on the findings of Media Smart’s Young Canadians in a Wired World research project in order to examine young people’s experiences with identity and surveillance in networked spaces. I discuss the ramifications of our findings, in three sections. First, I explore the types of visibility and lateral surveillance our participants experienced with peers, and the kinds of strategies they relied on to manage their online personas.  Second, I examine the dual face of parental surveillance as care and control, and the complex negotiations that children and parents undertook with respect to both access to and use of online media.  Third, I turn to the panoptic surveillance our participants experienced at school, and explore their perceptions of the impact of this surveillance on their ability to use networked technologies to enhance their learning. I conclude that young people and adults have a complex relationship with networked technologies, and continually negotiate the degree of monitoring young people are subjected to in the socio-technical spaces that they inhabit.

Jane Bailey. (2014-2015 forthcoming). Gendering Big Brother: What Should a Feminist Do? 

Abstract

Set in the context of an imaginary dialogue between a feminist law professor and her cyberfeminism student, this paper explores various theories about stereotypes and other tools of discrimination, as well as the emancipatory potential of digitized communications for equality-seeking groups. It suggests that the Snowden revelations and concerns around ”big data” present an opportunity for coalition between feminists and civil libertarians on the issue of surveillance. In the final analysis though, it cautions that this context may simply reflect a moment of interest convergence in which collaboration is unlikely to produce real change for equality-seeking groups unless the discriminatory tropes that disproportionately expose these groups and their members to surveillance are addressed.

Jane Bailey. (2014-2015 forthcoming). Time to Unpack the Juggernaut?: Reflections on the Canadian Federal Parliamentary Debates on ‘Cyberbullying’. Dalhousie Law Journal

Abstract

“Cyberbullying” has come to the fore in Canadian federal parliamentary debate largely in the last two years in tandem with high profile media reporting of several teen suicides. The federal government has responded to the issue by tabling Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. The omnibus Bill proposes, among other things, criminal law responses to non-consensual distribution of intimate images and gender-based hate propagation, but only at the expense of expanded state surveillance writ large. A criminal law response might appear to be the obvious policy choice for many who have followed media reporting on cyberbullying. However, our review of federal parliamentary debates from 2008-2013 revealed a much richer array of approaches in which the efficacy of criminal law responses was heavily contested. This article reports on the diversity of viewpoints that emerged within those debates, first contextualizing them within the conceptual complexity of the term “cyberbullying” and the media focus on tragic suicide cases. It suggests that “cyberbullying” has become less a problem and more an intellectual and political juggernaut for transporting a broad range of individual and social issues, as well as political ideologies, onto the public agenda. The conceptual elasticity of the term has to some extent facilitated co-optation of tragic suicide cases as a guise for pushing a tough on crime agenda, while obscuring underlying relational and systemic issues repeatedly identified by many claimsmakers within the debates. This article argues in favour of unpacking the “cyberbullying” juggernaut to expose as candidly as possible the wide range of individual and social issues that the term itself too easily obscures from view. Doing so, it suggests, is an essential first step toward development of a comprehensive multi-pronged strategy that better accounts for the richness and diversity of the concerns reflected in the cacophony of voices within the debates themselves. Such an approach could allow for prioritization of issues and development of responses aimed at addressing those most at risk, and capable of accounting for the ways in which individual actions are informed by the social context in which they occur, including well-established structures of discrimination.

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Valerie Steeves and Priscilla Regan. (2014-2015 forthcoming). Young People Online and the Social Value of Privacy. Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 12(3).

Abstract

In this paper, we suggest that the gap between legislative and educational initiatives to protect young people’s online privacy and their lived experience of privacy and invasion is grounded in a too-narrow conceptualization of privacy as informational control.  Instead, we suggest that privacy is an inherently social practice that enables social actors to navigate the boundary between self/other and between being closed/open to social interaction.  We posit that the social negotiations that occur in fixing this privacy boundary in a particular context depend on individual preferences and abilities as well as the social meaning of the context.  Online privacy is therefore complicated by the ways in which online contexts often overlap and performances flow easily from one context or relationship to another.

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