Monday, May 02, 2016

Blog Prompt: Bystanders to Online Abuse

A number of you have been posting about the topics danah boyd takes up in her book It's Complicated. I was in particular struck by the posts Ashlee, Kat, Bianca and Stephanie wrote about privacy and social media. But I am surprised that no one from class has yet posted on the topic of cyberbullying. If anything, concerns about online abuse and bullying have become even more pronounced since boyd did the original research for her book.

So, in the interest of sparking a conversation about this topic, I want to share with you an opinion piece for The Guardian, "Online Abuse: We need Good Samaritans on the Web," written by a former student of mine, Carrie Rentschler, who teaches at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It is on the problem of bystanders who witness but do nothing about online abuse. Please post your reactions to this piece sometime in the next week. I am very curious about what you think.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Blog Prompt: Social Media, "Big Brother" and Privacy Rights Online

This week we'll be beginning our discussion of "social media" in class, a discussion we'll continue over the next few weeks when we turn our attention to an in-depth discussion of danah boyd's book It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

One common criticism of social media-- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.-- is that it compromises users' privacy. Indeed, in some school districts teachers and administrators monitor the behavior of their K-12 students on social networking sites and "cybervetting" of job applicants by potential employers is an increasingly common practice. In her book I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy, Lori Andrews argues that we need to adopt a Social Network Constitution to protect our rights online:
It should say that social networks are private spaces and that employers, schools and other institutions are prohibited from accessing social network pages or taking adverse actions against a person based on anything they post on a social network. A similar rule is being considered in Germany, which would forbid employers from using information from social networks in the processes of hiring or judging employees.
What do people think of this proposal? Do you agree with Andrews? Or does she go too far? Please try to write a couple of paragraphs on this and we'll use the online discussion as a jumping off point for an in-class discussion of these issues.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Blog Prompt #2: Is Google too powerful?

Yesterday, we began discussing the central role that Google plays in people's online lives. We use the company's search engine to find information for homework assignments, to check our spelling, to check our symptoms when we're feeling sick, to find directions to restaurants and to find out friends' phone numbers. We use their video sharing service YouTube to fritter away hours watching videos of cats on skateboards and mash-ups of our favorite TV shows. Some of us use Google Docs to write our papers, Google Hangout to engage in live video conferencing and Google Calendar to organize our lives. And, whether we know it or not, Google serves up many of the online ads we're exposed to on sites like the New York Times site, CNN.com and Weather.come. This raises a key question: Does Google have too much power over our lives? Are we addicted to Google? And, if so, does the Googlization of our lives  endanger our privacy or our independence in important ways (as some critics suggest)? Write a blog post-- on Blogger, another Google property-- reflecting on these questions. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the subject....