The Essay that Broke the Internet
The Ohio State University, United States of America
This talk analyzes O’Reilly’s 2005 essay “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software” and its effects on the development of the Internet since the late 2000s. Where this highly influential essay purported to be an analysis of and prognostications about the future of the web—describing potentially successful, cutting edge web businesses and identifying how those businesses could overtake competitors—its predictions have become self-fulfilling prophecies influencing the values and goals of technology companies for over a decade. Following Castells’s arguments on the potential for network design decisions to “program” outcomes in those networks, I show how O’Reilly’s vision of Web 2.0 privileged data collection, dark patterns, and walled gardens, setting the commercial internet on a path that has greatly contributed to issues such as the growth of online surveillance; social media trolling and abuse; and, perhaps most importantly, the role internet companies play in these and other issues as both gatekeepers and arbiters of thought.
As with Ankerson’s Dot-Com Design and Tufecki’s Twitter and Tear Gas, this talk applies humanistic analysis and interventions to the products of digital culture, identifying the present-day impacts of Web 2.0 “design patterns” on the Internet in order to aid scholars and technologists in addressing the unintended consequences of those patterns, an integral step in making the web more hospitable to the goals of social justice.
Incels, The Red Pill, and Three Waves of the Manosphere
Carnegie Mellon University, United States of America
In 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, killing seven people, including himself, and injuring fourteen more. Rodger’s manifesto claimed that websites such as “PUAhate” confirmed for him “how wicked and degenerate women really are.” His internet history linked him to communities of men that identify as involuntary celibates, or “Incels.” Similar attacks since have spurred interest in websites with nihilistic content associated with the Incel movement. Incels have often been contrasted to self-help and pick-up artist groups such as “The Red Pill” and “men going their own way” (MGTOW), which are collectively known as the “manosphere.” Positive aspects of the manosphere such as motivation and self-help are accompanied by sexist world-views and an obsession with dominance, the control of women, and one’s position in a social hierarchy.
Kate Manne’s book Down Girl (2017) observed that most public responses to Rodger’s Isla Vista attack rejected his actions as being misogynistic. Manne believes Rodger’s case of misogyny, and others, are often dismissed rather than researched because vague definitions such as “woman hating” render the term meaningless or seemingly inapplicable. Manne argues for revised definitions of misogyny and sexism, which we support and expand on in our research.
This presentation reports recent findings from a combination of close reading and large-scale computational analysis of online forums including Reddit’s “Braincels” and “TheRedPill” subreddits, the men’s blogs “SoSuave,” “Chateau Heartiste,” and “Dalrock,” as well as from pick-up manuals dating back to the 1970s. We identify three “waves” in the manosphere. By isolating terms from books and posts, we track the succession of the waves as they correspond to techniques, advice, and ideologies that men adopt in navigating what they term the “sexual marketplace.”
We have found the major transitions between these waves to include: (1) the shift from the enumeration of practical seduction techniques for use in a bar or nightclub to the development of theories on what women find innately and universally attractive; (2) the adoption of popularized versions of microeconomics and evolutionary psychology to provide a pseudoscientific basis for these theories; and (3) the use of these theories to represent woman as amoral, biological machines, lacking the freedom of will that men naturally possess, and thus unsuited to holding political power. Current manosphere ideology leads to a niche subset of the group feeling justified in retribution against women for their lack of attention, affection, and sex.
Engagement Through Collaboration and Digital Curation: The Headline News Project
Cuyahoga Community College, United States of America
This paper discusses the conception, creation, outcomes and reflections on the use of a digital public humanities project to stimulate campus-wide engagement. A collaboration developed between community college resource divisions (Archives, Library, Instructional Design, Instructional Specialists, Studio, Creative Arts and Media, Diversity, etc.), faculty, students and community experts, created a ‘digital podium’ around an exploration of the college’s historic student newspapers.*
The Headline News project centered on the creation of a digital video loop and the curation of materials for accompanying both curricular and co-curricular exhibits and events that reflected interdisciplinary scholarship, critical thinking, debate, and engagement through the use of social media and digital tools. Beyond the academic component, this experiment stimulated new relationships, generated new learning tools, and broadened resource awareness and engagement both within the college and extending into the wider city. The ultimate goal of the project is to create an annual, iterative examination of the humanities topics through a variety of lenses and encourage thinking in new and creative ways.
Headline News involved students in questioning the role of the news within the broader questions of social issues, activism, community involvement, and power structures. Students’ understanding of how news is identified, produced, and distributed is at the heart of the project. This paper will explain the project, analyze outcomes, and propose new iterations. This project will appeal to faculty, librarians, instructional designers, and administrators seeking to entice their institutions to expand digital literacy, promote cross-unit collaboration, and explore new avenues of faculty, student and community engagement.
*implementing scholarship such as Calder & Scheinfeldt Uncoverage (Pedagogy); Sam Weinberg Historical Thinking & Rafael C Alvarado, Debates (Digital Humanities); Dan Cohen, Digital History, Jeffrey Pomerantz, Metadata (Information Science), Mariet Westermann & Donald Waters (Mellon Initiative Results)
Webs: An Ethnography of a Wikipedia Talk Page
independent scholar, United States of America
On May 2, 2001, user Erdem Tuzen, a physician from Istanbul, Turkey, created the myasthenia gravis Wikipedia page. It was written as a simple paragraph describing the disease’s main symptoms, how the disease works, and how it is treated.
Zooming through time shows that it has been edited 1023 times by 521 users. It has 10 main sections, with another 15 subsections. There are 14 links to other Wikipedia pages in the introductory paragraph alone. The amount of ‘information’ has multiplied. What does it mean to be an embodied being within systems of data? What happens when standards and practices rely on particular forms of information as being more worthy than others, causing gaps in the sharing of knowledge?
When people want to gain knowledge about their health, a majority go online for information, resulting in almost 200 million medical articles being viewed on Wikipedia per month; yet Wikipedia is designed so that instead of providing useful, accessible information, it is actually a barrier to knowledge.
This is due to a number of reasons, first, that the writing itself is above the recommended guidelines for average US literacy, second, that this happens partially because of Wiki: projectMedicine, an international group of health professionals dedicated to making sure the medical information on Wikipedia is technically correct, and third, that the ‘Five Pillars’ for creating, editing, and maintaining Wikipedia are themselves ideologies that reinforce a particular white, Western, Christian set of already-established knowledges.
I will analyze this through an ‘ethnography’ of the myasthenia gravis Wikipedia page to come to know how already embedded knowledge practices and assumptions structurally co-create the environment for ways of knowing to be present and absent. I will query the policies, guidelines and structures of Wikipedia itself as content, coming to terms with the ways bodies are directed through a combination of histories and the (current, online) practices of ‘access’ in knowledge production.