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This has already been everywhere, but oh well. There are just so many interesting things about danah boyd’s social-neworking/class analysis I don’t know where to start. A few weeks ago I mused that “Myspace will remain as the go-to site for musicians, aspiring porn stars and people looking to hook-up with strangers; Facebook for college kids, hipsters, tech geeks, activists and academics.”

Turns out I’m mostly right, according to danah. She has been interviewing young people across the nation about their relationship with social networking and other technological phenomenon, and writes a series of academic and non-acedmic articles about her observations. One of her latest discussions is on class divisions evident in the Facebook/MySpace divide.

Until recently, American teenagers were flocking to MySpace. The picture is now being blurred. Some teens are flocking to MySpace. And some teens are flocking to Facebook. Who goes where gets kinda sticky… probably because it seems to primarily have to do with socio-economic class.

After hashing out the obvious origins of this divide (facebook’s original .edu account only membership policy), danah attempts to briefly deal with just what “class” actually means in U.S. society, which I thought was one of the most interesting parts of the essay. She cites sociologist Nalini Kotamraju, who argued that lifestyle and “social stratification” are more indicative of class in the U.S. than income.

In other words,” danah writes, “all of my anti-capitalist college friends who work in cafes and read Engels are not working class just because they make $14K a year and have no benefits. Class divisions in the United States have more to do with social networks (the real ones, not FB/MS), social capital, cultural capital, and attitudes than income.

Ezra picks up this thread and adds

I’m not making very much right now, but … there’s an issue of potential here. I’m choosing a low-income field, but it would be easy enough for me to take the LSAT, dart off to law school, and quintuple my salary. Not choosing that option doesn’t mean it’s not there. Should class actually be tired to the most-renumerative reality you could feasibly inhabit?

Similarly, I’ve been in grad school this year, and making practically nothing, like most of my fellow students. But no one would look at us, our lives, our possessions, and call us “working class.” We have ikea furniture and laptops and iPods and embarrassingly high weekly bar tabs, though combinations of previous incarnations in the working world, help from parents, student loans, meager part-time incomes, school stipends, etc. (for the record, my parents are not paying for anything for me, lest you think I’m one of those subsidized academic brats). And we have post-grad prospects that, while dismally not as bright-and-shiny as we’d like, at least mean that we’ll be able to make our way in the world and keep drinking expensive beer and maybe even open a savings account some day soon. Commenters at Ezra’s point out that, really, education is what we’re talking about here. And upward mobility. But education is the clearest predictor of upward mobility, so … class can be boiled down to education.

This is gonna get me off on a tangent here, but … I never realized how much the type of education you had predicts your future success until I moved to DC. I went to a state school in Ohio and entered the job market in Ohio and pretty much everybody else I was competing with went to school in Ohio and nobody much cared if you went to a private school or a state school or a community college. But in DC, which can afford to be much more picky, I’ve noticed that certain internships, certain types of jobs, certain networks, are nearly exclusively brimming with Ivy-leaguers or people with equally impressive academic credentials. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like because you didn’t do the right internships at 20, you’re never gonna get where you want to be. But this is neither here nor there. Back to the class thing … I think it’s about education, but also about mindset. Which is what danah was originally saying, I think. So back to danah’s essay. Danah posits that:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities. MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. These are the teens who plan to go into the military immediately after schools. Teens who are really into music or in a band are also on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

She points out that this is visually represented by the difference in Myspace and Facebook aesthetics. Personally I am horrified when someone (usually not a current friend but someone I went to high school with or something) posts a glittery blinking loony toon flash graphic on my MySpace comments section. Similarly by people whose pages have, like, sixteen slide shows of their friends or their kids, graphic memes, and blinking backgrounds. But danah points out that in certain cultures, “showy, sparkly, brash visual displays are acceptable and valued” (that explains all those moving-waterfall-florescent-wall-hangings that are so popular in my home town).

The look and feel of MySpace resonates far better with subaltern communities than it does with the upwardly mobile hegemonic teens. This is even clear in the blogosphere where people talk about how gauche MySpace is while commending Facebook on its aesthetics. I’m sure that a visual analyst would be able to explain how classed aesthetics are, but aesthetics are more than simply the “eye of the beholder” – they are culturally narrated and replicated. That “clean” or “modern” look of Facebook is akin to West Elm or Pottery Barn or any poshy Scandinavian design house (that I admit I’m drawn to) while the more flashy look of MySpace resembles the Las Vegas imagery that attracts millions every year. I suspect that lifestyles have aesthetic values and that these are being reproduced on MySpace and Facebook.

This is getting really long, but the last thing I want to share from danah’s essay is her analysis of class divisions in military use of social networking sites.

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. MySpace is the primary way that young soldiers communicate with their peers. When I first started tracking soldiers’ MySpace profiles, I had to take a long deep breath. Many of them were extremely pro-war, pro-guns, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, pro-killing, and xenophobic as hell. Over the last year, I’ve watched more and more profiles emerge from soldiers who aren’t quite sure what they are doing in Iraq.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the goal is to cut off communication between current soldiers and the group that the military hopes to recruit. Many young soldiers’ profiles aren’t public so it’s not about making a bad public impression. That said, young soldiers tend to have reasonably large networks because they tend to accept friend requests of anyone that they knew back home which means that they’re connecting to almost everyone from their high school. Many of these familiar strangers write comments supporting them. But what happens if the soldiers start to question why they’re in Iraq? And if this is witnessed by high school students from working class communities who the Army intends to recruit?”

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All morning/afternoon, people in my office were watching and talking about the new Hilary Clinton/Sopranos spoof ad (which was infinitely preferable to the office talk yesterday, which mostly consisted of, “Gonna be a hot one today, isn’t it?” and “My, is it hot out there!”) Being neither a Hilary Clinton nor a Sorprano’s fan myself (I’m not against the Soprano’s, before anyone leaps on me, I’ve just never seen it), I didn’t much care to about the video. This interpretation by Ann Althouse, however, got me interested:

Bill says “No onion rings?” and Hillary responds “I’m looking out for ya.” Now, the script says onion rings, because that’s what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the “O” of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She’s “looking out” all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! Here, Bill, in retaliation for all of your excessive “O” consumption, you may have a large bowl of phallic symbols!

Dear god, I knew this woman was weird, but … really??? Onion rings are the new vagina symbols??? And she accuses feminists of reading too much into things ….

I was led to the Althouse post by Matt Zeitlin, who pleads that Althouse must be joking, as there is no other eplanation for such a “convoluted, implausible interpretation.”

Althouse’s attempt at divining the semiotics of the ad makes the post modern text generator read like Hemingway.

I kind of figured Althouse HAD to be kidding, right? Mocking someone, perhaps? Just trying to be silly? But, no, she defends it in a subsequent post, managing to insult your intelligence if you question the viability of her onion vagina theory in the first place:

Maybe you just sit there pleasantly and think: Isn’t it clever for Hillary to use the “Sopranos” scene as a device for informing us about her new campaign song and to include some cute business where she alludes to her concern about health care by having a nice bowl of carrots instead of the onion rings they had on “The Sopranos”? If so, aren’t you the good little voter, accepting the message Senator Clinton hoped to insert in your receptacle of a brain? The famously controlled former First Lady is pleased there are people like you.

That’s right … Clinton intentionally made a video using onion rings and carrots as sexual metaphors but then hoped that you wouldn’t actually realize that’s what’s going on in the video, because … oh wait, that’s where I’m stumped. Because why, Ann?

Me, I’m not so obedient. Even though I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and may very well vote for Hillary, I don’t accept these things at face value.

Huh. Well, that doesn’t really explain it. Nonetheless, good to know you’re not falling for it. Carry on, then.

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    ABC News:As 21st century women dominate the universities and continue to climb the executive ladder, and metro-sexual men explore their feminine side, it’s harder to define what it means to be a woman

In the mildly frustrating category of the week … why is everyone so up in arms about this “new” birth control that allows women to not have periods at all? Doctors have been telling women to just take their regular birth control continuously (skipping the placebo sugar pill week) in order to avoid periods all together for years now. Seasonale, the pill that allows women to only have 4 periods a year when taking it regularly, has been out since 2003. The fact that this new pill, Lybrel, is touting itself as the birth control pill that allows women to skip periods entirely is more of a marketing ploy than some sort of grand scientific or cultural development; the regular old pill has been doing the same thing for years.

What’s funny is that “The Pill” — in it’s earliest form, in it’s iconic 1960s incarnation — could have been just like Lybrel, more or less. The earliest versions of the pill did, in fact, halt menstruation. But somewhere along the line pharmaceutical companies decided that giving women a pill that would stop their periods all together would be too radical, too unsettling, for most of their consumer market, so they created the whole one-week-dummy-pill system to make it seem more “normal” and “natural.” Notes the Washington Post:

The birth control pill was originally developed to mimic a normal cycle in the belief that women would find it more acceptable, not because it would be safer or more effective at preventing pregnancy.

More about the particulars of all this here.

So people back in the day, worried by the kind of moral outrage the Pill would provoke over lost fertility and womanhood, etc. etc., decided to keep periods as part of the pill, assuming America wasn’t ready for the other version. What’s amazing is that, more than 40 years later, a period-free pill is STILL provoking this kind of moral outrage about “lost” fertility and womanhood, what with Leslee Unruh out there screaming about this pill being a “pesticide” that’s somehow part of an evil NARAL and “big Pharma” conspiracy plot to make women hate babies; ABC news worried that, without the little ladies bleeding every 28 days, our society will suddenly lose the ability to differentiate between men & women (hint: it has something to do with penises and vaginas, yo. And maybe differential amounts of body hair); and Eugene Volokh imagining ridiculous scenarios where every month, we gals call all our friends a la the telephone scene in Bye Bye Birdie to share the news that we’re once again shedding the lining of our uteruses (What the story? Morning Glory? Called to tell you that I’m on the rag.).

I suppose this sort of crazy is not entirely surprising, though, considering that it still seems hard to get it through certain conservatives’ heads that birth control does not cause abortion (quite the opposite, really), nor does it represent a complete rejection of having children, as Unruh seems to think (in the Think Progress article, a NARAL spokeswoman notes that 98 percent of American women will use some form of contraception in their lives, and we’ve yet to see the USA become a land of childless harpies, so…).

Ann at Feministing wonders how the tampon companies will react to Lybrel. I kind of hope the tampon companies are the ones behind all this lost-womanhood-we-love-babies-gender-bending nonsense. A stealth, Bernays-like advertising campaign by the feminine-hygeine-products cabal would make a lot more sense than people actually believing this crap …

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I’m a bad blogger, because I’m always so late to the game responding to anything going on. But that’s okay, because the people who read this are mostly my friends who don’t read a lot of other blogs (which is neat, because then they actually think I have something novel to say!), or the 20-or-so people who come here every day searching for “emo bangs” (you make one post containing the word emo bangs in the title, and you get 15-year-old hipsters for the rest of your life).

I’m also a bad blogger because I bury the lead like this every time, but I’m getting to the point now, I promise: Garance Franke-Ruta’s dust-up over the age of consent for porn. It started with a WSJ op-ed in which she proposed that the age of consent for appearing in pornography should be raised to age 21, which I guess led to minor outcry from, like, everyone. Franke-Ruta somehow seems to have gotten the impression that it’s because everyone LOVES BARELY LEGAL PORN!, but most of the arguments actually centered around much more sensible, if mundane, things, such as the fact that if we consider people old enough to vote and join the military, etc. etc. at 18, they’re probably grown-up enough to make their own decisions about porn.

Franke-Ruta’s main concern seems to center on potential regret, the idea that 18-year olds are too young to realize they’ll later regret appearing in pornography:

Yglesias pretends that a young woman’s “decision” to have nude pictures of herself floating about without her consent is no different than picking a college major or “getting tattoos.” But he’s wrong. People don’t lose their jobs – or become permanent public spectacles – over “buying lottery tickets” or choosing to major in chemistry rather than physics.

Maybe people don’t lose their jobs over getting a tattoo, but there sure are a lot of other decisions they can make at 18 that they’re just as capable of regretting as appearing in porn. Joining the army for instance — you make that decision, you’re capable of, well, not even really having the chance to “regret” it, because you might be dead. Does Franke-Ruta really think a decision that might possibly result in the loss of your life is not as serious as a decision that might result in the loss of some potential future job? As Julian notes (and you should just read this whole post, because it’s hilarious):

Perhaps most jaw-dropping, she considers Matt Yglesias’ observation that treating 18-20 year olds as adults means recognizing their right to make all sorts of choices they might later come to regret, then asserts that getting photographed nude is somehow uniquely harmful, uniquely damaging. This, apparently, in contrast to trivial choices like whether to bear a child or drop out of school or join the Army.

The problem with an argument like Franke-Ruta’s is all its logical extensions, especially for women. Right now, women at 18 have the legal ability to make the decision to be on birth control, if they want, and to get abortions if they want, and to marry or not mary, if they want. Using Franke-Ruta’s logic, wouldn’t it be possible that they will later regret the decision not to carry a child to term, or the decision to block conception in the first place? Or the decision not to marry someone their parents tell them to? Maybe we should raise the age of consent for contraception and marriage and abortion to 21 too!

Considering this, I was surprised to see Amanda Marcotte somewhat defending Franke-Ruta’s proposal:

I think raising the age of consent to be in commercial porn to 21 could have to potential to protect youthful sexual experimentation. At least in the case of “Girls Gone Wild”, the presence of Joe Francis and his cameras has turned things like Mardi Gras from occasions of joyous debauchery to mean, misogynist events that aren’t nearly as fun as they used to be. It’s a shame that there’s no space for kids to experiment with some public debauchery anymore without some dick shoving a camera at them in the process of making porn movies that are punitive in nature.

This quote (in Franke-Ruta’s article) might be taken somewhat out of context, as Amanda is usually all about trusting women to be smart enough to make their own decisions (and she does some hemming and hawing in the rest of her full post), but I think it’s interesting to look at the whole porn-age-of-consent thing from a feminist perspective. I guess it all depends on whether you’re more of an all-porn-is-exploitative feminist or a women-should-be-able-to-make-their-own-decisions feminist (or, god forbid, a porn-empowers-women feminist). But Jill had a really interesting post at Feministe earlier this week about the new-wave of anti-abortion-activism oozing with faux-concern for how “abortion hurts women,” and should therefore be banned because women don’t even realize what’s good or bad for them. On the some-women-regret-their-abotions front, Jill writes sarcastically:

But since women may regret a choice that they made, we should clearly take away the right to make that choice! The 1873 Court could see this one coming from a mile away — if you give women choice and freedom, they’re gonna just go and muck it up. Better to just make their decisions for them.

I say we take this a step further and really ensure that women don’t regret anything ever. We should institute a fresh new system wherein women are property of their fathers until their father chooses who they marry (wouldn’t want her to mess that up and have to get a divorce — just look what happened when we gave women full divorce rights!), and then their husband controls all of the money, property, progeny and decisions. Obviously she would stay home and raise the children — in the manner dictated by her husband, of course, since the children would be legally his. Wouldn’t want her to make a bad parenting decision and regret it forever! And we definitely wouldn’t want her to regret going to school or getting a job.

Extreme (but fabulous) snark aside, this can really be applied to Franke-Ruta’s argument. We start not trusting 18-year-old women to make decisions about porn, we open the way to not trust them to make decisions about anything else. Regrets are a part of life. Trusting women, or young adults (or anyone for that matter) to make their own choices means that some people will inevitably make some choices they will regret. That doesn’t mean the government should make those choices for them, or that we should limit the choices of everybody else, just to offset that off-chance of regret.

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books, a crazy-new-age-hippie-manifesto I found in the back of the-people-my-mom-used-to-work-for’s-druggie-son’s room when I was 14:

Don’t ever start thinking you know what’s right for the other person. He might start thinking he knows what’s right for you.

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It’s all very Slushie Dog Theory (it’s a picture of a dog on a cup holding a cup with a picture of a dog on a cup holding a cup with a picture of …. ): linking to bloggers blogging about linking to bloggers who have blogged about links to bloggers ….. But anyway, I thought this post by Terrance at The Republic of T on the “politics of blogrolls” was very interesting.

I mentioned in the previous post that I’ve blogged a lot in the past about blogrolls, the politics of linking in, and how links are a kind of currency that follow the same rules as currency in any other economy: those who have the most tend to get the most, tend to keep it, and tend exchange it mostly among themselves.

What’s funny, too, is that he talks about the “old days,” when bloggers could rise up the popularity ranks pretty quickly. I wish I’d been around for the old days — there must have been such a sense of excitement and possibility then! — but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who starts a blog these days thinking there’s any chance they’re going to get any sort of audience. Except for maybe professors or published authors, who already have a sort-of audience, or the corporate sponsored blogs, which he mentions.

{during the good old days of blogging, I was busy posting memes and playing dear diary with my college friends over on livejournal, the ugly stepsister of blogging platforms}.

{I remember once in 2003, I was up in my bedroom doing homework and a few friends were downstairs talking about these things called blogs, and my friend james was going on about how it was going to revolutionize this or that. And I was so annoyed by the whole conversation that I felt the need to put down my book, go downstairs, and tell them how stupid they were. Huh. But then, I’ve always been something of a luddite. I was vehemently against DVD players, cell phones, and text messaging for a time, too.}

Terrance’s post reminded me of an article imaginary-co-blogger justin told me about a few months ago, about how bloggers should strive to be more like Paris Hilton (which I had never gotten around to looking at), and lo-and-behold, a quick google search for “paris hilton linking to people” and I found it: Why Paris Hilton Is Famous (Or Understanding Value In A Post-Madonna World).

That’s the real reason Paris Hilton is really famous. Because she is the queen of links. When Paris first came on the scene with her own user generated sex video she used that attention to create a career. Here’s how she did it.

Though she hired a publisist to get her on Page 6, She never really talked about herself. She talked about other people. She would mention the designers of her clothes, the club she was going to, who made the sweater for her dog, all without any guarantee of any return. She just threw out links. It didn’t take long for designers and club owners to realize that Paris Hilton was a walking billboard. So they embraced her. She paid attention to them, so they paid attention to her.

{This is the second time we’ve talked about Paris Hilton on this blog in a week. Yellow is the Color: All Paris Hilton, All the Time!}

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The great folks at Slate wrote an interesting article about batshit crazy conservative pin-up Ann Coulter today, mostly in response to her latest hoof-in-mouth gaffe, wherein she called John Edwards a faggot. The Slate article proffered a collection of choice Coulter quotes from over the years, and I looked up a few more. Remember, if you keep laughing she can’t hurt you. And I’m pretty sure she can’t be exposed to daylight, either, should it come to that. Enjoy:
(more…)

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Wikipedia’s articles are crap 99% of the time. 99.8% to be exact. Although that figure could be wrong; I got it from Wikipedia.
They have done an audit of the 1,638,011 articles on Wikipedia.org and determined that, of that total, only 1,300 articles are good enough to be considered ‘featured articles’ and 1,700 fit into their super-subjective ‘good’ category. Keeping in mind that every day the total number of articles grows, as well as the constant opportunity for any of those featured or good articles to be edited down to sub-par, this could be a big problem for a website that wants to have any sort of legitimacy as a source of reference. Now employees of the site have finally taken notice that online content, open for editing to the entire internet community (the definition of a ‘wiki’ in case you didn’t know), often ends up shoddy and biased. They must be some sort of self-loathing wiki, though, because they’ve begun a dialogue to try to solve the problem. With a Wikipedia entry. Although that particular page is listed under their essays, and most of the article is not open for edits. Near the end, the author proffers this somewhat bleak view of their accomplishments thus far:

If Wikipedia just aimed to be a social site where people with similar interests could come together and write articles about anything they liked, it would certainly be succeeding. However, its stated aim is to be an encyclopaedia, and not just that but an encyclopaedia of the highest quality. Six years of work has resulted in 3,000 articles of good or excellent quality, at which rate it will take many decades to produce the quantity of good or excellent articles found in traditional reference works. [However] almost 1.6 million articles are mediocre to poor to appalling in quality.

So it appears that Wikipedia is here for our use and abuse, but Wikipaedia, by definition, is unattainable.

Which reminds me, this all may be moot if Wikipedia doesn’t raise some money. It’s not news that most dot coms have dubious business models, they’re is no exception. They survive on donations, although in this article, they appear to be falling quite short of goals. Wikipedia has endless potential if bought out, but they profess to want to remain a nonprofit. In the same article, a spokesperson laments that Wikipedia has the same “ongoing, pressing needs for funds that…most nonprofit organizations face”. So if I’m reading their press releases correctly, Wikipedia is a nonprofit, like the Red Cross or Locks of Love, only instead of blood or hair, they supply fodder for mediocre term papers and pub quiz questions. Is this, after all this time, the elusive .com vs. .org distinction? It’s a little tricky in this case because there’s nothing tangible that they actually provide to people. Maybe if they start giving out tote bags…
I say in the case of either problem plaguing the site that they ought to roll with the punches and adjust; wiki it up, as it were.

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