Tag Archives: Social Networking

THATCamp Switzerland (5)

My session on graduate students in digital humanities was Occupied!

Because it became clear to many at the conference that although 40% of the attendees at THATCamp Switzerland were female, only one of the proposals was by a woman. So, two of the women here at Camp staged a pirate attack on my session and “occupied” it to hold a session instead on women in social media.

One of the central topics discussed was how social media respond to (or don’t) women’s career trajectory in digital humanities? Another was how women (and men) manage their identities online.  So, for instance, are men more likely to use social media in a non-professional way, i.e., tweet about what they are doing today, while women in the academic life are perhaps more likely to confine themselves to more professional uses. So much of the discussion revolved around questions of power–to what degree is the power in academia tilted toward men or not, and whether digital media might be flattening the hierarchical relationships because all have equal access.

One of the points I thought was especially interesting was whether men in digital humanities (who seemed a bit older to the commentor–I hope she didn’t mean me!) were “digital immigrants” while the women seemed younger and so were more l likely to be “digital natives.” That comment certainly bears on the experience in the U.S., in that women are taking over graduate education in general, with certain fields excepted (finance, engineering).

A good bit of the discussion centered on the editing of Wikipedia and what that could tell us about gender? Wikipedia’s own survey — 58,000 self-selected respondents out of 15.6 million account holders — says that 87% are male. So, even if we assume that men are more likely to respond to such a survey than women (which I don’t know if it’s true or not) we still have to say that writing/editing for Wikipedia is an overwhelmingly masculine activity. Why that is the case, it seems to me, is a question well worth pursuing.

According to the Pew Internet Project, in the U.S., women are somewhat more likely (69% vs 60%) to use social media than men. I’d have to examine the underlying data to see if this difference is wider in younger age cohorts, but if that’s true, then it could validate the comment about digital immigrants/digital natives.

All in all, a very lively discussion that needs to be had over and over and over.

Facebook and Sex Trafficking

[NB: This post contains content that might not be suitable for all ages.]

Regular readers of this blog will know that this semester I’m teaching a course on the history of human trafficking. One of the students in my class wrote a very good paper on the impact of technological change on the sex trafficking industry and in the paper the student discussed, among other things, the increasing use of social networks to promote prostitution.

Just to be clear, prostitution is not illegal everywhere and reasonable people can come to very different conclusions about whether adults should be allowed to sell or purchase sex to/from other adults. But the realities of the sex global sex market as it exists today are that a substantial majority of the women and men providing sexual services for a price are doing so under duress–they have been trafficked and live in states of complete or almost complete slavery. A very large percentage of these people worldwide are under the age of 18. And in case you were wondering, the average age at which someone becomes a prostitute in the United States hovers around 13, a finding that should disabuse anyone of the notion that most prostitutes are selling sex as a matter of choice.

One of the parts of my student’s paper that caught my attention was the section that dealt with the use of Facebook and other social networks for the buying and selling of sex. Because I’m a historian, I’m a natural skeptic and so I decided to see whether there was good evidence that Facebook has begun to take up some of the slack from Craigslist, now that the latter site has begun to clamp down on the use of its site by those selling sex, many (if not most) of whom are/were under the control of pimps and other traffickers.

Because I have two children, one of whom is already on Facebook and the other of whom is already wanting to know when he can have a page of his own, I also have a personal reason for wanting an answer to this question.

Here’s what I found: If you want an “escort” or a “sensual massage,” Facebook can set you right up. With minimal searching, I found a variety of pages for escorts in Germany, the Persian Gulf, the United Kingdom, and India, and links to massage parlors in the United States as well as around the world. Lest you think these massage parlors are offering sports massage or something similarly benign, a quick scan of their pages (such as the one to the left) indicates that they are most definitely not offering therapeutic massage.

I recently met with some key people at the Polaris Project, one of America’s more important anti-trafficking organizations, and among the things I learned that day is that almost all “massage parlors” in the United States are implicated, not just in prostitution (as you might expect), but in the trafficking and therefore slavery of women for sex, especially women from Asia. And Facebook is giving these sorts of establishments an outlet on the web.

Perhaps even more unsettling are the pages I found, such as the one in this image, that are openly soliciting women for work as prostitutes. Again, it should be noted that prostitution is legal in many countries around the world. But the research on sex trafficking is clear that even where prostitution is legal, many (if not most) of the prostitutes working in a given country are victims of trafficking, meaning they are unfree and are forced to service as many as a dozen or more clients each day. Those seeking to traffick women and men for sex use a variety of strategies to lure them into slavery, so why should we be surprised that Facebook is becoming a tool of choice. After all, if you want to find teenagers, where better to look?

Colleagues regularly ask me whether or not I might consider using Facebook in some way in my teaching. And more and more we see examples of educational software developers coming up with applications that integrate various teaching and learning tools with Facebook. The results of my research on Facebook’s role as a platform for the buying and selling of sex, and therefore likely also the buying and selling of humans against their will, convinces me that it is no place for educators until its policies change.

Zotero 2.0

[This post originally appeared in the blog hist.net.]

zotero-smZotero 2.0 became available for public download on May 14. This new version of Zotero provides many exciting features that unlock the research archives of individual scholars making those research archives (or portions of those archives) available for a wider audience. Think about it this way. In what my students like to call the “olden times” (anything before 2000), scholars collected materials into their personal research archives then sat down and wrote a book, an article, or a conference paper. That publication provided the scholar’s audience with a glimpse into the source materials he or she had collected from various archives, libraries, etc. But only a glimpse, and mostly in the footnotes. If you wanted access to those same sources, you had to replicate the research already completed by the author of what you were reading.

Zotero 2.0 potentially puts an end to this re-research process. Now, a scholar can make any portion of that personal research archive available online via Zotero’s collaborative capabilities. So, for instance, as I collect materials for an article I am perparing for a volume of essays on “getaways” in communist Eastern Europe, I can make my Zotero folders available to anyone or just my collaborators in the volume. Once the book is published, I can choose whether or not to make my sources available to those readers who want to work with the sources I collected. In this way, the “hidden archive” of scholarship will begin to migrate to the surface. The potential for transformation of scholarly work is, I think, quite significant.

Zotero 2.0 also taps into the potentialities of social networking for scholars. Once logged in to the Zotero server, one can create a personal profile page, create or join affinity groups, and track (“follow”) the work of others who are part of the Zotero community. For a brief summary of the features of Zotero 2.0, read what Dan Cohen, Director of the Center for History and New Media, has written (and will continue to write) in his blog.

I do not tweet!

Despite what you may find on Twitter, Edwired (and by extension Mills Kelly) does not tweet. Some dastardly and unknown Twit (is that what you call people who use Twitter? I don’t use it so I don’t know the correct lingo) signed me up to reserve the name for me. Thanks, I guess, if only because it means some other Tweeter(?) out there won’t begin impersonating me and steal my audience of more than a dozen loyal readers…

My question is, how can I already have 26 stalkers, oh, sorry, “followers” on Twitter if I’m not even there?