How I’m using social media for troublemaking, part one: Pinterest

Since January, I’ve been experimenting a lot with social media, partly because I’ve really interested (theoretically/practically, personally/professionally/academically) in social media and partly because I’m working as a social media specialist/educator at Room 34 Creative Services and want to be familiar with different forms of social media. My approach has been to pick out a limited number of media that look promising (which means that I might be able to use them for meaningful engagement in making and staying in trouble) and experiment with them.

One media that I’ve, perhaps stubbornly, refused to experiment with is Facebook. I have seen it used effectively, like by my grad students, but I just can’t get past the privacy issues + overall tone of site + the games + over-controlling of user experience by Facebook admin, in order to experiment with it. My twitter feed does get posted on Facebook, so I do use it a little. And, I do like seeing what my friends/family are up to on it. 

Yesterday, I finally convinced STA to add social media buttons to this blog (see upper righthand corner of this blog). In honor of this occasion, I want to offer up a series of brief descriptions of how I’m using social media right now for making and staying in trouble. Today’s description: Pinterest

I’m using Pinterest for critical and creative experimentation. So far, I have 11 boards and 95 pins. Almost all of my boards are related to troublemaking, like my trouble role models, apps I want to trouble and troublemaking books for kids. I’m also experimenting with a Beside/s board. So far, I haven’t done too much with that board, but I see it as having some interesting potential.

(P)interestingly enough (ugh…I need to stop doing this pun), I’m not really using Pinterest to connect with other pinners. I don’t follow that many boards or repin many items from other people. I also don’t comment and don’t receive many comments.

One of the only comments I received, on my pin for Mattilda Berstein Sycamore, still pisses me off every time I see it. I chose not to engage with the person (should I have responded?), but their response, especially the YOU in all caps made me think comments might not be useful for me on this site. Thinking about my reluctance to use comments or to engage that much with other pinners makes me wonder, what exactly makes a social media site social? 

My Pinterest Boards as of April 23, 2012

I really like using Pinterest for keeping track of some of my ideas and examples. I’m hoping that the various boards can serve as inspiration for current and future writing and video projects. As I write this description, I realize that I want to think and write more about how I use/want to use Pinterest.

2 Questions to return to later

What makes a social media site social? What sorts of engagement do social media offer, beyond sharing and communicating with other users?

Troublemaking with social media?

Just saw this photo from the Occupy London facebook page. Very fitting, considering I’m currently trying to finish an article on how twitter might enable us to be more engaged citizens. In my article, tentatively (and very boringly–is that a word?) called “Twitter, Authenticity and Ethical Engagement,” I plan to examine three different twitter projects from (or that started) last year that were used to spread awareness and transform understandings about abortion: Angie Jackson’s live-tweeting of her abortion in February of 2010; the hashtag #ihadanabortion, first used in the fall of 2010; and the twitter handle, @IamDrTiller. One of my key arguments is that these three examples need to be taken seriously and closely examined to explore their potential for encouraging us to be more engaged, caring and ethical citizens. Originally I had planned to focus only on Jackson’s live-tweeting of her abortion (via the RU486 pill), however after doing some more research, I’ve decided to also include the hashtag and twitter handle, both of which were created by Stephanie Herold from abortion gang (we’re talking about this issue and Herold in my feminist debates class this semester). I want to think about these three examples in relation to Joan Tronto and her feminist ethic of care (specifically, her ideas of caring about, giving care and receiving care). It is interesting to think about this idea of caring about and giving/receiving care in relation to the image from occupy london. Revolution seems to be about disruption, destruction and struggle while Tronto’s definition of care is grounded in care, repair and the maintaining of the world (see my discussion here). Is it possible to think about these things together? Well, that’s one thing that I’m trying to do in my own work by (re)imagining troublemaking as a form of care and maybe care as a form of troublemaking?

On another note, I’m planning to discuss the occupy movement (is it a movement? what else should we call it) in my queering theory class next week. We’re discussing the concept of the abject and reading some Butler (from Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter), Dorothy Allison (“A Question of Class”) and various online sources about occupy wall street (including this awesome site: History is a Weapon). In that discussion, and in my own critical reflections on the occupy phenomenon and the ethical/political value of twitter, I want to think more about what it might mean to use twitter as a revolution tool? How? And in tandem with what other tools? What are its limits as a tool? Possibilities? How specifically has it challenged/disrupted/made trouble for the system?

Okay, I need to finish a draft of my article soon. I better start writing!


When I looked at my wordpress dashboard this morning I noticed that I had 14 drafts–these are entries that I have started, but never completed. Right now I’m in the process of looking through these drafts so I can either delete them or (finally) post them. This entry started as a draft way back on March 7, 2010.

As seen on a commercial/PSA for MTV: There is a thin line between curious and controlling. This reminds me of the chapters I read about staring from Rosemarie Garland Thomson and her book, Staring:How We Look (I assigned it for my troublemaking grad class in March 2010). Curiosity has been used to excuse a lot of behavior and also stems from a quest for knowledge; we use the desire to know as a way to scrutinize, to pick apart, to dissect, and to conquer. How do we navigate this danger of curiosity?

In preparing to post this brief entry, I decided to do a little more research on the MTV PSA. I found out that it is part of “A Thin Line” campaign against digital abuse (sexting, textual harassment, cyberbullying) for youth. Here’s a blurb on their about us page:

MTV’s A Thin Line campaign was developed to empower you to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers. The campaign is built on the understanding that there’s a “thin line” between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else. We know no generation has ever had to deal with this, so we want to partner with you to help figure it out. On-air, online and on your cell, we hope to spark a conversation and deliver information that helps you draw your own digital line.

I’m fascinated (not uncritically so) by this site and their project. I will definitely have to check it out more when I have time. I might even want to get my students in my feminist debates class to critically analyze it–especially in terms of the number of different ways the site encourages the user to not just read about the problem but to do something (post a story, do an action, spread the word, draw a line, etc). We could also analyze it in relation to family values and youth. For my spring 2010 feminist debates class we discussed youth, values and cyberbullying. I am also fascinated by their emphasis on the “line”: the line between curious and controlling, virtual and real, love and abuse, use and abuse, etc and drawing a line (as in, taking a stand) against the problem of digital abuse. What is the site/campaign doing with (and to) these binaries? Busting them? Reinforcing them? How do we think about the “line” as one that is both thin and as that which must be drawn?

In looking for a link to Garland-Thomson’s book on staring, I found a great video in which she describes her project:

Resources Round-up

I am always using this blog as a space for experimenting with new ways to archive my research (and to document who I am as a scholar, thinker, teacher, troublemaker). Sometimes these experiments work and sometimes they don’t. Here’s another one to add to the pile: Resources round-up. In this (type of) entry, I want to archive some resources (mostly articles, but some blogs) that I found and started reading this week. Hopefully, I can return to these resources later for future syllabi, articles, and/or blog entries. Perhaps if I become disciplined about it (ha ha! Even though I embrace being undisciplined, I still see value in developing specific sets of repeated practices–habits–on the blog. In fact, habitual writing is one thing that I really like about blogging.), I could do one of these resources round-ups every (other?) week? Possibly. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to write the first of these round-ups.

1. The Ethics of Waste
by Gay Hawkins

I have already started writing about this book on Unchained, a diablog that I started with my partner this summer (and haven’t written in since the beginning of August when the s**t hit the fan and I had to start working on multiple syllabi and finish up an article on feminist pedagogy and blogging). Originally I picked up this book in late August; I briefly thought about using it in my queering desire class in tandem with other sources on the abject. I imagine (but I can’t remember) that I was also intrigued by the author’s reading of waste through/in relation to ethics and daily practices. Now that I have read the introduction and first chapter, I am considering using it in my queer ethics class. Still not sure.

2.Developing a corporeal cyberfeminism: beyond cyberutopia
by Jessica E. Brophy

I haven’t read any of this article yet. Here’s the abstract:

This article discusses – and rejects – cyberutopia, an idealized theory of internet use that requires users to leave their bodies behind when online.The author instead calls for a cyberfeminist perspective in relation to studying the internet and other new media, centrally locating corporeality and embodiment. The underutilized concept of intra-agency is then employed to develop liminality in relation to the experience of going online.The author then outlines different versions of cyberfeminism and endorses that which addresses the relationships between the lived experiences of users and the technology itself.The article concludes with a call for theorists to expand and enrich the concepts used to study new media.

After a quick glance at the bibliography (which looks really helpful) and a skim through the article, I am convinced that this essay is a good one to revisit. The author hits on a lot of my areas of interest (including agency, Butler, performativity, liminality) and offers a good overview of cyberfeminism in relation to cybertopia.

3.DIGITAL WHITENESS, PRIMITIVE BLACKNESS: Racializing the “digital divide” in film and new media
by Janell Hobson

I am excited about this essay because of the author’s approach to thinking about the digital divide. While I recognize that access to technology (who has computers/who can get online) is a very important issue that needs to be addressed repeatedly, I worry about how “the digital divide” can be used to shut down any discussion about the transgressive and transformative potential of social media and Web 2.0 technology. I also worry about how discourses surrounding this divide work to reinforce certain binaries and ignore/erase experiences that don’t fit the binary–Hobson talks about this in relation to whiteness as progress/technological advancement and blackness as primitive. Here’s the abstract:

This essay argues that cultural scripts, such as popular films and other forms of visual culture, have constructed a racial ideology about technology, especially in conceptualizations of the “digital divide.” By associating whiteness with “progress,” “technology,” and “civilization,” while situating blackness within a discourse of “nature,” “primitivism,” and pre-modernity, the digital divide amasses cultural and racial weight and highlights hostile interactions with digital technology among marginal groups. However, a growing corpus of work by digital artists of color and web 2.0 participants has exposed these mythic constructions by re-imagining blackness and womanhood beyond technological exclusion and surveillance.

Here’s another excerpt in which Hobson provides a concrete overview of the essay:

In what remains, I first delve into the history of the technological divide between whiteness and blackness, as reflected in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century world fairs and mid-twentieth-century films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, prior to assessing contemporary themes of race and technological surveillance in the late-twentieth century science fiction films The Matrix and Strange Days. I then connect these cinematic representations to the work of black artists, such as Keith Piper, Julie Dash, and Damali Ayo, who underscore the black presence in the realm of digital technology. Finally, I conclude by ruminating on whether or not social “revolutions” for racial equality and inclusion can, in fact, be “digitized” (114).

I’m excited to read this essay; I imagine it will provide me with some useful ways for thinking beyond/outside of a narrow vision of the “digital divide.” Here’s one more passage that seems helpful in complicating the “digital divide”:

As these artistic models suggest, the “digital divide” is less about “access” and more about the technological dominance of a privileged few with global repercussions that threaten all of us, especially now that we have become so closely connected in the information superhighway. Marginalized groups, in particular, feel the impact of the high-tech age in profoundly personal and political ways. However, they are not just acted upon by technology; they have a creative and dynamic role in shaping our digital culture (122).

I really appreciate how Hobson envision agency here: marginalized groups are acted on by technology, but they also negotiate/resist/transform it.

Okay, these aren’t the only sources that I found this week. Because I am running out of energy and time, I will list a few more sources that I reviewed this week without any commentary:

4. Commentary and Criticism on Social Media and Intimacy

This commentary on Feminist Media Studies provides a series of mini-essays, including: “The New Architectures of Intimacy? Social networking sites and genders” by Usha Zacharias and Jane Arthurs and “This is not a Blog: Gender, intimacy, and community” by Catherine Driscoll.

5. The Digi-active Guide to Activism for Twitter and The Digi-active Guide to Activism for Facebook

In addition to these two guides, the Digi-active website is filled with information about digital activism, including this youtube video:

Also, check out their mission statement. I might use this in future classes. Maybe a class on digital activism–the possibilities and limits of thinking, acting and reflecting online (and, in tandem with offline)?