Digital Ethics Symposium

The first speaker I heard was Sara Perry from University of York. One of my favorite parts about Sara Perry’s talk came right at the beginning. She has an intimate and extensive understanding of social media, and the use and risks of social media. She encourages and teaches her students to use and master a variety of media outlets. She told her story about being harassed online based on her gender on sexuality, but unlike Anita Sarkeesian, she knew all of her harassers. I can’t help but notice the similarities between these women’s stories and the statistics on rape. While we often see in the media stories about women who are publicly raped and abused by random people, we very rarely hear stories about women who are raped by people they know, even though those cases are far more common. We have spoken extensively in class about the kind of unwelcomed attention received by Anita Sarkeesian, but haven’t mentioned any cases where the victims have known their online abusers. I was pleased to hear Perry use examples of men being made uncomfortable online in the same kinds of ways that women are because men are often ignored entirely in these kinds of discussions.

The second speaker I heard was Lindsay Ems, from Indiana University. I was really pleased by the general concept of her talk. While Perry spoke about gender minorities in the academic field, Ems spoke about a religious minority- the Amish. It was really interesting to hear about the people at the other end of the social media use spectrum. Many of the participants of the conference, including the prior speaker, are social media experts, addicts, and devotees. But the Amish of this particular study were skeptical of any media use, and represent a community living at the opposite end of social media use.

The third speaker was Burcu S. Bakioglu from Lawrence University. She spoke about virtual worlds like the ones presented in online games. She spoke about “griefing”, when players intentionally harass other players. Bakioglu spoke about LambdaMoo and an incident of an online rape that occurred in the community, and the community’s desire to legislate these kinds of incidents in their space. I found it really interesting that she spoke first about LambdaMoo, and I felt very knowledgeable because I had spent time playing in this community. One thing that I found particularly interesting her talk was how these kinds of world were governed. Some of the ways that people can control these online worlds are the rules that users accept when they log on, like the terms and conditions on Facebook or other websites. Another way to control online worlds is to limit actions by code. Creators could write an action out of the code so that users just simply didn’t have the ability to do it. She also mentioned the concern of local and federal government agencies that would want to limit the actions of community members to prevent illegal activities like money laundering or child pornography.

I enjoyed all of the speakers that I saw. The women who spoke each spoke on a different aspect of the internet and technology, but each one had something insightful to say about how these subgroups or subcultures of society uses and operate within- and without-technology.

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