Author: helenamierzwa

CDEP Symposium: Afternoon Sessions

After Anita Sarkeesian’s talk and a short lunch break, I stayed around for one of the afternoon sessions.  I attended the 1:00-2:15 concurrent sessions in Regents Hall.  Unlike the one I saw earlier in the day, which was a mixture of men and women, this session was all women, which I found interesting. Here are my recaps of each woman’s talk:


Sara Perry, University of York

Gender & Digital Culture

Sara was a pretty blonde woman, and I think this made her speech on online harassment stand out even more.  She told her personal story about how she had been sexually harassed online multiple times, by colleagues, people she knew.  She went on to talk about online harassment of the office/professional space.  It was interesting to hear how as offices have shifted to do more things online, harassment has shifted to be online as well.  Yet, there are often no safety precautions implemented in offices to stop this harassment online.  It happens to both men & women and is harassment of all kinds, not just of a sexual nature. She did a study and found many people experience it but often ignore it because of a lack of safety protocol to protect works in regards to it, which is upsetting, because this is an issue that should be taken more seriously.


Lindsay Ems, Indiana University

Approaches to Amish Technology Use: The Body as an Optional, Ideal Communication Medium

In Lindsay’s talk, she used the Amish’s use of technology to show how technology can ideally be used.  As like anyone else, I was surprised to hear that the Amish even used technology! They can’t have buttons but they can have cell phones? News to me! It was interesting to find that they use the same technology as us, smart phones with all the apps, etc.  Yet, they treat technology differently.  They moderate their use- phones aren’t allowed in the house, they only use it for just what they need, no excess.  Lindsay did an ethnographic study and found that the Amish value face-to-face communication over anything.  In-person communication strengthens community and close bonds, helps adults to lead by example and promote good messages and values, and so on.  Technology can’t express emotion and many other aspects that in-person communication has.  Taking a look as Amish culture and how they use technology made me really take a deeper look at our use of it and how we have let it affect our culture.


Burcu Bakioglu, Lawrence University

Ethics of Unethical Play: Curious Case of How the Bad Boys of Second Life Transformed into Digital Activists

Burcu talked about how government is set up in the virtual world.  She started off talking about “grieving” in virtual game play. She mentioned LambdaMoo and of course I got really excited and was glad that I knew what she was talking about! Kudos to comm 200! She mentioned the virtual rape and all.  She then went into an analysis of how there are different levels of governance in virtual worlds, but how it mainly comes down to individual players.  Most games have of course terms & agreements, but there are many levels under this.  Ultimately surveillance rules and proactive security is key.  The creators of the game can’t help us so it’s really up to us, the players!


Dara Byrne, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Digilante Ethics

Dara talked about how there are real crimes happening in the virtual world yet there is not much being done to stop it, no digital justice.   She talked about those internet scams we all see, but think no one really falls for, using the Nigerian email scam as an example.  Many normal people would think “who falls for those though?” Yet, many people do fall victim to internet fraud apparently.  She talked about the impact and we have lost millions of dollars to internet crime, the numbers were insane! And law enforcement can’t even really help, it is so hard to track and control. She highlighted that it is up to us as a community to act as vigilantes, or “digilantes,” and to alert others to these possible frauds and educate one another and ourselves so as to try and avoid them.


These talks weren’t as interesting as the earlier ones I thought, a few were kind of hard to follow, but they were interesting nonetheless!


What were others insights into these talks? Which were you’re favorites? What were some interesting things you may have picked up from them?


CDEP Symposium: Morning Sessions

To start off my day at the symposium, I attended one of the morning concurrent sessions.  I went to the 10:00-11:15 session in Beane Hall.  I walked in and felt a little awkward, being by far the youngest one in the room beside maybe one other student. I definitely expected more! It was very informative, though, and I was very glad I went! I took notes as I listened to each of the four speakers give about a 15 minutes speech. Here is a short summary of each:


Jan Fernback, Temple University

Privacy, Data Brokers, and the Fourth Amendment: The Ethics of a Targeted Surveillance Regime

In Jan’s speech, she talked mainly about our 4th Amendment right to privacy and how online data brokers violate that right. She went into detail about data brokers and how they target individuals and are a threat to our security. She showed us some examples of data broker sites (Intellius, Been Verified, Exact Data, etc) and just exactly what kind of crazy info our ours they have (financial info, medical info, occupation, hobbies, even pets, etc).  Sites mine our info and sell it for profit, and basically anyone can buy this info. There is currently no regulatory structure for this, yet there should be. I found it disturbing just how much of our personal info could be bough by just anyone!


Jonathan Peters, University of Kansas

The Internet, Free Speech Chokepoints, and Government Regulation

Jonathan talked about a paper he had written and the main points of his paper.  His paper argues that the internet is the greatest threat to free speech because it is currently unregulated.  Privately owned companies like Facebook, Google, etc. are shaping an important time in our history with no rules on them, they make their own rules. They serve as intermediaries, but how do they get to dictate what we can and can’t say? They make up their own rules as to what content needs to be removed, blocked, etc by their moderators.  But what right to they have to say what we can and can’t say online? We need stricter rules to govern this online playing ground for the sake of our free speech. I sure don’t want Facebook telling me what I can and can’t say!


Caitlin Ring, Seattle University

Hashtags and Hate Speech: The Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Social Media Companies to Manage Content Online

Caitlin talked in her speech about hate speech online and how it was enforced.  She looked at Twitter, Facebook & YouTube.  She showed us many examples of hate speech on all three and it made you worry for mankind just how much hate speech is out there! YouTube is the best at reporting hate speech apparently and Facebook is the worst. Again, the internet has no regulations so many times these threats and such go ignored. It made me disgusted to see just how much hate there was projected on the internet and for there to be nothing to control it.


David Wolfgang, University of Missouri

Opening the Marketplace: A Case for the Protection of Anonymous Online Comments

David outlined the concept of being anonymous online.  He looked at both sides, how it could be good and bad.  It is good because it protects minorities, whistleblowers, etc. who might be afraid to speak out otherwise.  Yet, it can obviously be bad as well because it can generate hateful, negative things as well.  He brings up though the question of who should be allowed to be anonymous and brings ethics into it. He brought it down to social responsibly and how people should be educated to make good choices, because taking away anonymity wouldn’t solve the problem.  He made some very good points and insights and I liked how he saw both sides of the story.  Overall, I feel that we do need anonymous.


Overall, I enjoyed each of these speeches and it was great that they tied in to perfectly with ideas, terms and topics from both my Comm 200 and my comm 215 (Media Ethics) classes! Did anyone else happen to attend these? What were some points you found interesting?

CDEP Symposium: Anita Sarkeesian

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 8.37.34 PM

Finally, after all the talk about her, I got to see Anita Sarkeesian speak in person! She has been the topic of discussion in a few of my classes so I had been excited about this event for a while.  This being the second session of the day I went to for the symposium, it was much more crowded than the first one I went to! The whole room was filled and it was nice to see many of my fellow students there.  There were good security measures taken (check in, metal detector), so I felt safe in the crowded room even after all the buzz from her cancelled speech at a previous school.

She was first introduced and then got right into her speech, aided by a powerpoint to go along with it.  She gave a quick overview of Feminist Frequency, which challenges how women are portrayed in video games, and the current state of the gaming industry.  She talked about how the gaming industry is changing to include people of all age, race and gender, straying from the young white male domination.  Yet, many young white males are extremely angered by this and by Anita’s views and have gone to extremes to try and “defend” their gaming worlds.  They have formed a cyber mob, specifically called “gamer gate”, that fight against her and other women like her who stand up for women and their portrayal in these games.

Before the speech, I knew she was being harshly harassed via online, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until she showed examples and told us herself.  They assault her on twitter, get her websites taken down, give out her personal info, flag her pages, threaten her violently and sexually, use pornographic images against her.  She showed us examples and I was shocked at just how graphic some of the harassment was.  She then went into detail about the conspiracy theories (white washing, brainwashing, con artist, etc.) and impersonations made about her.  People make these up to taint her reputation and to try to get others to accept it as fact and see her as some evil “villain.” And not just her either, it’s an effort to discredit all women and to try to break them down so they can’t have say  in the gaming industry.

Some of the things seem crazy to any normal person, but there’s plenty of evidence out there of all these people who believe these things, and that is frightening.  Anita, at the end of her speech, tells us ways that we can help to stop this kind of stuff. There needs to be more of a call for enforcement of cyber civil rights and cyber laws, because crimes online need to be taken more seriously.  We need to listen & believe victims of these cyber crimes, because as anyone there could see, they are very real.  The systems we currently have online to deal with these issues is a joke and isn’t enough.  In a world where our online identities become more and more apart of us, we need to start taking much better precautions.  We all need to help fix this situation, because as Anita said “you can’t be neutral on a moving train” and I completely agree. Women have come a long way in the real world and the virtual world is a big part of our world now, so we need to continue to make forward progress and not let this push us back.


How would you compare feminist struggles in the real world vs the virtual world? What were your reactions to the harassment of Anita based on what she showed us, if you attended her speech?



I’ve never been one for virtual gaming, and I don’t think I ever will be.

LambdaMOO is a virtual world that is set in what seems at first to be a regular house, but once you delve into the game, you realize it’s no ordinary house. It is filled with many hidden secrets and occupied by many, many people/characters.  LambdaMOO is like playing a computer game without the visuals, the visuals are written out in word form instead.  While the game might be a precursor to the games we have today and might be deemed by some as “simpler”, I actually see it as more complex.  Where today in games you can see everything and can just easily see and click where you want your character to go, here you actually have to think about your actions. There are things you must read and it forces you to be alert and interact with the game more.

When I first logged into LambdaMOO, it took me forever to even get out of the closet.  I kept getting very frustrated throughout my experience with not being able to figure out the right commands to use.  Sometimes I felt as if I got one more “I don’t understand that”, I was going to throw my computer out the window.  I found it hard to navigate around and sometimes I would get so far into a room/situation I found it hard to get out.  Or else I would have to backtrack through all the rooms I just came from to get back to a familiar place.  Like in the sewer, for example.  It took me a very long time to figure out the correct commands to even enter the sewer (which ew, why did I even want to go in the sewer?) and then once I was in there, I kept going deeper and deeper until I got to a sort of “dead end” and had to back track a lot to get out.

dont understand commands

While sometimes it was frustrating, there were some things I liked.  While some rooms were boring, some I found very interesting and I enjoyed the descriptions of them and were fun to explore, like the hot tub and the bar that you get to through a magical mirror.  It was interesting to see just how detailed the game could get sometimes! You could even control the setting of the bubbles and light on the hot tub!  In the bar, you could play with a dart board as well! (Unfortunately I could figure out how to get darts to throw though so I couldn’t play- ugh!)

dart board

Interacting with other users/characters was an interesting experience as well.  You could “look” at other characters and get a short description of them.  While some were described as replicating normal people, some characters were described as not really human (a reflection of being your real self vs. anonymous).  Some descriptions even frightened me, such as the joker character I encountered in the tree house. He reminded me too much of Dr. Bungle In Dibbell’s article.  Good thing he was asleep!

people descriptions

I explored many places: the bedroom, the pool, the back porch, the hot tub, the elevator and some different floors, the kitchen, the living room, the tree house (which ended up being a reference to Calvin & Hobbes treehouse- ha!), the front yard, the sewer. I even communicated with some other characters, but often they asked about me and who I was and that kind of creeped me out, I didn’t know what to say, it made me uncomfortable to tell them my real identity and I didn’t want to lie, so I often just left.  I’m not very good at the whole anonymity online thing.  I don’t feel comfortable being someone who I’m not communicating with other people online, and I guess that’s why online games have never really been my thing. It was interesting to explore and while I can see how others might get caught up in trying to explore every possible place (and even create their own spaces within the game), it is just not for me.  I find it odd that some people get so immersed within a VR that they start to feel what they’re characters are feeling, as Dibbell describes.  I often give up on games before I ever get close to that point.  I would much rather spend my time interacting with people in RL, being myself.  While it was an interesting experience, the world of LambdaMOO isn’t for me I found.


What do you feel more comfortable with identifying online, as yourself? Or as an anonymous character?

Big City, Big Data

big data 1

On Saturday September 27th, I headed downtown to visit the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s exhibit on Big Data. Once I checked in, we had some free time before the tour actually started to take a look at the big Chicago Model exhibit they had set up in the atrium.  The Chicago Model is an up-to-date scale model of Chicago that you are able to interact with using touch screens and lights to highlight different aspects of big data that can be found throughout the city. ‘Big Data’, as the exhibit mentiones, refers to the volume, velocity and variety of the digital information we generate today.

big data 2

As we started out on the actual tour, we were given iPads to use that had a slideshow of graphs, charts, pictures and other useful visual aides and data representations that helped up better understand what was being talked about.

It was our tour guides first tour ever, yet she did a great job! Our tour was a three-block square route that consisted of various stops to point out examples of how big data was being put to use in the city.  Our tour stops consisted of the following topics:

  • The EPA creating Energy Star tests to evaluate and rate a building based on how efficient it is based off of big data
  • The city monitoring twitter and online reviews looking for key words to target possible health and safety concerns; ex. searching for “food poisoning” for restaurants that could be a risk (I found this to be really interesting & a fantastic idea!)
  • How online reports can be filed with the city by people regarding hazards such as graffiti, rat problems, potholes, etc so the city can then use the data generated to fix these issues (Great for me, because there is nothing worse than potholes in the city & now I know where to complain!)
  • How big data is used to analyze population demographics and shifts, of the loop specifically (Found some of the most interesting facts here- college students make up a large part of the population, there are about 63,000 students from 21 institutions living in the loop, 48.7% of the population is in the 15-35 year old age range, and the population in general in the loop almost tripled in the last 20 years!)
  • How big data is used to track transportations patterns & statistics around the city; elaborated on the installation of bike lanes; large focus on Divvy bikes
  • The installation of red light cameras and speed cameras (This is something I can do without!)
  • The use of security cameras around the city
  • The new solar-powered recycling/trash bins found around the city
  • Innovative new sensors being installed around the city that monitor a variety of things such are air quality, temperature, noise levels and traffic flow using new technologies and big data

Many of the things mentioned on the tour I had already heard of or interacted with but just overlooked, it was interesting to find out more about them and how they worked. Yet, I did also find out about a lot of new things as well that were going on that I wasn’t aware of yet. These uses of big data could offer many utopian stories because they’re often implemented to promote the healthy and safety of the residents, to protect the environment and to make out city a better place. Ex. people using Divvy bikes are being more eco-conscious by biking rather than driving. Yet, the use of big data can also be dystopian if the use of the data is corrupted and manipulated, causing more harm than it does good. Ex. speed cameras being a way to just generate revenue as opposed to trying to protect it’s citizens from harm.


What do you think of these uses of big data? Which have you noticed, when and where? Can the city still do more?

like an onion, your tweets should have layers



Blackhawks & Bands – Two of my favorite things in the world right there. So naturally those are two of the subjects I referenced in my Tweets. For me, Twitter is a part of everyday life. I post about 10 tweets a day on average, so tweeting isn’t anything new to me. I post a good combination of “thick” and “thin” tweets, as Silver calls them.  Today, I posted two thick tweets with multiple “layers”.


My first was about a show I’m promoting, The Heard and Indigo Sun at Reggie’s, a Chicago venue.  I addressed our class, linked them to The Heard’s twitter, told where they’re playing, when they’re playing, how much tickets are, provided a hyper-link to one of their songs on sound cloud and included hashtags to reach a broader audience. A good seven-layer tweet. (Everyone should come, too. It’s going be a good night out full of good music and good people!)


comm reggies

The second tweet was on the Chicago Blackhawks. I linked to the Blackhawk’s twitter page, informed my followers of when preseason starts, included a link of their schedule for this year, and included hashtags. This tweet included four layers of information. And I hope it got some of you excited for hockey season to start, because I know I sure am! LET’S GO HAWKS!



I don’t even know how I got so addicted to twitter. Dibbell’s article touching on why we microblog really got me to start thinking about it. When I first heard of Twitter back in 9th grade, I remember thinking “Wow, that’s so pointless it seems. Who wants to read about what someone’s doing 24/7?” That was before Twitter became a big thing. Next thing I knew, everyone was getting a Twitter and, since it was the popular thing to do, I did as well. Now, I am a fanatic. Twitter may have started out as a mindless social tool for me, but now as it has (and I have) evolved, I can see that it is a great tool that, when used right, can have a great impact. It’s a fantastic way to get information as well as give information. I myself use Twitter as a tool for my work: promoting. I promote shows and bars and a good 75% of my work involves social media. Sure, there are a lot of trash tweets out there as Shirky says, but there is also a lot of good, bountiful information being conveyed out there on the web as well. You have to take the good with the bad. I think that if my generation and the generations after mine can steer the use of social media in the right direction, we are in for a whole new era of information transformation that can really lead to great new things. The internet leads to more information and information is power (used correctly, of course!)


Here’s one article I found helpful, outlining “5 Ways to Use Twitter for Good”-


What do you think, is this digital revolution helpful or detrimental for society? What are some of your personal experiences with the digital revolution and how has it helped or hindered you?


Helena Mierzwa

How I Got Hooked on the World Wide Web

To think, it’s been almost 10 years since I first remember using the Internet on my own. The first memories I have of using the Internet are of using it for AOL instant messaging with my friends and for e-mail. I would sit at the family desktop computer and have to endure that awful dial-up tone, only to have to wait about 5 minutes to even get each thing to load. Yet, this was all considered new media at the time and I was a kid just waiting to be sucked into the wide world of this new technology. To think, I didn’t even need to be face-to-face with my friends to interact with them, or even have to have a phone, all I needed was my computer! I could send my friends all the virtual notes I wanted, complete with fancy HTML that allowed me to send them smiley faces, make my text different colors, bold, italics, different fonts, the list goes on! And it was quick too! (Not compared to today, but at the time, it was still impressive!) You could easily send an IM and have a response in a few seconds with just the tap of a few keys. Another bonus was that you could think before you said/sent anything, so your conversations were more censored than a face-to-face conversation, which usually tends to be uncensored. It didn’t matter where you were or where the person you were chatting were either, you could chat with people from around the world. From then on, my world was expanded thanks to the World Wide Web. To think of how far it has come now, even just 10 years later, is hard to grasp. Huge bulky desktop computers that were slow as molasses and limited web access? Well now I can search anything, anywhere, from the convenience of my iPhone that fits in my pocket. I honestly can’t imagine a world without computers, and I still can’t decide: is that a good or a bad thing?