The Amish and Technology — What?!

When I read the schedule of the Digital Ethics Symposium, I was quite intrigued to read that there would be a talk about Amish people and their use (or non-use) of technology.  Lindsay Ems, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, presented “Approached to Amish technology use: The body as an optional, ideal communication medium.”  I’ve always thought of the Amish as a weird section of non-conforming society of the United States, but have always had a fascination with their way of life.  They are a conservative religious group that live modest, “old” lifestyles.  They lead their lives off of biblical teachings, and believe that community is the most important thing because an individual cannot live a godly life by themselves.  I was pretty shocked to learn that Amish populations are growing, doubling about 18 to 20 years.  While I’ve always thought that Amish completely refuse the use of modern technologies, Ems quickly explained otherwise.

Lindsay Ems stated that the principle guide around Amish technology use is that they want to control their technology, not have technology control them.  Ems conducted many interviews with different Amish leaders, business owners, and farmers to find out her data.  Some Amish people use iPhones, social media, online shopping, just as long as their new media use does not tear apart their families.  They believe that the Body is the optional, ideal communication medium because nothing can replace a face-to-face conversation.  One of the quotes Ems showed to the room was “Can you feel love through a text?  No, you can’t.  With technology you can communicate and connect with others but there’s no life in it.”  I think that is something all of us can understand and agree with (especially in reflection of our New Media Diet projects).

After hearing Ems speak at the Digital Ethics Symposium last Friday, I really do feel respect and a type of jealously towards the Amish people.  I am not a believer, most days I consider myself Atheist, other days I feel more Agnostic, but I really do admire and appreciate what this conservative Christian group is doing, in terms of their beliefs of the importance of connection. Another quote that Ems cited was when one make spoke about the Amish’s connection to the soil.  He said, “The soil is a part of you,” which at first sounds odd, but with further explanation kind of makes me want to move to a farm.  Ems explained him further, saying that the Amish people are so connected to the soil because they harvest all their own food, and the meats they eat are the animals they raised, and everything we put into the Earth and have the Earth return back is connected and a huge part of us.  I might not be explain that as eloquently as Ems did, but you should be able to get the gist.  My favorite thing that I got from Ems’ talk was one of the final quotes she told us, which was in response to asking an Amish leader what the best way to raise the young to have a healthy relationship with new technology.  His response was, “Your talk talks and your walk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

Translation: Your actions speak louder than words.

Gender Socialization in Regards to Video Games

Anita Sarkeesian’s started her website “Feminist Frequency” in an attempt to create feminist media criticism. She later went on to create a YouTube video series “Tropes Vs. Women” that focuses on stereotypes concerning women. She actually began her talk at the Digital Ethics Symposium this past weekend by showing one of these clips, “Damsel in Distress” which emphasized stereotypes on women in video games. This Damsel in Distress that Sarkeesian talked about centered on the idea that women are unable to be heroes and are instead dependent on males to be their heroes. On video games, women are so often placed as simply just sexual beings. Sarkeesian actually stated in her talk that the video game industry makes millions of dollars each year and is surprisingly bigger than Hollywood. All in all, placing women in these roles on video games indicates a larger social problem. While video games are portrayed virtually, they represent a very ‘real’ world. They indicate that our society views women as sex objects and ignores the fact that there is so much more depth behind just our image.

Sarkeesian also points out that many people often have the mindset that if a woman does happen to make it in a male dominated field, like business or engineering, she must have cheated to get there. This typically known stereotype is similar to the relations between video games and women. Video games are not typically seen as ‘for women’. In fact, society basically tells us that games are just not for us. Sarkeesian’s parents did not allow her to have a Gameboy in that Gameboys were for boys. I can definitely relate to this in that I grew up around two brothers, where a large part of their childhood and teenage years involved playing video games that I was never invited to play. I was a girl so I just wasn’t skilled at video games, according to them. Instead I was given Barbie’s and EASY-BAKE ovens to play with, because those are what girls are supposed to play with. But in reality, there is a large community of female gamers who the video game industry fails to take into account.

However with every opinion especially those regarding controversial topics like feminism, there is an opposite opinion. Because of Sarkeesian’s strong opinions and all the ways in which she made/ continues to make these opinions public have resulted in her receiving death threats. In fact, an actual group of gamers who use the hashtag #gamergate has formed in response. This group of hashtagers hold the idea that the world of gaming should be exclusively men. Basically, it is a group of sexist men who are the very reason women are portrayed as sexual roles in video games in the first place. These men believe that games are only for guys, which is the reason that Gameboys have the word boy in it rather than girl.

In my opinion, everything that Sarkeesian touched on directly related to the concept of gender socialization or in other words, the process by which society tells us how females and males ‘should be’. Society tells us how we should ‘do’ gender, and in turn, certain things are assumed to be primarily for girls while others are primarily meant for boys. Video games is one of those things that seems to always be targeted to men, however, I was extremely shocked to the fact that there are men out there who felt the need to send her death threats just because she expressed her opinion on a situation. I think these death threats and groups of gamers who have formed against her are the reason in which security is such a significant part of Sarkeesian’s everyday life. It’s a horrible thing to feel unsafe, and something that nobody deserves to feel, especially as a response to trying to encourage gender equality through a simple online video.

Anita Sarkeesian – A Different Perspective

When upon entering the hall to hear Anita Sarkeesian speak, I can honestly say that I entered with hesitation. I have never been the type of person to become passionate about such a controversial issue as she has with the way that women have been portrayed in media, primarily videogames and I was worried about how my opinion would be swayed as a result of seeing her.

She began her talk about discussing the logistics behind the actual gaming industry and filled my brain with facts that I otherwise would not have known. Her passion towards the industry as a whole was shocking because despite her anger with it, she still seemed to respect it as a form of media that others would generally look over.

Her personal story with the harassment that she has gotten really took me by surprise because she was being harassed in the exact way that she was preaching against, only furthering her point of view on the industry. This caused me to think about other ways that certain groups of people might be getting harassed on other forms of mass communication that I use more actively than the video game culture.

Her discussion about how women are being portrayed within video games can be applied to how women, for example, are being portrayed in just about any form of media, whether it’s television or even your average magazine and that is something that has been prominent for years before the video game culture even came into the light.

Having a younger brother who plays video games almost 24/7 in his bedroom, I was forced to think about his opinion on women and whether or not it has been altered since he’s began to play his games more often. Because I went home this Saturday, I thought to ask him and see how he would respond. He didn’t seem to have a change of view because of it, completely contradicting what Sarkeesian had been preaching the day before to me.

 

I wonder if it depends on the type of person using the media and their behavior instead of just the video game industry?

I wonder if she would be just as passionate about other forms of media and women or if it’s just the industry of video games? 


Should we be concerned about this pattern now with new forms of media, such as the growing power of social media?

Not Just A Boys Club

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Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist, media critic and a creator of the video blog “Feminist Frequency”. Sarkeesian has been targeted by a huge online harassment campaign following the launch of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series. The situation has been extensively covered in the media and has placed her in the middle of discussions about misogyny in video game culture and online harassment. Sarkeesian has continued to study gender perceptions in video games and speaks publicly about the problems she perceives in the gaming industry and it’s culture. During her speech at Loyola University Chicago Digital Ethics Symposium, she discussed the issues she has seen in the gaming industry and how she has become a victim of online harassment.

Sarkeesian like many young girls, grew up playing video games that lacked strong female characters. Games have always felt like a boys club and create a culture that can feel alienating to women. She gave the example of the gaming system Gameboy; just in the title it has the word boy, which can be off-putting to many parents who would be concerned about giving their child a toy meant for the opposite sex. Recently there have been changes occurring within the industry making games more inclusive. A cyber mob called gamer gate has formed from misogynistic men who feel games are being ruined by these changes. Sarkeesian although not reasonable for the changes has been vocal about her feminist views on games and has become the target of their attacks.

Many of them feel Sarkeesian is personally responsible for the changes and have made threats of violence and rape because of it. They are defending the male dominated gaming media that is the domain of many young men. To further attack Sarkeesian, they have been impersonating her by spreading false quotes and creating various social media using her name, photos and logos. The most surprising form of harassment to me was the superimposing of her face on the bodies of naked women. Although all these hate crimes are occurring against her it seems like not much is being done about it, tools that are suppose to be used to help are being used against her. For example on YouTube, they have been exploiting the anti harassment setting on YouTube by mass flagging all her videos to get them removed from the site. Her Twitter is constantly being flooded with tweets and although it is possible to block other users on the site, it is impossible for her to block every single person. She spoke about how all these social media sites have features to protect users but need to do more.

Sarkessian’s talk was very eye opening, I had never considered how degrading some of these games can be to women or how defensive someone can be when something they are passionate about feels like is being attacked. To most people games seem insignificant, but to the people playing they are huge part of their lives.

Jestelle Irizarry

Ethical problems with online mugshot galleries

John Thomas was one of the last speakers at the Digital Ethics Symposium. He had previously worked as the online editor for Playboy Magazine for ten years, has written various articles on digital ethics, and now works for Groupon. Because of his background in journalism, particularly online, it was interesting to see him compare the ethical standards of print vs online journalism as well as the lasting effects. Because making corrections online is easier than reprinting many copies of a newspaper, we assume that online is often more correct. However, many major new sources (including CNN) do not have online corrections policies. The implications for these can be long lasting.

In his presentation Thomas brought up a slide that had to do with mugshots posted online. Google has software that can search for images of people based on the structure of their face, what would happen if a potential employer found someone’s mugshot online? The person would be denied the job and would have no idea why.

Thomas points out that arrests do not imply guilt and that a defendant is supposed to be assumed innocent until proven guilty or convicted, but there are no galleries of exonerated mugshots posted online. A person could have been wrongly arrested and photographed, found not guilty, but their mugshot could still live forever online with no implication of innocence. It is quite easy to detroy someone’s reputation online, and once information is out there it is hard to repair it.

Thomas also mentioned how newspapers such as the Tribune post galleries of mugshots to gain page clicks and sell advertisement space. The New York Daily News published one gallery titled “World’s Most Hilarious Mugshots.” Thomas asks why newspapers renowned for their journalistic integrity would post mugshots of people who were arrested but not yet convicted.

It is also important to note that in some of these galleries the people pictured are being ridiculed and mocked. These people may be homeless, mentally ill, or battered. It is truly cruel that such mugshot galleries have become popular to gain readers when they’re based on the defamation of people who have no means to defend themselves online. They cannot change posts and say they were exonerated and they may not even know of a gallery they’re in.

Thomas blames lazy journalists, where a mere copy and paste of funny mugshots can get them money as freelance contributors. What was interesting was Thomas’s personal connection to this subject – at one point in time he had written an article called “Nine Surprisingly Sexy Mugshots” for Playboy. While not as inherently cruel as other articles, he claims that he deeply regrets it. The problem with online ridicule is that it follows a person forever as it is hard to delete. Posting mugshots online in newspapers for the purpose of sheer enjoyment or mockery isn’t fair journalism and can have long lasting implications.

Ella Henning

Digital Harassment

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Digital Ethics Symposium due to some unforeseen circumstances Friday. I would have like to see Anita Sarkeesian and Sara Perry speak. As a guy I was never really aware of the digital harassment that goes on pretty much everywhere. I knew it existed in the gaming community as I have played a good amount of Call of Duty in my day. Obviously I know harassment exists and happens everywhere daily, I guess I was a little oblivious because it hasn’t happened to me.

 

After reading Sara Perry’s article Academics Face the Cyber creeps Alone, I was a little angry that even working professionals have to deal with this sort of crap. It really makes you wonder who is doing the harassment and it makes me sympathize for those who have to put up with this. From Anita Sarkeesian’s stand point she has to constantly deal with anonymous threats (in this instance) from the gaming community. Who in my mind consist of a mostly male culture, who believe they can say whatever they want because they are behind a screen in the comfort of their own home. The anonymity of this situation in Anita’s case creates a deeper threat. In a mostly male driven culture Anita is fighting the good fight bringing light of this situation. Before we talked about Anita Sarkeesian in class I only knew about trolling online. It is frustrating that somebody would go out of their way to threaten someone’s life over video games.

 

Sara Perry is also facing harassment digitally, however her case is a little more alarming because it is not anonymous. It is shocking to hear that even in a professional environment Sara Perry and God knows how many other women have to deal with what she goes through. As a man I can’t help but feel disgusted that other men are subjecting women to this sort of treatment. I can’t relate to the men who are harassing but can only guess they come from a troubled past or are simply trying to compensate out of jealousy or whatever they are lacking.

 

One can only hope women like Sara Perry and Anita Sarkeesian keep standing up for themselves, and keep empowering more people to put an end to digital harassment. Hopefully someday the gaming world can be an equal playing field, everyone can play it, so everyone should feel welcome. In Sara’s case I hope the people making her feel uncomfortable are dealt with, and her story gives more people the confidence to speak out against harassment.

Written by: Colin McCall

“The Arrow” of the Internet

Even though I may have missed the keynote speaker, Anita Sarkeesian, I ended hearing some great speeches on topics I knew little to nothing about. I made it to the symposium by 1:00 till 2:15 just in time to see the speakers during session one in Regents Hall. I was a little underwhelmed by the speaking enthusiasm and abilities of the first 3 speakers. I do not want to generalize an entire field, so I will just say that these speakers probably conduct better research than they do speaking in front of a crowd. Lindsay Ems, who spoke about the use of technology in the Amish community, had the type of topic that would keep people interested, but her public speaking did not help her case at all.

The speaker I am going to focus on was Dara Byrne, who covered “Digilante Ethics”. I was intrigued and captured by the way she spoke what she was speaking about. Byrne’s topic was something I did not know anything about, thus all the information she was sharing was a lot to take in. It was interesting that she framed her studies and research around the legitimate crimes committed on the internet; and thus the types of communities that are born from that. There is a digital response to actual criminal activity that occurs online. Government organizations, businesses, and individuals partake in this digilantism.

She focused specifically on the subject of Nigerian emails. Being that this type of fraud started in the 90s, I was a young kid who didn’t fully understand or use the internet. I was unaware that there were people out there that sent out emails, luring people into a money deal that would ultimately scam them in the end. What was even more surprising was the fact that hundreds, possibly thousands, of people fell prey to this practice. The pictures that accompanied Byrne’s speech were uncomfortable and exploitative. Men and women’s bodies were used in weird pictures that symbolized “trophies” online. The evolution and continued practice of these emails soon grew outside of Nigeria. She even mentioned that Nigerians in Nigeria were responsible for less than 5% of these scams. I understand that terms and neologisms need to coined in order for movements to start or more simply, to spread awareness of an issue.

By the end of this speech, I had many questions come to mind: A couple decades down the line, are these emails still problematic? Where do these emails originate now? If this still occurs, what are the numbers of people that fall prey to this scam compared to in the early 90s? I feel as though Byrne needed and deserved more time for her topic but I came away from it somewhat unsure of certain aspects of digilantism, more specifically Nigerian emails. All through this speech, I could not help but think of the show called “Arrow”, which is based on a vigilante in a town ravaged by crime and bad people. This man takes it upon himself to make sure his town and its people are safe from people, companies, or organizations that could cause harm. It seems the world if digilantism is a little more lawful and structured compared to “The Arrow”.  Regardless, this topic is something of interest to me. I will definitely keep my eye out for more stories like Byrne pointed out.

Words by: Dana D’Onofrio