The Rutgers Camden Digital Studies Center
Facebook, November 16 - 21, 2016
James J. Brown, Jr.
J ames J. Brown, Jr. is Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers University-Camden. His research focuses on digital rhetoric and software studies, and he is author of Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software (University of Michigan Press, 2015), which examines the ethical and rhetorical underpinnings of networked software environments.
Social Media Harassment
The DSC is thrilled to be hosting this discussion, and I hope some of the members of this group will join Judy's students in asking questions and offering comments. Judy has gathered an impressive group here, and I can't wait to hear what everyone has to say.
My own work has focused on the ethics and rhetoric of software. My first book, Ethical Programs, tracked the ethics built into networked software platforms such as Twitter, MediaWiki, and the algorithmic journalists developed by companies like Narrative Science. So, my focus has been primarily on issues of infrastructure rather than narrative per se, though I have been teaching electronic literature and videogames for years as well.
My new project is an attempt to analyze how software platforms enable or perhaps even encourage online harassment. First, a note about harassment and trolling: I'm really primarily focused on harassment and not the trolling that Mark Marino has already pointed us to in his post. While there are some trolling activities that bleed into the category of harassment, there are plenty of trolls who are more interested in exploring the potentials of online space than they are in harassing or abusing others. (One good source on this is Whitney Phillips' book This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things.)
So, my recent research questions are about how social media spaces are designed and how those designs can actually participate in and encourage harassment. The link to social media narrative here is this: What spaces are available to people who want to tell stories collaboratively? How are those spaces shaped and designed? Are they safe? How might they be redesigned and rethought?
I'm interested in hearing from folks in this discussion about how these issues were addressed in some of the early days of social media. I've been reading through Judy's edited collection to get a sense for this, but I'd love to know more. I'm also in the early stages of studying how harassment was discussed in the early days of telephony, which we might consider an interesting pre-internet social networking technology...
Transcript of the Social Media Harassment conversation