Reflective Essay

Before taking this class, I have always thought about discrimination as an “in real life” issue. But over the semester of the class, I was able to realize that there are so many different avenues to explore when discussing discrimination. This issue becomes even more interesting when discrimination against minorities in our modern world is studied in the context of technology. I think that studying the Internet was most exciting because it was something I had never explored before in my academic career.

As someone who has had access to computers and the Internet since childhood, it is easy for me to take these things for granted. The Internet and all the technology that comes with it, has just become a way of life. I never question its meaning or how it was used before this class. I discovered in this class that there was so much I didn’t know. Even though it seems so obvious, I had never considered the fact that not everyone has access to Internet. In my small world of an educated American, typing something into Google doesn’t even take a second. But what I soon realized is that not only do most people not have access to Internet, but also the way the Internet is set up is biased against certain people. This realization not only helped me have a newfound understanding for the biases in technology but also served to inspire me in my final project.

I was fascinated with uncovering the silences of certain minority groups and their relation to the Internet. I had always thought about the Internet as being a ubiquitous platform that was available to all. But after taking this class, my feelings on this were transformed. I realized that the way that technology and the Internet is set up today, houses many silence among minority communities. For example, in the reading, Configuring the User as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies, Nelly Oudshoorn, Els Rommes, and Marcelle Stienstra discuss how the Internet does appeal to everyone’s needs. That is because the Internet is designed by a very homogeneous set of people, there is a struggle to find users outside of that audience. This concept of a lack of diversity in people on the Internet and the people creating the Internet was further emphasized by a video that we watched in class. In the video (shown below), it resonated with me how technology can really affect people’s lives. I took away from the video that because the Wukchumni tribes do not have access to technology to record their language, their culture slowly starts to fade away.The video reiterates the connection between the user and the creator. Because the internet was not created by Wukchumni speakers, the tribes people couldn’t use the internet, and the language was not perpetuated. This video was somewhat shocking to me because I had never thought about how powerful technologies can be.

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/380457/saving-wukchumni/ 

As I mentioned, one of my major growth spots in the class was a deeper understanding of the many silences in technology in the modern era. I was always interested in Women’s gender studies, so I wondered how I could explore this passion on a technical platform. As a frequent Instagram user, I noticed that there were a lot of fitness pages. I decided I wanted to explore this movement further and determine how it was affecting women and the relationship with their bodies. There has already been a lot of power in the voice of woman countering pressures of body image. I feel that the public now understands that the bodies of rail thin models are not an aspiration young women should be seeking. But, I think people have yet to realize that the extreme health movement is just as detrimental to women’s mental and physical health.

I began to notice a trend occurring around me. Girls were posting workout videos and pictures of green smoothies on Instagram. Gone were the days of posting a picture of a barely visible leg. It seems that now social media users have a new pressure of demonstrating to all viewers that they are extremely physically fit. It seems to show that these people care about their bodies, and those who don’t workout are lazy. The observations I began making were further underscored by the book Body Panic by Shari Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs about the selling of the fitness lifestyle. I began to realize that indeed there was a silence of women’s voices here. Not every woman has a perfectly toned stomach and barely an ounce of fat. But since these models are now under the guise of “healthy” these voices are seen as lazy and go unheard. My goal of my project was to bring my reader to the same moment of epiphany I had in the class. That is, I wanted my reader to realize that the woman’s body image movement is not as simple as fat versus skinny. There are silences masked by the voices of TV personalities and celebrities claiming the perfect body is reflected of a healthy lifestyle. What I hoped to illuminate was that healthy is different for everyone and working out everyday twice a day and only eating vegetables is not the only way to be healthy.

One of the most enriching parts of the class was that I was able to directly apply what I was learning in the classroom to my everyday life. Every time I logged on to the Internet, I had a new appreciation for the fluidity in which my searches occurred. Like I previously mentioned, one of the biggest lessons I learned was how fortunate I was that it was so easy for me to access modern technology. I also became weary of the Internet. I was made aware that there are certain biases against certain groups. As Oudshoorn et.al. point out, the users experience is directly affected by the creator and vice versa. This creates a cycle that seems impossible to break out of. When specific groups remain the exclusive consumers of technology, creators design technology to fit their needs. This class has made me much more aware of the complexities of modern technology, and its role in the technical space as well as the social one.

Works Cited

Heller, Chris. “Saving Wukchumni.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.

Oudshoorn, Nelly, Els Rommes, and Marcelle Stienstra. “Configuring the User   as Everybody: Gender and Design Cultures in Information and Communication Technologies.” Science, Technology, & Human Values 29.1 (2004): 30-63.

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Out of the Fire and into the Furnace: How the Discourse of Skinny has taken new form in the Fitness Revolution

In 2013, over 1.7 billion people were in some way connected to social media (Pew, 2013). This startling data demonstrates the vast involvement people have in the online realm. When users enter the online sphere, they open their minds to all that is out there. One of the most prevailing themes in social media is centered around body image. This essay would argue that as everyday citizens we internalize the world that we see around us. In fact, studies have shown that the media influences issues that people find most important to them (McCombs and Shaw, 1972). It will be pointed out that previously in our cultural history that very thin was perpetuated as desirable. However, with the genesis of the fitness movement, it would appear that this is no longer the ideal. This paper is interested in discussing how the “fit” movement has not fully abandoned factors that were present in the thin ideal. Specifically, unattainable beauty is still presented to observers. Initially, pin-thin models graced all the pages of magazines with emaciated bodies conveyed their possession of “the good life”. Today, media is deluged with extremely fit models sculpted and chiseled with ironically less body fat (but more muscle mass) than their pin-thin predecessors. This paper will also explore how racism permeates the fitness movement by under and misrepresenting women of color.

The idea of attaining a body that is physically impossible is an idea that has been around for centuries. From the Imperial Chinese foot binding to the Victorian era corsets, it is clear that demands have been placed on women to alter their body to conform to the prevailing fashion ideal. Not surprisingly, the fashion industry dictates what women perceive as desirable, and it is a male dominated field. Most of the fashion houses are run by men who control our body-image indoctrination.

This body-image propaganda begins at a very young age. Children’s toys and advertisements are subtly training young girls about ideal physical attributes. For example, the doll, Barbie, sets up girls to desire something that is simply impossible. Just for starters, the body configuration of a Barbie doll would actually require a woman to be over seven feet tall to achieve her proportions. Dolls like Barbie are present in a young girls lives, but, in all fairness, we see this type of doll in a young boys’ lives as well. For example, a Ken doll is manufactured with bulging muscles and perfectly coiffed hair. These dolls as marketed as the ideal male and female. Because these ideals are impossible to achieve, self-loathing and disappointment become the normative psychological state of adults of all ages. The video below explains more thoroughly the inaccuracy of Barbie’s proportions, and how these dimensions are not humanly attainable.

Dolls and toys are an early influence in a person’s life, but Barbie et al, of course, is not the only influence on young girls. The fashion industry has historically perpetuated the image of nearly anorexic models, and these models are getting younger and younger. In fact, the industry is currently promoting their youngest super-model who is barely 9 years-old. In alignment with her older colleagues she looks gaunt and skeletal. She, like Barbie, is a model for very young girls to attempt to emulate. Since these plastic or rare genetic combinations cannot be replicated, the self-hate begins at an extraordinarily young age.

https://in.news.yahoo.com/video/9-yrs-kristina-pimenova-world-151000037.html

The industry has always infused society with impracticable expectations about body image. Although not entirely eliminated, society has rebelled against the idea of pin-thin models and impossible representations of a woman. People, albeit mostly women, have banded together to combat this unhealthy brainwashing. Whether they are being called too fat or too skinny, women are never perfect. As seen in the article below, there has been many campaigns against this body dymorphism. More precisely, the article below documents the outrage over an advertisement that was created by GAP. The model looked completely emaciated and scrawny. Consequently, people were outraged that GAP would have a model look like this. Fortunately, this backlash demonstrates that people now realize that the look of a super thin model is not desirable or healthy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/08/10/skinny-gap-model_n_5666507.html

Unfortunately, this revulsion didn’t morph into an archetype of body image that is attainable and forgiving. Instead, as previously mentioned, body image culture has jumped out of the fire and into the furnace, with its transition from extreme skinny to extreme fit. In the article below, fitness is seen as a way to replace a formerly unhealthy lifestyle. The man is lauded for overcoming anorexia, which is a positive shift in our society, yet what is not being realized is that his cure…bodybuilding is just another approach to obsessively think about body image.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2820238/Young-man-bullied-badly-weight-plummeted-just-SEVEN-stone-age-15-beats-anorexia-bodybuilder.html

Body image in the media is a no-win battle. Women (and men-but the focus of this essay will be on pressures geared towards women) are expected to be perfect. Accordingly, women must somehow be healthy, count every calorie and work-out every day. The standards that are placed upon women are unbearable and unrealistic. As seen in the article the “healthy” lifestyle is one that is as unhealthy as an eating disorder. Clearly, the mandates are not achievable for most body types.

Healthism is a potential explanation how these body image movements originate. Healthism is a term-coined by Robert Crawford in 1980. Crawford later updated his definition in 2006 by stating that healthism is the individual duty of a citizen to help himself and others achieve health (Crawford 2006). He further suggested that healthism persuaded people to associate healthy with morality; people who were seen as fit were good and those who were unfit were bad (Crawford 2006). As Susan Greenhalgh describes, “to be fat in America is to be “ugly,” “disgusting,” “inferior,” and “unworthy” of friendship or romance” (Greenhalgh, 2014). The reason for this is that our society has turned into a health-crazed world that seems to shun those who are overweight. Susan Greenhalgh believes that the reason for this panic is that pharmaceutical companies have exaggerated the problem to cause people to take action (Greenhalgh, 2014). Citizens everywhere have been alerted that obesity is on the rise, depriving the nation of precious lives, and, as Greenhalgh explains, provoked the United States Surgeon General to launch a nationwide campaign to promote healthier living in 2001.             Consequently, the Bio-Citizen was born. As described by Christine Halse, “the bio-citizen is a product of an era of escalating anxiety in the public imagination about an international pandemic of overweight and obesity” (Halse, 2006, p. 45).    This panic has caused a new measurement system to arise, namely BMI. Body Mass Index (BMI) gives bio-citizens a scale in which to rate their fellow citizens. This scale is especially problematic for the discourses that occur if one does not fit into the “normal range.” BMI is used as a system in which members of the national community can declare “who is fat and who is not” (Wann, 2009, p. xiv) As Halse describes, BMI does not just represent a number range, it brings into light rhetoric surrounding the idea of being outside the norm (2007, p. 47). Halse posits that these discourses have translated into certain “virtue discourses.” These discourses explain what is good and moral; and what it means to be a true and just citizen (2007, p. 47).This idea that people somehow lose their virtue because of their weight is simply preposterous and reveals the damage that this “obesity panic” has produced. People who are overweight are looked down upon and seen as unworthy of love or respect.

Parents, specifically mothers, have been criminalized for the escalation of obesity in the nation. The advertisements below expose the parental target in regard to childhood obesity. The striking ad was part of a Strong4Life campaign that had the goal of stopping parents from overfeeding their children. This campaign criminalizes children who are seen as overweight. The ad series promotes the idea that there is something wrong with these children without examining their genetic constitution nor their dietary habits.

obese             This preoccupation with fitness, perfect body image and healthism is reflective online. Media is a mirror of our interests as well as our obsessions. The sole function of social media experts is to ensure they have a pulse on the consumers. Upon examination of all popular media including facebook, twitter, instagram, etc., fitness and body-image are the most prevailing themes. Consequently, it is apparent how society influences people. On these platforms, citizens are not only shaming those who lack “motivation” but also shunning women of color as part of the movement. Images that are projected in the fitness movement reflect one body type, and furthermore one skin color. It is rare to come across a woman of color on fitness Instagram pages. A woman of color not only has to achieve the perfect body of the model but also a skin color that is not her own.

fit

As described in the book Body Panic, “Women’s health and fitness magazines covers ‘flesh out’ this being [female fitness trope] in detail. She is ‘perky’ and inviting with a coy smile, she leans… or languishes displaying a lean, tight and tones, but lacks visible rips or cut. Her muscles are long and lean, and certainly not ‘too big,’ while her body possesses a subtle dote of curvaceousness” (Dworkin & Wachs, p1). This image is produced in mass to represent a new norm in society.

In the above picture, several things are noteworthy. As Dworkin & Wachs point out, a popular female fit requirement is that the woman is obligated to not be “too big.” This woman is perfectly toned, yet still has the “curvaceousness” that would make her desirable (large chest and backside). The particular Instagram account that this image is taken from is called fitness food_motivation. The account has over one million followers and 607 posts. This account is reflective of the fitness movement of Instagram: it has lifestyle tips, and countless pictures of the dream body to be motivated by. Just the name of this account reveals a problem with this fitness obsession movement, namely “motivation.” The usage of the word motivation implies that we can control whether we look like the models posted. Truthfully, ninety-nine percent of women could work-out, fast, lift weights, take supplements and never achieve any resemblance to these genetic creations which are likely to have been filtered or photo shopped, as well.

This media bombardment of body image remedies definitely reveal that white women are preoccupied with attempting to conform to the ever-evolving societal female standard. The overt message is that they just lack the “motivation” to get the body they desire. Upon close examination, it becomes apparent that Instagram accounts are primarily directed at white women. In this six hundred plus post, only four show a person of color.

Women of color battle many facets of the fitness movement. They are not depicted as often and when they are it is undeniably in a different light than their white counterparts. In the “fitness video” below, the image is alarmingly degrading and racist. The primary image viewers get is that of this woman’s bottom. Her fitness goals are not underscored, but her sexuality is. This emphasis on sexuality of women of color is rampant in all forms of media.

Another example of this phenomenon (sexualizing woman of color) can be seen in the popular campaign “Got Milk? In the “Got Milk” advertisement shown below, tennis player, Venus Williams, takes center stage. Unfortunately, it is not Venus Williams, athlete, strong businesswoman, Wimbledon winner; it is Venus Williams… black, sexual woman. The most visible part of the ad says “lean machine.” This brings up the stereotype that women must be thin, yet also operate with the efficiency of a machine which is emphasized again with the slogan “milk your diet, lose weight.” This implies that with the help of a certain product a woman can almost cheat her diet.

venus

Even more startling than the emphasis on dieting and weight is that, at its core, the ad implies women are never good enough. Although Venus Williams is a champion athlete, she still not quite perfect. More specifically, her athletic accomplishments are not enough; she still needs to lose weight and diet to attempt to reach the archetype of body perfection.

So what exactly is this ideal? We can clearly identify this ideal by comparing Venus Williams’ got milk advertisement with some of the other got milk ads with a corresponding female white lead. In another got milk ad (see below), the tone is completely different. While Venus is depicted as stormy, fierce, and sexy, the white model is happy light and has a very “girl next door” feel to her. The contrasting advertisements are so striking as the white model’s ad has a background that is bright yellow, while Venus’s ad is a very dark and stormy black. Venus is also much more scantily clothed than the white woman. Venus is the erotic woman. She veers away from the norm. The white woman represents the ideal. She is happy, carefree, and not flaunting her sexuality with most of her body concealed.

MPE_COR_M14210_A.R6

The words on the white model’s ad also provide a stark contrast to Venus’s ad. Venus’s ad reads “lean machine” while the other reads “all smiles.” As aforementioned, the phrasing “lean machine” implies that women need to change themselves in the hopes of becoming thinner. Hence, the ad implies that the African-American woman has more improvement to do to help herself be as content as the smiling white woman. Subliminally, this hints that she needs to become lighter and leaner in order to achieve “all smiles”.

Also it is interesting to examine the contrasting body language of the two women. Firstly, Venus’s ad displays her full body. Her hips thrust out to one side with a net over her back and glass of milk in the other hand gives the ad a very erotic feel. This oversexualization of the African-American female athlete is a common theme. Scholars have found that in the media, African-American women are depicted as a hunter with the white female as her prey (McKay and Johnson, 2008). In contrast the white woman’s got milk is from the mid-section up with her arms surrounding her face. In the white woman’s ad, the emphasis is on her face and the milk product. Her arms circle around her face and the cup of milk is resting on top of her head connotating intelligence. In Venus’s ad, the glass of milk is around her hips, thus implying her most valued trait is her sexuality.

Even more interesting is the glass of milk itself. The glasses seem to play on body stereotypes in different cultures. In Venus’s ad, the glass is created to mimic the shape of a woman’s body. It is often stereotyped that women in African American cultures are comfortable with their more curvaceous bodies, and in fact this is something that they hope to achieve. This puts a lot of pressure on women who don’t have this physique naturally, so perhaps the advertisers are attempting to persuade women that by consuming their product this body type can be achieved.

In contrast, the white woman’s glass is shaped as a normal glass. The white woman is confident, “all smiles” about her straight figure. Curves are not important to a white woman as seen by her glass and by the woman’s frame. She is very thin and seems to have an almost boyish physique.

Below are some more examples of this contrast. Once again, African-American women are portrayed in a different light. This portrays the troubling chasm white and woman of color are depicted in the media.

rihanna Lauren-Conrad-Got-Milk

This chasm is perpetuated in the fitness movement whereby woman of color are again not given the same representation. In the images below, one can see how severely contrasted depictions of women can be in the fitness movement. As one can see these images represent completely different ideas. The image on the left, the woman of color, is most likely in the gym, she is lifting weights and wearing sports gear. Her muscles are ripping through her skin, an image that is rarely copied by white women. The woman is more similar to the male fitness troupes. Additionally, the woman on the left is also much more curvaceous than her white counterpart.

In opposition, the white woman is not even depicted as in the gym. She has no clear muscle definition and is primarily just skinny. Surprisingly, she is well-endowed in her breasts and bottom which is an anomaly given that those areas are comprised of fat tissue. This again sets up woman to be unable to achieve this impossible combination…skinny and buxom. She encapsulates what Dworkin and Wachs identify in their book as this competing dichotomy of skinny and voluptuous.

Upon close scrutiny, she is not defined at all, yet somehow she still looks perfectly toned. She is on the beach in a bikini. This suggests that she is enjoying the “final product” of her labors. The woman of color has to continue working on her body as she is still strenuously working out. Like the image of Serena Williams, fitness Instagram accounts imply that women of color can never achieve the archetype. The caption of the white woman says “tag someone with a nice tummy.” In contrast, the image on left is captioned “Don’t just look like an athlete, train like one!” Again this if further implying that the white woman is the desirable person and the woman of color has an entire year’s worth of work to get the ideal body.

TAG someone with a nice tummy!😝👌 Amazing body by 💗@dannibelle 💗@dannibelle 💗@dannibelle 💗@dannibelle

A post shared by By Kensid Clay [+1M] (@fitness_food_motivation) on

As one can see from these various examples, the depiction of health and of women is a very complex topic. It is important to realize that what we see in the media is not always the most accurate portrayal of true health. While the fitness movement does have positive message such as working out and eating healthy, it can quickly turn into a dangerous obsession. It is important that all media users are aware of the implications of their daily exposure to this propaganda. It is easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over one’s body to get that perfect abdominal muscle or the one bulging bicep.

These accounts are also dangerous because they only show a one-dimensional look at these fitness fanatics. Most of the people who create these sites dedicate their professional life to working out and eating healthy. But a viewer only sees one stretch or one meal which can consequently lead to disappointed when a dream body does not suddenly appear after a short-term concerted effort. Since we spend so much time in the online world, we must be educated. Whether it is called marketing, brainwashing or cultural enlightenment, it the responsibility of the online media user to decipher what is physically and psychologically healthy information. Furthermore, it is important for viewers of this content to modulate change for a positive body image representation. As demonstrated, media is enormously influential in all of our lives. With proper “crowdsourcing”, a new platform with an accurate depiction of female body images is just a click away.

Works Cited

Crawford, Robert. “Healthism and the Medicalization of Everyday Life.”International Journal of Health Services 10.3 (1980): 365-88. Pub Med. Web.

Dworkin, Shari L., and Faye Linda. Wachs. Body Panic: Gender, Health,and the Selling of Fitness. New York: New York UP, 2009. Print.

Greenhalgh, Susan (2014). A Biocitizen Society to Fight Fat. Making War on Fat: The  Human Story of America’s Anti-Obesity Campaign (Manuscript in Process).

Halse, C. (2009). Bio-Citizenship: Virtue Discourses and the Birth of the Bio-Citizen. Biopolitics and the ‘Obesity Epidemic’: Governing Bodies (pp. 45-59).

Mckay, James, and Helen Johnson. “Pornographic Eroticism and SexualGrotesquerie in Representations of African American Sportswomen.”Social Identities 14.4 (2008): 491-504. Social Identities. Web.

Shaw, D. L., and S. E. Martin. “The Function of Mass Media Agenda            Setting.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 69.4 (1992): 902-20. The Public Opinion Quarterly.

“Social Networking Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Centers Internet American Life Project RSS. Pew Research Center, Web. 08 Dec. 2014

Wann, M. (2009). Forward. Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution (pp. ix-xxv). New   York: NYU Press.

The Evolution of the Internet

When many of us think of the Internet, we think of Google, Facebook, or YouTube. More specifically we are thinking of the participatory web. But the Internet was not always meant to be a place in which we could post a #selfie. The web “was intended to let physicists share research findings online” (Zuckerman, 2014). It is imperative to understand the evolution of the online space to grasp the way in which it is used today. The current day Internet is used as a microphone for social and cultural movements. The Internet has grown into a powerful machine that has wide ranging accessibility, but it has not always been this way. As one can see in the video below, even the Internet’s speed has taken a drastic transformation. This week’s readings look to examine the ways in which the Internet has changed, and tracks its uses from its conception until present day.

Aforementioned, the Internet was created for purely academic reasons. “The Internet was largely government and university built, and it was primarily a text based network used by experienced computer professionals” (Zuckerman, 2014). This is a fascinating beginning for a tool in which a 5 year old can now navigate. This accessibility began to form when the Internet began its transition from academic Internet to transactional Internet. The transactional Internet was spearheaded by companies like Amazon and Ebay (Zuckerman 2014). For the first time, people could use the Internet as a place of commerce. The Internet was no longer an online library, but took a less serious use. This was also a further plunge into the Internet replicating real life. People for the first time were able to imitate a shopping experience in the comfort of their own homes. This phenomenon continues to flourish in this day as retailers push to develop technologies that enhance the retail experience online. As seen in the video below, retailers are now able to use technologies that allow customers to be matched with items they might prefer, and allow brands to grow.

In the early 2000’s, the Internet saw the rise of participatory media platforms. Participatory media describes platforms in which multiple people participate in a single space. Early examples of this were Blogger, MySpace, and LinkedIn; and later Facebook, WordPress, and YouTube. Other personal publishing websites such as WordPress were also part of this wave (Zuckerman 2014). This wave of Internet usage was the first in which users created their own experience. For example with Facebook or MySpace, people are given a forum in which they can express their individual experiences. Before the Internet was brought to the user, but in this era, the user is bring him or herself to the internet. While a bit silly, the comic below demonstrates this transition. The Internet, after the creation of these websites was no longer anonymous. It could be used to voice any opinion and was available to any individual.

Lim-Steiner-dog-530x180

Participatory Internet allowed individuals to have a voice in the world that actually could be heard. In a final leap, activism entered on various social media platforms. As discussed in Suey Park’s “Hashtags as Decolonial Projects with Radical Origins”, we see how this movement has taken like wild fire on twitter. Specifically, women of color are able to “resist the status quo” of silence and speak up for the formerly silenced minorities. But as Park points out, the rise of this social movement through hashtags has had detrimental effects. Specifically, the mainstream media has attempted to make such “movements into spectacles rather than acknowledging them as the origins of serious decrees for radical action” (2014). Rather, we should view these twitter movements as “intentionally constructed through the labor of specific groups” (Park 2014). This frontier of web engagement demonstrates how transformative the web can be in political movement. The power of the wide web is no longer just for scholars with high reaching ideas. As demonstrated by the hashtag movement, the web be taken hold of and molded into a users own creation.

Another example of this new wave of participatory media, could be seen in the #itooamharvard movement. This was a student created movement that highlighted the voices of black student at Harvard. Like the Park article articulates, we can see here the catalyzing effect the hashtag can have on a movement. We can also see from this movement how accessible the web is today. This was a movement created by a group of students that not only reached the student body, but caught the attention of the media and even the President of the United States.

 Harvard

It is clear from this week’s readings that the Internet has grown beyond its original use. It can be used for social change, and it can even save lives. As cited in the World Disasters Report, the Internet played a big role in Japan, when the tsunamis hit. The Internet is integral in keeping people up to date on what relief efforts were available (World Disasters Report, 51). The Internet is not longer a single purpose tool. It has blossomed into a global place of commerce for ideas. It is amazing to see the progression of a portal once used for academia that is now populated with videos of cute animals falling down stairs. But regardless of the content, it cannot be contested that the Internet has changed in a way that has made it attainable to an everyday person. And even though we still have to fight against silences on the web (i.e. people who do not have access to modern technologies), it is certainly interesting to look at its evolution.

And I leave you with this….

Works Cited

“Cute Cats to the Rescue? Participatory Media and Political Expression.”DSpace@MIT:. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

Park, Suey, and Eunsong Kim. “Hashtags as Decolonial Projects with Radical Origins.” Modelviewculture.com. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

World Disasters Report. Geneva: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Irfc.org. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

Is Fit the New Skinny? How the discourse of skinny has taken new form in the fitness revolution

Women are persistently bombarded about their image. As a society we are given unattainable ideals of what a woman should look like. For example the ideal body of a Barbie doll would actually require a woman who was over seven feet. Girls grow up with dolls like Barbie and consequently have a desire to be like her-their first female influence. But this skinny doll sets girls up for disappointment, as the body shape of Barbie is completely unattainable as discussed in the video linked below.

Barbie of course is not the only influence on young girls. The fashion industry has historically perpetuated the image of nearly anorexic models. Like Barbie the industry gave girls impracticable expectations about body image. But in the recent past, culture has rebelled against the idea of pin thin models and impossible representations of a woman. As seen in the article below, the public has rebelled against fashion label using women who look as if they are starving as models. The public has finally pushed back against mannequin like models as influences on body image.

Skinny Gap Model Sparks Twitter Controversy, Company Response And ‘Thin-Shaming’ Debate

But in this exodus of pin thin being pretty, our culture has entered a new discourse, one that is just as dangerous. This new treatise is “being fit.” Now there are hundreds of media outlets and videos instructing women (and men) on how to live a “healthy” life without starving. While this might seem like a more constructive way of thinking, “healthy living” as a discourse has become as detrimental as starving models to the body image of women.

My interest for this topic came after reading, Body Panic by Shari Dworin and Faye Wachs. The two authors explore the idea that “health” and “fitness” are not person specific but is generalized to every single person. Every person is supposed to look like the fit models we see on the cover of a fitness magazine. The book begs the question of is this really health or is this just another unhealthy/unattainable fad.

Body Panic

This idea, that health and fitness has been twisted in a way that is ironically unhealthy, is the heart of what I am interested in perusing in my project. Secondly I would like to look at how discriminatory this health movement can be to women who do not have every muscle perfectly toned. There is an abundance of research on social influences causing anorexia, but not as much on the effects of the fitness movement.

I would like to pay special attention to how this fitness revolution takes place in the social media sphere-specifically on Instagram. I would like to collect data from at least 100 Instagram users who use the hashtag fitspo, fitfam etc. and analyze the image that is being promoted. It is also relevant to recognize how popular these specific accounts are, how many impressions they receive and how many followers the actual account has. I am hypothesizing that these social media users would be projecting the same image that Dwroking and Wachs illustrate in their book-perfection, every muscle toned. I think that there is less of a ethics question with using Instagram because users can choose to have their accounts as public or private. Furthermore I would keep the identities of the accounts I was using anonymous.

An example of the Instagram images I would be looking for

An example of the Instagram images I would be looking for

I am hoping my project will help address issues such as body image in woman and our cultures misunderstanding of health and what it mean to be fit. I think the essay would best take the form of a research essay. In regards to multimedia, incorporation of fitness videos and shows are crucial to the understanding of what I am trying to demonstrate. I am hoping I will be able to show that these videos show fitness as one body type and not representative of a normal population.

In regards to timeline, I would like to start by collecting research on the effects mass media has on the collective conscious of women. Secondly I would like to look into research on the healthism movement. Healthism is a term introduced by Robert Crawford in 1980 that illustrates how “health” can be used to separate the have and the have nots. Citizens use health to as a way to make themselves seem better, and look down upon those who are not “healthy” (Crawford, 1980). This plays into my project as when people have a skewed idea of what it means to be healthy, people who do not fit this image are looked down upon. And finally I would like to collect my data and record my findings.

Works Cited

Crawford, Robert. “Healthism and the Medicalization of Everyday Life.”International Journal of Health Services 10.3 (1980): 365-88.

Anyone can become a successful hotelier…as long as you are white: Racism and Airbnb

Airbnb is a service that allows anyone to become a hotelier overnight. For any short period of time, members of Airbnb can list rooms, or an entire house or apartment, to complete strangers for rent. Users set up a profile that lets the potential guests see their name, picture, and images of the space available. “As of 2013, Airbnb has 300,000 listings, comparable in total size to Marriott’s 535,000 rooms worldwide.” (Edelman and Luca) Ben Edelman and Michael Luca analyzed information about Airbnb hosts in New York. What they found is not only painting a picture of significant racial biases on websites like Airbnb, but also is reflective of racism in our present society. Edelman and Luca found that “non-black hosts are able to charge approximately 12% more than black hosts, holding location, rental characteristics, and quality constant. Moreover, black hosts receive a larger price penalty for having a poor location score relative to non-black hosts.” (Edelman and Luca, 2014).

Stats on Airbnb

Stats on Airbnb

On Airbnb’s home page, they state that racism is prohibited, and that they are an “open market place” (Airbnb). Yet the problem still exists. The problem is implicit race bias. Implicit biases are our stereotypes and judgments towards certain people or groups that affect the way we think or act in an unconscious way. Implicit biases could cause a person to act favorably towards a certain group of people, or very unfavorably, without the person even being aware of their actions. Because these biases are buried deep in our subconscious a person cannot find them, hide them, or control them (Kirwan Institute, 2014).

ki-ib2014-01-1

What do you see?

Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald explore this phenomenon in their book Blind spot: Hidden Biases of Good People. One test Banaji and Greenwald ran was testing whether people preferred Oprah or Martha Stewart. They found people showed preference to Stewart even if they consciously insisted they preferred Oprah. (Banaji and Greenwald, xiii). This example shows us that our minds preferences are often out of our control. Even if a person is a diehard Oprah fan, he or she will implicitly favor Martha Stewart because she is white. Even though this idea seems far-fetched, Banaji and Greenwald show another example of how our minds can so easily trick us. In the diagram pictured below, Banaji and Greenwald urge readers to believe that the colors of block A and B are the same. This seems completely implausible. Yet, when you take a piece of paper and cut hole into where the squares are, hiding the rest of the image, the squares perfectly coordinate (Banaji and Greenwald, 8).

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 7.55.35 PM copy
In the case of Airbnb, the power of implicit bias is revealed. One can also see the potential fallout of these sneaky biases. Users of the sight may not be trying to hold these biases, yet because they are clearly there, implicit biases are impeding the lives of African-Americans who depend on the revenue of Airbnb. Implicit biases do not only affect the lives of people using Airbnb. Implicit biases affect the lives of students and everyday people (see below-youtube video). This is why the issue must be addressed. Unfortunately, Airbnb had not done too much about the issue. This could be a result of the fact that the company had been enduring quite a bit of heat in the media as of lately. Last fall, the company was faced with a crackdown from the New York’s Attorney General, Eric Scheiderman, who claimed the company use of short term rentals was in violation with New York City laws (Stanley). The only response that Airbnb generated was to direct people to its website’s policy on racism (seen below).

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.40.43 AM

Airbnb policy on racism

It is hard to say what exactly can be done about this issue, because it would be hard to avoid profiles of hosts. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to try and control implicit biases. I think when it comes to implicit biases, the best thing Airbnb could do is to inform people that these biases exist. The discrimination page on their website simply states that discrimination of any kind is prohibited, but what if their users are not aware of the fact they are holding biases? Perhaps Airbnb could have a link to the implicit bias test (Link to test: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/) so users could see their biases for themselves. I also think it would helpful to change the profile settings Airbnb has right now. Instead of showing the person’s profile picture, Airbnb could display the information about the person (i.e. their reviews) and the property before users are allowed to see the host’s picture. Therefore, potential guests would be choosing their host based on quality of hospitality not on looks.

Works Cited

Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Anthony G. Greenwald. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Delacorte, 2013. Print.

Edelman, Benjamin, and Michael Luca. “Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com.” Harvard Business School (2014): n. pag. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/14-054_e3c04a43-c0cf-4ed8-91bf-cb0ea4ba59c6.pdf&gt;.

“Life Cycles of Inequity: A Series on Black Men.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Science:, State Of The. “Implicit Bias.” State of Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014 (n.d.): n. pag. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.

Stanley, Chuck. “Racial Profiling on AirBnB.” Reality Check NYC. N.p., 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.

“What Is Airbnb’s Position on Discrimination?” Vacation Rentals, Homes, Apartments & Rooms for Rent. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Airbnb is a service that allows anyone to become a hotelier overnight. For any short period of time, members of Airbnb can list rooms, or an entire house or apartment, to complete strangers for rent. Users set up a profile that lets the potential guests see their name, picture, and images of the space available. “As of 2013, Airbnb has 300,000 listings, comparable in total size to Marriott’s 535,000 rooms worldwide.” (Edelman and Luca) Ben Edelman and Michael Luca analyzed information about Airbnb hosts in New York. What they found is not only painting a picture of significant racial biases on websites like Airbnb, but also is reflective of racism in our present society. Edelman and Luca found that “non-black hosts are able to charge approximately 12% more than black hosts, holding location, rental characteristics, and quality constant. Moreover, black hosts receive a larger price penalty for having a poor location score relative to non-black hosts.” (Edelman and Luca, 2014).

Stats on Airbnb

Stats on Airbnb

On Airbnb’s home page, they state that racism is prohibited, and that they are an “open market place” (Air BNB). Yet the problem still exists. The problem is implicit race bias. Implicit biases are our stereotypes and judgments towards certain people or groups that affect the way we think or act in an unconscious way. Implicit biases could cause a person to act favorably towards a certain group of people, or very unfavorably, without the person even being aware of their actions. Because these biases are buried deep in our subconscious a person cannot find them, hide them, or control them (Kirwan Institute, 2014).

What do you see?

What do you see?

Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald explore this phenomenon in their book Blind spot: Hidden Biases of Good People. One test Banaji and Greenwald ran was testing whether people preferred Oprah or Martha Stewart. They found people showed preference to Stewart even if they consciously insisted they preferred Oprah. (Banaji and Greenwald, xiii). This example shows us that our minds preferences are often out of our control. Even if a person is a diehard Oprah fan, he or she will implicitly favor Martha Stewart because she is white. Even though this idea seems far-fetched, Banaji and Greenwald show another example of how our minds can so easily trick us. In the diagram pictured below, Banaji and Greenwald urge readers to believe that the colors of block A and B are the same. This seems completely implausible. Yet, when you take a piece of paper and cut hole into where the squares are, hiding the rest of the image, the squares perfectly coordinate (Banaji and Greenwald, 8).

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 7.55.35 PM
In the case of Airbnb, the power of implicit bias is revealed. One can also see the potential fallout of these sneaky biases. Users of the sight may not be trying to hold these biases, yet because they are clearly there, implicit biases are impeding the lives of African-Americans who depend on the revenue of Airbnb. Implicit biases do not only affect the lives of people using Airbnb. Implicit biases affect the lives of students and everyday people (see below-youtube video). This is why the issue must be addressed. Unfortunately, Airbnb had not done too much about the issue. This could be a result of the fact that the company had been enduring quite a bit of heat in the media as of lately. Last fall, the company was faced with a crackdown from the New York’s Attorney General, Eric Scheiderman, who claimed the company use of short term rentals was in violation with New York City laws (Stanley). The only response that Airbnb generated was to direct people to its website’s policy on racism (seen below).

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.40.43 AM

Airbnb policy on discrimination

It is hard to say what exactly can be done about this issue, because it would be hard to avoid profiles of hosts. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to try and control implicit biases. I think when it comes to implicit biases, the best thing Airbnb could do is to inform people that these biases exist. The discrimination page on their website simply states that discrimination of any kind is prohibited, but what if their users are not aware of the fact they are holding biases? Perhaps Airbnb could have a link to the implicit bias test (Link to test: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/) so users could see their biases for themselves. I also think it would helpful to change the profile settings Airbnb has right now. Instead of showing the person’s profile picture, Airbnb could display the information about the person (i.e. their reviews) and the property before users are allowed to see the host’s picture. Therefore, potential guests would be choosing their host based on quality of hospitality not on looks.

Works Cited

Banaji, Mahzarin R., and Anthony G. Greenwald. Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Delacorte, 2013. Print.

Edelman, Benjamin, and Michael Luca. “Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com.” Harvard Business School (2014): n. pag. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/14-054_e3c04a43-c0cf-4ed8-91bf-cb0ea4ba59c6.pdf&gt;.

“Life Cycles of Inequity: A Series on Black Men.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Science:, State Of The. “Implicit Bias.” State of Science: Implicit Bias Review 2014 (n.d.): n. pag. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.

Stanley, Chuck. “Racial Profiling on AirBnB.” Reality Check NYC. N.p., 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.

“What Is Airbnb’s Position on Discrimination?” Vacation Rentals, Homes, Apartments & Rooms for Rent. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Dawn of the Planet of the Internet

If I try to think of my earliest memory of using a computer, I find myself to playing a game with my older sister. The game was centered around a robot, Botley, and his sidekick Polly. The game was meant to be educational and taught science. I remember when my older sister first started letting me play with her, I felt old and mature. Being able to play on the mysterious computer was a coming of age out of childhood and into tweendom. I felt I was gaining access to something I had not been old enough until that moment to access. Thinking back on this experience, I would identify my experience as both social, but even more as an experience that I felt elevated me to a certain level of “cool.” These two identities would follow me form just eight years old to my older teen and young adult years.

When I entered middle school I began to hear about peoples screen names. I never got one, so I missed the entire AIM trend.I felt I was literally out of a conversation with my peers. This social media had become a type of social currency in which I was completely lacking. As I got older and entered high school Facebook became the new thing to have.

AOL Instant Messanger

I also did not get a Facebook as my parents thought it was too much of a distraction. As a result of this absence on social media, I missed out on a lot of interaction with my classmates. I wasn’t invited to parties because they were primarily invited via Facebook, and I could never get the joke when someone would bring up “that picture.” I again was brought back to the feeling I had watching my sister playing video games on our home computer. I felt that I was somehow lacking that I was not able to access this online status. It wasn’t until I got a Facebook that I felt I had finally matured in the online setting.

When I reflect on the parts of the Internet that most strongly stand out in my memory of the Internet, they without a doubt are social. I found this to be an interesting contrast to the student’s autobiographies we read. I had never thought of the Internet being tied up to citizenship or language. I think only after reading those reflections I could see that my interaction with the Internet has been tied up with these factors. When I think of citizenship, I think of what it means to me to be a 20-year-old American woman. Being a citizen is more than what my passport states. It involves the way I dress, the way I think, and the way I look at myself in the mirror. To me my citizenship, my place in this country, has more to do with my race and gender than my actual birthplace. Being a white woman will affect me in getting a job, getting into schools, and how people treat me. And I think that this is largely due to ideas propagated on the Internet. Those first social encounters on the Internet, people are made aware of their genders. In your screen name whether it be “fashionluver” or “surferdude” (actual names!) we are constrained to certain gender stereotypes. As a woman I think from a very early age we are forced to be an overly feminized, western, girl. I say overly feminized because almost all of my peers screen names had something to do with shopping or fashion or lipstick or pink. And I say western because I never saw a peer with a name I could not pronounce even though I am sure some of them did have them. There is no other alphabet on social media besides the American one.

It seems that in my current use of the Internet, my biggest concern is with privacy and information. It seems the Internet often know more about myself than I actually know about myself. I find this most obvious when Google “autofills” my information. It is always shocking that the Internet can remember my password to a certain website that I myself could not remember. The Internet, unlike myself, has no human error. It remembers everything and anything we give to it. I think that this lack of security or ownership of my information limits the freedom I could have on the Internet. Especially in recent years, people have become increasingly aware of the way hanging on to information is like tying a cloud to sand. It seems impossible to keep any online privacy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-socgG1dqE

Another issue from aside from privacy is the perpetuity of the Internet. In his Ted Talk , Juan Enriquez discusses the mark we leave online.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu1C-oBdsMM. He proposes the possibility that our imprint online is just as permanent as a tattoo. This is another fear I have of the Internet. Frequently we hear of job interviewers looking up photos of you online and the fact that I have no control on what is online is quite daunting.

It is quite a perilous feeling not knowing where this information is going or who owns what I put out online. Another question that I find is very prevalent in our society is where do we draw the line? I read an interesting article in the Times about the hypocrisy of American privacy.http://time.com/3319605/online-privacy-hypocrisy/We find it acceptable to use private information to reveal a crime, yet leaking personal pictures is a violation. This makes me wonder what is acceptable in this day in age to reveal online? Isn’t my credit card information just as private and sacred as a revealing picture? Yet it would seem our society hold it in reverse. Imagine if when you went to buy an item the retailer asked you to hand over a home video. This would seem weird and personal. Yet I have no problem handing over a credit card number, which gives anyone, access to my private monetary transactions.

I can’t imagine living without the Internet, but it would be naïve to suggest that it hasn’t opened Pandora’s box for us. Even though policing the Internet would seem too George Orwell, we must find a way to secure privacy for the comfort and safety for all.

Works Cited

Norton, Jim. “We’re All Hypocrites About Online Privacy.” Time. Time, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.

Ted. Juan Enriquez: Your online life, permanent as a tattoo. YouTube. YouTube, 2 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu1C-oBdsMM&gt;