Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Twitter Police

danah boyd points out an important way that the crowd sourcing potential of Twitter can be used to legitimate certain forms of sexual politics, particularly in conference settings in which sentiments about approval or disapproval of speakers may rapidly aggregate, even while the speaker is talking. In my own case, these backchannel postings to my talks have been more about disciplinary hostility than masculine hegemony, but I know of female colleagues who feel frustrated about having their looks evaluated by voyeuristic spectators in the audience armed with mobile devices and online laptops who are answering the question "hot or not" rather than engaging with the argument.

The source boyd cites, "Prude or Professional," looks at a somewhat different Twitter dynamic, in which a misogynistic presentation by Hoss Gifford at the Flashbelt conference was received with sexist approval and seconded by those who also criticized offended women with possible objections as overly sensitive to the speaker's boys-will-be-boys humor. Sample Tweets that "Geek Girl" Courtney Remes quotes include the following examples.

* Fonx is reading the #flashbelt rants on Hoss offending the ladies w/ a few swear words & a penis drawing - r u really that prudish & sexist?
* nthitz lol @hoss69 "If you are easily offended, fuck you" #flashbelt
* livenootrac Ladies of #flashbelt , I am sorry for the Hoss preso, but in the flash community he gets a pass, kinda like Don Rickles - that's just Hoss.
* CujoJpn @livenootrac And there were many ladies at #flashbelt who were offended by Hoss' Preso some were thick skinned and took it as is.

Remes encouraged sympathetic readers to follow up with three courses of action: 1) "Comment on this post and let it serve as a petition," 2) "Tweet about this and use the hashtag #prosnotprudes," and 3) "Digg this and let's make a statement." Obviously the campaign was successful based on the sympathetic comments of readers who asserted that web development should not be a boys club and the apologetic letter from the conference organizer that followed.

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