Friday, November 30, 2007

Scholarly Critique of SuicideGirls.Com

Scholarly Critique of

Danesa Bender

Communication 3320
Hamline University
November 16, 2007

Research Topic and Researchers:
Feminist sexualities, race and the internet: an investigation of by Magnet, Shoshana, in New Media & Society, August 2007, 9 (4), pp. 577-602. Retrieved from Communication & Media Complete on November 8, 2007.

Rationale of the Study:
To determine whether the website is a feminist site that liberates women rather than exploiting them, with regards to both sexuality and race.

Literature Review:

• Suicide girls was developed in 2001 as an alternative to an internet porn industry that was overrun with sites featuring fake blondes with fake parts.
• The site features atypical nude photos of tattooed and pierced, intelligent women who participate willingly in the photos and written journals on the site.
• The site claims to promote real beauty and a sex-positive community.
• The site does not claim to be feminist, but is described as such by feminist media.
• Feminist media claim the site is feminist as it redirects the male gaze by allowing women to willingly gaze at themselves—women become the subjects and objects of their own desires (Magnet, 2007, p.580)
• The sort of cybersex promoted by sites like suicidegirls is said to focus on the mind rather than the body, therefore liberating the body from the objectification of traditional pornography.
• Many participants of are also gay, bi-sexual or dabble in their attractions to women at the site, thus creating a cybersex world that does not require men.
• Disembodied sex, as such that exists on the internet, can also leave space for ethnocentrism and racism.
• For example: if the default user is assumed to be white, women of colour are often ‘passing’ online unless they explicitly articulate their racial identity. Therefore, cybersex…is not necessarily experienced as ‘liberating’ by an African Canadian woman who must choose either to disrupt the spontaneous flow of sexual discourse by ‘coming out’ as a woman of colour, or engage in cybersex as a white woman. (Magnet, 2007, p. 589)
• On, the women are predominantly white.

The authors argue that even though suicidegirls participate willingly in the site, the site still supports the same problems associated with objectivity as traditional porn sites and the site also supports ethnocentric racism.

Research Method:
To analyze the content of the website

Subject of the Study:
The models of including their profiles, journals, photographs and even questions posed directly to the models themselves. Member postings of reaction to photos or journal entries of the models will also be studied.

Research Findings:

• In general, the model participants on participate willingly and are more than happy to share their bodies in what they consider a non-threatening environment.
• However, many models also mention that they participate in the site for the money (Magnet, 2007, p. 587).
• Even further, models are put at risk for bodily harm when they display enough personal information for site users to find them.
• Many models experience harassment on the website.
• One model even admits that does not succeed as a feminist site because the models are paid (Magnet, 2007, p. 585).
• The site employs mainly white models and treats its minority models as cultural others that add exoticism to the site and also ignores racist comments that appear in response to photos of ethnically diverse models.
• Creators of the site are willing to hire more diverse models as more diversity would lead to a wider audience.
Short Term:
• Creators of the site definitely overlook racial equality and even sexual harassment of the models in favor of continuing to collect the revenue generated by the site.
• Models admit that they site is not necessarily sexually liberating, focused on intellect or safe for them.
• In order to succeed as a forum for women to liberate themselves from society’s traditional sexual mores, needs to take ethnicity into account and pay more attention to the treatment of its models in terms of harassment and working conditions.

My Position on this Scholarly Essay:

This article was easy to follow as a piece of narrative, but I found the way in which the author choose to compare her findings to previous literature rather than clearly outline her study a bit confusing as the previous articles read for this class were more straight forward on that point. I appreciated the quotes taken directly from the models as I think they really helped the author prove her point. I think more quotes from the members of the site would have been very interesting as well, as the members probably make the best case as to whether the site objectifies its women or not.

I was surprised to learn that the site did not go very far forward in dispelling the myths of traditional beauty. I can fully support the idea that so-called “grotesque” women should be considered beautiful, but I was disappointed to learn that not even a progressive website such as this one was able to break away from the idea of “western” beauty. Labeling some women as attractive for their “otherness” or “exoticism” reeks of the ethnocentricity of which many western nations are often guilt on many fronts, not just beauty and sexuality.

As a woman, I don’t personally think that participating in any sort of sex trade could be considered feminist, but I do applaud any decision to redefine beauty. All women deserve praise, and I agree with the author that fails to praise women in any real new way as they are still pushing minorities to the margins.

His Haircut and Her Laugh

My thoughts on the panel “His Haircut and Her Laugh” at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, November 27, 2007. Various local newsprint media employees and journalism academics made up the panel of four (Susan Albright, Gary Hill, Alina Oxendine & Roger Bouen) and a moderator (David Hudson). In general, the panel discussed the upcoming elections and the role of traditional media outlets (largely newspapers) versus new media such as blogs and other internet sources. Rather than give a straight and possibly boring summary of the proceedings, I want to use this space to respond to the points made that I found most intriguing.
The panel skipped opening statements in favor of making more time for questions at the end of the hour. One of the first points of discussion was whether newspaper editorial pages should endorse specific candidates. The panelist that brought forward this argument believed that the online world has caused or rather required newspaper genres to change greatly in order to compete with online new sources. I believe that what was meant by this is that editorial pages no longer have the luxury of endorsing specific candidates in order to draw in readers, because they cannot run the risk of losing readers that disagree and can find information with which they agree more easily online. To be honest, I do not myself read the newspaper. I read editorial articles that are recommended to me by friends and family, usually because they are funny or stupid. So I am really not sure what editorial sections “used” to be like pre internet intrusion, but I imagine that I would be more likely to delve into an editorial section that supported my candidate if I were looking to read more about said candidate. In essence, like most people out there, I do practice selective exposure when I choose my news sources. The internet makes selective exposure easy and accessible. By offering no specific candidate endorsement newspapers invite audiences of all political ilk to readership, which makes dollars and cents. However, personally, I like my editorial writers to have personal opinions. Is that not the point?
A fair bit later into the arguments, one of the panelists brought up the point that many news sources are no longer interested in covering the candidates by addressing their stance on the issues. Since “celebrity” sells, more media sources focus on subjects like candidates style, likes and dislikes, personal lives, possible scandals, etc. One example put forth about this occurrence was the recent front page articles announcing that Oprah was supporting Obama on the campaign trail. I understand that a lot of American society is interested in the lives of celebrities. I realize that stories about Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan sell a lot of magazines. However, I do not think that the press is doing anyone a favor by treating political figures like celebrities. Politicians help the country run. Knowing about which shoe designer they like or what color they look best in is irrelevant and obstructs progress. I do not want: to want vote for Obama because Oprah supports him. I do not want: to want to not vote for Giuliani because he has a scandalous marital history. I want: to know where the candidates stand on the issues, or at the very least where they say they stand on the issues—at any given moment in time.
The panelist also brought up another point about how the new media has changed election coverage: the recent CNN democratic You Tube debate. One panelist mentioned the fact that a snowman asked the questions during the debate and how that was potentially insulting to candidates and one candidate did indeed refuse to participate in the debate on those grounds. I have not seen the debate. Maybe the snowman was cute and festive. Maybe not. Just the idea that a snowman was deemed a necessary tool to draw in an audience seems overkill to me. To me, You Tube is already a user-friendly format without the snowman. The audience does not even need to make time to watch the debate when it originally airs. The audience will have to ability to scroll right past certain questions when watching it later on You Tube. To me, the snowman is the death knell of audiences that tune into debates because they want to be informed on the issues. I can nearly imagine the conversations that took place the day after the debate originally aired, “Dude, did you see the You Tube debate last night? A snowman asked the questions!” Said dude might look the debate up later get hooked by the snowman and later find him or herself actually listening to the issues being discussed. I see the appeal/idea behind the snowman concept. I just cannot believe that I actually live in a country where it is necessary to have a snowman asking questions in order to gain an audience.
Those are my general impressions of the panel. It was interesting for me, a staunch TV viewer when it comes to election coverage, to think about the ways in which print and the internet are competing for audiences.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Scholary Critique of "Problem Gambling on the Internet"

Scholarly Critique of Problem Gambling on the Internet
Danesa Bender Communication 3320 Hamline University


Research Topic and Researchers: Problem Gambling on the Internet: Implications for Internet Gambling Policy in North America by Wood, Robert & Williams, Robert, in New Media & Society, June 2007, 9 (3), pp. 520-542. Retrieved from Communication and Media Complete on October 23, 2007.

Rationale of the Study: North American governments desire to promote responsible gambling and want to curtail problem gambling, therefore, said governments will want and need to be aware of the relationship between problem gambling and the internet before developing the regulations that will legalize internet gambling.

Literature Review:
• Between 1998 and 2001, numbers of online gambling sites grew from numbers in the low hundreds to numbers in the thousands (Wood & Williams, 2007, p.523), many of which are located offshore.
• By 2001, hundreds of millions of North Americans (Woods & Williams, 2007, p. 524) had the internet access necessary to explore online gambling sites.
• Although online gambling is widely accessible, internet gambling is not a widespread or largely practiced phenomenon.
• Online gambling also occurs in relatively low numbers in countries where internet gambling is legal and regulated.
• North Americans with problem gambling habits are moderately low.
• However, North Americans that gamble on the internet are more likely to develop problem gambling habits.
• It is not clear to what degree internet gambling leads to problem gambling or whether established problem gamblers are attracted to the internet.
• Internet gambling provides convenient, easily accessible, anonymous, immersive and potentially more affordable (Woods & Williams, 2007, p. 525) gambling opportunities to problem gamblers.
• The psychological value of money on the internet may be less than that of actual cash, leading to freer spending among internet gamblers.
• The ability of online gamblers to access the internet at a comfortable environment such as their home leads to a potentially higher frequency of play.
• Internet gaming sites inflate payout rates during demonstration rounds (Wood & Williams, 2007, p. 525), leading to an increased perception that “big wins” are possible, which often hooks problem gamblers.
• Despite the obvious potential that online gambling has to attract problem gamblers, few sites incorporate the safeguards necessary to promote responsible gaming.

The authors argue that problem gamblers may be attracted to internet gambling sites, that there may be methods to predict problem behaviors among internet gamblers and that governments should create internet gambling rules and regulations that are sensitive to and aware of the potential link between internet gambling and problem gamblers.

Research Method:
Content analysis of surveys.

Subject of the Study:
1920 online gamblers, visitors to Canadian and United States online gambling sites who agreed to voluntarily complete a survey about their gender, ethnic, economic and educational identity and internet and land-based gaming habits in exchange for anonymity in the survey and a small incentive gift. Subjects responded to a teaser about the gift on an online gambling site and were reminded of their voluntary participation. The researchers attempted to limit multiple responses to the survey by the same respondent through requiring address information in order to receive the gift.

Research Finding:
• The majority of the respondents preferred internet gambling over land-based gambling.
• Internet gamblers come from diverse lifestyle and ethnic backgrounds, but the slight majority of gender is held by men.
• Nearly half of internet gamblers can be classified as problem gamblers and by comparison, only a single-digit percentage of land-based gamers in North America can be classified as problem gamblers.
• Internet gamblers are a high-risk group for problem gambling (Wood & Williams, 2007, p. 537).
• Certain ethnic identities (African and Asian) are at higher risk for internet problem gambling.
• Although it is unclear which bears the greater influence on the other, it is prudent to say that there link between internet gambling and problem gamers works in both directions.
• Preferring land-based gaming is a sign of problem gambling.
• Spending mass amounts of time gambling online is also a predictor of problem gambling.

Short Term:
• The link between problem gambling and internet gambling is very real.
• Governments should provide internet gamblers with feedback about problem gambling.
• Internet-based treatment and diagnosis programs should be developed.
• Access and use of internet gambling sites should be controlled and regulated.
• Advertisement of gambling sites on the internet should also be controlled and regulated.

My Position on this Scholarly Essay:

This article was easy to follow and clearly written. The concepts were also easy to understand and I found them very interesting. The research method using the survey made complete sense and was easy to follow as well. I enjoyed learning about the questions that made up the survey, although it would have been helpful to know more about the questions used to determine whether the respondents were problem gamers or not.

I was not at all surprised to learn that internet gamblers were also likely to be problem gamblers. I can see quite clearly that the virtual nature of the internet, the ease of access and the anonymity would draw problem gamblers, especially those that might be embarrassed by their addiction in the light of day at a land-based facility. Essentially, before I read this article I believed that many internet gamblers would already be somewhat aware of their own identity as problem gamblers and were seeking internet gambling as a way to hide their problem from others. I was, therefore, surprised to consider that the researchers were unable to tell whether the internet was more likely to attract problem gamblers, or just more likely to produce them.

I do agree with the article also that internet gambling sites should be regulated, legalized and controlled. As a United States citizen, I am very aware that the gambling industry in this country is heavily regulated by federal, state and tribal governments. I do also know that illegal gambling occurs in this country and I am therefore puzzled why the same crackdown has not yet taken place on the internet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

test post

mass communication blog-- future site of scholarly article critiques