Getting Started: 5 Links on College + Technology

If you’re in college, and reading this, you already know the effects of technology on current generations. Here are a few links to paint the picture even more clearly:

  1. Did you know that 70% of college students take notes electronically, and 73% of students said they can’t study without technology? Check out this infographic rundown of the college technology scene on Mashable!
  2. Another infographic on Bit Rebels gives some interesting insight into the gadget phenomenon.
  3. “From smoke signals to tweets,” this article on Edudemic highlights changes, applications, and problems within the realm of classroom communication.
  4. Considering taking an online course or two? Here are 5 tips from successful online students on how to rack up credits without setting foot in a classroom.
  5. For those tech junkies looking forward to the rise of Cybernet, here’s a futuristic article predicting how 6 emerging technological innovations will change the face of education as we know it!
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College Life in the Technological Age

At 12 years old, I was a huge nerd. I spent my library time copying pages from astronomy books, pretending to be Indiana Jones in my back yard, and avidly collecting and reading Popular Science magazines. One day in particular, I remember sitting on my porch swing reading an article that claimed that the Internet, which was relatively new at the time, would be the central hub of future activity. Email was already fairly mainstream, Flight Simulator was all the rage in video games, and the possibilities of this monumental paradigm shift seemed endless. Specifically, the article predicted that in the future, high school and college classes would be conducted on computers, with assignments sent out and submitted via the web. Needless to say, nerdy preteen Erin squealed with glee, cut out the article, and pinned it to the bulletin board above her bed. Today, if I found that article, it would be online, and I’d hit the Facebook “share” button or reblog it on Tumblr. According to Moore’s law, the power of computing doubles every two years, and we see evidence of this when we acknowledge how rapidly and thoroughly the world has changed in the wake of the internet’s invention.

Now, I’m a nerdy 20-something finishing college, and blogging, tweeting, and submitting homework online have all been regular parts of my educational experience for 5 years. In my work as an English major, I use massive online databases to find scholarly sources to incorporate into academic papers. I use Wikipedia for quick-yet-thorough rundowns on any given topic. Rather than spend upwards of $200 on textbooks, I can almost always find textbooks and novels for free in PDF form, or find necessary portions available through Amazon previews. And when I’m sitting in class, I don’t huddle over a spiral notebook scribbling down relevant information- I type a Word file at 80WPM, making my notes searchable, editable, organized, and efficient.

Technology plays a huge role in the life of the college student, for better or for worse. Since we’re all college students, and we’re all surrounded by iPhones and computers and GPS systems, I want to take a look at the issues that arise in a world still adjusting to technology’s waves.

“Don’t Denounce Feminism…” Follow-Up

Earlier this month, I wrote a post entitled “Don’t Denounce Feminism if You Don’t Understand It.” In it, I argued that feminism doesn’t require women to leave their families, go to war, or dress provocatively. Rather, it promotes a society in which women are allowed to make these decisions for themselves without being perceived as less of a woman, or less of a person. I claimed that no woman should “forsake her individuality for the sake of a being accepted by a system.”

In the comments to this post, Judithann of Why I’m Not A Feminist disagreed with my conclusion about feminism, claiming that “Feminism is about achieving total equality at any cost; it isn’t about supporting individuality.” She cited writers like Simone de Beauvoir and the potential passing of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would potentially mandate females to be enlisted in the draft, as evidence that feminism is actually just another system of oppression. You can read that particular conversation here.

JudithAnn justifies her disavowal of feminism by returning again and again to one particularly glaring straw man. On her blog, she writes:

…We must judge feminists on the basis of the laws that they are trying to pass. There may be all kinds of different kinds of feminists, but they all have one thing in common: they all want to see the ERA become the law of the land. The ERA has nothing whatsoever to do with letting women be whoever they want to be.

The Equal Rights Amendment, which would explicitly ban discrimination based on gender, was reintroduced in 2011. It applies to everything from health care to employment opportunities, not simply the draft. And yet, she repeatedly equates the entirety of the feminist movement with the support of this amendment, claiming that if feminists disagree with the ERA, “then they aren’t really feminists; if they don’t, then they could care less what other women want.”

Unfortunately, this is a terribly narrow way of framing the issue. There are feminists who support the ERA but disagree with the way it applies to the draft, just as one votes for a political candidate despite never meeting eye-to-eye on every issue. There are also feminists who do disagree with the ERA on the basis of that clause. To narrow down an entire movement to one issue, and make the massive generalization that all the members of that movement think the same way and promote the same legislation, is mindbogglingly foolish.

This is a really good example, I think, of why I don’t think anyone should be “against” feminism. The movement itself is an idea- the idea that we currently live in a society in which women are the constitutive Other, and are commodified, stripped of individual power, held to unjust standards, and subject to absurd scrutiny in areas of appearance, lifestyle, sexuality, etc. It’s the interpretation and application of these ideas that vary widely between individuals. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy so eloquently puts it:

Feminists differ on what would count as justice or injustice for women (what counts as “equality,” “oppression,” “disadvantage”, what rights should everyone be accorded?), and what sorts of injustice women in fact suffer (what aspects of women’s current situation are harmful or unjust?). Disagreements may also lie in the explanations of the injustice: two feminists may agree that women are unjustly being denied proper rights and respect and yet substantively differ in their accounts of how or why the injustice occurs and what is required to end it (Jaggar 1994).

These types of disputes are common to any movement. You’d be hard pressed to find two vegetarians, or anarchists, or agnostics whose beliefs are completely symmetrical, and in each of those groups there are radicals who rock the boat. It doesn’t negate the validity of their message, nor the importance of their concerns. And while you may disagree with vegetarianism, anarchism, or agnosticism, you hopefully don’t do so because of the views or practices of an individual. In that spirit, no particular feminist is the authority on what feminism entails; as my boyfriend observed, the process of making society equal, positive, and safe for both genders is an ongoing conversation.

In all of her comments and blog posts, JudithAnn makes one thing very clear: she’s not a feminist. She “cares deeply” about women, believes “men who perpetrate violence against women must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” and doesn’t “believe women were put on this earth to serve men,” but she’s not a feminist. She vehemently disagrees with systems that impose government force or outside agendas on women, their bodies, and their choices, but she’s not a feminist. She just believes that women should be treated with respect and allowed to make their own deci… wait a second…

A year ago, I wouldn’t have called myself a feminist. But then I discovered a beautiful truth: more often than not, it’s not what you do that makes you a feminist, but why you do it. There is no contract to sign, no explicit terms to which to agree, no laundry list by which you must abide. There is no Feminist Constitution or Pope of Feminism (and it’s certainly not the ERA and Simone de Beauvoir). You don’t have to wear fishnets, or be pro-pornography, or believe chivalry is dead, or stop being a stay-at-home mom. And if anybody tells you any differently, they don’t understand feminism either.

Curating on the Web: Mission Impossible?

  

Pinterest. Tumblr. Reddit. In the past several years, the websites that have climbed the charts overnight are not those meant for original content. Rather, they are places where people can cull, from the billions and billions of pages on the vast interwebmachine, quality content that appeals to their interests. From recipes to “hipster pictures” to news stories to makeup tutorials, the success of these sites lies in their ability to allow users to efficiently practice a method called “content curation.”

IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers discusses this method in an audio interview (jump to 3:40). Amongst other things, he talks about how the task of delivering quality content to a viewer is about “filtering out the noise,” or discarding irrelevant, boring, or otherwise undesirable material and promoting what is compelling, effective, informative, and relevant.

According to marketing master Rohit Bhargava, this task needs to become a professional position:

“A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online. The most important component of this job is the word “continually.” In the real time world of the Internet, this is critical… The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors.”

More and more in recent years, this responsibility has shifted from news outlets and bloggers, to internet users en masse. People are turning not to Google, but to user-based curation websites like Reddit, Twitter, and Pinterest for their timely and relevant material. But will we, the curators of the web, be any match for the ever-increasing influx of information on the internet in the future? One of my fellow classmates, Lee Cohen, has blogged about this problem, citing quantum computing as a potentially suitable replacement for human curation methods.

In my eyes, the ability of content consumers to collectively determine what is proliferated and prioritized in their respective areas of interest is one of the most pivotal tools recently implemented in web development. Even in my own search for apt articles for this class, I’ve relied not simply on Google alerts for particular search terms, but on Reddit’s Feminism subreddit and other similar sites. These allow me to see material that not only pops up because of its keywords via search engine, but things that other women with similar interests have found important and promoted. It adds an element of human intuition and connection that search engine algorithms lack.

NYU Journalism professor and media guru Jay Rosen tweeted this morsel of advice earlier this year: “The classic formula for success as a blogger: turn a passion into a niche, then dominate that niche. Add personality. Stir.” This, I think, is pivotal. As the power of computing and programming grows, algorithmic methods of organization will form the backbone of cyberspace infrastructure. Still, it will be increasingly vital that every user become a “Content Curator.” Even acts as simple as upvoting, reblogging, pinning, or sharing are tiny infusions of passion and personality that will craft the face of the internet, and culture as we know it.

Don’t Denounce Feminism if You Don’t Understand it

Recently, I stumbled upon The Thinking Housewife, a conservative-minded anti-feminist blog with a name so ironic, it hurts. Operated by one Laura Wood, the content of this corner of the web ranges from archaic (“Is College Necessary for Women?“) to downright ridiculous (“Feminism is a movement among men, to indulge women with more authority in the determination of public life”). Through the din of negativity and mind-boggling ignorance, I found a recent post that was not written by Wood, but by one of her readers. In it, the reader explains that her 17-year-old sister received a poor grade on an essay in a class on feminism, supposedly because she expressed views contrary to those of her teacher. Prompted by the semester’s topic, “Gender Oppression in the Modern Age: Is Feminism Still Viable in Modern Society?,” her essay concluded:

…I understand when I hear it said that feminism is no longer viable. I understand when I see that I have to wear tiny skirts and publicly visible underwear to reclaim my sexuality… I understand when I see women stuffed into business suits, irritably peeling the clinging fingers of their wailing children from their pinstriped skirts and ushering them into the waiting arms of daycare staff… I understand that feminism has no place in my life.

Both the student’s mother and the commenters on the article seemed to think that the poor grade was a personal injustice perpetrated because the girl dared to oppose the “teacher’s viewpoint.” They praise the girl for her good sense and accuse secondary education of being an “indoctrination machine”:

After extensive research on the subject (said ‘research’ being mostly whining about the poor, poor women), each student was to write an essay discussing in detail the subject, and what it means to her personally… As my sister has had a traditional upbringing… hers was by far the most interesting, most honest, and, of course, the lowest marked essay of the class. The teacher went so far to suggest that she have ‘catchup’ classes to better comprehend the topic.

Unfortunately, what this student and her supporters failed to divine is that the low grade most likely wasn’t given because the professor was offended by a 17-year-old’s point of view, but because the essay fails to fulfill both the criteria of the assignment and standard expectations for writing mechanics and essay structure at that grade level. Although compelling in language, it has no thesis statement, houses no facts, and neglects to offer even the slightest bit of objectivity in its description of the movement it so vehemently denounces. In a course whose purpose is the discussion of feminism and gender issues, Lucy Cat’s essay is tantamount to taking a class on the culture of Islam and submitting a paper describing the faith as a monstrous conduit of hate and jihad. It’s ridiculous.

Most importantly, it is obvious that she lacks any grasp of what feminism actually entails. She lists endless examples of what she apparently believes it to require: dressing provocatively to “reclaim sexuality,” dancing “like a stripper,” “children eating canned soup alone because Mommy is working late,” and “the downtrodden man” who is the victim of an independent wife’s lifestyle. But the purpose of feminism is not to mandate women to abandon their families, or to enforce a dress code, but to promote the shocking notion that women are individuals capable and deserving of making their own choices. For some, yes, this may mean business suits and long work hours- but they are no more villainous for that than any man who makes the same choice.

In the first half of her essay, it seems like she really gets it. “I understand [oppression] when I read of complaints that women are told how to act to be accepted, and I hate it,” she writes. Unfortunately, she fails to see that she is part of the oppression she rails against. Her judgment against working women, women in the military, women who don’t look feminine enough for her convenience, and even girls who want to play football, is scathing, ignorant, and more aggressively oppressive than any career path or wardrobe choice.

She cries that “Barely a day goes by when [she is] not oppressed, suffocated, smothered and pinned under a stifling oppression,” but she’s not the one being told to leave her job, abandon her personal preferences, passions, and opinions, and forsake her individuality for the sake of a being accepted by a system.

The Feminist Five: Take III

  1. Who Needs Feminism? Started by 16 female students at Duke University, this Tumblr features images submitted by readers explaining why they need feminism:

  2. Tattoos aren’t just for sluts. Daily Mail writer Liz Jones recently spilled about her new tattoo and explained that, to her, “self-indulgent decoration always seemed a bit dirty, a bit slut-like. And, as we all know, I am the very opposite of a slut. I could never take part in one of their protest marches (against justifying rape on the grounds of a woman’s appearance): all fishnet tights and exposed bras, messy make-up and loud opinions.” FemInspire writer Becci Yare calls her out on her misogyny.
  3. “Blow minds, not guys” is really bad advice.

    This image has been circulating like wildfire on Facebook and Tumblr, implying not only that being well-read/intelligent and promiscuous are mutually exclusive, but also that “opening legs” and “blowing guys” are inherently wrong and shameful.
  4. Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing for Everything. Ever noticed a tendency to apologize for everything, even if you’ve done nothing wrong? Personally, I am Queen Gratuitous Apologizer Extraordinaire. But this habit is prevalent among women, and suggests a deeply reinforced feeling of uncertainty, submissiveness, and inferiority.
  5. And finally, an XKCD comic touching on the misogynistic nature of pickup artists and and related bar scene pickup lines. Oh, snap.

5 More Fascinating Feminism Finds

Here are a few more stories and articles to help you get acquainted with the very real, very relevant feminist issues of today.

  1. I’m a Feminist. I don’t shave my armpits. Or my legs. I don’t have sex with men and I don’t wear a bra. I’m an atheist, am not planning on being a mother, and I never really liked Barbies. And yes, I am a man.” Jeremy Carter-Gordon is not an outspoken political writer or a feminist blogger; he is simply a guy who recognizes the inequality of the genders, and the absolute necessity of bringing about change.
  2. Sex ed materials used in NY schools found to be not only outdated, but often downright shocking.
  3. Empowered women in Hollywood are beginning to get fed up with interview questions that incessantly revolve around body image, diet, and the women-can’t-be-funny trope. See how Scarlett Johansson, Anne Hathaway, and Amy Poehler react.
  4. The Huffington Post examines the infamous split of twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison as a result of Stewart’s affair, and why the slut-shaming that ensued is dangerous to young women everywhere.
  5. Michelle Obama’s moving DNC speech glossed over her professional strengths and focused almost exclusively on her role as mother, sparking debate amongst those who found her to be “valorizing mid-20th-century gender roles.” What do you think?