On Tuesday, April 15, visiting professor and qualitative researcher Collette Sosnowy invites the Sarah Lawrence community to join her and the students of her hot new seminar, “You Are What You Tweet: Identity and Social Media,” for a lively panel discussion on information privacy and online surveillance. The panel discussion, entitled Surveillance Research and Action: Approaches to Information Freedom, will take place from 7-9 PM in Heimbold 208. This event is one installment of the Student Senate funded Perspectives on Place and Power Film & Lecture Series.
On the panel will sit three experts and researchers in the field of new media who specialize in online privacy. Carolyn Anhalt is a Secure Communications Technology Advisor at Internews Network and the Berkeley Institute for Free Speech Online (BIFSO). The next panelist, Gregory T. Donovan, is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies at Saint Peter’s University. The third panelist will be Sandra Ordonez, a self-described “web astronaut” and the Outreach Manager for OpenITP, which is part of the Open Technology Institute.
At the start of the spring semester, You Are What You Tweet was one of the most talked about new open courses offered on campus. Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has become one of the most popular and transformative social media platforms on the web. It has become an increasingly popular medium of social and professional expression for Sarah Lawrence students. During registration, over 60 students fought for the fifteen spots available. What sets You Are What You Tweet apart from other seminars on campus is Conference 2.0. Basically, students conference projects take the form of blogs hosted on MySLC's servers. Each week, students write posts on their blogs pertaining to their conference topics and tweet out the links to their classmates—and the world!
A major focus of the seminar is privacy, safety, and surveillance online. Over the past decade, the issue of social media as it pertains to personal privacy and security has taken center stage in American politics and culture. Internet users young and old have a growing number of concerns about how the information we upload to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even comparatively archaic E-mail platforms can be used to the advantage of ‘Big Data:” those with something to gain from our digital footprints.
Facebook, to name just the most widely-used example, depends on ad revenue in order to provide users with networking services for free. The ‘like’ button might have been their cleverest idea yet: the ads that appear on users’ profiles are determined not by chance, but based on pages that they have previously ‘liked.’ Your advertisement experience is completely individualized: no two Facebook users will see the exact same ads. The advertising companies that fund social media platforms depend on this transfer of information. To bigger corporate interests, this data can be considered a treasure trove. But what else can our personal data be used for, and by whom?
In the wake of recent NSA spying scandals and constantly changing online privacy policies, these questions are especially relevant. Though there are those who shy away from certain social media sites, more often than not, those users are active on other social media. At the end of the day, the issue of online privacy affects everyone who uses the Internet.
The panelist discussion is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your online rights and get involved in the conversation about the use of our personal information by Big Data. The world is changing faster than it ever has before, and continues to evolve as we integrate ourselves into a participatory web environment. That we will do so is almost inevitable. The panel will emphasize that we attempt to understand these cultural and societal changes as they happen.
If you are unable to attend the discussion, never fear: students from You Are What You Tweet will be live tweeting the event. You can keep up with the commentary online by following @YouTweetSLC and #TweetSLC. To find out more information about the class and to read Conference 2.0 blogs, visit youarewhatyoutweet.net.
by Anthony Cohen '17