BOLD Ideas for Creative Social Networking: An Invitational Discussion

BOLD Ideas for Creative Social Networking: An Invitational Discussion

Wei Zhang (Peking University, China) and Cheris Kramarae (University of Oregon, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8205-4.ch018
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Abstract

To further open the conversation about women's empowerment and global collaborations using new networking technologies, this chapter problematizes some prevalent ideas about creativity and social networking, notes suggested change that carry anti-feminist sentiments throughout the world, and suggests a number of ways that women and men can all benefit from an opening of queries about innovative ways of working together online. With the suggested expansions, the authors welcome more inclusive and invitational discussion about future digital media research and development.
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Introduction

We are aware of dramatic technological changes, as more and more of us live in media-saturated cultures. The innovative practices of designers and practitioners of digital media technologies have provided millions of people with new and valuable means for obtaining and exchanging information and skills, and for building networks across many geographical and social boundaries. We read and hear about, and often experience, so-called “revolutionary” changes in social networking practices that enable increasing number of people to share and process information in innovative digital forms. And yet, according to several recent reports, women’s representation in technology continues to be low in general, and even the small number of women in technical fields are often isolated from influential social networks (Simard & Gammal, 2012). Given these barriers, we wonder just who is listening to whom, and we wonder if some critical “revolutionary” ideas are being refused or ignored.

In the current mainstream discourse on women’s use of social networking technologies, we find prevalent assumptions that presuppose that, compared with men’s uses, women’s ideas and activities on the social Web are deficient and less serious. The assumption that women are not capable of generating creative and Big Ideas (about anything) is entrenched in much mainstream consciousness and unconsciousness, and appears in many guises. This fundamentally serious problem has been, for several decades, stated, illustrated and reiterated by feminists, without much, if any, fundamental changes. This is a discouraging situation, for everyone. If this situation is to change, for the benefit of all, women will need to be included, at every level, in the discussions and design of the digital media technologies. But not just included, in a perfunctory, numerical way, but in ways that acknowledge the complex history of gender inequalities in digital media work, and that acknowledge the challenging, creative and bold offerings women can bring to the work. At the moment, in terms of the recognition of their creativity, women seem to be hidden online.

In an effort to further open the conversation about women’s empowerment on the Internet and global collaborations using new social networking technologies, we look at some of the ways that some current narrow ideas, usually unexplored, are carrying anti-feminist sentiments online throughout the world. If left unscrutinized, the misleading ideas can result in very limited notions of what access, equality, and interactive cultures can be. Here, we are not going to review and explore all the studies of creativity and gender. Rather, we problematize some prevalent ideas, stress that the social climate is an important element of what is accepted as creativity, and suggest a number of ways that men and women can all benefit from an opening of queries about innovative ways working together online. With our suggested expansions below we offer a number of thoughts about how to encourage fresh ideas about future digital media research and development. While not the only areas that need to be spotlighted, they can provide beneficial beginnings of more inclusive and invitational discussions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Networking: Practices of gathering and managing a network of friends with specific interests; it means different things to different people, depending on their goals, their access to, and their use of varying communication technologies.

Invitational Discussion: A non-judgmental conversational means to create relationships rooted in equality and dignity, and welcoming of others’ perspectives.

Gender: A contested, sliding term often used to refer to the attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given society considers appropriate to a person’s biological sex, which may not be the same as one’s gender identity.

Freedom of Speech: Often considered one of the basic human rights, freedom of speech is the legal or natural right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas without the fear of being punished.

Knowledge: What thoughts and understandings are considered knowledge depends on the prevailing ideas of domination and resistance.

Creativity: Traditionally, definitions of creativity have focused on individual achievements as perhaps resulting in a one-man show; what is considered creative, flexible, energetic, forward thinking, and interesting differs depending on one’s world view, set of values, and a perception of what is valuable for social change.

Cyber Activism: Online actions and campaigns that aim to influence public opinion and major social/political processes; what is considered activism often varies from society to society.

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