Category Archives: Lit Review

Working Through Whiteness or Yeah, I read that stupid yoga article too

A couple of days ago, XOJane published an article called “It Happened to Me:  There Are No Black People in My Yoga Classes and I’m Uncomfortable With It.”  If you happen to be one of the three people who haven’t read it, it is actually even stupider than you would expect from the title. 

 Reading it, however, brought back old college memories for me, specifically of my senior seminar, Working Through Whiteness.  Yep, not only did I take a class called Working Through Whiteness, I was required to take a class called Working Through Whiteness.  And buy a book called Working Through Whiteness, which the internet informs me cost thirty-two bucks.  This is the sort of thing that is responsible for people making fun of liberal arts colleges.

 Everything else I had a choice, French or German, bio or chem, even queer versus feminist theory for my major, but Working Through Whiteness? That was the one immovable boulder in my college career.  Three hours a week for twelve weeks, a group of mainly super-rich girls and one guy and I sat around talking about… well I took the class and I still have no fucking idea whatever it was we actually talked about.  There were a few rules, though, of whiteness club. 

  1.  Never talk about our class privilege ever, even though nearly everyone was not just rich, but my family has multiple houses rich.  Just pretend you know what it might be like to be poor or at least lower-middle class.
  2. Never talk about anything practical.  The minute we get towards discussing anything that might leave the realm of theory, flee immediately.
  3. Never wonder what they would have done if any of the women and gender studies majors was, you know, not white.  This rule was so strong that it just occurred to me this morning, ten years later.  What would they have done?  Given her an A+ and a pass to study hall?

 While I don’t know what we talked about, at least much, I do remember how we talked.  We talked exactly like that stupid yoga article.  How we now realized that we were white and got stuff that “people of color”* didn’t get.  How uncomfortable that made us.  I remember some crying.  I think we even talked about the tyranny of white thinness on African American women. 

 I thought it was stupid then, I think it’s stupid now, but that’s how someone who should know better can write an article like that and be surprised when it turns out to be a bad idea.

*actual term we were supposed to use.  Something about solidarity of racial minorities against white people.  It always uncomfortably reminded me of the term colored people but those type of thoughts break rule 2. 

Lit Review: Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook


Stutzman, Fred, Ralph Gross, and Alessandro Acquist.  “Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook.” 2012.  Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, 4:2.

“Access to increasingly granular settings, to determine  which profile data other Facebook users get to peruse, may have increased a member’s feeling of control and direct her attention towards the sharing taking place with other active, non-silent, members of the network; in turn, perceptions of control over personal data and misdirection of users’ attention have been linked to increases in disclosures of sensitive information to strangers”

Summary: Stuzman et al. use a private, long-term data set of Carnegie Mellon Facebook users, finding that over time users have looked for greater perceived privacy, but have in fact increased the information available to advertisers and Facebook itself, i.e. “silent listeners.”    Although the overall trend is to share less private information over time, they do find an uptick in 2009-10 which they credit to changes in Facebook privacy policies increasing users’ cognitive burden.

Analysis:  One particularly interesting point was that of “incidental data,” the creation of new data without actual creation, e.g. that aps pull information from users and users’ friends without an active choice to share such data.  They also mention that social media users consistently underestimate their audience size, being aware of only 27% of their audience. I see a lot of potential in further research that forces users to think about and analyze such choices.

The dataset has several limitations, sadly unavoidable in the context of having such “long-term” information.  The profile elements they analyze are very basic, such as birth date, phone, and favorite media.  Additionally, they don’t address the issue of how their participant pool ages, particularly the effects of leaving college on privacy seeking behavior.  They also mention that they couldn’t determine between non-disclosures based on hidden information versus information that was simply not given at all.  Despite these, having an unique longitudinal dataset makes this worth reading.

Overall:  It will make you feel really paranoid about your own Facebook behavior, but also pique your interest.  Also the lit review is really amazing in terms of summerizing the research on multiple presentations of self.

Lit Review: Word Usage and Community in Twitter

There are some things I really miss about academia, specifically engaging with people about new ideas.  I also realized a couple weeks ago that I was really unaware of the current literature outside of economic educational and infection disease stuff.  I’m trying to read something weekly and to share it as a way to get caught up/create discussion/get smarter.  I have to say it’s surprisingly hard.  I’ve been really struggling with some writing recently and have to come to miss my past academic-skillz.  The below was easier for me, ironically, because it was so math-not-theory-based.


Bryden, John, Sebastian Funke, and Vincent AA Jansen.  “Word usage mirrors community structure in the online social network Twitter.” 2013.  EPJ Data Science, 2:3. 

“This indicates how the language we use bears the signature of societal structure, and is suggestive of the enormous potential in using topological analysis to identify cultural groups.”

Summary: Bryden et al. use a dataset of 250,000 Twitter users, trying to find linguistic links inside communities, e.g. those who @ed each other.  They conclude that communities use unique language patterns beyond basic subject terms, particularly word length and endings, and find a way to predict community involvement of a Twitter user based on word usage.

Analysis:  I love the idea of created spaces using language.  One of my big interests in college was kawaii culture and how specific terms and ways of talking created an individual/safe space for a sub-set of women in Japan.  Unfortunately most of their examples don’t seem to be all that unexpected.  For example, one language pattern is the use of Twilight terms in the Twilight community.  Another is the use of phrases such as n**ga, poppin, and chillin together; language that is created off-line and then brought online.

That said, there were a few examples where the online community itself (if not specifically on Twitter) was creating linguistic trends, such as the interaction between the words bieber, pleasee, and <33, which they define as “lengthened endings (repeated last letter).”  I’d love for Bryden et al. to present more unusual examples like this for greater analysis, maybe some qualitative to understand what those linguistic patterns mean to the community that uses them, particularly in in-group vs. out-group interactions, how people learn the language, etc.  There also seems to be a lot of potential in looking at community drift, both in the language a community uses over time but also how language used changes when a Twitter user enters or exits new communities, based on changed interests, life experiences, etc.

Overall: short and sweet if math-heavy; the charts are worth checking out on their own.

Things I’ve been reading – lists

I love lists – not only because they make me feel like the organized person I long to be, but I also think that they can teach you a lot about how people think and dream.

Top 101 goals in 1001 days – Most popular goal is to give blood – wonder if that’s because it’s so public and thus performative, or is that really one of the most common goals for people?

How I Became My Own Mentor – To this end, my strategic plan features all kinds of useful lists: work that’s in process, work I’d like to do in the near future, people I’d like to work with, kinds of work I realize I hate, kinds of work that really lights me up, skills I’d love to learn.  Brilliant!  I need to do this in my next coffee shop time!

List of Lists that People Make – Lists are the butterfly nets that catch my fleeting thoughts. Yes!  I have way too many ideas to keep all of them in my head at any one time.

Using Trello to Organize – Look at that page of lists!  So pretty!  I like paper though so I’m not sure how well it would work for me.

Pinterest Board of Creative Journaling –  Part of why I like paper so much – can doodle, paste things in, make it 3-d.

The Most Amazing Journal EVER – A picture is worth a 1000 words here – you should go check it out!  I ordered a moleskin and washi tape just to see if I could use this to add a little more organization to my life.