Category Archives: technology

Where have I been and where am I going?

I just noticed it’s been one month since my last post here. It has never happened before that a whole month has elapsed between posts. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing in the past month. I haven’t been writing much, it’s true, but if you check out Sex In The Public Square dot Org you’ll see that there’s been a lot more activity there than here. Please consider switching your readers, links, or favorites over to http://sexinthepublicsquare.org because that site is updated much more frequently. If you’re really really attached to my blogging, you can link to http://sexinthepublicsquare.org/ElizabethsBlog if you want the page that has only my writing on it. (Please explore the whole site, though. It’s much more interesting than anything I could put together on my own.)

Where else have I been? I finished my first semester back in the classroom (what an adjustment!), spent two separate weekends at union conferences (union work being another of my passions), and just got back from a trip to Georgia to see family.

Where am I going? Next semester is going to be a busy one! I’ll be speaking at:

Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting in New York City (Feb. 23rd)

South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, TX (Mar. 8)

Sex 2.0 in Atlanta (April 12)

At SXSW I’ll be leading a conversation with Lux Nightmare about using “web 2.0” technology to help deconstruct what she has called the “pink ghetto” and others have called “NSFW” — the stigmatization of sexual content whether it be educational or entertaining in nature, and the further stigmatizing of those who produce it. At ESS and Sex 2.0 I’ll be speaking about the important project of creating a “sex commons,” a project well underway. The “sex commons” is an space where independent information about sex, sexuality, sexual health, and communities can be collected, updated and archived. You can see by blogs alone that this sex commons is growing. I’ll be talking about the challenges of maintaining such a commons and safeguarding the quality of the information it contains.

I’m excited about all of these conferences, but I’m especially excited about Sex 2.0 because it is an independent grass-roots conference of people interested in the intersection of sexuality, feminism and social media, and it is being organized by the unstoppable Amber Rhea. Some of my favorite sex-and-society writers and podcasters will be there. Audacia Ray of Waking Vixen, Naked on the Internet, and The Bi Apple, Viviane of The Sex Carnival, Rachel Kramer Bussel, erotica editor extraordinaire and excellent writer of fiction and nonfiction, Ren of Renegade Evolution, Melissa Gira of Bound, not Gagged, Sexerati and The Future of Sex, Minx of Polyamory Weekly, and lots of other amazing folks will be there, and will be talking to each other face-to-face.

Sex 2.0Because it is an independent grass-roots conference, though, it could use some grassroots support. If you have a couple of dollars to donate via PayPal I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. (I did!) It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s secure, and you can donate as much or as little as you like. Even a couple dollars helps. To support Sex 2.0 click here to go to the conference’s home page and click the “Help make it happen” button on the upper right hand side of the page.

Why does it matter? Because those of us who are dedicated to working on the construction of what I call the sex commons (independent space containing info on sexuality of all sorts) rarely get to meet each other face to face and work on the issues we all care about together. Amber’s insight in bringing us to Atlanta is sharp. She understands that the work we do online is important and that we need moments together in person to push that work forward. You can help defray the cost of renting the space where we’ll meet, and providing modest travel scholarships to those who would otherwise not be able to attend.

To find out more you can go to the Sex 2.0 Google Group, Facebook page, MySpace page, or to its pages in Eventful or Upcoming.

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Filed under Advocacy, Info, and Activism, community-building, feminism, pink ghetto, public discourse, sex, Sex 2.0, sex work, sexuality, technology, Travel

Verizon to customers: NARAL 2 CNTRVRSL 4 U

The New York Times reports this morning that Verizon has rejected a proposal by Naral Pro-Choice America to use its network for sending text messages to people who sign up for them. Other cell phone networks have accepted the proposal which allows subscribers to sign up to receive text message updates from NARAL.

According to a communication with Verizon that NARAL gave to the times, the company’s policy is to reject proposals from groups that “promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its [Verizon’s] discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.”

There are at least three very troubling pieces of this rationale.One is that a communications company should be allowed to censor the legal content that is transmitted over its network in the first place. This would seem to erode the “common carrier” rule and tremendously limit free speech. Cell phones now are as important to political activity, community organizing, and ordinary everyday life as landlines and the US mail have been in the past and we would never accept such a limitation from either of them. Can you imagine if Verizon’s landline division made a ruling saying that NARAL could not phone anybody who uses a Verizon phone service? Why should text messages be any different? (Sunburnt Kamal, I think we really need your “on the Internet there are no sidewalks” essay! Can you include cell networks too?)

Beyond that, even if Verizon’s policy is legal, applying it in this way is illogical. The messages sent by NARAL would only be sent to people who requested them by texting a 5 digit code specfically subscribing them to the updates. These are people who, by definition, would not find the messages controversial or “unsavory.”
Last, until I’ve had more coffee and thought a bit more about this, it would seem that just about anything could be “seen as controversial” by some user or anyother and Verizon’s policy is written to reject any program that might be seen as controversial to any of their users. To really be consistent then, they should accept no text message advocacy programs at all. Presidential candidates use these programs and have not, apparently been rejected by Verizon and yet presidential politics is by its nature controversial. Even the Repblican National Committee has such a program.

Jeffrey Nelson is Verizon’s media contact for Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs and he’s is quoted in the Times article indicating that Verizon might be considering a change in its policy:

“As text messaging and multimedia services become more and more mainstream,” he said, “we are continuing to review our content standards.” The review will be made, he said, “with an eye toward making more information available across ideological and political views.”

Want to let him know that you don’t think that a communications company ought to be restricting the kinds of information its customers can access? His phone and email info are on this Verizon Wireless Media Contacts page but in case you don’t want to go look him up yourself, his email is jeffrey.nelson (at) verizonwireless (dot) com and his phone number is 908-559-7519.

Note: This post is also published on our community-building web site, SexInThePublicSquare.org. Drop by and check it out!

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Filed under abortion, activism, censorship, civil rights, Education, feminism, New York Times, News and politics, pro-choice, public discourse, reproductive freedom, sex, technology

Last chance to send Pink Ghetto Blasters to SXSW!

I told you a while back that I proposed a panel for SXSW Interactive 2008 called Pink Ghetto Blasters: Destigmatizing Sex via Online Community Building. The panel would include Chris Hall, Lux Nightmare, Violet Blue, and Rachel Kramer Bussel as panel members with me moderating. Voting ends at 11:59pm central time.

As Chris explains at SexInThePublicSquare.org:

One of the principles behind Sex in the Public Square is that by putting the sexual aspects of our lives off-limits and keeping discussion of them “private,” we lose a valuable component of democracy. The category “NSFW” diminishes us as individuals and as a society because large chunks of both are kept in the closet. In short, we’re all about busting the Pink Ghetto, and this panel is a great way to get some of the sharpest minds in the field together to get beyond the basics and into the practical matters of what the real implications of fencing sex off from the rest of society are. This is a great opportunity for us, and we hope that as many of you as possible will give us your support.

If you have voted yet, please do! Click here for our panel’s page.

While you’re voting, consider these panels too. I’d love to see them make the cut!

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Filed under Chris Hall, culture, Lux Nightmare, pink ghetto, public discourse, Rachel Kramer Bussel, sex, Sex in the Public Square, SXSW, technology, Violet Blue

Pink Ghetto Blasters — A new sort of superhero or a SXSW Panel?

That depends: It will only be a SXSW panel if enough people vote for it, so head over to our SXSW panel picker page and vote! (You’ll need to register there to vote, but I promise you it isn’t a terrible process, and it’s not like you’ll have to remember the password for long!)

SXSW (which stands for South By Southwest) is a week-long annual music, film and “emerging technologies” festival that takes place in Austin, TX. The SXSW Interactive festival focuses on the emerging technologies part.

So what’s this Pink Ghetto Blaster stuff all about? You can get a great description of the Pink Ghetto problem in the writing of Lux Nightmare and Susie Bright. Our panel, if chosen, will explore ways to “blast” the ghetto using the networking, organizing and publishing power that the Internet and Web 2.0 technologies make broadly accessible.
Our panel, as officially described in 50 words or less:

The Internet has increased access to sexually explicit material and also created a new category, “NSFW” (not safe for work) with which to stigmatize sexual material and the discussions around it. We discuss specific strategies used to resist and challenge the stigmatization of sex.

Some key points:

  • Stigma around sexuality is still a social problem, and the very blurry category “Not Safe For Work” reinforces that stigma.
  • The networking and organizing power of Web 2.0 technologies provide a tremendous source of power and cultural leverage for marginalized groups.
  • Everybody can learn to use these tools!

And most importantly, the panelists:

So, unless you want us to don pink catsuits with shiny black boots and long black latex gloves, and start flying from sea to shining sea using our sex-destigmatization ray guns, go over and vote for our panel at SXSW Interactive.

On second thought, why don’t you vote for our panel anyway. We can discuss the superhero costumes later!

(And RC, I hope you’re ready for company in Austin!)

Violet Blue’s Sexual Privacy Online

Lisa Vandever’s The Porn Police: Know the rules

Cory Silverberg’s The Future of Sex in Interactive Narrative and also When No means 01001: Sexual Ethics and Interactivity

George DeMet’s Content Management System Roundup

Erin Denny’s Sex, Trees and Gun Control: Cause-related movement building
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(Note: This post is also published on SexInThePublicSquare.org)

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Filed under Chris Hall, culture, Lux Nightmare, pink ghetto, public discourse, Rachel Kramer Bussel, sex, SXSW, technology, Violet Blue