Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference

On January 17th, I am proud to announce that I will be presenting at the Educause Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference with my Teaching, Learning, and Technology (TLT) team, Susan Pennestri, Marie Selvanadin, and Professor Betsy Page Sigman.

Our presentation, “Circles of Learning: Using Google+ To Enhance Classroom Communities,” will share the team-based approach we took to implement Google+ into an undergraduate database management course at Georgetown. Google+ was used to enhance student learning, engagement, and communication.

From /Sandbox to Translation: An Overview of Transnational Scholarship at Georgetown University

On July 13, 2012, I had the pleasure to present, “Translation and Transnational Scholarship” at Wikimania 2012 at  The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In the presentation I spoke about my role as a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador in two of Professor Adel Iskandar’s graduate courses: New Media, Innovation, Community, & Dissidence (Fall 2011) and  Media and Communications in the Arab World (Spring 2012) at Georgetown University through the U.S. Education Program (WP:USEP). Each course had two Wikipedia components: article creation and in-class group edits. I became involved with the USEP  because I was eager to help students visualize news and history that had not been yet been represented as a part popular knowledge.

United States Education Program logo

The U.S. Education Program came to Georgetown in the Fall 2010 term and has since been incorporated into 14 courses university wide.  The program provides assistance to professors who want to integrate Wikipedia article creation and editing as part of a course. The support materials include not only wiki markup handouts and brochures, but also both online and offline points of contact. In the classroom, a Campus Ambassador (me, in this case) gives two tutorials one that focuses on introducing the students to the culture of Wikipedia and one that focuses more on the technical aspects, such as how to contribute a photo and how to edit existing Wikipedia articles. In addition, the program includes the support of an Online Ambassador, who assists the students with more technical questions.

It was extremely enriching to watch the students become explorers during the course. They had to find and discover legitimate sources to not only support emerging social movements, but technologies as well. Students thus found creative ways of writing about technological phenomena as they unfolded in the Arab world, such as finding Arabic citations about the Rassd News Network (RNN), an Arabic Facebook feed, translating them, and making the topic notable for the Wikipedia community and public at large.

I would argue that the more interesting side of Wikipedia editing occurs on the article talk pages, where knowledge production takes place.  It helps students think critically about who decides what is notable or worth adding to the article’s content. It is not one person producing content, but multiple people collaborating together to decide what and how it should be said (and cited!). It is this collaborative aspect of Wikipedia editing that indirectly creates an incentive for academic research offline: What was the process of creating a Wikipedia article? Why was one source rejected and one not?  These questions help augment the following high impact learning outcomes: media and information literacy, critical thinking and research skills, and writing skills development. These outcomes help deepen student learning and engagement, both in and out of the classroom.

There was a total 17 new English articles created about Arab media and politics in the 2011-2012 academic year. Here is the complete list of articles:

Fall 2011:

Rassd News Network (RNN)
Speak to Tweet

Spring 2012:

Abdel-Bari Zamzami (about a famous Moroccan controversial cleric)
@Mujtahidd (about a prominent dissident Saudi micro-blogger)
Telecom Egypt (about telecom egypt, a government/private telecom company)
Omar Offendum (about a Syrian-American rapper)
Reem Maged (about a prominent Egyptian talkshow host)
Bassma Kodmani (about the spokesperson for the Syrian national congress, the opposition to the government).
Al tahrir tv channel (about a prominent Egyptian satellite network)
The Narcicyst (about an Iraqi-Canadian rapper)
Ibrahim Eissa (about a prominent Egyptian talkshow host)
Al-Sadr Online (website for high board, religious media org)
Kharabeesh (about a popular Arabic animation production house)
Baladna_bel_Masry (about a prominent talkshow on Egyptian private network)
Youm7 (about a popular print newspaper in Egypt)

Nicholas Oxenhorn, a student in Professor Iskander’s course “Media and Communications in the Arab World,” noted that he decided to create the Telecom Egypt article because he wanted to shed light on the importance of the technological infrastucture that supports and aids the production of new media content in the Arab world.

Nick Oxenhorn, Georgetown Student

“Telecom Egypt played a pivotal role in the internet shut off that occurred on January 27, 2011 in an effort to quell protests,” Nick said. “Unearthing and categorizing some of the facts about governance, operations, and production behind Telecom Egypt in the form of a Wikipedia article seemed like a really good idea to me — something that might lead to a broader understanding of where the actual potential for regulation and internet freedom/decentralization might exist post-revolution if a company like this continued to persist in a comparable form.”

Not only were the students able to create new articles for the English language Wikipedia, but they fostered a new incentive for translation and the possibility of beginning an exciting form of transnational scholarship with the Wikipedia Education Program in Cairo, Egypt. The 17 new articles created about the Arab world in on the English language Wikipedia paved the way for more translation to occur, pushing students to create content that can be transferable to the Arabic Wikipedia. Now students in the Wikipedia in Arabic Education Program will have material to translate and add to over time.

Kelsey Brannan is a volunteer Campus Ambassador at Georgetown University and a M.A. student in Communication, Culture, and Technology. Click here to view her Wikimania slides.


Paper Up, Grindr Surveying and Geolocating Sexiness

The semester here at Georgetown is finally over and I have the time to catch up on my extra-curricular activities! Finally had the chance to put together the paper I presented on April 14, 2012 for the Theorizing The Web Conference. If interested in reading you can view here.

The Prezi that accompanies the talk is below:

Surveying and Geolocating ‘Sexiness’ @Theorizing The Web

This past Saturday (4.16.12) I presented my paper, “Grindr: Surveying & Geolocating Sexiness” at the Theorizing The Web Conference in College Park (UMD).

Drawing from Sigmund Freud’s book Civilization and Its Discontents and Michel Foucault’s concept of space and power, this paper examines how Grindr, an all gay male location-based social network application for mobile phones, is altering the space and time of sexual relationships and the way users signify or survey their sexuality. Grindr, as a heterotopic space of otherness, is able to surpass the limits of Victorian ideology by liberating sex from the confines of the home. However, it also controls and represses the individual’s desire for physical sex through the censorship imposed by the culture’s super-ego (governmentality) and the guilt produced by the ego (self-surveillance). In other words, Grindr  lets gay males  “grind” or “digitally cruise” to find each other via mapping technologies that were originally designed by the state to track and monitor people for the sake of national security. The concept of governmentality, a monitoring process that creates a hegemonic regime based on self-normalization, becomes immediately intertwined with sexual desire.  What are the implications of this? How does desire change when it is linked to surveillance?

Instead of focusing on marginalized queer communities, Grindr: Surveying and Geolocating Sexiness, examines how dominant male-male desire, a social group that is often critiqued for marginalizing other queer identities, e.g. trans and queer-identified women, is marginalized and repressed by Grindr’s design. Following Foucault’s concept of reverse discourse, political and visual resistance to compulsory heterosexuality, I pose the following question: how much power of resistance does Grindr give to gale male sexuality? Does can one perform resistance and enact homosexual liberation within software that is designed to exclude and objectify male bodies? What are the implications of a software that is promoted to liberate, but ultimately discriminates? This paper is part of larger cultural discussion of what the users of Grindr ultimately desire and how this desire is regulated and maintained by civilization’s desire for control.

The prezi presentation can be viewed here:

Issues of privacy are immediately brought to the forefront. One cannot “Grind” or digital cruise Grindr profiles in private. Gay male identities on Grindr have to be censored, “maintained, and “mapped alongside the world” of heterosexual or ‘normal’ life. Grindr has provided an platform for gay males visibility that has been historically been denied, but the representations of male bodies that are visualized (re)render homosexual desire according to government-backed surveillance practices. Grindr will always be a public, and not just public in the sense of public space, such as “Grinding” or searching for men at the bar, but public to anyone that has access to a mobile device. For example, anyone with an Apple iPhone can download Grindr and can take a screenshot of the profile and post it on the web. This is evident with the emergence of a Tumblr website, called Douchebags of Grindr, with the tagline, “all your douchebag needs from the profiles of Grindr Tumblr censors. Long live the public web.” The website features screenshots of male profiles that were taken and (re)labeled to highlight the way the men enact governance on one another, by managing their profiles through identification and categorization (e.g. age, photo, location). In my discussion of the Tumblr parody of Grindr I explore several of these “douchey” profiles to show governmentality distorts desire and ultimately has the power to discriminate and “out” men in public space.

Paper References: References_Grindr2012

Talk at STGlobal a Success!

Yesterday, March 3oth, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in downtown DC, I had the privilege to join other scholars in conversation about the latest research within the Science & Technology Studies (STS) field at the ST Global Conference (12th Annual).

I was on the Human Rights, Science and the State panel along with two other scholars: (i) Philip Egert (phD c candidate) from Virginia Tech, who presented the talk “An exploration of the Relationship Between Sxcual Gender-Based Violence and Disasters,” and (ii) Steve Casazza  (MA Candidate ) from George Washington University, who presented a talk called “Army of Automatons: Where Science fiction becomes science fact.”

My talk was entitled, ” Indigenous Homelands: “closing the gap” with Two-Way networks.” It explored the multiple tensions between Australia’s reconciliation campaign, the Australian government’s development agenda, and local indigenous development practices within the Northern Territory, Australia.  I used network theory to explore new frameworks for change. You can view my presentation here.

Professor David Ribes, one of my advisors at the Communication, Culture, & Technology (CCT) program at Georgetown, was the moderator for the panel. He did an excellent job finding synergies between three talks that were not completely different topics. If STS ever met poetry – David Ribes, achieved it. His follow up question beautifully revealed how each of our talks attempted to “open the black box” of technology, which is the idea that we must uncover controversies that are often hidden from view and explain how artifacts are chaped by and connected to larger soci-technical processes (e.g.  role of designer, users, etc). In the case of my talk, the “black box” was the way in which Australia’s reconciliation campaign tends to cover up the deeper rooted political problems through cultural projects that promote harmony between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. I got some great feedback from several scholars and I hope to publish this with the Australian Aboriginal Studies Journal soon.

The entire conference pushed scholars in the field of STS to change how we think about development in a world that is now suffering from overpopulation, decentralization, and multiple digital divides. It it is time that new transformational development policies and justice frameworks emerge that account for these new contexts.

Theorizing The Web

My paper, “Grindr: Browsing and Geolocating Sexiness” was accepted to the 2012 Theorizing The Web Conference in April! This conference seeks to assemble a multi-disciplinary group of scholars interestes in exploring how the Web both influences and is influenced by the social.

The quest for actualization and interconnection within socially mediated realities, such as Facebook, Linkedin, OkCupid, and Grindr, is linked with an individual’s desire for pleasure and power.  Drawing from Sigmund Freud’s book Civilization and Its Discontents and Michel Foucault’s concept of space and power, my paper examines how Grindr, an all gay male location-based social network application for mobile phones, is altering the space and time of sexual relationships and the way users signify or survey their sexuality. Grindr, as a heterotopic space of otherness, is able to surpass the limits of Victorian ideology by liberating sex from the confines of the home. However, it also controls and represses the individual’s desire for physical sex through the censorship provided by the culture’s super-ego and the guilt produced by the ego. This paper seeks to answer the following question: What is it that users of Grindr ultimately desire from this technology and how is this desire regulated or maintained by civilization?

This year they are also calling artists to participate. I took this opportunity to suggest playing the short film I wrote, Over & Out. The film explores the way we wrap ourselves around technology to communicate with others, as well as the way we recycle memories and meaning into our new technical objects. If you are not into speaking panels, you should come check out my film!

(Re)thinking Reconciliation: Conference Recap

Presenting at the Conference

On November 22, I presented my paper “Mediating Aboriginality: The Politics and Symbols of Australian Reconciliation,” at the CSAA 2011 Conference in Adelaide Australia. The conference was 3 days long, including 1 day for post-graduate networking.

The conference included well-known scholars, such as Sarah Ahmed and Peter MclAren and postgraduate students from Europe, The United States, New Zealand, and Australia. I was the only graduate student from the United States and it was an awesome opportunity to network and hear feedback on ideas about social justice and development I have been grappling with over the past year.

A project on Reconciliation media needs to be done and several scholars at the conference recommended I continue this project as PhD project post-Georgetown in Australia. I am not certain if I will pursue this project immediately after my MA, as I would like to work in development a few years before I pursue a PhD. The papers at the conference will be published online in January and out of them a few will be selected to be published in a Journal.

Inside the Conference Schedule

Here is a link to the conference panels.



CSAA 2011 Conference!

Great News! Thanks to travel grants from CCT and external scholarships,  I will presenting my paper, “Mediating Aboriginality: The Politics and Symbols of Australian Reconciliation,” at the CSAA 2o11: Cultural ReOrientations and Comparative Colonialities Conference in Adelaide, South Australia 21-24 November. I’m very excited to revisit the country and learn about how the Reconciliation process has affected  the region of South Australia, a state I was unable to visit when I was living in Melbourne, Australia in 2010.

South Australian Reconciliation Symbol







Information on Reconciliation South Australia