Seminar: Programming Marginalization and Violence

Join us for our first event for 2017! Rena Bivens, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University will give a talk on Programming Marginalization and Violence on Thursday, January 26, 3:00pm, HP 5345

This talk explores the role that software plays in enacting culture and regulating our lives. Social media companies are eager to brand their software as neutral – simply a technology – but this strategy hides the important design decisions that these companies make about how data is collected, archived, and monetized. I will invite you to think about the particular capacity that software has to shape identity categories by discussing two of my recent publications. I will begin with a ten-year history of Facebook’s software and user modifications, as they specifically relate to gender, including the 2014 introduction of 58 new gender options (e.g. genderqueer, agender, gender questioning, two spirit). Then I will investigate the ten most popular English-speaking social media platforms to explore identity categorization from two different subject positions: as a new user registering an account, and as a new advertiser creating an ad. I’ll consider where gender shows up as a category and how that category is defined and deployed. Overall, I will use these examples to explore the values and assumptions that are ‘baked’ into software, how particular programming and design practices become habitual and valuable, and how software plays a role in defining what we understand as ‘normal.’