What Inspires Us?

An “interesting” article in the Washington Post takes issue with academics who study social networking. I know a lot of people who begrudge the Ivory Tower, but never had I seen it so blatantly attacked and mocked. To quote: “The culture of academia is like a land rush: professors poised around the edges of each new intellectual territory, waving flags emblazoned with theoretical frameworks, making frenzied dashes to stake claim on new topics, ready to shoot trespassers.” Or how about ” The lingo makes you want to give everyone with a PhD an atomic wedgie.” I mean, really.

I’ll admit: academe is a very competitive career choice, especially if you desire the all-coveted tenure-track position (note: I have opted not to go this route, placing me somewhat on the outside of this article’s target range). And it is important in academe to publish, be noticed, and get the grant money flowing your way. But, is that why some are choosing to study social networking? Possibly, but I am not sure how likely that is.

Why do I study the internet? Because it’s cool. It’s fun and interesting. It’s literally changed the entire way we communicate with each other. It’s changed the process of learning. That’s heavy stuff. Sure, MySpace is usually seen as a time waster, but a lot of living goes on in there, other SN sites, and virtual worlds like Second Life. Why shouldn’t the intellectually curious be fascinated by it all?

Maybe I’m being defensive. It’s a natural reaction. Or maybe articles like these make me realize it’s important for people who study certain topics (usually those related to human interactions and phenomena) to be more transparent about their motivations for doing so. We don’t pick topics out of mid-air to study. Sure, sometimes an advisor or mentor steers us in a certain direction, but those of us who decide to enter the 21st grade as it were, choose to be in school that long because something interests us to the point of obsession or passion. Or we have some internal itch to scratch. As my college boyfriend would say “Us Psychology majors are all here for a reason.”

Rarely are we motivated to do what we do just to see our name in the newspaper. And if we are, then we are misguided — there are much easier ways to do that.

Note: Chuck Tryon, an assistant professor of film and media studies at Fayetteville State University blogs about this attack on academics much more eloquently than I.

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Why Is Sex So Interesting and Sex Ed So Boring?

Here’s a cool video contest for youth. DoGooderTV and Advocates for Youth are joining forces to host an opportunity for young people to use digital tech to talk about their sex education or tell people how to make it better. First prize gets $3500. No small potatoes!

I personally can’t wait to see the entries, some of which are already posted here. As a professor of Human Sexuality at the college level, I have collected the stories of students’ “sex education so far.” And the themes I read, by and large, are quite negative, or uninspiring at best. It will be great to hear youth tell us a thing or two about how to do our job!

Ego Surfing: Guilty as Charged

Another new report from Pew Internet and American Life finds that almost half of Internet users (47%) have searched for information about themselves online. I’ve done it. It’s sort of interesting, actually. For example, did you know that I hold the Colorado high school record for longest field goal? OK, I guess someone else must share the same name as I, but it’s cool to think of the possibility…

Funny thing is, most online adults (61%) don’t really do much to limit the amount of information about them online. Is this one of those cases when we tell our youth “do as I say, not as I do?”

Girlspace

A new report released by Pew Internet and American Life shows that girls are more likely than boys to use social media (blogs, social networking sites, etc.). More than one-third of girls (35%) blog, compared to only one in five boys. Older online girls (ages 15-17) are more likely to have used social networking sites than boys the same age –70% vs. 54%. And over half of girls stated they have posted a photo online — 40% of boys have done the same. Boys, however, are more likely to post videos. Almost one in five boys (19%) have done so compared to only 10% of girls.

These gender difference seem to parallel the typical gender roles that we see already. Girls are more likely to express and stay in touch. Ergo, they blog and have online profiles. And boys are more likely to be techhies. Therefore, they post videos.

But no matter what content these youth are posting online, they are getting reactions: the majority of youth who post content online say they get comments at least “sometimes.” Three-quarters post comments themselves. What they do is truly social networking

You can read a summary of the report at the San Jose Mercury News.

Reality Bites

Maybe it’s the kudos received by the movie Lars and the Real Girl, or maybe it’s the recent release of the book Love and Sex with Robots by David Levy. No matter, the idea of people having relationships with, and even falling in love, with cyberdolls (see RealDoll website for examples but warning! This site is not suitable for work) is getting some attention.

In an age where people have commented on the loss of intimacy in youth relationships and the normalization of porn, this news can be especially disconcerting. How can we encourage people to see sex as a powerful act to be shared between two people who care about each other when the very presumption of “people” is being challenged?

But according to a recent interview of Levy, “”love and sex with robots on a grand scale are inevitable.” Granted, this man is talking about beings with artificial intelligence, not static dolls, but the idea of this is so Brave New World. Will it happen in our lifetimes?

If You Can’t Beat Them…

The New York Times reports that the Penthouse Media Group invested $500 million in social networking sites by purchasing Various Inc. Must be due to the fact that while traffic to social networking sites has increased lately, visitors to pornographic sites have declined.

Although Various owns the SN site adultfriendfinder (not suitable for work), a site for swingers, it also owns Big Church, whose motto is “Bringing people together in love and faith.” Both sites are now owned by Penthouse.

Hockey!

I am a huge hockey fan, so the fact that I can justify writing about something related to the sport is pretty damn cool in my eyes. Poor Jiri Tlusty; he’s just a 19-year-old youth — who happens to be a forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs (think being a Yankee for the same level of publicity and scrutiny). He posted some “racy” photos of himself on his Facebook page, and one of them made it to the front page of the Toronto Sun (think NY Daily News). I had to get this story from ABC because The Sun wants $15 for the story online and I’m cheap.

The pictures were apparently taken using his cell phone while he was home in the Czech Republic.