What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been thinking about this week.  Not a lot in terms of quantity, but definitely some quality reading this week.

The New Digital Divide: Privilege, Misinformation, and Outright B.S. in Modern Media (Beta Beat)

This is probably the most important article I read this week.  I say this as an academic librarian and educator who works with student populations that lack critical literacy skills, and as someone who sometimes gets into it with other people on Facebook.  I’m not an expert on digital literacy, but I do have a great deal of skill when it comes to evaluating sources, thinking critically about media, and discussing the ideas surrounding media.  Not everyone does, and while I know this applies to some of my students, I forget that this also applies to my “friends” on social media.

So this article basically handed me my ass.  It made me recognize my own privilege and how I interact with people on social media (I’m speaking largely of Facebook, here) and what my expectations are.

Here’s some food for thought:

What I think we forget–or worse, never even realized—is the extreme privilege often inherent in “digital literacy.”

Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.

Whoa.  I think the points being made here, and in the rest of the article, are super important and worth discussing.  One friend pointed out to me that while the article makes some great points, it doesn’t address the larger issue: these skills are not being taught to everyone, which is probably an indictment of our public schools system.

Gifs, Memes, and Live Blogs: the Controversial New Language of Book Reviewing (Salon)

I’ve talked on this blog before about the censorship happening at Goodreads (let’s call a spade a spade, guys.  Censorship is what Goodreads is doing when they remove a review), and how it’s affecting the users on the site.

At any rate, this article is about how book reviewing is changing, and this part of the article is particularly illuminating:

To some of you the idea of using a GIF (for the uninitiated: a small, soundless animated image on a repeating loop) in a book review sounds bizarre. But the practice does flourish, if controversially, in some sectors of Goodreads’ universe of book lovers, as well as in blogs and comments threads across the Web. In addition to the integration of GIFs into text reviews, other new reviewing techniques include liveblogging the reading of a book, in which responses are offered at various points before the critic gets to the end, and the back-and-forth dialogue between a reviewer and the people posting comments to her review. Sometimes the reviewer and commenters know each other well, so the comments elicit further explanations and you can see the reviewer’s interpretation evolve or clarify. All of these innovations can be fascinating if you’re interested in how people talk about the experience of reading.

This is probably the most fascinating part of using a site like Goodreads for me.  I love to talk about books, and I love to listen to other people talk about them, too.  The fact that a site like Goodreads allows us to see how people talk about the experience of reading is what keeps me coming back for more.  It’s different for every reader, and that’s what makes it so damn compelling.

But it’s more complicated than just that, because some people are wringing their hands over the use of Gifs and the like in reviews.  Is their reaction to this new format about the content of the Gifs themselves, or is it about the change in format?

What’s at issue here is a question of tone, and it’s no surprise that it happened in the thriving subculture devoted to reading and writing YA books, where old-fashioned expectations of the special status accorded to published authors rubs up against a readership more inclined to treat everyone as peers.

I don’t have any answers, but this is a fascinating read.

Dudebros are Sexually Confused: Why Their View of Pleasure Might Surprise You (Salon)

This is the article I waffled about putting in here, just because I already have a lot of ideas going on in my head right now, but it was too interesting not to link to.  The article takes aim not only at the concept of “hookup culture,” but also at the media’s reporting on it.  Basically, the article claims that all these stories are the same: hookup culture is terrible for women OR hookup culture might be terrible for women, but we don’t know yet.  This article asks a really good question: what about the heterosexual men in these situations?

We don’t talk about them because the sexual satisfaction and emotional profile of the dudebro — if I may use the scientific terminology — is pretty much assumed to be a known quantity, a parody of the worst tropes of masculinity. And while sexism and misogyny continue to shape so much of what men are taught about sex, ignoring the needs, desires and vulnerabilities of young men only allows those destructive lessons about sexual entitlement to fester.

This is where it gets interesting, because it does a bit of a breakdown about what we know, what statistics we regurgitate endlessly, and talks about how real sex can be terrifying for dudes because much of their early experience comes from watching porn (this is true for some girls, too, by the way).  Nothing totally new here, for sure, but it also raises the questions of performance anxiety and the pressure to deliver an orgasm to the lady in question, seemingly almost magically.

TL;DR of this one: talk to your partner, whether they’re a casual hookup or not.  Until we can talk to each other about what gives us pleasure, there’s not a lot that can be done.

And I’m sort of tapped out for the week.  That’s a lot to take in, and this has been a busy week in general.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?


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