CFP – Two sessions for the ISA World Congress

I am co-organizing two RC06 (Commitee on Family Research) sessions for the XVIII International Sociological Association World Congress (2014, Japan).

1. “ICT & Family Life” with Claúdia Casimiro:

This session critically explores the intersection between family life and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The contemporary family is progressively a networked family through a variety of digital technologies (Rainie & Wellman, 2012). A Pew report concluded, in 2008, that American families were using the Internet and mobile phones to coordinate their lives, to be connected throughout the day, and to bond and share moments online. Is this a cross-cultural behavior? What challenges does this connectedness bring in family routines, relationships, norms, work, intimacy, and privacy?

This session aims to address two main broad questions: How do ICT affect and shape contemporary families? and, How do families, in turn, shape ICT? We welcome both theoretically informed and empirically grounded papers that cover a range of themes in relation to family life and ICT, including but not limited to the following:

– Uses and roles of ICT in family life
– ICT and family time, family norms, family routines/rituals, family relationships, or transnational families
– Domestication of technology
– Meanings, identities, and performances
– Public vs. private/collective vs. individual spheres
– Social capital
– Designing technology for families
– Networked households
– Work/life balance
– Intimacy and autonomy
– Online dating
– Methodology

2. “Facing an Unequal World: Social Capital and Families in a Cross-Cultural Perspective” with Fausto Amaro:

This session explores the role of families in the production, accrual, and reproduction of social capital. Social capital is a multidisciplinary concept with a variety of definitions, but it broadly refers to the resources embedded in our social ties/communities. It has been associated with a variety of positive outcomes, from status attainment to alleviation of poverty. Those with a higher level of social capital seem to have more professional and social opportunities, and to be better off. So, what is the relationship between family life and social capital? How do families contribute to the creation and maintenance of social capital? Do they create specific types of social capital? How does the diversity of contemporary family forms affect social capital? Can families and social capital help us to overcome crises and an unequal world? Or do they reinforce inequalities?

Both theoretical and empirical proposals that cover a range of themes in relation to family and social capital in a cross-cultural perspective are welcome, including but not limited to the following topics: Access and mobilization of social capital; Reproduction of social capital; Dimensions of social capital; Bonding social capital; Bridging social capital; Stratification and social capital; Individual and collective-level social capital; Measurement of social capital; Implications of social capital for family life; Violence and social capital; and, Dark side of social capital.

On-line abstracts submission:
June 3, 2013 – September 30, 2013 24:00 GMT.
A direct submission link will be provided in due course.

Here is a full list of the ‘Committee on Family Research’ sessions.

Please help spread the word 🙂


Online Harassment & Misogyny

Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist pop culture critic who produces a fantastic web series of video commentaries from a feminist/fangirl perspective at Feminist Frequency. She started a kickstarter project to raise money to fund a new video project, which aims to explore, analyze, and deconstruct some of the most common tropes and stereotypes of female characters in games.

But then the project was subjected to a well-coordinated online harassment effort (by various online video game forums) to take it down. This effort included hate speech on Anita’s Youtube channel, attempts to flag Anita’s videos as “terrorism”, vandalism on her wikipedia page, and the common threatening messages: from typical sexist jokes to threats of violence and sexual assault. Anita has archived a sample of these messages. Here are some examples of the sexist vitriol:

I am speechless…

The only “positive” side of this torrent of comments is that it exposes sexism and misogyny, and ridicules this group of individuals. BTW, Anita not only got the $6,000 she was asking for on kickstarter, she got $44,000 and counting. And there are a lot of male backers as well.

I also found two other very interesting websites of female online gamers that decided to post all the blatant and insidious sexist comments they get when playing: Not in the Kitchen Anymore and Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.

Some of my friends & colleagues suggested that this online harassment does not parallel the “real” world, it is not “real”, and it is only waged by a small and non-representative group of trolls. This is not my field, but the research that I could find online has shown, nonetheless, that online harassment is real and widespread.

Susan Herring (2002) shows that women are mainly the victims of online harassment cases (84%). Such as with the traditional harassment, males tend to be the perpetrators, whereas females tend to be the victims. As Herring (2002) states: “For many female Internet users, online harassment is a fact of life”.

Biber, Doverspike, Baznik, Cober, & Ritter (2002) surveyed 270 undergraduate students in the US, to explore their responses to online gender harassment in the academia. Findings indicate differences in the perception of sexual harassment by media, i.e. traditional classroom setting versus online. Interestingly, the participants had the same or stronger standards for online behavior: misogynist comments were seen as more harassing online, whereas requests for company were seen as more harassing in the traditional setting. Women also rated online pictures and jokes as significantly more harassing than men, while men rated jokes as more harassing in the traditional setting. Despite these gender differences, the study shows that online harassment is taken seriously by both genders. Women, in particular, seem to be more cautious about sexually explicit online pictures and jokes.

Online harassment not only affects high-profile individuals, such as Anita Sarkeesian or Kathy Sierra (a famous blogger that was continuously harassed and threatened to death), but women in general. According to the Working to Halt Online Abuse, from 2000 to 2011, 72.5% of the 3,393 individuals that reported online harassment were female (22.5% male, 5% unknown). Men also face online harassment, but mostly for being gay or seeming gay (Citron, 2011).

There are different forms of online harassment or hate, but even the “less extreme forms”, such as facebook groups named “I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap”, can create an environment of fear, distress, and subservience (Citron, 2011).

In the specific online gaming setting, Staci Tucker (2011) studied griefing and masculinity in online games. As she explains: “Griefers derive pleasure from causing havoc and distress, with little or no ludic gain and often at the expense of their own in-game characters. Griefing can manifest as hate speech, team-killing, virtual rape, unprovoked violence, or theft of virtual currency or items. Griefers are often powerful players, trolls, or even game masters, and can terrorize online communities, as their tactics are difficult to deter and punish” (Tucker, 2011:97-98). Staci suggests that the game industry hasn’t been able to efficiently confront harassment and hate speech in online games, because the main type of player is male, white, and heterosexual.

So misogyny is alive and kicking: “misogyny has by no means gone away, it has instead moved online. The Internet’s easy opportunities for anonymity have a lot to do with it. Bigots act destructively online because they believe that they will not get caught. The Internet has become the place where people can express misogyny with little personal cost. It is the new frontier for hate” (Citron, 2011).

How can we deal effectively with online harassment? Is there any other recent relevant scientific literature?

Please leave me your comments & references below.

The family factor: ICT & family life @ CFR/RC06-ISA website

Oh dear! May is almost over! Seriously, where did it go?

And I forgot to mention that I’m the guest blogger of May at the CFR-ISA (International Sociological Association) website.

I wrote a blog post about how my work on technology – on ICT usage, to be more precise – intersects with family. Here it goes: “The family factor“. Enjoy – I hope ;p

Elderly & ICT usage: the curious case of the faux-users

Fausto Amaro and I just published our article “Too old for technology? How the elderly of Lisbon use and perceive ICT” in the Journal of Community Informatics, edited by fabulous Gene Loeb & Michael Gurstein.

It is an article based on our study of ICT usage and perception by the Portuguese elderly. Here, we explore concepts of technophobia and ageism, and we develop the concept of “faux-users”.

What is a faux-user? It is a person that considers himself or herself a non-user but intermittently uses a technology with assistance of others.

During the qualitative phase of the study, we found elderly people that although do not use the Internet (and report not using it) directly, use it indirectly with the assistance of others.

Meet Ana.

Ana is 70 years old, she has no formal education, she is currently a retired servant, and lives alone. Ana has a daughter and a baby grandchild living in Paris. She has never met her grandchild in person. Ana sees pictures of them on a family member’s computer (sent by her daughter via email) and communicates with her daughter in Paris through Skype, a peer-to-peer video conferencing program. Ana’s family members in Portugal setup the computer and the Internet for her so she can communicate with her family in Paris:

“In these moments, there is always someone with me at the computer, because I’m afraid of touching something and ruin it. I can’t read, so I don’t know what the words mean. But I can see them and talk to them. And they can see me and talk back to me…it’s amazing!”

Meet Clara.

Clara is 74 years old, and she is a retired domestic with primary school education. She lives with her husband and three grandchildren. One of her grandchildren, Matilde, is studying abroad in Milan. Clara speaks regularly with her grandchild through Skype, which is setup by her other grandchildren. They show her pictures of Milan and pictures of Matilde on facebook. But like Ana, Clara never touches the computer and depends on her grandchildren to set the computer up for her.

So, these faux users are making indirect use of these technologies and benefiting from them.

This was, definitely, a curious finding for us. It was something that we could not grasp from our survey research of 500 elderly people, but that was possible to grasp during the qualitative interviews.

Please check the article and leave me your feedback. All comments are highly appreciated! 🙂

Note: I found recently that the World Internet Project (WIP) uses the term “proxy-users” to refer to people who look for information online on behalf of others (WIP, 2010, pg. 10-11, 23, 28; Dutton & Helsper, 2007, pg. 4, 48, 51-52), but I found other WIP publications that seem to use the concept to refer to the non-users who get help from others (WIP Chile, 2005; OberCom, 2009). In the first case, WIP Poland reports “The most popular proxy-user is a child -2/3 of those non-users who have Internet access at home, ask this child for help or the child tells them about Internet on their own initiative” (WIP, 2010:28). However, I could not find an “official” definition of proxy-user.

Dutton, W., & Helsper, E. (2007). The Internet in Britain: 2007. Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.
WIP Chile. (2004). World Internet Project Chile 2003/2004.
WIP Poland. (2010). World Internet Project Poland. Agora SA & TP Group.
WIP Portugal. (2010). A utilização de Internet em Portugal 2010.


Wow, it has been a while!

Lots happened in the last couple of months, mainly I had to finish my doctoral dissertation two months ahead of schedule. But it is done! Joy, joy, joy! Well, not actually, I didn’t really feel that relieved or happy when I submitted it, I felt a bit sad and empty. Post-thesis depression it seems. I’m going to write a post on my strategies to finish ahead of time, my tricks to deal with procrastination, and so on.

But for now I just wanted to say that I’m leaving Norway, since I’m starting in December a new job: I’ll be an Assistant Professor of Sociology at ISCSP, Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal). I’ll be teaching sociology of technology, research methods, and contemporary sociological thought. So I’m going home after a few years abroad. Yep, I’m going back to Portugal in the middle of a deep & structural financial crisis…at least you have to recognize my boldness (or idiocy?) ;p

Before ending this quick update, I want to share with you a film project called “My fellow American“. This North-American project is devoted to show that Muslims are an active & contributing part of our communities. It goes against the mediatic tide of Islamophobia, promoting tolerance and showing the other side of the coin. After my post on the terrorist attacks in Oslo I received an email from a member of this project, bringing it to my attention. Thank you Elisabeth, and sorry for my delay in sharing it!

Here’s a clip of this interesting film:

Go. Pledge. Participate. Share.

We are all Norwegians today. We should all behave like Norwegians tomorrow.

What a horrific tragedy in Norway! 93 76 dead people, mainly teenagers. 96 injured in the twin terror attacks.

I’ve been giving some interviews for Portuguese radio, TV, and newspapers since Friday (22/07/2011). You can find a lot of that online (I’ll try to find the links, and I’ll post it below).

I refused to say on television, on TVI’s evening news with Judite de Sousa (Friday, 22/07/2011, 8pm in Lisbon), that it was an Islamic terrorist attack, without any official confirmation. I brought the 1995 Oklahoma bombing case to the discussion, and I said that the media are experts in feeding speculation, promoting Islamophobia. I didn’t know who was responsible for the attacks back then. That got me some haters (and some “funny” emails too), because how could I deny an Islamic attack! What a disgrace, a sociologist, a PhD student not confirming the “evidence”. Well, as a good researcher, I wait for data, for facts. It reminded me of Edward Said, author of “Orientalism”, who was completely harassed by the media, when the Oklahoma bombing attack occurred, trying to make him acknowledge an Islamic terrorist attack, without any sort of evidence.

It wasn’t an Islamic terrorist attack, it was a twin terrorist attack (yes, it is still terrorism! Terrorism is not a synonym of Islamic terrorism) by a Norwegian Timothy McVeigh, Anders Behring Breivik, 32-years old. A man connected to the extreme right-wing ideology, against multiculturalism, Islam, and “cultural marxism” (you can read his online “manifesto“). A Christian, not a Muslim. He not only destroyed the governmental buildings in Oslo (killing 8 people with the bomb explosion), he also attempted to annihilate the future and the democratic structure of a country. He shot dead 68 people on the island of Utøya, during the Labour party youth camp. Mostly young people; the future of the left-wing party, currently in power. Sad. Sad. Sad. It kind of brings back some reminiscences of the Argentinean “abducting children” during the Dirty war.

The way Norwegians have been dealing and responding to this huge tragedy is definitely inspiring: with more democratic and humanistic values. From the Prime Minister to survivors. No paranoia, no extra suspicion, no obsession with security, no fear, no disinformation, no hate:

“Our answer is more democracy, more openness and more humanity”
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s speech held in Oslo Cathedral July 24, 2011.

“I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect”
Oslo Mayor, when asked if we need more security.

“If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we can all show together.”
Norwegian Prime Minister, quoting an AUF member

‎”G.W. Bush, 9/11: “We’re gonna hunt you down.” Stoltenberg, 22/7: “We will retaliate with more democracy”. I’m proud to be Norwegian.” (before knowing who was responsible for the attacks)
@ragholmas on Twitter

“Bring the attacker’s political ideas to the table, and we will debate them to death!”
Young Labour party member

Of course, this has been the answer in the short-run, we still have to wait for the effects in the long-run. Norwegians are still digesting what happened, and these types of tragedies bring people together. But let’s see how these events affected the Norwegian level of social trust, social tolerance, and sociability. I suspect it is going to be the same or even higher. Again, this is just an hypothesis. I’ll wait for the data.

My last radio interview can be found here. When I talk about Anders Breivik’s participation in a neo-nazi web forum I meant 22,000 members and not 22! Interviews so early in the morning are always a no-no for me. I’m so sorry for the wrong info! Yes, more haters on my way…

My last radio interview can be found here (6:07 & 15:43). A very interesting piece by journalist Luís Nascimento, which also interviews the vice-president of the Norwegian parliament, a member of the Progress party, and Hanne Marthe Narud, a political scientist of the University of Oslo, among other locals and Portuguese immigrants in Oslo.

Join us for a minute of silence today at 12:00 CET.

Today, I’ll also march for peace and tolerance in Oslo at 18h. It’s organized by a Norwegian individual on facebook and counts with the partnership of Amnesty International. More than 50.000 people pledged to participate with flowers. This is a small country, so we all know someone that lost a family member, a friend, a neighbour, an acquaintance. As the Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg said after the start of the WW2 in Norway, during the Nazi occupation, “We are so few in this country. Every fallen is a brother or a friend.”

Interesting articles on the subject:

Norway is Passing the Test of Terror
The omnipotence of Al Qaeda and meaninglessness of “Terrorism”
Norway tragedy exposes pundits’ tunnel vision on terrorism

Some of my contributions to the PT media can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

I still need to find the TV interviews (for TVI & TVI24h) and radio comercial interview. I actually spoke first with radio comercial on Friday, right after the explosion. This is the consequence of having so many journalist friends. Social capital, again and again.

— Update–
The march was so inspiring. Well, it wasn’t a march because soo many people participated that there was literally no space to walk. This shows how Norway fights back: 250.000 people in Oslo holding roses and standing together for peace and tolerance. As the Norwegian Crown Prince said “the streets are filled with love tonight”. The messages were, once again, to emphasize the democratic and humanistic values of the Norwegian society: freedom, respect, democracy, and social tolerance. Similar marches all over Norway.

Oslo march 25/07/2011

International Women’s Day 2011

Just a quick note to introduce an interesting UK spot for this year’s International Women’s Day. I think the choice of using a womanizer character was witty, specially when we are debating gender equality and objectification. Well done, Judy Dench and Daniel Craig!

“Are we equals? Until the answer is yes, you must never stop asking”

Even more interesting are some of the comments left on youtube. A true proof that misogyny, sexism, and patriarchism are alive and kicking. I particularly “like” some very thought provoking ones, such as “Go eat a dick, feminists.” It definitely brings a lot to this debate…

In the spirit of the gender equality debate, I also have to mention a fabulous 2010 interview with Gloria Steinem and Jehmu Greene. A range of issues from sexism to abortion are addressed in this Katie Couric’s interview. Steinem even criticizes the Atlantic article “The end of men”, stating that the title is already problematic, as the idea that someone has to win leaves no space for the idea of collaboration and equality. Feminists fight for gender equality, and not for the superiority of women in the world. I’m, for instance, against the fact that only males are drafted for the army. If there has to be any conscription (which I’m also against), it shouldn’t be genderized. Once again, the comments are extremely rich, from “These are not feminists. They are simply men with vaginas” to “Katie and Gloria look old and fat. They don’t need to worry about abortion, who would want to have sex with them?” It seems ageism and cacomorphobia are also a disturbing reality. Oh well, there is still a long road to go.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Technology, sexism, and the male gaze

The Sociological Images blog published an interesting post about gender and technology. I’m very pleased to see my contribution in this article, namely the new commercial video from Nokia. In this ad, not only the female objectification is undoubtedly visible, as the ethnic & racial preconception is evident: her name is Suzy, she’s Latina – she starts with a “holla” and has a clear Hispanic accent – and then she goes on to say that she is hot…wait…she is sizzling hot. The whole narrative is based on a highly sexualized Latina woman that shows you her product. In the end, she even asks you “Wanna see more of me?”. Seriously, Nokia! More than connecting people, it seems the new core business of this tech company is to connect prejudices. I was honestly getting used to deconstruct more “subtle” sexist ads, but this one is just unbelievably straight to the point.


Our “Digital Citizenship” book is finally out! (In Portuguese)

Our Cidadania Digital (Digital citizenship) book is finally out! In Portuguese, though. It’s a selection of articles about digital citizenship written by Portuguese authors, and edited by Isabel Salema Morgado and António Rosas. And you can download it for free! 🙂

And now some shameless self-promotion – My article “Cidadania Digital? Das cidades digitais a Barack Obama. Uma abordagem crítica. is a critique of the “digital citizenship” concept, based in two studies: the Portuguese digital cities; and the political campaign of President Barack Obama and the intensive use of ICT.

So, if you can read Portuguese, please enjoy and leave us your comments!


A cidadania como exercício político que se pratica no médium digital é uma realidade que paulatinamente vai aprofundando a acção participativa dos governados nos regimes democráticos, ou não deixa de ser um simulacro de uma realidade que é apenas visionada por alguns, mas cuja acção e efeitos são irrelevantes para os que efectivamente controlam o poder?
Neste livro, os autores vão procurar encontrar respostas para esta questão central, apresentando análises de realidades diversas cujo enquadramento comum são os usos que os cidadãos fazem das redes digitais.

How to survive an ISA World Congress

I’m back from the International Sociology Association (ISA) conference, this year held in Goteborg, Sweden. The ISA has its big scientific gathering, called the “World Congress”, every 4 years. This is my second one, and man! I’m still recovering from it – this ISA had sessions from 8h45 to 22h00…every single day! They even had 20-22h sessions during the Congress Party! Seriously! Personally, I completely disagree with this model, as a matter of fact, I think it is extremely disrespectful for participants – speakers, chairs, and audience. The obsession for inclusion, cuts down quality, meaningful engagement, and overall satisfaction. Specially when sessions are overcrowded with 10 minute presentations, with no quality time for discussion – that is, after all, one of the main goals of these events. It also cuts down time for networking – another major goal.

The annual meetings/interim conferences of each research group seem to work better, both scientifically and socially. Nevertheless, not all is bad in the “World Congress” realm: it is very useful to grasp international trends in research; the plenary sessions have renowned sociologists (this year, Manuel Castells, Saskia Sassen, among others); and it is a great opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the world. This congress had 5007 participants from 103 countries – and I don’t say sociologists, as it is a multidisciplinary event that attracts people from a plethora of fields.

I’m writing this post, because I heard a lot of new attendees saying how they were a little bit disappointed with the conference. I understand them; I felt exactly the same back in 2006 in South Africa. Why did I go again? No, I’m not masochistic. Simply putting it, I still believe these conferences have some value, and I work hard to get positive outcomes from them. But we learn from mistakes, so I developed my golden rules for the World Congress. I’m sure this can be applied to any big conference, and I hope this is useful for students and/or first time attendees.

As in any big conference there are lots of parallel sessions, full of interesting themes. But we are not omnipresent, so how to choose? The first thing I do is to get the program booklet and go through it, selecting the ones I’m really interested in and those I would like to attend, if there’s time. I use colored post-its to differentiate them, dividing by day and hour. Sessions normally last two hours, but it really depends on the conference. Some people stick with one research committee/working group for the whole conference – and that is a good option to not get lost – but I gain more from attending sessions by different groups.

I. Concerning the selection, my rules are:

1. Don’t select a session if there is only one paper/presentation you are interested in – This for three reasons: first, the speaker might not even show up; second, it might be actually disappointing; and third, even if he/she shows up, then you’re stuck in that session for the rest of the time. Yes, you might discover other interesting things, and you might even have a serendipitous moment, but trust me, normally you just sit there waiting to be over with it. Of course that if you are really interested in that paper/presentation and you think it is worth it, go for it! Otherwise, you can always send an email to the author asking for that paper/presentation.

2. Always select an alternative session – Because of last minute arrangements a session might be changed (hour or location), so it’s good to have a second option. This is also useful if the session is too boring or not really what you expected – you can sneak out and go to another session ;p

3. If possible, read the paper before the conference – I say if possible, because a lot of participants don’t send them on time, or just don’t send them at all – papers are not mandatory for the ISA World Congress. This will give you a handful of advantages: firstly, you know beforehand if a presentation interests you or not; secondly, you have time to go deep into the paper and define better your questions/feedback; lastly, it gives you time to look up something – a reference, a technique, etc. – you were not familiar with.

4. If in doubt, search for the authors online – No, it’s not voyeurism. It is actually very useful, if you can find them. You can check their previous and current work and see if it really interests you. You might end up finding a lot of great information and get a more complete overview of the author’s work.

II. During the sessions,

5. Ask/Participate – Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions or give feedback. The authors are there for it, and that’s part of the scientific spirit. Everybody gains a lot with discussion, and remember there are no bad questions.

III. Outside the sessions,

6. Network, network, network – Take advantage of the time at the conference to network: interact with as many people as possible. Don’t skip the coffee-breaks, lunches, or dinners. Also make sure to reserve some time for specific interaction, if there is anyone at the conference you really want to meet and/or talk to. In this case, it is better (and I think more appropriate) to send she/he an email previously asking for an informal talk. This way, you know that that person is ‘really’ attending the conference (a lot of people register but then can’t attend) and that you “booked’ a specific time slot to that talk. The majority of participants make a lot of informal arrangements before these conferences – lunches, dinners, and so on – so sometimes it’s hard to find the people you are looking for, or they aren’t available at all. Oh, and don’t forget your business cards (I always do and it is always embarrassing when people ask for it).

7. Keep your eyes open – There is more out there – ISA also has other interesting events, as the “Meet Authors”, “Author Meets Critics” and “National Associations” sessions. They also have a book exhibition, with book launches and other social events.

8. Have fun – Most of all, have fun – that is also part of science. Relax and enjoy! Work and fun are not incompatible. As David Lodge humorously puts it:

“(…) folk long to go on pilgrimages. Only, these days, professional people call them conferences. The modern conference resembles the pilgrimage of medieval Christendom in that allows the participants to indulge themselves in all pleasures and diversions of travel while appearing to be austerely bent on self-improvement. To be sure, there are certain penitential exercises to be performed – the presentation of a paper, perhaps, and certainly listening to the papers of others. But with this excuse you journey to new and interesting places, meet new and interesting people, and form new and interesting relationships with them; exchange gossip and confidences; eat, drink, and make merry in their company every evening; and yet, at the end of it all, return home with an enhanced reputation for seriousness of mind.”
(Lodge, David; “Small World”, Penguin Books, 1984, Prologue).

Göteborg, Sweden, 2010