Gender and Digital Identity

Taught by Sarah Mirk

Thanks to the internet, it's easier now than ever to make your own media. Technology has allowed historically marginalized people—women, people of color, LGBT people—to share their experiences with massive audiences. However, social media platforms are privately owned, profit-driven, and developed by an industry that’s predominantly white- and male-dominated. While we provide the status updates, Facebook sets the rules of the conversation.

The two big issues this class will explore are how online media impacts evolving gender norms and how design of social media platforms impacts who participates in online conversations. We will explore gender- and race-based harassment online, discuss changing conceptions of privacy, and look at how political activists use social media to push for change.

Week One: Identity Who makes our media? How do the demographics of the tech industry shape the way social media and other technology is designed? Also, how do we behave differently online? How are our internet selves different than what we're like IRL? 

Week Two: Activism How are groups whose issues are often ignored by politicians using the internet to organize? How does this internet-based activism change our culture and our politics? How does the ability to get involved in politics online change the demographics of who leads movements and who participates? 

Week Three: Violence Why is harassment so rampant online? Who are the primary targets? How does online harassment tie into larger societal systems of race, gender, and power? What can we do to prevent and end online harassment? 

Week Four: Surveillance What are we giving up when we use social media? How is our definition of "privacy" changing as a culture? How is it changing for us as individuals? 

Sarah Mirk is the online editor of the national feminism and pop culture nonprofit Bitch Media, the host of popular feminist podcast Popaganda, and the author of a book about identity and modern dating.