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Doing Girl Online: How Social Networking is Transforming Gender, Equality and Privacy

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University of Ottawa, Centre for Law, Technology and Society




The Centre for Law, Technology and Society held its launch conference, “Taking Stock of Tech: Reflections on Law, Technology and Society,” on March 5, 2010. The conference was attended by roughly 200 people, including members of the public and private sectors, academics and students.

Part of this conference was a panel entitled “Doing Girl Online: How Social Networking is Transforming Gender, Equality and Privacy.” The panelists were Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa; Shaheen Shariff, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, McGill University; Shayla Thiel-Stern, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Media Communication, University of Minnesota; and Jane Bailey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa.

This panel explored how gender, privacy and equality are being enacted and transformed by girls and young women in the performative, interactive, self-exposing world of online social networking, and interrogated the role that law and policy play in this transformation.

A number of themes emerged over the course of the panel: the importance to girls of being able to control who can access the information they post online; the private sector’s role in encouraging and feeding certain portrayals of girls in marketing and other commercial media; the news media’s role in portraying girls’ (and predators’) use of social networking and reporting the risks and dangers this poses – sometimes in a manner which causes a moral panic; and policymakers’ reactions to these new technologies and ideas about how to prevent harm (often defaulting to policies that are based on surveillance, censorship, self-monitoring and criminalization). The importance of control over access to, and use of, personal information permeates many of these themes.

The panel provided a rich analysis of the issues involved and also successfully created new knowledge as the perspectives from various disciplines were brought into dialogue with one another. It also demonstrated that there is need for researchers in these fields of inquiry to collaborate on a deeper analysis of the role that girls, boys, private business, media and policymakers play in promoting or constraining equality and privacy in the online environment.

This document is available in the following language(s):

English only

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Fauteux Hall
57 Louis Pasteur St
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 6N5

Tel: (613) 562-5800, ext. 3206
Fax: (613) 562-5124

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