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Stefanie Duguay – The Role of Platforms in Toxic Technocultures: Queer Women’s Experiences of Social Media Governance, Architectures, and Cultures

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5 à 7
September 19, 2018
Time: 5:00-7:00pm

Feminist Media Studio
CJ Building, Room 2.130
Concordia University
7141 Sherbrooke W Montreal (Qc)

From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the inconsistent moderation of misogynist subreddits, it is clear that social media companies’ decisions with regard to governing users and their content are often retroactive, partial, and opaque. In this presentation, I will discuss my recent article, co-authored with Professor Jean Burgess and Associate Professor Nicolas Suzor, which explores the impact of social media governance through an analysis of three platforms—Tinder, Instagram, and Vine—and through interviews with queer women who use these platforms. Findings reveal a common approach that we have termed “patchwork platform governance,” which relies on formal policies and content moderation mechanisms but pays little attention to dominant platform technocultures (cultures emerging from user practices and technological arrangements). Patchwork platform governance is most apparent in different ways on these platforms: On Tinder, it enables deceptive and sexually aggressive users to perpetuate norms against reporting such behaviour. With Instagram, targeted reporting of queer women’s content leads to its removal and the censorship of lesbian-related hashtags. In contrast, Vine’s relaxed content moderation policies contributed to queer women receiving a barrage of harassment. Across all three, patchwork platform governance constrained queer women’s digital participation, as participants often spoke about self-censoring and disengaging in response. We argue that this demonstrates a need for platforms to more comprehensively consider how technological architectures can sustain dominant technocultures, often at the expense of marginalized individuals.

Stefanie Duguay is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University. She earned her PhD in Media and Communications from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, where she was an active member of the Digital Media Research Centre. During this time, she spent a summer as a PhD Intern with the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research. She graduated with distinction from the MSc program at the Oxford Internet Institute and she has professional experience working with the Canadian government in the areas of client services and digital strategy. Her research focuses on the influence of digital media technologies in everyday life, with particular attention to sexual identity, gender, and social media. This has included studies of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) people’s social media use, dating apps, self-presentation, and everyday activism with the use of traditional and digital research methods. Her research and teaching demonstrate an underlying commitment to social justice by fostering inclusive learning spaces and producing research that reveals power relations in sociotechnical systems. Stefanie’s research has been published in: New Media & Society; Social Media + Society; Information, Communication & Society and other international, peer-reviewed journals.

The 5 à 7 Speaker Series provides a forum for informal encounters among members of the Studio and the community. It consists of presentations, conversations, or critique seminars by visiting scholars, artists and activists, presentations by Studio members of work in progress (both textual and media-based), and discussions around themes that link the practices and commitments of the Feminist Media Studio community. A common theme of the 5 à 7 gatherings consists in exploring the intersections of research, creation, and political engagement in feminist work (historically, and in our current efforts to articulate our research praxes, collectively).