Monday, November 4, 2013

Girl Wide Web 2.0 edited by Sharon R. Mazzarella

Image from here
Girl Wide Web 2.0 (check it out on Goodreads or Amazon) is about how girls and women are renegotiating their identities through means of the Internet. The book is written in a series of essays; each author has taken a specific subject of the Internet which girls and women that are participating in and has analyzed how their culture has redefined how they represent themselves online. In the foreword, Dafna Lemish writes, “Through the variety of possibilities of engaging others online, girls … explore new opportunities to express their voices, and so the Internet is involved in self-growth. Some practices involve the construction of very private and individual identities and a creative process of expression. Others experiment with social relationships and create communities of ‘sisterhood.’”

I liked this book and appreciated the perspectives that it had on the evolution of identity online. While there was a lot of valuable information in the book as a whole, there were two particular chapters that I found useful as far as expressing online identities from different cultures: “Degrees of Caution: Arab Girls Unveil on Facebook” and “East Meets West: Is There a Difference Between Tai and American Girls’ Use of the Internet and Negotiation of Identity?”

In “Degrees of Caution” these Arab girls use Facebook to communicate and not necessarily to express their identity. One of the points that was made was that these Arab girls were worried that the information they put about themselves online would be misunderstood and harm their representations in their communities. One way this issue was dealt with was to put “minimal information” about themselves on Facebook; however, some girls were just more creative with the information they posted such as using code words, utilizing privacy settings, or using pictures that didn’t show their faces but still showed their interests.

In “East Meets West” the authors compare how Thai and American Girls use the Internet to express their identities and what is considered socially acceptable for their cultures. Before getting into the study, the authors explain, “Adolescents may often struggle with self-presentation, because at their stage of life, they are still trying to figure out their personalities and still learning how to communicate themselves.” From the findings of this study, the motives for using the Internet differed quite a bit as for as why they chose to express themselves in particular ways; however, when it came to the content of what was being posted (family, school, relationships, etc.), the results were very similar, with a few notable exceptions. “Findings from this study revealed that the girls from these two cultures were more similar than different, but did have distinct characteristics of cultural values and norms.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about how girls and women choose to represent themselves online, especially girls and women from different cultures. These women come from many different places all over the world, but they all wanted the same thing: a way to express themselves online that represented their values, no matter how their values differed.