#SMSociety Announces Keynote Speakers for the 10th International Conference on Social Media & Society [July 19-21, 2019, Toronto, Canada]

We are very pleased to announce the following distinguished keynote speakers for the 10th International Conference on Social Media & Society (July 19-21, 2019, Toronto, Canada):

Topic: Not So Social, Not So Networked: Teens’ Perspectives of Privacy and Trust on Social Media

Topic: Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media

Valerie Steeves is a Full Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. As the lead researcher of MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World research project, she has been tracking young people’s use of new media since 2000. She is also the principal investigator of The eQuality Project, a seven-year SSHRC-funded partnership exploring young people’s experiences of privacy and equality in networked spaces.

Abstract: In the past two years, The eQuality Project has conducted a series of research projects exploring how teens use social media in their daily lives. Our findings suggest that teens do not share aspects of their interests or activities online, but instead undertake a complex process of selecting content for a notional audience based on the cues that are built into the platforms themselves. Their personal lives are considered “random” and therefore not “post worthy”; instead they look for content that conforms to a narrow set of visual representations that will attract the “right kind of attention”. This shift away from personal memories, interests and relationships reflects the fact they have been unable to secure the kinds of privacy they need on those sites and the sites are accordingly not trustworthy. As a result, the emancipatory potential of social media for connection has been constrained and social media platforms are increasingly being used as channels for passive entertainment and scheduling. This presentation provides an overview of our data, demonstrating how and why young people have lost trust in social media, and presents recommendations from teens to make social media more welcoming and inclusive of all youth.

Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England, and an affiliated associate professor in the Department of Communication and Department of Information Science at Cornell University. His new book, Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions that Shape Social Media (Yale University Press) was published in June 2018. He is also the author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (MIT Press, 2007), the co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT, 2014), and the co-founder of the blog Culture Digitally.

Abstract: Content moderation can serve as a prism for examining what platforms are, and how they subtly torque public life. Our understanding of platforms too blithely accepted the terms in which they were sold and celebrated – open, impartial, connective, progressive, transformative – skewing our study of social behavior that happens on them, stunting our examination of their societal impact.
Content moderation doesn’t fit this celebratory vision. As such, it has often been treated as peripheral to what they do—a custodial task, like sweeping up, occasional and invisible. What if moderation is in fact central to what platforms do? Moderation is an enormous part of the work of running a platform, in terms of people, time, and cost. The work of policing all this caustic content and abuse haunts platforms, and profoundly shapes how they work.
Today, social media platforms are being scrutinized in the press; specific controversies, each a tiny crisis of trust, have gelled into a more profound interrogation of their responsibilities to users and society. What are the implications of the emerging demand that platforms serve not as conduits or arbiters, but as custodians? This is uncharted territory for the platforms, a very different notion of how they should earn the trust of their users and stand accountable to civil society.