Fandom and Neomedia Studies

This Week in FANS News (20 – 26 June)

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This Week in FANS News (20 – 26 June)

FANS Updates

FANS 8, sponsored by A-Kon, will host not only a formal academic conference as in years past, but also a slate of panels that will be of interest to general A-Kon members. Here’s the list so far:

Fandom of Color

Anime and the Sciences

Pop Culture Parenting

Conventions and Your Health

Each will be led by experts in their respective fields. If you would like to join one of these panels as a presenter, or have an idea for your own panel, let us know.

We’re also bringing back the Writers Track. Some details still need sorting out, but we are always happy to hear ideas from the fandom.

You can follow us online at our website or on social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

SCOTUS Rules for Cheerleader in Snapchat Free Speech Case

In May 2017, Brandi Levy, then a high school sophomore in Manahoy City, PA, dropped several F-bombs against the school and cheer coach on Snapchat when she didn’t make the varsity team. She was suspended from the junior varsity squad for breaking “various rules including prohibitions of foul language, unsportsmanlike conduct, and disrespect of the school.”

SCOTUS, voting 8-1, ruled in her favor with Justice Clarence Thomas voting solo in dissent. Under Tinker v. Des Moines ISD (1969), behavior has to be disruptive to qualify for punishment. Later decisions seriously watered down the Tinker standard (see: Morse v. Frederick, the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case) but this ruling strongly reaffirms the Tinker standard, decided in the midst of protest against the Vietnam War. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer held that schools could not police students’ off-campus speech, regardless of medium. Indeed, he shamed the school, which, in his view, should be a place to teach students about their rights and freedoms, not suppress them.

You can read the full opinion here.

Social Media Continues to Be Complicated

In a pair of studies found related but very different results in recent examinations of ethnic outgroup interactions on social media. Asimovic et al. discovered that those who continued Facebook usage during a time of memorializing interethnic strife were more sympathetic to other groups compared to those who stayed off the social media platform. This finding was, however, predicated on how heterogeneous the survey respondent’s neighborhood was. That is, those with more contact with people from different ethnic groups, whether in person or online, tended to have more positive views of those groups. Put another way, social media engagement did not create positive ethnic views, but reinforced them where they already existed.

Rathje et al., however, report something a bit different. In their study, they found that people who already had negative ethnic prejudices were more likely to engage with posts that mentioned those ethnic groups, whether positively or negatively. If a post was positive, they had strong negative reactions to it. If a post was negative, they had strong positive reactions. While this does not prove that social media creates bias for or against ethnic outgroups, it does show that online engagement can be an avenue of expressing existing biases and possibly strengthening them.

Read together, the studies seem to indicate that social media is, as has been expected, an echo chamber, but it can be one for social cohesion as much as for social strife depending on the context in which it operates.

Blackfoot Revitalization Project Takes Endangered Language Online

Of the world’s roughly 7,000 languages, many are endangered and about half are expected to be extinct by the end of the century. This is a particular concern for languages spoken by Native Americans, First Peoples, and other indigenous groups. One such group, the Blackfoot, have found a partial solution.

Working with a Simon Fraser University team led by Eldon Yellowhorn, himself a member of the Piikani Nation and a Blackfoot speaker, the Blackfoot Revitalization Project aims at helping not just their community retain the language or digitize documents, but to teach it to others as well. Hundreds of Simon Fraser students participated in creating the chatbots that interact with site users. You can learn more about the project at their website.

National Geographic Recognizes Southern Ocean

Maps of various sorts, printed, online, or mental, are how we organize our thoughts about the world around us. As a type of information media, we rely on them almost daily. Now, in a move long sought by people who actually live and work in the region, the National Geographic Society has recognized the Southern Ocean, a body of water surrounding Antarctica and extending to 60°S. Formed some 34 million years ago, the region’s water is almost uniformly moving in a single current, is much less salty than neighboring parts of other oceans, and is generally much rougher and colder almost immediately after crossing the line. The waters are also an important carbon sink, meaning that they play a major role in slowing climate change. Read more at National Geographic.






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