The second panel I attended yesterday, just after lunch, was the one I moderated, entitled “youth and play.” I’m not sure that was the best mode of characterizing the collection of papers presented, three of which did have to do with youth, and a fourth of which did have overtly to do with play, after a fashion at least, but those categories aren’t really what tied the papers together. (The fifth presenter did not show, which improved the panel’s operation, in that we actually got to discuss the papers more deeply, but which I would nonetheless mark down as extremely bad form.) If anything, I’d say that issues of trust and identity connected the papers more firmly than the panel’s title terms.
The panel began with a paper from Hebatallah El-Semary on Egyptian children’s uses of the internet, and particularly the relationships they have with their parents around such use: how much do their parents regulate or monitor their internet usage (not much), and how much do children resist their parents’ attempts at filtering such exposure (significantly). The second paper, by Oren Golan, focused on Israeli youths’ negotiations of anonymity, identity construction, and trust in online communities; the issue of how much information about themselves to reveal is a significant one in a small country where the seemingly random person they’re chatting with could turn out to be the brother of their cousin’s best friend. The third paper presented the results of a study, conducted by Stepan Konecy and David Smahel, of Czech adolescents and young adults, investigating how much internet users lie about themselves online, and about what subjects. Finally, Edgar Gomez and Elisenda Ardevol presented their work, conducted with Adolfo Estalella, on what they termed “playful embodiment,” a look at the practices of a number of Mexican and other Latin American bloggers and content creators who construct their online identities not by erasing the body but by calling attention to it, photographing it, writing explicitly about its processes and desires.
The discussion afterward was quite engaging, as the audience teased out the interconnections and differences amongst these papers. The one thing that I didn’t say then — as I couldn’t quite figure out how to frame it — was my sense that, though it was really exciting to have a panel bringing together issues from such a wide range of perspectives from around the world, there was an irritating sense of the panel being explicitly marginalized as an “international” panel, as though the non-U.S., non-western-European voices were only able to speak to one another, rather than to the conference at large. There was the usual bit of exercise during the association’s general meeting later in the day about AOIR needing to include the perspectives of the developing world in the conference, but somehow these well-meaning requests fell flat for me, considering the ways that the non-western work already present at the conference is segregated.