The (Pop) Conversation: Pinterest on the Web

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Odell: “How Pinterest is Killing Feminism (2012)

McDonell-Parry: “Oh Please, Pinterest Isn’t ‘Killing’ Feminism” (2012)

Alford: Theses: Is Pinterest Really Killing Feminism? (2013)

Hodge: “The Ups and Downs of Being a Feminist on Pinterest” (2012)


The Conversation: Academic Talk-Back to Pinterest



Harper, David. “Pinterest and Panopticon: Self-representation Through Appropriation.” Viz. Visual Rhetoric, Visual Culture, Pedagogy. 16 April. 2012. Web. 28 February 2014.

Horning, Rob. “Pinterest and the Acquisitive Gaze”. The New Inquiry. 5 March. 2012. Web. 28 February 2014.

Jurgenson, Nathan. “Pinterest and Feminism”. Cyborgology. 5 March. 2012. Web. 28 February 2014.

Mittal, S. and N. Gupta, P. Dewan, P. Kumaraguru. “The Pin Bang Theory: Discovering the Pinterst      World,” arXiv. 2013.

Ottoni, R., Pesce, J., and Casas, D. L. “Ladies First: Analyzing Gender Roles and Behaviors in      Pinterest” ICWSM (2013).

Stewart, Bonnie. “Pinterest: Digital Identity, Stepford Wives Edition”. The Theory Blog. 29 February. 2012. Web. 28 February 2014.

Composition Connection: Frames from the Field


Sheridan, David M., Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony J. Michel.  The Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric.  Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press, 2012. Print.

In The Available Means of Persuasion, Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel set out to argue that “the work of cultural production” does not belong only in the hands of media specialists and designers – who are all too often “embedded” in systems of capitalist power in problematic ways – but instead “should be considered the proper domain of ordinary people (xii).  They make this larger claim in order to begin exploring the question our field is ultimately asked to tackle – and that is how can “rhetorical education” or the FYC courses in traditional academic institutions help writers appropriate multimodal composing strategies with the explicit goal of inviting cultural production by “ordinary people”? (xiii).  Sheridan et. al. attempt to answer (or continue asking in different ways) this question through re-imagining key theoretical concepts of the field of Rhetoric and Composition.  Always conscious of issues of material and literacy access and the histories of “old new” technologies that can lend scholars of new media helpful insights,  Sheridan et. al. devote considerable discussion to defining rhetorical velocity and grounding the discussion in several sites online.  The emerging ideas the authors posit and play with are shaped by Latour, Habermas, Fraser, and Warner and even take a turn to explaining online multimodal cultural production in terms of semiosis.  But all this theoretical framework brings readers surprisingly back to the FYC classroom, where the authors use student work to demonstrate how enacting the paradigm that online, “public” and “counterpublic” multimodal composing practices need to be taught and encouraged – recognized as undeniably rhetorical and happening in a large network of human and non-human actors – in order to help “ordinary” citizens produce culture.

The book has proven to be, far and away, the most fun read and most helpful source.  Though Sheridan et. al. ignore gender and lump together “issues of access” – they use the public spheres theory with which I am familiar and help lay the groundwork for making claims that teaching and researching multimodal rhetorical practices is important work in terms of granting agency and “practice-activist-oriented” perspectives to university students.  I am interested in thinking about a few things in response to this book: what can this kind of perspective mean for non-traditional university comp students?  Would the kind of student project Sheridan et. al. outline be possible in a single semester if students come to FYC with almost no digital literacy skills?  How can we begin to design new FYC curriculum that teaches programming skills?  Should we make this move?  And then, what about access issues of race, gender, and disability?  How might encouraging students to work within existing platforms and environments help them (and us) recognize unequal power dynamics at play in the networks of cultural production?  I am a big fan of how this book – like Rhodes’s work – considers the histories of theories, technologies, and practices of rhetoric as it moves readers to think through emerging theories, technologies, and practices.  Research on how to use existing social media in which marginalized (here, women) users feel agency in education and scholarship is important.  I think it would be a wonderful project to keep at as a feminist voice in the conversation that Sheridan et. al. are laying down here.  Ultimately, this book has made me think, and think, and think – and if the authors can sweep through history, rhetorical concepts, online sites, and come back to the comp classroom – I think I can too!  I’ll just likely come back to a more specific and better-defined comp classroom – a regional one, with any luck.  Because I think that we need to clearly address difference here – and how different geographies, socio-economic strata, and gender/sexuality identities matter.  (And race, but the authors kinda touch on that a bit). Projects like mine can inform conversations in our field about the role of “popular” digital environments in resistant self-representation and public agency.

Critical Feminist Methodologies: Studies That Influence


Almjeld, Jen and Kristine Blair. “Multimodal Methods for Multimodal Literacies: Establishing a Technofeminist Research Identity”Composing (media) =Composing(embodiment). Eds. Kristin L. Arola and Anne Francis Wysocki. Logan, UT: Utah University Press. 2012. 97-109.

In their recent study of MySpace as a public site of online literacy, Jen Almjeld and Kristine Blair advocate “embedded” research strategies to “bridge the gap between researcher and participants” (103).  They argue the establishment of “researcher positionality through autobiography” and enact this methodology in their study of the digital practices of female MySpace users, discovering that “new media creates challenges regarding ways researcher identity is created” and how it affects research” (99).  The article cites new media scholar Blair’s older work calling for multimodal and multivocal “delivery and access” to scholarship and data.  This, in their estimation, broadens the scope and definition of research.  Their answer to Blair’s earlier challenge is to create a technofeminist methodology in which the researcher participates in social media sites where rhetoric and knowledge is made, “embedded within the dialogic” process of female writing on the web (101). An insider status can help or hinder divisions between researcher and subject, but can also offer situated knowledge that challenges the false and patriarchal notion of “outside objectivity” (105).

When I read this article recommended by a colleague, I tucked it away for this research project immediately.  I was so confused by Pinterest as an outsider, and I knew I wanted to “dive in” to the belly of the beast to see it more clearly (and to stop alienating people at parties with my harsh, half-informed, outsider criticisms) and Almjeld and Blair offer a wonderful justification for this instinct.  One of the reasons I had not joined Pinterest is because I “didn’t get it” – possibly because, as a working-class and feminist mother, I felt “outside” the crafts and recipes and wedding ideas and expensive products pinned on the site.  I never felt economically or domestically equal to the woman presented through most pinboards.  Diving in and seeing – doing actually – firsthand, that there is definitely space to resist these common constructions, to pin feminist and transgressive messages, and to simply imagine my own possibilities was a helpful perspective to gain.  Almjeld and Blair legitimate that methodology – and give it a pretty punk rock name.  I am a technofeminist researcher.  Perfect!

Blair, Kristine. “A complicated geometry: triangulating feminism, activism, and technological literacy”. Writing Studies Research in Practice.Eds. Lee Nickoson and Mary Sheridan, Southern Illinois University . 2012.  pp63-72. Print.

Gries, Laurie.  “Iconographic Tracking: A Digital Research Method for Visual Rhetoric and Circulation Studies”. Computers and Composition 30 (2013) 332–348.

In her exploration of a new research methodology she calls, “iconographic tracking”, Gries attempts to argue and demonstrate the call for and answer to emerging need for new methods of studying visual online data in the field of Composition and Rhetoric.  Drawing on the work of rhetoric and communication scholars who have developed methods for examining the role of circulation in public communication, Gries notes that “Circulation studies is important as it has helped (a) draw attention to rhetoric’s dynamic movement and fluidity; (b) reconfiguretheories of rhetoric and publics to account for discourse’s dynamic, distributed, and emergent aspects; (c) rethink composing strategies for writing in a digital age; and (d) revamp pedagogy to account for writing’s full production cycle. Scholars have also pointed toward new methodologies for studying the mobility of rhetoric, writing, and digital representations” (333).  In order to further this direction of Composition and Rhetoric scholarship, Gries introduces “iconographic tracking,” a research method that “makes use of inventive digital research and traditional qualitative strategies to account for an image’s circulation, transformation, and consequentiality” (334).  To demonstrate how iconographic tracking can work to help create new knowledge and understanding about how meaning is constructed and re-composed online, Gries “tracks” the now-famous “Obama Hope” image as it is re-posted and re-rendered across the Internet and the world.

A case study that aims to help illustrate how and why new digital methodologies deserve attention and conversation in our field, I found Gries article helpful in terms of imagining where a methodology piece on Pinterest might fit into our field.  Like Blair and Almjeld who attempt to not only study online composing practices, but to examine how we might best go about practicing that study, Gries piece helped me understand that methods for data collection can be creative and innovative.  Instead of folders to “code” visual data, however – I will explore how the use of pinboards and hashtags can help a technofeminist researcher code data within the geography and social network of her subject.  I think reading some of Gries’s sources will also help me build future work.  I am also going to discuss the role of ethnography and people-based research in conjunction with iconographic tracking methods for understanding how/why/where women are composing resistance on Pinterest.

Rhodes, Jaquiline.  Radical Feminism, Writing, and Critical Agency: From Manifesto to Modem.  Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005.  Print.

In this book, Jaquiline Rhodes sets out to examine how careful recovery study of the collaborative feminist manifesto writing of the women’s movement in the United States can inform scholarship on the rhetorical practices of web activists.  Her purpose here is really to argue that feminist rhetorical tactics of the past and even our very digital present can help to “retheorize student writers as active producers of the strategic discourses of resistance” (3).  Rhodes focuses her recovery scholarship using critical historicism – relying on Foucault’s “notion of genealogical history to reconfigure radical feminism’s place in feminist history” and in the history of composition and rhetoric (6).  For Rhodes, this project is crucial in answering the field’s fairly simplistic understanding of feminist scholarship that merely, as she says “valoriz[es] ‘women’s ways’ [yet] ignores or misrepresents women’s different ways” (21).  Rhodes “rewrites” radical feminist rhetorical practices by critically examining the manifesto writings and characterizing the genre as unstructured (or anti-structured), confrontational, collective, personal and narrative with the purpose of consciousness-raising, exclusionary of male authorship, deliberately very public, and insisting upon ambiguous authorship (25 -51).   This is important, because for Rhodes online feminist writing and circulation of texts parallels cyberfeminists with “the textual subjectivity of radical feminists” (54).  This is really, truly a study of the Internet – but one grounded, as Rhodes asserts, in the “materialities and histories” to explain the “present sate of women online” and to explore a useful example of “writerly subjectivity” (65, 93).

This book is fantastic in terms of offering me a solid methodology for examining a rhetorical tradition of resistant social action in concert with new media manifestations of that tradition – to see how new technologies changes and often complicates or enables these modes of public engagement and counter-world making.  I’d love to keep thinking of Rhodes’s work as a foundation for the ways I imagine my project developing – and that is using a critical examination of capitalist spaces – real places and architected environments like Planned Parenthood clinics – in conversation with how those places happen online, how web environments reflect or obfuscate the power dynamics that actual spaces and their histories communicate to bodies that enter (or cannot enter) them.  I’d like to keep on with my investigation of, unlike Rhodes, spaces on the Internet that are not designed or architected to be sites of radical feminist activism.  Instead I would like to look at sites that ask resistant rhetorics to infiltrate dominant discourses and traditional genres/modes of composing in order to make counter narratives within restrictive spaces.

Feminist Geographies: Gender and Space Online

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McDowell, Linda and Joanne P. Sharp, eds.  Space, Gender, Knowldege: Feminist Readings. New York: John Wiley  and Sons, Inc., 1997. Print.

Editors Linda McDowell and Joanne P. Sharp set out to compile and contemplate the ‘development’ of scholarship and theory in the arena of feminist geography.  They trace the discipline from its emergence in the 1970’s – a time when institutional forces were “relatively hostile” towards feminist approaches to geography – and explore the complexity of its influences over a ten year period; postmodernism, academic feminism, postcolonial critique, and finally considerations of race all surface as topics that complicate and catalyze the growing area of scholarly work (13).  To accomplish such a comprehensive examination of the history of feminist geography, McDowell and Sharp organize influential feminist and feminist geographical studies and theories into seven topic-specific sections.  Though McDowell and Sharp explicitly avoid calling the work an “essential anthology,” readers are certainly able, after moving through the seven sections, to understand the history and relationship between feminist scholarship across disciplines and the field of geography.

The first section includes contributions that help establish the field of feminist geographies and introduce the reader to the foundations of this particular paradigm of academic knowledge-making.  Haraway, Connell, Bondi and Mohanty are included in the section to demonstrate how the discipline of feminist geography grows through its relationship to Marxist, postmodern, and situated scholarly “terministic screens”, to borrow Burke’s vocabulary.  Section two moves away from abstract considerations of feminist geography and focuses on providing examinations and examples of praxis within the growing discipline.  McDowell’s own work, Doing Gender opens the section and focuses its critique on exclusionary aspects of traditional methodologies in the fields of geography and social science.  Grounding ideas of gender in the physical world and uncovering the power of gendered discourses is the work of the book’s following three sections, which help the reader see the myriad fruitful directions and places feminist considerations of geographies and locations might unfold and focus.  Section three includes Seager’s, Shiva’s and New’s arguments against conventional discourses linking nature to gender – and specifically the female gender.  Rose closes the section by examining the relationship between landscape – the connection of society and land – and gender relations.  Once the reader considers these “maps” or landscapes of where unequal power dynamics between ‘male’ and ‘female’ might be located or observed, McDowell and Sharp move her to the fourth section which includes Butler, among others, to understand the “body maps” of gender and power.  This section is particularly important in terms of situating or locating feminist geography as a discipline and uses the work of Frankenberg, Young, and Bordo – all key influential feminist thinkers – to demonstrate the increasing importance of intersectional notions of identity and politics during the early 1990’s. Sections five and six of Space, Gender, and Knowledge include readings that inquire about how bodies and space interact to construct and reconstruct identities in architected environments.  Hayden and Wilson focus on urban spaces as constructed mechanisms of exclusion for female and non-white bodies, while Valentine and Leslie posit decentralized notions of gender as they are embodied as possible sites of challenge to architected patriarchal identities.

Finally, McDowell and Sharp leave the reader with the sense of how important gendered considerations of geography truly are by offering readings that look at how bodies are and have been regulated, empowered, and restricted historically, locally, and globally.  In Section Six, Sticher and Bradley establish transnational (Sticher) and historical (Bradley) evidence for the connection between gender constructions and restrictive occupational roles for women in industrial societies.  These final two sections illustrate just how space and geography “tell” bodies what they can and cannot do.  This kind of social critique encourages the reader to imagine possible future sites and landscapes  – work spaces, schools, nations, and neighborhood –where she might locate, investigate, and ultimately disrupt such oppressive power relationships. The editors’ stated goal in compiling such a book is to “be provocative” and to challenge the reader to search for more pieces of the conversation surrounding the issues of capitalist spaces, gendered bodies, and systems of power, and to those ends Space, Gender, Knowledge is a success (1). McDowell and Sharp pique the curiosity of the feminist scholar working in any discipline by offering a fairly large, but not all-encompassing, collection of intersecting arguments that prove the value of thinking about space, gender, and knowledge in concert with one another.  I love this book and consider it a truly foundational piece for my continued work because through the writings here – which I spent a good deal of the summer reading, I learned that feminist geography can be very fluidly applied to online environments.  For me, thinking about the physical spaces oppression and restriction in concert with the sites designed to represent or communicate those real geographies is fruitful.  And, as is seen in the articles in the final section of New Frontiers of Space, Bodies, and Gender – this cyberfeminist meets feminist geography angel of research isn’t a thing I invented.  SO I count this book as important in terms of understanding how Pinterest or any other online interface, is a landscape (and how it may not be).

Critical Race Theory: Building Ideology


Harris, Cheryl L. “Whiteness as Property,” The Harvard Law Review.  106.8 (1993): 1707-1769.

Cheryl L. Harris’s influential article begins with narrative; Harris recounts in vivid prose the experiences of her black grandmother during the 1930’s – when, “in the parlance of racist America,” she decided to participate in the “self denial” of “passing” as white (1710).  She argues that her grandmother’s story is “far from unique” and that the “persistence of passing is related to the historical and continuing pattern of white racial domination and economic exploitation that has given passing a certain economic logic” (1712-1713).  Harris explores this in order to investigate the intersections of race and property, positing that whiteness has been constructed as cultural property in the form of status and materiality.  She does this through close analysis of legal discourse and legislation.

I will, however, play with the idea of whiteness as it is constructed through online social media and consumption.  Harris’s brief and deeply personal treatment of “passing” and her careful connection between it and considerations of whiteness as property will be incredibly useful as I think through the implications of “performed” consumerism and identity erasure on Pinterest.  Black participant, Lexa, pins many images and “wants” on her boards similar to white participants.  Danielle who self-identifies as Hispanic has more images of white women than any other participant I am following.  Are these women “passing” in order to reap the benefits or “possibilities associated with whiteness?  Harris’s work has excited my own inquiry and will definitely inform its direction.  To understand whiteness as property is to begin to understand the complex ways that pin boards are linked to our cultural investment in constructions of racial identity and consumption of it.  If whiteness is something to own, to purchase, to inherit, to have – if it not liberty, not privilege – if it is property – well, Pinterest makes a lot of sense.  And it makes sense that this site’s pretty obvious sale of it appeals to non-white or working class white women.

Yosso, Tara J.  “Whose Culture Has Capital?” A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.”  Race, Ethnicity, and Education 8.1. (2005): 69-91.

Tara J. Yosso’s article offers the critical race theory novice an excellent overview of important literature in this examination of race and education that “focuses on and learns from the array of cultural knowledge, skills, abilities and contacts possessed by socially marginalized groups that often go unrecognized and unacknowledged” (69-70).  Beginning with Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dolores. Yosso examines the ideas of Delgado Bernal who explores how constructions of race have shaped whose knowledge is valuable and Pierre Bourdieu argument that “the knowledges of the upper and middle classes are considered capital valuable to a hierarchical society” (71). She briefly traces CRT’s emergence from critical legal theory’s limitation for understanding racial injustice.  Yosso’s purpose is to “define CRT in education as a theoretical and analytical framework that challenges the ways race and racism impact educational structures, practices, and discourses” (74).

I encountered this text quite by accident, but was delighted to find it quite helpful in my attempt to understand and use CRT when considering how Pinterest (and the Internet, more broadly – but particularly its consumer sites) enables constructions of cultural capital along racialized lines.  I need to consider how the “knowledges” that are required to participate and those that are constructed and circulated through this social media site reflect an example of a restrictive public based on class and race.  It also helps me argue that race is among the “possibilities” played out on Pinterest.  Female users on Pinterest “play” with appropriation of racial identity – because the site’s user data reveals that it is a “female” and “white” digital environment, women of color are silenced?  Passing?  Challenging?  The bottom line: race must be considered in this particular study, because two of my participants are women of color, two are white.  And race is, in my estimation, among the many things users pin – inadvertently or intentionally – users are valuing the dominant knowledges through their participation.  But how are these knowledges challenged or subverted?  I will use Yosso to better understand how race and whiteness happen on Pinterest and why that matters.

Cyberfeminism: Foundational Sources


Blair, Kristine, Radika Gajjala, and Christine Tulley.  “The Webs We Weave: Locating the Feminism in Cyberfeminism”.  Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action.  Eds. Kristine

In their introduction to this edited collection of articles from Computers and Composition, Blair et. al. raise the pressing question  of whether or not “despite [a]more localized access to a range of information technologies,” “feminism has harnessed technology to its fullest power” (1). The introduction does well laying out a quick review of cyberfemism’s ten year history and discussing the interdisciplinary and multimodal turn that cyberfeminist scholarship has taken and outline the organization of the book.  Finally, the editors leave readers with a candid story about Kristine Blair’s “introduction” to the field’s conversation about cyberfemism, relating a meeting she informally had with Pamela Takayoshi, Cynthia Selfe, and Gail Hawisher at . CCCC, 1995.  The story of how each editor arrived in the current conversation unfolds and brings readers to the central question of the collection, which is “How might we continue to develop critical cyberfeminist interventions” in dominant discourses online?  And “what sort of resisttance and transformation emerges online through the situated/located practices and negotiations of offline communitites?” (17). This is what many of the essays on the collection explore, and really, the entire point of my Pinterest project and most certainly my imagined larger project of marrying perspectives on geographies – both IRL and virtual.

Gajjala, Radhika  and Yeon Ju Oh, eds..  Cyberfeminism 2.0.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2012.  Print.

Gajjala, who worked with Blair and Tulley on the Hawisher and Selfe Computers and Composition project, Webbing Cyberfeminism, here along with her graduate student co-editor Oh, does important work here in terms of continuing to establish cyberfeminism as both ongoing radical and rhetorical practice online, as well as ongoing scholarly tradition and perspective.  The collection opens with an introduction that once again traces and defines cyberfeminism.  The central question Gajjala and Oh pose and then explore through the collected essays is one that my own scholarship asks and struggles with constantly: “How must we respond to the pleasing discourses of women’s empowerment through blogging, networking, financing, or entrepreneurship when we suspect that digital technologies , intertwined with neo liberal market logic, exercise subtle, indeed invisible power?” (2).  The first section of the articles and essays included looks at online sites that “empower” women, including Levina’s piece on Health 2.0 – a site and movement encouraging data donation and female virtual kinship around health concerns. Daniels and Angelone explore the genre of female blogging and its implications for education and in the next two chapters, Sibielski and Kruse examine cultural production of female online writers.  The second section of the book features essays that offer critique of restrictive technologies for women such as James’s look at the United Nations E-platform for independent film submissions and Kubik, Downey, and Beyer’s chapters that reveal the restrictive world of online gaming.  The book’s third and final section opens the conversation to possible feminist spaces online and includes essays that attempt to define and expand the definitions of cyberfeminist space and practice.  The writers in this particular section each take up a singular and long-discussed women’s issue – eating disorders, lesbian and straight partner violence, and notions of motherhood, poverty and immigration – and explore how these social issues and their discourses have been affected by technologies of Web 2.0.

What a find!  After reading this book I breathed a bit easier in terms of understanding my own project and its goals.  Cyberfeminism needs more public spheres theory and more consideration of intersections of language and architecture when considering the larger question Gajjala and Oh pose in the introduction.  And I felt that – along with the Blair, Gajjala, and Tulley collection in 2009, my Pinterest and Planned Parenthood (and general reproductive rights rhetoric work) would have a wonderful place in the larger conversations about the directions of cyberfeminism and its relationship to composition.  The essays in the third section particularly have brought me back again to this really nagging idea/goal.  And after reading Arola, it really seems essential.  I really want to argue that I must code/program my own interface/platform for data sharing and research in order to explore whether or not learning to write the languages that construct Web 2.0 environments is really more empowering than relying on the “templates” that are designed and architected by those in power?  But no matter what, this book is one to read carefully for my dissertation and possible future publications, no doubt.