Pornography, Space, and the Internet: The Politics of the Seattle Public Library System as documented by readers of Vice Magazine

By Matthew Yasuoka, Berglund Student Fellow 

The petition entitled, “Seattle Public Library: Stop allowing pornography to be watched on public library computers,” claims that it stands “for everyone who does not want to participate in viewing the disenfranchisement of others.” [1] The petition represents only a recent development in the Seattle Public Library’s ongoing interactions with pornography. In 2012, “A Seattle librarian refused to force a man watching hardcore porn on a computer to move to a more discreet location, even after a woman with two children complained.” [2] This was even after in 2010 the Washington Supreme Court in a six to three decision held that the library can block porn if it chooses. [3]

However, the Seattle Public Library has chosen not to block porn, much to the chagrin of certain patrons. Earlier this year, Julie Vanderburg asked a man at the Beacon Hill Library to stop watching porn, which led the librarians to ask her to “stop approaching patrons.” [4] The conflict facing the Seattle Public Library system stems from the divergent perceptions of what role libraries play in society. Todd Anten writes in the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Rights, “While some view libraries as public spaces with a duty to be ‘family-friendly,’ others view libraries as research centers obligated to provide constitutionally protected information.” [5] The conflict between public and private spaces lies at the core of the Internet.

In this article, I intend to analyze the interactions of individuals in the comments section of Vice magazine. I have chosen to study Vice because the magazine is both a part of “counterculture” and “’trendsetting metropolitans,” resulting in its position as “the number-one tastemaker” for the 21- to 34-year-old demographic. [6] Further, the Alexa Rankings, a leading monitor of web traffic, shows that “people who went to college are over-represented” in Vice’s readership, there is also an overrepresentation of males and an underrepresentation of females.[7] With Vice’s readership in mind, I had a few research questions. First, does the readership of Vice support bourgeois views of sexuality? Second, how do its readers interact with distinctions of class? Third, what does Vice reveal about the relationship between the Internet and special politics?

Continue reading

Birgit Bräuchler Cyberidentities at War

A Review

by  Aaron Greer, PhD, Department of Anthropology

The Moluccan Conflict on the Internet Translated by Jeremy Gaines. New York, New York: Berghan, 2013.

Violent conflict, sadly, is not new to human interaction. But violent conflict continued on the Internet is new, as anthropologist Birgit Bräuchler demonstrates in her recently translated book, Cyberidentities at War: The Moluccan Conflict on the Internet.  Bräuchler aims to get anthropology up to speed with current studies of the Internet, by conducting an ethnography of the clash between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas that took place both on the ground and in cyberspace. Bräuchler’s dual-sited ethnography challenges anthropologists to look beyond terrestrial field sites for studies of cultural change, conflict, and identity politics. What Bräuchler offers in her cyberanthropological study is an investigation of how geographically situated conflicts can be extended online. In Bräuchler’s terms, Internet identities are expanded domains of socio-spatial contexts,[1] thus, offering anthropologists insight into the means and media of how territorialized subjects expand identities in deterritorialized spaces.[2]

Continue reading

Social Media Influencing The 2012 Political Campaigns

By Gavin Brown

Authority Level 3In 2008, The Washington Post heralded President Barack Obama as the “Social Networking King” for his use of social media during his campaign for presidency [1]. While there were politicians before Obama who used blogs and web pages to seek funds and support, no one used social media to the same extent as the Obama Campaign.  Obama raised over half a billion dollars online. J.A. Vargus of The Washington Post states, “3 million donors made a total of 6.5 million donations online adding up to more than $500 million. Of those 6.5 million donations, 6 million were in increments of $100 or less” [2]. Continue reading

Dan Breznitz and Michael Murphree, Run of the Red Queen

A Review

Government, Innovation, Globalization and Economic Growth in China. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011

Review By Jeffrey Barlow

At the Berglund Center we have long been interested in the relationship between the impact of the Internet and economic development [1]. While there is no doubt that there is a relationship between these two factors, its precise nature is difficult to quantify. Continue reading

Peaceful Evolution in China and the World Wide Web. Part IV: The Internet as the Bulwark of Chinese Democracy?

By Jeffrey Barlow

Table of Contents:


This is the fourth and concluding editorial in a series, “Peaceful Evolution in China and the World Wide Web”. [1] To summarize the arguments thus far:

  1. I have argued that a system with stable political factions functions very much like a system with two or more political parties, usually thought to be a critical element of a democratic political system, though not the only one.
  2. In the Chinese system, consistent factions have been visible over recent years. At present, there are two important ones. First is the Tuanpai, a group associated with past leadership in the Chinese Youth League, the most dominant of Chinese mass organizations.
  3. The second recognizable faction is the Princeling’s faction. This is less well organized than the Tuanpai. It is formed not of those who have come up via a common political path, such as leadership in the Youth League, but of those who have descended from politically powerful or wealthy families.
  4. In the Chinese political system, both contemporary and historical, the most useful weapon wielded by factions was to charge that an opponent had violated core agreements on values, usually through personal corruption.

In this fourth and concluding article, we examine the probable successors to the two most important posts in China, the Presidency, now held by Hu Jintao, and the Premiership, now held by Wen JIaobao. We argue here that important changes are occurring in China, and that due in large part to the Internet as a conduit for Chinese popular voices, democratic interests will be much strengthened in this new era. Continue reading

Peaceful Evolution in China and the World Wide Web: Part III, China’s Emerging Leadership

Editorial by Jeffrey Barlow


While this editorial is meant to stand alone, two related ones have preceded it. [1] The last of those concluded:

“Political systems, to be stable, must reflect history and culture in both their forms and functions. The American and the Chinese systems differ markedly, especially in form, but it is difficult to claim that the multiparty system is superior to a one-party system in which factions may be so prominent as to be recognizably consistent in membership and policy inclinations. Chinese history and culture is capable of producing a system which is democratic in function, is doing so at the present, and will inevitably continue do so under the impact of the Internet.” [2]

At that time, more than a year ago, this assertion was largely an editorial opinion. However, evidence is accumulating to support this position. [3] In addition, the nature of the new evidence—details of the emerging leadership in the Chinese political system—tells us a great deal more about the possibilities for Chinese democracy, and about the potential impact of the Internet in shaping those changes.
Continue reading

Payal Arora’s Dot Com Mantra. Social Computing in the Central Himalayas

Review by Jeffrey Barlow

Dot Com Mantra is an excellent work by Payal Arora, a much-published [1] Indian anthropologist who writes frequently on social computing, that is, the connection between society and the use of computers. This study is an ethnography (a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures [2]) done in the town complex of Almora, in a fairly isolated area of Uttrakhand, India, formerly Uttar Pradesh.

Dr. Arora is well qualified to write this particular work. She has studied at Cambridge (Certificate in Teaching ESL), at Harvard (M.A. in International Policy, Education) and at Columbia (Doctorate in Language, Literacy & Technology). This work is derived from her Ph.D. Dissertation, Social Computing in the Central Himalayas.

Continue reading

Islam, Community, and the Internet: New possibilities in the digital age

By Deborah Wheeler <>

Berglund Fellow


INTRODUCTION (Return to Index)

This essay uses three examples of Muslim cyberpractices as a means for understanding how the Internet enables the formation, maintenance, and management of certain kinds of Islamic communities. First is the case of the al-Qaeda movement and its critics. Case two is an Ask the Imam web site, where postings on cyberdating are analyzed as a means to define proper Muslim behavior in cyberspace. The third case is the web site and the controversies surrounding it. [1] It has been said that the Internet is producing a kind of Muslim Renaissance similar in scope and effect to the flowering of Islamic science, learning, and community values during the Abbassid period many centuries earlier. As this analysis illustrates, the kinds of changes in Muslim community enabled by the Internet are fundamentally altering the values and practices defined by Muslims in the Medieval period, especially in terms of the construction of authority. The ways in which this transformation works are examined in more detail below.

Continue reading

American Power, Globalism, and the Internet: Editorial Essay

By Dr. Jeffrey Barlow <>
Editor, The Journal of Education, Community and Values: Interface on the Internet.
The Electronic Journal of the Berglund Center for Internet Studies

.01. Introduction
.02. “Hard” Power
.03. “Soft” Power
.04. The Origins of Soft Power
.05. A Dichotomy or a Transition?
.06. American Power Following 9-11
.07. The Limitations of the Networked International System
.08. The “Nuclear Posture Review”
.09. Additional Causes of the Loss of State Power
.10. The Link Between States and Their Citizens Weakens
.11. How Might the State Respond?
.12. Notes
.13. Sources

.01. Introduction (Return to Index)
This editorial is the second in a series of analyses on the linked topics of the Internet and globalism. [1] In the foregoing piece, we argued that the Internet and globalism are closely related in their development, key factors in defining the era in which we live. One consequence of the growth of the Internet is the development of a global civic culture. But economic globalism does not require the Internet in its present form, and it is possible that we will have economic globalism, but not cultural globalism. In this piece we wish to discuss the emerging global civic culture as it relates to the power of the American state and the future of the country.

Continue reading