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May 30th, 2008


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04:46 pm - Updates to the Abuse Policy
The Advisory Board met last month, resulting in decisions about some open issues in the Abuse Policy. The conclusions are posted here. I am happy with the decisions and I hope you will be too.

The one outstanding issue concerns self harm. I'm taking this up as a question for research. I have an intern who is doing a literature review and tracking down all of the different organizations with data on this topic. I'm going to bring together scholars, organizations, researchers, and psychologists who work in this space. We're going to interrogate what is known data-wise and what the implications are policy-wise and commission research if appropriate. Most of this is going to be done outside of the context of LJ, but inside of the context of academia. We are going to look at self help issues, free speech issues, above ground / underground issues, etc. I will publicly present what we find, including a lit review and a set of recommendations in white paper form. LJ can or cannot listen to what we find, but we're hoping that data will be generally helpful for this debate. Personally, I'd rather have LJ make an informed decision based on data rather than a decision based on fear and politics.

(19 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:nursemette
Date:May 30th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
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I'm curious as to where they are going to look for literature in this field? I would suggest some medical and nursing databases myself.
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From:danahboyd
Date:May 31st, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
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Most of the related work comes from psych, soc, anthro, public health, and social work. The medical/nursing DBs include the psych and public health literature as well as work in the endo end of things. There's universal agreement in the endo literature that self-harm is physically destructive. We're not going to try to challenge that. The questions that we're concerned with are social, psychological, policy, and cultural responses. Does that make sense?
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From:nursemette
Date:May 31st, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
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It does make a lot of sense, and I'm glad to hear that you're taking it seriously. Thank you a lot, I hope you can have a good dialog with all the parts involved and make sure that people with eating disorders and who practice self harm can have a safe place on lj where they can work on empowerment instead of pulling each other down in a negative spiral. Thank you for your response, and good luck! I personally would very much love to see what you find on this subject, and that you can link the references for those who are interested in reading these.
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From:feministyogini
Date:May 31st, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
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Might I also suggest third wave feminist literature?
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From:danahboyd
Date:May 31st, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
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What would you suggest? Most of my familiarity with that literature comes from critical race studies and queer studies. I'm not familiar with the ways in which they address SH (ED/SI) especially in terms of mediated technologies. Recommendations would be great!
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From:feministyogini
Date:May 31st, 2008 09:21 pm (UTC)
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Sadly, I don't know much literature on the mediated technologies bit. My sense is that it's an emerging field of research given the quick pace of technology. But, I can post to WMST-L for you if you like?

I suggest 3rd wave fem. lit because most of what you listed sounded social science-y and perhaps would lead you more to medicalized/pathologizing of self-harming rather than a woman- (and youth-) centered approach to the topic.

Let me know if you'd like me to post to WMST-L on your behalf and I can report back with their suggestions?
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From:danahboyd
Date:May 31st, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
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Let me give my intern some time before posting to the women's studies list.

I want to (constructively) take issue with your view wrt social science. From my POV, social science as a genre of academic inquiry seeks to understand culture/society/people through the examination of actual peoples and practices. Each genre of social science has its own methodological frame and analytic approach. I do agree that there are major issues wrt power as science is applied (think: Foucault's Birth of the Clinic), but I take issue with that frame being applied broadly across social science. As an anthropologist (and a feminist one at that), I intentionally seek to understand practices from different viewpoints. That said, I begin my analysis with people, their practices, and the cultural dynamics as opposed to the theoretical traditions. I seek ecological validity such that my claims are rooted in the cultures themselves. Anthropology and sociology (and to a lesser degree social psychology) have a long history of incorporating feminist approaches into the field, such that anthropologists don't go in with hegemonic assumptions that color our analysis. I think it's a misnomer to assume that just because we start with people rather than theory that we're pathologizing these kinds of practices. (Interestingly, the head of the women's studies dept at Berkeley is a sociologist. She's also the PI on my grant and my advisor's partner.)

Personally, I have a hard time connecting philosophical and social theoretical approaches directly to policy. I am completely comfortable incorporating these frames into social science analysis (which is how social scientists tend to engage with the humanities), but I don't feel comfortable making claims or analysis based on what theoretically could be / should be. I'm far too invested in what is as well as understanding the interactions between different dynamics. This is, of course, my training. I am very open to hearing how the humanities can be useful in directly informing policy. I am very willing to admit that I may just be naive in this way. Maybe you can tell me more about how to apply humanities work directly?

Regardless of this more abstract discussion, rest assured that I'm not approaching this from a structuralist approach. My own training is far more interpretation-driven and my intern's background is in feminist anthropology and women's studies. I'm working directly with a feminist sociologist who wrote a book about teen culture called "Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School." And I'm also working with a group of mental health experts who work directly with teen girls. I will bring in folks whose work you may object to, but this is not going to be an attempt at pathologizing girls.
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From:feministyogini
Date:June 1st, 2008 04:16 am (UTC)
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You are right; there are wonderful social scientists doing important work. In my program, there's a pretty rigid division between the social science and humanities people - mostly it's 2nd wave feminist political economists versus 3rd wave cultural studies feminists.

My background isn't in policy analysis (or enacting policy) so I'm not sure how to "apply" humanities work. My own training in feminist, decolonizing, anti-racist cultural studies always makes me leery of the need for "numbers" or positivism to enact policy rather than the qualitative experience of people's experiences/voices.

Issues such as eating disorders and self-harm bring my feminism into contention because on the one hand, I understand it's the symptom of a problem rather than a problem itself, and on the other hand, I support a person's right to self-determination (even if that means what I perceive to be negative body practices). After volunteering at a centre for women and transpeople for 3 years, I realized most people are just coping and managing as best they can and it was my job to support that rather than trying to "help fix" the person.

but this is not going to be an attempt at pathologizing girls
That makes me feel better. I know a little bit about your work so I trust that you are going to produce interesting and innovative research.

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From:danahboyd
Date:June 4th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I'm a qualitative scholar through and through. I'm with you on the irritation over needing numbers to prove points, but I've also learned how to work with quantitative scholars to make sure that they're asking the right questions. When they do, they typically find what qualitative social scientists find. But it's important to realize that not all social science is quantitative in nature.

I guess I view the coping thing differently than you. I think that there are lots of social and structural forces at play that don't allow people so-called "choices." I'm really excited by projects like The Body Project that helps young girls deconstruct the messages given to them by MSM. The result is a noticeable decline in EDs. I think that self-destruction is damaging and while I support people's self-determination, I still think that it's necessary to address all of the various socio-cultural forces that are contributing to so-called choices.
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From:danahboyd
Date:May 31st, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
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One bias that I do have concerns the physical damage of many of these practices. For example, I believe that anorexia and bulimia cause long-term physical damage on the body. I am not a staunch believer that people should be barred from doing things that cause physical damage. (If that were the case, I'd have to take a stance against a long list of things from extreme sports to alcohol, going outside to eating corn syrup.) That said, I do believe that addiction is real, control issues are rooted in broader cultural structures, and many people cannot handle what they get themselves into when it combines addiction, control, and feedback loops. (This goes for alcohol and drugs as well as self-harm.) I am not interesting in putting bandaids on solutions, but addressing problems at their roots. Based on earlier work, I believe that many people who engage in SH cannot handle what they've gotten themselves into, but I'm less interested in stopping the SH than helping people address what prompts that behavioral response. This involves cultural and social factors as well as personal factors.

For example, when I was working in a transgender clinic, I found that a huge number of FTM folks went through a period of extreme SH (ED or SI). Lots of folks tried to stop the SH without getting at what were the underlying reasons why SH was occurring. All of these guys stopped engaging in SH once they were able to work out why they felt so uncomfortable in their bodies. The root cause was self-realization of gender identity. Stopping SH wouldn't have helped these people; realizing their gender identity did.

Does that help? (I know I'm ranting here - you're making me think that I need to lay out my approach at some point when I have some more spare cycles.)
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From:ursamajor
Date:May 30th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
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Oh, good, it's reassuring to hear there'll be a rigorous and academic review of this part of the policy. Thanks for letting us know!
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From:yanatonage
Date:May 31st, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
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Thank you.
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From:kou
Date:May 31st, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
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Hi, and thanks for your work on the Advisory Board. I'm glad to hear that it's actually effective.

From what little I've seen, things like these can actually be somewhat controversial within the field itself. If I recall correctly, there was a study about how trauma and toxicology get more reports of suicide by a certain method when it is depicted on television (e.g. suicide by tylenol), but it was disputed whether this affected only those already inclined to self-harm, or whether it actually increased fatalities.

Media depictions of sex and violence tend to get all the press, but I'm sure plenty of students (with nice lab coats and credentials) will be more than willing to share their opinion on pro-ana, etc. With peer-reviewed journals, at least you won't have to watch for industry/lobbyist-funded papers coming out of "institutes" in DC (sometimes called "stink tanks"), but be prepared for an onslaught of conflicting studies. Even from AAP's Pediatrics.

That's research for ya! :O.
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From:pyrop
Date:May 31st, 2008 04:21 am (UTC)
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If it was easy, it wouldn't be research.

This is anecdotal, but you might appreciate it anyways. In Japan (the country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world) there has been a rash of suicides by means of chemical gas; people have used household chemicals to generate poison gas, or will use available insect poisons or whatnot. The problem with this is that the chemicals can harm others. One man who mixed cleaning chemicals in his bathroom to generate chlorine gas killed himself and his father when he entered the bathroom to find out that was wrong. Another consumed the fumigant chloropicrin (which was used as a chemical weapon in WWI), and when he vomited in the hospital, 50 people were injured by the fumes of the chemical. (I forget where i read the first, but the second is linked here.)

I know this isn't what you meant by "increased fatalities", but it does demonstrate that this is a pretty woolly subject. What is the right way to quantify self-harm? (That's rhetorical; i don't expect even danahboyd will have an answer when she's done with her study.)
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From:danahboyd
Date:May 31st, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
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I should note that while I will examine quantitative studies, I am very much a qualitative scholar. This means that I try to map out topologies of practices and aim for understanding patterns with ecological validity. This also means that I will choose to cover some things and leave other things for future research. Still, the literature review that I will provide will account for both positive and negative studies, examining and interrogating them. I'm fully aware of biases in both researchers and publishers. My goal is to help ground that. As an ethnographer, I try to see things from the POV of the different relevant actors. I also try to keep a reality check on my own biases and make them known and visible. I'm not perfect, but my hope is to get beyond the buzz and hype and really dive deep into the dynamics at play.
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From:feministyogini
Date:May 31st, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
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I look forward to reading your work!
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From:oedipamaas49
Date:May 31st, 2008 12:01 pm (UTC)
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Good for you (and the other board members, and the LJ powers that be). All those changes sound like great news.
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From:nearly_there
Date:May 31st, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
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Personally, I'd rather have LJ make an informed decision based on data rather than a decision based on fear and politics.

YES, this. Count me in as looking forward to reading the lit review.

The abuse policy looks so much more sensible (and more readable) now, and I really liked that the post releasing the conclusions to the comm explained the rationale for each change clearly, too. Thanks much for whatever part you played in that!
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From:bobodesires
Date:June 1st, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)

IN HARMS WAY

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ANGUISH; ONE ASK WERE THE ----DID YOU COME FROM DO YOU COME FROM A GIVING LOVE THAT HAS A INTENSE MOMENT AN HOW THE ---- DID THIS EMITTANCE COME ABOUT DID I REVALUATE MY IDEOLOGICAL, SEEING SOMETHING ELSE IN MY MENTAL EVALUATION OF HOW LOVE FELT AND THE ASPECT BECAME UNCONSCIONABLE. I ASK' HOPE TOO CONSULT THESE MOMENT'S OF INTENSITY?

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