Author Archives: Morgane Richardson

The Interrupters: Public Health and Violence

The conventional response to violence has relied on criminalization, policing and longer prison sentences, yet violence persists. In 2011, Steve James released a documentary, The Interrupters, to capture the violent landscape of our cities through the eyes of “violence interrupters,” activists working in the tradition of non-violence to interrupt confrontations before they become violent. This documentary tells the story of three activists working to protect their Chicago community from the violence they once created.

The Interrupters, Trailer. 

The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire, founded by Gary Slutkin. Slutkin, an epidemiologist and physician who battled infections diseases in Africa, says that violence mimics infections like tuberculosis and AIDS. He believes that treatment for violence should follow the same plan as those for diseases: “go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source.” Rather than thinking of violence from a moral issue (good people vs. bad people), Slutkin approaches violence from a public health one (healthful vs. unhealthful behavior).

Gary Slutkin, TedMed Talk. 

CeaseFire and the Violence Interrupters are part of an effort to apply the principles of public health to the violence of the streets. CeaseFire tries to deal with these quarrels on the front end through former gang members, or interrupters, who mediate criminal activity on city streets. They “operate in a netherworld between upholding the law and upholding the logic of the streets.

You can watch the full length documentary online here.

You may also read the interview with filmmaker, Steve James, here.


This post is part of the Social Justice Topic Series on From Punishment To Public Health (P2PH). If you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to P2PH or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “P2PH Series.”


From Punishment to Public Health: Our Next Social Justice Topic Series

Today begins our new month-long social justice series called From Punishment to Public Health.  In this series we will explore how public health might offer a more humane and just approach to social ills than the current approach that is based on criminalization.

Overcrowded Prison Source:, Creative Commons Attribution

Is this the best response to social ills?
Source:, Creative Commons Attribution

Since at least the 1970s, the response to drug use has been one that emphasized punishment and criminalization. The punishment framework has shaped the collective response to drug use for the past thirty years, in the US and globally. Catch phrases like “lock ‘em up and throw away the key,” “three strikes and you’re out,” and “let them rot in jail,” have characterized this time period and this attitude toward drug use.

More recently, the reliance on criminalization has been giving way to an approach that is more rooted in a public health. For example, in 2013, US Attorney General proposed moving away from mandatory minimum sentences for drugs. And, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) – colloquially known as “Obamacare” – goes into effect, an estimated 32 million Americans will have new access to drug treatment programs. Outside the US, other countries are moving to legalize drugs (such as Portugal, Uruguay) and closing prisons due to lack of inmates (such as the Netherlands).

How are these policy changes transforming the lives of everyday people? Are public health approaches to the criminalization of drugs really better or do they simply expand control over citizens? Through a variety of knowledge streams (e.g., podcasts, data visualizations, and blog posts) we will host a month-long conversation between academics, activists and journalists about the shift from punishment to public health and if that moves us closer to a more just society. As we did with the stop-and-frisk series, at the close of this series we’ll pull all these resources together in an all-in-one guide that you can download for your own use.

In the coming weeks, we’ll also curate a mix of academics, activists, and journalists talking about how to address this complicated social justice issue.  To open this series, we will feature the following:

The aim of JustPublics@365 is to foster just the innovative work that can foster connections between academics, activists and journalists who are working to address some of the pressing social problems of our time.  From where we sit in the heart of New York City, criminalization is at the top of the list of pressing social problems because of the deleterious effects it has on the democratic life of the city and the nation.

So, we offer this series on Punishment to Public Health as another case study of how we might reimagine scholarly communication for the public good.


Click here for more information about our Monthly Social Justice Topic Series.


Stop-And-Frisk Information Guide: Bringing it All Together

Over the last month, we’ve highlighted the ways scholars, activists and journalists work to further social justice around the issue of stop-and-frisk.  Today, we bring it all together.

The stop-and-frisk information guide (or Module Packet) is designed to bring together scholarship, activist strategies, and digital media tools to help you create your own stop-and-frisk social justice campaign.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 4.08.18 PM

Our goal with bring this all together is to create a practical, resource-rich, all-in-one introduction to start a social justice digital campaign, whether you are an activist on the ground,  a journalist writing a story or an academic who may want to connect your research to social change.  If you are teaching a class or training people in your organization, you can also use this Information Guide as a tool for teaching and learning about stop-and-frisk.

This Information Guide is structured around three levels of social justice outcomes:

  • Make Your Issues Their Interest: Raising Awareness About An Issue with an Audience
  • Make Your Issue Their Issue: Getting an Audience More Deeply Engaged in An Issue
  • Make Your Issue Their Action: Moving an Audience Towards a Specific Action

Throughout this Information Guide, we cover basic campaigning how-to’s, some of the best tools for collaboration and outreach, and provide examples from the JustPublics@365 stop-and-frisk series. 

We hope that the Information Guide will help you reach you more people by integrating some of the most widely used social networks into your social justice campaign, your reporting, and your research or your classroom projects.

If you have any questions in planning your campaign, please feel free to contact us at or send us a tweet, @JustPublics365

Click here to download the Stop-And-Frisk Information Guide [pdf]

Bill de Blasio and The Future of Stop and Frisk

On Tuesday, November 4th 2013, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York City after winning 73 percent of the vote.  Over the course of his campaign, de Blasio’s platform focused on stop-and-frisk, and supporting the (recently-removed) Judge Scheindlin’s ruling, which found the policing practice unconstitutional and ordered a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD. Speaking at a rally in Brooklyn to protest pending hospital closures, de Blasio said “I would not continue (the appeal). I’ve said all along we need to make significant reforms.”

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 1.23.28 PM

So, what does it mean for stop-and-frisk policing in New York with Judge Scheindlin being challenged (and fighting back) and a mayor-elect who promises to bring change?  It’s not clear yet, but activists are continuing to press the issue.

On Wednesday, activists from Color of Change joined with community leaders at City Hall to request that de Blasio follow through on his promise to reform NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.

Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 11.50.42 AM

The question remain: will de Blasio get rid of discriminatory stop-and-frisks once he’s in office? How can activists, journalists and academics come together to ensure that changes are made to the offensive policing tactics?

One way that people who are concerned about stop-and-frisk can have their voices heard is to get involved in the innovative series of events called “Talking Transition: New York City.”

TalkingTransitionTentTalking Transition Tent: Nov.9-23

Talking Transition is  truly new kind of effort to make the mayoral transition in New York City  a truly open one.  This unique approach to mayoral transition is made possible by several foundations, including our sponsor the Ford Foundation.  The initiative aims to make the mayoral transition more transparent through a series of events, including The Talking Transition tent which will be open from  9AM to 9PM every day of the week from Nov.9 – Nov. 23.  You can also submit your thoughts about the transition online, and there will be a series of mobile Talking Transition tents throughout the five boroughs.

Contribute to The Talking Transition and let the newly elected Mayor diBlasio know your thoughts on stop-and-frisk.

* * *

This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Visualizing The Effects of Stop and Frisk

A powerful way to understand the effects of stop-and-frisk on the people of NYC is through data visualization. Data visualization provides scholars, activists and journalists with a set of tools to display data in a way that can be more easily and clearly communicated with a broad audience. In an era in which digital media is re-shaping scholarly communication, data visualization has became an important tool in teaching, research and activism.

Many data visualizations have been created to illustrate the effects of stop-and-frisk in New York City.  For example, the folks at the Center for Constitutional Rights have created a map that shows which neighborhoods have been most affected by stop-and-frisk by charting the number of stops by precinct.

The borders of the map below represent NYPD precincts throughout New York City.

The borders of the map below represent NYPD precincts throughout New York City. Image from:

A journalism school class at Columbia University compiled stop-and-frisk data to produce a map with stops color-coded by race. The map powerfully illustrates how stop-and-frisk policing disproportionately impacts communities of color.  

Stop and frisk data broken down by race. The key to reading those dots is as follows: 1. black: blue; 2. black Hispanic: black; 3. white Hispanic: orange; 4. white: red; 5. Asian/Pacific Islander: green; 6. American Indian/Native Alaskan: yellow.

Stop and frisk data broken down by race (each dot represents a stop). The key to reading those dots is as follows: 1. black: blue; 2. black Hispanic: black; 3. white Hispanic: orange; 4. white: red; 5. Asian/Pacific Islander: green; 6. American Indian/Native Alaskan: yellow.

The online magazine BKLYNR, which features quality journalism about Brooklyn, has also used data visualization to focus attention on the issue of stop-and-frisk.  In their piece, All The Stops they chart the “more than 530,000 stops that occurred in 2012, [to] reveal who is being stopped, why they’re being stopped, and what, if anything, is being found by the police as a result.”  BLKYNR’s visualization of stop-and-frisk allows for a strong understanding of the volume and effects of this policing tactic and engages audiences through questions and answers such as:

Where did the stop occur? 

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.40.21 PM

What was the suspect’s race?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.41.14 PM

What was the reason for the stop? 

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.42.57 PM

Was the suspect frisked?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.43.50 PM

Was contrabound found?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.44.39 PM

Was an arrest made?

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 12.45.29 PM

Take Action 
Are you interested in making your own data visualization? There are many tools that journalists, academics, and activists can use. As a way to get started, take a look at this list of the Top 20 Data Visualization Tools.

* * *

This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on stop-and-friskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”


Envisioning A Better Future: Youth Action Against Stop-and-Frisk

Our series on Stop-and-Frisk continues as we take a look at what it means to ‘come of age’ under stop-and-frisk.  Over the next two days, we’ll focus on the impact on young people in New York City dealing with stop-and-frisk and how U.S. youth mobilize to resist criminalization.

Young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25, comprise at least half of all recorded stops in NYC. In 2012, over 286,000 young people in this age group were stopped and frisked. A study by the Vera Institute on Youth Justice recorded that young people in NYC are now less willing to report crimes, even when they are the victims. What does it mean to grow up within a system that targets, rather than protects, you? How do U.S. youth envision their futures within a system they fear?

In December 2010, the Community Justice Network For Youth (CJNY) organized a conference in D.C. to address the injustices within the U.S. juvenile justice system. They called on youth, parents and advocates to share their personal experiences and research on the justice system and create a vision of alternatives to youth incarceration. The keynote speaker, Chino Hardin (the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives and Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions), addressed the audience by sharing a personal journey as a youth within the prison system.  “In my youth I was arrested sixteen times and incarcerated on eight different occasions, so I know what goes on inside the walls of juvenile detention centers,” says Chino. 

While Chino addressed the broken policing systems in America, Chino also instilled hope for the future, “Sometimes, you’ve gotta make the bridge by walking and sometimes that bridge is gonna be your back… [but justice will come].” Here is Chino’s keynote address (14:55):

Envisioning a better future, a future beyond stop-and-frisk, means creating a future that listens to the voices of young people. In Hardin’s words, “The children are the future… we’ve gotta make sure they can hold it and they can’t hold it if their hands are cuffed behind their back.”

Get Involved
Do you have a personal story that you want to share related to stop-and frisk? JustPublics@365 is collecting digital stories related to stop-and-frisk and we would love to hear your voice. If you are interested, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Digital Storytelling.”

Be Informed. Stay Updated.
For more information on the The Vera Institute Study, take a look at Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk: Experiences, Self-Perceptions, and Public Safety Implications or contact Jennifer Fratello at  Tomorrow, our series will offer focus on this study.

* * *

This post is part of the Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on Stop-And-FriskIf you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Digital Storytelling on Stop-And-Frisk

Digital Storytelling is a tool that helps to create and build communities through sharing individual and collective experiences. The simple act of listening to a person’s story can personalize otherwise seemingly abstract theories and policies. In June of 2013, Community United Against Police Reform released a series of short documentaries that highlight the impact of stop-and-frisk on ordinary citizens and communities in New York City. These stories take us beyond the charts and numbers on stop-and-frisk and give us an honest look at the personal experiences resulting from a political action.

Stop and Frisk: The Police Officer

Stop and Frisk: The Pastor

Stop-And-Frisk: The High School Senior

Get Involved

Do you have a personal story that you want to share related to social justice and stop-and frisk? Or, do you want help telling your own story? JustPublics@365 is collecting digital stories related to stop-and-frisk and we would love to hear your voice. If you are interested, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Digital Storytelling.”

Be Informed. Stay Updated.
For more information on creating your own digital story, take a look at:

How did they make that? by Miriam Posner

The New Storytelling by Bryan Alexander
This post is part of the JustPublics@365 Monthly Social Justice Topic Series on Stop-and-Frisk.

Introduction to Social Justice Topic Series: Stop-And-Frisk

Today begins our month-long social justice topic series which asks academics, activists, and journalists to reimagine New York City after the end of stop-and-frisk and to consider how civic engagement and greater democracy might be promoted for all residents. The first week of this month’s series, Stop-At-Frisk At A Glance, will provide an overview of the issue to-date. We will include a blog post on the connection between social justice and activism, as well as interviews with activists and academics in the field. Emily Sherwood, a member of the JustPublics@365 team, will introduce an interactive timeline about milestones in the Stop-and-Frisk story along with steps to creating your own digital timeline to use as a form of digital activism and social engagement.

The Morris Justice Project teamed up with the Illuminator to share some of the initial findings of their ongoing research into policing in the Morris Avenue area of the South Bronx. As a crowd watched from across the street, the Illuminator projected survey results onto a high-rise apartment building. Two short films were also projected: Julie Dressner’s New York Times op-doc “The Scars of Stop and Frisk” and “Community Safety Act” by The NYCLU and Communities United for Police Reform. Drummers from BombaYo provided a musical intro.”

Stop-and-frisk has been a tool used by the NYPD for decades, though in recent years the number of criticisms and grassroots protests around police tactics has increased tremendously. In the case of Terry v. Ohio (1968), the United States Supreme Court established a national legal basis allowing officers to stop, question and frisk citizens. This decision allowed police officers to stop and detain individuals based on reasonable suspicion rather than a higher level proof of probable cause. According to the NYCLU, New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002. Nearly 9 out of 10 of those stopped and frisked have been completely innocent with Black and Latino communities representing an overwhelming target of these tactics.

While Mayor Bloomberg and New York City police officials have stated stops-and-frisks are beneficial for decreasing crime, citizens of NYC affected by stop-and-frisk saw these tactics as intrusive, unwarranted and ineffective. Together with activists, journalist, and academics, the city of New York City organized to shed light on the realities of stop-and-frisk and on August 12th, 2013, the U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the New York City Police Department had violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments in the way that they have conducted stop-and-frisks, thus ending a controversial policing experiment.

Click here for more information about our Monthly Social Justice Topic Series.

If you have any questions, research that you would like to share related to Stop-and-Frisk or are interested in being interviewed for the series, please contact Morgane Richardson at with the subject line, “Stop-and-Frisk Series.”

Be Informed. Stay Updated. Stop, Question and and Frisk Policing Practices in NYC. A Primer (Revised).

Resisting Criminalization: Youtube Video Campaign

About Resisting Criminalization: JustPublics365 is convening a Summit to bring together academics, journalists, and activists in a conversation about the emerging trend toward resisting criminalization. While many have pointed to incarceration as a central, defining issue of social inequality of the contemporary U.S. context, Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Graduate Center) explained recently, “It’s not the boxes, it’s the criminalization of our youth.”

Criminalization includes an ever-widening array of practices that reach far beyond the traditional criminal justice system. A growing number of academics, activists and journalists are critical of the expansion of criminalization for the inherently undemocratic tendencies in such practices.

Video Submissions: Conversations around criminalization often remains segregated between those who face it’s effects on the ground and those who study it. In an attempt to change this dynamic, we invite you to share your own stories with criminalization in video format.

Tell us: What does criminalization mean to you? How have you and/or your communities experienced it? What are the problems that you see happening on the ground, as citizens, as academics, as activists and/or as journalists? And, what can we do to change this system?

Some topics include, but are not limited to:

1. Stop and Frisk
2. School to Prison Pipeline
3. Public Health

Selected videos will be shared on our blog, and will be projected at the Resisting Criminalizaton Summit on April 22nd, 2013 at the CUNY, Graduate Center, in NYC.

All participants are encouraged to attend the summit, which is free and open to the public. For more details and to register, visit:

Rules and Regulations
1. Make a short video that in some way communicates the importance of resisting criminalization. Videos cannot be more than 1 minute and 30 seconds in length.
2. Upload video on Youtube using the tag “Resist13.” Instructions here.
3. Submit the link of the embedded video to with the Subject Line, “Your name_#Resist13_Video Submission”
4. Videos can be filmed using a video camera, phone, computer, ipad – anything that records. They can also be live-action, animated, include photographs and slideshows. If you use outside content (content – including images, video, etc –  not created by you), it must be under a creative commons license and the work must be cited in the description.
5. Submissions are open to residents all over the world.

Deadline: All entries must be submitted no later than April 20th 2013, 5pm.

An Interview With PJ Rey and Nathan Jurgenson, Co-Chairs of #TtW13

For most people, the web is now a constant part of our daily interactions.  Yet, most of us understand little about how digital technologies are changing the personal, social and political aspects of life on a broad scale. At the University of Maryland-College Park, sociology graduate students, PJ Rey and Nathan Jurgenson, have come together to examine how the web and digital technologies are changing our society, economy and culture.

Student-led conferences that are open to those beyond tight-knit academic circles are almost unheard of, and yet PJ and Nathan are pushing the norm. Using gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, and disability lenses, PJ and Nathan have organized an innovative conference that “bring(s) together an inter/non disciplinary group of scholars, journalists, artists, and commentators” to theorize the web. Together they are building a model of tech-driven social transformations.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing PJ and Nathan about Theorizing The Web (#TtW13) which launches today at the Graduate Center as part of the JustPublics@365 Summit: Reimagining Scholarly Communication in the 21st Century.  The conference runs all day Saturday, 3/2 on the Concourse Level of the Graduate Center.  It’s open to all, and registration is required (and you’ll need photo ID to get into the building).

JustPublics@365: Can you tell us a bit about how the first Theorizing the Web conference started?

NJ: It started in frustration. PJ and I were beginning as sociology graduate students at the University of Maryland applying social theory to new technologies and went to conferences that bummed us out in a few specific ways. It was tough to get theory people to talk about the Internet and even more difficult to get the tech-researchers to take seriously theorizing, especially that which isn’t strictly instrumental. Where were the critical theories of the Web taking deeply into account the intersections of power and domination? the dangers of capitalism? critical-race, feminist, queer, post-structural, postmodern, and so on?

These were the ideas we wanted to immerse ourselves into and we wanted to find the right network of people. We had already jumped onto social media to find people. We created the Cyborgology Blog. And it was PJ who first came up with the idea of maybe hosting a small group of graduate students working on similar ideas since he had done that in his Philosophy department years ago.

PJ: Right, our goal was really to build community that we didn’t find ready-made elsewhere. We didn’t have many resources to throw a conference, but our sociology department at the University of Maryland had plenty of space available, so we figured would could put something together in a very DIY fashion and attract a few dozen people who were also passionate in thinking theoretically about digital media, particularly from a social justice bent. We basically just made a list of all the things that would make us most excited about a conference, tried to build them into our plans, and hoped people would show up. We thought an exciting conference would try to get past the jargon and focus on ideas important to a wide audience. We also thought it would be good to engage artists and to make things really fun having socials with bands and djs.

From the earliest stages of our planning, we thought it would be fantastic to have danah boyd give a talk because her willingness to engage a wide range of audiences and her focus on issues of public concern really seemed to fit the spirit of our conference well. From the moment we contacted her, she was so generous and wonderful in helping us pull things together for that first year. I really couldn’t imagine having had a better keynote to launch this whole project. Also, in the same year, Saskia Sassen contacted us after hearing what we were planning and offered to travel down to Maryland to join us and has been hugely supportive ever since. Having talks by both danah and Saskia, as well also our advisor, George Ritzer (who, also, unfailingly offers the best suggestions on tough planning decisions), really set the tone for the first event, and, frankly, just got us both super-psyched about the whole thing.

Personally, that first conference introduced me to a number of extraordinary people with whom I now regularly collaborate. For me, these relationships were the primary motivator in turning this original conference into an annual event.

JustPublics@365: Isn’t it a little unusual for graduate students to start a conference that’s not just for other grad students?

PJR: Originally, we just sort of assumed that Theorizing the Web would be a graduate-student conference. In fact, that’s how we we framed it in our initial proposal to the Maryland sociology department. Reeve Vanneman, the sociology chair at that time–who really helped get us on our feet–encouraged us to open it up to faculty too, since there was really no reason to turn away anyone interested in the topics we wanted to address. As it turns out, a lot of faculty–even senior faculty–were deeply interested in theorizing how digital technologies were both shaped by and shaping society. In fact, we received far more submissions than we anticipated. The main difficulty for us, as grad students, is that we can only feasibly organize a relatively small conference (everyone including the speakers volunteer their time and energy). So, this means we end up being forced to turn away a lot of really great submissions. Hopefully, more events will continue to develop to serve the apparent demand for the kinds of conversation that Theorizing the Web and similar events facilitate.

NJ: And as we move forward into planning for 2014, we are looking at ways to expand the conference to meet the demand, which we are simply not able to do right now. We also are looking into expanding who makes the submission decisions beyond just ourselves, something that now seems appropriate given the surprising growth of the event.

Most importantly, we could not have done the conference those first two years without the help of fellow Maryland graduate students, Tyler Crabb, Dan Greene, Rachel Guo, Zach Richer, Jillet Sam, David Strohecker, Sarah Wanenchak, Matthias Wasser, and William Yagatich. Tyler and Sarah are again helping us this year, along with two more graduate students, Whitney Erin Boesel and Tanya Lokot, who have gone above and beyond in helping to make this event happen. JustPublics@365: So, 2013 is the first year that Theorizing The Web is in New York City.  How do you anticipate that this will change the conference?

PJR: We’ve teamed up with brilliant folks at JustPublics@365 who helped reinforce our emphasis on engaging broad publics and important social issues. This partnership actually has some deep roots. Jessie Daniels helped us get Theorizing the Web off the ground by organizing a really excellent panel on race and social media at our first conference. We’re both fans of her scholarship on cyberracism, which is a perfect fit for Theorizing the Web. She introduced us to Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, Jen Jack Gieseking, Matthew K. Gold, Wilneida Negrón, Morgane Richardson, and Emily Sherwood. Having this great contingent of CUNY folks each contributing their unique talents to the planning of the conference helped to give to give TtW13 a distinctly NYC flair. Also, we’re really excited to have an invited panel that specifically features research on the Web being done at the CUNY Graduate Center.

NJ: Agreed! One of the goals Theorizing the Web has had is to make ideas more public. The space should be open to the public (the conference registration has always been pay-what-you-can), we’ve deeply integrated the Twitter conversation and now the live stream, and we’ve also pushed and selecting for ideas to be addressed in a way that is appropriate not just for an inter-disciplinary audience but also one that may be non-disciplinary. Moving the event to New York City is helping us reach more people since there are more people working in these areas as researchers, artists, activists, and so on. For instance, there is an #OccupyData hackathon happening concurrent with the conference in the James Gallery, and the New York City-based culture mag The New Inquiry, who we’re huge fans of, is helping us promote the event outside of academic circles.

JustPublics@365: The conference is, obviously, about ‘theorizing’ the web – but how will people be ‘using’ the web during the conference?

PJR: We really try to practice what we preach with the conference: namely, getting away from the “digital dualist” conception of online and offline as separate spaces for social interaction. We set out to “augment” the conference with digital media, which we believe helps us reach the widest possible audience. We offer live streaming video of all our panels so that folks who cannot afford a plane ticket to travel to the event can still watch in real time. Even more important, we actively work to move the so-called “Twitter backchannel” onto the front stage by having “hashtag moderators” at each panel who livetweet the discussion and ask the panelists questions on behalf of those viewing the panels remotely. These tactics are aimed at making anyone who cannot be physically present still feel like a full participant in the event and also at making the role of audience member a less passive, more “prosumptive” experience. That is, after all, what social media is all about!

NJ: An example of the culture of digital-material enmeshment at Theorizing the Web was the 2012 keynote, a conversation between NPR’s Twitter journalist Andy Carvin and UNC Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, namely, Zeynep’s superhuman ability to follow the discussion face-to-face together with the very, very active Twitter feed. I think there were about 5,000 tweets that day on the conference hashtag and we were even the #2 trending Washington D.C. topic at one point when I checked. Meanwhile, Zeynep navigated the simultaneity of the various flavors of information coming at her with ease. Tellingly, when Zeynep asked for questions, the hands in the room didn’t go up, instead, they collectively checked Twitter. JustPublics@365: Can you say a little about how the Friday evening event is different from the conference on Saturday?

PJR: Friday features a set of invited speakers we think will be of broad interest to our audience. We know a lot of people will be just arriving on Friday and many will be doing last minute preparations for Saturday presentations, so we wanted to keep the Friday event pretty simple. Saturday features 3 sets of concurrent panels, each focused on specific issues. It’s pretty packed schedule with 48 total presentations and a closing keynote by David Lyon.

This is actually the 7th conference I’ve helped organize now. And, above all, I’ve learned that meeting and catching up with people is the part that conference-goers look forward to most. So, on both days, we try to provide as much opportunity for socializing as possible, while still cramming in lots of great discussion. We really hope everyone can make it to the Friday night social and the Saturday night afterparty.

NJ: We think it is fitting to open the conference with a plenary on Surveillance by Alice Marwick, which is a real juxtaposition to the closing keynote, also on surveillance. We hope attendees appreciate Marwick’s somewhat-different approach to surveillance, namely, her conceptualization of “social surveillance” that differs from traditional surveillance studies to capture the rise of social media. Next, the invited panel titled “Free Speech for Whom?” should be a lot of fun. danah and Zeynep are leaders in this line of inquiry and are well-known to most of our audience. Adrian Chen is a journalist at Gawker and wrote the article outing (aka, “doxxing”) that nasty Reddit troll, which was pretty big news and should provide a new angle. We also reached out to some folks who are more unabashedly ‘information-should-always-be-free’, but timing unfortunately didn’t work out. [note: Kate Crawford was originally on this panel but had to back out because of a conflict with another conference she is keynote-ing]. Last, we’re especially excited to have an event in the James Gallery, as art has always been central in our thinking of these issues. JustPublics@365: Right, there seems to be some effort to involve artists.  What’s that got to do with ‘theorizing the web’?

NJ: Marshall McLuhan liked to say that only artists can know the present, while, at best, the rest of us are in the near-past. I’ve always found it interesting how, contrary to what McLuhan would have wanted, art and academia are so often separated. Academics, at least in the social sciences but often beyond, rarely consider art as of equal epistemic standing to their research; that is, it isn’t equally legitimate or able to convey ideas, insights, truths (what Lyotard or Foucault might talk about as subjugated knowledges). Meanwhile, artists are often engaging cutting-edge theoretical topics, and my hope is that academics can learn from them. And perhaps the artists can benefit from the academic skill of translating the ideas for different audiences and linking the insights to other theories, research, histories, and current events. And I can’t speak of art too long without thanking the great design work we’ve been fortunate to have with this conference, Ned Drummond for 2011 and 2012, and Imp Kerr for 2013. We owe both a large debt of gratitude.

JustPublics@365: What are you most looking forward to about #TtW13?

NJ: Seeing people meeting new people, making that new connection, and striking up conversation and spinning off new ideas. Also, seeing people taking notes and tweeting ideas during the talks. And, selfishly, getting to see all those friends we’ve made through the conference, Cyborgology, and Twitter. There are those friends and colleagues I do not get to see often, and what is also exciting is meeting people in-person I have previously known only as a Twitter-handle or a name on a journal article. Oh, also, the conference after-party on Saturday night! We have a DJ (Sean Gray of Fan Death Records) and a band, Niabi, who is an excellent ambient-meets-dreampop-meets-shoegaze electronic musician.

PJR: Meeting and catching up with people is always the most exciting part for me too. And, really, that’s why we started this whole thing in the first place. I often reflect on how many of my close collaborators I’ve met through the Theorizing the Web and how different my life would be if we hadn’t started the conference. There are a several folks who I first connected up with in 2011 and who keep coming back with new and exciting observations. Also, I’m excited to be exposed to new voices and new ideas. After the event, I’ll go back and watch the archived video of all the panels I missed. The past conferences gave me so much to think about that it took a month or two to fully digest.

JustPublics@365: Can people still participate? How do they go about doing that?

PJR: The program is set at this point, but as I said before, no one at Theorizing the Web is just a passive viewer. Lively conversations have already begun on the #TtW13 hashtag and on the Cyborgology Blog. We invite anyone and everyone to jump in. Your questions, whether asked in-person or through the hashtag, will shape the conversation at the event. I’m really looking forward to seeing what emerges as the main talking points.

NJ: And we invite those inspired by what happens at the conference to write about it! The Cyborgology blog often hosts guest-posts on these topics and is a great way to “keep the conversation going”, as Richard Rorty might say.

Nathan Jurgenson(@nathanjurgenson) is a social media theorist, PhD student in sociology at the University of Maryland, musician, photographer, and co-founder of the Cyborgology blog and Theorizing the Web conference. PJ Rey (@pjrey) is a PhD student in sociology at the University of Maryland examining how social media is changing our economy and culture. In addition to being a co-chair of the Theorizing the Web conference, he is also a co-founder and editor of the Cyborgology blog.