Notes From San Francisco [en]

So, roughly half-way through my five-week trip to San Francisco, what’s going on? I haven’t been blogging much lately, that’s for sure.

For once, I took some photographs from the plane. Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out just as we were coming down on San Francisco, and my spare ones were in the luggage compartment above my head. Oh, well.

Flying to San Francisco 31

I got some first-level questioning at immigration coming in. No, not the sort where they take you to a separate room, become much less friendly, and have boxes of rubber gloves on the counter. This is how it went:

– …And what is the duration of your stay?
– Five weeks.
– …And what do you do in… over in Switzerland?
– I’m a freelance… internet consultant. *OMG that sounds bad.* …I’m actually here to work on a book project. *Yeah I know I should never volunteer information.*
– What’s the book about?
– Er… teenagers and the internet.
– And…?
– Er… Well, the situation with teenagers and the internet, and what we’re doing about it in Switzerland.
– And what are you doing about it?
– Well, not enough!
– And? Come on, tell me more about it.
– Er… OK. *OMGOMG* Well, see, teenagers are really comfortable with computers and the internet, and so they’re chatting, blogging, etc. — they’re digital natives, see? — and parents, well, they’re clueless or terrified about the internet, and they don’t always understand what’s going on in their kids lives online, so basically, we have teenagers who are spending a lot of time online and sometimes getting into trouble and parents don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing there, so we have this… chasm between generations and…
– Thank you. You can go.

The pick-up from the airport was wonderfully orchestrated and much appreciated. Being driven into town by somebody friendly rather than having to use unfamiliar public transportation really makes a difference. Thanks to all those involved (yes, it took that many people!)

Waiting on the Sidewalk

Then, through some freak breakdown of all modern forms of communication (partially documented on Twitter), I ended up waiting outside on the sidewalk for almost an hour while my kind host Tara waited for me inside her appartment. We worked it out finally, and I was introduced to my (nice and spacious) room before going to hang out at [Citizen Space]( A nice dinner out with Chris, Tara and Jimmy to end the day, and I happily collapsed in my bed at a respectable local hour. You will have taken note that I did not collapse at 4pm feeling like a zombie, thanks to having taken [melatonin]( on the plane. (It [doesn’t seem to work that well for Suw](, but it works perfectly on me, and I’m never traveling between continents without it again.)

The four next days went by in [a blur of Supernova madness]( too many people, too many sessions, food with ups and downs, parties with [cupcakes]( and others at the top of [skyscapers]( I took [lots of photographs]( and even [a video sequence that got some attention](

Supernova First Day 33

During the next week, I started settling down. Met and hung out with old friends, made new ones, unpacked my suitcases, went walking around in town, saw [Dykes on Bikes](, the [Gay Pride Parade](, and the [iPhone launch](, photographed [skyscrapers in the night](, ordered a new camera, got my MacBook (partly) repaired, and even [dropped in at Google to take notes of Suw’s talk there](

All this, actually, is documented in [my Twitter stream]( — maybe I should add a whole lot of links? — be sure to keep an eye on it if you’re interested in a more day-by-day account of what I’m doing here.

Overall, things have been good. A small bout of homesickness a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now. I need to start focusing on the things I want to get done (blogging, writing, book, writing, fixing things for clients…) — holiday over now!

Downtown San Francisco By Night 9

I’ve been thinking about my “work career” a little, too. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to be doing “Blog 101” for ever — I can feel my interests shifting somewhat already. I’ve been interested in the “social tools at large” department for a long time, but unfortunately it seems to translated to “blogging” in most of the work I do, so I’d like to expand my horizons in that direction a little. I’ve had a couple of talks with people in startups recently, and I realize it’s a kind of environment I wouldn’t mind working in — at least part-time. We’ll see what happens.

I’m also realizing that there is more potential than I first thought around [the two main things I care about these days]( teenagers online and internet language issues. Hence, the book, and also a talk on the subject of languages on the internet which I’ll be giving at Google this coming Tuesday.

Also in the “work” department, two other things have been on my mind. First, the idea of opening up a coworking space in or around Lausanne ([Ollie is having the same kind of thought]( — we’re talking). Second, trying to find a solution so that I don’t have to do maintenance on my clients’ WordPress installations once all is rolling, or spend hours swimming in HTML, CSS and WordPress theme PHP template tags. Not that I don’t know how to do it or don’t enjoy it once in a while, but it’s really not the kind of work I want to spend my time doing. So, I’ve been starting to ask around for names of people who might do this kind of thing (for a reasonable fee), and even thinking of recruiting some students in Lausanne that I could coach/train so that they can do most of the work, and call me up only for major problems. So, see, I’ve been thinking.

Some people have been asking me if I was planning to move here. Indeed, 5 weeks in the city looks suspiciously like a scouting operation. Actually, traveling has an interesting side-effect for me: I tend to come back home thinking “gee, Lausanne is *such* a great place to live! I’m never moving!” Sure, I have some underlying personal issues which contribute to making me overly attached to my hometown, and I know that someday I might end up living elsewhere. But really, for the moment, I don’t think I’d want that.

And even though I’m told San Francisco is very “European” compared to the rest of the US (which I have yet to see) I can’t help seeing how “horribly American” it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this city and am enjoying my time here. I know that what I say can give wrong impressions (for example, people — especially Indians — read [the story of my year living in India]( and think that I hated the country; it’s not true, I really loved it, and can’t wait to go back). But I walk around San Francisco and see all the signs with rules and regulations and “stupid” warnings (like, God, the pineapple chunks I buy at Whole Foods haven’t been pasteurized and may contain harmful germs! or, don’t use the hairdryer in the bath tub!), the AT&T Park and other manifestations of what to me is “consumerism gone mad”, I hear about health care and [“you’re expected to sue” horror stories](, visa lotteries for non-renewal, the education system…

So, yes, I’m focusing on the negative. And Switzerland, even though it’s a wonderful country ;-), has its negatives too. Like many natives all over the world, I’ve developed a selective blindness to what is “wrong” in the land I come from, considering much of it “normal” as I have been brought up with it. I know that. But too much of what I see here makes my skin crawl. I’m really enjoying spending some weeks here, I love my friends, the food and the sunshine, but I don’t think I’d be happy living here.

Misty Skyscrapers in Downtown San Francisco 10

Well, this was one of these longer-than-expected posts, and it’s occupied most of my morning. My tasks for this afternoon are (in this order):

– one WordPress install for a client
– spending a little more time trying to see if there is hope for the aggravating Google Groups problem I bumped into, and if not, setting up a Yahoo! Group instead
– writing a post for []( or working on my book — whichever I most feel like.

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De la "prévention internet" [en]

[fr] Thursday evening, I went to listen to a conference given by a local high-ranking police officer who has specialised in tracking down pedophiles on the internet. His presentation was titled "Dangers of the Internet", and I was expecting to hear warnings about excessive pornography consumption and predators lurking in chatrooms.

That's exactly what I heard.

Before going, I had intended to blog viciously about the conference. I changed my mind. I changed my mind because first of all, I spoke up a few times during the conference to ask for numbers, give information I had gathered from other sources, or simply state my discomfort with some of the "official" messages targeted at kids to "keep them safe".

Then, after the talk, I went to have a chat with the speaker. I realised that we agreed on quite a few things, actually. Our angle is different when presenting, of course, and more importantly, his job is to hunt down pedophiles, not talk about the internet and teenagers to the public (which, in a way, is mine).

To cut a long story short, I had a few interesting conversations during that evening, which left me more motivated than ever to get on with my book project on the subject of teenagers and the internet. Problems are complex, solutions aren't simple. And around here, there is little money available to run awareness operations correctly.

Jeudi soir, je suis allée assister à une conférence sur les dangers d’internet, donnée par Arnold Poot, Inspecteur principal adjoint à la police cantonale vaudoise, spécialisé dans la traque au matériel pédophile sur internet. J’y suis allée prête à me retrouver devant le “discours attendu” au sujet des prédateurs sexuels sur internet. Je n’ai pas été déçue. Pour être brutalement honnête, j’avais aussi la ferme intention de bloguer tout ça, de prendre des notes, et de montrer méchamment du doigt les insuffisances d’une telle approche.

J’ai changé d’avis. Pas sur le fond, non. Je pense toujours qu’on exagère grandement le problème des prédateurs sexuels sur internet, et qu’à force de placer des miroirs déformants entre la réalité et nos discours, on finit par ne plus s’y retrouver. Par contre, je n’ai plus envie de démonter point par point la présentation qui nous a été faite.

Ceci n’est donc pas le billet que j’avais l’intention d’écrire. Attendez-vous donc à quelques ruminations personnelles et questionnements pas toujours faciles dans le long billet que vous avez commencé à lire.

Qu’est-ce qui a amené ce changement d’état d’esprit? C’est simple: une conversation. Au lieu de fulminer dans mon coin et de cracher du venin ensuite sur mon blog (mon projet initial — pas très reluisant, je l’admets), je suis à intervenue à quelques reprises durant la présentation pour apporter des informations qui m’amènent à avoir un autre regard sur certaines choses dites, et même pour exprimer mon désaccord face à une certaine conception de la prévention internet (“ne pas donner son nom ni d’informations personnelles”).

Il y a des semaines que je désire écrire un billet (toujours pas fait, donc) en français qui rend compte de [la table ronde sur la victimisation des mineurs]( à laquelle [a participé]( mon amie [danah boyd](, chercheuse travaillant sur la façon dont les jeunes construisent leur identité dans les espaces numériques. A cette table ronde, trois autres chercheurs actifs dans le domaine des crimes commis à l’encontre de mineurs. Je rentrerai dans les détails plus tard, mais si vous comprenez un peu d’anglais, je vous encourage vivement à lire ce que dit le Dr. David Finkelhor, directeur du *Crimes against Children Research Center*, en pages 3 à 6 de la [retranscription PDF de cette discussion]( (Le reste est fascinant aussi, je n’ai d’ailleurs pas fini de lire les 34 pages de la retranscription, mais l’essentiel pour comprendre ma prise de position ici se trouve dans ces trois-quatre pages.)

Mais ce n’est pas tout. Après la conférence, je suis allée discuter avec l’intervenant. Pour m’excuser de lui être ainsi rentré dans le cadre durant sa présentation, d’une part, mais aussi pour partager mon malaise face à certains messages véhiculés de façon générale autour de la question des pédophiles sur internet. Et j’ai été surprise.

Parce qu’en fin de compte, on était d’accord sur de nombreux points. Parce que son discours, comme il le dit, c’est celui “d’un flic qui arrête des pédophiles” — et pas autre chose. Son métier, c’est d’être policier, j’ai réalisé. Il nous a fait une présentation sur les dangers d’internet tels qu’ils apparaissent dans son quotidien de professionnel — ce qui n’est pas forcément la même chose que “rendre compte de la situation sur internet dans sa globalité” ou même “faire de la prévention”.

J’ai discuté longuement avec lui, puis avec deux enseignantes (dont une avait assisté à ma rapide présentation de l’internet social à la HEP en début d’année scolaire) qui font de la prévention internet dans les classes du primaire. Discussions intéressantes et sympathiques, mais où encore une fois, je n’ai pu que constater à quel point nous manquons de moyens (en fin de compte, cela reviendra toujours à une question d’argent) pour faire de la prévention “correctement”.

Je voudrais pouvoir former des gens à faire le genre d’intervention que je fais dans les écoles — et pas juste en leur donnant un survol de la situation durant 45 minutes. Mais qui, comment, avec quel argent? De plus, je réalise de plus en plus que pour faire de la prévention intelligente, d’une part il faut avoir identifié le problème (les dangers) correctement — ce qui est à mon avis souvent [pas le cas lorsqu’il s’agit d’internet]( — et d’autre part, on retombe inévitablement sur des problèmes éducatifs de base (la relation parents-enfants, le dialogue) qui renvoient à un contexte de société encore plus général.

Que faire? Allez toquer chez Mme Lyon? Peut-être. Mais honnêtement, je n’aime pas “démarcher les gens à froid”, et je n’ai pas l’énergie pour ça. (Peut-être que je devrais le faire plus, mais pour le moment, c’est comme ça que je fonctionne.) Il y a assez de travail à faire avec les gens motivés, à moitié convaincus, ou au moins curieux, qui me contactent d’eux-mêmes. Oui, on critiquera peut-être, mais j’attends qu’on vienne me chercher. Ça changera peut-être un jour, mais je n’en suis honnêtement pas certaine.

Donc, que faire? Du coup, je retrouve un bon coup de pêche (pas que je l’avais perdue) pour mon projet de livre. Je crois que le public le plus important à toucher, c’est les parents, en l’occurrence. Et les gens “en charge de la prévention”. Peut-être qu’un livre serait utile.

J’ai fait plusieurs lectures ces derniers temps qui m’ont marquée. Tout d’abord, “[Blink](” et “[The Tipping Point](” de [Malcolm Gladwell]( Le premier s’intéresse à l’intuition, d’un point de vue scientifique. J’y ai retrouvé, exposées de façon bien plus précises, fouillées et argumentées, de nombreuses idées que j’avais fini par me faire, au cours des années, sur la question. Le deuxième examine ce qui fait “basculer” certains phénomènes: qu’est-ce qui fait qu’une idée ou une tendance à du succès? Il y parle de la propagation des idées, des différents types de personnalité qui y jouent un rôle clé, et donne aussi quelques exemples d’application des ces principes à… des problématiques de prévention.

Ensuite, livre dans lequel je suis plongée en ce moment: “[The Culture of Fear](” (Barry Glassner) — une critique sans complaisance de la façon dont la peur est promue par les médias et les gouvernements pour, entre autres, encourager à la consommation. C’est américain, oui. manchettes-peur Mais on est en plein dedans ici aussi: les chiens dangereux, le loup, l’ours maintenant, les étrangers bien sûr, les jeunes, la technologie… et les pédophiles tapis dans les chats sur internet, prêts à se jeter sur nos enfants sans défense. Ce n’est pas pour rien que [le premier obstacle au bonheur est la télévision](, où l’on nous rappelle sans cesse et si bien de quoi avoir peur et à quel point notre monde va mal.

Mes réflexions ces temps ont pour toile de fond ces lectures. Il y a aussi, dans la catégorie “billets jamais écrits”, “The Cluetrain Manifesto”. [Achetez ce livre.]( Lisez-le. Ou si vous ne voulez pas l’acheter, [lisez-le gratuitement sur le site]( Ne vous arrêtez pas aux [95 thèses traduites en français]( que vous pouvez trouver sur internet. Le livre est bien moins obscur et va bien plus loin.

Bref, preuve en est ce billet destructuré, écrit petit bout par petit bout dans les transports publics de la région lausannoise, ça bouillonne dans mon cerveau. Et je me dis que la meilleure chose à faire, juste là maintenant, c’est de formaliser tout ça, par écrit. J’en parle, j’en parle, mais je réalise que je blogue très peu à ce sujet, parce qu’il y a trop à dire et que je ne sais pas très bien par où commencer. Quand j’ai décidé de partir cinq semaines aux Etats-Unis, je me suis dit que si rien ne se présentait côté “travail payé” (ce qui est le cas pour le moment, même si ça peut tout à fait changer une fois que je serai là-bas) ce serait une excellente occasion de me plonger sérieusement dans la rédaction de mon livre. Et là, je me sens plus motivée que jamais à le faire — même si au fond, je n’ai aucune idée comment on fait pour écrire un livre.

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Video: BBC Interview (Teenagers, Facebook) [en]

[fr] Une interview que je viens de donner à la BBC sur les parents qui jouent aux détectives privés pour "surveiller" leurs adolescents sur internet. Dialogue, dialogue!

I was contacted this morning (thanks, [Suw](!) to appear in a short interview on the BBC News, about how parents are increasingly signing up to social networking sites like Friendster to “stalk” their kids online.

Here’s the little video segment of my interview:

(Thanks to [Euan]( for the video, and to the BBC folks for sending me a copy too — though it arrived later and I used Euan’s here.)

For those of you interested in the whole “online predator issue is overblown” thing, I urge you to read [Just The Facts About Online Youth Victimization]( by danah boyd, and in particular what David Finkelhor has to say at the beginning of his presentation (numbers! numbers!) about how the general ideas the public has about online predators have little to do with reality.

And talking of videos, [episode 6 of Fresh Lime Soda]( (video!) is [online at](

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Teenagers and Spelling [en]

[fr] Pour moi, la dégradation constatée de l'orthographe des jeunes a principalement à voir avec le fait que leur pratique d'écriture a maintenant le plus souvent lieu dans des espaces "non normés" (c'est-à-dire en-dehors du milieu scolaire et "des adultes", où "écrire juste" est important). Les SMS font bien entendu partie de ces pratiques d'écriture, mais son caractère "court" a plutôt comme conséquence l'apparition d'abbréviations très tôt dans l'écriture des jeunes, plus que la "perte" (!) de notions grammaticales ou orthographiques.

Here’s a case of “comment or post?” where I first commented, but now am thinking that I would rather have posted. So I’m reproducing [my comment]( to danah’s post titled [dystruktshun of inglesh as we no]( (I know it’s in my [comments page]( and embedded in the sidebar of the blog, but I need to remember that many of you read this blog through RSS):

> As a French teacher, [I was asked this question]( (are blogs destroying our children’s spelling?) a couple of years back. My take on it is that compared to 15-20 years ago, most of the kids’ “writing activity” goes on in uncontrolled environments. When I was at school, if I wrote, it was usually at school. With pressure to have correct spelling, or I’d have to correct it / get a bad mark. Or I’d be writing a letter to my Grandma (better check the spelling there too).

> Today’s teen spends most of his/her writing time on IM, in e-mails or text messages, or in blogs/SN. Peer pressure to “write correctly” can’t really be said to exist.

> Text messaging has brought to them abbreviations. I remember discovering (stupefied!) that one could abbreviate words when I was in 9th grade (tjs=toujours, bcp=beaucoup). Now, kids know all these — and many more “bastard abbreviations” (jta=je t’adore) that might make our older skin crawl.

> I’d say that there are two ways in which teens’ writing today is “modified” by their writing habits:

> – peer spaces (“uncontrolled” regarding “proper writing”) => funky spelling and disregard for “grammatical rules”
> – length limitation (SMS) => abbreviations

One thing I wanted to add, which is “somewhat related”, is that historically, spelling stabilised when the printing press came into use. That explains why in French (and English too, for that matter) written spelling can be so widely different from pronunciation: the oral language has continued to shift, but our spelling has remained frozen. (If I’m saying stupid things here and you know better, let me know — but as far as I remember my linguistic courses from university this is how things happened.)

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Adolescents, MySpace, internet: citations de danah boyd et Henry Jenkins [fr]

[en] Citations and some French comments/paraphrasing of danah boyd and Henry Jenkins's interview "MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)". Must-read if your life has anything to do with teenagers.

Je viens de finir de lire ce fascinant interview de [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( au sujet des [adolescents et d’Internet](, intitulé “MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA).” Si vous travaillez de près ou de loin avec des adolescents, ou si vous êtes parent d’adolescent, prenez vingt minutes pour le lire. ([PDF pour imprimer.]( Voici les passages qui me parlent le plus, avec quelques commentaires. La mise en évidence est de moi. (Avertissement: tartine ahead.)

Cela fait bientôt deux ans que je fais régulièrement des [conférences dans des écoles](, pour faire de la “prévention blogs” ou “prévention Internet” en général. Ce qui me dérange depuis longtemps, c’est cette idée reçue qu’Internet grouille de pédophiles et est par définition un espace dangereux.

J’ai beaucoup apprécié de retrouver dans les paroles de ces deux chercheurs des choses que je pense ou dis, sans avoir fait autant d’études formelles à ce propos. Jolie confirmation de mon intuition et de ce que j’ai pu déduire de mes expériences directes.

J’essaie souvent, un peu maladroitement, de mettre en avant le rôle de construction sociale que jouent ces espaces sur internet. Voici ce qu’en dit danah:

> These sites play a key role in youth culture because they give youth a space to hang out amongst friends and peers, share cultural artifacts (like links to funny websites, comments about TV shows) and work out an image of how they see themselves.


Une autre thèse que je défends et que ce ne sont pas ces espaces qui créent les comportements “déviants” des adolescents, mais qu’internet nous donne simplement accès, en tant qu’adultes, à des choses qui étaient auparavant cachées. A noter qu’une bonne partie de ces comportements font partie intégrante des processus de socialisation des adolescents, même s’ils ne sont pas plaisants.

> While integrating into cultural life is a critical process that takes place during these years, the actual process is not always smooth or pleasant. Bullying, sexual teasing, and other peer-to-peer harassment are rampant amongst teenagers, as these are frequently the tools through which youth learn to make meaning of popularity, social status, roles, and cultural norms. MySpace did not create teenage bullying but it has made it more visible to many adults, although it is not clear that the embarrassment online is any more damaging to the young victims than offline. […] No one of any age enjoys being the target of public tormenting, but new media is not to blame for peer-to-peer harassment simply because it makes it more visible to outsiders. In fact, in many ways, this visibility provides a window through which teen mentors can help combat this issue.


Le vrai problème, ensuite, est la réaction que vont avoir les adultes face à ces comportements auxquels ils sont confrontés, et qu’ils ne peuvent plus nier.

> Adults are confronting images of underage drinking or sex, discussions of drug use, and signs of bullying and other abusive behavior. […] In many cases, schools are being forced to respond to real world problems which only came to their attention because this information was so publicly accessible on the web. […] Much of the controversy has come not as a result of anything new that MySpace and the other social software sites contribute to teen culture but simply from the fact that adults can no longer hide their eyes to aspects of youth culture in America that have been there all along.


Pour le moment, malheureusement, la réaction la plus répandue semble être une forme de panique morale (“internet c’est dangereux”, “les adolescents ont des comportements criminels sur leurs blogs”). Je me réjouis de lire les conclusions de danah concernant les causes du vent de panique gravitant autour des modes de socialisation de notre jeunesse. Je pense personellement qu’il y a également une autre piste à explorer, et qui tourne autour de ce qu’on pourrait appeler la “culture de la peur”.

> Understanding why moral panics emerge when youth socialize is central to my research.


Les outils de l’internet social sont de plus en plus utilisés dans le monde professionnel. Même si à mon sens c’est plus un problème dans le monde Anglo-Saxon qu’en Suisse (quoique… ça nous pend au nez), les écoles devraient apprendre aux enfants à exploiter le potentiel de ces outils et gérer les risques que peut comporter leur utilisation, plutôt que de les interdire ou les ignorer comme étant “des jeux d’enfants”.

> Social networking services are more and more being deployed as professional tools, extending the sets of contacts that people can tap in their work lives. It is thus not surprising that such tools are also part of the social lives of our teens. Just as youth in a hunting society play with bows and arrows, youth in an information society play with information and social networks. Our schools so far do a rather poor job of helping teens acquire the skills they need in order to participate within that information society. For starters, most adult jobs today involve a high degree of collaboration, yet we still focus our schools on training autonomous learners. Rather than shutting kids off from social network tools, we should be teaching them how to exploit their potentials and mitigate their risks.


De même, si effectivement ces espaces numériques sont terriblement dangereux, il est important que l’école enseigne aux adolescents comment gérer leur présence en ligne, plutôt que de les encourager à l’éviter. La citation qui suit est une allusion directe à la volonté de certaines instances aux Etats-Unis (et ailleurs) de bloquer l’accès aux sites de “réseautage en ligne”, comme MySpace, depuis les écoles.

> Suppose, for the sake of argument, that MySpace critics are correct and that MySpace is, in fact, exposing large numbers of teens to high-risk situations, then shouldn’t the role of educational institutions be to help those teens understand those risks and develop strategies for dealing with them? Wouldn’t we be better off having teens engage with MySpace in the context of supervision from knowledgeable and informed adults? Historically, we taught children what to do when a stranger telephoned them when their parents are away; surely, we should be helping to teach them how to manage the presentation of their selves in digital spaces. The proposed federal legislation does nothing to help kids confront the challenges of interacting with online social communities; rather, it allows teachers and librarians to abdicate their responsibility to educate young people about what is becoming a significant aspect of their everyday lives.


Je vous cite maintenant un long passage dans lequel danah parle de la question des prédateurs sexuels sur MySpace, de la couverture médiatique de ce phénomène (qui contribue à créer un climat d’alarme déconnecté de la réalité), et des chiffres sur lesquels on se base aux Etats-Unis pour justifier l’inquiétude ambiante à ce sujet.

Il y a quelque temps, j’avais moi-même été à la recherche de matière première (chiffres, enquêtes, etc) concernant les prédateurs sexuels sur internet. Depuis des années que je baigne dans la cyberculture, je n’avais en effet jamais rencontré ni entendu parler d’une seule histoire du genre, ce qui me paraissait en décalage avec la frénésie médiatique et les opérations de prévention à grande échelle dont j’étais témoin.

Sans grande surprise, je n’ai pu mettre la main que sur une seule étude (celle-là même dont parle danah) qui fournissait des chiffres alarmants. Mais en regardant de près l’analyse des résultats fournis, j’avais été quelque peu sidérée de voir des choses comme “une fille de 13 ans à qui on a demandé sa taille de soutien-gorge” rentrer dans la catégorie “unwanted sexual sollicitation”, sans précision de l’âge ou du sexe de la personne posant la question. De plus, j’aurais apprécié une étude comparative de la quantité de “sollicitations sexuelles non désirées” dont sont victimes les ados à l’école, dans la rue, ou dans leur club de sports. Dans le troisième paragraphe que je cite, danah fait le même genre de critique.

Elle nous rappelle également que la grande majorité des enlèvements aux Etats-Unis sont l’oeuvre de personnes connues de l’enfant. D’un point de vue statistique, les enfants courent plus de risques en allant aux scouts ou à une sortie de catéchisme qu’en traînant sur MySpace. De plus, elle nous rappelle que la peur des prédateurs, régulièrement utilisée pour priver les jeunes d’espaces publiques (numériques ou physiques), sert aussi à détourner notre attention d’abuseurs statistiquement plus significatifs. Les jeunes courent plus de risques d’être victimes d’abus à leur domicile ou à celui de leurs amis que dans les espaces publics.

Voilà, grossièrement résumé, les arguments principaux de danah boyd dans les paragraphes suivants.

> The media coverage of predators on MySpace implies that 1) all youth are at risk of being stalked and molested because of MySpace; 2) prohibiting youth from participating on MySpace will stop predators from attacking kids. Both are misleading; neither is true.

> Unfortunately, predators lurk wherever youth hang out. Since youth are on MySpace, there are bound to be predators on MySpace. Yet, predators do not use online information to abduct children; children face a much higher risk of abduction or molestation from people they already know – members of their own family or friends of the family. Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services. The goal of a predator is to get a child to consent to sexual activities. Predators contact teens (online and offline) to start a conversation. Just as most teens know to say no to strange men who approach them on the street, most know to ignore strange men who approach them online. When teenagers receive solicitations from adults on MySpace, most report deleting them without question. Those who report responding often talk about looking for attention or seeking a risk. Of those who begin conversations, few report meeting these strangers.

> The media often reference a [Crimes Against Children report]( that states one in five children receive a sexual solicitation online. A careful reading of this report shows that 76% of the unwanted solicitations came from fellow children. This includes unwanted date requests and sexual taunts from fellow teens. Of the adult solicitations, 96% are from people 18-25; wanted and unwanted solicitations are both included. In other words, if an 18 year old asks out a 17 year old and both consent, this would still be seen as a sexual solicitation. Only 10% of the solicitations included a request for a physical encounter; most sexual solicitations are for cybersex. While the report shows that a large percentage of youth are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences online, there is no discussion of how many are faced with uncomfortable or offensive experiences at school, in the local shopping mall or through other mediated channels like telephone.

> Although the media has covered the potential risk extensively, few actual cases have emerged. While youth are at minimal risk, predators are regularly being lured out by law enforcement patrolling the site. Most notably, a deputy in the Department of Homeland Security was arrested for seeking sex with a minor.

> The fear of predators has regularly been touted as a reason to restrict youth from both physical and digital publics. Yet, as Barry Glassner notes in [The Culture of Fear](, predators help distract us from more statistically significant molesters. Youth are at far greater risk of abuse in their homes and in the homes of their friends than they ever are in digital or physical publics.


Henry Jenkins nous rappelle que le décalage entre générations de parents et d’enfants pour ce qui est de l’adoption de nouvelles technologies n’est rien de nouveau. Les parents et enseignants sont souvent effrayés par le fait qu’ils ne comprennent pas ce que les jeunes font avec les technologies de communication d’aujourd’hui, et qu’ils ne sont donc pas en mesure de protéger ou superviser les enfants lorsqu’ils les utilisent.

> History shows us a recurring pattern surrounding the adaptation of any new communications technology. Young people are often early adopters: they are more open to new ideas and experiences; they are looking for ways to leave their mark on the world and they are seeking places where they can socially interact with minimal adult interference. Parents and teachers are often frightened by these new kinds of communication technologies which were not part of the world of their childhood: they don’t really understand what their young people are doing with them and they don’t know how to protect or supervise their children while they are engaged in these activities. The situation is thus ripe for moral panic.


Henry continue sur les conséquences désastreuses d’une limitation de l’accès internet dans les écoles et bibliothèques. Cela handicaperait les enfants qui n’ont pas un bon accès internet à la maison et qui n’auraient donc pas l’occasion d’apprendre à utiliser ces outils sociaux s’ils ne sont pas accessibles depuis l’école.

Il ne faut plus maintenant parler de fossé numérique, mais de “participation gap” (décalage participatif — il y a sans doute une traduction meilleure). Les jeunes sont en train d’acquérir d’importantes compétences en réseautage et collaboration qui auront une conséquence sur leur futur professionnel. Ceux qui n’ont accès qu’à un internet filtré n’auront pas cette chance et s’en trouveront prétérités.

> What a kid can do at home with unlimited access is very different from what a kid can do in a public library with ten or fifteen minutes of access at a time and with no capacity to store and upload information to the web. We further handicap these children by placing filters on the Internet which restrict their access to information which is readily available to their more affluent classmates. And now this legislation would restrict their ability to participate in social networks or to belong to online communities. The result will be to further isolate children from poorer economic backgrounds, to cut kids at risk from support systems which exist within their peer culture, and to limit the social and cultural experiences of kids who are already behind in acquiring important networking skills that will shape their professional futures. All of this will compound what we are now calling the participation gap. The early discussion of the digital divide assumed that the most important concern was insuring access to information as if the web were simply a data bank. Its power comes through participation within its social networks. The authors of the law are reading MySpace and other social software exclusively in terms of their risks; they are not focusing on the opportunities they offer for education and personal growth. In protecting children from those risks, they would cut them off from those educational benefits.


Il y a des parallèles à faire entre les activités de socialisation de la génération “parents” dans leur jeunesse, et ce que font les ados d’aujourd’hui. Les activités sont déplacées en ligne, mais au fond, c’est assez similaire. D’après Henry, une des conséquences est la diminution des occasions qu’ont les jeunes d’être entre eux hors du contrôle des adultes. Là, je pose une question: si c’est vrai pour les Etats-Unis, qu’en est-il de l’Europe? J’ai le sentiment que cette problématique est peut-être différente.

> As I suggested above, most parents understand their children’s experiences in the context of their memories of their own early years. For the baby boom generation, those defining experiences involved playing in backyards and vacant lots within suburban neighborhoods, socializing with their friends at the local teen hangout, and participating within a social realm which was constrained by the people who went to your local school. All of that is changing. Contemporary children and youth enjoy far less physical mobility, have less time outside of adult control, and have fewer physical places to hang out with their friends.

> Much of this activity is being brought online. What teens are doing online is no better and no worse than what previous generations of teens did when their parents weren’t looking. The difference is that as these activities are being digitized, they are also being brought into public view. Video games bring the fantasy lives of young boys into the family room and parents are shocked by what they are seeing. Social networks give adults a way to access their teens’ social and romantic lives and they are startled by their desire to break free from restraints or act older than their age.


Il est réjouissant d’entendre que grâce en particulier à la téléphonie mobile, les jeunes sont plus régulièrement en communication avec les membres de leur famille et leurs pairs qu’autrefois.

> Because of mobile phones, current college students report greater ongoing communication with their parents than in previous generations. As Misa Matsuda has argued, networked technologies are allowing today’s youth to maintain “full-time intimate communities.” While the socialization that takes place in digital publics is equivalent to that which occurs in physical publics, new media is allowing youth to be more deeply connected to their peers and their family members, providing a powerful open channel for communication and sharing.


En ce moment, MySpace et les autres outils de réseautage en ligne sont perçus comme des menaces à l’ordre public, dit Henry. Mais on peut regarder les choses différemment et les voir comme un terrain d’entraînement pour nos futurs citoyens et dirigeants politiques. Il mentionne que les jeunes d’aujourd’hui prennent des rôles publics de plus en plus tôt.

Note intéressante: la recherche actuelle démontrerait que les joueurs de jeux multijoueurs en réseau ont des aptitudes importantes pour le travail en équipe, une meilleure compréhension de quand prendre des risques et lesquels, de traiter des sources d’information complexes, etc. J’avoue que ça m’interpelle particulièrement, puisque j’ai personnellement plutôt des inquiétudes concernant les conséquences néfastes que pourrait avoir sur des jeunes en développement le fait de faire une partie de leurs expériences de vie dans un monde dont les règles ne sont pas celles de la réalité. A creuser, donc.

De nouveau, Henry relève que les jeunes n’ont personne vers qui se tourner lorsqu’ils ont besoin de conseils concernant les choix et problèmes éthiques auxquels ils sont confrontés dans ces environnements. Une partie du travail fait pour la Fondation MacArthur consistera à proposer aux jeunes, parents, et enseignants des lignes de conduite éthiques qui les aidera à prendre des décisions informées et sensées au sujet de leur vie en ligne. C’est clairement plus constructif que de mettre des filtres sur tous les ordinateurs publics et de laisser les jeunes se débrouiller seuls avec ces questions.

> Right now, MySpace and the other social network tools are being read as threats to the civic order, as encouraging anti-social behaviors. But we can easily turn this around and see them as the training ground for future citizens and political leaders. Young people are assuming public roles at earlier and earlier ages. They are interacting with larger communities of their peers and beginning to develop their own styles of leadership. Across a range of issues, young people are using social network software to identify and rally like-minded individualism, forming the basis for new forms of digital activism. Current research shows that teens who participate in massively multiplayer games develop a much stronger ability to work in teams, a greater understanding of how and when to take appropriate risks, an ability to rapidly process complex bodies of information, and so forth. At the same time, these teens are facing an array of ethical challenges which are badly understood by the adults around them. They have nowhere to turn for advice on how to confront some of the choices they make as participants within these communities. Part of the work we will be doing for the MacArthur Foundation involves the development of an ethics casebook which will help parents, teachers, and students work through some of these issues and make sensible decisions about how they conduct their online lives. We see this kind of pedagogical intervention as far more valuable than locking down all public computers and then sending kids out to deal with these issues on their own.


Voici, en très résumé, les conseils principaux que Henry propose aux parents. J’y retrouve le conseil que je répète un peu comme un disque rayé, de conférence en conférance: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

> Parents face serious challenges in helping their children negotiate through these new online environments. They receive very little advice about how to build a constructive relationship with media within their families or how to help their offspring make ethical choices as participants in these online worlds.

> […]

> 1. Communication with your daughter or son is key. Build a trusting relationship through dialogue. It is important to talk with them about your concerns; it is even more important to listen to what they have to say about their online experiences and why these sites are such an important part of their interactions with their peers. […]
2. Create an account to understand how the site works, but not to stalk your kids. […]
3. Ask your kids how they choose to represent themselves and why. […]
4. Talk about private/ public issues with your kids. Help them to understand the consequences of making certain information publicly accessible. Get them to think through all of the possible audiences who might come into contact with their online information. Teens often imagine MySpace as a youth-only world. It isn’t and they need to consider what the consequences would be if their grandparents, their teachers, admissions officers or a future employer read what they said about themselves. […]
5. Talk through what kids should do if they receive unwanted attention online or if they find themselves the victims of cyberbullying. […]

Voilà. J’ai fait un peu plus de traduction libre que ce que j’avais prévu, et peut-être un peu moins de commentaire — mais la plupart des citations parlent d’elles-mêmes. J’espère que vous aurez trouvé intéressant ce que disent ces deux chercheurs, [danah boyd]( et [Henry Jenkins]( A nouveau, je ne peux que vous encourager à [lire l’interview en entier]( si vous travaillez avec des adolescents. Si l’anglais est un obstacle infranchissable pour vous, la [traduction Google]( peut vous aider.

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Teenagers and Skyblog: Cartigny Powerpoint Presentation [en]

[fr] Une présentation que j'ai donnée en juin lors d'un colloque de recherche à Cartigny. La présentation powerpoint contient un "tour d'horizon" plutôt visuel de ce que j'ai pu rencontrer durant mes "promenades" sur la plate-forme Skyblog. Cela représente assez bien les préoccupations des écoles qui me contactent afin de venir parler de blogs aux adolescents, aux parents, et aux enseignants (pas tous en même temps bien sûr!)

Earlier this year (in June) I was asked to give a presentation on teenagers and blogs at a medical research workshop in Cartigny, near Geneva (Sexual Health of Adolescents in the Internet Age: Old Concerns, New Challenges). I’ve just received an OK to put it online, so here it is: [Teenagers and Skyblog, Powerpoint [8Mb]](

It’s basically a very visual “collage” of what I’ve found during my expeditions on the [Skyblog blogging platform]( which a lot of French-speaking teenagers use. It reflects the kind of issues that I’m asked to come and [speak about in schools]( (to teenagers, parents, and teachers — not at the same time, of course).

My excuses for the format — no powerpoint on this machine, so I can’t convert it to anything nicer.

I’ve just discovered SlideShare and uploaded the slides there. You can view them below:

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Plan de cours EESP (Internet social) [fr]

[en] This is the outline of a course I just gave on the social internet.

Très rapidement, le plan du cours que j’ai donné tout à  l’heure à  l'[EESP]( sur l’Internet social. Il manque un tas de liens, utilisez donc Google ou Wikipedia si vous désirez plus d’informations sur les noms cités.

0. Introduction
– tour d’horizon général de l’utilisation d’internet par les adolescents
– axé sur technologies et leur utilisation

1. Internet n’est pas qu’une bibliothèque
– web, e-mail, newsgroups, chat/IM/IRC, P2P, webcams, téléphonie, jeux/Second Life, social/community software (Flickr, MySpace, Skyblog, blogs, Orkut…)
– moyen de communication (vie sociale online/offline intégrée, rapprochement de personnes ayant intérêts communs, micro-communautés)
– fracture entre “générations” (encadrement, exploration sans soutien adulte)

2. Chat et communication via l’écran (synchrone)
– pistes “psychologiques” (défenses, projections, rencontre, fracture vs. intégration online/offline)
– où chatter? IM, IRC, P2P, WoW, Second Life…
– plus loin: webcams, Skype

3. Les blogs
– charactéristiques (technique, contenu, social)
– utilisations (“adultes”, ados)
– machine à  fabriquer des conversations, bouche à  oreilles démultiplié (implications comme outil de communication — commercial, politique, social)

4. Problématiques adolescents
– anonymat
– respect des lois en ligne
– persistance et caractère public du contenu et conséquences
– sous-cultures et “groupes de soutien pairs” (suicide, morbide, etc)
– cyberpédocriminalité

5. Conclusion
– vie sociale en ligne des adolescents à  gérer
– nécessité pour institutions, éducateurs, enseignants, parents de se familiariser avec le monde en ligne et de s’intéresser à  ce que les adolescents y vivent
– prévention, mais aussi réflexions à  mener sur l’exploitation possible, à  des fins éducatives, de cette utilisation sociale d’Internet

Quelques références:

– (danah boyd)
– (Psychology of Cyberspace, John Suler)
– (Code Pénal art. 173-177, voir sous “Titre troisième: Infractions contre l’honneur et contre le domaine secret ou le domaine privé”)

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History of Online Life [en]

[fr] J'ai beau dire dans mes conférences que ce que l'on met sur le web est hors de notre contrôle, et risque de devenir permanent, je suis de plus en plus confrontée à  la disparition de l'histoire numérique. Quelques réflexions sur l'histoire de Kaycee Nicole Swenson, l'adolescente fictionnelle qui mourut de leucémie en mai 2001.

I’m having a chat with [Kevin]( (who should blog more!) about some past things, and he’s hunting around in [the Internet Archive]( for photos and stuff. A lot of it (2003, 2004) is already gone. Can’t be found.

During my talks to teenagers, I always stress that something you put on the web is out of your control, and that you cannot “remove” it. In some cases you might, but you can’t be sure there isn’t a copy lying around somewhere.

Another thing I tell the kids I talk to is the [Kaycee Nicole Swenson story](/writing/kaycee) — the young leukemia patient who died; she blogged for two years, was active in online communities, exchanged phone calls and presents with other bloggers and chatters, and was even interviewed for the New York Times — but never existed. Her original blog has been taken down, and a lot of stuff I referred to at the time when I wrote about the story. I [googled for her]( to see what came up. Amongst various results came [this blog entry from 2004]( It ends like this:

Debbie Swenson did something that few writers have done before: she brought a character into the world of the living, gave her a working heart and soul, and affected real people’s lives with her work.

In my opinion, that should be the purpose of all writing: to make a real difference. So in this case, my hat is off to Debbie for her skill and wisdom.

Pardon me? Duping people is “wisdom”? Please allow me to disagree strongly. I wanted to post this comment and although it [appears in coCo](, it didn’t get posted to the original blog because of some MovableType templat problem. Here it is:

Well, maybe we (because I was one of Kaycee’s readers) can cherish the memory of many cancer patients, but we can also cherish the memory of having been duped.

If I’m going to put energy in a relationship, I want it to match reality, somewhat. Otherwise it makes no sense.

Have you seen The Matrix? Maybe we should all eat little pills that make us happy — if we don’t know we’re not living in reality, where’s the damage?

Some of my thoughts on the topic, in French:

And in English:

All this happened in [May 2001]( “See my blog archives at the time.”). It makes me feel like such an old-timer. Was anybody else around? Who remembers Kaycee Nicole?

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Shitleys [en]

When Skyrock decide to launch an instant messenger to keep our skyblogging teenagers even more hooked, they add animated emoticons to it. Neat, huh?

Now, I ask you, what on earth had they smoked when they decided to name them shitleys?

(And it isn’t just bad in English, “shit” is a slang word for “weed” in French.)

This is what our country’s youth will soon be chatting with. I don’t think I’m going to be out of work anytime soon.

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Teens, Schools, and Blogs [en]

Teenagers are getting in trouble in France for saying insulting things about their teachers on their blogs.

[fr] Un article dans Le Monde et un passage sur France 3 pour les ados virés de l'école à  cause de leur skyblog. Cet article fait un peu le tour de la mauvaise presse de Skyblog, et de la problèmatique générale des ados et des blogs telle que je la vois.

As I mentioned yesterday, the French press is talking about the fact that more and more school kids are being chucked out of school for having insulted their teachers on their skyblogs. After the article in Libération on Tuesday, today we have another (very similar) article in Le Monde, and coverage on French national TV midday news.

No big surprise for me. First of all, despite employing three full-time moderators (my sources will remain confidential), Skyblog’s prime interest remains money, and is in no way trying to provide a service where teenagers can be constructive, learn, and be protected.

This isn’t the first nasty blogging story they are involved with: a few months ago, two teenagers reportedly commited suicide after having announced it on their skyblog. A few weeks later, when the documentary for Mise au Point was being prepared, the journalist was investigating an episode in Geneva where racist statements on skyblogs leading to real fights made a youth centre decide to forbid access to the platform from their computers. Skyblog refused to comment, when he contacted them to enquire about their moderation policy. As I stated in my interview after that, moderation is technically possible. You only need to decide to attribute sufficient ressources to do it properly, which means it must be pretty high up on your company’s priority list. 🙂

The two incidents I’ve had first-hand accounts of in local schools involved skyblogs, too.

The second reason I’m not too surprised this kind of issue is coming up is that teens are left to explore the internet and blogging on their own, for the most part. Parents don’t know much about what is going on online, though they probably do know about e-mails and search engines. I remember an article (unavailable now, thanks to paying archives) which stated that many consumers of child porn are in fact teenagers. Teachers don’t know much more. Of course, schools do the usualy prevention stuff (don’t talk to strangers, don’t give your name, beware of porn and pedophiles), which is good — but it is not sufficient.

Teenagers are content providers on the internet. They are putting loads of their photographs online. (I’ve noticed that the representation teens around here have of a weblog is in fact a “skyblog”, meaning an online photo album where friends can comment.) They are talking about themselves. For them, blogs are an extension of recess talks, text messages, and MSN messenger.

As I’ve said before and will keep saying, blogging is good, teens need to “learn” it, but they need guidance — and for that, they need to come in contact with adults who know what they are talking about. And we need people amongst those designing the “internet prevention” modules who are experienced bloggers.

The nature of the internet is tricky when it comes to privacy (I mean, we as adults have a hard enough time dealing with some of these issues!) and teens tend to consider that what they put online is personal, in a sense that school shouldn’t meddle with it. They don’t realise they can be held accountable by their school or justice for silly things they write on the net, even when it is done outside school hours.

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