Archive by Author

Men Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub

16 Dec

In order to understand what is going on (in terms of gender) on the Band of Buds website, I have been searching for scholarly articles and books on the topic of gender construction on the web. From what I found, one book (recommended by Professor Ley) stands out as the best resource: Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub. This is an ethnography of the online forum BlueSky, of which the author is using the pub metaphor as a lens to help interpret

BlueSky’s social world. Additionally, Kendall says that “the bar or pub metaphor also conveys something of the character of the social space on BlueSky, the participants’ relationships, and their use of the social space that BlueSky provides.” The clientele of the Falcon, a specific room in the Bluesky world, is mostly male, and so it provides a space in which people enact and negotiate masculine identities within a particular class and race context. I found this to be immensely relevant to what I have been seeing at the Band of Buds website.

BlueSky is a type of interactive, text-only online forum known as a multi-user domain, or mud. Muds are often considered a text-based “virtual reality” which makes participants feel they are present together in a social space. Although Bluesky is an older form of an internet social space, I am arguing that the Band of Buds contest page is a contemporary comparison. Instead of being text-based, the Band of Buds site combines video, photo and text descriptions to create ‘characters’ on each team. Although it is not explicitly stated, this character construction has a lot to do with gender construction. Like in muds, text-based forums require some acknowledgement of gender. On the Band of Buds site each member has a name and a photograph associated with that name. The individual’s gender (or at least their presented gender) is evident from their photo and name. As part of the contest, teams made videos about themselves, which made their gender even more clear.

Kendall says that the “masculinity of BlueSky’s environment relates in particular to computer use.” This is relevant to the Band of Buds site since it is a digital technology-based platform—the website is accessed through computers and smartphones, both of which are categories that men feel they have power over. In her book, Kendall quotes Segal on masculinity in our society, of which he states that, “ ‘masculinity’ is a quality of being which is always incomplete, and which is equally based on a social as on a psychic reality. It exists in the various forms of power men ideally possess: the power to assert control over women, over other men, over their own bodies, over machines and technology.” The fact that men dominate this discussion-board is not surprising at all. By being the majority of participants, they are showing that they are successful at controlling technology, women and themselves as men. Furthermore, the content of their comments show that they are successful at controlling themselves while under the influence of alcohol, in their work lives, in sports, in this contest.

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One of the Guys

16 Dec

In my last post I discussed how men are performing masculinities by two means: by participating in the actual technologies of social and digital media, and through the content of this participation, which is centered around alcohol consumption and partying. While it is mostly men posting on the wall, there are a few women who participate by posting on the walls or by commenting on other participants’ posts. The women’s stand-alone posts, which I mentioned earlier, were either congratulatory or were photographs with friends. However, upon more recent observation, I found that the women’s comments on male posts were in the masculine style.

So what is going on here? Why are most participants men? Why are there very few women participants? And why do these women write comments in a masculine style? In “Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub,” Lori Kendall observed similar activity among the few women in BlueSky. For people who are outside of the normative social group, joining the style of conversation becomes very important—more important than the actual topic of conversation. Most women do not consider obnoxiousness as a normal part of friendship or a usual requirement for group membership, but among males this is important. Women must join into this obnoxious and insulting pattern of speech in order to be accepted and respected by the men, both in BlueSky, and on the Band of Buds site.

Kendall says that the gendered social context on BlueSky casts women as outsiders unless and until they prove themselves able to perform masculinities according to the social norms of the group. The same thing happens in the drinking/partying context of the Band of Buds website. Women must prove that they are “one of the guys” or else they are ignored or treated as sexual objects. The women who are able to use the masculine patterns are accepted within the group, but their acceptance “reinscribes masculine norms, which continue to define women as assumed outsiders and outsiders, by definition, as not men.”

Since my last post, no women have participated in the Philadelphia discussion board by posting their own comment. They hardly write on the wall, and I think it might be because this environment is not welcoming to women. Those who do participate respond to male posts, and copy the masculine style. I want to understand what is appealing to the men that makes them so inclined to post frequently, and why the women are not as interested. I am conducting an interview with a man from one of the top teams tomorrow afternoon to find out why he is interested in participating in this contest. I’ll update tomorrow with the results!

Band of Buds: An Arena for Masculinity

16 Nov

As I have been exploring the Band of Buds website, I realized that the majority of posts were by men. In order to understand the gendered dynamics of Budweiser’s Band of Buds contest, I thought it would be useful to thoroughly look at the content of the discussion boards on the website. So for the past week, I have been creating a spreadsheet that records the team name, individual name, ranking in the contest, gender, and themes of the one hundred most recent comments on Budweiser’s Band of Buds Philadelphia discussion board. I chose Philadelphia because it is the closest city to Delaware that the contest held a casting call party in, and because Philadelphia’s casting call party happened very recently.

Perhaps the most striking, and yet most predictable, trend that I noticed was that out of one hundred posts only four were by female contest participants. Ninety-six posts were by men. I haven’t collected data for the entire duration of this contest, but I have looked at the posts as far back as September and I can tell you that this pattern hold true throughout. This is a men’s forum. No one explicitly stated that this contest is only for men—there are actually many women’s teams enrolled—but the women are not visible on the discussion board.

To further show how overwhelming masculinity is on the Band of Buds discussion boards, I looked at the content of the posts. The major themes that came up include humor, drinking beer (specifically Budweiser), sports, working out, television, popular music (all male artists), competition in the contest, partying, video games, hangovers, food, teamwork, and girlfriends/wives. I know that women drink beer, go to parties and bars, follow sports, watch television and play video games. Despite what women are actually doing, these are activities are traditionally within the realm of masculinity and are still considered to be masculine. And although women participated in this contest, they hardly had anything to say on these topics in the discussion board. The four female comments that I saw were either images of women and their friends drinking, statements wishing other teams good luck at the casting call party or congratulating the winners of the contest.

Although the contest is open to people of all genders and backgrounds, I find it interesting that it became a male-dominated arena by the actions of the participants. More about why I think this is happening in the next post.

Here is the link to the Band of Buds website. Check it out: http://www.bandofbuds.com/

Band of Buds

19 Oct

Hey! I’m Jen, and my portion of the project focuses on Budweiser and Bud Light products and marketing. Budweiser and Bud Light are interesting products to study in the context of gender and digital culture because, while they are a company that traditionally markets toward men between the ages of 21 and 35, they do not use the same kind of marketing strategies that other beer companies use, which often follow the mantra “sex sells.” Budweiser and Bud Light are typically known for relying on humor and sports in order to appeal to this specific demographic, and rarely use images that objectify or degrade women. However, they are certainly excluding women from the discourse.

When I began this research, I came across the Budweiser “Band of Buds” Contest. This is a web-based contest in which people form “crews” with their friends, who will then go out into the offline world to complete “challenges.” Photo evidence of these challenges—which involve partaking in strange activities while drinking Budweiser—are then posted to the website, and crews gain points for their creative photos. The crews with the most points at the end of the online portion of the contest get a chance to attend casting call parties, and the winning crew is eventually announced at the final party in Las Vegas.

This contest is relevant to this course because it effectively uses online and offline marketing strategies to not only hook “fans” of the product, but to get these fans to continue to market the product themselves as they represent Budweiser wherever they complete a challenge. Of course the “Band of Buds” contest has an iPhone application, allowing the crews and other fans to post text and photo messages immediately from parties or other places where Budweiser is present.

In my research, I became a member of the site, downloaded the app, and began studying the behaviors of participants in order to find some gender dynamics. It was at this point that I began to see that there is a distinct sense of community among the participants of this contest. Just as Budweiser and Bud Light marketing centers around humor and sports, so does the discussion board on the “Band of Buds” site. Most participants seem to be men, however, even the women who are participating seem to follow the same masculine norms as the men do. The questions that I am considering for the next blog post are: how do these norms develop in an online community, and what does this site being a masculine space mean for the women who are active participants in the contest?