Digital Space as a New Cultural Institution

Harassmap is employed via social media and accessed through mobile electronic devices as a crowdsourced project that shifts the cultural outlook on sexual harassment in Egypt by providing anti-harassment tools and allowing its users to report harassment occurrences at their disclosure.

Traditionally, institutions control the socio-cultural outlook of a nation; institutions such as religion and government use institutionalized forms of racism, sexism, consumerism, violence and more to shape what a community deems as appropriate or mundane. Especially in contemporary nations, institutions are employed by the bourgeoise to (for lack of a better word) manipulate the community of the proletariat classes (working and middle class).

Harassmap is a model of digital application that combats the traditional employment of cultural institutions by the controlling class; it is an example of the proletariat using digital space as a direct outlet to each other, creating a counter institution to the controlling class.

Chelsea Young attributes this proletariat empowerment to Harassmap’s ‘crowdsource’ nature–-that the application relies on user-generated information for its content. Another example of a crowdsource application is the American (originates in Isreal) mapping application called Waze. Waze relies on its users to generate its maps and mines data from its active users to create hyper-accurate and real-time traffic information; the only non-user-generated content is the platform itself. Harassmap is similar but with a few key differences: first is that Waze is a capitalist endeavor intended on profits and owned by market and digital colossus Google, while Harassmap appears to be a nonprofit activist organization; this marks a clear difference in end-all intention, and access to digital tools. Second, is that Waze is a more pure example of crowdsourcing than Harassmap. Harassmap’s interaction with its user goes beyond their user-generated data; a large chunk of Harassmap’s organization leans on the community outreach aspect of their program, providing counseling and panels in regards to sexual harassment and its prevention through cultural appropriation.

The interaction between Waze users and/or Waze itself is entirely mediated by the mobile application while Harassmap is more concerned with the recruitment of volunteers and the formation of an anti-harassment cultural shift. In this manner, Harassmap employs the digital mediation of their crowdsourced material to bridge the gap between digital space and social space as a cultural institution.

Digital Space as a New Cultural Institution

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