1Kelly Oliver’s deeply disturbing article is a present-day J’accuse in Emile Zola’s best tradition. Recognizing its importance, the editors of the ASJ took the unusual step to publish their first ever call for papers, inviting other contributions on the impact of the internet and social media on various aspects of US-American culture and society. We asked for abstracts to be presented by December 15, 2015 and eventually invited five young scholars to submit complete articles. 

2Elizabeth Lanphier, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, elaborates on Kelly Oliver’s thoughts in her analysis of the prose poem “Rape Joke,” published by American poet Patricia Lockwood in 2013. As The Guardian wrote in 2013, Lockwood “has reinvented how we talk about rape [and] has casually reawakened a generation’s interest in poetry.” Above all, she has raised the debate about rape to a new philosophical and social level.

3Katherine Schmidt holds a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Dayton and teaches theology and religious studies at Molloy College on Long Island. Her paper, “From Sunday School to #SundayFunday: Social Media and the Semi-Public Performance of the Weekend” addresses the profound changes that social media have brought to the religious sphere. Where the American weekend for adolescents and young adults was once defined by Sunday School and other church-related activities, it now centers for many around social drinking, exercise/fitness, and Sunday brunch, thus exemplifying “America’s changing religious landscape” (Pew Research Center).

4Penelope Kemekenidou is a Ph.D. student in American cultural history at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. In discussing “Empathic Cyberactivism: The Potential of Hyperconnected Social Media Networks and Empathic Virtual Reality for Feminism” she draws attention to a fact which the Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) referred to in his poem “Patmos” (1803):

Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst
Das Rettende auch.

Where there is danger,
The rescue grows as well.[1]

“Hyperconnectivity enables sexism to multiply on the web—but it can also be the solution to fight it” thus becomes Penelope Kemekenidou’s main thesis: “New technologies,” she states, “open up new spaces of empathetic interaction.”

5Ben Brucato is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a former postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College. His article explores the use of digital cameras by citizens to record police violence.  This view from below (in terms of power hierarchy) is called ‘sousveillance’ to distinguish it from the top-down perspective of surveillance.  Brucato cautions that while many activists see sousveillance as an effective means of preventing police violence, those who grab their cameras may ignore the immediate needs of victims to provide images to a virtual community too far removed to be of much help.

6Curd Knüpfer holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and works as a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher at the John F. Kennedy Institute (JFKI) of the Freie Universität Berlin. In his article „Words Left Unspoken: The External Forces Shaping Online Discourse” Knüpfer argues that the speech environments we encounter in our daily online interactions do not take place in an ephemeral (cyber)space devoid of power relations. He explores the forces that shape them and illuminates how online content comes to reflect deep-seeded power dynamics within US culture, Western societies, as well as transnational politics.

7The editors of the American Studies Journal trust that these articles will add further insights into one of the most important debates in present-day Western societies: In what way do the internet-based new social media change individual lives, alter social interaction, and endanger both privacy and human dignity.



[1]  Translation by Scott Horton, Harpers Magazine Blog 16 July 2007.

Suggested Citation

Grabbe, Hans-Jürgen. “Preface.” American Studies Journal 61 (2016). Web. 26 Feb. 2024. DOI 10.18422/61-01.


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