Author Archives: sWan

TERRAFORM, Erasure, and (how to break) Community Norms

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Note: This is half conventional Cyborgology post – if such a thing can be said to exist – and half explanation/personal apologia. It’s front-loaded with the latter. I usually assume it’s understood that when I have an opinion it’s not CYBORGOLOGY’S OPINION, all official-like, but I want to be very clear about that here for reasons that will become evident.

It seemed almost like fate, the way Vice’s tech blog Motherboard launched its new online science fiction short story magazine – somewhat ironically called Terraform – the day after nominations opened for the Nebula awards and all us SFF (science fiction and fantasy) writers were bemoaning the sheer amount of reading we all had to do to even have a prayer of being able to participate in the process.

Here’s why:

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Samaritans Radar: where imagination fails

Samaritans

The blow-up over Samaritans Radar is a couple of weeks old now, but I still want to say something about it, because – watching stuff about it spin past on my Twitter timeline – some things struck me.

For those who don’t know, Samaritans Radar is/was a Twitter app – which makes use of the Twitter API – that allowed one to monitor someone’s Twitter profile for any tweets that suggested plans or intentions to commit suicide, and would accordingly send notifications to the person monitoring. It’s since been yanked while the developers hopefully sit in a corner and think about what they’ve done, but the intention was – ostensibly – to enable family, friends, and other loved ones to identify when someone was in trouble in situations where it might otherwise be difficult to tell and to reach out to that person, offering help and counsel.

All well and good, except for how no.

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The Poorer Silence Now

image by Anna Piovani

image by Anna Piovani

I don’t remember exactly when I got into my first argument online. I don’t remember who I was fighting with or what it was about. I was probably angry. I don’t ever remember being afraid.

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Power to the Players: Games, meaning, humanity

Image by Ourania

Image by Ourania

Something that’s become a bit of a refrain for me here is stories matter – in one way or another I think it’s popped up in just about everything I’ve written about. I’m sure it can come off repetitive, but there’s a reason I keep flogging that particular horse: first, it’s one of the things I hold most deeply and personally true, and second, it’s surprising to me sometimes how many people don’t actually seem to grasp it. At least not in all the situations to which it applies.

I’ve been writing a lot about games recently, and a lot of people have been talking a lot about games. It’s one of those cultural moments. For a variety of reasons I’m not going to go into much more detail than that in this post, except to say that there are intense emotions wrapped up in games and those emotions are extremely apparent right now. Someone outside this particular subculture might be baffled regarding why people are feeling things so deeply about games.

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Apple’s Health App: Where’s the Power?

iOS8-Healt-App

In truth, I didn’t pay a tremendous amount of attention to iOS8 until a post scrolled by on my Tumblr feed, which disturbed me a good deal: The new iteration of Apple’s OS included “Health”, an app that – among many other things – contains a weight tracker and a calorie counter.

And can’t be deleted.

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Not a REAL Gamer: Identity and conspicuous consumption

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If anything halfway decent can be said to have come out of the embarrassing horror that is GamerGate, it’s that it’s generated some useful – in many cases necessary – discussions. Regarding culture and misogyny and the ways in which spaces are carefully and intentionally made hostile for certain groups of people identified as undesirable, but also in terms of consumer capitalism and the ways in which the game industry essentially created the contemporary definition of “gamer” as an identity to market to after the game industry crash of the mid-1980s (Brendan Keogh has a great summary of exactly how and why this happened).

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Writer-Creator vs. Gamer Consumer-King: an addendum

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Earlier this week I wrote about what’s become known as GamerGate (can we please call a moratorium on affixing ‘gate’ to things? Just a personal request) wherein I compared the science fiction and fantasy community – in which I’m a writer – to the gamer community – in which I’m a consumer. I drew parallels between the two, mostly concerning the creation of an identity that begins in defiance of perceived “mainstream” culture and then becomes an identity perfectly situation to be marketed and sold to.

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“The Consumption Palace”: Gamers, misogyny, and capitalism

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I had a lot of thoughts, watching the ugliness that’s been going down regarding what people perhaps misleadingly refer to as the “game community”, but my primary one was probably just “well, this sure is familiar.”

That might be easy to miss in some of how it’s been talked about: we’ve seen this before, and it’s not uncommon. This kind of cultural toxicity is a sort of ever-present background radiation that sometimes spikes into greater visibility, but something I’ve seen a number of trans and queer folks and people of color saying is Slurs and smears and threats to your personal safety? Yeah, welcome to most of our lives. This isn’t at all to minimize the horror of what Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn have been going through but to point out that for some categories of identity this kind of thing is often normalized into invisibility.

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The Privilege of Disconnection

image by Elvert Barnes

image by Elvert Barnes

I sort of wish this thing could be longer. But I also think maybe it shouldn’t be. I’ve spent a great deal of the last two weeks watching the world scroll by on my Twitter feed and weighing the relative merits of saying things against not saying things, but mostly I’ve just been watching, because what else can you really do? A lot of us can and do do a great deal more, but a lot of us just seem to be watching. And retweeting. The amplification of voices is, I believe, a worthwhile thing in itself.

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“Break. Them.”: The weaponization of emotion

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just because

Yesterday David Banks did a fantastic job outlining the technical issues at work in the matter of the ongoing comment harassment in Jezebel’s comments sections and Gawker Media’s inability/refusal to deal with it directly (though to their credit, as of yesterday they disabled image posting until a better solution can be found). I want to use that as a jumping-off point to talk about the discursive aspect of this, how gendered spaces are explicitly being made unsafe for certain kinds of people, and about how those tactics at once obscure what’s going on and justify it.

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