Author Archives: sWan

How I (sorta) stopped worrying and (kinda) learned to love the selfie


Today’s makeup selfie (Urban Decay’s Electric Palette).

I had no idea the upcoming ABC sitcom Selfie was going to be a thing (this fall if you for some reason care) until I saw an ad spot for it while half watching the World Cup or something. Very suddenly I was more than half watching, and within a few seconds I was tweeting angrily.

I mean. Read the premise (courtesy of Wikipedia). (more…)

More on games/sexism/representation: a response to a response to a response


Every time I see someone make the argument that representation in fiction isn’t a big issue, and that advocating for diversity is just a waste of time because audiences can identify with anyone, and anyway, trying to include a wide range of backgrounds is just tokenism, I have the overwhelming urge to grab them by the shoulders and hiss, If you really believe that representation doesn’t matter, then why the fuck are you threatened by it? If not seeing yourself depicted in stories has no negative psychological impact – if the breakdown of who we see on screen has no bearing on wider social issues – then what would it matter if nine stories out of ten were suddenly all about queer brown women? - Foz Meadows

So about my last post and related kerfuffle.


Animating the Ladies: Ubisoft fundamentally doesn’t get it


Always fun when a game publisher doesn’t appear to know anything about games. Or gamers. Or publishing games. Or making games. Or stories. Or history. Or much of anything pertinent to what it’s actually supposed to be doing.

Yesterday, Ubisoft technical director James Therien commented on the lack of a playable female lead character (and before I continue let me note that I reeeeeeally don’t like how binary/trans-exclusionary this discussion has been) in the co-op play for the forthcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity with the explanation that it’s just too much work to do all those extra lady animations and voices. The Internet, as one might imagine, did not respond well.


Amazing Speculative Tales of Labor! A request for more of them


image by Klaus Burgle

When I was in Madison (Wisconsin) during Memorial Day weekend for WisCon (a long-running feminist science fiction and fantasy conference), I was approached after a panel by a man – Mark Soderstrom – who wanted to talk to me about labor in SFF. Specifically, he wanted to mention a short story of mine that I was talking about on the panel that used the Lattimer Massacre as a backdrop, and to note that while SFF seems perfectly content to deal with robots and elves, it has a history of shying away from any sort of rich or meaningful examination of what literatures of the fantastic can teach us about labor, capital, and social change.


Recognizing the digital uncanny


When news stories started popping up around the mysterious YouTube account Webdriver Torso, more than one person noted that the truth behind it would almost certainly turn out to be nowhere near as interesting as all the speculation about what that truth might be. More than one person suggested that it might be better if no one find out the truth at all, because mysteries are pleasurable, no matter how much we might think we want them to be solved.


The Defense of All Spaces: #TtW14 and anti-harassment action


The “Sex Work and the Web” plenary, April 25th. Photo courtesy of Aaron Thompson.

When the Theorizing the Web 2014 committee got together to construct an anti-harassment statement, I don’t think any of us thought that we’d actually have to enforce any of it. If you’re creating and maintaining a space like TtW, and nothing has actually happened before, it doesn’t seem like something that’s likely in the future, although intellectually you know it’s a possibility. You create something like this because it seems like an important statement, and because you want to protect your space and the people in it, and because you want to be welcoming. But like any contingency plan, it’s never something that you put together because you actually expect it will be imminently used.

Yet this April, pretty much out of the gate, ours was.


The Master’s Drones: Some post #TtW14 musing

Tim Pool with his Occucopter. Photo courtesy of Sean Captain/Wired.

Tim Pool with his Occucopter. Photo courtesy of Sean Captain/Wired.

The death machines made new death and she drove the aliens from the desert, reclaiming the craters and jagged rocks and dry brush as hers and hers alone, for her heart is the heart of the death machines and no longer has room for any other.

“A Shadow on the Sky” (unpublished)

Last weekend – as anyone will know if they’ve been paying even marginal attention to this blog – the fourth annual iteration of Theorizing the Web took place, featuring panels and plenaries on selfies, the attention economy, activism, memes, sex work, race and social media, big data, and more other amazing stuff than I could reasonably list here (look, just go look at the program).


#TtW14 Panel Prevew: –––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse

Panel Preview

Presider: Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry)

Hashmod: Amanda Brennan (@continuants)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled –––⁂–(⊗__⊗)–⁂–––: Drones, for better or worse

We’ve talked a lot about drones in the past couple of years, and with good reason. Not only are they a category of technology that’s expanding its presence beyond the more familiar context of warfare – not only not going away but proliferating like mad – but they’re also challenging us to think in new ways about our relationship with our machines. Where is the line between operator and drone? How do we construct that line? How does it blur? Is it there at all? Who is more subject to droning and who controls the drones? What are the stories we tell about drones, and what do those stories mean? What is our drone discourse? What can it do, and what are its limitations? How do we navigate it? What do we talk about when we talk about drones? What do we mean by drone, anyway?

We obviously can’t tackle all of these questions in a single panel, but we hope to address at least a few of the more pertinent ones. This is simply a fragment in a much larger, ongoing conversation. This fragment will be populated by Adam Rothstein, Olivia Rosane, James Bridle, and Eleanor Saitta, but the talking should not and cannot end there. Under the cut is a preview of that conversation, a short interview with the panelists.


#TtW14 Panel Prevew: Mobilized

Panel Preview

Presider: Malcom Harris (@BigMeanInternet)

Hashmod: Heather Rosenfeld (@brainvom)

This is one post in a series of Panel Previews for the upcoming Theorizing the Web conference (#TtW14) in NYC. The panel under review is titled Mobilized: Actors and Activism

By now, we’re all familiar with the significance of the presence of social media in protest movements. Theorizing the Web has made them a focus since its inception. But one of the most important features of political resistance via social media and the web in general is that it’s constantly evolving. In order to understand that evolution, we need to be sensitive to the sheer diversity of the places in which we find an enormously diverse selection of forms of resistance. This panel highlights a few of these, ranging from mobilization in Kathmandu to the creation of queer micropublics in the American South to gendered labor “strikes” in social media to counterperformance against hegemonic identities on Reddit. These presentations incorporate instances of social media facilitating – and not facilitating – protest in physical spaces along with instances wherein resistance is taking place largely online. Again, the diversity of representation points the way forward to a deeper and richer understanding of how protest and resistance is organized and moves with the digital in play. (more…)

“The Cuckoo”: Chaos and performative memes


I haven’t done an actual fiction review through a Cyborgological lens since I wrote a critical analysis of Catherynne M. Valente’s Silently and Very Fast back in 2012, but I think a story I read yesterday is worth examining in that light, because it’s a great example of the kind of subtle theorizing that we can do through fiction, especially through speculative fiction. And, among other things, it’s about communication and performative memes. It’s also about how those memes, when they gain sufficient cultural power, alter social reality for good or for ill.