Category Archives: commentary

Why some posthumanisms are better than others

It’s Thanksgiving, at least in the US. Originally, I had planned to do a post about feminized digital labor specifically related to “holiday” preparation, but I spent all my time finishing up another project for my own blog–a holiday weekend longread about a new academic book on, among other things, race/gender/sexuality and posthumanisms. One of the main things my post tries to do is work through the way the book distinguishes between the kinds of posthumanisms that actually do anti-racist, feminist work, and the kinds of posthumanisms that merely reinforce and strengthen white supremacist patriarchy.

Because this is Cyborgology, after all, at least some of y’all are probably interested in posthuman theory. So, I thought I’d share with y’all the post I put up on Its Her Factory. It’s definitely about theory, and it’s about an academic book, but, I think it’s accessible enough and grounded enough to be of interest to at least some of the Cyborgology audience. Here’s the introduction to that post, which you can find in full here:

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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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What Would a Better Technological Society Look Like?

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One of the most dangerous misconceptions about our present political climate is that it is broken. That too many “bad apples” have achieved high-ranking positions and it s their greed and malfeasance that is to blame for rising inequality and state-sanctioned violence. Overcrowded prisons, rapid gentrification, industrial disasters, and predatory banking practices aren’t bugs, they’re features of our current historical moment. Even if CEOs and presidents wanted to end any of these problems tomorrow, they could easily be sued or even jailed for threatening their bottom lines. And while we should never hold critics to the impossible standard of “come up with a better system” it never hurts, from time to time, to play Minecraft with words and come up with some replacements for the current way of doing things. What would a vastly better technological society look like? (more…)

#ShirtStorm: On Forgiving Taylor but not The Internet

Via ESA http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/The_Rosetta_lande

 

Earlier this month, Science had a big victory. The Rosetta Project landed their spacecraft, Philae, on a comet.  This was a billion Euro and entire careers in the making. This was a huge step in space exploration. The accomplishment is unprecedented and data gleaned from this project are entirely unique. Good job, Science.

Meanwhile down on earth, a #ShirtStorm broke loose. Rosetta Scientist Dr. Matt Taylor gave a television interview about the project. His choice of attire—a naked-lady shirt—was ill conceived. Moreover, he described the project as the “sexiest mission,” feminizing and then validating the probe as “sexy” but not “easy.”

Thank goodness women don’t have a science problem!! Oh, wait…

Quickly, Atlantic writer Rose Eveleth posted this tweet: (more…)

Taylor Swift Leans In

 

So it’s pretty hard to find a critique of Taylor Swift’s new record that isn’t also (or mostly) misogynist. As they say in academia, consider this piece an attempt to fill that gap in the literature. I may get to the actual record later, but for now I want to think about her business model.

Swift made headlines this week for two different, but ultimately, I think, related moves. First, she pulled her music from the free streaming part of Spotify. In an interview with Yahoo music, she explained that she was

not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

In an economy that has made free labor a de facto requirement for middle-class and creative jobs, Swift’s claim about fair compensation seems, on the one hand, laudable. From this perspective, she’s pushing back on the increasing demand for unwaged labor. But then we have to ask, on Spotify, whose labor is free? What about the fan labor of training the streaming algorithms? Of liking and unliking, skipping and playlist building? Swift doesn’t mention the unfairness of this sort of free labor. In her view, “art” deserves to be compensated…but maybe fan labor, which is a kind of care work, doesn’t deserve such ‘fair’ compensation. Or, to use some of Swift’s own language, the “amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work” is deserving of fair compensation, but the affective labor of fandom isn’t? From this perspective, Swift’s refusal to perform free labor sounds a lot like bourgeois white feminist demands for waged labor that then pass the underwaged care work off to less privileged women. (Eric Harvey has some really incisive things to say about Swift v Spotify here.) (more…)

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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Commodifying Voice: The Net Neutrality Debate

InternetSlowdown_Day

Net neutrality is back in the news. It’s been a minute, so in case you forgot, some broadband providers want to speed up high traffic services (e.g. Netflix), creating a tiered model of delivery speed. In turn, proponents of net neutrality have lobbied the FCC to classify broadband companies as “common carriers,” requiring that all Internet traffic receive equal treatment (i.e., equal speed of delivery).

In light of overwhelming public support for net neutrality, conflicting with strong lobbies from broadband companies, the FCC is still working towards a solution. Some of this work was leaked last week, revealing a sort of hybrid plan, in which broadband companies could sometimes establish “fast lanes” for service providers, but only when they deem it is “just and reasonable” (whatever “just and reasonable” means).

Whitney Erin Boesel does a fantastic job laying out the policy and delineating a strong argument in support of Open Internet. I want to take a bit of a simpler approach, and address one issue which underlies the debate in its entirety: the relationship between speech and money. (more…)

Not All Women: disarticulating feminization from women’s bodies

 

A few weeks ago, Apple and Facebook announced a new benefit for women employees: if you are a woman with functioning ovaries and would like to freeze your eggs to hold off having biological children while you prioritize your job, the company will pay for the procedure. (I know there are a lot of qualifiers and adjectives in that sentence, but those are important qualifiers that often get overlooked: not all women have ovaries, not all children are biologically related to their parents, etc etc).

Jenny wrote about this when the news first broke. There, she argued

All reproductive technologies carry politics of gender and power, and in the U.S., these gender-power politics are embedded in the logics of capitalism. It is therefore only within an unequal gendered system of capitalist logic that we can evaluate the political agenda of particular technologies and their implementation.

She’s absolutely correct. In this post I want to flesh out Jenny’s argument a bit and think about the specific “gendered system of capitalist logic” this policy both reflects & reproduces.

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Stop Interviewing Snowden, or Encryption, Plus Rights Does not Equal Justice

 

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Edward Snowden is a very smart and courageous person. He has a brilliant mind for identifying important information and deciding who should know it and when–– what is typically called “operational security” or OpSec. It is the kind of rarified skill that quickly earned him a top spot in a private intelligence corporation before achieving the dubious honor of best known whistle blower. That being said, I have one simple request for media outlets: stop interviewing Snowden. (more…)

BuzzFeed’s Halloween #RaceFail

“It’s okay, see? There’s a black guy in the picture with me!!”

After my annual in-class Race and Halloween conversation, one of my students sent me  this BuzzFeed link. Check it out, and then see below for commentary.

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