Playing with my own gender identity
The Internet is officially abuzz about Facebook Inc.’s newly expanded gender categories. Here’s the story in brief: Facebook now allows users to select from over 50 gender identifications, such as genderqueer, cisgender, agender etc. (here is a glossary of the options). The move has drawn the expected responses from all of the usual suspects. The deep conservatives are annoyed, the liberals are elated, and the critical progressives appreciate the gesture, realize its significance, but remain dissatisfied with any form of identification confined to a box. I’m of the critical progressive camp, and happy to defer you readers to all of the smart things written by other people.
Meanwhile, I want to focus on another piece of the gender-identity expansion, a piece of great significance which has nonetheless snuck by in light of the jubilation, fighting, and intellectualism surrounding our new opportunity to bend the gender binary. Namely, I want to talk about privacy, and Facebook’s shifting discourse about identity and power. (more…)
In preparing to write this post, I found myself going back over Whitney Erin Boesel’s post a couple of months back on death and digital/social media mediation, and I found myself running into a lot of the same issues she discusses. She suffered from massive uncertainty regarding how to talk about what she had experienced, or whether to talk about it at all. I’m going through the same. I’m not sure I should even be writing this, or what it will mean when I have. At the same time, I’m not sure how not to write about it, and that in itself is part of what I want to talk about.
Note: this is not going to be particularly organized, or particularly intellectual. It’s in part personal Livejournal-esque navel-gazing, part working through some disparate observations regarding how we deal with traumatic life events on social media, part general flailing around. Please bear with me. Or, you know, don’t.
As a professional sociologist, I maintain membership in several listservs and social networking site groups centered around my areas of study. Every now and then, someone will post a request for a particular academic article to which they do not have access at their home university. Quickly, another member of the group provides the article, and we all go about our business.
Not having access to one article, for a connected professional, is no big deal. But imagine if that same professional never had access to academic articles unless they were willing to pay—exorbitantly—to get beyond publishers’ paywalls. Were that the case, it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for that professional to conduct research. (more…)
When you search for Foucault on AcademicTorrents
The Social Sciences –despite the widely held notion that we’re all a bunch of Marxists that will turn your children into pinkos– are incredibly conservative when it comes to their own affairs. Our conferences are pretty traditional, we took a really long time getting around to noticing that the Internet was A Thing, and if you take a Social Theory 101 course you’re more likely to read Durkheim than bell hooks. You can blame it on tenure, fear of action, or simple lack of imagination, but the analysis remains the same: rarely do our articles’ prescriptive conclusions make it into our day-to-day practice. When I read that a couple of students from the University of Massachusetts had launched a torrent site to share data I knew it wouldn’t be social scientists. Not necessarily because we don’t have the expertise, (more on that later) but because we so rarely seem to have the will to act. Its always the engineers and the natural scientists that come up with faster, cheaper, and more egalitarian methods of sharing data and promoting their work. What gives? (more…)
Like many Americans, I spent Sunday evening watching the Super Bowl. This entailed tasty snacks, a comfy couch, and lots of head shaking because, well, the Denver Broncos. It also involved Facebook and Twitter. The day of, day before, and day after were full of commentary, predictions, snarkiness, and declarations of various sorts. Indeed, Sunday’s Super Bowl, like all media events, incorporated multiple media. One item, within one piece of this media ecology, keenly sparked my interest: The Twitter feed of @YesYoureRacist. (more…)
If you follow me on Twitter, you almost certainly know of my propensity to livetweet the talks I attend (which is either the best or the worst thing about following me on Twitter, depending on your interests and whether or not you know how to use hashtag muting). In the spirit of Cyborgology‘s new #review feature, which looks at conversations surrounding academic articles, I thought I’d try summarizing my tweets from the talk I attended last night: “Defending an Unowned Internet” at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.
“Defending an Unowned Internet” was a spirited conversation between Yochai Benkler, Ebele Okobi, Bruce Schneier, and Benjamin Wittes, plus moderator Johnathan Zittrain (you can find links to bios for all five participants here). Zittrain opened the panel by suggesting that what, exactly, an “unowned Internet” is was up for debate, and also used Wittes’s blog Lawfare in a cautionary tale: Someone(s) out there really, really doesn’t like Lawfare, which has experienced several outages in recent months as a result of “cyberattacks.” Lawfare‘s hosting service has done everything it can to keep Lawfare up and running, but beyond determining that the attacks are coming from IP addresses in the Netherlands, there isn’t much to be done.
Zittrain, therefore, posed the following question: What if this type of attack on speech meant that, in the future, everyone would move their web content to one of four major web hosting services—say, behemoths like Amazon Web Services—which are harder to overwhelm with DoS or DDoS attacks? (more…)
I walk my two dogs, Laika and Sputnik, once or sometimes twice a day. On these walks, they sniff around a lot. One day, while they were on a particularly strong sniff binge, I wondered how their olfactory interaction with the physical world translated into a metaphysics, specifically, into an understanding of time. Sputnik and Laika could smell this patch of sidewalk’s recent past–they knew that my neighbor Mickey and her dogs Bentley and Beauty had taken a walk earlier this afternoon (I’m guessing this was the case because they go nuts for their scent, as Mickey always gives them treats). That’s not something I would know unless I (a) talked to Mickey, or (b) had surveillance camera data from the car dealership by this particular patch of sidewalk. What, for me, was an imperceptible, unknowable “past” was for them a perfectly accessible fact. The past was physically present for them in a way it was not for me. Surely this different perceptual orientation to the physical world translates into a different metaphysical experience of time and, well, of reality more generally. When the world is sniffed rather than seen, different features and patterns of relationships emerge as the prominent, organizing factors of that world.
I wasn’t particularly interested in following up on that idea until I read that “sniffing” is a metaphor commonly used to describe a specific type of data surveillance.
[This is a very rough, thinking-as-I-write piece. It may jump around a lot. If I’ve left something underexplained, let me know!]
Yesterday, Mike D’Errico posted a wonderfully provocative essay about brostep, the Military Entertainment Complex, and music/game tech to Sounding Out. I want to flesh out a few initial responses to his piece. I really, really like Mike’s attention to the interface between music and gaming technology and gender, but I think the post under-theorizes gender. The “bros” in brostep are doing the work of patriarchy, but I think they’re doing this work with tools and methods–that is, with “tech”–that complicates traditional notions of masculinity and traditional gender politics. In the end, I want to contrast the industrial Dad with the neoliberal/communicative Bro.
I’d like to start off with an admittedly grandpa-sounding critique of a piece of technology in my house: My coffee maker’s status lights are too bright. My dad got it for my partner and I this past Christmas and we threw-out-the-box-immediately-wanna-keep it, but the thing has a lighthouse attached to it. We live in a relatively small (and very old) place and our bedroom is a small room right off the kitchen. The first night we had the coffee maker I thought we had forgotten to turn off the TV. We don’t really need alarm clocks anymore either, because when it finishes brewing it beeps like a smoke detector. Again, we love the coffee maker (Dad, seriously we love it.) but sometimes it feels like wearing a shoe that was designed for someone with six toes. (more…)
from a flyer for a program run by ecotrust
This is a cross-post from my research blog, Its Her Factory.
This week in my graduate seminar we talked about resilience discourse. I’ve written about resilience before, and the concept is a key theme in my forthcoming book with Zer0 Books. It’s also, as I understand, a trendy and common concept in programming and IT. For an introduction to the concept, you can refer to the blog post I cited a few sentences ago, or Mark Neocleous’s article in Radical Philosophy.
Here I want to focus on the question of critical alternatives to resilience. Resilience is and has long been a way that marginalized and oppressed people respond to, survive, and thrive in the midst of oppression. But now that resilience has been co-opted so that it’s a normalizing rather than a revolutionary/critical/counter-hegemonic practice, how does one respond to, survive, and thrive without being or practicing “resilience”?