I came relatively late to creepypasta. I think I actually discovered it right around Halloween a few years back, through some recommendation links I saw floating around from friends. Creepypasta, for those who might still not know, is a kind of circulating web-based piece of horror fiction, sometimes written and sometimes in the form of images or video. The term appears to come from “copypasta”, which in turn appears to come from “copy-paste”. This is significant because of what it indicates about creepypasta’s webby origins, which are in turn indicative and revealing of some further things.
When I was young, Robert Stack would visit me in my dreams. His monotone voice and sharp eyes would come through my wood-paneled RCA cathode-ray childhood TV and settle in my subconscious until I went to sleep. During the day Unsolved Mysteries was an opportunity to, “solve a mystery” from the comfort of my own home. If I watched the dramatizations closely enough I thought I might recall some repressed memory of an alien abduction or I might notice a telltale tattoo that marks the new neighbor as a relocated serial killer. Solving these Lifetime-disseminated mysteries was a sacred trust that I did not take lightly. Everything from persistent hauntings to serial killings were on my plate. When you grow up in South Florida, extra terrestrial abduction and friendly serial killers seem so plausible. If we were able to fit over a million people on a sandbar and intoxicate them long enough to stay through hurricane season, anything could happen. But no matter how much I investigated I always seemed to disappoint Robert. My neighbor with eight fingers that loved ham radio was not the man suspected of murdering two teenagers in Ohio; he was just really racist. The lady across the street was not a reoccurring spectral phenomena; she was just 90 years old. None of these people were particularly extraordinary —let alone extraterrestrial— but Unsolved Mysteries injected a sense of the enchanted in an otherwise mundane suburban landscape. (more…)
Happy Halloween Week, everyone!! As much as I love free candy from strangers and the widespread creativity of costuming, Halloween inevitably brings with it a darker reality—and I’m not talking about monsters or ghouls. Unfortunately, Halloween becomes a showcase of Americans’ systemic racism, as displayed through ill-conceived racially fraught costume choices.
Below, I’ve compiled some nice resources to share with undergraduate students (or anyone, really) to facilitate discussions about and dissuasion from, the racist choices so many people make this time of year.
Keep in mind, the most effective form of anti-racist conversation is the one that happens *before* someone has a chance to engage in racist behavior. You get to avoid all of the messy defensiveness.
This list is far from exhaustive, but has some really useful material. Additional suggestions welcome in the comments section
In last week’s excellent post on drones, Sarah argues that surveillance is what makes an remotely controlled, semi-autonomous robot a drone. As Sarah puts it, “a drone is what a drone does: it watches.” Or, more precisely, it “gazes,” or watches with the eyes/from the perspective of hegemony, and for the purposes of surveillance, normalization, and discipline. In this post, I want to both agree and disagree with Sarah’s definition. I agree on the fundamental premise, that a drone is what a drones does–surveil/normalize/discipline. I disagree, however, that this “doing” is primarily watching, a manifestation of the phenomenon we both call “the Gaze.” Droning, at least as I want to define it here, is a practice of surveillance distinct from Gazing.
I’ve been writing a lot lately about what machines think and want, what the intentions of a drone are, what Siri wants to be and to do, what smartphones dream about and the goals to which my iPad aspires. It makes sense for me to write about technology this way – I’m a science fiction writer and my head is full of sentient machines, killer AIs and cyborgs in the explicit sense and androids longing for someone to teach their cold hearts to love. I’m not the only one; our technological folktales are full of sentient human-made devices, going back thousands of years. For a variety of reasons, this is something that we just tend to do. But I think there are a couple of issues inherent in doing it – a situation in which it’s beneficial and one in which it’s arguably harmful.
The words you use to reference that fish matter.
This is just a very, very quick post, as I am presently in the thick of #ir14—the 14th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). It’s my first time at IR, and so far I’m really enjoying it. The keynote, preconference workshops, plenaries, and sessions I’ve attended have been great, and the hashtag-stream quality is high (there are some talented livetweeters here, and plenty of hashtag socialization too). Since it’s not a disciplinary conference, everyone is here because they really want to be here—which you can feel in the general atmosphere, and which makes such a difference. From my barely-informed new member perspective, it really does seem as though AoIR has managed to roll a thought-provoking academic conference and a fun reunion party into one four-day long event (which, as a Theorizing the Web committee member, is obviously a project near and dear to my heart).
TL;DR: #ir14, I love you. And I’m bringing attention to the following critique not to be a jerk, but because I think you’re great and I know you—we—can do better. (more…)
Confession: I watched the Apple event yesterday, and I’ve watched at least part of every product announcement for the last several years. Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride. They are insipid and represent everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley and yet I feel obliged to watch them because they let me stare deeply into this heaving morass of Cronenbergian lust for technology. It always feels like we’re one year away from Phil Schiller offing himself with an iGun after screaming “LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” When I watch Silicon Valley spread out on the Moscone Center stage I feel prideful (to a fault perhaps) that these events just seem so… transparent. They’re so easy to read and so easy to critique they amount to social science target practice. (more…)
Last week, Robin James (@doctaj) wondered if “digital dualism” was really “ideal theory” a-la Charles Mills. She argued that what we call digital dualism is really a critique of idealization; that the “ought” of the relationship between humans and technologies reflects the “is” of a privileged group. This is expressed both dualistically but also monolistically.
Within the comments, we discussed the complex designation of “ought” in the relationship between humans and technologies. Without taking on Robin’s ideal theory hypothesis, I want to take about a thousand words here and think about the “ought.” That is, I want to explore what the “good” technosubject does, and how zi relates to technologies within the contemporary era. (more…)
Lewis Powell (1865)
Go read “Dead And Going To Die”, a beautiful essay by Michael Sacasas posted today at The New Inquiry on the subjectivity expressed by people in old photographs. Part of why subjects look different in these images is they are expressing a different subjectivity to the camera lens. As the photographic gaze went from novelty to ubiquity, we’ve collectively oriented our selves to the camera differently. (more…)
We have a two-month break from self-inflicted government crisis, so let’s use it to take a breather, assess the situation, and cast some shade on rich people. Not because it is cathartic (it is), or because it will prevent the next crisis (it won’t); rather, I think studying the contours of the government-shaped hole of the last three weeks can teach us something about how Silicon Valley views public ownership. This is important because we typically use metaphors like “the commons” or “the public” to describe their products. These words imply a sense of trust, if not mutually assured disruption: sure a rich guy might own Twitter on paper but it becomes worthless if everyone stops treating it as a (if not the) center of daily life. What do the people that own these service/spaces think about the de facto collective ownership of their product? (more…)