A classic Afrofuturist image and album.
This post is basically speculative. It’s a question, or rather, a hypothesis. I’m not citing empirical evidence so much as suggesting a line of inquiry, which then needs some grounding in empirical evidence. The question is this: If Afrofuturism uses UFO/alien spaceship imagery to describe slavery and middle passage,* can, and if so where, do drones fit in Afrofuturist mythology?
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” have been two of the most controversial songs/videos in the last few years, so it’s not surprising that they performed together at this weekend’s 2013 VMAs. Thicke’s work has been widely criticized for its sexism, and Cyrus’s for its racism (Unsurprisingly, not nearly as much has been said in the white mainstream music/feminist media about Thicke’s cultural appropriation on BL…which is also going on, and also needs to be addressed.)
Is sexism-bating and racism-bating the new way for white artists to prove their edginess? In our supposedly post-feminist, post-racist society, is overt misogyny and racist cultural appropriation the new way to accomplish the sort of shocking “avant-garde” effect that used to be accomplished by more subtle means? Instead of “love and theft,” well, for lack of a better word, trolling? Instead of positively identifying with femininity and/or blackness (the “love” part of the equation), there’s just a pragmatic instrumentalization of them (no love, just the hustle)? (more…)
Jenny’s latest post on teen sexting, especially with its Salt-N-Peppa-referencing title, had me thinking about music, teen sexuality, race, and technology. These fears about newfangled technologies (and their means of distribution) corrupting (white) teen sexuality remind me of various mid-20th century (white) anxieties about (white) teen sexuality and rock music, and its circulation as records, radio broadcast, and TV performance. And notice all the repetitions of “white” in that last sentence. Race–specifically, blackness–was at the center of these anxieties. Back then, emerging technologies (recordings, radio, TV) could circulate racialized sounds, ideas, and affects in ways that confounded the institutions and informal practices that enforced a strict segregation between white and black bodies, white and black people. New technologies undermined older, segregationist technologies (like segregated theaters or clubs). So, these anxieties about media technology and teen sexuality were deeply and fundamentally racialized. John Waters’s original 1988 Hairspray does a brilliant job of connecting mid-century anxieties about racialized teen sexuality to specific technologies (i.e., records and television).
[First, I need to apologize for the poor formatting in this post--I'm on vacation and working from an old iPad, which is doing wonky things to the WordPress interface.]
I’ve been chewing on some thoughts about this summer’s big musical releases–Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail (MCHG), Kanye’s Yeezus, and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (and somewhat relatedly, Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”). All of these records and singles used technology and social media in new-ish ways (or rather, ways relatively new to major-label releases and big hit records) to distribute, market, and generate buzz about the work. MCHG was released first as what Chris Richards calls “a data collection exercise disguised as a smartphone app,” and Yeezus’s “New Slaves” was debuted at guerilla listening parties across the globe, accessible via interactive map on his website (kanyewest.com now features an different interactive media object, the video for “Black Skinheads”). In an attempt to draw significant mainstream attention to mid-career artists who either never had or lost that sort of visibility, Thicke and Cyrus made sexist and/or racist videos to generate buzz on teh interwebs. (What’s new here is that sex and racial non-whiteness are no longer inherently outrageous and offensive to mainstream (white) taste–in post-feminist, post-racial America, that level of offense is reserved for certain types of misogyny and racism performed by people who supposedly ought to know better. This is a really interesting line of inquiry, but not, ultimately, the one I want to follow in this post.)
Sasha Frere-Jones has a provocative new piece about Jay and Ye’s new albums up at The New Yorker, so that spurred me to make my questions about these two albums a bit more choate. Frere-Jones’s article itself deserves careful analysis and discussion, and not only because he compares his disappointment with Jay Z’s politics and performance to his disappointment with the George Zimmerman verdict. (I’m happy to have that discussion in the comments here; I hope to have something up on my personal blog in the next week.) Here, however, I want to follow Frere-Jones’s general strategy of thinking about the broader social implications of MCHG. (more…)
(Expiation, n.: the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement: an act of public expiation.)
Dear reader, are you still thinking about the Zimmerman verdict?
Yeah, me too.
Over the last five days I’ve been thinking a lot about Trayvon Martin’s murder, and about George Zimmerman’s acquittal, and especially about the reactions to both that I’ve observed since the jury returned with a verdict Saturday night. I’ve been thinking (and somewhat obsessively reading) about these things not just because of my contractual obligation as a sociologist, but because as a person I’m saddened, troubled, and angered by what all of this says about U.S. society. Yet I’m not just a person; I’m also a white person, and as such I don’t know where to begin processing the fact that, regardless of my personal particularities, I am by this fact alone complicit in the systems of oppression that made Martin’s murder and Zimmerman’s acquittal possible.
Here’s the thing about white people, the Zimmerman verdict, and its aftermath: (more…)
George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin. And yet, Martin, a 17 year old boy, is dead. Killed by Zimmerman’s lethal gunshot. Protestors have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and the streets. Here, I want to try to make sense how this case is far more complex legally than it is morally. In what follows, I argue that both bodies and laws are technologies—or more specifically—materialized action, and that the intersection of their imbedded values and assumptions afford justices processes which feel, at a visceral level, generally unjust. (more…)
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
Nothing like a nice post-gentrification stoll!
As if we needed more examples to demonstrate that ‘the digital’ & ‘the physical’ are part of the same larger world, it seems there’s no end to the applicability of demographic metaphors to trends in social media. I wrote about App.net and “white flight” from Facebook and Twitter last month, so you can imagine how my head broke on Monday when I first heard about “New MySpace.” My first question—after, “wait, what?”—was, “Is this like when the white people start moving back into urban cores to live in pricey loft conversions?”
I didn’t do a detailed overview of danah boyd’s (@zephoria) work on MySpace, Facebook, and white flight last time, so I start with that below (though I recommend that anyone interested in this topic check out boyd’s very readable chapter in Race After the Internet, which you can download here [pdf]). I then look at some of the coverage of New MySpace this week to make the argument that there are some strong parallels between the site’s impending “makeover” and the “urban renewal” efforts sometimes called gentrification or regentrification.
Photos by Nathan Jurgenson, taken in Washington, D.C., 17, January 2012.
Malcolm Harris has posted one of the most provocative things I’ve ever read about social media, “Twitterland.” I’d like to point you the story and go through some of the many issues he brings to light. Harris’ story is one of theorizing Twitter and power; it can reinforce existing power imbalances, but, as is the focus here, how it can also be used to upset them.
Harris begins by taking on the idea that Twitter is a “tool” or an “instrument”, arguing that, no, Twitter is not a map, but the territory; not the flier but the city itself; hence the title “Twitterland.” However, in nearly the same breath, Harris states he wants to “buck that trend” of “the faulty digital-dualist frame the separates ‘real’ and online life.” As most readers here know, I coined the term digital dualism and provided the definition on this blog and thus have some vested interest in how it is deployed. And Harris’ analysis that follows indeed bucks the dualist trend, even though I would ask for some restating of the more theoretical parts of his argument. I’d like to urge Harris not to claim that Twitter is a new city, but instead focus on how Twitter has become part of the city-fabric of reality itself. (more…)
White flight happens both online and offline. What is it with some white people?
Recently mentions of a new “real-time social feed” called App.net have been creeping into my Twitter feed. Just as the quietly simmering Diaspora and the running joke that is G+ were geared to seize on collective Facebook malaise, it seems App.net is trying to seize on some degree of unrest among Twitter users before taking on Facebook as well. In this case, App.net promises that “users and developers [will] come first, not advertisers”; in an era of “if it’s free, you’re the product”—remember that the much love/hated Facebook “[is] free and always will be”—App.net proposes to offer a Twitter-like social feed (and eventually a “powerful ecosystem based on 3rd-party developer built ‘apps’”) on a paid membership basis instead.