In a cultural moment that finds more and more young people experimenting with gender and sexuality (via social media and otherwise), and a mainstream culture more and more open to allow for some variations along the gender/sex binary, we find summer movie fare bent upon teen gender lock down.
On behalf of the girls, we have the aging girl-wonder herself, Sofia Coppola, imagining in The Bling Ring (and in the vein of Thirteen’s shocking expose of teens’ lives on the brink but without any of its possibilities for internal and interpersonal change or growth) that contemporary female teenagers are so juiced on social media, celebrity culture, and the psychotropic (and illegal) meds meant to calm them that they have been gutted like melons of any inkling of morality, personality, or affect.
Meanwhile, Jordan Vogt-Roberts has his boys go Walden, and it works! Even before they build their own man-shack in the faux-woods, theirs is a suburbia oddly unplugged. Sure, the best friends play a little Street Fighter 2 on some antiquated basement system, and there’s briefly a cell phone or two, but in this retrovision of Hometown High School (before they go rogue and are cooking by campfire, dancing tribal, and swimming, running, and bonding in Magic Hour hues) they get around town on bikes and attend a beer-bash that wistfully points to American Graffiti. In this fantasy flick, the boys get to become men (puffing up from a new interiority gained in the wild) by duking it out over impending heterosexuality, finding themselves in their fathers, and actually killing a snake (a masculinity-beacon of significant import in King‘s freaky id double, Mud); in both, the questions are the same (what does it mean to be a man in a culture where women rule?), as are the Fight Club-esque answers (worlds of men must be built as parallel streams to the “real world” now destroyed by women), although Mud sees the same Huckish adventure from the vantage of the dark, trippy evils of wasted wastrels, rather than via Kings‘ hazy, lazy sweatheart-cam.
This summer’s technophobic, misogynistic anthems to gender rigidity are noxious first in their insistence that the dreams of boys harken back to a pre-contact moment devoid of girls or gadgets, while the Google-glass visions of girls are utterly unredeemable. More deadly yet, I actually took my real-life teens to these flicks (at least they are art films, I stupidly convinced myself … ) These hyperbolic, nostalgic, apocalyptic visions of American youth may serve some hipster Millenials, I suppose, in their perennial quest to grow up and finally find themselves as real men and God-awful girls in our addled America. Meanwhile, my kids seem alright, mixing it up as they do, online and off, neither deadly afraid of technology, the opposite (or same) sex, their many gendered possibilities or the complexity, rather than the rigidity, of their desires and dreams.
May 28, 2013
I begin a talk with another video, making some revisions to and recursions through a similar effort six months past. “In this talk [at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, May 29, 2013] Juhasz will discuss her efforts to model and make, along with her students and everyday Internet users, the Internet we want and deserve: a place where conversation and knowledge can be built collaboratively and complexly; a place that attends to human interaction, dignity and diversity; and a place with transparent rules of engagement and the identification of shared social and political commitments. She will conclude with an invitation to join her current effort: DOCC 2013 (Distributed Open Collaborative Course) the first feminist rethinking of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).”
BIG IDEAS TO CONCLUDE INTRODUCTION
1) Feminist Social Media Pedagogy brings Old School (school) Feminist values, methods, and people to the sparkly, exciting new places of social media:
- our premium on literacy and democracy and difference
- in places where individual and collective visibility and voice dominate
- Shared commitment to Collectivity over the individual; shared authoring
- Shared vocabulary: political, theoretical and artistic
- Focus on Processes like pedagogy, making things like media, and collaboration
- Focus on Structures that are self-reflexive and transparent
- Anchor activity in lived and situated positionality
- Dismantle Binaries; Honor Intersectionality
- women, people of color, queers are a given, a priority, are a priori
- Value Ordinary People over corporate power; building agency
2) Feminist Social Media Pedagogy understands that the classroom provides an excellent model for a better Internet because both teaching and social media are places where conversation and knowledge can build, in collaboration, becoming more complex, and occurring with attention to human interaction and diversity, with shared commitment and rules of engagement.
We’re all (hello, Sussex), now, everywhere here (on the Internet), aren’t we? Undoubtedly, scholars made lots of words before now, but they couldn’t show it all to you like a purge; they couldn’t cart it around, showing it again and again; it didn’t return, quite like this, to either bite you in the ass, or say it better than one ever could, even though of course, oddly, it was oneself who has said it once before.
By moving these words to video and text, never to be on paper, not to be linear, and also always available on the Internet, I establish, in form, one answer to how the affordances of both the digital and the room, the staying and the going, affect our feminist and queer possibilities. For, of course, I’ve flown to England; there’s something we want, or prefer, or need from the body, even as she also sits, and writes, and speaks, and shares so abundantly at home in the digital. Thus, I return and loop back to the leaving and the staying, the making, taking, foresaking and staking. Situated and floating, flying even, I will answer your three questions in long form (but only in person), but here first in short:
- How does imagining queer & feminist lives and futures link with social media and other digital media practices? … Badly
- How can we understand the interconnections between radical art practices and cyberfeminisms? We must leave and ever more deeply embed.
- What is the role of science and technology more widely in the ways social practices and cultural identities are shaping today?
We must engage in Techno feminism, a collaborative, goal-oriented, placed, critical self-expression online, and also in Presumptive feminism, one that always assumes that feminism counts and that feminists speak. (these are from a longer list of online feminisms from my article on the Online Feminist Cyber-closet).
I suggest that we must strive to make a concerted effort to remember something quickly becoming lost: that is, to dare to think just past the digital, to engage ever so slightly beyond representation, and to struggle to look to and reoccupy our bodies and lived spaces. So: hello Sussex! Not to fear, I will be asking you to move online soon enough …
May 11, 2013
I’ve been teaching a Graduate research methods course for several years now at CGU, Visual Research Methods. But this Spring, I have encountered some surprising findings, ones that are echoed in my undergraduate student’s work as well, where I also assign digital coursework that asks students:
- to account, reflexively, for the changing affordances of doing their school-work online
- for staying thoughtful about the Internet itself as part of their topical attention
- while also creatively expressing their findings in a multi-modal environment and vernacular
- and then, also of course, clearly expressing findings from their own original research
Now, that’s a mouthful, right? And on first pass, I certainly wouldn’t want to be a student with that as my final assignment rubric! I think all my students (this semester in Visual Research Methods, and also, at Pitzer, in Feminist Dialogues in Technology and Feminist and Queer Documentary) start the semester with fear, agitation, bemusement, uncertainty, and maybe even annoyance about the weird assignments. Understood! And yet …
Somehow, this semester, all my students didn’t just do it and do it well; they got it. And, I said to several of them after the fact, I can’t imagine that’s because they are smarter than students who have taken these classes in previous years and semesters … So what gives?
Two, interrelated things, I think:
- the tools have actually caught up with the radical teaching aims of multimodal scholar/teachers who wish to push our students to think, write, research and engage critically within and about the digital and the world
- our students’ literacy with these tools, and also within digital spaces, has already been primed
This is to say, that for the first time, this year, I’d tell my students to leave the classroom and make some little digital something (instead of say, “breaking out” into a discussion group then presenting); and they would and they could. This is something I have also been asking audiences to do for the past two years, and their competency has increased markedly in this short time as well. That’s because in 2013 people are making things all the time, and these things are already smart, self-aware, self-reflexive, multimodal, and interactive.
This semester, my students used the analytical frameworks from class, the histories of movements and ideas, and analyzed both new and old objects for new and old audiences. They debated the politics of Digital Storytelling with some of the movement’s founders. They re-wrote Wikipedia pages. They made mash-ups of feminist theory and memes. They found and analyzed multivoiced and third-person stories (on Twitter and Tumblr) and talked to animals. Some of my students engaged for a semester with another group of undergrads at Bowling Green State University, and with students from grad courses at USC who made amazing digital learning resources for us to use.
They worked on and about podcasts, and stories about Study Abroad and Queer Chicanos. They found new forms for telling the stories of Youth Violence and Violence Against Women. One performed a close textual analysis of Facebook commentary while others made keyword videos on feminism and technology.
Given all their amazing work (and I do hope you’ll hit some of these links; you won’t regret it!), what am I (t)here for, then? If literacy has been gained, and critical practice is already happening online, what is the role of the critical digital pedagogue? Well, most likely neither more nor less than what the role of the professor has always been. Remember when we taught writing? Sure, students arrived with literacy and tools, and the professors’ function was no mere thing: to add history, theory, a framework, a community, evaluation, and caring, careful, critical dialogue.
I am blown away by my students’ skills, and hereby simply provide this shining frame at yet another semester’s end. Well done all!
May 1, 2013
Here is the info graphic, hot off the press, for the DOCC 2013, the pedagogy project that FemTechNet is producing for Fall 2013.
Image produced by Tony Germano for Anne Balsamo, 2012.
Use with permission under a CC BY-NC-SA license.
April 21, 2013
I learned today on Facebook that Ava DuVernay won the Tribeca Film Institute’s Inaugural Heineken Affinity Award. Kudos! Her wonderful films and ambitious African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, are much-deserving of this support. Understand: her work, her films, her prize-winning is not what I am against. Prizes like this help independent cinema. So, as a producer myself of two African-American indie features, I say: the more prizes the merrier!
I write, instead, against the social-media based gamification of this award whereby the many, equally deserving African-American filmmakers also up for this prize (Andrew Dosunmu, Cheryl Dunye, Nelson George, Kahlil Joseph, Victoria Mahoney, Terence Nance, Akosua Adoma Owuso, Yvonne Welbon, and Ross Williams) were asked to mobilize their (my) cultural community, daily, by having us vote for them, for what seemed like an eternity. But, the makers, supporters, scholars, and perhaps even fans of independent black cinema are a small, and devoted subculture; one in which I am proud to play an active part. We know each other, help each other out, and are in political and personal support of the project, writ-large, of African American visibility, voice, and complex and sophisticated expressive culture. All the influential artists on this list get their work made, watched, financed, written about, taught, and distributed largely within a committed cultural milieu founded within a politics and practice of the sharing of resources, support, community, and artistic vision. This is a community of care, mostly working outside of dominant institutional support; and (I know), to get indie black films made, people support each other!
It pained me more than I wish to express that I had to vote for my “favorite” between friends, respected colleagues, family, and artists I admire and support in other ways. This popularity mentality, this gamification of an intimate cultural sphere, has nothing to do with my commitments to this project, nor that of the people who were lucky enough to be its potential beneficiaries. My friends and colleagues were forced to compete against each other, rather than engage in the supportive, communal, politically-motivated practices that define black independent cinema. Of course, for a measly $20K, Heineken got more information about the buying habits, and other likes, of this influential community then can be easily quantified. I knew I gave this for free every time I voted. Which, I will also admit, I did on many occasions (although I was and am against it), in the name of my friends, their amazing work, and the possibility of supporting a project from this unstoppable community, albeit one always strapped for cash.
For this hands-of workshop at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, I proposed that “I will be asking workshop participants to think about what makes a space feminist (at St. Lawrence) to them; how or if that can happen on the Internet; and then to make something that represents their point of view. This will be after I show them similar work on my blog Feminist Online Spaces, where community members from about ten American colleges and Universities have already made similar work and after we discuss the role of academic blogging, something I teach to my Visual Research Methods graduate students at CGU each year (see Monica‘s blog for instance and her blogroll which links to other classmates’ blogs from this class). Thus, workshop participants will be responding to earlier work using the vernaculars of the Internet (quick, responsive, iterative, interactive), being asked to be accountable for making public digital work about their ideas and place, and seeing how making things as well as thinking them alters the dynamics of teaching and interaction.
For the workshop today, I am asking this group to build upon, converse with, and interact with other objects made by previous “road show” makers that are held on the site. While I have tried this in the past (by asking participants to remix earlier objects from other places), today’s assignment will be a new one, accomplished through blogging, namely:
1) In the Gallery on FOS find a digital object that you like, disagree with, want to build upon, or be in Internet conversation with
2) Copy this object and place it on your own blog, or on the FOS (by joining), or within a social media format you are comfortable (that we can link to from here, so not somewhere that is private)
3) In your post, interact with the object from another place (and earlier time): write about it, remix it, make another similar, linked, or contrary object and place in next to that object. Keeping in mind these prompts:
-What Make a/this space feminist?
-What makes our/their space feminist?
4) Place your blog post into the St. Lawrence Gallery bin or email Alex a link
5) Share these together, at 5:30-6 pm EST, April 9, 2013, in Noble Center 108, and then in Internet perpetuity, with larger communities, in their own time and feminist space.
Of course, anyone else is welcome to go see what was made. And it would be amazing if some of you responded to their responses in kind!