January 29, 2013
By Chelsea B.
Portland, Oregon; White Stag Building: Papé Forum
Saturday & Sunday, 9-5 pm; 9-10 February 2013
Slightly over a year after Fembot launched its first feature, Laundry Day, members of the collective will meet in Portland, Oregon, for a two-day unconference to discuss Fembot’s past, present, and future. Goals for this event include:
- To think collectively and critically about the features Fembot has experimented with over the past year
- To think about the Fembot Project holistically and in light of its more-or-less organic unfolding over the past eighteen months
- To collaboratively assess the site’s design and functionality, as well as its aesthetics, particularly in relation to our sister project, FemTechNet
- To establish goals for the coming year, including discussion of a Fembot ThatCamp (July 2013, Portland).
The unconference is free and open to all members of the Fembot collective. If you can’t join us in Portland, follow along and participate on Twitter at #fembotjam.
We’re excited to announce the following confirmed participants:
Karen Alexander (Rutgers), Radhika Gajjala (Bowling Green), Kim Sawchuk (Concordia), Paula Gardner (OCAD), Nina Huntemann (Suffolk), Alex Juhasz (Pitzer), Sarah Stierch (Wikimedia), Carol Stabile (Oregon), Sarah Kember (Goldsmiths), and Kate Mondloch (Oregon)
November 19, 2012
At the ASA conference in Puerto Rico I drank some rum, swam in the ocean, saw dear friends, and went to a terrific roundtable on blogging with GayProf, Historiann, Roxie, and Tenured Radical. As I said to my friend Planned Obsolescence, who sat beside me at the workshop and was the person who actually turned me on to blogging, this is yet another one of those professional pastimes that we engage in privately, rarely sharing the logic, feeling, and changing rationale of the work with others who expend similar amounts of time and soul. It was a real pleasure to hear four others at this: something I tried to share this summer.
As ever, locked as we are in the neo-liberal logics of counting, tabulation, and credit, the speakers and blogger-audience spent some useful attention on what kind of work this is and whether and to who it matters. Remedying intellectual isolation, personal survival, finding new audiences and speaking in new languages (often including humor) were discussed by several of the panelists. This seemed familiar, and thereby reassuring.
However, it was Tenured Radical’s discussion of commenting that was at farthest reach from my own thinking and experience, and therefore also the most generative. First off, she gets comments—tons of them it seems—as do the other bloggers at the podium. Now, I’ve lamented here often enough about the fact that I can see that you are reading, but rarely hear form you, but as the years have gone by, I’ve taken this to be the state of this state and have grown pretty accustomed to it. Later, beach-side, I spoke with Marilee Lindemann about this (she actually teaches a course on blogging, Writing for the Blogosphere, as well as being Roxie), and she listed some pretty obvious things that I don’t do that might initiate a commenting culture here: asking questions rather than making sttements, not writing arguments that are closed and complete, having a more chatty style and fun content …
And, I realize, I don’t not do these things not because I can’t but because much of what comes along with commenting is not what blogging has become for me: what Claire Potter called Skooling and Being Skooled. This arguing, flaming, deliberate disrespect, and enforced education without the assurance of discussion or responsibility that attends to places of learning that I like better, like the feminist classroom, has been something my students I and think a lot about in FeministOnline Spaces and even Learning from YouTube, for that matter. Of course, Potter is right: by learning from comments, just like from YouTube, one gains insight into the narrative rules of others’ lives, not just one’s own. A light shines on the larger Internet, and its darker places, not to mention its super silly (supercilious) ones:
August 15, 2012
“In an interview that complements my earlier interview with Juhasz, Balsamo reflected on the efforts involved in creating expansive networked projects that engage many participants in different contexts and roles. The FemTechNet project — which was first conceptualized by Juhasz and Balsamo during friendly conversations in early 2011 — has an ambitious objective: to create a course focused on the topics of feminism, science and technology, offered simultaneously around the globe by feminist teachers in different locations, supported by a shared network of learning materials, of digital resources, of participants, and of pedagogical activities. This high-profile venture takes shape as a Massively Collaborative Online Learning Experiment: it is a feminist manifestation and reinvention of a MOOC. The risky but exciting “learning experiment” takes form as follows: During September — December 2013, instructors around the world offer courses at their home institutions on the topic of “Feminist Dialogues on Technology and Science.” The courses are created using a shared set of learning resources: a series of eight videotaped “dialogues” among prominent feminist scholars of science and technology; a repository of digital learning materials; asynchronous online conversations; and collaborative activity called “Storming WikiPedia” — designed to write feminism and feminists back into the collective digital archive of important knowledge. Students can enroll in courses at a particular institution for credit; or they can arrange to take an independent study elsewhere with a supportive faculty member; or they can participate as self-directed learners, or as “drop-in” learners. The goal is to engage one hundred feminist teachers and thousands of students around the world.”
August 7, 2012
“Next year, over a hundred feminist scholars are slated to teach a new kind of online course—the first “MDCLE” or “massively distributed collaborative learning experiment”—tentatively titled “Feminist Dialogues on Technology.” Drawing on the model of the “MOOC,” or the massively open online course, like the artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction courses at Stanford that have enrolled tens of thousands of students, this venture is also aimed at a very large audience, although taught and thought through a feminist architecture and pedagogy.”
While it might seem a bit of a press to discuss Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and @ajkeen’s Digital Vertigo in one breath, or really, blog-post, I will do so because they both tackle one issue that is critical to me, albeit from different places: the changing nature of sociality in lieu of the digital.
Fisher writes as a professor, trying to do his job in a time when his students suffer from “depressive hedonia” and “reflexive impotence” both symptoms of capitalist realism: “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (please see my similar experience when teaching feminist labor films from the 1970s in class last week). Meanwhile, Andrew Keen is also clocking discomfort in his workaday world, although in his case, as one suffering author in persistent and grueling competition amongst the “hyper-visible digital elite,” all of them, himself included, locked into a different totalizing system: hyper-connectivity and sociality.
Given that I am not in the digital elite (where my counts would keep growing and my opinions would thereby effect both the billionaires who rule the web, and the billions who track me), nor do I hope to be, Keen’s read on hyper-connectivity seems a bit overblown as a theory for either the masses or for me. While his book-length rant for the right to and dignity of privacy seems spot-on, his paranoid delusion that we all live our entire lives in the digital spotlight (or would want to) generalizes Internet culture from his own position, and life choices. Again, his fear that the digital elite are scheming for everything to become social, while justified, seems to miss that many humans still do many things offline (while he may not), and that we also lie, evade, and mis- and multiply-represent when we are there (even as they try their best to lock us into “frictionless sharing.”) Furthermore, his deep suspicion of the social seems again to be theorized by someone who is (perhaps rightfully) afraid of people, crowds, and groups because, I suppose, he is a member of the “digital elite,” and therefore a specially visible sort of somebody, and so can not be aware of the marvelous, sustaining, deeply human things people do in groups, big and small (like organizing, being friends, making art, teaching and learning). His suspicion of the social tracks back to those pesky hippies who tried to write their values into the web’s beginnings; a form that “mirrors the bohemian values of its pioneers.”
But all sociality is not about buying, bullying or selling, and all masses are not about conformity. We can be deeply human and in crowds, and some of our most satisfying and liberating experiences occur in collaboration. “The practice of happiness becomes subversive when it becomes collective,” writes Bifo.
Again, here’s where I think teaching comes in—as a social, moral and political act—and where Mark Fisher’s writing, although equally cynical and afraid (and rightly so), hits closer to the mark. I agree with Fisher that the role of teaching in these capitalist realist times becomes more complex (and even counter-intuitive), as other public institutions that might have served young people are erased by neoliberlism’s attention to cost-cutting (and fear of the social): “teachers are caught between being facilitator-entertainers and disciplinarian-authoritatirans.” Man: just see my Learning from YouTube to watch that unruly entertainment/discipline project unroll! But from there—that distinctly and entirely and definitively social experience that moved us on and off the Internet, talking and learning together—I can attest that my truly depressive-hedonist students, while truly luving Google, and their many devices of solitary-sharing, are also hungry, no rabid and open, to talking together about what this depression (and its associated diseases of ADD, anxiety, and loneliness) means and what they might make, given their place within it.
July 12, 2012
Following closely on the heels of my last post on Jodi Dean and the possible affordances of writing and publishing some of our scholarly new media writing online, I’m happy to be able to look at Nick Mirzoeff’s “‘We are All Children of Algeria‘: Visuality and Countervisuality 1954-2011,” recently “published” by Duke University Press as an extension of his book The Right to Look. Built in the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture’s Scalar—”born-digital, open source, media-rich scholarly publishing that’s as easy as blogging”—the work sits in proximity to my own Learning from YouTube in that it was supported by many of the same institutions and collaborators (I did not write in Scalar, however, but rather in an earlier version of their authoring tool. Many of my cumbersome requirements for linking text and media became routinized with Scalar).
While Mirzoeff provocatively begins by suggesting that “whether or not you work ‘on’ or about Algeria, there is an ‘Algeria’ in your work,” I find that there is another shared metaphor, nay structure, that fuels possible intellectual connection: form. For, as seems definitive for many of our contemporary efforts in transformative scholarly communication, he writes as much about his writing and its structures, shapes, and tools as he does about his proper subject: “how can we “see” Algeria, its decolonization and revolution?”
He suggests that “this format, allowing as it does for a set of intersecting and interfacing threads to compose the whole, is better suited to reclaiming and exploring these histories than the linear text-based narrative.” And then he calls this kind of writing and reading a “march” because he understands it as “militant research.” This designation seems both apt and critical to me for many reasons. Mirzoeff notes how affect is set into play differently within digital writing practices, so that qualities of an experience (something that many of us have pushed writerly metaphor to reach towards [and one reason I also author in video]) become more readily a part of the expressive reach of the form, as does then, also, an altered relation (of trust) between writer, reader, and text. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has recently blogged that digital scholarship allows a “shift … from an implicit, buried acknowledgment that scholarship’s serialization practices are based on multi-directional exchanges to an explicit emphasis on such exchange.” Exchanging we are, and shifting, and sometimes even marching, if not exactly forward: “it’s not about getting to the end, this is not a video game. It’s about who you want to be, not as a consumer, but as a citizen: for we are all citizens of the International.”
Mirzoeff’s decidedly, abashedly, romantically political aims are what might be best-suited to the form. His militancy. And here’s the rub I often mention when touring my own overtly political digital media pub. It’s full professors who currently have enough institutional safeguarding to make these dangerous formal deployments even as its our junior colleagues who should be leading the vanguard. He writes: “In the end, the disciplinary form—in all senses—of the monograph finds itself yielding to a form that has no real name: Intergraph? multigraph? videograph? The videograph (say) depends on a relation of trust.” But these are dangerous times, as we know, given the paucity of jobs and tenure, not to mention the real punitive ramifications for some politicized scholarship in our ever more timid or corporate intellectual institutions.
Feminist, queer, and AIDS activist mediamakers have long theorized “trust” as a part of our authoring apparatus, and our more committed, ideological, intellectual and political digital connections are what I have been holding against some Internet theorists‘ fear of fickle or superficial “friends” and warranted subjectivity. Perhaps it is not so bold for those like Fitzpatrick, Mirzoeff, or myself, backed as we may be by powerful institutions and tenure (and Nick took the “easy” route by publishing a “real” book too…), to make and promote innovative formal work, however I do so with the trust that my comrades inside academia and out will join me here, in exchanges that demonstrate more radical ways not just to be professors, but as Nick suggests citizens.
July 11, 2012
“An object whose form installs delays in sampling and syndication and whose content demands postponed gratification, the book mobilizes the gap of mediacy so as to stimulate thought. E-books and articles as well as blog posts on theoretical topics are conscientious ways to store and share ideas. But these benefits come at a cost: we pay with attention.” (Jodi Dean, Blog Theory)
Jodi Dean’s compelling read theorizes how “communicative capitalism,” built upon contemporary new media practices, refashions the productive possibilities of reflexivity, the gaze, participation, and communication to produce a sort of “whatever” democracy that profits capitalists over their willing user/citizens. Her writing on the blog’s (and new media’s) emphasis on the fact, volume, and reiteration of expression over its content or author seems right on to me in regards to the majority of user-generated content on today’s web. And yet, that’s not what I’m doing here, on this blog, part of that web, which leads me to challenge less Dean’s findings (her content) and instead, her form, thereby asking her to account for the place of blogs in relation to books and also new media “theory.”
Of course, I’m not telling her anything she doesn’t already know. She begins: “a book that makes critical-theoretical claims about blogging thus encounters a double problem of its object and its form of presentation.” But as she so strongly attests, reflexivity about communicativity is no longer any sort of critical out. Which is to say, just ’cause she names her formal quandary up front doesn’t mean she’s solved it. ” My wager is that critical media theory is possible in a book form,” she decides.
Sure. By why not a blog, or many blog posts, instead of a book? Dean says that it is a matter of attention, and I’d agree. When I lecture on my video-book, my much-repeated aphorism is to challenge its readers to “devote to it the undivided attention they’d be willing to give to a movie”: 90-minutes of focused attention. I do so because Google Analytics tells me that the average time on the “video-book” is around three minutes, and I know that whatever its or my limitations, there is more than three minutes of argument and theory to be had there. But more so, I have structured much of the argument into the very form of the “book” (something much harder to do on paper in codex, at least if your subject is new media), and if you don’t experience it, ride it, play with it, much of its “theory” about experience, duration, interactivity, montage, and learning online goes unlearned.
If theory is something akin to a structured set of principles that explain and clarify other systems, there is nothing inherent to “theory” taking the form of either words or books. And as Dean attests, there is something quite expressively and intellectually useful when theory’s form is aligned with its object. However, if “theory” is something academics do to legitimize and authorize the seriousness of our labors, or the qualifications needed for our practices, or the nature of our interlocutors or judges, then it makes much more sense to do this in a book given both our needs as workers to be recognized, evaluated, and promoted, and in regards to our skill-set as workers trained to write with words for readers trained to read them. However, Dean wants to say that the issue is the book’s special quality of “postponed gratification,” seemingly in relation to the Internet’s over-abundant, over-indulgent, loose, fleeting and light little pleasures. “The forms of theory’s presentation likewise highlights how communicative capitalism fragments thoughts into ever smaller bits.”
We’re back to Lanier‘s dreaded bits and Lovink’s beloved books. Hey, I like books as much as the next professor! I often also say that Learning from YouTube is a plea for the long-form written in the short-form: how good (or real) a professor can you actually be if you’re writing your complicated thoughts in sentences? But there are other long forms, and serious ways of expression outside the book, and as we all know, the Internet is a prime container and transmitter of these lengthy objects, too.
While the majority of users may have been easily convinced to use the Internet towards fleeting, addictive, anxious, reiterative expression there is ample room for other uses and users, and theory that does not attend to this misses the whole, but more critically, theory that doesn’t speak here gives up on the Internet while we still may just have time to lay claim to other practices in this ever-narrowing place.
July 8, 2012
I have spent the previous month trying to entertain Twitter while at the same time reading books about the Internet: getting up to speed on the frantic and the sluggish. I finished Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget while I was wrapping up my Twitter foray. Reading Lanier gave me that extra little boost I needed to stand my ground amidst a field of true believers (many of whom are my friends). He’s decidedly against “anonymized fragments of creativity as products.” And man those fragments are tiny!
While I opened my Twitter account a few years back, I never really used it for one important reason: I knew I was already more immersed than any one person might want or need to be with my own special social media provider. And every girl should have her techno-limits.
However, while attending the Re:Humanities conference last Spring, everyone seemed to be back-channeling, so I thought this was the right forum and crowd with which to take the plunge.
So now I’ve got my tweet deck and follow lots of folks, but I can’t say it really works for me. I do like how I can be assured that jumping into the flow will pretty quickly get me to an article, blog, conference, or web resource I am glad to know about but would have never found. But I actually don’t particularly like also knowing so much about so many people’s eating habits, states of mind, or latest blog posts and publishing activities, including my own (I suppose I use Facebook and Vienna for that). Lanier calls this stuff “second order expression” (fragmentary reactions to “first order expression” which is a representation by one human rendered to completion.) And I must agree that I do leave Twitter feeling like none of those fragments ever add up. If anything, each one takes a little bit from me—or byte—demanding yet another flick of the wrist, turn of the head, click of the mouse, moving towards evocative things that are not here. Lanier calls this “reaction without action”: all dressed up with nowhere to go but more.
And this gets me back to my other recent posts on blogging and allows me to understand that the difference between blogging and tweeting for me is that I use social networking tools for aims primarily professional (even on Facebook, I find that I primarily share resources) while also personal. And I see this inhabited, positioned, professional persona that I craft here as a decidedly feminist push against both Lanier’s most dire fears about anonymity (that it turns us all into trolls or teenage boys), and his celebration of self (“where the one is better than the many”) and also Lovink’s cranky disdain of the “Real self” online. I use this blog as a place for the activities of one, careful networked self: neither real nor solo, both personal and professional. On the blog (differently from in the class, or at home) I seek combined, co-present first order thinking.
July 3, 2012
“I turn my own hyper attention, now, to my chosen subject (13) as honoured guest editor of this inaugural issue of the online journal Frames. (14)In this capacity, I invited 39 fellow film and moving image scholars (including established and emergent film scientists, archivists, publishers, and film and video makers), (15) all of them digital-participant-observers of one kind or another, to contribute their responses in a variety of forms (16) to a semi-rhetorical question: ‘have film and moving image studies been ‘re-born’ digital?’”(17)
I just blogged at fembot for their section called “Laundry Day” (“short, teachable pieces of feminist media criticism about ongoing controversies and issues.”) My writing is in conversation with Wendy Hsu and Carey Sargent, who write about “Grrrltronica, Plasticity, and Friendship ” for their entry for this special focus on “feminist media production.”
My entry focuses upon the many little media things I received from audience members after my talks last year, like this video by Wendy (after I spoke at Occidental college), who (like many others at many places) responded to my mantrafesto and other thoughts about feminist (and otherwise) online spaces.