October 6, 2013
No matter how you count it, a lot of people contributed to this daunting, humbling, and ultimately victorious effort (and are now sharing the above-depicted relief and joy): hundreds of thousands of people helped (149,702 signed the Change.org petition), multitudes marched, protested, made buttons and artwork, hundreds worked tirelessly behind the scenes to locate or create press …
I could go on and on. And there’s good reason to do so: change occurs when people make it, piece by piece, little and big, and it’s not just crucial to name this to thank them (although that is important, and I’m doing a bit of that here), but to understand how successful organizing works. Here’s my friend and comrade, Matias Viegener, on our local TV station. It took many of us many days to get this small, and almost silly end result. (At the time, we wondered if it was worth it; my sister, Antonia, contributed a lot towards what ended up being seen as only this one segment)
It truly was a family, and also a community affair. A core group of Canadians (the Canadian “A team,” led by friend and fellow professor, Justin Podur, sister Cecelia Greyson, other family members and close friends, like Elle Flanders) was joined by scores of Canadian and international friends, colleagues, activists, and comrades. Very few of us had ever worked on a political campaign of this sort—life and death, international intrigue (although one of the behind the scenes projects was to get in contact with people who had; many of us contacted friends, and friends of friends, who worked at the State Department, consulates around the world, Amnesty International; man, you wouldn’t imagine the kinds of conversations film critic, B. Ruby Rich was having off the record). However, most of us who lent a hand, big or small, knew of either John or Tarek through earlier shared projects of activism and cultural politics (John programmed my first AIDS activist video into his seminal collection, Video Against AIDS, made in 1989 for Video Data Bank). With hind sight (given that it worked), it was stunning, and deeply moving, and just plain awe-inspiring, really, each day to see the collective knowledge, skills, and power of this diverse, eclectic, and ragamuffin group go at it, wherever we were, however we could:
But to be honest, there was also something deeply painful, knowing each day, and after every act by which we used all of our highly dispersed and cunningly eccentric cultural capital (and its associated real-world political power) that there were so many others in that very prison, or elsewhere in another prison, who do not and will not ever have such powerful, connected, capable friends and allies; their crimes no more real, their imprisonment no less unjust …
Their less heard stories, and unknown humiliations, will always haunt my memories of these many days and actions.
After much celebration, and its associated sadness, fear, and introspection, I’ll also continue to think about how both my queer/ documentary/activist/scholarly film community and our use of social media played an impotant, complex, and contributing role to this highly successful effort, given that this is something I study, engage in, and often criticize. This is where my subtitle comes in. In the last days of the effort, I was working closely with Jonathan Kahana, Shannon Kelley (from the UCLA Film Archive), and many other film profs, curators, programmers (like Jenni Olson and KP Pepe), to organize a Day of International Screenings for John and Tarek. We decided to organize on Facebook (because it was there, and easy, and so many of us had met on it, even though I have quite recently written about the most progressive act being LEAVING Facebook and other corporate-owned platforms that we get for free but that limit our abilities in their very structures). Within a day of setting up a Group we had over 100 members, and Matt Soar, Communications Prof. at Concordia College (who I met in real-time during this effort online) had designed the poster below for our effort (Chris Durrant, Out Twin Cities Film Festival Director, made the first effort within just a few short hours of the group’s formation):
I felt both really humbled and really frustrated working on this effort via Facebook. Online, via Facebook, we moved this idea so quickly, so many people came on board, the poster got made in what felt like minutes, and yet, this self-same platform has written into its core structures, and accepted uses, that some significant majority of the people who joined did so to “like” the group. Hear me, these friends were doing nothing wrong by joining; they were following Facebook’s logic of seeing, spreading, liking, and knowing. But this made me prickle because I found it harder to use Facebook towards the deeper, harder, more intense and labor-intensive norms of the very social justice organizing that had brought me and others to John, Tarek, and each other, and that were what was most needed for the effort I was working on. To make global screenings occur within about 10 days, what we most needed was for people to DO THINGS IN THE WORLD (find a room, get a copy of a film by John, invite a speaker, get bodies to that room). Just as was true for the Arab Spring, social media connected us, spread the word, and gave us an instantaneous and satisfying feeling of support and community, but good old fashioned community built from deep relationships formed and cemented in real places and over long term efforts was what finally supplied the muscle, the meaning, and the deep, take away truth of this awesome effort: Tarek and John are free because we (like they) can make the change we need by working with each other every day, in the places we live, and work, and love. How we can sustain this work, how we can again make local connections move nations, how we can use dominant/corporate social media forms as well as our own networks and technologies to make the world we want, these will be the questions I will continue to ask after this much-deserved party ends.
CFP: Ada, Issue 4, Queer, Feminist Digital Media Praxis
We invite contributions to a peer-reviewed special issue that brings together artistic, theoretical, critical and empirical responses to a range of questions around mediation, technology and gender equality. In particular we are interested in exploring what the concept of praxis could offer in our thinking about the intersections of gender, digital media, and technology.
Praxis in both Marxist and in Arendtian political thought brings together theory, philosophy and political action into the realm of the everyday. Inspired from this premise, and continuing the conversations that started during the workshop Queer, feminist social media praxis at the University of Sussex in May 2013 (queerfemdigiact.wordpress.com), we focus here on the conditions for a feminist digital media praxis. Media praxis, in other words the “making and theorising of media towards stated projects of world and self-changing” (mediapraxis.org), could be a vital component of feminist and/or queer political action. We are interested in the different modes of political action for social justice, enabled by digital technologies and social media, including theory, art, activism or pedagogy. What kinds of possibilities or impossibilities do these technologies and platforms offer for interpreting and intervening in the world?
The fourth issue of Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology seeks submissions that explore the concept of feminist, queer, digital media praxis. We welcome unpublished work from scholars of any discipline and background, including collaborative, non-traditional, or multimodal approaches that can especially benefit from the journal’s open access online status.
Topics and approaches might include, but are not limited to:
– Affect, desire and disgust
– Diffractive readings
– Digital storytelling
– Herstories, archiving and remembering
– Feminist pedagogy
– LGBTQ Youth
– New media bodies
– Imaginaries, futures and technological utopias
– Radical art practices
– Science, technology and social justice
We invite submissions for individual papers on any of the above themes or related themes. Contributions in formats other than the traditional essay are encouraged; please contact the editor to discuss specifications and/or multimodal contributions.
Find submission info on Ada
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 …
March 16, 2013
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending some of THATCamp Feminisms West. I had to leave just before the much-deserved beer-part to pick up my son, and knew I was in good company when this sacrifice made sense as such, nothing more needing to be said. But in my afternoon there, I was privy to conversations and processes that remind me of why we need to meet and work as feminists about and in digital culture. I will indicate a few of those reasons here, and I’m also going to to do quickly and on my blog.
Now, why this quick “work” on a Saturday morning. First, I have to give an interview to a college student this morning, in an hour, about (my) queer family: another important digital feminist act. Secondly, I want to blog about this while it is still happening (day two is starting now), because it may allow a few people who might want to know about it to follow the twitter-feed, and thereby attend. Third, I acknowledge and mark the value of my colleagues’ work when I blog it, and I feel this is a particular kind of feminist mentoring that senior women in academia can and do provide online. There’s been some great posts about academic blogging in the past few days (brought to my attention my Adeline Koh on Facebook). All by women, iterating what we get here. I wrote a similar post last year.
In our unpanel, DH400, we had the rare opportunity to talk about DH beyond 101. I was particularly interested to meet the women behind #TransformDH who I’ve been following for awhile. Our conversation focused upon our various, precarious, disruptive, transformative, outsider/insider relationships to the academy: as grad students, as archivists, as activists. To me it is was less the DH, or even the digital, that made this conversation matter, but the feminist: because we shared values, the will and capacity to be critical as well as intellectual while being supportive and trying to distribute authority and voice around the room all the while working, quick. Mia Ridge asked us “What would a feminist Digging into Data project look like?” And Jacque Wernimont said: “It would probably be related to little ‘dh’ and the owning of ephemerality.” Yep.
In the other panel I attended, on feminist digital pedagogy, I brought people up to speed on the DOCC 2013. And then we talked productively and honestly about teaching. With undergrads, librarians, grad students, jr and snr profs in the room, (or as@miriamkp tweeted: A really nice mix of students, faculty, librarians, nonprofit professionals (with diverse interests) here at #tcfw) we were able to be vulnerable, uncertain, and also wicked smart. Anne Cong-Huyen and Viola Lasmana discussed power sharing, doing things in public, acquiring skills, risk-taking, modelling ownership of our content and controlling our online identities (for their students and themselves), as well as the perennial contradictions of anonymity, discipline, and grading in classes with hands-on, experimental components. One hour, so much said and done: together, in a room, and on twitter, and now here, doing all the things that these technologies afford to us as communities, and as individuals.
I write quickly on my blog on a Saturday morning because this kind of work makes me feel like an academic in a conversation with politicized others. I make this to mark that.
March 15, 2013
March 11, 2013
March 7, 2013
I’ve been asked to blog during the SCMS conference on their website. I think it may be closed to non-members, so here’s what I wrote there.
The memorial event last night for Alex Doty was unlike anything I’ve ever attended at SCMS (or any other conference for that matter). Lovingly arranged and choreographed by this year’s Queer Caucus officers (Jen Malkowski, Patty Ahn and Julia Himberg) and as equally lovingly attended by a great many friends, colleagues, and fans of Doty, the affair was at once a vibrant, communal celebration of a particular man and scholar as well as serving as a reminder of the role of intellectual community, in this case the SCMS Queer Caucus (of which Doty was a founding member). Let me start with the man, and end with the caucus, a provocation (or two), and an invitation.
There were six beautiful, careful presentations from the stage and a cocktail party after. In the first version of this post that just got eaten by my computer, I carefully detailed each one’s loving remarks and how they built the presence of a respected, treasured, seminal member of the SCMS community. From SCMS President, Chris Holmlund’s detailed tracing of the history of the Queer Caucus itself, exactingly drawn through a treasure trove of documents from the Society’s past (located by Michael Metzger), to Corey Creekmur’s evocation of Doty as “not a person but an event,” to Kara Keeling’s anecdote about reading Making Things Perfectly Queer as a grad student and learning there the “things I already knew but did not know why I knew these things,” or Taylor Cole Miller explaining how his teaching always accounts for a queering of popular culture, for all students and across creative exercises because of an approach he learned from Doty’s writing, or Sarah Sinwell’s reminder that so many in the room had used Doty’s quote about a “queer reading” not being “alternative, or wishful thinking, or reading into things too much.” The take away was both a brave, fun, dedicated intellectual, teacher and friend who had the courage to work with others to found a sub-field based upon how he lived in the world, and in the world of media, and also a tender community of people who know each other in a variety of ways: from conferences, caucuses, and lectures, to the many words we write and share over a career.
And listening to the care by which these colleagues drew this man and his work, and seeing the care by which the organizers had produced the event, I saw that part of what the Queer Caucus (and Alex Doty, and so many more of us) have produced is the place for love, or respect, and the personal, within professional contexts: and this has always been at the heart of our theoretical and political project as feminists (and I’d warrant many of the other Caucuses share this project). The Alexander Doty Queer Mentoring Program of the Caucus is one example of this practice, as is Doty’s writing and teaching. And yet, as scholars, we so rarely publicly express the fondness, and other feelings, we have for our colleagues: how their work moves us. I thought to myself, I bet Alex didn’t know this—that we all knew him in one way or another, and respected him, and understood (or wanted to understand) his part in our own history as intellectuals and activists—because we so rarely tell each other: I used you in a paper, or I taught you in a class, or your words saved me.
And then, I wondered, too, about those who didn’t know Alex, who weren’t at the memorial, and weren’t members of our Caucus, and didn’t read his books or attend his lectures … even once. Man did you miss something and someone! Sean Griffin said of Alex how he always managed to fashion both camaraderie and a diva moment, producing an “I’m fabulous and you are all going to come with me” sort of presence wherever he was at work. But if you didn’t track through SCMS seeing the faces I have come to know, again and again, given, as you might not be—queer—maybe you didn’t know this … So, I thought of the others Caucuses, and wondered if love and anger and pride was in their hearts and history, and if they might have an event like this someday, as sad as that may be.
And that leads me to my provocation, and my title, which points to the centers of centers and the margins of margins in the making of fields and communities, and sub-fields and their communities. Are we queers central to this field? Do you know us and our work? Do I know your work and caucus? Let’s try to go to another sub-field’s meeting or panel at this conference, and meet the Alex Doty we wouldn’t necessarily circulate around by way of affinity. And what’s more, let’s tell a colleague or friend that their ideas move us, so that we can mark our love for what Griffin called “the concept” (our work) as well as the person, and so that the person can know we cherish their concepts while we are together still.
And finally, an invitation in kind: tomorrow, Friday, March 8, I will be participating in an “Unauthorized Conversation” about HIV/AIDS and Media Studies, in the Book Exhibit from 11-1. With my friends, colleagues, and AIDS comrades in arms, Marty Fink and David Oscar Harvey, we will engage in a conversation about many queer things, including some of the questions I asked above: about the history and politics of sub-field production and maintenance given the growth of the larger field. You don’t have to be queer to know about AIDS, or to care about its place in Media Studies. We’d love to have you as part of the conversation.