On DML Central, my friend and colleague, Liz Losh, interviews me (and my collaborator, Anne Balsamo, for Part II), about our MDCLE:

“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.”

AIDS Feelings

October 19, 2011

My talk at Concordia stirred a lot of feelings in the community: an intended effect of my “mixed reality experience” produced through the experiences of real bodies, watching digital materials, in real rooms. I didn’t expect the anger, however. Here’s a review by Jacob Roberts, from The Link, that gets to some of those complex responses.

I’ve returned from SCMS and Louisiana (having seen two alligators in the wild on a hike and eaten crawfish and shrimp in innumerable yummy formats) and would like to briefly mention a few of my more memorable media encounters: like the alligator, anxiety-defined all.

Tara McPherson organized New Media Futures: The Digital + the Academy, the workshop where she and I spoke with Nick Mirzoeff, Joan Saab, and Wendy Chun about how digital technologies are altering our new media labor (research and teaching), writing, and publishing practices. While the fact that the projector did not work, definitively disenabling our techie show ‘n tell (has this even not happened at a conference where I am speaking about the Internet?), and thereby providing some felt anxiety for each of the able speakers who could not readily rely on machines to illustrate our points as planned, I’m more interested in highlighting some of Wendy’s brilliant observations about anxiety and new media (studies). She suggested that fears about the future of new media (and its theories and applications) are definitive of the findings and methods of the field, as well as anticipating and self-defining the very forms that new media will take, leading to more uneasiness, more anxious findings, and more twittery tools needed to soothe our ever more shattered nerves and brains. For instance, an anxiety about loss leads to tools that save and thereby produce easily erased, unfindable, updated, quickly unusable, outmoded, unstable records that so engulf us that we become too overwhelmed to remember or (re)visit our saved stuff, thus already producing the loss we anxiously anticipated and the need to build even newer tools and theories to remedy all the more future loss we do and must anticipate.

Now, one might imagine that old-school (dying?) feminist (academic) blogging (and “self-promotion”), the topic of another workshop I attended (highlighting the powerful blogging and other online experiences of Miranda Banks, Ryan Bowles, Alisa Perren, Anne Petersen, Julie Russo, Patty Ahn, and Inna Arzumanova), might be a remedy to our nervous media condition in that blogs (like this one) might allow the lady-theorist (like this one) to calmly, and perhaps communally (or at least in-community) name her own terms, moods, tools, and forms; boy did Wendy Chun get this one right! These amazing, ambitious, bright, primarily young academic women (most were in grad school or ABD, one had just gotten tenure), as well as the mostly young feminists in the room, discussed their blogging, tweeting, and online personae (and thereby use of new media tools and the futures anticipated, hoped for, and associated) as organized by what … Anxiety of course (about being hired, promoted, and otherwise evaluated) and even fear (of hostile readers and punitive potential committees).

Their anxiety made me feel, well, anxious (to feel so differently from everyone else in the room, my comrades, and then try to articulate it cogently) but mostly sad. Then mad, and now compelled to speak and explain. My feminist (academic) blogging might be understood or termed as “self-promotion,” or even “self-branding” (a term tossed about, uneasily, at the session), just look below: I pitch my films and books. Yet I truly think of this very same practice (without fear) as a public engagement in thinking out loud, honing a voice, self-naming, community-building, and stake-holding.

This media platform, like all others, is pretty neutral (yes I know, ownership, design, protocols have meaning, but this is not my point here). Rather, we assign to platforms like blogging (or are assigned) feelings and anticipated futures, but we feminists need not accept the anxiety that holds us in check, that makes us self-doubt, that assures us that speaking about our own good work or new ideas is somehow too prideful rather than merely productive. Feminism gives us all the tools we need to understand that economic conditions like a depression and an academy that sells advanced degrees to pay for itself,  social conditions like patriarchy and racism and homophobia, and psychological conditions like anxiety, should not be suffered as a personal, debilitating and self-censoring problem, but should be understood and fought as political issues best addressed by being named, refused, refined, and remade within the power of movements and with the tools of technology. Sure, all these amazing young women should be anxious about getting a job, but they shouldn’t be anxious about blogging that fact, or blaming whoever they want to blame, or naming the forces in their way, and then doing, showing, and sharing their great work, from which we can all learn and build. I choose anger over anxiety any day (including in your comments, or as I like to think of them my no-mments. We fruitfully discussed in the workshop the value of the under-sung, underdone labor of commenting to better build dialogue, community, and confidence in the anxious world of feminist academic blogging).

Also, a shout out to a great panel I went to on Interactivity. Marina Hassapopoulou spoke about the legacy of expanded cinema and video installation to help us historicize new media, Aubrey Anable about the lie that interactivity is a forum for democratic participation in the new urban planning of New Orleans, and Vinicius Navarro about the new media index as an emptiness that points to a referent in-between.

Toby Miller, Chair of Media and Cultural Studies at UC Riverside, chatted with me over tofu for his podcast, CULTURALSTUDIES. Since last summer, Toby has recorded meandering, lively and detailed conversations with scholars, artists, and activists and he releases them in unedited real time on his podcast to 1000 or so subscribers, all probably three men and their dog in Sweden, according to Toby.

Sitting over lunch with just his shiny laptop open doing the quiet work of recording us—slurps, clinks, and all—I was reminded about the beauty of these kinds of DIY, “hand-made” practices (something we discuss in relation to my video-book’s fears about YouTube and the corporatization of “DIY”) enabled by technology. We discuss this, revolution, AIDS video activism and more. Hope you’ll take a listen.

My video-book goes live today on the MIT Press website. I hope you will take a look, contribute a texteo, and share it with others who might be interested (handy promo here: juhasz flyer). With nothing to buy, sell, or hold, it will be interesting to see how the work fares. Please let me know what you think (by authoring on the vbook).

I am on sabbatical during the Spring of 2011. During this period of relative freedom, I plan to promote, network, and engage with my YouTube video-book (to be released February 7) and to begin thinking about, researching, and getting my hands dirty within my new project regarding online feminism. Towards this end, and in response to my own peculiar and perennial sabbatical-problem (how to not fall into the rabbit hole of structurelessness), I will be teaching a course on this topic at USC (CTCS 412): enjoying new Southern California climes, students, and academic cultures.

The course is similar to my YouTube class in that I ask my students to engage in a criticism of digital space inside that space and within its own vernaculars, hence pushing ideas and practices of scholarly pedagogy, writing and engagement within new media. This leads to fun and innovative classes where students are pressed to be creative which proves to be at once liberating and frightening for many  who have honed the 5 paragraph or 5 page paper, churning out well-wrought ideas in this (perhaps) dying form but not usually asked to think about other modes of now-familiar online communication as also potentially intellectual if not simply intelligent. For this class, my students will be choosing a digital space in which to reside, critique, intervene and build for a semester in the name of their own interpretations of feminism, race, and digital politics. I, too, will be engaging in a few related projects (more later).

This blog also serves as the introduction to my first class session—Monday January 10—and thus the syllabus resides here (and not on paper, and in public) for my students (and curious readers). In being here, as it is and as I am, this blog-post also models one example of the terrain under consideration. Namely, is a blog-post about feminism online written by a feminist blogger and read by her students (and others) creating and engaging  a feminist online space and of what type? The immediate answers point toward my new interests, what I hope will be the focus of the class: What is the nature, failings, powers and possobilities of this digital community (I have a core body of readers, but they don’t hardly ever respond; I don’t know who most of them are unless, often in passing, often in person [or via email] they mention that they have read this or that on my blog). My blog community is, without question, of a different nature from the classroom community that will discuss this post live and together at USC (where, as the feminist professor,  I will have set groundrules for and will also enact a style of conversation and participation that will promote communal, shared interaction). What is the nature of these on, off and in-between-line spaces and their interactions, and can they be more conscientiously shaped to produce feminist affect, action, or interaction? Given the politics of representation and visibility that were core for all identity-based political movements (and also many of their post-phases) is this digital production “political”  in itself, in that I have a voice and forum and with it I use a set of (feminist) words (like feminism) as well as a particular orientation and method (I-voice, informal but not amateur, self-reflexive, goal-oriented, Socratic)?

Class? Users? Ideas?

I’ve worked with, written about, and been a fan of the work of Susan Mogul for quite awhile. A early practitioner of feminist video via her radical education at the LA Woman’s Building’s Feminist Art Program in the 1970s, Susan emailed me recently about the censorship (and related and ultimately successful on-line protest) of her seminal 1973 video, “Dressing Up,” by YouTube, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

And this is why YouTube bores me, even as I’m about (cross your fingers) to finally publish my YouTube book. YouTube hasn’t changed much in the three years I’ve been studying it seriously, other than getting larger in users, lengthier in videos, and more packed with corporate content. Don’t get me wrong: NicheTube rules, and there’s plenty to see if you ramble long and hard enough (garnering the site ad-revenue with every look), that is if the radical stuff you might like can last. For YouTube censors non-hegemonic (i.e. feminist) practices on the sheer philistinism of its beloved user/cops.