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!

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Blogging as Public Pedagogy

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:

I first blogged about five years ago (on August 21, 2007) following the always astute advise of Yvonne Welbon who was, at that time, producing a feature documentary I was making with and about my sister Antonia. Always a student of industry, Yvonne was convinced that producing a vibrant web-presence for myself would also enable grand possibilities for SCALE. In this she proved both dead-on and also off-target. Over three-hundred posts later, and a much more dispersed and vast Internet life than I could have ever imagined in 2007—one that includes this blog and another, three YouTube channels, a born-digital video-book, several websites, a global initiative to teach feminism and technology online, and uncountable web articles, interviews, reviews, guest-posts—I would like to pause and think about what and why I do here; who I am when on this blog; and why none of that mattered much for my documentary but did end up affecting my work and myself in other ways:

I am also speaking (metaphorically) to Geert Lovink, who I have been reading lately (about blogs: see his Networks without a Cause and Zero Comments), and to graduate students and their mentors who just might be reading, some of whom I’ve (literally) been talking with a lot about the role of blogs and other forms of Internet presence within our profession. I think, with all the best intentions, like my producer Yvonne before us, we’re getting some of this quite wrong (that is to say in what ways it actually helps us; and how we might best use it) as well as other parts right. Most specifically, the Internet’s unassailable logic of numbers, popularity, or virality is actually not well-suited to the kind of work that most of us do which is deep, focused and small by design; and the neo-liberal production of glossy or cool, sellable, spreadable things and surfaces (selves, websites, blogs) does not map neatly to careers based first upon content. By looking to mainstream Internet practices (as was true for Hollywood film before us) we fail to understand the norms and needs of marginal, radical, or alternative users or uses of a medium. So:

  • I see this blog as a tool and extension of my professional life as media scholar, maker, and activist. I think of it as an “academic blog” or “professional blog” with little in common with blogs that re-post things by other people, mark the mundane and private, or sell things.
  • I write quickly (usually in an hour or less) about the work I am currently seeing, making or reading, what I am thinking or teaching about (including other blogs), and cultural concerns that connect to topics of interest to my work and so now also to this blog (AIDS, fake and real documentary, YouTube and Internet culture, queer and feminist art and media).
  • I write short because: that is part of the style I have honed for this place (I also try to include at least one video); I imagine that that is what readers expect online; this allows me to write quick, so I can do so often and even when I have other responsibilities.
  • I try to write in a voice that is neither overly academic nor excessively personal, even as
  • I write in the I voice.
  • I am not anonymous even as I rarely discuss my private life.
  • When I reveal personal things about my non-professional life this is because theyare part of my professional life, in that my work is most often about the personal and political. Even so, I do so with care (marking and monitoring my own limits for revelation) and because my feminist methods, topics, and politics so demand.
  • I write to a small but steady group of readers who rarely comment. I know who a few of you are, I guess about some of the others, and a significant chunk I have no idea about, although I know you wouldn’t read me if you didn’t share some of my professional concerns. I am small and specific enough not to draw haters (although I get a lot of spam).
  • I have no interest in growing my readership although I do cross-blog, on occasion, because I think communities outside my niche might be interested.
  • I have met people through my blog and have gone on to work on projects with them.
  • I have met readers of my blog, and learned that sometimes I speak to them.
  • I have used writing from the blog towards other, larger projects. The quick words often become more thoughtful talks, larger articles, or merely the records of thoughts I had that help me to develop new thinking and remember old.
  • I do not think about this as a “publication” (for my cv), but I do include it as an entry under the category: “on the Internet.”
  • I do not think of this writing as self-branding, although I suppose it could be construed as such. Rather, I imagine myself talking first to myself, and then anyone else who might want to listen because we share interests and might want to learn more from each other.
  • I do not think of this writing as self-promotion, although I suppose it could be construed that way. Rather, I imagine it at work within a network of the like-minded who are seeking evidence of, and new insights upon, our shared interests in our rather hostile, inane, or rushed culture.
  • I do not think of this writing as a diary: it is neither personal nor hidden.
  • I do think of this writing as critical Internet and cultural studies, about and in its vernacular, place, and spirit while also exhibiting and enacting the feminist qualities I wish for this and other places: visibility, context, criticality, safety, community.
  • I think of this Internet practice as Internet theory.
  • I write first to craft and share this Internet self to myself, then to place my marginal cultural interests and insights into the record, and finally, to anyone else who will have me.

“In response to what labor leaders see as an exploitative situation, on March 17th, the Newspaper Guild and the National Writers Union both called for bloggers to refuse to blog at the Huffington Post and join an electronic picket line against the Huffington Post.” Mike Elk

While this is the first I’ve heard of this “strike,” its aims are not really news to me. I have been blogging at HuffPo for a little over a year (and here for close to four years!) and in that short time my experience at Huffington Post has really soured. Before I summarize my transition from pleased to pissed, it seems important to note how my not knowing about the virtual picket line reflects some of the larger problem, and how my honoring it will as well. I am not a professional journalist, nor do I even think of my blogging as “journalism,” and I do not need to get paid for this effort because I write as a professor who sees some reflection of my professional efforts in my salary (questions about how to “count” blogging are rife across academia, but I won’t go into that here, and will only suggest that I am well aware of its links to my more traditional work). I am like any number of bloggers who “work for free” because we actually can: whether this be because our labor is paid elsewhere or because we do this work/hobby/activity for fun. In political solidarity with working (unpaid, outsourced) journalists, I am, in fact, a large part of the very flooding of the Internet with other forms of professional (or “pro-am”) content that devalues the worth of their professional labor. And, when I choose to only post this here, I’ll get my small, refined, micro-readership (whoever you may be) to know about the picket line. The only reason I use the Huffington Post is to make my topical writing more visible to people outside my niche. But no longer. And no big loss.

I was initially invited to respond to a piece in their College section that made fun of my course Learning From YouTube (as did most mainstream coverage), but I used this opportunity to first call them out on their silly sarcasm, and then to start duplicating some posts from this blog that seemed to be of more general interest. A number of my posts on things that were both really topical and really mainstream did benefit from their duplication on HuffPo. I’d watch them ride the Internet waves for awhile once they surfaced there, and that never happens here. At one point, writing on Juaquin Phoenix, I even crossed some magic threshold (of views perhaps), and unannounced, uninvited elves started editing my posts (for style and content). After several frustrating days of attempting to get to any person who worked there, I informed them that I was not allowing them to edit my work without my permission and that their user agreement seemed to be in violation. They returned it to its original state. And then they were bought out.

After this, my experience changed immediately, and entirely for the worse. I have attempted to cross-post four times since then, but now their policy is that they select posts, and only one of mine has crossed their unstated threshhold: a recent piece on Cave of Dreams. Meanwhile, other blogs on Cedar Rapids, YouTube and the Arab Spring, and my most recent post on the phony lesbian blogger, did not pass muster.

Now that Huffington Post selects content it would only be right to explain their standards to their authors, allow bloggers contact with the editors who are making these decisions, and then … well, obviously, to pay us for our now-selected content.

I was pleased to be informed by a staff member that Learning from YouTube was chosen as one of the “ten coolest college classes” by none other than the Huffington Post. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this honor proved to be in the spirit of CollegeHumor only, but I would have thought better of the HP as CollegeHumor already successfully mocks stuff, it doesn’t need a grown-up knock-off.

This course is three years old, and mainstream media made fun of it already, and a long time ago because of its intentionally “cool” and even knowingly funny title. It’s easy enough to laugh about the class (and the others on the list) due to their course-title one-liners, but real coverage would look a little deeper (at syllabi, projects, readings, and student and professor description of learning goals and achievements), creating an informed context to help readers understand why professors choose “fun” topics towards the serious ends of higher education: to bring in students, engage them, and help them understand how even rarified practices, like media theory and analysis, can be applicable and even contribute to the strange new (media) world we currently live in. For this reason, I’m honored that Huffington Post asked me to blog about the class: letting my students and I establish for ourselves (in light of snarky comments) the serious nature of the work we did (albeit and importantly on contemporary platforms and in vernacular forms).

I then used the invitation to look and learn as a guest at their institution of higher education. Hope you’ll take a peek at my “Learning from Huffington Post College on Huffington Post College. I suggest over there, that there one might have the expanding opportunities of: learning by slide show, learning by corporation, and learning by edutainment.

YouTube Writing

May 13, 2008

I’ve spent the first half of my sabbatical attempting to “write up” the findings of my course, Learning from YouTube. Given that the heart of the experiment of the course was to learn the strengths and limitations of moving a set of common experiences (teaching, learning, “writing”) fully into the digital space by doing so, it only made sense to “write up” my course within the digital. To this end I’ve completed 6 tours of the class on YouTube which attempt to model a form of academic structure and analysis there. And I’ve “published” a paper on another academic blog. I wrote a short piece (The 5 Lessons of YouTube) for a non-academic audience that I have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to publish in Slate, Salon, and The Nation. The editors were supportive but told me that my work was “too academic,” and they must be right. Even when I use conversational language, there’s something (but what!) in my tone and approach I just can’t seem to shake. Its out to First Monday now. And of course, I’ve been blogging here. My YouTube writing has forced/allowed me to radically rethink the circulation of my work, its audience, and function. So that’s good (although my media always moved in these ways, so maybe my scholarly writing is circulating more like a video now).

Now, I’ve been asked to adapt a talk I gave at SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies), which was based on my MP:me manifesto (written as my first post here, August 27, 2007), into a written paper to be published in a book of essays on first person cinema. Now, here’s the rub. I gave the “talk” as a series of linked videos on YouTube (a method I’ve been experimenting with to present my work on YouTube) without speaking myself (or rather, I was speaking, but not live). It was a rousing failure at the conference because the technology did not work (the connection was not fast enough, so I ended up having to narrate what I had put on-line, oh the multi-layers!) I basically intercut (using the clunky YouTube playlist function) between the video chapters of my manifesto (made in homage to Vertov’s manifesto) and YouTube versions of Man with a Movie Camera. Whether it worked or not, I was hoping to demonstrate (without SAYING so) tensions and connections between modernist/post-modernist form, male and female approaches to media, the home and the city, the personal and the social, going solo and communal, film and video, the expert and the amateur, the communist and the feminist, and how the powers of new media undo or redo many of Vertov’s claims about cinema (linking, montage, the unscripted and scripted real). And now, I’m trying to figure out how to “write” about this construction between and across moving images and sounds on paper!

Its trite to observe that words fail us when we speak of images and sounds, and now we don’t need to do this anyways (hence my YouTube analysis), so who cares, let it go! Its worth noting, of course, that my students and I often wished to write papers about what we learned because this was the most specific way to get across analysis. Further, if I can figure out how to write this up for a book, the word-version will have different readers, a permanence, and a different context than it has on-line, and that’s not insignificant (if I wasn’t a full professor, I’d also say it’d help me with promotions, etc. but I am lucky enough to think outside this logic). This writing really shouldn’t be in a book. It demands the link. So it raises all my colleague Kathleen Fitzpatrick and her gang at the Institute for the Future of the Book have been modeling: they’re better on all this than I am so make sure to read what they’re about. (I have been in long conversation with these guys about my Media Praxis project somehow connecting to their work, whether this ultimately comes to pass or not, this summer I plan to model how to finally realize this project on-line). But for now, I’ll be trying the small task of translating the media-link to the word. I’ll keep you updated.

Just back from the Console-ing Passions conference, where I attended a panel on blogging where people joked that people might blog on the conference and the panel. Well. Melissa Click spoke about the ways that blogging has and has not been beneficial for feminist media scholars. She described, as did Elizabeth Ellcessor, a silencing climate for many feminist (and anti-racist, queer) academic bloggers. While I have not felt this to date, or at least in any way that has slowed me down, it did make me become aware that I am most comfortable blogging about YouTube (imagining a techy/bloggy readership of those interested in technology and blogs), over my more political work (on the war or AIDS for example). But that, even so, as a female academic, I am strongly protected by my rank as Full Professor. I did worry that a culture of women theorizing women-as-victims, and women-as-there-to-be-scared-away (while always true) may not be the most effective place from which to mobilize our writerly empowerment (I’ve written on this in relation to the tradition of the victim documentary), but their statistics and qualitative findings were pretty chilling. (I recently read a smart blog on this “Prejudice in Internet Communities.” Given my later posting on censorship, it seems really complicated to balance out the fact of hating, the power of the disenfranchised through these technologies, and our abilities to be other than victim). While I’m still really figuring this whole blog thing out, it has been pretty great so far, mostly in the ways it allows my ideas to reach people and audiences far afield from my small(er) worlds of queer, feminist media studies and production. I recently blogged about YouTube for OpenCulture to some viral success, for instance, and I think that brings new readers here, although, who’s ever really to know (are you there?).

I wanted to mention some of the cool things I heard about YouTube there. It was nice to be engaged, live with a community of scholars about this topic. Sometimes I feel like I’m blogging to the wind. Yes, I see there are readers, but what are you thinking?

Caetlin Benson-Allot spoke about how the “minimal mediation” or “low-bandwidth aesthetic” (often now an affectation) of what I have called “bad” videos insures their claim to a liveness similar to that of the actualities of early cinema. She suggested that this using/liveness creates a new kind of spectator and critic—the self-as-user—and the sheer doing of user-generation trumps artistry, or even subjective expression (hence the ubiquitous YouTube cover of a cover of a cover). I like to think of my attempt to speak about YouTube using YouTube as an effort to be her user-generator-critic.

On my panel about New Media and Public and Educational Space, Chuck Tryone, of the Chutry Experiment, speaking on political mash-up videos, talked about their “critical-digital-intertextuality,” which is a useful nuance to my ongoing ruminations on self-reflexivity. He, among many others (including David Gurney and Ian Reilly) is thinking about the uses of parody, satire, and other effects-of-faking in contemporary political/video culture. Through my earlier work on the fake documentary, I’ve ruminated that these forms are neither progressive or regressive in their own right, although we must remember that parody and satire are always conservative in that they stay anchored to their target text (this is Linda Hutcheon). I am looking forward to these scholars trying to nuance how and when these tactics can be radical, as I’ve pretty much steam-rolled over humor in my writing about YouTube.

Finally, Rosalind Morris, talking about

in a great panel on images of militarization post 9/11, discussed how YouTube works best by communication through affect in a culture where you can be sure you will not be listened to . Even as we speak and speak, broadcasting ourselves on YouTube and blogs, we become less convinced that we are heard (note my paranoia about readership).