Queer & Feminist New Media Spaces

Introduction: Body Destiny
In many ways, following our Race and Ethnicity forum with one on Gender, Sexuality, and Queerness is a productive and intersectional connection, as this forum will also seek to unbind heteronormative, patriarchal and naturalized constructions of difference.

An early essay by J.Jack Halberstam deconstructs the binaristic logics of gender, sexuality and technology through the life trajectory of Alan Turing. Penalized for his deviant sexuality, Turing's suicidal death by a bite from an apple saturated with cyanide bizarrely prefigures the Apple Computer logo. Turing would provide the template for the modern computer, and is only one example of the entanglements of technology with the intersections of gender and sexuality.

It is 2010, and today, our bitten apples - the importance of understanding the limits of the body and subjectivity - remain pressing. In this forum on gender, sexuality, and queer media spaces, we pose questions around gaming, new media art, and social networking. Although the Internet's initial utopian promise has its limitations, as Lisa Nakamura writes in Digitizing Race:  "...we have a situation that is much more complicated, yet far from disheartening." Through this, we hope to engage with Donna Haraway's question in her seminal essay, A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in taking pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction (35).
This HASTAC forum features a diverse group of featured commentators who have foregrounded and shaped the intersections of gender, sexuality, and queer media spaces through their scholarship, artistic works, and activism. We hope for dialogues that traverse disciplinary boundaries, borders, and fictive territories. We welcome all those interested in learning about this topic - we'd like to offer a few categories and questions to launch the discussion.

What is the relationship between a digital body and a physical body?
Immersive virtual environments offer a space in which bodies are not constrained by the limitations of a physical world. At first glance, the plasticity of the digital body seems to allow limitless possibilities for identities: gender, race, size, and even species might be expanded to the imagination with a few clicks of a mouse. These digital bodies are often seen as less important as expressions of identity than real bodies. While scholars like N. Katherine Hayles demonstrates technology can never free us from life in a body, virtual world residents and its cultural ramifications maintain digital bodies are an important part of defining the self. Sometimes, the digital body reflect a truer identity than the physical world can sustain.

Visual artist Micha Cardenas explores the relationships between gender, technology, and art in her project Becoming Dragon, where she lived 365 hours in Second Life as a dragon. Cardenas formulates questions of the "subject in transition" in a way that crosses not only gender boundaries, but the boundary between the real and the virtual.


How does play and structure affect digital identity?
Queer theorists often speak of ludic identity practices, and in a virtual environment, this term takes on additional meaning. While in theory a synthetic world offers a blank slate for identity expression, in practice these possibilities become constrained by systems of code which can impose identity norms in an otherwise open environment. Environments in which biological sex is non-functional nevertheless demand users to choose an avatar's gender. This is true even in Second Life, where there are different options for editing a male or a female avatar body.

In a gaming environment, the additional pressures of narrative and game objectives often create situations in which the identity of a gamer's avatar contradicts many aspects of hir own identity. To what extent can we say a male-identified gamer assumes the identity of Lara Croft while playing Tomb Raider? We often describe game avatars as hollow shells without personality for the gamer to control, but this is rarely the actual case. Famous game heroines like Lara Croft or Samus Aran demonstrate gender plays an important role in game design.

Intricacies of Online Community
For queers living away from urban centers, the ability to form relationships over a distance gives them access to much-needed support networks and spaces of acceptance, as illuminated in Mary Gray's recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America. We can see evidence of online creation of communities on sites like YouTube, which provides a locale for gender transitioning narratives. But we all know that the "global village" fantasies of Internet community are far more complicated in practice. Jessi Gan observes that Internet representations of Asian transgender women are constructed both as object and as subject. The censorship of pornography in early Internet communities links with debates within the feminist movement around sexuality, as demonstrated by Abagail De Kosnik. Additionally, Juana Maria Rodriguez illuminates in her book Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces that cyberspace complicates boundaries of lesbian space: while in some aspects sexually liberating, these chat rooms are also sites for fierce policing of gender and sexuality.

Moreover, social networking sites trouble the notion of the "public and private" particularly for queer identified subjects. Facebook and other social networking sites complicate the potential for creating closed circles of associates with the move away from privacy. These issues may leave individuals open not only to allies, complicating notions of the "closet." How intersections of gender, sexuality, and technology shape and construct identities and communities is a pressing concern and possibility within our digital age.

Gender.Sexuality.Queer New Media Art
New Media Arts convergence with gender, sexuality, and queer imaginaries ruptures limited boundaries of identity politics as from Brandon, by Shu Lea Cheangmedia technologies are utilized for aesthetic and political strategies. While material consequences for subjectivity on the margins illuminate the seriousness of the issues at hand, new media artists engage with gender, sexuality and queerness through diverse interventions. Ranging from the playful to prankish, delving into the whimsical while provoking and inciting, confusing interactivity and objectivity, new media art paves myriad avenues for freedom. As cyberfeminist artist Corneilia Sollfrank elaborates in the book, New Media Art, Cyberfeminism is characterized by its use of irony to join humor and seriousness as political and artistic strategy. The hybrid joining of seemingly disparate affects, strategies, and regimes illustrate the vital contribution of artists delving into gender, sexuality, and queer new media spaces through subversive aesthetic acts.

The featured artists in this special forum illuminate the vital interventions of the intersections of emergent media, art, technologies and gender, sexuality. Pioneering new media artist and filmmaker Shu Lea Cheang is notable for Brandon, the first interactive web-based work commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum, which explores the story of Brandon Teena, who was raped and killed because he identified as male despite being born female. Following along these digital lines, new media artist and scholar Zach Blas asks and provides through his project, Queer Technologies: "Does technology bind all bodies to a heterosexist ideology of control or can technology offer empowering, subversive structures and processes to give all bodies a freedom that exists as fact...? Another project, called Remedies, is an online apothecary created by new media artist Monica Ong. One piece playfully poses, "Ever regret being born a girl, or worse, being pregnant with one? Do you worry that junior is a fairy? Some days, dont you just feel too brown to fit in?" While these are just a small sample of the projects out there, these artists question, transform, and create the body from dominant hegemonic patriarchal and heterosexist paradigms that exist in both real time and cyberspace. In doing so, these artists break through new terrains, reconfigure the disembodied body, transform subject/object divide, and our conceptions of ourselves.

The age-old question: Is any of this "new"?
As Lisa Nakamura writes in Digitizing Race, "Interfaces inform all media -- videos, television, literature -- and as this happens we are witnessing the creation of new power differentials in visual capital. Several questions are at stake when considering the transformation of old to new medias and vice versa, and the various platforms gender, sexuality, inhabit. Carol A. Stabile investigates the representations of race and gender historically and to the present, on how it has  combined in news media narratives about crime in the U.S. Joshua Gamson documented the earliest LGBT representations on television talk shows in Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity. Gamson's current scholarship demonstrates gay male depictions have changed from freakishly abnormal to "normal" and consumer in emergent reality television genres such as the show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: "Genre conventions, therefore, crucially shape the kind of visibility we get on television for stigmatized or marginalized groups." Nakamura's recent presentation on Web 2.0, myspace.com and reality show celebrity Tila Tequila, also demonstrates these shifts between and across new/old media. Moreover it provokes questions around cyber labor, and representations regards to race, gender, sexuality, and queer subjectivity.

As always, the necessity to historicize technology is vital, Katie King points out in her manuscript in process, Speaking with Things, an Introduction to Writing Technologies. Technologies here are not just the latest machines for sale, or the instruments and infrastructures of science, but the cultural refinements of skills and tools, extensions of human bodies and minds with which the world is continually reshaping in complex interconnecting agencies.

Please join us to discuss questions such as:
 - how does queer theory intersect with technology/technologies? 
 - what is a 'queer media space' and what are the contours of such an "imagined community"?
 - how do you see issues of gender, sexuality and identity play out in digital media, digital arts, and the Internet?
- While initially, the body seemed to be free from earthly constraints as pointed out by Nakamura, it is a far more "complicated." How does the body function as a theme within theory and art, emerging from queer, ethnic, and feminist, studies and other related disciplines? And why?
- Is technology historically closely entangled with sexuality? Theorist Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu draws from journalist John Tierney's observation that "sex and the erotic have always had a ''particularly creative impact on creative technologies,'" through its use, and also for innovation. What might this mean for marginalized subjects that are racialized or gendered
in regards to sexuality?
- How can we understand shifts and changes and relationship within and between representational genres such as reality television, talk shows, and social networking sites such as YouTube and myspace.com around gender, sexuality, and queer issues?
- how might the digital age transform and/or create queer feminist issue oriented publications?

We are thrilled to host this conversation, see all of your ideas, and we welcome dialogue on all of these questions, and more!

Front image credit: brandon.guggenheim.org/bigdoll/

 

 

Hosted by:

Margaret Rhee, Ph.D. candidate in Ethnic Studies with a designated emphasis on New Media, University of California - Berkeley

Amanda Philipps, Ph.D. candidate in English, University of California - Santa Barbara

FionaB

Featured Respondents

A very warm welcome, and a special thank you, to our featured respondents. These activists, scholars, and artists have generously agreed to join our conversation over the next few weeks.

Additional forthcoming interviews with:

  • Elaine H. Kim, University of California, Berkeley and Filmmaker
  • Sonny Nordmarken, University of Massachusetts
  • T.Kebo Drew, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project

...and others!

changed

Thanks for another

Thanks for another provocative and challenging set of ideas and questions... I am not sure where to start, actually.  A majority of my current dissertation work centers on unpacking techno + sexuality, techno + race, and techno + gender and considering what it means to read these "formations" or "logics" (for lack of better terms) in intersection and in parallel.  I am heartened by the attention to perhaps use one logic as a way to render another, to route critiques and analyses through another, or to find ways to see the alliances and evasions among these formations. 

I think I want to begin with Nakamura (and other's) notion of "porting" or the "portability" of certain markers of difference (e.g. race and gender) that seem to cross the real/digital/virtual thresholds with more ease than others.  In part, as the forum organizers note, this is an issue of "coding."  But I do think that this points up logics that seem more transmutable, transportable than others.   I have often found that work on sexuality online often gets conflated with gender.  In video games, for the most part, there is no menu choice for sexuality and if there is how does it get gamically played?  All of this "window dressing" does point up an interesting feature of online/digital spaces: all of these logics about the body, about the self result from a collaboration of discursive, representational, performative, technological, and lived practices.  I am interested in what formations and logics get undone (ostensibly) by technological mediation and what formations and logics remain stable or are assumed natural, naturalized.  Sexuality in many cases seems to be one of the latter.

Margaret Rhee

Intersectionality of Race, Gender, and Sexuality

Thanks for your post! Your dissertation sounds fascinating, and would love to engage further. You've brought up many fantastic points, but hopefully my response can add to these issues. Being trained within Ethnic Studies, but also drawing from queer and feminist studies, I think of gender, sexuality, and gender are simultaneous social constructed formations, particularly in the "meanings" and consideration of the material ramifications of difference. Nakamura also draws from Omi and Winnant's Racial Formation Theory, in terming the implications of cyberspace as a "digital racial formation theory." The process, as you note are from the "collaboration of discursive, representational, performative, technological, and lived practices" around gender, sexuality and other axes of difference. A discursive representational regime... I think utilizing logics of gender, and other axes of difference such as sexuality, would provide essential theoretical tools, (that are used in real life as well) to deconstruct the rigid binaries such as male/female, black/white, gay/straight. Feminists of color have long pressed forward intersectionality as a political and theoretical framework. To think of the body, as simply only "sexual" or "gender" or "raced" is quite limiting. However, hegemonic discourses tend to mark bodies as simply only one, there has been tremendous scholarship around the inability to be both, Black and gay, Asian and gay as also cited by Nakamura in the Details Magazine article that garnered much protest over this very characterization of Gay or Asian.

This same "logics" that form these constructed differences, make certain they are unable to be deconstructed, ie they seem seamless, naturalized... additionally, these binaries are not without value as tremendous scholarly work that deconstruct the white/black, Oreint/Occident binaries. For my work, I have been investigating what neoliberalism logics (which Nakamura also points out) of privatization has to do with the body and identities. Why some descriptors highlighted while others, are not? Why some races are highly coded as sexualized, ie the hypersexuality of Asian women while others are code as emasculated? Moreover, sexuality in itself is complicated and formed by gender, race and vice versa within dominant discourse. For my work, I press on the importance of intersectionality as one way to undo this, as we can't think of these axes as separate from one another. ie Work in gender studies should consider sexuality, and work in ethnic studies should also consider gender etc. and especially when considering the construction of same sex sexuality, as an "identity" (eg the invention of the "homosexual" by sexologists as written by George Chauncey and other historians). And the big question, as you've stated and what is so vital about Nakamura's work, is what does technology have to do with the shaping and also resistance to these limited constructions of identity?

I am not a gamer, however I wonder if these options around sexuality are simply not offered, what might these limitations suggest? Far from only being naturalized or not optioned, could it speak to logics of heteronormativity? The very absence by choice seems to speak to a lot provoking questions. I think you are def onto something in grappling with what formulations get undone through technology, and what gets "transmutable."

What do others think?


 

changed

I get the point of thinking

I get the point of thinking intersectionally, but I do also think and am working through the necessity of intersectionality for intersectionality's sake (not that this is what you or others are doing).  Hence thinking about the routing of one through another logic or formation (a kind of intersectionality) or about parallel critiques.  In other words, are these formations necessarily co-constitutive?  Maybe this is just a problem of semantics -- like I said, I'm thinking through these things.  Given the woes of queer theory in its struggles to define itself (no matter who loosely) as well as negotiate the troubled waters of institutionality/disciplinarity, the fallout of intersectionality could be the eclipsing of things like sexuality (cf. collections like What's Queer About Queer Studies Now and After Sex).  So, I'm not thinking about the body as just "sexual" or "gendered" or "raced," rather to look at the ways even intersectional approaches might foreground one or stabilise one or necessarily render one more changeable/progressive/transgressive. 

In Nakamura's older text _Cybertypes_ she uses the example of the ostensibly straight, white man who "tours" the identity of the Japanese samurai geisha.  In her account, this "identity tourism" is about race and gender, first and foremost.  But the erotic and queer critiques are not engaged more fully.  In a sense, the sexuality in her example is simply heteronormative -- a white, straight man's fantasy -- but I think think there are ways to read against the grain here.  In other words, how might very critique above require the engagement of the stereotype of the heteronormative white male gaze and appropriation of the eroticised Asian female body in order to work?

In terms of video game "menu choices," part of the challenge of the inclusion/exclusion of "sexuality" is programmatic.  As I hinted, how do you translate such a category or identity into programmatic values?  Most games that include queer choices usually limit it superficial characterization.  What is more interesting to me is when players play games queerly (if that's possible).   The fascinating ambivalence of fantasy race and fantasy gender in games like World of Warcraft is that they simultaneously point up the constructedness and performativeness of those formations but at the same time the game's narratives and play and code want to pin it down to some quantifiable, natural, fixed thing.  It is this tension which makes the gamic version of sexuality so difficult and often stereotypical or gamically inconsequential.

So much for late night ramblings...

Amanda Phillips

One example of

One example of sexuality-as-gameplay I can think of is in Valkyria Chronicles. Each soldier in the military has a fairly in-depth personal profile, which includes a note about whether he/she "fancies men" or women, or both. This then translates into strategy - when organizing units on the battlefield, some soldiers receive a boost to stats if placed near soldiers of their preferred gender. (Take that, DADT!)

And as a kid I always found that the most effective way to maintain relationships for the purposes of career advancement in The Sims was to have the non-working partner in the household start up a romantic relationship with, um... everyone in town. (Friendship bars stay higher for longer that way!)

The "sexuality/gender/race isn't relevant to gameplay" accusation is one I often see tossed around in the non-academic gaming community, and it usually is a way to get out of facing issues of representation that most of us understand to be quite pertinent. While I am extremely hesitant to disturb the smoldering remains of the narratology vs. ludology debate, I have to say that I can't get on board with a treatment of narrative/representation that might put it on the bottom of a hierarchy; gaming is certainly about doing things and making choices, but context is key - otherwise I might as well be solving math problems or throwing rocks around.

Ed, I absolutely agree with you that encoding traits like race, gender, and sexuality leads to our thinking about them in essentialist terms. I think of what has been done with sex and gender in this regard - limiting female characters to particular classes, the Second Life avatar meshes that restrict customizable features to particular gendered bodies, and so on. It really contributes to the feeling that gender and sexuality really SHOULD be divorced from play structures.

But then again, the creativity of designers often astounds me.

Margaret Rhee

beautiful and possible

Hey there!  Thanks for your response, I just got home from campus related events, like the good
privatized doctoral student I am in this academic industrial complex, as I reiterate the 
discourse around the demands of "the life." First of all, I def dont think your writing is late night rambling, 
and again, your topic sounds really fascinating. I hope to engage more, and learn more. I def 
dont mean to imply at all, you are thinking singularity about these issues, so I am glad I can 
clarify. For me, my concern comes from the implications, politically, in creating a queer body 
politic. Crossing paths with disciplinary boundaries, the politics of who is included, 
who is heard, and exclusion remain really vital--these tensions come forward when 
creating any "queer" space.  

***      Again I am not saying at all, you imply this, however, I think the danger comes when scholarship that
does not also engage or consider through an intersectional scholarly framework, then, reifies the very 
rigid dicotomies, and production of power relations upholding "Normality." Which queer theory, 
at its best and at its heart, trying to deconstruct. Doing "intersectionality for intersectionality's sake" suggests to me, 
a mere tacking on of gender, or race, or sexuality, an analysis that does not aim to engage 
thoroughly issues of power that relate to various axes of difference. And I would have to agree 
completely that tacking on, would probably be worse than the politics of silence.  
Again, these are my observations of the disciplinary boundaries, that parallel
that enact constructed borders of not only community boundaries, but the boundaries of the body as well. 
***

I feel the most interesting and engaging work being done in queer theory, really does not have to do 
with sex at all. Like the Social Text issues reiterates, how can we understand empire building through 
queer theory? How can we critique gay shame? And pride? I haven't read After Sex, but look forward to. 
But I think the issues at hand comes with queer theory's engagement with the theoretical and the 
very real material considerations that affect the very lives of queer bodies, including those that are excluded,
a critique which Lisa Duggan and Jaspir Puar do an amazing job of providing in their scholarly works. 
 These tensions have existed throughout from the early the utilization of the term queer
which Joshua Gamson's very poignant article 

Must Identity Movements Self-Destruct? A Queer 
Dilemma also speaks to this. I also loved Riki Wilchins' book
because it suggests that queer theory is utilized within the everyday, within the localized lives and bodies 
of queers, that it doesn't simply live through text, or code. Its enactment is what makes it real. (Of course 
we can debate on what "real" is.") 


***
As for gaming, again, I not well versed, not a gamer! Although I hope to try it out sometime, but I do 
engage in performance, and new media art, and as performance art are one of my interests, I wonder if 
this sense of play within, let's say a theatre space, can also help out this "choices" of
gender/sexuality issue? Ive just been thinking about the queer performance spaces, very localized, that 
transcend boundaries: transmen who perform uber masculinity while in male drag, gender queer individuals 
who perform femme burlesque from another time period singing ballads about U.S. colonization of the 
Americas,  "straight" men who engage in queer acts, who love gender queer biologically born female 
bodies, Asian American butch spoken word artists who transform this notion of femininity and 
masculinity in all its forms. Native American Two-Spirits who remap the world through their bodies and 
digital GPS Its endless, and fabulous, and fantastic. Beautiful and possible. With drinks everywhere 
to celebrate! The technologies of the stage: lighting, the clothing, the spatiality, what you can become
through technologies, as simplistic as they may seem in our new media age. 
Yet, these performances are filmed on cheap 1 chip cameras, edited on accessible programs, and  
disseminated and shared among friends through YouTube, and  suddenly, the world. The fantasy 
of gender/sexuality non-conformity and desire is actually, I think very "normal," and reality. 

 

Margaret Rhee

Creating a Queer Feminist New Media Community

Hi All! I look forward to an engaging conversation around new media spaces and the intersections of gender, sexuality and race! As stated in the introduction, we were excited for the productive and intersectional connection with the previous forum on Race Ethnicity and Diaspora. Through a queer feminist lens, we hope to further the activist, artistic, and scholarly conversations around representations of gender and sexuality and its intersections. Several issues and questions came to mind, such as the role of online communities, changes in media genres, gaming and gender, and other topics listed above. We especially look forward to all your perspectives!

For this forum, we hoped to bring issues of gender and sexuality to discuss with HASTAC scholars and also provide an avenue for people who may not be as familiar with HASTAC, to also contribute. In doing so, we hope to foster a symbiotic dialogue around issues of gender and sexuality, and also create community through the process! Being able to work with Amanda Phillips on this forum was a tremendous learning experience, as she brought her expertise in gaming and queer theory to the forefront. Together, I feel we were able to highlight some pressing issues around queer feminist new media spaces, from our various and diverse interests. I hope as this forum launches, it will also be a collaborative space!!!

I wanted to thank all of our featured respondents who have all shaped the topic of this forum tremendously through their work as scholars, artists, and activists! We appreciate their generous contribution to the forum, and look forward to their perspectives. Additionally, I want to thank the director of the HASTAC scholars program Fiona Barnett for all her tremendous support in making this forum on Queer Feminist New Media Spaces a virtual reality!

Looking forward to *meeting* all of you and for a fruitful engagement around queer feminist new media spaces! my best,

Margaret

Jentery Sayers

re: Creating a Queer Feminist New Media Community

A big thank you to Amanda, Margaret, and everyone else involved in facilitating this forum.  As Ed points out, this is another provocative and challenging set of ideas and questions. 

From what's above, I'd like to focus on one sentence in particular: "While scholars like N. Katherine Hayles demonstrates technology can never free us from life in a body, virtual world residents and its cultural ramifications maintain digital bodies are an important part of defining the self."

There I think emerges an interesting tension between materialist approaches to new media and those residents and ramifications that Amanda and Margaret identify. 

Even though I am reticent to argue that "[i]mmersive virtual environments offer a space in which bodies are not constrained by the limitations of a physical world," I do think materialist critiques of new media tend to overlook precisely the cultural possibilities articulated above. 

Here's my question, then: How does the digital/physical (or virtual/actual) divide enable these very debates and to what effects on our own investments as scholars? 

Thanks again!

Amanda Phillips

Jentery, I'm actually a bit

Jentery, I'm actually a bit curious about why you hesitate about that particular assertion about virtual bodies without physical limitations - I'm always intrigued by the way that our encoding of synthetic worlds tends to recreate our experience of physics and bodies. Perhaps this is what makes them so compelling to people... At any rate, it seems to me that, in theory at least, the virtual world is a truly blank slate whose possibilities are only limited by our imagination and processing power.

As for your question, it seems that the pressure to have some stake in the "actual" world in order to be taken seriously has a real impact on people studying, working with, or living in the virtual world. We'll obviously get 10 different answers if we ask 10 different people what relevance the virtual has to the real (and I feel like I'm starting to play fast and loose with terms - apologies!), but I wonder if we can/should ever get to the point where this is seen as an overvaluation of the physical.

It is important to acknowledge that we do and will always live embodied lives, but then there are "digital natives" out there for whom this is truly a regrettable state, and I find that really interesting and compelling.

(And also, perhaps, not new!)

Jentery Sayers

Re: Hesitation about "without physical limitations"

Thanks for your response, Amanda.  I really admire your emphasis on imagination and possibility, and your comment no doubt points to a certain pessimism subtending my reticence about claims for the virtual without physical limitation. 

Most of my work is on magnetic recording, sound reproduction, and data storage.  So, as you might imagine, I tend to highlight where information is located, how it gets inscribed, and the ideologies through which that inscription process is rendered invisible to people who are not technology professionals.  

In other words, one of my concerns is that rhetorics of a virtual world free from physical limitations can---but do not always---overlook (1) the history of the virtual in the physical, (2) the modes of production for virtual worlds and the labor intrinsic to them, (3) the material particulars of technologies and protocols, (4) the lived realities of most populations, and (5) the ways in which the absence of physical limitations can foster (for example) flat world theory.

And yet, as you point out, always living an embodied life is truly a regrettable state for many.  I also find that claim really interesting and compelling, and I've been struggling with how to balance that argument with those I've listed above. There must be a way, right?  I think this forum suggests as much. 

For the balance of the day, I'm going to think through how to articulate this generative tension somewhat more concisely.  Right now, I'm wondering how it maps onto something like the debates (in the 80s and 90s) between virtual reality and embodied virtuality (or between virtual worlds and ubiquitous computing). 

Thanks again!  I'm looking forward!

 

Scott Trudell

disembodied performance

Hello Jentery - Inspired partly by the issues you raise here, I posted a new thread about "disembodied performance" below: this seems to me one of a variety of ways of thinking through the relationship between material and immaterial aspects of the digital.  Hope you're well!  Scott

elijah.meeks

On the Importance of Alan Turing

Wow, what an incredibly well-created prompt, it's forced me to respond, even though this is so far afield from my studies that I can do little more than throw in some grist for the mill.

I think the role of sexuality and gender identity in the life of Alan Turing and its effect on his definition of artificial life (Which is the accepted definition by the digerati) is woefully underexplored.  The Turing Test and the Chinese Box are not only popular among cognitive scientists but seem to be the default conceptualization of recognition of life or even identity in the modern world.  I think also the concept that something is Turing Complete, which is to say that it (a language or machine and, I believe implicitly extended to by digital theorists, a person) can represent all possible combinations of expression, is itself wrapped up in the disjointed identity of computing's First Citizen.

Amanda Phillips

Turing and Gender

Elijah, this also reminds me of the inclusion of gender in Turing's original test, which I first learned about in the prologue to How We Became Posthuman. Since you've given me an opening to talk about it, I'll just pull a quote out since this discourse certainly belongs in the forum:

"By including gender, Turing implied that renegotiating the boundary between human and machine would involve more than transforming the question of 'who can think' into 'what can think.' It would also necessarily bring into question other characteristics of the liberal subject, for it made the crucial move of distinguishing between the enacted body, present in the flesh on one side of the computer screen, and the represented body, produced through the verbal and semiotic markers constituting it in an electronic environment" ( Hayles xiii).

The prologue is short and sweet, and certainly a fun aside about Turing if you haven't read it before!

elijah.meeks

Thanks Amanda, for the

Thanks Amanda, for the perfect academic quote that sums up my intuitive claim.  Do you think there's a parallel between what seems to me to be the rising importance of semiotics and the modern fluid understanding of identity?  Do you think representation in virtual space (of people sure, but even of data--all those punchcards full of demography) mimicks life or does life mimick virtuality?  It all seems too coincidental to me.

Amanda Phillips

This question is really fun

This question is really fun to think about. If you look at my response to Jentery above (or below?), I have a certain fascination with the fact that we seem to embed the same systems (physics, gender, etc etc) into the virtual world that we have in the "real" world. It's all just code - there's no hard and fast reason for the virtual world to take any particular form over another. To me, this seems like a clear case of the virtual mimicking the physical.

I think in the case of people experimenting with identities, however, the opposite case is true. Virtual worlds make it easy to run test cases of real life - why else would they use it so often for modeling? This example is a bit silly, but my avatar in Second Life has helped me make fashion decisions in real life.

But what about people trying on a new gender identity? This is a much more serious prospect.

elijah.meeks

Clothing as Gender?

You're right, of course.  Second Life could have represented human beings as being made up of the Five Elements, and Facebook could have given you the gender choices of Achilles, Tinky Winky and Jello.  But the Web, especially the Big Web, is mind-numbingly conservative.  I think it's because it was created by engineers working for the Department of Defence and, like a sheltered child, any time it rebels it only rebels in one of X number of socially acceptable way.

It would seem that gender on the web, though, very much resembles clothing, and that the wearers resemble military brats who have the chance to reinvent themselves wherever they go, without being reminded that even though they're now wearing a leather jacket and a spiked dog collar, they used to play D&D and wear Wranglers.  It's an oversimplification, I know, and gender choices on line can result in harassment and emotional damage similar to non-traditional gender choices in real life, but there's a definite intuition that the easier it is to do something, the less it means in an authentic way.

I wonder if trying to associate on-line identity with real-life (loaded term!) individuals is kind of like trying to place a novel in the context of the author's life.  It's been a while since I took a lit course, but I remember that being not the right way of doing things...

Margaret Rhee

Mutually Constitutive

Thanks for your comment, Elijah! Means a lot and hope to hear more from you! My initial encounter with Turing's sexuality was from a friend of mine who was a graduate student in physics. He told me about Turning years ago, but reading Halberstam's essay really helped me conceptualize his narrative, and the implications...And your points really also help me understand the essay and Turing... I wonder how your observations can extend  and link to the various conceptions of identity and differences, such as gender, race in other threads...Your observations provide perspective, I think for theorists working in these issues of gender/sexuality to consider technology, and those working in issues of artificial life/technology to consider implications of gender and sexuality... 

elijah.meeks

I think it makes it all the

I think it makes it all the more messy, and I think we should embrace that complicated messiness, myself.  Turing is a great example because he's not really held up as a human being, but rather a collection of pure epiphenomenal principles (Turing Oracles, Turing Complete, the Turing Test).  The fact that the man himself was not this mechanistic, Formal being, I think, restores the necessity to contextualize, not only in the field of computer science, but especially in the field of computer science.  I've always thought that it was a mistake to label software creation as "engineering" since it is so wrapped in language and logic, which is humanistic.  Maybe Turing can become our marker of how the idealized digital world can never escape the messy real.

I'm sure some folks (literary theorists?) may have a problem with my placing the author into his theories and work, but I just can't help the feeling that modern distanciation in regard to digital works is fueling a false, clean, commodified sense of self.  Frankly, I'm glad I work with more grounded subjects, but I'm equally glad you smart folks are dealing with this messy stuff.

 

Anne Cong-Huyen

New Media as naturally queer space(s)?

Thanks so much for hosting this forum Amanda (my dear, dear frolleague!) and Margaret! It's such a great follow-up to the recent one on race and ethnicity, and I think, as Ed points out perfectly, there are many natural convergences and overlaps.

Ok, I don't know if that makes sense, and it's been a while since I've read any feminist or queer theory, but I have to try and contribute something! Here goes...

One thing that I've been wondering about, and Amanda has heard some of my musings on this, is about the natural alliances that emerge between specific minority activist groups (especially feminists of color) and queer groups. Is there a certain productive relationship that develops between those individuals and groups who share similarly marginal and hybrid/in-between subject positions in our dominant societies? Of course this is not always the case (for example see "Crossing Gay Color Lines" or "Homophobia, Racism, and Queer People of Color"), but where it surfaces, these formations are incredibly exciting. 

At the same time I wonder if the Internet, digital spaces, and new media, serve as important hybrid/queer spaces that facilitate community formation, activism, and play? These media im particular are important because of the interplay between the real/virtual, the linguistic/visual, and the material/electronic--none of which can count as being necessarily binary or oppositional. As you guys mentioned, there is a certain amount of constraint that comes with code, but there is also a great deal of active play that can come out of it. One example I see of both the feminist of color/queer activist alliance is in Margaret Cho, who I follow avidly on Twitter. As a well-recognized gay/lesbian/transger rights activist, outspoken feminist, and woman of color, she not only disseminates information using new media (Twitter, personal web pages, DVDs, TV shows, youtube videos, etc.) she also transcends the digital with live-performances, in-person events, etc. Each of which is informed by aspects of the other.

Anyway, just some thoughts...

Margaret Rhee

Punks Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens

Thanks for your engagement and your thoughtful response! The two links you've provided get at the questions much of the queer of color critique by scholars such as Jose Munoz, David Eng, and Gayatri Gopinath grapple with. I think the fact that these articles are readily available via online is great! Personally, my first academic article was on the very issue of Korean American cultural attitudes on same sex sexuality and marriage. For my findings, which emerged out of my undergraduate thesis, I analyzed a Korean American magazine for articles around same sex sexuality, while there were certainly limitations, and if I did the study all over again it would prob be very difficult, my finding reiterate the author above. I found the articles themselves provided a very different portrayal around sexuality and community politics, one of negotiation and not a naturalized pathology of homophobia that was inherent. Like the link you've provided institutions such as the church, religion are influencers and my other findings included the generational issues, ie assimilation, and structural issues such as economic status, that can shape cultural attitudes. its def been a while, years, since ive revisited that first article, but it emerged from the lack of literature, particularly scholarly that was out there around this topic.

Many times, communities of color are pathologized as homophobic and as your links suggest, it implies that there are not queer people of color that actually bridge both communities or reside in both. I think the larger issue, is that while mainstream LBGTQ publications such as The Advocate does tremendous work around gay rights, the cover article last year,"Gay is the New Black" " inadvertently reifies the belief there are no queer Black people and the LGBTQ community is mainly white which is totally not true. It may be an inadvertent move, but important to think about the effects on community and identities. This discourse was especially salient around Prop 8.

I feel political scientist Cathy Cohen's article, "Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics?" provides a very important radical critique on community building, identities, and negotiation around articulations of power, which is quite useful and provocative as a model for scholarly and community strategies. Another book, The Miner's Canary, by Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres also speaks to this issue of creative coalitional building. As you say, the formations can be quite exciting.

I also love Margaret Cho's work and glad you brought her up. I think she is an example of the possibilities of new media spaces, ie she was not able to perform her current act when on television as "All American Girl" however, new media and stage performances give such a freedom in terms of content, structure, and politics. I also think this question is engaging, esp when thinking about one public figure, such as Margaret Cho, but also other spaces such as social networking sites that may create community or political action.

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2008/11/16/Gay_is_the_New_Black_/


 

Anne Cong-Huyen

Gaysians?

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Margaret. Your comments about the Korean American community's negotiations with homosexuality are really interesting. It makes me think of this article that showed up on my twitter feed today: "Gaysians Take Over NY Fashion Week." The headline itself brings to light the significance of sexuality for Asian Americans in US culture (an aspect that is incredibly visible too), though it doesn't interrogate sexuality at all, nor is it critical about the capital-driven-model-minority-American-dream narrative used by the Wall Street Journal to explain this surge in award winning Asian Am designers, but it does present a palpable sense of pride in the achievements of fellow Asian Americans regardless of orientation. Though this may be a reflection of generational shifts, which might be an interesting thing to look at.

It's also interesting to note that this tweet came via one of node in my far-reaching Asian Am social network, of which Margaret Cho, and other figures like Angry Asian Man and Tak Toyoshima are all nodes. It's fascinating watching them converse, critique, retweet and link to one another. Talk about community formation through social networking!

 

Margaret Rhee

Thanks Anne! Austin?

Thanks Anne for *your* thoughtful comments and responses, so glad you are involved in this forum! Are you going to AAAS at Austin this year? Would be GREAT to get a @HASTAC together, or just got some drinks after panels! Would LOVE to learn more about your work! Def love that tweet community building! And always, gayasians who know how to dress!!! 

Anne Cong-Huyen

=(

Hey Margaret! Sadly, I don't think I'll be at AAAS this year, though I will be in SF for ALA in May, and MLA next year. We should meet up when I'm in SF though!

Margaret Rhee

Will be at ALA too!

Alas I am so late in responding! Sorry you wont be at AAAS, but I will also be presenting

at ALA! We should meet up there?! I am on a panel with Tim Yu, who has 

done amazing work on avant garde poetics and race. Will be on a look out for your panel! 

 

Sonny

Embodiment in digital experience

Anne, thank you for these provoking thoughts! In considering hybridity between and undoing the imagined binariness of electronic/material, virtual/real communicative spaces, I want to add imagined/embodied as a category and point to the emotion and sensation that bodies experience in the processes of engaging electronically. There is a tactile, sensory, embodied experience in the "real" body during performance in virtual and digital spaces, which actors can feel, such as muscle tension, longing, hyperarousal, fear, worry, headache, sleepiness, excitement, nausea, desire, etc. So, I very much agree with you that these binaries cannot be binary. :) We all experience the embodiment in virtuality; we also have cognitive experiences of our sensory experiences, and often translate them into digitized media in the process of communicating.

Though I also have observed alliances between feminists of color, queers, and other marginalized groups, and experienced them as productive, I don't know if these are "natural." Rather, I think that these alliances have resulted both from the conceptual, intersectional, oppositional work we have come into and which we push forward in our own emotional, embodied experiences of working across difference.


Anne Cong-Huyen

Good point!

Thanks for the eloquent response Sonny! You make some excellent points, and I wholeheartedly agree. It really is the process of "working across difference," as you say, where these alliances emerge between disparate but equally (and I hesitate to use that term, because we can never really compare) disenfrachised and oppressed groups. In my above comment, I was thinking particularly of a spoken word and performance group here at UCSB, WORD (Women of color Revolutionary Dialogues) that has put on amazing events over the past few years that deal with issues of sexuality, gender, queerness, race, immigration, labor, and power through poetry, film, and performance. The collaborative effort is incredibly powerful and always tear inducing!

kimlacey

The Gender Genie

As other HASTAC-ers have already mentioned, this is a great addition to the previous forum! 

I couldn't resist posting the link to The Gender Genie. If you're not familiar with the "genie," its premise is simple: copy-and-paste some text and, based on an algorithm which counts the frequency of "male" and "female" keywords, it attepts to discern the gender of the author. (Btw, it has deduced that the author of the prompt for this discussion is male.) There are several issues with this "genie," and much of the research conducted on its effectiveness tries to discover why so frequently it guesses incorrectly.  For this forum, I wonder if we could conduct a small HASTAC test by trying out the genie on something we've written or read lately and see if the genie is "right." What are the ramifications of identifying gender in online spaces where gender/identity can be negelcted, redirected, or shifted?

elijah.meeks

According to my rampant use

According to my rampant use of the words "the" and "it", the Genie correctly guessed male on each of my three posts above.  I can't tell if I should be flattered or insulted...  Is there an Insult Genie that can tell me how to feel about having been gendered by a Gender Genie?

Cathy Davidson

CatintheStack is a Tom Cat According to Gender Genie!

I loaded up my most recent blog post, "Crowdsource Grading:  Or, How Prof D Got an A," and it came back that my male score was significantly higher than my female.   The breakdown is below.  

 

This is a fantastic forum, a great follow-up to the last one, and I hope everyone works to get out the word so there can be a healthy and vigorous and robust (NB: guy words?) discussion.

Breakdown of my Blog Post on Gender Genie

 

Words: 1415

(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 1647
Male Score: 2205

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

 

And for a second blog, this one "When Is It A Field?"

 

Words: 703

(NOTE: The genie works best on texts of more than 500 words.)

Female Score: 758
Male Score: 1176

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

monicaong

How gender, sexuality and identity play out in new media spaces

As someone who is contstantly occupying and creating within a new media context, I think alot about the parallels of occupying new media space with that of occupying various aspects of identity, i.e. gender and race within daily life.

The fact that commerce has driven the intense expansion of the internet and UI experience is undeniable. If you look at the average user that is online, chances are they are doing an activity that is inherently linked to some kind of economic transaction - whether it is shopping online, being spammed by ads, or pirating digital goods. Many people are also searching - for a mate, a job, an opportunity, or an answer.

At the same time, the internet has also been an extension of the commodification of sex, gender, and identity. There are sites where you can shop for brides or life partners, not to mention websites that profit from the sexualization and exoticization of the Other. It has magnified the "transaction" aspect to things like marraiage, filial piety, and cultural contracts that have long been in place even before the internet existed - and while the internet reveals the profitability of such institutions, it also presents an opportunity to challenge them.

Creating work in new media is a chance to infiltrate the space of commerce and inject an alternative, transformative online experience that makes us question these social contracts and the obligations that arise. Even when I look at the viagra spam, I see it as an echo of the quack medicines that plagued the early 20th century, but again, prey on the basic human desire to find a "fix" for the body, to overcome impotence, or lack of power. There is something about the peddling of power that co-exists with the daily negotiations that we make in the power structures tied to our identity.

Keith Obadike spurred me to think about this when he sold his "blackness" on ebay.

http://obadike.tripod.com/ebay.html

Nikki Lee also created an interesting photo series on occupying various identities:

http://www.mocp.org/collections/permanent/lee_nikki_s.php

How can we reclaim ownership? How can we remake this new media landscape?

Anne Cong-Huyen

Yes!

What a lovely post! This makes me think of a dating (matchmaking?) website that came to my attention a little while ago (via Twitter!): Classy Asian Ladies.com (Their "Why Asian Women" section is definitely a disturbing read. *gag*) and the excellent article by Thea Lim at Racialious.com in "Why Date or Marry an Asian Woman," which responds. Marriage and dating as a transaction negotiated and justified online, especially around stereotypes of Asian female sexuality, are made even more visible here. Troubling, but ripe for examination!

In addition, creative products like Big Bad Chinese Mama's Harem of Angst, Wong Fu Production's Youtube video "Yellow Fever," and Christopher Toy's song "Just Because (White Guys and Asian Girls)," all utilize digital media to address "yellow fever" and the nexus of gender/sex/race head on. They all combine creative humor and a popular media platform to do just what you suggest: "infiltrate the space of commerce and inject an alternative, transformative online experience that makes us question these social contracts and the obligations that arise."

jessi.gan

yes on gagging :/

thanks to you both for such beautiful examples & analysis.  as i read, i could only keep nodding.

the promise of online expression can really decontextualize, turning expressive practices into commodities.  i thought about facebook, which promised to connect me with friends.  but it uses my "identity" - managed public persona, really - as targeting data for advertisers.  my profile becomes demographic data that advertisers think will predict future purchases.  it's linking me with friends, i guess, but it's also connecting me with my "market."  the things i always wanted to buy, if only they existed in my virtual facebook world.  so i buy them, become 'fans' of those things and they become part of my profile, which feeds into facebook's store of demographic data, which sells me more things?

for a paper i looked into Websites selling "Asian shemale" porn.  they sold to consumers the fantasy of being able to penetrate not only transwomen's pliant bodies, but also SE Asian lands constructed as primitive and passive. following the lead of US military bases, a credit card enabled the consumer to fantasize about taking advantage of an endless supply of racialized labor that was naive, happy, and cheap.  the sites did enable consumers to have queer fantasies.  they were intertwined, though, with imperial desires and the imperative of multinational corporate profits, and reliant on "Asian shemales'" managed speech.

i liked what you wrote, anne, about creative humor as a critical practice... that could interrupt the flow of these 'efficient' economic transactions.  i imagine the transactions (i'm thinking about facebook again) must be set up carefully - to expand markets, while artfully eliding the collection of profit.  google pioneered text ads that blended into the search results.  artistic practice is so vital to survival, and it's a way to poke fun at those profitable transactions of exoticism.

Cathy Davidson

Lisa Nakamura's provocartions at DML Conference

Hi, everyone, thanks for such an inspiring series of posts and energetic discussion.   At the recent Digital Media and Learning Conference in La Jolla, Lisa Nakamura gave a terrific paper that gave a brief genealogy of the move from early work on race in digital spaces that emphasized representation to what she saw as an urgent need of the present to also focus on how people occupy digital spaces and the social rearrangements afforded, prevented, occluded, or obscured (these are my words, not hers, but I was inspired by her!) by the various digital rearrangements.   My takeaway was to really think about what anonymity affords and masks?  What a self-created avatar affords and masks?   What visuality precludes or supports?  What textuality does.    The segue with danah boyd's also brilliant paper on the racialized movement from MySpace to Facebook was that every aspect of the digital can be configured with racialized meaning---she reported on kids who saw even the typefaces as "ghetto" on MySpace and "white" on Facebook.   Lisa also talked about the racialized labor of the Gold Workers who play WOW at sweatshop wages and in sweatshop conditions so putatively white, middle-class gamers can go about their daily lives and still keep their level in the MMOPG.   And danah has talked about (including recently with ChatRoulette) the ways anonymity can be salvation for queer kids, finding strangers who provide the support and encouragement to be themselves that might elude them in their families or in their towns.   What I love about all those critiques is their awareness that the "digital" includes all the processes of production and consumption, and those constantly blur on the screen and off it, with intrusions of "the real" and "the virtual" on and off, and prescriptions and social rules both carried and willfully and strategically left behind in different circumstances.   This ecology of identities is threaded through these great comments, like Amanda noting "I'm always intrigued by the way that our encoding of synthetic worlds tends to recreate our experience of physics and bodies."   I'd love to hear more about queer embodiment and disembodiment within queer online communities in relation to the same (or different) offline.  Commodification is certainly a key part of this, in all parts of the production/consumption continuum (and in ways that are obscured, not clarified, by the "prosumption" or "produsage" meldings.)   Any thoughts?

lnakamur

beyond avatars

Wow, Cathy, I just copied and pasted your post into a document that I can use to figure out what I'm doing, because you put it so well.  I'm so lucky that you were at that talk, because it's still coalescing for me why I'm less interested in doing detailed visual/textual readings of avatars' race/gender/sexuality than I used to be.  There is far more to *read* in post web 2.0 graphical social avatars--there are so many interesting readings of these, especially in smart digital game blogs like The Border House that focus specifically on gender and sexuality.  (thanks to Julie Levin Russo for turning me on to this one).  There's no doubt that popular games like Mass Effect 2 are permitting new, queerer storylines than they once did, and let avatars appear and behave in more diverse ways than ever before. 

Yet right now these readings seem a little like distractions to me.  There's an ecology around digital games and virtual worlds that is shot through with race, gender, classs, nation--the best example I can think of is the way that a particular class of avatar, the female dwarf, became a despised and unplayable class because gold farmers in Lineage II used it frequently.   Eventually nobody could play that class without getting harrassed, and nobody would group with one (Constance Steinkuhler writes about this in The Mangle of Play).  The avatar was queered because of its association with a particular group of despised users--Chinese men who were playing in order to sell their virtual loot for real money. 

No close reading you could do of female dwarves in Lineage II would tell you why this kind of avatar had become a social untouchable in this virtual world.  Players make the meaning in virtual worlds--even the ones that seem locked down, like most MMO's that don't let you customize much of anything, are full of signifiers that can't be decoded without more knowledge of how power is operating within them.  This isn't necessarily an argument for ethnography--I am not an ethnographer, though tending that way.  Rather it's an argument for looking at the "social" part of "social media" more closely. 

Amanda Phillips

Private vs. Public Play

Welcome to the conversation, Lisa! We're quite happy to have you here.

Your comment makes me wonder about the difference between private and public play spaces and whether we can or should cross-pollinate ideas about these spaces. On the one hand, you're right about Mass Effect and other (usually BioWare) games that are allowing for queerer narratives, but these are single player games that occur in private, without a community of other players to observe and critique certain tactics. Comparing this to MMORPGs like WoW or Lineage II is a bit problematic.

I'm glad you brought up The Border House, because I recently ran into their My Commander Shepard project, which outlines some gamers' individual incarnations of the Mass Effect protagonist. If nothing else, I think this project illustrates the highly personal nature of the encounters between gamer and virtual world that occur in single-player campaigns like Mass Effect. I haven't had a chance to dive much into the BioWare Social Network, but their attempt to bring all of these personal narratives into a social setting is something that I think proves my point. Not to say that gaming is anti-social, but there is definitely something private about the way that many gamers play.

Anyway, I do agree that there are interesting power dynamics in game spaces that go beyond how avatars look and behave, I'm not sure they can all be attributed to the social. But the more important question is, can we even treat avatars in these different types of play environments in the same way? Can the conclusions we draw about one type feed into readings of the other?

halberst

Becoming Kung Fu Panda

Hi Queer and Feminist Digitizers, Virtual Pals for the week, People becoming dragons, queer coders and de-coders and Amanda! 

This is a great forum, already full of wonderful, open questions and with the possibilities for rich conversation ahead. I guess I will

throw out a few thoughts and questions to begin:

1) Given all the work on temporality recently and queer temporality in particular, I wonder if we can talk about temporality and digitality, time and the internet - what forms of time work and don't work online: for example:

·   SSimultaneity is obviously much more accessibly online than off but simultaneity can enable and disable certain kinds of speech and conversation. Two people after all cannot both speak at the same time and beheard - we also need listeners, lurkers, voyeurs, those who watch and wait as well as those who post and pounce!

·     Queer Time – is time queer online – do we leave the time of family, linearity, generationality? Having left it, can we rethink those temporal spaces off line?

·      Surprise – what forms of time does the internet tend not to foster? Surprise? Shock? Improvisation?

2) Following Zach Blas’s work, it is worth asking whether code can be queer or whether, as he proposes, the very binary code used to make digital spaces underwrites a kind of commitment to either/or propositions, and makes it hard to find the inbetween spaces. One of the earliest insights about computer technology was that far from moving away from a linguistic structure, computer communications both simplified (zeroes and ones) and complicated our reliance upon language. If structuralism rested upon the assumption that we are always already bound by the rules of language that come from elsewhere and that make meaning without our active participation, and if poststructuralism believes in resignification, posthuman coding as discussed by Zach and  Wendy Chun and Alex Galloway, finds the human to be embedded within a series of codes, some of which we make, some of which make us.

3) Speaking of which – I loved the “Becoming Dragon” video featuring Micha Cardenas’s work. But I have some questions about the analogizing of a transgender experience of body to the avatar experience of becoming dragon and living as a dragon for 365 hours. I am not sure that we can give others access to the experience of gender dysphoria – maybe there is a kind of bodily dysphoria that afflicts all forms of embodiment and that becomes legible in digital space but what specifically about gender would map onto “dragon.” Can we think of similar mappings for race or for the abled/disabled body?

4) And speaking of Avatars and what Cathy Davidson calls “the ecology of identities” – why is it that in avatar, to also quote Amanda, the coding of a new world, looks so continuous in certain aspects with the coding of the old world? Why is heterosexual romance at the heart of a new ecology and why, when shapes are shifting, plant life is dominant and the relation to the environment is supposedly altered beyond recognition, why are people coded as “women” still closer to “nature” and people coded as “men” still coded as culture/war/violence/hero? I know, I know, let’s not get started on Avatar, but really.

And as for Kung Fu Panda? I guess I just want to say, contra Slavoj Zizek’s Frankfurt school reading of KFP as a neoliberal symbol of lazy authoritarianism, that if Zizek uses film only to keep proving his Lacanian take on everything as good and true, and to accuse others of being bamboozled by the shiny candy wrappers of Hollywood cinema, I want to believe that animated worlds, far from being a pure form of ideology, and hegemonic ideology at that, as Zizek claims, are in fact  rich technological field sfor rethinking collectivities, transformation, identification, animality and posthumanity. More on this anon.

 

 

 

Amanda Phillips

Queer Time

Jack, thanks for all the great questions... there are so many I want to respond to but I'd like to address queer time first, since it's something I've been trying to work through lately and may have implications for my thinking about game spaces in particular.

Many game scholars have commented about the nature of game time vs. real time... it's not unlike the difference diegetic vs. nondiegetic time in film or other narrative media, but there are more competing levels of temporality - player interaction, for example, that occurs within what Jesper Juul has described as a game state. (I think Jesper Juul's exploration of game time is still the most thorough, so I'll be referencing some of his terms.)

So, for example, if someone instructs me to retrieve a magical stone and bring it back, the game world is essentially paused until I fetch the stone. I can interact with characters and objects within the world in real time, but in terms of narrative time nothing is really advancing. Once I bring the stone back, things can move forward again. Juul makes the claim that most games proceed chronologically, which is true, but there have been many quite prominent examples (particularly recently) of games that experiment with non-normative time schemes.

Additionally, in the interest of allowing player freedom, many games do not update all areas for all game states. Noah Wardrip-Fruin talks about this with Knights of the Old Republic, which can basically put you into a time warp if you go to the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps this is an issue with poor event mapping, but it is a reality that exists in many games.

I'm still hung up on the extent to which any of this is queer - but it is certainly not linear and I think there might be something there.

michacardenas

queer time and becomings

Thanks for the great questions!

I'm curious about the formulation of queer time that you state here and In a Queer Time and Place where you're saying that queer time is separate from the family? But aren't there queer families? Surely there are a proliferation of queer families, from new formations of non-heteronormative housing situations to new parenting models to good old queer community as family?

Though I do think an important part of your question, for me, is can time online be queer, and further, can online space be queer space, can code be queer, can technologies be queer and how? By producing safety or empowerment for queer people or by developing new models of thought and practice beyond the bounds of binary gender norms? These questions all seem related to me. I'm interested in both the production of queer spaces and queer worlds as well as queer technologies and modes of thinking which can produce new possibilities for relationality and (inter)subjectivity beyond the traditions of heteronormative models. In this respect I appreciate Elizabeth Grosz's writing in Time Travels on Deleuze and Irigaray where she states that sexual difference hasn't been allowed to occur, that the future holds an unknown possibility of becomings if space is made for more than two genders, beyond the history of thought and art which has been so much a product of the desires and interests of one gender, male.

As for my analogizing becoming avatar and becoming another gender, I wasn't trying to do that, even though people often discuss the project in that way. I was more trying to look at the actual, concrete intersections and experiences in these two spaces. For example, I was very interested in the feedback between the digital/avatar body and the physical body, the way an avatar could serve as rapid prototype of a new kind of body, or new hair, or new species, and allow the user to try that out in a social realm, experiencing in some small way the moment of being in another body, being hit on, being discriminated against, etc. But also in the way that often happens where media images of women who fit western beauty standards make women feel badly about their own bodies, and how that happens to people with their own avatars. I was also interested in exploring the ways that avatars and virtual worlds may allow a development of new genders outside of male and female, hence thinking dragon, or other species, as a gender.This came from my experience of my own gender as something other than male and female, and reading people like kate bornstein and riki wilchins, but also reading things like a zine about Monster as a gender. My thinking beginning Becoming Dragon was that perhaps spaces like SL could provide a place to develop a new gender, such as a dragon, both linguistically and socially, but using motion capture, also in an embodied way, with muscle memory and proprioception. I wanted to use motion capture to think about the way in which one learns to walk like a woman may inform the ways in which new technologies could be used to learn to walk like a dragon, or a wolf, or a fox.

Through the experience, what I discovered was a whole community of transspecies people, Otherkin and lots of other groups who feel very seriously that they were born the wrong species and that they would get species change surgery in a second if they could. This really opened my thinking up to consider transspecies and human-animal hybrids like nekos, more concretely, and not just as another gender. As for the question in the prompt though, asking if this is new, I think back to a quote from Judith Butler's book Undoing Gender that I cited in one of my essays about Becoming Dragon, where she says "it is not a question merely of producing a new future for genders that do not yet exist... it is a question of developing within law, psychiatry, social and literary theory a new legitimating lexicon for the gender complexity that we have been living for a long time.” And in that line of thinking, I think we have to acknowledge that a myriad of becomings have existed as long as humans have, from two-spirits who can change genders at will, to gloria anzaldua writing about becoming serpent, to traditions of shamanism and spirit mediums who become animal, spirit or mythical creatures. Or, as Guattari lists in Becoming Woman, "becoming-child as in Schumann, becoming-animal as in Kafka, becoming-vegetable as in Novalis, becoming-mineral as in Beckett."

In my current collaboration with Elle Mehrmand, we are beginning to use robotic biomimicry to see how neko avatars can serve as a model to create new wearable immersive interfaces for virtual worlds and how those can be used in erotic mixed reality performance art. Part of what we're trying to do is to take these identities people are developing online seriously and follow them as a line of thinking, taking them to their limits see what emerges.

halberst

Micha:thanks for your

Micha:thanks for your comments and your really fascinating explanation of the Becoming Dragon project. I wonder if you know Gayle Salamon's book on the phenomenology of transgender? It is called ASSUMING BODIES, coming out very soon from Columbia University press and it opens with the question "What is a Body" and then moves on to chapters on the "bodily ego," "sex as state property" and even has a chapter on irigaray and "an ethics of transsexual difference" that might be of interest to you in terms of Salamon's claim that in Irigaray "the question of sexual difference ends at an impasse." I like this formulation you make above of the avatar project allows one to experience other bodiedness and to form identity beyond gender and in relation to other formulations of self, formulations not exhausted by the human. I still think, however, also with Butler, that the notion of multiple becomings remains bound by constraints and constrictions within social and symbolic orders.

ANd thanks for your question about queer time - in my book, I really wanted to avoid an identity project (in much the same way you want to slip out of predetermined meanings for certain bodily forms, conditions and outcomes) and I wanted to say that being queer might signify a different relation to temporality itself, one within which, for example, marriage and reproduction are possible but not inevitable. Gays and lesbians may well do family differently but, as you say, many fall happily into step with family time as it already exists and change it not at all. I ask, as you do above, whether we can hold onto to multiple possibilities of becoming in time and space and in relation to embodiment and its meanings.

Looking forward to seeing more of your work!

Jack

jeff.kolar

reply to Zach Bias's "Queer Technologies"

I too enjoy the provocative ideas in Zach Blas's "Queer Technologies." As much as he is playing with the representation of hardware, he plays with the role that hardware plays with our bodies. In most interface and hardware situations, there always seems to be an on/off, right/wrong, or an in/out put. It often feels easy to relate these binary members as extremes, and often realize both the on/off hold some sort of power potential. It is no surprise that interfaces and hardware often become extensions of our bodies and form a fluid relationship between user and machine. The body and it's physicality is often shadowed, if not forgotten completely, when using hardware. I enjoy the route Bias takes: to limit and perhaps deny the function of binary hardware. What would a piece of hardware look like if it wasn't reflexive, if it only went one way, or no way at all? What would happen to our own human bodies if hardware functioned asexually?

carolstabile

Games, Intersectionality, WoW

What amazing energy! Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful and provocative posts. I guess I'd just like to weigh in on two issues: games and the ideology of "selection" and J's last point about being bamboozled. I've been playing World of Warcraft for a while now -- long enough, I joke, to have an MA in it -- and one of the reasons I've been so cautious about writing anything yet is that I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with the practical and performative dimensions of the game. I think that early on -- and this still tends to be the case with writing about Second Life, at least in media studies -- scholars fetishized avatar creation, as if the visible representation of the toon narrowly defined how that toon interacted and could be played. But there's so much more to signification in game spaces than how we look, or what we wear (I'm still convinced that most games are about shopping for gear), or which gender we select and there's a lot of room for gender fuck, as it were.

Let me give you an example. Last fall, I was teaching a course on feminist media studies, in which two classes met in WoW. Late one night, I created a toon to play with my army of troll-students. I wanted an orc female, because they're big and strong, so I clicked on the female icon (or so I thought), called her Dorketta, bought her a dress (that said "it makes me feel pretty"), and set out to level. I admit that I thought that Blizzard (the game developer) was progressive for letting me give Dorketta a beard, but as I said, it was late and I had other things to do. The next day, one of my students pointed out that Dorketta was a male -- although how she knew, I'll never figure out because orc males and females look very much alike. I've been playing Dork a lot lately -- she has a pink tabard with a labrys on it -- and I get some mixed responses to her: from "loser, loser, loser" by a toon named Rushlimbaugh (I kid you not) to a friendly "Hey, Dork" from members of pick-up groups, for whom the only thing that really matters is my ability to inflict damage on the enemy. 

But how Dork and other queer-ish toons are treated in WoW (and again, Dork is very butch, so her reception is quite different than if I were playing a nelly night elf or blood elf) is a different matter than the discourse one encounters on general chat channels and in casual groups and raids and battlegrounds, where homophobic discourses are the rule. And I'm afraid that this is in part where the language of intersectionality fails me analytically, because it assumes that these modalities function simultaneously and in equal measures in a synchronic fashion. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that homophobia is normalized and naturalized in many games in ways that racism and to a lesser degree sexism are not. When players engage in racist discourse on WoW, they are generally challenged in these performances (what players do in racist or white supremacist guilds is another matter). Occasionally, there will even be interesting discussions that follow about racism in US culture -- this happened a lot around the 2008 election. I was playing the other evening, when someone shouted in the trade channel: WHITE PEOPLE SUCK (I'd post the screenshot, but I haven't had a chance to sort through them yet). This was followed not by what one would expect, but by some considered comments about the persistence of racism. 

I have yet to see homophobic comments responded to in this fashion, except in groups, where queer players and their allies have objected to language use. 

Another issue about intersectionality: we need to think about how and why these theories tend to overlook class -- for me, playing WoW has really challenged my own stereotypes about the demographics of the game: I've played with lots of players who don't share my class privilege. 

So that's a long way of saying that the practice (which includes toon creation, text-based communication, voice-based communication, emotes, play itself) is complicated and studying play doesn't allow us easy or simple answers. Which leads us back to Zizek and the logic of bamboozlement (lol). What I've said about homophobia above doesn't really get at further complexities and anxieties. A lot of IRL men play as female toons in WoW (http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/001369.php). I don't buy the masculinist "I like to stare at a female ass" excuse typically given by players -- we obviously need to do more research around this. So what else is up here? 

Amanda Phillips

Homophobia + cross-gender avatar identification

Carol, I'm really glad you brought up the homophobia of (some) gamers, because it is still such a huge issue in the community.

But I want to start with your final point about playing different avatar genders, because part of me has a hunch that this may contribute to some of the homophobia issues. You're right the "I like to stare at a female ass" excuse totally doesn't fly, or else we'd see waaaaaay more Lara Crofts and Bayonettas out there.

I think the most interesting reason that Yee's readers report about cross-gender avatar identification is that they roleplay women in order to take advantage of male chivalry - ie, gift-giving to help out the poor, hapless female gamers. Since this gifting is presumably an act from one gamer to another, and not one player character to another, it seems to me to be much more of a "serious" flirtation with gender-bending than some would like to admit.

However, the problem with Yee's surveys is their scope, and the user comments are even more limited, so I'm not sure we can use that as sufficient evidence to make a claim.

pmedwards

Avatars, virtual worlds, and the potential for oppression?

In reading some of the posts so far, I can't help but be reminded of something bell hooks wrote back in [gasp] 1994*, so, as a brief aside:

"Initially, I resist the idea of the 'oppressor's language,' certain that this construct has the potential to disempower those of us who are just learning to speak, who are just learning to claim language as a place where we make ourselves subject. 'This is the oppressor's languages yet I need it to talk to you.' Adrienne Rich's words. Then, when I first read these words, and now, they make me think of standard English, of learning to speak against black vernacular, against the ruptured and broken speech of a dispossessed and displaced people. Standard English is not the speech of exile. It is the language of conquest and domination; in the United States, it is the mask which hides the loss of so many tongues, all those sounds of diverse, native communities we will never hear, the speech of Gullah, Yiddish, and so many other unremembered tongues." (p. 168)

I wonder--very tentatively--if we don't end up in a similar situation for potential disempowerment when thinking of how we might (or might not) create and use avatars as representations for our real, imagined, or idealized selves. To what extent could the "rules" of a virtual space (e.g., the limits and capabilities of the software environment to support one's expressions) serve as just another example of an "oppressor's language" to those who might wish to express themselves differently? I suppose this could also be framed in terms of the digital divide--to what extent does access to an avatar or a virtual world privilege the contributions of one individual over another who might lack that access?

* hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Margaret Rhee

The Digital Divide

Hi There! Thanks for your post and quote from bell hooks, Teaching to Trangress. That text, and work by Paulo Frieire, and Austo Boal on pedagogy are so dear and important to me, particularly in thinking about the digitial divide. ie like you say, the discourse of avatars as representations for our real selves, well, considering the lack of access to computers and digital technologies for marginalized communities bring into some serious considerations of what should be prioritized in thinking about new media as a discipline? I suppose it can be the limits of the avatar itself, but I think the move you make in terms of the digital divide, is interesting. If this avatar is the important aspect of our "identities" than those without access, actually not only are subject to "oppressor's language," but don't have the right to even have subjectivity with access to avatar... Certainly as the world becomes more digitalized, as we communicate through these very channels of the Internet, who is excluded and what we can do about it, is I think an important consideration. I think Carol Stabile question about intersectionality and WOW in terms of class also demonstrates the complicated nature of digital spaces... 

Bola C King

Language of the oppressor

(With apologies for my late entry...)

I think this is a great question, but it must to some extent depend on the virtual space and its design. Richard Bartle (in Designing Virtual Worlds, 2004) addresses the question of how much control the users (should) have in a virtual space. In game worlds, such as WoW, their ability to create and have lasting effects on the landscape is necessarily limited. They also have several limits on avatar design. In different, potentially more social spaces like MOOs (and, for example, Second Life, which is a lot like a 3D MOO), users can make permanent changes to the landscape and have a lot of freedom in avatar design - which in some ways can be read as great freedom of personal expression. If they have access to modelling tools like Maya (a big "if" which leads to other digital divide issues), Second Life users have nearly unlimited freedom of avatar design.

So, while access to the internet in general is still problematic, the "language of the oppressor" problem might not be the best analogy. If you do have access to online worlds, then I think you can in theory choose a virtual space that allows you to express yourself in your own language. And I think that, at least in Second Life if not other virtual spaces, this freedom is leveraged to raise the visibility of queer communities. SL has gotten (in some not-well-versed circles) a reputation as a haven for "deviants" precisely for this reason.

pmedwards

I would agree with you, Bola,

I would agree with you, Bola, that these notions of creativity/expression and access are likely design-dependent within a particular virtual world. In Second Life, I'm free to design as I like (or to the extent that I'm willing to pay for other enhancements); in WoW, I'm less so. I was thinking more along the lines of avatar-portability in relation to the 'oppression' idea. If I invest time in building (freely) in Second Life, there doesn't seem to be a reasonable method for porting my avatar and all I've built to a different virtual world. (Unless I'm wrong about this, which I might be.) The larger point, I think, is that if I'm unable to control where my avatar "lives" because I'm locked into a particular world with particular "rules" (however expansive), I'm not really free to choose where I might congregate and interact with others. It seems as though there is a tension here: Second Life is (mostly) "open" when it comes to within-world choice, but in terms of between-world choices for where my avatar could go, I would be almost completely constrained. Maybe this is a minor concern in terms of the practical impact on one's decision to join a virtual world, but it seems like an issue that will become more prevalent as individuals invest more time, effort, and resources into developing virtual world-dependent identities.

Bola C King

Good points there

I hadn't thought about it from a VW-portability point of view, partly because many VWs are incompatible: I wouldn't want to take my avatar to WoW, and their avatars are specifically designed for interaction in that world.

Between-world avatar portability is a controversial topic; there are business, personal, and practical issues involved. I do know that educators who are currently involved in multiple VWs do what we do with other online identities (academia.edu, LinkedIn, Facebook, HASTAC): try to create a unified presence across the several separate profiles. There has been talk about, for example, linking Second Life avatars with Facebook Connect or something similar; there are also open-source VWs based on the SL platform that are toying with the idea of allowing portability among themselves. Nothing has come of these ideas yet, though.

Part of the inertia is that most users seem not to be investing just in their avatars and builds, but also in the specific community located within that VW. Which doesn't mean that portability is necessarily a minor concern, but the answer to "where I might congregate and interact with others" is often the VW you and those others have chosen in common.

Katie King

community conventions re avatars between worlds

Bola --  I started off in Second Life in some professional contexts -- ones in which it was to my advantage to mantain continuity across facebook and SL for example -- and in that context I think I misunderstood the possibilities of avatar discontinuity --

At first, having read wonderful feminist critique concerning gender, race, size and other constraints on avatar customization -- I prefered to think of the avatar as a paper doll that I wasn't planning on playing paper doll games with.

It was really only because a community member came to me and gingerly suggested I might consider investment in my avatar's appearance, which I participated in at first only to be colleagial and friendly, that I experimented with my avatar at all.

And so -- the psychological attachment that developed with my avatar took me utterly by surprise. I tried at first to come up with one that was most like how I think I look otherwise. It was frustrating not to have enough expertise to create such an avatar, since I knew that there were some stronger possibilities there than I was able to make happen.

But at a certain moment my avatar became "me" -- an other me that doesn't look like my ordinary me -- and yet felt even closer in a new odd way. That was one of the moments in which Second Life engage me more fully -- I became more clearly to myself distributed into and with SL and into and with my otherwise, ordinary me pecking at the laptop.

And in facebook, I use the ap Second Life link, and some people I know are signed up across "distributed selves" -- with pics from various versions of themselves, and others use only SL avatar images and personas, and others use primarily so-called RL personas.

That was one point in which I realized how much I appreciated all the distributed elements of me and all these selves as kinds of avatars and forms of personhood and embodiement.

I wasn't all that different from "coming out" 30 years ago.... And then again, it was less a capital T "Truth" although not especially "fluid" either. More structured, but also relational and context sensitive....

 

juarodriguez

On time, already late.

 

I’m late.  Already posters have posted, themes have been laid out--fascinating and rich and titillating.  And I am late to the show. The conversation after seminar leaked into the hallway, race, sexuality and the academy leaving their messy trail.  A pile of emails from students who want more time from me than I ever seem to have available. My department is (wait, this is a public forum and who knows who might be reading…)  my department is complicated—just like that awkward facebook category for relationships. I’m grumpy and overworked, can you tell?  So the question begins with the relationship between the digital body and the virtual one, and currently both seem under the influence of a lack of sleep. And maybe that is the point.  Like Jentery, I am hesitant to argue that “Immersive virtual environments offer a space in which bodies are not constrained by the limitations of a physical world.” But even if that were so, you have to get there first, and like a plane ticket that I cannot afford I am starting to feel resentful.  Of course I remind myself that I am already here, I am online, but rather than a site of play, I’m working. Wishing I had more time to scour the internet for youtube videos or spend a leisurely afternoon immersed in someone else’s virtual reality.  And for many of us—even that trolling becomes another form of labor that somehow makes itself into our scholarship, even our play must have a use value. This is another way to frame the question of technology and access, access to leisure time and play. So while I would love to take seriously Jack’s prompt to think about “temporality and digitality, time and the internet,” I keep getting interrupted. 

Elsewhere I have been arguing for the absolute necessity of fantasy and imagination for those of us for whom social and sexual legibility are not forthcoming.  But I have likewise been struggling with the question of how to understand access to imaginative possibilities.  Maybe I need to go back to thinking about time, the very materiality of time, about its limits, its end. 

Thank you for having me, grumpy and otherwise.

 

 

whitneyt

24/7 conferencing

I love this comment, because (to bring out the thread underlying the worries over department spies, appearing too grumpy or being too "late") we are, none of us, anonymous online. The spaces we theorize in terms of imaginative potentials for others have become networking tools for us. Between twitter, blogs and forums like this, we've all entered one big 24/7 conference (eek!). Better make your handle close to your real name, and your picture close to your real appearance -- so They know who you are when you apply for that job, submit that paper, ask for some grant money.. or (awkwardly) meet them IRL...

I think Jentery's push to underscore the materiality of inscription technologies is productive because, whether or not one finds being embodied a regrettable state, it's a kind of "hardware" reality. It seems there's two issues at play, both in the discussion so far and in the prompt: 1) how embodied and/or gendered we are in our day-to-day net-work, and 2) how particular spaces have been radicalized by particular artists and thinkers in ways that affirm and challenge these mundane embodiments. These two issues seem to me to be operating on different levels when it comes to thinking through queer and feminist new media spaces.

Thanks for all this food for thought!

Anne Cong-Huyen

Materiality

Thank you both, and Jentery also, for underscoring the importance of materiality in our discussions of the digital and the virtual. Juana, your discussion on labor, in particular, really resonates with some of my current anxieties about the current and future job academic market, which is not at all looking hospitable (especially for a PhD in English). 

What I really wanted to bring up is the lived, material experiences of laborers in the information technology industry. I'm not just speaking of the programmers, but also those invisible workers who assemble the mother boards, hard drives, etc., those laborers who are often exploited because of their nationailities, races, languages, and, most importantly, their genders. Here's a recent blog entry that discussed some of the concerns briefly, though the most extensive study I have come across was Karen Hossfield's, "'Their Logic Against Them' Contradictions in Sex, Race, and Class in Silicon Valley" (Workers and Global Restructuring, 1990), and I'm sure there are more recent texts. What these issues highlight are the discrepencies between the different types of laborers within the technology industry (e.g. assembly workers, programmers, managers, etc.) and the significance that gender and race play at all levels. And then I wonder about our position as academics (also informed by individual identities) in this tech labor world. And here, again, your musings on work, play, and imagination make me stop and think. I haven't gotten any specific conclusions yet, but maybe others have?

lnakamur

labor, virtual worlds, race, and sexuality

Anne: I'm glad that you mentioned the Hossfield article, which I taught some years ago and need to go back to.  It is overwhelmingly women who work in these assembly job, particularly women of color.   Those "nimble little fingers" are prized in Silicon Valley and have been since the post-war period--one of my Japanese American grandmother's first jobs when she got out in internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming was at an electronics assembly plant where they were looking specifically for Asian women.  In Jack Qiu's wonderful book Working Class Network Society he writes about the mass migration of Chinese girls to the cities to work in electronics factories.  The "Iphone girl," a factory worker for Foxconn, a maker of the iphone, took a picture of herself on the phones which people bought, thereby inserting herself into their personal archives in a way that is partly about visual representation, but mostly serves to remind us about the gendered and racialized labor in which these devices are embedded.  I like to think of gold farmers in MMOs, who are almost always men, alongside the Iphone girl--both of these workers are engaging in forms of production that create wealth, but not for them.  Though game-playing in virtual worlds like World of Warcraft seems at first glance more agentive than working in a factory, those dichotomies need to be rethought during a time when so much work is virtual.

Anne Cong-Huyen

Exactly!

Thanks, Lisa, for the great response! Your examples, especially of "the nimble little fingers" in Silicon Valley and for Foxconn are exactly what I had been thinking about in my previous post. And though my knowledge of gold farming in MMOs is limited to information gleaned from my WoW addicted brother, I think these young male workers do share a sort of parallel relationship with workers on Amazon's Mechanical Turk (which I just saw a fascinating presentation about by Ayhan Aytes), and H1-B guest workers in the US, and who are primarily male programmers from South Asia, who Amitava Kumar has done some writing on. This InformationWeek article, "Who Gets H-1 B Workers? Check out this list," shows a government list of the top 200 companies that hired H1-B workers as of 2006, and a not-surprising chunk of those (especially ithe top 10) are tech firms. In addition to the questionable employment and compensation tactics of the hiring firms (Kumar has used the term "body shops" to refer to them) and the insecurities and experiences of these workers are the conditions placed on their immediate family members who are allowed to come, to spend money, open bank accounts, etc., but aren't allowed to work.

For me, the examples of the gold farmers, the Mechanical Turk, and the H1-B workers look somewhat like contemporary manifestations of the Chinese rail workers of the mid 19th century: communities of male workers working in conditions that benefit their employers. Like you say, the traditional binary models of agency and exploitation in labor aren't as clear now when labor can take on so many different forms, though I do find it interesting how gender and nationality are so important in the employment of these young men.

Margaret Rhee

I also love this post!

Dear Juana, like others have said, I love your post! Your questions resonate with me, thinking about time/labor, the requirements of the job. The 24/7 nature of our cyber interactions! But your post also reminds me of the possibility of being much more reflexive, free, and poetic in "blog entries" than what is commonly allowed on these "academic" online spaces. Im hoping this forum is not like work, but more of an engagement, more of a possibility, more of a media space, we are creating together. I am hopeful. And certain, we are all the better with your voice here! Grumpy, on cyber time, or otherwise! 

juarodriguez

  Again…. (when I should be

 

Again…. (when I should be writing the talk I am giving on Monday)

The question of labor and technology (and time) comes back, yes in all the ways that Anne mentions, but also in relation to pleasure.   At some point playing online--flirting, provoking, lurking, reading, creating was about a certain pleasure that was not about labor or obligations, social or otherwise.  So how does the question of labor transform what we perceive as pleasurable?  Don’t get me wrong, I am very aware of my very privileged status in the culture industry, I enjoy my job mostly, but the fact that it is a job, and that this job has seeped into all of my techie toys and virtual spaces has transformed my relation to online communities.  I miss the anonymity of the IRC.  (Maybe what I really miss is being a grad student.) Facebook has become too much about negotiating my distant cousins (who all seem to love Farmville and American Idol) and my colleagues (who all seem to love the queerness of interspecies desire and American Idol).  I haven’t watched television in weeks.

So Margaret, it is not that this is work (and therefore not pleasurable), it is that everything is work, and writing…well writing is always work.  (I warned you I was not the blogging kind.)

So I am envious of a certain ability to write with abandon—the kind of writing that is demanded of online spaces like this one, writing that is supposed to be frequent, spontaneous and effortless, a writing that is supposed to take pleasure in the exchange; a pleasure and play that is predicated on a certain access to leisure time. 

Sometimes these spaces seem more like awkward cocktail parties at academic conferences where everyone is sort of familiar but I don’t really know anyone. The trick is acting like you belong, and I am never sure.  And cute is rarely what I am going for.

 

 

 

halberst

face to facebook

Ok, I am going to actually try to post without typos and formatting problems. why do everyone else's posts look so nice and mine are scattered around and broken into short lines and triple spacing...well, hopefully this one looks better. which leads me to the beginning of my ramble - first, looking good or being attractive online is an interesting topic - in chat rooms and dating sites, you are reduced to a photo and any kind of original tagline you can come up with. basically, as we see in Juana's post, virtual appeal comes down to being cute in print, and Juana performed that very well! In fact, don't we all wish that in academia people would be SO much cuter in print or in their writing - here we are online, supposedly interacting in new media and we are still writing and reading. Carol gave us a great example of another way of being on line or "doing being online" in terms of her World of Warfare avatar and the limitations of gender - but then again, it was still all about inscription and reception. How I wish there were a way of slipping out of the prison house of language and into something more comfortable.

But back to online flirting and, I guess, facebook. Sometimes, I have to admit, facebook makes me cranky. I feel like it brings out the worst of high school - not original, I know, many people have said as much - but there is a kind of reduction of self to endless postings about "me" and what I did and what I thought about what I did and the song that was playing while I thought about what I did after I did it and then how everyone else felt about me and what I did...pause for comments...this is fine and dandy when you are 13 or 14 years old but I guess as we get a bit older, there is something dreary about the "all about me" and "let me read you a little more of my CV" and did I forget to mention what I am doing now and what I will be doing later with these 15 people but NOT WITH YOU! It is fun and funny to peek in on people's social worlds every now and then but not often enough. Have we become a social network of spies and narcissists?

As for temporality, Juana, I am not sure you can be "late" online, especially for a 24/7 forum - you arrive when you get here and you stay as long as you can and then you dash off to update your facebook status to - "just posted something cranky on Hastac." Late? Early? After the fact? Before the action? In medias res? 

A few more questions - do people think Ellen is good on American Idol? can we talk about youtube a bit? does Deleuze's take on Bergson help us with the notion of online temporalities?...or not...can i go to bed now?

j

Anne Cong-Huyen

Not directly related...

... but your question, "Have we become a social network of spies and narcissists," about Facebook, made me think of this brief study of a dating website's more successful profile pictures. It's a pretty much just data analysis and not a deep analysis, but pretty amusing nonetheless, especially when we think of how we construct and read dating or facebook profiles, and now department and Academia.edu profiles! There is definitely a palpable sense of narcissism and competition present in these profiles (probably a lot of this due to insecurity and a crappy job market). (And I have to say, another uber-cute presence on this forum would definitely be Amanda!)

FionaB

better late than never...?

Oh wow, thank you all for such a great forum. Jack@HASTAC! And Carol, and Cathy, and Juana and all the awesome Scholars. We worked hard on this forum and it's such a pleasure, a true intellectual and visceral pleasure, to see it come to life through all of your voices and ideas.

One thing that seems an important contribution to remember is...literally memory, and the ways in which technology can function not only as the possibility of play, or the practice of making a community, or the experience of self-building, or the erotics of identity, or of course the erotics of life (digital or otherwise, pixels don't discriminate...or do they?). But also for the ways in which we create and foster spaces for memories, both physical spaces that have come and gone, and as the queer community knows all too well, our comrades and mothers and fathers and lovers.

Perhaps I'll offer a few projects with that in mind. Recently, the GLBT Historical Society partnered with the San Francisco based Bay Area Reporter (the weekly newspaper for the queer community) and digitized all the obituaries published in the publication since 1979. The BAR online obituary database documents so many lives taken by AIDS, HIV-related illnesses, violence, but also of old age, other illnesses, all matters of life and death, it seems. It was announced on AIDS Day 2009, and I'll admit to being transfixed by the obituary clippings - so so so many lives lost and found, briefly, on my screen for a few minutes many years later. You can search by name, date, or my personal chatroulette-style favourite, "Random Obituary." I've always always been an obit reader - but there is something incredibly profound and sad about the 'random obit' when every single one seems like a life cut short, way short, and the loves left behind to grieve and carry on are also way too young. Every single one. And as Jack points out above, they all look good - skinny shorts and big moustaches and plaid shirts and hot leather. It's like a community memorial, again and again and again, where each obit isn't just a record of someone dying, but a record of an entire community that felt its early cohesions around profound sense of loss. That's hard to grasp for me. A huge massive part of the queers didn't get to put up their flirty sexy facebook poses, and in some way, this random queer obit finder is like the Facebook of those we lost...

I saw a post on Twitter the other day that mused, "I wonder what the gay politics of today would look like if we hadn't lost so many friends, especially in the early days of AIDS." That's more than 140 characters so I'm probably doing the opposite of whatever paraphrasing is (run-on sentencing?) but the point was that the queer community isn't only the here and now, and the "what might be in the future." For me, it's also the "what might have been NOW." It's a helpful reminder - not as a corrective to futural thinking and hoping, necessarily, but also for remembering the very material consequences of decisions, aspirations, intimacies, entanglements, politics (lower case p), Politics (upper case P), and love.

Additionally, the ACT UP Oral History project archives dozens of videos and transcripts from original members of the activist group. I saw an amazing exhibit called, "ACT UP NEW YORK: ACTIVISM, ART, AND THE AIDS CRISIS, 1987–1993" at the Harvard museum a few months ago. It featured a number of the original Gran Fury AIDS posters - I'll reproduce one here, and urge you to check out the others at the Gran Fury poster archive. It's fun to see them here on the screen, but there was something about being in a large gallery space, literally *surrounded* by these plastered posters, glowing with flourescent screenprinted inks (seriously, check out Reagan's pink eyes. Those are scary when they track you around the room!), and witnessing the political affect - and effects - en masse with other viewers.

In a way, that's what those posters were about -- mass viewings, plastered on bus stops and billboards and trains and government buildings. The community building was about putting up the posters, as well as witnessing them in public with others. Seeing them in a small scale on my computer screen now doesn't have quite the same emotional impact... but it's not really the political poster era anymore, is it? Are there particular new media/online spaces, technologies or experiences that inspire that kind of emotional response for you? I've certainly found deeply immersive and transformative experiences, and most importantly, relationships with others, from online communities and 'spaces' -- but I'm incredibly grateful that there are burgeoning places to document those experiences and communities that came before the digital 'us'.

Thanks again for all of your thoughts - looking forward to learning more...

alexislothian

I've been following this

I've been following this forum trying to think of something interesting and worthwhile to say, as I do quite often with HASTAC forums. Juana and Jack's comments have been making me think how that is in some ways a symptom of the ways I've been working on making my online activities less 'queer' lately --less time-wasting, less pseudonymous, and more institution- and potential-employer-friendly lest such an entity should decide to google me. Which of course also makes being online less fun, less exciting, and more like work. The time I spent online engaged in queer activities (reading sexually explicit fan fiction, downloading materials of questionable legality, getting into passionate arguments about identities and politics, etc) was a huge factor in my decision to come to graduate school to do queer studies, but I didn't realize quite how all of that would be disciplined into labor.

But to engage in the actual work I came here to do (which is still an act of putting off the 'real' labor of getting on with my dissertation), I'm intrigued by the potentailly queer temporal engagement Jack brought up re: being 'late' online. Because there are so many ways to be late online. Show up and comment weeks and months after discussion has finished and, if you're lucky, you'll get things started again; at the very least, your contribution will be available to the even-later viewer. But what about being a part of a long-passé site (does Friendster still exist? There are still people posting to Usenet newsgroups) or just wearing your outdated cultural affiliation on your sleeve? Google any band or TV show you thought was long forgotten and you'll find activity on fan sites, and every political movement that ever existed seems to have its active members stirring shit up online. This has often made me think about Elizabeth Freeman's idea of temporal drag. I like the idea that, even though things are always disappearing, there's an aspect of sedimentation to online time, where things once buried are forever rising to the top and surprising us.

De_Kosnik

"Late" online

I love this idea of "being 'late' online" - and here I am, performing the very concept that I'd love to discuss, as I am nearly a month late to this discussion!  Apologies, although really it is my loss for having missed out on the opportunity to participate more fully in this great conversation.

"Temporal drag" can happen in so many ways.  As everyone who's read David Harvey's work, or that of any good postmodern Marxist theorist, already knows, capitalist consumerism is designed to keep us in a perpetual "now;" commodities must be rendered obsolete and demand for the new must be constantly created.  In this way, I regard much of online fandom as anti-capitalist or at least resistant of the commodification of cultural works, resistant of the interaction with cultural productions that is called for by capitalism, which is to regard each production as a commodity to be purchased and used right now, and then disposed of and forgotten.

Though many online fan communities - perhaps the largest and most active ones - center on current cultural works (TV shows airing new episodes, films and games recently released, comic series issuing new installments), the Internet has also created numerous spaces for the revivalism and fetishism of culture from the archive, forgotten and obsolete and long-"dead" works.  in fact, thinking about the idea of archive, without the online spaces of revival fandom, there would be no archive of some of these cultural productions and concepts.  

Of course sometimes the dominant culture finds uses for old culture (fashion and design constantly cannibalizes the past, and Hollywood may give us a new Batman and Spiderman every 10 years for the next few decades), but I think of this sort of "belatedness," this fixation on memorializing culture and keeping it alive, has special significance in minority and women's groups, and I would even go so far as to argue that the act of constantly re-reading and revisiting and resuscitating and reframing older culture, culture that barely functions anymore as commodity, is a specifically queer and anti-capitalist act.  Queer culture's insistence on specific ways of constantly re-reading and re-enacting the affect of divas from decades past became a tool (weapon) of signification post-Stonewall.  And I think we see many instances of minority fandoms, around figures like Bruce Lee and Bette Davis and soap opera characters from many years ago, that have successfully appropriated out-of-date cultural figures or works and *made* them signify *as* minority, feminist, queer icons and symbols.

I like this idea of belatedness, a different belatedness than Homi Bhabha - or a way that the "always-late-to-the-party"ness of minority and women's groups, a lateness that especially is perceived to exist (by the dominant culture) with respect to technology, operates differently.  The lateness, the revivalism, that we see in these minority groups' online fandoms constitutes one way that new media has allowed minority cutlural translations, transactions, concourse to thrive, in ways that  are excepted from the workings of the capitalist marketplace.  This is signifying work, the work of making non-commodities signify.  And it is significant.  Defying capitalism's machinations, finding uses for what has been discarded with others in online fan communities, is queer.  

Of course, these communities also function as Gramscian relatively-autonomous subcultures that then produce new categories of commodities.  The cycle of subcultural invention, followed by capitalist co-optation, continues.  But maybe there is a bit of lag-time, that in-between time when online fandom is finding fresh uses for old culture, and capitalism has not yet caught up to them.  

Viola.Lasmana

alas, another "late" one to the party...

 

I want to first thank the organizers of this forum and everyone who has contributed thought-provoking ideas and questions in this very dynamic discussion space! Reading the prompts and responses have certainly jumpstarted my morning. It has been somewhat challenging to think about what to say here in a concise enough way, when there are so many excellent ideas and questions! I feel like I want to respond to everything that's been said, but I'll restrict myself to something I've been thinking about for a while :). I also want to say how remarkable it is that in an online forum such as this one, it is so rich with individual identities and bodies, albeit identities and bodies in a virtual community (maybe we can also think about bodies beyond the physical body and start to think about "bodies of thought" as exemplified here in the forum...?). 

In response to what Jack said about Facebook and whether or not we have become complicit in the "network of spies and narcissists," I think that the endless postings about "me" also has much to do with the lack of bodily markers in such communities. Although Facebook's prompt ("what's on your mind?") pushes the individual to be more self-reflective, the self is posed in constant opposition with the rest of the community: strings of new status updates from all over the world appear on the webpage every few seconds, and in an attempt to shout out “I’m here!” to the rest of the world and forge meaningful connections, that complacent sense of self-centeredness is lost in a sea of voices, like crabs in a barrel, only there are no crabs but online identities made up of profile pics, photos, interests, etc., and the barrel is a virtual community in which many of us are linked to hundreds of online friends (most of whom we don't interact with IRL).

Are status updates about "me" attempts at regaining that sense of selfhood tied to a body (like the old idea of "one body, one identity"?) in a community that lacks physical, bodily markers? In other words, is there a tension between the potential play/performance of identities in online spaces that allow the flourishing of imagination and possibility beyond the physical body versus (perhaps) an unconscious or subconscious desire for a reestablishment of one's identity by relating back to one's embodied, physical life? Forgive me if I am referring back to Jentery's point about material and virtual worlds in a less articulate way, but the negotiations between online and offline worlds as they relate to one's identity are also topics I've been intrigued by.

It also strikes me that much of the talk about virtual bodies and bodies IRL also run parallel to issues of authorship and ownership in the digital age -- the individual self, identity performance and play in virtual spaces, etc., made me think about the idea of one author versus the idea that everyone is/can be an author.

Thanks for reading; looking forward to more dialogues! 

 

 

juarodriguez

If you are not paranoid you are misinformed...

I couldn't resist posting this NYT story about the school district that gave their student's laptops and gave themselves access to spy on them using the built in web-cam.   I think this is particularly salient for those of us that have the luxury of having our institutions buy our laptops.  This is the nightmare that was created about "home computers."   

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/us/21spy.html?scp=2&sq=laptops&st=cse

And yes, search committees will google you, look you up on Facebook, see who your friends are, look at the digital traces of the body that you left online.   

Margaret Rhee

Thanks!!! Tweeting Legs? Facebook Canon?

Hey there Jack! Thanks for all your posts and perspectives! I think your post looks absolutely fabulous! And even if the other post had formatting issues, its still more than great! My previous post had no spaces, and I had difficult making it work, and thought, well, I think it just looks fine. And why dont I place some *** where the spaces for paragraphs should be and its become an entirely different thing, maybe far more interesting than what I may have written, sticking to the formalities of online word doc writing...

As for facebook, well, I agree with you its very interesting how facebook interacts, interrupts our lives. Its interesting because my best friend, amazing experimental memorist, Jezebel Delilah X, (I have to give her a shot out on HASTAC, cause she's a fabulous writer and person) actually writes the most beautifully personal status updates on her facebook, that are vulnerable and angry, confused, and confident, they express the "autobiographical" but in the form of a status update on her facebook, which may or may not be "real." But in some ways, its fashioned a different way of expression that I think has been really productive and freeing. She has also became well-known for her status updates too, which reminds me of the feature article in Vanity Fair on the hot popular tweeters. Who had 1.4 million followers and more! and all with some legs under those trench coats, normatively feminine and mainstream beautiful. It shows that we are entering a very interesting age, where digital technologies are creating new "genres" of expression. Like would we have a "canon" of facebook status updates? (I hope JDX is included, if so) The Vanity Fair article suggests, that fame can be found within the 140 word count of a tweet. 

Not to mention its an example of media covering media, which of course Vanity Fair covers culture, but new media culture is a new development. And I wonder what this has to do with feminist engagement of new media technologies. Also dating too. Was talking to my friend who was visiting from NYC, almost 3 couples I know, have met on Nerve.com, that signals something is happening in our love lives, where yes, appearances and language via online do matter...Sometimes its a good thing or bad, but I suppose you can't go wrong with Nerve.com reader? 

As for Ellen, I think she looks and is good on anything and everything. American Idol, dancing on her talk show, or  a wedding spread in People Magazine. 

 

halberst

FionaB - thanks for this

FionaB - thanks for this post, I am also an OBIT reader and I have always thought of OBIT writing as a real art - it is partly an art of prediction - do people predict who is likely to die next and have an OBIT ready to go, i always wonder about that when a person dies one day and long OBITS appear the next...anyway, your idea about OBITS for a community is interesting and this digital data base of death is a fascinating concept. But then again, as Derrida reminds us in "Archive Fever," every archive is notable for what it includes and what it leaves out and I guess part of me wonders about the memorialization of ACT UP NEW YORK right now especially in relation to all the other regional ACT UP and HIV/AIDS projects that sprang up in the 1980's and 1990's around the country. The AIDS era as Roger Hallas and Alex Juhasz and other scholars remind us was the age of video so we might think about how different phases of technology produce different modes of remembering, different forms of memory and very different paths to forgetting. 

When you mentioned ACT UP I was also thinking about The Lesbian Avengers, also from the 1990's and I found this great graphic archive and update on the Boston Lesbian Avengers site: actually I don't know if it loaded. And as Alexis reminds us, nothing ever quite dies on the internet...old websites are still there, people you never wanted to stay in touch with from grad school reappear, visual material that was hardly ever shown in the past makes a daily appearance on YOUTUBE - I was just chatting with Julia Bryan Wilson about how hard it was to see Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece" when she was writing about it but how now you just google it and there it is on YOUTUBE - what happens to the life of a performance when it goes from being rarely viewed and much discussed to much viewed and no longer discussed. what is the meaning of cult status in the age of availability?

Yoko Ono: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3dsvy_yoko-ono-cut-piece_shortfilms

Here is the URL: http://www.lesbianavengers.org/

 

Boston Lesbian Avengers

 

zachblas

queer technologies, viral aesthetics

hi everyone--

first off, thanks so much for inviting me to participate in this forum! i’m certainly late to the party, but i guess that’s my fault for overloading my classes this semester and finding myself with no time!

i’d like to start this post by introducing the project i’ve been working on for the last few years and then share all the new directions i am attempting to move toward as well as specific works-in-progress.

queer technologies began while i was doing my mfa at ucla, and jack halberstam played a huge role in helping me think through all these burgeoning interests of mine in queer politics, artivism / hacktivism, and aesthetic practices. so i am really happy to have jack here jumping back into these discussions.

queer technologies (qt) is an organization that develops various technological applications for queer agency, interventions, and social formation. our slogan is: automating perverse possibilities. qt applications are critical products, in that they are mass-manufactured to resemble technological consumables. thus far, qt’s product line includes: transCoder, a queer programming anti-language designed as a software development kit, ENgenderingGenderChangers, a “solution” to gender adapter’s male/female binary confiugrations, and gay bombs, a technical manifesto that outlines a “how-to” of queer political networked activism.

qt products are often displayed and deployed at the disingenuous bar (a play / attack on apple’s genius bar), which offers a heterotopic space for political support for “technical” problems. qt products are also shop-dropped in various consumer electronics stores, such as best buy, circuit city, radio shack, and target. 

qt is currently in production on a mapping application called GRID, which is a taking-up of the name previously held by hiv/aids as well as grids of capital and communication, that tracks the circulation of qt products as well as attempts to reconfigure the logics of certain spaces (i’ll come back to grid if i get around to talking about viral aesthetics & topology; or if you all wanna know more!). qt is also researching a project on “fag face” in relation to interfaces, faciality, imperceptibility, and deleuze’s call to escape the face.

with qt, many people have asked while i have chosen to take this “capitalist” route with the work, making the project appear like a company that produces tech products. in part, this comes from many conversations with other mfa-ers at ucla while i was there about the possibilities of various types of political resistance. there was a growing unease among my friends of clearly directionally oppositional forces in a struggle. we turned toward the deleuzian notion of accelerating a system to the point of implosion. i turned to branding as a way to engage in another type of critique and contextualization. while many reasons drove me to use branding strategies and tactics, the ability for the work to circulate as a product in the places where tech products circulate was the most appealing. it became a way to leave the gallery / museum behind (in part) and let the art move back into many facets of the world. when a qt product is encountered in a store, the questions that emerge are not “what is this artwork doing here?” but “what is this?” “do i want this?” “why would i want this?” “what does it do?” “how much is it?” “what would i use this for?”

i have come to consider this type of practice a kind of viral aesthetics. i would like to share with you bits of the material i am trying to think through on the viral and aesthetics:

there has been a lot of work on virses recently. the emergence of theories like viral ecology, viral philosophy, and viral politics to diagnose our culture today suggests that the virus perhaps is the major trope of the postmodern condition. thriving upon ambiguity and indifference, shall we say political practices must replicate the viral, that it takes a virus to fight a virus? thierry bardini has called this viral epoch a “junk future,” claiming that the “virus and junk are connected through the power of the image.”

alex galloway and eugene thacker define the virus as “life exploiting life,” that is, viruses take advantage of their host entities and/or systems to generate more copies of themselves. so the virus succeeds in producing its copies through a process g&t refer to as “never-being-the-same.” the virus propagates itself by continuously mutating its code with each reproduction. replication and cryptography become the two actions that define the virus. what astounds g&t--and also qt--is that the virus reveals a life in an “illegible and incalculable manner.” they suggest that the virus’ ability to mutate and modulate itself is an example of artificial life. (i have been thinking about this artificiality in relation to hardt & negri’s monstrosity of the flesh but i’ll hold back on that for now.)

so that’s a basic thinking through of the virus, but traits of the virus have recently been discovered in larger dynamic structures of contemporary life and society (the becoming-viral). h&n: “empire’s institutional structure is like a software program that carries a virus along with it, so that it is continually modulating and corrupting the institutional forms around it.” Jussi Parikka goes further in his writings on viral capitalism. he says that capitalism is viral in that it is now capable of continuous modulation and heterogenesis. parikka identifies this viral mode of operation organized around contagion, mutation, and colonization. “the commodity,” he writes, “works as a virus--and the virus part of the commodity circuit.” so viral capitalism, as an artificial life form, replicates itself through a mutating act of never-being-the-sameness.

that’s a lot to digest on the viral so i think i’ll stop there for now and close with a few points. i’m interested in an aesthetics that is viral in that it follows the viral characteristics of replication and cryptography--and that it carries out these action in tension with capital’s own viral, modulating structure. a viral aesthetics directly takes up this “never-being-the-sameness” as well as the illegibility & incalculability. for my project, i’m specifically thinking about tactics of branding, fakeness, affect, and nonexistence (or going off the “grid”) to work toward the viral.

as a side note, and following jack’s suggestion to engage with time, this december at digital arts & culture, wendy chun urged me to look closely at the retrovirus because of the temporalities i’m operating within. i have yet to look into this closely but the retrovirus could be one way to think temporality in this context.

i’ll leave you with this statement by parikka, followed by call to action by deleuze (because these are points that powerfully resonate for me throughout the qt project):

parikka writes that “viruses, too, have faces.” to work against viral capitalism, it would seem one must first identify the face (overcoded thing)--and then escape it, as deleuze has called for:   “know them, know your faces; it is the only way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight. [. . .] to the point that if human beings have a destiny, it is rather to escape the face, to dismantle the face and facializations, to become imperceptible, to become clandestine [. . .] by strange true becomings that [. . .] make faciality traits themselves finally elude the organization of the face.”

changed

Hey Zach (nice to see you in

Hey Zach (nice to see you in cyberspace),

I'm dashing this off in the midst of my online multitasking, but I'd like to chat (off board) about some of these ideas.  More importantly (on board), I want to accent the idea of thinking about queer interventions and queer (re)appropriation of and queer (re)configurations of technologies, technological mediations, and technologized spaces.  I haven't done a whole lot with the "viral" -- though I remember a seminar conversation about the "viral" as a concept metaphor and the tensions/difficulties when talking about queerness/LGBT lives and bodies/HIV & AIDS.  There is an uncomfortable map or equation there that I know is simultaneously productive and problematic -- how do we or do we want to escape the metaphor of infection?  I wonder if something like nanitic (nanites) aesthetics might be a different tack. 

Thanks for weighing in!

ED

zachblas

virus, viral, diagrams

hi ed! good to see you on here too.

i'll make a quick follow-up to your points about the virus / viral. and first, i think it's important to recognize the difference between the virus and the viral.

i have come to the virus and viral through media theorists calling for a topologically driven analysis (rather than primarily representional).  jussi parikka calls this an "assemblage" theory of media to account for all the nonvisual components of digital networked media. galloway & thacker write that to think topologically means working through the rules and regulatons that structure diagrams. as this form of analysis focuses on how / why / when certain things (dis)connect and the quality / quantity of those connections, the virus has been studied topologically to understand its diagram (that is, the viral).

so interestingly, for parikka, galloway, and thacker, the use of the viral (as in the traits of the virus, such as replication & cryptography, that can be located in something other than a virus) is not as a metaphor but a diagram.

following claims that capitalism (and SO many other things) is now viral, i'm interested in what could be gained from thinking queerness in relation to the topologically viral. are there new queer political tactics to be worked out somewhere in this terrain? in the spam book, parikka points toward becoming viral as an affirmative political activity that can generate new diagrams. what would / could this be? this is where my GRID project comes into play....which we can talk about soon enough!

 

michacardenas

virus politics

I'd like to talk more about the viral here, in relation to queer/feminist spaces as spaces against neoliberal enclosure. I'm thining about my present experiences in the UC occupations and strikes, since on Friday hundreds of us occupied the chancellor's office at UCSD all day and only gave it up at the BSU's request. In these experiences, it has seemed to me to be extremely viral, in that it is operating through replication and contagion, not through any clear, simple line of transmission. In my experiences in the alter-globalization movement, things always seemed distributed but were often actually acomplished through the long, careful planning and coreography of lots of activist groups. On the other hand, here at UCSD and from stories I've heard from the occupiers of UCSC and the New School, these actions have been very spontaneous, travel through social networks, through txt'ing, through in some cases a few students taking a building and many others hearing about it and showing up to support, or through a few people directing a crowd in a certain way, which then is spread through networks again. At UCSD, in the past few strikes and the recent (brief) occupation, these things don't come through a central email list or organization, but lots of people are promoting them, spreading them, you hear about events from friends on their way or already there.

What I'm wondering is, how much do we want to reproduce structures like the viral and the corporation and reproduce their logics and rhetorics and how much do we want to escape them and produce new logics? Thacker and Galloway, in the Exploit, say that a new topology is needed, to counter networks of power, an anti-web. Is the virus their proposal for an anti-web?

Part of what our next project virus.circus is about is about the prevalent fear that is spread through the rhetoric of virus in order to produce yet another form of biopolitical control. As with immigration, h1n1 becomes another way to control people's movement, and as with immigration concerns of health care costs and contagion are often the rhetoric used to restrict freedom of movement. In our project, we're speculating about a future of diy medicine guerillas, who are engaging in their own biology (as in the bioart hobbyist magazine but also as in http://diybio.org/) in order to find their bodies, to reclaim their own medical autonomy and agency from the medical/psychiatric/legal nexus of biopolitical control that hurts, arrests, marginalizes and cuts queer bodies on a daily basis.

Some of what the occupiers have written is that the activists are the problem, in that they feel like activists try to delay action and negotiate instead of acting and occupying and beginning the creation of the world that they envision. In Pre-Occupied, the occupiers of the New School write:

"To defuse spontaneity, have a meeting. Then another, and  another. Wait ten minutes, and then start over. This is the
logic of the radical liberals. Ashamed of the failures of the 60’s, they seek to relive its worst moments and rectify
them in the present, as if that would bring honor to the cemeteries which house their dead. Every site of conflict
is deemed counterproductive, and every moment of possibility is deemed too soon."

And that was exactly my experience on Friday. Despite many people's willingness to stay, hold the space and continue the occupation, even willing to risk arrest, a small group of "organizers" or "activists" managed to evict everyone from the space without having a clear dialog about leaving.

The writings of people like Tiqqun's essay The Coming Insurrection seem to offer a different kind of politics, which is being taken up by the occupiers, which is to leave behind current models, acknowledge their total failure, and begin creating.

All of which is to say, what are we to do? We need to decide, and act (or i feel like i must) now. Do queer/feminist strategies of making space in the digital realm help us to imagine new models, or reinforce old ones? Is the viral of viral media/politics capable of being used for more than the production of more fear? (and i actually saw students using hand sanitizer in friday's occupation, between donated pizzas and redbulls from supportive campus businesses, vegan bagels from the campus co-ops and reading occupation zines from the co-op bookstore, there's an intersection for us to ponder...)

Tiqqun on viruses:

"Make the most of every crisis

“So it must be said, too, that we won’t be able to treat the entire French population. Choices will have to be made.” This is how a virology expert sums up, in a September 7, 2005 article in Le Monde, what would happen in the event of a bird flu pandemic. “Terrorist threats,” “natural disasters,” “virus warnings,” “social movements” and “urban violence” are, for society’s managers, so many moments of instability where they reinforce their power, by the selection of those who please them and the elimination of those who make things difficult. Clearly these are, in turn, opportunities for other forces to consolidate or strengthen one another as they take the other side."

From the UCSC occupation:


 

carolstabile

Theories of Relativity

In so many ways, this forum taps into my own anxieties -- as a scholar and feminist -- about writing about "being online" at all. Because we're talking about such a heterogeneity of practices, subcultures, and activities, it's hard to generalize in any hard and fast manner. Re-reading my own post, for example, I'm struck by these limitations. As Amanda pointed out, there are many reasons for gender-bending (queer or not) in a game like WoW. In addition, the culture of WoW is quite different from that of Halo 3 or Left for Dead and queer players devise very different strategies for creating spaces for play. And the question of labor itself is equally complicated, despite a tendency to see players/consumers as being middle-class, while working-class and poor people and the unemployed and underemployed only have a relationship to games as exploited producers of value. And this doesn't even get into issues of the racialization of game design and racial identity and play.

Jack's points about fb above also resonate in this sense, as does boyd's research on fb and myspace.

I dunno. Maybe one of the things I like best about studying new media is that it's a constantly humbling experience, that reminds me of the limits of my own epistemological frameworks and that is forcing me to get off my ass and really do the work of collaborating with other folks. Hence the thirty minutes I try to steal every morning from the sea of administrative work that's overwhelming me.

I'd like to talk about Ellen and AI, too, although I am feeling very mixed about this, especially after the skit about Cowell and sexual harassment this week. 

 

JoshuaGamson

normalcy and ordinariness, oldness and newness

Hi all,

Thanks for organizing this, getting into it, and inviting me into the conversation.  What good company this is, and what a treat, when spending so much time with a four-year-old and a four-month-old, to be amongst grown-ups.  

Here are some of the things I'm thinking about, in the general terrain here.  Mainly, I’m thinking about how publicity (or public visibility) is working now--not just representations/images in the media studies-ish sense, but also the boundaries between public and private, and the various production contexts that shape the representations and the public/private divide.  These are old-school sorts of questions, and I think they need to be forcefully retained in the conversations about new media.  I’m interested in thinking and talking about the continuities in how media spaces are involved in what our hosts describe as the binding and unbinding of “heteronormative, patriarchal and naturalized constructions of difference.”  So let me go old-school on you.

1)  I’m thinking about this partly from a personal level, as I look at my everyday lived experience and the various mediated versions of me (or us) I’m in contact with regularly.  Last night, I was up at midnight, and then again a couple hours later for what felt like hours, dealing with our fussy baby girl.  That’s partly complaint, but somehow also feels partly like bragging:  I regularly indulge the feelings of hetero-normalcy that come along with taking on the father role.  It doesn’t matter much at all that asleep in the bed (though really, it was his turn to get up the second time; he owes me) is a man.  It’s not just that we got married, and are part of that whole assimilationist thing, though we certainly have been active in our own normalization.  In our current incarnations, in everyday interactions, I feel visible mostly as a “father,” and that master status seems to take over; I’d say my gay difference is visible, but only incidentally, and certainly seems undisturbing of the existing categories of difference  I can’t help but sometimes wallow in the “normalcy” of it all.  But then the context changes--we travel somewhere (Kentucky, say), or I enter the classroom--and I am a walking representation of something more disturbing, less digestible, more disruptive of “naturalized constructions of difference.”  And then I turn on the TV--yeah, I’m old-school like that, too, even with Tiv--and see images of people with whom I should identify, homonormative, incidental gays:  two guys on “Brothers and Sisters” having a baby through surrogacy (like us), two guys on “Modern Family” dealing with sleep-training, competitive parenting, etc. (like we did).  And I am uncomfortable, when I kind of think I should be thrilled, given how few images there have been of same-sex parents on TV and how celebrational these ones are.  Maybe it’s a feeling of guilt, a recognition that I am reaping the cultural rewards of pushing my way into, and reinforcing a new version of, normal/queer boundaries, knowing the exclusions and absences that involves.  I’m not sure that I have much of a “new media” angle to add to the story, except to say that besides parenting advice and the now-conventional uses of online life (google, facebook, teaching stuff), I think part of what I do online is seek out and consume other, queerer parts of myself, to keep those alive, to offset all the normalized version of me (that is, I try to keep myself a pervert).  But because of the particular features of new media, the queerer self is pretty much invisible.  In any case, for whatever it’s worth, all this is to suggest that I want to talk more about the intersection between these versions of culturally visible selves, and to point out that the old here, in my own experience, most seems to trump the new.  Would love to hear comments on this.

2)  The other set of issues I’ve been thinking of has to do with some of the issues raised at the outset about “shifts and changes and relationship within and between representational genres such as reality television, talk shows, and social networking sites such as YouTube and myspace.com around gender, sexuality, and queer issues.”  I’ve actually not thought through the gender/sexuality/queer side of it, and would love to hear others’ thoughts on that connection; I’ve been thinking about it from the angle of how celebrity culture has changed with the expansion of “reality” TV and social networking, etc.   Bear with me, and hopefully I can get it out and make it relevant to this forum. In the last 15 years or so, it seems pretty clear that there has been a decisive turn towards the ordinary (or, if you like, the Ordinary) in American celebrity culture.  As opposed to earlier periods, where American celebrities were a distinct class of extraordinary people, living extraordinary lives (whether they deserved to or not)--a “powerless elite,” as Francesco Alberoni once called them---celebrity culture is increasingly populated by unexceptional people who have become famous, and by celebrities who have been made ordinary.  This has been driven, I think, by some very concrete forces, most obviously new TV programming strategies (reality TV) and new Web technologies (especially Web 2.0 stuff).  The first makes money by churning out its own short-lived celebrities (certainly cheaper than hiring existing ones), and in doing so both opens up a big space for the visibility of “ordinary people” and emphasizes a storyline in which ordinariness is actually a credential for stardom, rather than its antithesis.  The second has generated sort of bottom-up, do-it-yourself celebrity production process that is partly autonomous from its predecessor, and opens up space for “self-made celebrities” (think Tila Tequila and Jeffree Star, among many many others) and micro-celebrities.  I think these changes are actually part and parcel of a heightened consciousness of everyday life as a public performance; an increased expectation that we are being watched, and a nagging sense that perhaps the unwatched life is invalid or insufficient; a growing willingness to offer up “private” parts of the self, as indicators of authenticity, to watchers known and unknown--an accentuated attention to what Mark Andrejevic has called “the work of being watched.”  If this is more or less right, if ordinariness is being elevated and a sense of life-as-performance expanded, does it have any implications for queerness?  Is it an accident that so many of the online celebrities (and the same might be said of reality show stars) seem somehow queer, sexually or otherwise--at least in comparison to those generated by preceding genres and technologies?

lnakamur

self-made celebrity, queer identity, and the Queen of MySpace

Josh, nice to read you here. I've taught your Gay.com essay to great effect!  and most recently Guy Trebay's article from the New York Times, "She's Famous (And So Can You)" (a title that has always seemed ungrammatical to me) which cites you extensively.  This essay harshed on Tila Tequila for her lack of talent and trashiness in a way that is both homophobic and racist.  She is despised by Trebay and others partly because of her use of social networking sites to get around or past the cultural gatekeepers that have limited access to celebrity.  The implication here is that gatekeepers are necessary; as Andrew Keen says in his snarky pronouncements on the Internet's dire effects on taste, quality, and truth, he doesn't want to have his teeth worked on by a "citizen dentist."  You might say that Tila Tequila is a "citizen publicist/producer/writer/agent," for herself, and that MySpace is to blame for permitting this.

What doesn't get mentioned here is that MySpace is overwhelmingly associated with youth of color, in contrast to Facebook, which is identified with white, college bound users.  As danah boyd shows so compellingly, the movement of white users from one platform to another is so pronounced as to be a form of "white flight."  boyd told us at the Digital Media and Learning conference in LaJolla last weekend that this research of hers provoked more anger and hostility than anything else she had ever written--when it was posted on the New York Times sites she got thousands of responses, many of them very confrontational.  Nobody wants to think about the Internet as racially segregated in this way.  The language that Facebook users employ to describe MySpace is striking--a September, 2009 issue of Time Magazine quotes a user who called MySpace a "cyberghetto" without any sense of self-consciousness that this is a racist thing to say.  

Tila Tequila came up using MySpace, and in her memoir/advice book Hooking Up with Tila Tequila she emphasizes many times that if she were a white man her pioneering use of music files embedded within profile pages would have caused her to be viewed as a "mogul."  (She claims to be the first person to have discovered that MySpace code permitted users to embed their own media within them.  This feature is what made MySpace a favored venue for musicians, and is a big part of its popularity).  Instead, as a bisexual woman of color, she's yet another reason for the "ghettoization" of MySpace. 

Tequila is seen as an affront to taste, morality, and "quality" in television.  Yet her show was shockingly popular in its first season.  She bootstrapped her way onto television from a social network site, and as Trebay notes, she was the first person to do this.  Social network sites are becoming increasingly racially polarized, and increasingly associated with queer sexualities.  Digital utopians have given up on calling the Internet a race-free space; social network sites and other egocentric forms of networking are themselves partly responsible for this.  Yet there is still so much invested in saying that social networking sites are; they people choose to inhabit the ones they do because this or that interface is better/faster/prettier--this new utopianism enforces heternormativity, and works to preserve the privilege of old media.  Perversely, Tequila's fame via MySpace burnishes the accomplishments of celebrities like Paris Hilton and the like who came across their fame the old fashioned way--they were born into it. 

The phrase "internet famous" implies that one is not really famous.  One is fake or inauthentic, one possesses a queered form of celebrity.  Internet fame is a possible intervention and surely a serious challenge to established media systems that *still* gatekeep celebrity.  Internet fame is an anarchic place.  As conferences like ROFL.con at MIT show (and as I'll see when I present there later this spring) Internet memes are wildly diverse.  Yet we cannot blame media industries alone for the white heteronormativity of fame.  At ROFL.con I'll be talking about how fan cultures can sometimes reproduce the racio/sexual norms of old media (i.e. racefail 09) and why we should care about this. 

JoshuaGamson

loving tequila

Lisa, hi.  Nice to "see" you (ish); I'm a fan.  That's such a helpful and smart discussion of Tila Tequila, and I can't wait to hear more about your ROFL.con presentation--the fan culture side of things is so under-theorized and under-researched.  The "white flight" argument about MySpace is really rich, too.  I'll be thinking about this stuff as I revisit some of my earlier work on celebrity culture and queer visibility.  

halberst

master Status...hmmm

well, since this is a forum for discussions of new media spaces and not a pro and con gay marriage site, i won't say too much but i do have to make some response to Josh who, i am sure, knew he was cruising for a bruising with his bragging about comfy, cozy hetero-normativity. Like Josh, I am a father, sort of - my partner has two kids, they see me as masculine, as sort of male and as a step-daddy - unlike Josh, that category of "father" is never a master-signifier for me, never confers "master status" because I always signify as its disruption. My "queer difference" (not "gay difference") is almost always visible and I am not so delighted by the idea of people reveling in their hetero-normativity IRL  and then zipping around in digital worlds to find things to "offset the normalized version" of self that they have settled for! facebook status: "still queer but fitting in nicely with the straights and getting rewarded for it, except in Kentucky"! Ok, don't mean to be rude Josh - i appreciate your questions about culturally visible and invisible selves...and i appreciate even more, carol's comments on collaboration and stealing time from academic labor...

JoshuaGamson

hey jack.  yes, yes, this is

hey jack.  yes, yes, this is the guilt i was describing! though i guess the irony (or self-criticism?) in my comment about "bragging" and about the heteronormative coziness didn't come across.  i'm not delighted. i think the difference in your experience and mine are exactly the conversation i'm trying to have--the differences in what is and can be visible, and how that varies from context to context; where media spaces fit in with that (including this one, for instance, where making visible my relationship to heteronormativity is considered "reveling" and "cruising for a bruising"); etc.  more later when i've got a minute...

Margaret Rhee

Thanks Joshua, Queer Parents Queer Spawn?

Hi Joshua! So glad you are with us here, and thanks so much for your thoughtful post! Thanks Jack for your response too. I however, would add in response to both,  that although lets say parenting, and fathering and marrying may certainly be considered homonormative, I wonder what ways do we parent queerly? Queer in teaching our children non-normative ways of being, learning, and loving. Queer and feminist in how as children and becoming adults, learn to deconstruct normativity because of embodied experiences...And how might being a queer parent be important in all the multiple ways a queer identity shifts changes and resists. While not a central topic in this forum, I think Josh poses some interesting questions around, what does the discourse suggest about the shaping of a "queer" identity? The changes in our domestic possibilities, to the representations of queer subjects, the longing for an identity politic that critiques heteronormativity seems like a question we should also grapple with...and what does new media have to do with it? I am thinking of digital stories. One new media connection is this digital archive of stories from queer spawn. Additionally, in this digital project, same sex marriage is also discussed not only homonormative terms but also a radical left critique too. Its really great to hear perspectives from people who have queer parents and their perspectives are centered in this process, in ways that were not possible before.

JoshuaGamson

queer spawn

Margaret, thanks for that queer spawn link.  I wasn't really trying to start a discussion on queer/gay parenting (or marriage or whatever) per se, though I don't mind having it; I was trying to give an example of the interactions and intersections between the various spaces (many of them "media," as in mediated by technology and media organizations, all of them "mediated," as face-to-face relations also are) in which we make our identities, and to think about how queerness (whatever we seem to mean by that here) is undermined, celebrated, sidelined, rewarded.  The queer spawn stories make me think about a) how useful it is to start from the ground up on such questions, empirically (I fear flak in response to that term, too, but there it is), especially ethnographically, as Mary Gray does in the book you mention way up top; b) how important new media seem to be in both the consolidation of mainstream gay capital, economic and cultural (I'm thinking of Big Gay Websites) and for the facilitation of conversations (and, importantly, archivable and therefore much more visible and available conversations) that are basically unavailable in "old" media directed by mass or even niche-market economic logics, including many that question or refuse various sexual and gender norms.  

juarodriguez

Homo Normo interrupted

 

Ahhh. I really don't have time for this, but here I go again...

I think this issue between gay difference and queer difference is on point, but maybe not in the clearly delineated way that Jack suggests.

Last night.  So my partner and I are at dinner with my 7 y/o son, and fine, it is Berkeley and a butch femme Latina couple with child is so not an issue--this is not Kentucky--but when my son tells the waitress that "he's having what I'm having" and the waitress literally turns around to look for a "he" that she can recognize--that is a queer difference interrupting an otherwise incredibly normative public spectacle. 

Being "femme" and looking like a mom -- I guess, I can also appreciate the honesty with which Joshua narrates how he is hailed into a kind of normativity, hailed but not delighted.  So I am also reading Joshua as pointing to the ways one interrupts the other.  As a femme, I also refuse that guilt, passing as a straight mom requires me to expend a lot of social labor to ensure that folks are not confused into thinking I am just like them.  It is the work of refusal.  

(And re: Jack  He can be such a bully, he called me "cute" in this forum in the most offensive way possible. Some say its part of his charm, I'm not sure.) 

 

JoshuaGamson

you read me right

Yes, sometimes I work at refusing the sameness, sometimes the difference.  And I think I'm also pointing to the ways some spaces (media and non-) require and ratify different kinds of the "social labor" you're describing, which seems important to analyze.  In this one, for instance, where queerness seems to be higher status than normativity, I feel inclined to interrupt readings of me as not queer enough, but also to insist on being read as a sometimes-ambivalent beneficiary of my own conformity.  And in an online setting, it's so hard to discern the readings that the labor feels especially tricky.  That's totally different from the social labor I do around this stuff elsewhere, totally different from the internal labor I do in response to the kinds of TV visiblity I've been seeing lately, etc., etc.  (I know, I know, you haven't watched TV in weeks, and I can tell you that American Idol is disappointing so far, and you can skip it, though I guess your cousins already Facebooked you about that.)

Sonny

More facebook and social control, and homonormativity

Wow, I am loving this conversation. The assessing of the political climate of the audience to which we are speaking really shapes what we say and how we say it. Recently I have been noticing an intense type of social control exercised in a group (a radical queer antiracist counter-public and micro community) that I have been participating in. Within the group, people police one another's sexualities, or expressions of queerness, by verbally denigrating people who are "less queer" - in behavior, that is. In this situational context, "queer" refers to gender as well as sexual desire, affect, and behavior, and in fact, the "queerest" are the most "gender freakish" of all. This counter-public creates a counter-hegemony and a counter-conformity (though that sounds so paradoxical), which is enforced through communications between group members, often in the form of language and photos via facebook. They create hierarchies, both of queerness, represented in people's embodied appearances in photos, and of group-belongingness, which is evidenced in photos people post and tag people in. So, facebook functions as a means of social control even as it enables the creation of oppositional aesthetics and subcultures.

On another note, I always thought of homonormativity as primarily a political signifier, along the lines of neoliberalism and assimilationist politics - HRC and marriage equality campaigns come to mind. Not that certain performances of gender and sexuality and class and race and culture, etc., do not represent homonormativity, but, as Juana was describing, apparent homonormative appearances still have moments of queerness. What do you all think of the possibility of deconstructing the performative realms of visual "homonormativity"?

Margaret Rhee

Queer Spawn and Consumer Queer Media Spaces?

Hi Joshua, 

Thank *you* so much for all your vital scholarship and contributions to this forum! I have been such a long time fan of your work, greatly shaped my interests around identity formations and media representations, esp the messiness around the relationships to social structures. Since I work interdisciplinarly in cultural studies, and I hope to draw from sociology as much as from English, your work has been a great example for this possibility particularly from sociology. I am so glad you and Jack liked queer spawn!  I also agree with you that queer spawn shows that it is useful to start from the ground up on such questions. The possibility to center voices that were previously unheard and never represented in "old media" unless it's the "freakish," as you document in your book, exists in new media.

However, the consolidation of mainstream gay media concerns me. In a way it can be a great thing, the archive possibility, the digital and print editions, the ability to have more coverage, and hopefully the flexibility of stories.  So on one hand we have the queer spawn websites, in which a fairly affordable and accessible website is created with audio interviews, and in terms of "distribution," everyone has access. Then we have the BIG websites or consolidations of media, such as The Advocate with other websites such as  hivplusmag.com, shewired.com/, or the possibilities of websites such as   After Ellen After Elton both which I really like, and which function more interestingly only as websites, with various content, videos, social networking sites available. 

On the other hand, what happens to commercialization, and, as you point out the consolidation, of queer media. For instance, if the leading lesbian magazine seeks profit by only having celebrities on their covers, what does this mean for the shaping of queer cultural identities? How do identities become "capitalized" or "privatized?" For me, I've been working on a paper on LGBTQ media in response to crisis, and while I did not focus on websites, the politics of homonormativity, and homonationalism, it seems are linked to mainstream queer media, through an emphasis on consumer capital.  

I really love the example of queer spawn, and so glad others love it too. I really hope we can have more sites and projects like this in the future! More than another magazine, I wonder how powerful would it be to have simple website not linked to capital around voices that have previously been unheard. I feel the beauty of autobiography is so important for all people to claim, and in particular marginalized communities, because of that rawness, the importance of the story and narrative is so vital. I've been working on developing a digitial storytelling telling project around HIV prevention education in the SF jails for incarcerated women, because I firmly believe in the importance of claiming your own story, and the possibility of digital medias as a way to harness technology for this purpose, that previously was not possible. 

Why is it that we have such extremes on one hand (ie capital) and on the other possibility (like queer spawn) that exists with new media technologies. Not to say a capital driven media is not important, in a sense the work Advocate does in terms of gay visibility is tremendous, but how can we better understand representations through a lens of community building and opening identities versus closing them? I am thinking of the Advocate's article "Gay is the New Black" which provoked response to the easy elision of queer black folks. New media possibilities then, are quite polarized it seems, would the "world wide web" swing one way to the next? Is it endless? I think I need to brush up on the systems logic of the net to understand this more...but these are some thoughts in response to your post. Thanks Josh for your thoughts, and vital contributions to this forum, and all the amazing work you do! 

JoshuaGamson

good stuff

This has been really interesting and productive, I think.  I appreciate all of those thoughts; as long as the capital-driven stuff doesn't eat up the rest of it, I think I don't mind the coexistence of queerspawn and afterellen/elton one bit.  New media or old, that seems like something we've always needed to be vigilant about--not just cooptation, but also a sort of colonization of media space that does not allow for a "the more the merrier" kind of environment.  I think some online activity is simply uninteresting to people scouting for money-making opportunities, and therefore pretty safe from being eaten.  I think others need to consider ways to make themselves indigestible, and wonder what the characteristics of indigestibility might be.  

I love your digital storytelling idea.  I hope you really pursue that.  I do think it's something that digital technologies have made possible.  All this talk is pleasurable and intellectually rewarding, but a digital storytelling project--ah, that's the thing.

michacardenas

To begin...

I'm so excited to join this discussion with so many brilliant artists and thinkers. Thank you!

I just wanted to share a few brief thoughts now that I finished the prompt, which is so rich, before I get into more of the discussion...

One is that my more recent work, with my partner Elle Mehrmand, has continued to explore mixed reality but has expanded to include multiple performers in mixed reality. Our project, technésexual, is focused on erotic mixed reality performance, thinking about how we can extend to the tradition of performance art of using the body as a medium, by bridging the physical and digital bodies. To do so, our performance uses biometric sensors on our bodies to produce live audio in both the physical performance space and the virtual space in second life. You can see a recent video of this performance here: http://vimeo.com/9184862

Also, speaking of video, the Becoming Dragon video linked in the prompt is a documentary style video made by Calit2, the technology institution I work in which partly funded the project. A video I made, which is shorted but perhaps conveys more of the aesthetic of the piece, is here: http://vimeo.com/3874238

I'm very interested in the notion of Transreal identities, that is, identities which span multiple realities. I began to feel in Becoming Dragon that the idea of transreal might be a way out of the question of the real which is so often a basis for the oppression and marginalization of transgender people, based on the idea that they are not "real" men or women. Yet there is no reason to privilege virtual worlds in this regard, it seems to me that our distributed identities have significant components across many strata of media, our facebook profiles or twitter feeds are part of us, they shape how others see us and how we see ourselves.

I feel like this topic is so rich its hard to know where to start... Although Zach and I have been wondering if there's perhaps an emerging genre of Queer New Media. I feel that my work in new media has involved some queering of situations involving lots of hetero assumptions, where white males are the majority, in particular technological research centers. I see this as part of the activism in my current academic and art practices, just being a trans woman in these spaces and in these positions presents people with a different idea of trans people than they may have had before, based on media stereotypes. Yet I'm very leery of any politics of representation, and in all my of work, I'm very invested in a strategy of world building, creating technologies that can foster new connections between bodies and worlds. That is where my current thinking is going, focusing on queer world building as a transversal strategy across politics, scholarship and aesthetics.

Ok, now I can read more and jump back in. What an amazing space you've created here with this forum...

 

Amanda Phillips

Transreal

Micha, I'm really interested in this notion of transreal - I'm wondering if you talk some more about it. Does it have a history? Other artists engaging with it? Relations to transrealist literature?

michacardenas

Transreal(ism)

Initially, I had been thinking of transreal as a kind of neologism, as related to transgender. I was thinking, that if one thinks of transgender as crossing gender boundaries, then we could think of transreal as identities which cross the boundaries of realities. I've written about this in a few places, at Augmentology.com and in my paper at DAC (which was related to a forthcoming paper that is soon to be published by ctheory).

Yet I've recently come across the idea of transrealist literature, which I find really fascinating and very related to my conception of transreal. Because I think transreal identities involve a misperception, or a multiple reading. In that page I linked to there, it says "a state of perception (termed transreality) that is playfully contrary to consensus reality is a prerequisite for writing effective transrealist fiction", which I think is very interesting. My and Elle's future work is moving more towards including a speculative fiction non-linear narrative as the basis of our future work, so we can expand our performances beyond the bounds of what is real and have a further slippage between SL and RL. 

Sonny

Transreal embodiment

This concept of transreal sounds so fascinating to me. It seems to me also that queering of realities (eg. SL and RL) happens not only in our identities and cognitions, but in our material bodies, through and during our electronic experiences. As I was also *late* (though late is only relative in this ongoing conversation we are having, as others have said here), I posted a reply about embodiment late to an earlier discussion about binaries like virtual/real, material/embodied, etc. My argument is that there is no real separation between these binaries, that they are not really binary, because we, the social actors engaging in digital communicative practices, have emotional, embodied experiences through them. I have felt, in the time I have spent in this forum on HASTAC, sensations of pleasure and enjoyment, from reading all of your posts. I have felt a bit anxious about thinking of something interesting to write, and relieved to see the informality of our writing tones. I have also felt some muscle tension and soreness from sitting and lying in the same position for a long time at my laptop. So, I have bodily sensations about the cognitive and physical experiences I'm engaging in with you all, which makes my electronic experience also a physical experience.

However, I wonder about the term "transreal" and (though I haven't read your essays, Micha, which probably develop this concept more thoroughly), I wonder if the prefix "trans", though it is meant to signify the transcendence of reality boundaries, remakes these boundaries in the very act of crossing them. This is not a new idea, of course... I wonder if transreal became a well-known type of identity, similar to transgender, (or transspecies) if multiple types of "reality identities" would emerge. For example, "bi-real" or "real-queer" or "physical-to-virtual"(PTV), or "virtual-to-virtual"(VTV) or "physical-to-virtual-to-physical"(PTVTP) identities - and transreal would be the umbrella term, perhaps. This is also interesting to think about in terms of the directionality of transition. It seems in these transrealities, or queerrealities, that most people would locate themselves on the PTV spectrum, as we are all raised in the physical world before we turn to the virtual world. But, actually, now I'm going to disagree with myself. :) My housemate was recently telling me that her 2 year old brother, who can barely speak, knows how to use the DVD player, and can also use the computer to a certain extent. So, it could be possible that now people might grow up as transreal identitifed from the time they are small.

Perhaps, then, if transreality is an embodied experience, it can be possible to write transrealist nonfiction, or autobiographical transrealist literature. I think transgender memoirs would probably qualify as this genre.

 

michacardenas

Wow, those configurations of

Wow, those configurations of PtoVtoP are amazing. I agree with you that these binaries of embodied/disembodied are a false construction, also because I think that even when we are playing a game like SL or a FPS, our experience is enabled by our memory of embodiment. So I think SL it more like a reembodiment than a disembodiment, especially when we start to look at the physical effects of virtual worlds on the physical body, like the many you describe, or like arousal, fear or excitement from images, sounds and text in a virtual world. And I think you're absolutely right, that while we can imagine situations like Caprica where AI's may take on robot bodies, we can also see in today's children a complex relationship with virtual avatars of many kinds. I played metroid [a game with very interesting gender narratives] with I was around 8 years old, so this isn't even specific to this generation either. Although I've wondered in my writing about transreal how far we may want to generalize these ideas, because in a way, everyone's identities are made up of components with varying degrees of "realness", if we consider for example Lacan's ideas of the real/symbolic/imaginary [since jack already brought up zizek], then we can think of our everyday experience as an ultrarapid shifting between experiences/thoughts of the real (physical sensations), symbolic (the words we use to name those sensations) and imaginary (how we imagine those sensations fit into our "identities").

ajuhasz

Queer Media Poles

Two preliminaries: 1) thanks to HASTAC and assoreted and sundry commentators for lots of exciting conversations. 2) as I said last time I participated in one of these forums (and really not to be bitchy), but shouldn't such leadership in on-line dialogue be set in a better developed architecture then this endless, impossible to either navigate or enjoy scroll?

To continue these thoughts on form and line: I wanted to comment on the Josh/Jack fatherhood track, and question how we might think outside linearity, and its poles, to understand our many competing and intersecting new visibility roles. Must we be ever be either normative or disruptive, cozy or uncomfortable? I found myself relying upon just such binaries to describe the lesbian representational spectrum I recently encountered and participated in Berlin. I'm just back from the Berlinale where I heartily enjoyed (against my better inclinations) Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids are Alright," the universally charming and Teddy winning homo-normative, old-fashioned, celebrity-studded (Annette Benning and Julianne Moore!) completely narratively conventional (and exceedingly well-crafted) depiction of upper-middle class, white lesbian LA family (sometimes looking ALOT like mine, save that I have one black and one white child, and an ex- and new-partner, as does my ex). Embarrassing, yes, crusing for a bruising, okay, but man it felt like something I've never known to see people who really look and talk like my being played by beuatiful movie stars...Meanwhile, the film I produced and showed, "The OWLs," sits somewhere very far away along the lesbian-visibility spectrum: using its exceedinly cheaply and colllectively made (Jack was part of the OWLs Parliament Film Collective) depictions of modern lesbian life to fit outrselves as squarely outside the norms of Hollywood production or linearity or even clarity, and happy family, or happy anything as we could muster. Josh mentions "what is and can be visible," and in these multiple, intersecting media environments all of these visions of queer life can be and are visible at once. Must this be a line, a pole, a scroll? Thoughts from the crowd?

JoshuaGamson

traveling?

Thanks for that, Alex.  I agree with and identify with that commentary, and am somehow relieved by reading it.  The experience itself, of identity and visibility, does not seem to work in that linear (or really polar) way, though so often it is obviously nearly impossible to get outside of the binary logic.  I'm not sure I'd say that "all of these visions of queer life can be and are visible at once," at least not without adding, "in a stratified sort of way."  I'm at a loss for metaphors for the "many competing and intersecting new visibility roles" and the "multiple, intersecting media environments."  Could we start from their characteristics, flesh out the multiplicity and intersection and competition, and maybe the right non-linear/non-polar/non-binary metaphor will emerge?  There is movement between them (travel), and their boundaries are sometimes clear but also porous.  They often coexist in ways that seem contradictory on paper but aren't always experienced that way (as your Berlin example illustrates).  Each environment has its own logic, and probably its own status system (architecture?), in which some ways of being are privileged and others erased or stigmatized, in part because each is also tied to particular institutions (the academy, the movie industry, etc.).  Some have a whole lot more room for variation and difference than others.  What else?  And what metaphor captures what we're trying to describe?

JoshuaGamson

p.s.

when do we get to see your film?

Michael Widner

The Ballad of Gay Tony and Avatars

Thanks for this fascinating forum. I don't have anything to add nearly as insightful, theoretically-informed, or subtle as most of the other posts, but do have a few points of relevant information to share.

First, I'm curious to know if anyone here has played Grand Theft Auto IV's expansion, "The Ballad of Gay Tony". I'm still working my way through the original story line, so haven't gotten to the extra stories, but the reviews are all good. In short, you play the right-hand man of "Gay Tony", the owner of Liberty City's biggest gay and straight nightclubs. While the character you play is straight (which no doubt says something about Rockstar's perception of the marketability of playing a gay character), the focus is on Gay Tony and the many characters surrounding him. For those of you haven't played any of the GTA games, it is, like many other virtual worlds, relatively open-ended. While you follow a series of missions that advance you along a linear story line, at any one time you have 4-5 different missions you can choose. You also can choose to explore the world, (often causing mayhem, as media reports like to point out) or randomly call friends to go have a drink or shoot pool. Anyway, it's interesting to me that the GTA franchise, which has a reputation for seediness, violence, and misogyny, would be the place where we find a mainstream game with a prominent gay character. I wonder how stereotypical or caracturistic the portrayal of Gay Tony is. I do not have high hopes in that respect.

Next, I want to pass along this link, which I just found on Twitter today. Here's the summary:

Researchers found that study participants who saw their own avatars running were more likely to exercise after they left the lab than participants who saw someone else's avatar exercising or saw themselves hanging out in a virtual room.

This fits well with the discussion about embodiment and its transfer into digital realms that has threaded throughout so many of the thoughtful comments people have already made. Even more interesting than the findings about exercise is the finding, reported later in the article (yet apparently not important enough to make the blurb), that after being shown female avatars that are scantily clothed and performing submissively, participants demonstrated a higher accepted of rape myths and negative stereotypes about women. The article then goes on to quote someone discussing GTA:

'"If all it takes is five minutes of exposure in an immersive virtual world to one character, we really have to ask ourselves about exposures and interactions in video games like Grand Theft Auto," Fox said. The female characters in Grand Theft Auto are often scantily clad victims of violence.'

The stakes of digital "embodiment" and avatars are, indeed, real and have repercussions in the real world. I wonder how persistent the effects found by this study are. That is, are these responses more frequent during the study because the image has primed the recall for such cultural stereotypes? If so, then because priming fades so quickly, would the effect continue very long or would the subject quickly revert back to whatever attitudes s/he normally holds? It certainly seems like evidence for those who worry that repeated exposure to negative images, whether digital or otherwise, will adjust the viewer's perceptions IRL.

Many in this forum have noted that the ways gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. are performed (or even inhibited from performance) in digital spaces, particularly video games and immersive worlds like Second Life, tend simply to repeat the strictures and assumptions dominant in our culture. While, as Cathy points out, this must be at least partially, if not primarily, a result of market forces and the conservatism of business, it also indicates just how persistent the connection between identity and body-schema remains. I don't think we can break that connection, though. There's too much research in cognitive science that points out just how much of our cognition is predicated upon our corporeal natures. What's exciting, though, and what I think motivates much of the frustration people have already expressed with ways digital worlds repeat the problems we see in the physical world, is that the relationship can work both ways, as the avatar studies show. If we can successfully change perceptions in the digital realm, where it's trivial (if the coders allow it) to radically alter one's presence and to perform a range of identities more freely than is often possible in everyday life, then maybe that can work to alter perceptions among gamers, to start, and reach into the "real" to effect change.

It sounds like there's space for explicitly queer digital worlds, with minimal avatar constraints and open-ended play and construction made available. There was an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. recently that discusses the dissatisfaction universities have with existing virtual worlds like Second Life and how that's leading them to create their own. Why not one that responds to the challenges explored in great depth and insight in this forum?

Amanda Phillips

Feedback + Violence + Deer

Michael, I haven't played Gay Tony yet but scuttlebutt says it was sensitively done... for Rockstar. So who knows what that means!

I've also been keeping an eye on studies of virtual ---> real influence - the avatar exercise one is a really fascinating example! Obviously the jury is still out on negative representations generally, but the exercise thing brings up the question of desensitization to/promotion of violence. I noticed that the study you posted mentions that people are more responsive to avatars that look like themselves - this has important implications for games where avatar bodies are not customizable.

So we're back to the question of how we can queer these digital spaces, whether from within or by designing new ones. Going along with Micha's project, I wonder if shifting from human to non-human avatars does anything to break hegemonic representations. Not just with dragons, but furries, neko, and other hybrid species avatars, which maintain the human shape that you suggest here might be important for identification. Honestly, for all the limitations that SL places on avatar shape, people have come up with some really neat ways of getting around it.

Has anyone been in The Endless Forest? It's still on my to-do list. Everyone is a deer and there is no language.

Also, I like the idea of creating a queer virtual world - where do I sign up??

michacardenas

Hi amanda, I'm very

Hi amanda, I'm very interested also in the possibilities of furries and nekos and their possibilities for existing outside of heteronormative assumptions but also the ways in which they reproduce them. In our current work, technesexual [video], we use neko avatars. Although, it seems like in many cases in SL at least nekos and furries are still based in very hetero gender binaries, they're basically anthropomorphic animals who are easily idenfitied as male or female on first glance. It's still my hope, though, that it can activate some of the femaleness, femme-ness or lesbian sexuality that my partner and I relate to, while opening dialogs about human-animal hybrid identities. Elle and I are very inspired by Donna Haraway's writing, such as in When Species Meet, and the possibilities for imagining new forms of realitionality, communication and politics through our relationships with animals (elle and i have an aussie dog and a black cat). The deer game looks amazing! I've heard of people in SL doing interesting non-verbal roleplays of quadraped characters, like realistic kitties, but this game is so amazing! I'm going to go play it now... Some of the discussion we had a DAC in irvine this year was about developing queer naratives of games and the ways that crowdsourcing might not work in that situation but work in others. If we want to imagine or develop trans narratives in games, then appealing to the existing gaming community for an open source or open writing project would probably not be the way to go...

lnakamur

Don't ask, don't tell: the military entertainment complex

In a recent NPR story about the off the hook popularity of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a hyperrealistic war simulation game, Jeff Bakalar, who writes about video games for the Web site CNET, points out that "There's actually a lot of instances of homophobia, racism and misogynistic attitudes going on online. And, unfortunately, it isn't as discussed as much as the actual game ratings themselves."  It pisses me off no end that the title of the story is "For Mature Audiences Only: Video Game Ratings" when it should really be "Modern Warfare 2=rampant uses of word "fag," "bitch," "rape," and every other racist word you can think of shouted in your ear while you rampage through a photorealistic representation of every major theater of war in the last few years, while also listening to in-game dialogue in a variety of foreign languages." 

Modern Warfare 2 is a totally fascinating, richly textured, well constructed war game which, like Team Fortress 2 and the mighty Counter Strike before it is beautifully adapted to PvP play.  And since the Xbox 360 Live is a networked console, vast numbers of people are playing it together and talking to each other in-game.  A good reading of this game would take into account how the game's affordances, narratives, and activities--shooting, running, talking over a networked connection while playing within a racialized space of "modern" war in countries like Afghanstan, Pakistan, Brazil and Russia --engenders this kind of language. Surely the fact that this is anonymous communication is not the only reason that you hear this.  This is *such* an ethnic game.  Most of the spoken dialogue you hear is not in English.  Lots of lots of kids, many of them youth of color as Craig Watkins' and others' work has pointed out, are spending huge amounts of time playing here. 

Has anyone reading this list had a go at this game as PvP? I'm so interested now in how games interact with users in the production of gendered/racialized online cultures.  We all live in a multiplicity of virtual worlds now, with their own discursive norms and ways of doing gender and race.  I'm afraid that Modern Warfare 2 has the same policy regarding sexuality that the actual military does--don't ask, don't tell.  Because there's someone ready to call you "fag" if you screw up their sniper shot or throw smoke in the wrong direction.  In the world of networked PvP wargames, we are all default "fags" which is a synonym for "noob."  The condition of being incompetent is articulated to sexuality here. 

I'm posting this in reply to the question about the Gay Tony expansion to the GTA franchise.  It's cool that there's a gay character in this game.  Rockstar has had issues with representation.  Yet there's more at stake in digital games than what kind of avatar you get or what kind others have.  In Modern Warfare 2 you can't even see your own avatar. It's only after you're dead that you know what race/ethnicity/nation you are; you see it on the KillCam as it plays back the last few seconds of your gameplay before you were tagged by another player.  The homophobia and racism in this game are mostly user-generated, and are not keyed to other players' avatars, unlike in Second Life, because it's almost impossible to see them given the gameplay style. 

halberst

queerspawn

Margaret: I love this queerspawn site and thanks for all your posts so far and for answering the ellen question and giving great insight on the facebook and online dating topics. I also know lots of people who have found partners online and I social networking certainly gives rise to all kinds of new forms of sociality. I would love to figure out how those new formats change the meanings of hetero and homosexuality and male and female...if they do. As for Ellen - i like that she is butching it up a little bit on AI. 

Alex- so glad The Owls went well and I just cannot wait to see The Kids Are Alright - I have heard it is awesome and quite funny too. I didn't meant to make normative into an identity or something that only certain people do while truly radical people stand outside it - it is more a matter of trying to hold on to the meaning and the forms of our disruptive practices even as institutional forces threaten to swallow us up.

Anyway, having stirred up a little trouble - well forums are like that - let me make apologies. Josh - thanks for your gracious response, I was just needling you a bit about the "bragging" but and trying to point to all the different levels of visibility that different queer parents experience. And Juana, well now, I certainly did not mean to be offensive (usually if I am going to be offensive, I try to make it a bit more obvious or interesting). I was saying that being "cute' in print is a cool style and one often not favored in academia - cute writing is definitely different from simply being cute, it is for sure a performance and it is a question of how we convey affect, personality, tone and intention online. Obviously I misjudged all of the above...not so charming I am sure but still an honest attempt to to make connections between on and offline worlds and beings...

I think I will go and watch  micha's video again and see if i can also become a dragon for a while...

jack

JoshuaGamson

thanks

as for me, i was needling myself, so i don't mind being needled....

juarodriguez

No real offense taken Jack,

No real offense taken Jack, it is just that "cute writing" really wasn't my intent. "Cute" as an adjective is difficult for me to disassociate from puppies and 12 year old girls with pigtails.   (Intersting mashup for a Furry).  But the inability to access intentions is something we as academics  know all too much about.  Your charm remains unscathed. 

TV update....I streamed LOST last night, one of those shows that has so much buzz.  I was completely lost.  I realized that it requires quite a bit of a commitment over time to follow.  A few weeks ago I caught an  episode of Glee on Hulu and found it delightful.  So on occasion--I do make a concerted effort to try to "catch up" but I find that like homeopathic drugs, it is best to take very small doses.  Top Chef remains my only television addiction, and thankfully they are on holiday.

Margaret Rhee

Cute&Avant Garde; Thank you, Human Connections

Hello Jack, and all: Thanks everyone for all your amazing posts. The engagement thus far, has been rich, provocative, fiesty, curious and brilliant, in all the most best ways. All in all, human. And in this "post-human" discourse, I appreciate that there are exchanges being made, and help me to also listen to one another to hear when others are "speaking" and to speak up too.

Jack, first of all, thank you again for all your posts,insights and amazing questions so far, its been a great honor to have you, and other amazing respondents like Juana, Joshua, and others! I feel your post is very much trying to make those connections offline and on, and I appreciate that.

I def also love Juana's tone, her affect, the experimentation of writing on her post, serves as a great model esp with the confines of academia. We hope so very much to avoid the awkward academic wine and cheese parties where everyone is uncomfortable or dislikes each other or are extremely scared...(I suppose faculty have it so much better than peon grad students) and breaking it up make this possibly, hopefully to be a different kind of space. And I think reflextivity is key.

For me experimental academic texts in itself, are tremendous interventions. And also such a queer feminist strategies. Not sure entirely of how I feel about cute, but  I feel you bring up really interesting and important aspects of "cuteness" in writing, esp in relation to the queer, feminist aesthetics.  Your writing on writing that is cute, reminded me of this article I came across:

"Cute and the Avant Garde" by Sianne Ngai Ive been working through it, but wanted to excerpt something here:

"We can thus see why the commodity aesthetic of cuteness might be mobilized by the poetic avant-garde, particularly in times of war or global crisis, as a meditation on its own restricted agency in a totally commodified society of ends-means rationality, as well as on the social effeteness of its small and all too easily fetishized texts (a hyperobjectification that continues to haunt all poetry, though certain traditions have tended to embrace it more than others). But, more importantly, cuteness allows us to conceive the powerlessness of both poetic forms and the social formations built around their production in the arena of political action as the source of an unsuspected power in the domain of political imagination: a fantasy about the very capacity to fantasize or imagine an otherwise embodied in Stein’s ribbon, Ponge’s orange, and Perelman and Shaw’s toys."

Here, Ngai discusses Gertrude Stein, and also in other parts of the essay, Andy Warhol, two figures in art and culture, that most certainly have influenced feminist and queer aesthetics today and their utilization of "cute'... I def have been trying to work on this esssay, Adorno is really difficult for me to get through. Just some thoughts of the possible connections. Im highly interested in feminist and ethnic avant garde poetics, while seemingly far from my interests in YouTube videos, I see there may be some connections, particularly when we are discussing possibilities of queer and feminist resistance? 


I also wonder, how does it feel like to be a dragon? Ive always wanted to be a peacock. Not sure if this is popular in video games?

juarodriguez

Ngai on Cuteness

Cuteness "as a meditation on its own restricted agency in a totally commodified society of ends-means rationality, as well as on the social effeteness of its small and all too easily fetishized texts (a hyperobjectification that continues to haunt all poetry, though certain traditions have tended to embrace it more than others). But, more importantly, cuteness allows us to conceive the powerlessness of both poetic forms and the social formations built around their production in the arena of political action as the source of an unsuspected power in the domain of political imagination: a fantasy about the very capacity to fantasize or imagine an otherwise..."

Thank you for this Margaret, as you see I made the quote smaller, cuter if you will.

halberst

becoming bat

Margaret - a peacock? really? say more...i like the idea of becoming bat personally, something to do with upsidedownness...love the Ngai reference, her work rocks in so many ways and this quote on cuteness reminded me why. It also reminded me of the Murakami show in LA a couple of years ago and Dick Hebdige's essay on it...

Margaret Rhee

Bats and Peacocks! 3 Reasons I love Peacocks

Bats and Peacocks! 3 Reasons I love Peacocks Below!

Margaret Rhee

my strange love for peacocks! (yay bats!)

Hi Jack!!! 

Yay, I will check out Hebdige's essay, Im really interested in these aesthetics!!! Im glad you liked Ngai!!!

About peacocks, well its kind of a long story. And maybe if we meet in real time, I will gladly tell you it, if it is even interesting enough? But because of this forum, I will briefly share my three reasons for the interest, my peacock love comes first and foremost, from my childhood memory. And it involves my father hunting, the freezer that contained the poor hunted and dead peacock he had brought home. To my surprise, when I opened up the door, there were no gold, green and blue feathers all around...it was a peahen, or maybe the feathers were taken off, but ever since if there is a bird Im obsessed over, it's peacocks. Secondly, Flannery O'Connor was also obsessed with peacocks. I write poetry so Ive been working on a poem about my childhood memory, and also a poem about me and Flannery bonding over our peacock love while Im with her in Iowa and while she writes under a single light bulb, and I make her cupcakes and we talk stories about the beautiful bird, all before she gets really famous...Third, I've been reading a book about the psychology of physical attraction, and there is this long overview of sexual selection. its very interesting because according to the book, peacocks have beautiful feathers, but these feathers actually don't help them survive because of the visibility. however, the feathers do help them mate better... Im sure this all sounds a bit strange and not so new media related, but it is very science related, and its interesting to see what animals mean to us, and why? And what sexual attraction and selection means, ie Darwin's theory of natural selection could not explain the extravagance of peacock feathers.  And truthfully I like the extravagance and the excess of peacocks. but i think they are strange, which is why I think they are beautiful. So it would be fun to be a peacock, much more than a dragon, but alas I dont play video games and I def dont think peacocks are included in them anyways.

And so I ask you, why Bats? Just upsidedownness? Although, I think that would be pretty cool. Anything else? I like the part about flying too! I like Bats also. I know they seem scary to some folks, and they have a special place in our literary history around myth, caves, vampires, (im sure you would know more about this)  But for some reason I bet bats are real cute in real life! 

Appreciate so much all your vital and amazing work Jack! Great honor to have you in this forum, and really hope to learn about bats from you! 

ajuhasz

Affective Maps

"The OWLs" (Older Wiser Lesbians) (Cheryl Dunye, 2010) will be at every queer film festival you can think of (and those you've never heard of), but never at a cinema near you. This corraborates your thoughts about mobility, location, specificity, and stratification, Josh, as "The Kids are Alright" will rock the multiplex. Jack, as far as normative and non, disruptive and safe, I think we all know that most queer of feelings as one tracks between such poles in a day, or afternoon, at one event, or between another person. Maybe we need affective maps that track polical-economy, place and architecture, class/race/gender/sexuality to begin to account for our alternating and alternative visibility experiences and practices, on-line and off. Contradictions abound: given the life I have made for myself, I can get the most praise for the most discomforting performances of my visible identity (Berlin). Where once upon a time pleasure and danger might be more predictably plotted, the successes of our movements (in certain spacs of course) produce new, highly contextualized, regimes and places of queer power (and its absence).

michacardenas

All this talk about cuteness

All this talk about cuteness reminds me of this article I retweeted a few months ago from @sexgenderbody on femme invisibility [here: http://www.sugarbutch.net/2009/11/on-femme-invisibility/]. But when I think of my and my partners experiences of femme invisibility, which happen all the time, I mostly think of RL (offline) experiences, although they're frankly tinged with some mix of good and bad if I get read as a girl but then not read as a dyke. It seems that trans lesbians are still unimaginable to lots of people, which results in a lot of femme invisibility on my part, but is another way I think about the politics of our performance of technesexual, where we engage in live erotic acts in RL and SL simultaneously with biometric sensors on. Because I think of our relationship as femme-trans-lesbians as something outside of any simple LGBT formula, which is also how I think of two cyborg nekos with mechahooves making out on stage next to us. So I think there are moments, or there are possibilities for digital media to open possibilities of thinking new sexualities, but in so many cases, like facebook, these details are lost. Hmm... Well, these details are lost on the sign-up page, so perhaps to the designers there are only two genders, but the details emerge if you just look at elle and my photos, if you're our friend, so perhaps its more of a disconnect between the heteronormative demands of corporate business culture [if we leave out for a minute the commodification of queer that say jasbir k puar has written about so brilliantly] and the actual uses of these spaces that users develop. Have people seen the iphone app grindr? Its an amazing queer gps app for gay men that lots of my friends use...

Edward Gonzalez-Tennant

GLBT & Race as Lived Experience

 

Greetings,

First, like so many before me, thanks to the organizers for a brilliantly successful forum, so many (too many? *wink*) ideas and new directions to think about. This is certainly a conversation which, at least for me, requires more than a Sunday morning to digest. So, before I offer my own humble contribution, let me apologize if anything I say has been previously explored, and thus of less interest to all. The foul of showing up late :-)

First off, like others, this topic is far from my own focus and knowledge base, although I feel strongly in the importance of intersectionality analysis for one simple fact: the 'site' of so much intolerant opinion and action is similar regardless of whether we are talking about racism, homophobia, and so forth. That 'site' is our heteronormative, bourgeois (American) society.

My research openly examines some of the ugliest aspects of being human here such as race riots and lynchings, as well as the deep psychological scars such events create in communities. I cannot help but see stark similarities between race and gender/sexuality struggles for equality. This includes the violent outbursts of the 1960s when African Americans took to the streets to protest their ongoing disenfranchisement from US society & the Stonewall riots in New York's Greenwich  Village. The legacy of 19th century lynching into the present & the murder of Matthew Shepard twelve years ago.

Violence takes many forms, to borrow from Zizek's book on the subject, systemic, objective, and symbolic forms of violence are all around us. Digital spaces are important loci of symbolic violence, often times equally or even more damaging to individual and collective identities than face-to-face encounters. The key here centers on interaction, in face-to-face confrontations of violence victims are usually outnumbered and their ability to speak back against the threat is thoroughly limited, while online I think a sense of frustration is common when confronting people about their symbolically-violent speech and actions. What are the solutions to confronting and transforming such attitudes? Is dialogue enough, or are stronger measures required (e.g., Southern Poverty Law Center's decision to bankrupt hate groups though litigation).

In regards to the intersection of race and queer identity, a silent/denied combination in many African American and certain Latino/a communities, violence against those who transgress these boundary combinations is some of the most overtly violent; like the killing of Arthur Warren, a gay African American male, whose murdered was described in one newspaper as follows, Warren "was brutally beaten and kicked to death by white youths. The killers threw Warren's body into the trunk of a car and drove about a mile outside of town. They dropped his body in the middle of the road and repeatedly drove over him to make the lynching look like a hit-and-run accident." Also, the grotesque death of Amanda Milan, which signaled for many the cleavages in the GLBT community itself.

I think it’s important to remember that digital spaces are usually physically safe spaces for individuals and groups to explore complicated identities. How are these experiences as lived in digital spaces re-configured in non-digital (transreal) spaces? I am especially drawn to the studies mentioned above concerning the likelihood of a gamer running after seeing their avatar do so. I firmly believe in the power of digital spaces to provide people the mental agility and strength for dealing with complicated issues they encounter in real life. For instance, shy individuals who "come out of their shell" in virtual spaces often do so in non-digital ones.

Additionally, are there digital places akin to the homosocial Western US a little over a century ago? If we accept (and I'm not sure everyone does) that the internet and digital spaces in general represent the most recent, interactive forms of media dating back to the late 1800s (e.g., Wagner's Theater, infant film industry), how has this history informed digital spaces today? Whereas the homosocial climate of the Frontier saw the feminization of Asians (mostly Chinese men) in popular culture so that White frontiersman could deal with their own frustrations, today we see the homework economy and the feminization of labor (not just the gendering, but the devaluing) as elaborated by Haraway affecting entire regions of the globe through complex, post/neo-colonial processes - many of which now draw on heteronormative attitudes defined by a White/Male-Dominated US culture.

I'd hope to keep my post short, but I too have fallen under the spell of this great forum and couldn't stop myself. I hope my comments add something, and look forward to following this forum.

Sincerely,
-ed

zachblas

unhuman politics & speculative realism in queer contexts

i’m happy to see margaret make mention of the human, all-too-human & the posthuman. recently, i’ve become interested and taken up by different theories and discourses attempting to articulate an unhuman world or a world in which we (as humans) are only one object among many others--in general, writings that want to skew the human from the center of a political / social / philosophical project and resist anthropomorphization. i think “topological criticism” is one way to go about this, but i’m also thinking primarily of various threads of speculative realism here. i’m just now diving into all of this material, so i have more questions than answers, but i’m wondering about the possible relations to be made between gestures toward the unhuman/inhuman/nonhuman and queerness.  where could these connections lead us (conceptually, artistically, theoretically, politically, socially)? to my knowledge, i only know of one person, michael o’rourke, who seems to be considering and thinking through queerness on the speculative realism front.

Let me first share a quote from Eugene Thacker, which led me to take up speculative realist writings: “If our global context of climate change, disasters, pandemics, or complex networks tells us anything, it is that political thought today demands a concept of life adequate to it anonymous, unhuman dimensions, an unhuman politics, for unhuman life.” i find this incredibly provocative. currently, i am taking a class with elizabeth grosz on feminism & the animal. she has said on many occasions that nature is queerer than culture. i wonder if that’s a way in to this claim by thacker?

speculative realists gather under what they call a critique of “correlationism,” the idea (that they find originating in kant) that one only has access to the world through the correlating of being and thought. they want to claim that there is another world(s) that, in  a sense, does not include us (for example, the world of a tree, the world of an exhaust pipe). the speculative realists want to claim that we can gain access to these other worlds, not by going outside of our own embodiment, but by various kinds of speculation.

quentin meillassoux, in his book after finitude (considered one of the primary texts in speculative realism), obliterates reason and claims that the only necessity of the world is radical contingency. so meillassoux is saying that there is absolutely no reason why anything should be the way it is, that the way it is is only contingent, and there is no reason why this contingency could not change and reconfigure at any moment. graham harmon has introduced object-oriented philosophy & ontology as a way of thinking about everything as an object: from an idea, to a soundwave, to an atom, to a tree, to a human. reza negarestani has coined the term “blobjectivity” during his discussions of oil and the politics of “anonymous materials.” ian bogost is working on a form of “applied” object-oriented philosophy called “alien phenomenology” to think phenomenology beyond the human and living matter.

if these are the flip sides of correlationism & a human-centered perspective, where do they take us? what new possibilities do they open up (if any) for thinking about the unhuman or nonhuman? and especially here, for this forum, what connections could we make between these approaches and thinking queerness beyond the human (or do we even want to do that)? might other queer worlds emerge from such an endeavor?

i certainly do not have a clear opinion--let alone grasp!--on all of these burgeoning theories around the unhuman & speculative realism. but i just want to share these ideas in this context, as some young scholars (we at least michael o’rourke & myself!) are turning to think queer theory in relation to speculative realism. are we interested in the potentialities and possibilities that might arise from such a speculation?

micha, i know your next mixed relations project with elle mehrmand is taking up speculation quite heavily. maybe you want to weigh in here? especially since this work will be a queer speculative new media space!

halberst

blob theory

zach: this is a fantastic post, thank you so much! as you usual, you are a font of most excellent references. i really am interested in reza negarestani's work too especially his piece on the architecture and politics of decay in COLLAPSE. and i have been drawn to the speculative realists like meillassoux but i find his work off putting somehow. i also feel that much of this work just obliterates gender and sexuality altogether which is too bad given that this whole idea that reality is contingent, never a given and could easily be totally different feels very "queer theory" to me - and thanks for circulating negarestani's term "blobjectivity" - hard to know how we have survived so long without it!! i am also interested in Tim Morton's work on dark Ecologies - the critique of the sentimentalism in so much ecological writing and the possibility of an "ecology without nature."

Jack

michacardenas

a multiplicity of realisms and realities

Hi Zach, I've been thinking about your post all morning. I too have been looking into Meillassoux since we discussed that call for papers about Deleuze and Speculative Realism. With Elle and myself, a lot of our inspiration came from our experiences in Second Life combined with Haraway's writing in When Species Meet, where she is really taking animals seriously as equal partners in world making (or alter-globalization) and thinking through the implications for ethics and politics of having relationships of becoming with things other than humans and intersubjective relationships with humans and other species.I belive that Latour's work in actor network theory also engages this question strongly, how non-humans like objects become part of our network of relations, but I haven't read enough Latour, I've only heard it second hand from Jordan Crandall a few times and its on my list! But yes jack, Sandy Stone said the same thing to me in our public talk during Becoming Dragon, that she fears that the whole question of gender may get lost in this shift to thinking species as a new human possibility, but I think that there's no reason to think that gender goes away with questions of animal embodiment.

Yet in our work in mixed reality performance, we've become more interested in breaking out of the bounds of performance art and its history of focusing only on the real, which as we discussed at duke is really just another meta-narrative for the performance, that you're looking at the real bodies of the performers and their real life histories are the story of the performance. Instead, we're interested now in thinking of how we can use reality itself as a medium, how we can produce transreal experiences for audiences and for ourselves that involve a slippage from everyday reality into another. To do this, our project virus.circus is going to involve a multi-modal series of actions and performances looking closely at virus politics, latex sexuality and becoming avatar through transspecies erotic moments. We're also developing a transreal ad campaign based on real ads like "Cover your cough" and "stay home if you're sick", but taking those ideas a few years down the road as biopolitical control continues to unfold. We're planning on continuing our use of Second Life and projection for our live performances, but also using the environments in Second Life as part of the "story" of the performance you're watching.

Really, speaking of television, lately we've been hugely inspired by the show Fringe. The many worlds interpretation gets played out in that show in very interesting ways, where the story line includes multiple realities and things and people going between them. Which is why the image of Deleuze above, which I found this morning online with the call for papers, seems very fitting here. We're becoming very interested in transrealist science fiction literature, which uses realism but then adds a small detail which lets the whole scenario slip into another reality. Looking also at the show Caprica, we're increasingly interested in things like alternate reality games (ARG's), but not fond of the game framework, which seems to preclude a the kinds of ruleless play of sexuality. But ARG's and the work of people list Blast Theory are inspiring to us in that they succeed in bringing audiences out of everyday reality, into another reality, but still use everyday environments.

The last part about speculative writing that I'll mention since this post is already so long is that, as I said earlier, I'm extremely interested in the idea of world building as a common strategy across politics (such as the alter-globalization movement), queer theory (such as michael warner's statement that queer theory is a world making project) and aesthetics (such as science fiction!). My soon to be published book called "Trans Desire, Towards an Unbound Biopolitics" gets into this a great deal, but the science fiction writing is where my current desires are going.

michacardenas

silicone based life instead of carbon?

And as Elle just showed me, lets not forget about entirely other possibilities of life we can speculate about. As elle says "we are in that so called future that they're talking about" in these old cartoons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d76fiWRobU4

and have you seen Wodiczko's alien technologies?

http://web.mit.edu/idg/alien.html

 

Katie King

Worldings

Possible worlds and worldings are exactly the forms of science fiction logics and transdisciplinary queeries that excite my own concerns. I have found Kath Weston's work in Gender in Real Time to be very helpful and sometimes properly curious and properly confusing about how gender "zeros" in and out under globalizations.... Neither gender or race are real, or not real, or mythical or dismissable as "constructed".... Transreal surely has to be about how all these zoom in and out -- are sometimes hard and sometimes soft -- have fuzzy edges and invisibilities and then are imprisoning, deforming, killing.

We have to be able to account for worlds stacked on top of each other -- intertwining together -- as well as never touching and never able to see anything other than some self -- sometimes an arrogance, othertimes a terrible imposed lonliness.

I also love Octavia Butler's work -- and both she and Delany work on all these topics over and different -- from Triton to Dawn, to The Motion of Light in Water to Wild Seed....

This is also why I find alter-technologies so deeply powerful: I think of the khipu -- an Andean knotted string "writing technology" -- a powerful figure of pastpresents (like naturecultures, not simple to disentangle overlapping realities) that around 5,000 years ago -- when one kind of writing set into motion a trail that would become the logocentric powers of representation Derrida called logocentrism -- another kind of writing worked upon an entirely different sensorium -- one tactile and possibly opened to psychotropic realities --

does it "'write' using strings, knots, and colors, rather than pen, paper, and graphemes?" as Gary Urton asks? Is it a kind of "data writing" that does not map onto language but instead maps onto features in a social world co-constituted, or "articulated" with such writing? in which as Frank Salomon puts it "Life had to be lived like a khipu." (more with bibliography here.)

Delany has a wonderful SF story about writing's Lacanian origins -- "The Tale of Old Venn."

Possible worldings matter to queering cognition....

 

 

zachblas

more on spec real / topologies / queerness

hi sonny and jack--

glad to see you’re both enthused about this topic!

you’ve put out a lot of questions here--questions i don’t know how to begin to answer right now!, but i’m going to try to offer some more thoughts on this.

i guess first off, let’s make sure we don’t mix up inhuman/unhuman/nonhuman.
nonhuman - something that is NOT human
unhuman - alluding to the strange worlds and weird lives that reveal themselves by turning toward the emergent, unexpected, and challenging interactions and engagements between the human and nonhuman
inhuman - perhaps the human in an abject state; the human defiled; lyotard’s inhuman; interestingly, searching for definitions online for inhuman, you get: inhumaneness: the quality of lacking compassion or consideration for others inhumanity - atrocity: an act of atrocious cruelty

sonny asks, “What if the unit of analysis were the relation between entities/objects, the environment in which the object is situated?” importantly, speculative realism is more like an umbrella term for different threads of thought that don’t necessarily overlap so much. the object-oriented philosophy (oop) approach would not want to perform an analysis of an object based on relationality in that oop’s argument is to say that there’s something about all objects they keep to themselves (notice the flirting with metaphysics here; see graham harmon’s “on vicarious causation” about this topic); however, someone like steven sharivo, who thinks we should be turning to whitehead to talk about oop--rather than harmon--would say we absolutely need to look at this relation between objects, that is, the relation between objects as well as their environment (they’re all, after all, objects here, right). what would it mean to take queerness as an object in both of these senses? i’m incredibly weary of harmon on this front but the whitehead/shaviro combo is exciting! (see “without criteria”).

jacks asks a great question: “can the human decenter itself or does that very act of decentering create a new order of things within which the sign of the human is its ability to determine centers and margins and its desire for uncentering?” i guess, from what i’ve gathered so far, it seems that most speculative realists certainly are performing a type of decentering but they do not think they are creating this decentering; their claim is that the human-decentered is how the world actually is. the interesting question for me here is what does such a theoretical work do for the human politically, socially, culturally? while i can definitely imagine a queer political framework that would want to decenter the human to be loaded with desire, i do not know the desires these speculative realists have for decentering the human...rather than to think about the “real” world.

i think these are gaping questions yet to be adequately answered (if they even can be), but i must say, it is the lack of an ethics or politics swirling around speculative realism that has captivated me so. that is, while speculative realism has yet to address these issues, there is so much amazing potential in these works to think through queerness, politics, ethics, etc....and i want to dive in, play around, and see if i come up with anything exciting, interesting, worthwhile. i’m still feeling positive about this exploration at the moment! i see some interesting ground being covered by Ian Bogost’s speculative realist approach, Alien Phenomenology. He proposes three modes of practice: “ontography (the authorship of works that reveal the existence and perception of objects), metaphorism (the authorship of works that speculate about the unknowable inner lives of objects), and carpentry (the construction of artifacts that illustrate the perspectives of objects).”

I’m still interested in speculative topologies, speculative mappings. what would it mean to think queerness both topologically & speculatively? as an artist, this question is loaded with creative potentials.

this post is already so long and i feel like i’ve barely covered any ground!

let me just end by sharing the beginnings of my writings on GRID:

    Queer Technologies claims that today, two overarching grids can be identified that work toward shaping, structuring, controlling, and defining the biosocialities of homosexuality into a dominant singularity.
    Importantly, these grids are not static positioning structures but rather comprise an assemblage--unstable, in movement, of material. They do not pin the homosexual by abstractness but actually constitute it. These grids are not metaphors but diagrams; as such, they are a kind of living concept, a living abstraction, that moves--comes into life--through various bodies and things in the world. As these grids diagram homosexuality, they map out the potential to think about homosexuality beyond representation--and the human, toward the forces and flows that come to bare on homosexual existence. This has been called “thinking topologically,” and Queer Technologies is interested in asking what can be gained from thinking the homosexual topologically for queer politics and tactics. As topology stretches into histories and the future, interlocking with homosexuality to other forms of sex, sexuality, and gender, do new potentials of queer resistance emerge? As queer theory continually battles against claims of obsolescence, can this other thinking offer a queerly-aligned divergence to account for the “queer” things in the world? In this context, thinking the queer topologically demands the creation of new diagrams.

Sonny

Spatiality as focus, deep ecology, queer bodies

Wow, thank you Zach, for a provoking post! You've inspired my brain down some paths.

What if the unit of analysis were the relation between entities/objects, the environment in which the object is situated? How would focusing on the relations and movements, and movingnesses in space speak to a world in which the nonhuman were the central focus, and the human were peripheralized from focus? In my memory of a Nature and Culture class I took as an undergraduate, I remember delving into work of deep ecology, which aims to do this, by focusing on the "natural" or nonhuman world, and not seeing the human world as inherently better. It was a way of taking the perspective of the "natural" world and turning an imagined oppositional gaze towards the human world. I wonder to what extent this is really possible, as each of us thinkers is ourselves human. Can we unhumanize our lens of the world, or see the world not through human eyes, even though we can't get out of our human bodies? Even in digitized space, we still have the history and memory of a human (culture) perspective. Even when we aim to imagine unhuman/nonhuman/inhuman, can we do it fully, in our human positionality?

I also wonder about the cultural meanings attached to desiring an unhuman space/perspective. In the movie (I think it is called Grizzly Man?), and in other similar stories, such as Christopher McCandless/Into the Wild, these American men "go back" to "the land" to live "in nature" - away from the pain and evil of society, as they say. Is there a utopian desire here? In these two (true) stories, both men are white, heteronormative, able-bodied, and (relatively) young. They both aimed to live in the wild (both in Alaska, which signifies "wild" and "freedom" - connotations which in this context are attached to a colonial human history) and they aimed to be away from culture. But how possible was this? They still spoke English, a language which has meanings and which people use to create and communicate meanings. The man (whose name escapes me now) in Grizzly Man videotaped himself living with the bears. He gave them and the foxes and some other animals around him human (English, American, Western, gendered, "white") names. He had relationships with these wild animals. Were they then, through these relationships with a human, not wild? Did he tame them through their desensitization to him? Though he meant to get away from culture by living in nature, he actually brought culture to nature. It was his intent to live as equals with the animals in Alaska, but in the end, his human way of living in the world made this nonhuman world less nonhuman, he in a sense, succeeded in "colonizing" it. His perspective was an anthropocentric (human centered) one, though he was trying to resist it. Was this a case where a white man from an imperialist nation in a capitalist human world ended up remaking the oppressive relationship between culture and nature, the very opposite of what he set out to do? In the end of his young life, a bear ate him, and then humans came and killed the bear because he ate him. He would have been horrified to hear that his own death caused a bear to die. However, it happened. Can we really, then, completely separate this intention and desire for a nonhuman world from the material outcome of a continuity of the dominance of culture/human over nature? How can this case speak to how we think about nonhuman worlds? How does this case look when we consider the colonial history of white people harming indigenous people in the same material space of Alaska? Is the desire for a nonhuman world purged of humanness a form of cultural appropriation/neocolonialism, through the white cultural viewing of indigenous groups as "closer to nature"? Can we remove human/cultural meanings from unhuman desire?

I'm wanting to bring this conversation of unhuman/inhuman to human implications of embodiment, and to imagined-inhuman (dehumanized) queer bodies, such as disabled bodies, transgender bodies, bodies of color, colonized bodies, aging bodies, etc. Perhaps a decentering of humanness can be a strategy for unqueering these queer bodies, through unfocusing on the human body. However, there are still material inequalities between queer and nonqueer (normate) bodies in the socially stratified culture, the "real" culture we live in. And there are cultural pressures to assimilate, to discard or hide or try to move out of our queer bodies in order to assume a more "normal" or normate bodily form. These pressures stem from the devaluation and dehumanization of our queer bodies; we are seen as less than human, or inhuman. What does imagining nonhuman worlds mean for those of us who are queerly embodied? What about the option of claiming our inhumanity for inhumanity's sake? To claim the human right to be inhuman, and to be treated as fully human through (not in spite of) our inhumanity? 

Sonny

sorry, my post was meant to

sorry, my post was meant to be a response to zach, not a new thread. And I wanted to say thank you to Margaret, Amanda, HASTAC, and all of you other participants in this forum! Thank you for all your energy and brilliance. :)

halberst

is nature queerer than culture? is nature natural?

zach and sonny - thanks also for beginning this thread on the unhuman. a few questions - can the human decenter itself or does that very act of decentering create a new order of things within which the sign of the human is its ability to determine centers and margins and its desire for uncentering? zach, i cannot wait to read anything by you on speculative realism. can we connect some of these utopian/dystopian formulations of self, other, object and blobject to Edward's post (above) on the ugliness of the human and the violence of racial thinking on the one hand and  the the utopian and speculative, contingent thinking available in much science fiction by Black writers (Samuel Delany most obviously and Octavia Butler) on the other. Also, in relation to Edward's cite of Zizek on violence--i know, i know, i am back on the disagree with Zizek kick--Zizek regularly indulges in his own acts of discursive violence - in his  book VIOLENCE, for example, Zizek uses sex acts like masturbation and bodily forms like transgenderism as examples of Badiou's concept of "atonality" and he adds: "Badiou's excellent example of sn "atonal" world is the politically correct vision of sexuality as promoted by gender studies with its obsessive rejection of binary logic" - he goes on to explain that this vision is atonal because it wants nothing to do with master signifiers like "male/female" and therefore it falls into chaos. the transgender person who has sex reassignment surgery likewise manipulates "the transcendental difference that grounds human identity itself" and therefore erodes the possibility of judging, evaluating, making distinctions altogether. Zizek wants to hold on to gender difference, love between men and women as men and women and the right to produce grand narratives and he seems to argue that queer and feminist studies have replaced love with "pleasure." Oboy...just to say that there are some conditions that Badiou and Zizek and others want to render contingent but others that must be fixed and predetermined. 

I don't think Grizzly man is the unhuman - I am sticking with Kung Fu Panda myself...

Jack

 

michacardenas

I'm so with you on this jack.

I'm so with you on this jack. Zizek drives me crazy. For one, in his intro to The Parallax View he says that sex and sexuality is not a useful/interesting/legitimate topic of study. But secondly, in a seminar I had with him I asked him why his analyses are always so fixed on binaries and he said to me, to paraphrase: "Yes, I'm a binary thinker, I admit it. This is often a trick that feminists use to win arguments, but I think that there are men and there are women and anyone who says there's anything in between is a liar." I thought it was rather amazing to have him just put his unbelievable assumptions on the table like that, but it also shows how a lack of studying transgender and intersex histories and sexualities, not to mention feminist biologists like haraway, just results in such broadly ignorant generalizations. I find Badiou's will to purity in trying to make ontology into mathematical set theory equally totalitarian and ridiculous, which I say having studied set theory closely as a computer scientist.

 

halberst

He said that!!!

Micha: wow, Zizek is worse than I thought but yeah, the thing about binaries and their importance comes rights through in the Violence book and the desire to keep circulating grand narratives is the very argument for ON BEHALF OF LOST CAUSES. And thanks for this take on Badiou and the link to The Coming Insurrection!! 

Margaret Rhee

Thank you Sonny!!!

Thank *you* for your brilliance and energy! Im glad to *see* you here, Sons!!! 

 

Michael Widner

Decentering the Human

Sonny, I'm glad you asked if it's even possible for us to decenter the human. While I see the appeal and necessity of it, I'm skeptical that we can do so in anything other than short bursts of imagination. Not to see the world from a human perspective requires us consciously to attempt radically different points of view. Think, for instance, of our perception of the world as made of solid objects. Well, of course it isn't. It's made of atoms with vast amounts of space between them. But we don't exist on that scale, so we don't perceive the world that way. Similarly, consider the ways we break up the color spectrum. Even though different cultures vary their names for colors and the number of colors, there are still universal prototype phenomena at play that result from the way human minds perceive color. We can't see infrared or ultraviolet so without prosthetics that can, we don't perceive the world as having those colors. Or, as a final example, consider the affordances of any given environment. When we're talking about what's physically possible, it will always be in terms of our own bodily dimensions. We don't usually look at a ravine and think, "If I were a lion, I would leap across this." We see it as impassable without some form of technological solution. Are minds are deeply, inherently attuned to our embodied experience and our evolutionary history.

But, we have reason and imagination. We should, with work, be able, at the very least (or perhaps at most), to make ourselves aware of some of the most important of the innumerable moments during which we are privileging the human, assuming the human body, etc. I think of Buddhist teachings about decentering the self and perceiving the interconnectedness of all beings. It so often seems like the desire to decenter the human, the able-bodied, the straight, etc. stems from a compassionate desire to recognize the importance of all life while subduing/eradicating egocentric desires (of course, Buddhist philosophy would just say the cessation of all desires). Again, though, it takes a lot of work.

As a good tech geek, I can't help but wonder what sort of cyborgian prosthetics might make it easier for us to experience a less human-centered life. Or would it just become human+tools?

 

Bola C King

cyborgian prosthetics

What about the (speculative) tools used in films like Avatar or Surrogates, that put your consciousness in another body? Like you, Michael, I'm skeptical about humanity's ability (or even true desire) to decenter. Virtual worlds and projects like Micha's make a gesture toward the idea, but I think it would take nothing less than actual transfer of consciousness to make it real. And even then, it might not work; I can also see the transferred consciousness maintaining its awareness of Otherness, which undermines the project of authentic (if you will) decentering.

Scott Trudell

Grizzly Man

Just a quick point about this film, which I love - at one level it seems to be a dramatization of the futility of Timothy Treadwell's attempt to decenter the human.  Treadwell's radical, narcissistic performance in front of the bears seems to be an attempt to impose his category of the animal on them, one that includes (for him) a peaceful or "natural" coexistence.  The bears are ultimately indifferent to Treadwell's version of the natural, which accounts for the tragedy - and yet, even as Treadwell's cultural imposition on the bears comes tumbling down on his head, we end up reminded in a shocking way of the continuity between animal and human.  Despite all of his delusions and even insanities that I think I'm right to describe as human and cultural, Treadwell ends up (as we all do) fully animal.

Sonny

.

.

Sonny

Translife?

Scott, thank you for your short but sweet analysis of the decentering the human in Grizzly Man. I wonder about the possibilities for considering the role death plays in the decentering of the human. What about a concept of translife, the moving between binaries of life and death, birth and death, conception and death. It is interesting how we have so many different words for stages of life, or of coming towards and through life, such as conception, gestation, birth, development, growth, aging - and death is undertheorized and underdescribed in comparison. Might it be possible to elaborate a conception of translife through the transreal, in order to deconstruct the binary of life/death? How might the unhuman speak to this idea? What does thinking about life/death do to our theorizations about transreality?

Sonny

translife, gender, race, emotion

I also recall reading in Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw how all molecules and cells in the human body get completely replaced in 7 years. This is so interesting to me to think about, especially in relation to how we think about life/death and a translife problematic. If we conceptualize our "selves" as located in our bodies, what does it do to our selves to think of our bodies as merely assemblages of molecules? It is a way of seeing the body as indivisible from the environment, the body as inseparable from the food we take in, the air we breathe. Our selves are just momentary collections of cells that change and shift over time, that die and are born anew. Our memories are images stored and remembered in our neurons and our cells. And there is continuity of energy that flows through us, through our feelings, into the environment, into us from the environment. There is a physical oneness, so that pure individuality (as singleness) is really impossible. So, what does this mean for gender? It seems to me that if we (our bodies) are constantly shifting, the gendered and sexed body is only a temporary assemblage of molecules that happen to move together in a particular configuration at any given moment. It is subject to energetic change as well as physical, chemical, molecular change. Not only is/are gender/sex social constructions, they are also biological constructions that are inherently unstable.

Recordar is the Spanish word for remember. It comes from latin words for "again" and "heart" - so the continuity of memory is a circular enactment of feeling, an ongoing movement of neurons playing again and again the meaning and the story we remember, even of events we did not experience directly. Though our molecules, cells, bodies are replenished anew in 7 years, we still have memories. Perhaps they are a form of translife - these knowledges that surpass the limits of life and death, but which we feel in the form of emotions - about, for example, global racial trauma, which connect our experiences to histories and lives across time and space.

Cathy Davidson

What if the unit of analysis were the relation between entities?

This is one of the most thought-inspiring forums yet.   Zach, this is truly beautiful: "What if the unit of analysis were the relation between entities/objects, the environment in which the object is situated?"  I'll be thinking about this all day?

 

I am also haunted by the gorgeous image Katie King has posted and am thinking about what unit of analysis would measure the relations in that image?  

 

Thanks to everyone for so many insights.

Katie King

have always loved considering the unit of analysis

I love the kind of cybernetic thinking that asks us to constantly shift our units of analysis -- moving from assemblages and infrastructures to chaotic and regulated inter-systemic configurations.

This is exactly why I love trying to think WITH the khipu -- a binary device we can can perceive in a new way now precisely because we can think about it with what we know about computers and binary code.

And when we do think about it -- it opens upon forms of cognition from a different range of sensory imputs. As we play around with now too with locative media or with proprioceptic virtual realities.

In fact when we consider its range of materialities -- its various units for analysis -- it teachs us how to think in alternate ways that are sensitized today by new media, and that resensitize new media. Pastpresents are materialized in this fascinating object.

So time and how we think about it also changes.... Both because we needed computer binary code to reconsider a historical device. And also it works apparently with a different conception of time which also we have newly connected to as well: I think of Tom Boellstorff's "When Marriage Falls" (GLQ, Vol. 1, pp.GLQ 13:2 – 3) which plays with the multiple cycles of Balinese time and music and which may be a proper analogue for this kind of time.

Old/new media juxtapositions are mind-changing. Queer theory is too. I like it when they change each other unexpectedly, and in relation to counter-intuitive topics and insights.

Katie King

Joining in.... Katie King

Trying to catch up here – I love the range of interests and questions – and I have had to reread some and read others very quickly this time around. Indeed I started reading and began to write something shortly after the forum opened. Got a bit down and realized I was too sick to continue! So after doctoring, antibiotics and some resting time, I am back again, excited, behind, wanting connection, having too much to say, thinking in a million directions, and wondering which bits to offer, which to let go, which to just open up to, and which to laugh at (and have coughing fits about).

And – I have to say – I live alone, Facebook was such a comfort while feeling so ill and wondering if it would get better by itself or I really needed help or what. (In fact, my family all over the country migrated onto Facebook, a whole older generation gamely tried, just to comfort me after my mother’s long illness and death – just to be a large extended family online helping me out. A very motley group of folks we are too – the new ager here, the queers there, the recently retired, the coupled and uncoupled, the childed and unchilded, aged parents moving in with children…. What started in a somewhat funereal followup surprises me over and over…. )

I love the thread on transreality – a nice term for a range of things I have been thinking and writing about recently. I am finishing up a book on “Networked Reenactments” and ended up writing about the work of my old teacher cyberneticist, ethnologist and anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and his attempts at working out a set of theories about play, which then get taken up more recently by game designers like Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. As I understand Bateson he is pointing out the transreality of play: that it depends BOTH on our abilities to finely discriminate some “edge” of reality, and keep testing, probing it, pushing it, again and again, while at the same time our bodies – our neurological and endocrine systems at the very least – act out, as if, embody that which we play at. The puppy nips to communicate “I am not fighting,” but nips are not without painful receptions. Violence? not. Reality? not. Play then is BOTH metaphoric or binary or digital – on and off choices – but then ALSO transconnected in continuities, layered in systems and infrastructures, but at different grains of detail, greater and lesser ranges of resolution. Personally I find this an extraordinary way to inquire into the ways virtuality appears autonomous and yet never is in any material way: built upon material assemblages and layered among systems both chaotic and controlled.

I’ll set this out now, and add some more soon. My stamina is still a bit compromised….

 

michacardenas

Thanks for your reply! I'm so

Thanks for your reply! I'm so glad you find the idea of transreal to be useful and generative! This is something I hadn't thought of, that perhaps the transreal is not just optional, as in SL/RL crossing identities, or contingent, as in real/symbolic/imaginary swapping, but is actually necessary to facilitate something like the Magic Circle of play.

I wonder how paidia, as discussed by Caillois, as a form of rule-less play comes into this discussion of transreal play. [more on paidia here and Grand Theft Auto here: http://portal.acm.org/ft_gateway.cfm?id=1457201&type=pdf, and a more summarized version here: http://onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_game/2005/12/the_anarchy_of__1.html ] As I said in another comment, I think that sexuality and the erotic may be more like paidic play, where the rules are not clearly defined and create tension and teleoogy, but where the rules are negotiated. But as I'm writing this, perhaps I'm actually talking about queer sexuality, where the rules are really not set out (as in the beautiful stories in Riki Wilchins/Joan Nestle's book Genderqueer), but are constantly teted, explored, negotiated, and invented for pure joy and pleasure. This gets to Jack's quote from Zizek about sexuality without binaries, but I think that instead of creating an atonality, it creates an immanent field of possibility, almost a pure tonality, a space where gender, sex, race, preference, fetish, desire become one of an infinite number of lines or dimensions or topological features in an unfolding space of virtuality, of potential.

 

ClaireM

reality TV and video games

This is an interesting discussion. However, I have to admit that I do not know much about philosophies and theories involving sexuality, feminism, and technology. I am more familiar with popular media illustrations. For example, I remember watching the Tila Tequila reality show (definitely a guilty pleasure), which brought bisexuality into the mainstream. Before the show aired, I never really heard much about this, but now it is addressed more since people can discuss it in terms of reality T.V. Similarly, there is a current T.V. program, “Rupaul’s Drag Race” that is bringing cross-dressing and one aspect of queer culture into millions of households. Also, social networking can be used to support LGBTQ issues, such as legislation for gay marriage, through the formation of groups.

This topic also made me think about my video game experiences. When I was younger, I always wanted to play as a strong woman who could fight. However, when I was older, I seemed to lose my preference for a particular gender in games. Instead I focused on the aesthetic characteristics as well as game qualities of an avatar. In Timesplitters II, I tended to play as the gingerbread person because I liked the way he looked, the handling of this character, and that it allowed me to place myself in a different role that could not necessarily be ascribed to a particular gender. At the time, I never really thought about this choice. I also enjoyed playing as large, strong men occasionally, who were physically my opposite. Perhaps, everyone has a need to explore embodiment as people who are different out of curiosity and a desire to gain insight into their behaviors.   

bangs23

This is so interesting

This is so interesting because I remember feeling the same way you did when I was younger and playing video games. If a strong female character was available, I would always play as her. I even remember getting annoyed several times when those kind of characters weren't available to play.

For instance, I enjoyed the Tony Hawk and Dave Mirra video games. Rarely, if any, females were in these games even though females are both skateboarders and BMXers. The same, obviously goes for NFL and NBA (not to mention other pro sport games). There isn't a WNBA video game but in the newest NBA Live you can compete as WNBA players.

I never seemed to wonder why I couldn't play as a strong female character while playing sports video games. Do you think this is true for most younger people when they play video games?

I was also wondering if maybe certain types of games make you feel the "need to explore embodiment as people who are different out of curiosity and a desire to gain insight into their behaviors" as Claire said, while others don't.

Do expectations of the game give you expectations about the gender, race or sexuality you can be while playing? And do these expectations change with age, maturity or both?

Scott Trudell

"Disembodied performance" and digital matter

Like Jentery Sayers and others, above, I'm interested in the complex relationship between virtuality and "matter."  There's no easy division here - digital media (like all media) is composed of physical materials (including the particles that store it and the instruments through which we experience it).  But it's redundant simply to describe all virtuality as "material" - surely there are "immaterial" or abstract or conceptual aspects of it as well.

The problem of how virtual bodies can be seen as abstract or immaterial is particularly interesting.  Can humans be "embodied" in virtual spaces?  Matthew Kirschenbaum is great on the topic of digital "materiality" and "form," but I wonder what others have read that's helpful on the more specific topic of virtual embodiment.

There's an opera under production right now at the A.R.T. in Boston that raises the question of virtual bodies in a provocative way:

http://opera.media.mit.edu/projects/deathandthepowers/

The main character of this opera appears to need to perform his body in a way that is mediated through a digital world: he wants to become "disembodied" in a virtual way. He is physically offstage for most of the opera, but nevertheless has strong physical presence in the theater with the help of an interactive "disembodied performance system" that ends up merging particular physical spaces with performative spaces with virtual spaces.

It seems to me, then, that the opera raises issues that have a special relevance to new media, which seems to inspire or even demand a form of embodiment (or "disembodiment," as the case may be) that is not conventionally "physical."  But the opera also seems to show how all performed bodies are not "material" in a narrow sense of the word: bodies always negotiate between physical and virtual forms of presence and absence.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows of this opera or has other thoughts about "disembodied performance."

Katie King

mirror neurons?

Even as I sit at my laptop moving my avatar around in Second Life, elements of my physical body are moving -- not just the nimble fingers either -- but my bodies -- both "avatars" parallel or together embody me -- I am not disembodied, but rather my embodiment is distributed -- distributed embodiment is entirely material -- the materialities are differently engaged -- but all of it is mattered -- be it on Linden Labs server farms, the INTEL processor in my laptop, the mirror neurons in the complex systems of a single human body, and more -- distribution matters through it all. We are connected by materialities and I keep various bits in different places -- some of it by volition and some of it in infrastructures I may know little about and some of it despite what I may assume I know....

Scott Trudell

That's a nice way of

That's a nice way of describing the physicality of Second Life - as a kind of mirroring in which both volition and physical materiality are involved.  And I find it interesting to conceive of the program as a performance space.  I wonder how a psychoanalyst might intervene in this conversation - what kind of mix of the Lacanian imaginary and symbolic is at stake in this form of mirroring?

Katie King

transmedia & boundary objects

I've been writing about the transmedia "boundary object" that time-traveling DNA has become: materializing "race" and "gender" across television and the web. Three TV documentaries use DNA as a time-traveling device: Henry Louis Gates' African American Lives, Spencer Wells' Journey of Man, and Jeannine Davis-Kimball's Secrets of the Dead: Amazon Warrior Women. Across a set of transdisciplinary "knowledge worlds" so-called "haplogroups" and "haplotypes" have enough in common to travel well, and in particular settings become deep and detailed according to context. (HERE)

I'm interested in the distributed character of such transmedia meaning-making -- not gathering a single story, but meaning different stories to different audiences with the same materials. Analyzing and accounting for these multiple realities layered upon each other -- critique seems disarmed for such analysis -- too one dimensional and essentializing. Not sure what sorts of Derridean deferrals are proper --

How to sit inside the critique -- accountable to and for it -- as it ebbs and flows in salience --

How to work with distributed materialities, cognitions, and boundary objects in travel --

 

 

 

 

FionaB

when facebook/hastac gets too intimate...chatroulette!

Greetings again everyone! This forum has totally taken on a life of its own - just when I catch up and have something to add, it morphs and changes again. But that entropy and chaos makes it all the more exciting and a beautiful archive of thoughtful contributions. Thank you all.

The other night, I took a quick spin on Chatroulette. It was a pretty decent jackpot of stranger encounters: the Dance or GTFO banana (or probably hir replicant/avatar/replacement/multiple/imitator), some kind of clown party who claimed they were rocking out in California, the gorilla guy, one guy who requested a few keywords and then made up a song with his guitar, a few V is for Vendetta masks, screenshots or replays of porn, a few "make this face" commands, giggly girls on couches, bored looking guys in those internet cafe cubicles, one kid getting busted by his mom and of course, multiple naked bodies and closeups of body parts. I know there's already been several pieces on chatroulette - danah boyd & The Human Shuffle are just two of them. But is anyone interested in thinking through it a bit more? I was IMing with a friend during chatroulette, and we were trying to figure out some of our reactions and responses to it.

At times it feels very sterile - you can click 'next' in the blink of an eye, passing judgement and evading an interaction in 1 second, eclipsing what could have been a 3 or 5 or 30 second interaction, the decision to avoid and move on -- but that decision is made every day, all day, as we move through other public spaces. In terms of communication, even though the capacity to talk through microphones is built into the system, typing seems to be the default mode of communication -- even when you can hear their music in the background (i.e. their mic is working, they're just not talking through it). It's as though after IMing, chatting, emailing, facebooking, etc., our voice is too inimate to share immediately, or perhaps it's also a symbol of its seemingly international appeal.

So after a quick speed-date with a stranger (as they're called on Chatroulette), we might click next with the hope of stumbling upon a better stranger -- perhaps with some nerves, a bit of fear (what if the next screen partner is 'worse'?!) and a bit of adrenaline. 

On the other hand, there are times it feels incredible queer, visceral, performative, transformative - even if only for that second. Maybe especially only for that second. Many of the Chatroulette blogs, like Best of Chatroulette, and Chatroulolz, feature still images of unlikely duos, or particularly 'funny' affective responses, and perhaps even more intimate, the video replays of the meeting, like Darwin on Chatroulette (and because everything has a prequel and a sequel, Darwin2).

Some of the most interesting moments are the ones full of corporeal commands: DANCE (or GTFO), MOVE YOUR HEAD!!, or the ever-present MAKE THIS FACE (with some image of a movie icon, cartoon, or political figure with a particularly contorted facial gesture). What does it mean to ask -- or is it command? -- the other body, the stranger, to perform in this way? And when you react to the command, for the first time, for the 100th time, is it a moment of visceral connection? Is it a way to connect with strangers, when friends-of-friends-of-friends are all connected to us already on Facebook/Twitter/blogs? If those are some of the prime modes of communication and community-building and social interaction, what then of this hunger for the unknown and unmapped? Something about rolling the dice, playing roulette, and finding a strange connection -- as danah says above, finding 'good' strangers online is what allowed many of us to imagine (and articulate) alternate possibilities beyond our known structures of kinship and familiarity. Many of us grew up in the presence of online strangers, and we became who we are not in spite of dangerous interactions with strangers, but precisely because of them. Now I'm not about to argue that chatroulette is the new irc community - it seems a bit more fleeting and ephemeral than even that: you can't find folks again, there are no i.d.'s attached to anyone (well...other than IP!) and there really isn't even a vague topic holding it together like most of those early forums and chatrooms. Actually - perhaps that's the point. In the uber-connected and mapped social spaces of 2010 (for a very particular subset of online users), perhaps the novel uniting topic is "strangers".

So much more to say between all my other lives - offline and online - but I have so much more to say and think through this wonderfully provocative and invested forum. Thanks again for all of your energy!

 

monicaong

The "Other" in new media

Thanks for all of your thought-provoking comments and questions.

I'm curious about the online "lives" that exist - whether they are images, video, avatars - and what does that do to identity when moved into that context?

I ask this in light of the same questions that came about when Photography was once the "new technology" that rocked the visual culture and redefined how people connected with their understanding of each other. Susan Sontag's On Photgraphy asserted that "To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder - a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time."
Susan Sontag (On Photography)

She wrote this particularly in reference to war photography, where images of the "Other" are presented in an attempt to make "real (or more 'real') matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore." (from Regarding the Pain of Others, Sontag, p.7) It was a critique that was controversial to image-makers, forcing them to question whether they were helping or undermining the binary relationship of the viewer and the viewed.

What happens now on the internet? Our identities are disseminated and circulated all the time in various ways - what kinds of challenges does that present in terms of keeping identity from becoming object, from being "Othered"?

 

 

Tom Boellstorff

Some delayed comments...

These comments below are about a week old now because it took a really long time to get registered on HASTAC (they've apparently had problems with automated register attempts and that slowed things down). Sorry about that... hope you still find them interesting!

------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a really fascinating set of posts. I’m trying to steal time away from my editorship, teaching, blah blah blah to work on a paper entitled “The Virtual Body,” in which I think through some issues around virtual embodiment, drawing among other things upon my queer Indonesia work. So this discussion is just perfect for me to get all kinds of thoughts going. I thought I’d just share a couple random things that pop into my head thanks to this discussion so far, with the usual blog caveats that this is not all thought out, provisional and so on, but that’s what these kinds of fora are for, right? I’ve had to skim through all the postings faster than I would like, so I beg forgiveness if I’m repeating something that’s already been said.

 

1. It’s interesting and right on the money I think that conversations about queer and feminist new media spaces (and an earlier discussion on race/ethnicity) end up so strongly on questions of embodiment. Of course, everything can be linked to embodiment if you push hard enough, but resonances here are particularly rich. One important way to think about this is in terms of intersections, as has been discussed above at various points. Another way is to ask after what cultural and political processes have separated these things into what appear to be distinct domains such that they can later be seen to intersect. In other words, what prior claims of monodiscursivity make possible a language of intersectionality at all?

 

2. I was taken by Amanda Phillips’s comment that “it seems that the pressure to have some stake in the ‘actual’ world in order to be taken seriously has a real impact on people studying, working with, or living in the virtual world.” There is a fascinating and serious issue of ontological priority that Amanda is hitting at here that I think has big consequences for queer and feminist new media spaces as well as questions of embodiment. One of the most significant conversations that’s developed in the last few years has to do with asking after how the “real” is not exclusive to the actual, but permeates the virtual as well. This is crucial to understanding forms of indexicality and influence between virtual and actual contexts, but also to understanding the social consequences of virtual places and embodiment. The virtual is a big part of the stakes.

 

3. Michael Widner made the interesting observation that:

 

“Many in this forum have noted that the ways gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. are performed (or even inhibited from performance) in digital spaces, particularly video games and immersive worlds like Second Life, tend simply to repeat the strictures and assumptions dominant in our culture. While, as Cathy points out, this must be at least partially, if not primarily, a result of market forces and the conservatism of business, it also indicates just how persistent the connection between identity and body-schema remains. I don't think we can break that connection, though.”

 

What I would add to this (and this is where I find ethnographic investigation so helpful) is that I think we need to pause before concluding that that something is simply “repeating the strictures and assumptions dominant in our culture.” This is not only because virtual cultural contexts often draw from a range of actual-world cultures, but because (Jack said something about this somewhere above) what I have termed grids of similitude and difference (with regard to my Indonesia work) are not exterior to our analysis. Four people hanging out in a suburban house in Second Life, with avatars that appear normatively human, may at first glance appear to be simply repeating actual-world strictures and assumptions, but it remains to be seen. Sometimes it turns out that more transgressive or inventive things are happening than what you find in a virtual world context where people are glowing balls of light, or talking mushrooms or whatever, or claim to be explicitly resisting or reworking dominant actual-world cultural logics. The proof is in the (virtual?) pudding so to speak, but I think the question of what is sustaining dominant norms versus what is upending them in some way is nonlinear and emergent, and crucially can work through logics of similitude as well as difference.

 

4. A couple final thoughts on place and time since several people have brought those things up. In Coming of Age in Second Life, I purposely put the chapter on place and time before the chapters on identity, romance, embodiment, etc., because I came to realize that place and time are absolutely central to a range of new media spaces (not just virtual worlds), and that they work quite differently. In particular, time seems to resist virtualization in fascinating ways (I could be online with you from another part of the world, but if it’s a synchronic sociality that’s happening no possible technology will allow you in Berlin at 4pm to be in the same virtual space as me in Los Angeles at 4pm). In the piece I’m working on right now, I’m actually having fun re-engaging with some phenomenological work on embodiment, particularly the emphasis on embodiment as constituted through a being-in-the-world (and not the body in isolation). So I’m writing about how we might think about how embodiment is shaped by a being-in-the-virtual-world, and how that might take the emphasis off of the avatar as such. Not that avatars and the like are not important, but this is giving me a new way to queer embodiment itself in new media spaces. The body is a place (and one punchline I’m writing about in this respect: could it be that the most significant avatar in the movie Avatar is Pandora itself?).

 

Thanks to all for this great discussion!

 

Cathy Davidson

My deep apologies for the delay, Tom

Hi, Tom, if your registration took a week, I am appalled and want to apologize on behalf of all of us at HASTAC.  This is definitely not our norm and so this must have just fallen between the cracks somehow, between one person's watch and another's.  Please accept my deep apologies.   Sigh.  We've had to go to personal, hand-done registrations because of human spammers who can easily read captcha and answer questions and all that (because they really are live, just paid terrible wages to do this), but I've never heard of us taking a week before.  Again, deep apologies from all of us here, and thank you so much for your comment.

 

Best, Cathy

Cathy Davidson

My deep apologies for the delay, Tom

Hi, Tom, if your registration took a week, I am appalled and want to apologize on behalf of all of us at HASTAC.  This is definitely not our norm and so this must have just fallen between the cracks somehow, between one person's watch and another's.  Please accept my deep apologies.   Sigh.  We've had to go to personal, hand-done registrations because of human spammers who can easily read captcha and answer questions and all that (because they really are live, just paid terrible wages to do this), but I've never heard of us taking a week before.  Again, deep apologies from all of us here, and thank you so much for your comment.

Best, Cathy

Amanda Phillips

Welcome to the conversation, Tom!

Hi Tom, it's great that you can join us despite the delay!

I'm obviously interested in your point #2 and was wondering if you could give a thumbnail sketch of this conversation about the real permeating the virtual. This is something of both personal and professional interest to me, and I know a lot of people participating in this forum are asking a similar research questions. What works would you recommend for dissertation background info or course development?

I was also particularly struck by #3, and it reminded me of an earlier point that Micha made about furries and heteronormativity. It's true that, as it were, you can't judge a book by its cover in Second Life, so i wonder what other types of behaviors/relationships/spatial structures we should be looking for? Do we consider the identity of the user with regard to avatar? Examine how the suburban house is constructed? What activities and conversations take place within?

The above paragraph and #4 finally bring me about to Sara Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology. I know phenomenology has been useful to many people looking at gaming and virtual worlds in particular, and Ahmed's book attempts to bring its perspective to bear on queer theory, as well. Is this a perspective that might be particularly useful to people looking to study queerness and virtual worlds?

Tom Boellstorff

Sorry so late...

Amanda - I'm sorry for taking so long to respond - this is just my life and the complexity of these fora (that make more things to do!) Very quickly - I don't have time here to talk more about the real permeating the virtual - there's stuff on this in my book but I think it's important to move beyond the idea that things are "blurring" because I find that an imprecise way of discussing what's happening in these various spaces. With regard to the avie/place etc in vws, the interesting thing is that the very changability (on most platforms) means that it gets linked up to ideas of choice and consumerism, and thus is often seen as revealing something about the person... and yes, I think phenomenology can be very important and hopefully this piece of mine on the virtual body will be out in a few months - trying to finish it now - I lean very heavily on phenomenology in my analysis! Okay, back to work - Tom

lnakamur

HIT work and invisible labor

Cathy: I admire the way that you persistently point out the Human Intelligence Work (HIT) that spammers do--rather than just dismissing them as pests, you recognize the labor involved, what Jonathan Zittrain would call "minds for sale."  Spammers, gold farmers, tech support and customer service people, are all working at a distance doing labor that most want to avoid, and is thus outsourced to places where people don't have much choice. 

Cathy Davidson

The Labor and the Ecology of the Internet

Hi, Lisa, Yes, it concerns me.  I've actually had one or two very lovely and wise conversations with the spammers.  I suspect they are paid sweatshop labor.   I am very concerned about all of the occupations of the Internet "outsourced" to the Third World or to poor people, who have no other options, in "our" First World (differentially, not all of us live in anything like a First World, including some of us who think we do).    And because these are real humans, being paid oppressive and exploitative wages, we real humans sort through each registration, painstakingly, because, unless we do, our readers get breasts and genitals and replica purses and watches and so forth in comment sections like this.   Still, I think it is incumbent on anyone who uses the Internet to be awayre of HIT that spammers do as well as the environmental costs of so-called "clean" industry.  Thanks for writing, Lisa, and thank you so much for participating in what has been a really amazing and rich exchange on queer and gender issues and new media. 

Cathy Davidson

The Labor and the Ecology of the Internet

Hi, Lisa, Yes, it concerns me.  I've actually had one or two very lovely and wise conversations with the spammers.  I suspect they are paid sweatshop labor.   I am very concerned about all of the occupations of the Internet "outsourced" to the Third World or to poor people, who have no other options, in "our" First World (differentially, not all of us live in anything like a First World, including some of us who think we do).    And because these are real humans, being paid oppressive and exploitative wages, we real humans sort through each registration, painstakingly, because, unless we do, our readers get breasts and genitals and replica purses and watches and so forth in comment sections like this.   Still, I think it is incumbent on anyone who uses the Internet to be awayre of HIT that spammers do as well as the environmental costs of so-called "clean" industry.  Thanks for writing, Lisa, and thank you so much for participating in what has been a really amazing and rich exchange on queer and gender issues and new media. 

Katie King

what counts as "the computer" or "the internet"

This is where your earlier point Cathy about the unit of analysis is pivotal. It's important to think of devices within infrastructures which include production, servicing, distribution, ranges of use -- and even to include among these, other uses -- ideologies, state protections and projects, moment in time .... Admittedly all an awful lot. Queers, queernesses, queering processes and ideologies that position queers and queering are in there, and in here (me) and in us (this forum) .... I think of it like those old "hard" Science Fiction stories -- in which multiple dimensions are signified by visualizing over time all the various connections.

Devices and infrastructures, computers and internet, are lively -- full of folks unevenly victimized and benefited, of resources unevenly distributed and reordered, of policies unevenly implemented and envisioned, of emergent self-organizing new patternings of all of these: difficult, sometimes impossible to predict, and full of terror and possibility....

Cathy Davidson

Thanks, Katie

Your contribution has just been invaluable, Katie.  So exciting, to watch this conversation unfold.  I must admit, I'm blown away by the depth, range, and complexity of the conversation, and also this very, very interesting rhetorical phenomenon of complexity blended with an urge to communicate to a large public (about 4000 unique visitors at this writing).   It's really an ideal place for dissertators to practice a voice that is responsible and and responsive, with so many major scholars such as yourself modelling how discourse can be urgent and complex at the same time.  Thank you!

Tom Boellstorff

Don't worry about it!

Dear Cathy & the HASTAC gang - no need to apologize at all! It is obviously not your fault - you have to deal with this "automation problem" as best you can. It is interesting how key human labor remains even within these Internet-mediated spaces. I'm so impressed at the work all of you are doing - (virtual) hats off to you all!

Cathy Davidson

Thanks, Tom

Thanks for your generosity, Tom.  I have to say I am blown away by this forum, thrilled by it, and hope we do some kind of follow up or maybe a conference sometime on queer and feminist new media spaces. Some 4000 real, unique humans--not bots--have been tuning in to this conversation, which is more of an audience than most of us have for our scholarly publications.  Thanks to scholars like yourself plus the remarkable array of young graduate student and even some undergraduates, this has been exciting, diverse, wide-ranging, and inspiring.  Do I sound like HASTAC's Proud Mama?  You betcha!   Thanks again for understanding and for your comments, Tom!

michacardenas

Yes a conference!

Let's do it! Clearly there is an audience and a lot of energy around these ideas and intersections!

It's been so crazy here at UCSD with all the social energy that's been unleashed by the budget cuts and the responses to them. I just wanted to chime in quickly with a thought I had today.

It seemed the movement against the budget cuts/furloughs/tuition increases in the UC's was initially centered on particularly non-identitarian issues (economics) and even used such strategies as occupations inspired by Tiqqun's writing, in turn inspired by Agamben's writing, using ideas like "whatever singularities...that no longer even wanted to be subjectivities." And yet the recent right wing backlashes, including violent racist, sexist and homophobic acts against students, have brought the movement back to a serious discussion of race/class/gender/sexuality and its intersections with the so called "economic crises" and the resistance and reappropriation of that crisis. In all of this, the organizing has been incredibly decentralized and viral, to the point that its hard to even know what's going on, but everything largely happens through facebook, twitter and blogs. What I wanted to post about is the way that blogs have become such an important part of this. The anonymous, instant, free blog has become the new pamphlet, where groups starting occupations post their demands and they are read by thousands, and where new coalitions spring up every day and start a new blog. Today I found this statement on a new and amazing blog from UC Davis:

http://queers4publiceducation.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/queers-for-educat...

"In fact, astonished reactions suggest not that this violence is otherwise absent from our lives and campuses, but rather that those who are taken aback by such violence do so from positions of privilege that enable them to ignore violence that is not brought to their attention. Framing these events as singular and isolated enables surprised reactions and disconnects these events from a broader context of structural oppression...

One might even argue that the university’s negligence creates an environment that condones overt displays of anti-queer sentiment by communicating that queer and trans activism and scholarship are at best an extraneous indulgence and ultimately disposable in times of financial crisis. By putting students in this situation, the university is complicit in the violence and threats of violence that these students experience...

In order to make UC Davis a less racist and homo/transphobic space, the university must commit itself to a series of large-scale structural, system-wide transformations. Such changes might include (but are certainly not limited to) a re-commitment to the master plan, a return to genuinely affordable fee levels, comprehensive financial aid (excluding loans), fair pay for all campus workers, becoming a sanctuary space for all undocumented persons, disarming campus police officers, disinvestment from military research, and the provision of a tuition-free education for indigenous peoples."

and the brilliance goes on. I'm happy to say that Il'l be speaking on a panel in a few weeks at the upcoming conference Failed State? Crisis and Renewal in California Politics and Culture at UC Davis, hopefully I'll get to meet some of the brilliant authors of this statement.

Clearly, this is an impassioned, informed piece of writing with much thought and effort that went into it, and the easily setup wordpress blog is bringing it to all of us. I myself have been surprised and impressed at the way the blog has suddenly become useful and important again in all of this as a quer and feminist new media space. I was just wondering what other people's thoughts are on this and related issues.

Other important blogs in this recent struggle to reclaim and reimagine education:

http://anticapitalprojects.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/the-necrosocial/

http://occupyca.wordpress.com/

http://reoccupied.wordpress.com/

And in all of this, the embodiment seems to come most through youtube in visceral videos such as these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8bd-FwQaoc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKn8XIfqj2U

 

Margaret Rhee

Thanks so much!

HI Cathy, 

Thanks for all your support on this Forum and for HASTAC! Alas, I am late in responding to folks, but wanted to check in as the forum is a living archive in a way, and hopefully the possibility to revive as well. Love visiting and reading some new posts or projects, maybe can consider the forum a living archive/community space? I wanted to say it would be great to have a possible real time or even virtual conference! I had talked to Fiona. And also talked to Zach and others about this, and great interest in making it happen! Would be really amazing to engage in real time, with all the energy that's been happening on the forum! I second what Micha says! My best, Margaret 

michacardenas

Is Queer New Media an Emerging Genre

Or do we even want genres?

I want to share this project with you that some of my students did this quarter. I think its really amazing. Their assignment was to do a project that engages with the university as a site of politics, using networked electronic devices (arduinos). They chose the issue of transgender safety in bathrooms on campus as their focus.

http://urinalstream.tumblr.com/

feel free to share it with people...

maybe you'll see it in a bathroom some day soon.

Margaret Rhee

thank you Micha!!!

Thanks so so much Micha for all your engagement on the forum, and 

for including this fantastic project and issues of the university! I think 

those of us, esp at the UC can't help but feel the effects of the various 

struggles that have been continuous this year. Thanks for posting this, 

what a great assignment!!! Its really an amazing project, and so 

important to take back public spaces, esp the bathroom, 

where so many trans folks and gender non-conforming people 

experience violence at a site, where it should be safe, secure, and 

ironically, private too. Sending you all my best!!! 

tonylewis

A very interesting and

A very interesting and thought provoking discussion, thanks