I thought I'd share a little glimpse into my project:
For the past two years, I have been gathering the digital remains of those murdered and murdering in Pittsburgh. I have been building a repository of digital remains. This started out as a simple obsession; I had just moved to Pittsburgh when I lay restless (as usual) one night, and in the silence I heard 4 distinct gunshots, then a pause, then 2 more. The next day, I searched the internet for evidence that someone other than me had heard the same thing. Nothing. I couldn't find one word about gunshots or anyone being shot. I started to wonder about the illegibility, the hiddenness, of crime / murder in forgotten neighborhoods.
In the throes of my obsessions, I would check the news every hour for new murders, and then spend the next three hours locating thier facebook pages, usually having to translates obscure names like Strizzy Banger into legible names like Dane Smith. The news often only reports thier legible name, but their facebook pages are under street names, nicknames, etc.
Two years deep into the project, I am beginning to see murder as networked--in a Latourian sense and a digital sense--where sometimes those murdered and murdering are long-time facebook friends, with long-time facebook histories, and other times, the connection is more obscure and has to do with neighborhoods, streets, brothers and fathers. As I gather the digital remains, I notice retalliation murders committed in revenge for a lost brother the year before. I am currently building a digital project for this repository, which will help track the connection and bring the illegible into the public.
This kind of project takes patience and a tracking and tending of the speculative. I follow the actors, as Latour has suggested, to see where they might lead me in digital or analog space. I see this work as an understanding of murder, which resists mappable narrativizing of murder. Instead, my project attends to the opaqueness of murder maintaining an emergent quality for a larger understanding of the act between many materialities.
My inquiry here is concerned with how we make knowledge, and, in this case, how we make murder. Our current composition of murder is built upon and made a particular way, without regard for re-assembling or the method by which this information has been built up over time. My core question is simple: What if we understood murder differently? What if it were understood as a network of actors? What if we could build again—reassemble—each murder in order to gain a glimpse into the problem of murder? Into the problem of future? This is not a search for answers, nor a sociological experiment; in fact, I don’t know quite what to call this quest, but it is part practice, part ethical, and part creative-critical work. I want to say: I am interested in understanding murder in a more robust way, but that’s not what I mean at all. Instead, with the intervention of murder, I want to begin re-making past matter, dead matter, or ruins, where the objects we make—that is, the digital work/art or analog work/art—conjure thought (or spaces for onticology, Levi-Bryant’s word for thinking the being of objects—the gun, social networking sites, neighborhoods, etc) knowledge and experience in new ways.
Because I am in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, I see this project as a way of understanding method, futures, digital composing and rhetoric. I am taken by ruins, by all the ruins that we inhabit and yet crave for the new and the more. Instead, I want to settle, here, in the ruins, and compose something out of them. Murder is the site at which I can do that.
I go from this: to this: (the murderer) to Dane "Strizzy Banger" Smith's girlfriends page: