Thursday, December 13, 2007

Interesting use of cell phone?

New Zealand man vexed not sexed by text message
Tue Dec 11, 2007 10:39pm EST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A New Zealand woman who sent a naked man to the wrong house on the promise of a good time has been charged with misusing a telephone, local media reported on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old woman sent the man an enticing text message offering him an early Christmas present in the shape of two friendly women and suggested he take off his clothes to save time, the Manawatu Standard reported.

The 31-year old man wasted no time in arriving at the house, and took off his clothes and threw them through the window before entering.

But it was the wrong house and the householder did not see the funny side. The police were called and the man arrested for being unlawfully on a property.

The woman, who sent the tempting but deliberately wayward message, was also tracked down and charged for misusing a phone.

Both the man and the woman escaped prosecution and were cautioned and put on good behavior bonds.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fittingly, the Front Page of the NYTimes Website Today

Forest Loss in Sumatra Becomes a Global Issue

“What can we possibly do to stop this?” said Pak Helman, 28, a villager here in Riau Province, surveying the scene from his leaking wooden longboat. “I feel lost. I feel abandoned.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mark Lombardi & Cognitive Mapping

Just to re-open the discussion on cognitive mapping and diagrammatic representation, I wanted to bring up Mark Lombardi, a "neo-conceptual" artist (according to Wikipedia) whose finely rendered "maps" diagram the people and systems involved in many corporate-political scandals. A classmate of mine in another class recently brought up Mark Lombardi as a figure of radical media, but I think he has even more relevance to course on imagined networks and global communities. A current traveling exhibition of his work is titled "Global Networks." Lombardi's diagrams, cleanly drawn with French curves and finely written titles, present often complex scandals of recent corporate-political context in a lucid and simplified manner. Like an elegant equation (and there is certainly something scientific about Lombardi's art) they present a system of causality, with one node leading into others, and creating complex yet entirely legible networks of event production. Some of the drawings are ordered along timelines, relating individuals and institutions to linear time progressions, while others aspire to a more global consciousness, wrapping around spherically (like the diagram above) to produce a sense that no one individual or institution is the original cause but that all are responsible, and collectively part of the same community. Ultimately, I do not think that these diagrams are what Jameson meant by "Cognitive Mapping" but like, it ponders the consciousness of corporations and their actions which Tsing has argued aspire to the global.

A Final Question

I had the thought recently that our collective imagining, longing for, and fantasies of the universal - the Borg in Star Trek, or the Matrix, or even 1984 - are a modern phenomenon. I couldn't think of any imaginings of the global from before the modern epoch. But as I widened the scope of what I considered, I decided that the Christian and Islamic empires of the past centuries, and particularly the religious ideologies they created around an ideal world, the afterlife, and judgment day, may as well be Luddite versions of the Borg - a collection of unthinking, unindivduated, enthralled humanoids united by a single consciousness. This refutes my previous conceptions that the conflict between the global and the local, the universal and the specific, was a recent consequence of an increasingly inter-connected world. Does the desire and fear of the universal, the unresolvable tension between the global and the local, stem from something more existential, something inherent to the human condition? Or can it be traced to more modern developments, the perceived increasing "sameness" of the world, and the growing conception that we are all one species sharing a small planet?

Monday, December 3, 2007

angry asians

okay. so i am scrapping the bigger plan of discussing a whole asian american community thing cuz that's too much work. I'm still in the works on the proposal, it will either be one of the two topics, or a fusion or ..:

1. is a blog i've been visiting since i even knew what a blog was in grade school. (okay, maybe not that long, about the past 6-7 years). it is a blog where a guy named patrick -- , a usc graduate posts anything and everything that affects the 'asian american community' in america. Using this web site, I want to address, using Anderson's theories about community and Appadurai's theories on the global community, how ethnic communities get created and thrive online and in the mass media today. also, how do these ethnic communities in america get along with the global community of wired asians across the globe? i know this is broad but i will cover theory with examples all from you should check it out.

2. I actually found this on AAM.

Secret Asian Man is the first Asian American comic strip to appear on a major American newspaper (sorry I forget which again ^^;;). Anyway, here i want to use the fanfiction stuff we covered in class as well as anderson's theory of imagined communities and horizontal-ness about how we (asian americans) fantasize asians by creating the anti-stereotype of asians through a comic strip like this one.

i know this is just a blah from my brain right now but whaddaya think? any comments/suggestions/questions to narrow this down/give it form would be helpful.


visualization, images, and the imagination are three principles that structure Tsings Friction. I want to engage with these concepts as a way of entering Tsings argument, but also as an excuse to discuss other theories of visualization proposed by Jameson, Keenan nad Appadurai. Ill definately be focusing on mapping (its a good way to get at the notions of travel, locality, landscape that are also at play in Tsings text, along with the whole vision aspect) but im not so sure on which particular instances of mapping ill focus on. id appreciate it if anyone had any intriguing examples of mapping they might share with me ... all Ive got so far is a story from This American Life, and The Million Dollar Block Project run by the urban studies program at Columbia... the question ill be trying to focus on: how are we trained to see, and how can we understand maps as mechanisms that aid this process of visual mystification.

Paper Proposal

I’m interested in taking a closer look at media and its uses in contemporary conflicts. Thomas Keenan’s articles might be a good starting point for this. The U.S. military’s use of, and reaction to, popular media in Mogadishu, the lack of a timely U.S. response in Kosovo despite media (and new-media) attention, and Jasish Ansar al-Sunna’s use of new-media in Iraq present several different and sometimes contradictory effects of media.

Fredric Jameson’s model of the cognitive map might be useful analytical tool. This is not to say that any of the media above provide anything like a cognitive map, but it might be useful to investigate the place if different kinds of media in a larger scheme, and how the individual/subjective informs larger structures and vice versa. Along these lines, Anna Tsing’s concept of ‘friction’ might also be useful. Specifically, I’m interested in her ideas regarding the generation of a “universal”: the establishment of an “axiom of unity” that standardizes difference, and convergence of incompatible differences to create a universal of contingent collaboration. How do competing voices, such as Jasish Ansar al-Sunna, U.S. mainstream media, and the blogs of Iraqi and U.S. soldiers converge to form a universal picture? Do they create a universal at all, or are they an aggregate of subjective fragments?

There’s also plenty of material to examine that we haven’t looked at closely in class, such as the blogs of U.S. soldiers, the online forums that host material from Islamic militants, or youtube videos from conflict areas. (There are highly-local videos on youtube such as those made by British Ghurka brigades – units made up entirely of Nepalese nationals fighting for Britain, a left-over from the colonial era – showing grinning Ghukas on patrol and at leisure in Iraq, all set to central-Asian pop music.) Bearing Jameson and Tsing in mind, the questions are: how do these individual pieces of media work to inform a global (in Jameson’s sense) or universal (in Tsing’s sense) understanding? What influence does the global have on the individual, and how is the global visible in individual? I more concrete question would be to ask if these examples of new media have any influence on policy, and if so what and how?

Media, Protocological Resistance, and Corporate Control

On October 18, the 26-year-old operator of was arrested in a massive police raid based on information gathered by British trade union FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Infringement. An operator of the site, which hosts links to free movies online, told media blog The New Freedom that the operators may be sued for as much as 100 million pounds.

Tv-links and its many imitators are the latest incarnation of the internet’s authority-flouting tradition of file-sharing, springing up at the intersection of Napster and sci-fi fandom. Sharing itself becomes an act of engagement with and appropriation of corporately-produced television and film media. Although participants simply post links, rather than creating their own media as in fan vids, they create a new cultural landscape by changing what gets watched and how. They share opinions and exchange information in forums hosted on the site. Sites that link to streaming media act as a leveler, placing foreign, low-budget, and out-of-print films next to the summer’s biggest blockbuster. In this way, it bypasses the big-budget structure of distribution by giving users immediate access to films with a range of origins and budgets.

What is most controversial about the tv-links shutdown is that these sites don’t actually host illegal media: they use a process called deep linking to link to particular pages on other host sites, like youtube or googlevideo, where the media is actually stored. Of course, it is the small independent operators of the link sites—and not the corporate giants hosting illegal media—who get taken to task for their activities.

For my project, I will interrogate the tension between grassroots creativity and protest on these media link sites and the enforcement of legal control and corporate imperatives, using Galloway, Baudry, Jenkins, and Ang. I will also explore the global dimensions that are central to these sites’ operations and openings: much of the media they link to is hosted on foreign sites, especially in China, for example. What are the implications of the fact that tv-links was a British operation, but the majority of media it linked to was US-produced? I will use Appadurai and Lee and LiPuma to answer this and other pertinent questions.

Final Paper Proposal

I want to explore the glocal and the imagined network through the example of 9/11 media coverage. This highly localized attack had serious global implications and therefore encompasses the meaning of glocal in a most poetic manner. I think the key link between the global and the local are the scapes and flows we have discussed in this course and in the case of 9/11, this could not be truer.
In order to narrow down my argument, I plan to uncover the imagined and real links between the global and local networks created, perpetuated, and complicated by the mediascape and information flows during and after 9/11. I plan to look at this tragedy as a media event and demonstrate its effects as such by theorizing the actors, producers and consumers involved according to the theories of Keenan and Baudry.
The specific question I hope to ask and answer in my final paper is how the mediascape and information flows link sometimes antithetical localities in a glocal network, what are the consequences of this linkage, and, finally, how can it be evaded?

Paper Proposal

For my final paper, I would like to examine the status of the individual within networked communities, particularly as this pertains to mediated, or published, individuals. I'm interested in the conception of the writer/editor and how this plays into the construction and negotiation of identity. How does the discourse of imagined communities play into the discourse of imagined audiences, and how does this affect how and what we publish of ourselves? What new desires/impulses arise from this new kind of culture?

Toward answering these questions, I would like to combine a treatment of the readings from the Web 2.0: Social Networking unit (particularly Barry Wellman's essay "The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism) with a treatment of Howard Rheingold's essay on Smart Mobs. I would like to offer as an arena for this discussion several examples of personal publishing: prominent social networking,,, profile-based sites, networks based on cultural production like, and viral internet sensations like Here, I think Tiziana Terranova's work on free labor in the digital economy will be appropriate.

In my attempt to answer some of the questions I raise above, I would like to offer the coining of a term "micro(auto)biography" to define some of the new behaviors and impulses I see resulting from the increasing informaticization of society. I will attempt to make meaning out of the current trend of consolidating and syncing all online behaviors as a means of "tracking" individuals, which are increasingly moving targets. Why is it desirable to create a veritable digital paper trail? What is the new kind of reading required for this type of publishing? To what extent is the utopian dream of the Internet coming true and in what ways is it growing toward something we cannot begin to imagine? Finally, how is the Internet both a tool (appendage) and an arbiter of meaning in itself?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Networking Boredom, The Community of Procrastination

This past March, the New Yorker ran article called "The New Bathroom Wall," which detailed a trend that began in the Ivy League where anonymous students, supposedly bored at their school's library, were given a forum to write anything they wanted. The idea, according to the article, was hatched by Jonathan Pappas, who created one night while he was himself bored at Columbia University's Butler Library. As the story goes, he put up a printed a few fliers about the site, and put them up all over campus.

The next day, had over two thousand messages.

Since that day, the "bored at" idea for anonymous web forums has spread to 26 separate institutions of higher education, including Brown, where the name of the forum has changed from to The entire community recently acquired a central splash page for these functions that is called, somewhat ironically,

I would like to examine the "bored at" phenomenon within the framework of Barry Wellman's "Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism," Bruce Robbin's introdcution to "Comparative Cosmopolitanisms," and Benedict Anderson's "Imagined Communities." Each text has something to bare on the conception of networked individualism and the sort of motivating forces that could enable an internet meme like the "bored at" phenomenon.

In particular, I would like to apply Wellman's own opening questions to the concept of the "boredat" internet community. As he asks,
  • Do people communicate more because the Internet offers them the capability to contact people at a distance?
  • How do people use their networks, social communication, and computer access information at home, work and leisure?
  • What sense of belonging to communities do networked people have?"
Each of these questions has particular meaning and insight when considered within the "bored at" phenomenon. Following from the provided logic of the "bored at" sites, the users are supposedly in close physical proximity to one another, sharing the physical space of library in addition to the mentally enclosed community that the library space represents. In a way, the choice to "speak" in online forum rather than talk out in the physical space of the library is a reaction to the taboo of silence in library spaces. But simultaneously, the boredat forum only allows for a single type of conversation- namely the out-loud, anonymous remark, that is read and received by anyone and frequently sparks reaction.

It would seem obvious that the discussion and/or existence of the site's forum creates a sort of community. Nicknames, abbreviations, and inside terms denote the site's users as already partially networked. In this way, the site functions as a manifestation of pre-existing community, but one that mediates itself through online space, and wears the mask of anonymity.

In researching this project, I hope to both note the rise and fall of the trend, as the site has certainly lost steam at Brown, the switch of domain names, from boredattherock to boredatbrown, and finally, to examine the use of the forum at other schools. Additionally, I would like to examine the traffic of these sites, sifting out traffic from within a university network to posts from outside, and to consider Bruce Robbins' "belonging, being situated, being specific" considerations in the world of

My Final Paper

For my final paper I propose a close reading and analysis of Prague, by Arthur Phillips. I've already run most of this entry by Professor Chun, but perhaps somebody else will have something to add.

The novel's title is ironic; all action is set in Budapest. Its main characters want to move to Prague (although what they really want to do is move to Paris in the 1920s).

I think it fuses Jameson's conception of nostalgia (one main character is actually attempting an academic study of nostalgia) and Anderson's idea of an imagined community with great flair. Another character is charged with writing a guidebook for a Lonely Planet knock-off, and I plan to read an old Lonely Planet Budapest book in conjunction with the novel.

For theoretical texts I intend to use Anderson (on national identity), Jameson (on cognitive mapping and nostalgia), and Robbins (on cosmopolitanism).

Technology and International Agency

For my final paper I will examine the relationship between technological development and the changing international political scene. I began thinking about this when we read about People Power II, and the capacity for technology--in this case, mobile phones--to amplify the voices of individuals and broaden the definition of "who counts" as a global actor. An estimated 22% of people in the developing world have access to a cell phone, and that number is rapidly on the rise. The spread of accessible mobile technology suggests an increasing potential for social action through mobile connectivity, and I would like to look at exactly which factors converge to bring individuals and other non-traditional international actors onto the international scene. Apart from mobile phones, I also want to look at blogging and the extent to which blogs have or might influence politics. I will draw on Rafael's article on mobile connectivity, Rheingold's "Smartmobs," the Tom Keenan and Tad Hirsch materials, as well as Granovetter's "The Strength of Weak Ties" as my main theoretical underpinnings. I hope to determine the viability of such technologically empowered individuals to actually play a role in international politics, and whether this new empowerment bodes the wane of the traditional state-centric international system.

Distributed Activism

I want to interrogate the factors at play in the success of certain 'distributed' projects, and explore the extensibility of this model to issues of more social import.

We've heard of distributed computing projects that enlist the extra 'cycles' of PC processors to solve computationally expensive problems such as protein folding simulation or a search for extra terrestrial intelligence. As we sleep, we've asked our computers to continue working for some 'greater good' by tapping into a networked grid.

Some projects are successful in harvesting human processing cycles. Google's image tagging game ((, for example, has capitalized on thousands of hours of labor by asking people to devote their free time to assigning tags to images. Other internet campaigns have asked people to mindlessly click on ads to raise money for a specific cause.

There is something unique about these problems that allows for collaboration in such a framework: they are parallelizable and distributable. I want to explore whether it is possible for activism to operate with this kind of model. Why are we tagging Google's images in our free time instead of correlating images in a crime database? Are activist projects more or less 'commodifiable'? Do they parallelize poorly? What are the implications of donating our 'cycles'? Of what nature are the imagined communities surrounding successful distributed projects?

I plan to engage with the readings from Terranova, Rheingold, and Rafael, as well as some basic theory from distributed and parallel computing literature. If I can identify an activist project that should be able to operate under this model, I'd like to implement it.

A Flock of Books

For my final project, I intend to explore the online network constructed by users of, and the culture of “BXing” that has arisen offline alongside it in contrast to other networking communities which seek to connect users through shared interest in literature (shelfari, whatsonmybookshelf). The project encourages users to “set the book free to travel the world and find new readers,” relying upon metanarrative of literature as enlightenment through which one can “Help make the whole world a library and share the joy of literacy”. In addition to interacting with each other on the site, users tag books to be “set free” in public places, assuming others will find, read, and further distribute the texts that have been left in public. The practice has spawned its own terminology with which to describe these circulations (BXing, BCing, the verb “To BookCross”). Through the website, these exchanges are 'tracked', the movements of text literally sketched out upon a “catch/release” map viewable up to the moment, and users are ranked according to the rate at which books they release have been circulated and tracked.

The creation of this networked community, with its emphasis on tracking and locality (of both books and users) within the real world, seems to me to intersect quite fantastically with many of the themes we've discussed over the course of the semester : notions of participation from afar, of circulation, mediation through protocol, cognitive mapping & informatic control. Accordingly, I intend to draw heavily from Jameson, Lyotard, and Galloway, as I explore the many ways in which the act of circulation is so explicitly valued by the BCing community alongside (or above?) the content of the texts themselves. For it is through this circulation that the act of reading is encouraged, becomes a worthwhile participatory activity : “Reading becomes an adventure when you BookCross!”

global art market

“PARIS, March 22 (Reuters Life!) - The global fine art market grew 52 percent to $6.4 billion in 2006 with prices close to levels last seen in 1990 and exceeding them in some markets such as the United States, according to a study published on Thursday.” Reuters

“Christie's has opened offices in emerging markets, such as Dubai, Mumbai and Shanghai, to expose local artists to an international audience and bring new buyers into the global market.” Business Report

For my final paper, I am investigating the increasingly global fine art smarket , drawing on Lee and Lipuma, Ang, Jameson, Tsing. Today,a new precedent for art produced for, exhibited on and sold to a global scale, and I look to interrogate 1) how the market is “Global” 2) how status and meaning of art objects might need to be conceptualized differently. For example, what are the specific challenges that the global nature of contemporary art presents to the identity-factories that are traditional museums? What is the status of art as capital/commodity? As local artifact? Viewing, ownership as knowledgeand access to “other” community?
Question s of changing content and audience, national memory embedded or represented by art, the role of the internet and emailing . For example, circulating jpgs of art-to-be-auctioned can break a dealer’s reputation . Modern ease in transport -- English aristocracy flies to Venice toacquire Chinese art, etc.

In particular, I have been thinking about art as material object s– such as paintings, sculptures, certain new media– that are arguably localized in that the pieces do work reifying local memory, identity while also demanding a physical presence, whose value is somewhat dependant on the “in-person” character of viewing at spaces (museums, galleries, buying at a fair since major deals are not usually brokered online). Yet, now it is somewhat newly unmoored from the local in in numerous ways. Some thoughts I have had: A painting, for example, is less confined to the sphere of museum and private home, now mobile or trans-frontier through every thing from rising numbers of travelling exhibitions, fairs, festivals, the web to the need for artists to have websites.

Finally, I will touch on the glocal nature of art production through the question: how have Art Colonies been affected by the internet? Specifically, has the internet and e-commerce finally made possible the sustainable, autonomous, colony? The “global” possibilities offered by internet capitalism is, perhaps ironically, the very thing which allows for the success of these idealist, escapist, separatist villages that glorify the pre-modern. What are the implications of this? Art colonies can be permenant villages in which residents stay for lifetime. Or, more fluid, anually fluctuating populations. Or, semi-permanent mix of visiting and resident artists. Movement away from urban centers, and industrialisation. Growing nostalgia for lost rural, authentic experience. Before, these did not succeed because artists were forced to return to urban centers to make money to continue their lifestyles – either by engaging in a trade distinct from their work (bar-tending, building, etc.) or to sell their paintings, etc. I will provide examples of historical colonies, current old-model colonies (MacDowell), and the new colonies (Ryujin village, Japan).

Third World imaginings

For my paper, I want to explore the evolution of the concept “Third World” as a global term with political and economic connotations, a national term arising during the Civil Rights Movement to empower people of color, and Brown’s own localized version of the term embodied in the Third World Center and its programs. I will start with Anderson to show how “Third World” became an imagined community that tied together the global and the local. Using Appadurai’s language of “scapes,” I want to show how they led to the original reproduction of “Third World” from global to national to local, and how their shifting since the Cold War era has led to a disjuncture in the imagining as “Third World” on the global level and “Third World” on the local level have come to mean different things. Using Brown as a specific example, how has its Third World community reimagined (or not reimagined) itself in the absence of a global or even national Third World movement? Can this community postulate its existence on the nostalgia of past movements?

make-up post

While reading “Friction” I found Tsing’s explanation of “nostalgia” a really interesting example of that which relates the local to global. She writes that Uma Adanag’s worries about the difficulty of finding food on her local river with the construction of new roads and electric currents in the water amounted to a “prospective, incipient nostalgia” that “helped motivate the list” (157). Tsing writes that it is the “same incipient nostalgia” as that which motivates the “science of environmental conservation” (157). She goes on to write that it was the nostalgia that enlivened their encounter and the globalism of the exercise charged the list with “emotions, quests, and voices originating from many sites” (158). This passage reminded me of the many times we have seen nostalgia used in this course. For example, in terms of Snow Crash and Jameson we saw that history itself can be nostalgic or replaced by nostalgia. Appadurai talks about history in terms of “nostalgia without memory” and its implications for a global audience. Tsing, as mentioned above, talks about nostalgia in terms of global and local environmental conservation. For me, the idea of nostalgia has been one of the most interesting course concepts though it has been defined and used in different ways. Why is nostalgia is effective tool for examining the local and the global? What exactly is nostalgia?


For my paper I want to look at “The Chat” (, which is both a social networking site and the official spin-off web site of TV’s “The L Word.” The web site proclaims that imagined “charts” are “part of the glue that holds all forms of social networks together.” The web site encourages fan production through their participation in the exclusive show-related online content and direct interaction with L word producers, writers, and actresses. It is also simultaneously a social networking site in which users can fill out Myspace-type profiles and connect with other users and/or fans of the show. It offers forums, official blogs, exclusive videos from the set, a place to ask questions to actresses/producers, and news stories about fashion, music, culture, etc. Friendship connections on the social networking part of the site can be viewed in a visual “chart” that is similar to the ones on, but is modeled after the “chart” envisioned on the “L Word.” Interestingly, fan profiles line the sides of the exclusive L word content.
The questions I want to explore are: What is the intersection between social networking and fandom? How does each work to imagine a network, and are these imaginings at odds? What are the implications of this hybrid site on the traditional model of fandom/network paradigm? How does the web site embody these imaginings? How does “The Chart” engage with both and what are the consequences for the show? How does the site complicate the traditional theoretical model of user-generated content vs. mass media corporations? How does each work to imagine the community and what is the role of the “chart” in this? Why is the chart on the show called "the chart" but the online site is called "our chart?" What is the relationship between the network and the audience?
The texts I might use include Coppa’s "A Brief History of Media Fandom,” Jenkins’ “"Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars? Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry,” Boyd’s “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life,” and Barry Wellman et al, “The Social Affordances of the Internet for Networked Individualism.”

The Traveling Past and Allegorical Bundles

In many of the texts we have read for this semester, the past pops up as a persistent and problematic category, shifting its meanings. In Friction, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing argues that stories of the past that used as “activist packages” “come to us in allegorical bundles, marked by the culture and politics of particular moments of alliance and intervention” (238). But what allows these bundles to travel, not just through space but through time? In determining the uses of the past, what boundaries cannot be crossed? I want to look at moments in which allegorical bundles don’t come through, and the old stories are almost absent in new attempts, except in the ways that they haunt current deployments of allegorical bundles, even as central pieces of those bundles get left behind. How does Snow Crash draw on myths about the United States even as the U.S. becomes no more than an antiquated and exploitative form without real content of the nation? How does current U.S. activism around AIDS in Africa, such as that discussed in lecture dealing with Amy Kapczynski, ignore allegorical bundles of AIDS activism in the U.S. in the eighties and nineties, primarily focusing on queer communities? How do the wholes left by the absences of these stories where they could be deployed shape the way that movements take place, the way the future is imagined? For this project, I will draw on Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s Friction, Vincente L. Rafael’s “The Cell Phone and the Crowd,” Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and possibly The Matrix and/or Kill Bill. I am still figuring out exactly which stories I want to look at, but I am pulled to examining how the past does and doesn’t get deployed and what consequences this has for imagined networks.

Sifting Through the Information Deluge

In an age of an information deluge, we graze over most of what we see, hear, observe, in what was dubbed (and what Tom Keenan cited in his paper) as the "CNN Effect". Brown is a perfect example of the global (the CNN effect) intersecting with the local (activism fueled by what we absorb through the deluge). We apply world problems within the context of Brown, whether this means raising awareness through demonstrations (i.e. Jake's observation of t-shirt days), or applying larger scale issues (education reform) on a local level through volunteering in Providence schools, Brown activists serve as the translating outlets/centers. I plan to look at how this translation acts as a centralizing means of control. Moreover, I plan to examine the way friction works as a means of activist fuel on campus. "Friction is not a synonym for resistance." (6) The second universalist dream that Tsing proposes is knowledge, which in itself is fueled by friction. "knowledge claims emerge in relation to concrete problems and possibilities for dialogue—the productive features of friction.” Brown is a place dedicated to the perpetuation of knowledge. I plan to demonstrate how Brown's activism follows Tsing's concept of allegoric traveling packages gather local meaning at Brown, how they are translated to become interventions, and how this essentially controls and uncontrollable flow of information.

Profiles as Fanfiction

For my paper, I would like to link fandom to social networking. Fandoms seems to act as online spaces and networks for the relationships fans have to their TV shows, films, etc. Social networking sites seem to act as online spaces for the relationships people have to other people. The question I want to address in my paper is how these two online spaces are related. Are all the texts for Star Trek linked—do they create a social network for the fans behind the texts (or interacting with the texts)? Do the fan videos for Battlestar Galactica have a link to the fan videos for Smallville, and through this create part of a network for all fandom? How are the profiles that each person creates on a social network similar to fanfiction? What is omitted, built up, “fictionalized” in the profiles to make them “fanfictions” of one’s self? How do people’s interactions with other people’s profiles relate to the way fans interact with other fans’ texts?
In the same way fandoms can rise around other fans’ texts, networks can rise around other people’s profiles. Think about mySpace profiles that are very popular—some of these profiles have huge fan networks (Tila Tequila is a good example). How does Tila, for instance, move from a profile on a social network to an object many people are fans of? How does this relate to fandom? Can the fans of Tila be considered part of a fandom? How do Granovetter’s idea of weak and strong ties fit into fandoms?
The texts I want to look at primarily are “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy” by Tiziana Terranova, “In the Realm of Uncertainty: The Global Village and Capitalist Postmodernity” by Ien Ang, and “The Strength of Weak Ties” by Mark Granovetter. I plan to discuss how fandoms are social networks (perhaps using LiveJournal as an example), how profiles are fanfictions, and how they can intersect (perhaps using Tila Tequila as an example). These networks relate to the glocal by either localizing a more global concept (as in the case of fandoms) or by making the local more global (as in the case of social networks). I will be discussing how these two intersect throughout my paper.

City as body

For my final paper, I would like to explore the ideas of the journey, the body, and cognitive distance/mapping. I read an interesting book recently titled Cityscapes in which the author describes the contemporary city "as a nervous system, requiring faster synapses and more and more information," and cities in the past as "a cardiovascular body, needing oxygen, healthy blood and so on..." (Highmore 132). He points to The Matrix as a film that captures this shift in perception of the city. This reminded me (somewhat tangentially) of our section discussions of the journey and our (human) desire to preserve a sense of time-lapsing travel even in cyberspace. For example, in Snow Crash, when Hiro is chasing Raven in the virtual world, they still travel on motorcycles instead of simply flashing from one location to another. In Star Trek and The Matrix, the transporter (beam) and telephone don't transfer a person instantaneously. There is a pause and a sense of travel from the moment of departure to the moment of arrival. (I remember one Star Trek episode where Barclay sees a worm/monster in the transporter beam - interesting that he sees anything at all while molecularly diassembled...)

I'm still working through my ideas, but I was thinking about the body as related to the journey through neural and cardiovascular networks. Even seemingly instantaneous communication (a burned fingertip notifying the brain) takes time. We react slowly when tired or distracted - there is a sense of time associated with feeling. I'm curious how this maps onto the city, onto our understanding of travel and distance, and onto our visions of future utopias/dystopias such as in The Matrix and Snow Crash. Why do we need to preserve a sense of journey? Is it just a continuation of our need to connect the body to the virtual and the urban? Why do we need to see the city in terms of a human system - cardiovascular or neural? And why does this only seem to be the case in fiction?

In Second Life, though, there is less of a sense of travel or distance. Moving from place to place in Second Life is immediate, although you also have the option to walk, run, or fly. In any case, there is definitely a preservation of the body. Is it possible for us to conceive of a virtual world not based on our physical selves? Or a body-less city?

Banned from the Garden

In the beginning, Adam and Eve in habited a paradisaical garden free of consequences where death was just a transient and meaningless condition... until Adam reported Eve for violating God's Terms of Service, and they were both banned from the garden. In my final paper, I would like to explore virtual worlds—worlds in which death is only temporary—and the ways in which death must be reinvented to exert control over immortal avatars. Galloway notes, citing Foucault, that within new control societies, “The old power of death that symbolized sovereign power was now carefully supplanted by the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life” (13). I would like to examine how this analysis extends into virtual worlds, and how these virtual worlds might in turn serve to better illuminate the machinery of governance at work in control society.
At stake here are the questions of from where does death derive its influence? Of what worth is a virtual life? How does one kill a username? How does justice change in the presence of the all-seeing eye of the database query? Does one live differently knowing that death is always “just”? How do interactions with administrators resemble rituals of prayer? And finally, how can virtual death collapse the locality of the avatar and the globality of the user's real identity to have real consequences for the player.
I will start by applying Stephenson's observations on virtual death to several examples of virtual death drawn from the MMORPGs Runescape and World of Warcraft, as well as from Second Life. To further explore this topic, I intend to engage Boyd's article on social networks and Lee and LiPuma's article on circulation to understand just how a virtual self becomes invested with real worth. I will then use Galloway's protocol and perhaps either the Appadurai or the Terranova to examine the nature of these e-societies, or e-scapes, and how administrative control operates. Finally, I will try to use the Rafael to unpack the concept of justice and analyze the control over virtual life and death through this lens. I hope to be able to use this paper to explore life and death in these virtual worlds, and perhaps through this investigation draw conclusions about that virtual world we call our own.
For my final paper I’d like to look at the ways in which language conveys force/control, both in terms of Lyotard’s language games/performativity as well as online vocabulary and its borrowed connotations. How does language construct and damage identity (personal and communal)? How do language and force/violence function in the physical world vs. the virtual space of the Internet? I will also question what makes the former of these spheres seem more “real” than the latter (physicality? action? humanity?), and consider authenticity vs. truth in this context.

Some topics I may also touch on: Translation as a means of control or communicative freedom. Spoken language vs. written language vs. body language vs. computer code. Cosmos and cosmopolitanism, especially as it seeks to make the invisible visible. Cognitive mapping through language. Actual terrorism, virtual terrorism, and Lyotard’s take on terrorism. Appadurai’s scapes.

In untangling these various questions I plan to look at Lyotard on language games and performative utterances, Keenan on virtual war (and “war of perception”), Stephenson on language violence and personal identity creation, and Anderson on community identity creation.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Who’s THE MAN, and where is he?

When Tad Hirsch came to speak, someone, I can’t remember who, asked him about the possibility of something like TxtMob being co-opted, and if he thought there was some sort of ethical code inherent in his design, something that could not become corrupted by commercialism. He said yes, he thought there was.
How is this in opposition to the code/protocol of capitalist power, enforced by The Man, obviously inherent in the Motorola Rzr cellular phones and AT&T transmitting towers, within which his system is operating?
How do the exploitations of existing technological devices and structures( e.g. People Power, TxtMob, Napster, Jihadist media blogs) function within the same geocapitalist system they always claims to be struggling against? Who does Lyotard’s knowledge-power benefit in this case?
Is this mainly a philosophical/ethical question, or does it translate into the efficiency of the counter-devices as well? Where is this shadowy and elusive (imagined?) Man, and how does he fit into our networks? Can control ever be wrested away from The Man, or does he exist at all?
Is the internet truly a democratic technology? I believe the answer is no, absolutely not. So if the people do not have the power, or think they don’t have the power, who does?
Where does defeatism come into play? “Of course Napster failed, the internet is just another marketplace with The Virtual Man nabbing anarchist pickpockets and shoplifters everyday.” (my own quote)
"The Man. Oh, you don't know The Man? The Man's everywhere: in the White House, down the hall, Miss Mullins; she's The Man! And The Man ruined the ozone, and he's burning down the Amazon and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! Okay!? And there used to be a way to stick it to The Man, it was called rock 'n roll. But guess what? Oh no! The Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV! So don't waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome 'cause The Man's just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourself a favor and just give up!" (School of Rock Quote)
I want to try and locate The Man in some of our readings and try to place him within the theories we’ve discussed in class. I plan on referencing Galloway’s “protological control,” as well as Lyotard’s “language games.”