Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Final Paper Proposal

For my final paper I hope to expand on my blog post “Facebook Politicians”. I want to examine how the affective politics of solidarity with respect to the recent Gaza and Israel confrontation are enacted through Facebook interactions, how this specific discourse adds to the political rhetoric at large, and lastly how the “conflicted” or “ambivalent” or “alienated” observer is positioned.

Network Demographics:
I want to begin by drawing on Granovetter’s piece “The Strength of Weak Ties” to map out the demographic of my Facebook network. This analysis will illustrate that Facebook networks may be large, full of “weak ties” that transcend physical and temporal space, however they, for the most part, will not be that diverse in terms of its socio/economic/age demographic. To give an impression of my Facebook milieu I would say I have a geographically diverse network because most of my friends from high school were from all over the world because I grew up in the Gulf. The next points of contact were the summers at various pre-college institutions in different countries. The most recent network is the Brown network that I have been developing for the past two years and continue to do so.  Ultimately most of my network is between the age of 19-22 undergraduate students.

The question here is (if I can safely interpolate that on average my Facebook network is comprised of academics or students in academic settings who are physically estranged from Palestine and Israel) how is my generation either a player in the larger geopolitical agendas of the powers that be or are the Facebook debates a separate dialogue from the mainstream?

Linguistic Representations:
I hope to inflect Ahmed’s close readings of various written pieces to focus on the linguistic aspect of the Facebook platform (Statuses and Comments) in conjunction with Keenan’s discussion of Rancier in “Where Are Human Rights….?” While doing some preliminary research and screen-shot-ing there seems to be a lot of pain, love, and fear statements being circulated in the name of solidarity, humanity, and moral superiority. The language of pain emerges as an invocation to pay attention and take action (this mostly appears on the Palestinian side), fear manifests itself as a fear of the future implications of political and military actions and decisions (most I saw referred to the UN decision from an Israeli point of view), love is probably self explanatory it ranges from the nation to humanity, any form of collective depending on one’s political alignment.

The question here is how does the fact that linguistic interactions on Facebook are almost non-confrontational in their ephemerality, the ability to delete, revise, ignore and not bear any of the consequences of a conversation or debate in the traditional sense effect the wounds that they are clearly symptomatic of? (do they cover them up with noise or do they move towards an acknowledgement the scar and live with it)

Visual Representations:
To discuss the visual platform of the Facebook apparatus I want to adopt Berlant’s notion of trauma as a whiplash and a temporal mess to discuss the repetitive and aggressive reposting of videos and photographs. Furthermore I want to look at how the new Facebook timeline allows one to go back to 2008-9 (the previous Gaza Israel run in) and thus can pretty much see mirror images of themselves suddenly donning the Kafiya and some posters.  Lastly I want to take the instantaneity of Facebook image generation and circulation and its archival quality as perhaps a metaphor or mirror of memory and how there never really is a “future” imagined and what this “desire for the political”, as Berlant calls it, symptomatic of.

“The news about the recent past and the pressures of the near future demand constant emergency cleanup and hyper speculation about what it means to live in the ongoing present among piles of cases where things didn’t work out or seem to make sense, at least not yet. There are vigils; there is witnessing, testimony, and yelling. But there is not yet a consensual rubric that would shape these matters into an event. The affect structure of the situation is therefore anxious and the political emotions attached to it veer wildly form recognition of the enigma that is clearly there to explanations that make sense, the kind of satisfying sense that enables enduring.” (Berlant, 225)

The question, how does the strange temporality of Facebook, especially with respect to visual re-representations affect the temporality of the conflict between Gaza and Israel, does it negate history, imagine a future, stand as a necessary witness, perpetuate a pornography of imagery already thoroughly exhausted by the news, or none, or all of the above?

The Big Picture: The News Feed
Here, more or less to conclude, I want to tie all the disparate parts of the Facebook regime in how they really appear on the interface in the newsfeed. The first question is what exactly happens when politics is given the same typeface and digital space as stream of consciousness and mental garbage dump that the Facebook status often can be? The second is what happens when the space where the “ongoing” dialogue happens is virtual and can never happen at the scale that Facebook allows it to in a physical front? The third is how does Facebook shape our attitude towards history and conflict resolution, the notion of a “burnout” activist is very interesting to think about? 

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