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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Beltrán’s essay Undocumented, Unafraid and Unapologetic was the reading that struck me most form this week. I’ve been familiar with people sharing their lives on the internet; I think a lot of the people in my generation had access to and probably read articles and watched videos in which bloggers or vloggers (video-bloggers) have shared personal life stories. (“Draw My Life” Youtbe video, for example). Stories of personal struggle are abundant on the net, but it was very enlightening to read that undocumented immigrants (young people specifically) shared their lives on the internet, when they have little to no exposure in real life.

Reading the testimonios of these people really struck me. One of the struggles an outsider or and immigrant faces is paradox of being uncomfortable not fitting in, and being uncomfortable losing one’s identify and roots to conformity. Communication on the internet seems to allow one to actually keep who they are, but with exposure and exposé this is not the case. The exposé brings down individuality because the content is open and disseminated to people who could have no relation to the original content creator. I’m curious to see if the DREAMer networks consist mostly of immigrants or if the communities have a diversity. If the undocumented immigrants are just surrounding themselves with themselves, the their discourse will not “allow them to articulate political alternatives that can be shared across time and space.”

If hospitals, prisons, corporations, and schools concretize the ways in which societies’ control individual existence (through control of reform, production, health, etc), digital media plays an interesting role in defining what exactly we are controlled by when engaged with by individuals. The internet might be far too fast to examine in this particular example, but the world of World of Warcraft might suffice. Thinking of the ways in which Foucault’s notion of biopower sublimate in the World of Warcraft, we can see a similar connection to Deleuze. The power of institutions in societies of control is gaseous, it spreads out beyond the institution itself and permeates. Deleuze’s text makes me think about the ways in which his notions of control conflate and intersect with digital media, potentially creating a problem that exists in both the digital and non-digital world. In particular, I’m thinking on online-for profit colleges, or modes of production that are entirely digital like the World of Warcraft gold farmers.

In “Stitch Bitch: The Patchwork Girl”, Shelly Jackson writes, in regards to hypertext, “You can’t tell what’s the original and what’s the reference. Hierarchies break down into chains of likenesses.” Hypertext essentially operates as flattening tool that, in some instances, reclaims power from what Jackson refers to as (in so many words) reality’s hegemony within fiction.

In my group presentation, my peers and I explored the way in which hypertext operates within Buzzfeed’s listicles. While hypertext makes the lateral and flattening movements that Jackson describes, it also facilitates the listicle’s massage-like quality which can quell the reader into a spell of the unquestioning intake of information. Hypertext, in this way, is rather harmless in the typical listicle (11 best condiments to put on french toast!) where the stakes of the content are low. However, as Buzzfeed transitions towards more politicized and long-form content, hypertext potentially becomes more insidious. I bring my extremely condensed version of my group project into this discussion to illustrate the fact that hypertext’s lateral, or flattening, movements are not always as ‘democratic’ as they appear to be. I am interested in the ways in which hypertext becomes insidious, and how we navigate these instances.

In this post, I am going back to week 13 to address the readings from that week. Ranciere discussed the paradox of democracy in that the democracy of social life undermines the political democracy. However, I also saw this paradox in the examples of how some immigration reform activists use social media as a platform to give a face to their campaigns. The individual support of each individual is stressed. Giving each opinion and voice a face, a more personified aspect, would enhance the support of the campaign to bring together a collective of relatable individuals. This made me think of my sister’s favorite artist, JR, that she told me about a few months ago. He does something a bit different- instead of bringing together thousands of voices, he highlights just one, but on a huge scale. He plasters a cut-out of a photo of an immigrant on a public surface so that the image can then only be viewed in its entirety from a distance or from a bird’s eye view. Most recently he plastered an image near the flat iron building where thousands of people walked over the art piece without knowing. Only until the cover of last weekend’s NY Magazine showed the image from above did it become apparent what it was. It is supposed send the message that the immigrants are integrated into the US, where everyone passes by each other without being aware of their background. They are sewn into the fabric of the everyday life in the states.

The stakes are high in Julian Dibbel’s “A Rape in Cyberspace”: the incident of Mr. Bungle calls to question the division between public, private, digital, and physical space. I came away from this article not only asking myself how we can navigate digital and physical spaces (given this example), but wondering about this subject’s connection to notions of screen essentialism explored later on in the course. How do we engage the digital space of digital crimes and maintain Kirschenbaum’s notion of a symbiotic feedback loop? How does A Rape in Cyberspace translate into the physical world, and thus transform notions and sublimations of visibility?

Cramer defines ‘Post-digital” as a condition in which digital technology is no longer new media. And, conversely, where ‘new media’ is no longer by definition digital.

Actually, what he says is that progress and innovation in the post-digital era relies on hybrid practices that combine old and new media. But are such hybridations necessarily a source of empowerment? For example if we think of the influence of channel surfing on media multitasking in the sense of Jenkins, that involve both analog and digital content, are we more able to develop critical thought? (not to mention task performance)

What is the future of big data? Does it give power to the people (as in the case of reducing cost of plane flights) or does it instead give power to the corporations (as a means of manipulating consumers)?

Ranciere claims within his chapter, Does Democracy Mean Something?, that there exists a democratic paradox as such: “democracy as a form of government is threatened by democracy as a form of social and political life and so the former must repress the later. Democratic life leads to a political excess that works only to undermine a central government, authority, and good policy. This excess of democratic activity is a result of the “democratic dreamers”, overvaluing their personal demands and interests rather than accepting the discipline and sacrifice required in a government expressing common interests.

Democratic dreamers are the part of the population who believe government should express democracy by representing the concept of “government of the people by the people.” This mentality in fact promotes democratic social life rather than a democratic government. If each and every individual’s personal political interests were expected to be met, all authority and notions a collective interest would be constantly challenged, throwing a government and society into political chaos.

Understanding Ranciere’s commentary on the nature of democracy as both a form of government and social life made me increasingly curious as to how this applies to the current democratic governments of the world, including my own. It appears, according to Ranciere, that the US government only operates successfully as a democracy by suppressing the freedom and chaos of democratic social life. US citizens seem to believe, however falsely, that they live in a democratic country. Excess political action certainly exists, from online political platforms and proposals to groups that exist despite extreme negative feedback such as the westborough Baptist church. Yet our government continues to operate successfully, and therefore, may not be acknowledging the political nature of its citizens to the extent they expect to be acknowledged. In this case, if we live by a democratic government, which successfully suppresses democratic life and avoids the political chaos it would engender, are many of us perhaps, as political citizens, living in an illusion of our own democratic power?

When Professor Chun talked about Mother in her lecture in March, it reminded me of the Ray Bradbury short story “There Will Come Soft Rains,” which describes an automatically functioning house in the fallout of a nuclear holocaust and its subsequent destruction in a fire. The eeriness of the story comes from the description of the automatic toaster, self-cleaning oven, and operator-less vacuum as they continue to operate without their creators. And while Mother is one step behind Bradbury’s vision of the “house of the future,” it still presents many similar implications. What would happen if Mother became widespread? After a certain period of time, people would stop looking at it as strange–it might even become ubiquitous; a fact of life. In this case, the smartphone-centered trend in technological overhaul of day-to-day tasks would become even more far-reaching. I am offering this thought as a slight condemnation of the degree to which we rely on forces outside our own control to manage the lives that very much determine our happiness and sense of the world at large. To me, the very idea of a machine called “Mother” was nothing short of disturbing.

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