Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

I seem to have found myself on a break from twitter, again. We can argue later about whether or not logging in to send dms to friends, or to click on the occasional link, constitutes ‘cheating’. But officially, I’m not there.

I’m not temporarily unplugging though, and claiming some kind of ‘detox’ from the internet as a whole. I agree with Casey N Cep who wrote recently in the New Yorker:

‘Few who unplug really want to surrender their citizenship in the land of technology; they simply want to travel outside it on temporary visas. Those who truly leave the land of technology are rarely heard from again, partly because such a way of living is so incommensurable. The cloistered often surrender the ability to speak to those of us who rely so heavily on technology. I was mindful of this earlier this month when I reviewed a book about a community of Poor Claresin Rockford, Illinois. The nuns live largely without phones or the Internet; they rarely leave their monastery. Their oral histories are available only because a scholar spent six years interviewing them, organizing their testimonies so that outsiders might have access. The very terms of their leaving the plugged-in world mean that their lives and wisdom aren’t readily accessible to those of us outside their cloister. We cannot understand their presence, only their absence.’

I am not ‘absent’, technologically speaking, then, even if that sometimes seems an attractive prospect, and even if I don’t tweet for a while. I am still reachable via the usual means. I still need the internet to go about my daily business, such as it is.

This piece by Adrianne LaFrance is an interesting commentary on where twitter is at, in 2014, 5 years after it came into being. I don’t agree with everything she says. But I have my own reasons for finding twitter now a lot less fun than it seemed back in 2010 when I joined. One of the problems is that I do not feel free to speak my mind on twitter anymore. And I’m not really prepared to try and produce a sanitised, easy to swallow version of QRG.

Sometimes the ‘breaks’ in relationships expand and merge and turn into permanent splits. Maybe that will happen with me and twitter, maybe it won’t. But for now, I’m seeing other people. We’re on a break!!

 

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Happy New Year!  I hope to introduce you to more writers, thinkers and do-ers  in 2014. Maybe I’m a bit tired of the cut of my own jib, or maybe I’ve suddenly gone shy(!). Either way, I think engaging with a variety of perspectives is always a good thing.

An independent-minded UK-based blogger/tweeter I like is Jacobinism. He has begun the year with a thought-provoking post entitled Racism; Censorship; Disunity. He puts forward the view that the ‘Left’, and ‘intersectional’ activists and writers within the Left, can be blind to oppression and violence unless it comes from white people. To illustrate his point he uses a case study from within the feminist blogosphere, where a young feminist woman was attacked and then censored by ‘intersectional’ feminism, for her views.  Jacobinism writes:

‘There is a damaging idea fast gathering influence on the Left that – like a lot of contemporary postmodern Leftist thought – urgently needs dismantling. This idea holds that racism is only possible when prejudice is married with power.

The corollary of this premise is that racism may only travel in one direction – from the powerful to the powerless – and it is therefore nonsensical to discuss, still less condemn, racist attitudes expressed by ethnic minorities. In the West, racism is the preserve of the white majority who use it – often, it is claimed, unconsciously – to sustain their advantage and to oppress those they deem to be ‘other’. In the geopolitical sphere, meanwhile, this racism is the preserve of the world’s wealthy democracies and is expressed as Orientalism, Military and Cultural Imperialism, and Neoliberalism, all of which are used to dominate and subjugate the Global South.’

Jacobin’s discussion of the feminist ‘storm’ that illustrates his points is probably best read in full. To give a flavour of the ‘case study’ here’s some extracts from his post:

‘On 20 December, the feminist writer and activist Adele Wilde-Blavatsky published an article in the Huffington Post entitled Stop Bashing White Women in the Name of Beyonce: We Need Unity Not Division. Wilde-Blavatsky’s post was a rebuke to those – on what she described as the post-colonial or intersectional feminist Left – who use identity politics and arguments from privilege to delegitimise the voices of white feminists speaking out about the abuse of women in the Global South and within minority communities in the West…

The response to this argument from the bien pensant Left ranged from the incredulous to the vitriolic.

In the comment thread below her article and in a storm which overwhelmed her twitter handle and her hashtag, Wilde-Blavatsky (who tweets as @lionfaceddakini) was derided with accusations of arrogance, ignorance, bigotry, racism and cultural supremacism. She was advised that she had not listened sufficiently closely to authentic voices of women of colour.  Others declared her to be beneath contempt and an object example of white feminism’s irrelevance. She was accused of using a fraudulent call for unity as a way of advancing an argument from white victimhood. It was demanded that she immediately re-educate herself by reading various academic texts on the subject. Her “white woman’s tears” were repeatedly mocked, as were her protestations that her own family is mixed-race. And, of course, there were the predictable demands for retraction, penitence and prostration…

To accept that one’s unalterable characteristics can play any part in the validity of an opinion is to submit to the tyranny of identity politics and endorse an affront to reason. Arguments about rights and ethics must be advanced and defended on their merits, irrespective of who is making them. There is no other way.’

I applaud Jacobin for taking on this thorny subject, and for referring to feminism in doing so. Not only do feminists find it difficult to have aspects of their dogma questioned, they find it particularly hard to stomach coming from a man. But I have a couple of points to make that disagree with his argument.

1) All feminism suggests men are ‘innately’ powerful and women not.  I agree with Jacobin  that actions should not be protected from criticism simply due to the identity of those taking them. But I am wary of Wilde-Blavatsky’s  allusions to patriarchal culture and behaviour in her criticisms of violence against women in ‘the Global South’. Isn’t the term ‘patriarchy’ a way of playing ‘identity politics’ too? Don’t men get dismissed by feminism in general for having views on gender because of their ‘unalterable characteristics’?

2) All feminism reinforces the gender binary There have always been tensions within feminism and different schools of thought within the ‘movement’. However as I have said in my ‘controversial’ piece Against Feminisms, all feminists rely on the binary of man v woman with ‘man’ being found powerful, oppressive and so not worth listening to. And so

‘ feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Julia Serano and Beverly Skeggs, even when they are referring to other divisions such as ethnicity, class and transgender identities, are still relying on the reification of the man v woman binary to support all their arguments about gender.’

3) Feminism is more ‘united’ than it seems I will write more on this another time, but my view is a lot of the ‘conflicts’ in feminism are not exactly fabricated, but they’re superficial.  Feminism does have common characteristics.  I find this ‘flowchart’ that was doing the rounds online recently, laughable. But it does indicate a basic worldview that I would suggest all feminists share to a large degree. It also illustrates clearly how not being a feminist is unacceptable and derided by feminists of all stripes (click image to enlarge):

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I don’t want a young woman writer to be censored for having the ‘wrong’ outlook. But I think young men are ‘censored’ from expressing their views on gender before they even begin. Gender studies and media output on gender are dominated by versions of Wilde-Blavatsky. I don’t privilege (‘white people’s’) racism over gender but I don’t think gender inequalities function how any feminist presents them. If that makes me persona non grata at some dinner parties who cares? I can have my own party (and the booze is always great)!

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Thanks to Amanda Kooser at c-net (and to my sister for sending me the link), for alerting me to this fantastic tumblr. ‘Des Hommes et Des Chatons’ does what it says on the tin and juxtaposes photos of hot men with pictures of cats/kittens in very similar poses. I don’t think the concept warrants much analysis, it’s just cute, funny, and clever. Unlike a recent artist’s project, ‘Men Ups’, which seemed to be saying men trying to look ‘sexy’ are laughable, this tumblr celebrates (metro) sexy men in a humourous way. I give it the paws up. What do you think?

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Do You Trust Me?

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Identity, internet, Writing
Tags: ,

 

above clip from Hal Hartley’s film, Trust (1990)

Trust is a funny thing. Every morning as we are forced from sleep into consciousness, we trust that the world is not too different from how we left it the night before. We trust that we’re not going to fall downstairs before even our first cup of coffee, that there is milk in the fridge, that the electrics haven’t blown. Even in a simple morning routine we put our trust in strangers – the postman, gas companies, engineers, the people who made the kettle and the toaster, the rubbish collectors, farmers, supermarket staff, cows. Human life relies on trust.

But sometimes trust between people breaks down. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment it happens, the precise cause of the splitting of the seams. But the effects are clear enough. Someone says something and you pause, sceptical about their words and the motives behind them. Your lover mumbles in their sleep and you wonder if they’re dreaming of someone else. The sunny weather that started the day looks like it could let you down any minute and turn to rain. Buying a paper in the newsagents you check your change twice, expecting the worst. That person who smiled at you on the tube must not have meant it.

Maybe your heart has been broken more than once. Maybe someone who posed as a friend turned on you, fast. Perhaps your parents didn’t protect you well enough when you were a child. You might have good reason not to trust.

But living without trust must be scary. Monsters loom behind every corner. Those people and organisations you once relied on now look like thieves and fraudsters. A hand held out to you could just as easily slap you in the face.

Some might find me naive, but despite of all the evidence mounting up to justify wariness, I still think it’s worth it, to trust. I still believe someone, somewhere, will catch me when I fall.

And another one’s gone! From Feminist Ideology. I was recently contacted by the blogger called Female Fed Up With Feminism. Like me, she is a woman who has used that precious right of women (and everyone else) everywhere, and changed her mind. Now that she has become ‘fed up’ with feminism, and seen its bias against men, and against honest open debate, she has decided to challenge some of the worst excesses of the gender politics ‘cult’. FFUWF writes:

‘I am a very proud non feminist female who has decided that it’s time to deal with the frenzy that is now going on in the media about how society is riddled with so-called ‘sexism’. I believe that things are much more complicated than that, and that the manner in which feminism is hijacking important issues is stopping us from having a mature and rational debate about many things.’

Also like me, the blogger is concerned about feminists’ tendency to attack  freedom of speech   in the name of combatting sexism.  And one of the outfits she finds most irritating and propogandist on the subject of sexism is that well known (to some of us) twitter account  and blog Everyday Sexism. If anyone has any ideas about how to challenge Everyday Sexism’s bullshit about men, women and gender, let us know!

I will finish by wishing this latest Female Fed Up With Feminism all the best in fighting her  ‘sisters’ . Don’t forget to wear protective clothing though – these debates can get very heated!

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Earlier this week I watched (for the first time) American TV Show Justified, about a cop working in small town Kentucky, amidst gangsters, drug dealers and evangelical Christians. The episode I watched featured a great guest performance from well known American comic Patton Oswalt. He and his co-star played a lovely Stan and Olly routine as they bungled their way through some dodgy moonlighting police work, destined to go wrong.

The next thing I knew Oswalt was the subject of a Salon article by Molly Knefel chastising him for failing to speak out against rape and violence against women. Oswalt had previously defended Daniel Tosh against a feminist blogger who slammed him for making rape jokes. Feminists are angry with him for showing empathy for the victims of the Boston bombings, but not for women who are raped or assaulted (- by men. I don’t think this row is about lesbian rape). Knefel wrote in Salon:

‘What is challenging, though, is speaking out against the normalization of sexual violence, the degradation of women, and the role and responsibility that men have in either perpetuating or combating rape culture.’

Then over on twitter Oswalt got more stick for what? Not getting down on his knees and confessing his sins to the Good Lady of Feminism?

I am annoyed about how the feminists have picked on an individual man in the public eye, and seem to be taking him to task for a complex socio-cultural set of issues in society. He’s just a guy who makes jokes. He’s not Obama or Bono – he hasn’t set himself up as a spokesman or a moral crusader. But more so I am annoyed that feminist writers are peddling a narrative – again- about men, those dirty dogs, and women those poor innocent damsels. It’s very Mills and Boon in a funny kind of way. As I said in what became a rather ‘controversial’ article –  Rape Culture and Other Feminist Myths:

‘My instinct is that holding onto special victim status has some pay offs for feminists. They can continue to present gender politics as a binary opposition between men (potential rapists) and women (perpetual potential victims of rape). Basically, the concept of rape culture is misandrist, and it does not allow for the fact that women are sometimes perpetrators of sexual assault, and men are sometimes on the receiving end.’

I am glad Patton Oswalt stood up for himself to a degree, and didn’t let the feminist mob walk all over him. But I hope that one day, a high profile man (or indeed woman, or anyone who identifies however) actually takes on the myth of ‘rape culture’ and challenges the nasty misandry that underpins it. Women rape too. Men can be victims of rape. Violence in our culture has more men victims as a whole than women. More men commit suicide and suffer injuries at work than women. The ‘rape culture’ schtick is WRONG.

I of course say this often. But when I speak out against feminist rape culture fantasies people attempt to ‘silence’ me. I had my Rape culture myths piece taken down from The Good Men Project, and when I questioned feminist versions of rape culture over at cyborgology blog, my comments were deleted and I was chastised for being ‘unscholarly’. But its the dodgy statistics, misandry and – yes – hysterical premises of feminism’s precious ‘rape culture’ that is unscholarly.

Yes Patton Oswalt has a ‘platform’. But so does feminism. And when it comes to gender issues any man is at risk of being sent to the wolves if he speaks out of line. I believe any subject should be fair game for comedy. And I’ll be taking suggestions for jokes about feminists at the usual address. We could start with this lovely lady as inspiration:

h/t Henry for the Red video.

 

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

-Florence and the Machine

This is a short note to say I won’t be around much in the public rooms of the internet for a while.  I’m not able to speak/write freely or tell of my present situation so, in those circumstances, I am ‘going dark’ for a bit.

Friends can always find me in the usual ways.

See you soon, in the full light of day. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

XXQRG

 
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I have just joined a Foucault Discussion Group in which we are going to read and discuss, aided by the joys of Google Groups, Foucault’s 1983 Lectures. Entitled The Government of Self And Others, this collection is particularly poignant to me because it represents some of Foucault’s last public work before he died in 1984. The original transcripts are owned by his ‘widow’, Daniel Defert. I still can’t quite get my head round what it must have been like, what it still is like (Defert is now  75) to have been the lover and life partner of such a man as Michel Foucault.
 
Even a casual observer can’t help but convey some of the electrifying moments when seeing Foucault, Live! Journalist Gerard Petitjean wrote in 1975: 
 

‘When Foucault enters the amphitheater, brisk and dynamic like<

someone who plunges into the water, he steps over bodies to

reach his chair, pushes away the cassette recorders so he can put

down his papers, removes his jacket, lights a lamp and sets off at

full speed. His voice is strong and effective, amplified by the

loudspeakers that are the only concession to modernism in a hall

that is barely lit by light spread from stucco bowls. The hall has

three hundred places and there are five hundred people packed

together, filling the smallest free space . . . There is no oratorical

effect. It is clear and terribly effective. There is absolutely no

concession to improvisation. Foucault has twelve hours each year

to explain in a public course the direction taken by his research

in the year just ended. So everything is concentrated and he fills

the margins like correspondents who have too much to say for the

space available to them. At 19.15 Foucault stops. The students

rush towards his desk; not to speak to him, but to stop their cassette

recorders. There are no questions. In the pushing and shoving

Foucault is alone. Foucault remarks: “It should be possible to

discuss what I have put forward. Sometimes, when it has not

been a good lecture, it would need very little, just one question,

to put everything straight. However, this question never comes.

The group effect in France makes any genuine discussion

impossible. And as there is no feedback, the course is theatricalized.

My relationship with the people there is like that of an actor

or an acrobat. And when I have finished speaking, a sensation of

total solitude . . .’

- Gérard Petitjean, “Les Grands Prêtres de l’université française,” Le Nouvel Observateur

1983 and 1975 are a long time ago now.   When Foucault was giving his last lectures before his death, I was too busy trying on ra-ra skirts and buying Howard Jones records to notice. But since I first read Foucault in the early 1990s, I have been quite overwhelmed by the clarity and incisive force of his ‘voice’.  So I strongly disagree with philosopher John Searle, who, like many, describes Foucault’s writing style as ‘obtuse':

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‘Philosopher John Searle once asked Foucault why his writing was so obtuse when he was easily understandable in conversation. Foucault told Searle that 25% of one’s writing needs to be incomprehensible nonsense to be taken seriously by French philosophers.’

I think these lectures show that actually Foucault’s speaking and writing styles were quite similar, and his urgency to illuminate and interact with his audience/readers was as strong in both arenas. Beginning to read the transcripts I am already reminded of Freud, and how it is quite easy to switch between his written work and representations of his speeches/lectures. I am also pleased to see that whilst I’ve struggled to find in Michel’s oeuvre, any direct challenge to or description of the function of ‘power’ in academia, the comments on Foucault’s lectures do show he had some issues with the conventions of the university, and the problems of actually having a dialogue between lecturers and students. If I’d been there I have no doubt I’d have been one of the keen young things arranging to meet Michel for coffee off campus to get down to discussing the nitty gritty of his ideas.

The journalist who wrote the evocative passage above called his article ‘Les Grands Pretres de l’universite francaise’ – The High Priests of The University of France. Now I am a critic of the ‘Great Men Theory’ of history which holds up individuals as demigods. But as my novella Scribbling On Foucault’s Walls reveals, I am guilty of embodying it too.

At the risk of completely going into religious mode, a radio four programme last night called  The Voice Of God also seems relevant here.  Participants in the show talk about how, despite all the texts and rituals people use to ‘find God’, the voice of God is actually pretty difficult to hear. In order to get the full benefit of God’s message, you have to put yourself somewhere very quiet and still, you have to meditate and open yourself up to what He might want to say to you.

And it’s the same with Foucault – for me, at least. I think there’s an interesting dissonance between how his work is all about the ‘modern’ (or postmodern, or post-postmodern) age, with its institutions, discourse, power relations and ‘noise’, but the only way to really ‘get it’ is to sit back and stop, to read, to listen, to think.

That’s what I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks. But as my long suffering readers/friends know, I might find it hard to keep my meditations to myself!

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Over at Cyborgology blog,  Whitney Erin Boesel has written a critical post about gender representation in Digital Dualism Debates. To really engage with what she writes, if you’re not part of the discussion already, you might have to read some of the posts she links to. Here I show the begining para of her piece, followed by my comments BTL and her reply to me. Then I will see if I can ‘widen’ out this topic to be relevant to more than just the digital dualists (and their opponents).

Whitney ( @Phenatypical) wrote:

‘If you’re a regular reader of Cyborgology, chances are good that you caught the most recent “brouLOL” (yes, that’s like a 21st century brouhaha) over digital dualism and augmented reality. If you’re a careful reader of Cyborgology, chances are good you also caught (at least) one glaring omission in much of the writing featured in this wave of commentary. What was missing?

Ladies, gentlemen, and cyborgs, allow me to (re)introduce you to Jenny Davis (@Jup83) and Sarah Wanenchak (@dynamicsymmetry)—oh yeah, and my name’s Whitney Erin Boesel (I’m @phenatypical). None of us identify as men, and all of us have written about digital dualism. In fact, you may have seen our work referenced recently under our collective noms de plume: “the other digital dualism denialists,” “others on this blog,” “others,” “other Cyborgologists,” “other regular contributors,” etc. If you’re a crotchety sociologist with a penchant for picking apart language (ahem: guilty), it doesn’t get much better than this. Per the conversation earlier this month, there are two groups of people who write about digital dualism on Cyborgology: there are named men, and there are unnamed Others’

I responed:

‘I too notcied the debate being framed as between what I termed – a bit sarcastically – ‘men of ideas’.

But I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say women are being ‘silenced’. Your post is not silence for a start. And in the piece by Machine Starts about Jurgenson v Carr the writer also mentioned Sherry Turkle at least. And at the #ttw13 there were loads of women talking, tweeting, organising, questioning etc.

Here’s my take. I believe that the ‘where are the women?’ statements are PART OF THE PROBLEM. They give too much credit to the ‘white men’ and their ‘pissing contests’ and present women as innocent victims of their lack of ‘voice’.

I believe gender inequalities are a problem in the realms in which you are focussing on – academia, journalism, tech, entrepreneurship etc. But I dont think these inequalities are as simple as a ‘lack’ of women and a ‘dominance’ of men. You mention trans people and people from diverse ethnicities, but as an afterthought, or as subservient to ‘women’.

I am a woman. And, as I have said before, the people who have ‘silenced’ or attempted to silence me the most have been feminist women.’

Whitney replied:

‘hi QRG – thanks for your comment. i agree with you that there were a good number of women engaging in dialogue around #TtW13; in fact, that’s part of why i think there *must* be more women writing about these issues, too!

we both know there’s a lot of gender stuff we’ll never agree on (though i like to think we have our points of agreement as well ;) , but there are two points in your comment i wanted to address:

first, i certainly have not intended to treat transpeople and people of color as afterthoughts. my focus in *this post* is the way women theorists were overlooked in a particular conversation (everyone writing for cyborgology at present is white, as is everyone who’s engaged in the early march 2013 debate so far as i know); what i want to do in my *future post* is highlight work done by a range of non-white-men. there are probably more non-white-men doing this type of work; i just don’t know about them yet. wanting to know is part of why i wrote this piece.

second, there’s a big difference between “speaking” and “being listened to.” women ARE speaking about digital dualism, as i’ve illustrated! but if no one’s listening (or if most of everyone is ignoring), that’s being silenced-in-effect–and i think it’s important to recognize that.’

I replied:
‘I do not think ‘white men’ is an accurate description of those who dominate debates on digital dualism or anything else. I suspect they have other characteristics in common. Because in USA for example, many ‘white men’ are INCREDIBLY disadvantaged in terms of economics, education etc. Are they writing about digital dualism? I doubt it. Once we start looking at ‘the academy’ we are already talking about some very ‘well off’ people in many ways.

also, as for ‘not being listened to’ = ‘silencing’ I see where you’re coming from. But not sure its an exact fit. and again, it is feminist women who have ‘not listened’ to me the most, in groups, on blogs, twitter etc and who have banned and blocked me to high heaven. so ‘silencing’ is not just something those big bad ‘white men’ do.’

——————-

So how does this exchange fit into wider debates on gender, academia, and the ‘digital society’ we live in? Firstly I have noticed before that the rather loaded question, Where Are The Women? is asked frequently and insistently. Where are the women in politics? science? celebrity chef land? music industry? etc. And the answer usually seems to be that they are cowering under the weight and dominance of those beasts – men. I find it is normally white, middle class feminist women, who already have some ‘power’ in life, who ask this question. And that they blame their brothers and husbands and colleagues – white middle class men, for the lack of parity in gender representation in their fields. Boesel says in her piece she is not looking here for reasons for gender inequalities in digital dualism debates. But I think she is. And I think she finds reasons – ‘white men’. But as I said in the comments, many many ‘white men’ are far more disadvantaged and far more ‘silent’ in the media, academia, technology, than the women she is championing. Because inequality doesn’t cut down a binary line. It’s complicated! The calls of ‘where are the women’ just reinforce the binary, and maintain the ‘silence’ of those not ‘represented’ by it in my view.

Secondly, the notion of ‘divides’ in digital cultures is not always helpful. In his #ttw13 talk,  ‘Urban Libraries and the Control of Access’ Daniel Greene ( @greene_dm ) critiqued the concept of the ‘digital divide’. He – yes, he is as far as I can tell a ‘white man’ – suggested this binary presentation of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in digital culture is simplistic and misleading. The myriad ways in which we access technology or are excluded from technological activities, are not expressed by this phrase. And I think the ‘where are the women?’ phrase similarly simplifies and obfuscates the complex issues of gender, opportunity, ‘silence’ and voice in digital dualism debates. At one point in her piece Whitney asked for us to send her links of work by ‘non white men’ on digital dualism, including people from various ethnic minority backgrounds, and trans people. I dont think this is the answer either. Trans people in particular, I think, may have huge problems in having a voice and being visible in academic cultures, digital or otherwise. For them, ‘visibility’ can be hugely distressing, difficult,  linked to medical and financial issues around transition, and, can even be a matter of life or death. I don’t think it is any coincidence, for example, that Professor Raewyn Connell became ‘visible’ as a trans woman after she had developed her career and name as an academic in her assigned gender identity. As a trans person I dont think she’d have been able to achieve what she did, at least not without all sorts of very hard personal and political battles. Maybe some of the men and women writing on digital dualism are trans? But haven’t ‘come out’? And why should they? Boesel is not advocating ‘outing’ trans academics, but I think she may be assuming more of them are ‘out and proud’ than there probably are.

 I have more to say on this. And, I am glad that, the group at cyborgology won’t try to ‘silence’ me. I have found them welcoming and open in their style of engagement. However, one of the issues I do intend to tease out is, illustrated by Boesel’s post, some of the gender politics these exciting young academics espouse, are lagging behind their more forward thinking 21st century ideas on digital societies and digital dualism. Donna Haraway was, in some ways ahead of her time with her cyborg feminism. But in other ways she was very much of her time, and she held up ‘women’ to be special flowers in my opinion, oppressed by those big bad wolves, men. I dont see the world like that. And I don’t think cyborgology has room for gender or any other form of binaries.

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At the weekend I attended remotely the Theorizing The Web 2013 conference. Before telling you how brilliant it was I’m going to question my own terms.

First, in describing my participation as happening ‘remotely’, by watching the livestream of talks online and by taking part in the #ttw13 twitter hashtag discussion, I misrepresent things. For, unlike probably all other conferences I have taken part in online, there was nothing remote about my experience of Theorizing The Web 2013. The organisers, Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey, practise what they preach. They have designed a happening that embeds the IRL talks and discussions in a university, into the digital contexts that form the subject of those discussions. Or is it the other way round? That’s my point. Whilst I was asking questions to panelists (via twitter), talking to delegates and watching and listening to the speakers, I felt the opposite of remote from proceedings. This photo by  Aaron Thompson is a brilliant evocation of the ‘embedded’ nature of #ttw13. All those people sat in the room listening to the speakers and putting their hands up to ask questions, are also online on their laptops and ipads, following the #ttw13 discussion on twitter, looking at the speakers’ presentation slides online and chatting to other participants via the web. Do I wish I’d gone to NYC and been there in person? Yes. Do I think I missed out on anything (apart from what looked like a rocking after party) by doing it online? No. In some ways I may have even seen more and talked to more people through ‘remote’ participation than I had I been at CUNY trying to fit everything in and talk to everyone face to face.

The other term I used that  I am not entirely happy with is ‘conference’. #ttw13 may follow the format of an academic conference, with a keynote speaker and seminar talks and Q and As, but again, it is not like any conference I have been to before. The conference structure tends to be quite static. You have to listen and be quiet during sessions then get to talk to people, often accompanied by far too much alcohol, in the evenings. But the embeddedness of #ttw13 meant that many of us were chatting whilst watching talks, and even watching more than one talk at once, going online, googling names, papers, images, being ‘active’ in a way the traditional conference doesn’t allow. I found ‘networking’ online at #ttw13 richer and more meaningful than those awkward conversations I have had with academics in conference venues, realising I have little in common with them inspite of our shared ‘research interests’.

oh. I think I might have conveyed some of my enthusiasm for #ttw13 in trying to challenge its/my terminology. Perhaps these videos of the live streamed talks will also put across what a lively, deep-thinking and fun occasion it was. I will write some more observations in due course. But mainly I am very happy I stumbled across Jurgenson and PJRey on – yes – twitter, and that I am a part of the theorizing the web project.

Photo: Aaron Thompson