A wonderful synthesis of feminist rhetorical scholarship over the last three decades. Royster and Kirsch outline the methodologies that have been takeA wonderful synthesis of feminist rhetorical scholarship over the last three decades. Royster and Kirsch outline the methodologies that have been taken up by feminist scholars and show how feminist approaches have re-shaped the field....more
After Carr's piece in the Atlantic a few years ago ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?"), I expected to read this and be fairly annoyed and infuriated, butAfter Carr's piece in the Atlantic a few years ago ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?"), I expected to read this and be fairly annoyed and infuriated, but the book was actually an interesting read. I kind of flew through it in the airport, so I'll just leave it at that....more
An excellent reflection on queer sex publics, with wonderful images (drawings, mostly) of spaces and places where queers have engaged in sex. IncludesAn excellent reflection on queer sex publics, with wonderful images (drawings, mostly) of spaces and places where queers have engaged in sex. Includes short but insightful discussions of queer sex publics from a variety of scholars and activists....more
In Information Please, Mark Poster asks how information works differently when it is mediated through digital machines, arguing that much cultural theIn Information Please, Mark Poster asks how information works differently when it is mediated through digital machines, arguing that much cultural theory has ignored the importance of specific media in understanding subjectivity, relations among people, and culture (4). He begins with the basic contention "that information increasingly appears in complex couplings of humans and machines" (9). One important aspect of this coupling for Poster is a "new hermeneutic, one that underscores the agency of the media," meaning that we can no longer posit a simple subject/object dichotomy that sees subjects as fundamentally different and separate from objects (10).
Through his discussions of various schools of thought, including postcolonialism, Hardt and Negri's theory of empire, theories of identity, postmodernism, and media theory, Poster argues that these theories, while informative and helpful, often fail to take into account the specifics of media, especially digital media, in their theorization. He argues that digital public spheres "constructs the subject through the specificity of its medium in a way different from oral or written or broadcast models of self constitution" (41). Digital media constructs users as producers, "who are present only through their textual, aural, and visual uploads" (41, 195-196).
He argues that digital technologies are "not prosthesis, not a mechanic addition to an already complete human being, but an intimate mixing of humans and machine that constitutes an interface outside the subject-object binary" (48). The self becomes embedded in various digital databases, which disrupts our understanding of identity as consciousness (92); information about oneself is exteriorized (100), and so "Digital networks thus extend the domain of insecurity to objects that had previously been relatively safe" (101). Identity thus can no longer be understood as consciousness: "Identity is thus a double operation of material trace and consciousness bound together in a configuration that solidifies the figure of identity" (112).
Poster also argues that perhaps we need to reconfigure ethics for digital media, because we are uprooted from local communities, come into contact with a wider array of human behavior, and disrupts the public/private distinction so that we encounter things that we'd prefer to think of as "evil" but would rather not encounter and just let be (149). Additionally, the ease of just removing yourself from a digital encounter raises ethical questions, and Poster posits that perhaps "virtual ethics entail a different, perhaps more demanding, type of obligation. The moral imperative might be 'act so that you will continue to maintain the identities you have constructed in relation with others'" (153).
He argues that "The screen is thus a liminal object, an interface between the human and the machine that invites penetration of each by the other" (175).
I particularly enjoyed Poster's discussion of how images travel and move in planetary ways online, how "identity theft" is a recent development, and other developments he discusses.
Poster, Mark. Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines. Durham: Duke UP, 2006....more
I was super excited to read this (finally!) and really enjoyed it. I think it just moved too fast at times. I wanted it to slow down a lot. But I loveI was super excited to read this (finally!) and really enjoyed it. I think it just moved too fast at times. I wanted it to slow down a lot. But I loved the darkness, moodiness, and the way Superman is a chump. :)...more
Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect is a journalistic approach to the development and changes in Facebook as a platform and company since its inception.Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect is a journalistic approach to the development and changes in Facebook as a platform and company since its inception. The book is easy and fairly quick to read, and chock full of details. At times, I think it was a bit too heavy on advertising approaches and financial issues, but overall, it was enjoyable. The book also serves as a nice counterpart to the dramatized The Social Network, and provides some factual accounts that the movie glosses over, dramatizes, or changes for filmic and dramatic effect.
Kirkpatrick spends a chapter chronicling the beginning of Facebook, from Zuckerberg's Facemash (23-24) to the development of Thefacebook at Harvard, which he notes was "from the beginning driven by the hormones of young adults" with the ability to mark what one was "Looking for" and "interested in" (32). Later chapters place Facebook in the context of other social networks at the time, explore how they got investors and advertisers, changes in the platform and reactions to those changes, the move from Harvard to California, and other issues and experiences.
One of the issues that Kirkpatrick discusses is privacy, and the constantly shifting privacy policies and new privacy issues that Facebook constantly dealt with as they rolled out new features. Part of the reason people trust Facebook, Kirkpatrick claims, is that the platform relies on and requires a real identity. He quotes Chris Kelly, who heads privacy at Facebook: "Trust on the Internet depends on having identity fixed and known" (13). Zuckerberg also believes that to have multiple identities shows "al lack of integrity," and that the world is becoming more transparent, so it's pragmatic to have just one identity on a social networking site (198). Zuckerberg also attributes people's willingness to be open and "real" on Thefacebook to the platform's orderliness: unlike Myspace, which allowed users to do just about anything, Thefacebook was structured and ordered from the beginning (100). Kirkpatrick devotes an entire chapter on Privacy (Chapter 10).
With almost every new feature, Facebook was critiqued for harming privacy. For instance, the News Feed, which was developed to make content more easily accessible (because before, you had to go to users' pages to see if they've updated), led to many feeling that Facebook was allowing for stalking. Facebook responded with new privacy features (188-194)
Facebook's platform itself gets a lot of attention in the book. Zuckerberg had a vision of a platform where people would use it as they needed, and he understood Facebook as helping people "understand the world around them" and other people, not as a waste of time (143). He called Facebook "a utility," attempting to get the platform out of the way so that people could just interact (144, 160). Aaron Sittig, a graphic designer who worked for Facebook, said, "We didn't want people to have a relationship with Facebook so much as to find and interact with each other" (144-145).
This perspective is a bit ironic given how much they tried to create the "Facebook trance," where people would just keep clicking through Facebook. In fact, the photos app that added was designed just for this: just by clicking a picture, not by clicking "next," allowed users to fly through photos quickly and easily (154-155). However, it's clear Facebook was about relationships, as the photos showed. Unlike Myspace, where photos were about self-presentation, on Facebook they are about showing relationships (156).
Zuckerberg seems to have a bit of a utopian perspective on Facebook, wanting to create a platform that could be the entire Internet experience. Also, interestingly, there's a hope that Facebook could improve relations, that somehow getting more information about others "should create more empathy" (278) and that Facebook works as a gift economy (287-288).
Overall, this was an enjoyable and easy read.
Kirkpatrick, David. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010....more
Bersani's Is the Rectum a Grave? is largely a project to put Focault's injunction to look for new ways of relating to each other, psychoanalytical thoBersani's Is the Rectum a Grave? is largely a project to put Focault's injunction to look for new ways of relating to each other, psychoanalytical thought, and aesthetics in conversation with each other. Because it is a collection of essays, lectures, and interviews, it gets a tad repetitive at times, but this repetition is also helpful in that it approaches the same questions from a variety of ways. Ultimately, Bersani's writing addresses "our most urgent project now: redefining modes of relationally and community, the very notion of sociality" (172).
"Is the Rectum a Grave?" is foundation for queer theory, and is largely a response to representation of HIV/AIDS in popular discourses. Bersani argues that popular media doesn't teach a lot about HIV/AIDS, but can teach us a lot about heterosexual anxieties about HIV/AIDS, homosexuals, and families. This media is geared toward heterosexuals, and helps to make "the family mean in a certain way" (9). Bersani also outlines how discourses about AIDS equate promiscuity with infection (18) and portrays gays as killers (17). He logically argues that the claims of MacKinnon and Dworkin are right in a way: pornography can be realism and denigrating toward women. The ultimate logic of their argument, however, is "the criminalization of sex itself until it has been reinvented" (20), and he actually sees MacKinnon and Dworkin as sharing assumptions with Foucault, Weeks, and others: that sex needs to be redefined. His problem with Dworkin and MacKinnon is their pastoralization of sex: they ignore "the inestimable value of sex as—at least in certain of its ineradicable aspects—anticommunal, antiegalitarian, antinurturing, antiloving" (22). Bersani argues for the value of powerlessness in sex: the "radical disintegration and humiliation of the self" (24). We need to reinvent the body, and Bersani argues that gay men (and everyone) should not be modeling sex off of patriarchal, heterosexual pastoral sex: the value of sexuality itself is to demean the seriousness of efforts to redeem it" (29). He concludes that "The self is a practical convenience; promoted to these status of an ethical ideal, it is a section for violence" (30).
"An important function of art might be redefined as anticommunitarian, against (to the extent that this is possible) institutional assimilations of particular works" (34).
Value of homes: "Our implicit and involuntary message might be that we aren't sure of how we want to be social, and that we therefore invite straights to redefine with us the notions of community and sociality" (38).
On shame: "we will never participate in the invention of what Foucault called 'new relational models' if we merely assert the dignity of a self we have been told to be ashamed of" (69).
Teaching: "it's a sustained time and space where you do nothing but see who a group of people are going to connect" (200).
"Pedagogy and friendship are modes of extensibility less glamorous than public sex (a current queer favorite) but perhaps more worthy of exploration. . . . To redefine friendship would be a political move" (201)....more
One of my committee members suggested I re-read John Dewey's The Public and Its Problems because my dissertation is dealing with issues of privacy, puOne of my committee members suggested I re-read John Dewey's The Public and Its Problems because my dissertation is dealing with issues of privacy, publicity, and the social. It was a delight to return to early 20th century pragmatism, since I haven't read much (except for Josiah Royce) since my master's program. Here's a few (disjointed) notes and quotations from Dewey.
Dewey argues that the public/private distinction is not simply an individual/social distinction, because private acts can be social: "their consequences contribute to the welfare of the community or affect its status and prospects" (13). For Dewey, "any transaction deliberatively carried on between two or more persons is social in quality. It is a form of associated behavior and its consequences may influence further associations" (13). Thus, private acts between individuals can be social. Dewey seems to define social as something that is largely good for society, and thus some public acts are not "socially useful" (14).
Dewey's ontology of humanity is one of becoming: unlike other things that associate, a human "becomes a social animal in the make-up of his ideas, sentiments and deliberate behavior" (25). Becoming human: "To learn to be human is to develop through the give-and-take of communication an effective sense of being an individually distinctive member of a community; one who understands and appreciates its beliefs, desires and methods, and who contributes to a further conversion of organic powers into human resources and values. But this translation is never finished" (154).
The same is true for democracy: it is an ideal, a becoming, rather than a fact: "the tendency and movement of some thing which exists carried to its final limit, viewed as completed, perfected. Since things do not attain such fulfillment but are in actuality distracted and interfered with, democracy in this sense is not a fact and never will be" (148).
The Public occurs when "association adds to itself political organization" (35). For Dewey, the Public is intricately tied to the state, involving organization and representation (35). The problem of the Public is that it cannot recognize itself. Dewey writes that "'The new age of human relationships' has no political agencies worthy of it. The democratic public is still largely inchoate and unorganized" (109).
Method: He is also less interested in causes of events and phenomenon, which can lead to wild "interpretation" (19) and tautological arguments (I'm reminded here a bit of Eve Sedgwick's critique of hermeneutics of suspicion). Instead, he is more interested in an "empirical and historical treatment of the changes in political forms and arrangements, free from any overriding domination such as is inevitable when a 'true' state is postulated" (46). Thus, Dewey proposes that in order to create a more vital democratic public, we need to turn to a scientific method, one that attends to consequences and criteria. "Intelligence" itself is not enough, for we are stuck in habits that are conservative (157-159). His proposal is ultimately a "logic of method" like the experimentation in laboratories (202).
On technology: "Industry and inventions in technology, for example, create means which alter the modes of associated behavior and which radically change the quantity, character and place of impact of their indirect consequences" (30). Technology create means that affect how we associate.
Finally, "the first and last problem" that we must address "is the relation of the individual to the social" (186). "The individual" is hard to define because it is a matter of perspective: something can appear to be individual, until you either break it up more or look at the connections that it depends upon (187). Dewey defines individual as "A distinctive way of behaving in conjunction and connection with other distinctive ways of acting, not as self-enclosed way of acting, independent of everything else" (188). For individuals to be "social" together, instead of just "associative" there must be common interest and joint action (188). Dewey is suspicious of "evolutionary" claims about sociality (that we are moving to or from collectivism) because there is a "continuous re-distribution of social integrations on the one hand and of capacities and energies of individuals on the other" (193).
Reading this was useful in getting a discussion of the social, public, and individual/collectivism. I was mostly familiar with some of Dewey's arguments already, but it was nice returning to him. A few concerns: Dewey privileges the local community as necessary for improved democracy (216). What to do with this in today's social climate, where local communities seem fragmented and associations seem to be transnational or distributed over space and time? He also privileges face-to-face over print (218), which is understandable, but also limiting....more