At the rivers end, a basin
Vast and imposing
A nothing that holds the night
The moon is flesh and bone
And I am skin
Spilling out into the dark
There is feeling
Matter churning underneath
As muscle, inertia
We are disciplined bodies, unmoored
excavating the fertile soil
The wind is a pulse
And there are seedlings in my lungs
Burn the atmosphere
(Repeated as mantra)
In stilted exhalations
The surface is serene,
Cold and placid
But inside, only bile
A roiling tide
Saliva drips metallic and red
The taste is bitter
Dive deeper, saturnine
I am a chasm
I am a void
At terminal velocity
See the skin swell
And the stars fall like flies
To burn the horizon
Hear the birds scream to life as a symphony
And the feverish bodies
Entwined in the daybreak
Feel the rising
(Repeated as mantra)
I am drowning
I’m not dreaming
In rays of sunlight
In the beauty of the everyday
I am confronted by
Through the passing of days
The sum of my life is
Not equivalent to
As if the accumulation
An inertial joy.
Is no mathematics
Has no responsibility
They are as unmoored
Alone and Free.
Part 1: Work, Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
Running short on money and in desperate need of luxuries like health insurance, food, and booze I scoured the Internet for part time jobs. My primary source of income, as a dissertation fellow, pays a small stipend (nowhere near enough to live on in any city, much less a major one) and affords no benefits. And so, pockets empty, I began my search. My first stop was H-Net, though I wasn’t holding out much hope for a well-paid, part-time, quick-hire. After about 5 minutes I gave up and transitioned to Idealist and Indeed, looking for any jobs that might be intellectually stimulating, somewhat ethical, or at least tangentially related to my interests. Forty-five minutes later I was depressed on Craigslist.
Continue reading “I Wake Up and Everything’s Wrong”
On May 28th, 2016 a three-year-old black boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. As a result a 17-year-old gorilla inside the pen, Harambe, was shot, as the zoo argued, for the boy’s protection. Nearly three months later, on August 22nd the director of the zoo, Thane Maynard, issued a plea for an end to the ‘memeification’ of Harambe, stating, “We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe…Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us.” By the end of October, however, despite turgid proclamations to the contrary, the use of Harambe seems to be waning.
The six-month interim marked a significant transition in the media presence of Harambe, from symbol of public uproar and cross-species sympathy to widely memed Internet joke. The death and affective trajectory of Harambe, therefore, represents a unique vector in analyzing intersections of animality, race, and the phenomenon of virality. Harambe, like Cecil the Lion before him, became a widely appropriated Internet cause, one with fraught ethical implications.
Continue reading “Clicks Out for Harambe: Death, Race, and Memes”
In March 2013, at Microsoft’s annual research and development event TechFest, a new project was introduced that aimed to let “users interactively explore the full chain of events whereby individual news stories, videos, images, and petitions spread from one user to the next over a social network.” The program, in effect, aims to understand how content spreads through a social network such as Twitter. By aggregating large amounts of data and tracking how users share things on their Twitter accounts, ViralSearch turns the transmission of content into a visually friendly genealogy of media, which Microsoft terms its “virality.” The more descendants a video has, for example, meaning those who have shared it (which is broken up into generations, or subsets of users that represent one wave of shares) the more viral it is according to ViralSearch’s virality percentage. More than this, it actively differentiates between virality and popularity, by looking precisely at how the information is shared. As researcher Jake Hofman says,
This is what people sort of typically have in their mind when they think about one of these viral videos, but nobody’s really been able to actually look at the structure of these things to date. And so what we’re able to do is going through these billions of events we reconstruct these trees by looking at all the followers of everyone who adopts the content and using a large cluster to reconstruct these things and then a novel scoring method to actually distinguish this tree as being viral from just being popular.
Continue reading “Viral Geographies”
In the days before November 8th I wrote the following vignette for what was supposed to be a special Cyborgology roundtable, a collection of differing viewpoints on the U.S. presidential election. For a number of reasons that roundtable was never published. Nevertheless, I am now posting what I wrote, unedited. My intent in doing this is twofold. First, it is a time-specific encapsulation of my sentiments before the event itself. It is not a reflection on what I would do given what I know now, but emblematic of the inexact and speculative nature of politics. And second, because I feel as if, regardless of the moment it emerged from, this short essay still carries a lot of weight in this post-election period. In fact, I would probably write very close to the same thing again.
Continue reading “Reflections..”
I am become debt
possessed by frailty
I come as weakness
in presence meek
I come a part
now I am horizontal
I am under and in-between
in the appearance of love
I make their time
entwine in ours
towards a friction that is touch
now i am all
On May 13, 2016 the Obama administration issued a letter of guidance concerning the protection of gender identity in school housing, restrooms, and locker room facilities under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The letter was largely seen as a reaction to a March 2016 law passed in North Carolina, HB 2 – Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which limited public restroom use to one’s assigned at birth gender. On August 21, 2016, however, a Texas U.S. District judge blocked the federal government from implementing that directive, instead arguing that Title IX aimed to “protect students’ personal privacy, or discussion of their personal privacy, while in the presence of members of the opposite biological sex.” The district court applied a similar logic to HB 2 in arguing that gender identity was strictly “biological” (e.g., what one’s birth certificate says).
The district court ruling, in line with several others this year, relies on and perpetuates a number of transphobic beliefs which seem apropos to mention here, namely: a normalized definition of biological sex, the notion of trans bodies as illegible, impure, or incomplete, the forced hypervisibility of trans bodies through constant surveillance, the public fixation on genitalia as a ‘true’ indicator of gender identity, and the displacement/occlusion of responsibility for anti-trans violence. It is, in particular, the contemporary mobilization of a politics of shame, manifest through the aforementioned practices, however, that I would like to hone in on.
Continue reading “Bathroom Affects: Trans Rights and the Spectacle of Shame”
It feels good / To know that you really care
It feels good / To know that I can relax when I’m with you
It feels good / To know that I can be by your side
– “Feels Good” – TONY! TONI! TONE!
Some time ago, absentmindedly tweeting about the woeful state of higher education, I received a notification that one of my tweets was liked. This being somewhat rare, I excitedly went to check out who it was from, only to find that it was one of the institutions I was directly critiquing. If they had actually read the tweets I’m sure they wouldn’t have actually ‘liked’ them, so what gives?
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. Periodically, as I’m sure many of us do, I get likes, follows, and retweets that seem incongruous with the content of my posts. Some are a result of Twitter users actively seeking to aggregate info, gain followers, and increase their social media presence. Others are fully automated Twitter bots.
Twitter bots, for the uninitiated, are pieces of software that use automated scripts to crawl the Twitterverse in search of particular words or phrases, to follow, like, or retweet others. In 2014 Twitter revealed that as many as 8.5% of its active accounts were likely bots. Beyond mere annoyance at the lack of a human interlocutor behind a ‘like’ or ‘follow,’ however, why care about the presence of Twitter bots or the use of algorithms to harness the power of social media?
Continue reading “On Medial Desire – Or, That Philip K. Dick Title Everyone Uses”
Why do people do most of the things they do? Is it because they have arduously thought out the repercussions of each acts and decided rationally on the best course of action? No, of course not. We choose overwhelmingly with feeling. Our partners, our products, our political candidates. We might justify those decisions with logic and evidence, but it does not begin that way. The consumption of life without remorse (or even recognition that it was once life) demonstrates the fallacy of attributing/reducing ethics to mere logic. We are instead mostly governed through affective means, biopolitical and learned nonetheless, but not strict reason. It must feel good to unshed the skin of animal abuse, or more likely it must feel bad to exploit animals. The problem that this poses of course, besides binaristic moral reductionism, is that all too often the means through which we access pleasure is via the mechanisms of capital. Feel good about avoiding meat, dairy, leather by purchasing meat-alternative, dairy-alternative, leather-alternative. Do your part to defeat those evil industries of the past through the assembly of the new, totally different, definitely not evil, progressive industry. It doesn’t care about species-race-sexual identity as long as you purchase it. This would of course not be problematic if the very core tenets of capital didn’t themselves rely on exploitation. Those vegan-commodities are a bit more expensive, but that extra goes to ensure that your product is ethical. Fair trade, organic, local, artisan, each buzzwords of hypermodern capital. But who collects on that surplus? Are the fair trade coffee empires anything but rosy facades that obviate the mechanisms of hierarchy production? Have we transcended work? Have our wages risen in the least? Has our healthcare improved? Do we still breed animals for other purposes?
Continue reading “Lust for Life”