If there is a better movie opening than this…

…it completely escapes me right now.

God damn that transition to Loggins’ Danger Zone, barely concealed beneath the eagles scream of the jet engine… amazing. It’s so transparent, and it so totally works. This was such a stunning film and I am totally obsessed with @555uhz. I’m thinking of writing a paper about it.

So much blending of love for man/machine.

On the lack of satisfying completion

is it just me or does thesis work almost uniquely, and supremely, lack the satisfaction of completion? maybe its just where im at right now, in the interminable finishing revision stage, but I feel like I’ve worked for months and months without the satisfaction of being able to say “there, that’s done” about nearly anything.

there are two milestones I had (both back in december!!) but even then the sense of satisfaction from completing a chapter, in both instances only lasted about an hour or so.

what can I do to cap things off a bit more and get that satisfaction? it might be important enough to keeping me motivated that I should figure something out. maybe i should set smaller tasks and like… do something when i smash em.

i dont really want anything with which to give myself in reward, tho, except perhaps to be rid of this albatross

Two quotes on censorship and ideology

The first from Abigail Levin’s (2010) ‘The Cost of Free Speech – Pornography, Hate Speech and their Challenge to Liberalism‘, p.150:

…censorship does not, and indeed cannot, operate in anything like the way that classical Millian liberal accounts suppose – that is, contrary to Mill’s account, subjects are not potentially censored by the state after speaking or after forming an intention to speak. They are ‘censored,’ if the term even makes any sense, well before they start to speak, and they are censored by repressive discourse itself, much of which is state driven. On the classical liberal conception of censorship, ‘censorship is an act of external interference with the internally generated communicative, expressive, artistic, or informational preferences of some agent’ (Schauer 1998: 150). This view takes for granted the traditional liberal account of subjectivity, where a subject is uncontroversially endowed, or deemed to be endowed, with the privacy and autonomy to formulate her own preferences, thoughts, and feelings. This picture takes the distinction between the internal – the realm of the agent – and the external – the realm of the other, usually the state – for granted. On the other hand, a Foucauldian account, including Butler’s, would problematize this distinction: if subjects are a production of power that is to some degree external to them, it would follow that there is no sharp distinction between the private, autonomous subject and the external world, composed of forces that act upon such subjects.

And Althusser’s (1969-70) ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’:

…an ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices. This existence is material.

Of course, the material existence of the ideology in an apparatus and its practices does not have the same modality as the material existence of a paving-stone or a rifle.

An individual believes in God, or Duty, or Justice, etc.  …The individual in question behaves in such and such a way, adopts such and such a practical attitude, and, what is more, participates in certain regular practices which are those of the ideological apparatus on which ‘depend’ the ideas which he has in all consciousness freely chosen as a subject. If he believes in God, he goes to Church to attend Mass, kneels, prays, confesses, does penance (once it was material in the ordinary sense of the term) and naturally repents and so on. If he believes in Duty, he will have the corresponding attitudes, inscribed in ritual practices ‘according to the correct principles’. If he believes in Justice, he will submit unconditionally to the rules of the Law, and may even protest when they are violated, sign petitions, take part in a demonstration, etc.

Throughout this schema we observe that the ideological representation of ideology is itself forced to recognize that every ‘subject’ endowed with a ‘consciousness’ and believing in the ‘ideas’ that his ‘consciousness’ inspires in him and freely accepts, must ‘act according to his ideas’, must therefore inscribe his own ideas as a free subject in the actions of his material practice. If he does not do so, ‘that is wicked’.

Indeed, if he does not do what he ought to do as a function of what he believes, it is because he does something else, which, still as a function of the same idealist scheme, implies that he has other ideas in his head as well as those he proclaims, and that he acts according to these other ideas, as a man who is either ‘inconsistent’ (‘no one is willingly evil’) or cynical, or perverse.

Watch the K Foundation burn a million quid

http://youtu.be/q33LPpx0QsY?t=10m

Watching this video makes me giddy. The world seems to peel back and the ground folds away beneath you, and if you concentrate on it in just the right way, you can step through the portal, temporarily, into a zone or region completely unlike anyplace you’ve ever been or ever will.

Chapter 5 – conclusions.

Two curious quotes from Margaret Thatcher

Both quotes come from the infamous “there is no society” interview which she gave to a magazine in 1987. Here’s the first:

I think that children, young people, today are longing for some standards by which to live. You have got to have rules by which to live. If you live totally isolated and alone like Diogenes in the tub, maybe it does not mind (sic) but the moment you live in a community, you have got to have some rules by which to live. You have got to say: “These are the rules and we have to live by them!” Of course they will be broken from time to time, but that is quite different from there not being any rules. I mean, you could not begin to play any of the games—this is how I want mostly to explain this to children —how could you play a game unless there were certain rules to it?

And then the famous quote itself is the second one:

I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation…

What a strange thing to say, only a few minutes after talking about communities and social rules and norms! I mean it’s almost a Freudian slip – a revealing little mistake about how she would like things to be – like she begins walking it back almost as soon as she’s said it, digressing into a discussion of obligations which is more in fitting with her earlier comments about community (community as rational holder of conservative norms??? community as conservative impulse even?).

Between the first and the second quote Thatcher is actually asked a bit about whether the first situation (the dissolution of strong community ties, which she blames on TV) was actually caused by greed. The interviewer says to her, “We seem to have more violence, we have the yuppies of the City sort of violent with money. We have competition and free enterprise and it seems somehow to go together with greed.” To which she responds in disagreement that it isn’t greed causing the problems, on the contrary, she says, “That is the great driving engine, the driving force of life. There is nothing wrong with having a lot more money.” Which is I think just question begging, because it assumes a very different definition of greed from the question asker (who is actually, on the whole, very sympathetic to Thatcher). He doesn’t really pick her up on it.

Anyway, the difference in the treatment of community and society by Thatcher speaks to the point I was trying to make in my previous post.

Why the ‘International Day of Hating Tim Wilson’ is A Bad Idea

I just want to go on record and say that the “International Day of Hating Tim Wilson” event is A Bad Idea. It’s only going to backfire and provide Tim Wilson with more fuel for his unfettered free speech ideological platform.

It will do this because, almost undoubtedly, Wilson will be able to weather any day-long storm of hatred the Left cares to muster, no matter how co-ordinated or prolonged (honestly, a day of harassment? Please! Try being a female game developer and living through a sustained weeks long campaign of harassment). He’ll weather it fine precisely because he is in possession of the very privileges that the marginalised and the under-privileged often do not possess: a robust social support network (that isn’t made up of also ostracised, also contingently employed, underpaid, overworked individuals), with the wealth and ability to ‘tune out’ from (i.e. submit to the opportunity cost of opting out of) social media for a day or two, not to mention the benefit of not even being able to be the target of insults based on a history of marginalisation, oppression, slavery.(1)

Instead, what Wilson will be able to do will be to kick back, switch off his phone and ignore emails for 24 hours and weather the storm. Come Tuesday, Wilson will now have at his disposal a case study that “proves” precisely why racial vilification laws etc aren’t necessary, and just hamper “free speech”, and why all those blacks, women, gays, jews, etc, etc, etc should just toughen up and stick it out just like the courageous Tim Wilson.

The Left is not going to win with hate. Shame, maybe, as I have argued elsewhere – but even then, only some of the time, and importantly only within a context of respect and the offer of reintegration. Wilson should feel ashamed of his horrible ideological alignment with a neoliberal agenda, and the cronyism that it has always fostered (why do you think he was appointed?!). But hate filled shaming is stigmatizing, and works to exclude. Who are we, the disorganised and disarrayed Left, to ostracize Tim Wilson? He’s laughing at us. He’s even attending the event.

Har har. The joke’s on us.

****

(1) Actually I’m really interested in the idea of what, precisely, the event organisers have planned on doing on the day exactly. Sending him mean emails? Calling him “a cracker” to his face? I’m really interested in this point since one of the main organisers is Timothy J Scriven, USyd political maven and notorious “Against Identify Politics” brocialist. I would have thought that some sort of economic strike would have been the order of the day, not some affective release of invective… surely that plays right into their hands?! Where’s the industrial sabotage, Timmy???

Cosmic Renewal

There’s a moment in a film that Errol Morris did—A Brief History of Time—where one of the young physicists that worked with Hawking did a calculation and Hawking said that time will cycle around. It’ll come around and things will recur. The physicist did this calculation and said, “No Stephen, it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t go back.” Hawking says, “Do the calculation again.” And as this young physicist tells this story about this insistence that Hawking said there must be another round of time you suddenly realize that Hawking is talking about his own mortality, his struggle with his devastating illness, with the hope for renewal, even if it’s a cosmic renewal that’s not going to help him personally. There’s a way in which time is never just about time. It’s not like angular momentum: you may not have a view about angular momentum. But you have a view about time.

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi interviews Peter Galison for The New Inquiry.

I am so god damn down with cosmic renewal. That’s why Meillassoux is great.

Fedora Shaming as Discursive Activism

My first ever published journal paper is out, and I was quite pleased with how it ended up. Here’s the abstract with a link at the end.

This article examines the Tumblr site Fedoras of OK Cupid which emerged in 2012 amidst a growing trend in feminists and other activists online that used shaming as an activist strategy. Fedoras of OK Cupid displays images and excerpts from men who wear fedora hats in their OK Cupid dating profile pictures, often highlighting worrying or even downright dangerous attitudes towards women revealed by their profiles. To understand this practice this article draws on work identifying feminist discursive activism in online communities, to examine the Tumblr site in the context of reintegrative shaming in order to evaluate the practice of deploying shame for activist ends. While shame is often seen as having stigmatising effects, the author of the Fedoras of OK Cupid Tumblr illustrates how the process of reintegrative shaming may work in the context of online activism by offering earnest commentary on negative attitudes while also offering the possibility of social reintegration.

Available in HTML and PDF versions.

Excerpts & commentary on Ian Bogost’s UX talk on ‘fun’

This is the lastest version of a talk that Ian once gave at Macquarie University in 2010 (I think?) talking about some really interesting ideas about what fun actually is, and what we mean and do when we talk about fun. It’s something of a shorthand, a way of telling a story without telling the story, he says.

The first excerpt is from his discussion of the murky origins of the term, and its roots in the practise (?) of ‘fools’ (as in, the satirists and court jesters of feudal times). Here’s Bogost on using ‘fun’ to refer to foolery in this sense:

Fun used to mean a particular kind of jocularity or diversion, and one meant for or done by fools, specifically done by fools.

…Imprudence may characterise one aspect of the fool or the jester, or the trickster, but the flipside of that is actually a kind of commitment. And that may sound strange at first, because we normally oppose indiscretion to commitment… But fools can have their own shrewdness, their own way of approaching things. Instead of toeing the line, instead of maintaining the standard way of things, the fool asks, “What else is possible?”… and then actually caries out that other thing that’s possible, even if it’s outlandish.

And the surprise of foolishness arises form this exploration, rather than being witless, from not knowing what you are doing. The fool finds something new in a familiar situation and then shares it with us.

That description really resonated with me, and with much of what I would call my ‘online practise’ in particular. The question ‘What else is possible?’ is an almost irresistible one for me – and it works itself out in lots of foolish ways: by advocating for revolution and overthrow of capitalism (which Brendan Keogh made fun of me for doing just today!), as well as in my trolling and ‘excessive’ practises on social media that Jason Wilson has talked about at the CSAA conference in Nov 2012, sadly the text to that talk has disappeared from the net along with Jason’s site). And there is a kind of ‘commitment’ to these practises that I keep getting in trouble for… like a foolish tweet/meme I made the other day insinuating that I would try and reclaim the term ‘gulag’ as a superlative (a patently foolish idea! but what else is possible? apparently this! look at the RT’s and fave’s. Why is this even possible, this is so bizzare and foolish…). The commitment is a kind of Zizekian ‘Laibach strategy‘ which is, yes, controversial. I worry about the responses I get for these foolish things, and so I should as a responsible fool, they sometimes cause me to lose sleep. But often I do tread the line between fool and witless, because I don’t often know what I’m doing. In a sense, I suppose that I do – I know that I’m tweeting something outlandish, or jeering something sombre or whathaveyou, but… often times I don’t know what I’m doing in a  kind of considered, conscious, or planned out way. I’m finding something new, but not always in a directed way. In a sense, this is perfectly natural since newness can’t always be ‘thought up’ and must be discovered. But there’s a price to pay for this, I think and it’s not always pleasant. Readers might be surprised to know but I am perpetually terrified of shaming myself, of saying something that is actually witless rather than foolish. Perhaps that’s part of the price of having (this kind of) fun?

Anyway, I thought that’s a fairly useful thing to help me (and others perhaps?) conceptualise my ‘work’ or practise or whatever. Fun is really important to me and what I do, clearly. I have a lot of fun with social media. But what actually is the ‘fun’? Here, again, I think Bogost provides a good account of what “fun” actually is, and why. Bizarrely, rather than the typical conception of fun as a byproduct of experience, he conceives of it as a material property of things:

So along with Merry Poppins, we assume that finding the fun is a task that comes from us, rather than from the thing itself, and we just have to encourage or support that activity… That we have to bring something to the table that makes intolerable things tolerable, or we have to somehow cover over those things so as to make the intolerable things tolerable…what if it’s just the opposite. What if we arrive at fun not by expanding the circumstances we are in, in order to make them less wretched… but by actually embracing the wretchedness of the circumstances themselves. What if, in a literal way, fun comes from impoverishment – from wretchedness.

Again, that makes sense to me, and a lot of the ‘fun’ of, a thing like Flafing on Facebook for instance, is from embracing the wretchedness of the whole thing, and as an activist from the impoverishment of trying to fight back against so much degenerate talk (sexism, homophobia, ignorance and bigotry) with more degenerate talk; more noise and fury and confusion and a further running-into-the-ground of the extremism and blurred lines that come with the ubiquity of Poe’s Law. Bogost goes on to talk about fun as engaging with a structure, and accepting the arbitrariness of things:

…when we’re playing a game, the question we ask is not how to overcome that structure, how to reject it and make it something it’s not, but what it feels like to subject ourselves to it… to take it seriously.

So play turns out not to be an act of diversion, but the work of working a system, or working with it, of interacting with the bits of logic that make it up. And fun is not the effect, it’s not the enjoyment that’s released by the interaction, it’s a kind of nickname for the feeling of operating it. Particularly of operating it in a way we haven’t done before…

I have long had, in the back of my mind at least, the vague notion of fun-as-novelty, I certainly prize that in the games I play and the experiences I have, and Bogost’s account is remarkably amenable to that. But here’s his remarkable conclusion that is a bit otherworldly:

So play is a material property of certain objects like steering columns and language and games. And fun is this sensual quality that emanates from it, when you kind of pet it, when you touch it in just the right way. Fun is like an admiration for the absurd arbitrariness of things. It’s a name for the feeling of deliberately operating a constrained system.

To illustrate that concept, he finishes with the story of Isner and Mahout’s truly epic 2010 tennis final, which went on for three days in a perpetual deadlock. He describes the situation thusly:

Isner and Mahout were there, they contributed to that outcome, they were implicated in it. But they didn’t exactly make it, they didn’t fashion it. And yet neither did the Victorian designers of modern game of lawn tennis, rather Isner and Mahout found something in tennis that nobody had ever found before. Something was preserved in it, sort of durable, even as it was incredibly fragile, it was like finding a fossil at Pompeii. And they coaxed tennis, slowly over 150 years almost, to give up this secret. Because they and those who came before treated it with such ridiculous, absurd respect that the game finally couldn’t help but release this secret. And that’s what fun looks like at its best, when the whole world watches an abstraction give up its secrets.