Notes from Chapter 5

Hey so I know I’m like the guy who is into weird community shit and someone who totally advocates for internet community stuff, which is true and rad and people are rad. But I re-read something from a chapter I’m editing this week (ugh ugh ugh zombie theeeeesiisss will not diiiieeee) that gave me pause. The thing about community is that on the one hand it’s totally fucking great, but on the other hand it’s also kinda a trap…

J.K. Gibson-Graham, weird Deleuzian economists who are actually two people but who write as one, said the following:

“It is an interesting irony that in the current neoliberal political and economic climate, in which individualism is promoted as an unquestioned social good, all over the world the term community has increasingly come to the fore.”

These guys also mention some important critiques of the way that the vacuum or void left by the destructive forces of neoliberalism ends up being plugged (or lauded as being able to be plugged, while not effectively being able to do so – a crucial point) by community. They cite journalism professor Tom Morton (not Tim Morton, the OOO philosopher) who proposes that it has become “a cult” and that behind the rhetoric in which “it’s supposed to be a panacea for reducing crime, stopping youth suicide, getting the unemployed back to work, and improving your health” it has also provided “camouflage behind which government has conducted a massive withdrawal from society”.

Lately I have also been thinking about the media, and why it is that ordinary people are still willing to talk to the media. At the gym today I saw a a Channel 9 news story on the Melbourne ferris wheel thing and the guy who spotted the ‘crack’ in one of the pods who was talking to the media. I keep wondering, why do people do this? Why, given the offer of “explaining yourself” or “telling your story” to the benefit of a for-profit news corporation that will use your face for 15 seconds and sell advertisements before and after it.

I think the common thing in both is that people are willing to do almost anything for other people. In the former, it’s people picking up the slack for what previously it had been agreed that governments should look after (and often, doing so at great personal cost). In the latter, again, it’s often (when not for a shot at one’s 15 secs of fame) for the sake of informing people. It’s a very human thing to both help others, and to tell of what one knows. But non-people keep expropriating this gift. It drives me nuts.

Anyway, I initially came here I think to talk about community as panacea, and point out how much Douglas Wilson’s conclusions to this great piece on the Speluky eggplant run seem to fall into the same trap of hyping community without noticing all the non-people that are expropriating stuff along the way. TwitchTV is a commercial service. Youtube is a commercial service. Xbox is commercial. Steam is commercial. Mossmouth is a company. I don’t want to fall into the equal trap of saying that all human interaction is debased by commerce, and Doug Wilson is a smart guy. But I wish things were better.

Oops I meant to go shopping tonight.

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.

Rihanna – Pour It Up (Explicit)

A more effective critique of hip-hop/materialism than anything by a white musician (whether Macklemore, Lilly Allen or even the parochial accidental critique of Lorde’s ‘Royals’), via a pervasive mood of utter abjection and sadness. The production (“cloudy trap stuff”, as described by @evilguii) leaves no doubt that the surface enjoyment is pure affectation, with a hollow ennui lurking beneath the fizzing, twerking surface.

Cloudy trap is a great description for it, as it evokes the ganja smoked rooms visually and culturally associated with a lot of contemporary hip-hop and rap. But there are two sides to getting high – the pleasurable loss of self, the experience that regular smokers seek, and the cloying, depressive downward spiral of a paranoia attack or green out. Cloudy trap often evokes the former, but the latter seems (at least to me) to frequently lurk beneath the surface.

Clint Hocking on sense of place and the effect on violence in Far Cry 2

Steve Gaynor has a new Idle Thumbs offshoot podcast called Tone Control, and in this episode he talks to Clint Hocking, and they spend about the last 50 minutes talking about Far Cry 2. I wanted to excerpt this one great little quote that I think is really important. It’s from about an 1hr 10mins in, I think:

‘…a sense of place, even for a place that is really mundane in a lot of ways, is really, really powerful… …having the sense of place and the sense of the environment be so strong, I feel, makes the counter-position of the kind of violence that happens in it, much more shocking.

You don’t blow people up in any more shocking way than you do in any other game, it’s just when you have these long periods of silence where you might have stopped on the side of a rock and listened to water trickling, and as the sun was setting behind a tree for a few minutes, you get this strange sense of peace and like ‘ah the world is beautiful and things aren’t all that bad’. And seven seconds later you’re burning a guy alive with a Molotov cocktail while he’s screaming and flailing around in a brushfire. It’s the juxtaposition of these things, and without being authored or without being scripted, it can mess with your emotions.’

Later on in the talk, they get onto discussing the systemic nature of the game a bit, and talking about it reminded me of State of Decay which I’ve been playing this week, which takes a lot of the same systemic premises and runs with them to a really fantastic degree. Which made me think, we tend to think that the most ‘Far Cry 2‘-game has already been made, but really I think that might not be the case. The most ‘Far Cry 2’ like game is probably yet to be made. Which is exciting to me.

Addendum: if nothing else, listen to the very final question that Steve asks Clint at about 1hr 47mins. Long story short, the way that they solved the problem of playtesters taking pleasure in killing wild animals, their solution was minimal, elegant, and absolutely effective. Just a fantastic solution.

Hello December

‘Narratively Important Fern’ The Stanley Parable (2013)

Hello internet, just wanted to direct your attention to this great new tumblr, ‘Video game foliage’ a blog for criticism and commentary on plants and other foliage in games. This is really, super great. This is a project I am really interested in and I hope I can contribute in some way.

It’s also December now and I’m on the final run up to thesis submission… sorta. Gotta write this final content chapter (or perhaps its two? we’ll see) over the next, lets say, three weeks before christmas. Wish me luck.