This grammar meme made the rounds last year, and while it is funny, I feel compelled to point out a few inherent errors. (Also, I like wasting time.)
First and foremost, I want to be clear I am not advocating the use of “u” for “you,” mostly because it looks stupid.
The first problem is…
This is re: my Odd Future post.
First of all, many thanks to mai’a, whom I’m pretty sure most folks reading this are already following, but should be if they’re not.
Second, I’m not quite sure that I did anything to justify the sexism and homophobia in OF’s music; in fact, I’m pretty sure I called it out. But I think that what makes it possible to ignore the fact that I was calling it out was the fact that I was also trying not to couple that critique with a retreat into a kind of smug critical self-satisfaction where I get to feel morally superior to or smarter than what or whom I’m critiquing.
It’s not only because I think that style of critique has led to barely disguised displays of racism. It’s also because I think that style of critique often allows us 1) to get away with learning very little about what we’re criticizing by applying the same critical formula to everything and anything, so long as we can show evidence of the ways in which it is misogynist and homophobic—and, for that matter, racist; and 2) to imagine our criticism as transcending the object of our critique by oversimplifying it (i.e. “TTC says stuff for attention”) or by performing a weird kind of doublespeak where we claim in one breath that it has no meaning and then, in the next breath, point out the homophobic and sexist meaning that is everywhere in it.
One of the cool things about the internet, and about tumblr especially, is the way that it allows for the quick propagation of all sorts of antiracist, antisexist, antihomophobic, etc., ideas. The appearance of sites like Color Lines, Jezebel, Racialicious, Feministe (sites which vary greatly in quality and ideological orientation), among others, have all been really important in popularizing antioppression ideas in general, and in producing a class of people able to problematize and critique oppressive discourses, especially those that can be found in popular culture.
One of the not so cool things about the internet is that it has helped to produce a class of people who are, relatively speaking, quite comfortable in their general anti-oppression stance. Anti-oppression discourse, nowadays, isn’t even about a politics (i.e. working collectively to change the world you inhabit) as much as it is about style—about speaking the right language, using the right terms, expressing outrage at the right moment, etc. Unlike previous generations of people discussing anti-oppression ideas, we who are members of this class don’t need to go to long, drawn-out meetings or to join activist groups in order to satisfy our desire to be against oppression. The discussion, in many ways, comes to us—just follow the right people, read the right blogs, etc. Anti-oppression, that is, arrives to us with the slick, polished sheen of a mass-marketed commodity.
Without even talking about the billions of people who cannot access this kind of discourse precisely because the very late capitalism that provides us with cheap-ish computers and internet access needs to keep their wages incredibly low in order to do so, I’ll end by saying this: I believe that there’s a difference between producing evidence of oppression, explaining oppression, and fighting oppression. One can produce evidence of oppression without being able to explain why oppression happens. My problem with the Jezebels and Racialiciouses of the world, as well as with a lot of stuff I see around here, is that they glorify their own capacity to produce evidence about oppression without explaining it. Or if they do explain it, the explanation tells us very little: it relies on the fact that we know oppression is bad and the fact that it feels good to know that. This, I think, is why sarcasm works so well on Jezebel and various other liberal feminist blogs—it allows its reader to ignore the lack of analytical depth by allowing her to substitute the feeling of Knowing Better Than Someone Else Does.
You might think that people who analyze oppression professionally would at least think about the question of who benefits from oppression, a question that necessitates at least a critical view onto capitalism. The problem is, of course, that those who produce evidence of oppression professionally have a class interest in not explaining or learning to explain who benefits from oppression. Folks like (Racialicious founder) Carmen Van Kerckhove have found creative ways to make a living off of talking about race (and talking about talking about race) without explaining much at all save the fact that racism exists, a fact that we seem not to be able to be reminded of enough.
But the fact that an entire industry has emerged to produce evidence about oppression without doing much at all to fight it should tell us something about where we’re at in terms of capitalism. Anti-oppression has become a commodity, too, and “we” are part of the machine by and through which that commodity is made and consumed. I’m not trying to trivialize or downplay the existence of oppression—oppression exists, and exists on a scale any in ways I am not even in a position to know or speak about. But I am trying to begin to understand how capitalism has enabled people—especially upwardly mobile, college educated people like me—to generate an anti-oppression discourse that allows many of us to feel as if we are doing much more to fight it than we actually are.
Just in case my linking, yesterday, to an article critical of trigger warnings didn’t lose me any followers…
Online discourse, maybe it could be more thoughtful and less reactive?
By framing more public spaces, from the Internet to the college classroom, as full of infinite yet ill-defined hazards, trigger warnings encourage us to think of ourselves as more weak and fragile than we really are.
Trigger warnings are presented as a gesture of empathy, but the irony is they lead only to more solipsism, an over-preoccupation with one’s own feelings—much to the detriment of society as a whole. Structuring public life around the most fragile personal sensitivities will only restrict all of our horizons. Engaging with ideas involves risk, and slapping warnings on them only undermines the principle of intellectual exploration. We cannot anticipate every potential trigger—the world, like the Internet, is too large and unwieldy. But even if we could, why would we want to? Bending the world to accommodate our personal frailties does not help us overcome them.
Emphasis in the quote is mine. In my life experience, the people I’ve observed who have created bubbles for themselves - or had bubbles created for them, usually by parents - have suffered much more than they have benefited.
I’m not a sociopath with no concern for the ongoing problems of others, and I do think the epilepsy trigger warning is pretty legit, but this article makes some dang good points and is worth reading in full.
Sony’s SRF-39FP Radio: The iPod of Prison
By: Joshua Hunt, The New Yorker, January 16, 2014
In early 2005, Josh Demmitt arrived at a federal prison camp, in Sheridan, Oregon, to serve a thirty-month sentence for starting a fire outside an animal-testing facility at Brigham Young University. The nineteen-year-old received a warm welcome from his fellow inmates, who greeted him with coffee and cigarettes, advice on procuring vegan meals, and a pocket AM/FM radio.
The radio provided hours of welcome distraction for Demmitt, who had come from Sheridan’s adjoining detention center, where, he says, he spent weeks without a radio while confined to a small cell for at least twenty-three hours a day. The radio was unlike any Demmitt had seen outside prison, with a transparent plastic body that revealed the landscape within: a single AA battery rested at the bottom of its circuit board, while its antenna—one and three quarter inches of copper wire coiled around a small ferrite bar—peeked through a white Sony logo, just above the AM/FM dial.
The pocket analog radio, known by the bland model number SRF-39FP, is a Sony “ultralight” model manufactured for prisons. Its clear housing is meant to prevent inmates from using it to smuggle contraband, and, at under thirty dollars, it is the most affordable Sony radio on the prison market.
That market consists of commissaries, which were established by the Department of Justice in 1930 to provide prisoners with items not supplied by their institutions; by offering a selection of shampoos and soaps, they shifted personal hygiene costs to inmates, while distractions like playing cards eased tensions among the nation’s growing prison population. More than half a million inmates each week shop at commissaries stocked by the Keefe Group, a privately held company that sells items to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and twelve out of fourteen privately managed state departments of corrections. A sample commissary order form lists items like an I.B.M. typewriter ribbon, hair dye, RC Cola, Sensodyne toothpaste, chili-garlic sauce, Koss CL-20 headphones, and a “Sony Radio.”
Commissaries often carry other, bargain-brand radios, but according to former inmates and employees of the Bureau of Prisons and the Keefe Group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, America’s federal prisoners are most likely to own a Sony. Melissa Dolan, a Sony spokesperson, confirmed in an e-mail that selling portable radios in American prisons has long been a “stable business” that represents “sizable” sales for the company. Of the models available, the SRF-39FP remains an undisputed classic, still found on commissary lists an impressive fifteen years after its initial release, making it nearly as common behind prison walls as Apple’s iPod once was outside of them, despite competition from newer devices like digital radios and MP3 players.
But sheer availability doesn’t explain its ubiquity. The SRF-39FP is the gold standard among prison radios in part because it runs on a single AA battery, and offers forty hours of listening time—longer than an iPod Classic. Digital models can require twice as many batteries, like the Sony SRF-M35FP, which runs on two AAAs. Federal inmates are particularly attuned to battery life because they are allowed to spend just three hundred and twenty dollars each month on commissary goods; more cash spent on batteries means less for snacks, stationery, clothing, and toiletries.
The importance of radio battery life in prison communities cannot be overstated; the devices are relied on for more than listening to music, hearing about local news and weather, and watching television (TV sets in common areas often use transmitters to broadcast sound on a dedicated frequency). A study conducted at San Vittore prison in Milan, Italy, found that “in a place where privacy is constantly denied, radio becomes a vital tool for building and maintaining one’s private self.” Some inmates even had a term for using their radio to create a bubble of personal space: “I headphone myself,” one said.
There is also a bit of prison culture itself at work in the story of the SRF-39FP. Radios like the one that was loaned to Demmitt are usually left behind by inmates who have reëntered the free world. Some prisoners believe that it is bad luck for radios to leave prison with their owners, while others believe that taking them simply violates the “convict code,” according to former inmates like Demmitt and Steven Grayson, author of “The Unauthorized Federal Prison Manual.” Whether radios are abandoned as a matter of solidarity, convenience, or good karma, they pass from inmate to inmate, serving one sentence after another. The durable, analog SRF-39FPs have been changing hands in this manner for a decade and a half, which adds up to a lot of radios in circulation.
This practice helps explain the relative rarity of the SRF-39FP outside prisons. A unit in good condition can fetch up to double or triple its retail value among enthusiasts and collectors like Gary DeBock, a co-founder of the Ultralight Radio Group. According to DeBock, the outside supply depends upon stock siphoned from the California prison system and sold on auction sites like eBay.
DeBock is a member of the “DXing” community, whose hobbyists attempt to pick up distant radio or television signals, including those from amateur or pirate radio stations. (“DX” is shorthand for “distant stations.”) DeBock’s fascination with the SRF-39FP began when he realized that it could receive AM signals from places as distant as Japan and Korea at his home in Puyallup, Washington. “Since then, I’ve probably had more exposure to the SRF-39FP than anyone else who has managed to stay out of prison,” DeBock said.
Others in the online DXing community argue that the SRF-39FP is superior to virtually every other pocket analog radio, praising it for its large tuning thumbwheel, over-all sensitivity and audio quality, and, above all, its reputed indestructibility. Electronics and radio collectors also marvel at features that are normally associated with professional equipment rather than consumer goods: in particular, an exceptional single-integrated-circuit receiver that insures reception in remote locations—or deep within heavy prison walls. In fact, the SRF-39FP was one of the first radios to use the breakthrough CXA1129N integrated-circuit chip, considered by DeBock to be the primary innovation among Sony pocket radios; it helped make the SRF-39FP the smallest and most sophisticated in a line of pocket radios that had launched two decades earlier, in the late nineteen-seventies.
In recent years, Sony has opted to shift its prison-radio lineup away from analog, focussing instead on digital models like the SRF-M35FP. Last year, the Bureau of Prisons decided that it was time to further upgrade prison tech. Following a successful test at the same West Virginia federal prison camp where Martha Stewart spent five months for lying about a stock sale, prison officials began selling MP3 players that allow inmates to download songs at terminals in prison commissaries.
A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said that the MP3 program wasn’t expected to make money in its early years. Price is one reason: the MP3 player sold in federal prisons costs roughly three times as much as an SRF-39FP, and downloads can cost up to a dollar and fifty-five cents per song. Limited song selection is another reason; the Bureau of Prisons prohibits songs deemed explicit or likely to incite the inmate population. (JPay, a company that provides services to inmates, boasts that, with its catalogue of ten million songs, “no other music service in corrections offers as many tracks for download.”) However, despite modest expectations for the technology upgrade, the Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Ed Ross said that more than fifty per cent of federal inmates have already bought MP3 players. It seems inevitable that the MP3 player will soon completely eclipse radios like the SRF-39FP in American prisons, just as they did outside, but for now both devices are woven into prison life.
"I just organized a meet-up for fans of my favorite webcomic, Homestuck."
"Do you have any interest in writing comics?"
"My sister and I have tossed around a few ideas."
"What’s one of your ideas?"
"What if Spiderman…. went to Comic Con?"
IT’S A REASONABLE QUESTION
Technology concentrates power.
In the 90’s, it looked like the Internet might be an exception, that it could be a decentralizing, democratizing force. No one controlled it, no one designed it, it was just kind of assembling itself in an appealing, anarchic way. The companies that first tried to centralize the Internet, like AOL and Microsoft, failed risibly. And open source looked ready to slay any dragon.
But those days are gone. We’ve centralized the bejesus out of the Internet now. There’s one search engine (plus the one no one uses), one social network (plus the one no one uses), one Twitter. We use one ad network, one analytics suite. Anywhere you look online, one or two giant American companies utterly dominate the field.
And there’s the cloud. What a brilliant name! The cloud is the future of online computing, a friendly, fluffy abstraction that we will all ascend into, swaddled in light. But really the cloud is just a large mess of servers somewhere, the property of one American company (plus the clouds no one uses).
Orwell imagined a world with a telescreen in every room, always on, always connected, always monitored. An Xbox One vision of dystopia.
But we’ve done him one better. Nearly everyone here carries in their pocket a tracking device that knows where you are, who you talk to, what you look at, all these intimate details of your life, and sedulously reports them to private servers where the data is stored in perpetuity.
I know I sound like a conspiracy nut framing it like this. I’m not saying we live in an Orwellian nightmare. I love New Zealand! But we have the technology.
When I was in grade school, they used to scare us with something called the permanent record. If you threw a spitball at your friend, it would go in your permanent record, and prevent you getting a good job, or marrying well, until eventually you’d die young and friendless and be buried outside the churchyard wall.
What a relief when we found out that the permanent record was a fiction. Except now we’ve gone and implemented the damned thing. Each of us leaves an indelible, comet-like trail across the Internet that cannot be erased and that we’re not even allowed to see.
The things we really care about seem to disappear from the Internet immediately, but post a stupid YouTube comment (now linked to your real identity) and it will live forever.
And we have to track all this stuff, because the economic basis of today’s web is advertising, or the promise of future advertising. The only way we can convince investors to keep the money flowing is by keeping the most detailed records possible, tied to people’s real identities. Apart from a few corners of anonymity, which not by accident are the most culturally vibrant parts of the Internet, everything is tracked and has to be tracked or the edifice collapses.
What upsets me isn’t that we created this centralized version of the Internet based on permanent surveillance.
What upsets me, what really gets my goat, is that we did it because it was the easiest thing to do. There was no design, forethought, or analysis involved. No one said “hey, this sounds like a great world to live in, let’s make it”. It happened because we couldn’t be bothered.
Making things ephemeral is hard.
Making things distributed is hard.
Making things anonymous is hard.
Coming up with a sane business model is really hard—I get tired just thinking about it.
So let’s take people’s data, throw it on a server, link it to their Facebook profiles, keep it forever, and if we can’t raise another round of venture funding we’ll just slap Google ads on the thing.
"High five, Chad!"
"High five, bro!"
That is the design process that went into building the Internet of 2014.
And of course now we are shocked—shocked!—when, for example, the Ukrainian government uses cell tower data to send scary text messages to protesters in Kiev, in order to try to keep them off the streets. Bad people are using the global surveillance system we built to do something mean! Holy crap! Who could have imagined this?
Or when we learn that the American government is reading the email that you send unencrypted to the ad-supported mail service in another country where it gets archived forever. Inconceivable!
I’m not saying these abuses aren’t serious. But they’re the opposite of surprising. People will always abuse power. That’s not a new insight. There are cuneiform tablets complaining about it. Yet here we are in 2014, startled because unscrupulous people have started to use the powerful tools we created for them.
We put so much care into making the Internet resilient from technical failures, but make no effort to make it resilient to political failure. We treat freedom and the rule of law like inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the fragile and precious treasures that they are.
And now, of course, it’s time to make the Internet of Things, where we will connect everything to everything else, and build cool apps on top, and nothing can possibly go wrong."
— An extract from Our Comrade The Electron, a talk from the Webstock Conference by Maciej Cegłowski, which is worth reading in its entirety. (via new-aesthetic)
"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."
this made me feel like i was in mad men (i’ve never seen mad men)
This speaks to me on many levels. Click through for the video, dang it.