December 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Two biographical points: back when I was a teenager a wee bit over a decade ago (wait that can’t be right), I applied a perhaps unfair litmus test to new acquaintances. Specifically, were you a Friends person, or were you a Seinfeld person? If you were a Friends person, I would judge you.
Second, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor has been haunting my soul for weeks; it, and especially the second disc, is what happens when the 1970s fall into a pot of internet, boil to a smoke point alongside an old XXX neon sign, and after being poured onto a chilled concrete slab get smashed into a thousand pieces by a hammer made from David Bowie’s face. Basically, you should go listen to Reflektor; Porno is a good place to start (don’t worry it’s SFW, you babies).
Anyway the above mashup is the least likely thing to ever happen and also exactly right. Happy 25 shopping days till Christmas everybody!
November 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As it turns out, having a real job takes some getting used to. I really like it –the work is consistent, I like the schedule, and what I’m working on is interesting– but there are certain things that feel a bit strange, like “remembering to clock in” and “not bringing the work home with me.” Apparently there are laws in place that protect me from overworking, and require that I am in fact compensated for my labor. Which is weird because I’m an academic; I’m not supposed to get paid for the things I do! I’m supposed to volunteer my time and energy because doing things for others, for free, will be “good for my career,” someday. Over time, I suppose I will get used to drawing a regular paycheck, and not being exploited. But that doesn’t mean I won’t feel weird and somewhat guilty (!) for doing so. (what has the academic world DONE to me??)
I am, in other news, pushing forward on my Here Comes Honey Boo Boo chapter, which I’m submitting to an edited volume on antifans and haters. This weekend I provided a fuller AN HISTORICAL account of TLC’s exploitainment lineup, and sniffed around for representative .gifs illustrating the ambiguous wait-are-you-laughing-at-or-laughing-with anti/fan engagement that surrounds the show. Here’s the image I ended up going with, from Tumblr user conversationalconversations:
Anyway It’s been a while since I’ve worked on this chapter, and I’m enjoying myself, especially the part about how I’m pushing against the traditional framing of “antifan,” which is far too rigid for my taste.
ps TEDx talk went great! I will upload as soon as the video is available.
November 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
November 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m in the process of packing for and generally freaking about my TED talk (fly out to Spokane early tomorrow morning), but Chris just sent me the above video with the message “The video is a parody of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus and seems to be taking some notes from Lorde. Racially, I don’t think I fully understand what’s going on, but the feminism in this is just awesome,” which is one of the reasons I married his ass. (also: Lorde is this)
My take on the racial stuff (and I may be wrong; I’m drinking oh let’s say more than one glass of wine as I pack for my trip and might be wishfully thinking) is that it’s the old white men who benefit most from “accessorizing with black people,” which was one of the significant (and importantly, not slut-shamey) criticisms of Miley Cyrus in the wake of her VMA twerkfest. This video (critically? I hope critically) puts the “black accessory” front and center, all while showing the conniving white bastard staging every scene for his own financial gain. And hurray for framing the music/entertainment industry in terms of cynical business transactions, which is quite literally what “industry” means (this point should be a given, but mass mediated pop culture is so often framed –most vocally by stakeholders– as some sort of organic invisible hand, which nope).
So, I guess you could say, I like this. I think. Caveat: I most certainly do not like the idea that “shaking one’s ass” is somehow mutually exclusive to “having a brain” — I don’t care how hard a woman shakes her ass, or where, or under what conditions. That doesn’t have anything to do with her level of intelligence. The problem is when someone other than the ass-haver makes a profit; but that’s a different issue, and still has nothing to do with how smart the woman in question might be. Anyway on the whole, this video intrigues me (especially the sarcastic claim that “we’ve [as in women] never had it so good/uh-huh, we’re out of the woods”). The “Lily Allen has a floppy pussy” balloon art is a nice touch (a nod to horrifying sex monster Robin Thicke’s “Robin Thicke Has a Big Dick” balloon display from the “Blurred Lines” date rape advocacy campaign I mean music video), the excessive use of “bitch” and “tits” is interesting, and I appreciate the inversion of “it’s hard out here for a pimp,” because let me tell you, it really is hard out here, for a bitch.
Update: Lily Allen has since insisted that her video isn’t about race/that she doesn’t even see color, which is disappointing (and regarding the claim that the video “isn’t about” race, wrong). I guess it really was wishful thinking that she would deliberately call people out for accessorizing with people of color. Like I said, disappointing, but…golf claps for first world white lady feminism, I guess?
November 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The often cranky but always provocative writer and technology researcher Evgeny Morozov just published, go figure, a cranky and provocative essay addressing the “Teflon Industry” that is Silicon Valley. It’s a long read, but pretty interesting, and gestures much more sternly to some of the things I’ve written regarding the Facebook imperative. Quoth:
This bubbling discontent [about the various "disturbances" brought about Silicon Valley and its frat life 4eva Big Data obsession] is reassuring. It might even help bury some of the myths spun by Silicon Valley. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day, told that Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” we would finally read between the lines and discover its true meaning: “to monetize all of the world’s information and make it universally inaccessible and profitable”? With this act of subversive interpretation, we might eventually hit upon the greatest emancipatory insight of all: Letting Google organize all of the world’s information makes as much sense as letting Halliburton organize all of the world’s oil.
But any jubilation is premature: Silicon Valley still holds a firm grip on the mechanics of the public debate. As long as our critique remains tied to the plane of technology and information– a plane that is often described by that dreadful, meaningless, overused word “digital” – Silicon Valley will continue to be seen as an exceptional and unique industry. When food activists go after Big Food and accuse those companies of adding too much salt and fat to their snacks to make us crave even more of them, no one dares accuse these activists of being anti-science. Yet, a critique of Facebook or Twitter along similar lines – for example, that they have designed their services to play up our anxieties and force us to perpetually click the “refresh” button to get the latest update – almost immediately brings accusations of technophobia and Luddism.
Like I said, long read, but all those words (somewhat) make up for the fact that the vast, VAST majority of discussions about Silicon Valley and the power of Big Data/its requisite incessant, unrepentant surveillance slash monetization wait I mean “social media” are glowingly positive.
November 10, 2013 § 4 Comments
Take a quick peek at my “About” page, and you’ll notice a few significant changes to my bio. The first is my academic affiliation, the details of which I just finalized — I am now associated faculty in Sociology at Humboldt State University, which means I’ll be giving guest lectures in various Sociology courses as I await my course assignments for the 2014-2015 academic year. The second and much more significant development is that I’ve accepted a position as the Assistant Director of the Cultural Department for the Table Bluff Wiyot tribe, and will be responsible for a combination of research, community outreach, and grant management.
Had you asked me this time last year what I thought I’d be doing the following year, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t have suggested either option. In fact, neither would have been on my radar, with very good reason. I was on the academic job market; I was going to be a tenure track Professor (or at least Visiting Assistant Professor), because…just because. Because because. Because that’s what one does.
The following is an overview of how I got from there to here.
November 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
One of the reasons I’ve been so quiet this past week is that I’ve been practicing and practicing and practicing the TEDx talk I’ll be giving November 15, and haven’t really felt like internetting, at least not actively/publicly. The TED talk is titled “Why Study Villains, Scoundrels and Rule Breakers? Trolls as Case Study,” and although I present an overview of my troll research (shock), it’s really about the kinds of things we can learn from transgressive behaviors (that is, behaviors that are REGARDED as being transgressive within a particular culture or community). This idea dovetails nicely with my not-even-kidding-you-guys fascination with and appreciation for Courtney Stodden. I was just explaining this connection to my friend Mike, who emailed me a link about the untimely demise of the Greatest Love Story Ever Told, aka 19 year-old Courtney Stodden and her 54 year-old former X-Files monster of the week, and decided to share.
Because the thing is (and I argue something similar in my TED talk, though geared towards trolls), Courtney Stodden might be outrageous, but her antics aren’t THAT far from the kinds of constant, unrepentant STUNT QUEEN moves “normal” celebrities make on a regular basis (I’m looking at you, Kardashians). Neither is her overly sexed, borderline pornographic personal brand much worse or more shocking than how “normal” young female stars are routinely packaged. Nor is/was Doug Huchison’s leering interest in a teenager (let’s not forget, Stodden was 16 when she first burst onto the WTF scene) much creepier than the sexist, fetishistic cult of (white) female youth that simultaneously drives the entertainment industry and normalizes the lascivious male gaze, particularly when directed at the latest hot young usually blond thing (emphasis on “thing,” since these young women are treated more like ornamental commodities than complex human beings). What Stodden does is call attention to these points of (perhaps uncomfortable) overlap, and that, for me at least, is what makes her genuinely interesting. For better or worse, Courtney Stodden is what is actually true about American pop culture. And god bless her for her honesty.