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 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 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.
October 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Recently a British man was fined the equivalent of $25,000 USD for retweeting a damaging rumor about a British lord — namely that he was a child molester. Unsurprisingly, this case has dredged up questions about how best to regulate (and/or whether or not to regulate) online megaplatforms. Jeff John Roberts of Gigaom considers the issue, and argues the following:
Davis may have shown bad judgment in retweeting something so serious (especially as the retweet came in response to a question he put to Twitter) but a full blown libel case seems excessive — and may have chilling effects on Twitter’s role as a news source.
I don’t disagree with Roberts; $25,000 is an awfully steep price to pay for making a single (though wholly irresponsible) snap decision on the internet. What I don’t understand is this assumption –which you see in so much coverage of Twitter specifically and social media more generally– that Twitter should be a news source.
It is true that Twitter helped usher in democratized, real time responses to online and offline stories. In 2013, that’s the norm. But just because something is the norm doesn’t make it positive. Twitter has proven time and time again, particularly in the wake of mass-mediated tragedies (I’m thinking the Boston Bombings in particular, which generated millions and millions of tweets, 80% of which proved to be untrue, but also natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy), to be little more than an amplifier of half truths, dangerous rumors, and misinformation generally. Yes there is definitely important information mixed in with the rubbish, but in the immediate, chaotic aftermath of a huge story, it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to parse the good information from the bad, a point Roberts himself concedes in his article summary — “People retweet lies and errors on Twitter all the time,” his opening statement reads.
Which — yes. Yes they do. So…remind me why I’d want to rely on Twitter as a news source? As an endless source of gossip, rumor and innuendo, sure. That’s fun. But news? I’d rather wait till the day after, once some of the dust has settled.
October 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
So, Facebook just reversed its decision on those beheading videos, prompting two basic responses:
It’s good to know that the publicity machine has such a strong impact on Facebook’s on-site policies!
It’s troubling to know the extent to which the publicity machine influences Facebook’s on-site policies.
I agree with both statements equally. Money talks, friends! But also, money sure does talk, a point I addressed a few months ago in this post about one of Facebook’s previous policy reversals.
October 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Valleywag’s Sam Biddle just posted some pretty…I don’t know, is “Facepalmy?” a word…news out of Facebook, aka “Zuck’s Click Hut” (I will never refer to Facebook any other way; fifteen hat tips to Biddle). Although they remain steadfast in their campaign against nudity, particularly repulsive acts of female nudity (ugh sick), Facebook will continue allowing people to post beheading videos to their timelines, the logic being that just because someone posts something, doesn’t mean they are condoning it. People might be posting problematic content to condemn the depicted acts, in the process helping raise awareness.
I don’t entirely disagree with the underlying logic of this stance (though whatever argument I’d make, whether for or against, depends on the circumstance; beheading videos are an extreme example to say the very least, and I’m not sure what, if any, positive political impact that level of violence could have on anyone) — but it is odd, considering how quickly Facebook is to ban female users engaging in depraved behaviors like “feeding their infant children,” and how reluctant they are to take action against violently misogynist pages and posts. And how weird and inconsistent their moderation policies are generally.
Anyway, file this one under “1000 Reasons I’m Glad I’m Not On Facebook.” Excuse me, Zuck’s Click Hut.
October 18, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Earlier this week I was approached by Sam Meier, editor of news and analysis startup PolicyMic. She asked to interview me for an article she’s writing about online commenting, and I was happy to oblige. She’ll be integrating my answers into her forthcoming article, but encouraged me to publish the full exchange, which I’m pasting below. This is a pretty long read, so go get some popcorn or something. More after the jump!
I’m Not Blaming the Victim, I’m Just Saying It’s Her Fault: My reaction to bullshit victim-blaming Slate article
October 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
According to Emily Yoffe of Slate, a large and influential online news magazine, feminism has taught America’s young women that they should be able to drink as much as men, because Girl Power (what). As a consequence, more women are getting raped. Feminists, you should be ashamed of yourselves! Yes, of course, rapists are ultimately the ones who rape. That said,
we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.
I don’t know how pointing to a victim and saying “you did this to yourself” doesn’t qualify as victim-blaming, but ok. Semantics I guess. So I’ll play along — let’s say young women heed this message. That they maintain the ability to be responsible for themselves (because everyone knows that so long as women are responsible for themselves, whatever that even means, nothing bad ever happens to them — it’s only the irresponsible women who are assaulted, harassed, and sexually victimized, those silly little short-skirt wearers). Then who are we supposed to blame WHEN YOUNG WOMEN KEEP GETTING RAPED, which is a funny thing that happens when you conflate the symptom, namely an obscenely high incidence of sexual violence committed against women, with the cause, namely a culture that objectifies and devalues women to such an extent that it is entirely accepted that men WOULD rape, because how could they not with all those irresponsible women lying around??
To her credit, Yoffe tries to try to keep things balanced, and quotes several experts.
“I’m not saying a woman is responsible for being sexually victimized,” says Christopher Krebs, one of the authors of that study and others on campus sexual assault. “But when your judgment is compromised, your risk is elevated of having sexual violence perpetrated against you.”
Now, I don’t want to sound like a racist, but [insert racist assertion here, say about "The Jews" or "The Blacks"]. Before you get any nasty ideas, let me reiterate: I’m not a racist. I’m not a racist because I said I wasn’t.
Which is essentially the argument here. Here I am, blaming victims, and holding victims up as an example for other women (“you don’t want to end up like HER, do you?”), but because I say I’m not blaming the victim, then I’m not. It’s fun to be the gatekeeper for linguistic meaning!
Oh and one more thing:
I’ve told my daughter that it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself. (“I hear you! Stop!”) The biological reality is that women do not metabolize alcohol the same way as men, and that means drink for drink women will get drunker faster. I tell her I know alcohol will be widely available (even though it’s illegal for most college students) but that she’ll have a good chance of knowing what’s going on around her if she limits herself to no more than two drinks, sipped slowly—no shots!—and stays away from notorious punch bowls. If female college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their own self-interest—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary feminist principle—I hope their restraint trickles down to the men.
You hear that, men? Wait for the women to make the first move. THEN you can stop raping. Glad we’re on the same page. But there’s more:
If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate.
Hmm, that doesn’t sound like DON’T RAPE YOUR CLASSMATES TIMMY. But apparently it’s the accusation of rape that’s the fucking tragedy. I mean, you wouldn’t want your son’s reputation sullied, would you? That would be horrible and so inconvenient!
In conclusion, I don’t think I could type the words “bullshit” or “gross” enough times to adequately capture the lack of facepalms I have to express even a modicum of the “I just can’t” which is, itself, inadequate.