Spotlight On – RESISTANCE
May 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
(Originally posted um like in late February 2010)
I have a feeling that my esteemed colleagues will take this opportunity to talk about Important Things, like Egypt and stuff, and maybe Tunisia, and possibly Iran because of Precedent. I agree that these things are very important, and that people should be writing about them — what a world we live in. What a world we’ve always lived in, but this one is so much more…well, resistable.
In that spirit, I present an apology of sorts — as in, proper apology, as in, defense — of the small acts of rebellion we are all guilty of committing (and probably have been subjected to) thanks to the amazing world of Internet. First, though, a confession: I was a mischievous child, and took great joy in Getting Away with Things. I always did what was asked of me; I always did my work; I always did so carefully. But I also played, as often and as hard as I could– simply because it wasn’t allowed I chewed gum in class, and snuck food into my desk, and passed notes, my god the notes. Often containing rude cartoons featuring my teachers in various states of undress, and/or as many new and interesting swears as I could conjure, and/or whatever sundry bits of gossip I may have heard at recess, my notes were the stuff of legend. I never got caught, either, in large part because I’d devised a series of nearly-foolproof delivery methods (and also because no one ever suspects the butterfly). I would dismantle Bic pens, for example, and would wrap messages around the inkwell. Once screwed back together, the pens could be passed from person to person without any fear of detection. Sometimes I’d wait until my teacher was looking directly at me before I’d pass whatever message, because lol. It was the funnest thing, more fun, even, then the contents of the notes themselves.
In this particular capacity, I haven’t matured much. I still take great joy in small acts of rebellion, even if (and/or especially because) my acting out is of no consequence. I mean, fighting against the man or tyranny or whatever is great, but so is resisting in the name of resistance. And this, I believe, is part of the draw of the much-beloved backchannel at academic conferences and in seminars, whether we’re talking about the “official” backchannel known as Twitter or the backchannel to the backchannel, i.e. the private IMs and emails that say what a public Tweet never could. I also suspect that this same impulse undergirds a good percentage of trolling activities. I’ve talked about this impulse in other work as embodying a kind of technological entitlement — one which helps explain both trollshit and why 13 year-old Whitney would gleefully pass secret notes in plastic pens. In short, we do the naughty things we do because we can. I wonder how much of snarky online behaviors –and how much resistance to authority, both in the minor and major sense– could be chalked up to precisely that explanation. Personally I’m delighted at the possibility — mischief is just an alternative form of engagement, and god knows the internet is good for shenanigans.