THATCamp RTP

I was in North Carolina for the weekend and I found out about a THATCamp being held in the Triangle (THATCampRTP: Digital Knowledge), so I figured I might as well go. It was on Friday, March 28, and lasted all day. I personally had a great time, but I like this sort of event where talking and meeting people and learning skills is involved (I think that’s why I like school, and why I like it better when it’s less formal).

I don’t have much to say from it, so I’m going to try something experimental: a list of things that I know now that I didn’t before attending, in no particular order  (I lied, it’ll be vaguely chronological).

  • I can play around with hardware and circuits and software just by plugging something into my computer
  • I miss working with breadboards and circuits and I should pick up a kit and try stuff on my own
  • It annoys me when people assume I don’t understand basic things and explain those to me, rather than actually listening to my question.
  • Lunch with friends is always good and sometimes it’s easy to forget that academics are people too (as an academic, no less).
  • I hate when people dominate discussions, and I hope I don’t do it. There’s a fine line between making your point and refusing to let others make theirs.
  • Preaching to the choir is fun but usually not very productive, but sometimes it is!
  • On that note, I really need to look into more legal issues/scholarship: I’m talking about games in culture, and law is part of culture.
  • Safe spaces are important to me, and I will do whatever is in my power to help make them so for other people. And I will expect the same in return.
  • That said, I understand that there is a lot of work to be done and that not everyone has the energy/spoons/desire/whatever to do it, and that’s OKAY.
  • There’s a lot of effort that goes into constructing a document to which multiple people can agree and that reflects the competing goals and desires of many. I commend anyone who takes this on.

I’m lucky, here at this blog. I’m the only one whose goals and desires inform it, because this is my space and my writing. And that reminds me of the last thing I learned:

  • I need to write, learn, communicate, and teach. I wouldn’t be me without doing all that. Yes, I need to slack off and take time off and isolate myself sometimes, but when it comes down to it, the production of knowledge is what I want to help with.
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On friendship and technology; or, FRIEND COMPUTER!

I’ve been reading Nunberg’s edited volume, The Future of the Book, for class, and so have been wading through a fair bit of anti-techno-utopian rhetoric. Normally, that’s cool, because I’m no techno-utopian. But the way in which I am not techno-utopian is that I recognize the continuities and remediations (thanks, Bolter and Grusin) in new media forms. So I don’t like the rhetoric that relies on assuming that new media fundamentally alter the ways that we connect to one another.

So, that said. I appreciate when people put effort into exploring how people will be people through a variety of media forms. And recently, Maureen O’Connor, writing for NYMag’s The Cut blog, penned a great post about friendship in the digital age and group texting and dress rehearsing nudes.

I have to admit, I think The Cut does a consistently thorough and thoughtful treatment of elements of modern culture from the perspective of style and fashion. But this post in particular came at a good time for my mental universe, just as I was grappling with a rhetoric of rupture and social revolution. It’s about how a group of childhood (maybe young adulthood is better?) friends came together through texting. It’s about how two friends share their insecurities by texting pictures to one another. And it’s nothing utopian or too idealistic, but it shows how people manage to keep a sense of social interaction because that’s the point of all this.

My personal experiences certainly bear this argument out. I keep up with my best friend from college through a daily barrage (I mean this in the best way possible) of texts and gchats. Hell, I started my tumblr because I wanted to continue the casual ritual we had of sharing our outfits before going about our respective days (we had basically a suite situation with two separate rooms and a connecting bathroom). I know other people look at it now, occasionally, and I doubt she does so regularly, but she is still my audience for those posts. (Hi!)

I’ve had a blog of some sort or another since 2003. For me, writing on blogs is always a quasi-meditative task, with a nameless, faceless audience. I take pleasure in this distance, sometimes. I know that part of my process is just writing things out, and if people happen to comment and leave their thoughts on my writings, then I can incorporate those and be an even better writer. But this is different from friendship. Friendship requires a sense of reciprocity, or at least of mutual recognition. (Feel free to substitute any kind of positive human relationship for “friendship” there.) The faceless nonexistent audience that I imagine when writing a blog post, the echo chamber of my own metaphorical shower stall, that is emphatically not the kind of engagement that O’Connor is describing. And that’s kind of a great thing. All kinds of engagement are possible, we just have to make it so. Not our technologies, ourselves.

In closing, O’Connor offers an insightful (and hilarious) meditation on the freedoms of a child-like perspective:

Some may find the constant chatter and creep toward co-dependence childish — but the art of friendship has always been one that children perform more naturally than adults. (Other things children do better than adults: imagination, texting, wonderment, recovering from the shame of shitting in your pants.)

Maybe allowing ourselves to explore—new technologies, new forms, new social networks—brings us closer to that wonderment that makes magic happen.

Also, the “Friend computer” is a reference to Paranoia, a hilariously enjoyable role-playing game.

New journal of Porn Studies

Thanks to some people who I follow on Twitter, I found out that the first issue of Porn Studies is out now. This is a free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal devoted to porn studies, and just glancing at the titles, it seems like a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to porn (online, manga, whatever your fancy). There’s a roundtable discussion with contemporary porn actors including Stoya (who is fast-becoming my favorite porn star) and Courtney Trouble. There’s some book reviews, including one of the Feminist Porn Book, which I believe is related to the founding of this journal and to the feminist porn conference. Which leads me to a small, but important point: one of the articles includes a term that I would consider questionable in the title, and makes me slightly uncomfortable with recommending this issue outright.

The article in question (link here: title includes defamatory terms for trans* individuals) is an overview of trends in contemporary US adult film production, distribution, and consumption. Naturally, there are some trends that are highly exploitative, and rely on exploitative terminology to identify themselves. The author of this article, Tibbals, includes a footnote explaining her use of terminology, but I don’t think this is really enough to justify the use of slurs in the title, even if it is contextualized within the article. I get that there’s a fine line between using a term that may have been reclaimed by a community, and using a slur, and I commend the thought that clearly went into this decision, but I think it was a misplay to have a defamatory term in the title.

I also recognize that I am speaking from a position of privilege about this, and also a position of trust in the editorial staff for this issue. I’m assuming good faith here. You may decide that you don’t want to, and that’s totally fine.

Moving on: there are a few articles that feed into that thing I was talking about – the online porn and intimacy post from a few days ago. I think within the next few days I’ll read those articles and the book review (and maybe even have a look at the book in question) and try to contextualize those vis-a-vis that post. Maybe I’ll even feel inspired to draw up some design briefs! (Lol. Unlikely.)