Here's the current situation...

The Youth: A Lower Class

My entire life I've been hearing younger generations talked about in disparaging tones. I've been told that my ideas and dreams are hopelessly immature and naïve. When I'm older I'll understand, they tell me. I just turned thirty-one, and finally I believe I get it. Generations don’t really exist—they are arbitrary distinctions, identified by any number of cultural traits (music genres, common technologies, clothes, etc). The so-called young generations have always been mistrusted by the so-called older generations. But this isn't just a cultural conservatism. Generations are just a misnomer for class relations. A class is a group that protects its own interests. It does this by creating an identity, by which it can identify individuals with similar interests. What's good for one person with a 9-5 job, a family, and a median income is probably also good for his/her similar neighbor, and so we have the middle class—identifiable by a house, a dog, and 2.5 children. What's good…

Your Small Utopia

So you want to build a small utopia. You are tired of the bullshit, and given that this is summer, you think it's finally time to create a new society. Your localized revolution might as well begin as a holiday. Maybe you are able to get time off of your job, or failing to have one of those, perhaps you are just mentally prepared to spend a little bit more money than you otherwise would. Even opening a gap in the capitalist hegemony requires a starting investment of some kind. Utopias need cold beer, and your friends' homebrewing adventures can only provide so much. But after the initial investment, the rest, you could do yourself. You are not so deluded to think that building a small utopia will be no work. It's sweat equity, or at least that's how you talk about it. If you can just get a hold of enough raw materials initially, you can learn the skills and do the work. You could probably terraform Mars if you try really hard and not worry about screwing up once or twice or thrice.…

Tossing the Four Freedoms on the Fire

We have a surveillance culture in the United States. Despite our unwillingness to talk about it, we have a long history of domestic surveillance. Norman Rockwell painted pictures of America’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. But on the wall upon which those portraits hang, behind those images, covered up by the ostentatious gilded frames, are the dark, scrawled drawings of the powers of ubiquitous surveillance. We might call these the four Dark Powers. Under freedom of speech lies the power of self-incrimination; behind the freedom of worship is the power of profiling; underneath the freedom from want is the power of informants; and revealed behind the freedom from fear is the power of normalized surveillance culture. It is this normalized surveillance culture that Eugene Wolters references in his recent piece on the cultural understanding of Foucault in these times of revelations about the intelligence community's true…

The Chastised Generation

A group of children are walking down the sidewalk, boisterously noisy and taking up space. Adults, perhaps parent s themselves, glare at the youth, and with their mind squish them together into a single unit. A single person, with two arms, two legs, skin tone precisely in the middle. Clothes ill-fitting, thrifted out of the past fashions, off-the-off-rack garments not quite matching limbs that don't know whether they ought to be growing or shrinking. A grimace on the face of this composite youth. A sneer, a gesture, a cock of the hips, and the young person raises a camera, lens side in, to take a photo of itself.We'll call this youth Generation.Generation doesn't exist, except in the condescending words and minds of those who would try to be its Dad/Mom. But in the headlines and the newspaper columns, through the worried conversations in hushed tones about the ever-absent descendant, through the looks and the clucks, and the shakes of heads and the murmurs of “hipsters”, Generation…

Occupying Strategic and Tactical Media Space: Failures of Tools, Behaviors, and Narratives

This paper was presented by Rosalynn and Adam Rothstein for MediaCities 4, as part of the panel "Uncommon Occupations".  Introduction/Abstract The Occupy protests of 2011 and 2012, in addition to contesting the control of physical space, created a public realm of media space different than any other direct action political movement in the United States thus far. While there were a number of positive effects of this topological shift, this media space became more complex than the initial political narratives generated by the movement, and the movement failed to fully “occupy” this space, at the expense of its political success. Narratives are the lifeblood of politics; they set the context for interpersonal, social, state-level, cultural, and strategic actions by prescribing possibilities, and describing limitations. The narrative of the Occupy movement made possible by its technological means of publication was largely that of social media: individual expression without any further…

The Looped Gaze of a Vine

A Vine--a six second looped video--shows the moment of a bombing on a crowded street, recorded off of a television screen. What does it mean? It must mean something, because we’re talking about it. We’re watching it, again and again. This is something that is important to think about, because the way we watch things affects the way that we think about things. Whitney Boesel wrote about the Vine, and what she thinks it means: Yes, the fact that someone shot a vine of this news broadcast probably got that explosion footage in front of more people, and in front of more people more quickly, than the television broadcast and subsequent YouTube (etc) videos would have alone. But in shooting a vine of the explosion footage, the person who did so created an easily sharable short story of this afternoon’s events that reduces the tragedy of a violent act down to a bright orange flash. Vine being what it is, this visual short story also does its own work to rapidly become the image of these…

Assholes, Technology, and Children

Among all the questions that Google Glass is raising even before the thing is really out in the wild, most interesting to me are those problematics involving the social implications of the thing. The literal use of the tech has been discussed, as have the surveillance implications. I've thought about my own sneaking suspicion that much of the discomfort about Glass is due to the uncanny cyborg body horror of putting digital equipment on the face. Even more awesomely, it is shaping up the be the incarnate bogeyman of everything anyone has ever worried about technology. But now Adrian Chen raises the important issue: does wearing Google Glass just straight up make you an asshole? Now we're on to the main course. In addition to all the other things this gadget might do and not do, as a highly visible and highly hyped object referencing science-fiction from Neuromancer to Robocop, the cultural weight of this thing will be off the charts. (And yes, he argues.)  Chen cites Ta-nehisi…

Technological Communicaton and State Speech

Survival is always dependent upon physical conditions, but the knowledge of whether or not our global neighbors are surviving, and how well, is a matter of the received distribution of data. It is this group consciousness that ensures free societies. While there are other human necessities more threatened that those we label as “free speech”, the ubiquity of communication in the information age means that defending it has become a universal issue in principle, said to “affect us all equally”. This glosses over the fact that from the outset, the presence and lack of privilege prevents a level plane for this expression. We all equally deserve “free speech”, but what that means to a fair-skinned man in San Jose, a dark-skinned woman in Mississippi, a businessman in Dubai, and a college student in Egypt, are all radically different things. For both those in danger of losing their ability to communicate and for those who never had it to begin with, it is important to map this tactical…

What is a Technological Cosmology?

"Generative Sigil" by Joshua Madara The spread of advanced technology in everyday life has accompanied a retreat of religious language from mainstream culture. Not long ago, religion was more than a means of attaining amoral compass, the source of "values" that it is today. Although it still does take this tendency in certain cultures and circumstances, religion once was, throughout the world, the text of a cosmology that describes the way the world works. Religion was the key to explaining the mysteries of life, and even when its cosmology was proved wrong, its larger cultural weight served as a point of departure for more detailed, scientific discoveries. The motion of the spheres, the aetheric whispers of the electromagnetic spectrum, the heaving and quaking of the ball of matter we live upon--historically, these phenomena were not correctly understood by religious or spiritual explanations, but at least they were a place to start. The Galileos of the world needed a cosmology to…

Dark Theory

In the shadows of myths, a new entity builds itself. It is called Dark Theory, and in the dark, it grows. From the broken pieces rubble, it constructs a new mortar, pasting itself up from the midden pits of cultural discards, the unwanted substance of thousands of years of stories and folktales, naming conventions, official designations, and jurisprudence. This excised material, this societal negative space, reassembles into a sprawling favela of unmapped streets. Like ancient books resurrected into new artwork by a counter-culture with insurgent spirit and a taste for its own blood, the darkness is cataloged, analyzed, and bootlegged, becoming dangerous and feral, in that it has been pried out from its history, and set upon new, machined legs.It is with myths that we color the outlines of our cultural terrain. We collide with the shapes whether we like it or not, but it is with narratives that we shade in the fields, providing us with a sense of depth at a distance. With this color,…

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