ethnology is dead, long live ethnology

“Ethnology brushed up against its paradoxical death in 1971, the day when the Philippine government decided to return the few dozen Tasaday who had just been discovered in the depths of the jungle, where they had lived for eight centuries without any contact with the rest of the species, to their primitive state, out of the reach of colonizers, tourists, and ethnologists. This at the suggestion of the anthropologists themselves, who were seeing the indigenous people disintegrate immediately upon contact, like mummies in the open air. In order for ethnology to live, its object must die; by dying, the object takes its revenge for being “discovered” and with its death defies the science that wants to grasp it. Doesn’t all science live on this paradoxical slope to which it is doomed by the evanescence of its object in its very apprehension, and by the pitiless reversal that the dead object exerts on it? Like Orpheus, it always turns around too soon, and, like Eurydice, its object falls back into Hades.” – Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra & Simuation

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How does the subject relate to the object and what is produced from the interaction? As we’ve progressed in our research for Digital Ethnography, we’ve begun to encounter the ethical dilemmas with research and human subjects. The university requires IRB training and- while I understand the thought behind it- the technical materials of the training were terribly inadequate. The bullet points don’t begin to address the complications and implications of any interaction, even one as close as studying college students and their thoughts on education. The proximity of study cuts both ways: on one hand, we are close to what we’re researching, we have experience, and insight, and investment, but on the other hand, our research subjects include our selves, our friends, subjects with powerful, visceral connections, and maybe there’s not enough distance there to know what to do. Is there ever enough distance? Does it make a difference?

In class, Maria expressed some concerns about if/how she was commodifying her personal experiences for academic gain. The questions resonated with me. Although I’m not using many details from my life, I am using the ideas and images of my friends. I’ll try to snipe footage when people are working, studying, hanging out and there’s always someone who looks at you- at the camera- their gaze calling into question your purpose. What right do I have to intrude? What right do I have to snatch experiences beyond their moment in time? There’s this suggestion of violation, and I’m not entirely comfortable dismissing it.

The concern extends beyond my work in Digital Ethnography. Between my book chapter assignment, my Leaving 203 projet, general research interests, and debate, there’s a lot pressure to make every moment count- not just as itself, but more importantly for what it can be put towards. Can I blog about this? What if I post a link from this to this? Want to hang out? Only if we do this, which, shockingly I need for this. The time remaining after school time and work time, small as it is, must matter. And so I find myself listening to a lecture while reading an essay and chatting with friends to maintain a semblance of sanity. The experience is draining, but also unsettling. There’s always so much happening that there’s never the chance to think. I can’t focus unless I’m unfocussed so don’t take my distractions away but even play must have a purpose.

Some things have value beyond any verbal articulation, but it’s a lot harder to find justification when everything else remains discursively based. Maybe I want to do absolutely nothing but breathe and see and feel, experience the smallest sensations so I can have perspective for the larger ones but I am losing the ability to do so. Being alone scares me- not in the relationship omg what am i going to do with my life i need to find the one sense, but rather just the physical experience of not being around other people. The absence of human presence, for any amount of time, is unnerving. I live with other people, talk with other people, face2face, on the phone, through text, the internet, and when there’s no one around, I go to a public place to just experience others.

When I think about the creative process, my biggest desire is to become the same. Each act of creation functions as a participation in a process larger than myself. This desire for connections, both on the level of individual desire and the technological super-structures which facilitate the connections, mirrors Baudrillard’s criticism of ethnology. The two processes reveal the desire for the eradication of difference; the first on the level of identity and the second on the level of knowledge-mastery. What is driving this point of study? This way of being?

I don’t know. C’est la guerre.

leaving 203 kickstarter project

I have been working with Joseph Savage and Ben Henke on a project called Leaving 203. We want to travel this summer and use that experience to write a geographical introduction to philosophy. The project is still pretty early in the forming stage, but we do have a blog that is up and running. You should check it out if you get the chance at Leaving 203. We also got our Kickstarter page up today! It’s pretty exciting, and you can check it out here. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a pretty awesome site where creative projects seek support. Artists of all kinds describe projects they are working on, or would like to work on, and people can choose to pledge support. If the financial goal is met, then the artist(s) receive the funding for his/her/their work.

It’s been exciting working on everything so far- but I’m pretty nervous now that the Kickstarter page is up and running. We need to shoot and edit a promotional video within the week. So much to do!

insurgent, rhizomatic velocities

“The globe is crisscrossed by an ongoing confrontation between these two opposed patterns of speed, which rephrasing Deleuze and Guattari are the arboreal flows coded by capitalist-state power and the un-coded nomad flows of insurgent, rhizomic velocities. These speeds are not of the same nature but only exist in mixture, as Deleuze and Guattari argued in regards to smooth and striated space. Facebook groups, with an administrator that posts messages that reach thousands of bodies, follow an arboreal dispersion within a rhizomic structure, and the death-squads that patrol the streets of Tripoli in pick-up trucks are rhizomic lines of speed that follow an arboreal chain of command. Yet these patterns of speed do express that in revolutions a centralized, rooted form is challenged from all sides by swarms striking it and moving away to avoid repression. And revolutions defeat arboreal-centralized velocities by overwhelming them with mobile and swarm-like forms of bodily saturation.” – Gaston Gordillo, “The Speed of Revolutionary Resonance

Gordillo’s essay offers a lovely analysis of the recent revolutions, the role of mediation technology, and the importance of bodily affect. An excellent read.

 

finding a foundation

“Published nearly 30 years later, Pedagogy of Freedom continues the exploration of many of the themes found in Freire’s earlier works, including critical pedagogy, ethics, and social relations. For those who share his humanist values, the text offers an overview of general education practices and expectations for classroom relationships, while also drawing attention to the need for further work, further change. Pedagogy of Freedom issues a call to action- but the directed audience is smaller than expected.”

– an excerpt of the review of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom I wrote for Leaving 203. You can read the full review here.

recognizing my double (or why xanga should have maturity requirements)

I recently discovered that my old Xanga account still existed. At first, I was horrified. I don’t spend much time thinking back on high school, and when I do, it’s mostly about the plays I was in or classes I really liked, not about identity, insecurity, or relationships. My immediate reaction was to shut to page down. I didn’t want anyone to find it or connect it back to me or… anything. However, I lacked the necessary information to do anything about the account. It’s now beyond my control so as a way of gaining control, I wrote a story about it. The writing structure is a bit odd, since it’s meant to be performed out loud (and had been, at Auntie Maes Mighty Fine Poetry Night) but I thought I’d post to share.
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I am an electronic archaeologist, sifting through shit posted on the internets, navigating texts in order to produce the picture of a youth, age15, confused and angry, trying to figure out what everything means, managing impressively little success.

Meet Meg- marketing her feelings, thoughts, inner-workings to the public scene, publishing an incessent flow of words- of varying unimportance- packaged as the most important- a numbing effect where today’s lunch, life dreams, existential agnst, are all the same thing. Hear me! See me! Need me! Respond to my every speech act- her acts are caught for all to see, all you need is a few search terms, terminating at a poorly designed Xanga page- they were all the rage- in 2005.

What do we find searching through the antiquated space?  Straining our eyes to make sense of  the white font on a light background the initial payoff seems only to be sparks of silly, inconsequential shit. A girl who loves her fishnets  just as much as her highlighter/post-it pen combo. Who thinks the book was better than the movie- but really who doesn’t? Who’s concerned with pimples and parties. All parts part and parcel of a high school life.

Consider a more particular slice. She writes “i hate the modesty test. yeah… my shirt doesn’t go up to my neck. that’s for a reason. i like my boobs more than most of my body… i only wish they were a little bit bigger” be careful what you wish for. but even more than misguided wishes and cheeky exhibition, she demonstrates a bodily awareness cum preoccupation, positing an ideal form that estranges her own. Will she want to own up for the depressive writings? writhing in discomfort at the texture of her flesh. I doubt she’d be impressed the way the words have held up over time. Time can be cruel.

But Meg was cool enough to write about people beyond just her self, at least as they relate to herself, self-celebration can be a bit addicting. She provides contradicting accounts of interpersonal desires. Reiterating trite, over used phrases like “i don’t know why I’m so attracted to jerks.” doesn’t take much work to work that one out. how about maybe you want what you shouldn’t have? or maybe good is more boring than the bad? or maybe pain makes the best sort of pleasure?

Despite her measured lack of self awareness, Meg never once feared to speak out about the actions of others and problems to surmount. Confusion proved a breeding ground for speculative thought. When confronted with ethical thoughts, here’s what she spouted: “everybody must create their own morals. they have to be a conscious choice or eventually they will just fall apart. religion and society should not dictate your choices.” Choice-worthy words reminiscent of Nietzsche? Or simply the whining of a 15 year old girl?  As her thoughts unfurl into levels of vacuousity- I’d be disinclined to grant much intellectual credit.

But I ought to take credit- or at least responsibility- for the shit that i’ve posted on the internet. Sure it was six years ago, all sorts of long ago, filled with lots of things i’d rather forget. But when you forget your password and your username and your email address, Xanga is disinclined to take the site down. And if they hadn’t turned me down, i certainly wouldn’t have found all the awkward and uncomfortable things i used to think and speak to my closest friends and furtherest strangers. the strangeness of the experience feels like the confrontation of two entirely separate selves- but something else feels much the same- the sort of shame, and awkwardness, and craziness, and joyousness, seeps into my thoughts and is expressed through my words. Maybe it’s absurd but there’s a sort of timelessness and placeless, and while i’m not completely comfortable claiming this part of my past. To quote my past self. “I am approaching ok’ness”.

post-grad pressures & disposable students

too rad for grad school

jb of Sassyfrass Circus offers a great/conflicted/confessional/humorous rant that explores the pressures to pursue graduate school and the uncomfortable exclusions of the university system.

this year, many of my friends are graduating seniors who have applied to grad schools in various departments (history, english, political science, philosophy) and the letters of acceptance and rejection have started to trickle in. it’s an entirely scary and upsetting process, even from a (slightly) removed position. how do you capture the worth of a student on few sheets of paper? sure, there are ways to individuate yourself through a dynamic personal statement or a collection of activities and awards, but both can be easily skewed and neither are exhaustive accounts of an individual being. and i guess i don’t know anything that meets that last requirement but it’s still painful to see the reduction of the student to the application, particularly when the application is denied.

in digital ethnography, we’ve talked a lot about the pressure to go to college but we haven’t yet discussed the pressure to continue in post-grad education. for anyone wanting srs intellectual pursuits, the pressure for a phd operates in much the same way. scholarship can exist outside the university, but it’s much more difficult without an established community or access to published work (which is why publicly available scholarship should be demanded!). i would like to say i don’t need degrees to continue my intellectual endeavors but i find myself just a dependent on pursing a traditional academic path.

perhaps my research into cracks and fissures within (and now without) the educational system will change my mind.

excerpts from existencilism by banksy

cracks and fissures// deterritorializaitons and reterritorializations // graffitti is to city as x is to education?

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“If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to lie. Being yourself is overrated anyway. It doesn’t help. People say ‘I’m just being myself’ as if that’s some kind of fucking achievement. That’s not an achievement, that’s not honesty, its lack of imagination and cowardice.”

“People think that cutting stuff up is destructive but it’s acutally a very creative thing to do because you’re making loads of new stuff.”

“Twisted little people go out every day and deface this great city. lLeaving their idiotic little scribblings, invading communities and making people feel dirty and used. They just take, take, take, and they don’t put anything back. they’re mean and selfish and they make the world and ugly place to be. We call them adversiding agencies and town planners. People say there is a graffitt prolem. The only problem with graffiti is that there isn’t enough of it. Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where veyrbody could draw what they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a living, breathing thing which belonged to everybody, not just the estate agents of barons of big business. Imagine a city like this and stop leaning agianst that wall- it’s wet.”

read more here.

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planning, whereby the present interpenetrates the future

In digital ethnography, we have moved towards developing our individual projects and areas of focus. While the entire class will continue to explore the juncture of mediation and education, each of us are now responsible for a particular subject. My project aims to explore the cracks and fissures within the current education system. Understanding that the current educational structure isn’t going to evaporate anytime soon (or at least, not has not yet), I am trying to find stories of students and instructors thriving within given circumstances. I suspect this thriving takes on a variety of forms: an individual student passionate about a lecture environment, a student using technology to extend his/her education outside of a classroom, alternative pedagogies, and/or collaboration/group sourcing. The activity of parkour offers a visual example of the cracks and fissures process: the participant runs in an urban setting over building and structures, transforming various personal and commercial environments into a novel environment for adventures. This transformation can be understood as a form of reterritorialization. The use of physical, spacial language is particularly apporpriate in the context of education- trying to make sense of how students operate within classrooms, within university structures.

Here’s the tentative research schedule. Planning is not one of my strengths and I intend to get side-tracked but each week does outline some points I would like to explore specifically. Please share any relevant stories, sites, or sources, if possible.

Week 1: Reread d&g, find blog articles, journal articles, specifically read up on educational revolts in UK

Week 2: Find instances (video/picture/audio/interview) of educational cultural jamming: the collegian trolling,  papers with lolcats/subversive grammar

Week 3:  Find instances/ do research on crowd sourcing and group collaboration

Week 4:  Do more research on educational fissures- try to talk to success stories/get interviews via text/phone/other

Week 5:  Re-evaluate

oddly awesome, or why music makes a difference

  http://www.youtube.com/user/robmikh#p/a/f/0/8heaQqMhYPw

I have no obvious reason to be invested in the geometric shapes appearing on my screen but I know that I am. They are meaningful, important, their work is urgent. Not only must I watch them, but I must care about them, identify with them, root for their success.

Musical manipulation. Wonderful juxtaposition. An entertaining reminder of the power of sound.