Category: my work

  • draft thought: empathy is the predictive analytics of feelings

    “Empathy in Psychotherapy: A Vital Mechanism? Yes. Therapist’s Conceit? All too Often. By Itself? No.” John Shlien

    Because people love me, they often send me things happening out in the world where people are grappling with this thing we call “empathy” (please continue to do so watching this unfold is helping me think through things).

    Yesterday I was sent the tweet above about a Vice article “The Anatomy of Empathy” which I’d missed where a doctor and a masseuse have what they are calling “mirror-touch synesthesia”. My initial thought: if you are calling it something other than “empathy” why is it being called empathy? My second thought: lolsob.

    Here is a very short story. Once upon a time an amazing mentor asked me what I meant when I said “empathy”. This led me down a reading hole. I read moral philosophy, psychology, neurology, cultural theory, religious studies, decolonial theory, phenomenology, aesthetics, history, etc etc I mean, it was a lot. I read a lot. As far as I could find empathy is made up. The timeline in the article is wrong. It appeared long before 1967. There are a few other things that are inaccurate so I am taking the background portions with a grain of salt. The thing I am thinking about after reading it though is…

    Empathy is predictive analytics for feelings.

    The ability to predict and imagine the current and future state of a person is dependent on the amount of data (towards humanization), the empathizer has.

    I am glad that a doctor and a masseuse are able to feel the body of others more. And it makes sense they would learn to super feel for the other they are caring for. All disciplines seem to agree that whatever empathy may be it is extremely biased and not as altruistic as we imagine it to be, like most technologies (if we choose to see feelings as a technology for navigating/experiencing the world). Given that both of their jobs and their ability to do their job well is dependent on having a deeper understanding of the body, being able to create an image of an empty body in their mind that they feel through seems like an amazing tool for them to be able to predict (by imagining the body of the other as their own) what the best course of treatment will be.

    But why imagination? There is a book, Empathy: A History by Susan Lanzoni that goes into the history of empathy from Germany, imported to the US in the early 1900s, where it percolated having first two meanings and then one as a psychology of the imagination. The story of empathy I find most fascinating has to do with Carl Rogers, a humanist psychologist, heavily discussed in the article the image comes from. He apparently decided to focus on “empathy” because he had a woman patient who was smart (maybe even smarter than him), and it led to a breakdown of sorts apparently (see page below).

    Anyway, the article is wild. Psychedelics make an appearance too. All that to say, in clinical settings it seems that empathy is always used to predict feelings of the other in some form through mirroring in the mind. The limits of our dataset will limit who we are able or mirror either in emotions or physical feeling. I am always struck by the negative outcomes in healthcare for black women when I think of this because there are two parts to being treated, the provider needs to both be able to mirror your body in their brain to some degree and/or feel that you are worth feeling for in such a way that will lead to treatment.

    Black women often have to establish a relationship with a physician over time before they can be taken seriously as a person, they do not get treatment until they are able to convince the person to take them seriously. There is no predictive apparatus built into western culture that would allow people to feel for and into black women in that way. From personal experience, I can say I was sick for a very long time (more than a decade). When I moved back to the NYC metro area I was able to change all my doctors to women of color. That was the point where I was finally taken seriously and finally had a team of doctors who wanted to figure out what was actually going on, and they did. Was it empathy? Maybe? if you think understanding and feeling for another human as though they are worthy of feeling for and doing so and understanding the implications down the road is empathy. sure.

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  • Deaths of the Cyborgs

    Slide Deck

    Workshop on Media and Paranoia
    Concordia University Montreal
    April 26, 2019

    AS WE CONTINUE compulsively to “innovate”, we tend to drop off baggage or noise that we deem as unimportant or tangential to how society is working. And I think maybe we shouldn’t because that’s where we start ending up with these lovely biased algorithms and biased technologies and biased ways of understanding worlds.

    Me, Jade E. Davis, during the workshop

    Things Read Ahead of Time

    Things Read Out Loud


    The emancipated slave Harriet Ann Jacobs said, “Death is better than slavery.” Cicero, in reflecting on the dead came to the following thought, “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living” Because we have erased slavery from our collective memories, the cyborg became a stand-in for what once was. I think all of us here today can agree that The Cyborg is better off dead as long as it is a stand in for the most disenfranchised. We are here to celebrate the Death of the noble technological savage we lovingly called the cyborg.

    The cyborg had an active professional life what with the controlled breeding programs and cannibalism that came with each new technological advance. Most of the cyborgs professional accomplishments have been lost to history though. The cyborg was phenomenal at erasing the belief in value in its own previous versions.

    The thing I will remember the Cyborg for the most is how welcome the cyborg made us all feel. Who among us has never felt, maybe I too, am a Cyborg? That’s a hell of a legacy.

    Well. The cyborg is apparently cloned before we killed it off…

    Though we did manage to finally kill the cyborg the cyborg is, and will remain the evidence, not the source of the tension between humans and machines and the desire to have pure communication between the two. I would like to close with this, the cyborg is like the dark smoke of a young fire and we all fear the flames we cannot see.

    RACISM AND SLAVERY and the idea of skin color and race being a technology, create a certain type of paranoia for the enslaved and their descendants, which I would call banal paranoia. And there’s banal paranoia in institutional racism for the person who is privileged in that system. But when somebody is called out on racism, or if they have very active racism, it’s a hyper-paranoia.

    Me again, Jade E. Davis, during the workshop talk


    The hope of the coming globalization that defined early forays into long distance electric media brought with it its own accident: The belief that differences between people wouldn’t matter as we met through machines. Enter the cyborg, a technique to continually bring us closer to communing with machines while always being able to quickly and easily point out artificial difference. When it is built in melted rocks and sand it becomes easier to identify that which marks a body as other. And as technology does, it makes this skill seem neutral instead of something designed into the system.

    We would sooner be consumed by paranoia than live with the guilt of the systemic exploitation that the infrastructure of modern technology is built on. Technology is our metaphysics. Technology is our hashtag SupremeBeing. We allow it to externalize our moral and ethical stances. We are the cyborgs in media ecologies designed to sell our souls and lives to the highest bidder through endless streams of data dissected through algorithms we will never be able to access…

    We are the cyborg. We are the conspiracy. We must kill the cyborg.

    Death to the cyborgs! Death to the cyborgs! Death to the Cyborgs.

    Never mind. The Cyborgs are already dead.

    Things Landing

    The most rewarding thing shared with me after the talk was someone had a class that read the cyborg manifesto and felt a lot of discomfort with the text. To try to fix how it had shifted the course Sorry to Bother You was brought in as something to screen by the students (a choice I highly agree with). She said that she wishes the find and replace version had been available to help students add language to the thing the text was doing and obscuring, which was basically the reason for the talk.

    Thank you again to the Global Emergent Media Lab for inviting me and to all the workshop attendees for the lovely conversations!

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  • Empathy and The New Mission (decolonizing empathy)

    Still reading and writing but wanted to share a draft of a part of where I am and how I am framing some thoughts.

    On the surface letting of empathy may seem like a bad thing. To the contrary, to let go of empathy is to allow a new space of meaningful and positive spaces. Rather than trying to feel the pain of others, allow space for critical or deep listening. Do not try to enter the crisis, or be the person. Instead listen, observe, be with. There is nothing special about being with another nor is any suffering exceptional unless the work is done to make it so. The lull of oppression defines colonization but it is invisible as long as some feel it acutely and others less so. Often when people are able to point to the more oppressed, rather than understanding their own suffering, they empathize with those who are allowed no other story. Occasionally they come up with plans to help or speak for these wretched or damned people so that they might have a bit more (but never everything and never equal). And when that fails, there is pointing “at least we are not as bad off as them. They must really deserve it.”

    Empathy is already its own failure because it is the embodiment of a colonial sentimentality based on missionary thinking. It is a reimagining of the civilizing mission in an ever increasingly electrically mediated world. Letting go empathy should be central to any decolonial project, especially as we need to work across difference to imagine and create new worlds. Empathy, on the other hand, is the birth, death, and pain of the life of the Other all experienced simultaneously. The turn away from radical activism to radical empathy is an emptying out of direct action in exchange for a return to a European sentimentality that recenters the self as the only space of critical engagement. Further, the Other, unfeeling and unreal as birthed and killed through empathy, is imagined to be incapable of a critical awareness of the self because the Other is too clouded by their own imagined tragic past to through which everything is filtered. Empathy disregards actual interactions with the Other and disables the possibility for a dialogue where the Other can provide a perspective, comparison. This lack of dialogue is a pre-foreclosure of the possibility of mutual recognition.

    If the only version of an other person that can be seen is the one that can be imagined and felt inside of themselves, many others will always be invisible, a passing curiosity, or less than human. Feelings are fickle and easily changed when trying to connect to the unrecognizable through avatars of the self. Rather than understanding decolonization as a political project of undoing, I understand it to be a project of what can become. In that sense, letting go of empathy and facing its other side, is a decolonial project. Understanding decolonization as an orientation towards the future complicates empathy as empathy creates a false engagement with the past that concurrently erases the present and denies those who are not part of the existing power structures, those who are only real through empathy, the ability to be part of the future. This is an enforced affective incompleteness for those who exist outside of dominant power structures. Decolonization and time, primarily as informed by Frantz Fanon, are central frameworks for my understanding the other side of empathy. I do not have an answer to how we might replace empathy though. What I do have is a provocation on the temporality bound in colonial ideals of goodness and badness, of missions, and almost humans, where we might imagine what might become if we replace understanding and connection through feeling, or empathy, with mutual recognition, action, and perhaps compassion. Without a compassion based on a radical transcendent self-love, to let go of empathy does not stop the self-alienation and annihilation so central to colonial thinking that is designed to launch people into an existential crisis that requires the Other so that the self can be defined, valued, and grounded in the past and present colonial structure of power and difference.

    To be oriented towards the decolonial requires that a thing be grounded present and the future. Decolonial dialectics (Ciccariello-Maher 2017) requires a very specific emptying of the past in order to become a yet-to-be defined new. It requires an acknowledgment that certain people denied their humanity, move through the world as a vast emptiness that takes up space in order for white supremacy and other colonial systems of power and oppression to be maintained. It requires that time is given and not given to certain bodies to define what it means to be whole. Time is essential to maintaining existing power structures as people are taken and kept out of time. The statement, “These people are backwards” refers not to a spatial location of people, but rather, denotes a temporal orientation that implies an aspect or the whole of a person or group has not stayed in time with the dominant mode of progress. Empathy then is an inherently colonial phenomenon as it tries to tie the ontological present to an imagined past through mind or psychic control that feels like embodiment which then defines and creates the future. Even further, empathy allows for the other stay as the invisible other side as the Other’s existence is ignored. The Other’s value and life are imagined into reality by those in power to ensure their continued oppression or exclusion, even as the imagined life in no way corresponds with reality. In empathy, the other is re-Objectified and voiceless to ensure the Other can either be ignored, saved, or condemned not by themselves but those who have the liberty of their imagination becoming reality by birthright. It is important to note that empathy came about in America as psychologists attempted to figure out what to call the psychology of imagination in the early 20th century (Lanzoni 2018). This means that empathy is predicated on the ability to imagine some other thing or just the Other. It in no way is tied to realness, and thus, is the space where a thing is brought into being by the previous experiences, stories, beliefs, and rituals that already exist in a given culture.

    Works Cited:

    • Ciccariello-Maher, George. Decolonizing dialectics. Duke University Press, 2017.
    • Fanon, all of it
    • Lanzoni, Susan. Empathy: a Short History. Yale University Press, 2018.

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  • Draft of Empathy Manifesto #1: Emerging Technologies (VR) or Technically Feeling

    I feel you, man.


    Because we can never truly know another’s feelings or perspective, it is better that we not feel at all instead of going down the path of self-actualizing at the cost of temporary self-annihilation coupled cannibalization that we have come to call “empathy” across all parts of society tasked with cultural reproduction. That is to say, empathy is an illusion at best or simply, as is said in moments of deep reflection, bullshit!


    Here is the list of things I know to be true (which should not be confused with Truth) about empathy:

    1. Feelings and emotions are chemical pollution of the brain that cloud accuracy of experience.
    2. Reaching radical empathy is to have successfully dehumanized.
    3. Empathy leaves the other stuck in time and place.
    4. You are my Other… and I too am yours does not mean WE ARE THE SAME.
    5. Mediated experiences and the empathy they *inspire* is an illusion.
    6. To be in the shoes of an Other still leaves you with your own feet.
    7. Empathy is deployed and used politically as though it is pure transference or communication.
    8. Respect, Compassion, Mutual Recognition, and Assumptions are better frameworks.
    9. Your irrational feelings are my murder and you cannot empathize with the dead.
    10. The body having empathetic sensations is the body seduced and overwhelmed by its own feelings.
    11. Empathy = DEHUMANIZATION and ALIENATION (first of the Other and then of the Self)


    The disenfranchised, the marginalized, the at-risk are expected to perform their pain and discomfort for those who know only comfort. Those who know only comfort do not realize they sit in a position of privilege and power. Rather than trying to step into the discomfort of others, people should learn to confront, interrogate, and be aware of their own discomfort (preferably with a smile) because empathy is empty.


    Empathy Manifesto #1: Emerging Technologies or Technically Feeling


    Look at our emerging technologies! The circulating belief that the ability to see someone as human, to empathize, only if you can inhabit their body as espoused by current emerging virtual reality technology is a reaffirmation that the white male body is the universal body. The version of the “Other” created by the white male gaze and desire is a pitiful and incomplete, incapable of experiencing joy and happiness. The human, reduced and converted to experience then ejected from their body is actualized as a “thing” to temporarily inhabit but never encounter. This lack of encounter and human connection, executed as narratives of trauma, for the purpose of creating empathy for a select few means that the relatives and descendants of those reduced to experience will never exist beyond the virtually real trauma of their kinfolk.


    Questions Arise:


    • What does it mean to design empathy in an experiencer or viewer of some mediated experience?
    • What becomes of users and creators when their own bodies start  to disappear as they take on the bodies of others, bodies that render other humans into consumable nuggets of suffering?


    This is what is being sold with the current push for “affordable” virtual reality technology being positioned as the next and most world-changing emerging technology. These technologies are new methods of emotional control through the false connection known as empathy. They control by increasing distance between people due to the false sense suppressing the self that happens with overstimulation due to the ever-increasing high fidelity and definition of our technologies. It is no wonder that after going through the mediation of electronic machines the experience feels like an increased connection to some Other, be it people or experience. The connection electronic mediation creates is false and this dilemma is not new. Look to history! When technology is deployed in uneven power relationships (both real and potential, but never imagined) at a societal level and as a central component of how the world is designed the empathy shaped morality becomes the foundation of multigenerational trauma. “Moral” empathy imprisons people in the events they survive and the places they are imagined to occupy or were born.


    Yet empathy is seen only as a grave danger for the empathizers who understand “them” through the pain of these events or places (because “they” are incapable of joy). Understand them from and through place (because “they” cannot exist here with you; “they” are always far away). Feel “it” in you because they are not human (“they” are pain and place). “They” are an extension of that which you can never be (because you are good/well, and you belong). “They” are not human (“they” do not belong with you). “They”, the dehumanized, are incapable of dreams and joys of their own because they are the carriers of the pain you cannot face/acknowledge. “They” are less than other. “They” are an experience to be consumed and regurgitated as if it is your own. “They” are technology. A virtual reality. A skin that can augment your experience. A skin that can be quickly removed. A skin that is not real. “They” are a skin you put on because you are skinless.

    [with thanks to MinneWebCon for so many amazing conversations post-keynote and people who read early bits and pieces of my jumbled thoughts that are still in draft mode]

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  • Initial thoughts on libraries, time, digital things, and oracle bones

    Disclaimer(s): I have a lot to read and a lot to learn. I am not with my books so I don’t have citations on hand. Like most digital things i write/share, these are just draft thoughts…

    While media studies and cultural studies tend to focus on time together and distance as important points to begin theoretical engagements, my first impression of being in a library is that is a place that does not. Rather than grappling with the effects of time and ruminating on coevalness, the goal of the library is preservation. The notion that “new and cutting edge research”, with lots of citations and impact is key is no longer at play. Instead, a first conversation with a preservationist was about a single object existing in the year 2073. The implied thought was, and forever more after that or for generations to come. I was also able to watch the care that goes into to book restoration, treating it as a precious object that must somehow endure across time.

    My initial thought is digital work goes against the central goal of the library. It’s ephemeral nature leaves it probe to disappearance and decontexualization. Though I generally don’t say it explicitly most of my research, writing and work is focused on how do we create spaces of knowledge production with digital tools given the risk that comes from decontexualization and context collapse. This moment of “Fake News” is just as likely to occur as an amazing discovery that previous assumptions didn’t take into account an object that has been digitized by an archive that previously was mostly out of reach. Likewise, when people engage in digital spaces they are risking themselves to various types of exposure and surveillance.

    But this moment I am obsessed with an object..

    Columbia has Oracle bones. They were digitized in 3D and are available online but require a special viewer. You can see pictures at

    And wikipedia has a thing on them too:

    I am probably fetishizing presence and coevalness. However, as far as how I move through the world, I tend to think that each moment is its own thing and the places and things we are together with are as meaningful as we allow them to be. I was with the Oracle Bones. This thing that was once part of a living create, that then was taken by another human 3000 years ago and written on because it had a divine destiny existed with me for a moment in time, in all of its fragility from 3000 years of existence. Unlike a museum, in a library there is no glass. There is you and the object of curiosity. These moments take my breath away. I have them with digital discovery too, but mainly with photographs. Perhaps it is just me being attached to those human connections that are able to exist across time. I feel a similar way when I encounter a well read older book. Let me stop this tangent…

    The temporality of the digital can never capture the fragility of physical objects. This is something I am always thinking about because we experience the digital as a non physical thing, ignoring that even the digital is composed of many objects that will also deteriorate and disappear over time. It also contains its own obsolescence. Digital things are, by the nature of how we use remediated digital content, designed to exist on a screen or server or other object designed to display the digital object temporarily before the screen, action, etc disappears or moves on to the next thing. For me, rather than being a tool of in perpetuity the digital, then, is something that adds time to the physical objects it remediates. It is capable of allowing new lines of inquiry because it allows place and time to lose their importance. The digital allows for collaboration more easily and across borders. Finally it increases the time a person is has to examine the digital analog object in new digitally enabled ways to create new knowledge.

    Remediation and its implications are so important, especially in terms of being able to understand digital time for me. I think this is where the disconnect that I have to suture in my work exists. Libraries are about linear time in a very meaningful way. A thing existed, and it should exist forward in time as it is. The digital, as a medium that only ever remediates and often reduces fidelity, is about time that is more cyclical and sometimes circular. It is about creation with built in destruction and disappearance. If a digital thing is to exist in linear time it must be redone as technologies evolve or the aesthetic qualities or even the ability to access things as they were disappears. In addition to this, the forgotten encounter with a digital object is are revisited or stored in cache, algorithms, and browsing histories by machines. But these digital objects add time to the physical objects.

    Despite all of this, digital objects reduce the natural decay that is part of physical existence. The oracle bones, fragile and more broken than when they were first used after 3000 years, have a new life as digital objects. There is knowledge and deep engagement that is not time or place dependant. And they can sit in their boxes in climate controlled rooms, only to come out by request, and even then only for a moment. But these moments allow for a connection to knowledge and experience across time, and serve as a reminder that even if there is a digital switch that could be turned off tomorrow objects endure, just as we humans do thus far.

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  • Dissertation Abstract #remixthediss

    After the wonderful panel yesterday, I had some people ask for more details on what I’m doing. Here is an abstract:

    Historical glitch: Understanding digital media through the photographic lens, explores the intersecting media ecologies of social media, digital heritage content, and culture. Specifically, this project focuses closely on what a digital project that takes advantages of the formal changes inherent in the shift from analog to digital media looks like. The project highlights how social media can be used as platforms for change and also looks at their limits and potentials for knowledge and culture when such media are used to construct alternate historical narratives. The case study for this project, Vintageblackbeauty, which was digitally born on the social networking site Tumblr, puts digital tools into practice by disseminating historical photographs of black women in their everyday lives from across the black diaspora. The effects of this experiment are theoretically understood through the works of Fanon, Hurston, and McLuhan. Additionally, a digital performance piece that analyzes the effects of this practice, informed by Dada art practices, puts the theoretical implications into motion by placing the digitized photographs gathered on Vintageblackbeauty in conversation with media from the same time periods. Through exploring this ecology, I posit that we can gain a better understanding of some of the differences between digital and analog media, their different potentials for change, as well as the inherent limits they pose. While digital media do allow for greater access and dissemination, they are still tied to a screened experience and held to ethical standards determined by various stakeholders who are often ephemeral or evolving and in contradiction with how we have been trained to conceive of knowledge production.

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  • Trigger Warnings, Open-Access, and my First Traditional Academic Publication

    Over the weekend I started seeing a bunch of stuff about Trigger Warnings popup in the twitter verse. Apparently there was a piece in the New York Times about the literary Canon making students squirm. So students should be warned with Trigger Warnings, so they know ahead of time that they might be made uncomfortable. That makes me wonder what happens when someone like me walks into a classroom as a professor. I think maybe I should get a shirt that says “trigger warning” because me being a black female in the role of professor (even though technically I am an instructor, the students insist on calling me professor instead of Jade) means that I make some students in the southern university where I teach uncomfortable. Just by existing. Trigger warnings work on by creating an aesthetic of oppression. But this is something that I think has a bigger longer history… which is the subject of my first official peer-reviewed academic publication.

    The Catholic schoolgirl & the wet nurse: On the ecology of oppression, trauma and crisis
    Jade E. Davis


    This paper explores the idea of facing oppression by exploring how two photographs, one of a Catholic schoolgirl and one of a wet nurse were received as they made their way through social media. In addition, the paper looks at a blog post that was made about photographs from a similar time period as the photos. By exploring how the photos were received through Fanon, visual studies, and psychoanalytic theory, the paper proposes a new way to view these photographs, outside of the narratives of Oppression and Trauma. Instead, by understanding the re-inscription of the dominant narratives as an ongoing crisis, we allow for a reparative reading of this type of imagery that complicates our relationship with the past.

    You can read the article here:

    I have openly had a hard time with the idea of academic publishing being behind paywalls. The open web is under attack, but I still believe that information should be freely available and up for debate. My understanding is most academic articles are read by three people. I want those three people that will find use in what I wrote to be able to use it freely. I am extremely happy that my first CV line item that will read as not totally alt-academic-academic (which is what most of my CV is), is available for anyone and everyone to read, take from, discuss, critique, etc. And, it is about trigger warnings, and how we use them to oppress certain bodies.

    So, big thank you to Decolonization for being a part of my academic life and choosing to publish my article. I’m grateful to be in such a wonderful volume that is tackling decolonial aesthetics.

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  • Digital Media Saturation & Knowledge Creation (or a trick of the light)

    “Official culture still strives to force the new media to do the work of the old media. But the horseless carriage did not do the work of the horse; it abolished the horse and did what the horse could never do. Horses are fine. So are books.” – Marshall McLuhan

    The other day I picked up a book and tried to look through it. I didn’t flip through the pages or turn the book over, I simply held it in my hands and brought it closer to my face to see if anything became clearer is the distance between my eyes and the thing in my hand diminished. Much to my dismay, rather than anything contained within the book becoming clearer, I found all I was doing was make the world around me darker. The contained universe of the book is fascinating because it is something we are, for the most part culturally literate in. It contains its own beginning and end and the mind of its creator. It can fit in the palm of our hands. Because most of us have had experiences where we had to write something but couldn’t find the words to fill in the space, we understand the labor that goes into the task of its creation. Because we can hold in our hands and take time to look through it, because even when it is not in our hands it doesn’t change, the book becomes its own standard. And it is the standard we have for where knowledge worth knowing is contained. The book is the prism we use to understand knowledge. The book seems to be the model we’re building from to determine what knowledge online should look like. Me writing this is no exception. There is a slight difference I’d like to call attention to though by asking a question:


    What color is the sky?

    I recently asked this question during my session at DML, with a different image of a blue sky, text in blue. There was no response. I had to ask twice, and everyone said blue. It was the only answer that was logical given the givens of the image and the cultural understanding we have of the color of the sky. I have to confess I spent a good portion of my life thinking the sky was blue as well, until I listened to an episode of the podcast radiolab called “Colors”.

    It is an fantastic episode. I highly suggest anyone who has time listen to the whole thing. There is a section in the podcast titled “Why Isn’t the Sky Blue?” that brought me to using the question about the sky to understand the digital as a space of knowledge production and what I like to call knowledge-play that. The piece explains that the sky has not always been blue because across cultures, blue is the last color humans learn to recognize. The sky, without the cultural knowledge of blue then is something without color. But, because we have blue, the sky is blue.

    What I think is fascinating about this is even with blue, the sky we experience is capable of being so many more colors within the limited range of colors we can see (another topic explored in the podcast). It is many colors we can’t see as well. But cultural we know for certain that the sky is, in fact, blue.

    2014-03-09 08.53.14 pm

    I googled “the definition of saturation” so you don’t have to. It makes one of those wonderful little google boxes pop up that contains a bunch of information including the definition of saturation that is important to my thinking here:

    (esp. in photography) the intensity of a color, expressed as the degree to which it differs from white.

    My chapter in Field Note’s for the 21st Century is titled “The Medium is Light”. It is freely available on the HASTAC website and Rap Genius You can see the condensed video version created as part of an assignment give to me and my co-authors from Omar Daouk

    What is the 21st Century Medium? from Duke 21C on Vimeo.

    a video exploring aspects of digital media through McLuhan’s the Medium is the Massage and the Medium is the Message.

    Since writing the book, and I more thoughts on the important for understanding light and why McLuhan’s statement that “light is pure information” is so important in this moment as we still try to figure out how the digital can be used to create a classroom without walls. I’ve already pointed to the problem of using the book as the prism for knowledge in the digital age, and provided some other things from McLuhan that show that this conversation is not a new one. What is new though is how light based electronic media have become as discussed in the chapter and video linked to above. I am a bit obsessed with backlit screens and fibre optic cables because they are our primary information sources now:

    The information me we see is reflections of information that is projected and I think that is a theoretical explosion (and I sort of love thought explosions because they lead to the creation of new worlds).

    If we go back to the episode of radiolab, it starts with a story of Newton trying to figure out if the color was in the prism or if it was in the light. You should listen to the podcast to hear the cultural beliefs and how he eventually figured out the prism (It worth the time!). We cultural know how prisms work. And we can use it as a metaphor, as I did when I started. The book is the prism we have for knowledge. Our devices, computers, smart phones, tablets, phablets, etc. are the prisms we use to filter and render digital data and information. Prism has a specific cultural relevance with regards to digital information given the revelations from the summer. I don’t think that is a coincidence. What my message is with all of this, especially with regards to understanding knowledge in our current information age is that, we have to think of how playful light can be. There is something from the book that I think translates very well to light. A book is like a shadow, it blocks out a lot of stuff so you get a silhouette of relevant information. Right now,
    when we think of the light of the internet it is like the light of the sun, blinding if you look directly into it, but helpful and necessary to live in a world where data and information are currency.

    I recently went to a Ken Wissoker talk at Duke University. He was speaking about the (academic) book. He said it is no longer the place to create new information because the information is already on the internet. The more interesting books will come up with new ways of interpreting or putting the information together. So what is the role of the digital then? I think it is to make shadow puppets. When we use it as a flashlight, like I’ve tried to do with this post, where we highlight, play with, bring together, and make move information that’s relevant to the thing we are trying to understand, if we learn to apply filters, and change the data we are rendering with our electronic devices into meaningful bits of media that resemble media from the past, we might just figure out the color(s) of the digital information age. I hope that it doesn’t end up being like the sky, stuck in a single hue, but instead it is a dynamic ever-shifting gradient that pushes the limits of our perceptions and understanding.

    all photos from pixabay
    find out more about the panel at DML 2014

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  • Utopia & Black Women (my engagement with Muñoz & Fanon)

    This has been a strange year for me and theorists. Allan Sekula passed in August (and if you haven’t read it, you should read the Body and the Archive. It offers a wonderful frame for media studies/photographic culture). And then I learned yesterday on Twitter that José Esteban Muñoz passed away. I learned about it as Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven came on an internet radio station, followed by Perry Como’s Magic Moments (Above). The music seemed fitting for how I remember the experience of reading Muñoz and how I was feeling touched by nostalgia while understanding that this is someone who I hoped to meet some day in the flesh, that I will only ever know through the text and other people’s stories.  I was working on the first chapter of my dissertation as I was reading Cruising Utopia with a group of Performance Studies people. We had different reactions to the book. It gave me the language to explain what I was looking for in that moment: Utopia. It felt like home. Here is what I wrote, a bit of my dissertation, in that moment… more than a year ago now I think. For it to make sense i should probably share the popcorn project that is part of the longer dissertation section this is excerpted from. on Trigger Warnings and Facing Oppression. This is the chapter that lays the frame for why I choose the site I do to start exploring ownership (of things, history, digital artifacts, hosted material), collectivity versus community online, digital movement, and the specific affordances of the digital medium that allows.


    If the original purpose for so many of these images was to show how inhuman these women were, then seeing these pictures today as solely remnants of a negative past means we have not left the dialectic created by colonization’s desire to occupy not just the present, but the past and the future. Diaspora does not occupy just an imagined national space, it is a mode of being in the world defined by fleeting things like epidermal schemas, collective memory and history. Similarly, colonization is not just an actual state of being, it is a state of mind and of consciousness. The idea of a colonized brain, one steeped in values that see the West as central, either as the beacon of progress or the enemy, is not a brain that can break out of the net colonization. To look at the photographs and simply see a photograph of a woman, and accept her beauty, her being, her humanity, is a new level of consciousness.  “At every meeting the brain multiplies the association of ideas and the eye discovers a wider human panorama” (Wretched 136).

    “A chaque réunion, le cerveau multiplie ses voies d’association, l’oeil découvre un panorama de plus en plus humanisé” (Damne 131).

    If, as the women in the picture is met, the viewer does not see the “wider human panorama”, if the viewer fails to experience humanity expanded, then they remain stuck in a veritable hell, the “hostile, oppressive and aggressive” world that will keep them trapped for as long as they are willing to stay. Unable to understand the true potential of a Diasporic approach of recognition as a way to expand the collective definition of humanity and the human, and to instead see all that which is and was out of her control. To see only the western baggage that existed to create the photograph, is to see the weakness in the net of colonization and not break through. It is simply a photograph of “her”.

    ‘Dirty nègre!’ or simply ‘Look! A nègre!’

    I came into this world anxious to uncover the meaning of things, my soul desirous to be at the origin of the world, and here I am an object among other objects.

    Locked in this suffocating reification, I appealed to the Other so that his liberating gaze gliding over my body suddenly smoothed of rough edges, would give me back the lightness of being I thought I had lost, and taking me out of the world put me back in the world.  But just as I get to the other slope I stumble, and the Other fixes me with his gaze, his gestures and attitude, the same way you fix a preparation with a dye.  I lose my temper, demand an explanation… Nothing doing.  I explode.  Here are the fragments put together by another me (BS 89).

    « Sale nègre ! » ou simplement : « Tiens, un nègre ! »

    J’arrivais dans le monde, soucieux de faire lever un sens aux choses, mon âme pleine du désir d’être à l’origine du monde, et voici que je me découvrais objet au milieu d’autres objets.

    Enfermé dans cette objectivité écrasante, j’implorai autrui. Son regard libérateur, glissant sur mon corps devenu soudain nul d’aspérités, me rend une légèreté que je croyais perdue et, m’absentant du monde, me rend au monde. Mais là-bas, juste à contre-pente, je bute, et l’autre, par gestes, attitudes, regards, me fixe, dans le sens où l’on fixe une préparation par un colorant. Je m’emportai exigeai une explication… Rien n’y fit. J’explosai, Voici les menus morceaux par un autre moi réunis” (PN 88).


    At the beginning of starting this project, I assumed it was something that would speak to people on different levels.  When I thought of who it would affect, I knew, instinctively for me, the investment I imagined was with and for black women, and black people as a whole.  As I have moved through the work of Fanon, I realized that this was very short-sighted of me.  Just as liberating the women in these photographs from being just remnants of colonization or bad times for black folk around the globe helps change how we think of our own humanity, others can be affected by these photographs in similar ways. This re-imagining of a collective past, a new history, where we all existed in the same way, simply as people, transforms the fact that these women existed. We see them now, and it is liberator for everyone for us as seers and she as object who is now recognized as a woman.  We exist because she existed before us. She existed before us, because we see her now.

    The people’s encounter with this new song of heroic deeds brings an urgent breath of excitement, arouses forgotten muscular tension and develops the imagination.  Every time the storyteller narrates a new episode, the public is treated to a real invocation.  The existence of a new type of man is revealed to the public.  The present is no longer turned inward but channeled in every direction.  The storyteller once again gives free rein to his imagination, innovates, and turns creator.  It even happens that unlikely characters for such a transformation, social misfits such as outlaws or drifters, are rediscovered and rehabilitated.  Close attention should be paid to the emergence of the imagination and the inventiveness of songs and folk tales in a colonized country.  The storyteller responds to the expectations of the people by trial and error and searches for new models, national models, apparently on his own, but in fact with the support of his audience.  Comedy and farce disappear or else lose their appeal.  As for drama, it is no longer the domain of the intellectual’s tormented conscience.  No longer characterized by despair and revolt, it has become the people’s daily lot, it has become a part of an action in the making or already in progress (Wretched 175).

    Le contact du peuple avec la geste nouvelle suscite un nouveau rythme respiratoire, des tensions musculaires oubliées et développe l’imagination. Chaque fois que le conteur expose devant son public un épisode nouveau, on assiste à une réelle invocation. Il est révélé au public l’existence d’un nouveau type d’homme. Le présent n’est plus fermé sur lui-même mais écartelé. Le conteur redonne liberté à son imagination, innove, fait oeuvre créatrice. Il arrive même que des figures mal préparées à cette transmutation, bandits de grands chemins ou vagabonds plus ou moins asociaux, soient reprises et remodelées. Il faut suivre pas à pas dans un pays colonisé l’émergence de l’imagination, de la création dans les chansons et dans les récits épiques populaires. Le conteur répond par approximations successives à l’attente du peuple et chemine, apparemment solitaire, mais en réalité soutenu par l’assistance, à la recherche de modèles nouveaux, de modèles nationaux. La comédie et la farce disparaissent ou perdent leur attrait. Quant à la dramatisation, elle ne se situe plus au niveau de la conscience en crise de l’intellectuel. En perdant ses caractères de désespoir et de révolte, elle est

    devenue le lot commun du peuple, elle des devenue partie d’une action en préparation ou déjà en cours (Damne 170).

    Perhaps, for me, part of this project is chasing Utopia.  Rather than seeing Utopia as a mystical place that exists just beyond the horizon, instead, Utopia is the space where these women exist.  Utopia, for me, is the place where black women, instead of being seen as “damned” or “wretched”, are seen as full beings, capable of living, loving, feeling, touching. It is also the space where black women can be loved, felt, and touched.  It is the place where we realize that being “damned” or “wretched” is part of the universal human condition and to script black women as we do limits the potential of the Whole.  This move towards utopia requires changing the lens we use when examining historic oppression and crisis.

    I am chasing a Utopia where we see the right faces.  Where our bodies are not grotesque, where our bodies are not the markers or racism and enslavement, they are simply our bodies.  Instead, as the picture of Heilani shows so poetically and painfully well, we see where the real discomfort should be aimed, even if it is always just out of focus, we recognize it when we see it because we feel it.  Rather than scripting these photographs as soul murder, I want to rescript them as remnants of lives lived, of a past that has always belonged to all of us, not the select few who were gifted with the ability to write History.  Additionally, I want to show that Black women have always been.

    We can begin to break away from linear/straight time and open up the temporal possibilities while at the same time removing the constrains of space. In doing this we allow these women to offer a different kind of nourishment.  Rather than limiting Heilani and the negresse d’Adana to the hungers they satiated as though that is all that ever was to their life, we allow our knowledge of their existence to nourish how they face the past.  We acknowledge the scripting that took place on their bodies and say this is not all they were and it is not all they shall ever be.  They, and all the black women of the past re-present so much more as their experience are written on our collective bodies, be we witnesses, bystanders, or heirs of their experience.  Rather than losing these women to the historical narrative, we are in a position to restore their humanity and ours simply by seeing them and their infinite beauty.

    As I work through this chasing of Utopia, I hope to explore it by looking at the movement of the photographs as seen through the digital traces (She is Light), what this project offers to the field of critical memory studies especially as it intersects with the digital (She Looks so Familiar), and explore what all of this might mean for performing the digital archive and the performance of digital photography (She Affects Every Thing Digitally).  As I work through these areas, I will be taking detours to explore individual photographs and imagine them in play.

    * * *

  • My Summer Research Project/Talk on MOOCs at Microsoft Research New England

    I spent this summer at Microsoft Research New England as a PhD Intern working on a project  with the most boring title ever. “The Student as End User in the MOOC Ecology”.  Here is a link if you are interested in seeing my talk on the topic (also took place at Microsoft Research):


    Students as End Users in the MOOC Ecology, Microsoft Research New England Talk


    The topic I am interested in with MOOCs is one that seems to be missing from a good portion of the conversation, what happens to students? My hunch with all of this is and was that the Big 3 MOOC companies are operating more like social networking sites than Education or learning institutions in some aspects. The most important place where I am noting the similarities is in the legal formation of the subject popularly known as a “student” or “learner”, who legal becomes an “End User” through clickwrap. By looking at the various legal documents that are available (Terms of Use, Contracts with partnering institutions), we can begin to sketch a portrait of the “End User”, and it looks nothing like the “student” or “learner” that is being discussed publicly by the companies. Additionally, when we start thinking about the obsession with numbers, data, and analytics, the Massive turns into an interesting space of inquiry for Big Data, Privacy, etc.

    I am in the process of doing a final revision of my paper before I start submitting it. Currently I’m debating how much I need to go into what the Big 3 MOOC companies are saying . In the paper I speak about more than Daphne Koller’s TED Talk, and spend more time talking about imperialism as the accumulation of capital… but, as with the final draft of everything, I’m trying to figure out what is adding enough to keep and what is taking away from the overall point and purpose of the paper.

    * * *

  • Shifting the MOOC Convo from Education

    Over the past two days I’ve seen many people in a circular conversation asking why the conversation on MOOCs has taken over the discussion and innovation talk happening around open education. I have a short response I’d like to share.

    Would you ever call a computer the internet? or the internet twitter or Facebook? This seems to be one of the big mistakes we’ve made in ensuring we are discussing all aspects of what we are calling MOOCs. Similarly, the things we are talking about for the most part, namely MOOC companies, are not “education”, or “learning”. They tools that help navigate exclusive educational content at best. For this reason, with the summer project I am currently working on during my internship I am referring to the big companies as Massive Open Online Courserware (MOOCw), so I don’t get stuck in the conversation around education and learning. Those two things are very hard to critique socially. Here is my first draft attempt to explain this from the first draft of the paper I’m currently working on on the topic:

    There is an issue when attempting to describe MOOCs. “MOOCs” signifies the entire environment. While the acronym stands for Massive Open Online Courses, the courseware providers factor heavily into how MOOCs are discussed and conceptualized across various spaces.[…] Rather than using the term MOOCs I will refer to them as MOOCw (Massive Open Online Courseware). This differentiation is important because the lack of specificity in what we are speaking about means many conversations happening related to MOOCs and MOOCw tend to speak around each other and inevitably end up only interrogating what we see as the most important stake in all of this: higher education.

    The social configuration uses learning and education as a point of convergence or a nodal point (not sure which one is more appropriate yet) so we absolutely cannot lose the conversation that is happening about what all this means for higher education and learning. I think it would be really useful though to shift part of the conversation on MOOCs toward the media-technology/social media intersection part of MOOCw though because the interesting part to all of this is for me, and hopefully for many the media-technology theorist out there watching what is happening, is the new social configuration this well funded attempt at the digitization of learning/education and our big data fetish is creating. The way MOOCw platforms are imagining and building their technologies to operate is something we should be questioning, especially given the strange press/news stories (that more often than not feel like advertorials or press releases) we’ve been seeing for well over a year now. The culmination of these stories to date is a Guardian piece that came out on Saturday, “

    Online universities: it’s time for teachers to join the revolution” penned by Anant Agarwal, founder of edX that had the following text as a subtitle to the subtitle  “Moocs, the new model of university education, have no race, colour, sex or wealth barriers, and can be accessed at a click”. The initial reason I was interested in MOOCs is because the way they were being discussed felt like the digital divide was being rearticulated and reinforced with how MOOCw companies were imagining the future of education. This story sort of confirms that. History of media-technologies should show that it is impossible to divorce our interactions with these “tools” from our larger social context. As society continues to be stratified on class, economic, and geographical lines, more and more of us are going to be on the wrong side of the divide, and MOOCw companies seem to be setting themselves up socially and politically to be the most viable solution to alleviate education problems by pretending that isn’t happening. And by offering the world access to elite American education. Who can critique that?

    * * *

  • Meditations on Photography and Digital Media

    I’m currently working on two things for two courses(my Duke 21st century literacies course, and a required course in my home department) that have me asking myself why I am doing what I am doing. These things are also demanding that I explain my reasons. This post is my mini-through experiment as I start thinking through why I’ve made the choices I’ve made.

    DISCLAIMER: You are about to read un-edited thoughts. You have been warned.

    While I suggest that the medium of both photography and the digital is light, the way light is used between the two is very different. The message of the photographic medium is stoppage while the message of the digital medium is movement. McLuhan maintained that as new media come into being we will see them cannibalize the older media they are enhancing and/or replace. We have seen this with photography. The movement of photography from being experienced on a piece of metal or paper that might be tarnished or fade over time, to a screen made of moving pixels that contain the illusion of an infinite number of both still and moving images becomes a great playground for understanding what the big changes of digital media are. Specifically, the changes on our environment, expectations, and ways of knowing are most fascinating for me. Further, because both photography and digital media are understood for their memory storage capabilities popularly, and epistemologically they are seen as information storage and processing devices that go above the capabilities of humans on their own, the importance of understanding the move from stillness to movement becomes more important. When we begin to think about it in relation to speed, where photography is still and the digital is movement at light speed, we can begin to get a glimpse of the new potentials that are built into the medium as well as the accidents.

    Another difference of the digital versus photography brought on by movement is when things move they can turn into different types of waves.* As such, even though at a base level photography and social media are both light, digital can move between moving images and sound, and can be rendered through seamless dots of color and through sound processors that turn the patterns in the light stream into sound. We can push this so far with our current technology that we can take digitized photographs and turn them into soundwaves. I’ve included a tutorial above that shows a program that does this. Someday when I’m not a poor grad student maybe I’ll be able to purchase the program. I would say 3d rendering is new, but I am not sure it is because of stereographs.

    *pseudo-scientific I know, but let’s go with it.

    Also of interest: How to Turn a Paper Image of a Record Into a Beautiful Music

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  • Second Iteration: A letter to Fanon & McLuhan

    Department Colloquium is over.   I had some nice questions on why I chose to do a letter and some good feedback on some areas to expand/move forward.  The act of putting the first first draft online was good. I thought it might be nice to share how it evolved since people were kind enough to read the first iteration and send me feedback.

    The Talk

    For the past few years anytime I’ve read McLuhan it has been while I am in the process of reading Fanon.  As a result, their words swirl together in my head as though they are in conversation.  While the most common link take McLuhan and Fanon together because McLuhan samples A Dying Colonialism in War and Peace in the Global Village, I am making another connection today. Arun Saldanha briefly touched on this connection in the 2010 article “Skin, affect, aggregation: Guattarian variations on Fanon”, but I am pushing it further as I move towards developing a way to understand the intersection of race, media, and technology, especially as we trace the evolution of this intersection to its present moment of the Digital.

    The piece I am sharing with you today is a thought experiment.  It is influenced by D. Soyini Madison’s Performing theory/embodied writing. It’s playing with McLuhan’s method of writing as though making a collage, and it’s answering Fanon’s call in The Wretched of the Earth, to use imagination to create a new now.  My new now speaks with the both McLuhan and Fanon through the “Playboy Interview” and the introduction of Black Skins, White Masks.

    My hope with this piece, tentatively titled “A Letter to Frantz and Marshall”, is that it can eventually move into a larger project that might or might not be a dissertation chapter examining the role of fibre optic cables, light as pure information, and the “net of colonization” to examine how the digital creates a reparative space where we as a society can create explosions that allow us to imagine the body and the human in a new light.

    Please note, for the purposes of this piece I will be speaking with both men on a first name basis. Frantz is Frantz Fanon and Marshall is Marshall McLuhan.

    === A Letter to Fanon and McLuhan===

    Dear Frantz  & Marshall,

    I know the two of you never officially met, except for that brief instance where Frantz’s words become yours in War and Peace in the Global Village Marshall.  You are meeting now though, in my head, and I am attempting to move that meeting to an external data storage device as words on a virtual page, that will eventually move to ink on paper.

    Marshall, you said something along the lines of technology is the extension of the human body  in the Medium is the Massage. The entirety of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man also explores this relationship.  When I think of this idea in relation to your reflections in “the Playboy Interview”, reflections that lead you to saying black bodies are left outside of technology, I can’t help but smile a little as I remember Fanon’s point in Black Skin, White Masks.  The Black man is not fully human.  It seems that what you are speaking towards when you speak of the issues of the Black man (and the Indian to a lesser extent) Marshall, are the societal effects of the technologically extension of a Human body that is assumed to be less than Human.  This seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, or a bit of a circle because the black man/person being less than human is directly linked to their inability to be seen as fully connected to and through technology.

    Frantz, you said something that I am finding myself seeing true about the Human experience, what and who is human is determined by the negation of the black man.  If media technologies are all just an extension of the human body, and that which in fact makes us fully human and connected, returning us to the global village without margins or centers, then it stands to reason that to understand the Human we must also understand the relationship between the black man and technology.  It is the relationship defined by a technological lack that will show us the blind spots in our Utopian vision.

    If we look at technology as the extension of man, it seems we must begin to see slaves as the foundational technology of not just the United States, but the West as a whole as connected through the Atlantic slave trade.  If we understand that these bodies were seen as a lack due to their distance from the technologies of the West we can see that they are not human bodies but are rather  a media technology like any other media technology.  It becomes easier for Black bodies to be subsumed into a system of commerce.  As media technology they served as an extension of the body of their owners, increasing the size, scale and pace of agriculture in a plantation economy as machines in the garden.  Their bodies, not their humanity, made them central to the process of taming the frontier and cultivating the new world towards a European vision.  Their bodies allowed for time and capital to grow at a new pace, across more space in ways not seen before the Atlantic slave trade became a well-oiled machine, delivering raw technology for hundreds of years.  If we extend this beyond the Atlantic slave trade to include the colonization of Africa in the 1800s, Jim Crow in the United States, and Apartheid in South Africa, the timeline is even longer. When we look at the issues of Neo-colonialism, the continued territory, protectorate, or militarily occupied status of many formerly colonized African states, as well as the penal labor system that is currently growing in the United States, we might even say that the black body as part of the industrial machine never ended. It is important to note though that black bodies are no longer the only bodies that make up this labor technoloy. That is, however, a separate conversation.

    Both of you think an over extension of the body through technology leads to psychosis.  The psychosis is predicated on a loss of self in relation to the body. Technology is to be built upon, extended, evolved and, subsumed.  For the black man the extension is based on an over association with the White Man. If we are thinking through this with the parameters Marshall laid out coupled with the history of Black slaves as technology, the extension you are illustrating Frantz shows a moment of technology becoming sentient, believing itself to be too Human.

    The difference seems to be, if I understand you both correctly, that the causes and results of the manifestation of the psychosis differs from the White man to the black man.  The black man’s psychosis is in the realization that he can never be as human as the white man in his quest for more and more technology even as the white man tells the black man to try and catch up.  The rhetoric we continue to hear today around digital divide constructs the black man this way.  The white man though, in a need to assert his own humanity and recreate centuries of social structuring is compelled to increase the distance between him and those bodies he imagines as closer to raw technology. The White man overextends himself in this quest, losing sight of his body, becoming post-human.  In his post-humanity he removes the capability of seeing the Black man as human, even as he, the white man, longs to go back to an imagined before time, a time where he too was Human.  The psychoses of the white man comes from the Black mans closeness to his body.  His inability to be extended keeps him closer to the human than the flight away that is occurring in the White post-humanism movement. A second layer of psychosis for the white man comes from watching the Black man work through his own psychosis, a psychosis characterized by a compulsion to emulate the White Man in an attempt to be recognized as Human, without access to the technological tools required to do so.  No matter how hard a black man tries to reach the world of the white man, his almost human hands can never touch it.

    Attempting to understand this psychosis is why I am writing both of you. I think both of you are hinting towards a level of consciousness that is innate to humanity that the black man has better access to perhaps because he hasn’t extended his body outward through technology as much as the white man (his extension, while outward facing, is more internal).  Despite the internal nature of this extension, the message received through technological mediation outside of the body causes misunderstanding that blinds and alienates the Black Man from this other level of consciousness because for the black man to have the realization that he can access it on a total scale would be an annihilation of the current social order.
    Marshall, you said,

    “The cultural aggression of white America against Negroes and Indians is not based on skin color and belief in racial superiority, whatever ideological clothing may be used to rationalize it, but on the white man’s inchoate awareness that the Negro and Indian — as men with deep roots in the resonating echo chamber of the discontinuous, interrelated tribal world — are actually psychically and socially superior to the fragmented, alienated and dissociated man of Western civilization,”

    Are you not speaking directly to Frantz and his beliefs that that it is the mistake of the black man to not already realize he is the defining instance of humanness and humanity, for it is he who has access to the zone of non-being. I think, Frantz, you can clarify this for me.  You said,

    Running the risk of angering my black brothers, I shall say that the Black is not a man.

    There is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinary sterile and arid region, and incline stripped bare of every essential from which a genuine new departure can emerge. In most cases the black man cannot take advantage of this descent into a veritable hell.

    Man is not only the potential for self-consciousness or negation. If it be true that consciousness is transcendental, we must also realize that this transcendence is obsessed with the issue of love and understanding.  Man is a “yes” resonating from cosmic harmonies. Uprooted, dispersed, dazed, and doomed to watch as the truths he has elaborated vanish one by one, he must stop projecting his antinomy into the world” (xii).

    While you started with the transcendental consciousness, Marshall, it is where you ended your interview:

    “I expect to see the coming decades transform the planet into an art form; the new man, linked in a cosmic harmony that transcends time and space, will sensuously caress and mold and pattern every facet of the terrestrial artifact as if it were a work of art, and man himself will become an organic art form.”

    Both of you see this movement towards the transcendental starting with the tribal, or black man.  And both of you see the inevitable violence the path of technology leads us on if we continue to see certain Humans as wretched and others as technologically superior.  As long as superiority is understood by the ability of a group of Humans to master, contain and control the messages of the mediums, and make them obsolete we will never break society of our racially based psychoses. (As an aside, if we see the black slave as pure technology, and technologies as building on top of each other making previous versions obsolete, the black and Indian man never had a chance.)  When I read these lines,

    “The one inexorable consequence of any identity quest generated by environmental upheaval is tremendous violence. This violence has traditionally been directed at the tribal man who challenged visual-mechanical culture, as with the genocide against the Indian and the institutionalized dehumanization of the Negro”.

    I am not sure who I am reading until I remind myself that Marshall, you were more interested in the Indian.  Had it been you Frantz, I think you would have said Arab.  Marshall, You spoke of the real possibility of the negro being exterminated through, something that I think can be softly confirmed if we look at statistics showing various ways people are moved from society, through imprisonment, literacy, or lack of access to the tools and technologies needed to be fully Human.  As though you saw this on the horizon as well, Frantz, you had already written a response, a call, and a reminder:

    I ask that I be taken into consideration on the basis of my desire. I am not only here-now, locked in thinghood. I desire somewhere else and something else. I demand that an account be taken of my contradictory activity insofar as I pursue something other than life, insofar as I am fighting for the birth of a human world, in other words, a world of reciprocal recognitions. He who is reluctant to recognize me is against me. In a fierce struggle I am willing to feel the shudder of death, the irreversible extinction, but also the possibility of impossibility (193).

    Where do we go from here though?

    I am thinking the three of us can push this a little bit further.  If we acknowledge that the black body represents pure technology, and technology is simply a way that we extend our own human bodies, and the medium that we use for this extension has its own message, then I think we can say the medium that represents humanity is the black man. Just as the light is pure information, to understand how we have come to define the human, especially as we try to understand the human through media technology, we must first understand the relation of humanity and humanness to the black body, the body that I think became a cyborg long ago.

    The next step for me is to expand this conversation and explore it through the role of black women, looking specifically at society’s current cause of psychosis and division, Digital Media.



    Fanon, Frantz. Black skin, white masks. Grove press, 1994.

    Fanon, Frantz. The wretched of the earth. Grove Press, 2005.

    Hayles, N. Katherine. How we became posthuman: Virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

    Madison, D. Soyini. “Performing theory/embodied writing.” Text and Performance Quarterly 19, no. 2 (1999): 107-124.

    Marx, Leo. The machine in the garden: Technology and the pastoral ideal in America. Oxford University Press, USA, 2000.

    McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore. The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam Books, 1967.

    McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding media: The extensions of man. MIT press, 1994.

    McLuhan, Marshall, Quentin Fiore, and Jerome Agel. War and peace in the global village. McGraw-Hill, 1968.

    Nakamura, Lisa, and Peter Chow-White, eds. Race after the Internet. Routledge, 2012.

    Norden, Eric. “The Playboy Interview: Marshall McLuhan.” Playboy Magazine(1969).

    Saldanha, Arun. “Skin, affect, aggregation: Guattarian variations on Fanon.”Environment and planning. A 42, no. 10 (2010): 2410.



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  • Defining the Human Through Media/Tech: A Letter to Fanon & McLuhan

    Any feedback, questions, comments are not expected (hi lonely blog), but would be greatly appreciated, as I still have more than a week before I need to submit and a little less than month before I present.

    I was invited to speak at a small graduate student colloquium to discuss my work.  The topic is defining the Human.  I was asked to speak of this in terms of how I am defining the Human through media.  There will be one other speaker speaking from a Media perspective and two others speaking of the Human through Rhetoric.

    I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, and then, re-reading McLuhan amidst the forever reading I’m doing of Fanon it hit me.  I decided to write my thoughts out as a letter to both of them, as a performative exercise, using primarily the following two texts.

    Playboy Interview:

    Fanon French Introduction:

    I assume a base knowledge of “The Medium is the Message“, and Fanon’s general arguments regarding the Human and the Black Man.  This is something I’ve explored previously in a graduate seminar.  You can find those thoughts here:

    The Letter-First Draft

    Dear Frantz  & Marshall,

    Frantz, I’d like to start with you. You started Black Skin, White Masks, with “L’explosion n’aura pas lieu aujourd’hui. Il est trop tot…
    ou trop tard” (5).

    “Don’t expect to see any explosion today. It’s too early… or too late” (xi).

    It happened today. I exploded and built myself anew, just like you said I would. But Marshall, I couldn’t have done it without you. I know the two of you never officially met, however, you downloaded your consciousness into words on the page. I then proceeded to upload your data into my own data storage facility, and I am downloading it here now.

    Marshall, I think you said something along the lines of technology is the extension of the human in the Medium is the Massage, and black bodies are left outside of technology in the Playboy Interview. Frantz, you said the black man is not fully human in Black Skin, White Masks. I think that the black man/person being less than human is directly linked to their inability to be seen as connected to technology. What I mean to say is that, if it is true that what is human is determined by the negation of the black man, where man here means universal human body, Frantz, and media technologies are all just an extension of the human body, as you say Marshall, then it stands to reason that to understand the Human we must also understand the relationship between the black man and technology. In fact, if we look at technology as the extension of man, it seems we must begin to see slaves as the foundational technology of the west (especially the United States). If we do this, we begin to see how their bodies, and their humanness, were subsumed into a system of commerce so easily, like any other media technology. Rather than being human in and of themselves, as bodies of technology they increased the size, scale and pace of agriculture because they were the machines in the garden, that enabled the taming of the frontier as they extended the body of their mostly white slaveholders allow for work, holdings, time and capital to grow at a new pace and across more space. What tickles me about this is that both of you think an over extension of the body leads to psychosis. There is no difference between the two of you on this. The psychosis for both of you is predicated of on a loss of self in relation to the embodied body.

    The difference instead seems to be, if I am understanding you both correctly, that the causes and results of the manifestation of the psychosis differs from the white man to the black man. The black man’s psychosis is in the realization that he can never catch up to the white man in his quest for more and more technology even as the white man tells him that is what he needs to do. Even the rhetoric of the digital divide places him in this manner! The white man, as he increasingly goes out of his way to increase the distance between him and those bodies that are more rawly technological, ends up overextending himself to the point of losing sight of the actual body. In doing so he continues to remove the capability of seeing the Black man as human, even as he, the white man, longs to go back to an imagined before time where there was simply the Human. The anger from the side of the white man, then is that the black man is so much closer to a simpler less extended, less technologically mediated life. A second layer of anger comes from the imperative that all the media force the black man to adapt as though it were a compulsion. If we take a step towards media content we see that the aspirational messages aimed at the black man that come from places of political power (outside entertainment power) always tell the black man to do better, and reach higher, and achieve more. The way to do this? Try to be better than other black people, be like us and reach for the world of the white man.

    Obviously, this is a little bit crazy. Even if you aren’t black, I am sure you can understand how the contradicting messages from media content to media technology might lead to a psychosis brought on by no matter how hard a black person tries to reach the world of the white man, it can never be touched by his almost human hands.

    But, this is why I am writing both of you. I think both of you are hinting towards is a level of consciousness that is innate to humanity that the black man has better access to, but the message of mediation is that he is to be blinded to it and removed from it because to have the realization on a total scale would be an annihilation of the current social order.

    Marshall, you said,

    “The cultural aggression of white America against Negroes and Indians is not based on skin color and belief in racial superiority, whatever ideological clothing may be used to rationalize it, but on the white man’s inchoate awareness that the Negro and Indian — as men with deep roots in the resonating echo chamber of the discontinuous, interrelated tribal world — are actually psychically and socially superior to the fragmented, alienated and dissociated man of Western civilization,”

    Are you not speaking directly to Frantz? It is the mistake of the black man to not already realize he is the defining instances of humanness and humanity, for it is he who has access to the zone of non-being.

    Ah, I realize you, Frantz, must clarify this for me. You said,

    Dussé-je encourir le ressentiment de mes frères de couleur, je dirai que le Noir n’est pas un homme.
    Il y a une zone de non-être, une région extraordinairement stérile et aride, une rampe essentiellement dépouillée, d’où un authentique surgissement peut prendre naissance. Dans la majorité des cas, le Noir n’a pas le bénéfice de réaliser cette descente aux véritables Enfers.

    L’homme n’est pas seulement possibilité de reprise, de négation. S’il est vrai que la conscience est activité de transcendance, nous devons savoir aussi que cette transcendance est hantée par le problème de l’amour et de la compréhension. L’homme est un OUI vibrant aux harmonies cosmiques. Arraché, dispersé, confondu, condamné à voir se dissoudre les unes après les autres les vérités par lui élaborées, il doit cesser de projeter dans le monde une antinomie qui lui est coexistante (6).

    Running the risk of angering my black brothers, I shall say that the Black is not a man.
    There is a zone of nonbeing, an extraordinary sterile and arid region, and incline stripped bare of every essential from which a genuine new departure can emerge. In most cases the black man cannot take advantage of this descent into a veritable hell.

    Man is not only the potential for self-consciousness or negation. If it be true that consciousness is transcendental, we must also realize that this transcendence is obsessed with the issue of love and understanding. Man is a “yes” resonating from cosmic harmonies. Uprooted, dispersed, dazed, and doomed to watch as the truths he has elaborated vanish one by one, he must stop projecting his antinomy into the world” (xii).

    While Frantz, you started with the Transcendental consciousness, Marshall, it is where you ended, your interview,

    “I expect to see the coming decades transform the planet into an art form; the new man, linked in a cosmic harmony that transcends time and space, will sensuously caress and mold and pattern every facet of the terrestrial artifact as if it were a work of art, and man himself will become an organic art form.”

    Both of you see this movement towards the transcendental starting with the tribal, or black man. And both of you see the inevitable violence the path of technology leads us on if we continue to see certain as wretched and others as technologically superior, not as their ability to see themselves as technology, but because they are able to master, contain and control the messages of those mediums, and make them obsolete. (As an aside, if we see the black slave as pure technology, and technologies as building on top of each other making previous versions obsolete, the black man and the indian never had a chance.) When I read this line,
    The one inexorable consequence of any identity quest generated by environmental upheaval is tremendous violence. This violence has traditionally been directed at the tribal man who challenged visual-mechanical culture, as with the genocide against the Indian and the institutionalized dehumanization of the Negro.

    I wasn’t sure who I was reading until I reminded myself that Marshall, you were more interested in indians. Had it been you Frantz, I think you would have said Arab. Marshall, You spoke then, of the possibility of the negro being exterminated. As though you saw this on the horizon as well Frantz, you had already written a response:

    Je demande qu’on me considère à partir de mon Désir. Je ne suis pas seulement ici-maintenant, enfermé dans la choséité. Je suis pour ailleurs et pour autre chose. Je réclame qu’on tienne compte de mon activité négatrice en tant que je poursuis autre chose que la vie ; en tant que je lutte pour la naissance d’un monde humain, c’est-à-dire d’un monde de reconnaissances réciproques.
    Celui qui hésite à me reconnaître s’oppose à moi. Dans une lutte farouche, j’accepte de ressentir l’ébranlement de la mort, la dissolution irréversible, mais aussi la possibilité de l’impossibilité (177).

    I ask that I be taken into consideration on the basis of my desire. I am not only here-now, locked in thinghood. I desire somewhere else and something else. I demand that an account be taken of my contradictory activity insofar as I pursue something other than life, insofar as I am fighting for the birth of a human world, in other words, a world of reciprocal recognitions. He who is reluctant to recognize me is against me. In a fierce struggle I am willing to feel the shudder of death, the irreversible extinction, but also the possibility of impossibility (193).

    Now, here I am thinking the three of us can push this a little bit further. If we acknowledge that the black body represents pure technology, as the slave, and technology is simply a way that we extend our own human bodies, and the medium that we use for this extension has its own message, then I think we can say the medium that represents humanity is the black man. Just as the lightbulb is pure information, to understand how we have come to define the human, especially as we try to understand the human through media technology, we must first understand the relation of humanity to the black body, the body that I think became a cyborg long ago.

    I think the next step for me is to expand this conversation and explore it through the role of black women specifically, looking specifically at societies current causes of psychosis, Digital Media.



    * * *

  • Performative Limits of Digitization

    Image from
    Image from

    I came across a book.  I’ve since played with the book, looked through it, learned about it, and digitally cut bits and pieces of it up and put them back together again as collages.  I realized in speaking to others about this book, that if this book was digitized in its entirety, if in the digital format it could still be recognized as a book, or, as individual photographs, it would lose too much.  We would lose too much.

    The book is The Secret Museum of Anthropology (The Secret Museum).  It was a privately printed book created by the American Anthropological Association in the 1930s.  It is authorless and not officially recorded (the inside cover says “privately printed”).  There are no marks on it indicating it was ever catalogued.  It never received wide circulation, something that is built into its design as a privately published book.  Despite being in an area with a plethora of Universities, there is no library around here that has it.   But I do.  I was able to purchase a used copy online.  I know had I found this book in a library, my thoughts on it might be a little bit different.  I did not though. Acquiring the book was unique experience in and of itself that helped me frame where my thoughts are headed.  Thumbing through the book changed some of my thoughts on digitization.

    The book is a collection of photographs that were pirated from a German book titled Das weib bei den naturvolkern : eine kulturgeschichte der primitiven frau (Primitiven frau), published in 1928.  The rough translation from Google Translate is “The female in aboriginal peoples: a cultural history of the primitive woman”.   Primitiven frau was digitized and is available through the Internet Archive project. The feeling of the two books, even as they contain the same photographs is completely different.  The Secret Museum is a carefully edited version of the Primitiven frau, with the photographs chosen for their erotic nature.  This editorial liberty limits the ability to look at the book as though it is an anthropological work rather than a pornographic one.  That doesn’t mean whoever was responsible for putting this private collection together didn’t try to play as though it were real scientific anthropology.  The part of the book I present/perform is the part that does just that.  Part of the interactive installation piece I created is a video which can be seen below.  It features a series of simple line drawings from the middle of The Secret Museum that attempt to catalog and number different types of breasts found in the photographs of the women whose photographs grace the pages of the book:

    When I first received The Secret Museum, the image of the “different types of female breasts and nipple formations” made me laugh, not because it was funny, but because it made me say “of course”.  The display of these breasts was the sole purpose of this book.  Once I confirmed the source of the photographs, Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein, and looked up his books only to find that Primitiven frau,  the book that contained these photographs originally was digitized, I was shocked.  I saw flesh and bones and words instead of just flesh and crude drawings of flesh.  In fact, there are more pages of words in Primitiven frau than there are of photographs and x-rays.  The drawing included in The Secret Museum, appears on page 61 of Primitiven frau in a section that is 17 pages of analysis where breasts are discussed.

    Entwicklung und Grundformen der weiblichen Brust
    Entwicklung und Grundformen der weiblichen Brust (Development and basic forms of the female breast.), Primitiven frau, p. 61

    Instead of seeing this drawing as a numbered series that reduces the women in the book to only the drawings themselves, they exist in a larger context.  While the context is problematic, at best, we are able to see the intent of Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein.  Rather than simply creating a book of pornographic imagery, he did attempt to create an anthropological work on “primitive women”.  Furthermore, though they are few, in addition to the photographs of nude and partially nude women Primitiven frau contains drawings of jewelry and women participating various acts, and other cultural items, such as songs with music and lyrics.  There is even a photograph with fully clothed women. Additionally, the book contains an index.  The Secret Museum renders the women anonymous in a way that they can never be confronted as though they existed.  The index in Primitiven frau prevents this from happening, because at the very least, we know where the women we are seeing existed. Despite the problematic nature of the book, it has a wealth of information to offer us, even as we look to day in the post-post colonial age.

    If The Secret Museum were to be digitized, we would lose the covertness of its creation.  For me, that is the most important thing the book has to offer.  The seediness of its production and purpose would be lost if the book was publicly and freely accessible.  The act of having to search for the book, and find a “deal” on it, or having the book presented with the caveat that it is rare and was never published for a wide audience, the ability to touch and feel the book, to smell and see the pages and random ink colors, creates a performative experience with the book that digitization does not have.  Making the book digital would erase so much of what this book does. It would allow us to lose the idea that the original audience that this book was designed for will remain forever hidden.  Further, the ability to see the physical product against the digital version of what it was pirated from, on a screen where we can see page upon page of text, creates an interesting conversation around what happens when we lose text.  I think seeing the physical book coupled with the digital text truly illustrates some of the issues digitization causes for certain artifacts.

    It isn’t that I don’t want people to see The Secret Museum.  To the contrary, the more people who can experience the book, the better we can understand, especially in the academy, whose bodies our disciplines were built upon and to what ends.  It’s just that I want people to do more than see the book. I want them to experience the book.  When looking through the screen at a digital version of a book, or a photo, I find it is too easy to forget that we are seeing something real that existed in a larger context that affected and affects different people differently.  To lose the bodies first through a photograph and then through the digitization of a book we lose too much. The material experience of a book that can be taken out of a little bag, the method I choose to unveil the book in my installation performance, takes away the ability to show and remember how easily books like this were, and continue to be, hidden.  I fear that in this digital culture of openness and access we forget that even today, there is so much that remains out of reach.

    I would like to stress that I do not think the limits of digitization are a bad thing.  In fact, I think they are wonderful things that open up new possibilities. The Digital’s tendency to reduce the experience of certain things is the space where I like to play.  It is the space that is inherently made of breaks and new paths, breaks and paths that I am exploring in my own dissertation work. Because this is the space of my work though, I think it is important to realize and remember that there are places where digitization cannot translate, where the losses created by access and openess are too great.

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  • Trigger Warning Project / Playing with @mozilla Popcorn Maker

    It’s been about a month since I made my initial post on the Trigger Warning that appeared on Sociological Images.  Since then, they’ve posted another post with the exact same trigger warning and issue.  It has been very generative for me to experience this.  I am working through what it means to face oppression the way that we do.  I think I am almost comfortable with my thoughts on it, which is good because I have a final presentation/performance thing for my last performance studies course ever on December 7th and that is what I wrote/am writing on.  This is what I’ve come up with so far (aka iteration/draft 1) for my digital installation:

    I might play with it a bit more… I might even try to play with popcorn.js, but I am happy with where it is.  Popcorn Maker was easy to use.  Working through this  allowed me to let go of that second post.  I think I don’t need to comment on it. But I will add it to the list of things that make me shake my head and push me to do my project.

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  • Working Through the Breasts of The Secret Museum of Anthropology

    The Secret Museum of Anthropology
    I have a book. It has been in my possession for a few weeks now. It is called The Secret Museum of Anthropology. It was a private printing from the American Anthropological Association created in 1935 from a series of pirated photos. It included illustrations as well, to make it more science-y I am guessing. The photo above is the cover, the copy, and the drawing that I’ve been intrigued by since receiving the book. I… like it? No. Yes? It is provocative. That is a better word I think.

    So, today, since I woke up an hour early due to daylight savings time, I decided to finally work through the illustration and the book by drawing, photographing, printing, cutting, and pasting. The result is a triptych (three 16x20inch panels) of the book and the breasts featured in the book. I did this because my way of working through problems is to play with them/tear them apart, recreate them, meditate on them, and then figure out what the hell is going on in my head around it (Yay to weird methodological approaches!).

    Secret Museum Types of Breasts and NIpples
    Secret Museum Types of Breasts and Nipples

    [those are some crooked photos!] I think I might keep it in this order. I think what was so intriguing to me about the photograph is the ability to reduce even breasts to types, when, if you actually put the illustration next to the breasts in the book, it… doesn’t work. The reduction is actually, hilarious. And the actual breasts in the book are overwhelming. So, that is where I am. The problem is, and will always be, the reduction of women of color from specific groups being reduced to a squiggly line, a line that can be erased and erases at the same time.

    I need to finish cleaning up the drawings. I am debating adding the numbers. I will be sharing the triptych with a class in 1.5 weeks, so I need to get everything finalized. I think I’m almost there.

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  • Looking at History vs. Looking at the Past

    This post brought to you from the confines of my humanistic little heart.

    I am in the midst of an interesting internal debate with external consequences. I think I don’t like History.  I am also so/so on history. Actually, I am probably currently rejecting any kind of historical derivative as well. Despite this, I am in love with the idea of looking at the past.

    This line of thought started a while ago, but came to a head with the following image.

    (I created a mini-project around the recent conversation/thoughts I’ve had and am having about this photo:

    Here is what is happening. History feels like myth to me. There are too many (w)holes and the narratives are to totalizing for my comfort level. I was speaking to someone about my project, and they said that they can never see the image in a photograph as separate from the history the photograph was created in. This meant that any photograph of black people they see are read as part of a horrible historical narrative regardless to the image in the photograph. [I am thinking of photograph as the thing and image as the read because it is easier than explaining Barthes].  This meant that, for said person, black people in the United States had no existence outside of the confines of a History of (violent) slavery.  And, as this person was a black American, their existence was also articulated by slavery.  I acknowledge that the legacy of slavery still exists in our social structures.  However, that is not all black people are, nor has it ever been.  If this is what history is doing to people, I don’t want it.  But I knew this.  I have major issues with the type/time (I wrote time initially when I meant to write type, but I think it works too. Yay Freudian slip) of empathy historical narratives of trauma create. I have a whole map of this system that I was not going to include in my dissertation (I was using it as a way to keep the work I am doing on track), but now I think I have to because I do not want this reaction.  Nor do I want to be pulled back into the space of everyone always only being an agent of history.

    There is quote that I commonly see attributed to Harriet Tubman that I thought of as I was going through all of this. I have no idea if it was really said by her or not, but I get the sentiment of both the speaker and the”not knowing” subjects being conjured.

    I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.

    So, I move to the past. The hinge of how I think of the historical past is not History, but a temporal separation. I am playing with coevalness and presence, and the freedom that the speed of digital contact gives us. I am not saying we need to end History. I think we need it and it is necessary. I applaud anyone who can spend their life’s work looking at traumatic imagery and narratives. I am thankful they are able to write about it, theorize it, analyze it etc..  I am thankful for those who are out there writing counter narratives and working on understudied H/histories. I am thankful that those people exist, because I can’t do it. And if those people weren’t doing it, I couldn’t do the project I am doing. Histories need to be known.  But we also have to accept that the past for many people was just that.  Many people just lived their lives, just like we are.  That is where I find beauty, at times tinged with sadness. It is beautiful none the less.

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  • How do I poetically transcribe a photo…

    with no story?  She fades into the words of the actions around her photograph. 542 notes, but almost no one leaves words… when they do, I save them.

    Photo #3 Madame, 547 Notes
    “Nosy-Be kvinde” (“Nosy-Be woman”). From the island of Nosy-Be, north west Madagascar.
    date unknown
    [collection] Photographs of the Mission Archives, School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway, ca.1870-1950

    onbecomesone reblogged and added i like her hair

    outponbail reblogged and added she rocks rough and tough in her afro puffs
    rock on whitcha bad self

    potofgoldoverthedigitalrainbo reblogged and added (in bold italics) speechless, she looks soo flawless

    rudolove reblogged this and added  (in italics) Her hair is amazing.

    divalocity reblogged this and added Beautiful! I love historical photos that display the beauty of the African woman.

    collegekidd reblogged this and added Wonder how she got her hair like that. It’s everything.

    ohtwelve reblogged this and added Haute #naturalhair

    quitefascinating reblogged this and added Her hair is what most fascinates me here… it’s beautiful.

    soshespoke reblogged this and added I want my hair to look like that!

    wrivol reblogged this and added Can I have your hair please, ok, I’ll just silently wish for it. I will have a fro.Soon.

    fromjtoz reblogged this and added That is a pretty sick hairstyle 😉

    thesignsinthestars reblogged this and added the hair, the dress. the hair. the necklace. all wow.

    naturallypolished reblogged this and added She looks like a queen .

    leebasays reblogged this and added It would be nice to know who she is humph!

    yamfu reblogged this and added She’s really fly! Who is she?

    artofkawaii reblogged this and added pretty hair and lady!

    iamridiculousthings reblogged this and added hmph..she looks like erykah badu

    Original Post:

    ETA Turned it into a project:

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  • DML 2011, Cool Stuff & My Stuff

    I totally survived.  In fact, I kind of sort of had an amazing time.  By far though, the most amazing for me thing was the Echo Park Film Center:

    I first saw them at the Mozilla Science Fair, on Thursday night, the night I arrived, and was exhausted (the super shuttle took 2 hours!!!).  I also presented at the Science Fair on Future class (more on that later), and was put next to this table with tons of DVDs, prop films, buttons, and two super charismatic guys (I wish I had taken a picture.  I’m sure someone did, and I’ll find them and add them later).

    Anyway, Out the Window consists of many film and media centers that are doing outreach to marginalized youth.  It gives them a space to create, express themselves, explore etc.  They brought a group of kids that had participated in the various programs to speak during their panel, well, really during the question and answer session.  They were AMAZING!!! All of them said that they were empowered, and all of them, without prompting, explained their experience as a chance ot think critically.  I LOVED it.  So I had to ask a question, that is related to my research interests of course.  I asked them if participating in these groups, and learning how to and actually creating these alternate narratives and representations of themselves and their neighborhoods and communities had changed how they view their communities, neighborhoods and how their role in them.  One kid stood up.  He was latino, tall, lanky with long hair and a red ski cap on.  His name was Walter.  Let me tell you, Walter blew us ALL away.

    He talked about how all the representations he’s ever seen were made by people who had the money to control all the messaging that gets out on a massive scale, and all that messaging made people like him and from his neighborhood seem bad, less than and not worthy.  But the project had allow him to see what he can do, and explore the rest of LA and see what it was like, and he was just like everyone.  His participation made him feel empowered, and let him think critically about the situation and it allows him to show it for what it was.. and you could just feel the love and empowerment and it was seriously, tears.  I talked to other people and they had the exact same experience.  Just phenomenal and mind blowing.

    The best part of all of this is of course that there is a big blue bus called the film mobile that has been gutted and turned in to a mobile cinema and production studio and it will be coming to North Carolina over the summer.  I am SOOOOO there.

    Even cooler, I got a couple of the DVDs of things the kids have made and I’m planning on sharing them with some of my classes and of course, guarding them as the sacred items they are for years to come.

    Then there was the DML Showcase, which was amazing! I will have to write more about that later (probably with video), but it was soooo inspiring.

    On to what I did

    SCIENCE FAIR: Future Class

    So, there was a Mozilla Science fair at DML2011.  I exhibited as Future Class.  I had my drumbeat site up and explained that my role in the class was to see how digital media could be used in ethnographic projects.  The best comment was “isn’t that just a blog?” my response was of course, yes, and I explained that the purpose was to show a quick and easy way to create a discursive space where you field site can visibly say yay or nay to your observations. Even if it is just a blog, most people aren’t allowing for that type of exchange yet and blogs are easy and simple.

    I also had a very small activity.  I explained that future class was about thinking in the digital age and exploring what that means and what the challenges are in the university setting.  It was a project based tutorial for the most part, but we also had to determine what needed to be different than the traditional classroom experience.  I had tons of post its and pens and let people cover the table with words, sentences and paragraphs of what they needed to be changed.  Almost everything centered around assessment and community/engagement.  There were also quite a few on media.

    A Taste of Mozilla Drumbeat: Storming the Classroom Grading and Community

    The next thing I did was have a workshop session at the drumbeat workshopping session.  The purpose of this was to create a foundational idea of what we want grades to do so people could then move on to brainstorming tools and methods to get them to where they needed to be.  I had the smallest group but we had a wonderful time.  I brought a ton of markers and a roll of paper and we created a “cloud” of thoughts (there were 4 of us), first on what was bad about how grading currently works, then what was good about how grading currently worked and finally on what are wishless was for how grading should work in the future.  Everything ended up being that grading needs to be a community driven type of thing that allows for continuous feedback rather than relying on test that are incapable or measuring what people actually learn.  Oh, and collectives.  Classroom spaces need to be more community driven.  I think the paper we had ended up being at least 14 feet. We taped it up on the wall.  Even though we were few, we did something big, literally.

    PANEL: New Collectives HASTAC Scholars as a Case Study

    The last thing I did was a panel with Cathy Davidson, Fiona Barnett and Dixie Ching, on the HASTAC Scholars.  I showed a short film (final edited forth coming) and share a website:

    The other three women on the panel? Simply amazing. I continue to be humbled to be sitting with these people.

    I also shared my big revelation from DML2011.

    ACADEMICS are just HACKERS and REMIXERS and FORKERS of KNOWLEDGE! By that I mean, what is a dissertation or a thesis other than taking the existing body of knowledges, mixing them, remixing them, forking them, modifying them, changing them, breaking them and coming up with something new and then publishing them?  We just do it on paper (and that is starting to change slowly but surely).

    I don’t know why it took me so long to come to that realization.  When I think about academic work like that though, it makes me super happy.

    So, all in all… wonderful amazing trip.  There are so many people out there doing amazing work, and being around them is simply inspring.  I’ve got to do more. I just have to.


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  • What I’ve learned about New Collectives thus far

    I am preparing for a panel at DML2011: Designing Learning Futures that is a part of the new collectives track.  The panel is titled “Modeling a New Collective: HASTAC Scholars as Case Study”.  I will be sitting on it with four amazing women, Dixie Ching, Fiona Barnet, Cathy Davidson.   The idea for the panel is, it will not be a traditional panel where we present papers.  Instead, we all are going to represent different parts of what HASTAC is and does.  I am lucky in that I’ve gotten the best part, in my opinion. I will be on the panel representing the scholars.

    I have spent the past few weeks, speaking with, skypeing, emailing and getting video from various HASTAC scholars where they shared their thoughts on new collectives, being a part of HASTAC and how they see digital media and learning being beneficial in higher ed.  I’ve also spent some time talking to people outside of HASTAC to get their thoughts on New Collectives.  As a result of this, I have come to a preliminary hypothesis regarding what it takes to make new collectives successful:

    goals, community, freedom, openness & action tends to = success

    Almost everyone I’ve spoken to is tired of just talking about great ideas.  They want a space where they can vet their ideas, get feedback, get other people interested in the same thing and take those ideas to the next step.  They want a space with clear and realistic goals or purposes.  They want a place where, despite the set goals, they have the freedom to try other things within the group (playing).  And finally, they want to know (not just meet) who is in the collective and what they are doing so they can find ways to work together.  So far, all the successful collectives people have mentioned had these things in common.  These are also the things that people tend to start discussing without prompting.

    Over the next few days I will be curating all the information/media I’ve gathered and preparing something to show at DML2011 so people can “meet” the scholars.  Once the panel finally happens, it will be open to all the HASTAC scholars via chat and twitter.  The hope and goal of this little panel collective, as I understand it, is to have an unpanel, where people in the actual and virtual audience are encouraged to join the discussion and help guide where the panel goes.  So far, based on what people have contributed, I think it is going to go somewhere wonderful.

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  • Playing with Forms: Drumbeat Part 2

    Jade Did Drumbeat: A Field Journal

    It’s Interactive & Ethnographic

    That is part 2.  Here is the explanation.
    So, I was sent to Drumbeat as a scholar. I was told I needed to document the Drumbeat experience as part of my scholarship. I needed a form to make sure I had a focus and didn’t produce something meaningless. Currently, I’m enrolled in a performance ethnography class. I needed a field site.  I wanted to make Future Class my field site.  Once I got approval from all parties involved, it was a go.

    One of the requirements of my ethnography class was to keep a field journal. It didn’t need to be shared, but it needed to be done. I have tons of google docs of random notes organized by date.  I also wanted to have some kind of public web documentation.  As I started noticing themes popping up, I thought: self, why not make your field journal into a website.  So I turned my Wordrpress install into a multisite install and made a Drumbeat blog.

    As things and themes started popping up, I started adding draft pages to the blog with notes of what my observations were as well as the occasional quote and link.  I also started looking for a theme that would not create a normal blog hierarchy and would also be able to incorporate video and imagery in a way that made sense.  I went through two themes, and the second one was a keeper (the designer is linked in the footer of the field journal).

    Post Drumbeat, I finished interviewing and started turning my notes in to something coherent and organizing thoughts around my notes, observations and themes I saw bubbling up in in Future Class.  I was thinking of it as sort of a practice not just in creating a field journal, but in creating some semblance of a non-linear story around Future Class that would be useful not just for me, if I had to write an analytical paper around our activity, but also for anyone who was curious about future class, who we are, what we were doing, and our issues and successes.

    I don’t like the distancing that happens a lot of times in traditional ethnographic work.  Performance Ethnography tries to minimize that distance.  I think using the digital minimizes it even more.

    The members of Future Class saw the site before anyone else.  They were able to give me feedback, let me know if they were uncomfortable with anything, give me their gut reactions etc.  They had the freedom to do that publicly in the form of comments (I even encouraged them to use the comment space for that if they had any).  I love that.  It is so amazing that the digital allows that type of dialogue to exist very early on in a project.  It also means that my field journal is a living document, subject to changes, addendum, additions etc.

    While this field journal obviously does not capture all of my field notes, or even all of my video footage, it is representative of the things that were important from my point of view at this time.  If feedback dictates, the members of my field site other than myself also found it to be an honest and accurate representation.  I hope that it allows outside visitors to get an accurate glimpse of Future Class.

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