Updates from August, 2014 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jeff T. Johnson 20:37 on August 12, 2014 Permalink |  


    But if we can let go of the Lippmannian impulse to view others as unfit for democracy, and embrace a variegated political culture in which memes, abstractions, and gestic media are, like words before them, utterances to be taken up into the play of conversation rather than texts to be taken with the seriousness of a manuscript, then we can begin to move towards a more mature understanding of new forms of communication.

    This bit is especially illuminating, and presents a way to think about memes and other mediated rhetorical gestures as satire. This is especially close to our hearts in Special America, where we practice radical ambiguity with an unflagging faith in the power of speech acts.

    And here we find much to nod along with in D.J.’s lecture. Science is always right, even when it’s right about being wrong (or vice versa). Language is always true as language. As every American child knows, What you say is what you are. Every statement carries its own authority. While undermining all authority, including its own.

    So Special America can address an electronic literature conference and announce that the organization hosting the conference has been dissolved and absorbed into Special America. Later in the same address, Special America can launch a virtually virtual, post-sustainable academy, Special America U, and follow that with an announcement that we have just eliminated tenure. Really? Yes we can! The proof is in the pudding, but the pudding’s all gone!

    Addressing a group of artists and bookstore bohemians in Los Angeles on July 24, Special America made the following announcement:

    Though we were in Los Angeles at the time, & had no prior knowledge of this act, SPECIAL AMERICA is happy to announce that we take full responsibility
    —whether you read it as a sign of surrender or cease fire—
    for the whitening of the American flags above the Brooklyn Bridge!

    Thank you!

    Today, a couple other clowns tried to take credit, but it’s too late! Who’s the copycat now?

    Let us conclude by complimenting D.J., Davin, DJ Davin, and all who posted to “Scientific Method Acting.” This ambi-pedagogia is something like exactly what we signed up for! 

    • davinheckman 12:44 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks! A funny thing happened to me during this course. I got into a conversation about “storytelling” inspired by this video:

      Once I perfected the art of storytelling by doing other things…

      I became an astrophysicist by using auto-ethnography of myself trying on new outfits to conduct research on distant galaxies. I also began to practice law by riding waterslides. In my spare time, I learned to design buildings by liking things on Facebook. And, to satisfy my profound humanitarian impulses, I have begun to provide health care services to the poor through a method of shower singing that I invented while climbing Mt Everest by eating a McRib sandwich.

      At this moment, I just created a mind-yacht in the form of ham sandwich. It is the world’s first ideational ham-based leisure vessel to have both a racquetball court and a casino. I am selling it for 14.2 million dollars. While you read this, a bidding war has broken out. And, now, I just sold it for 15 million dollars in thought money (which I just invented). I will invest the money in developing the concept of the Limburghini, a very fast car made entirely of cheese. I am sorry, but I will have to preemptively decline any invitations to do a TED talk so that I can concentrate on my life’s work.

      As you know, it is very hard work to tell stories that have no edges, that just keep going. I feel like this is what Special America can do…. reach into the landscape after the media and make stories where we didn’t know they could live. It’s a kind of madness….

      Liked by 2 people

    • ajabine 17:13 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hey, an acquaintance just posted this cool old music clip from YouTube. It came with a bunch of verbiage, looks like code but apparently it means something. Plus it made me laugh. Or at least chuckle inwardly. Anyway, thought you’d enjoy, love, Mimi


  • Ana Tidae 10:40 on August 11, 2014 Permalink |  

    Towards a taxonomy of foodporn 

    After reading several provocative discussions of foodporn, I found myself tempted to exhaust the metaphor.  If there is foodporn, then what are its sub genres?

    Food Burlesque.


    Sandwich Loaf.


    Jello Salad.

    Gonzo Foodcore.


    Extreme Burgers.


    Ghost Peppers.

    Cinnamon Challenge (Don’t try this, it can hurt you.)




    PIZZA HUT Gift Card, Pizza Hut Restaurant Pasta Wings Pizza Delivery Dine In

    Pizza Hut

    I’m thinking about the various vocabularies of eroticism that we use on a day-to-day basis to talk about food (desire, satisfaction, guilt, pleasure, love, obsession, shame, etc.) and some we use left often (jealousy, abjection, lust, domination, submission, etc.).  There’s a fair amount of material available on how “sex sells,” and there are many obvious instances where the consumption of food is likened to erotic pleasure.  But after wondering what king of foodporn someone like G.G. Allin might have made had he transitioned himself into the era of social media, it got me thinking that a complete taxonomy of foodporn, that explores the explores the erotics of desire in a post-Freudian, neoliberal landscape–in which the desire is the desire for the commodity–and the sublimation of desire is expressed as erotic.  I mean, isn’t this what foodporn is?  It is not erotic.  It is the use of erotic metaphor to suggest a degree of titillation with the consumer object by transferring the highly cultivated desire to consume onto a less shameful expression.  Past the threshold of postwar abundance (we have passed the days of cheap food, unproblematic consumption, and guilt-free diets), we approach the day when the sexual body is the fetish object for the consumer goods.  Someday, perhaps, there will be a public outcry against foodporn on television and its creation of unrealistic norms and expectations for food.


    • constancex 12:18 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply


      Liked by 1 person

    • ajabine 14:57 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Is there a general list of phenomena that are not conventionally “erotic” to which the word “porn” has been attached? I was familiar with “food porn,” but I first saw the expression “kittie porn” in this very group. I have also seen “real estate porn” and a variant, “architectural porn.” On a hunch, I googled “gun porn” and not surprisingly found quite a few links. I also found

      Book porn
      Garden porn
      Tech porn
      Guitar porn
      Word porn

      No doubt there are dozens more. If I had time, I’d pursue the common threads, e.g., passion; consumption; idealization; fetishization.

      Liked by 2 people

    • davinheckman 16:17 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In a way, it’s like the panegyric form for the post-literate era. The pornegyric is the visual form of uncritical high praise.

      Liked by 2 people

    • constancex 08:12 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I would assign food porn a taxonomy based on subject and composition, a descriptive of images … but I’ve been thinking of the birth of memes, perhaps coming from tfw’s … and how to/where to/why assemble a functional collection — first thing that comes to mind are sticker packages as emotional ideographs … I have one friend with a collection of alien image macros that he uses to relate in comments …

      Liked by 1 person

    • constancex 13:15 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Or, really, maybe the sameness of all the meme sites points to a curated/current range of expression; a need for some degree of grandiosity or confession, or, a lot of the time, kind of both; I spent some time paging through “bachelor frog,” who catalogs and reframes his repulsive behaviors as points of pride.


    • davinheckman 13:35 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Listicles embody that range: A number of things that you will agree with, but which we claim will surprise you. It prompts a hollow discovery, then offers up banality as a kind of validation. The nice thing about the proliferation of listicles is that the same content mill can spit out out thousands of assemblages of contradictory information, none of it has to be correct, only to be liked by somebody. And then, it creates a social dichotomy across the content…. those that agree uncritically are part of the solution, those that insist on accuracy or nuance are part of the problem. At a large scale, this kind of sucker sorting can be very efficient… but it hearkens back to the old scam (I predict the winner of next week’s football game for free, and I give 100 people one prediction and 100 people the other. I predict the winner of next week’s football game for free, and I give 50 people one prediction and 50 people the other. I predict the winner of next week’s football game for 10$, and I give 25 people one prediction and 25 people the other. I predict the winner of next week’s football game for 100$, and I give 12 people one prediction and 13 people the other. I predict the winner of next week’s football game for 200$, and I give 6 people one prediction and 6 people the other….until you run out of suckers.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • davinheckman 13:37 on August 13, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      And, then, when all the suckers are feeling burnt by your false promises…. hit them with a new solution and run them through the process again and again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • constancex 05:29 on August 14, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      When the waters is fished out, sell the “Legend of Daggermouth” boat tour.


  • constancex 15:53 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    August Meme-on-Meme: Sigh-O Method Acting; Most Interesting Redux 


    Rite? Cause you know it’s how he is. Good/bad/good/bad

  • Talan Memmott 12:49 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    Science Schmience. :) 

    We must not forget the TROLL SCIENCE memes.







    Here’s what Know Your Meme has to say about it.

    • davinheckman 15:44 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks for this! Troll science is beautiful. And it hearkens back to a whole host of late 19th and early 20th century gags like Rube Goldberg machines and the mythical cat-rat scheme. These types of technocapitalist satires are a lot like, perhaps, earlier forms of comedy which sought to make other systems (clerical and monarchic) seems silly.

      Liked by 2 people

    • constancex 20:35 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      There’s always the falling cat with the buttered toast strapped to its feet; it must land on its feet, but the toast must land buttered-side down, thus, you have a homegrown maglev system.

      Liked by 1 person

    • aklobucar 08:40 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I completely agree with the lineage Davin proposes between Troll science and the wonders of any Rube Goldberg mechanism. The physical humour derived from this procedural wizardry is what made Chaplin Chaplin. Ahh… if only Wile E. Coyote was somehow able to find the right ACME product. The Roadrunner would have been his to feast on.

      Liked by 1 person

  • aklobucar 09:55 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 9: And Just How Big is your Data Opportunity? 

    Wasn’t it just a year ago when the the Harvard Business Review proudly declared the data scientist to be the sexiest job of the 21st century? The review provides a brief summary of the origins of the term before emphasizing its increasingly important institutional role in the contemporary business world. In the data scientist, according to HBR, we find something akin to a new “avant-garde,” entrusted with the primary responsibility for helping businesses cope with (perhaps even defend against) the sheer volume of information flowing between us and our devices 24/7. 

    I thought it might be useful to bring this figure into the discussion for this assignment, as, in it, we seem to have the most capable public/professional character to guide us through the Lippmann/Dewey debate. And what better way to announce the public arrival of this new protagonist of contemporary culture than to confirm his or her newly apparent virility (virality). Alan Liu, of course, was one of the first cultural historians to explore information in terms of style and ethics, characterizing the 21st century as the era when the term officially became “sexy” and “cool.” Gone are the days when the white-coated, bespectacled voice of authority was useful only when confronting imminent global catastrophes, like invaders from mars and radioactive mutants. The new scientist as data saviour looks good in both spandex and a beard and definitely knows where the best cold brew in Brooklyn can be found.

    So my follow-up question for this day is simply to enquire whether or not this is the kind of role we self-consciously adopt when becoming the info-artisans/visionaries of glib data. One possible sub-genre of this type of work is the irreverent new technology report. Walking around Chelsea one day last spring I had a brief encounter with the uncanny(?), as I watched these gadgets being loaded onto a truck. I was amused to think that de Blasio’s follow up to Bloomberg’s bike lanes might be small public levitating transport devices and immediately snapped a picture for a Facebook post. At couple people told me they were quite willing believe that we were just at the edge of incorporating this kind of technology into our everyday.



    In this age of constant information access, we end up being less sceptical and more gullible. Our faith in data and technology makes it easy to accept anything as true, while doubt becomes the ultimate sign of ignorance. And perhaps this point is consistent with scientific argument sponsoring memes in media rather than tools of interrogation or analysis?

    For example,

    Here’s a mash-up that attempts to combine typical data design formats (as found in MS Visio) with the lyrics of a One Direction song. Can the group be any sexier?


    • davinheckman 19:26 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is an amazing graphic! Thinking about “cool” and the old iterations of the resistance to affectation and the dangerous dialectic it creates between those who want to be cool and those who are. And this, of course, has always been the tension between youth culture and consumerism: Figure out what is cool and try to sell it. When I was young, it was certainly NOT cool to read comic books and play RPGs. Today, it is very much the center of “cool” activity, to affect this fascination with all things geeky. Of course, Bourdieu probably matters more now, than ever. While there is not a clearly layered class hierarchy in the US, there are striations and projections that become positions from which distinctions are drawn. These can be very precise, probably more precise, the bigger the city. So, there are these microclimates of sublimated class friction, in which people who know are cool and those that don’t are uncool. And, in some cases, social communities online can mirror those varied micro hierarchies of commodity fetishism that spring up in urban areas under neoliberalism. (Are tall bikes passé? Should I get one with fat tires on it? Maybe I need Google Glass. Maybe I need to break Google Glass. Do I eat slow food? Is slow food for new age freaks? Etc. And of course, always making consumer choices with a very high projection of ethics into it.) But very little of it resembles anything “cool” in the classical sense of describing one’s orientation distance from the world of objects… instead, cool describes the desire for objects.

      Liked by 3 people

      • clairedonato 20:21 on August 12, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Davin, have you read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (I apparently can’t link here)? He discusses “cool” at length in the book, and also has a chapter featuring Bourdieu as a centerpiece. Highly recommended!

        Liked by 1 person

    • ajabine 08:28 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      If “normcore” was established to combat the “commodity fetishism” you speak of so amusingly, then it can’t happen fast enough for me. I was normcore before it was cool. Oh, wait…I’m doing it too, aren’t I?

      Liked by 3 people

  • Ana Tidae 22:27 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    I Fucking Love Degrasse Junior High 


    In a fortuitous collision with fate, a guy named @dogboner, whose Twitter name at the time was “i’m literally 12,”  took a picture of Neil deGrasse Tyson (an interesting aside: he is now using his “real” name, Michael Hale, which has skewed all the embedded media that refer to the story, including the link above).  He captioned the picture with a jocular comment about “some guy” using his computer like a “Dumbass nerd lol” and thus ignited a flareup of sharing and commenting that propelled @dogboner into the national spotlight.

    For starters, I think a moderately intelligent person is going to recognize this as a joke. Even if they didn’t catch it at first, this person might say to themselves, “How can this be!?  Only a complete ignoramus would fail to recognize this celebrity.  And, then, you’d have to be a total loser to call a total stranger (who doesn’t even look all that nerdy, by the way) a ‘dumbass nerd’!?!”  At which point, they would chuckle and realize, yeah, the joke’s on me.  Neil deGrasse Tyson’s got his own TV show, for crying out loud, everybody knows who he is (see Figure 2).

    Degrasse Junior High.  Semiotics and Stuff.  August 4, 2012.

    Degrasse Junior High. Semiotics and Stuff. August 4, 2012.

    Figure 2: Degrasse Junior High. [Note: For those who might stumble across this picture out of context: Nobody actually believes that Neil deGrasse Tyson attended Degrassi Junior High.]

    It takes irrationality (and a lack of impulse control) to fly into a rage and start harassing the person who made the joke.  Nothing wrong with being irrational, necessarily, it just means you cannot claim rational superiority in this particular instance.  With regards to the @dogboner incident, the most zealous detractors (tons of them) came through with run-of-the-mill social media insults (common insults have to do with mental disabilities, female genitalia, and stuff about dumb people “breeding.”).  If your goal is to defend the virtues of enlightenment from your inferiors, you might want to explore those virtues in a deeper way. It’s a case of loving science, maybe, like Otto loves Wanda, jealous, dense, and with a belligerent possessiveness (Figure 3). To carry on, even after Hale explained that he uses the account for jokes, is just humorless. Rather than insulting a great astrophysicist, it is a self-effacing effort to poke fun at an oblivious person: @dogboner (Just as Helena Bonham Carter is NOT actually a “death eater,” even though she plays one in a movie.)  For more detail, read “How I Became Thousands of Nerds’ Worst Enemy by Tweeting a Photo“).

    Figure 3: A Fish Called Wanda

    In the end, I think most people have calmed down, and it’s generated a number of followup Tweets of “Dumbass Nerds” (Hawking, Hitler, Einstein, James Bond, and more?). Though it is kind of disheartening to see people flip out so completely over a joke (and to be affectively facilitated by thought leaders like IFLScience), it is a great case study for people enrolled in a course on Meme on Meme Action. It shows you that people can be rapidly mobilized to participate in acrimonious attacks against a person in response to a very sparse information (and that even in the face of new information, it is hard to establish a more peace-oriented perspective). Imagine, for a moment, if the deviant activity were more severe, would people have grabbed torches and pitchforks and assembled an actual mob against @dogboner? Or, do the low stakes of the controversy and lack of physical expression amplify the appalling negativity of social media shaming rituals? More significantly, by making a feeble joke by @dogboner about his own stupidity into a great one about human ignorance and our vain pretensions, it connects the contemporary to a timeless humanism, and gives us yet another reason to look seriously at trivial things (without taking them so seriously!).

    • aklobucar 07:21 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Pretty interesting example of social media trolling. Hale, a self-styled “Twitter comedian” has been harassed with a colourful array of very imaginative death threats along with follow-up narratives on just where the body parts should be left. He’s going to need the Charles Atlas course on how to me a man. If you look at many of the comments on the original image, though, it seems at least a third of the first wave of respondents could not recognize the figure in the image. So, in a way, Hale does show a certain level of public ignorance. Irony in humour requires a base level of shared communication references. This is what might be missing here.

      Liked by 3 people

    • davinheckman 15:39 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I wonder, really, if people were playing along or if they just stumbled blindly into his troll mess. It kind of gestures back to what passes for funny in social media spaces, much of which requires a knowledge of which gags are running gags and which aren’t. I went through @dogboner’s backlog of pictures…. as far as I can tell, lots of raw stuff. (Though some great pictures of toilets!) I’d hate to suggest that it’s just Tyson fans who are that ridiculous… or that, on the whole, this sample is any reflection of people that admire him (They don’t reflect my view, anyway). My guess is that most people, seeing the photo out of context might think, “Doh!”… and then skepticism kicks in. I’d like to believe, for instance, that someone has a cat the size of a Great Dane… but I know better). I recall Beleibers getting all bent of shape about Ann Frank being a “nobody”. Michael Jordan fans think he’s the greatest of all times. Larry Bird fans think otherwise. And the two groups, occasionally, exchange harsh words. I guess, the missing ingredient in most cases is humility. It’s laudable that people want so desperately to be “good” and “righteous” that they will seek out personalities and movements that exemplify some aspect of “the best”…. but when the search for the best leads into certitude, the pretense of authority gives way to its own catastrophic stupidity. One way to improve one’s record of correctness is to seek correction. The preferred method, however, is to just line up with authoritative positions. (To think back on Dewey and Lippmann).


  • ajabine 10:15 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 9: Adults only 

    Conservative adult

    Sorry, no time today to create an example of misinformation (or shall I say a misguided message–according to my lights, anyway) from scratch. This appeared this morning in a FB group I belong to, which is dedicated to enacting or sharing examples of sentiments our members consider “vapid.” Then we amuse ourselves and reinforce our sense of belonging to an elite group by posting comments that show we understand exactly how and why such sentiments are vapid. Very satisfying. Presumably we then go out into the world (virtual or real) armed with all the ammunition we need to destroy the vapid messages we encounter.

    • davinheckman 06:37 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      A Facebook group for vapid images? I’d love to check it out. I agree, this message is not “wrong,” per se. It’s just an oddly condescending to express one’s economic theory, knowing of course that the person in the picture is only modeling this disposition. (Another interesting thing about contemporary communication is that we have tangible traces of the various moods that cling to language, either programmed through authorial intention or reader reception. Hence, we spend a lot more time discussing tone, phrasing, and minute gradations of offense that we all deal with in daily life. We have always been able to sense people who give us the creeps, talk down to us, treat us as objects, or value their own words more highly than those others. But, increasingly, these sensibilities that were once mainly internal or shared within small groups, have become a kind of public politics: with politics trying to personalize itself and one’s personality become politicized–the materialization of neoliberal imaginary. Just as governments, corporations, and organizations have become technically attuned to the subtleties of language, so culture has come to reflect an increasing preoccupation with a kind of vernacular analytics.)

      Liked by 4 people

    • ajabine 10:18 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      In “Vapidity for the Win” we share both vapid images and vapid sentiments. Our patron saint is Gwyneth Paltrow. It’s a closed group but I’ll add you by email so you can take a look around.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Ana Tidae 08:47 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    Off to an embarrassing start… 

    I am not sick.  (I don’t know how DJ got on here and posted at 1am?)  But I will try to undo some of the idiocy that that he accomplished in the name of this course.

    My real aim here is to ask the question: Where is the information in gestic communication?  An enduring question in mass communication theory, the Dewey-Lippmann debate, gets to the heart of the question:

    John Dewey held that the average citizen was intelligent enough to understand the issues of the day and to respond to them.  More importantly, the freedom to access information, think, and act was integral to the concept of freedom itself. Democracy, for Dewey, should be oriented towards cultivating and preserving the mechanism of participatory politics.  Walter Lippmann, on the other hand, believed that people were fundamentally incapable of understanding the modern world and that the job of the journalist was essentially to mediate between elites (political, economic, scientific, and expert bureaucrats) and “manufacture consent” amongst voters.  The debate, as presented in the context of democracy, seems rather clearly polarized: One side believes, on the whole, we are better off if power is held by the people.  The other side believes, on the whole, we are better off if power remains at the top.

    This political question stretches back at least to Ancient Greece, and likely was asked in one form or another by the very first people to posit the need for group action.  What is interesting about the Modern debates is that after the Enlightenment, the question is no longer that of divine right of kings vs. popular sovereignty, the question is how to manage and adjust the masses to direct their sovereignty “for their own good.”  Hence, the debates over rule are framed primarily as “media strategies”: The Lippmanniacs argue for a kind of benevolent construction of reality in which difficult truths are simplified, ambiguities eliminated, and evaluations rendered in starkly emotional terms.  The Deweyityourselfer position, which clearly did not win (perhaps never could have won), has become the kind of remainder in this system: a sort of imagined id  (people really want…), an imagined ego (people really want…), and an imagined superego (people really want…) from which speculative “goods” are continually conjured to justify various streamlined articulations of fact.

    Forget DJ’s absurd idea that “Science is the idea that everything that is right is science, and therefor science can never be wrong,” and let’s instead think about how scientific communication can serve as a backdrop for the larger debates over human understanding, enlightened leadership, democratic society, and propaganda.

    Pedagogic visualizations can serve as a streamlined vehicle for the wide transmission of knowledge (see Visualising Information for Advocacy), but even here, the streamlined medium leaves the communique open to further questions, different audiences, and concerns over the ultimate pedagogical value of the message.


    In the case of the Ebola flowchart (figure 1), Koerth-Baker provides a form of corrective to the popular fears of an Ebola pandemic.  While there is an important question that the flowchart isn’t intended to address (like, those who are concerned about Ebola on behalf of the victims), self-absorbed panics over catastrophe are rather commonplace in the US (and other countries), and the appetite for doom and gloom is a sincere frustration for many.  On the other hand, one might wonder whether or not “Shut the fuck up” is a directive that will achieve its apparent goal of calming people down.  Or if it is more of a point of solidarity for those in the know, the 21st Century equivalent of the chauvinistic doctor slapping his hysterical patient.  (In Figure 2, we see the misogynistic parody of the slap from the film Airplane reconjured under the title “Airplane-style slapping: What a lot of people online could do with ;)”)

    Figure 2

    Where the real substance of the conversation occurs, however, is not in the initial tweet.  Rather, it is in the commentary that follows, which includes a range of comments that encapsulate the positions I raise (everything from wanting to “slap people” to noting that there is no rhetorical space offered to readers who care about others who suffer from disease).

    More menacing instances of gestic communication can be found in over instances of manipulation.  They can serve to mask reality and manipulate public perception.  Take for instance, the wide variety of quips about “climate change” that circulate whenever there is a blizzard or cold snap.  In general, these kinds of memes function by juxtaposing an everyday observation that is at odds with research, seizing upon the moment to crystalize phenomenonological context that distorts broader understanding (See Figure 3).

    Figure 3: Condescending Wonka vs. Gore.

    However, as Media Consultant, Joe Brewer notes, “Global Warming is a meme.  No-one experiences is directly.”  This means that the contestation of, even, the glib sorts of comments about Al Gore’s beach house cannot easily be contested through simple empiricism, and that it must veer into the social and the political in order to be taken up by the masses.  Though climate change is unique because its scale simply exceeds the scope of individual human perception, this reality is a useful one to consider alongside the broader field of memes and other gestic media: They are not for facts.

    Seen from the perspective of Lippmann vs. Dewey, one might greet this news with alarm.  For, it could be taken to mean that we are now in the region of pure manipulation, in which all recourse to solid ground has been lost.  And, if we think about the troubling tangle of digital media, foreign policy, and humanitarianism, there are real reasons to be deeply suspicious of gestic communication in the space of social networks (See, for instance, Howard Friel “From Havana to Kiev: The US State Department as a Covert Operative“).

    However, if we concede that these media exist primarily as a form of social knowledge, each as a starting point for political dialogue, they might actually veer more closely to the sort of public communication that Dewey envisioned.  Suspend, for a moment, the belief in the fidelity of the artifact as a conveyor of knowledge (filtered by Lippmannian condescension) and understood as a simplified, dumbed down, and otherwise abstracted form of communication, these artifacts can be taken as arguments about what to do with knowledge.

    Of course, this ideal of conversations that start with amicable gestures and nudges exchanged within one’s community seems to be a great distance away. Everyday discourse seems highly polarized, with a lot of enthusiastically received sermons to the choir, rituals of group solidarity performed as uncharitable “correction” of the other, and self-aggrandizing performances of politics as knowledge (See, Sexton and Sexton’s study of “conspicuous conservation” and “rolling coal” [Figure 4]).  Furthermore, the revelations of NSA spying and institutional interest in containing, directing, and managing “contagion” should inspire real questions about the nature of anxiety, panic, and political antagonism in our times.

    Figure 4: Rolling Coal and Conspicuous Destruction.

    But if we can let go of the Lippmannian impulse to view others as unfit for democracy, and embrace a variegated political culture in which memes, abstractions, and gestic media are, like words before them, utterances to be taken up into the play of conversation rather than texts to be taken with the seriousness of a manuscript, then we can begin to move towards a more mature understanding of new forms of communication. We can moderate our affective contagions and engage in conversations that might move towards a realization of the commons.

    Create something wrong that seems right or something right that seems wrong.  Play with the limits of instrumental communication via image macros, gifs, and other forms.  What can be said?  What cannot be said?  Share your work somewhere and give us a link to the conversation.  What are the contours of the work’s reception?

  • Ana Tidae 01:00 on August 9, 2014 Permalink |  

    Are you ready to win? 

    Your normal teacher is sick today (also, he is an asshole.).  My name is D.J., and I am going to cover the material on science for this section of the course.

    Before we begin today’s seminar, I’d like to start with a story.  In 1975, a child was born.  A child with no hope in the world.  Small, weak, stupid, laughed at, pushed around, and generally ridiculed for his pathetic being.  As that child grew, so did the cloud of meek, miserable, ignorance that enshrouded him. Crushed under the weight of his own abjection, the child retreated into a world of stories, art, thoughtfulness.  When someone asked him something, the miserable little cur would shrug his shoulders and say things, like, “I don’t know” or “How can you be so sure?”

    As one would expect, this miserable smear of excrement grew more putrid with the passage of time, often spending entire days locked in fantasy play, imagining himself a costumed vigilante or a wizard, crushing villains or conquering dragons. When his mom would ask him how he was doing, he’d say things like “Fine” and “Great.”  But inside, he was festering in his own self-doubts, each fantastic notion burning him like a bath of boiling acid when the inevitable reality of its irrationality would creep closer to the throbbing pustule he called his “heart.”

    Close your eyes and imagine this miserable little creature.  Now, open your eyes and gaze upon the glorious creature that this little worm has become:  ME.

    Yes, this story, depressing though it seems, has a happy ending.  Because though I was born cursed with the burden of imagination and uncertainty, I learned that I could train myself to appear as a creature of great reason and intellect.  Though I was not born a purely rational being with an incorruptibly literate and linear cognition, I discovered that I could surround myself with the idea of pure rationality and thus liberate myself from the shackles of uncertainty by hitching my wagon to the one, true system of thought that can never fail: science!

    How can it never fail?  Three simple reasons:

    1. Science is the idea of thinking about an idea, and knowing that if it is a wrong idea, then it’s not science, but if it is right, then it is.  How can you do this?  Study it.  And as long as it seems true, it remains so, until a truer seeming thing comes along and replaces it.  (On the other hand, if you can doubt it, then it is a belief.)  The beauty of this system is that it is never wrong.  If science says that homeopathic medicine is for idiots and that smart people use real medicine, then you use the real medicine.  If the real medicine turns out not to work after all, that just means it wasn’t real medicine and proves that science was right, because real medicines work!  It’s hard to find a good analogy, but remember when Bush was President, and Republicans said that conservativism would fix the country.  But then the country did not get fixed.  So his supporters said, that’s because Bush wasn’t a true conservative! That is exactly how to be right ALL the time.  (Except this analogy doesn’t quite match because the Republicans aren’t scientific, and the only way to actually be right rather than pretend to be right is to be scientifically right.)

    2. Even if something isn’t true right now, science means it will be true in the future!  Think about how scientific people like me invented vaccines, cars, lightbulbs, computers, satellites, robots, etc.  It’s only a matter of time before everything else that people think about will get discovered or invented by science.  Science is great because I can say, “You have the same emotions as a slug!”  And a scientist can create a camera that will create a picture of your brain and slug’s brain and prove that they match using lenses and sensors that can see things that look the same in each place.  Were you Cleopatra in a past life?  If you believe in reincarnation, NO!  If you know that scientists will eventually create a time machine (maybe they already did tomorrow and kept it secret!), then it is possible, perhaps even quite likely if you want it to be so. When the costs on time machines comes down, then everyone will use them for even the most trivial things, and it is inevitable that in one of the infinite futures that will spin off, one of those time machines will find its way back to you and you will go back in time and be mistaken for Cleopatra.  Think it’s far fetched?  Don’t worry, lots of idiots have a problem comprehending infinity.  I did at first.  But now I am used to it.  And we are only talking about the infinite ripple effects of a single scientific invention!  Now imagine infinite inventions and discoveries (Small apes living inside of your food? We will discover that! A human space civilization based on the music of Mariah Carey?  Horrible, but the scientific mind accepts its inevitability. Attractive, pleasure-seeking, crab-human-cyborgs?  Yessssss! Please!  A real-life Iron Man suit just for you? Most definitely!) I know, right?  Now, change your shorts!

    3. You can find a lot of science on the internet.  A lot of people out there are idiots, trying to figure out things for themselves.  But the smartest people in the world don’t figure out how everything works, they just listen to what smarter people say and do that.  How do you think that Rockefeller is such a badass?  He did not create oil. He didn’t even know how to refine it!  He just told a bunch of other people to do it for him and then he reaps the windfall!  Without him doing that we wouldn’t have all this modern stuff.  You might have personal differences with Rockefeller, but thanks to the internet you can use the Rockefeller approach and use all the best stuff from the internet to stay on top of the most current knowledge!  The internet is loaded with pictures of scientific stuff.  You no longer even have to copy and paste anymore, now you just have to click share and you can totally rule your friends with the best scientific stuff.  And, if someone comes along with a better science picture, just like it or retweet it or whatever.

    Remember, the cool thing about science is that everything is science.  Right stuff.  Wrong stuff until you figure out it is wrong.  Wrong stuff that will be right in the future.  If you can share it with certainty, it’s science!

    • ajabine 08:27 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Gosh, how can I like this if there’s no “like” option? Very entertaining. Regarding medical science, I will say I am grateful to live in the age of antibiotics and anaesthetics. And in the spirit of sharing future “right scientific stuff”, please enjoy this scientific update from Woody Allen’s 1970s film, “Sleeper.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2fYguIX17Qthis

      Liked by 1 person

    • Talan Memmott 08:52 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      The like button is located by all the share options.


    • ajabine 10:26 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      It wasn’t visible earlier. it is now. Go figure.


    • constancex 17:12 on August 9, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Deliciously truthy!


    • ccboca 08:52 on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I am a bit confused for August 9th (yes I am trailing by 2 days). What is the assignment exactly? Does it matter? I was posting separately with headings but it seems that we are continuing by reply? Sorry about this I have limited experience in the blogosphere.

      For August 9- The question raised at the beginning is really interesting: “Where is the information in gestic communication?” I would want to pursue this probably by thinking about the difference between information and knowlege. And with all the discussion of science and technophilia, it would be interesting to nuance this. There is no capital T truth, only what is true for now under x, y, z circumstances. This is also true for science, which can be as dogmatic and subjective as any other field. I am thinking right now of economics, which brands itself as science but is closer to religion- markets being god.

      But if there is information in gestic communication how does it “happen” how is it taken up by those who participate? I wonder if it is useful to think about it through the notion of “artifice” the “as-if” that indicates through sarcasm, hyperbole, irony or other play that there is a story and a message. Juxtaposition works this way and people get it.

      An example might be, FWPs or first world problems:

      Liked by 1 person

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