What is writing? Like an answer?!

Thinking of how to answer the question “What is ‘writing’?” overwhelms me greatly. I tweeted this today: “My first writing assignment of the quarter is to define ‘writing’. Since when did my mentor want my dissertation?!” (@leslieheme). And I kinda have to laugh at this near-truth. It is true that I want to attempt to answer this question when I get to my dissertation. That is because I find writing as a speech act so very complex. If a dissertation may not cover it, how can a simple Blackboard post?

I go to Derrida for help, naturally. Derrida opens his essay “Scribble (writing-power)” with the question: “Who Can Write? What Can Writing Do?” (Derrida 117). This is what I first think of when I think of writing—power. Not the act itself, but the selves who can compose. Then I wonder what composing looks like. Is writing only writing by the hand? No. Writing is many, many acts of speech. Writing is type, poetry, prose, code; writing is sitting down in the middle of a street during a protest in a speech act that writes “I do not acquiesce” upon one’s body. Powerful, each.

Derrida says this of writing [befalling] power:

It excludes in advance the identification of writing as power or the recognition of power from the onset of writing. It auxiliarizes and hence aims to conceal the fact that writing and power never work separately, however complex the laws, the system, or the links of their collusion may be…Writing does not come to power. It is there beforehand, it partakes and is made of it. (117)

So I guess I should elaborate on how writing and power are connected for me if I am to fulfill this assignment in any relative way.

Writing and power intertwine because speech acts are performative. I can get all J.L. Austinian on you all, but I’ll desist for now. You’re welcome.

What I will do is define performative speech acts as I currently work with them. Performative speech acts are gerundival verbs that literally perform the words they are. To say “I apologize” is a performative speech act because it functions as it is spoken. I would argue that “I love you” is also a performative speech act, though it is not gerundival. However, along with Austin, one could argue that placing “hereby” before the verb, the syntax and meaning are still upheld. (Perhaps this is why so many people fall out of love—they aren’t performing it when they say it, just a thought.)

To return to writing and power: writing and power unify because to perform writing is always a speech act. And, as you may recall, speech is kinda a big deal. Speech and language construct our everything entire. Without either, we have no consciousness, no conception of existence, no utterance of being, no confirmation of acknowledgment of ourselves with the Other. I’m in company who understands this, I know.

So to participate in society by writing in some way is powerful. No matter what restrictions surface or exist, writing always is an act of asserting power. But what kind?

I suppose that all depends upon what discourse one writes within, and to whom one is speaking. To write to a friend is powerful because it is affiliation, acculturation and affirmation of solidarity. To write for class, as in this discourse I’m composing, writing is powerful because I’m earning my grade by speaking. We can discuss various other forms of writing. The blogging that I do is often considered powerful because I attempt to subvert hegemonic oppression by exposing the frame and structure of Dominant discourse whenever I have time to write about it (I see it every day, though). Tweeting affirms writing-power in that it has the possibility to reach a mass populace. Just today alter-self tweeted out a bit that many activists took and shared across the whole of twitter. I’ve even been able to connect with many scholars and professors in the fields I study by simply tweeting at them. The power of making connection with professionals we once only read, thus rarely knew personally,  is beyond powerful. Did I just slogan for twitter? Ahh, spectacle.

To conclude: writing is writing-power. It is an assertion of self via voice as a performative speech act. Writing’s identity comes in many masks, and all of them are the true form of its self. None less than the other. That is because writing-power is also rhetorical. It serves a function when addressed to a specific audience, and it participates in the highly social act of meaning-making. I’d dare you all to think of something more interactive than that, but that would be in the dissertation, and I’m not quite there yet. For now, I’ll finish my night by writing: coding.

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outing myself as my selves publicly

With a big sigh combining both relief and resignation, I am here to publicly align my two twitter selves as well as my academic identity. Yesterday was a big day for me: I gave my students the link to this blog in the hopes that they’ll understand who their teacher is, her pedagogy which affects them directly, and get a sense of the sort of writing selves that I compose in various facets of textual construction. I hadn’t really had time to let that sink in, knowing that doing that was a highly political move in itself.

However, I was thrown into a much more political injunction this morning when people I’ve kept in what I refer to as “weird twitter” found my “real” twitter self. A dear friend, Pokey, asked that I make my twitter self @leslieheme public so he could retweet a few things I said. I obliged for him because he’s lovely. Then I got wrapped up in my life of work and school, and hadn’t had the chance to go back to private. During this time, several people from weird twitter (because those lines are blurred extensively anyway) noticed my words, and have followed me. This is not, on the outset, inappropriate or hurtful in any way.

The real me on twitter is ironically much more complicated than weird-twitter-me. She has a child, a class full of students, personal connections, and tends to jump into poetic intonations at a moment’s notice. She is a feeling subject who composes herself through emotions. @soundb0mb3r does not. That self is all polemic, lulz, and trolling.

Or is she?

@soundb0mb3r is, in a lot of ways, my more academic self. I say this because she is mostly there to participate in a discourse community in which she is studying: Anonymous. Her friends there are comprised of individuals she knows by handle, not by name. Her connections are with purpose and intent to understand language she does not know. There she absorbs real information in real time because the people there dare—and put themselves on the line—to release, discuss, and evaluate what is actually happening in our world. You know, the information mainstream media refuses and blatantly denies exists. @soundb0mb3r embraces the rhetorical nature of the Internet.

But she is no hacker. She doesn’t write code; she doesn’t fully understand the functions of source code; she doesn’t want anything to do with d0xing or being d0xed. Nevertheless, people there have both accused her of doing so, and have attempted to d0x her. That is why @leslieheme exists—to separate a very personal life of a woman who likes her privacy from a person who must engage with the discourse community she is studying.

And this is where both selves collide. Real, breathing Leslie is studying Anonymous, the Internet, activism, hacktivism, as well as learning code. I do this because I believe in privacy, piracy, open source software, encryption, free speech, ‘democracy’, and the true liberation of collaborative, social discussion. I do this because I’m writing my thesis on these highly intense, very important, and hard-to-define topics. I do this because this is my scholarship. I am in my heart an academic.

So what does it matter? What is at stake?

Well, the Internet is not safe. It is not safe because people use it for unethical means. I will not sit here and argue about whether or not hacking, d0xing, or piracy are unethical. I do not participate in binary debates. If you want to know my stance on these topics, wait and read the thesis. Otherwise, we will move on.

The Internet is not safe because people are participating in the verbs above without having a socially agreed-upon definition of what these mean, and how the law interprets them. This keeps the Internet wild, free, and limitless (for now). Therefore, someone—anyone—can hack into my accounts and computer, or phone, and release all of the details of my many selves for whatever purpose they think that serves. Awesome. Go right ahead and control my life for me. Thanks.

They’d find where I live, somewhere in southern California. They’d find out how much money I have and where I spend it. Not much, and usually on books and the necessities. They’d find out I have a son and where he goes to school. He’s around and smart enough to start coding himself, watch who you troll. But they’d miss most of who I am.

And those are the things I say on the internet, yes. I am also the many things I feel and think, which are largely kept to myself and to a small group of people whom I trust. Pretty much like everyone else. Sure, they could search deep enough to determine who those people are, but where would that get them? To a dead-end. Even my closest friends don’t fully know these things about me. Shit, I barely know myself.

That’s because Derrida. I’ve read enough philosophy (too much?) to know that I am not fully myself as I have many more years to live, and become. I am being me every day. And this me that I am being is undefinable in the now—and with any attempt at a dissection of my life. This is why d0xing is only surface-level trolling. Can you hack an identity? Really?

Nah.

Not mine at least. I’m too complicated for myself, too complicated to be around on an everyday basis, just ask the kid, and way more than any part of my online data will tell you. We all are.

This argument is why no matter how hard the government tries, they’ll never fully capture us. A human spirit is unattainable and has no price on it—ever. And the gov would be the only discourse community I wouldn’t want to own me or know all of my self anyway, but they know all they need to know, so why would I really worry about some silly d0x or hack?

What will only ever really belong to me in this world is my self. I know full well that it is possible to lose everything else in my life, even my son. Go ask Trotsky how it feels to live on after his entire family was murdered to get to him. I’ve had nothing before, and I’m less frightened than most to go back to that form of hell no one should know.

Alas, I’m not asking for those things. I’d be crazy to. And I’m not really crazy—though I’ve never claimed full sanity to begin with. lol. What I am is a human who knows what is at stake in her life, and would like parts of it separate from others, so she can happily determine her pieces and mash them together where and when they need to be. Just like every single one of you. We all have the right to this…I believe the founding fathers of America called this “the pursuit of happiness”, or something.

So, @leslieheme will go back to being private so she can tweet about the kid and her lifestyle choices. @soundb0mb3r will continue her pursuit of madness and joyful interaction with others. She has a crush on there, after all, and we wouldn’t want her to lose her passion. She needs it. For those of you whom go there to look for her, I bid you keep in mind what is at stake in that discourse community (all the things I’ve listed above), and how dangerous it is to do something like outing yourself in this way. You may also want to know that the weird twitter is full of interesting people who challenge each other and mess with language to push boundaries that confine us to boxes. Kitties, dear readers, it is kitties who run the interwebs.

sea moves

Your tongue is my ocean

when it barrels between petal’d lips—

cascades of flesh,

warmth sharpening the soft edge of sensuousness.

 

Such a kiss

boring rivulets

smiling with our hands

an hourglass’s sand knows our destination not

we

squeeze moments into the muscle lining your thighs.

Wanton, I,

in your grasping ferocity upon my neck

momentum’s inject.

pyroconducive:

my delicate paroxysms you count by inhalation.

god, all I want is your sex.

But your tongue is my ocean;

 it echoes through these screens—

thought taunting daydreams

into philosophy.

Where are we sanctioned?

Your. Every. Word.

is always annihilation.

Wistful, I absconded within your vision

sounds

whisper’d tendrils of reality unstitch from superstition.

tidal wave technology

tastes like you telling me: “Don’t you dare lick your lips.”

So I did.

Now, again, your colors shade timeline’s finest.

Identity-markers careen type into polemic,

thus for you I, bidden, rhyme.

Your tongue was my ocean

Bitten.

Verbal bruises riding up my breasts…

Memory’s pen whetting malcontent

Me—sucking the life from your fingertips

lashes crashing against your chest.

You—running truth deep into my hips.

We are being the asunder, roaring, immersed, together:

Sinster.

gods of atypical lust.