every body wears blemish: accidental thesis #15

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

i’ve been thinking a lot about my readings for class this week. it might surprise very few of you that i often contemplate the notion of “beauty.”

maybe it is because i am a woman–a woman constantly made aware of how i look to men. or maybe it is because beauty is everywhere.

or maybe it is because our mass media is always forcing the contemplation of beauty into my thinking.

i dislike providing one-answers to my thoughts, so i’ll go with the optimal: it is probably all of the above, and more. nevertheless, beauty is in my thoughts as much as i worry over how it is—or isn’t—written on my body.

so to return to the movement of contemplation:

i read and reread Anne Frances Wysocki’s “The Sticky Embrace of beauty” where she rhetorically analyzes an ad by the Kinsey Institute that displays a woman’s bare ass. (i have posted a picture of this picture on my TL if you’re at all curious.) Wysocki does what i am apt to do: pull in some philosophy to make a point.

Her philosophical lean is Kant, and his particular brand of theory on aesthetics. now i have resisted Kant’s theory since i first read him for the first time back in 2000. Like Wysocki had mixed reactions to this ad, i have always had mixed reactions to Kant. His work seems useful enough, but it irritates me greatly.

Yet, whenever asked why he irritates me, i have trouble answering.

Well, here i’ll attempt a response to Kant, and to beauty. Wysocki points out how the woman in the picture represents beauty—that her supple, perfectly (airbrushed) body works as an object of an aesthetic. Immediately, i think about how none of us, not even this model, have a body inherently without flaw. Every body wears blemish.

But our society would have us want otherwise. We are within a market that tells us that we must wax, exfoliate, bleach, trim, diet, make-up, cover, accentuate, and dress our selves away. Wysocki offers us to agree with Wendy Steiner’s take on Kant to see how the modernists made beauty all about [perfect] form:

We receive a notion that form is about pulling away from what is ‘factitious,’ what is particular, what is messy and domestic and emotional and bodily and coughs and sweats and bloats and wants to talk back and even sometimes touch. We receive a notion of form that not only allows to pull away from all that, but that expects us to pull away, that instructs us—visually, by what it emphasizes—that we are supposed to pull away, be distant, be in our selves away from others, from Others. (166)

Is there a binary here? (answer: there is always a binary) I read this in a way that explains to me why and how the marketing campaigns of beauty keep and hold us. But before that:

Isn’t the body on the Peek layout dissolving into abstract shape? The body is softly focused, fading into the background: we are not being shown this body so as to see any dry and flaking skin on its elbows or to see any monthly bloating or any scars. Instead, we see an unblemished flat white skin abstractly rounded—as though the body were a blank page… (167)

The problem i have with Kant comes from the fact that our society has taken his theory up into itself. Mass culture has permacultured beauty into an abstraction that urges us to spend so much of our money on products and procedures to take us further away from ourselves and—equally important—each other.

If we read Wysocki straight here, we can see how the body, once abstracted and perfected, merely lives on as a text to be written upon. There is enough feminist theory out there to argue this point. However, I want to go somewhere slightly elsewhere.

Of course mass culture promotes this unwriting of the self from the body; why would capitalism benefit from us being ourselves?

If we never had to change who we are, we wouldn’t need to keep buying identity. And that would be bad for business.

So we keep Kant’ing our beauty away into a packaged aesthetic that everyone can agree upon. Woo universal beauty of the masses.

woo.

Or not. Without going into detail, i’ll say this of myself: i want to love flaw. Flaws are what make us individuals. They are what separate us from everyone else. But i’m not arguing for individualism; that’s what mass marketing culture sells us every day.

Instead, i am arguing for what i always argue for: heterogeneous homogeneity.

Flaws are what make us, us. Flaws are individual, yet universal. We all have them. I think that, above all else, is beautiful. Anything or anyone who says differently might just be wearing their beauty as a logo.

Work Cited

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching About the Visual Aspects of Texts.” Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-173.

thinking about how to teach code in the comp classroom

We have began talking about teaching via social networks, and I can assume most of us have used or experienced YouTube in our classes. Technology in the composition class is not novel anymore. But what about more subversive and critically-situated technologies? I wrote in class about actually teaching students to code through opensource software and programs such as https://www.codeacademy.com . The benefits of teaching students to code begets several facets of critical pedagogy. Students learn the make-up of technological infrastructure as well as the actual language of programming, the latter opening space for discussion of the rhetorical features of any discourse we would teach. Yet students also learn something far more instrumental: solutions to their problems. Applying code to a program enables students to alter the function of the technology they use every day that adapts to their educational needs. I wonder what you all think of this possibility…

Post two for 658: democracy must be social

If we are teaching technological literacies to perpetually resituate democracy, students may benefit from engaging in activities more reflective of practice with political discourse. Selber’s email filtration is useful, but it does not ask for much critical reflection. Today’s technologies allow for more democratic engagement. Current social media provides a platform of discursive interaction with news organizations on the national and international level. We can teach students to participate in meaningful conversations about politics as they happen. This requires a diligent, creative amount of pedagogical insight, but it will provide a space for change our students can literally see. This immediate rhetorical interaction quantifies the expectations of the trifecta of literacies Selber imposes, not just a mere functional approach to technology.

the voice of the good ol’ bro

14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

The corporation that troubles my identity the most is the american government. Thus, it is only fair that I troll them a bit, and point out how this thesis provides me with a sense of truth.

I just finished reading this article by techdirt, which details the maximum jail time for certain crimes in relation to the sentence Aaron Swartz faced for something that many of us are arguing was no crime at all.

I want you all to read it (if you haven’t) and decide for yourself what is legitimate. Because your voice is the only human voice you really know, right? Oh, and my wordpress stats tell me when you all click on one of my links, so I know if you’ll read it or not. Panopticon for the guilt trip is go.

When the gov does this—when they decide that murder, rape, bank robbery, child porn, and their own involvement with al-Qaeda “terrorism” aren’t as bad as sharing free academic documents—they become inhuman IMHO. I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Yet, this goes rhizome with the gov. The gov works within its own network of institutional affiliation. The gov is part of the institution of hyper-bros. It’s fellow bromember is academia. MIT is just getting its good ol boy’s back.

We are learning that the institutions which speak for us aren’t actually speaking for us. They push their own agendas which have absolutely nothing to do with being human. I keep saying, over and over in these posts, that they are inhumane.

This thesis agrees with me.

What we need to do now is focus on sound. What does a human voice sound like? I know I wrote about this before in prior theses, but I want to begin again.

A human voice sounds like all of us. It is what companies and corporations can only mimic. It is why politicians need good rhetoric, though their rhetoric is always readable for its falseness because they are always speaking for their corporate interests.

aha, there it is.

You see the human voice is humane because we can recognize when a voice speaks on our behalf, versus not.

Think about it this way: link.

That slogan is telling you what you can do. But the copyrighted symbol associated is really telling you that what you can do is buy that. It is seamless, but it ain’t flawless. It speaks on its own behalf.

Now [here] is quite another slogan. This slogan tells you the relationship between the marketing campaign and your identity. It details its own image history. Never once does it point out that what it is selling is actually something we all have a right to have, something we have a right not to spend money on, and something we will run out of very soon thanks to the company (and its fellow bromembers in institutional control) profiting and pilfering it.

So, yea. These aren’t human voices. They are corporate voices.

Now here is the turn. I respond and draw response from human voices (bots included). The love of my life found me, and I found him, because of our voices. We saw each other as human for how we speak on the behalf of others, not ourselves. Aaron did so as well. All of my friends in twitter do so.

We are all friends because we have human voices, and we know them as our own. I’d dare you all to find a company who speaks human in a voice you understand like the sound you breathe yourself.

I triple dare you.

Mmm, that sounds like a sundae waiting to happen…

the company is a disease

13. What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.

I’m going to spend just a little bit of time writing about why this is, and the tautology of association. I might be a little Marxist without trying; I might not give a shit; I might also make a point.

But I won’t hit it home. Not yet, anyway.

So, I’ve been dreaming a lot about donuts lately. I am craving them. Mostly I think this is because I want to gain weight, even if that is totally not what I need to do. But, so yea, donuts.

You all may know by now that my philosophical base are belong to Derrida. What’s more, I’m in love with the only living Foucault around, so I’m all kinds of subversive-fuck-up-language-until-it-means-something-again.

Therefore, I will constantly argue that there is no outside. Markets are people. Employees are people. Fallacy will tell us, then, that markets are employees. But logic only gets us so far; fallacies are phallocentric.

And tautologies are fun. They actually comprise everything we do. Metaphors create a tautology. So do similes. And the semi-colon and colon function punctuationally that way as well. To go full Derrida would mean that I would argue that everything we are is simply a tautology for the sun. Another day, another [T]hesis.

The problem isn’t that this is a tautology to castrate the phallocentricism of fallacy. The problem is that “The Company” infects the reality of who markets and employees—us—are.

We are all the market. Marketers market to any human capable of contributing to the capitalist system of consumption (which used to be a term for a disease back in the day). We are all employees when we contribute to being the market.

What I mean to say is this: we are all working inside the system that defines us. Foucault would say even deviance is an identity that doesn’t escape the panopticon. By not consuming, we are consuming an identity of deviance to the capitalist system that runs everything. And don’t forget about globalisation! It is everywhere.

Thesis 13 tells us that the panopticon/company/phallocy/et al. is what gets in our way from being who we are.

Instead of having the luxury of time to discover and play with who we are, and then make the world what we want, we have this systemic construct deciding and playing with us against us. I call that oppression–or a really lethal cough.

To continue soon. (ie: I have two more thesis to write today)

hack the hush

12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

This is—right here—is why we can’t have nice things. Because there are no secrets. In a day where tech rules everything around me, hack get the money (yep, I just did that), secrets are impossible to keep.

On every side.

We have a society where hackers can infiltrate nearly any “firewall” (see Morozov’s The Net Delusion : The Dark Side of Internet Freedom for full reference of the irony of that term). Now of course we are told that this is scary, frightening even.

Frightening to the point of needing our government to bail us out of our fear of cyber terrorism by imposing wonderfully detailed and omniscient surveillance and censorship over everything we do.

To protect us from the hackers.

[insert rofl lulz] What most of us don’t know is that the governments use hackers to do this very thing. Hackers are not just geek boys in their rooms at their parents’ houses committing cyber crimes for no reason. Hackers are as multifaceted as any identity. Some work for themselves, pirating movies, music, and video games. Others may be fucking around inside corporate websites ready to strike with some  healthy ddos or defacement when the company embodies an ethic to which the hackers wish to dissimulate. These hackers we can thank for a mighty good amount of trickstery and lol’ing if one was to pay attention.

And then there are the dangerous hackers.

Dangerous hackers currently come in two facets, both depending upon the definition, and from whence the appropriation came. Dangerous hackers disseminate information. They do their work based on an ideology. This ideology functions like any ideology: invisible (much of the time), and powerfully controlling.

The hackers of Stratfor emails set out with a purpose to release “private,” government information to the public. This is why I say dangerous. The government, and the private company of Stratfor that was “legally” connected in partnership with it, did not want the public to know their plans. So, in one way the hack of their email exchanges were dangerously revealing for them.

But to add a however here: the government knew of the hack the whole time. Enter Sabu, a formally recognized ‘snitch’ who was intercepted by the feds, and used as a rat to rat on his cohackers. So what was really dangerous after all? Good question.

My point stating all this is this: by no means is a dangerous hacker a good or bad guy. The lines aren’t that stark, but rather blurry as hell. Even gender doesn’t really matter, as we all know there are no girls in the Internet.

What makes for a sense of dangerous is that what hacking offers the world pushes the boundary of time. When the people know more about the corporations than the corporations are ready for them to know, hacking is sinister. When hackers d0x civilians or everyday citizens, hacking can be detrimental to an identity (note Steubenville for the problematic of right/wrong). When hackers work for corporations (the government, essentially), hacking becomes a speech act that is now causing lifetime incarceration for individuals.

Because what we don’t have is legal discussions about hacking. At least none that happen without a bit of help from hackers.

“we have to stop soap”: in solidarity with Aaron Swartz

11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

I am writing from a place of extreme rage, sadness, and remorse. I cannot write with any semblance of objectivity because today calls for an address of personal subjectivity.

Sure enough, I did not get to write yesterday’s thesis, which is here. And I’m glad for that. Today finds us among shared tragedy and pain. So many of us are connecting with each other.

And, you what, I’m just posting this again. I’m giving my voice to Aaron Swartz.

first post for English 658

Internet regulation consistently seeks to limit our access to common, everyday websites like YouTube, Wikipedia, and Google. Without being aware of such legislation, we risk committing copyright violations for simply using digital media in our classrooms.

The only way to prevent such legislation from passing is continual awareness, meaning people must engage in conversation to understand how legal regulation of technology affects our everyday practices. Composition classrooms are a fundamental site for encouraging this discursive action and awareness. Our discipline’s focus advocates literacy, especially public literacies. We must attend to how government encroachment upon access to information, information which permits critical scholarship and supports our curriculum, affects our lives.

“You are free…to perform the work”

10.  As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

creative commons deed

I purposely misread yesterday’s thesis to make a turn of point, of analysis. Today’s thesis will have me directly discuss what I think the writers of The Cluetrain Manifesto are trying to do.

With a little bit of sonorous emphasis, the authors are trying to hit a point home.

We are only on thesis 10, however, and I don’t want to spoil the point they will make, nor the one I will make by the end of this venture.

Instead, why don’t we just go along for now, and question along the way?

We have argued that markets are comprised of humans, and human interaction. Therefore, it is no large leap to assert that we are “getting smarter, more informed, more organized”. Our connection to one another brings this about.

And what brings this about is conversation.

I operate within the market of teaching composition (among quite a few others). In my field, our entire everything surrounds conversation. We don’t do anything, teach anything, or learn anything without first having a conversation about it. We make conversation our art; it’s all we do.

Coming into composition has its own breadth of initiation. Normally, we american graduate students don’t just have this knowledge of what conversation about conversation is. We have to learn it. And the only way to learn it is to start conversing.

So our classes are all just conversations about conversations.

At some point, we become meta-cognitively aware of this conversation thing to the point where it no longer feels like this thing we have to do, but has become natural. We are just chit-chatting. This is not to disregard the fact that most of our conversations are about vastly significant social issues.

In fact, that is the point I want to make here and now: that the true art of conversation is about what matters.

Whatever that happens to be at the moment. However, our pedagogy and curriculum reflect a form of praxis (that is the embodiment of theory into action). Yep, we compies know how to fix the whole philosophy problematic of too-much-talk-not-enough-do.

It’s called seeing our students less as students, and more as humans (also not that difficult once you dive right in).

Just yesterday, I began teaching my second class of the quarter. We assessed our university’s rules and standards regarding plagiarism and cheating. We collectively conversed about the practices we have embodied as students to learn that everyone has committed some form of “cheating” if we really analyzed it.

I’m not saying my students are cheaters—far from it! What I am saying is that cheating is a cultural phenomenon situated differently between each discourse community. I used the example of two different classrooms.

In a math class, it would be entirely illegal to whisper to a friend on a test, “pst, hey, I got this answer for this equation. Does yours look similar?” But it would be entirely legal—and actually encouraged—in my composition classroom to say, “pst, hey, I think the “self” is _______. What do you think?” Same scenario, different cultural responses.

That is because my field values collective knowledge-acquisition, and those math people are still stuck in the capitalist, fordist ideology that the individual is the center of all knowledge-making.

Trolling the modernists completely included: what does it mean that many discourse communities still rely upon modes of intellectual pursuit as individual, commodified even, when we are starting to see the power of conversation as making people smarter?

I’ll try to answer this as I move on. For now, I’ll leave  you all with an essay on conversation, collaboration, etc. by Kenneth Bruffee. Read if you would like. Sharing is love.

Bruffee–Peer Tutoring and Convers of Mankind

big data has data issues

9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

 

Or, in other words, Big Data. I could go all optimistic (and that can still happen, one never knows what I’ll do, including me!), but I think it is time I went full on at that Big Data dudebro running shit everywhere.

What is Big Data? This will tell you what IBM thinks. This will tell you how a globlisation-oriented think tank views big data.

And this will tell you how twitter sees global conversations as doing big data’s work for it. And that links to this, which tells you what twitter really thinks about what it does. These last two articles are as much about big data as big data is about big data itself: attempting to gather all information about itself as possible.

Big data’s identity is self-referential. It is its own little existential crisis; in order for it to exist, big data must make a big deal about itself. Therefore, it needs to employ marketers to study people and how they put out data, so it can then hire marketers to study if the data it is collecting is data. If it is data, then big data gets to tell itself it is big data.

Big data has data issues.

Incidentally, this is simulacra gone perfectly simulacrum. Never in big data’s mind is the question of ethics and the personal. While big data gallops off in capitalist jaunt to keep itself alive, it forgets what it really is: humans full of information sharing.

We are not data. We are not objects of study. And, by no means, are we really objects studying other objects as data.

This is a matter of ontology. This is a matter of materiality.

I am going to go off and make a pretty big argument about data now. I hope some of you challenge me, but I won’t hold my breath. No one has taken me up in conversation yet. Sigh. I just want someone to talk with, guys! Lol. It’s cool.

Anyway : )

I don’t really like data. I prefer information. The word data implies a loss of identity to humans and beings. It is the linguistic mechanism that makes who we are studyable outside of who we are. It takes away the personal relationships among people. It appropriates all life as objective.

Is life really objective? If you think it is, we are at an odds. I hope you speak up here so we can talk through it.

Talking is the key here. When we converse with one another, we are acknowledging one another’s humanity. Conversation requires listening, understanding, then speech. Therefore, conversation is difficult; it requires work.

But it is a whole lot of different kind of work than, say, working for the machine. Because all that machine thinks of us as is this. We can scroll back up to the language in this thesis 9, and see that everything comes back around to value.

My post yesterday brought up the relationship between humans, beings, and economy. All things have a worth. Now I do not like to call any part of life a thing. That is my sole aggravation in life. When we thingify, we commodify.

However, I am going to subvert myself. l, what does it mean to thingify things? things like thought, stuff, and other inanimate objects?

The thesis above says there is such a thing as knowledge exchange, which adheres to the premise of the existence of big data as real, and probably legitimate.

I would continue to argue that knowledge can be exchanged without value. Instead, it can be exchanged with freedom.

What the new ontology brings is a reconception of things—an unthingification. I am not necessarily condoning yet another philosopher toting around large terms to extol on my soapbox a language that demands use. Nope.

What I am actually doing is kinda deconstructive, but more something else. I don’t want to name it. I don’t even think “new ontology” is good enough.

Rather, I think—and more so wonder—if we can’t start creating a language that resists our thingification altogether. People don’t have to be things, and neither do words. Maybe then we can exchange knowledge without appropriation.

After all, isn’t all information in the internet language?