Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Future…

There has always been this fascination, bordering with obsession about the future. Neal Stephenson plays with this fascination in his story line of the book The Diamond Age. It is perhaps the way he manipulates our perception of our reality with a futuristic value-changed reality which confuses and then intrigues the reader. Katherine Hayles also discusses the future in her book Electronic Literature. The last chapter explores the future of literature, which is what I will be focusing on in this post.

Hayles expresses that “nothing is riskier than prediction; when the future arrives, we can be sure only tha it will be different than we anticipated.” I wonder however, if this is really true. When I watch cartoons and films about the future, they are not necessarily that different than we anticipated. Yet, she explains the way that all contemporary literature is already digital media. A point I didn’t really think about before. When I though of all the papers I have written in the past years (many) of my college experience, I reflected on the fact that they are all digital and could easily be shared on the internet with other users (or sold as seems to become more common among introductory level students who are anxious to get an easy grade).

I really liked that she was citing Professor Fitzpatrick and The Anxiety of Obsolescence. I agree that perception of risk is more important than the reality of the risk and that we must explore the cultural and social functions and how these affect the perceptions of people (161).  I really like to learn more about “the advantage of establishing the novelists as an at-risk minority while still allowing this group to retain their hegemonic position as while male authors” explained by Hayles (161). I completely agree with this, particularly when looking at the over-representation of white males in the population of scholars who monopolize literature and academia.  Hayles expresses that the situation is more complex than that, yet fails to explain this complexity.  I found her discussion which followed on imitating and intensifying aspects of electronic textuality very interesting and worth discussing further in class.

Overall, her conclusion brings up interesting points, which include the ideas of exploring natural language with mechanical codes in digital technologies. Hayles (going back to Fitzpatrick’s point) concludes by pointing out that “we must explore the dynamics that interrogate and reconfigure the relations between authors and readers, humans and intelligent machines, code and language” (186). The best way to understand or attempt to make sense of this interaction is by looking at the effects and the changes that have affected our culture and society and the way we interact with media in contemporary times.

Project Outline

After reading all the great suggestions posted by our classmates (and Prof. Fitzpatrick) I decided to switch my project around and take a (challenging for me) slightly different format, a more creative project. I plan to produce a website where I link resources for promoting social justice among the Maya communities. I want to include the theoretical and academic articles with the applied or practical applications, both in Chiapas and Los Angeles. I’ve been part of the Mesoamerican Network in CSLA and I’m also a member of a Chiapas networking community at Scripps College. I think that by being involved with these organizations, and by incorporating my extensive academic research on the Zapatistas, I can start a website where we link resources, including making announcements of events (such as protest marches) and provide a venue for networking for other social rights activists. I’m very nervious as I have never done this, but I feel very excited to have such resource available. Due to time constrains I have not started the website yet, but the following is an outline of some of the material I want to incorporate:

I. A Place Called Chiapas History of the state of Chiapas, the conditions of poverty and oppression experienced by indigenous Maya in Chiapas. I plan to include data from various scholars including (June Nash, George Collier, Tom Hayden, Michael Coe, and others).

  • Links to documentaries: include in this section a link to the documentary by Nettie Wild titled A Place Called Chiapas.

II. Who are the Zapatistas?- In this section I would like to explore the history of the development of the Zapatista movement. I plan to incorporate the paper I wrote last semester where I connect the movement with Marxist theory and relevance to other social justice movements.

  • Link this section to Zapatista videos available through You Tube, and the documentary titled Zapatista. As well as other online articles written on the Zapatistas, including Wikipedia (only after I revise some aspects there).

III. We are all Marcos- this section will explore where the Zapatistas are today and their international followers. This section will list the various organizations and international efforts to support the Zapatistas, including the chapters in the U.S. and the European communities of Zapatistas supporters.

  • Links to this section will include the Zapatista Official website Enlace Zapatista, as well as other organizations’ websites and information on how to get involved in promoting social justice among the indigenous Maya.

IV. Media Studies & Democracy- in this section I plan to bring in relevant scholarship from Media Studies to the exploration of the democratization effects of the media in the contemporary times. I plan to incorporate material from our class, the work of Media Studies scholars, including K. Fitzpatrick, K. Hayles, and Mc Luhan to mention a few.

  • Link this section to our discussions and articles we have read this semester.

Texts Without Context

Sitting in the airport waiting for my flight back to Ontario, I stumbled across a book review in today’s issue of the New York Times all about the future of print culture: “Texts Without Context” by Michiko Kakutani. If you’re in post-spring break recovery mode and looking for a way to get your brain back in shape for class, check it out!

Project Outline


Here’s a link to my blog so far.  It’s a work in process, but the first post is meant to serve as an outline.

I’m still working on making to more visually appealing, but that may take me a little bit longer.

Project outline: punk and cyberpunk

Since I posted my initial proposal, I’ve decided to back away from the creative option a little bit in order to stick to what I know: blogging. I had fantasies about concocting a hand coded and structured site to host my project, but based on time constraints and the amount of research and writing I’d like to be able to do to really get my ideas in order, it makes way more sense to let a machine handle the back-end. I still intend to get creative with the style and execution of the posts, and I hope that the more informal and flexible structure of a blog will reinforce the ideas I present in ways that a traditional academic essay couldn’t. Here are some of the topics I intend to address:

I. The Story So Far

  • Issues raised by the original punk moment in the 70s
    • nihilistic/dystopian aesthetic
    • connection to avant-garde tradition
    • Punk and politics, esp. anarchism and upset in the social order
    • Impact on the music industry: seizing the means of production?
  • “post-punk” era of the mid-late 80s
  • late 80s/early 90s: cyberpunk! a new mutation of the punk aesthetic or faulty appropriation of the punk discourse?
    • as it pertains to the literary/artistic aesthetic, the “punk” in cyberpunk is hard to decipher
    • Critics addressing aesthetic links between punk and cyberpunk tend to misrepresent the history/ideology of punk
  • the present: an (apparently) decentralized, semi-anarchic DIY media environment online presents the defining terms for contemporary music and subculture, aesthetically and economically

II. Case studies

I intend this to be a pretty significant part of my project, but as such I’m having a hard time nailing down the specifics. The media objects/events I address will vary greatly depending on how the overall gist of my argument takes shape. However, a lot of the examples I mentioned in my original proposal still stand as strong contenders.

III. Unifying Themes and Analysis

  • The Society of the Spectacle
    • Ties between punk and the Situationist International, esp. Debord’s notion of “the spectacle”
      • Debord’s influence on postmodern theorists like Baudrillard
    • Cyberpunk ostensibly fills an emerging need for artistic response to the “postmodern condition”
  • Noise
    • exploring the aesthetic possibilities of noise (in music and to some extent in subcultural “style”)
    • “culture jamming” and playful subversion/subversive play
  • DIY ethos
    • decentralized media production challenging centralized authority
    • the risk of reinventing the wheel, resultant issues of ahistorcism/mystification

Apologies if the outline is somewhat obscure. Since a lot of this is building off research I did last semester, it might be helpful to check out my original project proposal for my Marxism and Cultural Studies term paper, and the subsequent revised proposal.

A Poetic Freeway: An Outline

I. For my project A Poetic Freeway I plan on using a variety of mediums on which I will write my poems, all of which will be interconnected and even loop in on themselves.

A. I plan on composing a story containing somewhere from 15-25 poems all varying in length and form that address the idea of technology and the way it has affected our culture in modern society. 

1. I will use are digital text, videos (images I filmed with the poems dubbed over), recordings (mp3), and paper (writing and typewriter).

2. I plan on having there be the same amount of poems for each different medium.  The mediums

B. My project will be presented as a website that contains the videos, recordings and digital text, however, for my poems on paper I will create little booklets and distribute them to everyone in class (some will contain photographs related to the poem). 

1. Once on my website there will be a specific poem that starts off the story.

2. All of the poems will have three options of different poems after you’ve finished reading them (they will vary in which medium they’re presented).

3. At the end of each poem you will have the opportunity to choose between links that take you to different poems on the web page or I will present the title of one of the poems in the booklet and its page number as one of the three options.

4. Some of the poems will send you back to a poem that you might have already read (loop back into themselves).

II.  I want the audience to take into consideration not only the message behind each poem but the way in which reading them in different mediums affected their reading of the story. Considering I have a limited number of poems, I’m pretty sure everyone will get through the entire story. 

A.            My hope is that everyone can write a paragraph describing their experience while reading the poems.

B.             At the end, I hope to have a discussion about the different experiences everyone had.

Digital Nation

There was a really cool program on PBS Frontline recently: Digital Nation, an in-depth look at “life in the digital age” produced by Rachel Dretzin and co-hosted by cuddly new media guru Douglas Rushkoff. If you have some down time over break, I highly recommend it! The program addresses many issues that have come up in our class discussions, especially the question of how interaction with digital media may be rewiring young brains.

You can stream the whole thing from their website, which also houses a lot of interesting web-only interviews and discussions, all potential fodder for our term projects! Fascinating stuff.

The Kindle and the Novel

I came across this article today:

Powell is a published author who used the Kindle as a way to publish his newest novel in a “beta” stage, or a draft. His idea was that he could make a little money off the draft (selling it around $3 in hopes it would be an ‘impulse’ buy) and that he could get some feedback on the draft before the final publication. He found that the book sold well, but that he only got a few reviews. He concluded that while Kindle might be a great way to get your  book out to readers, it may not be the place to gather feedback (he opted for his website for feedback.)

We have talked about how the Kindle changes the medium of delivery for novels, however this brings up new ideas of how to interact with a novel. This form of delivery is comparable to Professor Fitzpatrick’s book, where she was able to get comments on the manuscript before it went to publication in book form. I think that fans of authors might appreciate an early delivery of a work, in the hopes that they might be able to contribute their ideas.

The Kindle does bring up modes of interactivity. It may be because it is a new technology, but it seems that the Internet has been a better forum for feedback and discussion. Therefore, the Kindle might be a mode of distribution, but ultimately the Internet will remain the forum for readers to interact with the author and other readers.

Project Outline

So here is a written map of the way I plan for my project to take form, I’m currently working through the aesthetic look of the interface.  All comments are appreciated!

I.     Initial Screen: Introduction to Web 2.0 and to four stories that lead to four different aspects of how one can use Web 2.0 as a tool for social change, selfempowerment, fun and education.

a.     The guide is meant to target youth and students specifically within communities that are often undrrepresented and denied access to digital media literacy tools.

b.     The program is navigated by pressing on certain words that are linked to another section of the program.

i.     i.e. by clicking on the section titled Video the user is directed to a story of a student deciding to create their own video utilizing Open Source Cinema.  The print narrative will then transition to a visual narrative of how one would use the program.

II.    The narratives are those of 4 students interacting with media through four different programs.  In each of these narratives as the student in the story decides to use each tool the user also learns how to navigate these diffiernt programs.

III.  Each narrative is modeled around four concepts of Video, Audio, Print, Play,  Within each level historical and legal contexts are included within the narrative to provide a theoretical component to the practical use of each program.  Below are components of each theme to be explored and coded within the program/narratives I’m writing in Processing.

a.     Video

i.     Objective: To provide a tutorial of using film to convery messages of interest and address the issue of representation.  As well as explore the concept of open source software and media as a tool for collaboration and community building with potential for positive real life consequences.

ii.     Progam to be instructed for use:  Open Source Cinema

b.     Audio

i.     Objective: To show and explain how music has been used historically and can now be digitally created with creative and social purposes.

ii.     Progam to be instructed for use:  OpSound

c. Print

i.     Objective: To show how literary traditions can be expanded through digital means.

ii.     Program to be instructed for use: Blogger and Blogspot use

d. Play

i.     The student in this narrative is modeled after me as the user of Processing creating a program and offering a basic understanding of how Processing works through an example of a simple pong-like game I coded.

ii.     Objective: To explore how learning these technologies can also be used for enriching one’s own experience with digital tools for fun AND for education.

iii.     Program to be instructed for use: Processing and A Force More Powerful

1.     A Force More Powerful is a video game that teaches non-violent strategies for social change.

IV. Once the user has navigated through all the paths within each section they are then offered the options of which narrative they would like to view/interact with next.

V.   Final Screen: A conclusion that will be derived from my the six page appendix, explaining the social relevance and motiviations for this project.

VI. Appendix:

a.      Critically explore the role of a mediated public sphere and how that impacts certain communities in different ways.

b.     Draw on our readings to explore how technologies have developed within our society.

i.     Within the context of the technical aspects of these tools as well as their relation to the greater shifts in thought occurring during that time period.

Project Outline

I have started my website for my final project here:

To see an outline of what I plan to do, click on the images on the homepage. Each image will take you to a different section of the website with a short outline of what content will be there.

Let me know what you think or suggest that I add.