The Nose-Piercing of Destiny

An image of a new nose ring

About six weeks ago, I did something that I’ve been thinking about for a solid fifteen years:  I got my nose pierced.  I can’t tell you that there’s one particular reason why it took me so long to do it; instead, it would be more accurate to describe a million minor discouragements along the way.   But when I  recently found myself admiring a friend’s piercing (framing the compliment within the narrative of my own unfulfilled intentions), it didn’t take much for her to convince me to go for it. Continue reading “The Nose-Piercing of Destiny”

Tales From the Bottom of the Backpack: What was “The Point” of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my children often figure significantly into my posts if only because people in the midst of being socialized are, in my opinion, some of the most interesting people around. This is also why so many of my posts about my kids are often focused on their educational experiences, for while there are a large number of ways in which we are socialized, most of these experiences are rarely as intentional and self-conscious as formal education. (If you’re interested, you can check out  my reflections on their school introduction to Columbus Day and 9/11).

With that said, I recently had an interesting experience that shed some light on the ways that we negotiate our social rituals in order to suit the specific power relationships that such rituals foster. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day occurred a few weeks ago in the U.S., a holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. Many of you, no doubt, saw all sorts of King-related posts on social media, most of them lines extracted from King’s larger speeches and writings, transformed into motivational statements like these: Continue reading “Tales From the Bottom of the Backpack: What was “The Point” of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?”

Social Media Is Out of (Your) Control, So Is Life

Different phone apps

Liking a post and favoriting a tweet serve as excellent examples of the complexity of life that is out of our control in ways that we often don’t realize. The meaning of liking, favoriting, etc., clearly shifts depending on the context. Sometimes clicking the star or thumbs up literally means that I like something; sometimes I want to say that I hear you, acknowledging someone’s comment or post. This varied meaning is true throughout language. Words and symbols have a range of meanings that also can shift radically over time and place (a computer used to mean “one who computes;” a Swastika is a positive symbol in multiple cultures today). That simple click (like other forms of communication) has other complexities, too, that illustrate the lack of control that any of us have.
Continue reading “Social Media Is Out of (Your) Control, So Is Life”

Identifying Identity with Merinda Simmons

“Identifying Identity” offers a series of responses from members of Culture on the Edge to the following claim made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:

David Kirkpatrick expressing his ideas about how a person only has one identity

When I signed up for a Facebook account (I held out for a while, not really understanding the potential for something called a “social network” that combined two things to which I’m not particularly suited: technology and, well, social networking), I remember someone telling me in an attempt to explain the difference between how one presents oneself on Facebook vs. Myspace, “Facebook is like a posed photo. Myspace is more like a candid snapshot.” My friend was trying to help me get a sense of the format and layout of the two sites, how they would present the information and images I post to the cyberworld around me. His ultimate point in response to my privacy paranoias? Sure I had control, but I didn’t have control. I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since the controversy over Facebook’s “real-name policy” flared up. Continue reading “Identifying Identity with Merinda Simmons”

Identifying Identity with Russell McCutcheon

“Identifying Identity” offers a series of responses from members of Culture on the Edge to the following claim made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:

David Kirkpatrick expressing his ideas about how a person only has one identity

Russell McCutcheon:

It’s no accident, of course, that “integrity” has a direct relationship with the Latin adjective “integer,” as in the word we today use to name whole numbers, in distinction from their parts, i.e., fractions. And so it carries with it the connotation of being complete, perfect, even unblemished. But there was a time when this modern sense of the word might have described not Mark Zukerberg’s apparently ideal person—one who is, I guess, consistently, transparently, and rigorously themselves in all occasions—but, instead, one who was able to moderate that apparent self, all depending on the requirements of the setting, something determined by the other social actors involved (e.g., it’s not “a black tie event” until someone shows up in a black tie). I’ve written on this classical sense of pietas before, I know, but it seems relevant once again to point out that wholeness might instead be the social fiction created by the artful management of the innumerable fractions, some of which may have no common denominator; for the quality of consistency or uniformity is surely the last thing one wants—whether in ancient Rome or in Facebook’s headquarters—when moving from interacting with social superiors at work to the barista at the corner coffee shop to friends at the bar or family at home. These once taken for granted distinctions are obviously challenged not just by the eternal present of the virtual world, where we post and tweet and, now, yak anonymously, but, more importantly perhaps, by Facebook’s own quest to monopolize ownership of that world and thus ownership of the means whereby we produce those selves. Continue reading “Identifying Identity with Russell McCutcheon”

Identifying Identity: A Culture on the Edge Response to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s “Real-Name” Policy

A comic about Batman

A four-year-old post by Michael Zimmer has been getting renewed attention after Facebook’s controversial “real-name” policy came under scrutiny for disproportionately affecting certain communities: drag performers, doctors and mental health professionals, and political dissidents among them. While Facebook has issued an apology, especially to drag queens who found their stage names no longer accepted by the site, Mark Zuckerberg’s take on the issue of identity — and integrity, as articulated in Zimmer’s piece — piqued our interest here at Culture on the Edge:

David Kirkpatrick expressing his ideas about how a person only has one identityWith our own interests in code-switching, identifications rather than identities, and competing claims of legitimacy or authority, we think the emphasis on a single identity is ripe for analysis, so we have each offered a brief response… one being posted each day for a week. Continue reading “Identifying Identity: A Culture on the Edge Response to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s “Real-Name” Policy”

Filters, Filters Everywhere

A blue birdMy family is a family of identifiers. Whether it is a bird, tree, or salamander, we are often dissatisfied until we know which species it is. Thus we have binoculars and a whole shelf of Field Guides for identifying much of the flora and fauna. While others can certainly dissect the psychological interests behind the desire to know these names, the process of observation intrigues me. Continue reading “Filters, Filters Everywhere”

Pack Your Camera, We are Going on a Trip

Manhattan skyline at nightRussell McCutcheon’s post yesterday made me think of a recent trip I took to New York City with two friends, and Culture on the Edge’s members, Monica Miller and Leslie Dorrough Smith, before a workshop on Code Switching hosted by Monica Miller at Lehigh University. The reason that I was reminded of this trip is because the first night, as we were driving back to our hotel, we came across a view of Manhattan by night which was exactly as you see it in movies and postcards. Of course we decided to stop and enjoy the view, but simply watching Manhattan by night seemed not enough—maybe because, as I said, that’s a view you see in movies and it seemed somehow surreal that I was there, as if I was living someone else’s dream; so we immediately started taking pictures of that beautiful scene anticipating posting on FB for friends and family to see it too. Continue reading “Pack Your Camera, We are Going on a Trip”

Living in the Now

People-taking-foodI just read an article on smartphone etiquette in restaurants, in which the following quote appeared:

Picture 1This got me thinking a little more about the category experience. For it seems to me that the current trend of photographing your food is not, as Courtney thinks, an impediment to experience but, instead, is one of the ways in which we actually do experience it — that is, the object of experience, the “it,” is socially constituted and so, without the social (i.e., in this case, social media), there’s no experience to be had. Continue reading “Living in the Now”