Naming and Erasing

By Stacie Swain

The framing of tragedies by government officials and state actors in the USA and Canada this past week raise questions regarding the boundaries around “victims” and related categories – “perpetrators” or often in modern times, “terrorists” – and how such shifting boundaries are constructed and contested through strategies of naming and erasing. Continue reading “Naming and Erasing”

On Online Selves

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In a recent interview, the creator and primary writer of the British anthology series, Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker, offered the following commentary on selves and social media.

Social media has made it…, and the internet and technology in general, has sharpened all of those things — I guess they’ve always been there, that performative nature of life, has always been there, that you sort of perform your personality, I guess, to everyone, on some level. I remember…, my theory is that we’ve got…, that we used to have several personalities and now we’re encouraged to have one, online. By which I mean…, I remember once having a birthday party and people from different aspects of my life showed up…, and I behaved differently with all of these people, in the real world, but once they were all together in one space, and they were all mingled in, in one group, if I walked over to them I suddenly didn’t know how to speak. Do you know what I mean? Because like, with some of them I’d try to be all intellectual and erudite and with others I’d just swear and curse and be an idiot. And suddenly when they’re all in one space I don’t know who I am. And I kind’a feel like one sort of thing is that online you’re encouraged to perform one personality for everyone. And I wonder if that’s one of the things that’s feeding into the kind of polarization that seems to be going on…. I think that lends itself to group-think, in some way… I wonder if we’re better equipped to deal with having slightly different personas…, that come out when you interact with different types of people.

For the full interview, see 28:46 onward from this episode of Fresh Air.

Watch the trailer for the newly released third season:

Sending Signals

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Like that vestigial organ, the appendix (long thought to have little utility), a car’s turn signals — or what I grew up calling blinkers — seem no longer to have any function, making them a bit of survival, in the classic anthropological sense, from an earlier but now bygone era. For the drivers I mostly encounter here in Alabama seem not to have any need of that little lever over on the left of the steering wheel.

The curious thing, then, is why cars still have them. Continue reading “Sending Signals”

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

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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”

The Social in Social Media

social mediaSometimes social media is a great source for learning things, and sometimes it is not. Since my friends on Facebook range across a wide ideological spectrum, sometimes the references to the same event are so contradictory that I have no clue what “really” happened. Last month, when Joni Ernst presented one of the Republican rebuttals to Obama’s State of the Union, the disparity in responses was fascinating. Some friends made comments and posted articles that lampooned her performance, especially making light of her story about wearing bread bags to keep her shoes dry as a child. Posts from other friends described her exceptional performance, with links to articles that emphasized her success in giving a “fresh face” to the GOP. Continue reading “The Social in Social Media”

People Are Way Too Obsessed With Their Books

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The book, among humanity’s most wide-reaching and long lasting technological innovations, has adversely impacted the human species in ways its creators could have never imagined. Continue reading “People Are Way Too Obsessed With Their Books”

Pack Your Camera, We are Going on a Trip

ManhattanRussell 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”