?

Log in

The internet ate my subculture - Huck Finn on Estradiol

> Свежие записи
> Архив
> Друзья
> Личная информация
> Methane Ice Worms (web comic I draw)

Июнь 20, 2006


Previous Entry Поделиться Next Entry
10:32 am - The internet ate my subculture
After a long discussion with my boss in which we both admitted we were out of new ideas for TIP and pretty much need to just keep plugging until something comes up, I had a question. Did something happen, about four or five years ago, to completely destroy american public culture? Because it seems that way. I remember weekly, or biweekly meetings of medic groups, Earth First, anti-war coalitions, radio stations, even vague-ish non-issue centered affinity groups looking for something to get mad about. I remember having a list of contacts to call when you wanted to make something happen. I remember flyers...

What happened?

One of the characters in a book I'm reading publishes an underground paper. I used to do that- it was pretty okay. We covered a lot of local news, distributed newspaper-looking newspapers in churches and convenience stores, made a fairly good show of staying on top of stories in the scene and out. I don't think I could do that again. Not the hours or the arguments, that part was fine. I just don't think enough people read. Or rather, I think they read blogs instead, mostly written by their friends, and regardless of the value of the content. I don't think you can get anyone's attention any more. And that was five years ago. What happened?

There's a new movie made by a local kid called Young Jewish and Left that was panned in the free paper. The reviewer quoted the filmmaker saying "we're trying to build a movement where we can be ourselves" and responded "we see the being ourselves part, where's the movement?" It reminds me of dance parties and identity masturbation and the idea that "if I can't dance I don't want your revolution" can stand alone as a guiding principle. I mean, why bother with the rest of the stuff when the dancing is so fun? Americans have substituted identity consumption for discourse for two and a half generations, why stop now?

Dance parties? Five years ago. More or less.

What happened?

Is it totally trite to blame MySpace? Or Friendster? Or hell, livejournal? The timing is right. They keep everyone "connected" without having to, y'know, do anything together except catechise our daily living and fuck. Memoirs are now the best-selling genre of new book. Coincidence? We can get all the kudos and sexiness we need without ever leaving the house, without ever extending ourselves beyond our individual choices of which job, which identity, which sound card, which sex act we prefer. Narrativize it, publish it, let the appreciative comments pour in...

Shall we dance?

A

(27 комментариев | Оставить комментарий)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:surblimity
Date:Июнь 20, 2006 06:48 pm
(Link)
I appreciate the things you bring up here... don't have much to comment on it, just that these are good points and that I nodded a bunch. And, ironically I suppose (if that's the appropriate use of the word ironic, i never know), I kinda want to link to it from, yes, my blog. D'you mind? Not sure about the blog-to-LJ link ettiquite.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 20, 2006 07:48 pm
(Link)
Sure, link away friend!
(Удалённый комментарий)
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 20, 2006 08:01 pm
(Link)
Nah, I don't buy it. The fact is, the crackdown has been hella limited in scope. Only a very few people in Philadelphia (who weren't particularly well-like anyway) have even been arrested lately. The Bush presidency? Wars? Corruption and a sense of a government out of control? Reagan gave us Positive Force and the political hardcore movement. Nixon gave us, well, its hard to say what now but definitely 1968-73 and especially 1973 saw an increase in radicalization.

The thing is, I hear people *saying* they're too worn out and overwhelmed by the problems in the world, but I can't help thinking they'd just rather be knitting or talking on MySpace about their new cat. Its not charitable, but I call bullshit. People say they're worn out from too much activism, but it must all be unpublicized nightwork cause nothing's happening. People say they're too worn out from all the sexual assault, but, well, huh? People say activism is privileged and problematic, so they go back to their uninteresting jobs earning money they spend on knitting supplies and Xbox games. People say its activism just to be a slightly-gender-queer identified fashion plate, but they have a better degree, better job, and more hook-ups than they know what to do with (and all their neighbors identify the same way.) People say they world is just too fucked up to think about, and I believe them, except that I don't want to think my friends have actually given up thinking...
[User Picture]
From:whitegato
Date:Июнь 20, 2006 08:42 pm

nah

(Link)
the tools are tools, what we ultilize them for isnt the problem. other people seem to have gotten the hang of it.
[User Picture]
From:iphisol
Date:Июнь 20, 2006 11:50 pm
(Link)
Man, this strikes a chord. Just because I've gotten into memoirs and getting my stimuli from people I know on the internet. It's been forever since I did anything revolutionary- it's an interesting context you presented. Thanks for inspiring thinking.
[User Picture]
From:lilybutterland
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 02:34 am
(Link)
i always get this creeping suspicion that half of tagonists rants about how affected the kids are are aimed at me personally...



hey anne ... so what is the perscription for fixing this ?
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 02:14 pm
(Link)
Uh nope, not about you. I actually admire you.
[User Picture]
From:lilybutterland
Date:Июнь 22, 2006 12:16 am
(Link)
awe gee....

{faux modest}i dont do shit !!{/sigh}

right now im trying to procrastinate on protecting myself from squat eviction by going to a puppet show.
[User Picture]
From:steph99
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 03:31 am
(Link)
I don't buy it. (this coming from someone who has been posting about fluff, but there are 2 good reasons for that! 1, I gave up morning NPR on the grounds that half-awake is too psychologically influential a time to be filling your brain with THE WORLD SUCKS AND SUCKS SOME MORE, and have not worked in a good replacement, and 2, I'm down to the last 2 days of summer classes, after which I can think about something other than global water issues, and, heh, community-level action around them.)

Also, my "activist" experience is watery and recent. But back in the day, one of the things that kept me from getting into it for real was that I HATE meetings. I hate going out when I don't have to, I hate filling my schedule. I hate stacks of flyers I feel guilty for not reading. Also, I feel like when I'm not in classes, I'm in meetings and workdays pretty often. Since my volunteer work often has to do with technology, it's particularly fitting (and incredibly useful) that a lot of the planning gets done on list serves and instant messenger. And smartypants blogs have gotten me thinking hard many times.

Of course I agree with whitegato that you can't blame the tool (or meta-tool :-) for the misuse thereof, and what might really be lacking is an influx of leader-y types with the charisma to rally the troops online or off. It may be that people actually are tired.

This culture of intarweb memoir and everyone being a best-selling novelist for a day does have a narcissistic streak, for sure, but remember where that's coming from...mediocrity is one (only one) effect of democratization and dissemination of technology. I will take a terabyte of "my cat did this today" for a gb of organic, non-top-down community building that might come with it. Phillyimc, dare I say it, is a good example of this. I am on a couple of their lists, and man, they get a lot done online, which makes sense since they exist online.

So when's your World-Domination-By-Next-Tue-Lunchtime meeting? Sorry I missed the blacksmithing, I was *durrr* writing this fucking paper that I'm procrastinating on right this moment. But you, my friend, are particularly well suited for cult leadership and/or organizing urban sustainability teach-ins, and by that I mean, beer and chats about the garden and such. MINT JULEPS AND INTELLIGENT DISCOURSE FOR EVARYONE AT TAGONIST'S PLACE! N.b., it is a knit-free zone. Maybe we should revisit that lead project.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 02:18 pm
(Link)
Right, but the reason for meetings is that they accomplish something. The internet is great at disseminating one person's work, or telling other people where to plug in, but there isn't the same rapid exchange of ideas and criticism that makes the collective greater than the some of its parts. I don't like staying up late, or going to jail, or feeling like an idiot when something I want to see happen fails, and I don't like sitting through meetings, but that's how things get done. Sometimes I think the most insinuitive risk of internet-based activism is the vicarious sense of not having to- why leave the house? Why get in an argument? Why get frustrated? You can do it all and keep snood open in another window too. Or better yet, you can be the first person informed about something amazing someone else did by themselves, and feel involved for nothing.

Also, my house is definitely not a knitting-free zone :-)

And as far as plans, I dunno. What set me off was this article. How do we not let this one slide by?

A
[User Picture]
From:steph99
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 03:05 pm
(Link)
Hm, you and I aren't going to agree on this particularly, simply b/c of the way I work. Traditionally, I get shittons more done online than I do in person, or at least, I find that it dramatically collapses the time (and sure, frustration) required to get a good plan together. I agree that workdays accomplish something, (a LOT actually) and there is value to a room of people brainstorming. But recently, some things that happened online:

1) Volta broken, fixed, broken, fixed, volunteers collected, training organized
2) Alpha master plan for workstations (to prepare for job readiness training) composed, and knowledge on how to do it transfered (really sophisticated stuff, plus some high level router talk). Later, a lot of the implementation can be done from anywhere
3) doctoral thesis redirected, collaboration planned, business partnership proposed, major urban renewal/sustainability project discussed

All while I sat on my butt and did the work I get paid for in between. Granted, these things could not have happened without prior established relationships. Now, I'm uniquely biased toward any kind of remote work b/c for 5 years I worked at a place where all of my servers were at least 1/2 a mile away, and many were several time zones away. We had to be able to do everything from far away, so the idea of having to physically be anywhere to get something done, is still odd to me. Significantly, this works well for someone with mild social phobias. *bites nails*

Also, I was traumatized early on by a lot of really, really awful meetings that resulted in zero tangible outcome except my being utterly disgusted. When I leave the house, I want to either 1) rawk the hell out or 2) get something fucking accomplished. I don't want to prognosticate, faciliate, or create a safe space for someone to "process", especially if I can get so much more done without going to a meeting. I'm brusque and curt about this, but my take is that you should do that on your own time (or with someone who gives a shit and is good at it), and get back to me when you have an action item. In real life, I tend to be nicer, but while I nod sympathetically, I just might be thinking, "shut up shut up shut up!" I've been told this makes me fully half "boy." *shrug*

I don't think our views on this are mutually exclusive; rather they are probably wildly symbiotic. *sees glass half full*

As for that article, reactionism schmeactionism. *yawn* Nothing new there, especially in Hazelton (!?! wtf) PA, and the pro-immigrant movement, I think, has been pretty impressive. On the other hand, I'm profoundly disappointed that the surveillance cameras in philly thing went through with "overwhelming support." That took me totally by surprise. We probably could have done something about that. Maybe still can, dunno.

You know what I find sorely lacking? Strategy. A couple orgs seem to know history and know what works, but a lot seem to flail in masturbatory good intentions. I want more training in radical history. That's a meeting I would go to. But I also need to read some Zinn, that would help lots.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 04:34 pm
(Link)
Right, but those are all really individual projects. You could have done those regardless of any surrounding movement. That sort of thing continues unabated (see also: my backyard) but the collaborative idea-generating participation-generating stuff is impossible without meetings. Do I hate processing at meetings? Oh hell yes. Do I think many worry too much about process, to the point where if they don't feel cuddled all the way through a task, then it isn't worth doing? ("...if I can't dance...") Oh hell yes. But action items require brainstorming. Or pooling resources. Quickly. Who knows what? Who can do what? You can have that conversation on email, but when a good number of us only log in once a day or less (except, ahem, in the context of lively conversation) it takes ages, and the energy dissipates before anything comes together. Seriously, how many awesome ideas have ended the minute someone proposed an email list?

But meetings aren't the point. Accomplishing things that are beyond the scope of one person- even a technologically enhanced person- is the point. I have yet to be convinced that the internetification of interaction does anything but hamper this. Indymedia, yes, does put together a website but in Austin anyway, they still got together in real time and planned things as a group. The project's natural habitat, if you will, was technological and they still went with face-to-face discussion.

Also? Indymedia kind of sucks, in the way that they have less credibility than even a regular blog. Why? Because although there is a collective that stands behind the platform, the principles, and the moderation, there's no consistent editorial group or writers- you don't get to learn whose reportage you trust and whose you don't. I never read Indymedia, even at mass events where they may be the only witnesses on the ground, without a great big hunk of salt. Or as rhetoric, as in the Greek tradition. I don't want to get into a debate about my views on journalism (though I've had a *lot* of practice) but I do think this matters.

Yeah, the immigrant thing is nothing new. But unlike the war(s) or access to generic HIV meds, its something in our backyard that we can affect directly, ourselves. The surveillance cameras are in that category too, although who the hell knows what anyone can do about them now... Who's manufacturing them? Do we know?
[User Picture]
From:steph99
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 04:54 pm
(Link)
"Seriously, how many awesome ideas have ended the minute someone proposed an email list?"

Ah, ha, there we go, that's exactly the difference in our experience. In my circles, brains flutter with activity in the digital realm, and the quickest way to kill it is to propose a meeting, unless that meeting is to do something that requires actual bodies, and not just brains.

I'll say it again, I agree with you on the magic of brainstorming in a circle. Even get a lil flushed just thinking about it. There's part of me that like big dreams and unicorns and ballet slippers.

Strategy: Things have worked in the past, even been wildly successful, and people have been pissed off and abused in the past, and the gubmint has pulled the same dirty tricks in the past. Understanding the old tricks (to recognize them) and the things that are perennially effective, would help. That's what I was getting it, and I think your "not to be repeated" is the same sentiment. I'm pretty sure we agree here.

I know nothing about the cameras, and hadn't planned to put my focus there this summer. Ok, this will sound funny and ironic in the context of this conversation, but is there a group organized around privacy in Philly? Maybe a LUG? Or are they so secret that no one knows about them? :-)
[User Picture]
From:steph99
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 05:04 pm
(Link)
Ok, so what are we really saying here?

AT: Technology has made our activism lazier and more of a spectator sport
S99: Mang, you crazy. It makes us, better, faster, and more attractive.

So, oof but this is trite-alicious, it works better for some than others. Then, given a new method that is more effective for some, challenge=nudging people to the places they do well, and getting everyone together at appropriate intervals.

You think?
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 05:53 pm
(Link)
Sure, but no-one will want to talk about anything online because everything you say can be traced fairly easily...
[User Picture]
From:steph99
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 06:24 pm
(Link)
Ha, touche. :-) But there are privacy pragmatists and privacy fetishists. You probably don't want the fetishists in your revolution anyway, as they tend to be poor dancers.
From:nonanonymous
Date:Июль 5, 2006 10:47 pm
(Link)
"I'll say it again, I agree with you on the magic of brainstorming in a circle."

Ok good ... because I know you only leave the house in your dancin' shoes or ass-kickin' boots, but quite frankly some of the most encouraging and provoking and exciting thougts and conversations I've had -- at least this decade -- have been in your house and your presence.

So, there is some important spark that must exist between people to ignite the action. Once lit, however, we can fuel it from our cubicles.

This message paid for by stealing about fifteen cents worth of time from corporate America.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июль 6, 2006 06:00 pm
(Link)
Um, great, see, but like I have absolutely no idea who you are. What the heck are you doing in my house? And I don't have a cubicle.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 04:39 pm
(Link)
And I hear you on the strategy issue. Hoo boy. I mean, the history is a bit of a dead hand (widespread ownership of automobiles totally changed the power dynamic of marches half a century ago, not to mention telecommuting and scattered-site industry, and we still act like we didn't notice) but you can still learn a lot.

Actually, I don't know if I agree with you here or not. Let me explain- the one thing that would, totally, completely, 100% absolutely set me off in Texas was when someone would kibosh a new idea saying "we have to take the first steps first, maybe later we can [run a clinic out of a van/make a fake front page for the paper/start a tent city/etc]" It made want to jump up and start screaming "YOUR GREAT GRANDMOTHER TOOK THE FIRST STEPS A HUNDRED YEARS AGO AND GOT NOWHERE AND SHE'D SMACK YOU FOR NOT TAKING THE SECOND AND THIRD STEPS NOW!" Which kind of sums up how I feel about history. Its there to not be repeated.

A
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 04:40 pm
(Link)
not to be repeated (split infinitive)
[User Picture]
From:whitegato
Date:Июнь 24, 2006 12:51 am
(Link)
theres a good bit of zinn on lacie, video and audio. very inspiring.
i agree about the stratgey and lack of leadership. i've had my head in a book this week and every chapter is 'how does this apply' to the current situtation.
of course i am hamstrung by personal issues, i wouldnt go to any meetings or lead anything myself which means i dont get to have an opinion. still, i am looking for the stratgey, the effective ideas on any scale and the focused outrage. i cant find it.

re: cameras. they're not here yet but i *think* BNN does chicagos. i'll look into this.

(also, and this isnt for ppl who are online once a day, but irc culture is rife with rapid exchange of ideas and implementation, just that most the energy is in OSS)
[User Picture]
From:whitegato
Date:Июнь 24, 2006 01:00 am
(Link)
... cant find it AND dont have any of my own ...
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 02:19 pm
(Link)
sum of its parts.
[User Picture]
From:mat_defiler
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 05:40 am
(Link)
Hmm, i've long ranted about the problems of abandoning skills for technology, and i think yours a thought provoking rant. But i have a couple disagreements.

1. my computer based communications didn't replace activism, they replaced letter writing. I don't do mail art or write letters anymore, which was another way of communicating and was, perhaps, it's own kind of fluff. LJ etc. fills that void, not the activism void. I probably spend less time computer-networking than i used to spend writing letters and so forth. I liked the letter writing better, but it's hard to sustain in a world that now refers to it, derrogatoraly, as "snail mail" (as opposed to "real mail", my preferred term.) That's a whole other rant, more aesthetic than political.

2. I think your'e underestimating the fear factor. Yeah, reagan introduced an intense political climate, but it was a shock and the collective memory was still fully aware of a very different M.O. yeah, cointelpro was full force many years before that, but this is way more entrenched and systemic. A whole adult generation never knew anything before the far right takeover of this country's sensibility. We are closer to fascism in many ways, i believe, even than mcarthy era, because at least that era had a real underlying debate going about communism. The fear, as well, is bigger than that of going to prison or any other direct consequence scenario. Its more amorphous and immobilizing, we are so close to the edge of full flung unacknowledged fascism that it's terrifying to even imagine what to do. I really think you underestimate the scope of the changes of the last 20 years. Internet drivel certainly sucks time and has allowed people to forget about other skills, but the reversion to fluff is probably more a symptom of the fear than anything.

though it's good for all of us to check our time usage.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июнь 21, 2006 02:30 pm
(Link)
No, I still don't get it. Thirty-five years ago, you could be drafted or shot on sight. The risk isn't anywhere near that high now (as long as you have citizenship papers, but that's another issue) I'll accept, in a limited way, that there's a fear that no one person can make enough of an effect, but really this is a transaction. No one person can make enough difference to be worth giving up the generally awesome time we have when we just go along and play. If we didn't have the wealth of the world floating nebulously around our fingertips, would we maybe take more risks? It feels, sorta, y'know, bought off.And its also an organizing failure, which leads us right back into circular logic- why is it always just one person? What happened to collectivity?

And I don't dispute that we are closer to fascism now than we were in the late forties. Sure. In fact, we're closer to fascism than, say, France in the late 1890's-1910's or Germany in the 1920's. So? We still aren't getting carried away by the secret police for mentioning controversial topics. Despite some people's assertions that every room in every collective house is bugged and monitored 24-7, organizing still works when anybody gets around to it.

Bottom line, we're rich, lazy, and narcissistic enough to believe that just what we say about ourselves will make injustice go away.

Oh and hi! You've caught me in a very dark mood...
[User Picture]
From:tommytesto
Date:Июль 6, 2006 05:02 pm
(Link)
"After a long discussion with my boss in which we both admitted we were out of new ideas for TIP and pretty much need to just keep plugging until something comes up..."

Not sure what the details are, but you may wish to get in contact with Lee or Rosa of www.ccaa.org's new-ish program, Transcend. They seem to have some exciting things in the pot, although I think for a while now TIP has been a leader as faras outreach and services from/by/for the trans communities.
[User Picture]
From:tagonist
Date:Июль 6, 2006 05:53 pm
(Link)
Ha! They're awesome. I did a staff training for them last month, and in exchange they showed me around their program. I agree- exciting as hell.

A

> Go to Top
LiveJournal.com