Saturday, January 22, 2011

It is more impossible than ever to keep your mind in one place. It is more possible than ever to have insight into your peers mental maps, though we still experience people almost entirely as they perform themselves, and not as they are. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr updates advertise one's persona, but can never accurately capture the many textures and senses of a person. And yet, simultaneously, what one writes of oneself might be a much more complicated and interesting reflection of a person than what they do in your company.

Social media  fundamentally changing the way our brains relate to information. It's like I can physically feel it happening... my ways of seeing are just so different now. It's not that any of it is new to me- I was one of the first people I knew to use AIM and have a Friendster account. I fell in love with someone in part because he wrote such beautiful e-mails. The difference is that NPR now does news stories about moms on facebook, and everyone knows what youtube is, and almost no one is under the illusion that one's internet self is private anymore. Collisions are more rapid, how we perform ourselves is a much more complicated and ubiquitous business, and the division between my internet experience and my experience of "reality," is so much more blurry. Is putting reality in quotes cheesy/ridiculous/too sci-fi? I am at least aware that thinking about this stuff puts me in a category that is suspicious and none too cool.

I'm worried about my ability to concentrate. I go for these long walks and am able to construct entire coherent sounding papers while wandering about, I guess partially because I'm allowing my mind to reach that "flow" state necessary for unbridled acts of creating. I think perhaps I need to start taking notes of thoughts, but I don't deal well with any kind of interruption. I'm not able to hold onto the thought, and the line of thought I'm following dwindles, becomes reduced, loses its complexity. It's something I have trouble with in constructing and writing and using evidentiary support- stream of consciousness is a style I'm more drawn to, but it isn't professional, and to make an effective argument all kinds of citation of what previous work has been done is understandably necessary. But, to pause and check something, as quickly as I can, I lose all sense of what I was trying to say and have to retrace my steps.

Is it possible to have an original thought? I think sometimes that the problem with the many blogging and micro blogging mediums is that it forces our ways of expressing into strictly advised codes. There's something both really pleasurable and stupid about expressing a thought in hashtag form, or making our expressions the expressions of pop culture with gifs. Humans are so fascinatingly dichotomous, we cleverly subvert one code and give in easily to another. Limitations are helpful to create forums for creative play, but the playing then only goes so far.

I wonder all the time what it would be like to be growing up with all this media. Maybe our parents asked themselves the very same thing. I am having the predictable thoughts endemic to a person my age. But it's just so impossibly weird to see my friend's toddler happily playing games on the iphone, using his fingers to turn things off and on, to find the one he wants and move things around as he sees fit. He's not even two years old. I don't want to be the sort of person who has thoughts like "kids these days," I also think it's so weird that I respond to things in terms of "full of fail" or "epic win." Srsly. WTF you guise. That's not a natural reaction, it's one my brain has learned to find funny and then kind of predictable, and impossible to wash out of my linguistic habits.

Research tends to bear out how much of what we think is a reiteration of something already said by someone else. Televisual and theater and music medium stuff tends to always be new because, however old and recycled the material being enacted, we can see the physical incarnation of the material by human beings that are new. Nothing is new and everything is new now. Everything is co-opted, reinvented, criticality and appropriation are production. It's crazy how much Roland Barthes knew about authorship and human nature.

I feel lucky and relieved lately when I spend time with friends, and it also feels more natural than ever to have it punctuated by digital interruptions.

Is this boring stuff to think about? I was with a friend last night and we noticed that whether we were hanging out at a monastery to learn about their history of winemaking or at a restaurant frequented by sorority girls or walking through the park everyone was talking about their facebook updates, catching up on things they actually already knew about. We also noticed that we never stop complaining about the ads on Pandora radio and we also will probably never pay for an ad-free account. We are constantly measuring how to survive and be pleased with life and get away with what we can.

I went to a lecture given by a historian this last semester and he was so angry about twitter. There's a lot of valid concern that history is being forgotten, that we're more self absorbed and pre-occupied than ever, that we don't know how to remember and think critically. I'm sympathetic, and also had to fight against this thought I had about his anger about twitter: that it was a predictable thing to be irritated about, that his students were bored with his reaction to it, that even saying that instigated this impulse to write him off when he had a lot of interesting things to say. It might be that that makes me more conservative than I ever realized. Meta meta meta modernism can be tricky and dangerous, but generating excitement about the future is a much more effective political motivator than decrying what's wrong.

The difficult thing to get away from is how enticing the chaos of people's creations on the internet are. So much is crass and strange and inappropriate and funny. I don't think meanness or bigotry are ever excusable, but many strange voices asserting themselves- I find it so relentlessly interesting and seductive.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My love for John Waters knows few bounds. I spent a lot of time this semester researching and thinking about spectacle, and of every artist, he had the most surprising and interesting things to say about it, wanting it to allow for a "tiny, private moment of joy," if it's to be incarnated at all, making room possibly for the small ways we can make spectacles of ourselves, and constitute ourselves according to our own privately constructed rubrics, defying the rules of patriarchical/dominant culture, but found the sort of spectacles of say, times square, rather loathesome.

And then, he tends to always turn around and say things like this, in a recent issue of Artforum, where artists were polled on their favorite films of 2010, where he chose Jackass 3-D as one of the best: “A scatological, gay, s/m, borderline snuff movie amazingly embraced by a wide, American blue-collar family audience. Isn’t Steve-O chugging down a glass of sweat collected from the ass-crack of an obese man and then vomiting at you in 3-D the purest moment of raw cinema anarchy this year?”

I love this kind of subversive reading of things, and how much here Waters manages to simultaneously stay true to his own unique sensibilities and yet always be undeniably the "John Waters" persona.

When someone told me once that I was undoubtedtly "an odd bird," I started to worry that continuity even in how we socially act in our day to day was an imperative at which I was spectacularly failing. But I'm finding that there's lots of theory that makes space for strangeness. Oddness, and the failure to live up to expectations, can be their own sort of win.