Tag Archives: social media

A Romeo & Juliet mix. Happy Love Day!

In a grad class on Shakespearean adaptations, I presented a DJ mix as my seminar on Lorca’s El Publico: a Surrealist adaptation of a seminar seemed appropriate for Lorca’s Surrealist adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. (The seminar was a success: everybody danced.) In time for Happy Love Day* I’ve posted the set online, in two “acts.” (Seminar details and annotated playlist are housed at the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project.

PA System: A Romeo & Juliet mix (Act 1) cloudcast by sonicfiction.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

PA System: A Romeo & Juliet mix (Act 2) cloudcast by sonicfiction.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

* “Happy Love Day” is a spoof of “Valentine’s Day” in an episode of The Simpsons (“Trash of the Titans” [S9E22]. Fox, 26 Apr. 1998):

“Come on, Mom, The stores just invented this holiday to make money.”

Is Facebook suppressing this image?

So today a friend of mine shared this great picture* on his Facebook page.

So of course I shared the picture today, too, and saw this evening that another friend shared it as well. But as of now, the shared picture no longer appears on any of our three Facebook newsfeeds. Has Facebook just deleted it? I know Facebook’s policy about offensive content sometimes suppresses or censors critical content (try planting a link in Facebook to Seppukoo), but this seems a bit Orwellian (and, at the same time, a bit petty). Another possibility, I guess, is that the FB user whose image link I shared (an unknown friend-of-friend) has deleted it. (If so, why?)

In any case, I’m going to put it right back up in Facebook, and reblog it ad nauseum too. It’s too shrewd and wry a point to get lost in (or suppressed by) today’s most visited website.

* Not sure who made the picture; I’ve seen a “Captain Thermostat” credited, but the text is quoted verbatim from a December 2010 Saturday Night Live sketch:

Cross-posted from the Athabasca U Landing

15 albums

I was tagged on Facebook by a friend “interested in the list [of 15 favourite albums] you would put together.”

Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums that you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me because I’m interested in seeing what albums my friends choose.

Okay, but the request assumes that I listen to entire albums, which has never been my favourite way to listen to music. (Maybe I’ll follow this up with a “10 Best Mixtapes” meme. Or “10 Videos Most Like That Weird Recurring Dream You Keep Having.”) Some of these are excellent actual albums; others are excellent DJ mixes; still others just have a lot of excellent material. But all of them are excellent start-to-finish listening experiences (except maybe Substance). I thought I’d cross-post this, because good music is worth sharing, contrary to what the litigious labels say.

My list (in no particular order, except maybe the first):
1. Johann Sebastian Bach, The Brandenburg Concertos (ca. 1721)
2. Messiah, 21st Century Jesus (American, 1994)
3. Dogwhistle, The Life and Times of an After-Hours DJ (Quality, 1995)
4. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Darklands (Blanco y Negro, 1987) …won a toss-up with Honey’s Dead (1992)
5. The XX, XX (Rough Trade, 2010)
6. Enya, The Celts (WEA, 1987) …that’s right, Enya. Deal.
7. The Master Musicians of Jajouka, Apocalypse Across the Sky (Axiom, 1992)
8. New Order, Substance (Factory, 1987)
9. Dr. Dre, The Chronic (Death Row, 1992)
10. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (Matador, 1993)
11. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol, 1973)
12. Delerium, Semantic Spaces (Nettwerk, 1994)
13. Elizabeth Mitchell, You Are My Little Bird (Smithsonian Folkways, 2006)
14. R.E.M., Eponymous (IRS, 1988)
15. Jimmy Cliff et al, The Harder They Come (Island, 1972)

Honourable mention (a.k.a. “cheating by adding more”):
Digable Planets, Reachin’: A New Refutation of Time and Space (Elektra, 1993)
Gordon Downie, Coke Machine Glow (Zoe, 2001)
Bob Geldof, The Vegetarians of Love (Atlantic, 1990)
Seefeel, Polyfusia (Astralwerks, 1994)
The Velvet Underground, Loaded (Cotillion, 1970)

NASSR 2010: Romantic Mediations (remediated)

This year’s conference for the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) was co-hosted by UBC, SFU, and the U of Victoria, and held in downtown Vancouver, just blocks from Stanley Park.

View from the top-floor conference rooms of the hotel. Not distracting at all.

This year’s theme, Romantic Mediations, was particularly productive. I say this mostly because of my own research interest in Romanticism’s popular cultural legacies, but also because of the program’s focused and lively discussions, and, in part, because of the increasingly mediated culture of academic conferences.

The theme directed a lot of attention to the diversity of media forms and the materiality of cultural production in the Romantic period. In the first keynote on Thurs., Aug. 18, William Warner and Clifford Siskin advocated a “history of mediation” as a material and concrete alternative to the more traditional but abstract “history of ideas.” Their presentation seemed both coy and provocative: coy, in that their argument seemed to build (albeit productively, imho) on both Marx and McLuhan without acknowledging either; provocative, in that they styled their talk as an exhortation to adopt their approach. The discussion that followed was feisty: some took issue with what seemed a faddish adoption of computing terminology; some grilled them on their sources and precedents; and some felt they were preaching to the converted, advocating a kind of historical materialism already old very old hat to a field transformed thirty years ago by New Historicism. (For my part, I was left curious enough to at least check out their work, like the Re-Enlightenment Project.)

The theme also prompted a lot of contributions on Romantic theatre and performance, leading me to compile a much better bibliography than that which I’d drawn on to draft the talk I was to give on Saturday (in the second of Danny O’Quinn’s two sessions on “media archaeology”). Fred Burwick’s session on Romantic drama included a paper by Melynda Nuss that I initially worried would moot my own, in her claim that “the technology itself was one of the main items on display” in Romantic theatre. But for Nuss this was premise not thesis for an engaging look at the period’s spectacular “aqua-dramas”: plays on nautical themes, with water scenes that drove the invention of some pretty heavy stage machinery. Subsequently, Friday’s keynote gave me the historical puzzle pieces I didn’t know I’d been looking for, as the Welsh science historian Iwan Rhys Morus gave a tour of the theatrical culture of science in Romantic Britain, and how it gave way to the more professional, less sensational practices of Victorian science. (Now I had more than a better bibliography for my work on the first Frankenstein plays–I had to tweak the paper itself, to give a nod to Morus’ work.)

Dr Morus tells us about the predecessors of Dr Moreau.

This keynote took place at SFU’s Woodward campus, nestled between regular downtown and Vancouver’s downtown east side. Strangely, this would not be the only time the conference found itself adjacent to a zombie parade. Moments before the final keynote on Saturday, I was out on the second-storey hotel terrace overlooking Denman Street, alone except for the keynote speaker, Dr Heather Jackson, composing herself before her talk with a crossword. Shouts from the street drew us to the railing, where a hundreds-strong march soon resolved into a mass zombie walk of the kind so popular now.

What do they want? Brainsss. (Photo credit: Louise)

They staggered down the street. They swarmed a parked bus.

Zombie walk participants swarm a bus. (Photo credit: Goh.)

What a perfect performance of re-mediated Gothic. And there I was, caught for once without my camera to re-remediate it. Of course, what with the ubiquity of cameras and the end of privacy and all, most of the zombies brought along their own cameras, documenting the day in sometimes too much detail.

Surely (as Byron told Banks of vivisection) this is too much. (Photo credit: Christine)

But perhaps I digress. Among the proceedings and festivities, some recurring points of reference that were not zombies also emerged, notably Friedrich Kittler’s history of discourse networks circa 1800 and 1900, and Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s theory of remediation: the “contradictory imperative” to resort to hyper-mediation as a means to simulate immediacy, as a perennial response to new and emergent media. For example: describing a printed text as an improvised performance (the topic of Angela Esterhammer’s fascinating seminar); or, for a more contemporary example, tweeting from a conference discussion in progress (i.e. “hyper-mediating” an immediate, “live” experience) to communicate some of the interest and urgency of the moment.

Ironically, however, the growing intensity of digital remediation and back-channel dialogue that have become a much-discussed trend in the digital Humanities–“conference hacking,” if you will–were not much in evidence at NASSR (held at a hotel with free wireless, no less). I could find only one other delegate, Katherine D. Harris, who was tweeting the proceedings. The listserv seemed dormant during the event, although it has circulated some well-deserved kudos to the organizers since (which I enthusiastically echo); similarly quiet during the event was the NASSR grad students’ blog, which now has some post-game commentary. I was alerted to a Facebook page for Romantics scholars, where some delegates have shared remarks and reviews. There may well have been more digital mediating of a conference whose theme so clearly invited it, and maybe I just wasn’t picking up the right channels.

And I could have been doing more, for my own part: I could have posted my suggested hash-tag on the listserv; I could have made time for more than tweeting, which admittedly has its limits for encapsulating conceptual complexity. (After all, it’s only now that I’ve found the time to share my own reflections on the event in detail.) I suppose I was just expecting more of the “remediating,” real-time back channel with which Twitter has become so good at supplying (supplementing?) other conferences like the MLA convention.

I’m not advocating more digital dialogue and mediation because it’s increasingly ubiquitous elsewhere, or just to appear tuned in and wired up (although there is a case to be made that publicly remediating debates over literary history and politics can help to change public perceptions about the stakes–or perceived lack thereof–in such fields). As shown by so many of the talks I attended in Vancouver; as shown by NASSR’s attention to media (from prior conference themes like techne and newness to systems like the listserv itself); and as shown by the wider field’s deep and diverse investments in new media (the Blake Archive, Romantic Circles, RaVoN): the discourse networks and media ecologies around 1800 have continued to shape and resonate with our experiences of discourse networks and media ecologies around 2000. So playing more extensively with the interface of hyper-mediated and immediate modes of communication and representation–playing, that is, with remediation in the performance scene of the conference–can shed new light on the ideologies and implications of media (both new and dead), and can transform the shape and tone of the conference as such, which is by no means a new medium, but one that can be not only compromised, but also (and at the same time) enriched and extended by the myriad forms and deployments of remediation.

A scholarly take on the copyfight & pop culture

Academicalism has a new section for CC-licensed research, and the first working paper I’ve posted there is one I’ll present later this month, for the Socialist Studies conference taking place as part of Congress (Canada’s annual Humanities and Social Sciences bashment):

“The copyfight, science fiction, and social media”

Cory Doctorow, one of the authors discussed in the paper, has kindly made time to read it and post a positive response his blog, for which I’m very thankful.

Between this endorsement from one of today’s biggest “copyleft” advocates, and the Socialist Studies connection, I may think twice about crossing the US border anytime soon.

Deconstructing “Did you know?”

The viral circulation of the “Did you know” video about “living in exponential times” shows no signs of abating. It does capture something of an Information Society Zeitgeist, but it contains several premises and claims that are worth critiquing. (You can view the video below my rant about it here.)

“Exponential times”: A spectre haunts the video’s premise: that of the technological singularity — a hypothetical point of cybernetic development beyond which the machines become self-aware and rapidly accelerate the pace and scale of technological change. (See Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near.) The implications of this premise will be clarified in what follows.

“There are 5x as many English words as in Shakespeare’s time”: This is specious, as historicizing goes, but it’s of a piece with the video’s unproblematized and fetishized keyword, Information. (On which more soon.) It’s specious because it serves the contemporary picture being sketched at the cost of historical knowledge. For starters, there was neither spelling as we know it nor dictionaries in Shakespeare’s time, and it’s only after such institutions arise that language becomes standardized and quantifiable. Moreover, the polysemy (multiplicity of meaning) and rich resonance of vocabulary in Elizabethan English scrambles the attempt to quantify it anyway: what does it mean to count 5 times as many words in modern English when their meanings are generally so much narrower and less ambiguous than in Shakespeare’s time? (“Ejaculation” is a great example of a formerly multiple-meaning word now confied to one very specific meaning…and one that will probably draw trolls to this blog.)

“A week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century”: Similarly specious ‘historicizing’ is at work here, more clearly tied to the video’s major keyword, Information. What is Information, exactly? My favourite answer is Dr. Susan Brown’s economical definition: “Information is a fantasy.” That is, it’s a way to describe knowledge that presumes that the data exists distinctly from its interpretation, with “the problematic
implication that such raw perceptual input can actually be separated from the work of signification” (Terranova 287). In a relatively rigorous historicizing exercise, Shunya Yoshimi reads the hegemonic quantifiability of Information as a development integral to capitalism and instrumental to state militaries:

The generalization of the information concept from a specialized military term to a concept of broad social application occurred during the period when society as a whole became militarized in the 1930s and 1940s. With the development of systematic information theory and the spread of computers in society, the military associations of the information concept gradually became obscured. It thus took on the appearance of an inherently neutral and universal concept.

Yoshimi concludes that “we must be vigilant about exactly what is happening in the conceptualization process when diverse phenomena are categorized and highlighted as forms of ‘information’” (277). Given the “Did you know” video’s presumption of an Anglo-American audience and its preoccupation with the global Others of that audience — namely, India and China — Yoshimi’s is a significant caution. The “singularity” conjured in the video is none Other than the combined forces of English language learning and tech-sector development in these nations, a spectre of outsourcing and cultural appropriation, both of which the video implies are threats to the employment and identity of US citizens. The spectre of the technological singularity that underwrites this particular ‘fantasy of information,’ then, is a menacing hybrid (a “scandalous body,” to borrow Smaro Kamboureli’s term) manufactured of cybernetic and exotically racialized components. That the implied threat to Anglo-American cultural identity is actually advanced rather than countered by the video’s specious exercises in historical contrasts between early modern and “exponential times” is perhaps the text’s crowning irony.

Kamboureli, Smaro. Scandalous Bodies: Diasporic Literature in English Canada. Toronto: Oxford UP, 2000.
Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking Penguin, 2005.
Terranova, Tiziana. “The Concept of Information.” Theory, Culture and Society 23.2 (2006): 286-87.
Yoshimi, Shunya. “Information.” Theory, Culture and Society 23.2 (2006): 271-78.