Monthly Archives: May 2004

how will the military vote?

Although i uninstalled Shrook, Newsweek kept coming during finals. Thus, i read all about the prison crises. While the soldiers were saying that they followed orders, those in charge were passing the blame or saying that it was just a few people operating inappropriately. Stanley Milgram, anyone?

Waking up, my roommate reminded me that it was Memorial Day and we got to talking about different wars. I started thinking about how the military always follows orders and is always a pillar of conservative ideas. They’re the most likely population to vote Republican. I wonder how much they feel betrayed right now. I mean, their Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense betrayed their trust and then refused to take responsibility for what happened. Even McNamara knew that those at the top were always responsible.

Newsweek had all of these write-ups about military folks who were embarassed by the prison scandel. Do you think that they’ll vote for Bush in Round II? Where do their allegiences lie?

blogging and assumptions about class

We’ve all heard the rhetoric about how blogging is an equal-access opportunity for publication because many services are free. Yet, embedded in the creation of those services are a lot of assumptions about money and time and how people spend these precious items. Nothing made me more pleased after re-installing Shrook than seeing Quinn calling folks out on these assumptions, particularly as services begin to charge and the pundits start heckling people for bitching about the cost.

Just think… $60 will pay for a full year of education for a student via the Goma Student Fund. Money is *very* relative.

waving to Dana H. Boyd

Please digitally wave to Dana H. Boyd, a molecular geneticist and Harvard prof who does fun work on membrane protein structures. He’s really cool and i think it’s a riot that we have similar names and that Google is working to turn us into one.

Of course, there’s a reason that Google thinks we’re one… folks keep referencing me using his name. My first name really does have an ‘h’ at the end of it (not a middle initial). Removing that ‘h’ means that you’re referencing him, not me. Also, the reason that ‘h’ is there is because it balances the ‘d’ – there really are no capital letters in my name. Really. Yet, while the capitalization bugs me, the loss of an ‘h’ just feels disrespectful, as though it’s calling someone else into being other than me. At least it’s good to know that person and to know that he’s a good one. ::wave::

Lakoff and the language of politics

I forgot to blog about this amazing talk i went to last week. I’ve been desperately wanting to take a class with George Lakoff after reading only a part of Women Fire and Dangerous Things. Sadly, that has yet to happen. But when i found out he was talking in Berkeley about the language of (Republican) politics, i rushed through grading to make it to his talk. OMG. I am *so* glad i went. It has to be the most memorable and amazing talk i’ve been to in ages.

He opened by being adorable, noting that he’s a professor and teaches seminars – 15 people sitting around a table discussing not huge scary lecture halls, let alone churches full of an attentive paying audience. He notes that if this many people showed up to hear a linguistics professor talk, he has more confidence in November 2 than he thought.

He next talks about how the Republicans spend some billion dollars on think tanks each year – 43 think tanks, one created about each year, all started in 1970 by one of Nixon’s people. Large amounts of research go into linguistics and how we use language. They train Republicans to use language as a powerful tool. Democrats don’t do this.

He then talks about intro cog-sci. Don’t think of an elephant. Of course, you think of an elephant. You need to realize the frame to negate it. This can be powerful when framing the words of politics. Framing is key because it makes it harder to discuss things. Tax relief. Who can be against a concept so beneficial as tax relief? Well, taxes are put to good use. But by framing it through the pain of the people rather than the use value, Republicans have been able to make it hard to discuss. Are you for or against the President’s tax relief plan? Hard to get at the issues from that framing.

Progressives like to eschew values, saying that there aren’t progressive values. Bullshit. Furthermore, people vote their values, their connections and their identity, not what is best for them. This helps to explain why poor mid-Westerners vote in favor of Republicans who continue to make them poorer and poorer and poorer…. The Republicans know this. Democrats think that they need to be more moderate to win votes; Republicans aren’t that stupid.

Lakoff introduced a whole framework about how the nation can be viewed as a family and how there are two different models of families – the strict father family and the nurturing parent family. He then shared a compelling amount of information on this topic that is really hard to summarize, but Metaphor, Morality and Politics is Lakoff’s written version of this.

Anyhow, there was so much more, so much sublety. And of course, the talk definitely motivated me to buy his new book: Moral Politics.

I have to admit that it’s nice to be in yet-another-school where the linguistics department is getting hyper political and speaking to the public. And, just like at Chomsky’s talks, there were plenty of annoying attendees who decided to pester the speaker in a screaming, not discussing kind of way. One had to be hauled off after he refused to let Lakoff talk. Another had to be engaged by one of the audience members who took the bullet for the rest of us. Of course, Lakoff joked about this all: remember, Berkeley is the home of the Free Speech movement. ::laugh::

relaxation and chillness

It has been a most wonderfully relaxing and chill week. My mom came into town and we wandered north to land of spas and wine and olive oil. It was true mother/daughter bonding time in a way that neither of us ever remembered doing before. If anyone ever needs a break from the chaos of the city, northern California is wonderful. Of course, we ended our little journey by spooking ourselves out at Bodega Bay where The Birds was filmed. ::gulp:: Gotta love Hitchcock!

I’ve also been on a hiking and dancing kick – making up for the laziness of months spent in front of a computer. It feels *so* good to get out, bounce around, relax, be goofy and chill out before admitting to summer responsibilities and intellectual challenges.

Oh, and i actually read a book! One that had (almost) nothing to do with work. I read Pattern Recognition because everyone kept telling me about the apophenia. I love the idea of being allergic to brands and i’m so sad that she lost that at the end.

And i saw a movie! I saw Super Size Me. I have to admit that i ended up craving McDs afterwards which made me feel *super* guilty. This is why i want brand allergies. I understand intellectually how badly i treat my body, but i really am a sucker for the blazing colors, fake smells and immediate feedback of cravings appeased. Ah yes, my weaknesses…

Ronald Burt, structural holes and creativity

Burt’s theories on structural holes were immensely influentual when i was writing “Faceted Id/entity.” Thus, i was stoked to read a discussion of his work in the NYTimes: Where to Get a Good Idea: Steal It Outside Your Group. The article concerns his current research on creativity and how creative people are often noted to be bridges between diverse groups. They are taking material that is not valuable to one community and making use of it elsewhere where it is exceptionally valuable.

[Note to the operationally minded: Read the logical ordering of the above statements again. Burt’s research concerns tracking creative people. This does not necessarily mean that one becomes creative by positioning oneself as bridges. Logical ordering matters.]

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blog/author limits and MT

To answer Mena’s question about blog/author limits and the new licensing scheme:

I have an installation of MT that i use to help non-profits and/or small groups maintain blogs. They aren’t technical enough to run their own blogs and, at the time, other services didn’t provide the necessary functions.

I also have a friend who used his MT installation to pull friends off of Blogger and LiveJournal so that they could have trackbacks, comments and RSS amongst them.

Finally, for the class that i was TAing this semester, we had all students get on MT to blog assignments. We created an installation that hosts 40+ students. I realize that there’s an undiscussed educational license, but the hassle of going through that probably would’ve mean that i wouldn’t have chosen MT for the class. And getting a school stricken with Schwarzenegger syndrome to pay for software for a class is nowhere near easy.

All of the groups that i’m involved in would be completely screwed by the new scheme. My friend and i would be seen as sysadmins or service providers, even though what we are doing is simply supporting our friends/students who are not technical enough, not motivated enough to do this on their own. The folks we are supporting aren’t really bloggers, not in the sense that we normally talk about. Getting many of them to engage in this process has been difficult. There’s no way that they will pay for a service and there’s no way that i could afford ramping up to the next pricing level to continue supporting them. I also feel terrible because i can’t volunteer to continue helping people start out blogging.

For now, we’re just not upgrading while we consider what should be done. But i will definitely say that this pricing scheme does not make sense when trying to get the new/non-technical folks blogging. Furthermore, i’m a bit saddened that there’s no non-profit status in the license because this screws me in a different direction.

ethnography, ethics and the Internet

For the last month, a heated discussion has persisted on the mailing list of the Association of Internet Researchers. This list is comprised of researchers interested in studying internet behavior. The discussion began when someone asked about the ethics of data collection while lurking. There is no universally accepted answer on this one and the result was intense. The discussion is still going on and i’d strongly encourage anyone interested in issues of learning from behavior online (business people as well as researchers) to check out the May Archives.

The threads of interest include: “ethnography and ethics”, “ethics of recording publicly observed interactions”, and “Google is watching !”.

* Hallelujah *

::wiping sweat off brow::

What a two weeks it has been. Over 100 pages of text have been written: 2 long essays, 1 ethnography write-up, 1 workshop proposal, 1 panel proposal. 30 students x 3 papers each graded. A conference was hosted. And a slew of odds and ends – interviews, edits, and the like.

Important lessons learned:

Caffeine does not overcome hallucinations. The only thing that remedies hallucinations is sleep. This is quite frustrating when sleep is not really in the deck of cards. Of course, there’s something utterly fun about trying to write text when the text you are writing does not stay still, but floats around the screen. Very hypertextual.

Meatless chicken patties rock. I once lived on ramen soup for 10 days (the 8 for $1 kind – i had no money). To this day, i cannot eat ramen. This time, i lived on meatless chicken patties and burritos. Much better.

A cigarette break is not a celebration. There is nothing more depressing than completing a long essay and having only a cigarette break before moving on to the next one. Celebration is part of the key to relief.

Laptops are not the same as cats. Day 4, i decided that there was no reason to shower or leave my bed. I had 17 books piled on the bed and a stack of papers 8 inches deep. I left the bed to urinate, smoke and eat chicken patties. At the end of the night, i ducked under my covers, not removing any of the items on my bed. On Day 5, i woke up hugging and petting my laptop; i must have mistaked it for Marble. I sat back up in bed and began writing again. Marble meowed.

Blogs are a bigger distraction than IM. You cannot tell blogs to make you feel guilty for looking at them; you can tell friends to make you go back to work, or, because you are screaching at high pitches, they’ll run away. I uninstalled Shrook.

Self-reflection is a recursive curse. My advisor foolishly assigned me to write a self-reflective and reflexive write-up. A person analytic by nature should not turn their power inward; it becomes dangerous. I understand how Moby Dick was written. If you start down the path of description, you hit a point of recursion and it’s turtles all the way down. Why do you never hear reports of anthropologists going insane?

Personal libraries are key. My room looks like the result of a battleground between the Papers and the Books. I’m not sure who won, but there are many casualties. Thank goodness i have a ridiculously sized book collection and a fast internet connection to more references – i never had to leave my room!

Intellectual engagement != working. But boy can you justify it as such. Blessed be my friends who came to check in and brought me external stimulii upon which to thrust my spiraling brain. Somehow, the best conversations about philosophy, politics and religion always happen during finals. There’s something about feeling like you’re thinking intensely so it must be the same as finals to feel refreshed.

No qualitative analysis tool meets my needs. I tried every qual analysis/coding tool i could find for the Mac and was sorely disappointed. My mind is too hypertextual to handle the structure of these tools and yet my memory is not good enough to let me store everything internally. Mucho frustration.

Mountain Dew loves me: they re-released my beloved Tangerine. Last fall, when i learned that Mountain Dew was going to stop distributing the tangerine stuff (orange MD), i had my corner deli order me a few cases; they ran out before finals. When i went to the grocery store this week, i found out that they re-released the tangerine stuff.. and in 2 litre bottles!

Blessed be my mother. My mother is coming in 36 hours to wisk me away to hot tubs, massages, wine and all of the other pleasantries of a spa. For the last two weeks, whenever i felt exhausted and upset, i envisioned my mom arriving for many days of relaxation. Ahhh….

Sleep is not just for the weak. Or else i am weak… because gosh darnit i need it. G’nite.

paying for my sins

Finals are brutal. Particularly when you were as foolish as i was about my semester organization. 6 weeks of travel is brutal on top of 3 intensive classes, TAing (and then grading) 30 students in a fun class about social networking, the bright idea to organize a conference during the weekend between finals and an outstanding CSCW application. ::smacking forehead:: And of course i’m fighting a cruel cold that seems to encourage my body to hold on to jetlag as well.

I vow to be unresponsive. I have uninstalled Shrook. This is my last blog post until i’m through. Must get through. Looking forward to wine and massages with my mother.

Topics on the brain: critical technical practice (Agre) as it applies to HCI’s construction of context; the rhetorical debate between Searle and Derrida over Austin (considerations for interdisciplinary research); ethnographic write-up on negotiating audience; design considerations for digital identity representation.