Monthly Archives: February 2005

Prix Ars Electronica Digital Communities

Like Joi, i will be on the Prix Ars Electronica digital communities jury. We have been asked to nominate communities that should be recognized (or you can submit your own). My trouble in determining what to nominate stems from the fact that some of the most valuable communities are inherently niche communities and thus, i’m not likely to know about them. This is where i need your help. Do you know of communities that should be nominated? If you’re the creator of a particular community, you should definitely submit yourself, but if you know of something that i should know about for this category, please let me know ASAP in the comments. Some types of communities that i’m interested in knowing about include: fan fiction communities, communities of youth, communities for marginalized populations, effective support groups, communities of sharing, etc.

For the second time in 2005, Prix Ars Electronica will honor important achievements by digital communities. This category focuses attention on the wide-ranging social impact of the Internet as well as on the latest developments in the fields of social software, mobile communications and wireless networks.

The “Digital Communities” category is open to political, social, and cultural projects, initiatives, groups, and scenes from all over the world utilizing digital technology to better society and assume social responsibility. It is meant to recognize the initiators and propagators of these communities as well as the developers of the relevant technologies, and to honor those whose work contributes to the establishment and proliferation of Digital Communities as well as provide understanding and research into them.

The prizes in this category will total 20,000 Euros: one Golden Nica (10,000 Euro), two Awards of Distinction (5,000 Euros each) and up to 12 Honorary Mentions.

For full information please check
Online submission:
Deadline for submissions: March 11, 2005

deth to roses, candy and Hallmark cards

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. My resentment began in middle school when i was forced to get those awful miniature cards and craft an individual one for everyone in my class. Nothing helps me detest a holiday more than forced gifting and cards are the ultimate worst. As i grew older, i started justifying my disinterest – it’s what happens when all of my unrealistic romantic dreams crash head on with my anti-corporationalism. Valentine’s Day tarnishes my foolish fantasies and i resent things that get in the way of dream states.

In 1998, i had the opportunity to shift my expectation of Valentine’s Day. For me, it became V-Day and for five years, i spent this season preparing a production of “The Vagina Monologues” in some form or another. I was able to turn the corporate V-Day on its head and use the time to really think through masculinist hegemony. I was able to work with battered women, with women who had gone under the knife, with women fighting for their freedom. I was able to work towards my dream state of a life without violence. This is the first season that i’m not attending a V-Day and it makes me truly sad. Unfortunately, my only excuse is my current state of hibernation and need to work.

This morning, i awoke to NPR as always. I should’ve known better because there’s nothing like a Valentine’s Day special to make me dive deeper under the covers. But there was something disturbing about it that me unable to turn it off. The discussants each wrote a book about a different psychological / neurological aspect of ‘love’. I love science and i love scientific analyses of emotional states, but now the attack of my dream state was coming in two directions – attack on my fantasy and attack on my sleep explicitly.

It’s funny – i definitely believe in the pursuit of knowledge and i definitely realize that much of my fantasies are complete social constructions. But i don’t want to give them up to the sterility of science even though i love science. I don’t actually want to be rational about everything – i want passion (however hormonally manifested) to drive me in at least some ways. Instead, my day began with the nice scientists telling me that falling in love is simply a rush of hormones and love is simply the state you reach when two people have managed to balance each other’s hormones in a positively cyclical fashion. I don’t want to think about the hormones – i want to feel them. So, instead, i buried deeper into the covers.

cultural divide in IM: presence vs. communication

To most of my friends, i appear always-on. If i’m not on the computer, my IMs usually go to my Sidekick. I have a round-the-clock presence on AIM, even if frequently idle. I share this round-the-clockness with some of my buddies – people who always appear to be on, although sometimes idle. There are other buddies who pop up whenever they’re on their computer (often 9-5). Then, there are those who pop up very occasionally.

The thing about members of this latter category is that they *always* want to talk when they come online. This makes sense – they’re appearing online only to talk, not to share presence. They are seeing IM as a communication tool first and foremost.

Interestingly, it is this group that complains the most about how they can never get anything done when IM is on. I try really hard not to respond in a snarky voice that i can never get anything done when they’re on. They get upset when i don’t have time to talk, arguing that i shouldn’t be online if i don’t want to talk.

There is, in fact, a culture divide in instant messaging.

As someone who is always on, i spend a small fraction of the day using IM. It is always on because of presence. There are types of ‘interruptions’ that are not actually interruptions. For example, when my roommate wants to ask when i’ll be home or when a friend wants to know a reference. Quick, practical questions that are far more like presence pokes than interruptions. Then, there are acceptable interruptions – things like work questions, emergencies, pointers to relevant info, etc. And then, there’s conversation.

I don’t spend a lot of time conversing on IM, very little in fact. I simply do not have time. But, i am 10 million times more likely to converse with someone who is always-on than someone who just pops up for conversation. The reason is simple – collective signaling of conversational possibility. As an always-on’r, when someone pokes me to talk and i don’t have time, i say sorry – can’t talk or some equivalent (except in the case of my phone which might appear to be on while i’m doing something but isn’t really). I expect the same from my fellow always-on’rs. So, when i’m in the mood to talk to people and they’re in the mood to talk to me (or we’re equally procrastinating), we come to a consensus and conversation happens.

Now, let’s go back to the people who come online just to talk. The problem with this group is that they’re unintentionally exerting power. They are declaring their free time by logging on and they’re assuming that i am signaling the same thing. But i’m not. This is simply cultural cluelessness. But when they then get upset with me, that’s the exertion of power. And this is what has prompted me to change IM accounts or block people in the past. Now, i’m just rude.

Consider the telephone. When your phone rings, are you required to pick it up? At first, everyone assumed you were. Eventually, we learned that the phone doesn’t have to have that kind of power over us. And many of us now screen and only pick up the phone when it is applicable to the situation we’re in. (Of course, some of us still need to learn that.) The caller is signaling their free time, but the receiver gets to decide if it’s culturally appropriate. And thus, they are actually doing the negotiating dance of us always-on’rs.

The problem with IM is that the always-on’rs have gotten far more comfortable with the technology than those who still see it as a communication tool, not just a desirable presence tool. The cultural divide is very much magnified by experience and time spent engaged in the technology. Of course, the split happens around those who recognize the value of presence and want to do what it takes culturally to retain that.

Update: Since Liz called me on bits of this entry, i should clarify a key assumption i was making in presenting this argument – i am talking very explicitly about people with relatively equal standing in terms of power (i.e. peers). While all “equal” relationships are about negotiating power back and forth, the technology consistently gives one person in the peer-duo power over the other – that’s where the problem is primarily situated. With unequal power pairings, the problem is exacerbated because there’s an assumption of equal power standing in IM that is not actually true to form. For example, as a TA in college, i would have students who thought they could bug me anytime they had a problem with their assignment. This happened because it was assumed that there was equal power between IM participants and so the negotiation of power got usurped by the technology because the context got cleansed. In other words, all IM windows look the same and so you forget about the context that would normally differentiate situations of equal footing (such as the bar) and situations of differentiated footing (such as the TA office).

a change in habits

The best part about moving is that you get to try to start new habits and ritualize them before going back to your old bad ones. This semester, i need to do a lot of reading. A lot a lot of reading. I also moved to my new home to be near cafes. As a result, i’m spending a lot more time in cafes and a lot less time online. As a result of both of these, i’m neither surfing nor blogging a lot. It should be interesting to see what comes out of this.

only in san francisco

The Board of Education is expected to approve the school district’s calendar for the 2005-06 academic year tonight — but not before a spirited debate among parents over when classes should begin.

There have long been arguments among parents over whether school should start before or after Labor Day, with the former winning out the past several years.

This year, however, brings a new wrinkle — the 20th anniversary of the Burning Man art festival in the wastelands of Nevada is scheduled for Aug. 29- Sept. 5. In an only-in-San Francisco argument, several parents are demanding that school start Sept. 6 so their children can attend the event.

San Francisco Chronicle

talking in the Bay Area

I’m actually giving two talks in the next week in case anyone is interested.

At Stanford’s HCI seminar, i will be giving my longer Friendster talk. [February 4, 12:30PM]

At BayCHI, i will be giving my autistic social software talk. [February 8, 7PM]

These will both be based on talks that i’ve given before (and uploaded to but i’m sure other things will come up.

Also, generally this semester, i will be talking at the following:
SXSW – social networks panel
CHI on backchannels (paper accepted!!)
CFP – moderating a panel on youth and privacy


Moving is always always brutal. I might be very capable of dealing with a lot of things, but i have complete paralysis when i have to pack. So Saturday was spent staring at my room too overwhelmed to do anything. And then on Sunday, two of my dear friends came by and helped me run through the room and pack everything. On Monday, movers were supposed to arrive at 9AM. I called to confirm. They never showed. These were the same Irish men i used two years ago and recommended to all of my friends – i was *pissed*.

So we started calling around, trying to find a mover desperately. Random Chinese men from Fremont came through. They arrived at noon and started bitching immediately. Oh, so much stuff, too large couches, etc. ::groan:: I couldn’t even be around their negative energy and screaming, even though i had no idea what they were saying. We got to the new place and they were awful from the get go. Ugg… terrible stairs, impossible… everything was impossible. They moved so slowly and clearly didn’t have either the muscles or endurance to carry this stuff. They only moved things that went on the dolly. And then came the couches. Oh, the couches. Bitch moan. Our landlord came home and they were able to go through his apartment with the small one. It was a nightmare – everything was awful and they complained nonstop.

Finally, before we got the large one, we told them to go home. We paid them and they asked for a tip. I glared at them and said, no, i still have a large couch to move. One of my dear friends was over and he kept declaring positive attitude, we need positive attitude. Somehow, we roped my landlord into helping.

And there we were – me, my roommate, my friend and our landlord – four queers trying to move a couch. What a site! We went through the garage, around the stairs, under a tree, over the wooden frame, up three flights, into the kitchen, over the banister, through the living room. Of course, it took most of an hour. But we did it. We kicked ass and we got that couch in the living room. Needless to stay, i was strongly told that i would have to take it out in pieces or it would have to be a permanent item.. No one loves my couches as much as i do. And oh do i love them.

And then there were the cats. Marbellio sat and cowered at the bottom of the stairs until 2AM when she got curious about the boxes. Theo thought everything was utterly fascinating and romped around looking for play toys.

All and all, i’m moved into a new swank home in Mission Dolores and ready to be in a neighborhood with cafes, queers and food. My beloved neighbor already made me dinner to welcome me to the hood. I walked to Safeway to buy a shower curtain (which they don’t sell) and i ran into two friends. I’m sooo going to love living here. Yippee.