Monthly Archives: January 2006

discrimination in gaming: World of Warcraft bans queer community

I had finally broken down and ordered World of Warcraft to check out the social dynamics. I still detest gaming but i decided that i wanted to know what is going on. And then the news broke that Blizzard bans (advertising) queer safe space (on WoW) on the basis of it being sexual harassment. Even though i agreed to check out WoW, i cannot support an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexuality, especially when it’s for idle curiosity. I will be returning my game to Amazon once it arrives and i will not be joining WoW.

I’ve already heard on numerous occasions that there is intense homophobia within the chatrooms on WoW and this had already made me quite uncomfortable. But Blizzard’s response is just disgusting. How can they call a queer-friendly guild sexual harassment given that this is an attempt by the queer community to create space? Furthermore, there’s so much sexism in the chats (aside from the creatures) that no one from Blizzard can actually argue that they are preventing sexual harassment. I can’t help but wonder about the state of other forms of discrimination and prejudice within the system (particularly since “race” is critical to the narrative of WoW). That said, i don’t care enough to find out – i can’t justify spending personal money on a company with these values.

This is a nice little reminder that most gaming companies are not actually progressive in any way shape or form. I respect the importance that gaming has had in youth culture (and for adults for that matter) but it still pains me to watch systematized prejudice executed in code and culture. Yuck yuck yuck.

For those who are curious, there’s a great discussion over at Terra Nova. Tx LawGeek.

Update: Jason Kuznicki has a fantastic Open Letter to Blizzard Entertainment that does a much better job than i do addressing this issue. As has been noted over and over again, queerness is an identity not just a set of sexual practices. By silencing people’s identities and not allowing people to have bigot-free spaces, Blizzard is upholding a level of discrimination that far outweighs the _potential_ sexual harassment that might occur if people’s sexualities were known.

memories: capturing vs. creating

I’ve never been a good photographer because i’m more interested in creating memories than capturing them. As my memories fade over time, what stands out are the adventures. Living out Charlie’s Angels. Making friends with the giraffe. When i meet new people and i tell stories, i tell the stories of ridiculous, absurd times. Silver and pink puffball attacking with Waldo behind. Lectures given with I Fuck Like a Girl t-shirt.

In Learning to Labor, Willis talks about the importance of working class kids creating dramas as part of “personalised folklore” (22). I started thinking about how this fits in with what i’ve said before about life stages. Stereotypically, youth are known for “living for the moment” and not thinking about the future (much to adults’ dismay); parents are obsessed with capturing moments; and grandparents want to revisit them. Is there anything out there that documents different uses of photography in relation to age?

One of the saddest parts of getting older is that i feel as though there are far fewer adventures. Years go by with little to mark them whereas virtually all college months are marked through some drama in my head. My friends are capturing events and i think that Flickr holds more of my memories than my mind or body does. I often look at photos of me and realize that i had completely forgotten about that event. Yet, when i read all of my old blog posts from college, they followed the narrative i have in my head crafted through dramas. Am i letting technology replace my memory center? Or are things less memorable for me now?

There are certainly dramas now but more because they happen -to- me than because i create them. Of course, i haven’t gone this long without changing cities or driving cross-country since middle school.

What is the role of the adventure or the drama in memory maintenance? What is the role of technology? Are they compatible? Does a shift reflect a shift in behavior or is it created by one? I have no idea…

public check-in

My blog is an opportunity to expel all of the crazy thoughts going through my head, process weird intellectual concepts, note things that i’m fascinated by and all around serve as a large pensieve of my thoughts.

As you may have noticed, i’m living in the world of youth these days and a lot of my blog posts for the next four months are going to be focused on that. My apologies to those of you who are looking to me for information on social software. I am currently more interested in understanding the theoretical and historical underpinnings of youth and identity. That said, what i am doing is not removed from social software. Most youth today use social technologies as part of their coming of age processes. They have far richer social lives than most adults. What they are doing with technology is far more complex. Furthermore, they are really focused on the act of socializing, not collaboration or any other work-centric model. Youth have a lot to teach us about social software – about its strengths, weaknesses and where innovation should go. Obviously, i’m biased – this is the root of how my research is applicable to technologists.

I hope those of you building technology will enjoy my journey to the depths of youth. I certainly am. If not, i’m sorry.

I’m also not going to being as up-to-date about industry developments as i used to be. I always love when people shoot me an email with things i really should know about – articles, links, etc. Even if i don’t post about it, i really do appreciate reading it. Besides, the probability of me already having seen it isn’t as large as you might think.

I’m also deeply appreciative of those who point me to other reflections on youth culture, either out in blog-land, in the press, or in culture more broadly. If you find something and you happen to think of me, please send it my way. Finally, if you’re writing about or thinking about youth culture, please let me know… Sometimes, i think that i’m on my own planet.

on sex education

I think that abstinence education is a crock-o-shit, in part because we’ve pushed off marriage to be something that you do in your mid-20s (or 30s). At the same time, sexual maturation is occurring earlier and earlier (in part due to nutrition and other hormone shifts). Not only is sex seen as a rite of passage to maturity, but it is sold through every form of media out there.

How on earth can we expect people to be virgins through their 20s? (Remember: a century ago, you may have lost your virginity when you got married… but that was at like age 16. Not 25.)

I’m constantly perturbed that we’re teaching abstinence instead of safe sex because we refuse to acknowledge that teens are having sex. Not only is it not working (well, it is resulting in the substitution of oral and anal sex for vaginal penetration), but it’s putting a lot of kids at risk.

Anyhow, amidst my reading this week, i ran across a hysterical quote concerning how to actually motivate abstinence. It had me laughing so hard i had to share:

There’s no evidence that information about contraception – or even distributing condoms in school – gives young people the idea of having sex. The entire culture and their own bodies seems to be doing that quite effectively. Indeed, if there is any one thing that can make sex dull for teenagers, it is to teach it in high school. — Thomas Hine

perpetually liminal: are we refusing to grow up? what does this mean?

Many of the texts i’m reading these days are talking about the move from childhood to adulthood and the liminal/transitional stage in-between. Although the concept of “teenager” is relatively new (created during the American depression to keep younger people out of the workforce), most societies have a transition period between childhood and adulthood. Of course, girls’ transition has been historically marked by menstruation while boys tend to go through some ritual of moving into adulthood. In almost all these texts, adulthood is seen as a desirable state to be in, full of all sorts of privileges. It is assumed that children want to move into adulthood and that part of the liminal stage is about taking on adult privileges (sex, drinking, …) while still having childhood responsibilities (a.k.a. few). In most societies, the key to the transitional phase is the removal from the core community to a separate one and then a return…

Contemporary American society has really stretched the liminal stage to include mandatory high school and socially required college. Rather than moving into adulthood at menstruation/male strength periods, we have another 10 years to wait before we are deemed adults. We don’t even leave home until 18 even though menstruation has dropped to 12 and below. With the liminal stage stretched out, there’s a drastic increase in participating in adult behaviors with childhood responsibilities.

I started thinking about Burning Man (yes, i bought tickets this week) and how, in many ways, it is a celebration of this liminality. We all go to the desert to act like some peculiar combination of adults and children, represented in the imagination by romping around, making ourselves all messy, sex & insobriety, building large Lego-esque projects, having little responsibility. I was also thinking about rave culture. On one hand, we are all trying to take on privileges of adulthood – sex & insobriety, lack of curfew – while working hard to look like small children – big painted eyes and phat pants that create the impression of child-like proportions, bright colors, pacifiers.

I’m kinda torn in resolving all of this. In many ways, i feel like half of my generation doesn’t want to grow up while half is working hard to do so. How much of this has to do with our inability to inherit certain other privileges of adulthood (power, money) and our lack of interest in dealing with adult responsibilities that are getting increasingly harder like money and health? As adults live longer, there is more pressure to remove youth from the workforce, from any position where they can compete. How much is this fucking with the dynamics? How much is the generational divisions and the efforts to legally regulate young people (both now and in their futures by faulting them for their youth) part of adults’ need to maintain power at risk of losing it to a larger liminal generation?

When the idea of teenagers was created during the depression, schooling became mandatory. In some senses, this was ideal because it meant that a larger portion of the population was prepared for the future. But over time, a high school diploma no longer served as a ticket to a better life. And then it was college. And then it was graduate school. What next? And what about the fact that we no longer have a construct of “success” for working class kids? By removing unions and life-long well-paying factory gigs and government jobs with pensions, we’ve turned “success” into a game that can only be acquired through pre-existing privilege or a lottery (becoming a “star”). This really marginalizes a huge chunk of today’s youth culture. What if you aren’t really meant to be college bound? What then? The service economy is not exactly appealing. No wonder drugs are continuously rising both because using them lets you escape and dealing them provides a way out.

It seems to me that we’re running full speed into a crisis stemming from a build-up of pushing off moving into adulthood, increasing doubt about the opportunities of adulthood and the complete failure to provide necessary support structures for the population. I’m not sure i have my head entirely yet…

Am i crazy? Can we really have a stable society without a feasible success route for non-knowledge workers? Can we really function with adulthood being pushed off into the mid/late 20s?

register for Blogher 2006

Blogher 2005 was a complete blast and Blogher 2006 will be even better!  Now two days long, Blogher 2006 will allow women bloggers around the world to gather, commune, socialize and revel in the fact that technology participation is more diverse than people think.  Blogher 2006 will be held in San Jose, in a bigger location (although space is still limited so sign up now).  This year, there will be two days of convening: July 28-29, 2006.  Come one come all!  Above everything else, REGISTER NOW!!!

a brilliant class

At the end of this semester, i will take my qualifying exams. This will be a brutal 3 hour oral examination of all things that i know in conjunction with my dissertation proposal. ::gulp:: As a result, i was not going to take any classes this semester. But then i heard that Jean Lave was teaching an STS-minded ethnography course using 3 of the books that are on my qualifying exam. So i had to check it out.

There are ?25? people in the class, but all of the attention is on Jean – she has one of those auras where all respect flows her way. She explains that this is her 40th year teaching at University of California and she will be retiring at the end of the semester. When a dear friend (my advisor) asked her to teach an ethnography course for him, she agreed both because she loves my advisor and because she loves ethnography. She decided to teach her favorite books and to try something new. She was concerned that as graduate students, we’ve been taught to read critically – to always tear apart everything we saw. We never learned to appreciate the values of what we read, only find its flaws and how we could do better.

So, she decided that we are going to read five of her favorite ethnographies. And then we are going to read them again. And then again. We are going to watch as the books evolve through reading. We are going to learn to discuss not to destroy but to appreciate. We are going to learn to read.

Something about her presence, her way of saying all of this, her way of swearing and yet being so proper just warmed my heart. I can’t say no to this class… it’s just too good. And such good practice. And thus, i am off to read about how Intuit children learn social boundaries by being offered challenging moral questions….

Update: For those who are interested in the ethnographies, they are:

help me restore my Flickr data

Unfortunately, last week, an error occurred over at Flickr resulting in the destruction of my Flickr account. (Don’t worry – this won’t happen to you!) Although the team did everything they could, they were unable to retrieve recent contacts, groups, favorites, tags, messages…

I need your help in getting data back, particularly in terms of contacts… If i used to be your friend/contact, can you take a look at your account and re-add me? If you sent me a message via Flickr, can you send it again? If you had a photo that i favorited and you remember, could you remind me? If i was in a group with you, can you let me know?

The Flickr team is working hard to make sure data boo-boos never happen again, but you may want to know that you can order DVD backups of all of your photos in case you tend not to have second copies of those photos.

I’m so sorry for the hassle…

sloppy speech acts

I was conversing with a friend on my Sidekick when we got into a discussion about speech acts. I was trying to explain Derrida and Searle’s seminal tiff over Austin when i got frustrated. It was not the actual topic that made me upset but my inability to convey the significance of their disagreement. She was on her computer typing at normal speed and i was trying to peck out shorthand on my Sidekick. I got frustrated that i couldn’t get across what i wanted to.

I’m fascinated by the kinds of speech that suit the Sidekick and which kinds don’t. Anything that requires debate or nuanced speech fails on the Sidekick because i try to type fast and end up with sloppy, shorthanded text that is easily misinterpreted. And then i get frustrated, type faster and thus more sloppy to try to correct the conversational path quickly. Spiral to uh-oh quickly ensues.

Today, i was writing an email to someone about something that was emotionally charged and i realized that i was using super staccato speech patterns. I took a look at some recent IM exchanges and saw more staccato – they had blurred… emotional speech had the same pattern. Yesterday, i ran across old zwrite debates from 1997 and when i looked back today, i realized there was a big difference in language patterns. No shorthand, more articulated speech. I was also thinking about how Tom Coate thought that his blogging speech had really changed when he switched from Blogger to MovableType. I was also noticing that i often fail to use complete sentences on my blog now.. just thought bursts with lots of ellipses. I wonder how much a switch to AIM and then to the Sidekick changed things.

And then i started thinking about how sloppy my speech has been lately. I speak like i IM on my Sidekick – short, curt, coded… My speech has gotten super sloppy in recent years and i use my hands even more when i’m talking. I use whatever word comes to mind even if it doesn’t fit well and i speak through impressions rather than using sound bites. I realize that my writing has gotten sloppier too and i find it far far far more painful to write now than before. I’m not particularly proud of either of these manifestations.

I’m not sure where all of the cause and effects are but i am definitely wondering if my always-on IM life is affecting my speech elsewhere. I certainly see this with students’ writing but i’d always dismissed it as them not having learned to write yet. But if my writing and speaking is starting to look all IM like, what does that mean? What if this is the root of my frustration with writing these days? How do i get back to being able to write 10 page papers in one night in a jam session? What on earth is going on???

mutants and post secret confessors

I’ve written before about the mutants who come back and visit my site on a daily basis, but recently, there’s a new group of folks coming to lone entries – the post secret confessors. Apparently, my page on post secret comes up pretty high in the searches so hundreds of folks have come to my site to leave their confessions in the comments. I have to admit that it makes me smile every day to read these and it makes me realize how much fun Frank Warren must be having going to his mailbox every day. For those who haven’t snagged a copy of the book, you totally should. I thought about getting it for a Christmas gift but i feared folks might find it disturbing.