Monthly Archives: December 2004

judicial theatre

I went to court to support a friend. I’ve been to court before, but only for easy things like changing my name, dealing with parking tickets, etc. In this case, there were two sides with adamantly opposing views about the world. And i was on one side.

The entire event was high drama, but not in that made-for-TV style. It was far more painful than that. For starters, everyone mumbled, stumbled, etc. It wasn’t scripted. People didn’t know how to project their voices and the inane repetitive questions were clearly for a forgetting mind, not to drive the witnesses bonkers. While the federal lawyer signaled to the witness using baseball codes (1-2-3 on his chest), few other body motions were scripted and the sides played out their cultural training. As an ethnographer, it was brutally painful to watch the body performance of each side show their values more deeply than anything that came out of their mouths.

The judge gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling. He clearly sympathized with Barlow, but he was also dealing with conflicted feelings about the recent laws that have come down – his sarcastic tone signaled that he felt very burdened by what was happening, but his judicial manner also made it clear that he felt it was his responsibility to follow the letter of the law, even those to which he was opposed.

The attorneys were caricatures of themselves. The federal attorneys had a hard-edged, no-smile Yale/Harvard rigidity that was stunningly performed. Kafka would have been proud. Milgram at its best. Barlow’s attorney was most distinctly an ACLU type with long hair, funky glasses, curved shoulders and a revolutionary demeanor that signaled that he believed in the cause. The Cause. It was about The Cause. And The Cause was to be fought out in jargon in front of the press by two sides with opposing views. Was God on both their sides? But believing in The Cause was not enough… it was clearly a battle of performances.

The judge was clearly rattled by the situation at hand. He walked in, talked about having received phone calls from CNN, got the papers about the case two hours prior and was like what the hell is going on in my courtroom today. He was clearly not prepared to be dealing with The Cause.

The federal folks were good, really really good. Their snotty-nosed attitude made the much more laid-back judge resent them, but they played the rules to perfection, fought it out like they had been taught on debate team. It was a hard thing to watch, but they were good really good. The defense attorney annoyed the judge – not through arrogance but though a clear lack of sculpted performance. The judge pitied the defense attorney, but he still grated on him.

One question comes to mind: are the master’s tools needed to tear down the master’s house? Or is the fantasy of a destroyed house purely impossible? Because clearly, the moral highground is not the appropriate approach. This is a battle that values performance, wit, speed and memory… and performance is more key than anything.

Broken Metaphors: Blogging as Liminal Practice

For my performance studies class, i wrote a paper on blogging that i have morphed into a submission for the Media Ecology Conference. It is a draft paper, but i figured it would be fruitful to put it up here for anyone who wishes to tear it apart.

Broken Metaphors: Blogging as Liminal Practice

Be warned that this is definitely an academic paper meant for an academic audience and may contain scary academic words. There’s a lot that i’m missing here, but i still think that this paper has some value and i would love feedback from anyone who wishes to spend the time reading it.

google suggest and traces

“What’s the value of Google Suggest?” This is a question that keeps coming up. The title certainly implies that the service is to help suggest queries based on other people’s queries. Frankly, this is not why i find the service compelling. When we walk around physical space, we leave traces of our activities, marks on the floor that let others know people have been here. As much as we may despise graffiti, we all get a little bit of pleasure out of reading the markings in the stalls. We may not follow footprints in the snow and sand, but we love seeing the path they take. There are no visible markings in digi-space, even though we know people have been there before.

What i see as the most valuable aspect of Google Suggest is the tracings – the reminder that thousands of other people are searching Google, looking for things of interest to them. There is an appeal to our voyeuristic tendencies, a visibility to our actions that we feel are normally so isolated. There’s a sociable quality to our searches, a feeling of participation in society. This is why Google Suggest is fascinating to me.

Please note: i know nothing of Google’s purpose wrt this application. This is all my own personal opinion on the matter.

irritation with

I have been an avid supporter for well over a year. I’ve been patient with the horrendous website. I bought numerous subscriptions for others last holiday season. But i’m bloody fed up and frustrated with them. It’s impossible to navigate the system. When i was traveling, i found that i couldn’t get audible to download. Now that time has passed, my subscription doesn’t roll over and so i lost a month worth of downloads. This has happened plenty before and i’m just tired of it. I have patience for wacky interfaces at the beginning, but not over time and not when i feel like i’m getting screwed out of money while they fuck around. Frustration.

my queer identity

A few days ago, an anonymous reader reached out to me to kindly inform me that i could be saved, offering me prayers in my path to finding Jesus.

I decided to take this opportunity to be upfront about my sexuality and my views for those who don’t know me so well and for those of you who are struggling with attacks or pressure or guilt because of your sexuality. I believe that no one has the right to make you feel badly for your sexuality and i believe that the struggle we all face is how to find peace and comfort in who we are and how we interact with others. It is with a grounded sense of self that is very rooted in my own religious values that i offer you my views on sexuality. They don’t have to be your views, but you can only respect me if you respect that this is who i am and what i believe.

When i meet people who spark something in me – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, i often fall in love. That feeling of love is not framed in a sexual sense. I fell in love with my closest friends in this world – that’s how they became my dear friends. Their psychological position in my life is very deep. Love, for me, is a very strong and passionate emotion that extends from utmost respect and appreciation, awe. With love, there is a sense of warmth and joy, vulnerability, compassion, trust. Through mutual honor, love is an emotion that binds people together.

Not all relationships of love have a sexual component. Yet, sexual interaction takes that love deeper, allowing an even greater connection, passion and vulnerability. Sex is an act that stems from love and allows it to grow deeper. I believe that sex is a very meaningful act and a valuable component to different relationships of love. I do not believe that sex is an act that is only reserved for one person in this lifetime.

Sex has another axis to it – that of desire. Only particular connections for me have a sexual resonance, a “chemistry.” I wish i knew the formula for that chemistry, but i don’t. There are people that i have loved deeply with whom i have no sexual chemistry and that’s simply the way it is. For me, that chemistry does not have gendered limitations.

Let me step back a moment. We have a cultural assumption that there is a binary in sex (culturally called gender) – male, female. Anyone who has worked with intersexed or transgendered people know that this cultural binary obfuscates reality and causes harm. There are people whose genitalia does not match society’s dichotomous expectations, hormonal and chromosomal structures that aren’t written about in textbooks and identities that make bodies seem very foreign. Of course, God created these people too.

I understood this foolish dichotomy in my gut at a young age, always upset that the world was divided into female and male. It is via working in gender clinics that i was able to see what happens when it breaks down.

My sexuality is rooted in my dismissal of that dichotomy and a recognition of a gender range that reflects both sex and performance. I identify as queer, not gay, not lesbian and certainly not bisexual (which reinforces the binary in its term). I have fallen in love with people with all different sorts of sexual and gender identities.

I do believe that i have a choice about who i have sex with, but i don’t believe that i have a choice over who i have chemistry with. Some people’s chemistry fits neatly into privileged heternormativity (i.e. they’re ‘straight’). Some people’s chemistry is between people of similarly sexed bodies. For me, my chemistry doesn’t fit neatly into a binary of sexuality either, but it certainly doesn’t mean i have chemistry with everyone nor does it mean that i have chemistry with a larger percentage of the population. It simply means that it does not fall along neat lines of either gender or sexuality. Thus, the term ‘queer’.

Given this, i could, as society has pressured me to do, make a choice to only engage in sexual relations with those whom society has deemed socially appropriate. In other words, if i like boys and girls, why not make it easier on myself and just date boys? First, i think that is rubbish and indicative of a moral system to which i do not subscribe. Second, why should i let cultural pressures obscure my actual feelings?

I have strong religious values and beliefs, but they do not believe that guilt, sin, self or projected torture, hate, intolerance, self, or enemies are in any way productive or valuable. My beliefs are rooted strongly in love, respect, honor and kindness. I do not believe that there is ever anything wrong about rooting love in consensual sex. I believe that social efforts to construct something as ‘wrong’ are simply mechanisms to assert power and control, an attempt to play God, not to honor God. In my view, honoring God means honoring yourself and others, working to release yourself of hatred and judgment, finding ways of respecting all forms of life. God’s work means finding peace beyond suffering in order to release ourselves from the cycle of birth/death. No part of God’s work means increasing suffering for anyone in any form.

My sexuality is rooted in a combination of love and desire that has no gendered boundaries. Sex is a consensual act that emerges from and glorifies both love and desire. There is nothing and i do mean -nothing- wrong with loving someone else and expressing it sexually. This is not a sick addiction or a sin – it is a pure emotion rooted in everything good.

[Please note that my definition of God may not reflect yours. And my definition of religion does not include a literal reading of any scripture.]

finals productivity pack

Mindtangle has a brilliant way of battling his fingers’ efforts to procrastinate:

I just added the following to my HOSTS file:

# The “law school finals productivity pack”

For those who don’t know what this does, it makes any attempt of my computer to connect to those domains to loop back to this computer so that no information is transferred.

Cobot and Data that Matters

[From OM]

In Implicit or creepy?, David is dead-on and i would like to expound on this.

First, if you aren’t familiar with the lessons of Cobot, you should be. Cobot was a nice friendly little bot that sat in LambdaMOO, collecting data for its masters. Members of the MOO were bothered by this and felt that Cobot should give back to the community it was observing, like any good social scientist. So it did. You could ask Cobot anything about the social patterns going on and the data it was collecting. People started asking ego-centric questions: “Who do i talk to the most?” and such. And then, people started asking who other people talked to the most. Trouble emerged from there. All of a sudden, human jealousy reared its head. People were irate that those who they spoke to the most did not speak to them the most. What did this say about reciprocal value? Gah!

Cobot’s willingness to provide social data created a social rupture because it was evaluating data, not its meaning. Yet, people who were accessing the data were deriving meaning. They were using coarse data about social relationships to imply something much deeper. Sound familiar?

I talk to Phil from the corner deli more frequently than my best friend or my mother simply because of proximity. Yet, they play a much more central emotional role in my life than Phil. Quantity and quality are often not correlated. Yet, if some system were to rank my relations and Phil came out above my mom, damn straight she’d be pissed.

The way that systems and users of systems interpret our data often affects how we interact with them. When Viegas and i were visualizing email data, we often joked that our systems motivated you to write more messages to the friends who had strong emotional connection but apparently not frequent email connection simply so that they played a more visible role.

In the case of David’s metadata, this is particularly true. How many of us can truly list our favorite books? We know that this will be publicly displayed. What we list is a performance where we try to select titles that convey something meaningful about us for the viewer. We count on that audience, on that interpretation in selecting our titles. We are performing for that human audience to interpret, not the system. Yet, if the system starts interpreting our data, we may shift our scope of audience. But then what is it that either the system or the humans are interpreting? Are they capturing essence? What happens when the system re-projects its interpretations back to a human audience? How do we then deal with this doubly-mediated projection of self to a human audience?

It is not simply creepy, it’s outright destabilizing.

a question for you…

I don’t often respond to comments even though i actually really appreciate them. I have to admit that i’m still overwhelmed that so many folks read this. How does my failure to respond affect whether or not you comment and what you do say when you comment?