No man is an island. How come communities are?

November 15, 2012 at 6:28 pm | In guerilla_politics, ideas, just_so, land_use | Comments Off on No man is an island. How come communities are?

I don’t like every article published by City Journal – too often, I can imagine conservative think tank folk nodding their heads while reading its jeremiads about popular culture and decline, particularly as the articles describe how that decline is hastened (so they would argue) by “liberalism.” In other words, it’s often just a tad too ideological.

But I really liked Michael Anton’s piece, Tom Wolfe’s California. Anton points out that Wolfe, who’s seen as quintessentially belonging to New York City, spent a lot of time in California – seminal time, in fact.

In City Journal‘s grand tradition of California-bashing (the magazine does like to mention frequently that the state is a basket case, although I have no idea what they would like California to become… Florida?), we learn that in the 1960s Wolfe recognized in California’s incipient “statuspheres” (those subcultures fixated on surfing or pimping out and drag racing cars, etc.) the trends (downward, of course, this being City Journal) that would soon be embraced by the whole (declining) USA. (It just makes you wanna shout “yee-haw!” and go rustle up some cattle, drill for oil, and ride a horse into a healthy Texas sunset, don’t it…? /snark)

But seriously. Anton’s article is a great read – and it makes this reader want to get her hands on Wolfe’s books, to re-read some as well as read others for the first time, in either case with Anton’s insights into Wolfe front and center. Given our current passage through an economic age of sharp divisions (fabulously gilded on the one teeny-weeny tiny hand, soiled and dragged through the gutter on the rather over-large other), Anton’s analysis of what Wolfe wrote about money is especially interesting.

The economic boom after World War II resulted in a middle class that was rich, which in turn had a profound effect on how culture shaped up in California. As Anton notes, “But the thing about California’s middle class, especially at the time Wolfe began his investigations, is that it’s weird.” And a little further down: “All that money, freedom, and sense of limitless possibility have the same effect on California writ large as they do on people who rocket overnight from steelworker’s son to superstar. Out pours everyone’s inner weird.”

Between these two observations, there’s the following – and this is what really grabbed me, because after ten years of living on an actual island (one that was quite weird, too) I’m very interested in the phenomenon of “islanding” generally:

There is, in California, an inherent strangeness that has always attracted loners, dreamers, and outliers. Hemmed in on all sides by mountains, forests, deserts, and the sea, California is an island in every sense but the literal, with its own distinct climate, air, soil, flora, and fauna. Geographically and culturally, California is a world unto itself. [emphasis added]

“…an island in every sense but the literal”: there’s the key thing, for me. How does it happen, this “islanding”? What makes communities self-referential and relatively immune to outsiders? Not too long ago I heard the term “island” applied to a neighboring Boston North Shore municipality. The town in question is definitely not an actual island. The unflattering implication, however, was that people who come from or move to this place are (or become) islanders, and that their world-view changes.

Does it mean that islanders (real or figurative) become too convinced of their own importance, uniqueness, singularity? Do they care less about those not “on the island”?

What’s the balance between tradition and innovation on an island? How does change happen? Is “balance” between these two possible or desirable in the first place? What do communities (municipalities, cities) need to do to avoid islanding? My first thought here is allow more immigration and increase density, get people to rub up against one another. But my “real island” experience also taught me that once the island mindset is in a place’s DNA, it infects newcomers, too. If you live on an island – real or figurative – you will go native, believe me.

And what about modern versions of islanding, as described in Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort? Is this just an instinct we have, one which we repeat whenever we clump together? Probably. Then how do we make sure it doesn’t i-s-o-l-a-t-e us? Can you isolate (hah, there’s that word again) the island DNA and inoculate against it?

Seems like an important thing, ’cause if it goes too far, you end up in a bubble, unable to perceive beyond the limits (and illusions) you’ve constructed. Even Republican ideologues ought now to understand that danger.

My Victoria friend Jarren Butterworth contemplating “Too many islands,”
photo ©Lena Vorontsova
(used with permission)


January 18, 2012 at 9:45 am | In copywrong, guerilla_politics, politics, web | 1 Comment

In lieu of changing code in my header template (not even sure I can do that with a multi-user [MU] WordPress blog like this one) which would black out this blog completely, I’m instead posting a small badge as a reminder to keep pushing Congress to do the right thing.

As the Oatmeal points out, do it for the jet skis and the kittens.

For a more detailed analysis, check out Doc Searls‘s commentary.

Sunday bonus links: all about Occupy Wall Street

November 6, 2011 at 12:30 pm | In crime, guerilla_politics, links, politics | Comments Off on Sunday bonus links: all about Occupy Wall Street

I’m neglecting my blog again, lately just posting my weekly Sunday Diigo Links posts, but on this Sunday, here are a couple of extra links that deserve a spotlight.

These articles focus in some way on the Occupy Wall Street groundswell, which is in danger of being squashed by the stirrup-holders of the financial system (to repurpose a phrase). But the OWS message needs to be heard (and sharpened, versus diluted), as it’s the best bet we have to effect much-needed change.

…Oh, change – that word. Wasn’t that what Obama promised? Whatever happened to that?


First up, two articles by Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi. On October 25 he posted Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating, which (aside from arguing a range of critical points, such as that it isn’t “envy of the rich” that’s driving the OWS movement) offered the following nugget of information. This, folks, totally threw me for a loop:

One thing we can still be proud of is that America hasn’t yet managed to achieve the highest incarceration rate in history — that honor still goes to the Soviets in the Stalin/Gulag era. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America.

Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from “the 99%.” Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.

Millions of people have been foreclosed upon in the last three years. In most all of those foreclosures, a regional law enforcement office — typically a sheriff’s office — was awarded fees by the court as part of the foreclosure settlement, settlements which of course were often rubber-stamped by a judge despite mountains of perjurious robosigned evidence. [emphasis added]

That means that every single time a bank kicked someone out of his home, a local police department got a cut. Local sheriff’s offices also get cuts of almost all credit card judgments, and other bank settlements. [emphasis added] If you’re wondering how it is that so many regional police departments have the money for fancy new vehicles and SWAT teams and other accoutrements, this is one of your answers.

What this amounts to is the banks having, as allies, a massive armed police force who are always on call, ready to help them evict homeowners and safeguard the repossession of property. But just see what happens when you try to call the police to prevent an improper foreclosure. Then, suddenly, the police will not get involved. It will be a “civil matter” and they won’t intervene.


The point being: we have a massive police force in America that outside of lower Manhattan prosecutes crime and imprisons citizens with record-setting, factory-level efficiency, eclipsing the incarceration rates of most of history’s more notorious police states and communist countries.

But the bankers on Wall Street don’t live in that heavily-policed country. There are maybe 1000 SEC agents policing that sector of the economy, plus a handful of FBI agents. There are nearly that many police officers stationed around the polite crowd at Zucotti park. (more)

Please read the whole article. Breathtaking.

Call me naive, but I had no idea that local (US) police forces were benefiting from this crisis – and that this means, as per the ever-useful “follow the money” mantra, they are corrupted by the financial crisis. I had heard that private corporations “contract” police services in NYC (with the tax-paying public holding the bag for police insurance, no less), but I had no idea that police departments were effectively skimming off the top of the foreclosure/ eviction crisis. This is so wrong.

…If the cops wore logos on their uniforms that identify all the corporations overtly or covertly paying for their services, they too would look like race car drivers…

Well, that’s a real nail in the coffin of democracy. You have to wonder whether the financial industries realize how dangerous their game is. As Taibbi points out in his article, Americans have never resented the rich – we’ve adulated them. We love Horatio Alger stories, we believe in bootstrapping. And we believe in winning. But we hate cheaters – and by making cheating into their actual modus operandus, these guys are shaking down the whole country. What a dangerous and rotten game, and how unworthy of America.

Taibbi’s other article of note is his take-down of NYC’s Mayor: Mike Bloomberg’s Marie Antoinette Moment. This is another breathtaking read – Taibbi isn’t just a great writer, he’s absolutely fearless. I guess my take-away from this piece was that it isn’t the “anonymous” protesters who are wearing the masks – it’s people like Bloomberg. And Taibbi’s article reveals Bloomberg’s true face (one that’s beholden to the banking industry and its friends, not to the people he’s supposed to be serving). As Taibbi puts it:

Well, you know what, Mike Bloomberg? FUCK YOU. People are not protesting for their own entertainment, you asshole. They’re protesting because millions of people were robbed, by your best friends incidentally, and they want their money back. (source)

Seems it’s time to stop mincing words. President Obama, where are you in all this?

Speaking of Obama, we need a Teddy Roosevelt. See Simon Johnson: ‘We Are Looking Straight Into The Face Of A Great Depression’ – not for the faint of heart. Everywhere, it seems, people with brains and expertise are saying: hold on, this can’t continue. The “this” in question is the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and losses. Why does it continue?

Oh, wait… follow the money… Which brings me to my last link, Guy Dauncey‘s November editorial in his Earth Future newsletter, Nailing the Jello to the Door.

The “door” Dauncey refers to is the door on which Martin Luther nailed his Reformation theses on October 31, 1571. Luther had clear theses, not jello – much of what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street protests articulates the demand for Reformation (reform) as jello (and that’s where writers like Taibbi et al. are doing such important work, because they’re pointing out that there are clear rallying points – theses – for reform).

Dauncey notes that the #1 demand for OWS should be “get the money out of politics”:

In America, there is clear justification for articulating the Number #1 demand as “Get the money out of politics!”. The corruption of American politics by money is legend. So let’s say it is successful, and Americans achieve what Canada has already done.

Most Americans have no idea that Canadian political parties are publicly funded based on their share of the vote at the last election, and that no-one, whether billionaire or broom-pusher, can donate more than $1,000 to a party.

It is due to controls like this that Canada’s banking regulators are not controlled by the banks, and that Canada did not experience the sub-prime mortgage scandal that is causing such chaos and tragedy in America.

Canada’s tragedy is that Harper’s Conservative government is planning to abolish this very constraint, so one of our demands here in Canada must be “Keep the money out of politics!” (source)

But, as Dauncey notes, Canada has similar problems as America: poverty, inequality, corporate influence. It’s still a follow the money question. Referencing an earlier infographic in New Scientist, Dauncey notes that:

A new analysis by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a core of 1318 interlocking companies which control 80% of the world’s global operating revenues.

Within these, 147 tightly knit companies (1% of the core) control 40% of the wealth. Most are financial institutions such as Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, but the top ten also includes companies that almost nobody has heard of such as FMR, AXA and Capital Group Companies.

Furthermore, most or all of these companies operate with off-shore tax havens where they hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They are like Jello – if you try to pin them down, they simply move their money somewhere else, managed by anonymous trusts that no-one has the power to investigate or control. Collectively, they are a three-foot wide lump of Jello, and our regulatory powers are a single thumb. [emphasis added]

So what could crack the core of the problem and nail the Jello to the door? We need to capture the flight capital and close down the world’s tax havens, aided by a Tax Evasion Complicity Law which would make it a criminal offense to knowingly serve as a fund manager, accountant, trustee, lawyer or corporate nominee for a known tax evader.

And that last suggestion – which would strike at the heart of a global ecosystem that now feeds off that lump of jello – is probably what makes reform so difficult. Clamped tightly to the jello teat, weaning will be a challenge.

Infographic from New Scientist, "Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world "

Ecothinking and Marx

June 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm | In canada, green, guerilla_politics, nature, politics, scandal, social_critique | Comments Off on Ecothinking and Marx

There’s a great video available on YouTube right now, A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never. Based on a 5/23 Washington Post op-ed by Bill McKibben of (and narrated and illustrated by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia), it sarcastically tells us that “It is vitally important not to make connections.”

Of course the intent is the opposite: McKibben does want us to make connections. These days, however, we’re often so bedazzled by spectacle (including disaster footage) as to feel powerless about the point of information that connects to anything else.

But if not connect now, when?

In the video we see extreme weather events, including recent tornadoes in the Midwest; wildfires in Texas and droughts in New Mexico; flooding in Mississippi, and record rainfall elsewhere. “Do not wonder if they’re somehow connected,” the narrator warns. Do not wonder…. because it’s imperative to have a passive populace, of course – one that’s transfixed by looking instead “at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising rivers as the water approaches his chest,” or similar “oh-wow”-human-interest angles.

It’s far too hard to look at facts, or to ask whether government policies (such as allowing more coal mining or exploiting Alberta’s tarsands) even begin to make sense when it comes to global welfare…

So how about some facts for the next time you get up off the couch and head to the fridge? According to The rising cost of food – get the data (published on June 7, 2011), global food prices this year are still 37% higher than they were last year. And there’s no relief in sight as “high and volatile food prices are also likely to prevail for the rest of the year, and into 2012.”

What’s driving this rise, which has propelled the food price index from 92 in January 2001 to 232.4 in May 2011? Theories abound, including ones around weather (too much and/or too little rain fall); a growing population (including a demand for meat in China); concentration of corporate control; and the use of food for biofuel.

But maybe the following angle, alluded to in The Guardian, reveals an aspect that vitally deserves to be connected to other facts and insights: As the article notes, there is a

massive influx of big investors into deregulated commodities markets – searching for a “safe bet” after the dotcom bubble burst – who speculate on the future price of food. On Sunday, a UN conference on trade and development said it may be necessary for governments to intervene with regulation to rein in rising food prices. The FAO adds that more must be done to improve transparency in global food markets. (source)

Ok, let’s take that “dot” and connect it to another approach, courtesy of Bob Burnett’s recent article, Roll Over, Karl Marx (June 10, 2011). When you start to think about climate change and weather disasters in conjunction with environmental despoliation and rising food prices, and plug some of that into a political analysis, you have to get politicized …which is probably very dangerous to our ruling class.

Ruling class? Why, what’s this? Class warfare?

Well, yes, it’s shaping up that way, isn’t it? Except, of course, for the lethargy of the key players…

Burnett summarizes Marx and marxist thought in broad strokes, from the Industrial Age to the later 20th century, when income inequality (Johnson Administration) lessened …before picking up again. By 2007, income inequality had reached a historic high. What’s up with that?

In the meantime, our more recent Great Recession has hugely exacerbated that imbalance while it’s also busily eviscerating the middle class – which of course leads to more polarization. Yet the populace remains docile, even in the face of environmental despoliation (which is causing disasters world-wide) and significant rises in the cost of living, particularly food prices.

Burnett addresses several factors Marx (who expected that any class under such pressure would revolt) could not have foreseen: multinational corporations; a corporate-controlled mainstream media that owns the airwaves and your eyeballs; a PR campaign that remade our perception of corporate strategy (convincing us that trickle-down economics actually work, for example), or that “markets are inherently self correcting and there is no need for government regulation.” Burnett notes, the “consequences were devastating to workers, the environment, and the American economy,” particularly as jobs went overseas while wages stagnated. Union power / collective bargaining rights were undermined or destroyed, and – most significantly – instead of being perturbed by this loss of real power, people became distracted with questions about fundamentalist religion and issues like abortion – both of which “ divert attention from poor wages and living conditions.”

It doesn’t help that the Democratic Party is (as Burnett puts it) “capitalism lite,” leaving the non-capitalist crowd without a champion in the political arena.

And yet we wonder why Obama has been so wishy-washy on the environment. Why we continue to rape the earth – frack it for all it’s worth, for example.

But of course, “It is vitally important not to make connections.”

You should not wonder

You should instead continue to be distracted by “human interest” stories and ridiculous debates about religion and abortion and other matters that keep people on a slow boil, instead of directing them to fix real problems.

Above all, remember how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fuel companies…

Relevant images (links included)


Click on image for link to source article



Click on image for link to source article



Click on image for link to source article



Click on image for link to source article




Power/ Influence

November 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm | In arts, authenticity, fashionable_life, guerilla_politics, ideas, social_critique, vancouver, victoria, women | Comments Off on Power/ Influence

A few days ago the Vancouver Sun published BC’s top 100 influential women – it’s entirely possible that I would have missed the Sun‘s report if not for Alexandra Samuel‘s extensive blog post, Vancouver Sun list of 100 influential women in BC shows influence beyond Twitter.

This evening I came across Are you an influencer? on The Next Web Shareables. There are two videos in this post – one is a short trailer, the other is a 14-minute version. The influencers are almost all – and I mean all – men. Young, too, and often pretty macho. There’s one woman who gets interviewed more extensively, and aside from her (and a brief image of Marilyn Munroe, of all people) it’s men, men, men: discursively, it’s a world where women simply don’t exist, except for exotic exceptions that serve to rub in how absent we are otherwise.

From my not-so-in-depth examination (so far) of the Vancouver Sun piece (I have some ambition to pick it apart later, but haven’t done so yet), it seemed to me that the top 100 influential women in BC are almost all from Vancouver: it’s as if anything beyond Metro Vancouver doesn’t exist.

Before seeing the Are you an influencer video tonight, I had been thinking, tangentially, about the importance of location / place in determining who gets to be counted as an influencer (and why), and about how location concentrates and drives influence and power. Specifically with the BC’s top 100 influential women piece in mind, I had been thinking about Vancouver and how it seems unlikely for that location to share power and influence with other locations in BC.

At the same time, I was recalling that 25 years ago Vancouver was for all intents and purposes a hick town, really: when my friend and fellow grad student Steve at the University of British Columbia announced to faculty that he planned to write an Art History Master’s Thesis about a Canadian art movement, one of the senior professors – an Englishman who studied Tiepolo, regularly removing himself from Vancouver as often as he could to pursue his studies in situ in Italia – warned Steve that, by limiting himself to such a provincial scope, he was burying himself “in a very shallow grave.” In other words, young man (or young woman), if you didn’t study Pollock or Picasso – or any of the other big-name brand-name all-male stars – and if instead you chose a new (but obscure!) topic that you cared about (or, gasp!, a woman artist to study), you were not going to be an influencer yourself. You could only become an influencer by attaching yourself to a Big Name.

Fact. Honest truth. The Tiepolo scholar was telling Steve that he could not, within the framework of the Academy, become an influencer if he chose to study something un-influential (sotto voce, that meant “study an important male artist, it will pay off for you – do not choose to study an insignificant movement or heaven forbid a woman artist”).

Do you see the contradiction? Sure, you might say, “well, hip influencers these days don’t want to work in the Academy,” but I’m telling you that there is no “out there,” and that instead, the academy is all around us, morphing to provide the context of power every time. Call it Academy 2.0, call it Influencer Academy: it’s still a power structure. If you’re outside that Academy, good luck flopping around in your shallow grave.

So the question with regard to the “top 100 influential women” article and its Vancouver-centrism might be, “how does a place become the sort of framework that allows certain things / people to achieve influence?” Vancouver has become that sort of place. Is it the concentration of capital and power, which in turn conveys some sort of benediction on those who do manage to achieve success within it?

As for the continued existence of the Academy, just watch the Influencers video and be amazed at how tightly it’s still controlled by men – but then realize that the video was created by two men. So, no big surprise, eh? If women don’t step up and make these kinds of documentaries, well, then, tant pis pour nous, as they say might say in Quebec. In that sense, I applaud the Sun‘s B.C.’s Top 100 Influential Women series and I’m thrilled to see every single woman on there.

The issue of place keeps nagging at me, of course. Victoria can certainly be the most shallow of graves…

I don’t know what became of Steve, who “sacrificed” becoming an influencer (aka, joining the Big Men) by instead studying obscure Canadian socialist art of the 1930s.

But how superficial would our culture be if we only studied the Big Men, amplifying a power structure that trades only within the Academy? We don’t need another hero, and we don’t need a fancier Echo Chamber either.

Dirty Wall Project: slums and cities

September 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm | In cities, guerilla_politics, housing, ideas, innovation, land_use, local_not_global, philanthropy, street_life, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off on Dirty Wall Project: slums and cities

I saw an amazing photograph in the temporary gallery Ryan Kane of the Dirty Wall Project has set up on Fort Street.

The photo is one of many that Kane is selling to raise funds for his venture: it’s a flat, saturated, picture-edge-to-picture-edge frontal view of one small piece of a slum in Saki Naka bordering the rail line. Its complexity makes Where’s Waldo look minimalist.

Monday Magazine published an interview with Kane last month. An excerpt from the introduction:

You’ve heard of guerrilla gardening and guerrilla marketing, but what about guerilla volunteering? The concept to “see a need and fill it” without worrying about paperwork, bureaucracy or religious bias is exactly what 28-year-old Kane Ryan strives to do with his one-person, not-for-profit organization called the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan just recently returned from India where he was working in the slums of Mumbai, organizing health camps, distributing tarps for the monsoon season, funding emergency surgeries and building a school for the children living in the Saki Naka slum community, among other initiatives. All of the money he raises—75 percent of which comes from here in Victoria through fundraising events, private donors and by selling his travel photography—goes directly to the Dirty Wall Project. Ryan pays for his own travel, food and accommodation out of his own pocket by working odd jobs during the months he returns to Victoria. The Dirty Wall Project is proof that one person can indeed make a difference. (source)

If you’re in Victoria, make sure you get to 977A Fort St (formerly Luz Gallery).

I can’t find an online version of the photo that grabbed my attention this afternoon. Here’s a substitute, which hints at the complexity:


Visit Ryan’s site, or check out his photo book, Dirty Wall Project (on Blurb). See a need and fill it, make a donation.

All together now?

July 13, 2010 at 9:44 pm | In guerilla_politics, just_so | 3 Comments

Not sure who to credit for this image, but it seems to be making the rounds in gaming communities and elsewhere:


The image itself is quite horrible, isn’t it? But the caustic commentary? Mordantly brilliant.

Thanks to my son, who sent this with a question about how it might apply to upcoming elections. (Draw your own conclusions as to which ones…)

Women in movies: where are they?

May 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | In arts, guerilla_politics, ideas, media, social_critique, women | Comments Off on Women in movies: where are they?

Last night, while I was scribbling away on my “-ectomy” post, the spouse and son popped My Man Godfrey into the DVD player. We’ve all seen the movie multiple times, but it has such great dialogue that it’s a cinch to watch often.

Tonight, I’m not writing the blog post now in my (imaginary) “must-write” queue (namely, a follow-up to Salim Jiwa’s presentation at Social Media Club Victoria) because I went to PechaKucha Night Victoria Vol.2. Instead, tonight’s post is a quickie about movies.

So I’ll just leave you with a short video I watched this afternoon, The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies (only 2minutes 2seconds long). It made me wonder how well My Man Godfrey stands up to Bechdel’s test.



Even though My Man Godfrey is a classic romantic comedy where everything revolves around the girl-gets-guy story, I’d say it passes the test. Cornelia and Irene (sisters) talk to each other – often enough it’s sibling rivalry and they fight about men, but they also talk about other things; Angelica (mother) converses with her daughters; and Molly (maid) talks to Irene – albeit about Godfrey. Godfrey certainly does, as per the film’s title, dominate many of the conversations, but at least the women have personalities and can talk to one another about different topics.

Then what’s with the slew of more recent films that fly by in feministfrequency‘s video – all of which fail Bechdel’s test?  Have men become more immature in recent decades and lost their balls (or are we – all of us – too culturally adapted to “swallowing” cartoonish men)? Even Princess Bride – a wonderful film – fails the test. Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but let’s prick the fairy-tale balloon for a sec. It’s as if Buttercup is a proto-mommy, a mother in waiting, on the cusp of taking care of the boy who ran away to become a pirate.

Women don’t have conversations amongst themselves on topics not related to the little boys who are the apples of their mommies’ eyes (stuck in some strange mirror stage)… It’s segregation, a mono-culture (one-dimensional), over-processed (like Wonder Bread) – comfortable, goes down easy, practically digests itself.

Possible solution? Go to film festivals and watch movies outside the Wonder Bread mainstream.


The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one’s own specular image. At six months the baby still lacks coordination (see Louis Bolk); however, it can recognize itself in the mirror before attaining control over its bodily movements. The child sees its image as a whole, and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the uncoordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. This contrast is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with its own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens it with fragmentation, and thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego. (Dylan Evans, op.cit) The moment of identification is to Lacan a moment of jubilation since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery. (Écrits, “The Mirror Stage”) Yet, the jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reaction, when the infant compares his own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother. (La relation d’objet) This identification also involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness sustaining the Ego in anticipation.
The mirror stage shows that the Ego is the product of misunderstanding – Lacan’s term “méconnaissance” implies a false recognition – and the place where the subject becomes alienated from itself: the process by which the ego is formed in the Mirror Stage is at the same time the institution of alienation from the symbolic determination of being. In this sense méconnaissance is an imaginary misrecognition of a symbolic knowledge that the subject possesses somewhere. It must be emphasized again that the Mirror Stage introduces the subject into the Imaginary order.
The Mirror Stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head toward this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image. (source)

Journalism and (use of) social media

May 14, 2010 at 11:32 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, free_press, guerilla_politics, media, newspapers, northernvoice, web | 1 Comment

During the How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media? session at last weekend’s Northern Voice 2010 blogging conference, panelists Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe both noted that newspapers regularly mine social media, especially Facebook, for information, leads, and photographs. Sometimes the journalists use the site to obtain information on criminal activity – if I recall correctly, Lisa Johnson explained how Hell’s Angels member Leonard Pelletier’s involvement in a Vancouver-area shooting was (partially?) outed via Facebook. And sometimes the media uses Facebook to obtain photos of teens who have died.

I sensed that some people in the audience were perturbed to learn this, even though it’s increasingly clear that material published online can be discoverable in one way or another. And if it’s on Facebook, it’s even more likely to be found – hence the growing popularity of the google search, “How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?”

Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe – photo by Kemp Edmonds

Based on what I heard from Lapointe and Johnson at Northern Voice, the discussion of journalism’s use of social media now splits, for me, into two directions.

One path, broached by Kirk Lapointe after he was challenged by an online new media journalist, Linda Solomon of the Vancouver Observer, leads to the question of how the mainstream media uses leads and information – stories – that it harvests from social media sources, and whether or not it shares those sources with its readers.

Most of the time, mainstream media doesn’t share its sources with readers, as my post from yesterday (about Bruce Schneier’s article for illustrates clearly. Lapointe tried to cow Solomon, who challenged him (in his capacity as managing editor of the Vancouver Sun), by arguing with her, claiming that bloggers and online media also “steal” the newspapers’ stories. True, Solomon replied, but, she added, we give credit – aka “link love.” Bloggers and digitally native media freely give links back to the various sources, which is something the mainstream media still has to learn to do. We don’t need to “own” the story – but mainstream media apparently still does. This is particularly odd thinking, in my opinion, since – as Kirk Lapointe said himself at the very session – in the new landscape opening up for journalism, “the topic, not the article, is the centerpiece.” How, I would ask him, can a news outlet, “own” a topic?

The other path that’s red hot right now, which Johnson and Lapointe also opened up, is the question around privacy and social media. For an impassioned analysis of that issue, read Danah Boyd’s blog post, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant), which she published today.

Boyd says it better than most: questions around transparency and privacy are also class issues, which must be analyzed in terms of privilege and/or disadvantage. Mainstream media can certainly use social media as a “news scanner” (or maybe police scanner), as Lisa Johnson put it (see Raul Pacheco-Vega’s live-blog of the session). But the media must also realize its use (and possibly abuse) of power here. Given Boyd’s excellent deconstruction of the power relationships exerted by closed platforms like Facebook vis-a-vis the users, there should be a conversation – and maybe policies – around the morality of mainstream media mining social media sites for information. Of course they (we, anyone) are going to mine these sources, but we don’t do so innocently.

(note: photo by Kemp Edmonds, on his Flickr stream here.)
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