Category Archives: Scientific and Anthropological Frameworks

Jones & Schieffelin – Talking Text and Talking Back

Talking Text and Talking Back: ‘‘My BFF Jill’’ from Boob Tube to YouTube GrahamM. Jones Bambi B. Schieffelin

by Graham M. Jones & Bambi B. Schieffelin

[2009. Jones, Graham M., and Bambi B. Schieffelin. “Talking Text and Talking Back: ‘My BFF Jill’ from Boob Tube to YouTube.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 14 (4): 1050–79. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01481.x. ]

Points & Quotes:

“In this article, we discuss these commercials as metalinguistic meditations and examine the further metalinguistic commentary their widespread circulation—in the media, on the Internet, and people’s talk—has occasioned. In particular, we examine these videos have elicited since migrating from television—the ‘‘boob tube’’—to YouTube, a website whose commenting feature has allowed texting aficionados to voice their metalinguistic views, at times in direct confrontation with language prescriptivists.” (1051)

“Most positive assessments of the commercials in the media and online emphasize how ‘‘funny’’ they are, leading us to analyze them here as instances of speech play” […]
Generally speaking, humor depends on the performative violation of expectations or conventions, often providing a publicly acceptable occasion for expressing latent tensions, frustrations, or fears (Beeman, 1981, 2000). In this sense, jokes often vehicle serious meanings or perform serious functions […]
On one hand, proponents of what Cameron (1995) calls ‘‘verbal hygiene’’ can point to the commercials as evidence of the danger teenage texting poses to Standard English. From this perspective, text-like speech is a kind of verbal contamination, resembling Mary Douglas’s (2002, pp. 44–5) famous description of dirt as ‘‘matter out of place.’’ […]
On the other hand, the positive reactions of young fans to the commercials suggest a different way of conceptualizing the same scenes of linguistic category confusion—in terms of Bakhtin’s notion of the carnivalesque. (Bakhtin 1984, p. 10)
(1052-1053)

The Commercials

“the commercials paint a somewhat equivocal picture. They imagine the texting craze as a source of verbal anarchy with the potential to radically transform language and undermine communication between parents and children. At the same time, they clearly delight in the generativity of texting conventions and the infectious new forms of speech play that texting enables.” (1058)

“The phrase ‘‘IDK, my BFF Jill?’’ achieved a kind of free-standing iconicity, circulating widely in young people’s talk. The availability of the commercials for viewing on video sharing sites such as YouTube encouraged open-ended, asynchronous, discussion about their form, content, and linguistic implications in online forums.” (1058)

Just as news programs … “decontextualized” and “recontextualized (Bauman & Briggs, 1990) materials from the ‘‘Beth Ann’’ ads to construct narratives about the evolving language of texting, other sources indicate that young people across the United States extracted and performed key phrases from the commercial in everyday communication, establishing different “relations of intertextuality” (Spitulnik, 1997, p. 162). In her study of the circulation of the reception of mass media in Zambia, Spitulnik explores the way “phrases and discourse styles are extracted from radio broadcasting then recycled and reanimated in everyday usage, outside of the contexts of radio listening.” Spitulnik focuses on the way “detachable” elements of media discourse provide iconic cultural reference points that accompany the formation of speech community. (1059)

YouTube

“Commercials recorded from television by individual fans have been a popular upload item, making advertising itself an object of what Henry Jenkins (2006, 2008) calls the new “participatory culture” of fandom.” […]
but it is in the written comments about the three commercials themselves where the most dynamic metalinguistic dialogue unfolds.” (1061)

“We consider the YouTube dialogues about the emergent language of texting especially significant given Herring’s assertion that “mainstream media commentators interpret new technologies and youth practices in normative, moral terms, a process that reinscribes youth as ‘other,’” (2008, p. 71) and that young people have proportionally”‘fewer rights and opportunities to participate in public discourse” (p. 76) about their own practices.” (1062)

“Through the examination of a recent convergence between advertising, technology, and slang, we explore a timeless relationship fundamental to human language: the nexus of poetic language and metalanguage. In his famous distinction between the six dimensions and corresponding functions of language, Jakobson (1985) defines a verbal message that calls attention to its own construction as poetic, and a verbal message about language itself as metalingual (i.e., metalinguistic). […]
The original AT&T commercials are brilliantly crafted artifacts of speech play that assemble elements of everyday language in highly artificial but eminently entertaining verbal performances. These performances, in turn, provide not only resources for further verbal play, but also an impetus for metalinguistic commentary and assessment. In short, we argue that there is a direct, if not causal, connection between the ads’ poetic deployment of texting language and the critical discussions about texting language they have occasioned.” (1074-1075)

“It is clear that young people are actively consuming and producing YouTube content. What is particularly impressive to us is the attentiveness to language, both as a medium for verbal play and as stylistic marker of group membership subject to careful scrutiny, evident in the dialogues around the commercials. This leads us to conclude that the verbal ingenuity associated with texting — and talking text — should be viewed not as evidence of linguistic decline, but rather in terms of the reflexive, metalinguistic, sophistication it necessarily presupposes and potentially promotes.” (1075)

Terms:

speech play— ‘‘the manipulation of elements and components of language in relation to one another, in relation to the social and cultural contexts of language use, and against the backdrop of other verbal possibilities in which it is not foregrounded.’’ (Sherzer 2002, p. 1)

Abstract:

Exploring the close relationship between poetic language and metalanguage, this article analyzes both a series of 2007-8 U.S. TV ads that humorously deploy the language of text messaging, and the subsequent debates about the linguistic status of texting that they occasioned. We explore the ambivalence of commercials that at once resonate with fears of messaging slang as a verbal contagion and luxuriate in the playful inversion of standard language hierarchies. The commercials were invoked by monologic mainstream media as evidence of language decay, but their circulation on YouTube invited dialogic metalinguistic discussions, in which young people and texting proponents could share the floor with adults and language prescriptivists. We examine some of the themes that emerge in the commentary YouTubers have posted about these ads, and discuss the style of that commentary as itself significant.

Continue reading Jones & Schieffelin – Talking Text and Talking Back

Smedley & Smedley- Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real

Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race

by Audrey Smedley & Brian D. Smedley

[ Smedley, Audrey & Brian D. Smedley. 2005. “Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race” in American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 1, 16–26]

Points & Quotes:

The very important main take away is in the title.

Here is a long quote that basically sums up most of the argument: “Categories of people that constitute social races bear little relationship to the reality of human biological diversity. From its inception, race was a folk idea, a culturally invented conception about human differences. It became an important mechanism for limiting and restricting access to privilege, power, and wealth. The ideology arose as a rationalization and justification for human slavery at a time when Western European societies were embracing philosophies promoting individual and human rights, liberty, democracy, justice, brotherhood, and equality. The idea of race distorts, exaggerates, and maximizes human differences; it is the most extreme form of difference that humans can assert about another human being or group, as one of its components is the belief that differences are permanent and cannot be overcome.” (22)

But here is the breakdown:

Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on Ethnicity, Culture, and Race

“The consensus among most scholars in fields such as evolutionary biology, anthropology, and other disciplines is that racial distinctions fail on all three counts— that is, they are not genetically discrete, are not reliably measured, and are not scientifically meaningful
[…]
race is a fairly recent construct, one that emerged well after population groups from different continents came into contact with one another.”(16)

“What is common to most anthropological conceptions of culture is the contention that culture is external, acquired, and transmissible to others. They do not treat culture as a part of the innate biological equipment of humans” (18)

“Ethnicity and culture are related phenomena and bear no intrinsic connection to human biological variations or race. Ethnicity refers to clusters of people who have common culture traits that they distinguish from those of other people.
…”ethnic groups and ethnicity are not fixed, bounded entities; they are open, flexible, and subject to change, and they are usually self- defined” (17)

“Ethnic differences also constitute an arena of diverse interests that can lead to conflict, […and] The most significant thing about interethnic conflict is that the vast majority of such conflicts have been, and still are, with neighboring groups—people who inhabit the same general environment and who virtually always share physical similarities, as, for example, the English and the Irish, Serbians and Croatians, Indians and Pakistanis, Armenians and Turks, Japanese and Koreans.” (18)

“Most human conflicts have not been racial, and there is no reason for antagonism to exist or persist simply because protagonists are identified as racially different.” (18)

Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, & (later) Muslim Empires “encompassed peoples whose skin colors, hair textures, and facial features were highly varied”
[and]
“History shows that Africans in Europe were assimilated into those societies wherever they were found, and no significant
social meanings were attached to their physical differences.” (18)

So, historically speaking,
physical characteristics should never be included in a definition of ethnic identity. It is inaccurate to associate physical features with any specific cultural identity.” (18)

Science, Ideology, & Race

Beginning in the 19th Century, scientific knowledge turns “race” into an ideology…

“From the 19th century on, races have been seen in science as subdivisions of the human species that differ from one another phenotypically, on the basis of ancestral geographic origins, or that differ in the frequency of certain genes” (19)

“The genetic conception of race appeared in the mid-20th century and remains today as a definition or working hypothesis for many scholars, […but] When geneticists appeared who emphasized the similarities among races (humans are 99.9% alike), the small amount of real genetic differences among them (0.01%), and the difficulties of recognizing the racial identity of individuals through their genes, doubts about the biological reality of race appeared” (19)

“Thus, in the 20th century two conceptions of race existed: one that focused on human biogenetic variation exclusively and was the province of science, and a popular one that dominated all thinking about human differences and fused together both physical features and behavior. This popular conception, essentially a cultural invention, was and still is the original meaning of race that scholars in many fields turned their attention to in the latter part of the 20th century and the early 21st century” (19)

Racialized Science and Public Policy

“From a policy perspective, although the term race is not useful as a biological construct, policymakers cannot avoid the fact that social race remains a significant predictor of which groups have greater access to societal goods and resources and which groups face barriers—both historically and in the contemporary context—to full inclusion. The fact of inequality renders race an important social policy concern.” (22)

“Whereas individual discrimination is often easier to identify, institutional discrimination—the uneven access by group membership to re- sources, status, and power that stems from facially neutral policies and practices of organizations and institutions—is harder to identify.” (22)

“Evidence of racial and ethnic disparities in health care is, with few exceptions, remarkably consistent across a range of health care services. […and] race continues to play an important role in determining how individuals are treated, where they live, their employment opportunities, the quality of their health care, and whether individuals can fully participate in the social, political, and economic mainstream of American life.” (23)

Continue reading Smedley & Smedley- Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real

Dibbell – A Rape in Cyberspace

A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society

by Julian Dibbell

[ Dibbell, Julian. 1993. “A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society” in The Village Voice, December 23, 1993]

Points & Quotes:

The Incident

“They say he raped them that night. They say he did it with a cunning little doll, fashioned in their image and imbued with the power to make them do whatever he desired. They say that by manipulating the doll he forced them to have sex with him, and with each other, and to do horrible, brutal things to their own bodies. And though I wasn’t there that night, I think I can assure you that what they say is true, because it all happened right in the living room — right there amid the well-stocked bookcases and the sofas and the fireplace — of a house I came for a time to think of as my second home.”

“LambdaMOO, a very large and very busy rustic mansion built entirely of words”

“This is … the story of a man named Mr. Bungle, and of the ghostly sexual violence he committed in the halls of LambdaMOO, and most importantly of the ways his violence and his victims challenged the 1000 and more residents of that surreal, magic-infested mansion to become, finally, the community so many of them already believed they were”

“here on the brink of a future in which human life may find itself as tightly enveloped in digital environments as it is today in the architectural kind […]
It asks us to shut our ears momentarily to the techno-utopian ecstasies of West Coast cyberhippies and look without illusion upon the present possibilities for building, in the on-line spaces of this world, societies more decent and free than those mapped onto dirt and concrete and capital. It asks us to behold the new bodies awaiting us in virtual space undazzled by their phantom powers, and to get to the crucial work of sorting out the socially meaningful differences between those bodies and our physical ones. And most forthrightly it asks us to wrap our late-modern ontologies, epistemologies, sexual ethics, and common sense around the curious notion of rape by voodoo doll—and to try not to warp them beyond recognition in the process.

“every set of facts in virtual reality (or VR, as the locals abbreviate it) is shadowed by a second, complicating set: the “real-life” facts. … No hideous clowns or trickster spirits appear in the RL version of the incident, no voodoo dolls or wizard guns, indeed no rape at all as any RL court of law has yet defined it … no bodies touched

“to the extent that Mr. Bungle’s assault happened in real life at all, it happened as a sort of Punch-and-Judy show, in which the puppets and the scenery were made of nothing more substantial than digital code and snippets of creative writing.”

it wasn’t until the evening of the second day after the incident that legba, finally and rather solemnly, gave it voice:

“I am requesting that Mr. Bungle be toaded for raping Starsinger and I. I have never done this before, and have thought about it for days. He hurt us both.”

“Toad the fukr.”

[to “toad” is basically an MUD death sentence:
“not only are the description and attributes of the toaded player erased, but the account itself goes too. The annihilation of the character, thus, is total.”

To Toad?

“Four months before the Bungle incident, the archwizard Haakon … announced that the wizards from that day forth were pure technicians. From then on, they would make no decisions affecting the social life of the MOO, but only implement whatever decisions the community as a whole directed them to. […]
the question of what to do about Mr. Bungle began to shape itself into a sort of referendum on the political future of the MOO.”

  • “Parliamentarian legalist types argued that unfortunately Bungle could not legitimately be toaded at all, since there were no explicit MOO rules against rape, or against just about anything else …
  • Others, with a royalist streak in them, seemed to feel that Bungle’s as-yet-unpunished outrage only proved this New Direction silliness had gone on long enough, and that it was high time the wizardocracy returned to the position of swift and decisive leadership their player class was born to …
  • [for the ]technolibertarians … MUD rapists were of course assholes, but the presence of assholes on the system was a technical inevitability …
  • the anarchists didn’t care much for punishments or policies or power elites. … they hoped the MOO could be a place where people interacted fulfillingly without the need for such things [and] were now at great pains to sever the conceptual ties between toading and capital punishment”

“So that when the time came, at 7 p.m. PST on the evening of the third day after the occurrence in the living room, to gather in evangeline’s room for her proposed real-time open conclave, …
Peaking in number at around 30, this was one of the largest crowds that ever gathered in a single LambdaMOO chamber, …
You could almost feel the claustrophobic air of the place, dank and overheated by virtual bodies, pressing against your skin.”

“There were the central questions, of course: thumbs up or down on Bungle’s virtual existence? And if down, how then to insure that his toading was not just some isolated lynching but a first step toward shaping LambdaMOO into a legitimate community?

“On these and other matters the anarchists, the libertarians, the legalists, the wizardists—and the wizards—all had their thoughtful say …
midway through the evening Mr. Bungle himself, the living, breathing cause of all this talk, teleported into the room. … And then he said this:

“I engaged in a bit of a psychological device that is called thought-polarization, the fact that this is not RL simply added to heighten the affect of the device. It was purely a sequence of events with no consequence on my RL existence.”

“he’d been around long enough to leave his newbie status behind, and his delusional statement therefore placed him among the second type: the sociopath. … at this point what seemed clear was that evangeline’s meeting had died, at last, and without any practical results to mark its passing.

Action

“JoeFeedback was a wizard, … he took the crime committed against legba and Starsinger very seriously, and that he felt no particular compassion toward the character who had committed it. But on the other hand he had made it equally plain that he took the elimination of a fellow player just as seriously, and moreover that he had no desire to return to the days of wizardly fiat. … as much as he would have liked to make himself an instrument of LambdaMOO’s collective will, he surely realized that under the present order of things he must in the final analysis either act alone or not act at all.”

“So JoeFeedback acted alone. …

He told the lingering few players in the room that he had to go, and then he went. He did it quietly and he did it privately. …
Mr. Bungle was truly dead and truly gone.”

Coda

“Certainly whatever civil society now informs LambdaMOO owes its existence to the Bungle Affair. The archwizard Haakon .. . would build into the database a system of petitions and ballots whereby anyone could put to popular vote any social scheme requiring wizardly powers for its implementation,”

“as I pored over the *social debate and got to know legba and some of the other victims and witnesses, I could feel my newbie consciousness falling away from me. Where before I’d found it hard to take virtual rape seriously, I now was finding it difficult to remember how I could ever not have taken it seriously.”

the more seriously I took the notion of virtual rape, the less seriously I was able to take the notion of freedom of speech, with its tidy division of the world into the symbolic and the real.”

“whatever else these thoughts tell me, I have come to believe that they announce the final stages of our decades-long passage into the Information Age, a paradigm shift that the classic liberal firewall between word and deed (itself a product of an earlier paradigm shift commonly known as the Enlightenment) is not likely to survive intact. After all, anyone the least bit familiar with the workings of the new era’s definitive technology, the computer, knows that it operates on a principle impracticably difficult to distinguish from the pre-Enlightenment principle of the magic word: the commands you type into a computer are a kind of speech that doesn’t so much communicate as make things happen, directly and ineluctably, the same way pulling a trigger does. They are incantations.”

Continue reading Dibbell – A Rape in Cyberspace

Alderton – Snapewives and Snapeism

‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom

by Zoe Alderton

[ Alderton, Zoe. 2014. “‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom” in Religions, No. 5. Pg. 219-267 doi:10.3390/rel5010219 ]

Points & Quotes:

Intro

“In this article, I explore two main features of the religion ‘Snapeism’ . The first feature is its context within fandom and the negative reception it has received from this group of people. The second is the manner in which the Snapists themselves have articulated their faith structures. When considered together, these elements of Snapeism reveal how online, popular culture-based religions are forming and the strong notions of what is ‘properly religious’, which abound both in fandom more broadly and within the Snapist community itself. […]
As this article will demonstrate, Snapeism is usually interpreted as a ludicrous—and therefore invalid—religion. This anxiety towards fiction-based religions and the behaviour of their adherents is based upon a general fear within fandom of being excessively outrageous and pushing the boundaries of ‘good taste’ too far. By policing extreme manifestations of the Harry Potter fandom, other eccentricities can be placed in the more neutral category of ‘ironic’ or ‘playful’, as opposed to ‘insane’.” (220)

“There are a variety of problems inherent in approaching a belief system such as Snapeism through a methodological obsession with veracity. This is a problem found both in fandom and within scholarly projects that seek to find some kind of ‘true’ definition for what religion is and is not. I aim to demonstrate a more objective exploration of Snapeism, exploring the genuine power that a filmic narrative can possess in the imagination, and even religiosity, of a devout fan. It is vital that both scholars of religion and scholars of popular cultural products such as film advocate either the seriousness with which we need to treat any religious viewpoint, or the ludicrous and invented elements of all faith-based systems.” (220)

“The internet has helped the Jedi religion to flourish, and Matrixism to gain an international audience. Fandom adoration of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films also seems to be a contributing factor to a rise in Tolkien-inspired faiths.” (221)

“Even though elements of Snapeism are overtly anti-Christian, … Much is borrowed from the idea of a reciprocal covenant between human and divinity, and the moral codes required are remarkably similar to those of Christianity. As will be explained, Snapeism prohibits homosexuality, limits polygamy, and configures the core divine figure as a jealous god who rewards servility and punishes disobedience. Sexual metaphors for divine unity with Snape are also likely to have come from Christian mystical traditions.” (221)

“This is not, however, an excuse to engage in a discussion of their theological legitimacy or debate the validity of a fictional text as a source of divine inspiration. Rather, it is an exciting opportunity to objectively observe the very particular manner in which fandom employs the religion category as a means of delineating territories of insanity or describing the ecstasy garnered from deep adoration of a narrative and its characters.” (222)

Understanding ‘Snapewives’ and Snapeism & Canon Skepticism

“it seems fairer to describe the wives and their faith as ‘Snapists’ and ‘Snapeism’, as this lacks the misleading and pejorative denotations of ‘Snapewives’, even though it is a retrospective term.
In this article, I will focus on the three main wives: Conchita, Rose, and Tonya . Each of these women has dedicated numerous online journals to their discussions of Snape as a supernatural figure and his role in their lives. They all acknowledge each other as fellow Snape devotees, fandom companions, and spiritual spouses.” (223)

“The idea that Rowling was somehow wrong in her portrayal of Snape or the decisions she made for him is surprisingly common. Because there was a large gap between the publication of books (the largest being from July 2000 to June 2003) and a very active fandom awaiting new material, speculation about the future of almost every character abounded. Each book left many unanswered questions—a major one of these being whether or not Snape was on the side of evil
[…]
When his expected rewards did not eventuate, a more extreme wing of fandom began to see Snape as something of an objective reality with Rowling as a flawed scribe who does not ‘own’ him.” (224)

‘Snapewives’ and ‘Snapeism’: A Fiction-Based Religion within the Harry Potter Fandom

“please, Ms. Rowling, stop telling lies about this character, and admit he is a Good Guy”

Rattlesnakeroot on Livejournal
undefined

“by this logic, Rowling can be viewed as someone who was able to write Snape’s character after being influenced by him— perhaps via some kind of channelling—as opposed to an author who created Snape from her own imagination.” (225)

Fandom Policing

“A recurrent anxiety within fandom is the conception that long-term fans are more serious, committed, and rational; in opposition to the waves of new fans who are delivered due to increasing pop-culture awareness of a text, the creation of movies, merchandising, et cetera … For example, fans whose enthusiasm for Harry Potter arose from the movies and whose enthusiasm for Snape is derived from their attraction to actor Alan Rickman.” (226)

“I mean, if you’re married to Snape on an astral plane, okay, I’m going to think you’re fucking weird and possibly not want much to do with you, but whatever. I think this of, like, Mormons, to be honest and I live in a city full of them. Have you seen their holy underwear? But people aren’t suggesting we call CPS [Child Protective Services] on Mormons who aren’t the fringe cultists living in compounds and shit, yeah? How is a relationship with Snape so much more damaging? Because it’s not as common, basically. And because it’s fannishness and, we really must be certain to police how people are fannish. Because god knows, we’re already off the charts weird! We can’t be seen as ~crazy~!”

quoting Niqaeli, (226)

I BELIEVE THAT SEVERUS SNAPE EXISTS INDEPENDENTLY OF JKR! HE IS A LIVING, FEELING SPIRIT. I BELIEVE ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AND THAT SEVERUS DOES VISIT THOSE HE CHOOSES TO

quoting Tonya (230)

“In regard to her online channelling, Tonya specifies “it is never role play.” She also states that she has no control over Snape or when he might choose to appear. Tonya’s ability to channel has allowed her to introduce new codes of conduct and beliefs into the group. For example, she announces that Snape despises “annoying, giggling fangirls whom think they understand [him] as being a ‘cute fluffy funny’ being.” As Snape, she also makes clear “I only give audience to those women that are strong and able to withstand my fierce temper and do as I say. I coldly ignore those vain, simpering females that hold a thought like a leaky sieve.” (232)

Marriage

Rose and Tonya celebrate and proclaim their marriage to Severus Snape

“Rose and Tonya have opted to conduct their marriage with Snape in a very traditional way as concerns power and dominance. Tonya and Rose “know our place. Yes, Severus is the head of our homes and we do defer to him and we OBEY him. We do as we are told and we are most happy for it” [100]. Tonya explains, “I am to behave like a lady and lavish my attentions upon him. Focusing upon him daily, is required (248)

“The physical bodies of these husbands do have benefits. Rose is also able to have sex with Snape via her husband. She proudly explains, “Master would ‘take over’ for my Hubby and have fun ;o) Basically my Hubby would do things in ways that only Master can and could! ;o) :-D” Nevertheless, Snape only uses his body as a vessel.
[… but] Snape is able to provide an additional level of sexual fulfillment when the earthly husbands fail to satisfy … Snape’s spirit form is able to procure a range of sensations within her. Tonya can feel his fingers across her body. She confesses, “It might be lucky that I can’t see him or grab him…cause…I would be on him in the floor behind me. Going wild on him!” (238)

Fanfiction & Disagreements

“Rose is forthright in her belief that Snape fanfiction has been a deeply impactful element of her life. She explains, “I used to be a shy wall flower, backwards and had a hard time talking about things, over time Severus Snape helped me to explore me, he helped me write two very in depth and sexual ladened Fan Fictions, and through them I discovered myself” (247)

Conchita’s writing betrays that she wants to be Snape’s only love:

“Make me a serum
To make me a ghost
Still not feeling numb
I want you the most
You get me on my knees
Losing the fight within me
PotionMaster, please
Please just love me ” (245)

“[Conchita’s] style and intentions are notably different from those of Tonya and Rose. The various fights between the central wives are revealing moments, demonstrating core community values and also points of strong disagreement. In regard to the latter, erotic fanfiction has distanced Conchita from Rose and Tonya who both feel that their sex life with Snape is appropriate material for salacious literature. Conchita believes that her fellow wives need to be “more RESPECTFUL to Severus, as he likes his privacy” (245)

Snape’s “Death”

“The death of Snape in the canonical Harry Potter books had a significant impact upon his wives and their communities, but it was not as devastating as may have been predicted.

A poem [Conchita] wrote to mark the occasion reads,

Our love
A humble tribute to you
Unconditional and endless
Regardless of what Mrs Rowling might do.

Tonya’s reactions were equally passionate, albeit somewhat contradictory. Before the release of the final book, Tonya wrote: “I can’t deny I am a nervous wreck and it is getting worse daily. I just don’t know how I will react if she killed him. Yes, I do know. I will scream and cry. It will ruin the books for me, too”
[…]
After the release of Deathly Hallows on July 21, 2007, the wives slowly retreated from their online presences. … Conchita deleted most of her online accounts prior to the release of the final book in order to mimic the conclusion of Snape’s public appearances via Harry Potter releases. This was prior to the publication of his death. There is also the gradual morph of Livejournal from an English-language platform with significant fandom presence to a primarily Russian-language blogging site with far less active fandom content.” (249-250)

Conclusion

“The Snapists are a small and specific group who have now disbanded, but their community and belief systems provide a fascinating template for broader issues of fandom, religion, and the intersection of the two. The Snapists have combined traditional with non-traditional belief structures— something that seems to be an inevitability of online religions where technological advances lead to new forms of practice (such as fanfiction and chatroom channelling), but older forms of worship (such as shrines and sacred images) remain socially relevant. Their more traditional beliefs and practices draw heavily on Christian culture as a source of legitimacy, whilst their internet channelling and fanfic ecstasies have earned them mockery and scorn for being fraudulent and insane.” (256)

“I think it is very likely that we will see an increase in explicitly fiction-based religions as technology brings online identities and communities in greater harmony with everyday life. It is important for scholars to examine the manner in which these intersections manifest, and the politics behind them. The internet also facilitates the sharing of ideas to a far greater degree than was previously available to the average person. This idea sharing can help to spread material with mythical potential, and feed a passionate obsession with popular cultural texts.” (256)

“What has been clear throughout my research on this topic is the seriousness with which the Snapists take their beliefs, and the sacrality of Snape as their central figure of worship. Davidsen notes that fiction-based religions are often treated as though they lack substance and sincerity (p. 380). To treat the Snapists in this manner is to ignore a vast quantity of evidence that shows the time and attention that has gone into their theology, and the emotional investment that they have in Snape as their erotic leader.

Abstract

The book and film franchise of Harry Potter has inspired a monumental fandom community with a veracious output of fanfiction and general musings on the text and the vivid universe contained therein. A significant portion of these texts deal with Professor Severus Snape, the stern Potions Master with ambiguous ethics and loyalties. This paper explores a small community of Snape fans who have gone beyond a narrative retelling of the character as constrained by the work of Joanne Katherine Rowling. The ‘Snapewives’ or ‘Snapists’ are women who channel Snape, are engaged in romantic relationships with him, and see him as a vital guide for their daily lives. In this context, Snape is viewed as more than a mere fictional creation. He is seen as a being that extends beyond the Harry Potter texts with Rowling perceived as a flawed interpreter of his supra-textual essence. While a Snape religion may be seen as the extreme end of the Harry Potter fandom, I argue that religions of this nature are not uncommon, unreasonable, or unprecedented. Popular films are a mechanism for communal bonding, individual identity building, and often contain their own metaphysical discourses. Here, I plan to outline the manner in which these elements resolve within extreme Snape fandom so as to propose a nuanced model for the analysis of fandom-inspired religion without the use of unwarranted veracity claims.”

theory referenced

Kirby, Danielle L. “Between Synchromysticism and Paganism: Tracing some Metaphysical uses of Popular Fictions.” Culture and Religion 14, no. 4 (2013): 396–410.

Cusack, Carole M. Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

Davidsen, Markus A. “Fiction-Based Religion: Conceptualising a New Category Against History- Based Religion and Fandom.” Culture and Religion 14, no. 4 (2013): 378–95.

Continue reading Alderton – Snapewives and Snapeism

Martin – The Egg and the Sperm

The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles

by Emily Martin

[ Martin, Emily. 1991. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles,” in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 16, no. 3]

Points & Quotes:

“As an anthropologist, I am intrigued by the possibility that culture shapes how biological scientists describe what they discover about the natural world.” (485)

Egg and sperm: A scientific fairy tale

“Part of my goal in writing this article is to shine a bright light on the gender stereotypes hidden within the scientific language of biology.
[…]
“In the case of women, the monthly cycle is described as being designed to produce eggs and prepare a suitable place for them to be fertilized and grown—all to the end of making babies. But the enthusiasm ends there. By extolling the female cycle as a productive enterprise, menstruation must necessarily be viewed as a failure.
[…]
Male reproductive physiology is evaluated quite differently. One of the texts that sees menstruation as failed production employs a sort of breathless prose when it describes the maturation of sperm:

“The mechanisms which guide the remarkable cellular transformation from spermatid to mature sperm remain uncertain …. Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of spermatogenesis is its sheer magnitude: the normal human male may manufacture several hundred million sperm per day.”

—Arthur J. Vander, James H. Sherman, and Dorothy S. Luciano, Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function, 3d ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1980), 483-84. (Martin 486)

“In the classic text Medical Physiology, edited by Vernon Mountcastle, the male/female, productive/destructive comparison is more explicit: “Whereas the female sheds only a single gamete each month, the seminiferous tubules produces hundreds of millions of sperm each day” (emphasis mine [Martin’s]).” (486)

“Textbook descriptions stress that all of the ovarian follicles containing ova are already present at birth. Far from being produced, as sperm are, they merely sit on the shelf, slowly degenerating and aging like overstocked inventory:

“At birth, normal human ovaries contain an estimated one million follicles [each], and no new ones appear after birth. Thus, in marked contrast to the male, the newborn female already has all the germ cells she will ever have. Only a few, perhaps 400, are destined to reach full maturity during her active productive life. All the others degenerate at some point in their development so that few, if any, remain by the time she reaches menopause at approximately 50 years of age.”

—Vander, Sherman, and Luciano, 568 (Martin 487)

“Scientists could begin to describe male and female processes as homologous. They might credit females with “producing” mature ova one at a time, as they’re needed each month, and describe males as having to face problems of degenerating germ cells.” (487-488)

“How is it that positive images are denied to the bodies of women? A look at language-in this case, scientific language-provides the first clue. Take the egg and the sperm. It is remarkable how “femininely” the egg behaves and how “masculinely” the sperm. The egg is seen as large and passive. It does not move or journey, but passively “is transported;’ “is swept;’ or even “drifts” along the fallopian tube. In utter contrast, sperm are small, “streamlined;’ and invariably active. They “deliver” their genes to the egg, “activate the developmental program of the egg;’ and have a “velocity” that is often remarked upon. Their tails are “strong” and efficiently powered. Together with the forces of ejaculation, they can ”propel the semen into the deepest recesses of the vagina:’ For this they need “energy;’ “fuel;’ so that with a “whiplashlike motion and strong lurches” they can “burrow through the egg coat” and “penetrate” it” (489-see original for the many citations)

“In a collection of scientific papers, an electron micrograph of an enormous egg and tiny sperm is titled “A Portrait of the Sperm.” This is a little like showing a photo of a dog and calling it a picture of the fleas.” (491)

New research, old imagery

“Work which Paul Wassarman conducted on the sperm and eggs of mice, focuses on identifying the specific molecules in the egg coat (the zona pellucida) that are involved in egg-sperm interaction.
[…]
“The imagery of sperm as aggressor is particularly startling in this case: the main discovery being reported is isolation of a particular molecule on the egg coat that plays an important role in fertilization! … He calls the molecule that has been isolated, ZP3, a “sperm receptor.” By allocating the passive, waiting role to the egg, Wassarman can continue to describe the sperm as the actor, the one that makes it all happen.
[…]
“It is as if Wassarman were determined to make the egg the receiving partner. Usually in biological research, the protein member of the pair of binding molecules is called the receptor, and physically it has a pocket in it rather like a lock. As the diagrams that illustrate Wassarman’ s article show, the molecules on the sperm are proteins and have “pockets.” The small, mobile molecules that fit into these pockets are called ligands. As shown in the diagrams, ZP3 on the egg is a polymer of “keys”; many small knobs stick out. Typically, molecules on the sperm would be called receptors and molecules on the egg would be called ligands. But Wassarman chose to name ZP3 on the egg the receptor and to create a new term, “the egg-binding protein,” for the molecule on the sperm that otherwise would have been called the receptor.” (495-496)

Social implications: Thinking beyond

Even though each new account gives the egg a larger and more active role, taken together they bring into play another cultural stereo- type: woman as a dangerous and aggressive threat.
[…]
These images grant the egg an active role but at the cost of appearing disturbingly aggressive. Images of woman as dangerous and aggressive, the femme fatale who victimizes men, are wide spread in Western literature and culture. More specific is the connection of spider imagery with the idea of an engulfing, devouring mother. New data did not lead scientists to eliminate gender stereotypes in their descriptions of egg and sperm. Instead, scientists simply began to describe egg and sperm in different, but no less damaging, terms. (498-499)

“Biology itself provides another model that could be applied to the egg and the sperm. The cybernetic model-with its feedback loops, flexible adaptation to change, coordination of the parts within a whole, evolution over time, and changing response to the environment-is common in genetics, endocrinology, and ecology and has a growing influence in medicine in general.” (499)

“The models that biologists use to describe their data can have important social effects. During the nineteenth century, the social and natural sciences strongly influenced each other: the social ideas of Malthus about how to avoid the natural increase of the poor inspired Darwin’s Origin of Species. Once the Origin stood as a description of the natural world, complete with competition and market struggles, it could be reimported into social science as social Darwinism, in order to justify the social order of the time. What we are seeing now is similar: the importation of cultural ideas about passive females and heroic males into the “personalities” of gametes. This amounts to the “im- planting of social imagery on representations of nature so as to lay a firm basis for reimporting exactly that same imagery as natural explanations of social phenomena.
Further research would show us exactly what social effects are being wrought from the biological imagery of egg and sperm. At the very least, the imagery keeps alive some of the hoariest old stereotypes about weak damsels in distress and their strong male rescuers. That these stereotypes are now being written in at the level of the cell constitutes a powerful move to make them seem so natural as to be beyond alteration.” (500)

“Even if we succeed in substituting more egalitarian, interactive metaphors to describe the activities of egg and sperm, and manage to avoid the pitfalls of cybernetic models, we would still be guilty of endowing cellular entities with personhood. More crucial, then, than what kinds of personalities we bestow on cells is the very fact that we are doing it at all. This process could ultimately have the most disturbing social consequences.
One clear feminist challenge is to wake up sleeping metaphors in science, particularly those involved in descriptions of the egg and the sperm. … Waking up such metaphors, by becoming aware of their implications, will rob them of their power to naturalize our social conventions about gender.” (501)

Continue reading Martin – The Egg and the Sperm

Nardi – My Life as a Night Elf Priest

My Life a a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft [Prologue & Chapter 2]

by Bonnie A. Nardi

[ Nardi, Bonnie. 2010. My Life a a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft. University of Michigan Press ]

Points & Quotes:

“I believe World of Warcraft is an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology.” (5)

Aims:

My Life As a Night Elf Priest

  1. “The first aim of the book is to develop an argument about World of Warcraft that examines play as active aesthetic experience, drawing on activity theory (Leontiev 1974) and the work of philosopher John Dewey. […]
  2. “Understanding play in its contemporary digital manifestations is a second aim of the book. I argue that video games such as WoW are a new visual-performative medium enabled, and strongly shaped, by the capacities of digital technology, in particular the execution of digital rules powerful enough to call forth complex worlds of activity. […]
  3. “A third aim of the book is ethnographic reportage—interpreting experiences of playing World of Warcraft for those who will never play but wish to understand something of the role of video games in our culture.” (6-7)

Cool Thoughts about Ethnography

“Unlike research in most academic disciplines, where investigation proceeds according to a scientific procedure involving hypothesis generation and testing, ethnography moves in a “go with the flow” pattern that attempts to follow the interesting and the unexpected as they are encountered in the field.” (27)

Quote from Marylin Strathern:

“Ethnography is . . . the deliberate attempt to generate more data than the researcher is aware of at the time of collection . . . Rather than devising research protocols that will purify the data in advance of analysis, the anthropologist embarks on a participatory exercise which yields materials for which analytical protocols are often devised after the fact. (2004)” (28)

Marilyn Strathern, Partial Connections, 2004

Specifically Digital Ethnography:

“Most anthropological fieldwork requires a budget for foreign travel and the necessity to leave home. It often requires living under difficult circumstances. The cost of entering a virtual world is very low—in the case of World of Warcraft 50 dollars for the game CDs and 14 dollars a month for the subscription. No research grants or struggles with a foreign language were necessary to initiate the research. Nor was there a need to cope with disturbing food, large insects, filth, dangerous diseases, or homesickness. My entry point to the field site was a computer on my dining room table where I sat in a comfortable chair and played for many hours. And yet this fieldwork was nearly as immersive as the fieldwork I conducted for my postdoctoral research in Western Samoa or Papua New Guinea, where I accompanied my husband for his doctoral research. I typically played about 20 hours a week. I read fewer novels and slept a bit less. In addition to game play, I read my guild’s website nearly every day and spent considerable time reading about World of Warcraft on the Internet.” (29)

However…

“Most of the interviews were conducted face-to-face; I find I learn more when I sit down with someone for an unhurried conversation.” (30)

“Many guild members were parents with small children. It was not unusual for game play to stop as a player settled an infant who had awakened or took time out to bandage a skinned knee. Part of the guild ethos was that members had real lives, so such actions were to be tolerated politely and patiently.” (33)

“One difference in studying WoW was that the research inclined toward the participant end of participant-observation. I learned to play the game well enough to participate in a raiding guild. I looked just like any other player. For many practical purposes, I was just another player. I could not have studied raiding guilds without playing as well as at least an average player and fully participating in raids. By contrast, when I was walking around villages in Papua New Guinea or Western Samoa, I was obviously an outsider whose identity required explanation.” (34)

“Blending in, however, is not necessarily characteristic of research in virtual worlds; it does not distinctly identify “digital ethnography.” In research I conducted in Second Life with IBM, my participation as a researcher was made clear to others to the point of having a halo over my character’s head to identify my special status. Boellstorff (2008) and Pearce (2009) were identified as researchers in the virtual worlds they studied. It may be more natural to set up shop as an anthropologist in non-game worlds; in a game world, the overwhelming need to play dominates interaction much of the time.” (35)

Continue reading Nardi – My Life as a Night Elf Priest

Gee – Learning and Identity

Learning and Identity: What does it Mean to Be a Half-Elf?

by James Paul Gee

[ Gee, James Paul. 2003. “Learning and Identity: What does it Mean to Be a Half-Elf?” Chapter 3 of What Video Games have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan, NYC]

THREE IDENTITIES: VIRTUAL, REAL, AND PROJECTIVE

Points & Quotes:

Virtual Identity

“First, there is a virtual identity: one’s identity as a virtual character in the virtual world … “James Paul Gee as BeadBead” … given the sort of creature Bead Bead is (a female Half-Elf) and how I have developed her thus far, there are, at any point, things she can do and things she cannot do.” (54)

“The successes and failures of the virtual being Bead Bead (me in my virtual identity) are a delicious blend of my doing and not my doing. After all, I made Bead Bead and developed her, so I deserve—partly, at least—praise for her successes and blame for her failures. Yet Bead Bead is who she is—a female Half-Elf—and must move through the world of Arcanum and be formed, in part, by it, a world I did not create.” (54-55)

Real Identity

“A second identity that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is a real- world identity: namely, my own identity as “James Paul Gee,” a nonvirtual person playing a computer game. I will represent this identity as “James Paul Gee as Bead Bead,” where James Paul Gee is italicized to indicate that, in this identity, the stress is on the real-world character James Paul Gee playing Arcanum as a game in real time (though Bead Bead is the tool through which I operate the game).” (55)

“In the real world I have a good many different nonvirtual identities . I am a professor, a linguist , an Anglo American, a middle-age male baby boomer, a parent, an avid reader, a middle-class person initially raised outside the middle class, a former devout Catholic, a lover of movies, and so on through a great many other identities … Which of these identities, for instance, was at play—positively or negatively—when I got such joy at having Bead Bead pick rich people’s pockets? When I chose to be a female Half-Elf in the first place? When I chose to use my points to make her as strong and good as a male at melee fighting with a sword?” (55)

Projective Identity

“A third identity that is at stake in playing a game like Arcanum is what I will call a projective identity, playing on two senses of the word “project,” meaning both “to project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character” (Bead Bead, in this case) and “seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become (within the limitation s of her capacities, of course)” … “James Paul Gee as Bead Bead … the stress is on the interface between—the interactions between—the real- world person and the virtual character.” (55-56)

“The kind of person I want Bead Bead to be, the kind of history I want her to have, the kind of person and history I am trying to build in and through her is what I mean by a projective identity. Since these aspirations are my desires for Bead Bead, the projective identity is both mine and hers, and it is a space in which I can transcend both her limitations and my own.” (56)

“For example, on my first try at the game, early on I had Bead Bead sell the ring the old man had given her. … It’s a move allowed by the internal design grammar of the game and one for which I would have suffered no bad consequences in the game world. … However, the act just seemed wrong for the creature I wanted Bead Bead to be (or to have become, however partially, by the end of the game). … I felt I had “let her down” and started the game all over again. Thus, in my projective identity—Bead Bead as my project—I am attributing feelings and motives to Bead Bead that go beyond the confines of the game world and enter the realm of a world of my own creation.” (57-58)

TL;DR

“This tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, and a projective identity) in the relationship “player as virtual character” is quite powerful. It transcends identification with characters in novels or movies, for instance, because it is both active (the player actively does things) and reflexive, in the sense that once the player has made some choices about the virtual character, the virtual character is now developed in a way that sets certain parameters about what the player can do. The virtual character redounds back on the player and affects his or her future actions.” (58)

Continue reading Gee – Learning and Identity

Smith & Mantz – Do Cellular Phones Dream of Civil War?

Do Cellular Phones Dream of Civil War?: The Mystification of Production and the Consequences of Technology Fetishism in the Eastern Congo

by James H. Smith & Jeffrey W. Mantz

[ Smith, James H. & Jeffrey W. Mantz. 2006. “Do Cellular Phones Dream of Civil War?: The Mystification of Production and the Consequences of Technology Fetishism in the Eastern Congo” in Inclusion and Exclusion in the Global Arena (ed. Max Kirsch), Routledge, New York City. Pg. 71-94]

Points & Quotes:

After comparing two epigraphs:

  • From City of Bits by William Mitchell
  • Comment Ben Wisner about Democratic Republic of Congo city Goma after it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption…

“what ties the city of Goma and the city of bits together is columbite-tantalite, known in the eastern Congo region as coltan. This silicate (from which the heat-resistant powder tantalum is extracted) is at present the most effective current conductor in existence, and a crucial component of the microchips found in all digital technology (cell phones, laptops, pagers, Sony PlayStation, iPods, etc.) as well as a host of other electronic devices, including hear- ing aids and pacemakers. It is estimated that the eastern region of the DRC is home to 80 percent of the world’s reserves of coltan (Moyroud & Katunga 2002, 159).” (71)

“Coltan is bought by middlemen frequently operating under the auspices of one or another local militias, who in turn typically sell to Belgian and other expatriate traders, often in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Those intermediaries then sell to buyers in the United States, Japan, and Europe, who will extract the tantalum powder from the ore and refine and process. […] much of this work seems to be done in former uranium processing plants in Kazakhstan, for eventual sale in China [IPIS 2002, 8]).” (74-75)

“The promise of an interconnected world, of fluid identities— indeed the possibility of postmodern thought, and the notion that we live today in a postmodern world—arguably has as its precondition this commodity and its particular qualities (of density and relative accessibility, for example), as well as the labor relations, trade conditions, and internal fragmentation that have made this commodity available to the world at an affordable price. […] The fact that most of the world’s supply of coltan is located in the Congo also means that the cultural dispositions associated with postmodernism (the emphasis on subjectivity, ambiguity, flexibility, multivocality, and the generative power of consumption as a form of agency and politics) are dependent on genocide, ecocide, incarceration, and … production in the Congo.” (76)

“Part of what we are arguing here is that in order to understand the world today we need to find ways of drawing conceptual connections between disconnected parts of that world […] we believe that the commodity coltan is perfect for thinking through the postmodern moment because, far from overflowing sumptuously with meaning (like sugar), it is comparatively meaningless, undistinguished, and invisible. More accurately, coltan is systematically rendered meaningless and invisible by the production process and by the network of political and corporate bodies that control its distribution.” (78)

“In the film The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, discovers that the world in which he lives is a computer-generated mirage, that the physical world beyond this simulacrum is an all too real nightmare, where humans are allowed to exist because they are the only remaining natural resource. […]
The truth of our times is that we are living in this Matrix now: (1) we are increasingly dependent on virtual realities, as Mitchell suggests, (2) these virtual realities are grounded in real human terror, slavery, incarceration, and world destruction somewhere, and (3) the rooted- ness of these virtual worlds in production and cannibalism (both in a metaphoric and a literal sense: for instance, reports of Mai Mai cannibalism as a form of counter-state production in the DRC) is systematically concealed from us, partly by virtue of the fetish form in which technology presents itself as a sui generis world-historic force. Any social theory that proceeds from virtual worlds as existing realities of their own accord (an analysis of the social-psychological, and even economic, implications of the online game and world Everquest, for example), detached from materiality and production, is choosing the Matrix as its reality, its home, and its sustenance. Doing so ignores the increasingly obvious fact that this virtual reality proceeds from work that is—in its current organization—rapidly bringing the underside of the matrix (dehumanization, implosion of the state, and ecocide) into being as objective global reality.” (86)

Continue reading Smith & Mantz – Do Cellular Phones Dream of Civil War?

Daniels – The Algorithmic Rise of the alt-Right

The Algorithmic Rise of the “Alt-Right

by Jessie Daniels

[ Daniels, Jessie. 2018. “The Algorithmic Rise of the ‘Alt-Right'” in Contexts, Winter 2018 (March 28)]

Points & Quotes:

“There are two strands of conventional wisdom unfolding in popular accounts of the rise of the alt-right. One says that what’s really happening can be attributed to a crisis in White identity: the alt-right is simply a manifestation of the angry male who has status anxiety about his declining social power. Others contend that the alt-right is an unfortunate eddy in the vast ocean of Internet culture. […]
While the first explanation tends to ignore the influence of the Internet, the second dismisses the importance of White Nationalism. I contend that we have to understand both at the same time.” (61)

“The rise of the alt-right is both a continuation of a centuries- old dimension of racism in the U.S. and part of an emerging media ecosystem powered by algorithms.” (62)

“This iteration is newly enabled by algorithms, which do several things. Algorithms deliver search results for those who seek confirmation for racist notions and connect newcomers to like-minded racists, as when Dylan Roof searched for “black on white crime” and Google provided racist websites and a community of others to confirm and grow his hatred. Algorithms speed up the spread of White supremacist ideology, as when memes like “Pepe the Frog” travel from 4chan or Reddit to mainstream news sites. And algorithms, aided by cable news networks, amplify and systematically move White supremacist talking points into the mainstream of political discourse. Like always, White nationalists are being “innovation opportunists,” finding openings in the latest technologies to spread their message. To understand how all this works, it’s necessary to think about several things at once: how race is embedded in the Internet at the same time it is ignored, how White supremacy operates now, and the ways these interact.” (62)

“In a sense, we’ve managed to push white nationalism into a very mainstream position,” @JaredTSwift said. “Now, we’ve pushed the Overton window,” referring to the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse. […]
“Among White supremacists, the thinking goes: if today we can get “normies” talking about Pepe the Frog, then tomorrow we can get them to ask the other questions on our agenda: “Are Jews people?” or “What about black on white crime?” And, when they have a sitting President who will re-tweet accounts that use #whitegenocide hashtags and defend them after a deadly rally, it is fair to say that White supremacists are succeeding at using media and technology to take their message mainstream.” (64)

“[T]he post-Obama era proves the lie that we were ever post-racial, and it may, when we have the clarity of hindsight, mark the end of an era. If one charts a course from the Civil Rights movement, taking 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education) as a rough starting point and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the close of Obama’s second term as the end point, we might see this as a five-decades-long “second reconstruction” culminating in the 2016 presidential election.”
“Taking the long view makes the rise of the alt-right look less like a unique eruption and more like a continuation of our national story of systemic racism. ” (64)

Continue reading Daniels – The Algorithmic Rise of the alt-Right

Turner – Betwixt & Between

Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites de Passage

by Victor Turner

[ Turner, Victor. 1970. “Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Ritesde Passage” in The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual, Cornell University Press]

Points & Quotes:

Rites de Passage … indicate and constitute transitions between states. By “state” I mean here “a relatively fixed or stable condition” and would include in its meaning such social constancies as legal status, profes­sion, office or calling, rank or degree. I hold it to designate also the condition of a person as determined by his culturally recognized degree of maturation as when one speaks of “the married or single state” or the “state of infancy.” (93)

“Van Gennep has shown that all rites of transition are marked by three phases: separation, margin (or limen), and aggregation.

  1. The first phase of separation comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or a set of cultural conditions (a “state”);
  2. during the intervening liminal period, the state of the ritual subject (the “passenger”) is ambiguous; he passes through a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state;
  3. in the third phase the passage is consummated. The ritual subject, individual or corporate, is in a stable state once more and, by virtue of this, has rights and obligations of a clearly defined and “structural” type, and is expected to behave in accordance with certain customary norms and ethical standards.” (94, formatting added)

“The subject of passage ritual is, in the liminal period, structurally, if not physically, “invisible.” As members of society, most of us see only what we expect to see, and what we expect to see is what we are conditioned to see when we have learned the definitions and classifications of our culture.
[…] The structural “invisibility” of liminal personae has a twofold character. They are at once no longer classified and not yet classified.” (95-96)

“Often the indigenous term for the liminal period is, as among Ndembu, the locative form of a noun meaning “seclusion site” (kunkunka, kung´ula). The neophytes are sometimes said to “be in another place.” They have physical but not social “reality,” hence they have to be hidden, since it is a paradox, a scandal, to see what ought not to be there! Where they are not removed to a sacred place of concealment they are often disguised, in masks or grotesque costumes or striped with white, red, or black clay, and the like.” (98)

College as Liminal Period/Space

“I have no need here to dwell on the lifelong ties that are held to bind in close friendship those initiated into the same age-set in East African Nila-Hamitic and Bantu societies, into the same fraternity or sorority on an American campus, or into the same class in a Naval or Military Academy in Western Europe.” (101)

“The arcane knowledge or “gnosis” obtained in the liminal period is felt to change the inmost nature of the neophyte, impressing him, as a seal impresses wax, with the characteristics of his new state. It is not a mere acquisition of knowledge, but a change in being.” (102)

“neophytes are withdrawn from their structural positions and consequently from the values, norms, sentiments, and techniques associated with those positions. They are also divested of their previous habits of thought, feeling, and action. During the liminal period, neophytes are alternately forced and encouraged to think about their society, their cosmos, and the powers that generate and sustain them. Liminality may be partly described as a stage of reflection.” (105)

“But this liberty has fairly narrow limits. The neophytes return to secular society with more alert faculties perhaps and enhanced knowledge of how things work, but they have to become once more subject to custom and law.” (106)

The point, very simply put:

  • in bullet points

Terms:

Term—definition

Continue reading Turner – Betwixt & Between