Generation Like and The Follower Factory

Watching these kids struggle to be a part of the ruling class was, not quite heart-wrenching but definitely disheartening. The NYT article calls it "The world's collective yearning for connection." You just feel so bad for them. It's like a beauty pageant where the winner gets 1/100th of whatever the tv studio is making just so they can be America's sweetheart.

I googled Baby Scumbag, and you probably know this already, but after this Frontline doc, he and his manager (his cousin) and a pro skater, were charged with luring a 12 yr-old girl into performing sexual acts by promising that she would be cast in an MTV show.  A show that didn't even exist.  Baby Scumbag was 14 or 15 at the time.  He's posted a clear-your-name-confessional video of him a few years after he was charged, and he's sitting in a busted out house, still in Compton, trying to clear his name.   



Response to Electric Ant and Sleeping Through a Revolution

I read Sleeping Through a Revolution first, which was interesting because I was reading the Electric Ant through the lens of the notion of free will in a capitalist society.  And this, tangentially, reminded me of several things.

I often think about the need to own our perception of reality when we are feeling that we have little control over our lives, and I mostly think of this lack of control in terms of the economic and political system in this country.  For instance, I find it ridiculous that people won’t give money to homeless people if they suspect they’re using drugs or alcohol.  If you’re living on the streets, you probably have very few options that won’t take a massive amount of patience, endurance and luck to overcome.  You have very few things in your life that you can choose.  You have very little free will.  But you can control your perception of reality, and if drugs or alcohol make it easer to control your perception of reality, and/or make your reality a little better while you’re in a shitty situation, who am I to begrudge you a dollar?  

The Electric Ant reminded me of the notion of free will in Christianity.  I was taught that God knew everything and that God had a plan for everything that happened to us, good or bad.  But inside of this, because we were humans, we had free will.  (The rest of God’s creatures were not so lucky, they were the REAL electric ants.) This was utterly confounding as a child. If we had free will, what if we chose something that wasn’t in God’s plan? (“He knew you were going to do that too, that was part of his plan.”) This logic was like an infinity circle.  In the end, Poole finally dies, as he was destined to, but not before exercising a series of fruitless exercises in free will.

A couple of other comments on Jonathan Taplin's article....first, using Dr. King's words to highlight the co-opting of music, film and artistry by internet magnate's?!  I mean, come on.  We're talking about the legacy of the enslavement of over 10 million people and their current enslavement in our country.  Sure, the artistic and technological innovations in our society always get hijacked by capitalist entities who are posing as a way for people to better and empower themselves, but using Dr. King's words to call for a millennial awakening?  Nauseating. Second, we all know where we live. This is nothing new, so although the article was informative, it's argument was tiresome. Millennials aren't sleeping through a revolution.  They're just powerless against these forces because this is how our economy is set up.  

Response to: Web Squared

" like Twitter and Facebook’s status updates, a new data source has been added to the Web— real-time indications of what is on our collective mind."

I'm trying to find a way to respond to this article that isn't so...pedestrian...or hasn't been said a million times over.  But I can't.  Until recently, until this election, (and maybe when I lived in Palestine), I was a cynical Facebook user.  But in Palestine, Facebook did two things for me, it exposed me to the same news sources that my journalist and activist peers were using, and media sources that members of the Palestinian community were using, and forever changed my reliance and trust on news sources like The New York Times and NPR.  During the last war on Gaza, I checked Twitter first every morning, and a lot of times at 4 in the morning, to tap into the collective mind that wasn't being reported on.  In Aida Refugee Camp, Facebook serves as a real-time indicator of the Israeli military's presence inside the camp.  Inside this camp of 5,000 people who are living on top of each other, Facebook serves as the calling from the rooftop alert system.  It serves as a continually updated memorial page for the imprisoned and martyred.  

After the election, I actually began to feel more connected to my mother through her FB posts.  Like many people, her FB alter ego is more sharp, to the point, and urgent.  What's incensing my mother about Trump or the Oklahoma religious right is in real time.  Things that, in the past, she (at the age of 72) would have forgotten to tell me about two weeks later.  And it's good for me.  I feel more connected, more alive, more reassured, and sometimes, more depressed.  In some ways, I feel more alive as a human through FB.  

But at the same time, like cyborgs, it feels like...where does the web begin and where do we as humans end?  


Response to Tim Berners Lee

"We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities."

I'm struck by how egalitarian the beginnings of the internet were, and where the internet is headed now.  I'm trying not to be cynical, because I do think the internet is still egalitarian in a lot of ways, but it's definitely just another capitalistic enterprise now, especially with Net Neutrality.  (which I don't fully understand so maybe we can discuss this in class!)

If you take the semantics about hyper-text about of the proposal, it reads like a socialist manifesto: a web of notes with references to them is far more useful than a fixed hierarchical system.  




Response to As We May Think

There were a lot of interesting things in this reading, from the assumed necessity of society concentrating its intellect and capabilities on warfare, to the compression of human labor, but the following quote reminded me of a really dark period in my life: 

The repetitive processes of thought are not confined however, to matters of arithmetic and statistics. In fact, every time one combines and records facts in accordance with established logical processes, the creative aspect of thinking is concerned only with the selection of the data and the process to be employed and the manipulation thereafter is repetitive in nature and hence a fit matter to be relegated to the machine.

For a year I worked as a photo retoucher in the dark basement of a headshot reproduction company on Sunset Blvd in L.A.  The clients were actors and models and we would do basic corrections and basic "beautifying" on their headshots.  Some clients would pay extra for a little extra softening and whitening.  I would retouch an average of 30 headshots a day, circling the bags under their eyes with the lasso tool, running a filter on it, fading it.  Using the healing brush on crow's feet, neck lines, smile lines, and nostril lines (who knew?) and then fading it, 40% for men, 50% for women.  I would clone stamp zits and stray hairs.  I would take out bra straps and close button holes.  The actions were so repetitive that I would close my eyes and feel myself still making the motions: select, heal, fade. Select, airbrush, fade.  And then I noticed that when I was talking to someone, my mind would wander, and I would begin to focus on the pimples, wrinkles, and stray hairs surrounding their face. Select, heal, fade, I would think, mentally photoshopping their faces.  The urge to photoshop people became so strong that I began to photoshop strangers as I passed them on the street, wondering where on their face I could select the perfect color of flesh to then clone stamp on their collarbone, to cover up their bra strap. I would keep my hands at my side, but what I really wanted to do was to walk over to them, pull out my tablet pen, and get to work. It was horrifying.  My eyes had become automated. And they had become automated in the name of flawless beauty, in the creation of a visually perfect human being. Even worse, I was doing it unconsciously, without thinking.  This had become an instinct, my habit. I was a robotic retouching machine. 

I've also felt this way with photography, and it's one of the reasons I started doing video.  Because the bulk of my income was doing wedding and event photography, I was often shooting and editing 1,000 photos a week.  The types of shots that companies and brides wanted were so categorical and so contrived that I could do them in my sleep.  And after a while, this started to kill my love for photography, because I was just a button pusher.  Even moments of inspiration were most likely regurgitations of someone's Pinterest board.

I was also struck by this quote, but I haven't quite processed it yet and would like to chew on it some more.  But perhaps we can discuss it in class: The impulses which flow in the arm nerves of a typist convey to her fingers the translated information which reaches her eye or ear, in order that the fingers may be caused to strike the proper keys. Might not these currents be intercepted, either in the original form in which information is conveyed to the brain, or in the marvelously metamorphosed form in which they then proceed to the hand?

Response to The Machine Stops

"When Vashti swerved away from the sunbeams with a cry, she behaved barbarically - she put out her hand to steady her....The woman was confused and apologized for not having let her fall.  People never touched one another.  The custom had become obsolete, owing to the Machine." (p.8)

This part of the article made me think about a recurring conversation I have with my friends who have children about Americans and their reluctance/fear of touching children.  Which, there are a lot of reasons for, some of them exacerbated by technology.  For me, the point of this reading was to think about the point at which technology builds up society and the point at which technology divides and breaks down society. I think there is a general uncomfortableness with children now, partly because, unless you have children, you're not interacting with them on a daily basis.  But also because our machine - our phones, the internet - is a forum for all of the things you can do wrong around children. And then we're becoming more comfortable being alone and touching our phone or communicating through email and sending emojis than we are with touching each other.  

Response to In Plato's Cave

There are so many things in this essay that strike a chord with me.  Although there are probably just as many parts that I have trouble deciphering.  I always find Sontag's writings to be equal parts enlightening and mystifying.  Which is nice in a way, because they're essays that you can revisit again and again while your subconscious chews on different parts.

"To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed." (p.4)

It's easy to understand the concept of a power structure in the person holding the image making device.  The image maker decides what goes into the frame, etc. But this question of ownership is really interesting.  In line with the act of discovery and exploration of something that has existed long before you arrived with your camera.  I think a lot of times filmmakers and artists are celebrated more than their subjects are, when it's almost always an appropriation.  I suppose because it's an easier place to place your energy, rather than on a societal problem that maybe you don't want to face because that would mean taking responsibility for it, or taking some sort of action. 

" came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, family photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives." (p.9)

I think this is what I've been getting at with the Palestinian Prisoner Portrait project, and that would make an interesting component, maps that link to the prisons where the men had to go, and the distance they were from their families. Inside every home is a sort of memorial area of a wall to relatives that either died as a result of the occupation or are currently in prison.  Sometimes the walls are decorated with art that the men made in prison.  Before this era of mass incarceration (probably at the end of the First Intifada although I don't know for sure, I'm just guessing), the legendary keys to the former homes of Palestinians (in present day Israel) were slowly replaced with these items. Attaching some photos here of memorial walls, not only in peoples homes but around the camp:







Possible Project Ideas for the Semester

Idea 1: Cyanotype portraits of people who live around Gowanus (in this style but instead using the materials found in the canal during development, then layered with video of the water.  Maybe including a map?  

Option 2: A map/collage component to a film I've been working on about my family's farm in Oklahoma, the pioneer myth and the stories of the Native Americans who sold their land to my great grandfather.  The map would be a section line map.


Option 3.  Another map!  Before I came into the IMA program I had been working on a film in the Palestinian Territories about the mass incarceration of Palestinian men.  But it doesn't feel like a film.  It feels like an installation.  I had started collecting the prisoner portraits, mostly of kids, and trying to find a way to illustrate how prevalent political imprisonment is by connecting all of these images by families.  Now I'm wondering if it could be a family tree, or maybe a variation of a google map, where you would click on the image and a portion of their story would pop up.  The images look like this:


In Emerging Media 1, I made a yearbook page of the kids


I have two issues that I'm grappling with for the Palestinian Prisoner Portrait.  One is that it's hard not to turn it into shitty-things-that-happen-to-others porn, so I would also want to have some sort of call to action component.  The other issue is that I feel hypocritical being American and criticizing Israel, especially with a social issue that's so popular with activists.  I think I would feel better if I had at least one other project under my belt that was also critical of America's occupation activities and the number of people killed by our government in the name of fighting terrorism. 

I was really inspired by the drone strike website you showed in class.  It would be amazing to add a visual element, with actual faces and stories, to that project, as well as a call to action so Americans feel like changing the situation is not so far out of reach.

EM2 - HTML Image Slideshow

After 5 hours, I finally figured this out. After Hour 4 I realized that you probably had demo files on our class website. Yay.

 Not sure how to turn it in, so I'm posting screenshots here...