Monthly Archives: March 2008

More good news

So now both of the panels I proposed to IR 9.0 have been accepted, which means that one of my book projects can really go forward–a collection of these papers and a few more I will invite from some other people I know who work on this stuff and who might be interested. Fingers crossed that I can get everything done when it need to be done!

MLA is a go

So I will be speaking at MLA. I’m not even sure what to think of that; I’m so used to thinking of the MLA convention as just a necessary evil for job-seekers and search committees, it seems weird to think of it as an actual academic meeting. But I’m really looking forward to it, –it’s not till late next December, so it’s silly to even think too much about it now since I have two other conferences and three papers to prepare between now and then. Here’s the abstract and as usual, thanks to the usual suspects for feedback and editing help.

And what I really have to figure out are my travel plans for the summer; flights are horribly expensive. The dollar’s turning almost into play-money doesn’t help either, but if it’s still in the tank by late June I’ll just have to sponge of my friends in the Netherlands. –If any of you are reading, start saving up now to feed the starving American. 😉

Where the hell are my slides?

Here I am, about to lead off my panel with a presentation entitled “let’s Pretend,” which covers the first stage of my research on Facebook. I argue that the risk of transgression that is built into Facebook, and in particular into certain applications and into the way users appropriate those applications in order to communicate in ways other than intended, foster a playful atmosphere and make the site more attractive.

I look so serious because I have had my laptop for only a couple of days and I can’t remember where the hell I put the presentation slides. 😛 Lucky you; they can now be found here. [Thanks to Scribd, which is the easiest site I’ve seen for sharing files of all kinds–not like GoogleDocs for editing, just for sharing, plus with some social network and archiving kind of stuff built in. It seems cool.]

It was a good panel though and felt more coherent than many of the other internet/web/new media panels. And we had discussion that ran over the break and into the next panel which was rude of us, but also signals a good panel. 😉

Internet or Digital Culture?

After attending a number of panels and the “birds-of-a-feather” meeting for people interested in Internet and Digital Culture, I was puzzled to see what difference there was between either category, apart from merely organizational. For this year’s PCA/ACA conference, the call for the Digital Culture Area was focused on the “mainstreams/undercurrents”, and so on, while the Internet Culture Area was open to anything. And both areas were plagued by incoherence in panels, though the Digital Culture Area seemed to have better luck on this. During the B0F meeting we talked about how more coherence might be achieved, but people seemed reluctant to ask authors to choose keywords, but some were willing to support panel calls. Privately I heard many people (not just in this area) agree that the real trouble was that paper quality is often so spotty at the PCA/ACA. I’m afraid I have to agree; it’s a fun conference, but it does feel like almost anyone can get in.

I say this in part because I’ve heard so many presenters reveal it’s their first conference ever, and the presentations lean heavily toward “hey, I found this, isn’t it cool?” Theory is rarely mentioned, nor is most work contextualized in terms of other scholarship. I noticed this especially when I went to a panel in the Composition/Rhetoric Area that was all about New Media in the classroom. (Or so the panel title claimed). What I found was a number of papers rehashing concern about computers in the writing classroom, but without taking up specifics or referencing recent work about blogs or wikis, or about the easy ways to bring media in–cell-phone cameras, for example, or using to help students learn about researching online.

So seeing all this led me to submit an abstract to next year’s MLA convention for a roundtable organized by Henry Turner called “What in the World is New Media.” I feel scholarship on this continues to be ridiculously fragmented and this is caused in part by the continued segregation of New Media studies to specialized departments and curricula. So I’ll post my abstract in a few days.

Fun at the PCA

Well, a quick update on the conference and I’ll write more later. Before attending anything I met up with David Silver who runs the RCCS and we share coffee and what turned out to be my nearest thing to lunch.

David’s even nicer (and much taller 🙂 )in person than online and it was a very pleasant chat out in the sun, in a little park near the Moscone Center. We talked a little about our projects and about the state of research on new media/ICT/Internet and Digital culture–how ever you want to call it. We agreed that work in the US is more fragmented than in Europe, and the lack of much public funding has given it a very different tone. More on that later.

Then I went to the conference where of course I trawled through the book exhibit, went to few panels than planned, drank too much coffee, and met some interesting people. As I said, details to come, but now once more into the breach!

Research news, conferences, etc.

So let’s see; I just got accepted to IFIP WG 9.5 International Working Conference on Virtuality and Society: Massive Virtual Communities, which is the 1st and 2nd of July, 2008 at Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany. I’m glad of that; I hear the group and the people involved are well regarded and there is a book planned, so that may guarantee me another chapter by the time my tenure review rolls around. I guess the nearest big city is Hamburg–I’ve never been anywhere in Germany yet, so actually anywhere will be interesting! I think it’s within reach, by train, of Rotterdam, so I can fit it into my other research pretty easily.

This summer I plan to interview Florian, Mirko, Brenno; some museum folk, and see if I can volunteer at Worm, make a site visit to U. Utrecht, U. Twente, and follow up on the email interviews I’m conducting already. –Of course I talk about new media and tech stuff with Florian, Mirko and Brenno anyway, but I need to do formal interviews to make sure that I get some comparable answers among all of them. Oh yeah, I also want to talk to the women at Gender Changers.

And, if my panel proposals get since at least one panel proposal has been accepted to IR 9.0, I need to work on that some. And there’s the SFRA Europe plan…..oy veh. Overbooked again.

Katynka Martinez

Katynka Martinez
Originally uploaded by cuuixsilver

Katynka gave a really interesting talk about a project in which high school students made their own versions of the Pac Man game that reflected their own neighborhoods and experience. One was called El Imigrante in which Carlos Jesus Imigrante is pursued around town by minutemen. If they catch him he’s deported, if he wins he gets a green card.

In another game, neighborhood kids collect up loose change while being pursued by neighborhood drunks. If they collect enough, they can buy a toy, but if the bums get the change, they can go to the liquor store for beer.

I wish we’d had more time to talk about interpretations of the different games, and also how they engaged with games like the recent (and really racist) Border Patrol game. But it was a cools talk and it really resonated with what we know about the lives of our own students.

Also, that Border Patrol game is creepily similar to a game popular in Switzerland that Mirko reported recently. In that game, the object is to get rid of the black sheep–but the Border Patrol game is really much worse because (like in the Ethnic Cleansing game) you win by blowing away Mexicans, including women and children, and seeing the blood splatter. Sometimes I’m repelled that creativity and hatred seem not to be mutually exclusive which somehow I feel they should be. Not that this would make sense, but somehow just I think it’s the way things should work.

Mikhail Alexseev speaking on "Russia: Challenges to the Post-Imperial Migration State"

Finally things seem to have settled into some kind of groove. We have had dinner, we have had drinks, and now our first plenary has begun. I’ve had some time to speak with Mikhail over dinner–very pleasant fellow, and very sharp on these issues.

Some highlights– that as the Russian empire expanded, it’s diversity expanded as well, because the empire absorbed many non-Russian groups. At the time, it was not perceived as threatening because power increased with that expansion. But now, Russia is very diverse, and the empire is no longer so powerful. Finally, right now Russian birth and death rates are such that even in the best case, the need to attract and absorb about 35,000,000 immigrants to maintain the existing population levels of about 140,000,000.

Ok, that wasn’t final–also, the ratio of ethnic Russians to other ethnicities inside Russia is shrinking already. Migrants are now coming from former Soviet Republics, and Russia has to deal with the spread of Islam and territorial vulnerability. And, most people when surveyed, would overwhelmingly prefer that the migrant populations were reduced.

Pictorial ethnic cleansing–kids, here is is the house of a Cossack; find the alien objects in the house and cross them out. This is a contemporary textbook aimed ad elementary school kids. (Cossacks were border guards, not quite, but almost vigilantes).

So the current context leads to quite serious tensions between ethnic Russians and other populations inside Russia, and Putin has made it very difficult for any immigrants to enter Russia, other than those from former Soviet Republics. Further, extremely high levels f latent xenophobia–well over 50% think all immigrants, legal or illegal, and their children, should be deported.

In sum:

  • Post-Soviet Russia changed rapidly from an empire to a global migration state, but institutions have lagged behind.
  • The Russian Imperial legacy, changing demographics, and migration challenge Russian identity and raise the threat of communal violence
  • Short-term restrictionist policies responding to these challenges have deep roots in the imperial identity and legacy, but they undermine Russia’s current and future status as a great power.

Great talk!

And a settled panel schedule becomes a moving target

Ok, I know people have personal situations that come up, but this week we have received cancellations from about five people who just last week were saying how much they looked forward to meeting us. Grrr. But it’s ok, we juggled everything, the show has gone on. But now we are having issues over the alcohol and I really don’t see how we can have dinner without drinks…I mean come on, we are all grown ups, we’ve traveled far, worked hard to present good papers. Anyway, I will not be sad to shed the hat of conference co-chair.

And because I’ve been running round like a maniac trying, along with Betsy, the other chair, to settle this stuff, I’ve hardly had a chance to hear any of the talks. So that’s a bit disappointing, though I have at least gotten to meet and chat with many of our speakers. The worst aspect is the finances–the school just doesn’t have much funding to support this kind of thing; they want us to raise our profile, but that costs money!

So yeah, lots of fun…