Media

Media

The Third Gender and the Fourth Estate

Can a writer effectively compose a first person narrative story but from voice of their opposite gender?

There are a lot of interesting questions people struggle with in the NaNoWriMo Facebook group, and this is just one of them. Most of the responses are fairly predictable. "Yes… I can…I'm told they're accurate, too, from my male readers….There is more difference within genders than between…."

The discussion drifts off to sexuality.

I added my two cents with

Wow! I came at this from a very different perspective than most of the other people on this thread. My first thought was, "It all depends on whether you are cis or trans".

This, of course, led me to thinking about gender being socially constructed. If we are creating new worlds, we can also create gender constructs as we please.

I wonder how many of the forum participants get the reference to "cis or trans" or "gender as a social construct".

On Wednesdays, I speak with my eldest daughter who is teaching in Japan these days. Recently, she went to a conference on gender equality there. During our discussion of her experiences, I mentioned an interview I had recently listened to where the speaker identified herself as being in a third gender. She was a western woman in a strongly patriarchal Muslim country. In the country, there were acceptable roles for men and for women. Yet, she, as a western woman, could participate in activities traditionally reserved for men as well as in activities traditionally reserved for women.

My daughters and I often speak about social constructionism and I've been planning to weave the idea into my novel for NaNoWriMo. As my mind wanders along this path, I bump into the Constructivism philosophy of education, and I start thinking about social constructivism. Writing a novel is a great opportunity to experiment with challenging social constructs. How do writers create or reinforce social constructs? What role does the fourth estate play in shaping the third gender?

I must admit I've always had problems getting past Orlando "slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters". Yet the idea of Virginia Woolf's Orlando has alway intrigued me. At this point, I don't expect to have an Orlando like character in my novel, but we shall see.

Still, Dave Rises

The other night a solitary black man, trying to do his job was attacked by a group of drunk white college aged boys. He knew what he needed to do to finish his job. He faced them down from as safe a distance as he could. He smoked a cigarette, read a little bit from a book and bided his time.

As soon as his time was up, and the minimum requirements of his job was fulfilled, he beat a quick retreat.

The entertainment press went wild. Those who profit over the rude behavior of concert-goers wrote about his 'hissy fit' saying he had a melt down.

There is a great section in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Thompson talks about being chased by a highway cop for speeding. He goes into a great description of driving like hell when chased, and stopping with bravado. The cop won't like it, he may even pull his gun, but you'll know and he'll know who was in control.

Yeah, Dave Chappelle had a melt down, right! Just like Hunter S. Thompson speeding to L.A. If I smoked cigarettes right now, I'd take a drag and look contemptuously at the crowd.

No, the people who had the melt down were the privileged drunk white boys and the leaches in the entertainment industry that make a buck off of them.

Probably the same leaches that used a fabricated child star, gave her a raunchy ill conceived and ill performed rip off of part of black culture. It is probably the same leaches that got all upset when we talked about how bad the performance was and how it only adds to sexism, racism, and the degradation and objectification of certain groups of people, instead of focusing on some other drama we have control over, like Syria.

No, from what I'm reading, Dave Chappelle's performance in Hartford was a masterpiece, long over due. it was John Cage's 4'33" performed in a not-so-post-racial twenty-first century in a large venue. Listen to the sound of the audience today. It was Martin Luther King's speech reworked to be a commentary on discourse and hecklers in the age of social media. I have a dream that thinkers, both great and small will not be heckled off the stage in Hartford, or online, or in high schools because they look different and say challenging things. It was a eulogy for Bart, the 15 year old boy who was heckled and bullied to death in Greenwich Connecticut.

Yet Dave Chappelle's exit from the stage also echoed a hopeful note. Like Maya Angelou, still Dave Chappelle rises

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

The first reports I'm hearing online this evening is that Chappelle killed it in Pittsburgh this evening.

The EPIC New Facebook Newsfeed

The ‘Evolving Personalized Information Construct’ is the system by which our sprawling, chaotic mediascape is filtered, ordered and delivered. Everyone contributes now – from blog entries, to phone-cam images, to video reports, to full investigations.

Recently, I introduced a colleague to EPIC: The Evolving Personalized Information Construct. It was a video made in 2004 about the future of journalism.

It talked about the importance of things like eReaders and video, not quite getting the details right, but predicting a lot of what has happened over the past decade. For example, it suggested that Google would buy TiVo to corner the online video market. Instead, they bought YouTube. It suggested that Sony's ePaper would become the medium of choice, instead of mobile devices. And, it suggested that the challenge to Google would be from Microsoft having bought out Friendster, instead of Facebook becoming the 'social news network and participatory journalism platform [that] … ranks and sorts news, based on what each user’s friends and colleagues are reading and viewing and it allows everyone to comment on what they see.'

They also suggested that the evolving personalized information construct would be Google's and not Facebook's.

I thought of that video today as I listened to the announcement of the new Facebook newsfeed. In fact, during the presentation, Mark Zuckerberg even used the world evolving numerous times.

The creators of Epic challenged us, nearly a decade ago, to think about what happens to journalism in the age of social media. Perhaps, they merely scratched the surface.

Rethinking the Borg

Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting article, A Brain-to-Brain Interface for Real-Time Sharing of Sensorimotor Information. It goes into detail about how a sensor was connected to one rat's brain, and the experiences were transmitted, over the internet, to another rat who learned from the experiences of the first rat.

My science fiction enthusiastic brain went wild thinking about the possibilities. While the starting point is with sensorimotor information, I wondered what else could be transmitted. While the starting point was rats, I wondered what could be done with humans, or even, interspecies communications. What would it be like to experience the sensorimotor feelings of a horse galloping? Could this information be stored and played at a later time, perhaps as an educational tool? Could I become a better pianist or guitarist by playing back sensorimotor recordings of great performers? Could this be added to albums, so I could not only listen to a great performance, but experience the sensory feelings of the performer during the performance?

And what about the use in dealing with conditions like Parkinson's disease or Essential Tremors: Could a researcher gain insight by playing back the sensorimotor recording of a person with these conditions? Could playing back the sensorimotor recordings of healthy people provide some sort of therapy for people with these conditions?

All of this, of course, is precursor to The Borg. What happens as people become more connected to a collective mind? The borg is portrayed negatively in terms of force assimilation, yet our society has always been based on collective experiences and action. The struggle between individual experience and collective experience is an age old struggle.

Last night, I went to see The Indigo Girls in concert in Northampton with my daughter who started her college career in Virginia. It was striking to think about the collective experience of young women around Northampton and how it compared with the collective experience of some of my daughter's classmates from the south. I wondered how many of my daughter's classmates sought to flee their southern collectives, not for more individuality, per se, but to join a collective that was more tolerant, more embracing of their individual experiences.

I remember, many years ago, gathering around a campfire, to sing songs. Singing around campfires is one of the earliest ways in which experiences were shared, in which the collective spread its common ideas. Yet even two decades ago, around the campfire, different modes of collective engagement were creeping in. Many of the songs we knew, we had learned on the radio, and not around previous campfires. The campfire itself, was most likely started using the remains of another way of sharing collective information, used newspapers. We shared our experiences from around the campfire when we returned to our homes and spoke with friends.

Last night, the individuals who had this shared experience had gained collective information other ways. They had listened to music online, perhaps sharing it online. The newspapers were largely replaced by sharing of news online. Perhaps the most striking change was the way the collective experience of the concert was shared. During the concert, people texted their friends. They called friends from their cellphones so their friends could listen in, or to leave a brief recording of the experience on their friends voicemail. Photographs and videos were taken, and I imagine, shared via social media.

As far as I know, no one had implements allowing them to have the same sensorimotor experiences as Amy Ray or Emily Saliers, yet this omission did not seem to lesson the very strong bond between the audience and the performers.

Progress marches onward and some day, perhaps, we will look back at how we have shared common experiences via pictures, sound recordings or the written word, as being as quaint as the gathering around the campfire many generations before. Yet we would do well to remember the words of John Donne, "No man is an island" and that each one of us should say, "For I am involved in mankind".

Thinking About Conversations.

This afternoon, I read a blog post by David Weinberg, Are all good conversations echo chambers?. He was discussing a blog post by Bora Zivkovic, Commenting threads: good, bad, or not at all. They are both very good blog posts, well worth the read.

David spends a bit of time at the end of his post talking about theories of communication. In particular, David says

I presume that such a theory would include the notion... that conversations have aims, and that when a conversation is open to the entire world … those aims should be explicitly stated

When I talk to people about social media, I often talk about the aim. When doing social media for an organization, it is important to stay on task and make sure that the communications are inline with the organizations mission. Another key aspect to talk about is audience. Who are you communicating with? This includes understanding the motivations and abilities of your interlocutors.

On the other hand, I often talk about social media as a conversation at a party, or perhaps even at the office. It is one of the reasons I like tweets about what people had for breakfast. When I run into a friend, whether it be at work, at a conference, or wherever, I don't start off immediately with the topic I want to discuss. If I see David tomorrow, I'll probably start off by talking about how it's been a long time since I've seen him. Ask how things are going, maybe tell him a little bit about what has been going on in my life, before getting around to discussing his latest blog post.

Now you could say that part of the aim of such repartee is to strengthen rapport be the the participants. That is an aim of the beginning of a conversation. Yet it illustrates that the aim of a conversation may be very broad based and fluid.

Likewise, what is the aim of discussions around the dinner table? At the Hynes household discussions can be very wide-ranging. The aim of the discussions are perhaps primarily about having fun and enjoying one another's company. But there can be subservient aims, like learning something new or stimulating creativity.

I think this may fit into the research that Bora is writing about. The tone of the discussion in comments communicates the emerging aim of the comments. It may be for the sheer joy of flaming or troll baiting. It may be for the joy of learning something new or sparking creativity. Depending on how the comments are approached, the emerging aim may end up being closely in line with the aim of the person who wrote the blog post or vastly divergent.

With this, I want to come back to David's concern about echo chambers. It is why I've been talking about the roles of learning and creativity. Echo chambers seem to reinforce already established views as opposed to being an opportunity for learning or creativity. I'm not sure I know exactly what produces creativity, but it has always seemed to come from when very different ideas collide. We have some wonderful collisions like this around the dinner table, but I've rarely seen such collisions in echo chambers.

Will these ideas collide with those of David or Bora in any interesting way? That would be wonderful. If not, the simple joy of reconnecting virtually with some old friends might be a sufficient aim.

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