Recently, I stumbled across the article, What if Interactivity is the New Passivity? by Jonathan Sterne at McGill University. It is the sort of media theory stuff that I suspect many of my friends looking at how to monetize their social media activity tend not to read. It builds on the criticism of people passively consuming broadcast media, and asks if the interactions that we have now, liking pages, following friends, maybe even retweeting, or playing a game in Facebook, is really all that different than people watching television a generation ago.
It is an interesting question, and my thoughts quickly drifted to 1984, “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles”, or at least with those who are engaged in social media. Yes, I feel the ghost of Marshall McLuhan standing over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, “the medium is the message”.
Yet, perhaps, McLuhan isn’t all that far off. Perhaps what Sterne is saying is that interactivity, at least in terms of Slacktivists signing online petitions, isn’t really that much warmer of a medium than people a generation ago cursing at the news on the television.
Perhaps, the new, passive interactivity, reflects an even older idea; Henry David Thoreau’s “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. That paragraph, goes on to say, “A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.”
So, how do we transcend this desperate slacktivists passive interactivity? Sterne’s article starts off by talking about Malcolm Bull’s essay, “Where Is the Anti-Nietzsche?” Perhaps there is more of a relationship between these questions than the analogy that Sterne suggests. However, that should probably stand as a blog post on its own.
I finally got a chance to watch the next lecture in the Yale Theory of Literature online course. During the lecture, Professor Fry makes a reference to an autodidact in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. The word jumped out at me since my viewing of these lectures is autodidactic. In fact, part of what has always drawn me to the Internet has been the great potential for autodidacticism. I always enjoyed searching out content that I could glean some new knowledge from. Perhaps it is part of an older form of autodidacticism, my love of wandering in libraries, randomly selecting articles in encyclopedias to read and similar pursuits.
Later, I started reading an essay by Hans-Georg Gadamer about hermeneutics. Yet between some undiagnosed ADD and simply being tired from a long day of work, I couldn't sink my teeth into the essay. So, I resumed my wandering autodidacticism. After all, how does hermeneutics relate to my work as a social media manager, blogger, father, husband activist or aspiring writer?
I briefly looked at some of the RSAnimate videos on YouTube, yet that was still a little too close to the thoughts about hermeneutics. Where could I learn new signifiers and gather new thoughts and ideas to weave together into something of my own.
I spent a little time thinking about mind-bending films, and perhaps I'll spend some more time watching some of them sometime soon. However, with the day almost over, I wanted something quicker to engross myself in. So, I found some Haim June Paik videos on YouTube. This led me to some Phillip Glass, and from there I was off into other experimental videos.
I'm not sure how where this leads to next or how it will all come together, but it did give me pause to think about my interactions on various social media sites. How are they feeding my autodidacticism? What do I really get out of the interactions? And what to the people that read me get out of it?
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for jouissance, l’objet petit a.
The words of Emerson, Ginsburg and Lacan rattle around in my mind as I confront the blank page of a blog post yet to be written and the discussions on Facebook of my high school class mates from over a billion seconds ago.
One of them wrote, “Is anyone (else) having any sort of mid life crisis?” and we all shared stories of the difficulties we’ve faced, the broken marriages, bankruptcies, frustrations with our careers, and other struggles that those of us who have crossed the half century line have confronted.
In another post, there was a mention of a play a bunch of us had been in back in high school.
You see, she was gonna be an actress
And I was gonna learn to fly.
Well, I did take flying lessons in the years between high school and where I am now and I sure my classmates have had their successes as well, but
Dreams have lost some grandeur coming true.
Ah yes, grandeur. I always used to talk not about having delusions of grandeur, but aspirations of grandeur. I still dream of writing the next great American novel.
I’ve often been told that you should only write what you know about, so until I get ready to write that great American novel, I guess I have to live out parts of it. Yet maybe, that is the best we can do, live our lives as if we are living the great American novel.
It is great to be back in touch with some of the characters from the early chapters and to wonder what the next chapter brings.
Why are our schools failing? It is a popular question these days and too often people point at the teachers. They too rarely look at school administrators and I think the whole #teamtate fiasco is a good illustration of where administrators are failing.
Let me start off by laying out the story, at least as I understand it. James Tate, a senior at Shelton High School came up with a great way of asking a girl to the prom. He posted giant cardboard letters on the school. At least as I am hearing the story from the school administration’s perspective, this involved trespassing on school property after dark. This was grounds for a one day suspension, and any student who has been suspended cannot participate in other school activities. The rules are very clear. James Tate cannot go to the prom.
The rules are there for a reason and should not be altered, the argument goes. Else, you may head down a slippery slope. Someone else might do something destructive and since the rules were bent once would argue they should be bent again. It all makes perfect sense in a black and white world with no room for shades of grey, let alone anything colorful.
It may be that we are moving towards such a world. It turns school administrators into automatons applying the rules, without any critical thinking. Yet isn’t critical thinking an important skill our schools are supposed to be teaching? Is critical thinking something taught by rote? Learn the rules. Apply them. Do not attempt to be creative.
No, if our schools are going to stop failing, they need to move away from this black and white thinking. They need to celebrate creativity.
So, perhaps the students at Shelton High School need to study The Merchant of Venice. Perhaps they could even stage an adaptation with Shelton High School Headmaster Beth Smith taking the role of Shylock, James Tate taking the role of Antonio, and Sonali Rodrigues playing the role of Portia.
Yes, Shylock Smith is entitled to take a pound of flesh from Antonio Tate.
but, in the cutting it, if she dost shed
One drop of Tate’s blood, her lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Connecticut, confiscate
Unto the state of Connecticut.
Already the Mayor of Shelton and the Governor of Connecticut have lined up on the side of Tate and if we read The Merchant of Venice further, we will see that perhaps Shylock Smith will need to be seeking mercy from Duke Dannell. Will someone find such a creative solution to this current mess to help Shelton and Connecticut recover from the damage that Shylock Smith is doing to the city and the state? Let us hope so. Let us hope that this can be a reminder to all of us about the importance of celebrating creativity, even if it requires rethinking and even bending rules sometimes.
Yesterday was the Annual Amity Budget Referendum. Only 471 people from Woodbridge turned out to vote out of a total of 1412 people across the school district. While this was a disappointing result, it was only 16 less people from Woodbridge than the year before, and only 26 less for all of the three towns.
The individual numbers weren’t really all that different in Woodbridge either. There was a slight movement against the budget in Woodbridge this year with 23 less people voting for the budget and 7 more people voting against it.
Bethany actually saw six more people vote in 2011 than they saw in 2010. Fifteen less people voted for the budget and twenty-one more people voted for it.
Orange saw the biggest changes. Overall they only had sixteen less people voting. However, because of the increase in the number of students from Orange at Amity, they will be hit harder than the other towns in terms of the budget. This resulted in 95 less people voting for the budget and and 79 more people voting against the budget.
As people hung around the Center in Woodbridge waiting for the polls to close some suggested that the issue in Orange is a belief that they could build their way out of a financial problem. The problem with building more houses is that more people live in the houses and it costs more to provide services to these people, such as the cost of educating the children in these new houses.
Another interesting tidbit came up. I did not know that you did not have to be registered to vote in the budget. Besides registered voters, U.S. Citizens who are listed on the property tax rolls as having at least $1000 worth of property in town can vote. One person showed up in Woodbridge who was not registered, was a property holder, but it turns out was not a U.S. citizen and because of this didn’t end up getting to vote.
With that, here are the results for last year and this year:
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)