"given the dissolution of all static structures, whether they be economic, political, or physical, into sprawl, how do we create moments of coherence? specifically, how do we create better
i used to keep a daily journal online.
the sfmoma asked me to be on a panel of lots of different types of folks talkin' 'bout "new media, new landscapes." (i'm excited cuz they might fly me near to my amy in late february).
it durn near killt me.
jan 25 marjorie's birthday
wednesday, i discovered that i can't hold open a book.
thursday, i found it hurts to handwrite.
thanks, god bless, and love to my momma, i will continue as a student with paid help from friends like
becky, who was sent from god with a silver smile, helped me type this today:
1. spaces of community, 2. interfaces 3. seductive narratives, 4. icons or magnets of meanings?"
most of my young friends engage their communities through computer mediation. this is bound only to increase. for those moments they are engaging their peers, coherence can and should be increased and sustained through better integration of broader aspects of the person into the computer communication experience. this starts with a whole body approach to interface. i want to boogie my bits. i want to shake my hips and stomp my feet and break a sweat while i am talking to my friends through the computer. both as a sufferer of repetitive stress injury and a virile young man, i yearn for more engaging and exercisal means of tapping my brain. this definitely means losing the keyboard and mouse, perhaps in favor of some much more amorphous and or contact-based input devices. i imagine the kind of data symphony that could be conjured by a body in motion to be a far more alluring and sustaining means of communicating through an otherwhise carpal tunneling and sterile medium.
my intitial and successful foray into the web immediately convinced me that personal publishing is the paradigm for the future of a happy cohabited cyberspace. more time mingling since with conversational types has convinced me that some people will host salons, some people will participate in them and some folks will be content to lay on the couches. returning to the interface question, when cyberspace becomes more engulfing and encompassing, the difference between conversation and composition become increasingly irrelevant.
current and future experiments in cybercommunity, along the lines of cyborganic (a cafe where people gather in flesh to sit side to side, plugged in chatting and working), have not conveyed to me much sense of whether those activities of production, creation, conversation, that take place with a computer, belong in "meatspace." transparent technology is the elusive future that my friends frantically paw at on the spacebar, a san francisco multimedia gulch chat bar that has a window open on the desktop of some young twenty-something in any internet startup. these people gossip, cajole, and share relentlessly over the computer for hours during the work day. friendships previously fastened on the factory floor are now silicon cemented through typing. still these same folk gather regularly in real time to take drugs, to drink, to oogle, and to commune. the best example of this (wo)man/machine symbiosis may be ellen steuer, who, not thirty seconds after arriving in her dorm room from a cyborganic thursday nite dinner, was logged onto cyborganic's spacebar, talking with many of the same people about the evening's events. so it is clear that there is neither a total push towards virtuosity nor a sense that pixels failingly lack flesh.
another clear example of this is the spacebar recruiting of boondock geeks - dwellers of the south and midwest and other parts of america unwired who find through telecommunity their kindred spirits. chatting on spacebar, reached through cyborganic's members' homepages, not only leads to a virtual life conducted in online offsite cultural geography, but curiously often leads to relocation and employment in san francisco itself. it is clear that for these folks the sensation of spacebar is one half of the type of converse required for community, one that begs unition with the physical. i can recall what a relief it was for me to log on to chat and find all of my san francisco friends in one place sending text message love my way in the midst of my isolated outpost on a road trip stopover in boulder, colorado. and there are swarthmore students who particpate actively without any left coast alignment, but there would be no spacebar without san francisco or, for dozens of geeks, there would be far less to the bay area without their friends as close as a modem.
where does this leave my less published peers, those members of my generation uncelebrated and unable to find freestyle community/space online? they are slavering over supernintendo and attending schools more and more closely resembling prisons. as we develop barely two-way technology festooned dorm pens, we simultanelously strip public space or otherwise opportunities to congregate. in his book the city of quartz, mike davis acerbicly explores the efforts of civic los angeles to literally stratify society through securing spaces of class comingling such that youths, minorities and other members of the lowest income stata have no choice but to join the consumer cult or act on their aggression. this is the last hurrah of race planning but it is the first blush of pure money power. structures and society may appear more fluid, but often the fluid mixed with mammon is quik-dry cement. it is the assumption of consumption that feeds anomie. i am often struck by the blatant joy and excitement and vitality resulting from comingling of the races; wicker park in chicago has had the coolest colored and caucasion clubs in recent years, similarly, the haight and mission districts of san francisco where blacks, whites, and hispanics offer their low-rent specialties in uncanny colaboration. these are unfortunately not typical niche markets and so they need either to sell themselves to sustain vigor through gentrification or maintain fearsome levels of crime and disease.
the challenge to 21st centurians is to resist the urge to understand, package, and distribute these rare experiences. notice how "underground" on the web has become a generally useless distinction. alternative music on the radio is top 40. kids these days are literally left without honest alternatives and so only creation remains; responsibility and the resulting sense of power. in a world where everything is not only bought, sold, and machine-made, but is marketed to you before you have had a chance to buy the last thing, understanding both craft and design is a means to power. but once that sense is gained, there will be millions of mediates pawing to cover the story of someone who managed to do something original when we thought we'd thunk of everything. the person who can keep her head in the midst of that madness is truly a leader in a society whose structures prohibit passion.
this argument for responsibility media stands allthemoreso for community space. modern urban attemps to create pot-hole parks between towering towers fail as ultimate reminders of our inability to beautify the concrete jungle. i had the opportunity to visit che cafe in san diego, associated with ucsd. i wasn't there when it was open or even when school was in session, but hearing about the punk concerts, vegetarian collaborative cooking, and gazing upon the radical portraiture and murals - it was a place that hummed youth. ask yourselves where in society young people have control of space. where without that control of space will they learn how to manage the world? but their guardians are too afraid of the anger they see because supernintendo can only do so much. young people, and there are ever more of them, are without escape from the segmented structure of sprawl. even if they had the wherewithall to pattern their own rituals, there would be no forest for them. so, they burn and maim and bloody and bond with each other in your streets and hallways and malls. i am at a loss as to whether the sense of open, permission and acceptance granted by wilderness can be replaced with a technology playground to absorb all the raw fire of youth. it must start with trust - trusting youth with tools. you can give them computers as a means to commerce and they will hack your credit cards. it's a good thing i found the virgin web or i would still be doing drugs and vandalizing swarthmore.
i think the crux of 21st century community lies in integrating these seething disparate disenfranchized "minorities"; but if we, whoever the majority is, pretend to know what they want we will be rightfully rebuked and likely burned.
the best thing we can do is give away all of our power. i say "we" meaning those people who conduct cellular lives shifting from power base to power base via jet plane and think nothing of sampling the broad range of beauty today's world has to offer. that access we enjoy starts with education, money, and technology. community spaces of the 21st century must invite those without to come in and steal those things if they must or share them if they want to. i say steal because if we don't invite them to share, we will either end up strangled in a fit of over-consumption or lying crying scrooges stolen from.