Work done, we may now rest

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We were running out of poo bags so I tipped the whole basket of Poppet things on the floor to fish out any that were left straggling.

Poppet, on the other hand, decided to help herself to various balls and toys, take them into the bedroom and work on their annihilation. I didn’t even know she’d be particularly interested in toys indoors any more, but it seems she is.

***

Meanwhile, I have been working hard on getting a PhD proposal in, and managed to hit send one hour before midnight on the day before the deadline. It’s still not perfect, but it looks a lot more like a proposal than the noodly jazz style of writing I started off with.

This is what I ended up with;

Desire Lines – Creating the Sustainable Digital City

In Finland planners are known to visit their
parks immediately after the first snowfall,
when the existing paths are not visible.
People naturally choose desire lines, which
are then clearly indicated by their footprints
and can be used to guide the routing of paths.

Earls Court Project Application 1 | Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Cultural Strategy | June 2011

The concept of digital personhood is of a piece with an ongoing discussion within discourses about ‘what is identity’. We are individuated from others and we identify with others, and in our online groups, as in any subculture, we have ways of expressing who we are within multiple groupings. Unlike physical culture, however, we do this through the ether, using an ever mutating linguistic metre, and through a digitally specific mode of ‘sharing’ (Kleon 2012). We reblog and share everything from political information and mobilization to Lolcat macros and animated gifs rather than, for example, expressing ourselves with dress and going to a particular night club or cafe (Hebdige1979). What is unique to digital identity is it’s location online and it’s freedom from geography and from the embodied self. How that manifests in the digital realm can be as unelaborated as the daily rapport I have with my dad playing Words With Friends (without ever engaging in any kind of conversation) or as proliferated as having continuous dialogues with individuals all over the internet using more than one username each. Over a variety of IFTTT (IF This Then That) pathways, for example you can have your activity under one name show up in a stream you have under another name and host discussions of a single item through various blogging platforms with different audiences. 

One’s own set of digital identities can be confusing as can keeping up with those of our friends. I have been on Facebook long enough now that I have forgotten who I knew primarily from Livejournal, and who else they might know from there until someone from one part of my life comments on someone who feels like they are from another part of my life’s post. I can then have a small moment of having my mind blown that someone I know tangentially from a visit to New York is actually quite friendly with someone who I now know in person who lives in Kirkintilloch, and they don’t know each other through me. 

The virtual world is thus threaded together with lines of code running without much respect for geography. It’s boundaries are elsewhere. Underneath the user interface is the code – what is secret to the user manifests as strongly delineated fields where one may or may not interact. What is given and what is created are in constant flux, and are more or less transparent to us depending on whether we are conversant with, happy with given constrictions, or whether we want to cut across the field.

The coders and content creators of the past decade or so are frontierspeople as well as early adopters. What is interesting to me is that this generation of people are effectively a liminal group – they are people, for instance, who may have learned analogue recording techniques and photographic techniques before digital technology existed and had to work out how to digitize before scanners, digital cameras, and monitors, for instance, were in common use. But it is not just professional artists and developers who interest me, but simply the creativity of everyday life (de Certeau 1980) as manifest online. Oral histories from this group of individuals would constitute a unique archive. The age group I am looking at will be anywhere between 30 and 60 years old right now, and are a distinct group from digital natives largely through having engaged with rapidly emergent and changing technologies. 

The City/The City

Digital culture reveals itself in two ways. First, the ‘hardware’ and it’s real time and real space relationship with buildings, cities, countries, their economies and international relations, and secondly the ‘ghost in the machine’ – how we, ourselves, connect, express ourselves, and maintain social connection through work and leisure online. 

The ‘digital city’ wouldn’t even be possible as a metaphor, were it not for the time we spend there voluntarily. We can ‘work, rest, and play’ online. 

I will argue that the internet already hosts a multitude of cultures beyond the hegemony of Google, Mac and Amazon which posit the ‘user’ merely as ‘customer’. I will use Marx’s theory of Cultural Reproduction and the later developments thereof to show that despite big business and governmental wishes individuals will use the internet and it’s elaborations in surprising ways and to their own ends.

At it’s simplest, Marx says ‘every schoolboy knows’ that any viable culture is only viable if it contains within itself it’s means of reproduction. As in the petri dish, so in society. Further elaborations include Althusser’s ‘ideological state apparatuses’ which show how power reproduces itself, and Bordieu’s more culturally inclined ‘cultural reproduction’ (Jenks: Routledge 1993)

If the internet is a city, then by extension we can use it as a source of extended metaphoricity. Grounded as it is, we can map it, we can look at various ‘boroughs’ we can consider places we work and play there, and we can consider infrastructure – the very brickwork and plumbing it relies on, its’ highways and byways, and its’ social spaces.

We can consider how it mirrors the development of ‘the city’ with the emergence of the coffee house, for instance, and how tea mediated women’s society, and compare these to the social spaces online.

Imagining the internet as a city implies stratification, routedness over rootedness (Gilroy) social mobility, spaces for interactions, all the conveniences and advances of ‘civilized’ life, and like the advent of civilization itself, we are often inventing as we go along.

If this is a city then it has been a gold rush Wild West city but perhaps it is becoming another kind of city, a Soft City (Raban, Harvill Press 1974) a non linear city with direct lines to the past, personal memories and indeed legend itself. It is a city with underground passages, secret codes and worm holes leading us blinking back into the half light of a repurposed town hall for a meeting of Dorkbot. This, then, is a city where we can invent and reinvent ourselves, meeting others who share our interests or online modalities. 

Situated Knowledges/Digital Personhood – Groups and Identity

From the Cartesian selfhood of being human because we are neither machines nor animals, to Haraway’s cyborgs, we have traveled a long road. From the startling inception of the use of the fork at table to using our iPhone to identify a leaf on a ramble, we are human because we are somewhat animal and somewhat machine. If you read through to the end of Pepys’ diary, for instance, you will discover that he did not write his diary all the way to the time of his death, but abandoned it for want of a technology many of us take for granted – eyeglasses. 

All of human life is here, and it uses the technology in whatever way is transparent and useful to their needs. In the event of governmental or brand lockdowns other means are found. Agency flows through the structure stopping only to notice it when it’s annoying and either doesn’t work properly or there is any element of learning to be done. The general fuss whenever Facebook changes something is extraordinary when you consider how little it takes to adapt to a new iteration. 

How, then, do digital technologies mediate self expression, self curation, and perhaps even self deception? I will look at how we define ourselves as individuals separate from ‘the group’ and as part of groups, utilizing interdisciplinary methods from sociology, anthropology, linguistics and literature. Though historical analysis, action research and ethnomethodological epistemologies I propose to study how digital culture might reproduce itself, and how digital personhood is constructed through processes of forming and norming in social spaces online and how restrictions and regulations are mediated by individuals and groups.

***

I wouldn’t have thought of applying for a PhD except for two factors. One was that I was asked to submit, albeit casually (on Twitter, in fact!) As an art/social science kind of person I wouldn’t have thought of applying to something put out by a ‘Faculty of the Built Environment’ anywhere at all, and perhaps even more particularly Heriot Watt, which is a uni I would never have got into as a young thing.

The other reason is one you may be familiar with – the ongoing and increasing duress that people on the ESA are being put under. I’d thought if they sent me to work it’d be fine, because I’d be stretchered out within a couple of days anyway, but it’s not that simple. The whole thing is super stressful – if you read my recent post about half an hour spent at Reed then you will know that I can’t deal with this kind of stress very well, and it’s set to increase.

A recent Panorama docco, The Great Disability Scam investigated the companies carrying out the ‘work’ for the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) highlighting these firm’s policy of cream and park. A spokesman for the DWP said this;

…which is not how the private companies commissioned to roll out “support” are doing it.

currently too ill to work – not something they give any quarter to.

the right support- yeah, right. These companies are staffed by sales staff. They are not specialists.

when they are well enough - from April we will be treated as jobseekers, with all the proving you are seeking work and appointments that that entails.

gradually – we are being pressured into taking a self employment route which will be supported for one year if taken before April.

One of the firms employing these functionaries was ratted out by an ex employee who told Panorama  “Triage call their disabled clients LTBs (lying, thieving bastards)” It is interesting to observe that in order to dehumanize their clients enough to justify their cruelty the Triage ‘workers’ employ hate speech.

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”
― Primo Levi

Were I to be accepted for the PhD it would take me out of this war of hatred against the vulnerable for three years. At least if I got the thing, if things are as bad in three years time I can insist on them calling me Doctor.

In Which I Speak All the Languages

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Monday, November 26, 2012
Do you speak more than one language?  How did you learn the additional languages?

When I was a teenager I hitch hiked to Italy and Spain. I was a typical shy kid – I found the challenge of foreign language totally intimidating and I only remember having one conversation on either of those trips, and that was while my friend was asleep, talking french with an Italian. We were both speaking in a second language so both spoke very slowly and simply. I enjoyed it a lot, but it didn’t really encourage me – I thought that real language acquisition would be too difficult ever to manage properly.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. A friend suggested we go to Spain for a holiday. She could speak some spanish but was rather shy. I crowdsourced on Facebook, and came up with a fail-safe lexicon;

bano (bathroom).

I figured that if I remembered that one word I could happily mime everything else. This resulted in me doing a lot of the ‘talking’. My shyness long gone, I felt that if I didn’t have to mime going to the toilet, then what was to worry about? I enjoyed my ‘conversations’ and felt rather proud of myself. I did pick up jamón because after pointing at enough breakfasts I liked the look of it seemed that saying ‘ham’ was enough to get you the good local grub.

Like everyone in the UK I believe I have some apprehension of american english. We get enough US telly, americans visit here, what’s not to know? Imagine my shock when I first arrived at New York’s airport. I got my passport out and stood in line. When it was my turn the immigration guy said “alakyahatt”. Well, I was quite intimidated – a man in uniform saying something unintelligible to me at immigration, this couldn’t be good news, could it?

This was when I discovered I had an inner Julie Andrews. I said “I beg your pardon?”

“alakyahatt”

(speaking louder and slower – this is what brits do to foreigners) “I’m terribly sorry? Could you repeat that?” (becoming increasingly panicky)

i’m terribly sorry?

This went on for what must have been seconds but I experienced it somewhat differently.

“Oh! You like my HAT! Thank you!”

Well, that was me, as you lot say “schooled”.

Since then I have come to realize that not only does one not know american dialect just from watching TV and films, but also there are key linguistic differences which must be adhered to if you want to communicate. Unless you want to resort to mime.

***

A few years ago I went to Berlin to have an operation. I went on my own, and I relied entirely on german learned over one year, I think it was, at school. Given the fact that I had perfected the art of staring out of the window and imagining survival strategies in the event of an apocalypse. This was inspired by and helped along by BBC’s Survivors. The 70′s original was remade recently so any mini-me people would be well catered for even if there weren’t a glut of such programming. We now know not only what to do and what not to do in the event of a pandemic, but also what to do if everyone gets all undead on us. Excellent.

As an added bonus I know someone in the modern version, so I can say “Look at friend! Isn’t s/he clever!” as well as gleaning survival tips.

Anyway, back to the german. What I have learned from my interest in the english language is that while english is made up of hundreds of languages the vast bulk of it comes from german and french. This is from when toffs spoke french and peasants spoke german. Hence bœuf (on the table, you see) becomes BEEF, while cow, in the field is kuh. What happened, therefore, was that I could speak a fair amount of “german” but was left stranded when I needed a word I didn’t know but which in english is french in origin.

I enjoyed butchering german, and when the taxi driver dropped me off at the airport I said Auf Wiedersehen. Germans seem to like to pretend they don’t know any english, but they watch a lot of the same telly as we do, though most of it is dubbed, but pop songs aren’t.

He replied “So long!”

***

I hadn’t been to France since hitching through as a teenager when my brother and I went with my dad on a trip to see the relics and graves at the Somme. My dad wasn’t being a history buff, he believed he might see the grave of his uncle who had been killed in WW1. This was never going to happen, since the kind of war that that was ensured that everyone and everything got mashed in together. Indeed, two raised areas of ground were known at the time as “Sausage and Mash” and not because that’s where you’d get a hearty meal.

Anyway, talking of hearty meals, we may have eaten the worst meal in France that night, so by the time we were let loose in a small town for lunch my brother and I were grimly determined to eat something nice. The tour guide opted for a liquid lunch, and it seemed everyone else was joining them. We had a look round and there was nothing open – it was a sunday. We spotted, however, an hotel, which seemed to be starting to seat people. While the french would be spending the afternoon eating we had less than an hour. This required advanced french – in short, this required begging.

Happily, french is the one language I can speak in sentences in, and can hooch together make-like phrases well enough to be understood. Considering children in the UK started learning french in primary school, you’d think this would be perfectly a perfectly reasonable thing, but let me tell you, as much as the french don’t want to learn english, we resist learning french, and I was speaking like a HERO.

I looked at the menu and chose what I wanted and my brother and dad agreed to have the same. I asked the waitress if we could have it within an hour and she was totally scandalized and said “Non”. She conceded that we could have the main course but nothing else. I agreed. Then something magical happend – between her and the chef some quick work was turned around and she excitedly announced that we had time for starters before our main. Wonderful! Heaped with gratitude she dashed off and brought us starters. As soon as we’d finished those the mains arrived, and towards the end of the meal, she told us that we would have time for dessert as well.

Our feast was only marred by one thing. Since I do not cook rabbit I do rather like to have it if it’s on a menu. Our mains comprised of rabbit in prune sauce. My dad asked what we were eating and I told him. He balefully told us that his stepfather had killed his pet rabbit during the war.

I bet it was delicious.

***

And finally! I do not speak any Scanwedgian language, but like the rest of the UK I have lapped up Wallander in swedish with subs, The Killing, in danish, Borgen in swedish and danish, and recently I have enjoyed Lilyhammer in english and norwegian. I’ve also seen many nordic films over the years. Although there are plenty english loan words in use there is also something else going on. I would never have thought that spending my formative years in Scotland would have been of much use to me apart from giving me a rather crisp classless accent, but I was wrong. Dear reader, there are quite a few words and expressions which these languages share with lowland scots. It is very exciting to the ear.

It is also useful to have lowland scots for Scrabble and Words With Friends.

Tears and Anger, Cancer, Pinkification, and Death

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Thursday, November 22, 2012
When was the last time that you cried?  Why?

I don’t cry often. This is not because I am a hard hearted shell of a person, but for a very good practical reason – if I cry more than a couple of sneaky tears then I will get a three day medication resistant migraine. Such a migraine is worth remaining dry eyed about. This means that I don’t cry if I feel sorry for myself if I can possibly help it, and I only allow those tiny sneaky tears to slither out if a film, for instance has been very moving.

The last time I cried real tears was, however, fairly recently. For some reason an entire bunch of friends and friends of friends have died this year. I still delude myself that I am quite young most of the time, but maybe 50 is an age where these things accelerate? I don’t know. Maybe it was coincidence.

Whatever it was this wasn’t the first, but, for me, it was the worst. Not only was this person a close friend for a couple of decades, but, quite horribly, she had fallen out with me and we hadn’t spoken in a few years.

It was news to me, then, that she’d spent the past year living and dying with cancer.

Social media has it’s place in mourning. The death earlier this year of Tutu Tedder was metabolized by many of us through Facebook – we shared stories, we consoled each other. Then again, we had known she was dying for a fair while, and we also knew that she wanted to share her cause – against the ‘pinkification’ of cancer with as wide an audience as possible, so she died something of a public figure. Her girlfriend has chosen not to delete the account, so I periodically get suggestions from Words With Friends that I could ask her to play with me. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

tutu pictured on a ‘cancer sucks’ t shirt. click through the image to find out more

This was different, though. My friend had fallen out with me BF - before Facebook, so I wasn’t friended by default to her (I am nominally friends with a few people who it would be awkward to actually talk to, but I’m guessing you know how things are on there, it’s entirely possible to ignore someone or be ignored for indefinite periods of time).

I’d been up in Norfolk with an ex of hers, and I hadn’t even been online yet – I’d just got home and was communing with Poppet and faffing around. My friend called me in tears and told me the news – she’d read it on Facebook. Over the next few days I heard similar stories from people who, like me, didn’t know she was seriously ill, but who were friended to her and kept seeing odd things posted to her wall… with the growing realization that these things were not bad taste jokes but references to her death.

And almost immediately it was her funeral. Her family had come over and it had been arranged for the coming friday. It was going to be a trek, so Ten came with me, basically because I need shepherding – I get very tired and can’t manage travel alone. Along the road we met up with my best friend (I get to call her that, because we were best friends from school – I am not one of those creepy adults who go around best friending people willy nilly). We were a bit late, so we went straight in. Because we were late, and the place was crowded out, my friend and I were shown  up to a balcony floor. Not having seats we went down to the  front and crouched down. We held hands and little tears slid down our cheeks. When her sister spoke it was pretty unbearable.

But then the clincher. A mutual friend who is basically an emotion conductor crept down behind us and put her arms round us and she was BAWLING. This did not bode well for my stoicism.

You’ll have noticed that I am not naming names. First of all, there was the issue of the falling out, and second of all, while Tutu wanted people to know about her struggle and death it is evident from her behaviour that my other friend did not. I cannot know what she thought of ‘pinkification’ since I didn’t have the opportunity to see her before she died.

The sickly pink ‘awareness’ campaigns do not, however, save lives. By coincidence another friend of mine wrote a piece recently as a guest blog entitled Light the Pink Touchpaper and Stand Well Back. In the post @louisebolotin gives voice to a number of us who are fed up with being told that awareness involves wearing pink crap and equates to great strides in cancer cure. It doesn’t and it doesn’t.

I was sad to lose a friend who might never have spoken to me again in her life were she to have lived. She was an asset to this world. She  was a bright spark and a wit and a super intelligent. And I am angry on behalf of everyone who went through both of these women’s horrible terminal year with them.

No amount of ribbons or bunnies make up for their loss.

Thoughts on Prompts and Pictures of the Tiger Worm Hotel

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Now that I’m back on the blogging trail, and now that I have done some serious worm hotel construction and had my bath, my mind turns to what to blog about today. During my mega migraine bonanza I missed a whole week of prompts for NaBloPoMo. Lets see what they would have been…

Monday, November 5, 2012

What are your thoughts about tomorrow’s election in the United States?

Well, what with all the hindsight, I can just say it’s a bit of a relief. Not because Obama is going to be a total angel, but because things would have been a great deal worse if Mr Mitt had got in. Like here, we have a tory mayor of London and a tory Prime Minister. Romney as icing on that layer cake would have been unbearable.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
If you were President of the United States, what would be your first act in office?

Stop the drone strikes. Drones seem to me to be a war crime in conception, construction and use. They are no better than land mines. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Talk about the last compliment you received.

Most probably the Kirsty I play Words With Friends with. She is very generous when I paste her! However, we are very often neck and neck towards the end of the game, which is very exciting. We are very evenly matched. Also, she is usually up already when I wake up, so we often play live, too, which is nice.

Thursday, November 8, 2012
If you could have any job (and instantly have the training and qualifications to do it), which job would you want?

I would like to be David Sedaris, but that job is already taken. 

Friday, November 9, 2012
If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?

I would magic away the migraines and fibro crap. Then i would be able to do ANYTHING!!!!!! Except be a child prodigy, astronaut, ballerina, stunt double, body double, chess master, or opera singer. Those are all off the table no matter how well I got. If I could, I’d be a writer. So much tidier than painting, and I admire writers so much. I don’t think I could really write fiction, though. 

Well! That didn’t take long! Now I am all caught up. Well done me.

***

I dare say you are dying to see the Worm Hotel. Let me just dry my hair and I’ll take the camera out and see what I can offer you.

tottenham hilton under construction

the black thing was full, but the compost not fully, well, composted. so in moving the contents to the clear hoppers i may be needing quite a few of them to complete the job.

ten asked how the worms would reach the holes in the next box up – i am including quite a lot of twiggery for them to climb on. ‘like an adventure playground, then’, he said

i am not sure whether the worms will like the clear plastic. they do like the dark, it’s true, but then they also like to escape. i have found quite a few who think they are steve mcqueen.

So, very much still IN PROCESS as you can see. But I am getting there, and the new drill bit is paying it’s way. Obviously if I was building this entirely from scratch I wouldn’t risk the clear boxes, but since I have so many of them it is a good re-use and if they don’t work out I will just have to get some opaque ones. Although ordinary composting needs dark I am not sure if the worms do. If you leave the lid off they come up towards the light, so who knows what they are thinking.

bladerunner, two awards, and seven things about me

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Migraine Awareness Month #28: “Lights, Camera, Action.” Pick a movie character you can identify with, talk a bit about them and why you identify with them.

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty – Blade Runner

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it?

That’s what it is to be a slave.”

replicant, roy batty’s problem is partly lack of lifespan, but he is also criminalized by the construction of his DNA. he is trapped. he suffers. he is an amazing being, but he is flawed beyond the ordinary meaning of the word. this leads him to do ‘questionable things’. but nothing helps. he is a prisoner of circumstances beyond his control.

“National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.”

***

now! on to cheerier things!

i am currently the recipient of two AWARDS.

this one is the LET THEM EAT CAKE award from cat’s litter box

she flatters me thusly;

“Elaine has given me so much to think about over the years in one forum or another. I am enriched daily by her insights. She also has a particularly stunning dog.”

so, naturally, i accept with my usual graciousness.

AND i have been given ANOTHER ONE. the bipolar place has offered me a VERSATILE BLOGGER award!

so, thanks to him, for that, as well!

this one comes with conditions

Award acceptance: Tell you seven things about myself and nominate as many or little bloggers you wish.

Seven Things About Me:

1. i like getting awards well enough, but it became clear to me that it was a tricky business to give them, since not everyone wants to get involved in the pyramid element of it all. i have solved this problem through the simple expedient of making my own awards, which have no strings and awarding them as the mood takes me. as has cat, with her rather repulsive litter box. (but very kind sentiments).

2. i have become a words with friends fanatic. i’ve even neglected twitter in order to play all the words with friends. I AM AN ADDICT. i wonder if there is a words with friends anonymous yet?

3. i have done two things today and am now exhausted. i have taken to my quilts and will have a bit of a lie down after this.

4. i will listen to rivers of london on audiobook during said lie down. it’s part of a trilogy by Ben Aaronovitch. when i started it i thought what a lot of tosh since it combines police procedural with magic, and although i like super powers i am wary of MAGIC. but then i started to get into it and now i am hooked.

5. i realize that i have had a bit of a history of having quite negative role models. from tess of the d’urbervilles and jane eyre to sylvia plath i seem to have tended toward the tragic heroine in my teens. roy batty is a change of gender but is no less tragic.

not all of my teenage role models were tragic, though. i read jessica mitford avidly and loved patti smith.

6. i will be sorry to see the end of migraine month, it’s been awesome.

7. but i will be starting at the daily waffle which is soooo exciting!

so, no nominations, as such. i dare say i will make more awards as i go along, but if you feel you would like one of the sneakyfucker awards then shoot me a line.

pip pip!