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Site Spotlight: Carcinisation

“In evolutionary biology, carcinisation (or carcinization) is a hypothesized process whereby a crustacean evolves into a crab-like form from a non-crab-like form.

Nature abhors a crab vacuum.

Angry rants may be addressed to @GrumplessGrinch or wrongbot@gmail.com. Polite requests may be addressed in the same way, ha ha, fat chance.”

- Carcinisation

ABV #39: Collective experience, corrupted language + civilisation

“Do you miss the future?” (Mark Fisher interviewed by Andrew Broaks of CRACK Magazine).

“Here’s one of the things that people say, “oh we don’t know if things are new yet, there might be new things, we just don’t know yet.” But that’s just a fallacy, people did know when things were new before. Even if that’s true, and in this age of hyper-visibility it would be slightly odd if there are things that we hadn’t really seen, what’s missing is a popular experience of newness. At the very least that is what has disappeared. But I think what’s also missing is this circuit between the experimental, the avant garde and the popular. It’s that circuit that’s disappeared. Instead what we have is ExperimentalTM, which is actually well established genres with their own niche markets which have no relation to a mainstream. And despite the network propaganda, the mainstream still exists, but in a more unchallenged way than previously. Why? Well, because people like me have our own niches now. In order to get some sort of audience I don’t have to be on the BBC. You know, there’s lots of space on the internet for me. And that just means that it allows the Simon Cowell’s of the world to dominate the mainstream. And TV, or certainly public service broadcasting in the UK, is unprecedentedly bad. A lot of the book is about TV as much as music actually. I think that one of the big exceptions to what I’m saying is American TV, HBO and the like, which probably has a claim to having produced new cultural forms in the 21st century. It’s good that those HBO things are happening, but I think that in the UK there’s this box set melancholy, as I call it, where you’re watching this stuff, but you don’t have the same collective experience of it as when you were watching public service television together. I think that’s why people like the X Factor because you know everyone is watching at the same time. And that’s an encouraging thing, that people are enjoying each other’s sociality and that a banal talent contest is only the pretext for that.”

“Borg Like Me” by Gareth Branwyn.

“The scariest thing about doublespeak is that it appears to be on the rise. Increasingly sophisticated tools, such as focus groups wired to real-time analytic software, are being used to scrutinize the public’s response to speeches and the media — in order to engineer more potent language (best serving the interests of the speakers, not necessarily those of the audience). Spin doctors can now examine, down to the specific word, the emotional responses generated by a speaker. Using this technology, they can build databases of positive and negative words and phrases and tweak future speeches accordingly.

It is necessary, for the healthy functioning of a democracy, to have free, open, and honest public discourse. In a world where plain English is being replaced by doublespeak and literal hot-button word engineering, such honest communication cannot take place. As William Lutz points out, the increasing corruption of our public language — the language we use to debate issues and decide public policy — is a corruption of democracy itself. Believe it or not, all the of the doublespeak used in this article first appeared in real world contexts by people expecting to be taken seriously. Here’s some more.

YOU WEREN’T FIRED, YOU WERE:

let go
downsized
unassigned
uninstalled
involuntarily separated from payroll
released of resources
given a career change opportunity
career transitioned
part of a normal payroll adjustment
a focused reduction
on no-pay status
transitioned
an ongoing effort to streamline operations
part of restructuring
outplaced
rightsized
workplace reengineered

IT WASN’T A LIE, IT WAS:

a strategic misrepresentation
the result of fictitious disorder syndrome
terminological inexactitude
reality augmentation
a misstatement
an inaccurate statement
incomplete information
being economical with the truth

IT’S NOT KILLING IN COMBAT, IT’S:

neutralizing
liquidating
collateral damage
servicing the target
decommissioning the aggressor
violence processing
a surgical strike
sanitizing the area
exceeding the threshold of physiological damage
substantive negative outcome”

Episode 6 of Kenneth Clark‘s 1969 series, “Civilisation”.

Weeknotes, 07/09/14

I had an eventful week, featuring ridiculous bureaucracy and bizarre interactions with people who should know better. I also had an excellent birthday, featuring a sci-fi-political-design-ideas-Foucault-heavy-futures conference with badass art performances, mochas, Mugi Cha, new appropriately fitting underwear and epic cake.

Improving Reality was beyond excellent. I took a ridiculous amount of notes which I will write up at some point, probably when the videos go online so I can check references. It was dense and crammed with people doing important (fascinating) work, speakers and attendees alike.  Definitely lots of brainfood and things that I’ll be unpacking for the foreseeable future. I hugely enjoyed hanging out and talking ideas with Maf’j Alvarez, an artist/designer who makes interactive art & games. I pottered a little beforehand, mostly so I was able to charge my phone in a coffee shop (the downside of app bus tickets). It was really nice and a ~best normal~ day.

When I’m enthusiastic and/or intellectually engrossed I forget my body needs to be treated like a toddler; last year I was sensible & dove out after the first session, but the birthday thing & general frustration at having to limit stuff I’m enjoying meant this year I stayed for the whole thing. After travel time and faffing it must have been a 10 hour day (my normal max shifts are 4-5). No regrets re: everything I absorbed, but gutted the aftereffects meant I ended up missing the first day of Indie Web Camp UK. Yesterday evening I spent ages looking up the changed bus routes and 68 Middle Street before charging my new chair, and was very very excited to wake up & listen & learn lots. (68 Middle Street looks a really nice & accessible venue, run and owned by by Clearleft.)

But, wtf world. Last night circa 3.30am two dudes climbed up into my house’s garden & were fucking around the windows with torches, until they realised they’d woken people up when they were still too bolshy to run away. I couldn’t get back to sleep after waiting around for police etc (and watching Dr Who once they’d gone to try to re-normalise?), and was up from then until 9 so was pretty zonked. If I were smart I would probably have taken a preventative bed day but, as previously mentioned, this is like one of the two weeks of the year when I do pre-scheduled scary new stuff. I planned on going regardless, though remembering to take things slowly, as had already had to opt out of the first day. I got ready but when I tried to drive my sleep-deprivated state was worse than useless and actively dangerous. Sucks. I slept for a bit & then got on the IRC channel to see what was going on.

Despite things seeming stressier than normal, I’ve still been having a nice time.

I’ve been trying to get better at staying in contact with people & communities when I don’t have anything polished to contribute. I’ve been on Edgeryders for ages (via Vinay Gupta) so hearing Nadia El-Imam speak was especially awesome though I was aware of my periods of crapness in long-term long-distance participation.

I need to do a bunch of site updates so everything a) works and b) actually reflects what I’m doing now. Less: video, AV, travelling. More: edu, writing, SEN. It’s hard to write about projects when they’re confidential but I’m exploring ways of anonymising things whilst still sharing resources.

Banal joys this week: discoverings the joys of tiger balm after years of skepticism & the delivery of re-bought Epsom salt. Current favourite things: baths & reading (bonus points for reading in baths).

Weekend Links, 07/09/14: Surviving exploration + dissent

“My Thoughts on the Block Bot, as a User and a Member of the Blocking Team” by Sarah Brown.

“I blocked most of them manually, but a common technique of harassers is to create new accounts and try again from there, so it was difficult to keep up, and the ones that got through were often very distressing. I can sometimes look at what these people are saying, as long as it’s on my own terms, and when I’m able to walk away, but to have them impose themselves, when I may be having a bad day or whatever, is not good.

I signed up for the blockbot, after being sceptical of it for some time, but found that the blockers, most of whom are women, are generally sympathetic to the harassment transgender women face from the transphobic fringes of the feminist movement. As a result the bot was a good match, and I increasingly discovered, some time after the fact, that people had been trying to harass me and the bot had already blocked them for me.

My mental health is much better now. Some of that is because I’m no longer in office and face less stress generally, but undoubtedly some of it is not having to deal with constant harassment, or exposed to constant microaggressions associated with being a member of a minority community (people persisting in those tend to get blocked too, but at a lower severity level – you choose which severity level you sign up to). I have since joined the team of people who maintain the block list and decide when to add new blocks, and they’re a great bunch of people.”

“Episode 12 – Power and Privilege in the New Working Order” at Mindful Cyborgs, with hosts Klint Finley & Chris Dancy and guest Shanley Kane.

“I always like to start all conversations about micro management with sort of talk about what our mythology of management is and the things that we believe about management and that’s when we become managers that we try to represent so often times the mythology about management is that managers are better or more confident that employees, that they always know what’s best, that they need to be in control, that they really need to like be the boss, they need to have power and they need to be right and they need to be more right than the people around them.

When you become a manager in that sort of the mythology of managers, you are feeling the need to crew out this mythology all of the time and when that mythology is based in power dynamics and negative power dynamics, then you get situations where managers are doing all of these microaggressive acts. There are a bunch of different categories and you mentioned body language and touching so there is a ton of sort of physical cues that we give each other about who’s in power and who’s not are really example I think as this concept of management by walking around.

I think what’s really interesting is that was really held up as a positive and beneficial practice in the workplace but what does it mean when you have a manager who can just walk around into everyone’s space and sort of have a full view and then a symmetrical view into employees and what they’re doing. There are some power dynamics that are around sort of space and body language but there are other ones around the way that managers talk to their employees, the way that they characterize their employees and so on.”

“Wait, do people think I’m a dude? On digital microcelebrity and gender” by Robin James.

“Women’s expertise is constantly undermined and trivialized. For example, holding pop music in low regard (thinking it can only ever be frivolous, ideologically overdetermined, or sold-out) is one way of trivializing a field in which women, especially black women, have made hugely significant artistic, cultural, and economic impacts.

Women academics, writers, and journalists also face constant challenges to their expertise. There’s the calling someone “Mrs.” instead of “Dr.” microaggression. There’s mistaking someone for staff, or, as is often the case with me, for a student. This latter example is, in my experience, common to face-to-face interactions: every time I can remember having to respond to the “What are you writing your dissertation on?” or “Will you get a Ph.D. after your MA?” question with “Umm, I have tenure” has been IRL.”

“Academic Cowards and Why I Don’t Write Anonymously” by Tressie McMillan Cottom.

“I start by giving them permission to write as anonymously or small as they need to feel safe because there are few havens of safety for black women anywhere and the Internet is just Anywhere with a keyboard. And I would double dog dare anyone to call them cowards for doing so. Double. Dog. Dare.

Their safety isn’t just about protecting their privilege but their well-being. In addition to the daily work almost all black women do to manage microaggressions and shifting contexts in their public and private lives I have had my address posted to unsavory websites and not-so-subtle threats to everything from my person to my career. One dude’s note about how he needs to know if I’m attending an academic conference so he can “send his homeboy” to handle me lingers.

Outliers, sure, but those are some of the more extreme responses to me…and I write about higher education, sociology and Miley Cyrus once. Not exactly hot button stuff. I cannot imagine if I were calling my administrators and colleagues out on structural inequality, racism, classism, and sexism. That’s not to say it doesn’t need to be done or that it shouldn’t be done by faculty, academics and grad students but let’s be crystal clear: not everyone has the same amount of skin in the game.”

“Open Door Policy” by Andrew Hickey.

“Let me tell you about this “open-door policy” that we supposedly have. There are various ways that people can come over here, and the rules differ depending on where the person is coming from, why they’re coming over here, how much money they have, and so on.

I have no experience of most of these (except distantly, when I was working on a psychiatric ward with a few patients who had developed mental illnesses as a result of the asylum system, which was trying to throw them out of the country back to countries where they would be tortured), but I *do* have experience with what most people think of as one of the “good” or “acceptable” kinds of immigration.

My wife is American, and for various reasons when we got married it was better for us to live in the UK than the US. Most people I’ve spoken to about this — in fact *everyone* who hadn’t found themselves in the same position — thought this goes as follows:

We get married, she becomes a citizen.

The process is actually this [note that the process has changed, for the worse, since we did this.”

“Leave to Remain” by Miranda Ward.

“When I was younger I used to fantasize about having a button I could press that would pause the world around me while I caught my breath, had a nap, figured out a solution, came up with something witty to say. My current situation is the opposite of that fantasy – someone has pressed the pause button on my life, and I am suspended, watching the rest of the world go by.

The pause button on my life was pressed by the UK Border Agency. Three months ago I applied for indefinite leave to remain here in the UK, where I have lived with my British partner for the past seven years. I have held, over the course of these years, a student visa, a post-study work visa, and an unmarried partner visa, and I am now, at last, eligible to apply to settle permanently.

The application process is like taking a leap of faith into an abyss. You take the “Life in the UK” test (“Is the statement below TRUE or FALSE? Getting to know your neighbours can help you to become part of the community”). You fill out a 50-page application form. You send a large envelope containing bank statements and pay slips and utility bills and your passport and, for reasons I cannot quite fathom, a photocopy of every enclosed document. You pay a £1,051 fee. And then you wait.

So I am waiting. A curt letter, sitting on my desk, informs me that until six months have elapsed I cannot inquire about the status of my application. I am advised not to make any travel plans. If I do need to travel, I can request that my passport be returned, but this comes at a price: my application will be voided, considered withdrawn.”

“fear & loathing at the medical plaza” by Ciara Xyerra.

“then i had to go to a different place to get the wrist braces & the guy that worked there started flipping out about all the paperwork involved in filing a claim with medicare, which then segued into a lengthy monologue about how he’s a republican & he thinks people in lawrence are too closed-minded because they live in their cozy little liberal bubble, but he still hates the tea party & actually read all 1000-whatever pages of the affordable care act & thinks it’s a wonderful step in the right direction toward the socialized medicine that all people need & deserve. i had no idea what the hell was going on. he was all, “sam brownback invited me to his inauguration & i called him up & told him to invite someone who doesn’t think he’s a worthless piece of shit!” then he was all, “i don’t understand why anyone would think anyone was scamming disability or welfare or workman’s comp. none of those programs actually pay enough to live on! why would anyone WANT to be on those programs if they didn’t NEED them!” & the whole time, i was standing there with the $21 i had to pay for the co-pays for the braces, & he was literally just reclining in his chair, refusing to take my money until he finished his rant, which probably took half an hour, minimum.

so, yeah! why would anyone want to be on those programs if they didn’t need them! answer me that, cruel DDS examiner who kicked me off disability because i was misinformed about the extent of my arthritis & haven’t attempted suicide enough times to be credibly depressed.”

“borderline personality disorder, psych wards, & friendship” by Maranda Elizabeth.

“I’ve been admitted to hospitals four times in the last month and a half (twice I went to the ER & was sent home, once I was brought unconscious by ambulance to the ER, and then I was transferred to the psych ward for about a week). In April, I went to the CAMH ER. When the intake nurse started filling out my forms without asking me questions, I interrupted to tell her not to check the ‘female’ box, but to scribble in ‘non-binary, “they” pronouns’ blah blah boring shit I’m sick of talking about.

She cheerfully said, “Non-binary! I’ve never heard that term before! What does it mean?”

“It means I’m not a girl and not a boy,” I mumbled. “With so many gender options on your forms, working in this kind of environment, this term really shouldn’t be new to you.”

“Hey, I’m here to learn, too!”

I took a deep breath.

“I know. But you’re the one getting paid for this, and I’m the one in a suicidal crisis. Your education is coming at the expense of my mental health and your lack of knowledge directly harms queers and trans* folks coming to the ER. I don’t have it in me to teach you right now.””

Caroline Woolard’s bio.

“Understanding artists as long-term residents, Woolard works on the rise of the BFA-MFA-PhD, the Social Life of Artistic Property, footnote systems for research-based art, socially engaged failure, compensation in the arts, and incommensurability. Forthcoming writing will focus on a project at MoMA that closed last June, as well as the implications of debt and duration for social practices. By 2018, Woolard hopes to celebrate the creation of a new community land trust in New York City with community organizers, computer engineers, and artists who are dedicated to lifelong commoning.

From 2008-2013, Woolard was supported by the infrastructure projects mentioned above, as well as unemployment benefits, transformative organizers she met as the media coordinator for SolidarityNYC.org, a Fellowship at Eyebeam, a residency at the MacDowell Colony, Watermill, iLAND, and a major grant from the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund.

Woolard is currently an Artist in Residence at the Queens Museum, a lecturer at Cooper Union, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the New School. Woolard is proud to be an organizing member of BFAMFAPhD, New York City, To Be Determined, Trade School, and the Pedagogy Group. Caroline Woolard serves on the Board Of Directors of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, participates in the education working group for the New York City Community Land Initiative, and lives in a 17-year-old collective house in Brooklyn.”

“Our Approach: Change Not Charity” at Crossroads Fund.

Crossroads Fund’s Theory of Change
Crossroads Fund leads in the philanthropic sector by supporting innovative organizing models that build strong movements for racial, social and economic justice. By creating relationships between donors, grantees, grassroots groups and community members, we strengthen leadership, build sustainable communities and transform unjust conditions, institutions and policies to create greater equality and opportunity for all.

Small Grants – Big Change
At Crossroads Fund we believe that big change can come from small beginnings. Some of the biggest victories we’ve seen in this city, from accessible public transit for people with disabilities, to the successful campaign to abolish the death penalty in Illinois, started out as small grassroots movements that were considered too radical for most funders. That’s where Crossroads Fund comes in. We give small grants to new and emerging groups, providing critical support from the beginning. We are often the first foundation grant that our grantees have applied for or received.”

Site Spotlight: Midnight Resistance

“WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?

Midnight Resistance is a website full of words about videogames. Sometimes it is also a podcast. Our goal is to be your number two source of facts and opinions about this offensively bourgeois, yet radical pastime.

LIZ RYERSON (@ellaguro)
Liz Ryerson is a full-time human(oid) and a part-time contributor to this website

ANDI HAMILTON (@andihero)
DARK SOULS. DARK SOULS. DARK SOULS. DARK SOULS. DARK SOULS. DARK SOULS DARK SOULS DARK SOULS.

SEAN BELL (@CaptainToss)
Sean writes about videogames, but he doesn’t want to move to London so he has to put up with just freelancing sometimes while making lattes for old women during the day. He will play anything that doesn’t involve sports, unless racing games count as sports in which case he will only play them if he can go wheee around the corners. He likes dogs.

OWEN GRIEVE (@Manpuncher)
Owen is a game designer who recently quit a very secure job at a well-known multinational games company to strike out on his own and make games with a greater sense of artistic integrOH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE? WHAT WAS I THINKING?!? AARGGGGHHHH

- Midnight Resistance