Author: afus1

Thais and the Heart-Throb

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What first drew me to the above James Mollison’s pictures (from his Where Children Sleep essay) was that it looks like what my bedroom could have looked like as a preteen. The posters, flounce-y bed coverings, and reminiscent baby doll displays the transition between childhood and teen years, similar to what most Americans are used to in regards to a preteen girl’s bedroom.

The photo set examines Thais, an eleven year old girl from City of God, Brazil. From some quick Googling, City of God, or Cidade de Deus, is a neighborhood of one of Brazil’s largest cities, Rio de Janeiro. Historically, City of God has been a location of favelas, or shanty towns, and gang violence.

With this background information, Thais’s room is even more alluring because it portrays the juxtaposition of home-life and social life. We know nothing about Thais other than what her room looks like. We do not know if she or her family is involved in gangs or if she or they are trying to prevent gang involvement in the neighborhood. All we know is that Thais is a fan of Felipe Dylon, a Brazilian pop singer who reached heart-throb status in 2002, and her bedroom window looks out over green trees. Because of the lack of context, the audience is instructed to make their own assumptions.

This photo set fits into the rest of James Mollison’s photo essay because, even though Thais’s room looks very similar to an average American preteen girl, background information about the setting and location of the person of interest changes the perception of the image. All we really know about her is her name, her age, where she lives, and that she (presumably) looks up to a heart-throb pop singer.

The Emergence of Technology

“So as we flow across the page in the here and now, as you process the words as you read them, remember this: They process you as well. Roam the interstices of globalization as a ghost in the machine as we fast-forward past the middle passage and into the hyperlinks of a database culture whose archives routed and dissolved into almost every format of memory we’ve thought about, and think about how to describe the experience. Is it as simple as flipping open a laptop and joining a wireless network? Is it as automatic as dialing a phone number on a mobile phone in an unfamiliar city? Home is where your cell phone is. An absurd reductionist logic? Plastic, fluid memories run into circuitry and focus our attention on a world where we download ourselves daily. This is a word game of the nonconscious. This is what the idiot tells us, and this is what we reply.”

Interstices: a space that intervenes between things, a gap or break in something generally continuous, a short space of time between events (c/o Merriam-Webster dictionary)

I like this paragraph of Rhythm Science because it is extremely applicable to every-day life. We do not realize how obsessed, addicted, and dependent we have become as a whole on technology. We also do not realize how it changes our view of culture and the world and how we act towards them. I especially like “Home is where your cell phone is” because that is truly how people feel–they feel like they have lost a part of their body (ex. a limb, their brain) if they left the house without their cell phone.

I think it’s important to note that DJ Spooky pulls up the thought that archiving has changed with the emergence of technology. Rather than recounting information and thoughts from memory, we rely on technology to do that for us. He says that “This is what the idiot tells us” because we are gradually becoming dumber and dumber about basic instincts like thinking and memorizing because we are so reliant on technology. Though technology helps us spread information, collect data, etc., it also hurts skills our ancestors succeeded in and perfected. As a result, citizen archives are becoming less and less personalized–regarding memories, thoughts, achievements, etc.–and are slowly becoming generalized, to a point where, eventually, all individual archives will look the same.

Question: Is technology promoting individualism or is it preventing it?

DJ Spooky and Judith Halberstam: A Conversation

Though they focus on different topics (DJ Spooky: sound and remixing vs Judith Halberstam: queer studies), DJ Spooky and Judith Halberstam agree on some ideas, specifically how oblivious the average human being can be regarding archiving.

DJ Spooky uses the idea of “the idiot” (page 9 of Rhythm Science) to describe an audience who provides no interaction with a topic. He proclaims a person who just enjoys the topic and doesn’t think about the background of it also an idiot. As a scholar (for that is who is most likely to read his book), to read that you are perhaps, legitimately, an idiot is somewhat insulting, but DJ Spooky offers the chance to redeem yourself by interacting and researching about whatever topic.

Similarly, Judith Halberstam offers the idea of “silly archiving,” but introduces it to open discussion with a lesser-educated person (or, possibly more correct, someone who knows little to nothing about a topic). She explains the ideas behind her Spongebob, Mumble from Happy Feet, and Dude, Where’s My Car? references as introductions to higher-qualified and scholarly examples.

Judith Halberstam’s “silly archive” is basically an introduction to a topic for DJ Spooky’s “idiot.” Ironically, I believe DJ Spooky is a great example of “silly archiving;” rather than using his own name, Paul Miller, DJ Spooky creates a pop-culture pseudonym to create a wider audience for himself. There is a greater chance for someone to pay more attention to someone named DJ Spooky than Paul Miller, simply because most humans are interested in media, pop-culture, and entertainment. Though they may expect music from DJ Spooky (which they get), he also offers scholarly research and information to his audiences. He is the “silly archive” to an “idiot” audience.

Discussion question: Is there a definitive line between “the idiot” and the scholarly?

Derrida & Cox

Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever explores who the actual authority of archives are. As newer technology is developed, previous uses and ways of using archives changes. Richard J. Cox’s Citizen Archivist re-explores archive authority and uses in current situations (digitization, the Internet, etc.).

Derrida begins to examine how digitization will affect archiving in “Exergue” with the example of email. He discusses how printing of documents is archiving because it is typographic. There is an argument, however, about who the actual authority of such an archived piece is. Derrida argues that there are two qualities of authority: “commencement” and “commandment”. (@JWS72 also discusses this in the blog post “Derrida, Cox, and the Digital Archive”.) Cox, on the other hand, states that digitization has made authority of archives more individualistic, hence combining the two qualities. Rather being a job for professional archivists, archiving has become an activity for private citizens due to the increase in use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) and quicker passing of information (digital documents, email, etc.).

On that note, Derrida’s prediction about the transition from “secret to non-secret” is found in Cox’s article. Cox especially touches on this in section 5 (“The Changing World of Personal Recordkeeping”), when the “new challenges involving personal recordkeeping” is mentioned. Rather than personal information staying with the person, issues such as identity theft and digital copying of documents makes what is considered a secret and what is not considered a secret from the public cloudy.

Derrida’s argument about a literal “archive fever” is very current, as reflected in Cox’s article. The emergence of digital recording and simplified collection of information has created an interest and increase in archiving. More and more people are willing to put out information about themselves and their families to be looked back on later. Whether or not this is a good thing is still up for debate.

Question: Is the use of digital technology ruining the allure of historic archiving? Are physical books, images, and audio/film more believable when in digital form?