Sunday, April 12, 2009


We've reached a momentous occasion on Experimental Progress. What is it? Well, just add together the total number of posts. Go ahead. I'll wait. Carry the ones over. That's it.
Yeah. You counted right. Cool, huh? And I couldn't have done it without my loyal audience. Well, I could've, but then it wouldn't have been as much fun, right?
Truth be told, I thought I had reached this point earlier this week, but I was counting from the total number of posts plus the total number of unpublished drafts. That's right--I have four unpublished drafts that have never seen the electronic, metaphoric light of day...until now. As a special anniversary event, I'm going to post all four here and now. The original text is in plain font, the original creation dates are in bold, and the commentary is in italics.
Lisa Nakamura's Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet is another one of those books I stumbled across in my readings for the oft-mentioned online writing course. At just under 150 pages, it's a quick read, and it's very accessible. Anyone with a basic understanding of the internet (and if you're reading this, that probably includes you) would be able to follow this book without much difficulty.
What's the book about? Basically, it's a study of how concepts of race have been integrated into the internet. Nakamura coined the phrase "cybertype" in order to, as she puts it, "describe the distinct ways the Internet propagates, disseminates, and commodifies of race and racism" (3). To this end, the book consists of five chapters, which are divided mostly by the medium. Chapter 1 is a general overview, while Chapter 2 focuses more on chat rooms. Chapter 3 looks at race and cybertechnology through the cyperpunk fiction genre, specifically focusing on Neil Stephenson, Neuromancer, Blade Runner, and the Matrix. Chapter 4 examines print media ads based on the Internet, and Chapter 5 returns to the Internet as primary material, with emphasis on form-based applications and email racial lists ("You know you're Japanese-American if...). A quick conclusion wraps matters up.

Given my background, it's no surprise that I found Chapter 3 the most interesting, especially since I'd read/watched all the works, with the exception of Neuromancer. Her comments on Stephenson are particularly interesting in the context of Hiro Protagonist and the Western concept of Asian as seen through cyberpunk. She also puts her finger on exactly what I found annoying in Diamond Age: (SPOILER) the Chinese horde that comes to the rescue of the female protagonist, and how it feels very "how may we serve you, white mistress?" (Nakamura phrases this a lot better).

Nakamura's focus on different media is part of her overall move to counter the utopic view of the Internet as a colour-free zone where there are no races, and in that, she's very successful. As with any focus on race, she had to make choices about what to include and what to leave out; as a result, we get Asian and African viewpoints here, but not a lot of anything else. Also, given that the chapters are divided into material, the rhetoric presented is more or less consistent throughout, which is a good thing generally, but means there's some repetition.

Bottom line, though, the good far outweighs the bad. In a literature that tends towards the jargon-heavy, this book manages to embrace the theorists without going overboard, and raises a lot of interesting issues in a short span. And even though it was written in 2002, it doesn't feel dated or inconsequential. Worth a look, if that's where your interests lie.

I wrote this review while we were still in the original "blog for the sake of the blogging class" days. I didn't publish it because: 1) there was a strict "no blogging on what you're reading" rule, which still seems somewhat silly, and 2) I was planning to use an abridged version for the annotated bibliography assignment, and I didn't want to tip my hand. Which was also a silly reason. But it's one of my better reviews, so here it is.
First, I think it's important to establish that I am, by and by large, a grade grubber. Since about midschool, I defined myself in part based on the marks I got in school. (Granted, back in those days, they were some pretty bad-assed marks.) That motif has pretty well stuck, and let me tell you, by grad-school and the mid-twenties, it's wearing a little thin. (Actually, it may even have played a role as to why I'm STILL in school, while I'm in my mid-twenties. Although, to turn that around, I imagine anyone who wasn't good at the grade stuff probably wouldn't be in grad school.)
Where was I?
Oh yeah,
Did I mention not all the drafts are complete? I think, in an interesting coincidence, this post was prompted by the mark I received on my annotated bibliography, which was decidedly Not Good. And that meant that at the time, the majority of the marks I had received in both of the courses I was in were Not Good, and I was busy having a "What am I doing in Grad School?" crisis. (It didn't help that I was working on the blog class final paper at the time, and discussing it with a friend in a coffee shop only to have the philosophy undergraduate student sitting beside us interrupt the convseration to tell me what I was doing wrong with my paper.)
Everything worked out fine in both classes (far better than I deserved in the 18th century course), but that's not really the point. It's still kind of disturbing to me how much my self-esteem is tied into purely quantitative things: how many fiends I have, what marks I get, how many hits my blog has. (Keep reloading!) It's funny that this term, I'm in the opposite place: I've received really good marks going into the last stretch of both courses (especially the theory-based one, which I'm inordinately proud of because I think of theory as the weak part of my game), but I have a sneaking suspicion that the final papers in both aren't going to turn out very well. I guess the reason for me not finishing the post originally is that, first of all, it's not really a flattering picture of myself, and second, on a practical level, complaining about the blog course in a blog created for the blog course seems like a Not Good idea.

Comic Book Wednesdays: Now on Random Days!
I'm going to keep the title, but it's time I admitted it: there's very little Wednesday in my Wednesday Comic Book Review posts.

Completely unrelated note: Like I said earlier this week, I sent out my first query letter. I got the reply today, which means we can officially start the count:

Rejections: 1

I think the reason for not posting this one is fairly self-evident: I wasn't quite ready to face bitter disappointment. And the rejection count is now up to 2, BTW.

Something happened today, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it, so I thought I'd talk it out here.

Back in last September, in what was basically a spur-of-the-moment thing, I looked up every single person with the same name as me in the town of Blank on Facebook--and then proceeded to "friend" them, on that basis that: "

Let's continue with this. On the basis that, as I told each of them, "I don't actually know you, but the presence of two (PoC's Real Name Here) residing in (Blank's Real Name) seemed like to big a coincidence to pass up."
And no, alcohol was not involved here. As you can imagine, males aren't exactly overly eager to befriend strangers of the same sex that send them messages at 2:00 am in the morning, so I didn't receive any replies--until March 12th, when I received a message from one of them, telling me that it was their daughter replying, and her father had passed away two weeks before I sent the message. And she finished the post " Now you can be the only (PoC's Real Name Here)."
I sent back a reply apologizing for the intrusion. But, because I'm a self-centered narcissist, what really threw me for a loop was her last sentence. It really made me feel like... well, like an intruder. And on some level, that's what I was: none of these people asked me to send out messages, after all. But her phrasing made me question my motives for this; it felt like my intention had been to start some stupid internet trolling war over my name. And nothing could have been further from the truth. Back at the time, I had just moved to Blank, and I really didn't know anyone here. The only intention I had in sending out those messages was to move outside my comfort zone, make some new friends, and have some fun in doing so. Instead, I had just brought up feelings of grief and regret for a family that had lost a father. If there was a message there, it was to think twice before doing something impulsive. But I don't like that message--I've spent my life thinking and rethinking, to the point where I often don't end up doing anything at all. Maybe there is no message. Maybe it's just something that happened. That's why I wanted to do this post--to work out how I felt about it, and maybe get an outside perspective.
I wound up NOT finishing the post also because I felt so conflicted about it. And just doing it added a new level of intrusion--I may not have intended anything wrong in the original message, but in using someone else's grief as a launching board in my own blog--that's a different level, isn't it?

Isn't it?

I knew this was going to end on sort of a dour note, which is why I went for the happier post yesterday. Despite anything to the contrary, I've really enjoyed writing here, and the last 100 posts have been a blast. Here's to a hundred more, and a hundred more after that.

Later Days.

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