Friday News: The evolution of online conversation, the pleasures of re-reading, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and Road Runner’s rules
There hasn’t been a comprehensive look at this phenomenon—it might be virtually impossible—but Joseph Reagle, an assistant professor at Northeastern University and author of Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web, told me that online discussion has an established pattern of transitioning from one medium to another.
Migration is “just the inevitable life cycle of this sort of thing,” he said. Users are always “looking for that intimate serendipity. Where you have a sense of: This is a community, there’s people I can trust, I have a sense of scale, I’m not constantly being spammed.”
Early online forums—longtime digital yappers might recall Metafilter, launched in 1999 and still in existence, which Reagle cited as one of the first—had already in their time replaced something called Usenet. Established in 1980, predating the World Wide Web proper and functioning like an email listserv, it allowed people to converse with others all over the world. Then forums came along and swept up much of that discussion. Now Facebook, Twitter and Reddit have done the same. –Talking Points Memo
Stevens captures the complex relationship that many of us have to the distinct pleasures of reading and re-reading, and I particularly like this bit in her post:
But the act of rereading contains profundities, and challenges, all its own. Going back to a book — sometimes the same physical copy of it — that you fell in love with years ago is a way both of measuring the distance you’ve traveled in the intervening years and of daring that past self to find new evidence for that old love. Deborah Eisenberg’s first short story collection, “Transactions in a Foreign Currency,” published in 1986, probably isn’t the most sophisticated work of that singular writer’s now long and distinguished career, but revisiting my old copy of it every few years brings back the reader I was then, as hungry for formal literary innovation as I was for practical advice on how to conduct myself as a grown woman — a category of existence Eisenberg’s heroines seemed to find as confounding as I did. My junior-high copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” the corner of its spine chewed off by the family dog, still sits on my office bookshelf, no longer in need of the formality of being opened and read in order to transmit its stern, ever valuable counsel to “omit needless words.” The books that continue to summon me back time after time are the ones that seem to speak in this friendly but playfully imperious tone, like a child enjoining the reader to shed her adult identity and enter once more into the world of shifting identities, possibility and pretend. –New York Times
I also really like this lecture by Duke Professor of English and Law Karla Holloway on “How Private Bodies Become Public Texts,” in which she talks extensively about how the black female body, in particular, becomes the site of racial codification and dehumanization, with very real effects, not only on the personal level, but even legally, as in how laws are created and interpreted. And if you want to delve into the history of how slavery continues to shape our perceptions of race in the U.S., this essay from Eric Foner (a Columbia history professor), which he wrote in support of the University of Michigan’s admissions policies, is condensed and readable.
In Citizen, Rankine explores the intersection of Serena Williams’s ascension as a great athlete with public critiques of her body, her demeanor, her confidence, her periodic expressions of outrage and joy against the gaze of her white audience.
“What does a victorious or defeated black woman’s body in a historically white space look like?” she asks. “Serena and her big sister Venus Williams brought to mind Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘I feel most colored when I am thrown against a white sharp background.'” Rankine’s close study of how the world receives Williams — and by extension black bodies — reveal what was so troubling about Hoagland’s 2002 poem: Its racism is casual because it lives in the language. –NPR
I confess that I had never even thought about the Coyote in these terms, but of course! Of course he is a fanatic! And how fascinating that he is the character we are supposed to be in sympathy with. Something about this insight seems epiphanic to me. I mean, the Coyote is a fanatic. It all makes so much sense now.
Jones’ rules, first made public when he published them in his 1999 autobiography Chuck Amuck: The Life and Times of an Animated Cartoonist, are probably pretty familiar to animation students and Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote fanatics. They are a fascinating testament to the need for clearly defined systems within a wacky creative process. –Mental Floss