Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On becoming a PhD: just who is being domesticated in the writing

The PhD as a space for creative writing is sometimes considered risky, however if the coherence is able to be argued then creative writing can be included. This is a page from the thesis, it was written in bradley hand script over an image of a cell phone. The intent being the sense of closeness, the companion species that a mobile phone might be seen as. Studying materiality made the materiality of how work was presented important.

On becoming a hybrid
I got it as a gift, but I had to get it a sim card & establish a contract with a service provider, take it home, plug it in, charge it… Wait…wait…hours of waiting… Read the manual. Personalise it; choose my language (English & predictive test) enter ph. no.s (I’ve outsourced my memory). Send a message to family & friends so they know my no., set the calendar, clock, choose a background, select preferred ring-tone & volume. Try them all out. Reply to half the friends & relations. Set the alarm clock. Put in appointments. Phew. Look at the manual to work the camera, learn how to save & send photos, & bluetooth them to my computer. What is Bluetooth anyway? Read the manual online… Check with service provider about overseas roaming to send or call from Aus to NZ on a NZ ph., (0011649… need 2 check for service provider coverage, remember to keep ph. with me or risk my relationship, check for missed calls, oh & for unread txts. I hate the demands of why didn’t you answer your phone….
I become conscious of costs & having to feed it by prepay, & ensure its power supply is maintained. Learn to clear messages, sent & received otherwise it tells me “memory is full, clear messages from any box”. I continue to transfuse it with money, negotiate the credit card with the service provider, keep clearing messages, plug it in when its flat…
I still don’t know how to use it for email or internet, play games, or as a radio, I could download music to it, pay for parking, check movies … I discovered it can also be a torch by manipulating the camera flash, and it’s a calculator, plus a notepad… I’m loving it. It’s old technology already & I only use it for a fraction of what it makes possible!
Now I wouldn’t be without it; got my keys, my cash my mobile… oh and my charger if going away a few days. I’d be bereft without it, how would I get in touch with people? How would I know their no.s? What if I’m running l8? Or the car breaks down?
I’ve bought it a cute cover; to stop her getting knocked about. Oh, and you noticed the charm? she's just cuter with it on…. Well yes, I’ve had pets that are less demanding. Well at least the Tamagotchi & goldfish were, mmm the cats, well yes, this is about as financially demanding as the cat I suppose… but hey now me and my cell go everywhere together. I even chose my handbag with the outside pocket so she's always at hand while also having her own space…

I’m the one domesticated!

(And as for being domesticated, the computer word doc and pdf doc required so many more accommodations on my part, having to choose a font that would stay stable across both PC and mac was problematic- thanks to Andrew LAvery of Academic consultancy, that particular issue got sorted somewhat.)

Thanks extended to Donna Haraway who described stories of materialised refiguration; stories where metaphor and materiality implode. She provided the provocation to think of how technologies are not so much separated from our existence. In addition she provoked consideration for the realtionships we might have/I might have with companion species.
Thanks as well to Bruno Latour for writing in ways that demonstrate that freedom and creativity need not be excluded from academic writing, a genre he refers to as scientification. He prompts consideration for symmetry in the analysis of our relationships with beings human or otherwise, that they might be interrogated on an equal footing (so to speak).
Thanks also to Karen Barad for her writing of identity and agency reflecting ongoing reconfigurations,
and the sure knowledge that boundaries do not sit still.

Refs of specific interest:
Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity: Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28(3), 801-831. doi:10.1086/345321
Haraway, D. (2008). When species meet. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Made in association

I dont have to be paranoid about the connectivity traces made possible in metadata mining made possible by tracing who connects to who whether on emails or in my google searches or on twitter or my texting.
Today's inability to make the remote control work (probably having been smoted by God for not talking to the door knocking visitors who just wanted to talk about the good news bible...) led to there being no pleasure to be had in ironing, and so i returned to the laptop. This provided me with four bits of twittering that help place my paranoia into perspective: The first from Joss Whedon: "Always be yourself. Unless you suck" allowing me leeway for my alter ego to tweet as some other cool cat...
The second was an admonishment to sext responsibly (not that i sext at all, of course, point one above not withstanding). Remembering also that when you sext with anyone, you’re also sexting with the entire NSA. #SextResponsibly. I guess in NZ that relates to the GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)) and they sleep/share secrets with the NSA coz they are desperate to be liked.
The third was a reminder on the use of pseudonyms pp J K Rowling and follows a tradition established by others such as sometimes its a means to be taking more, or less, seriously.
And while such changes were sometimes to disguise gender (eg George Eliott, as well as J K Rowling) a fourth twittering I noted today was of changing one's name to fit in better; to make it easier for others.

So, if you ever meet me at a cafe and i pick up coffee for 'Sue' it's not that I'm stealing someone else's drink, it's just I avoid getting into discussions on 'ailsa' and "how do i spell that", and "where does that come from" ...
It is not only an online world where duplicity occurs with identity being masked at times, the real world is full of such activities also.
Or maybe it is just further evidence of identity being made in association.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Feeling wary of my digital trace; wanting to stay attached to my shadow

The permanence of this came home to me when i was asked by my smart phone to synch contacts with my computer. Suddenly i had thousands and thousands of contacts....every single staff member at my place of work was now on my phone (thousands in a University), but also it managed to do what I could not 9had i wanted to). It managed to data mine every single email address i had connected with for at least the last 8 years, despite my workplace having converted from one platform to another.
Personally i found this unsettling, not least because it meant i now had to scroll through thousands of contacts to find the ones i want on my person, in my pocket, in my smart phone. My choices: delete manually or delete by returning the phone to its preset factory settings (sans all photos and misic). So...I'm up to the letter K...

But its also important because of what else it brings to the fore.

Theres the mining of metadata- apparently its just who contacts who and when...but here it was used to trace the telephone contacts of a journalist who the NZ governement were not happy with in his reporting of how NZ soldiers were treating prisoners.

Here's a programme that maps the connections made of email contacts
And here's a news item pointing to how its more than metadata that is subject to mining

And here's one for twitter

And there's the live stream on particular words tweeted here and a livestream of particular words being mentioned on twitter

For facebook there's the seeming beauty of knowing who, of those I know, talk together, that can be made visually apparent at

And at facebook
Here i found i could find:
Photos of myself and others i care about, out of context and looking pretty suspect... even when the photo was de-tagged.... not difficult if one does a friends of friends photo search.
A search of my workplace and everyone who likes the site "I fucking love science". Seems not too embarrassing, but still...
Then maybe a search of one's workplace, and all the people who are single, of a certain age, and gender, and who like a certain dating site?
All very possible with a very creepy facebook graph search....i know more now than i am pretty sure some of my colleagues would ever want me to know- note this gave me info on people i had never been friended with on fb.

Time to talk to friends about not posting what you dont want up tagged or not! And a reminder to check privacy setting. And to reconsider what you put into what actually ends up more public than you might have ever been aware of!
Here's some more on this

There's also a live stream of everything anyone in the world is searching for by googling it
And an example of how such surveillance can be used for good in public health
and here
Note the search precedes the data that would have been gathered by visits to GPs...
And in searches that happen where the individual might then become traceable such as where cookies keep track on the sites one visits and where this information might then be onsold, not only to provide you with targetted advertising but perhaps also to provide other parties with targeted information. Entering into a world where it's not just my use of a company owned computer that might for my employer want to keep record of where i digitally go, but also where such information might attract a higher bidder. What health insurer would want to insure someone who searches depression through to cancer? The inherent risk is identified here where 13 out of 20 websites contained third-party elements that tracked user data. Original publication at JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 8, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7795 or available here for those without freedom of access....

Given the current furore over the GCSB bill, a bill that attempts to retrospectively make right that the GCSB had been spying on New Zealanders on behalf of other agencies despite legislation that explicitly stated it was not allowed to.... so despite the possibilities for good or for pretty, I am feeling the panoptican Foucault talked of very heavily today.
And conscious also of Latour's admonishment to beware of how one's imagination leaves digital traces.

The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more...

I'm feeling a little lost in a Peter Pan moment of wanting to stay attached to my shadow, to know where it know what further steps it takes when I'm not with it...
For all of this comes close on the tail of a shadowy moment where my lectures might also be filmed to be shown in my absence or when 'the connections flounder'.

So what's the answer?
Dont leave traces? Or if you leave traces, leave them by the thousands... leader of the opposition on the rally against the GCSB bill suggests CC'ing the PM into every email, now there's an idea...
And a postnote: this post has had so many more reads than others of late, wondering how many of them are by spying agencies ...