June 2010

composition, Upper Harbour Highway

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rail, showing crash baffle, Upper Harbour Highway

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bolted flange, Upper Harbour

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dusk crane, red

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winter council, Auckland

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glass-house, Taupaki

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because we know the centre cannot hold we feel the circle can … on deactivating my facebook account

I have deactivated my facebook account because it would no longer perform the operation which provided my justification for signing on in the first instance. It would longer import notes from here. It became a rather tenuous justification, however, since the majority of my engagement with the sociality advertising itself as a network devolved upon what I believe has been called ‘sharism.’

The coinage of this coinage, the attraction of ‘sharism,’ rests on the accumulation of points of satisfaction that the user is posting to facebook such items as others ‘like.’ The other aspect of satisfaction pursuant to this form of connectivity derives from the hyperbolic enlargement of the user’s circle of ‘friends,’ until it ultimately – perhaps the goal of the game – tumesces to the degree at which the site advertises would-be friends that the user already has ‘too many’ ‘friends’ and ‘doesn’t need any more.’ This limit is currently set at 5000.

According to this source, 5000 “is on the high end of the number of friends that one person could reasonable [sic] have.” The same source has it that facebook is used by approximately 70 000 000 individuals, less than 1000 of whom have reached the limit, or have won? But, allegedly, winning gives a user cause to complain:

I still haven’t gotten through and I’m still getting pushback from the lobby.

imagine that Flickr only let 5,000 people see your photos? Or that YouTube only let 5,000 watch your videos? Wouldn’t you be pissed? Wouldn’t there be massive protests?

Absolutely. Yet we accept this crappy software engineering because of the “you-don’t-need-more-friends” lobby.

The hell with the lobby.

So says Robert Scoble, where else, but on the Scobleizer, here. He points to a deficiency in the accepted definition of friends when it comes to a social network, saying, “a “friend” is someone you want in your social network. Period. Nothing more. The fact that people assume that you should only have “real friends” in your social network is just plain wrong.” [Ibid.]

The fault perhaps lies with facebook in calling ‘friends’ what are in fact contacts. A terminological shift to ‘contacts’ would, however, subtract from the Emotion of the network just as readily as if we removed the word ‘social’ from ‘social network.’ Not that there would then come some blinding insight into the truly insidious mechanism of the site: it would simply be more difficult to justify the distribution of emotionally meaningful, and sometimes personal, items, photos, propositions, to contacts in a network. ‘Sharism’ would resemble nothing more than advertising. The emotion added to it, that we are sharing with friends, would leave us, once stripped of emotional charge, perhaps wondering why we are advertising the existence of this or that site or youtube video, like an unpaid third-party, acting on-behalf-of.

It is this exchange between and amongst anonymities which suggests both promiscuity and inflation, needless to say that they are both artificial, or symbolic. That what we call our forms of communication, that what we are given to call them, acts on us so effectively is a manifestation both of a desire to believe against our better judgements and simply of the power of advertising in constructing a scenario in which we willingly suspend disbelief. facebook, I would suggest is theatre; even the elision of the initial capital is for affect: but it is theatre at the service of the symbolic economy.

I justified my involvement with facebook, assuming an identity who posted items, photos, to snare itself, myself, and others into ‘sharism,’ and who ‘had something on his mind,’ however cynically, in regard to this function I see as central to the social network: advertising. As Google knows, it doesn’t take much: a micro-justification for a macro-participation; a micro-paying ad to a macro-owning corporation. I didn’t require a great deal of incentive to become active on facebook, because ‘active’ is as ‘active’ does. The Emotion acts as the covenant under which anonymities pursue their unanimous self-interests. Therefore, once facebook could no longer post in the form of notes what I wrote and posted to my blog, re-circulating it, according to its proprietary symbolic economic logic, I could no longer pretend to myself I was doing anything more than faking it, faking ‘friends,’ fake-‘sharing,’ faking interest, paid in fakes.

Is connectivity any more real on the web outside the social networks?

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flânerie, bananas, getting dead & being stoned, gay & generally self-identical: Edmund White (on), Josephine Baker & Théophile Gautier & foregoing Foucault

The rear end exists. I see no reason to be ashamed of it. It’s true there are rear ends so stupid, so pretentious, so insignificant that they’re good only for sitting on.

– Josephine Baker, quoted by Edmund White, The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris, Bloomsbury, London, 2008, p. 76

Imagine dying and being grateful you’d gone to heaven, until one day (or one century) it dawned on you that your main mood was melancholy, although you were constantly convinced that happiness lay just around the corner. That’s something like living in Paris for years, even decades. It’s a mild hell so comfortable that it resembles heaven.

– Ibid., p. 50

They fell about laughing, then an unspeakable fear seized them, to be followed by a melting love of all humanity or by total immersion in a picture book. Movement became slow and sticky, the size of the rooms expanded dramatically, a sense of the epic and the magnificent distorted the feeling of the gathering, to be replaced by a repulsed gaze on the grotesque faces of the other revellers.

– Edmund White on the meeting of Le Club des Hachichins at Lauzun’s Pimodan Hotel on the Île St. Louis, Théophile Gautier (from whom more here) in attendance, ibid., p. 132

The extreme reluctance of the French to recognise the gravity of AIDS or to campaign against its spread is linked to other national ambiguities that show up in an overview of French attitudes towards gays and literature in particular, and towards identity politics in general. For example, one of the great paradoxes is that France – the country that produced some of the most renowned pioneer homosexual writers of this century (Marcel Proust, André Gide, Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau and Marguerite Yourcenar, just to begin the list) – is also the country that most vigorously rejects the very idea of gay literature. As Didier Eribon, the author of a major biography of Michel Foucault, pointed out, this response is all of a piece with a more general rejection in France of everything that smacks of a politics based on minorities or the legitimization of feminism.

– Ibid., pp. 161-162

The French themselves would argue that their rejection of all ghettoization, far from being a sign of closetedness or cynicism, is in fact consistent with their ‘singularity’ as a nation. The French believe that a society is not a federation of special interest groups but rather an impartial state that treats each citizen – regardless of his or her gender, sexual orientation, religion or colour – as an abstract, universal individual. For the French any subgroup of citizens is a diminishment of human equality. [sic]

– Ibid, p. 166

Didier Lestrade, the openly gay and HIV-positive founder of Act Up in France … has admitted that he instinctively rejected Michel Foucault’s writing from the outset:

Act Up arrived at the very moment when denial of homosexuality had reached its limit. Suddenly I decided early on that in order to be the president of Act Up I would have to forego reading Foucault. Not that I felt a cultural inferiority complex, but Foucault’s thinking had so marked the first organizations in the struggle against AIDS that I had to save myself from its influence.

– Ibid., p. 169

French individualism – abstract and universal – along with a corresponding scorn of identity politics, has made France unusually vulnerable to AIDS.

– Ibid., p. 170

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土方巽 Tatsumi Hijikata, b. 9.3.1928 – d. 21.1.1986

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