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robertogreco : benlewis   1

Save The Data Drama
"Place



A location rife with beautiful signifiers of gentle exclusion seemed an ideal place for a conference like this. Within a few minutes of Friday's talks beginning, it became clear that almost everyone at this event knew each other, and if they didn't know the speakers they were probably grad students. I came to this thing from a periphery: close enough to some of the speakers to not be totally isolated, making work that's relevant to the topic, but not transactionally useful to the majority of the people there.

I admittedly have a knack for showing up in places where I am out of place. I tend to show up to such places bearing a massive, posture-ruining, class warfare chip on my shoulder. Some of this comes from the fact that being alive feels like being out of place, because honestly I wake up every day amazed that I'm still alive after an unrelated incident in 2009 that I don't really want to talk about.

One side effect of my terrible posture is that I'm a terrible liar. When faced with the elaborate theater of someone trying to convince me that this is the hippest data center ever or that he is the Most Important Man In The Room, I kind of just start laughing. And when I start to get worked up about how out of place I am in a given situation, I get defensive and snarky.

This isn't necessarily an apology (I don't think I have to apologize for for thinking that careerism is silly or for having reactions to however unintentionally hostile spaces); just context on the off-chance any of the Serious Important Men of Data Drama (who perhaps hereafter should be called the Data Drama Queens) who were probably annoyed with me read this. Don't worry guys, I'm just a silly woman living paycheck to paycheck, don't mind me.



Privilege



Honestly, I don't really like being the person at a gendered, privileged event talking about gender or privilege, because I know that I have so much privilege, and I don't want to claim to speak for the marginalized who are not in the room. Hell, we didn't even really get into how deeply white the conference was (in both speaker and audience makeup). There was a uniquely awkward moment when, during a Q&A session, filmmaker Ben Lewis complained about the difficulty he encountered finding people to interview who were concerned about or negatively affected by surveillance--this after James Bridle had given a talk about British citizens stripped of their citizenship essentially so they could be droned. The anger at Lewis' apparent ignorance was palpable, but not necessarily productive--while yes, someone probably should have said "Ben, perhaps you should consider speaking to people who don't look like you", there weren't that many examples of such people to point to in that conference room at Princeton.


When Data Drama Queens talk about the risks being faced in our new data age, the future adaptations of cyborg humans, the potential of World 2.0, who is actually being spoken about or spoken for? To what extent are these speculations of the future posed more or less for people like them?



Magic

The aesthetics of the slide talks and much of the work presented varied--from Metahaven's seapunk-Geocities collages to Adam Harvey's apparently oblivious fashion magazine-glossy male gaze--but there was a frequently ambivalent return to a rhetoric and aesthetics of awe. Despite ourselves, we are kind of in love with the technology, even if it is in the hands of the oppressor, and that's hard to reconcile.

Early on during Saturday's talks, a Q&A got into a discussion of magic, and that's the thing I keep coming back to. I'm not sure what that's going to look like, but I think it's got a lot of potential. I am for a dialogue on technology and society that allows for weirdness, allows for vulnerability, allows for humanity, requires a certain amount of faith, and isn't about pure mastery. I think there's more space for that in the language of magic, I don't know. Mostly I wanted to know how many of the people at that conference listen to Welcome to Nightvale."
ingridburrington  datadrama  2014  data  privilege  place  conferences  magic  nightvale  mastery  usmanhaque  katecrawford  cv  honesty  lying  class  classwarfare  liamyoung  jamesbridle  benlewis 
april 2014 by robertogreco

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