My work continues scholarship in the area of Digital Rhetorics that shape social change within peoples' lives. I research poststructural expressions of identity/ies to engage how people shape meaning through the technologies they choose to advocate within their communities. My interdisciplinary media and rhetorical scholarship engages the contextual spaces of the internet/WWW, gaming, and mobile devices.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm not included: Dialogic influences of Identity reclamation through naming

I find myself continuing to contemplate yesterday's discussion in my Communication Ethics class concerning naming and identity. One of my students mentioned concerns about the exclusivity of naming as community members who are 'Othered' attempt to influence the image of themselves. The example of the BET network got me thinking about how naming of the Self (when struggling through oppression) influences our interactions with others considered dominant within certain social structures. For example, for a long time I've seen friends (male as well as people of color) feel in excluded from feminist conversations due to perceptions of the term 'feminism'. The 'femin' root may seem exclusive to women and the history of the movement and organizations with that name have been predominantly and sometimes exclusively white (Brown, 1989; Chehade, 2001).

When we name or identify or classify, we not only create 'in' groups, but also 'out' groups (Bowker and Stars, 1999; Burke, 1941). When people specifically communicate instances of oppression through how they name their identity, "a lack of white privilege can be experienced as oppression" (Nakamura, 2002, p. 78).

Here is a question that I have come to (hopefully) further my understanding of dialogue: If though our identity reclamation others recognize their privilege/experience oppression, how might that recognition influence dialogue? 

I am not advocating for the invisibility of oppression or silencing identity reclamation (as Burke noted we cannot legislate language)-racial invisibility allows for a privileged group to “take their identity as the norm or stand by which other groups are measured” (Martin, Krizek, Nakayama, & Bradford, 1996) and facilitate privilege through silence. I am just wondering how the labels we choose influence the potential for dialogue.

Brown, E. B. (1989). Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of Saint Luke. Signs, 14(3), 610-633.
Bowker, G.C., & Stars, S.L. (1999) Sorting things out classification and its consequences. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Burke, K. (1941). The philosophy of literary form (3rd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Chehade C (2001) Big little white lies: Our attempt to white-out America. New Brunswick, NJ: Nehmarche Publishing.
Martin, J. N., Krizek, R. L., Nakayama, T. K., & Bradford, L. (1996). Exploring Whiteness: A study of self labels for white Americans. Communication Quarterly, 44(2): pp. 125-144.
Nakamura, L. (2002). Head-hunting on the internet: Identity tourism, avatars, and racial passing in the textual and graphic chat spaces. In L. Nakamura (Ed.), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (pp. 31-60). New York: Routledge.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Is it the Dia de Los Muertos or the Disneyfication of culture? (Warning: false dichotomy)

Here's what's sitting in my craw this morning.

My mom, my son, and I were sitting on the sofa as she read the paper and I sat reading a book for 'fun'-I mean it's my 'break' between terms and all-and she handed me a Saint Paul Pioneer Press article on Disney's attempt to trademark the phrase 'Dia de Los Muertos' for their upcoming media enterprise.


No, Disney, you haven't taken the next leap into identity theft and cultural appropriation/homogenization, have you? Well, they have in so many other ways, but really?!

Part of me wanted to think, hey, they might help expose the world to an important part of American culture. The other part of me critically assessed, they are in it for the money, sweetie, and just like the recent crap with the Brave character, Merida, guess what? They'll ruin this too through their words, and general commodification of culture.


So began my venture into the web to investigate more about the story.

I started looking for information from trusted sources...I admit, Fox news didn't make the cut and after seeing the way the it covered the story, neither did Frontera, who provided an 'article' headed with an image of two, seemingly light skinned, women with faces decorated with for a dia de los muertos celebration in Vegas. Maybe I threw the second one out too quickly, but for right now, this image seems to sexualize and commercialize the whole conversation in another way.

Anyway, what I did come across as I looked for 'credible,' in-depth, and insightful commentary and sources that realized the scandal early on, offered concerns about how Disney changed their plans for the film. I found myself concerned by the sterile commentary about the "bid" dropped by Disney...but also saddened that it sounds like Disney may drop the film altogether rather than just their efforts to trademark/appropriate a holiday. 

Part of me is happy...another win for cultural freedom.

Part of me recalls my cousin's sentiments who works at Disney-he argued that Disney offers accessibility, dreams, freedom, etc. for some people as he reflected on the partner benefits offered to many of the employees and Make a Wish kids that felt they could have distance from the health concerns they live with everyday when they visit the park. He's right-there is value in Disney. Disney can help dreams come true...but what dreams?

My concern is that only for people with resources and/or identifiable' or 'valid' health problems' (like cancer) can buy into Disney. My concern is that the medium of animated films they sell may start out with good intentions (Mulan, Cars, Brave, etc.), but the art becomes commodified...reduced....and kills (irony intended) the legend in some way for the almighty dollar (FE look at Cars-consider where all the female characters have gone-who prompted the 'click' point for the male protagonist- when you look at how the toys, books, etc. are sold). My concern is that to continue to exist and stay in the position of power Disney is/has to expose itself to the public with the easy stuff (PR) and is/has to be private with the socially responsible stuff. There are clear constraints within the corporate world that ensure one can continue to thrive (translation: profitably) as a business.

But can we envision a different model or are we fooling ourselves within a country known for media and business? Further what does this mean for academic institutions, some of which are taking a 'business' model?

More questions than answers today.

What I do know is like any company, vigilance and checks and balances are necessary to ensure that the edutainment environment that is produced does not teach our children to model only the roles bought for them instead of thinking and playing out their roles within their contexts. We want children to learn through mediums, but learn how to critically remediate, transmediate, etc. rather than just duplicate.

I am just afraid that as people attempt to commodify culture we might bury the dead instead of celebrate it and attempt to envision a future without the history we come from. Through a pollyannic, singular look at the world we forget to our multi-dimensional story. We have a responsibility to humanity to hold ourselves to embody community by not trampling on others in pursuit of our happiness.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Investigating the simulacra: what is 'truth' within digital spaces?

The other day a friend of mine who designs video games posted the following link to an article connecting Sophia Stewart's text The Third Eye. I found myself intrigued by the prospect that another person, particularly an African American woman (based on the image provided and the location of the source), influenced the Matrix.

I'll be straight-I wanted to believe it, so I 'shared" it within Facebook, seeing what reverberations it brought back. Interestingly enough, controversy sprung up to assess the 'truth' of the claim that a court case had awarded her a large sum of money in connection with the rights of the Matrix story/films.

A couple of my peers introduced me to the site,, a site asserting itself as "the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. " I am not sure what to make of this claim. In a space where postmodern construction is the point, who are the 'truth' finders? who state that the creators of Snopes use false identities and do not fact check? How about that there is an interview with CNN, or should we check their facebook page

So I looked up the identities of the claimed creators for the site-not that I don't believe them, but I find myself suspicious/critical of anyone claiming 'truth,' especially when I saw who commonly referenced them. Wikipedia, our favorite collector/repository of 'information' indicated that "The site has been referenced by news media and other sites, including CNN,[12] Fox News Channel,[13] MSNBC[14] and Australia's ABC on its Media Watch program" (Wikipedia reference-in-text citations rather than hyperlink to keep Wikipedia's links intact). Again, my politics prompt me to be critical about who has cited them-typically these sources have a tendency to over publish and under-research.

So where does that leave me?

...wondering if our search for the hol(e)y grail will ever end

...wondering if we can recognize we are not alone
...wondering how we move past our 'trained incapacities' (Burke) to engage other ideas
...wondering how we choose who/what to value

So what is 'truth'?

trick question.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wonder women: notes from the video

Notes from the video:

"what are the consequences for women when they are strong and when they are the central actors of their own lives"

-SCARS. :)

Wonder Woman day as a benefit for domestic shelters (Portland, OR)
-What a brilliant idea

Love and compassion instead of violence, whenever possible; conflict resolution

Wonder woman is about hope and tolerance.

my thoughts:

I want to do this for girls. I want to help people be empowered to create new visions and embodiments for their lives within mediated contexts. I think that games are a way to do this-and I'm glad to see the Girl Scouts agree.

I love wonder woman, but her legend and legacy for girls and women is important-But we cannot forget the history that was created about her.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

facing your demons

Rachel Maddow makes some interesting points....check out the article and video clip.

People learn from the past...sometimes in ways we wish they wouldn't. School shooting from White Nationalist physical violence (the traffic jam reminds me of Saul Alinsky's protest tactics).

We carry our wounds generationally when we don't find ways to face them. Although you cannot control when you are exposed to your demons, you can influence the contexts in which you face them to ensure you limit the creation of demons in others by listening and choosing moments responsibility.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Humanities Advocacy Day

Have you applied for a Humanities Grant lately? ;)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Digital Dialectic of (the) Harlem Shake?

The other day while preparing for my Digital Rhetorics class, I was reading Warnick's Rhetoric Online text and found myself at the Viral Video Chart. One of the videos, Harlem Shake, caught my attention and I was fascinated by the array of parodies and (re)presentations of this video-the simulacrum being performed/created by various groups of people appearing to be male of white, European descent (and even one of Starcraft). Some of the videos were physically graphic and sexually charged in ways that prompted me to wonder what motivated these videos. After coming across an instructional video on the Harlem Shake, I considered that the "real" these videos might be imitating might be a form of dance which generated out of Harlem. 

Today a friend posted a response video to the Harlem Shake video meme developing on the web that offers some insight into the foundation and "real" of the Harlem Shake.

Interestingly the response video was also made by a male of white, European descent. (what killed me was when one of the interviewees mentioned that a corporation would attempt to capitalize on the popularity of this meme...hello, Pepsi, with Jeff Gordon?)

All these videos illustrate not only Baudrillard's concepts of simulation and simulacra, but also Burke's parlor metaphor of an unending conversation of race as it plays out in youtube. 

Further we should consider that within digital space most of the digital dialectic is between white people. Even if they are attempting to represent people of color and Harlem, the frame (questions, responses, etc.) are still from their direct(ive) and perspective. Further even with the various representations of the Harlem Shake, consider the search terms and popularity. A search on youtube or even google for "Harlem Shake" prompts a overwhelming, mob mentality (dark side of crowdsourcing)-a hegemony through popularity for the simulacrum over the "real."

We all have a part in conversations about the social construction of race...but how can conversations compete with/perform with media savvy? How are people moving meaning and what constraints limit one's "fitting response"?

Further I contemplated the cultural appropriation of people considered to "others." Although I understand that many of these videos unintentionally move racial meaning, there is meaning in the choice of artifacts to move meaning to the meaning that is moved. The vehicle embodies cultural dynamics and is a reverent to the historic concern/reduction/diffusion of race as only entertainment.

So where does this monologue leave me? ...continuing to wonder about how we communicate with one another within digital contexts and how that has changed and stayed the same as physical ones. I continue to see how numbers of expressions matter within a digital "democracy" as does access to digital "language" and form. Pedagogically I remind myself that only those who seek will learn and others may be willing to be content with panem et circenses...but can the reduction bring about a dialectic? an engagement with intertextuality?

For a few more examples of instructional videos on the Harlem Shake on youtube, use the terms "Harlem Shake instruction."