Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 31, 2008

World Sex Guides

Filed under: Rant — estherspace @ 2:56 pm

I’ve never really thought about it before, but there is an entire network of information available on the internet if you’re looking to find some great places of prostitution around the world.  It’s crazy.

At sites like  brothelsexguide.com, there is a blog that provides:

 reviews about prostitution venues from all over the world like brothels, red-light districts, bars, massage parlors, strip clubs, agogo, etc.

So there is no personal anymore.  For the record, I don’t love the idea of prostitution as a job.  According to all of the books I’ve read by prostitutes and brothel employees (it has been a fascination of mine for a while), it isn’t a really fulfilling career, and it certainly gives you a very different attitude towards sexual intercourse.

Though it is important to hear what those participating have to say, I want to think about this from the perspective of the consumer.  If your sex selling point is information like:

Expect to pay around 200 Polish Zloty for one hour of fun with a wild Polish or Ukrainian hooker. The atmosphere in some establishments is a bit muffy, but the ladies make up for it in performance. Alcoholic drinks are very cheap so you can combine booze and sex very conveniently. (post on Polish brothels at brothesexguide.com)

do you begin to question your actions?  It’s dangerous to make sweeping statements, but I know that there are women around the world who have sex with people that they meet for the first time, and don’t get paid.  Is it the guarantee of sex that makes brothels and prostitutes so enticing?

And, I can’t help but ask, are these people concerned about all of the nasty netherregion grossness that can be obtained?  Having sex with a foreign person (since many people are interested in ‘adult travel’) who has sex not only with a lot of people, but a lot of people from all over the world (not everyone has the same standards as we do in the us of a) is an enormous risk.  I’m not sure there’s much more you can do than a condom in terms of precautions, but oh boy, all that could go wrong.  At least in places like Nevada there is mandatory condom use and HIV testing every thirty days within the legalized brothels (see here).  But is it enough?

And sex slaves exist around the world.  So, that exciting foreign action you’re getting might only be good for you.

I just can’t understand why this is possible, why the economic support is available to sustain these red light districts.  Is nooky really so much more powerful than the human ability to reason?  Is there something really obvious that I’m missing here?

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January 29, 2008

Let’s talk about it

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 11:18 pm

I’ve been mulling over Kim’s last comments in class regarding the transmedia storytelling phenomenon. Jenkins’ was very much interested in The Matrix for this reason. I have a little bit of a problem with how the two mesh with some of our other discussions regarding the concept of the networking of an experience, but it could be my limited exposure.

Jenkins defines transmedia storytelling as:

the art of world making. To fully experience any fictional world, consumers must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience. (21)

And later, directly referring to The Matrix, Jenkins states:

The Matrix is entertainment for the age of media convergence, integrating multiple texts to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium….Each step along the way built on what has come before, while offering new points of entry. (95)

At the end of class, Kim asked us to think about the relationship of the various elements of a transmedia storytelling experience to the primary text. In the example of The Matrix, then, the video game, Animatrix, and online discussion groups would all act as elements of the transmedia storytelling and The Matrix movies as the primary text. She described, as does Jenkins, how viewers need to play the videogame, watch the animated shorts, and participate in online discussions in order to ‘get’ the movies completely. Fans were not willing to invest that much effort, and therefore the movies did not do as well as anticipated.

What I am interested in discussing, however, is the concept of how a transmedia story is told. If all of the different elements are meant to aid in understanding the primary text, aren’t we working with a very linear system (like the book), where footnotes, etc. are simply side notes to the central idea.

If I try to think about the transmedia storytelling experience as a network, where any part of the experience can act as a entry point to the whole, I am again stuck in a very traditional situation where the various experiences are designed to draw you to a central point, which progresses in a linear narrative mode.  For example, The Matrix videogame was designed as a means of expanding the story in The Matrix film, yet, if it is the point of entry for viewers (audience members, experiencers, readers?  what are they?), it is designed to bring him/her into the center of the story, the core Matrix film (and later, films).  

Furthermore, while Jenkins cites the convergence of media as a way of consumers having the opportunity to dictate to producers about what they want for new media, his ideas of what a transmedia story-receiving experience would be like is biased towards the producers in terms of power.  Jenkins sees the goal of a transmedia storytelling as “everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience.”  However, this implies that the answers are there, waiting to be found by the viewers, not that the viewers will have the power to create any new understandings in relation to the primary text, but instead that the viewer can only more completely (or even, at all) understand the primary text if he or she goes to the lengths of investigating all of the provided avenues.  

So, in relation to transmedia storytelling, I’m having difficulty imagining the network.  Yes, the storytelling is multifaceted, but it’s not as easy to enter anywhere as Jenkins would have you believe.  It kind of feels like instead of the idea of anyone can become an expert, we’re in a position where one must become an expert in order to ‘get’ the texts ‘properly’. 

January 26, 2008

Wait, wait, I figured some stuff out!

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 12:22 am

Whoo-eee, where to begin? Jenkins presents a very clear, yet flexible, definition of convergence; he describes it as “a change in the way media is produced and a change in the way media is consumed” (16). One helpful technique for bringing all of the individual chapters together was his repetition, especially of his most pressing worry about the present state of convergence culture, the unwillingness (or inability due to lacking skills) of media producers to work together, co-creating products that can interact across a variety of media tools to give the consumer a synergistic convergence media experience.But, all of his talk about what a product of media convergence might look like made me think about the examples of convergence that I’ve already noticed in my own life. For example, J.K. Rowling’s homepage– a fan dream in the “Dawson’s Desktop” manner.

While Jenkins is focused on the internet as a hub for converging media, and we’re supposed to be thinking about the physical wires that connect technology, I think there’s a pretty strong example of convergence in literature already, outside of fan fiction. Kim, you’re going to love me for bringing this guy up, but Alan Moore is a pretty impressive writer when it comes to creating the worlds for fans to obsess over, like in “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” or even “The Matrix.” His latest project is a graphic novel series entitled “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which will consist of six volumes, two of which have already been released. The most recent publication is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which acts like a sourcebook for reading the other volumes in the series, rather than as the third volume, but maintains a narrative arc, which most sourcebooks do not.

For those readers who do not follow Moore’s work, one reviewer summed up the plot of the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” series as:

Late Victorian era England is overrun with nefarious and sinister doings. The Crown enlists some of literature’s finest – and sometimes vilest – characters to investigate: Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker and the Invisible Man. Can such disparate and antisocial personalities unite in common cause on behalf of the citizens of Britannia? Unlikely. But the results are exciting, often amusing and utterly compelling. (David Kozlowski, comicsbulletin.com)

In the series, Moore is working on the premise that all literary characters and their lives were real, documented events in history. The Black Dossier provides the reader with a unique reading experience, for the book reveals itself as the characters learn more. For example, in the final panel of a page, a character will open a book to read it, and the next page of LoEG: Black Dossier will be the contents of the book the character was reading, often printed to appear to be the original document. As with any Moore work, everything on a page will have significance, and often will refer to other works he has done, to popular legends or mythologies, and will provide clues that the reader can appreciate only after re-reading the book.

In order to successfully compare LoEG: Black Dossier to Jenkins’ ideas of convergence culture, I must first outline some of the specific elements of a convergence media experience as he presents them in his book:

  • “flow of content across multiple media platforms” (2)
  • “cooperation between multiple media industries” (2)
  • “migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (2)
  • “consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (3)
  • “communal rather than individualistic modes of reception” (26)
  • “traditional assumptions about expertise are breaking down” (52)
  • “each step along the way built upon what has come before, while offering new points of entry” (95)
  • a “collaborative model of authorship” (96)
  • “the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts” (102)

Considering that “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” series is confined by it’s position as a printed media, Moore is doing an amazing job of tapping into all of the aspects that Jenkins discusses. For example, throughout the book Moore uses a number of different versions of printed media to further the reading experience, including postcards, newspaper, a play script, and he even includes 3-D pages at the end of the book.

Of course, Moore did not create LoEG: Black Dossier completely on his own. He teamed up with illustrator Kevin O’Neill to help him create this amazing work, as well as colorists, lettering artists, and designers. Moore knew he was doing something different, and in an interview shortly before the release, he stated:

we started to realize that we were practically handling a new form. It would be something that wouldn’t be quite a comic, it wouldn’t be quite a text with the other elements we were planning to include like the vinyl single, the Tijuana Bible and the 3D section. (from comicbookresources.com)

Unfortunately, Moore was unable to convince his editors to go for the vinyl record along with the already pricey book, so we are left with only the has-been possibility of a further converged media experience. There is talk of a later record release, as part of a “Ultimate” Black Dossier collection.

And, like any good convergence media product, the experience of reading Moore’s LoEG: Black Dossier extends far beyond the words and images printed on the page. As with his other work, online knowledge communities have formed, working together to better understand the intricacies of Moore’s work. Fan Jess Nevins hosts a site on the Sam Houston State University (Texas) network dedicated to LoEG: Black Dossier annotations, where the evidence of fan collaboration is evident. It can be found here. Sites like this one are an essential part of ‘getting’ Moore’s work, since, as one critic points out:

I doubt anyone other than Alan Moore (or perhaps his unofficial annotator, Jess Nevins) will catch every reference in Black Dossier, although the deck is already stacked against you if you aren’t British, or at least intimately familiar with British pop culture of the last two hundred years. (Jack Patrick Rodgers on popmatters.com)

However, the world is full of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fans that heartily disagree, and who look forward to the challenge of discovering some of what can be discovered in Moore’s work. I hope, for his sake, that Moore doesn’t lose his knack for staying a creative step ahead of his fans before the series comes to its conclusion. But, my friends, welcome nonetheless to the new, converged, world of fiction.

It’s hard to describe what LeEG: The Black Dossier looks like and how it functions as a reading experience,  so I will do my best to bring it to class on Tuesday, if you’re interested in taking a gander.
P.S. There was a film entitled “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” based on the first volume in the series, with some creative liberties taken, but fans trashed it as unable to capture the true complexity of Moore’s work. For more, look here.

P.P.S.- My boyfriend insists that I add a byline for him, since he introduced me to this latest book by Alan Moore, and helped me understand many of the detailed references that Moore was making.  All hail Greg.

    January 23, 2008

    Is technology-induced paranoia dead?

    Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 1:28 am

    Well, I feel like Kathleen Fitzpatrick is wearing a big ol’ “I’m with stupid” tee-shirt, and the arrow is pointing right at me.  Her article, at least the parts about Pynchon, was what I was trying to say in that blog.  It seemed original at the time.

    Since I haven’t formally engaged with the Fitzpatrick article, “Network,” here’s my chance.  The idea of paranoia is particularly striking for me.  Fitzpatrick does not see paranoia as a potentially dangerous, destructive illness, as it is in, say, Fight Club, but instead, it is simply a fact of the anxieties we have of networks.  She writes:

    Given the dominance and the pervasiveness of the network, paranoia becomes less a pathology than a reading strategy, a sense-making worldview, as the individual participant becomes a mere node on a system infinitely larger than himself that may allow for centralized, nefarious control of the individual, or may just as easily be radically decentralized and beyond control. (Fitzpatrick “Network” 153)

    Paranoia is powerful.  My father will hang up on me if he thinks I’ve said anything over the telephone that would be of interest to any Authorities. (yes, with a capital A, if you’ve ever met him, you’d understand, and probably roll your eyes, too)  And, apparently, the paranoia of lacking privacy is an issue that have concerned citizens, even before the Homeland Security bill, judging by the 1995 article in Wired magazine concerning the power of employers to monitor their employees in the workplace through use of surveillance devices, or the website chronicling one individual’s quest to discover the possibility of someone tapping into the average person’s home telephone line.

    The power of paranoia, teamed with the ability of mass-media to appeal to vast numbers of people on very individual levels (see Fitzpatrick 188-191), makes a compelling argument for the power of a network such as the television.

    Does Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 exemplifies this paranoid terror of the power of such networks?  On page one, as Fitzpatrick points out, the television is sporting a dead green eye with which it is watching her.  But the other instance of a television interaction is with Metzger, and they’re watching a movie that he starred in, which one would assume destroys the possibility of the film becoming a spiraling vortex of decentralized information or, on the other hand, a tool through which Oedipa can be controlled.

    For Oedipa, the network that has made her most paranoid is the Tristero mail system.  It has her searching for the complex, yet inherent order that she hopes it is compromised of,  and it also has her fearing that it is simply a mess of fragmented pieces that Pierce Inverarity has thrown together as yet another way of controlling her.  Very network.  All we’re missing is the wires, the thing that really makes things network-y in ENG 576.  Again, the mail fails.

    Admittedly, Oedipa’s experiences with 3 a.m. telephone calls presents some support for the idea of such a network to be a vortex of disorder, and thereby lacking in a center or a controlling force.  However, while her once silent telephone did ring, the person on the other end was not a random individual who had, out of all of the numbers in the world, dialed Oedipa.  Yes, the power of paranoia is not in the probability of  something happening, but in the possibility.

    The paranoia of the possibility of invasion of privacy seems to be, to me, not too far-fetched for 1965, when it was written.  The United States had already begun a dramatic shift of cultural and social importance.  The nation began sending troops into Vietnam, the civil rights movement is in full swing, antagonized by Malcolm X’s death and Martin Luther King Jr.’s arrest, the first commercial communications satellite is launched, we walked on the moon, for goodness sake- if we can do that we can do anything, right? (source: infoplease.com)

    But, this is not 1965.  We have even better, more invasive technology.  But we are less afraid, in my opinion.  According to a Federal Trade Commission study, there were 542,656 identity theft and fraud complaints in the United States in 2003 (p 5).  In 2004, the number jumped to roughly 653,000 complaints, and in 2005, the number was 686,683 complaints, with the vast majority of these complaints coming from individuals under the age of 60 (p 10).  The possibility of identity theft is well-known, very real, and no simple thing to contend with.  Yet, the numbers keep going up, why is that?

    I’d like to put forth the idea that we’re not so paranoid today.   Perhaps we have accepted our positions as “a mere node on a system infinitely larger than himself” (Fitzpatrick “Network” 153).  Perhaps the transferring of private information over invisible lines of communication has become so commonplace to us that we don’t even worry about the negative possibilities of what could happen, especially when things like online banking and bill-paying are so darn convenient.  But really, shouldn’t we have a little more hysteria over the dangers of passing private information over the internet?  Is it being suppressed, or is there a mass-media outlet sending out the advertisements that will soothe each of our unrests?  Great, now I’m starting to sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist.

    January 21, 2008

    that is soooo postmodern

    Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age, p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 7:42 pm

    While this novel is hailed as a prime example of postmodern fiction, I was not enchanted by it. It is painfully, obviously, postmodern, with fragmentation of the subject, a creative narrative mode, and the loss of a connection between the individual and lived history, so on and so forth. But, it is in many ways an academic novel, and I would argue that its accessibility for the general public is fairly limited. I couldn’t cruise with it until I figured out that trying to link all of the Inverarity remarks was a waste of energy, since, despite what common sense told me, he and his estate were not what the book was about.

    Throughout the narrative Oedipa Maas is occupied by her desperate attempts to understand herself and and her place in life, that is, when she is not otherwise occupied by the drama of getting laid. Oedipa seems to think that if she can understand where she is in life, she will know how to proceed both in life and as executor of Inverarity’s estate. This sense of misdirection on the road of life smacks strongly of Fredric Jameson’s ideas of a postmodern world. Using the metaphor of a city, Jameson feared that, in a postmodern world, all traditional markers would be removed, leaving people to feel alienated and unable to mentally map where they were in the city or their position in relation to any tradition markers, such as buildings or street names. (see Postmodernism: the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, ~ p51) As if to give credence to his theory, Oedipa’s first reactions to San Narciso, a town basically run by Yoyodyne technologies, is that it is, “less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts,”(Pynchon 13) and later, looking down on the city from a hill;

    she thought of the time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There’d seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute in San Narciso, a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding. (Pynchon 14)

    printed-circuit.jpg

    Looking at a model of a printed circuit such as this one, it is easy to see how amazingly coordinated such a circuit is from above, but if one is aware of how much information is stored in that small square, it quickly becomes dizzying when one imagines navigating the complex channels of communication.

    This inability to navigate the channels through which information travels is a problem that continues to plague Oedipa. Creating an obsession with finding out the truth of the relationship between the Thurn & Taxi and the Tristero private mail delivery systems, Oedipa is transferring all of her anxieties about herself onto a project and questions that would seem to have a conclusive answer. However, Oedipa finds it impossible to find the answer to the question of who controls the secret non-government mail delivery systems that she witnesses in operation, and in her quest she begins to look everywhere for her answers, including such sources as a play by a possibly fictional playwrite, where the line that most interests her is highly compromised in it’s authenticity.  Even the symbol that inspires her to investigate the matter, the muted horn, has been adopted by other organizations, misconstruing it’s original meaning and purpose.

    As the answers to her problems fail to become clear to Oedipa, she begins to fear that she is perhaps hallucinating, or that the entire question of a modern-day private mail delivery system is a hoax that Inverarity has set up to fool her. She reveals that her belief and faith in the idea of a true history that has been documented and can be recalled at anyone’s convenience is shaken.

    By the end of the novel, Oedipa has grown very little, except in her awareness of the lack of a norm for her to fit into. She is still lost within the channels of information, “it was now like walking among matrices of a great digital computer” (Pynchon 150). But this acceptance of instability has given her some sense of peace.  She no longer trusts in the power of any one particular person, such as her whacko therapist, to sort everything out, but instead simply embraces the idea that:

    It was not an act of treason, nor possibly even of defiance.   But it was a calculated withdrawal….since they could not  have withdrawn into a vacuum (could they?), there had to exist the separate, silent, unsuspected world.  (Pynchon 101)

    This is the obvious answer to Oedipa’s tumultuous quest to discover the solutions to her problems, and works marvellously for the novel.  But, as a  member of the real world, I am left asking “why?”  Why do they have to exist in a separate, silent, unsuspected world of covert mail delivery?  They aren’t saying anything of interest to the government in their letters, if Fallopian’s letter is any indication.  It’s not even a form of resistance towards the USPS.  So why? This entire operation, and all of it’s murderous disagreements over territory or whatnot, seems to have no goals or long-term purpose.  So why bother?  And if you’re going to say that it’s not about the mail, it’s a metaphor for literature, I’m going to disagree with you.  And perhaps I’ll write a book explaining why.  Later.
    Things I wanted to discuss more:

    acronyms

    connecting the world of thermodynamics to the world of information flow (p85)

    sex in the book

    “…it doesn’t mean anything. Wharfinger was no Shakespeare” (p60)

    “members of the third sex” (p89)

    January 17, 2008

    Today’s Children (in the information age)

    Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age, Rant — estherspace @ 11:30 pm

    I’ve been thinking about it, and I feel the need to publicly state my opinion, probably so I can look back at the end of the semester and laugh at myself for being so sure of something I know so little about. As for the point, when avoiding writing my first post, I did a Google images search for “reading cartoons”. Here’s some of what I came up with:

    001126cartoon.jpgcartoon_reading2gif.png

    readingcartoon.jpg

    Obviously I’m not the first to notice it, but these cartoons attest to the fact that (western) children today are undoubtedly in a society that has a very different relationship with literature than I did growing up, and significantly different from the experiences our parents had as children. They have amazing access and skill when it comes to new technologies, and are growing up surrounded by things that are highly influenced by technology. Television has BOOMED. Now we have access to more channels than a normal person should want, and the number is growing every day. Extreme reading, while not yet a television event, has potential.

    I think that I would like to make an argument for the the idea that today’s children (tomorrow’s leaders) are developing brains that we cannot even imagine. Of course learning particular tasks develops one portion of the brain over another. These brains will be different, but it isn’t a matter of whether this is good or bad, but rather of attempting to understand it, because the world has changed, and reading’s not coming back in a conventional way.

    I am not making an argument for there being great value in a television-dominated child upbringing. There is good research suggesting that, as Caleb Crain noted in the New Yorker, watching something on television is a largely latent activity for the brain.  However, technology extends beyond the television.  If nothing else, figuring out how to program any new technology is a mentally stimulating activity, and these children are simply developing the minds to make it easier.  I am worried about what the future will be for literature, but only because I know that it will be different, and that is always a hard thing.

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