Fifty Shades of Black and White

Posted February 9, 2015 by Orie
Categories: Uncategorized

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So Fifty Shades of Grey is all over the place because of the movie. I had honestly begun to forget about its existence, but then here I am realizing it’s a movie. So many books I wish could get a shot at a film and this is the one that exists. So to start with, I admit to not reading the book. I don’t have any interest.

I do have some interest in the discussion surrounding the book, however, so I read a thorough and lengthy plot summary. I feel familiar enough with the book now to take a small quiz in a college course, as one sometimes does when desperate and procrastinated on reading. It’s good enough for broad strokes, but that’s all I need for this purpose.

The main discussion seems to be about whether this is a book about abuse or just kinky sex. Detractors are said to just be in a moral panic about BDSM. I go into these thoughts with an open mind. That’s why I read the plot summary. I don’t like just getting caught up in things out of context.

So it was a bit confusing for me to come to the conclusion that the book itself does not seem to have a high regard for BDSM. If this were a book about two like minds coming together, why would Christian Grey’s BDSM fetish be something that the protagonist has to love him in spite of rather than because of. I mean there seems to be very little else to the character of Mr. Grey, so it’s hard to imagine just what it is she sees in him. Unless it’s money, but let’s not get that cynical just yet.

Not only that, but Mr. Grey’s sexual activities are clearly attributed to childhood abuse. Yes this is starting to sound like healthy, consensual sex behavior all right. If anything this whole thing seems like it should be insulting to anyone that actually enjoys BDSM.

The final nail in the coffin for me is that the arc of the plot seems intent on reforming Mr. Christian Grey. If there’s nothing wrong with his behavior, then why is it depicted as a good thing that his relationship with Ana is making him less controlling? Once again it seems like this relationship is in spite of the abusive tendencies and not because of them, as would be more likely in a truly consensual relationship with any BDSM interests. No, this much more clearly falls into the tropes of a noble woman enduring abuse to “reform” the man she loves. This is about fixing Christian Grey, who is a man broken by childhood abuse.

That is the unhealthy narrative. Not BDSM. Relationships should never be about “fixing” each other. As a society we know what road that leads us down, and it’s not good. I do not find objection in this story because there is a woman who enjoys pain, but because she does not seem to enjoy pain and only does it for the sake of someone else. Forget the details, the simple broad problem that she does not seem to be in this relationship for her own sake is a simple way for this to fail my bullshit test.

So. That’s what I think.

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My Agenda

Posted November 6, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Writing

Tags: , , ,

I am a white male of heavy Norwegian ancestry — very common for a Minnesotan. I am a Lutheran Christian. I am a bisexual.

At the end of the day, I think I’m more than the sum of my parts. What amount of generalized description can ever encapsulate a person? These categories are important to me because I’m me. I do not think they are very interesting to the vast majority of people. They usually just ask my name.

One category has suddenly become a bit more important to the world and to me, personally. Believe me when I say I do not want this. I do not want to wake up every morning and see what new terrors and depression my life is going to bring me. I have enough problems with being recently out of college and managing my social life.

Obviously I’m talking about being bisexual, since far as I know being a white male is still just fine the majority of the time. I’ve been this way as long as I can remember and certainly done my fair share of navel-gazing in the past ten years of my life. Nobody really cares about that. They only really care about what happened recently, because I finally fell in love.

In three more months we will have been together for two years. A life that was starting to feel empty for me now feels like it has a direction and meaning. Things were just one big bundle of elation to begin with, as I suppose it often goes. Then when we sat down to really figure out what we were going to do and the election season started it was as if a cloud slowly gathered over everything again. Jesse is also bisexual. He is also male.

We came together so naturally and easily it was as if there was a hole in my heart that needed filling and he was just the right shape to do it. I have the worst problems being social and was resolved to spend my life alone, so connecting with someone so deeply that I can talk and laugh with them every day for almost two years is a great surprise to me. My sad previous attempts at relationships blew up on the launch pad (one of which was female).

So maybe you can sympathize that waking up and reading about my disordered and promiscuous lifestyle leading to the doom of civilization makes me hopping mad. There are many things about my life that are disordered. My relationship with Jesse is one of the rare exceptions. How can anybody make an evaluation of my “lifestyle” that doesn’t know me? I’m a quiet and reserved person that doesn’t want any trouble. The most I’ve ever wanted out of life was someone to love me, a home with movies and books and video games, and maybe someday a family. I helped raise my little brother and I know what a dirty job it is. I still think I want a kid some day.

Early on I had to decide if I could have it both ways. Could I love Jesse and have a family too? Before I could think much about it Jesse was my family. I wasn’t going to leave him for anything. I haven’t given up on my other dreams, it’s just turned into a lot bigger pain in the ass.

Whenever I stop and think about the cards life has played me, Jesse was my trump. No sorrow can ever live as long as that joy. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and let other people cheat me. I can already be married to Jesse by a religious institution in this country. I don’t understand why religion is an issue. That’s my business, not anyone else’s. “The Gays” are not some cult with strange ideas and only about 100 people. We don’t even have anything in common more than any other two randomly selected people would. We don’t share values or ideas like a religion. Don’t tell me who I am or what I believe.
That’s what’s truly depraved; and it has to stop.

Technology and the Long Tail

Posted February 12, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Weblogs and Wikis

Tags: , , , , , ,

Long Tail
(Source: Wikipedia)

This is a picture of the “long tail,” the idea that there are more people collectively buying things with low production then there are people buying the big blockbusters. The concept seems to make good sense to me personally. It does help that my personal bias is that most of the stuff busting blocks these days is rather lacking in quality.

To bring in a little more of my personal bias, I thought I’d share some things from my life that gave me a better understanding of what the long tail is all about. I really love movies, and I watch all kinds of them. It doesn’t really matter how old they are or where they come from, I’ll probably watch anything once. As it stands, I love living in this age of technology because I can so easily find out about and access movies I could have never found otherwise. Recently while browsing the Internet I heard just a mention of a movie called BirdWatchers. A few clicks of the mouse and bam, bam, and bam. I knew what the movie was about, who made it, where I could get it, and then bought it. This is a movie that was shot in South America and is not even on DVD in the United States. I haven’t gotten to watch it yet, so I can’t tell you how it is, but it’s still amazing to me that I’m able to pull together all these resources and see a film probably very few even knew existed. This is especially relevant because I don’t have to live in California to enjoy cool film culture.

However, I thought I’d look into this idea a bit more, especially with how it relates to today’s Internet culture and social networking. I discovered an article from the Harvard Business Review that calls into question the entire idea of the long tail, and actually tends to argue that the Internet and all these new social technologies are making things more homogenized. You can’t read the full article there without paying, but if you’re at Bemidji State University (which, I assume many of you reading this are going to be) you can use our handy dandy selection of electronic periodical databases to read the full text. I found it using Business Source Premier.

The author of the article, Anita Elberse, brings up some concepts from a book called The Winner-Take-All Society. I’d need way more information on these ideas to really know how they were formulated, but just as a guy off the street I question some of them.

First and foremost, lesser talent is a poor substitute for greater talent. Why, for example, would people listen to the world’s second-best recording of Carmen when the best is readily available?

So basically what I read into that is that the tall part of that long tail graph is supposed to include the greatest talent. So then what if that world’s best recording of Carmen is outdone by the latest pop idol? Did the greater talent win out over the poor substitute? It’s been my personal experience that popularity and quality do not always go hand in hand (though it’s been known to happen). The second point has a bit more to do with social networking:

Second, people are inherently social, and therefore find value in listening to the same music and watching the same movies that others do.

So the idea here is that people want to watch the same thing as other people, and increased social connections therefore homogenize the stuff that people are watching. However, in my personal example the film BirdWatchers came to me through a weak tie, which I then shared with a couple people I knew in my group of strong ties, and then finally I used it in this post which is kind of a mixture of the two. This was aided by the technology immensely. A popular movie has the ability to reach the knowledge of everyone through standard media, but movies like this don’t have much more than word of mouth to live or die by, and that’s really what I see increasing here.

So I have very mixed feelings about this article. I have to admit I’m dealing in an area I’m not very knowledgable, and there is research and data behind it, but I still think the long tail is a good idea that can be helped along by these Internet technologies. I often hear people have subscriptions to Netflix because they can get movies that aren’t at the local rental place. That’s why I have it. If they just carried the most recent blockbusters, I’d cancel my account in a heartbeat.

Maybe I’m just married to the idea of obscurity and being the underdog, but I’d like to see some more niche things find their market. It’s always a shame to hear about something you love that was a financial failure.

Thoughts? Who do you agree with? What instances of the long tail have you seen in your life?

Levinson Chapter 1: New New Media

Posted January 29, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Weblogs and Wikis

Tags: , , , , , ,

What is New New Media?

Well it’s pretty much the same as social media, right?  I think it’s pretty easy to understand where Paul Levinson is coming from.  Consumers become producers and we all get our equal say.  One might even say that social media is socialism of information.  Suddenly anyone can own their own production of content.  On the other hand, as I’ve noted before, a lot of what we consider to be part of this revolution is not, in fact, owned by us.  I think one of the things that most concerns me about social media is that we don’t become little factories turning out content for a corporation rather than for ourselves.

Note that I said social media and not new new media.  That’s because, regardless of Levinson, I don’t think it’s a very good term.  I understand the inherent problems with saying social media, but to me it’s at least more nuanced than Levinson’s version.  He puts some effort into defending his choice, which I thought pretty much fell flat.  How arbitrary is it to just keep adding another “New” to the equation whenever the time seems right?  It’s completely based on timing rather than having any actual use as a descriptor.  I don’t see how it’s any different than using Web 2.0 or 3.0.  Are we going to have “New New New Media” next?  When does it stop?  I like social media because it has a dual meaning to me.  There’s the collaboration and communication aspect, as well as that connection to socialism I mentioned above.  Consumers becoming producers seems quite appropriate for that.

Darwin?

I also take slight issue with his comparison of the world of social media being a Darwinian place where only the best and strong survive our rigorous scrutiny.  First off, comparing things to Darwin and evolution is about as played out as comparing things to Hitler.  (See previous class discussion on Godwin’s Law.)  Secondly, evolution does not work like the so-called Social Darwinism that seems to be invoked here.  It’s rarely as simple as live or die.  Finally, it’s just never really been an argument I’ve put much stock in.  So many people claim that all these different things are competing for our time and attention, but I honestly believe that it has more to do with individual interest.  I do not read a blog because it has somehow provided a better generic use of my time than watching the television or going to a movie.  Those things simply are not comparable to me.  The time investment is different.  The reasons I do it are different.  If I didn’t read that blog my time might very well have been spent doing nothing at all rather than going to one of these “competing” technologies.  I do agree that they can complement one another at times.  I often research films on the Internet after I’ve watched them, perhaps reading reviews or articles.  I’m just not seeing this Darwinian picture he seems to want to paint.

Categories!

I really don’t know what to make of his categorization system.  I kind of get his basics of print, photographic, video, etc, but when things start getting broken down after that I’m lost.  Why is News a separate section from Politics and Entertainment?  It’s not like Politics and Entertainment are something that seem to naturally go together in their own section.  (Unless there’s a joke to be read there.)  Not only that, but a section on governmental control pops up out of freaking nowhere while he’s talking about categorizing media.  Is “banned stuff” its own category of new new media?  Still, there are some good points brought up in that section, especially in the light of the recent SOPA upheaval.  It is sad to see the fundamentals of the Internet so misunderstood by our government that supposedly supports and encourages free speech.

Hardware Evolution

The last major thing I took away from Levinson’s first wild and crazy chapter was a discussion on the advancement of hardware.  It’s been a gradual thing, but now we have much faster Internet connection speeds and many more devices that are connected to those pipelines.  It was huge when the Internet got to the point where it could handle video streaming, because it added the last big type of information to the web.  YouTube is one of the major incarnations of this.  The other big thing I thought about in hardware was the rise of the smartphone.  Accessing the Internet and other things in a mobile fashion is a huge benefit.  A phone is already a means of communication, and it seems a very natural evolution for this device that we carry around in our pockets.  They actually take pictures and record video that we can send to other people or post up in Twitter streams.  We text messages and send off Tweets.  All of this is removed from a desk environment and put out into the world so it fits in more naturally with our day to day lives.

I don’t think the importance of those advances can be overlooked.  Also, things are getting to a point now where the cost of entry is decreasing very quickly.  My brother is not as big of a techno-geek as I am, but his new phone is a smartphone, because it was a model offered for free by the cellular carrier.  Once the technology is in his hands, he starts using it.

Conclusion

I feel a little bit like my post is rambling and not well organized, but this first chapter didn’t seem too well organized either.  I totally lay the blame at Levinson’s feet.  There were some other things I could have harped on about, but I thought I’d done enough.  If you want to hear more about Levinson, the man, the myth, the legend, just head on over to see Kevin McColley’s post.  The part about his citation habits was something I particularly noted.

Blogging Methods

Posted January 29, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Weblogs and Wikis

Tags: , , ,

So I’ve been thinking about how I approach blogging.  I see myself as the kind of person that likes to have an internal and invisible thought process.  I have a tendency to keep things circling around in my head until I’m ready to put the material out in a finalized form in one big dump.  Some of the stuff we’ve been reading and some examples from class and other student bloggers suggests another way of tossing out bits and pieces as I work my way through things.

How do you blog?  Is it in longer concentrated bursts, or more random spur of the moment thoughts like this post?  I tend to like overthinking things, but on the other hand…

Rettberg Chapter 3: Social Networks

Posted January 25, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Weblogs and Wikis

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I thought the most interesting thing in the chapter was the discussion of centralized vs. distributed networks. One of my problems with social networking has often been that so much of it is centralized in nature, at least most of the stuff that we see as “social networking.” We maybe have some freedom within the confines, but in a lot of these situations we are still under agreements with Facebook, MySpace, and even Twitter.

The Corporate Influence

Facebook Snatches User’s Vanity URL And Sells It To Harman International

The above is a recent article that shows the power in these social networks is not always the people. The commercial applications of social networking are huge, and wherever there’s money it’s hard to avoid an imbalance in power.

I think there is an element of freedom in having your own space on the Internet that is lost with these large social networking sites, but the centralized model does tend to make it easier for people to find each other. It’s still depressing to hear all these stories about people feeling they’ve been unjustly pushed around, though, especially when people put so much of themselves into sites like this. A suspended account can be quite the inconvenience. Also as pointed out by Joe Moubry discussing Facebook fine print, even beyond all this back and forth of money and power, these centralized networks can claim ownership of your content. I really don’t like giving up that kind of control, even of the general kinds of silly things one would probably use Facebook for.  Granted, such fine print is probably there to cover Facebook from the confusing world of copyright more than anything, but it’s a little strange of giving up, in a way, ownership of your personal life to a company.

The Audience

It was also intriguing to read about just who is reading all this stuff anyway. Rettberg calls it the “invisible audience.” I think the first time I personally really realized the extent of what that meant was when two things happened at about the same time. The first thing was a complete stranger I met through a friend had seen something I’d done online, and the second was when my brother (who I had not told) did. Sometimes one wonders just who’s reading all this stuff anyway, but public does mean public. You can try to write for a certain audience, but in an open Internet the audience you get is not entirely under your control. There are lots of privacy settings that you can use, but for the most part I still think it’s legitimate to treat the Internet like a public space. There are too many ways to find things if a person simply tries. If you really want to be a creepy person, all you need is a little bit of information to start with and a Google search box. Have you ever tried Googling yourself?

And now this very post is out there, able to be found.

Okay, all you invisible guys are creeping me out.

Rettberg Chapter 2: Historical Perspective

Posted January 25, 2012 by Orie
Categories: Weblogs and Wikis

Tags: , , ,

Reading Blogging by Jill Walker Rettberg again. This time moving on to the second chapter, which attempts to put blogging into the overall story of communication in general. Let’s try using headings this time.

Mass Media

I really liked this chapter. I started to think about the term “mass media.” It seems to have a rather negative connotation now, but it also means tons of people can get information. I think there comes to be two ways of looking at it. Mass media is either media designed for the masses by a few people, or it is just media that can be distributed to the masses. In that way, I suppose you can look at blogging as a mass media. Almost anyone can access that information, and hey if they don’t like it they can turn around and complain. Sure just because anyone can see it doesn’t mean they will on something as huge as the Internet, but the fact is it’s still there in the open.

Bringing up the days of a few people putting together small print pamphlets got me thinking as well. I think there are a lot of parallels to blogging that can be made with that. Such small publications were a key part of early American politics. When I actually started to think about it, some of that writing that I’ve seen does really echo what you see in the world of blogging today. That highly opinionated and personal style is what characterizes a lot of political blogging for me.

Argument, Conversation, and Writing

Of course people have always argued, but I also wonder how well we are arguing now. Rettberg also discusses how text is unable to explain itself. Blogging and other forms of Internet communication do give us that ability to have back and forth discussions on what would otherwise be a static article, but I wonder sometimes if we’re actually able to take full advantage of that. She discusses how it goes back to oral communication and a larger sense of community, but I’m not convinced it’s quite the same. There is a lack of immediacy that I’m not sure we’re quite used to dealing with yet. It takes more effort to type a question than to ask one, and people are naturally lazy. I’ve seen time and time again on the Internet that people often find it easier to just assume whatever they want about your text, and, ironically, expend far more energy firing back a lengthy rant about how you are stupid.

It’s a somewhat interesting thought, because I have often felt highly stressed by using the written word to communicate with people. I worry about the permanence of it, the lack of being able to clarify a point. There is a certain in-elasticity to it. You can’t react on the fly to the facial expressions or objections of another person. Fitting these ideas into an academic context, I recall an Honors class final exam that consisted of having face to face conversations with people, and then writing down a summary of what happened. Another Honors class consisted almost entirely of conversation about such wide-ranging subjects as the nature of free will to economics. It’s not the same as writing a paper or giving a presentation, and I think that gives a lot of good perspective for me on what Rettberg was talking about.

Mindset of Print

She also discusses a change from a world where there is one authoritative text distributed to the masses. What she calls the mindset of print. The advantages of this are huge, and I think she did a good job laying out how blogging gives more people a say, but it also gives me pause. Sometimes I fear that we can easily become too isolated in our own little bubble worlds, only listening to what we want to hear. If there is no authoritative text of Romeo and Juliet, say, if someone only read the ‘happy ending’ version, how can they even have a conversation about it?

I guess my thought is that it has to be an extension, rather than a replacement. I think it’s good to have a base line from which we can draw to share with a huge variety of people. A movie like Avatar, for example, is something you can talk to almost anyone about, because everyone has seen it. Still, I like that the Internet allows us to hook up with people that share our more specialized interests, because there’s nothing as satisfying as finding someone else that has seen that super obscure film you like so much. I just wonder if removing the idea of “authoritative text” entirely once again moves us towards that idea of living in a very specific bubble or niche. It’s important that this ability is freeing, rather than confining.

Oh boy, next is social networking.