Monday, May 30, 2016

things i learned about myself at the conference(s)



I love conferences. I have always loved performing. People often say that they enjoy my performances, so I like to think it's time well spent, and, lucky me, getting to do this thing I love!

I like people. I enjoy my professional relationships. However, I am a trained extrovert, so it doesn't always come easy. That's what this post is about.


Over the last 2 weeks, I've presented 3 times in 2 different cities. It was a lot of travel, bingewriting and freakout editing, and it was all jammed togeth in a tough schedule. These are not ideal conditions for anyone, but for a trained extrovert on the tail end of some difficult personal losses (both parents, both very recently) and in the midst of career uncertainty, it was extra tough.

I learned quite a bit during this tough time. Rather, I re-learned many things about who I am, how I am, and just what I think I'm doing as a social, professional being. Because this is about the learned/re-learned stuff, please know that these lessons have been a long time coming, have a long history, and may have nothing at all to do with these particular conferences and the lovely people in attendance; it's more about me in social/professional life, in general. So, what did I learn?

1.) I learned that I really, really care - a lot - about what I present, and how. I love live performances, and I want to move my audience. I read often the social media posts of colleagues who are "writing it on the plane," and my head explodes. I mean, that is really so nice for you if you can do that, but ME? Impossible. It's true that as a university professor (and actor), I can "think on my feet," but there are limits. Knowing my limits is good. So no shame. No shame if you can't dash off a brilliant performance script. Also,  not everyone wants to hear about my process of composing. I too share on social media the nature and status of my projects, but, again, limits are good

2.) I learned that I have some particularly awkward relationships. When in proximity with the person(s) with whom I experience strained co-existence, silence is my best friend. See, I'm a person who can't stand to think that I've wronged, annoyed, or upset you. I also want to be liked. This sometimes translates into MY DUMB VOICE filling a void between us that really, really, really just wants to be a void. I can do silence. It's not easy because of all that longing and, well, once a hairdresser (see "trained extrovert") ... But yeah, silence. More silence. Because, like weirdly gushing to a celebrity you happen to meet, this strange bleating is never well met. If it's weird, just zip it. 

3.) I learned that if I am seemingly neglected in some group situation, I am still amazing. I enjoy a cocktail or a meal, even alone; I can step out of the flow (and demands) of embodied sociality for a bit. Chill. And if, in that moment of feeling/being so alone, someone or a small group invites me to their thing, I have learned to give it serious consideration. I may, in some momentary bout of sadness-distancing bravado think, "Sure! Yes! ... Let's do this!" and it may go well, but if I am very deeply troubled by the current state of affairs, I may end up whining rather than being my lovely and amazing self. So, be amazing, alone or with others; if I'm too troubled, solitude is the answer. Hopefully, I can go and be amazing (hint: I can*). 

These are just a few of the things I've learned. I think that if I am able to internalize this learning, I will do better socially and professionally. Yes, I'm unhappy to have to re-learn this stuff at all, but when your life throws you around for a while and you're generally untethered due to chance operations that leave you not quite yourself, you will have to re-learn, as well. I'll be here.

I want to close with some hip, podcasty-slash-oldtimey radio voice of wisdom, to tell you that you will be okay. I hope I will. I hope you will. And remember: 

1.) Limits are good.
2.) If it's gonna be weird, just zip it.
3.) You are amazing.





* originally drafted with an exclamation point but bonnie.
image source

Sunday, February 14, 2016

just because



I begin with this trailer because YES. It serves as an absurdist vision for the notion that this work I'm doing is relevant, important, interesting. It is, mind you, but the notion of it is absurd in ways I recognize in light of life and death, dreams of the good life, all the aspirational hopes of seeking (or avoiding) love and partnerships. Generally, absurd is how I've been feeling, and some of this, yes, involves the recent (and ongoing) job market season. But so absurd.

By now, I have gushed a bit about having a contract for my book. Finally! You can read a bit more about it, here. I love the title's most recent iteration for how it accurately reflects the ethnographically derived meanings the book shares. Cruel Auteurism: Affective Digital Mediations Toward Film-Composition. It's a mouthful, and I could honestly drop the post-colon stuff. I may do that and will plan to initiate that conversation with my editor very soon.

I have many conference presentations upcoming, so in addition to completing the book (it's 3/4 drafted), I'll be working on a talk about new citation practices for the Modern Language Association's (MLA) sponsored panel at the 2016 Conference on College Composition and Communication. My title? "How Do I Cite the Stephen Hawking Hologram?" Can't wait.

I have had the great fortune of seeing 2 proposals for the competitive 2016 Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) conference. I will be exploring a.) Selfies as feminist reclamation of image-power *and* more!, and b.) Shaming in social media as a function of commonly held myths about "luck" (think positive!). I worry the shaming of those who articulate -- in the fullest sense of the term -- within social media their various struggles, from the mundane to the collectively political. I worry that many teaching rhetoric teach that we should be "above" what many see as "whining" and instead pretty much stick to constantly shaping "the brand."

I've been busy with many other life pursuits. I had talks with colleagues about revising that long languishing screenplay (and have taken real steps toward reanimating that project), and I have a friend helping design a web presence for my alt-ac cinematic pursuits. 

More on all this very soon. In the meantime, can't wait for House of Cards, can't look at anything at all involving the actual political events of the moment (debates, weird media tricks to support this or that candidate), and so on. Yeah no. I'm in for indie films (The Lobster (!) ... Rams (sublime) ... Swiss Army Man ("the farting corpse movie")), and popular culture (House of Cards, Game of Thrones, ...).

I end with 2 final clips. First is a an interview featuring "the" Daniels, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert about their whimsical first feature, Swiss Army Man ("the farting corpse movie,"), this year's Sundance Film Festival delightful surprise. Just because.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

why selfies?

In the midst of attempting to complete my book, review a film for publication, produce 2 new documentaries, apply for a prestigious award, prep my syllabi for the upcoming academic semester, and host a visit from my in-laws, I have been keeping pace with my selfie practices and even recently bought an inexpensive selfie stick in the small-bin kid's toy section at the local superstore (!). i'm still okay with selfies, still love them. I also love myself and even sometimes my image, my self(ies). 

I have been taking selfies for some time now. I share them, as well, usually on FacebookInstagram, occasionally @ Twitter. I find the practice empowering and not at all silly; or, if silly, silly for rhetorically strategic purposes (even if only to cheer myself or others). 

For me (and many others), selfies are serious business. The practice is both indulgent and bold, a kind of feminist reclamation of agency and a tool for reshaping our sense of self through our framings, alterations (filtrz!), and captioning. And then, art. Think Cindy Sherman (for a sense of the long history of selfies as feminist practice). Increasingly, we see digital feminist practices that argue for reclaiming the body through the (re)presentations that selfies enable (for an overview, see this ArtSlant piece by Char Jansen). 

Selfies take hits from many directions, and while I understand many of the critiques for their intellectual and especially psychological merits, I continue. Why? Okay, something happened last night (not at all for the first time) that inspired me to begin my selfie research in earnest. I was at a dinner with family, and someone took a photo of me. I had posed, but apparently I hadn't arranged myself just so, and wow. There it was, instantly, in the moment. I had been feeling lovely, but there it was, a flatly terrible photo of me, taken* by another (so, not a selfie). It was mortifying in its unflattering angles, revealing many truths of which I am not unaware but which I tend to de-emphasize in my own selfie practices. The slippage between the revelations of the other-directed photo and my own is important. I want to imagine it's not even there, that my own imagistic declarations obtain as the primary frames for [contemplating] m'visage, m'self. But the experience reminds me that this is not so, and I need to think about that fact. (Revising this post, I read that last line and see that even the writing is a reframing that firms up my sense of selfies as simply one -- very, if not the most powerful -- form of self-fashioning that has a long and quite obvious history of doing good things for those who take up reflective practice). 



I am writing to declare my intention to begin to engage more rigorously with selfie research. In many ways, the theoretical works I've long admired on the nature of the self, writing the personal, and the power of reflection have always resonated with my selfie practices. More obviously and recently, I've joined a Facebook selfies group, and I've begun reading Jill Walker Rettberg's work on selfies (in my awareness, hers is one of the first full-length, single-authored works on the matter). Her book's title suggests a desire to explore the liminal spaces between our self image as determined and maintained by our selfies, our selves and alternative versions of our projected self-images. Walker-Rettberg's Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves may help me navigate my personal disappointments even as it encourages a more clearly rational approach to self-knowledge and awareness of what I am taking, and what I am projecting. This awareness seems critical, for it seems true that we may function with a slightly delusional sense of self when we imagine or contemplate our lives through our filtered and overly edited images of our faces, bodies, body parts, etc. And while I have stubbornly clung to a belief in a sort of feminist power, here -- we are now afforded a professional crew for managing our images, just as are the famously beautiful people against whom we have historically judged our own imagistic value, the contours of our faces, the body shapes that don't always seem to fit normative ideals -- I'm aware that the delusion is problematic, to say the least.

Finally, I will admit that I am a woman who has suffered her fair share of tragically disordered body-shaming practices. This, too, compels my desire to think more rigorously about my selfie practice. I am inspired to push on by scholars in my field of Rhetoric & Composition, particularly those working in the Computers & Writing area and Digital Rhetorics, scholars like Kristin Arola, Angela Haas, Michelle F. Eble, Kate Manthey, and others who are openly exploring rhetorics of the body in promising and clearly productive ways. 

Wish me luck. This isn't easy. 

rhetorics of capturation profoundly shape my thinking about the feminist value of selfies.