This commentary was originally posted on December 8, 2017, to the Electronic Literature class blog for Digital Studies 220 at Davidson College.
What do you usually write about in your posts? Are there broad themes or specific concerns that reoccur in your writing?
Themes, yes. Many common themes. The other day, I did an exercise with myself where I tried to list out the ideas that I’m truly interested in working on. I tried to be as explicit with myself about the topics that I truly feel internally motivated to learn about independent of external reasons (grades, career opportunities, etc) for pursuing a topic. Here is a picture which illustrates where this landed me.
I don’t think this list is exhaustive. Three days later than the drafting of this, I’m already surprised that I didn’t jot down anything about the politics of self-representation or the ways in which comics can be used as an artistic medium to express information.
Anyways. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these themes came up in my projects and posts. The politics of language appears most prominently as a theme in my submission for the Tracery Project. This project at its core aims to tackle the ways in which the words we choose to use have political implications. I talk about explicitly the concepts of intellectual property and crediting in my first two blog posts, The Hoax of Originality and Write Bad Poetry, Sing Out of Tune, and Other Relevant Platitudes If The Robots Don’t Take Over. Constructions of mental and emotional (dis)ability came up with Mental Illness in Electronic Literature Tropes and Scattered Thoughts on “Pry”. My blog post on The Game on “Empathy Engine” clearly explored the idea of games as a proxy for larger societal issues and conversations.
How have your blog posts evolved over this semester?
I’m free! Not really… but I have managed to at least partially unchain myself from my internalization of the conventions of academic writing that so often distress me. This course, inadvertently, has challenged the ways that I think about my own writing. By reading digital literature that so clearly pushed the bounds of what is considered literature, I’m given the opportunity to think about the ways to communicate information that aren’t as clearly narrative-oriented, or that carry out a narrative in a way that’s different than what we’re used to. Social psychologists have discussed that we read at a reading level much higher than our own writing level, which perhaps explains why so many of us internalize our struggles to create and publish content at the collegiate level when we’re bombarded with a series of highly edited, peer-reviewed articles and books that people devote their life to creating.
Of my pre-conceived notions about writing that have evolved this semester, I feel that the most significant has been my understanding of structure and linearity.
What ideas or threads in your posts do you see as worth revisiting?
Externalizing through blog posts some ideas about originality has allowed me to process it more consciously and actively. While I discussed the concepts on a more global level, I think that it’s worth exploring the effect that the collegiate emphasis on originality, original ideas, original research, original art, etc actually serves to reinforce existing systemic inequalities. While most transparently, a system of intellectual property serves to stop ideas from being stolen (which by the way, still happens unchecked to authors and artists of color all the time), the system as it currently exists also encourages us to only treat the published, well-regarded works of others as what we need to credit, rather than our mothers for listening to and shaping our ideas, our friends for encouraging and supporting certain pursuits and conversations, our professors that truly set us off on thinking about a topic in a particular way, the novels and short stories we’ve read that influenced our worldview and ideologies.
We’re conditioned to treat only the subject material that directly relates to the methodology of the work that we’re conducting as worthy contributions worth accrediting. And that’s not a quick fix. Until the mass inequities of women and especially women of color in higher education and professionalized spaces and the labor of traditionally feminized roles is anywhere near addressed, this reality will continue to result in the invisibilization of the labor that our communities (largely held up by supportive women who hear us out) have put into developing the people and ideas that we hold near and dear to our identities today.