Nov 7, 2009

Convo Beat: Les Animaux

11:01:01 AM Robie Bowmani: so I created a facebook for my cat, before he went missing
11:01:20 AM Robie Bowmani: he has 4 friends I dont know
11:01:25 AM Damon O'Hanlon: hahaha
11:01:27 AM Damon O'Hanlon: wtf?
11:01:33 AM Robie Bowmani: other facebook animals who friended him
11:01:51 AM Robie Bowmani: of course I accepted for him as he is technologically inept
11:01:58 AM Robie Bowmani: and they're all french animals
11:02:13 AM Robie Bowmani: maybe b/c i made his last name "Animaux"
11:03:05 AM Damon O'Hanlon: haha

Aug 19, 2009

Infamy Risen

Like most people I know, I remember where I was when I first heard, and I also remember how old. I was barely a freshman in high school and in the habit of turning on the radio after the shower when I was getting ready for the day. At the time a usually frivolous radio duo known as ‘Shawn and Jeff’ populated Sacramento’s The Zone airwaves which easily reached out to my nearby suburb. I flicked the power expecting the usual family-sitcom style of banter, unaware I was in for an abrupt surprise that warm September morning.

The droll hosts struck me immediately as unusually solemn. They were describing some tower that had been hit by a plane. I assumed it was something local—perhaps a radio tower hit by a small private aircraft? Whatever it was it must have been rather out of the ordinary; it was very odd for the morning DJ duo to discuss actual news. As I brushed my teeth I walked towards my Dad’s bedroom to check in with him the way I often did mornings before I left for school and he left for work.

“Did you know there was some kind of plane accident in Sacramento?” I asked.
“What?” my Dad responded.
“Yeah. Apparently they hit a radio tower or something,” I continued.
“No shit...”

My Dad turned on the television. The affirmation of my wrongness could not have been more swift. We didn’t even have to change the channel. As a matter of fact, every channel was the same: The two towers of New York’s World Trade Center smoking like torpedoed battleships. Struck by the awesome strangeness of this turn of events, I sat on the edge of my Dad’s bed that morning and recall experiencing for the first time the sensation of knowing that I would always remember something.

But it was more than just knowing that I would always remember it. Somehow I knew instinctively that everyone would remember, though especially those of my young age. My instincts did not tell me how ‘remembered’ might be the same as ‘constructed’. My life, like the life of many Americans my age, can be split up into two discrete parts. Since that day I have lived in the so-called ‘post-9/11’ world, a description of which (in my opinion) would be incomplete without fear, pandemonium and frenzy. In it, history has come alive like I would never have imagined, drawing on numerous occasions from the past in confronting the awkward horror of its own existence. But within all the scope of these recollections, no single event was so consistently and powerfully re-appropriated as Pearl Harbor (and via extension the second World War).

In the body of knowledge exploring the ‘9/11 as Pearl Harbor’ narrative, many have drawn conclusions about its possibly insidious roots. Admitting readily that these analyses are not without their own merit, such an avid fixation on this particular aspect of the narrative has been to the detriment of acknowledging and exploring opposing reifications, even though alternative narratives of 9/11 as Pearl Harbor have certainly existed. It is one particular version, perhaps the second most prominent, that we shall concern ourselves with. Though it received less media attention, it was an undercurrent that would rise apart from the more popularized discourse with an aim wholly different from that of its more mainstream counterpart. But like its mainstream counterpart, it is not beyond the reach of its own variety of failure or obfuscation.

In order to contrast the agenda of the subverting narrative, we’ll turn our attention first to the more mainstream association between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. There is no debating that in the wake of the attacks comparisons were both immediate and overwhelming, much the same way the attacks themselves were perceived. I once had an instructor who said, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” This being the case, I’d have to say 9/11 is the mother of all repetitions in my lifetime. No single event was covered so thoroughly at a time when Americans were tuning in so zealously.

There were, of course, some parallels that predisposed 9/11 to a comparison with Pearl Harbor. For one thing the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian port is almost synonymous with surprise in the United States—the word ‘surprise’ itself often acting as an informal prefix to the phrase ‘attack on Pearl Harbor’. Both disasters stood relatively unrivaled in United States history in terms of their efficacy and destruction. Even casualty estimates put them in an eerily similar ballpark. But in spite of similarities which may appear convincing, consider some specifics which helped 9/11 to become so powerfully reimagined.

The fall of the World Trade Center towers was the first significant foreign attack on America since the emergence of twenty-four-hour news networks. To gain an idea of the importance of this fact, recall that the first plane struck the North Tower at 8:46am Eastern Daylight Time and that by 8:48am CNN had already interrupted their regular programming to cover the events live.1, 2 The ensuing media spectacle provided a horde of visual analogies. These towers, which before then I had never heard of, became an inescapably pervasive smoking presence. The explosions and resultant smolderings were a concrete reminder of the ruination and danger presented by the attacks. Understandably, America was fixated.

Due to the unusual nature of this imagery, coupled with its sheer volume, it is difficult to overestimate the impact of this media coverage on assisting the narrative. In an end of year New York Times article, James Barron described the imagery as so overpowering that “the other news of 2001, significant and not so significant, already fades from memory.”3 Harold Meyerson of The Los Angeles Times remarked that, “Not since 1941, with its photographs of the battleship Arizona being blown apart at Pearl Harbor, has one image so clearly encapsulated a year.”4 At the time Meyerson also saw the effect as permanent; “The year just ending will always be identified with a single set of images—the World Trade Center under attack, exploding, collapsing.” Less than three months after the September attacks, Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal felt that the sensation was not only permanent but permanently associated with Pearl Harbor, “engraved in American history as a second ‘day of infamy.’” It is important to note that these observations, while reflecting on the phenomenon, also reinforce the comparison.

And clearly such comparisons were not disembodied from political implication. By the anniversary of Pearl Harbor less than three months later Donald Rumsfeld published an editorial of his own in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Memories of Pearl Harbor Day”. In it Rumsfeld compared America’s response to 9/11 with its reaction to Pearl Harbor and proposed that “there is the recurring question about whether future generations will show similar sacrifice for the cause of freedom”. 5 The editorial was published in tandem with a speech that was to be given by President George W. Bush celebrating an American tradition of “military success and valor” and “the worthiness of this current generation”. In this case ‘tradition’ presented the idea of a clear path forward drawn unproblematically from the past.

When later the invasion of Iraq was dominating public discourse, the metaphor of 9/11 as Pearl Harbor remained a branched presence in the dialogue, fracturing to include the broader themes of World War II. Even a critic of Bush policy, a seventy-one year-old resident of Palos Verdes Estates, affirmed a comparable but intensified sense of vulnerability to the one she recalled in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor:
"The threat of annihilation with nuclear and biological weapons—and the missiles—is so much greater," Nelms said. "We used to feel protected, and now you're threatened by Iraq in your own home here in California".6

Richard Land, a leading figure in the politically influential Southern Baptist Convention,7 compared Hussein to Adolf Hitler, and warned that a failure to remove him from power now would be appeasement.

Like people, narratives have feet. The World Trade Center attacks, like Pearl Harbor before, had become situated at a nexus of democracy and slavery, where hate comes up against freedom, and where perpetrator meets victimized. Paul Krugman wrote that it was natural to think of 9/11 as “the moral equivalent of Pearl Harbor, and of the struggle that began that day as this generation's equivalent of World War II.”8 Stephen Ambrose, author of best-selling book Band of Brothers9 wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “On the day World War II began in Europe, then-Col. Dwight Eisenhower wrote his brother Milton, ‘Hitler should beware the fury of an aroused democracy.’ So should today's terrorists.”10

Almost as quickly a different narrative was being formed which held a more critical viewpoint on the consequences post-Pearl Harbor World War II. Unlike the discourse outlined above, this discourse was racially conscious and requisitioned Pearl Harbor in the context of prejudice and discrimination.

After the attacks, Japanese-American civil-rights advocates were one of the first groups to quickly go to work articulating the discriminatory dangers at hand. Kathy Masaoka of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress said that fears expressed by Muslims on the radio spoke to her in an immediate emotional capacity. For her the link between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 lay in post-Pearl Harbor racism:
"I don't think they should have to feel responsible for all of the actions done by others from other countries who don't represent them," Masaoka said, adding that her Muslim friends have shown her a faith of compassion and good deeds. "We weren't responsible for Pearl Harbor, and we don't have to prove our loyalty any more than anyone else. They shouldn't have to, either."11

Journalist and scholar Helen Zia had a similar reaction. As a West-Coast Asian-American, she felt abnormally foreign when she found herself on the East Coast (specifically Washington D.C.) during the attacks. As she watched 9/11 unfolding, she describes herself as acutely aware that her sensation of vulnerability had to be nothing when compared to the one she surmised most Muslim and Arab Americans were experiencing. Indeed, within two days after the attacks a ‘pan-Asian coalition’ had managed to plan and hold a press conference with a candlelight vigil at the Japanese American National Memorial; a site built to honor Japanese Americans’ loyalty in the wake of Pearl Harbor and through the war following it.12

This race-critical turn of the narrative was perhaps most clearly articulated by Jerry Kang, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and faculty director of its Critical Race Studies Program, who authored a piece in 2001 which compared the lessons of ‘12/7 and 9/11’.13 In his analysis, Kang compared reactions to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and attempted to assess the dangers of race-based curtailment of civil liberties such as racial profiling. For Professor Kang, it borders on a slippery slope: “Recall that the first step of the interment process was a curfew”.14 He also argued that similar consequentialist reasonings that were used to justify Japanese interment are now being employed in the contemporary debate over the use of race in surveillance and other civil-rights abridgments.

Kang’s most damning injunction based on the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 parallels is that we should be careful about underestimating the harm of racial profiling. He suggests that such a policy can serve to perpetuate an unjust past and would likely place more Arab Americans in an anti-American frame of mind while simultaneously fueling anti-American sentiment abroad by providing ammunition for propagandists who claim that the United States actively suppresses Islam. Remember that Kang is no stranger to law, and therefore it is not surprising that these arguments recall Hirobayashi v. United States, a case which claimed “social, economic, and political conditions [regarding the Japanese in America]... have intensified their solidarity and have in large measure prevented their assimilation.”15

Similar points of contention arose between Japanese-American Democratic Congressman Michael Honda (San Jose) and Howard Coble of North Carolina (R). Coble, who was at the time chair of the House subcommittee overseeing homeland security, said, "We were at war [during WWII].... For many of the Japanese Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street. Some probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of the Arab Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."16 Honda, who spent time in a Colorado Internment camp as a child, quickly and publicly criticized Coble for the statements. Said Honda, "Since 9/11, there have been many, many civil liberties eroded away... Howard Coble has not learned the lesson.... When you set aside the Constitution, bad things happen."

Coble of course responded that he had made the statement rebutting a radio-caller who suggested the internment of Arab Americans, but beyond the surface of these arguments is a broadening of the scope of the 9/11 as Pearl Harbor narrative, a broadening undertaken notwithstanding the dominant political dialogues overrunning the nation at the time.

A fair amount of scrutiny has already taken place surrounding the prevailing metaphor of 9/11 as Pearl Harbor. The criticisms raised by such scrutiny have been based both in theory and in application, and I certainly would not seek to defend the dominant metaphor against such criticisms. On the other hand, it is incumbent upon us to apply the same scrutinies to the racialized subaltern narrative identified above. With this in mind, it should be no surprise that upon close inspection shortcomings of its own certainly exist.

First, without denying the existence of clear racial discrimination in either case, we should look at any salient differences in the racial trajectories of Japanese and Arab Americans. For instance, the Japanese had been the subjects of ardent racism long before Pearl Harbor, and Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was not the first example of structural racism perpetrated against the Japanese. Japanese immigration itself had been the target of punitive legislation, most notably in the 1924 United States exclusionary emigration act which, while limiting certain kinds of European immigration, terminated Japanese emigration entirely. This is not insubstantial. At the time Meiji-era Japan was so desperate to offload citizens it could not feed or employ that it scoured the globe for other locations to send Japanese immigrants such as Brazil, where between 1924 when the legislation was enacted and 1942, 200,000 Japanese had emigrated.17

By contrast the United States government had historically classified Arab Americans as white.18 This is not to imply that Arab Americans are not or had not been subject to racial discrimination or prejudice. Louise Cainkar, a sociologist and senior research fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago, contends that Arab immigrants once enjoyed a status consistent with a definition of whiteness, but that over the course of their history in the United States developed into a “more subordinate status that shares many features common to the experiences of people of color.”19 For this and the reasons like it, Cainkar proposes that Arabs as a “unique” group was a racial project incommensurable with historic American racism.20

The most concerning of all about the racialized 9/11 as Pearl Harbor narrative is the possibility of inadvertently reinforcing overly broad racial generalizations. For instance, when Jerry Kang says that there are seven million Arabs in the United states and 8 million muslims, to whom is he really referring? A narrow definition of the category would contain immigrants from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. It could be argued that referring to ‘the Japanese’ similarly generalizes and lumps a large incoherent group into a single coherent whole, but, without straying too far into the specificity vs. meaningful range debate, it’s important to note that Arab in this becomes a vast racial categorization without even the central political unity used to justify a concept of ‘Japan’ or ‘Japanese’. Recognizing this should reveal that, though it may be problematic to work intelligibly with the analytical term Japan, it should be seen as impossibly more-so when it comes to an ‘Arab America’.

And yet I suspect that the use of this analytical categorization by racial advocates like Kang necessarily broadens the category even further on a basis of appearance and faith to include people from backgrounds not historically considered Arab such as Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and a host of less well-known countries from the former Sovet Bloc among others.

What is the ultimate value of discussing ‘Arab Americans’ in such a way? One could make the argument that it is only appropriate to discuss a coherent, inclusive ‘Arab America’ because this is the manner in which the culture and the politics of the United States frames the situation for theoretical as well as practical purposes. This is an important point, and one that is difficult to ignore completely, but does not the unfettered utilization of such a discourse reinforce what University of Michigan professor of Arab studies Nadine Naber calls the “Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim” racial consolidation characterizing the post-9/11 world?21 Does it not reinforce a prevailing racial ideology even as it seeks to address its hazards?

National Transportation Safety Board (2002). Flight Path Study - American Airlines Flight 11 [Electronic version] Office of Research and Engineering CNN Transcript, BREAKING NEWS: Terrorist Attack on the Untied States. James Barron (2001, December 3). “The Year in Pictures: In The Towers' Shadow” New York Times. Harold Meyerson (2001, December 30) “4 Fear and Solidarity; Both the best and worst of our country came to the fore in 2001”. Los Angeles Times. Donald Rumsfeld (2001, December 7) “Memories of Pearl Harbor Day”. The Wall Street Journal. Sonni Effron (2002, September 15). “Across Nation, Critics of Bush Express Support for Iraq War”. Los Angeles Times. “FACTBOX: The Southern Baptist Convention” (no author) (2008, June 20). Reuters. Paul Krugman (2002, September 10) “The Long Haul”. New York Times. With an ironically timed extremely successful HBO miniseries adaptation released on the 9th of September, 2001.10 Stephen E. Ambrose  (2001, October 1). “Beware the Fury Of an Aroused Democracy”. Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). Teresa Watanabe (2002, September 27) “The Nation; Frustrated U.S. Muslims Feel Marginalized Again”. Los Angeles Times. Helen Zia (2001). “Oh, Say, Can You See?: Post September 11” from Asian-Americans on Peace and War (2002) 313 Jerry Kang (2001). “Thinking Through Interment” from Asian-Americans on Peace and War, 5514 Jerry Kang. “Thinking Through Interment” from Asian-Americans on Peace and War, 5715 Jerry Kang. “Thinking Through Interment” from Asian-Americans on Peace and War, 6016 Wendy Thermos (2003, February 16) “Honda Seeks GOP Action Over Remarks on Internment”. Los Angeles Times Daniel Touro Linger (2001). No One Home, 2118 U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census of Population Louise Cainkar (no date). “Thinking Outside The Box” from Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11, 4620 Louise Cainkar. “Thinking Outside The Box” from Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11, 5021 Nadine Naber (no date). “Introduction: Arab Americans and U.S. Racial Formations” from Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11, 2

Jun 15, 2009

Convo Beat: Whatever—I'm sure it's normal

9:15:56 PM Rob Lawler: sup man
9:16:01 PM Damon O'Hanlon: nothin much
9:16:03 PM Damon O'Hanlon: you get my message?
9:16:12 PM Rob Lawler: uhm....
9:16:30 PM Rob Lawler: you're in town again, right?
9:16:45 PM Damon O'Hanlon: yep
9:17:14 PM Rob Lawler: my psychic abilities have yet to fail me!
9:17:33 PM Damon O'Hanlon: and yet you'd needn't have used them
9:17:49 PM Rob Lawler: honing my craft
9:17:54 PM Rob Lawler: or something like that
9:18:10 PM Damon O'Hanlon: legit
9:18:35 PM Rob Lawler: buying it?
9:19:20 PM Damon O'Hanlon: hell yes
9:19:23 PM Damon O'Hanlon: I love buying stuff
9:19:34 PM Rob Lawler: i've fooled another one!
9:19:36 PM Damon O'Hanlon: in fact if I don't buy something every once in awhile I begin to feel sick
9:19:46 PM Damon O'Hanlon: almost as if Daddy didn't hug me or Mommy didn't love me
9:19:48 PM Rob Lawler: all the pretend psychic abilities in the world and no common sense with which to use it
9:19:54 PM Damon O'Hanlon: and thus I feel compelled to purchase something
9:19:59 PM Damon O'Hanlon: but whatever—I'm sure it's totally normal

Jun 6, 2009

UCSC and Cars

May 14, 2009

Wikinography Part 5: Wikilove

I first realized it one afternoon during an extended session on Wikipedia. Sniffing regularly, I sat wrapped in blankets to deter my sickness as my eyes strained to look through the vivid pages of both prolific and neophyte wikieditors. Somewhere amongst the polychromatics on my screen, it dawned on me that user pages are not just spaces for self-identification. They are also the place on Wikipedia where other users recognize and enumerate the contributions of their fellow editors. In the course of this usage, user pages have come to represent the most consistent and varied site of digital object construction that I have ever encountered. This digitization occurs predominately in the form of ‘wikilove’.

Broadly speaking, wikilove is the philosophy of kindness and non-enmity on Wikipedia. In order to share wikiove, Wikipedians are instructed to be polite, conscientious, and to ‘assume good faith’.[3]

The most prominent practice of wikilove is the construction and deployment of ‘digital objects’. Rather than being completely original concepts imagined wholly in the space of the internet, digital objects tend to be real world objects that have been ported into the digital space. Though their meaning and function differ from their flesh-world counterparts, these objects are not meant to lose or overcome their ‘real world’ connotations, at least not completely. Rather they seem to be selected in part because of such connotations.

As I took a meandering look over various users and their talk pages, I came across many examples. Cookies seemed to be the most frequent artifact of wikilove, and I encountered other examples including kittens, ‘relaxing tea’, and fried chicken. This category of wikilove is relatively unqualified; users do not need to ‘earn’ them, but instead are encouraged to give them freely and without reserve.

Qualified or semi-qualified ‘barnstars’ deserve an entirely separate mention. Another digital object with a real world counterpart, barnstars are meant to indicate accomplishment, and come in the largest variety of any single imagined internet object I’ve ever seen. The Epic barnstar, the Chemistry barnstar, barnstar of life, university barnstar, technology, music, lesbian gay bi transexual barnstar–Harry Potter, Belrusian, the list went on and on. Each of these barnstars was a form of accolade, a signifier of accomplishment and due respect inferred upon an editor by their peers.

At first I found myself wondering what the purpose of all this might be. Though I felt I understood how wikilove functioned, it was not immediately apparent to me why the role these items played was necessary.

3. Good faith in the context of wikipedia means ‘honesty’ or ‘benevolence’. In theory, good faith is a shared assumption amongst editors that each of them are attempting to be constructive, and that editors differ only in their point of view. In contrast, bad faith would be motivated simply to be malicious, spiteful or disruptive.

May 6, 2009

Wikinography Part 4: Let’s Talk (User pages and more)

Over the past few months I had become aware of something called a ‘talk’ page. Talk pages are always ‘attached’ to an associated article page, and their subject matter is meant to be the deliberation and nuts-and-bolt development of that article. In this way, while the main article title may be ‘Anthropology’, the associated talk page would be ‘Talk:Anthropology’. The article itself stands as the accomplishment, the general front face of Wikipedia at any given time. On the other hand the talk page, at least by design, is a tool for that accomplishment, a means to create that end.

The talk page is also referred to as the ‘discussion page’, and this is an apt description. By examining any given article’s talk page, one can see the diverseness of its historical evolution, and the conflict mediation that had to occur during the path to its present incarnation. To give you an idea of the volume of discourse this can produce, many of these talk pages are so vast that they feature a ‘Talk archive’. In the case of the article on the recently inaugurated Presidnet Obama, the archive has fifty-two archived talk pages, each one of which is no less than the equivalent of thirty printed pages.

In some cases these talk pages are linked not to an article page but instead to a user. I decided to take advantage of my own and make it a grounds for discussion amongst the editors I contacted as informants. I was surprised to find it (pictured right) swelling quickly to a cumbersome mass in the days following my registration as a unique user. Indeed, it grew almost immediately to a size that, at least for me, felt unmanageable.

As for the user pages themselves, the most concise description is that of a multipurpose space of identification. When I say identification I mean both attributed and self-inscribed, and I say multipurpose because they inhabit both a stylistic/personal space, relatively remote from the formal purposes of Wikipedia, as well as information that functions core to those purposes.

The functional aspects of user pages are often an editor’s interests or technical specifications[2], and both kinds of information are frequently identified in the form of a ‘babel box’. For instance, taking my cue from many prolific editors, such as Casliber, I added some boxes to my own user description (pictured on the next page).

According to Wikipedia’s own description, Babel boxes were originally intended to indicate language comprehension, which helped to augment discourse and facilitate translation projects. Somehow over time the function of the babel clearly expanded to include all sorts, ranging from project affiliation to social occupation — even frivolous humor.

2. In this case interests can be interpreted as a function because it may indicate an expertise on or ready availability for certain article topics.

Apr 16, 2009

Wikinography Part 3: Wiki-terms

As this was my first serious foray into Wikipedia, imagine my surprise when I found that I already had a title: wikignome. It was not so much a personal title reserved for myself alone, but more of a class that I belonged to. Wikignoming humorously refers to the authorship of edits perceived to be of an auxiliary (though not insignificant) nature. This kind of activity usually entails formatting, rephrasing or grammar corrections. Due to the minor nature of most of these edits, wikignomes usually do not need to participate in discussion over them. This lack of an active role in debate makes themselves and their part less obvious, which leads to their perceived relationship as tiny elusive beings.

Wikipedia is brimming with this kind of unique and abstruse terminology. After contacting one user, Alastair, he immediately told me that ‘on some level I find Wikipedia to be the ultimate social networking site for the incurably nerdy... however obscure one's interests, there's a real chance one can find others that share them’. I chuckled at this. Not infrequently have I fancied myself a bit of a nerd, which is why I feel no compunction in stating that nerds love jargon.

The most initially intimidating phrases are prefaced by ‘WP’, which I came to find indicates that the entire phrase forms a Wikipedian consensus or guideline. I would also come to discover that this does not, however, imply a stern or even formal subject, such as in the particularly odd example of ‘WP:Beans’. In this case ‘Beans’ refers to the phrase, ‘Don’t stick beans up your nose’, which is a way of saying, ‘Don’t give someone with a naive and adventurous mind any ideas’. The philosophy is derived from a parable about a mother leaving her son at home:

The little boy's mother was off to market. She worried about her boy, who was always up to some mischief. She sternly admonished him, "Be good. Don't get into trouble. Don't eat all the cabbage. Don't spill all the milk. Don't throw stones at the cow. Don't fall down the well." The boy had done all of these things on other market days. Hoping to head off new trouble, she added, "And don't stuff beans up your nose!" This was a new idea for the boy, who promptly tried it out.

Apr 7, 2009

Wikinography Part 2: Wiki - A brief definition

A wiki is a ‘contained’ site of associated web pages the entire contents of which is produced by its users. In contrast to many semi-interactive online mediums, such as blogging, wikis do not merely ‘allow comment’—which is more along the lines of a post-facto adjunction. Wikis instead encourage, in fact their existence relies upon, construction via active participation as a wiki has no content, no author, besides that supplied by its visitors turned editors . Also characteristic of wikis is the ‘association of pages’. This association is accomplished through ‘linking’, and like any weblink, these links exist on one page and point to another page. But wikis are first and foremost concerned with internal linking; links from within user content to other user content. Links to other locations besides those ‘contained’ within the wiki itself (‘external links’) do exist, but appear far less frequently and have specific regulated purposes.

As its portmanteau namesake implies (combining ‘wiki’ with ‘encyclopedia’), Wikipedia is a wiki with the goal of constructing an online encyclopedia.[1] It is by no means the only wiki, and in fact intentions for and varieties of wiki abound, but at the same time it has become the concept’s iconic example. Those who are conceptually unfamiliar with the idea of a wiki are commonly nonetheless aware of Wikipedia, and in many cases Wikipedia has become a descriptive noun; ‘Is that the Star Wars wikipedia?’.


1. The term wiki is actually originally taken from a Hawaiin word for ‘fast’.

Apr 4, 2009

Wikinography Part 1: Open Sails, At World’s End

So I was assigned an ethnography last quarter, and I decided to make it the online variety. It was an interesting and enlightening experience, although I think I can take a little break from Wikipedia now. I broke the paper up into small, easily digestible morsels, which is perfect for a blog format. I'll be posting it in bits over the next couple weeks. All of the parts combined are basically what my final paper for the class looked like. Enjoy. – DC

There I was, the mouse in my hand as dangerous as any time bomb. I was but a few clicks away from launching ship into the vast recesses of the Wikipedian underbelly. For years I had used Wikipedia idly, mostly in passing as a reference on subjects of straightforward curiosity. But even my use of Wikipedia as an idle reference goes so far back that I can scarcely recall a time I was completely unaware of its existence. I’m nothing exceptional: This is how engrained Wikipedia has become in the lives of many youths. But my relationship with Wikipedia was about to change; concealed beneath the relatively pristine surface of Wikipedia lay the apparatus of an expansive computer-mediated social world, one replete with jargon, unique practices and new imaginings of digital relationship.

In the course of my ethnography I would speak to several editors on Wikipedia while simultaneously taking part in some minor Wikipedia editing myself. Like me, most of the editors I spoke to had initially become aware of Wikipedia as a resource without contributing their owns edits. Even after becoming aware of their ability to contribute, most editors conveyed to me that they had forgone editing for some time thereafter. Unlike me, by the time I spoke to each of these editors, they had become abundantly successful on the English Wikipedia (if not translingually successful). Though it is not an official term on Wikipedia, I use the term ‘prolific editor’, without any hard and fast criteria, to refer to currently active editors with a hefty edit count, in many cases on significant articles.

Mar 20, 2009

Haiku Friday: Outta Here!

Ominous clouds hang
Overhead like a warning...
Later Santa Cruz!

Mar 16, 2009

A Tangent Addendum

So I had a lot of absences in one of my classes this quarter (about 5 unexcused). I probably could've gotten them excused, but I never feel really compelled to seek such excusals for some reason. Low and behold at the end of the quarter the Professor asked me to address why I shouldn't fail the class in my final essay. I probably could've made a pretty persuasive argument on an analytical basis, but the truth was I didn't feel the need. I wrote the final paper without addressing my absences in any direct way. Below is the short essay I wrote to him, entitled "A Tangent Addendum" and attached to my actual final. He was a pretty laid back guy, so I hope he takes it well. I genuinely didn't mean any offense, and every word of it is true. Here's lookin' at the world. – DC

A Tangent Addendum

I fancy myself a decent student, although perhaps I am not the iconic example of the ‘good student’, as my attendance during this quarter would seem to agree. Yet I’ve never seen my academic accomplishments as a simple and accurate representation of myself. As a child, my parents could never force me to do homework, and, as a an impertinent youngster, punishment only ever made me angry and never compliant. Humorously, participation was never an issue, and I never seemed to be troubled to do the work that was given to me while I was physically in class. This is how for most of elementary school I earned a hodgepodge of grades, one that reflected full effort within the classroom and hardly any outside of it.

To this day I’ll never be able to describe why upon entering fifth grade I suddenly decided to try. It sounds especially odd remembering that I had “tried” once before: During one week in fourth grade, I actually did all my work which resulted in the first time I was awarded the illustrious ‘Student of the Week’ award at Monday assembly. I immediately returned to old habits the following week.

For some reason the first day of fifth grade was different. Perhaps it was the fact that, at the time, fifth grade was the last year of elementary school, complete with a special overnight camping trip into the backwoods of our campus set between Cobb and Boggs mountains. Whatever the cause, on that first day of fifth grade in the course of that slow, winding drive through mountain roads on the way to school, the thought simply would not leave me alone; ‘What if I tried?’. What if I tried... would life be different? I did not know the answer, but it was precisely the not knowing that troubled me. As young as I was, perhaps it was my first real epiphany.

And ultimately it did feel different. Every night when I sat down at my parents desk with the greying old Apple Macintosh to do my Weekly Spelling, I liked the fact that no one had asked me to do it. From that point on my grades have more or less been a reflection of my own interest, desire, and application. I suppose I took and still take pride in high marks like any student, but there’s always been a distinct and yet difficult to describe sensation accompanying me in my academics: The sensation that it was not done for anyone besides myself. It may be because of this quality that I rarely bother to seek an excused absence. If it were not for this sensation, perhaps I would feel more compelled in reporting the reasons for my absences, and I would not be at this juncture in your class.

I never scoff at an A, the same way it is bad form to look a gift horse in the mouth. And yet at the same time I do not rely upon them. The truth is I took this class for me; I am not ethics or teaching major, and I do not require the credits towards graduation. The same mentality is probably what allowed me to declare as an anthropology major despite the knowledge that it may result in my living in a cardboard box. When I consider the ramifications of failing this class, more than anything my distaste for it stems mostly from the thought of having to go talk about it with some administrative official who barely knows me.

This is not because I am apathetic. Rather, it is precisely because I’ve enjoyed the class so much that I am unconcerned with the grade that I receive. Be it an A, or an F, or any of the other many letters available in the alphabet, it won’t really change how the actual process has affected my thinking, which for me has come to be its real value. At the end of the day, the mark I am given is a just shape that someone else will look at and attach meaning to. For me, the meaning of my time spent in this class stands apart from such a mark, and unlike a class I’d have enjoyed less, I do not need any particular mark to make it feel worthwhile.

Despite these feelings, I readily acknowledge that there may be a vested interest for students to attend class so that they may partake in discussion and mutually enrich one another. Under such a reasoning, it may be that my absences have somehow detrimentally impacted the class. I understand this, but I leave such judgments to educators such as yourself. I could only think of it as a kind of hubris were I to assume it myself.

Either way I feel no sadness in regards to my engagement with or performance in the class. Besides, I have always put my faith in people before edicts or statutes, and always will. My grade is in your hands, and I am comfortable with that.

I would certainly enjoy taking another course from you.
Damon O'Hanlon

UPDATE: Final Grade for the class? B+ (and an A on the final)

Mar 10, 2009

Convo Beat: Rachel Fish & Robie the Pimp Twofer

5:14:03 PM Rachel: im going to get some mochi. i hope you are well. i havent heard about you in a while. we always end up talking about something interesting, but random. lol. let me know how u are sometime
5:14:27 PM Damon: I'll let you know someday when there's something interesting to report
5:14:36 PM Damon: otherwise random stuff is more fun
5:14:42 PM Rachel: oh please. you lead an interesting life
5:14:54 PM Rachel: alright sir, ill see you around :]
5:15:04 PM Damon: l8ater
5:15:50 PM Rachel: you cant put an 8 in the word, unless you take out the "ate"
5:16:00 PM Damon: wh8at?
5:16:08 PM Rachel: lol your a neanderthal
5:16:18 PM Damon: I think you mean 'you're'

^ Heh—like shootin' fish in a barrel.

7:38:49 PM Robie: yo
7:38:53 PM Robie: ive been sleeping all day
7:42:22 PM Damon: cool enough
7:42:48 PM Robie: had some crazy dreams
7:48:38 PM Damon: ?
7:49:23 PM Robie: whenever I sleep during the day, I have the most detailed and far out dreams
7:53:34 PM Damon: a good alias for you would be Day-Tripper
7:53:53 PM Robie: or vampire
7:53:56 PM Damon: haha
7:54:16 PM Damon: how about "Vamptastic Pimp"
7:54:38 PM Robie: well, im no pimp
7:55:14 PM Damon: don't shatter my dreams, Robie

Mar 7, 2009

Haiku Saturday: Scruffy as all get

Scruffy as all get,
And cheeks like rough sandpaper?
I need a good shave...

Mar 5, 2009

Convo Beat: Interwebs Pictures

Rachel: p.s. i dont have your number anymore. and if i feel the need to talk with you via phone, i wouldnt be able to get ahold of you
Me: my number?—it's on my facebook silly
Rachel: really? oh
Rachel: obviously i dont stalk you
Me: too bad...
Me: I have some saucy pictures on the interwebs
Rachel: ewwwww
Rachel: lol

(That's right, she loled. She's such a loler.)

Mar 4, 2009

Free and Righteous: Ethnocentrism In a Modern Historical Theater Piece

Dialogue, plot, and form all play their part in building meaningful narratives. Frequently the goal of such a narrative, whether or not it succeeds, is to explore some perceived deeper facet of the human experience that is deeply understood to bind us deeply together... deeper. Or in the case of 300 the narrative serves as a simplified ideological commentary on the clash of Eastern Islamism with Westernism and the West’s ultimate superiority.

In this case the West is symbolized specifically by 300’s noble protagonists, the Spartans. The Spartans are a noble people, just minding their own freedom, when the insatiable appetite of the Persian Empire befalls them. The Spartan King Leonidas is forced by archaic law to take nothing but a small detachment of three-hundred men to hold off the overwhelming Persian invasion force which lies snarling at the gates of all Greece. Despite this, Leonidas and his soldiers fight valiantly (and successfully) against overwhelming odds until they are betrayed by Ephialtes, a fellow Greek who betrays them in favor of Emperor Xerxes’ of Persia.

300 utilizes several narratives to demonstrate the relief between the protagonist Greeks and its opposing Eastern medley. The most striking element is probably a dichotomy, repeatedly exhibited but never explained, between Slavery and Freedom. In one of the first scenes King Leonidas tells a Persian messenger asking for the symbolic capitulation of Sparta that, “You threaten my people with slavery and death!” Later the same narrative is propelled to stature of concrete metaphor when, at the defense of Thermopylae, we see an emissary of Xerxes driving slaves onward with a literal whip. He shouts them onward, “Keep moving you dogs!” In the ensuing conflict the Spartan Stelios cuts off the emissary’s arm and tells him to, “Run along... and tell your Xerxes he faces free men here. Not slaves.” The Persian emissary is shown to revel in the practice of enslavement, as he is all too eager to respond; “No, not slaves. Your women will be slaves. Your sons, your daughters, your elders will be slaves. But... you will be dead men.” Such unapologetic hostility towards freedom by the Persians is probably the most consistent narrative weaved throughout 300.

This narrative characterization breeds a form of organic contrast. The Greeks, being the opposite of the Persians, love freedom with inverse proportion to the Persian disdain for it. Besides Stelios’ comment, the Spartan queen herself when asked about her political conviction states that, “Freedom isn’t free at all”, which is eerily close to if not an exact restatement of the American conservative rhetorical idiom, ‘Freedom isn’t free.’ This love of freedom, which in modern a context can be seen as a stand-in for ‘democracy’.

The Persian enmity for virtue knows no limitations, and besides these more heavily narrated themes, the Persians are also offhandedly shown to covet virtually everything modern Westernness could possibly deplore: Misogyny, “What makes this woman think she can speak among men?” demands Xerxes’ messenger of Leonidas when the Spartan queen addresses him. Sexual deviance; as shown in the harem of Xerxes court, in this case wretched and disfigured to express the East’s perversion even of beauty itself.

But the film addresses sexuality in another way as well. Throughout weakness and doubt are equated with defeatism and homosexuality. The narrator speaks, “Goodbye my love. He doesn’t say it. There’s no room for softness, not in Sparta. No place for weakness. Only the hard and strong may call themselves Spartans.” As for what we might interpret as weak, luckily the Sparta’s nearby neighbors provide an example when Leonidas, our hero and the epitome of a good man, derides them; “[Submission.] Now that’s a bit of a problem. See rumor has it the Athenians have already turned you [Persia] down, and if those philosophers and boy-lovers have found that kind of nerve... [surely we can]”.1 In this sense higher thinking is frowned upon, and linked to homosexuality as a set of dual vices that contrast with the noble life of a Spartan warrior.

Later, Xerxes would attempt to woo Leonidas with the same vices in a clearly gay overtone. For one thing, the Persians are shown to be on the verge of unseemliness when it comes to their preference for body piercing and jewelry. In modern-dominant Western culture, piercings and jewelry are by and large still considered a mostly feminine marker, and thus ‘un-masculine’ or ‘gay’. Being the Persian emperor, Xerxes represents this to the fullest degree, with at least five piercings mostly in positions considered very queer in America (pun intended to some extent).2 In a bit of unbelievably transparent staging between Leonidas and the homosexualized Xerxes, Leonidas turns his back to Xerxes who stands behind him and gently places his hands on Leonidas’ shoulders while uttering, “Your Athenian rivals will kneel at your feet... if you will but kneel at mine.” In this case the metaphor of submission, loss of freedom and masculinity is expressed by its coupling to the image of Xerxes penetrating Leonidas from the rear in stereotypically gay fashion, while simultaneously receiving the verbal description (no-less sexual) of ‘one man kneeling in submission at another’s feet’.

Leonidas however, being the strong masculine figure of freedom, naturally refuses Xerxes offer of perverse submission. The same cannot be said of Ephialtes, the hunchback who is unfit to stand alongside Spartan warriors. In his crippling inadequacy, Ephialtes betrays Greece by revealing a goat path to Xerxes which can be used to flank Leonidas. This aspect of the narrative is an articulation being traitors and those who would sympathize with the enemy; Ephialtes does not have a powerful moral critique of the Spartan class system. Rather, he is seduced by the riches and sensuous depravity that Persia offers him, and blinded from the long-term consequence of his actions forsakes his own noble heritage. Being the hunchback again represents a disfiguration of the strong, male Sparta, and it also represents the only way such a strong, noble nation as America—er, Sparta—could be defeated by such an inferior one: By doubting itself, by allowing insider dissent, by in any way casting aside its righteous history.

Except if it’s interfering with the defense of Sparta, in which case it is corrupt and isn’t righteous at all and therefore can be ignored, as we might surmise from Leonidas who continually parses his words and actions to circumvent Spartan law. He says to his queen the night before setting off against the Persians, “Then what must a king do to save his world when the very laws he is sworn to protect force him to do nothing?” His queen comforts him in the statement that, “It is not a question of what [a king] should do... instead ask yourself, ‘What should a free man do?’” Here we see the narrative validate the circumvention of law, the “remnants of a senseless tradition”, if it comes to the safeguard of ‘freedom’.

Interwoven with all of these themes is one of the East’s irrationality. Xerxes is continually referred to as a God-king,3 and states that, “You Greeks take pride in your logic”, implying that Persians consider themselves fine to do without it. In the film’s climax, Leonidas stands against Xerxes, strong and defiant even in the face of certain death, and hurls a spear that cuts Xerxes along the cheek, showing that he is not a god at all. And if Xerxes the Emperor of all Persia is not a god, then every belief and practice of the Persian Empire is built upon a foundation of sand, nothing more than an enormous artifice of insurmountable fallacies built one on top of the other.

But if the East is so fallacy-ridden and inferior, how can the noble Spartans be defeated by them? And Leonidas does in fact he die in a hail of arrows, one that leaves him in a position on his back, arms outstretched, suspiciously reminiscent of the crucifixion. Like the resurrection, Leonidas’ ultimate vindication comes only later, at the Battle of Plataea, shown at the end of the movie. Having heard of the sacrifice of Leonidas and his three hundred solders, all of Greece rises against the evil Persian empire in what we are expected to assume is a valorous victory.4

With every added offense embodied by the Persian threat, the West’s commitment to holding their ground becomes more heroic. Thermopylae is the perfect metaphor for a conservative perspective on the ideological clash, as it portrays the the Spartans solely as noble victims. After all it was Leonidas who initially showed polite restraint for Xerxes’ messenger, and not not the other way around. It is the Spartans who are defending their homes from the Persian onslaught, and not not the other way around. And it is the Persians who sanctify nothing except for everything that is unworthy of noble Sparta. Even tactically speaking there is no intention of striking back at Thermopylae. It is devoid of provocation, not even exhibiting a counter-offensive, and exists wholly free of guilt.

Feb 24, 2009

Haiku Tuesday: Mind like Ocean

Mind should be open
Salt of lake hardly matters
But sea roars too much.

Feb 21, 2009

Haiku Saturday: Bending with the wind

Forgiveness is awe
Trees that don't bend die by storm
Even the mighty...

Feb 17, 2009

Haiku Tuesday

Miss CP so much
North goes on its normal life
Here bo sits unused...

Feb 13, 2009

Flamethrower in Hand...

Visual aids for your amusement/terror:

About 3 minutes in.

My status update today was, "Damon O'Hanlon curses Flags of Our Fathers and it being such a good movie that it makes him dream about being the flamethrower in a platoon with Pun during WWII."

So I don't have "nightmares" very often. Not in the terrified after you wake up sense anyway. But every once in awhile I do have some sort of very intense dream that has me spazzing out in the dream itself. Pun asked in my reference to him, "was i leading a cavalry charge?" and so I feel compelled to describe this dream in further detail.

Simple answer: 'Fraid not, though it was similarly intense. We were infantry and our platoon was broken up into squads of two... (Gears of War anyone?)

Pun and I were a supposed to go from residence to residence in this neighborhood of suburban homes and high-rise apartments checking for Nazis and informing non-Nazis they had been 'liberated' and to stay in their homes. So we were basically breaking and entering armed with an Iwo Jima-style flame thrower (me) and a luger (Pun) and demanding to know who lived there. We were then making snap judgments about whether to capture, kill or leave alone these families. Frequently this was based mostly on visual cues (do they have a Nazi mantlepiece?) as neither Pun nor I really spoke German. Based on Band of Brothers I was coming up with, "Commenze here, schnell" or "Come here, now" only it took like three tries every time to get right.

We were supposed to be doing this as a lead-in to the main assault, which somehow was coming from the opposite direction, so we were kind of like paratroopers without the drop-in? Supposedly we were to be headed towards allies, but everyone in our platoon was disoriented and everyone was freaking about staying together and catching high-profile Nazis and simultaneously heading towards our allies. For some reason you and I were the only ones who seemed to be even a little on top of things.

Pun, however, had precious little ammo and I was having problems with the flamethrower—every once in awhile it seemed to shoot liquid without igniting anything. This was all during the hysterical breaking and entering that we were trying to coordinate with god knows how many other squads.

"Did you check that area?"
"Has this house already been checked?"
"Which way did Gerbil run?!"
"Check over there!"
"Damn, we're gonna have to scale this wall!"

Craziness. Meanwhile we were trying to get all this done without alerting the Germans to our presence and screwing up the main attack. That plus the fact that if we made a wrong call on a Nazi sympathizer house or if a Nazi escaped they would be calling us in, probably leading to all of our deaths as the swift hand of the Reich bled down on us. Oh, plus the knowledge that if we didn't capture them, the high-profile Holocaust-responsible SS would just get a walk in the park. Yeah—there was no stress at all.


Jan 13, 2009

Legacy Post: Emerge and Immerge

Originally posted November 3rd, 2004:

I hate the english language sometimes. For instance;

1. (a word you probably know) emerge: to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid : come out into view
2. (a word you might not know) immerge: to plunge into or immerse oneself in (defin. of immerse--to plunge into something that surrounds or covers)

Mind you the important part is that immerge (pronounced ym-urge) and emerge (commonly pronounced ym-urge as well) mean opposite things. Bless our language...