Working in the newsroom is keeping me busy! Check out all of my stories on my contently page.
For the past few months I have been working on the catalog for Carrol Boyes US Distribution. Carrol is a South African artist who makes beautiful 'functional art'. It is a brand that I reminds me of my South African family and I am happy to be a part of the Carrol Boyes US team.
I am really happy with how the catalog and website turned out. You can see the work I have done for them at http://carrolboyes.us/ and I will be posting photos of the printed catalog shorty.
Tangerine Entertainment launched at Sundance!
It has been so much fun being part of "Team Tangerine"! Don't forget to check out the site for yourself tang-ent.com
Industry veterans, Amy Hobby and Anne Hubbell are launching Tangerine Entertainment, a production company and community meant to support women directors and interesting and strong roles for women.
Tangerine’s website will promote work by women, link to relevant publications and keep readers updated on the news directed from Tangerine works in production. Readers will also be engaged with “Tangerine Movie Night,” to educate and encourage audience discourse through a suggested streaming film.
Both Hobby and Hubell are excited to create a community for women filmmakers.
Hobby says, “The imbalance created by the lack of gender parity offers an opportunity for Tangerine to take advantage of relevant stories and distinct voices found in this underserved work force.”
Hubbell adds, “Raising awareness for and cultivating community around female filmmakers will be unique and essential to the plan. Utilizing all social media tools and creating grassroots opportunities for personal interaction, Tangerine will cultivate a fan base, while simultaneously creating work for that audience.”
Both Hobby and Hubbell have over 20 years in the industry. Hobby has worked on producing many, many award winning films and has four that are in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Hubbell currently is the Sales and Marketing Director at Eastman Kodak and has experience in producing, festival programming and media consulting.
Prototypes: An Exhibition in the Cloud, a collaboration between Parsons and the University of Arts Berlin exhibited this week at Designtransfer in Berlin.
The collaboration, which began almost a year ago through a series of transatlantic skype lectures and short term projects, brought together fine artists, photographers, design & technology students and developers to look at the theme of Prototypes. The New York opening, only a few days after Hurricane Sandy, was a big success and it has been exciting to see the Berlin show take shape.
My piece was a collaboration with Parsons fine artist MFA student Christine Howard-Sandoval. For more about the project: PGSG
Excerpt from 'The Stifling Effect of Ethnic Enclaves'
Written April 2009
Such an analysis of an enclave’s reactions in respect to assimilation warrants us to question whether immigrants in both the Jewish community and Chinatown are irresponsible in their resistance of assimilation and acculturation. But more poignantly, we must question whether they are, in the very act of their resistance, in fact being acculturated into American society. In order to answer this question we must not look at the enclaves, but rather at their host societies. The United States of America is, as we are so often reminded, a nation dependent on immigrants. In the case of New York City, the epicenter of this paper’s claim, immigrants and non-native New Yorkers make up the majority of the city’s eight million inhabitants. The city is composed of layers of individual resident’s influences and homes. In New York, people create the community they require out of elements in their past. In ‘City Limits’, an essay by Colson Whitehead, the idea that an individual’s idea of New York — what it was, how its changed, its potential — all creates individual New Yorks: “You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now… there are eight million naked cities in this naked city” (4). Whitehead’s theory that experiencing New York is an individual experience is challenged by Benedict Anderson’s theory on imagined communities. Anderson, a scholar and professor at Cornell University, claims that the concept of ‘community’ is largely created in the realm of our imaginations as an expression of our need as individuals to be united in a group.
Yet the paradox of requiring a nation still stands: “the formal universality of nationality as a sociocultural concept — in the modern world everyone can, should, will ‘have’ a nationality, as he or she ‘has’ a gender — vs. the irremediable particularity of its concrete manifestations, such that, by definition ‘Greek’ nationality is sui generis” (5). In addressing this paradox, Anderson argues that it is in imaging a community that it exists and that a nation is no more than “an imagined political community — and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (6). Judith Butler expands on this theory in relation to her assessment of vulnerability as a basis in human behavior. Speaking of the simultaneous desire for autonomy and dependence, she poses a question: “is this not another way of imagining community, one in which we are alike only in having this condition separately and so having in common a condition that cannot be thought without difference?” (27). The natural desire to be both autonomous, but united in our autonomy is further revealed in the natural resistance to assimilation within decisively strong cultures. To assimilate into a society is a Darwinian survival instinct engrained into the human psyche, yet in modern societies assimilation often equates a dissociation with heritage and cultural identity. As community creatures that form connections through shared memories, heritage and history (and the culture it establishes) we are very susceptible to threats to our culture. Cultural identity is a form of citizenship in its own right:
The collectively forged images, histories, and narratives that place, displace, and replace individuals in relation to the national polity — powerfully shapes who the citizenry is… the nation… require[s] a national culture in the integration of the differentiated peoples and social spaces that make up “America,” a national culture, broadly cast yet singularly engaging, that can inspire diverse individuals to identify with the national project. (Lowe 7)
We become citizens through culture. It is in our collective history and “the imagined equivalences and identifications through which the individual invents lived relationships with the national collective… it is through culture that the subject becomes, acts, and speaks itself as “American”” (Lowe 8). When an immigrant with fresh perspective is introduced into an environment such as America that has a strong indoctrination of what culture is and should be, the faults within the system are revealed. While the ‘immigrant’ can be a tool manipulated within a society to demonstrate the superiority of the national identity, it can also form a critique on the larger society: “the cultural productions emerging out of the contradictions of immigrant marginality displace the fiction of reconciliation, disrupt the myth of national identity by revealing its gaps and fissures, and intervene in the narrative of national development that would illegitimately locate the “immigrant” before history” (Lowe 11). The gaps and fissure within American society reveal the nations attempt at being a homogenous society in which every citizen shares the same cultural identity. Yet variations in culture, memory, and heritage are an important tool in creating a successful nation. Lowe asserts that we must us culture to identify the flaws within a nation, not as a form of destruction, but in consolatory manner: “it is through culture… that we conceive and enact new subjects and practices in antagonism to the regulatory locus of the citizen-subject, by way of culture that we can question those modes of government” (18). The act of questioning one’s government is testament to the foundation of America’s government in the Bill of Rights. As a culture we are able to, and in modern years encouraged to incite our democratic right to question our governments and the way in which our society acts.
As a nation, America also relies on collective memory to bolster heritage and form a strong public unity. Ephraim Sicher, who has written extensively on the effect of the Holocaust on community and memory with special regard to the second generation, attests to the nations requirement of a national memory: “the invention of memory… is characteristic of an American search for a heritage to bolster common values in a diverse multiculturalism, as well as to recoup the nation’s founding fathers’ lost ideals of liberty and human rights… though it is also a symptom of the revision of the past to serve the different needs of various groups wishing to adapt national and personal origins to changing political and global paradigms” (58). Community is determined by memory, yet memory is determined within a community. This paradox is exemplified in the cases of absent memory (in which “invention replaces recall” (Sicher 63)) as well as in post memory (in which a memory is powerful in its “connection to its object or source is mediated not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation.”(57)) and how both types of memory are strengthened through stories. Fiction and stories allows the mind to process and imagine something our own absent memory is unable to handle thus infinitely expanding the lexicon of experiences we hold within our memories. In her discussion on ‘action’, Arendt speaks of the differences between a history and a story. History, without an author, does not form a permanent mark in the collective memory of a community unless it is transformed into a story: “the real story in which we are engaged… has no visible or invisible maker because it is not made. The only “somebody” it reveals is its hero” (186). By examining the actions of the hero, however, we are able to determine ‘who’ he is (as opposed to the ‘what’ that is revealed through examination of what he leaves behind as artifacts of the history of his life). It is through stories that we are able to identify ourselves as heroes within our own narrative. In looking at the memories of our actions we are able to assess ourselves as a society, a community, and a culture.
The vita activa, or actively engaged human life, is dependent on action, which in course is dependent on interaction. Without interaction within the public sphere, there is no polis and no society. Yet in regards to the ethnic enclaves, how do we define the public sphere? If we are to consider both the host society and the isolated communities public spheres we must assume that they each contain unique interactions, memories, communities, culture and history that is comparable but entirely independent of one another. Yet, as it seems we should, we consider the host society a public sphere and the ethnic enclave the private sphere, we are able to identify the problems that are faced. Lack of assimilation, language barriers, strict social constructs that do not allow for integration are all direct results of the distinction and separation of the private and public sphere. In order for the hierarchy within the private sphere to be effective, a certain proponent of the community must extend out into public polis. In Arendt’s writings, it is only through interaction that one, a community is developed, and two, power (or the potential for power) is formed. Without assimilation and acculturation, or in their simplest names, communication and relation, the private sphere is ineffective as a microcosm of the public sphere. Remaining within the private sphere, as living within the isolation of an ethnic enclave equates to, is essentially living within a past that has yet to be formed into a story. It is impossible to know who you are as a citizen of a stifled community unless the story is told and in order for the story to be told there must be interaction with the host society. Whether it is the community created by physically living in unassimilated isolation or that that is created by psychologically reliving parents and family hardships, the concept of remembering and identifying with the past is an important step in immigrating. As a transition ethnic enclaves are an excellent environment in which to gain ethnic capital. Yet without the intent to integrate and move on, such a community isolates, limits development and is mentally unhealthy to stay within.
The Information Age, Dialectic Societies and the Arab Spring
In 1848 a wave of revolutions rushed over Europe. Thousands of revolutionaries died during 18 months of revolutions in over 15 countries. The Industrial Revolution had brought about a new working class and civil society. Industrialization and reforms were having an effect on society; in Prussia, 80% of the people were literate — and they were calling for change . The nationalist revolutionaries demanded constitutional governments and broader rights for the worker and middle class but the root of the revolutions lay in the dialectic society created by the Industrial Revolution.
Without the changes in labor due to the technologies of the Industrial Revolution there would have been no socioeconomic drive behind the 1848 Spring of Nations. The controversial media theorist, Marshall McLuhan refers to the railway as a medium that broadcast the new societal message. “The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.” The significance of the Industrial Revolution’s technology is not of manufacturing or advancements in production processes, but rather how society was transformed by the changing technologies. The Industrial Revolution destroyed the individualized cottage industry and brought about an era of mass identity. A worker was no longer a craftsman but one of thousands of factory workers. This transition was reflected in our treatment of technology. Wolfgang Schivelbusch describes the reaction to changing machinery as resentful and remorseful:
They clearly felt a loss of personal freedom. The railway put an end to the freedom of guiding an individual conveyance at will. Similarly, gaslight made it impossible for people to become absorbed in contemplating the ‘individual’ flame of an oil-lamp or candle. Railway travelers, no longer living in the landscape through which they were being transported, felt like parcels in a pneumatic tube. People gazing at a gaslight no longer lost themselves in dreams of the primeval fire.
The loss of individualism was present in the workplace and in the home. In drawing rooms across Europe there was a resistance to gas lighting — which directly connected each home to the city’s centralized gas supply. Schivelbusch surmises, “It seems to have been a reaction to the industrialization of lighting. By keeping their independent lights, people symbolically distanced themselves from a centralized supply.” This resistance to centralization, the onset of the Industrialized economy and the pre-revolutionary discussions across Europe of control, balance of power and representation, met in dialectic opposition. The causality of the Industrial Revolution and the Spring Nations is akin to that of the Information Age and the Arab Spring. As we will explore later, technology-fueled dialectic societies are a perfect platform for revolution.
In order to understand the dialectic societies occurring today we must first look at the origins of the Information Age. The Internet, founded on libertarian principles that promoted a sharing of information and communication, democratized the production process. A networked information economy was developed around the nonmarket commodity of information and communication. Once passive consumers, the active producer was swiftly transforming into a commodity: information. Yet the concept that the Web remains a free and open environment perfectly suited for communication was still present. The majority of the first world now considers the connectivity of the web a fundamental human right. The denial of access to the wealth of information, and the ability to contribute to the network, is contradictory to the ideals of the Internet.
In the Arab world, however, the right to the openness of the Internet, along with the freedom of press and the right to protest, were stifled. The networked information economy is dependent on the principles of communication and expression yet as we will discuss in places like Egypt and Tunisia, the people were not allowed their voice. The citizens of Tunisia were simultaneously citizens of Facebook — which with a population of 900 million active users constitutes the 3rd largest society in the world — where the guiding principles and laws of each nation conflicted. The removal of the Tunisian and Egyptian people from the networked information economy, and the liberal principles it is structured upon, created a dialectic society that, in January 2011, provided the perfect impetus for the Arab Spring revolutions.
If you would like to continue reading please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On February 7, 2011 AOL bought the Huffington Post for 315 million dollars. The news website was cofounded by Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer in May 2005 with a business model built around a few employee contributors, the free contribution of bloggers, and attributed content from other news media. In the six years since its founding, the Huffington Post has developed a reputation for progressive media and as a place where up and coming bloggers can gain recognition. The number of bloggers and photographers who contributed content for free number nearly 6000, making up the mass majority of its content providers. Many have denounced the sale to AOL, with its inevitable shift of content to the center, as selling out to mainstream media. Yet the true atrocity in the sale is not whether the website will desert its progressive origins but the fact that in doing so, Arianna Huffington has sold out her 'army of bloggers' -- and has paid them nothing in return.
The sale has created uproar amongst bloggers and traditional journalists alike. Tim Rutten, writing for the Los Angeles Times, scolded Ms Huffington for her decision, comparing her and Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, to pillaging pirates. "To grasp its business model, though, you need to picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates (Rutten)." For Rutten, this a clear example of employee exploitation reminiscent of older economic models: "the fact is that AOL and the Huffington Post simply recapitulate in the new media many of the worst abuses of the old economy's industrial capitalism — the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers." (Rutten) These claims, however, are based upon the assumption that the bloggers are being exploited in the first place.
In the current post-fordist economic model, where information creates value, the concept of free labor and exploitation is one we must carefully parse. If the bloggers, in allowing the Huffington Post to use their work without compensation, were conceding complacency to their own exploitation then is their current outrage appropriate or hind-sighted greediness? The incentives involved in the blogger's decision to write for the Huffington Post were apropos that no one, not even Arianna Huffington, was profiting from their work. The sudden factor of millions of dollars, however, radically changes the co-productive relationship between the bloggers and the company. Hector Postigo, in his analysis of yet another exploitation involving AOL and their volunteers in the 1990s, states that there are three factors that are required for a successful co-productive relationship: "the perceived reasonable compensation on the part of volunteers, social factors and attitudes towards work such as a sense of community, creativity and a sense of accomplishment." (Postigo 451) The current situation at the Huffington Post mirrors that of the AOL volunteers in the early 1990s. In analyzing the case of the AOL volunteers we are able to determine what exploitation means in today’s immaterial labor force and to what extent the Huffington Post bloggers are being economically and personally manipulated.
America Online Volunteers
In the 1990s, America Online, now AOL, managed 14,000 volunteers. Their jobs included being forum monitors, ensuring Terms of Service (TOS) were being followed in chat rooms and creating original content. They were not employees, but they did have time sheets, staff training and working manuals that were upwards of sixty pages. From the origins of AOL until 1996, the volunteers happily worked in this co-productive arrangement. In 1996, AOL’s restructuring of its internal configuration and policy changes lead to a depreciation of the volunteers — in their tangible rewards (volunteers had originally been rewarded with credit hours for their time online, but in 1996, AOL switched to a flat rate system, voiding any credits and a fair system of compensation) and in the level of respect and responsibility held by the volunteers. The original success of the volunteer co-productive system was dependent not on the credit hours but on the sense of community that AOL had strived to build for the volunteers. The true demotion that was a result of the corporate restructuring was in the loss of control and community.
Prior to 1996, volunteers were trusted with upholding the face of AOL, were encouraged to make friendly connections with their forums and even to make changes to original content as they saw fit. The community created by and for the volunteers was in part responsible for the welcoming face of AOL at the time. It was their job to make new users feel welcome and to encourage customer loyalty. As a result, the relegation of duties to mere TOS enforcers was a blow to many volunteer’s pride. This shift, more than the discrepancy in compensation is why the co-productive environment failed at AOL. Volunteers created content but their true task was to foster a certain mood in the chats that AOL then used as their selling point. Huffington Post relies on bloggers to build not only content but also a higher quality of writing and photography. Which allows Huffington Post to stand apart from competitors online as well as increasing their market value. The Huffington Post’s price was set in part due to the value created by its users, the commoditization of their interactions created in the "social factory mediated through digital networks." (Dyer-Witherford) The idea of value based off of immaterial labor leads us to content. Rutten’s disapproval of the Huffington Post’s format is their de-emphasis of information and journalism and their focus on data and content. "Information is data arranged in an intelligible order. Journalism is information collected and analyzed in ways people actually can use... AOL and the Huffington Post... actually provide "content," which is what journalism becomes when it's adulterated into a mere commodity." (Rutten) This commodity, when discussed in such simplified terms, requires direct compensation ¬where as true co-production journalism and work can be remunerated through a variety of incentives. This distinction is exemplified in the shift at AOL in 1996. When the volunteers provided a community around their free labor the personal rewards offset the discrepancy in tangible pay. Yet when that co-productive community was removed and replaced with a commodity their rewards were insufficient.
The Huffington Post’s structure differs from that of AOL’s in that there was never any pretense of reimbursement beyond the personal incentives. There is no equivalent to credit hours in the Huffington Post case. Yet the initial incentives are quite similar: publicity, the potential of employment and a sense of belonging to a community. In both cases it is not just about compensation — it is more accurately about control over work and a notion of reasonable alternative rewards. The passion that drove the free laborers in the first place would have been enough if they had been acknowledged for their role in the company's community. When a group of blogger’s reacted to their depreciation by declaring a strike Arianna Huffington apathetically responded, "Go ahead, go on strike."
Ten years after the AOL volunteers filed a class action lawsuit against AOL they received damages — fifteen million dollars. If the same case were to be argued for the Huffington Post bloggers, however, they would most likely lose in court. The business models of AOL compared to Huffington Post varied in such a way that AOL’s exploitation was explicit and undeniable while the Huffington Post’s, while unjust, is less substantial. AOL volunteers were essentially employees who were being exploited — they had time cards, and at least originally there was a direct correlation between the works they did and the credit hours they received. Huffington Post bloggers, on the other hand, are more like freelancers in that they do not have the same dependency on Huffington Post, and Huffington Post never made promises of compensation. The difference is such: AOL was intending to exploit free labor. They took advantage of their altruistic community. Arianna Huffington, however, created an altruistic community in the beginning without the immediate intention of profiting. This betrayal, in part, is why the sale to AOL has been labeled as selling out.
Motivation and Pleasure in a Free Labor System
As the commoditization of our social interactions become more and more evident we must examine whether or not free and immaterial labor follow the same exploitive models as we’ve seen in more conventional labor systems. The free labor system of immaterial labor in a post-fordist information economy negates the need for tangible value of workers. A worker loses personal value and is valued as a group. "The funny thing about all these frothy millions and billions piling up? Most of the value was created by people working for free." (Carr) Huffington post was sold for $315 million not for her few paid employees but for her army of bloggers. Facebook's value is dependent on the number of million users and the data they provide as a collective, not as individuals. "People contributing to Amazon.com's consumer reviews and 'list mania', Microsoft’s most valuable professionals (MVP) program, contributors to YouTube and MySpace and other countless users are part of a network-wide system of free labor." (Postigo 463) These networked factories have made it so we, as individual laborers are devalued while our mass gains a value set beyond our group intellect. The few have exploited the many throughout history and our transference to the digital realm has not changed the fundamental labor structure. "We live in a world of digital feudalism. The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, or some other service that offers up free land and the content provided by the renter of that land is essentially becomes owned by the platform that owns the land" (Carr) The platforms of power online have reduced us to mere data. When our value is being assessed on such a large scale, the exploitation of the individual becomes less apparent. Enjoyment and the gamification of labor placates the laborers into a sense of compliance — submitting material to Huffington Post or accomplishing tasks on Mechanical Turk is not unenjoyable. But enjoyment and the gamification of the many lead to the prosperity of the few. "Free labor is [not] necessarily exploitative... people are not dupes and that they are cognizant that their work is valuable even as they choose to give it away. There is enjoyment as well as exploitation in the process (Terranova)" (Postigo 463). Postigo is expressive in his point that exploitation and pleasure are not mutually exclusive — in fact the one often leads to the other. "The greater power to enjoy is always on the verge of being turned into a laboring task." (Virno) The role of pleasure in labor has often been an incentive for labor. In this post-fordist economy in which the tasks often associated with free and immaterial labor are no longer objectively measurable, pleasure plays an important role in distinguishing a task’s value.