The following is an excerpt from a conversation between Liz Kinnamon and on 2/1/16.
LK: i’ve been thinking today about what if we decided on a set of rules like the declaration of human rights but for the internet. not etiquette exactly, but like,
“it’s okay to be brusque in your emails especially if you’re a woman; it doesn’t mean that you hate anyone or that anyone hates you” because of so much paranoia. like i’ve been thinking about how i sort of don’t even know how to read digital communication. tone
BP: yeah man. seriously. part of the problem is that i think the context shifts so much
LK: what do you mean?
BP: like pick up the phone at 4am and i’ll be like________ but at noon I might be like _______. i dunno, digital communication feels, well, like communication, in that it totally depends on a whole host of feelings, moods, moments, in order to interpret and process and understand.
LK: yeah, but i think the problem is that the context of digital communication is…an abyss
it’s an imagined field
the context isn’t concrete at all, except perhaps the time of day—and that isn’t even set. it’s 2:30 here and 4:30 there.
BP: ok. so you’re saying that trying to determine the range of possible contexts from digital communication, or like an object of digital comm is almost impossible because there are so many? an object being like, an email
LK : yes. and because there’s not a calm body looking back at me in 3D, whose presence alone soothes me and sort of nips potential paranoias from spinning off
LK: so determining the context of the object is like a game of squash. the context is a lot in your head.
what do you think? do you have a similar experience?
BP: sure. i think a lot of what you talking about is like talking to someone with an accent. like, i almost never get paranoid or misinterpret things that you send to me over email or text or on tumblr because, i dunno, i recognize and commune with or am down with your communication form. it’s like when I’m around someone from New Orleans or Virginia I immediately recognize and slip into usage. i don’t know if the metaphor works all the way…comfort through recognition, but in digital comm there is no set of rules or common usage that sets up a field of meaning
LK: yes, totally, but the accent denotes region which means other kinds of shared communication habits
no set of rules—except hegemony.
BP: right right exactly
regionality of the internet is real i think
LK: but how is it determined? how does one belong to one region and not another?
BP: i mean, it’s probably why i could immediately pick up with you afk when we met in the city for the first time. i mean i think tumblr is an example. like, sites where we congregate, where we develop certain reading and writing styles are very similar to, like, seeing a jack in the box everyday. haha. so you’re saying common usage values in order to stand in for the presence of an other, as a way of grounding context a bit.
i agree only to a certain point; many of the people we both follow have drastically disparate styles
BP: of course. of course.
LK: yeah, something like a contract that we could individually refer back to as groundrules for interacting without direct bodily presence
BP: but it isn’t the quality or content of their blogs, it’s that the habits of reading and writing on tumblr establish an interpersonal dynamic much differently than Twitter or Facebook or the comments section of an Atlantic article.
BP: right but aren’t you just privileging face to face communication?
LK: see i’m not sure, i think that might be too romantic
LK: give me something more specifically illustrative of what you mean
and i am privileging face to face, though less face to face (cuz interspecies humanimal contestations) than bodily withness
BP: hmmmm ok. i’d argue that face to face communication is no more direct or real than digital communication and that our culture tends to put too much weight on non-verbals as truth-telling indicators within human communication. oftentimes my nonverbal listening or reacting has nothing to do with the communication that’s occurring between me and an other person. however it is an immediate form of communication and as such reactions or responses tend to be more instinctual and less reflective when compared to, say, reading an email, thinking up a response and then writing the person back. so, like, within digital communication we have to rely on other things like parlance, shorthand, form, format, to ground our understanding of the other person much the same ways the presence grounds our understanding of an other when communicating to them with the understanding that time in/of digital communication functions much differently than face to face.
BP: (i’m not suggesting we don’t reflect in face to face, but that we also don’t sit for hours thinking up a response in face to face USUALLY)
LK: sitting for hours thinking up a response face to face sounds like a great performance art piece.
LK: i’ve been reading some studies about different kinds of interpersonal communication and oxytocin. one took a group of young girls from 7-12 and subjected them to some kind of lab stressor, then separated them into four groups— after the stressor, they were allowed 1) direct interaction with a parent 2) no interaction, solitude 3) instant messages with their parent and 4) phone with their parent
BP : oh wow
LK: basically, the girls who got to interact with their parent over the phone or in person had higher levels of oxytocin and lower levels of cortisol and the ones who texted or were in solitude the inverse
LK: i might be inclined to protect digital communication similar to the way you are now, especially because so many people who inspire and interest me, and who i genuinely care for, have been via the internet and we mostly communicate that way
BP: i think that makes total sense.
LK : but i think at this point, my response to your thoughts would be to question what is meant by truth-telling via non-verbals. because i think it’s less that face-to-face tells the truth about an event or truth about a communication and more that non-verbals (and i’ll include general sentient presence here) tells the truth about withness that can be intrinsically comforting
LK: if that makes sense. and now all i want to do is make a performance piece about taking your time to respond.
BP: totally. i get that. i agree. i meant, generally, that people think nonverbal are somehow more true in that we reveal what we really think nonverbally. like, nonverbal as the manifestation of the unconscious. which isn’t always the case. yeah i mean mostly i’m generally interested in looking at digital comm as an extension of human communication rather than some less than form of communication (which i think it often gets pegged as) as a means of fostering and giving space to difference and difference-oriented modes of expression that happen in digital spaces or digital contexts.
LK: yeah, i agree unequivocally that DC can/does allow space for difference. and that physical manifestations (gestures blinking looking bored) often get misinterpreted for truth. there can be/often is a disconnect. but i’m kind of into the prospect of syncing them, to better align my communication with external signs as a service for the other, idk
BP: so like, are you trying to minimize miscommunication?
LK: yes — maybe that’s what the initial proposal is essentially about!
BP: yeah. i mean your post is so spot on about jettisoning professionalized internetting. i don’t know. reducing interference in communication is so hard because so often it has nothing to do with things we can control which runs so counter to what we think about communication which is — i think this thing, i make a message to communicate this thing, i communicate this thing.
BP: Like, that’s not communication because there’s nothing about the other person in that model at all. so much stuff out of our control. i’m running on and on. you got work to do go do it. i always think of these exchanges, as, like, just another piece of our ongoing relationship.
LK: they are. i love thinking about this together. will think more about reducing interference.
Alli Warren is the only person in the mixedfeelings crew that I developed a friendship with in person. I tried to kiss her but we friendzoned each other too fast, we got distracted because it was easier to roll out secrets with her than regular conversation. Over a year or so I’ve learned certain tics she has, as I’m sure she knows mine. The way her voice gets higher if it’s late and there’s wine, how she smiles in a certain way after she’s said something, totally deadpan, if she’s fucking with me.
“yeah, i agree unequivocally that DC can/does allow space for difference. and that physical manifestations (gestures blinking looking bored) often get misinterpreted for truth. there can be/often is a disconnect. but i’m kind of into the prospect of syncing them, to better align my communication with external signs as a service for the other, idk “
I’m fascinated with how much people want to place an emphasis on physical manifestation as a space of authenticity, but I guess it comes out of courtesy, politeness, each in its own way the most ubiquitous form of interference. But if, like BP is saying, digital communication can in fact be a difference-oriented mode of expression rather than a lesser-than or stripped down translation of face-to-face communication, I’m also interested in how gestures might embody themselves digitally. Call me a quote unquote poet, but how does the digital space give itself to to these kinds of gestural undercurrents that might function in the say way as the movement of a hand, or the slight roll of an eye. How many hours has it been since someone sent that email? Why aren’t they replying when they’re usually so quick? Why did they like that post that I didn’t think they would, or how is that reblog really working in the larger context of our online relationship?
The funny thing about online communication is that you can only work in fragments, especially if you’ve never met someone IRL. Which means that often the relationship is predicated already on misinformation, something that never fails to delight me.
Up until a month or so ago I pronounced Jeanne’s name Je-ANNE rather than JEAN until an IRL friend gently corrected me. I see the error as a mark of faith or fangirl-ism, the dislocation of a fact through the digital world still deposited directly back into my mouth.
I can tell the tenor of what Alli Warren wants to tell me on gchat through the length of her pause.
Still have a lot of thoughts about the idea of sisterhood as stalking, the
kinds of silent, invisible, unknown intimacies that are drawn throughout a
network of tumblr, the kinds of paranoia it can engender because of the lack of
location, the fact that everything is founded on misinformation or the
possibility of it. I like the tenderness of the conspiracies that we web over
and involve each other in.
– conspiracy as “the degraded attempt… to think the
totality of the contemporary world system,” – where the fragmented
impossibility of a unity is closer to an empirical reality. thinking
about internet paranoia
as the kinds of gestures that are akin to the lowering of someone’s
fragmented way of finding a different socialty that is not entirely
directness or authenticity.
Lyle’s tumblr is very involved and misquoted in my book, something that happened before I even knew her. Something that still gives me shame and awe - that something so vague could become emotionally sharp once i found the person amidst all the lazy/casual reblogs.
Once, I thought Liz was talking
about how I was being over-eager on tumblr without directly naming me.
It had appeared after we met each other for the first time IRL, I was
worried about my demeanour. I emailed her something frou-frou to hide my
discomfort - “am aware of the kind of blunt narcissism and paranoia of
this email for which i am sorry!”, “but in any case i hear yr feelings
and if i did indeed make u feel in that certain way with my eagerness, i
just want to apologise.”
Liz responded - “OMG!!… i like
you. like, definitively” Liz might have said to me something like “I like you” before, but I
believed it differently now. It wasn’t the IRL interaction though, it was the patterning of our online communication afterwards.
I’m on the plane, watching the new James Bond movie because everything else
seems to cost $6 to see. Every James Bond movie has a particular ‘tension’ or
contemporary issue that it seems to address in order to make a movie about
suits, martinis and womanizing somehow still glamorour or relevant, for the
nostalgia to seem sharper or poignant. Whatever, I like it. There’s a moment
where the new M is talking to a superior about to shut down the MI6 program in
favour of what are essentially drone strikes and a regime of total
surveillance. M says, the thing is, when
you send an agent to eliminate a suspect, there is still a moment where he has
to look at the living, breathing person right in front of him, and then another
split moment where he has to decide to kill him. I’m bored already so I turn to my computer because the directness of this binary is already irking me.
(via yrmixedfeelings )