Trust|Disgust Tankas

In the street
plastic bags with scraps
crowned by flies
she concealed
muffled disgust


A crucible
deep within a cave
disgust into trust


In borderland
a pendulum swings
in her mind
perpetual motion
from disgust to trust



Too long dictators let the masses bleed
Over a volcano crackles lightning
Increasing repression sows a  seed
Too long dictators let the masses bleed
Gunmen with  rubber bullets intercede
The tyrants’ fists of fear are tightening
Too long dictators let the masses bleed
Over a volcano crackles lightning

Musings towards a poetics of social media 2

First of all, thank you to each of you who took the time to leave a comment on my last musings post. I have been thinking a lot about the comments on my first post on the poetics of social media where I asked:  “Does the imperative for immediacy in a media-saturated landscape mean that visual cues and language need to be simplistic and reductive to grab attention?”

The comments were erudite and provided me many new directions. The notion of acceleration appears to be at the heart of social media. Again it is a question of time. The idea that we are overwhelmed by information in our everyday lives is not new. Richard Wurman wrote an excellent book on this very topic back in 2000 called Information Anxiety 2.  His focus was on information architecture and good design. I feel that while good design can help, it is not a solution to this wicked problem. Actually, I think design may be a part of the problem.

The problem lies much deeper as pointed out by _Monocle_ :

“I think the question – and I don’t have an answer – is whether the acceleration and homogenization and simplification forces we see now are _greater_ than they’ve been in the past and if so, are they actually more dangerous. Or is it just a faster evolving system to the next thing?”

I feel this question  is tied in to an observation made by ZeWitness: “Reader frustration due to being overwhelmed is a reality.” Feelings of overwhelming quantities is a question of time and acceleration as well as of trying to navigate through space.

The Xtraman said,  “the shallow worship of hits and numbers of followers is diluting worthwhile content, which is being sacrificed in the name of immediacy. It’s dumbing down by any other name.”

Jim Lawrence said,  “The trick is not to treat your blog as a sausage machine but as a space where you can think, imagine and create. I would rather write something good that is only read by a few people than churn out any old nonsense just for the sake of pandering to a mass readership.”

I wonder, then, if  by participating in social media, are we guilty of being a part of a massive production line, feeding on itself where there is no time for thinking about quality, aesthetics and poetics, and does this really matter? My gut response is yes, we should make time to think about quality because while difficult to measure and define, it does matter a great deal, to me, anyway.

The terms ‘social media’ and ‘content’ are reductivist shorthand. By using them I have fallen prey to the forces of homogenization and simplification. However, before I unpack these terms, I want to take the time to digress and step back to look at the socio-historical context within which I live.  We are operating in a world that is driven by discourses of globalization, consumerism and commodification. Some would call it late capitalism, others see a new Middle Ages approaching. We have seen the disruption of the Western canon and the rise of relativism in art with the appearance of artists such as Damian Hirst. The canonisation of literature is now driven by huge publishing houses.

I recently watched a video of lecture by Ed Soja. It is a discussion of the Portman’s Bonaventura Hotel in LA. The gist of the interview was that these spaces are designed to emphasize the spatial over the temporal in order to set up a new set of relations with the experiencing subject to seduce them into submitting to authority.  The spatiality of postmodernity is fragmented, disorienting thus making us more willing to submit to authoritative controls in order to ease our discomfort. The ubiquity of surveillance technologies is another indicator of our submission. I feel this also applies to our virtual spaces including social media  where again the spatial is privileged over the temporal.

Perhaps being lost is something we should embrace with enthusiasm rather than searching for compasses and submitting to controls  in order to avoid feelings of dislocation and associated discomfort.

Musings towards a poetics of social media

Social media and the internet have profoundly changed our notions of time and space in everyday life. Images (verbal, visual and social identity) can be published instantly to a wide audience. And it is all too easy to complain about the lack of quality content around and to be disgusted with social media and the saturation of content we encounter each day. Nonetheless, it is double-edged and a potential threat to quality.

If we want to be noticed among the plethora of content out there, we need to constantly update our blogs, our flickr sites, and other social media sites. The dictum seems to be ‘update or perish’; whereby relevance is tied to immediacy, where older posts and images lose currency rapidly. Celebrity has become a determinant of quality. Taste has become tied to celebrity rather than a thought-out aesthetic and sensibility. (I am reminded of the Pop Art movement and one of its chief proponents in the 1960s,  Andy Warhol who critiqued mass production and consumerism through his art but I won’t unpack the connections now.)

It seems that it is more important to put stuff out there quickly rather than worry about difficult notions like quality.This is a profound shift that has a fundamental impact on what we regard as ‘art’ in a world where art is increasingly commodified. It is very easy to succumb to the seduction of blog hit stats and comments as true measures of quality. It ‘s all about maintaining a position on the timeline or search, sometimes at the expense of the outcome. Content needs to be readily accessible and identifiable through tags, keywords and metadata which is a form of commodification through searchablity and presence on timelines.  Afterall, if people can’t find your content easily through Google or such, they will not read it or view it. It may as well not exist.

There is danger of a devaluing of critical awareness in the process of creating content because of the imperative for relevance through the economics of immediacy. The need to post something to one’s blog or photo feed may override the need to engage in critical reflection. The obvious and literal is also more accessible in terms of the time it takes to read or view a post. So do we sacrifice complexity for the sake of people ‘getting’ what we mean quickly?

This raises more questions to ponder:

Does the imperative for immediacy in a media-saturated landscape mean that visual cues and language need to be simplistic and reductive to grab attention? Will this affect our ability to read complex nuanced texts, let alone subtexts?


Avarice sits
Heart closed
Giving naught
Uneasy greed
Eating hope

Anger broods
Growing tall
Blocking light
Murderous intent

Pride struts
Murderous glances

While Envy
Feeling  jealous
Through diseased

Lust oozes
Sliding in

Clumsy mouth
Gapes wide
Fueling hunger

Sloth decays
All it brushes
Sucking out
All life

Disgusting Personas

Last night I was watching a doco on heavy metal and it struck me that  liminal space, the space of play, the subjunctive, the ‘what if’ space is counter to modernity and its love of machines. The ability to play was not in the interests of factory owners. They needed fodder for their factories who would be content to work, eat, sleep and reproduce. The doco discussed the disgust felt by mainstream people to the fetishes, appearance and demeanor of  heavy metal bands. Of course some in the right wing religions blamed heavy metal for social ills and labelled it satanic. And they still believe their own collective paranoia.

Each time people dress up and take on  personas outside of a defined theatre space people get threatened. In ‘real’ life we are pressured to be static one dimensional beings. While different roles such as father, mother, son, daughter, etc are acknowledged; different personas which nonetheless are still me even though they are not not me are integral aspects of ourselves. We all have unfixed unstable selves that are constantly transforming and hopefully growing. I started to think about this disgust, which in its extreme forms accuses personas of being immoral or in league with the devil or trying to escape from the ‘real’ world, whatever that is. On the other hand there is the ‘happiness’ industry with exhorts us to be in the moment, to try something new everyday, etc.

So I am thinking about why the idea of personas is disgusting to so many. And why do people cling to notions of ‘real’ ?