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Sunday, 9 February 2014

People Still Care


Woman in couch, Portland: photo by Austin Granger, 23 January 2014

Life must be seen before it can be known but we are as the blind, before our lit-up screens, where then are our probing-sticks, to tap our way forward?

This imagination that life is easy to be borne, where does it come from?

The poor do not stand on ceremony over a little civility, nor does the mutilation of a compliment bring them low.

Crow (Washington Boulevard, Los Angeles): photo by michaelj1998, 27 January 2014
DC: In the last six years, you’ve tweeted just over 40,000 times —

Leah: Which is not as bad as it sounds! I think there’s an inherent discomfort in Twitter that a lot of people don’t like to address. It’s my favorite thing, watching a lot of people on Saturday night, tweeting. It’s like you’re yelling into the void. Who is here? That’s one of the reason we like bots so much. You know, a bot will talk to you whenever. People are checking in on Foursquare — “Hey, I’m here. Is anyone else here?” You know, there’s that desire to connect, and it’s sort of weirdly lonely to me. I remember one night on Twitter, I was in the bath, I’d had a little bit to drink and I tweeted “DM (direct message) me your secrets.” And I actually had to respond to so many secrets that I got put in “Twitter jail” (when Twitter prevents your account from tweeting anymore because you’ve reached a limit); I couldn’t respond to any more. I think there’s a really deep, and sometimes I feel it, too, this desire to be simultaneously connected but be very out of place. I think it’s true of a lot of people, not everyone. It makes me feel so deeply human: I can’t handle all this interiority in other people’s lives.

DC: How do you mean?

Leah: Just thinking about the conversations everyone’s having and how do you think about those people just … How do you feel, is there a place where you can feel you can just be you? For some people, Twitter does that. Not for me. For me, Twitter is turned at just enough of an angle where I can say a lot of things I want to say but not everything. I think there is that hint of melancholy that still comes through. Because there are people who say, “I want to connect with you.”

DC: They’re just getting at the surface of it, like this melancholy is just around the corner. We get glimpses of it.

Leah: Right. And I think that I’m pretty honest, and I’m pretty much just me, but I also think i’m “me” in a way that’s performative. I’m never just like, “here’s how I feel” and then let it all loose.

DC: So it’s that it makes sense and it doesn’t at the same time.

Leah: Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of being on Twitter. And that’s why you can’t explain Twitter and what you should or shouldn’t do on Twitter. Either that clicks or it doesn’t, and that’s OK. Because sometimes those elements shift out of place for me, and it gets very disjointed. And there are days that I can’t do it, and I can’t talk with this many people or engage with them. And I have to say a thing and go away. I think there are also times when it’s just off-kilter enough that’s comfortable, and times when it comes together and I think about how everyone is really great. And then it slides back out of place.

("I now work at a startup called Automatic... I do a lot of research, and because I trained as an ethnographer, I do a lot of qualitative research. I interview people, get a better understanding of their needs, of the products they use..." -- LR)

-- Seeking human connection in a virtual world: Leah Reich, social media researcher, interviewed by Noah Kulwin in The Daily Californian, 8 February 2014

Night ferry (Portland, Maine): photo by Robert Schneider, 3 November 2013

And the tech industry is taking other students as well: economics and business majors.

Sherry Jiang, a senior business major who worked as an investment banking intern at Goldman Sachs last summer, just accepted a full-time position at Amazon as a business analyst. According to Jiang, more and more business students are seeking opportunities in tech. She said the program she will be joining at Amazon is only two years old. Kayleigh Barnes, a senior majoring in economics, is in the midst of interviewing for a position at DropBox. She isn’t set on tech but said that it’s a job market that has always appealed to her as a UC Berkeley student.

“A lot of people are graduating, and they don’t really know where they can get a job,” Barnes said. “Berkeley has a close proximity to the Silicon Valley — the whole time you’re going to school, those are the companies you’re hearing about. And then the fact that the companies are so lucrative — that really seals the deal. You can make a lot of money at Google or another place and eat four-star meals while someone does your laundry.”

Interns working at Google and Facebook can make about $6,500 a month — a huge leap from the unpaid internships most undergraduates are taking on.

Victoria Lo, who is studying computer science and integrative biology and hunting for a tech gig this summer, said the money isn’t her reason for going into the field, but it can be for some.

“I met someone in one of my classes who said, ‘I just want to do this job or get a grand piano or a Lamborghini,’ ” Lo said. “And I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ This is what I want to do because it’s so much fun.”

-- Breeding the tech elite: Libby Rainey, in The Daily Californian, 8 February 2014

Free High Speed Internet (Vallejo, California): photo by efo, 21 January 2014

Shrine, Sauvie Island, Oregon: photo by Austin Granger, 31 January 2014

Noordmarkt 1 (Amsterdam): photo by Robert Schneider, 14 December 2013

Beverly, Massachusetts: photo by Billy (STREETIZM), 27 February 2014

L'il stove: photo by efo, 2 February 2014

Bar Supplies (Los Angeles, California): photo by michaelj1998, 17 January 2014

Worcester, Massachusetts: photo by Billy (STREETIZM), 27 January 2014

2741 (Temple Avenue, Los Angeles): photo by michaelj1998, 27 January 2014

Arlington, Massachusetts: photo by Billy (STREETIZM), 4 February 2014

caution sign (Kansas City): photo by Clayton Percy, 26 January 2014

 Hotel (Skid row, Los Angeles): photo by michaelj1998, 23 January 2014

Worcester, Massachusetts: photo by Billy (STREETIZM), 30 January 2014

Casters (Downtown Los Angeles): photo by michaelj1998, 17 January 2014

Noordmarkt 2 (Amsterdam): photo by Robert Schneider, 14 December 2013

Screaming at Marilyn (Downtown Los Angeles): photo by michaelj1998, 27 January 2014


ACravan said...

The short poem that begins this is fine and the collection of photographs that opens the piece up to its other worlds is really great. I'm not sure how you managed to get through assembling and publishing this without wanting to give up and turn to something else. (That's the optimistic view.) Reading Ms. Reich's remarks (and viewing her website) and Ms. Rainey's article is enough to make me want to give up, cut all ties, and sail or otherwise steal away. I suppose that's the pessimistic view. I would like to think that my own daughter feels differently about things and behaves differently than these people seem to think is the preferred way. Curtis

Nin Andrews said...

Yes, where does the imagination that life is easy to be borne come from? Fairy tales? Is it a US phenomenon? I love French films, but so often they leave you with the unbearable ending, and I am still waiting, as the credits roll, for Hollywood to come to my rescue and give me my happy finale.

This post does make one feel "weirdly lonely" as DC puts it. And like "melancholy is just around the corner," if it's that far way.
And that exchange is really sci-fi. I didn't realize Twitter was so engaging for people. Tweeting to the void? And what does that mean--saying what you want to say but not everything? Sounds like some kind of legal training. And I love that line about "the beauty of being on Twitter." Beauty? Really?

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Re the fourth photograph: In a boob tube interview aired about two months ago, Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised free internet access to all Greeks; presumably, this will give them the opportunity to surf the net in search of exciting, lucrative job offers in-between the time they waste looking through dumpsters for scraps.

Anonymous said...

To my enduring shame, I suppose, I use Twitter ... but based on the metrics of influence and followers most people have, I'm an abject failure at it. The problem, I suppose, is this idea that "the void" is anywhere else but oneself. This sort of starting point, I suppose, does not endure me to social media. The conversations had here, such as they are, are oddly escapist, in a way few conversations in the flesh are -- it's difficult to escape body odor, say, or the clamor of cranes drowning out a voice. It is indicative of melancholy, yes. But not often the creative sort.


human lumps become
particles in
systems of
I too feel lumpy
what a dream!

Mose23 said...

"It makes me feel so deeply human."

I am very happy for her.

ACravan said...

Nin's remark about legal training made me smile. It's not like that -- really. "It makes me feel so deeply human." That kills me. I would invite you all to check out her "selfie" collection if you haven't done so already, but I like you. And it makes me feel so deeply human not to. Curtis

TC said...

To be honest, the imagination that life is easily borne is so far from me at this moment -- lame, old, to all useful intents and purposes totally helpless, and listening to the torrent beat down on the quarter deck -- that I cannot account for it.

The University of California, which owns this town, is now primarily a private school for the children of the new Asian elite classes.

It is also a primary recruiting source for the tech firms that rule the universe from Silicon Valley.

The future, such as it is, belongs to them.

The disparity between the unreal fairytale bubble world created by the android tech life-form-swarms that have priced everyone else out of this area and the immediate realities of urban poverty, failing infrastructure and routine interpersonal distrust, has pretty much been elevated to the status of acceptable business as usual -- as in, I've got mine and I'll splash you with my Prius if you're standing too near that lake in the street, buddy.

It seems the always diligent Curtis has been doing a bit of sleuthing, wholly laudable on his part though I fear for his morale given what he has probably turned up re. our ethnographer -- and I'm sure the subject of this research will be delighted by the attention -- in any case, to save others the trouble...

Turns out the ethnographer wasn't just whistlin' dotcom about those forty thousand tweets.

Leah (ohheygreat) on Twitter

Sample oh hey great tweet from earlier this evening:

"having boobs is great until you sneeze into your cleavage"

The crew also learned that the ethnographic (read: market) researcher is a veritable legend unto herself (where else?) in the Wonderful World of Selfies.

Her trademark métier:

the bathrom selfie (21 November 2011)

A typical comment from a captivated follower:

"by your capture.... There is a time When the clock stops When words are not enough When poetry becomes image of real Flesh of real girl of real Beauty Inside that time Lives a dreamfoul woman With magnificiant body A bright light over her body Goodess playing with our imagination making dreams with her pictures making her world a piece of our world a piece of freedom a piece of desire a piece of sweet dream."

What more can one say (hmm... the suicide note's in the mail?...) This artist's arresting photographic oeuvre reflects a touching loyalty, a refreshing fidelity to the things that really matter:

damn hell bathroom. flickr, I miss you and I'm sorry I've been gone so long (24 August 2012

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Yeah, but get this, Tom: "The owner has disabled downloading of their (sic) photos!" Now ain’t that a bitch.