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Voicing the Voiceless

Earlier today as I stood in line at checkout, I overheard one of the cashiers at another line ooh over a customer’s baby. “Look at her, she’s like, ‘I just wanna go back to sleep,'” the cashier said.

I thought about how quickly we map our expectations onto other beings, how easily we imbue them with personalities of our own designs. And how we tend to do this for those who can’t “speak” for themselves: babies and animals.

My pets have distinct personalities, but I’m not fooling myself. I know these personalities spring not from them, but from my idea of them. My interpretations of their behaviors. I speak for them in silly voices, attributing reactions and thoughts that they very well may not have.

I’ve caught myself doing the same thing to babies. My friend and I were hanging out with her toddler, and I found myself saying things like, “he’s like, ‘mm, mysterious berries!” or “he says, ‘I dunno about this strange lady.'” How presumptuous of me!

When we speak for animals and for babies, we privilege our interpretation of them over the ways in which they are already communicating with us. They have personalities, but can we recognize them? How much of a being’s personality originates with them, and how much is in the mind of the beholder? This is back to the classic conundrum of intent vs. interpretation, which I tried to suss out a few weeks ago.

And how can we even begin to untangle this when considering cases of pet personality development, much less human personality development? Luckily, I think humans are pretty good at asserting themselves when push comes to shove, outsider interpretations be damned. But until they can do so verbally, they’re at a disadvantage. Those of us who can speak tend to do so for them unless we really check ourselves. Hopefully their development isn’t too much at our mercy.

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Filed under Animals, Childhood, Power

Tone Deaf in the Twitterverse

Greetings from the quasi-technophobe who recently jumped back into the Twitterverse with both feet. Mostly, it’s been great. Great to be on Twitter as myself rather than a representative for an organization. Great to be finding links to articles I would have otherwise never come across. Great to be at least cogniscent of the many conversations surrounding recent (and ongoing) police brutality and the protests that have resulted.

There are many issues and realities and social movements to care about and engage with, and Twitter has been a useful tool to keep abreast on what’s out there, right here right now. But it is not the best for providing context to the 140 character conversations.

Not only context, but tone. Tone is difficult to read in a #hashtag, never mind 140 characters, unless you take the time to read all that has come before.

Sifting and scrolling through the history to find the beginning of a #hashtag is time-consuming work…work that often leads me to give it up in favor of other, more productive work [read: day job. or doing the dishes].

Showing solidarity when relatively tone-deaf and unable to unlock the mysterious secrets to tuning in is difficult. Google helps, but Twitter is immediate–in the time it takes to Google, the surge of collective mediated action might have passed, and the window of opportunity to participate is closed.

That’s not to say that #hashtags don’t resurface. Of course they do. It’s simply a momentary frustration, not knowing how to interact with the conversation, which faction you’re really a part of…it’s a problem of interpellation. When you can’t read the signs, how can you be interpellated, even if you’re looking for them?

An example – the Gamer Gate controversy. Today I came across two different #hashtags: #GamerGate and #StopGamerGate2014. After reading a few threads and questioning whether the people I follow were mistakes or right on, I found myself unable to figure out where either #hashtag positioned itself within the controversy.

Full disclosure: I am emphatically on the side of women, minorities, and others who are routinely marginalized & excluded by the dominant Gaming community. 

My problem is I’m not sure which #hashtag to use on Twitter to symbolize this particular brand of solidarity. I certainly don’t want to accidentally support the misogynists by using the “wrong” #hashtag.

Now, #GamerGate seems to be a neutral shorthand referring to the controversy as a whole, but the addition of #StopGamerGate2014 seems to position itself against #GamerGate, indicating that there are two sides here and that #GamerGate is on one of them. BUT WHICH ONE AARRRHHGGGH???

I was at a loss trying to figure it out within the Twitterverse. I had to get all space-time parallel internet and reach into the Googleverse to grasp a modicum of understanding on the distinction. Smart this did not make me feel. Naive and unequal to the technology at hand, yes, but smart? Nope.

I’m adrift & tonedeaf in the Twitterverse at times, and desperate for the Rosetta Stone that will make sense of the noise, cacophony of irony, and unlock the contextual secrets of all these important conversations.

But hey, it’s only been a few days. Check back in a week or so and I may have become acclimated to the language, solved this little conundrum, and finally started tweeting with confident abandon on the side of What I Believe In.

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Filed under Contemporary, Media, Technology