publications

Log the Second

I ran across an interesting thread on Tribe.net yesterday entitled “What is Technoshamanism?” You can read it here, but in a nutshell, the respondees described technoshamanism as a means of uniting the past and the present, or the spiritual and the technological. From dancing around a bonfire to the beat of the drums, to dancing all night long to electronic trance music, the end goal is a spiritual connection to the universe that dates back to the beginning of humankind’s time on this planet.

I have to simply marvel, at times, how meticulously the system of Facebook is run. Nothing is deleted, all is stored. Upon deleting my Facebook account, I learned that the moment I logged in again, my entire account- the photos, the messages, the wall posts- would be rekindled from my momentary lapse of Facebook identity, as if I had taken a vacation… which, admittedly, I had.

The new frontier for individualism, the virtual frontier, is at this point still an open one. However, as this sphere becomes increasingly dominated by large corporate networks, understanding the illusory nature of agency is critical. John Barlow’s Declaration for the Independence of Cyberspace has never been more poignant.

Log the First

It is the first night living alone – this one, right now. Telling myself I need to take a break from the carrying, the unpacking, the arranging of my possessions in an aesthetically pleasing manner, I hop onto the internet to check messages. A familiar name pops out at me from a Facebook notification- a dear friend who’d spent the entirety of the past year in Spain. She writes to tell me she’ll be at Wesleyan on Tuesday, and I go from alone in the glow of the monitor to basking in the glow of love, instantly.

I click the ‘Home’ button, and scroll through my News Feed. A tiny heart appears at the bottom of the screen- a man who’d led a Buddhist retreat had a new girlfriend! And they’d hooked up in 2006 and it was “fabulous”. This is way better than tabloids, because I actually sorta know this guy. I mean, we’re Facebook Friends.

MySpace is plastered with Dane Cook. MySpace is for bros. My 19 year old cousin assaults the ears of visitors to her profile with screamo and concludes her welcome message with “i probably don’t like you.” All of my friend requests are from electronic musicians. I do enjoy electronic music, by and large. A friend of mine who recently began producing tracks just joined MySpace, and already has over 400 friends. I asked if he’d been spending a lot of time “friending” MySpacers, and he replied, “well, half of them have friended me”. His Comments board is plastered with psychedelic images, a few of them animated. There is an image of a woman whose moniker contains the word “suicide,” holding a pair of black panties beneath a caption that reads “Thanks for the add! xoxo”.

That is all.

in the soup kitchen
of soapy dishes and dirt-drenched dreams,
we come out clean.

somewhere along the line i lied,
ashes and dust take residence
where once there was wish.

delirium licks languidly along
the perturbed,disturbed periphery.
on center stage: pure entropy.

On Technoshamans and the Rise of Neotribalism

Asked to attempt a summation of the online social networking community known as tribe.net, I have taken to replying with the single phrase, “technoshamanism”. It seems the word has not yet been taken up by many, so I’ll attempt a definition here.

(For a little background information, you’d be keen to check out a term project I worked on for my Anthropology of Dance class, entitled “The Trance Dance Experience“)

A technoshaman is one who integrates modern technology into primordial practices in order to induce transcendent experiences. Now, such a description evokes remnants of that anthropological black mark- the noble savage- and thus I proceed with caution, unwilling to romanticize:

Technoshamanism seeks to rediscover the roots of human experience while utilizing modern tools. Such tools can range from repetitive electronic music, to synthetic drugs, to new technologies such as biofeedback. The states thus induced might range from supersensory to meditative. Modern “rave” culture (and I use this term with caution as well, for the rave scene has become inundated by the mainstream, thus necessitating an emergent subculture(s)) incorporates just such tools to achieve just such states, and where site and ideology merge, we have our subculture.

Regardless of terminology, the essence of such subcultures is the pursuit of the collective unconscious, consciously realized and enacted. When I say “neotribal,” I refer to the tribal experience as it is recreated in the modern day. Safe spaces are created through collective artistic action; drugs consumed that serve to enhance feelings of empathy, community, clairvoyance, and/or transcendence; music played that serves to enhance said feelings and provide the collective pulse. This occurs with varying degrees of success, depending on whether individuals collaborate effectively to achieve the same goals.

The Internet is, quite naturally, one of those modern technologies that is utilized by technoshamans as a means of tapping into the collective neural network. As it exists apart (or, at the very least, disjointed) from time and space, the shape and texture of the Internet resembles that of technoshamanism itself. That’s all I’ve got for now.

My Dad’s Checked Me Out on Facebook, GAH!

It was bound to happen eventually. Last week, I received a Facebook friend request from my dad. When I followed the link, however, the friend request had disappeared. Apparently my father wised up pretty quickly- it was much easier to log into my sister’s account (she uses his laptop all the time), and check me out from the inside. Last night, my sister was showing me some pictures on Facebook- we showed one to my dad, who commented, “oh, I’ve seen those.” We looked up, startled. “Oh, what’s the matter? There’s nothing bad on there,” he recovered quickly. We stared at one another for a long minute.

Later that night, relaxing in our nifty new hot tub, I broached the subject once more. “So, I got a friend request from you last week, but you’d disappeared. I guess you caught on to the personal nature of Facebook?” He nodded imperceptibly. “So, tell me if this is what happened- you joined the site, realized you couldn’t simply view people’s profiles without adding them as friends, and decided to stalk us through Kelly’s account instead?” He smiled sheepishly, confirming my suspicions. I felt, and not for the first time, worried and exposed. But only for a moment… with relief I remembered that both my brother and sister have access only to my Limited Profile, which prevents them from viewing my “Friends Only” photo albums. Three cheers for conscientiousness!

Two New Ones: Multiply and Yuwie

A few days ago, at an outdoor psytrance party in Boston, I caught up with a friend I had made at another party- a German cardiac surgeon-in-training. I asked how we could keep in touch, and he responded instantly, “e-mail is best”. I agreed, and the next day received an invitation to join the social networking site Multiply. I liked it instantly: utterly content-based, Multiply “is all about user powered, relationship-relevant content. Every post in your news feed is shared and discussed by people you know, either directly or indirectly through friends of friends.” Multiple blogs can be uploaded, video and photo archives shared, mp3s uploaded, reviews and events posted, and personal messages sent.

A new SNC startup, Yuwie, pays its users 50 cents for every 1,000 page views. Each time content is uploaded, a message is sent, content is viewed (including pictures) or a friend accepts an invitation to the site, it counts as a page view. I find it a pretty blatant example of the increasing commodification of social life through new technologies. However, it is slightly comforting that at least someone out there is seeking to grant users their rightful profit for the “work” they do to keep the founders of SNCs rich and popular.

Reflections on Methodology

Even the acknowledgment, as requisite as it is in the field of anthropology, of the problematic nature of representing the “other” (ethnocentrism, racism, colonialism, imperialism, etc;) has become tired, stationary, and ultimately beleaguered by jargon. I seek the active creation of an ethnography both by and for the people- accessible as an inspired, collaborative story-telling. Such an endeavor thus expands the reach of information, rather than folding in upon itself in the mobius strip of academia.

Have I simply made a case for irresponsible, decontextualized ethnogaphy? The feminist concern with being “spoken for” by the dominant underlies my desire to closely examine a cultural form I can safely call my own. My autoethnography is, or so I hope, supplemented and lent legitimacy in the sharing of it, and in the incorporation of myriad perspectives.

Your comments would be much appreciated.

tremulous; to emerge again in love

His face would have been handsome, had it not been for the maniacal contortions of his eyes and mouth, and the pushy manner in which he shoved large bottles of bourbon and wine to our lips. “Are you trying to tell me,” he cackled in a heavy south american accent, “that YOU are the new fountain?!”

“You are ridiculous,” I managed between nervous gasps of laughter. He was unpredictable, spastic, and frenetic, bouncing inches from our faces and invading space at every opportunity. Before I knew it, he’d curled his body teasingly around the kindly and confused older Irishman, who beseeched us with apologetic gestures. The young, flamboyant man smiled up brilliantly, fingering a shimmering necklace that adorned the elder gentleman, “I got you a neeecklace!” The Irishman shot us a sheepish grin, “he is out of mind!”

We disentangled ourselves from the situation, following a few more rounds of “cheers!”, and wandered up the trail. Disoriented, we wished for home, for the feeling of it. Home was soon found, and it far exceeded our wildest expectations: we rounded a corner to a tall, bald Irishman in a long purple robe, wielding a glow-in-the-dark lightening bolt and surrounded by inflatable aliens. We greeted him with what were surely exhausted, young and hopeful faces, and were instantly seated around the small campfire and treated to tea. Our hero then proceeded to entertain us with a few rounds of classic Irish storytelling, replete with circular rhythm and mock humility (he knew he’d won us at ‘g’mornin’ to ya!’).

So commenced a morning that marked the last stage of a bewildering, night-long journey. Merely hours earlier I’d entirely convinced myself that sinister forces were at work behind this unorganized, chaotic festival in the forest. How to trust new faces at the campsite- other generations, alternate motives, as the night caved in upon itself? As the furtive and paranoid flashlight-lit glances of the dark night gave way to dawn, however, I began to see more clearly the utter absudity of that which surrounded us: a thousand ageless children from every conceivable nook and cranny of the world, gathered together in reverence of the hard beats and gentle spirits that had wooed our searching souls.

I could not begin to number the many times my eyes filled with tears that weekend. The kindness and openness of utter strangers, the familiar faces from countless long nights of ecstatic dance, the devastating beauty of the water and the earth, the re-creation of true community by those who simply could not comply with the stratum and structure of society as presented to us, how it had come to know us so deeply and wordlessly.

Yet still I seek to put words to it, so that I may pay homage, or rather, that I might recall the feeling of a welcome mist at dawn, sweat-drenched and joyful, drinking in rainbows that spanned the entirety of our shared horizon.