Collaborative publishing – a new model: some initial thoughts

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This is going to have to be out in the world in draft form, until I have the time (and patience) to flesh things out more. Or perhaps, this will exist permanently in this form, demarcating where I see my life going from 2014 onwards. In any case, here it is.

Preface:

– I’m frustrated with what mainstream publishing looks like; every time I go to the bookstore (if I can find one), I don’t see much of anything that captivates me. It’s as if the same thing is being reworked over and over on the same plateau, both creatively and sociopolitically.
– I’m also deeply frustrated by the widespread sentiment in activist and even community organizing circles that making art is by definition reactionary. This is against most everything I believe in, all the way down to my cells. The work (defined here as art that actively challenges not just the status quo, but the nature of internalized oppression itself, and not just in terms of overt social constraints, but in the modes of thought itself) is both labor and transformative praxis. The-work-as praxis both as concept and practice got debated and sorted out in the period from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Most if not all “criticisms” of this reality are long since debunked, and are about as relevant as phrenology.
– For me, and many others (whose work-as-praxis is frequently shunted off to the margins of the margins within the larger society), the-work-as-praxis is the revolution, or at least, my and others’ contribution to it. Creating work that challenges, inspires AND deepens, that is fundamentally a form of praxis, and secondarily a “product”, when it is a product at all? That is what i’m interested in.
– I also hope/long for this sort of work becoming strong enough again that it can co-exist with modes of community organizing, rather than being viewed as in opposition to it (a tension that I view as a form of false consciousness, although a very specific one that is easily mistaken for tired ideas, such as “I just make art, I don’t care about politics”), or worse yet, as something that inevitably is funneled into teaching, hobbyist pursuits, or just destroyed outright. In other words, yes, I can teach, many (although not all) artists can. But teaching is predominately not my transformative work, making art is my transformative work, by-in-large. And if you want to destroy what I’m doing? We have nothing to talk about, although hopefully at some point in the future, we will.
– That all said, there needs to be new models for making art, as well as collaborative ownership of both content creation and distribution. This potential for creating new modes of creating art collaboratively, as well as a fruitful and potentially collaborative co-existence of the-work-as-praxis with community organizing, is by definition unachievable without building new models, so here goes.

The model:

– I am focusing on writing here, because it is the medium I’m most well-versed in; what follows could be applied to any art form, especially if it exists digitally.
– The creation of writer/reader communities should be focused on the “long tail”, including experimental/innovative lit authors, and authors otherwise shut out of the mainstream. The idea is to allow the kinds of works that transform thought and being alike to flourish, as opposed to the upholding of various sorts of status quo thoughts and existences that heavily dominate the mainstream.
– In keeping with this concept, the focus should be on developing close bonds within respective niches, both currently in existence and ones yet-to-be-formed, rather than large-scale fame. The idea here is sustainability, not celebrity.
– “People in the mainstream marketshare can fend for themselves”, both via digital distribution and traditional publishing; not so much “fuck you” as “we have our own work to do,” readers and writers alike. (The literary world is full of famous “fuck yous”, most of which are used as fodder for high society rags, and increasingly, that get used as quick fuel in a 24/7 news cycle, if they are acknowledged at all.)
– Openly friendly authorial mindset to reader feedback/criticism, including harsh criticism; readers as “long tail editors” a la wikipedia.
– If feedback occurs after a piece has been released commercially, efforts should be made to take said feedback into account for the future, including possible inclusion in future editions, as appropriate.
– Conversely, authors have a right to ignore feedback, just as they would with an editor; and as with editors, readers have the right to critique this ignoring. In other words, the author/reader relationship should be focused on nurturing transformative yet critical dialogues, not celebrity worship.
– Sidebar: what would inclusion of feedback look like for fictional works? I think this is where collaboration could truly shine, if done right. Imagine multiple versions being available, cross-referenced and annotated as relevant, leading to a deeper social/political understanding as a result; not just work-as-praxis, but editorial-as-praxis as well.

Big Fish in a Small Pond, Begone!

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I’ve been struggling with whether or not to move to NYC for a while now, and in addition to the exorbitant rents, the gentrification, the overcrowding and the pollution, one of the things that keeps me hesitating is the idea of relocating itself. The common assumption is that the next step in a successful arts career post-regional success is to move somewhere that’s a national hub for your profession, impact on local communities and national-level hubs alike be damned. If you stay local, it signals that you’re throwing in the towel, or worse yet, that you’re a washout – yesterday’s “after the break” story in today’s 24 hour news cycle. “There’s NYC, and then there’s the Midwest.”

I’m wary of the notion that regionalism is inherently questionable, viable only as an intermediate stepping stone by default. On the surface, this seems reasonably intelligent, if social darwinist in nature – the great artists get uplifted, the merely passable ones get shunted aside to fare better elsewhere. The reality is more economic in origin, rather than merit-based – national level hubs serve as a weeding out engine, not only of peoples presumed to be less talented (and by who?), but of people whose work doesn’t map as economically viable within the hub’s machinations. If anything, the media and technology industries that hire within national-level hubs, and that increasingly provide bread-and-butter gigs for artists of all types after an indeterminate number of unpaid internships, create a “there’s always the post office” dynamic for their workers. Such work all too often moulds people’s talents into a narrow definition of creative expression, if one is allowed to express oneself at all. Imagine an experimental poet trying to slog through their days working as a technical writer, or a conceptual artist relegated to the marketing team. Even allowing for employment in numerous arts organizations (as well as smaller, more creatively-driven small businesses), there are more Bukowski-in-the-ad-sorting-room sorts of jobs available than Frances-Ha-at-the-arts-org ones. While I’m saying this thousands of miles away from NYC, the pattern seems self-evident upon inspection, especially when you consider how closely it resembles the dynamics in another arts-magnet-turned-creative-class-cash-cow hub, the SF Bay Area.

Further, the attempts at making a place for regional artists don’t fare much better than the dismissal of them. Consider “Don’t worry, you’re a big fish in a small pond.” All well intentions aside, this frequently serves as a form of micro-aggression against emerging and marginalized artists. It’s saying “there there, less-than,” rather than applauding the tenacity to create wherever one lands. It dismisses creators who stay local, while inferring the “national-level super-artist” mythos that drives everything from artistic elitism to urban gentrification, as anyone who has recently tried to get their work hung at an “important” NYC gallery, or to find an apartment within easy access to said gallery, can attest.

An aside: when I advocate for viable regional arts hubs, I am not just talking about teaching classes through a non-profit or community program. If anything, assuming that serving communities exclusively in that way is the only ethical option for working artists diminishes the range of possibilities available. It unintentionally (or passive-aggressively) reinforces the “less-than” dynamic – it can be taken as a variation on “real artists don’t teach,” as well as more directly asserting that “real organizers aren’t FT artists.”

It’s the perniciousness of these assumptions that lead me to believe that the pressure to move to a national-level hub is rooted in flawed-if-not-corrupt concepts – nevertheless, these assumptions in all their forms, both regional and national, drive enough of the bottom line that I continue to wrestle with whether or not to bite the bullet. That said, instead of a national level mythos that excludes or downplays anything that doesn’t fit within its narrow purview, why not reverse the trend of defunding regional arts programs, and focus on building sustainable arts careers wherever people happen to be living? The internet can play an important role in this, although it also has its drawbacks, its tendency to act as a global-level slush pile being one of the more critical ones. Regardless, the arts should be allowed to flourish wherever they happen to spring up, in whatever way they manifest themselves – not only in locations like NYC, LA, Chicago, Nashville or Miami, but everywhere where someone puts pen to paper, brushes paint to canvas or plays a note.

Thanks to @MHarrisPerry and @libshipwreck for brain food.

“Trial by Social Media” vs. Abolition

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Trying people in the court of social media is not inherently better than trying them in media, period.

If anything, social media doesn’t even have the illusion of a code of ethics on its side. At least mainstream media arguably had one once upon a time, which although it was frequently shunted aside when it wasn’t busy being smashed on the almighty rock of the bottom line, it still required lip service on occasion.

There are potential liabilities to seeking justice via social media, as well as in media, period.

  • It’s only a matter of time before someone is set up, if this hasn’t already happened;
  • It’s only a matter of time before someone goes to jail who didn’t commit what they’re accused of, if this hasn’t already happened;
  • It’s only a matter of time before someone has their life destroyed, only to have it turn out later that they were not guilty, set up, or both, if this hasn’t already happened.

There are countless examples of all these things happening via mainstream media; at best, it’s only a matter of time before it happens in social media as well.

There are increasing numbers of media outlets that are fast to publish gratuitously salacious and/or violent clickbait, and slow to address underlying causes – especially if the person being covered happens to be famous.

I don’t think reporting and/or tweeting et. al. on the newest alleged dirtbag becomes news just because they happen to be celebrities. I think going after them IS a very good way to increase the number of clicks for a website, which in turn, means more potential advertising revenue.

This tendency overall has nothing to do with providing solutions, otherwise there would be an equal or greater amount of in-depth journalism on the underlying issues – it’s predominately about money.

You can’t advocate for prison abolition (or for that matter, actual justice) on the one hand and retribution on the other.

Revenge isn’t justice, it’s revenge. Consider how casually Michael Jackson was tried and convicted both in the press and online – and not just by white people – despite his having been exonerated. Even when revenge may arguably be justified, the risks involved – from injustice to a McCarthy-like snowballing effect – remain intact.

All of this is why I advocate for abolition. In my view, abolition is not just a rejection of the prison industrial complex; it’s a wholesale tidal shift in how society views justice. Prison is bad enough, but what of the mindsets that lead to imprisonment seeming like a legitimate virtue, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary? There needs to be a shift in consciousness, not just a shifting of blame.

On the futility of challenging vacant buildings

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From long haul organizing platforms to “burn it all down” militancy, radicals online and off are working to dismantle institutionalized, hegemonic power structures that have changed their scope and mechanics from those familiar to any student of global capitalism in the 20th century, to the emerging globalized networks of the 21st. These attempts at resisting Empire are based all too often exclusively on assumptions hard-won from struggles throughout the previous two centuries, even as long-standing forms of oppression are exacted in ever-widening and deepening levels. While these attempts are more often than not serious in nature – which is to say, what motivates said attempts are a result of actual conditions and considerable thought – this means that radicals are fighting against specific implementations of systemic oppression that no longer exist, although the oppressions themselves, and those who implement them, are still very much with us.

So what causes this disparity? At least in the U.S., the sentiments driving this are in no small part are rooted, either directly or indirectly, in left-wing and/or third world nationalist nostalgia based on prior victories and near-victories, both global and national. Despite all well and apt intentions, this is in essence fighting a manifestation of institutionalized power that has long sense re-centered and altered its means; an empty office complex with all of its intellectual property safely sequestered in the homes of telecommuting professionals, far removed from the negative impact of lock boxes and bricks.

Resisting an imagined 20th century institutional leviathan, on 20th century terms, in order to overcome a decidedly real 21st century one runs the risk of creating an army of golems, with potentially unforeseen consequences. A movement that attempts to achieve victory based on these rules may well be out-maneuvered by more well-informed actors both known and unknown from across the political spectrum, not to mention the architects and maintainers of institutionalized power itself, well before such victory is even possible. You can’t win at chess on a mutable board controlled by your stated opponent, especially when the real opponent owns the board, and quite possibly, both players as well, adversarial assertions notwithstanding.

The contemporary reality is that the locus of hegemonic power that reached maturity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (plantation, factory, church, family, et. al.) has become increasingly if paradoxically fractured yet ubiquitously networked, and modes of oppression are following suit to the point of rendering collective knowledge of past forms of strategy and tactics moot, no matter how completely just said mechanisms were in times past, and the intentions behind them, valid still. This is not to say that resistance will eventually be rendered pointless. If anything, its potential is stronger than ever, in no small part because the networked means of oppression has become embodied to such a degree en masse – which is to say, biopower is a real phenomenon, effectively in universal terms – that individual actors can use their personalized agency to act together as a collaborative fulcrum against Empire, even within corporate-controlled forums, such as social media. In turn, this collaborative experience can potentially be utilized to build decentralized, lasting networks of resistance and transformation. But asserting that such an engine of collaborative power will miraculously change networked hegemony back to its prior 20th century state in the hopes of a lasting victory for the bulk of humanity in the 21st century onward, is about as useful as an alchemy-based engine of democratic wealth redistribution as a means of transcending global capitalism.

Further reading:

Multitude, Hardt and Negri
History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, Foucault
Liberating Theory: Sklar et. al.
Horizontalism, Sitrin

Originating chess metaphor via @jonubian.

An excerpt from a longer piece I’m working on.

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Fear, death of fear, fear of dying. Death has been all around me, and yet, I’m still here. I’m getting accustomed to not walking through the valley of scriptural solace – Ginsberg, Rumi, Solanas, amen. I never did like Valerie, which according to shadow law, means I always liked Valerie, even though she probably would have shipped me off as a work slave to a so-called feminist paradise in Utah or Queens. My life has been full of contradictions – mixed-race urban hippie redneck black power force multiplier. Intersexed, gender transitioned femme dyke. Recovering twink wannabe that never fit into gay culture, now I know why, don’t expect me on the talk show circuit any time soon. Public intellectual and somewhat-former performance artist turned page poet and featured guest on the talking head segment of the Burn to Build channel (now on Situationist Channel i). Anarcho-socialist, nature-loving collectivist-industrialist. Tech-head intergenerational unionist. On and on. INFP and ENTJ personalities inside one hybridized body – one for everyday life, the other for threats and conflict. The mere act of existence is full of numinousity. Whitman looms large, multitudes at the checkout line of everyday life.

Intersectionality

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I need to know more, read more, listen more. Same goes for works on the prison industrial complex. I will say that attempts to appropriate Intersectionality in the name of white feminism are dubious at best. While the implications of Intersectionality run deep enough that parallel analyses rooted in poly-plural systems of oppression are most likely inevitable, hijacking it for any reason is out of bounds, in my book. It’s also lazy organizing; this whole idea that you can “borrow” something and use it as some sort of collective stake post doesn’t work. That’s not the main point though – appropriation is.

PS: As a call to action – inferred or otherwise – “white feminism” is both supremacist and oxymoronic. Consider how flat-out wrong something like “white marxism” sounds. I mean, seriously.

Anarchist Cybernetics

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The shortest path to anarchism – in particular, classical left anarchism – as a transformational political model can no longer regularly be found in Anarchism in all its myriad contemporary forms; new approaches are needed. New models are emerging from the work of left-oriented market anarchists; in addition, I propose a model based on a compassionate cybernetics in combination with post-structuralist theory.

Consider: the systemic union of organized crime and government IS organization – it is the means by which both are attracted to each other, in terms of economic viability. The oppositional tension between both systems provides an engine that fuels the economic power dynamics of both, symbiotically. This relationship demonstrates how both speak the same language, sometimes via polarization or mirroring, at times literally – and as such, contain the potential to understand each other.

From a purely cybernetic standpoint, this dynamic is not necessarily bad or good, it just exists. Both are systems to be analyzed and understood, not to be critiqued, especially since the loudest of critics are ensconced in one or both systems. The synergy between both systems could be construed as structurally robust – elections are won and lost over the war on drugs, the global economy was briefly kept afloat by drug money in an early phase of the collapse of 2008-09, and so on.

This dispassionate review of the nature of both institutions provides a framework not unlike what can be found in the anarchist critique of the state; prisons in the U.S. (largely fueled by the war on drugs) in turn create criminals out of whole cloth, which in turn fuels a sector of the drug market (in the form of the buying and selling of drugs within prisons), prisons (the construction of which drives both capitalism and political campaigning), service providers (in the form of overpriced phone calls, black market commissaries, etc.) and global branding (in the form of cheap labor). As Kropotkin noted, prisons are a university for crime; more crime means more options for illegal commerce, as well as more criminals. I would add that this also means “more prisons” and “more campaigns based on locking up said criminals”; not so much a vicious cycle as a systemic girding of institutionalized crime, and in turn, institutionalized punishment.

This analysis clearly borrows from Foucault; it also borrows from systems theory, in its ability to look at an entire system, including the people pointing fingers within said system, such as criminologists, theoreticians, pundits and politicians. What it lacks is the basis for an ethical analysis that operates alongside the systemic one; the notions of solidarity and mutual aid that can be found in classical anarchism, as well as pockets of the left overall, are needed in order to raise such analysis from a blank slate for myriad ideologies across the political spectrum, to a model for global justice and systemic change.

As such, I’m proposing that all parties who want to build a better, more just world look carefully not only at the notions to be found in such corners, but in the works of cyberneticians – in particular, second wave cyberneticians such as Bateson, systems theorists such as Kenneth Boulding – whose work in popular collectivization of nationalized trucking extended the work of Salvador Allende, and post-marxist academics such as Foucault, Hardt and Negri, and Illich. The works of such individuals provide a variety of roadmaps to the changes that started in the post-WWII era (especially in the U.S. and Western Europe); in turn, it is my view that they can provide a basis of rebuilding systems of change and resistance that were lost in the aftermath of both world wars during the 20th century.

The March of the Machines

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It’s morning at the beach,

it’s not time to ascend.

//

Buy our hand drums,

our tempo track,

 

our polytonality.

//

Oud –

//

Robbie the Robot is waking up.

Meanwhile, longing —

Full Spectrum Aquatics

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Turtle is exploring options in the following areas: planet colonization, strategic immortality, weaponized nanobots, cellular warfare (both kinds), intelligent exoskeletons. Shrimp is aware of all these things (Shrimp reads), despite and/or because of Turtle’s ongoing efforts in schools, colleges and universities, both public and private.

Turtle gets together with advisors and a select group of key strategic allies to evaluate and assess the disruptive advantages of “Project Lure” (Turtle’s response to all presumed potential adversaries discovering any Designated Enemies Of Turtle), in the case of decisive military action going counter to plans. Shrimp has a full-time job and a limited social life.

Turtle has assets, spies, allies, mortars, planes, counter-planes, warheads, custom ICBMs, intel, counter-intel, counter-counter-intel and so on, all of which played key roles when they struck the Urchinian village, estimated population 294. Being a city shrimp, Shrimp has no plans to get married.

Operation Krill never occurred to the now-indefinitely-detained blue crabs until Turtle operatives convinced them of its merits. Shrimp yawns a bit, then goes back to sleep.

In the Turtlemania movie, the scene where the scampi test as being “somewhat sympathetic” to 17.9% of audiences in 35.3% of key markets will be deleted, because terrorists. Shrimp is not a terrorist. The Turtlemania book is pulled.

Turtle vociferously proclaims that shrimp – in particular, the malfeasant sort of shrimp who fall in with the wrong sort of crowd – will ever be tolerated “because we’re of the sea,” before pushing back a tear. The Turtle-loving, shrimp-detesting crowd cheers, and the feed is broadcast worldwide. Shrimp decides not to tell her co-workers anything, before swimming off for lunch.

Download PDF: Full Spectrum Aquatics