Sunday, September 7, 2014

This #12

1. The last class I'll ever take as a student is a class I'm taking this semester called Tangible Computing in the Media Arts + Practice program at USC. After this class, I'll be finished with coursework forever, I'll have a graduate certificate in Media Arts + Practice, and I'll be one major step closer to finishing my PhD. But that's not what's important. This is what's important:

This is a fictional prototype of an answering machine that beautifully and gracefully merges the analog with the digital. I am someone who is obsessed with this concept of analog/digital in all areas of study. I once curated and moderated a panel on this subject as it pertains to the writing of fiction for an experimental lit/media conference called &Now. I've written essays about this subject. I've bookmarked endless articles that tackle these ideas, and I intend to create a dissertation that is both physically tangible and digitally accessible. So this project from all the way back in the 90's appeals to my main academic and design interests.

The idea that you could hold a message is so compelling to me. I am someone who needs to hold things to feel their reality. When my former significant other and I spent excessive time apart, which was always, I would fall asleep hugging the stuffed owl he bought me for just this purpose. When I was having a hard time last summer, dealing with grief and unwanted change, my friend gave me her 24 hour AA chip and I held that in my hand constantly. I held it in my hand as I walked around the various cities I visited. I held it in my hand while I slept. During a particularly inspiring road trip through the desert one summer, at the bottom of a ditch in the Michael Heizer's landart work "Double Negative," I found a black stone. I held that stone in my hand throughout the rest of my drive, through thousands of miles across the American Southwest. When I turned 23, my babysitter who had recently been diagnosed with kidney cancer called me and left me a birthday message that included information about the fact that all her scans came back negative for cancer on that day, a day she chose for her scans because she loved me and I was her good luck charm. She died a few months later, but I saved that message on my phone. When I got a new iPhone in April of last year, all my messages were erased. There were messages from multiple now dead people I'd loved on that phone. Fortunately I'd had the forethought to play her message from my phone on speaker into my computer while it was recording, so I do have a copy of that message, but my heart would somehow feel lighter if I were able to carry around a little marble that I knew contained her voice. Even if I couldn't listen to it without the machine it was designed to play on, just knowing that I was holding a thing that held her memory inside it would put me at ease. I'd save the message from my mom where she quickly and quietly sings me happy birthday from her work phone, the low volume so she wouldn't disturb the office. I'd save the message from KT telling me I'd been accepted to USC's PhD program. I'd save messages from my far away friends telling me they love me. I would carry around a sack of physical evidence of the people who are important to me. I would buy Bishop's answering machine in a heartbeat. But it was never actually put into production.

2. This this is similar to the one above in that my discovering it is, too, a result of my Tangible Computing class. We were instructed to investigate a site called littlebits.cc to see if there were any parts we'd like to have ordered so we can play with them and build stuff. I immediately found this
It's a project created using pieces from Little Bits that can be programed in such a way that Darth Vader raises the little cocktail umbrella when it's going to rain and lowers it when it's clear skies. I realized I can't really use this here in SoCal, land of little to no rain, but it's been raining a lot where my parents live in Colorado, and I like the idea of having this little guy sitting on my desk with his umbrella up to tell me that my mom and dad are probably cozy in their house tucked away in the foothills. I mentioned this to my tang. comp. prof. and she told me that other things like this already exist. Which leads me to this...

3. The Goodnight Lamp. It's a little house that comes with another smaller house [or multiple smaller houses]. You press the button on your large house to light it up, and this then lights up the smaller house, which is placed in the house of someone who isn't you. For instance, my parents could have the big one, and I could have the small one, and anytime they come home, the could press their house button and my tiny house would light up, indicating to me that they were home safely. 
As someone who obsessively worries about the well being of her loved ones, this product makes me feel so relieved. It's not available yet, but when it is, you bet I'm buying one. I know my mom would feel a lot better if she could just look over and see a tiny house glowing at 3am when she wakes up and wonders whether or not I got home safely from any of my ridiculous shenanigans. 

4. Ok, this is unrelated to tangible computing, but I'm obsessed with it anyway. My dancer friend sent it to me because she thinks I look like the girl in the video, which I agree with. I think I look so much like the girl in the video that I feel like I'm watching myself when I watch this. And I like that because I have never moved in this way, and I think this is beautiful, and I when I watch this girl who looks like me move like this, I feel like I have moved like this, and I feel happy. Also I like this version of the song they're moving to.

5. This book. THIS book. This book is everything.
This book is all the stuff I'm always trying to say to the people who won't listen, but said better, stronger, smarter, more beautifully. This book is everything that matters to me in life, as a woman, as someone fighting constantly for a world without the structural impediments that keep the majority of people in a completely unacceptable position. If I could make all my students read this book, I would. In fact, I told them on day one of class this semester that I can't assign this book due to course requirements/restrictions, but that they should all buy and read this book if they actually want to participate in the intellectual community they're now entering, if they want to be good, or at least better, or at least less shitty members of the society that raised them up to reinforce all the bullshit this book tries to take down, at least addresses. If I had the money right now, I would send this book to my mom. To my grandma. To my brother. To all my friends who don't already own it, which is hardly anyone. I would buy this book for my students myself if I could. So just do it. Just buy this book. And read it. For god's sake. Actually for your sake. And for my sake. For woman's sake. For people's sake. For goodness' sakes. Bad Feminist. Roxane Gay. Do it.

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