Tagged: wiscon
Friends of Dennis really is tracking all these panels
chris. | 17 January 2013 | 6:14 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism) | Comments closed

We have a database of class-related panels from recent WisCons.  Not gonna lie, it’s a pretty glorious database.  Here’s what it looks like:

cataloging WisCon's class-related panels

Also my thumb.

WisCon class panels yet to come
chris. | 7 January 2012 | 12:57 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism) | Comments closed

One of these years, we’ll have a really crunchy panel about how we’re chasing upper-class ideas of what success and comfort and happiness look like, and how credit cards have enabled/accelerated this process so that now we’re crushed beneath personal debt, and how the quest for cheaper consumables has maintained our need for a slave labor force which we are now simply outsourcing.

But i’m not sure this is the year.  Are we ready to take that big a blow to our collective privilege?

discourse debugging
chris. | 14 June 2011 | 10:14 pm | deconstructing bigotry, discourse debugging | Comments closed

I want to write about the “Vigorous debate, or verbal harassment?” panel at this year’s Wiscon, but i feel like before i do that i need to write about last year’s “Dissecting the language of fail” panel.  And, before that, i should probably back up one more step and explain how i got here in the 1st place.

I’ve always been interested in words and language (hence the nom de web / nom de zine that i’ve chosen1).  When i was about 18 or so i fell in love with detailed textual analysis — looking at a piece of literature super closely, drawing my conclusions based strictly upon what appears in the text and not what “i feel” is happening in a story2.  Ten years later, when i was at my 2nd college, i discovered linguistics and it was like your classic movie falling in love/having an orgasm cut-away scene — fireworks, rockets launching, flowers opening, what have you.  Close, detailed, scientific3 analysis of words and language??  Oh yes.  Oh, my, yes.

The other thing i should note is that in 1982 my godmother-aunt signed me up for a 2-week BASIC camp4.  That, too, was love, tho’ it didn’t hit me as hard as discovering linguistics would almost 20 years later.  I was attracted to the structured commands, to the debugging.  I continued on with computers in middle school, but my high school didn’t have a good curriculum for programming.  ALAS.  One thing i can’t help wondering is how my life might have been radically different if i could have continued studying computer programming in high school — in the ’80s. Alas, indeed.  And oh well.

Before i digress any further, i’ll come back to Wiscon.  When i started to become involved with Wiscon’s anti-racism community naturally i couldn’t help but be struck by the same phrases that kept recurring by people overcoming (or not) their unconscious racism.  The classic example being “I’m sorry if you were offended.”  Why the “if”?

In late summer 2009 i had an interesting experience at my day job.  A co-worker sent around an email [it's a small, close-knit (sometimes too close-knit) office and they were long in the habit of "humorous" email forwards well before i arrived] to the entire office mocking individuals featured on that horrible “People of Wal-Mart” website.  This offended me with its gross classism, so i simply replied to the entire group and asked to please not be included on such forwards in the future because they offended me — any of the individuals featured in the photos could have been any of my neighbors or relatives from growing up.  Naturally, this caused the coworker who sent it to reply to me and chastise me for daring to “shame” them in front of the entire group.  We had a very brief email discussion, but during that short time i realized — this person was using the same language, the same verbal constructs, the same justifications and defenses as everyone i’d ever discoursed with during anti-racism discussions.  I’m certain i said several of those very things, used those very “defenses”, when i was beginning the process of un-learning my own racism.

My god, i realized:  It’s all the same.  The language of fail is the same across bigotries.

The thing about discovering BASIC in 1982 is that not only was it an age years and years before personal PCs were commonplace, but i was only 10 years old. To a certain extent, i imprinted on computer programming.  Or, perhaps more appropriately, it reformatted my brain.  I came to realize that there’s programming all around us.  All of society?  Just one huge self-replicating program — society programs each individual in it, and the individuals in turn create and continue the society they’re in.

And language?  One great, big, huge programming device.  This is why it’s important to consider what happens when we refer to all humans as “he.”  This is why we should re-think using words like “gay” or “retarded” as by-words for “stupid.”

This is why it’s important for me to think about the structure of our conversation, the structure and language of our discourse.  I do, truly, think about my approach as debugging a giant program.

Hence, “discourse debugging.”  I’m just trying to improve the program, you see.

  1. You have figured out that “wrdnrd” = “word nerd”, right? []
  2. It surprises some people to hear that i learned this sort of close analysis of literature in bible study.  Chapter and verse, baby!  Back up your assertions!! []
  3. Almost. []
  4. My mother thinks it was at Carnegie Mellon University, and i’m content to let her keep saying that if she likes.  Tho’, really, i’m pretty sure it was just at a Pittsburgh community college. []
post-WisCon35 = pre-WisCon36
chris. | 2 June 2011 | 5:09 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism), collected rants, diary | 3 Comments

Tuesday in Madison the day after WisCon is always the worst, because it is the day furthest away from the next WisCon.  I actually plugged WisCon36 into my phone’s trip planner and discovered that i was 358 days away from checking into the Concourse.  Sigh.

This year the tuesday after WisCon was made all the worse because [personal profile] littlebutfierce and [personal profile] raanve had already shipped out. Even [personal profile] the_andy, my beloved, my constant travel companion, was already gone, having pushed his flight from tuesday afternoon to monday evening so he could dash home to deal with his cat (edit for update!).  I slept poorly, i got up and checked out of the hotel, i moped around State Street and took tea/brunch at Dobrá, i finally went back to the Concourse to wait for the shuttle only to find i was the only one on it — great.

Wednesday i woke up in my own apartment with my sweetie and the cats.  Happily, i had enough vacation time accumulated at work that i could take an extra day for recovery.  Got all the laundry done, emptied the luggage and put it away.  Made a promise that this time i’d start working on the upcoming WisCon in june instead of  waiting until may.  And so far so good!  I’m working with a group of friends on ideas for class panels.

In the interest of keeping the WisCon ball rolling, here are some observations from WisCon35 (2011).

general panel thoughts

#1] If you don’t really know anything about the panel subject and are more interested in learning, please sit in the audience and not on the panel.  I’ve seen this happen way, way too often.  Only once has anything good come out of this arrangement.  Usually what happens is said person winds up sitting completely silent for the next 90 minutes.  Listen, i know that some of you come to WisCon because you are trying to work on your academic or your pro-publishing career and that sitting on panels is one way to get your name known.  But this tactic — where you sit on a panel despite not knowing anything — is really just shooting yourself in the foot.  Not to mention it’s a complete disservice to the topic, to the audience, and to the overall discussion.

#2] Use the damned microphones.  (a) No, you cannot properly project your voice so as to be heard.  You may be speaking louder, but you’re also garbling your words.  Use the mic!  (b) If you don’t want to be heard, then don’t sit on the panel.  See above about doing a disservice to the conversation.  Use the mic!!  (c)  If you’re asked to use the mic, use the mic!  Do not chastise the audience that if they want to hear the joke, they should be listening.  That makes you a jerk.

class panel thoughts

#1] When asked what  books you think address class issues, do not say “all books ever written address class in some way.”  This just proves that you haven’t really thought about what “addresses” means.  Would you say that just because there’s a woman in a book that book therefore “addresses” women’s issues?  Because of Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn, “The Lord of the Rings” therefore addresses women’s issues!  Because of Frodo and Sam, “The Lord of the Rings” therefore addresses class issues!  No and no.

#2] I’m deeply uncomfortable when you say you “consider [yourself] working class.”  Oh, how wonderful!  I didn’t realize that we, as individuals, had such complete and utter control over our own class determination!  I hereby consider myself to be global elite super upper upper-class!  Gimme my private spaceship and mansion on the moon!!

#3] I have some things to say about the subjects WisCon seems to latch onto in discussing class — for example, the working class and unions.  But they’re pretty big thoughts and i think to do them justice i’m going to have to break them out into a separate post.  For now, let’s just say i’m kind of sick of being stalled in the relatively safe harbor of working class / union discussions.  Think bigger, WisCon!  Go deeper.

& Wiscon ended w/ our cat in the ER
chris. | 30 May 2011 | 8:31 pm | cat stories | 3 Comments

So this happened.  It’s Edward.  Of course it’s Edward.  Why is it always Edward?

We got Andy’s ticket changed to a flight out tonight, so he should be landing at Sea-Tac in just a few hours.  If he’s not too worn out, he may go up to the ER vet right away to see Edward.  I’m still in Madison, fretting, worrying, lonely.  I just want to be home in my own bed with our other 2 cats.

You can leave comments on this post if you want, but i don’t know if i’ll be able to answer any.  I’m pretty sad.

If you saw me tonight and i seemed entirely out of it and vague, this is why.

class(ism) thoughts pre-Wiscon
chris. | 20 May 2011 | 3:41 pm | (deconstructing) class(ism) | Comments closed
This is a public post of something i posted a week or so ago privately.  Apologies for those of you who are seeing double.  Seeing double.
These are all my conclusions/theories, based on my own personal experiences and observations — and thus, yes, all very U.S.-centric.

A couple of things that have been on my mind lately that i feel i need to put down on paper. Or, err, put down in pixels.

1) I would love it if, basically, i could just completely dismantle class structures on 2 levels: making the world fairer economically for everyone, and cutting out the bullshit social class crap that comes from wildly varying economic realities. But in particular, my primary interests are (a) eliminating poverty and (b) eliminating stigmas associated with being poor. Poverty is always wrong, but being ashamed of being poor is never right.

2) I am increasingly becoming convinced that there are 2 different class spectrums at work. One works along the lines of poor / middle class / upper class, where economic realities form the basis for social class assumptions. The other one is where working class fits in, where the perceptions of what type of work a person does forms the basis for social class assumptions rather than strictly focusing on a person’s paycheck — because i don’t think that “working class” either fits neatly between “poor” and “middle class” in the 1st spectrum i outlined above, nor does it automatically equal “poor” economically. Yes, it often does, but it’s also possible to have a working class job and actually be earning a middle class wage.

Granted, a middle class wage while working a working class job usually involves having a good union, which kinda brings me to the 3rd thing that’s been on my mind, especially because of the public employee union-busting in Wisconsin earlier this year.

3) I’m uneasy when unions become a focal point for discussions about class. One reason is because i am keenly aware that not everyone has the opportunity to join a union: my grandmother worked factory jobs and was not unionized, my grandfather worked for the Post Office and (i believe) was a member of the union, my mother works a retail job and has no union (tho’ if she’d been able to teach full-time she would have been in a union), and my brother and i each worked for almost 20 years before we got jobs where we have the option of being in a union (we both work for our respective states). So i’ll be honest, being in a union strikes me as … well, frankly, it strikes me as a little fancy. And i hasten to add that i know this isn’t universally true of unions! This is just my experience growing up! But it remains true that most of the poor people where i was growing up did not have the opportunity to be unionized at their jobs.

Hence, i flinch when class discussions start to focus on unions to the exclusion of other concerns. As i said in point #1 above, my primary focus is on poverty, and fighting to maintain the right to unionize doesn’t necessarily (immediately) improve things for the poor.

Andy and i discussed point #3 a few days ago and he had some really interesting thoughts on how a hyper-focus on unions in class discussions can actually be a significant derail. I’ll see if he’d be willing to post his thoughts publicly.

In conclusion! I have no conclusion. These are all really unformed thoughts at the moment and i’m really only writing them out to start getting them into some sort of form. But it’s where i am in my thinking.


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