Eleanor—Your point about power dynamics, as seen through naming and costuming, reminds me of a knight/squire relationship. The subordinate sidekick is an apprentice, not an equal, who is always desiring to improve himself. As The Incredibles suggests, perhaps the sidekick/hero relationship serves to pacify the sidekick with its deferred promise of power.
What about the original celebrity connection to ALS with Lou Gehrig? How does that elaborate our understanding of this disease?
I’m not sure if I agree with the idea of “a fine line between charity and co-opting publicity.” Is there really? The space of philanthropy has always been one of mixed and competing motives. As anyone with their name on a building, or a park or an endowment well knows, philanthropy is a platform. Skillful and savvy non-profits, and the development professionals they work with, know how to craft an appealing giving experience. The best fundraising campaigns advance non-profit mission, while also offering something in return (be it a gala, a feel-good story, a photo with the President, or cross-promotional potential.) Philanthropy has always been conspicuous by nature, its the fact that we are all now joining in the conversation that is new and remarkable.
I have neoliberalism and nomlists rhetoric stuck in my head. There is a strange side effect of this generosity, a business may leave a community and leave philanthropic ghosts. In the last ten years a number of airline manufacturing has left Wichita. What is left are baseball field named after Learjet and empty buildings.
When planning this week I had not even considered the Koch brothers, and you make a great case for how they might be the most conspicuous givers among us. I especially love your idea of giving as (re)branding - which makes me think of Chick fil-a. As a company that offers a tangible product, their philanthropic persona is such an important part of their brand.
Your post has me seeing branding through philanthropy all over the place!
Thanks Bo Wen! I’ve always been confused by that term also. I guess I’m with Kenneth Goldsmith on these matters. Especially when he writes the following (in his book UNCREATIVE WRITING):
“Literary critic Marjorie Perloff has recently begun using the term *unoriginal genius* to describe [a recent] tendency emerging in literature. Her idea is that, because of changes brought on by technology and the Internet, our notion of genius — a romantic isolated figure — is outdated. An updated notion of genius would have to center around one’s mastery of information and its dissemination. Perloff has coined a term, *moving information*, to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process. She posits that today’s writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine.”
[**= italics in original]
The above definitely sounds like one of the skillsets for Open Source Academia and doesn’t particularly favour laziness!
Mark, Thanks so much for your post on Pierre Bennu’s work and his “Black Moses Barbie” series. Bennu offers those of us trying to work against the representations of “disgusting, gross, slow moving machine” of contemporary media, a model for resistance. Bennu gives us work that is accessible, disruptive, and incisive, and explodes any assumptions regarding the possibilities of “positive” models within the “machine” as “Runaway Ken” and “Runaway Christie” visual and historical incongruity make clear. Mark, your interview with Bennu was particularly inspiring and his move from gallery to online/public space suggests a parallel opportunity and path for scholars.
To echo others, great end to a great week of posts. I like the type of allegory going on in your discussion of the Black Barbies and Tubman’s “motivational rifle.” It seems like a satirical video like this that challenges notions of a fixed ‘Black experience’ acts in many ways like that “motivational rifle.” In other words it acts as a powerful paradox that on the one side threatens stability and on the other promises a way out. The problem comes when mosquitoes such as this are deployed on behalf of the Machine, and when they are in fact used as distractions for US - as scholars, media-makers, fans - to swat at, keeping our attention off the road and elsewhere. I think there is a place in that instance for a motivational rifle, and as Suzanne puts it in her eloquent comment, it is up to us as a collective community to work with and think about form and platform as much as we do content (i.e. find the “rifle” for our “motivation”).
Thanks, Mark, this is an excellent wrap up to the week’s conversation, as it brings us back around to the potentials of “writing” in a variety of forms that resonate with (and reverberate within, as Michael notes above with his discussion of comments) the language of vernacular video online. I especially love this description of creating something “that is ‘so tiny, so viral’ that it has the capacity to undermine the Machine,” and the revaluation of virality that accompanies this idea. It’s something I think we all strive to do in our classes and in our work, but reconsidering our strategies of how to most effectively accomplish that is essential, and may require a more robust attention to both form and platform.
Thanks to all for the wonderful points and feedback. To address a couple of specific comments:
Heber and Vicky: I think you’re both spot on about viewing this not just as an “unintended consequence,” but an opportunity to coalition build and intervene (or simply contribute to) broader cultural debates around these issues. This post was fairly gloom and doom, I realize, in order to raise awareness about the “dark side,” but I’m in full agreement that we should see this as a moment to seize rather than shy away from it.
Bo: To clarify, obviously both have always been in conversation, but I think for a long stretch of time we’ve been (justifiably) focused on what could be gained for us, as academics, entering and engaging the digital public sphere, in large part to justify that digital work and the issues around it, such as open access, which are often devalued within the academy. So, you’re totally right that it doesn’t matter who engages who first, it’s how we engage that’s the question, and my point was mostly that we’re just now having a conversation about how the digital public sphere might engage with us and our work. As a junior faculty member, or if I was in an even more precarious position as a grad student or adjunct, I know that if my work (or my personal identity as a scholar) was coming under collective attack, I wouldn’t find that trivial, and I don’t think being concerned about that is a mark over oversensitivity as much as it is a “teachable moment” for all of us in this exchange, members of the academy and the digital public sphere. The point being that the “academic purpose” of something will inevitably change when we brand it as “open” in digital spaces, and I think that’s the bigger picture of this whole theme week.