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eval

fawei's picture

 Evaluation essay

I admit here that I chose to take this course because it was cross-listed with Computer Science and English, my major choices. I somehow missed but did assume the Gender Studies aspect. As it turned out, that was more important than I expected.

I can see why discussion is becoming a problem in academia today, which I guess links this concern to Hayles and her advice against overvaluing closed off peer-review. There is so much insularity and focus on the concerns within one field that it is difficult to mesh with others. It was not pleasant to know that people thought Barad was irrelevant to Haraway and not ‘gendered’ enough. I tried to show in my ‘performance’ that I did see some framework under all of it. There was little worse than hearing ‘I think it’s interesting and could be useful even though I don’t understand it,’ as was heard when talking about feminist science studies. There were also a number of times where it seemed that we were not even going after solutions, as if we wanted persecuted groups to stand suffering as martyrs forever because of the romance of it all, or just because we want a reason to complain. There was an early class where we were trying to come up with solutions for the gender binary issue but had to back down to ‘educate more people,’ because every possible solution affected at least some minor group in some minor way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t formulate ideas in a way that would sound convincing enough in speech, and I know there are an overwhelming number of people in the class who were probably there for the gender aspect.

A lot of things about this class confused me regarding papers. I discussed several of these things in my final web paper, but it did not really clear anything up. I am still skeptical of the papers that were just a couple of images. All I can say is I did at least try to reach the page count because that was the only surefire way I would know if I put in enough effort. We did not receive grades so there weren’t many other ways of knowing. However, I think that not releasing grades before the end of the class is a generally good idea. Knowing that all the ideas you have spoken with confidence earlier in the class are worthless when assessed is a great way to shut down certain people for the rest of the course if they do badly on one paper.  

It was really frustrating to be afraid of what was driving the more eloquent people in the class. Somehow I spent most of the end of the semester enraged at everything about the course. Here are four out of seven pages that I was going to just throw out as my final paper because I was pretty sick of things:

Serendip is currently down (such is the nature of online resources) so how should I go about this? Should I slap a picture or two on here with a filter over them? Maybe embed on a couple of Youtube videos that could perceivably be seen as useful? Write a page next to it and pretend it's the result of several hours’ worth of work? Why not, when that would be passable? Several papers of this kind have far surpassed anything I have written so far so why would I even bother to write even single sentence when anything spawned from Photoshop can save time?

The answer of course is that it won’t work. It won’t save time or grief at all. I am the exception to this quick-finish method, I have the world’s shittiest ideas from the start and I can’t approach a paper from an alternative method no matter how much time is put into it. My first paper was a completely unremarkable traditional essay, the second was aforementioned Youtube spam and the third was a picture essay that went completely incomprehensible in spite of all the paragraphs spat out in hopes of explanation. I’ve tried these things, they were all different because I hated every last one I did, and they didn’t work for me.

Which brings us to this piece of shit. Sure, it’s an essay, the lazy way out when you can’t think of an idea to pass off as a paper without actually doing one. Although my writing is awful, I did not always skimp on the 4 page recommendation, because I feel my worthless ideas need all the boosting they can get. Quantity over quality? Maybe. Are they really mutually exclusive? If something is long, does that necessarily mean it is less meaningful? However a single picture of other pictures pasted together goes passable for a four page paper, so in theory three to four pictures would be passable for a 12 page paper. But as said before, that won’t work out here. So what to do for this final ‘event’? I’m just going back to the start; I’m just going to write a 12 page paper. It’s going to look like the driest thing in the world, but then maybe it should not have been described as a ’12 page paper’ in any case. Deem for yourself whether this looks like the equivalent/a hell of a lot less effort than the alternatives.

All that’s going on here is a class rundown of everything. As said before, the GIST website and thus the syllabus listings are down, but there are extensive offline notes both on my computer and on paper and the listing used in the making my ‘performance’. I’m sure nobody else has any use for these things when any kind of wacky offshoot is worth so much more. How many views do the class notes get? All they are useful for, in the end, is launching a limp attack on their maker in a form that nobody even cares because they are allowed to avoid it. This is not a direct avocation for more long, paper based essays. I will not be trying to defend the traditional essay anymore from here on; I’m not speaking in support of anything at all. My brand of support would be detrimental to any cause, an ‘overly rosy outlook’ as it has been called, which is why I should only be allowed to criticize. It fits, in a way. Being negative is generally easier, and always safer. When it’s people like me see something is wrong, the appropriate phrase is ‘even a monkey can see what’s wrong.’

Even that phrase is not quite right. Aren’t monkeys intelligent? How incorrect. Even a monkey could see that’s wrong. And so on.

 

Gender?

Here’s a decent enough place to start on the issue of binaries. Haraway and all others, to some extent, talk about the blurring or abolition of boundaries. Categories are something that splits society, tearing apart social groups that should be bonding over other qualities (re: women of minority cultures (in the West)). For some reason, though, humans are all just so completely absurd that they don’t see how harmful these categories are. Or maybe they are just looking elsewhere.

Solutions to classification concerns are plentiful and completely impractical. An early doubt I had was that all ideas regarding sex/race/class category reform can be shot down too easily. Sure we could ‘educate’ them more. We could ‘give them a choice’. The solution is JUST to get rid of the negative connotations of these things! Transgender people shouldn’t be the only ones with a prefix to their genders. Race is irrelevant, so let’s stop referring to people as such. Murderers and rapists? Who needs jails, those nasty barriers between societies? We can all be the same; we can trust everyone to be the same in these conditions because isn’t that what everyone wants?

Of course it isn’t... Equality is a funny thing. It’s no alien idea that labels and stereotypes are bad, but high school students continue to apply them anyway, in spite of that phase of life being where you most hear warnings against labeling? Power structures are important, and hostility towards others maintains our current lifestyle. Few people deserve the hostility they receive but they have power of their own through their label. Why, on this campus of all goddamn places, is there such a need for some to separate themselves from others based on race or sexuality? They are certainly not the ‘weaker’ group. Power structures are not linear, in places or situations or in groups the ‘subordinate’ might become the superior. The kingdom rests on the citizens, that kind of thing. And so, if everyone has power at some time or form, nobody will be willing to give up their identity for something as stupid and fragile as ‘equality’.

There implication that the natural state of the world is a cross-boundary, totally equal entity (Roughgarden’s examples, Clark’s ‘natural born cyborg’) but the very acceptance of anything as ‘natural’ traps us within an established norms. It’s an alternative to the argument that homosexuals are ‘unnatural’ because most animals cannot reproduce without heterosexual intercourse. Or should we say that since hermaphroditic fish ‘naturally’ survive today imply that human society should work the same? Nature is as manipulative as evidence as the Bible. And what makes something ‘unnatural’ in the first place? Is it technology? What, then, is technology? For all the later debate over definitions (information, for instance), what is ‘technology’ was largely taken for granted. But even if technology makes a lifestyle unnatural, it requires use by the species, and why would they use it if it did not somehow add to survival or enjoyment? Sexuality is much the same. The balance of survival or enjoyment through time leads to how it exists now. Why push for a return to a natural state (that may not even be applicable to humans) when it does nothing for either of these factors?

What about solely getting rid of negative connotations of words? Good luck. Nearly all negative adjectives (in the English language, at least) can apply to humans, we created this language after all. Can you think of one that can’t? ‘Malfunctioning?’ That’s pretty mechanical. But wait, humans are integrated with machines already – thus the introduction of the term ‘cyborg’ into the syllabus. Was the introduction of machine into human supposed to help reduce the number of negative aspects in humans, make them more objective? Supposed to make them immune to psychology, and social order because of their new machine minds? Or does the human part of the cyborg kill the beauty of the machine, introduce negativity, pain and delusions into the machines, which (might have) once actually been objective?  

We may have assimilated with technology because it helps us, but are we really more powerful having created a bond based on dependence? If anything, all the encouragements to ‘blur boundaries’ encourages weakness. Was it this class where we said that one must become receptive, or vulnerable like a baby to learn? Certainly a modern day normal thinker, with its own qualities and possessions that it must guard, can’t meld to any new systems. We are already so busy trying to fit into the system we are built on, uprooting that base wouldn’t be very helpful. Arguably, talking about it in class counts as addressing it to some degree, but as said before, there is no real solution. And even if there was, we can try to do it ourselves, but who is to say that others, more powerful than us, will ever be willing to?

And why sacrifice the power that we have if the world won’t change? It seems like the wrong way to go about it. Would it not take power to crush the system now? It would take more power than ever to enforce what would basically be glorified communism. But everyone would be equal. If freedom, individuality and current power are really unimportant enough to sacrifice for equality, we’d all be on board. I suppose it is not, since this ‘utopia’ is completely unimaginable even to the advocates – how many concrete examples does Haraway give? Some fictional scenarios and a number of reasons why our current society is not so hot. My entire first paper was devoted to criticizing Haraway for her lack of physical support for her ideas. I still have a problem with this, but it shows that she realized what it took me forever to get a grip on – talking about the practical implementation of something revolutionary such as ‘equality’ is impossible. The cyborg is a total integration of human and machine as they exist in society today. They transcend social constructs because they fit the entire network. So ultimately, the cyborg is the ultimate product of the current system as an established success – and isn’t going to change anything.

[one page cut, it talked about the ‘information’ part of the course]

At the start, I said that the ’12 page paper’ description should be expecting dullness. But in retrospect I suppose they have also been termed ‘web events.’ Sure, this was not a very exciting event but not all events are appealing. And not all events are positive. A death, even the death of someone nobody cares about is also an event, an event to them even if they are the only one who experiences it. This paper is an attempt to finally die a death here that I’m not completely ashamed of.

But like all my attempts at anything, though, it wasn’t successful.

However, I ended up doing something a bit less shameful than that so the course did not end on a wholly negative note. I have no particular grudges against anybody in particular and I do think that the class is ordered in a logical way; the discussion was just not something that I feel I could be useful in, no matter how important the issues were.

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