Emergent Discourse: Foursquare, Fostering Virtual/ Real Colonization?

Hi all,

I read Simone S. Oliver’s article “Who Elected Me Mayor on Foursquare? I Did” from the New York Times the other day and totally had an amazing nerd moment that I just have to share… I’m not a huge techy so I didn’t really find out about Foursquare until literally two days ago, but learning about how this program works and its essential purpose- basically allowing ordinary people like you to become the “mayor” of different sites based on the number of times you “check-in” to an area via GPS on your smart phone- was incredibly mind-blowing.

First, I was shocked by how many people were actually interested in participating in Foursquare (even to the extent of obsession where it becomes increasingly competitive to maintain hold of your mayorship). Then, I thought “wow”- Foursquare essentially grants normal, everyday people the power to claim a title of distinction (i.e. mayor) and to “own” not only a virtual, but a tangible physical site (i.e. your office building, a coffee shop, and even an alleyway). Honestly, I thought it was crazy at first, but it does make sense- we are all craving to possess something (going back as far as the American Dream). Especially with today’s economy some people might not be able to feel the thrill of ownership with anything other than Foursquare. Technology has enabled us to become virtual colonizers… and not even just virtual because we are colonizing actual physical spaces that can be located via GPS. Is that cool or creepy? With the stigma associated with colonizers, do we really want to think of ourselves as such? (This seems to be where the title of “Mayor” kicks in. But then again, while connoting democratic election, it doesn’t actually mean that, as the article title suggests: “Who Elected Me Mayor of Foursquare? I Did.”

Yet, the nerd attack continues… Oliver also makes it a point to emphasize how Foursquare has drawn couples together and created unlikely unions out of competition for virtual/real spaces and after reading about these success stories, I’m beginning to think that I would like to meet someone through Foursquare as well (Unfortunately, I really can’t afford a smart phone on a grad student stipend). However, I do think that it is fascinating how technology is providing new ways for people to find romance, bridging the virtual space of the internet with the “real” world… and I’m sure that is why Foursquare and other online dating sites have become so popular, because honestly, aren’t all of us looking for love?

Well, I think that I should probably stop writing now before I start taking quotes from the article and this short post becomes a two-page article. But hopefully what I’ve written here will start some interesting discussions, especially for you, Sharon, because I know that your current research has to do with technology 😀

Emergent Discourse: Is Love Capitalistic?

Hi all,

So I just finished reading Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land, which was an incredibly funny and all-around great book. Jen touches on really interesting themes such as the constructed nature of identity and what it means to be “American” but one (odd) point that stuck with me was her commentary on love. Not to give away too many spoilers, Mona and her friend Barbara end up falling for a boy named Seth who (initially) adheres to a code of “free love.” He does not believe in boyfriend girlfriend labels or that relationships should be exclusive. In the novel both Mona and Barbara express considerable discomfort and anxiety about this hippie-esque philosophy and yearn for the ability to call Seth their boyfriend. So this really led me to ponder about the implications of love. If we want an exclusive relationship isn’t that similar to claiming our significant other as private property and demanding sole possession of at least sexual, romantic relations to that person? I am definitely not belittling or condemning this form of love (because I would certainly want an exclusive relationship) but doesn’t this make love capitalistic? Also, what would be the alternative? Is free love then a form of “communism”? This was just a random epiphany so I’m really interested in hearing what other people have to say about love? Does reexamining love in the context of capitalism make anyone feel a little uncomfortable?- I know I was a little weirded out by that revelation…

Annotation: bell hooks’ “Revolutionary Black Women” (1999)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation was written in reference to my paper: “The Productive, Political Power of Love in Nina Revoyr’s Southland.”

hooks, bell. “Revolutionary Black Women: Making Ourselves Subject.” Black Looks Race and Representation. New York: South End Press, 1999. 9-20. Print.

In this article hooks relates her experience at a meeting with several black feminist women. She reveals that her attempt to share her personal narrative of growing up in a “segregated rural black community that was very supportive,” where she was able to develop a confident self image and have a “positive experience of ‘blackness’,” was sharply rejected by the other women who believed their own stories of pain and cruel victimization were more authentically “black” (44). hooks essentially describes a situation where blacks are themselves complicit in trying to contain difference into recognizable stereotypes. They want to perpetuate the image of the suffering, oppressed black woman because that is what society expects and more readily accepts. hooks emphasizes, however, the need to break down this monolithic essentializing narrative to make room for stories of diverse black female experiences. Rather than clinging onto this popular conception of the victimized, oppressed black woman, hooks calls for an acknowledgement of those women who do love and take tremendous pride in their blackness. She asserts that there will only be true progress when black women stop trying to silence those whose experiences are different from their own and start embracing the tremendous diversity within their own community.

Ultimately, hooks suggests that narratives that explore black self-hatred, where blackness is presented as ugly and undesirable, must be replaced or, at the very least, taught alongside positive narratives of black power and pride, because if students are never shown that blackness is something that can and should be loved, how can they begin to love themselves and one another? hooks emphasizes that this act of loving can serve as a real form of political resistance because it directly challenges the logic of white supremacist thought, which cast blackness as that which should not and cannot be loved. In the following paper I argue that Nina Revoyr’s 2003 novel, Southland, takes on and even expands this political project as a narrative that teaches readers how to love blackness, Asian-ness and most importantly demonstrates that love is possible between members of these two minority groups that have been often depicted as highly antagonistic and antithetical to one another.

Abstract: Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt (2004)

Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt (2004): Unsanctioned (Hi)stories of Love Caught in the Circuits of Global Capitalism

In The Book of Salt (2004), Monique Truong challenges the conventional portrayal of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ lesbian love relationship as an indication of progress and greater tolerance towards aberrant sexual identities. By re-imagining their romance from the perspective of Binh, their live-in Vietnamese cook, Truong accentuates how Stein and Toklas’ relationship becomes a new normative model of love that renders Binh’s queer romances illegitimate because they cross racial, cultural, and class lines. In “The End(s) of Race,” David Eng emphasizes that Stein and Toklas are able to emerge as “the iconic lesbian couple of historical modernism” through the “forgetting of both Asia and Africa,” of queer relationships like Binh and Lattimore’s, a Vietnamese exile and American mulatto. While Stein and Toklas’ romance has been inscribed in history, Eng reveals how Binh’s love becomes a history that must be told as fiction. I further this discussion by considering how colonization and global capitalism perpetuate this historical erasure. Truong demonstrates how Binh’s status as an exiled, migrant laborer renders his love vulnerable to commodification. She presents the job hunt as a compulsory “courtship” Binh must engage in due to desperate financial straits and that as a chef he performs labor akin to prostitution.

As someone whose success in work and love hinges on ever-fluctuating market flows, Binh’s life is deprived of historical coherence—localized time and space. Unlike Stein and Toklas whose relationship has been historically integrated as part of the “Modernist” movement, Truong suggests that the romance of queer migrant laborers often remains omitted. I argue, however, that Truong reveals the power of fiction to recover marginalized, repressed (hi)stories of love. The novel allows Binh to re-appropriate the voice that has been caught and silenced in the circuits of global capitalism, providing him the agency to narrate his own tale.

Works Consulted

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