I'm in that annoying stage where I don't quite have time to write about the things I want to write about. This is partly because I've been spending my free time following links around and reading other people's writing, instead of posting.
So I might as well share some of the gems. The internet is full of instant gratification, but this year I'm starting to find myself drawn to full-length, properly though out essays much more than in the past, and the fact they're online rather than in foreign newspapers I wouldn't otherwise read is just a matter of convenience.
Michael Pollan's NYT essay Unhappy meals was getting mocked a bit when it came out. People pounced on the comment about not eating what your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, which out of context is a ludicrous remark. But actually now I've read the whole essay it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it may well be important that food is food, not a formula of a certain number of calories plus a certain set of chemicals that we define as "nutrients" or "vitamins".
There simply isn't a short-cut to eating healthily, you just have to eat healthily. However, even if you can get away from the mindset of looking for a magic supplement to add or a demon ingredient to avoid, it's easy to get carried away with the idea of eating "healthily". The attitude to health I discussed in my Health and Virtue post last year is totally pernicious, and it's something that really frequently comes up when the issue at hand is food and diet. (Also, eating healthily has a reasonable chance of making you healthier, but there's no guarantee at all it will make you thinner. There is essentially no reliable way of losing weight long-term through dieting.) The worst extreme of making a moral issue out of healthy eating (whether that's environmentally healthy or healthy for you or both) has been defined as orthorexia, a mental unbalance which I think is rather prevalent in our society.
There's also the issue that eating well is more effort than eating badly; in some cases, it's the healthier eater who is making the extra effort, and that's fine. But that's not always so, and very often the extra work falls to the poorest sectors of society, and disproportionately on women. Chris Clarke's essay on unpaid labour is well worth reading. It's wide-ranging, not only discussing food, but it does underline the point that it is very well worth questioning where the extra labour is coming from in preparing real food from fresh, locally grown, organic ingredients. (Yes, it is often possible to spend extra money instead of extra work, but that just means that someone else unseen is doing the extra work instead of you. And sometimes they're getting the extra money in return, but sometimes they're not. It's good to be aware of these things.)
On a completely different matter, try Charlie Stross' essay on a future without privacy. His premise is interesting one and he's a persuasive writer, though I think he's over-estimating the technology and under-estimating the complexity of human society. Myself, I'm leaning more and more towards the view that rather than trying to keep my various online identities separate and private (ultimately a futile task), I should just make everything open and take care never to post anything that I could be ashamed or embarrassed about. One point of Stross' that is applicable to our current technology, let alone his projected future, is that you can't protect your own privacy online because you don't have control over the people who interact with you and what they publish.
Talking of embarrassing myself, there's a virtual orgy going on in a dark corner of LJ. Yes, I am somewhere under that huge pile of bodies; I'm still weighing the question of whether I should make a top-level comment and ask for people's fantasies about me. It's naive in the extreme to walk into an orgy and be shocked, but I am a little disturbed by the level of violence in some of the threads. It's partly that the link has mostly been passed around the goth / kink community, but still. I appreciate that some people are into violence and humiliation, fair enough, but it seems odd to me that people would approach total strangers with threats of quite nasty physical harm and no preamble. I don't want to over-think this, because I recognize that it's only virtual and it's only a bit of fun, but it seems to me that if I were into anything like that I'd at least enquire whether the person I was pursuing shared my proclivities. Even in the middle of an orgy.
Anyway. If you want a distraction, and don't have moral objections to it, you might find the thread enjoyable. There's some rather good erotic writing amongst that lot. Please don't follow the link from work or if you are younger than the age of consent in your jurisdiction, though. It's all text (other than some impressively creative icons), but I'm not totally certain it's legal to put some of that stuff in public with no protection against minors reading it.
Not reading material, but still on the internet: living in a digital world means that I can usefully share radio stations even though none of you live in the same country as me. Swedish radio P2 is broadcasting most of the Early Music festival I attended a couple of weeks ago. This evening at 8 o'clock is a concert of Icelandic music from a 1660 manuscript collecting much earlier traditions, which is not the kind of thing you get to hear every day. When I was looking up the information for that I also found that they have a live concert of sixteenth century chamber music at 6 o'clock. If you want to listen, click on the button that says "SR Klassiskt". I'm not sure how well their streaming is going to work if you're not on a Windows system, I'm afraid. They do have a listen again archive which I shall link to once these two concerts are in the system.
Hm, so much for not having time to post so I'll just put up a few links! That turned into a long essay after all. Let's see if I can harness that verbal energy into writing the review I'm working on.
I've come the the same sort of conclusion you're coming to wrt on-line privacy. I'm pw201 in most places, with the result that a search for that (after eliminating electronic components with that name) finds most of my stuff. I've adopted the same sort of policy you describe, in that I don't post anything I don't want the various Internet recording angels to see (f'locked stuff is slightly sensitive, but nothing disastrous would occur if it leaked, Facebook privacy settings just protect my phone number from randoms, but again, probably no-one's interested). I'm even thinking of making myself more trackable by producing more RSS feeds of my stuff, like my comments on public blog posts, say, as my wife had expressed an interest in those.
I'd assume that the orgy people were getting responses from FOAFs and other members of the poly bdsm furry pirate ninja collective who knew their proclivities to some extent.
It's a good idea to have a handle which is clearly and uniquely you, but isn't your real name. I'm somewhat establishing "individ-ewe-al" in that context. (Oxford usernames are a lot less sensible than Cambridge ones for that purpose; I wouldn't particularly want to be known as mert0576.)
Regarding feeds of comments on public posts, have you looked at coComment? It's not perfectly functional at this point (it doesn't cope terribly well with LJ comments, for example), but it might be a place to start. At the moment I have an account there but I don't link to it from anywhere, because it's one place that explicitly joins up my "real blog" identity with my LJ identity. But there are plenty of ways to make that connection implicitly and that's part of what I mean by feeling like it's not really worth the bother of trying to maintain a pretence of obscurity at this point.
I'm also a bit concerned about the privacy implications; I am careful not to put comments to friends locked posts in the feed, but I'm not sure everybody would be. And if they get it so it works automatically for LJ as it does for Wordpress and other more modern systems, it would be very easy to forget to turn it off. The other thing is it doesn't work if you regularly do blog commenting from somewhere that isn't your own computer.
It's a good idea to have a handle which is clearly and uniquely you, but isn't your real name.
It's not very hard to get from pw201 to my real name, though, specifically because I'm not bothered.
I'd not seen coComment, but I had wondered about doing something similar myself for non-LJ blogs (a small web-server listening locally and a Greasemonkey script ought to do it). I do worry a bit about installing stuff whose purpose is to intercept form submissions and send them to some remote server, given what other business people transact using forms (web-mail, banking and so on).
For LJ specifically, I have a chunk of unfinished Python script which can make an RSS feed out of a mailbox file full of comment notification emails (LJ emails me my comments, which I think is the best resolution to the "my e-friend has gone ape and deleted my carefully written comments" problem). That script is clever enough to attempt to access the LJ entry in question without signing in, and uses that to exclude friends-only stuff. Currently, the caching to make it obey LJ's policies on scripted access is the unfinished part, largely because it's also the most annoying part. If I every do finish it I'll post about it, of course, but I suspect it'll only be useful to Unix heads who keep their mail locally (although there's no reason why it couldn't be adapted to use Python's POP3 or IMAP libraries, I suppose).
Installing the bookmark is better, but that requires you to invoke it when you do want to tell Cocomment about your comment. I could automate that with Greasemonkey to remember which blogs I want to invoke it on, I suppose, and that might also solve the friends-only problem if LJ provides an obvious way to tell whether a page is locked (checking for the little padlock is an obvious hack, but some people have customised that, so you need to attempt to fetch the page without supplying your cookies, I think).
Meh. A good idea spoilt by an overreaching implementation, I think. How are they going to make money, I wonder?
I remain unconvinced that it's impossible to protect some aspects of privacy online by reasonable care in what one does combined with making one's preferences clear and generally interacting with civilised people.
The orgy thing weirds me not because of any of what people are doing but by virtue of not grokking how people can be drawn to strangers in that sort of context. I wonder whether some of the more extreme responses are either from people who do know the person in question in ways that aren't obvious, or people who are making assumptions concerning the general community of people liable to be interested in such which are very different from yours, though.
I think it is possible to be more or less private online. But there is a level of privacy which a lot of people appear to want which I think is unattainable. Currently, a simple google on my real name doesn't lead to this journal or to any informal conversations I'm having (a couple of Usenet posts from 1998 when I didn't know any better, but they're innocuous things like attempting to be enthusiastic about Capercaillie in French.) But a determined stalker could almost certainly find out quite a lot about me, and I don't think that's avoidable even if I wanted to try.
I agree, the thing that's weird about the orgy is the interactions between total strangers. But I suppose that's somewhat the point of an orgy really, even if it's not particularly appealing to me on that level. I do hope you're right that the "extreme" stuff is between people who do know eachother. But assumptions concerning the general community of people liable to be interested in such doesn't seem to me like enough basis for, well, I think the word I'm looking for is consent, honestly.
I agree, the thing that's weird about the orgy is the interactions between total strangers. But I suppose that's somewhat the point of an orgy really, even if it's not particularly appealing to me on that level.
The last time I had any kind of a conversation about this, it emerged that everyone was using different definitions of "orgy" and then sort of fell apart in debating same, which was interesting; strangers do not figure in the definition I had defaulted to using, which was more than three people and some exchange of partners, but some people thought it did not count as an orgy unless every person there present had some sexual interaction with every other person there present.
But assumptions concerning the general community of people liable to be interested in such doesn't seem to me like enough basis for, well, I think the word I'm looking for is consent, honestly.
You have a point, definitely. I was thinking there more of things like the swingers' club downtown, or some of the fetish balls one occasionally sees advertised in the freebie papers here, where some or all of the space involved is clearly indicated as "serious players only" or some such locution, and I think it would be legitimate to regard someone who entered one of those spaces - which are going to have people on the door checking - as by that action indicating what they were consenting to, at least unless stated otherwise.
Not that I regard the thread you pointed at as containing unambiguous markers that this was what was in the poster's mind, but then I am not at all au fait with whatever counts as the appropriate locutions for same in all the relevant subcultures.
Ok, I admit I haven't thought that hard about the definition of an orgy. The definition that requires absolutely all possible pairs seems a bit excessively formal, and not very practical for more than about half a dozen people. I think my assumption was that if it's a small group of people who know eachother, it's group sex, whereas an orgy is a larger crowd of strangers. But I don't have any very good evidence for using the words in that way.
Good point about entering a particular arena being implicit consent. And yes, it's a particular subculture. It's probably a bit dubious for me to wander into an event for a social circle I'm not really part of, but I think I wasn't the only friend of friends of friends who followed links.
The difficulty of not posting "anything I could be ashamed or embarrassed about" is that it rests on the assumption that my boundaries for embarrassment and shame will not shift in such a direction that what doesn't embarrass me now does at some future date. It's easy enough to imagine counter-examples in many people's lives. For example, I expect there are people who are now embarrassed to have praised O.J. Simpson for his football and acting skills. Worse would be the person who, say, had posted gushy stuff about someone they dated in high school, who later became notorious for criminal acts. (Sure, rationally you know that they didn't know, but they'd get tired of having to explain.)
This feels somewhat different from the fact that there are a wide range of topics on which people are betting that customs won't change too far in the wrong direction. (There's a recursiveness here: people being out about being gay or bi is one of the things that makes it more acceptable for people to be out.)
I'm not sure it's so different from assuming customs won't change, if one of those customs is that people post about stuff on the Internet. In that case, people finding out that you had what is now regarded as poor taste when you were younger is just going to be another consequence of the death of privacy, and will presumably be one that the generation who grew up without privacy won't care about.
That's a very pertinent link, thank you. There are always going to be some people who have a more squeaky-clean past than others, or at least who are better at covering up their traces. I can't imagine that the end of privacy is going to mean the end of scandals about politicians who had same-sex relationships or took drugs at university. Yet, there are some politicians who genuinely never did that.
I actually kind of like the idea of living in a world where people's reputation is more closely based on who they really are and the opinions they have actually expressed. At the moment, any incident in your life can potentially become public, but it's hit and miss whether it does. If absolutely everything is assumed to be public from the start, then it's somehow fairer.
(A potential future stalker may well find me having a big row with you about attitudes towards Islam at the moment. I'm sorry I'm being harsh, I think I need to step away from that discussion for a while and get my emotional reactions in order.)
Have you read any of David Brin's science fiction, by the way? He writes about futures where no-one has privacy, and what that looks like. He argues that we will have ubiquitous surveillance, and the only thing to do is make sure it's under control of the people rather than centralised in the hands of the government (see this essay, for example).
I didn't realise you were having a row with me. Try harder :-) Seriously, I don't feel put upon, and I think we're capable of disagreeing without taking it personally.
I keep trying to reply to this comment and then finding I can't entirely formulate what I want to say. Thank you for the thoughts, though, because you're making a good point that I hadn't covered in my original noodlings about privacy.
I do actually have a very strong sense of connection with my earlier self; it's taken me a while to realize that this is yet another axis along which humans can vary. That's not to say I've never done or said anything I'm ashamed of, but I do still see it as part of who I am, and I can remember the mindset which led me to do the now embarrassing things.
My feeling is still that keeping anything out of the clutches of Google is a Sisyphean task. So as I see it you have the choice to live based on the assumption that everything you do or say has a finite chance of becoming public knowledge, or to renounce all control of how you are presented on the internet. Not having any internet presence at all is not a real option, and I can only see that getting more and more true. I prefer the first choice; by writing about myself and deliberately creating an online identity, I get more control over my reputation than if I try to be really private, but am powerless to stop other people from talking about me.
As for the risk that what I say that is currently socially and politically acceptable may cease to be so, I don't think the internet changes much about that. I am very acutely aware that antisemitism and homophobia, while currently fairly dormant at least in the circles I move in, can flare up at any time. I can't deal with being closeted, and as you point out I think that being out makes it somewhat less likely that bigotry will prevail. If I perish, I perish, and I suspect it won't be because I mention my religion and my sexual orientation on LJ, it will be because someone who knows me in person informs on me.
If I perish, I perish, and I suspect it won't be because I mention my religion and my sexual orientation on LJ, it will be because someone who knows me in person informs on me.
Yes. This is not where the greatest risk lies--and I also think the risks you and I may be choosing to take are different from the sort that involve teens not realizing that putting a photo on Facebook or Myspace means that parents, teachers, or potential employers will know about their youthful escapades. (Also, you and I aren't, and I suspect never were, in the sort of social or activity groups that lead to someone winning a beauty contest and then being threatened with blackmail by someone who got their hands on photos of us wearing less than the contest thinks acceptable for its designated sex symbols.)
Hello. Zeke's orgy does indeed dispense with some of the communication that might occur in a room, including the non-verbal. However, there is still context; I know some of the people I am making comments to and in some cases I know them really quite intimately. This wouldn't be obvious just from the comment.
In a real room, I'd be more concerned at reading and creating clear shared expectations and connecting in good ways with partners and our audience. I still have happy memories of coming to agreement on a set of ground rules for a sex party with room full of queer anarchists. Fantasy and reality interface but I don't mindlessly blend them.
To me, violence has different connotations from many forms of sadomasochistic play with the differences connected strongly to notions of abandon or control, whether anger is cathected into the mix, precision versus Monte Carlo. I'm happy to discuss further, here or by email or should we end up in the same room someday.
Greetings! I never thought that the orgy would be a way to meet new people, but it's cool that you followed me over here. Tea?
I think you're right that I'm probably missing some of the context in that orgy. It might well be that some of the people commenting are play partners or even lovers of the people they're addressing, so they might well know that the person has a fantasy of, say, being kidnapped by a stranger and dragged off to a secluded place and forced to perform degrading acts. So when I see a comment like: I don't know you, but your icon makes me want to [stuff that is making me wince] it could be that pretending to be a stranger is part of the scene.
I'm reading some of the interactions more carefully after my initial visceral reaction, and I can see that there is a lot of seeking permission going on there, but in a subtle way that stays within character. For example, the comment: let's see how much pain you can take, is probably a literal question, not a rhetorical one as I was reading it. It expects answers like: that depends who you are, or: sorry, but I'm a top, just as much as it expects answers like: please master, hurt me more!
The fact that I'm scared of non-verbal communication is a problem with me, not a problem with the people who are better at reading these things than I am. And to be fair, I myself was talking about things that I probably wouldn't do IRL, (like participating in an orgy, for a start).
"Setting ground rules for anarchists" would have been a great clue in the game of evil charades I had as a child.
Cathected is a new word for me and looks a useful one, so thanks for that. I'm sorry if I'm coming across as very naive and ignorant here; I hope I'm not sounding prudish and judgemental. But if you feel like continuing to talk to me I'm very interested in the topic. And here is fine, it's not perfect but I do like LJ as a medium for discussions.
Some of the initial comments may have been between people who know each other well. Others may have been pitched based on someone's LJ entries or how they respond to others' anonymous suggestions. That's how I chose where to start with mine. Some people's comments may have "missed" and I hope that in most such cases discomfort was relatively minor and they were discontinued. I hope that being on-line such single comments would not feel too much like harassment.
I think you bring up an interesting point about negotiation in character or scene persona. I personally prefer to have fairly clear boundaries between what is "in scene" and what isn't. Others prefer to use initial conversation as a prelude and start to perform more in character or at least emphasising a dominant or submissive aspect of themselves. I also play more on the top-bottom axis than in a dom-sub way. I tend to want to start equal with someone autonomous and then feel the move into a power exchange relationship and come back out of that at the end of a scene. Others do things differently and I might well do so myself with other partners. I certainly do things differently in a co-constructed on-line fantasy than I would in a room with someone where there would be a "real" back channel for all of the details one never needs to consider when daydreaming or creating or using pornography.
I haven't seen a lot of the loud mainstream nightclub version of non-verbal communication amongst newly meeting SMers. I think this partially a culture of talking and partially that there might be way more options to think about.
I have played using a lot of non-verbal communication though and when I talk about negotiation I don't necessarily mean spelling everything out in advance in words. I've more often had an idea of what we might both like to do together, what hard limits we should know about and then start with an agreement to go slowly enough that the bottom can see what is coming and has chance to say no if they wish. Context also matters to me. At gay male events I communicate differently than at others. For example, if someone came up and stood close at a gay SM event I'd consider I was giving a level of consent by staying there.
I'm happy to talk to you and consider you new to this but good at thinking and having a degree of self-knowledge.