As I was standing in the shower this morning, trying to process the news that not only are the vast majority of colleges and universities instituting hiring freezes for this fiscal year, but now also the coming fiscal year, the one that I was “supposed” to finish my degree and enter into the market (what a perverse term!), I thought for a moment how incredible it is that all these years of career planning have been stopped short by a virus. Something beyond human sight, nearly beyond human comprehension. But then I thought about it a bit more, stepped out of the shower, and realized that no, it’s not the virus, because viruses don’t have agency. They’re just bits of RNA that enter cells and reproduce, causing various symptoms as a by-product. Viruses don’t institute hiring freezes. People do.
Every conference has been canceled, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate even the proleptic work-that-might-have-been-done-but-no-longer-will-be-at-least-not-in-that-form. I don’t know if I’m going to write the paper that I was supposed to give at the 2020 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Denver (would have been my first time at the conference!), but I wrote an abstract, and that’s something at least. Here it is.
NB: This abstract was most recently updated in November 2020. I keep it regularly updated as my project progresses. Check the revision history for this page (linked at the bottom) if you’re interested in past iterations.
Thesis: abolish cop shit in the classroom.
The best game of 2019 is called A Short Hike. In it you play a small bird-person on an island in Canada, populated by other small bird-people and also some mice-people and turtle-people and really just a whole host of animal-people. Your objective is to take a nice short hike to the top of the mountain in search of cellphone service, because you’re waiting on a call from your mom. It looks like this:
The problem with bringing back blogs is that Twitter is still the distribution platform. I never bothered to put analytics on this website, because to do so would be to give Google the ability to further spy on my readers and that kind of defeats the purpose of blogging in 2k20? It’s sort of like becoming a vegan and then exclusively eating vegetables from mega-corporate farms, or getting really into quinoa without attending to how you’re destabilizing Peruvian foodways or something.
I haven’t written much on here the past year or so because I’ve been directing all my writing energies toward the dissertation and other platforms (yes, some real publications, but also—mostly Twitter). I don’t really expect that to change much in the foreseeable future, but as I did just get to a pause point on my first chapter, and as I’m still in the research phase of my second, I have some time in November to push out a few blog posts. Since I’ve tried to make an effort to document my dissertation process on here, I thought I’d walk back through the c. first year or so of writing.
When I started my first dissertation chapter, I thought it was going to be about smell and digital media. Over the past few months, smell has dropped out entirely and I doubt it’s going to come back in the way I first imagined. I haven’t posted on here in a good while, so I figured why not drop this probably ill-advised fragment on misguided smell technologies and gimmicks on the blog? Better here than filed away, I suppose.
I’m supposed to be writing an essay this week, but I’m bone tired and so have spent most of it pointedly not. Now I am far from the first person to suggest that 2018 has been an exhausting year. I am so exhausted by it that I will not bother to go back through my Twitter feed and find the people who said that. You’re going to have to take it as an article of faith, or just reach inside yourself and experience your own tiredness, which if you don’t have after this year, please give me your exercise or medication regimen. But since, as Umberto Eco said, “we like lists because we do not want to die” (which I read in Liam Cole Young’s excellent List Cultures), instead of writing that essay I will instead write this list of what got me through this hellscape year.
A friend once told me that your dissertation prospectus should be the best piece of speculative fiction you’ve ever written. An advisor concurred, observing that the prospectus is a necessary fiction that one can only hope turns out to be a useful one. In any case, given that some folks seemed to have benefitted from me sharing my qualifying exams list, I thought it might be useful to share at least the abstract to my prospectus, with a few thoughts about the mapmaking process that writing such a document entailed.