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I don’t think I’ve written about the choice to run for GSA executive board here at all. As many of my more regular readers are undoubtedly aware, I do fancy myself a bit of a public intellectual and I think that civic involvement is both my right and my duty. I think I’ve found a situation that I can address from my perspective and my power, and add something to with my skills and knowledge. I want to make clear here that what I write in this blog is not the official line of our coalition, but rather my reasons for being a part of it.

One of the things that excites me most about the election is the very real possibility that we stand on the cusp of change. This is a critical time for public higher education, and it is also a critical time for the SUNY system, with Albany crumbling and funding drying up from the public sector. I don’t think I’m the only UB graduate student who’s alarmed by these developments — far from it. In fact, this isn’t an issue that is limited to people who are supposed to be “left-wing intellectuals” anymore. The public university is a critical site for scientific research, too — the kind of scientific research that needs to take place without being beholden to shareholders, for example.

Many newly-minted Ph.D.s and others with terminal degrees are being siphoned off to universities abroad. Now, I don’t think there’s a problem with finding a job in another country — I have fantasies about pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen — but if U.S. institutions can’t keep Americans here, the American university system is going to go hollow. But more immediately than that, current graduate students are suffering because all kinds of resources are drying up. These are only some of the complaints and concerns I hear from graduate students. I also think that, if we combine our forces and present a united front, we might have a shot at getting listened to.

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Recent discovery: the need to write really involved blog posts that take multiple days to write. I spent a couple hours yesterday and at least an hour the day before trying to flesh out this post I’m working on about Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others and video games, but it’s just not working out. I think it’s been making me feel a little batty. Or maybe that’s just because I spend most of my time in a black-walled room typing on a computer.

I guess also my brain has been moving very fast. It’s time for me to get down to business and start doing some coding for the (still) unnamed Red Light, Gren Light project. I’ve also been thinking about the social coding — as in, do I let campus security know what I’m up to, and that while what I’m doing is kind of disruptive, it’s “art” and “harmless.” Reading the books I got about campus architecture don’t make me feel very good. They sort of politely skim around the topic of control. Nobody wants to be overt, but also nobody wants to be critical.

I’m thinking about reading Lefebvre anyway, this is about not-just-architectural space, the construction of hybrid space in between physical and social space. Though I am sure the architecture has a great deal to do with it. Did you know  you need to sign up to use the open field next to the Center for the Arts? I understand this is the case. There is no other gathering space in the Academic Spine. Or campus, really. What does that do to you? My architecture books aren’t saying anything but I have my suspicions.

I think tomorrow morning I will be going to the University Archives. For now I am going to make broad gestures at this blog entry that might turn into a really serious paper at some point.

I’m starting to do my homework for designing and implementing the Red Light, Green Light game I’ve blogged about here in the past. At the moment I’m putting together a reading list about architectures of control, but I’m having a hard time finding any information specifically about designing campuses in response to the Kent State massacre. Since UB’s North Campus was built post-Kent State, I suspect that I might even be able to find specific information about the design of this campus as a response to that event.

The idea of putting together a bibliography for a game is kind of odd, but it makes sense if you want to make an effective intervention. I think it would be beneficial for players to have a resource to be directed to after the fact. And also something to prove that I’m not just a “fun” designer. I think I will make the bibliography available via AAAARG, both for political and practical reasons.

Anyway, if anybody has any ideas about additions to the bibliography for me to check into, please let me know. I’d really appreciate it.

Oh, and also, we can play Name That Game, since I’m not yet sure what to call this exercise.

As the first semester of my stay in Buffalo winds down, I can’t help but think what incredible luck I’ve had in being here. On a professional level, I’ve found a place where I can really stretch my legs. Every week or so I have a totally mind-melting day where new ideas just pop into my head fully-formed, ready to be implemented.  I love my colleagues on both sides of the hall, and I really enjoy the faculty I’ve worked with thusfar. On a personal level, I have fallen into the community I was worried I would lack. I am surrounded by people I can and want to support, and who can and want to support me. On a broad-spectrum level, I’ve found the perfect incubator for my ideas, a combination of people, places, and things that make everything seem possible. It’s full of challenges, of course, but I thrive in an environment where I’m required to fight uphill a good bit of the time.

Considering where my thinking is now as opposed to where it was four months ago, I think I’ve expanded and matured more in this semester than I have ever in any one semester ever. I already think I know what I will write my doctoral dissertation on. I am discovering that I’ve found my academic niche. I am going to be doing some heavy intellectual lifting in the next year or so. I’m also going to be making some games. Paid. To make games. (More on this later…much later, probably.)

This is a kick-ass track to be on. I haven’t been uber-productive yet, but this semester was about furious networking (with everyone from Hallwalls to the Graduate Student Employees Union) and figuring out what I can and can’t do. The great part is, everything I want to do will, at the very least, be tolerated. Maybe warily, but it will be tolerated.

Now all I have to do is finish up this semester’s work, reapply for my TA position, and keep my head up — every day is better than the last. This is the future I was banking on when I applied to graduate school.

I could really use some feedback on this, because I’m not sure what to do. I’m mostly writing this blog post to work out the pros and the cons for myself. I’m trying to work on my remarks for tomorrow’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event. I really want to hit home the point of the two recent murders of young people who are being portrayed by the media as gay men, erasing the facts that their murders were predicated on their perceived gender identities. That’s another issue altogether, and one that is very important.

I got an email today from a staff writer for the undergrad school paper, The Spectrum. He wanted to know more details about the event I am organizing tomorrow because he is assigned to cover it for the paper. I told him I wanted to meet, and we talked a little bit, but I remain unconvinced. I am not sure if I want a cis man speaking for a community I belong to that is entirely invisibilized on this campus.

The pros in his favor are not just that he is a gateway to a campus media outlet. It’s also that he was willing to come meet with me and talk a little about the sensitivity of the issue. He was clearly worried about the issue and said he would run things by me before publication. He was respectful, perhaps a little apologetic for my tastes, but he genuinely wanted to report the events in a way that respected the event and the lives it commemorates.

On the other hand I feel like I should be writing an Op-Ed for this paper. I don’t think the first interface with the invisible trans community on this campus should be via a cis reporter. Rather, it should be straight from the horse’s mouth. It also bugs me that this report won’t run until next week as opposed to the day of, which is something an Op-Ed could do. (I guess it didn’t even occur to me to send one in since I never see the undergrad paper anyway, my bad.)

I’m also concerned that his studious notetaking will inhibit those in attendance who need this event to be a safe space to think about and reflect on the most extreme expressions of cis privilege and hateful violence. I’m worried it’ll detract from the event.  But, I want the campus to know that people who are a part of our community really and honestly care about this issue. I want to see a dialogue started about it. And I don’t want to trivialize it.

Ultimately, though, this event is about making a safe place for us to reflect and think about the future, not about teaching others about the community. Voz Latina pointed this out to me, and I think she is right. I still hold this latent feeling that we need to make this an obvious issue that people on campus care about.

Do you see my frustration and conflict?

As I write this I lean toward telling him not to come. What should I do?

I was driving to school on Monday feeling all fucked up about having just gotten back a few hours before and I saw a guy with this bumper sticker, and some other bumper stickers too, about how God is his co-pilot or something like that, but the one I read and thought about and had never seen before said, “Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.” I thought it was kind of funny that he should have it on his car (feeling the way he inevitably does about people like me) because I would consider putting such a bumper sticker on something that belonged to me, too.

I have been working very hard on getting this thing together for Transgender Day of Remembrance. So far it is shaping up to be a good event, I have a few films and Isaac will be reading something he’s written and it will be just about right, I think. I have been thinking a lot about what it means to tolerate because I think I am tolerated at UB but maybe not accepted. In some ways I think events like Transgender Day of Remembrance exist because of tolerance.

I guess what I mean to say is I worry that the reason so many people harbor hate in their hearts is because we are taught to be tolerant, not accepting. That the tolerant society allows too many people to go on thinking and saying things that are really dangerous to other people on the basis of free speech. (I don’t feign to know where to draw the line between “freedom of expression” and “hate speech,” but I do know that this is a problem.) That a really left-wing individual would not tolerate the discomfort people have with people who are not like them, rather they would try and make a change in support of mutual understanding and acceptance. Settling for tolerance is weak-minded and stupid.

I guess I am trying to say that a world full of tolerant people is not a world where I would like to live. Merely being tolerated sucks.

Maybe lately I’ve been feeling a bit like I’ve been hitting my head against a wall, but things are giving a little bit here and there. The furious networking I’ve been doing outside of the department this semester is starting to congeal into something tangible and interesting — the other grads were really receptive to the idea of a Transgender Day of Remembrance event — and I’ve been tapping the shoulders of possible allies all over the place. I’ve started having good conversations with faculty in my department and in Visual Studies who actually want to engage. I’m beginning to be challenged in good ways.

I still sort of feel like I’m trying to have a conversation in a crowded room. It’s a feeling of grinding my gears, yelling over the jukebox at the bar, going home excited for the future but unfulfilled, and going on wild goose chases for collaborators and critics. It’s like going to a party and meeting someone really fascinating but not being able to talk to them because there’s 300 other people milling around, being noisy and nosy. Maybe this is why I like the internet (and textual healing).

But I’m building up steam. Something great is going to happen here in the next 12 months. I hope it involves a Public School, playful interventions, and chickens.

Today I think I am feeling a little less insecure. I went to brunch at Josephine and Dave’s and helped their four year old daughter Lucy carve a pirate jack-o-lantern. Everyone was impressed with my pumpkin-carving skills. It turns out I am a multifaceted person. I realized while we were eating that nobody knew about my busted wrist. It has been covered in an Ace bandage for a few days now because of some mysterious flare-up that requires me to give it more support. Biking hurts, typing hurts, and I’ve lost a little grip strength. This is more than unfortunate. I don’t want to take it to a doctor again but if this keeps up what choice do I really have? (Your input is appreciated.)

Sometimes you forget that you used to do other stuff. Like ride horses, and then fall off them. Or have a budding career as a professional musician (until that fateful day). Or that you have more than one good reason to hate doctors (besides having to out yourself to an unsympathetic resident in the E.R.).

Today I was riding my bike home from Josephine and Dave’s and enjoying fall in Delaware Park and how I smelled like pumpkin guts and thinking about how peculiar it is that the things I have done so far in my life have led me here. That I am now friends with the people I am friends with. That we are colleagues or something. Or that I have a “career,” or whatever. That the old stuff drops off into some fuzzy past thing as new stuff is added to the sharper edges of the current part. I have a hard time thinking things happen for a reason but also I’m here to do a job, but that job isn’t necessarily all in my job description.

Josephine told me I made her nervous, too, and would like to talk about it more. She thinks maybe it has something to do with second-wave feminism and have I really got male privilege after all? But she says she doesn’t think it’s all that. I find it hard to believe it’d be all that.

Othello is trying to chew on the corner of The Importance of Being Iceland.

Tonight the wonderful Eileen Myles appeared at Just Buffalo. I went, with a number of friends, and was summarily blown away. I think what I’m starting to realize now is that Eileen really put my head back on my shoulders again, and gave me a little slap around even. I realized on the car ride home that she’s the first person I’ve encountered at this point, in Buffalo, who’s talked about the issues that have been giving me such trouble my whole life. Amplified by coming here, where I am more or less on my own for the first time. I haven’t even fully articulated yet what those issues are, but to hear her read and talk was like a slap in the face. The good kind.

I am still unraveling what that means.

I am afraid that my isolation has gotten the better of me. I miss a community of trans friends I could bounce ideas around with, be honest with, and stand behind.

I am drafting an email to the DMS graduate students about a Transgender Day of Remembrance event. Because the TDoR event on this campus is sponsored by an institutional organization. And because we should all care about each other.

And, I’m tired of the anxious closet.

I told Olivier I think I make some faculty members very anxious. I’ve been having this discussion with a number of people and maybe the anxiety is because they are not sure how to address me, and thus not sure how to address themselves to me, that maybe they see in me an identity-politics powder keg. Why am I lying about these things? Why am I omitting something I’ve fought so hard for? Why am I not clawing out toeholds again, here, so I can be okay?

I think Eileen Myles shook me out of this three-month slumber. By saying the things she said, or just existing maybe. Or making me anxious too.

I feel fierce but isolated. I feel supported, but alone. I am at the top of my fucking game and nobody knows it but me.

or, recovering at home.

On the car ride down from Montreal, Jordan talked a little about what he saw as the three main reasons people join a hackerspace. They are: learning, sharing resources, and community. I pointed out that these are good reasons for most people, but they’re needs that are fulfilled for me by DMS. Jordan paused and said, “then I’d argue that you already belong to a hackerspace, it’s just not called that.”

I don’t know. The one aspect that seems to exclude DMS from being considered a hackerspace is its obvious exclusivity. While there are exclusive hackerspaces, like NYC Resistor, which is invite-only, they don’t discriminate on the basis of technical ability. People who are interested in learning, sharing, and making are welcome in hackerspaces everywhere, whereas here, one must first prove one’s worth as a media maker before being accepted into the community.

That said, I don’t think that hackerspaces are as diametrically opposed to the academy as at first they might seem — or as some of their proponents might make them seem. I think that they are a venue for learning and education that falls outside the traditional boundaries of structured education, but who’s to say that all academic activity falls within those traditional boundaries?

One of the things that excites me the most about having visited a number of hackerspaces over the weekend was that their group teaching, group learning ethic resonated very strongly with me. Currently I’m working with some other graduate students from a variety of departments in putting together a reading and workshopping group for radical pedagogy, as well as an experimental academic journal. I’ve decided that I belong in the academy, but I also want to reform the academy. From a theoretical standpoint, I know what I want to see. I’m beginning to figure out what I want to see from a practical standpoint.

There are a few possible starting points I’ve been considering — one is adapting intergroup relations-style training and dialogue for the diversification and enrichment of hackerspaces; another is the development of open skill shares between people who are part of the University community and people who aren’t. The first leads to truly diverse groups at hackerspaces, an elevated critical consciousness, and perhaps an increased sense of social purpose. The second means that knowledge bases are never off limits due to any one person’s affiliations, as well as integrated community involvement between the University and its environs.

I guess the real question is where to start? There are points of contact already between DMS and the art/tech community in greater Buffalo, and there need to be better points of contact between hackerspaces and DMS. Maybe IGAP is a good vehicle for this. What do you think?


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