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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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This weekend, a furious whirlwind of sleeplessness and ideas, has left me feeling kind of angry about something, I don’t know what. I am still so rotten tired from it that I can’t get on my bicycle — the sub-freezing temperature this morning doesn’t help, I guess — and part of it is my body is dragging me down. I got back to Buffalo feeling drained, overwhelmed, struggling to make sense of a number of things.

I guess I spent the weekend thinking about the body in relation to the kind of things that I’m involved in in media study. It was interesting having a meeting yesterday about what we are to do with the VR lab, since VR is a specific kind of virtual embodiment, wherein you are asked to leave your body behind but at the same time cannot escape the vestigial importance of your embodiment. I don’t think I like it. The idea of it creates a kind of weird cognitive dissonance in me. I have never been interested in VR for this reason, I think.

It was like my deep and visceral reaction to the attempt to disembody so much of our online experience at the conference; the attempt to ignore the body in so many myriad ways, whether limiting the scope of virtual activism to the internet proper, or this idea of the “post-racial,” which is utter bullshit, because we’re not post-anything having to do with identity yet, as a society. In games, and on the internet, the problem with our analysis is exactly that we try to edit out our bodies, so we miss critical parts of the way online society works. How are we even allowed to think about a society without thinking about it as a body (virtual or “real”) and about the bodies which make up its parts? (The distancing of bodily suffering; what the trolls are after; the things we assume about each other.)

This weekend made me fiercely want to be alone, but also terrified of it. Maybe it created the cognitive dissonance in me that made me like the internet so much in the first place.

I really enjoyed being at the conference — I listened to some excellent talks, met some great people, and was challenged to think about things differently, which is always a huge gain. I wish every conference could do that. I think that was the original point of having them but somehow it doesn’t always work like that. To actually go to a conference and get that — a sense of a place and time and community where you can actually do a little fighting and a little sharing — is exceptional. Thank goodness for that.

It was also great being back in New York. I realize I haven’t been there in about two and a half years, which is kind of a long time. I have a lot more friends there now than I used to. I saw a lot of them (not all of them, sadly) and that was good. It was a whirlwind of a weekend.

Yet the boundaries that were drawn this weekend are still making me reel. Located in space and time, I can’t forget that. Maybe it’s my own complex and difficult relationship with my body that makes me latch onto these sorts of things, but the thing that I noticed in the sessions I attended was a preoccupation with the screen (a hegemony, really) — some people were surprised at the powerpoints that pervaded the conference, for example. What does that mean, after all?

I have a lot to sort out. Lots of thoughts. Lots to do this week, too — getting home was a reminder that Transgender Day of Remembrance is Friday, Nov. 20. (Speaking of embodiment.)


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