November 2, 2003

The aesthetics, politics, and techniques of writing

Category: Research — Biella @ 9:18 am

This weekend I wrote my AAA paper for the American Anthropological Association conference meeting that will be held here in Chicago in the middle of November. In six pages I gave an overview of my whole vision of how the politics of Free and Open Source Software are enacted and how connect with a tradition of free speech liberalism in the American sphere. It is a lot to wrtie in 6 pages but I decided to go that route as opposed to one-argument-really-fleshed-out-well-in-6-pages-route. I want to see whether I can write my vision in 6 pages and anyway, writing it out in 6 pages is helping me think of what I need to say in 2 of my dissertation chapters which is on that subject. As we get close to the AAA I will post the paper.

The paper is only 6 pages not because I am sadistic but because each presenter only has 15 minutes, which I think is a totally raw deal. Such a format rewards those who are magical writers and those who are magicians of bull shit. But there is one good thing that does come out of it. You are forced to say a lot in a little, and can come up with some really tight sentences that are hopefully clear but bursting with meaning(s). I can use a bit of that because I tend to have what I call a Russian aesthetics of writing tossed in with forms of female insecurity. I like to be very obvious and beat points to the ground. While this can be good from time to time, it can also be a drag to read and I write 4 sentences for what can be said in 2. So going through these short paper writing excursions affords an opportunity to be sparse and clear and teach me techniques that will shorten my disseratation.

I almost can’t believe how much of time I spend writing these days. Emails, blogs, papers, and my dissertation. It is all consuming yet I sometimes feel so alienated by it. There is so much I want to say but putting all the pieces all together can be so hard. I never thought I would spend so much of my life writing and in front of a computer.

Nearly losing the entire contents of the recent hacking attack was also a really disturbing experience. It is hard to lose anything you create but since this also acts like my journal (I stopped jounaling when I started blogging which is not that bad of thing as I could get quite mopey in my journal), I felt I would have lost a sense of self in time. I forget my life easily. No seriously, I forget what I say, what I did, what I wrote (not as bad or as funny as what’s here name? :-) in Saving Nemo) and so traces are important to me.

It made me think a lot about digital storage. I like the fact that I have hard copies of my journal even if a fire can burn them to oblivion (though I do have a digital copy too) but until this episode I never really had much anxiety over the fact that all my stuff is on some server out in Freemont California. Not only is digital stuff perhaps not seemingly tangible inscribed but it is not necessarily proximal to you. Anyway, I am glad that Micah was making backups of all my stuff, the ever mindful system administrator that he is…

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