Hiya Marta,

I just read your Facebook and education: a mirror or a lamp? post on Hippie Picasso this morning. And then this afternoon at the Newport Aquatic Center I wound up paddling with Robert for a couple of hours. We talked of many things: cities, cars, interstate highways, cheap foreign oil, big homes in the suburbs, tiny homes in the city… and also about CouchSurfing and Blogging.

Students from Runaway University Los Angeles, Summer Session 1, 2016
Quentin, Gaston, Tamara, Claire, Paul, Xiaoyan & Andy, students from RULA Summer Session 1

The “F” Word

As you know, I’m not a F*c*b**k fan. At all1. But even I can’t deny F*c*b**k’s reach. It’s a very mixed bag for me: F*c*b**k has the audience, F*c*b**k has the power, F*c*b**k can deliver the eyeballs.

But they’re low grade eyeballs.

So many people on F*c*b**k never even click through to see what you actually wrote, they just riff on whatever your title was. F*c*b**k is the end of satire because if, for example, my title is Exterminate All Women and then my piece goes on to argue how all of our problems are due to male overconfidence and how much better things would be if women just ran everything… well…

All those eyeballs on F*c*b**k would never read the piece, they’d just see the title and scream about what a psychotic, misogynist bastard I am.

So no satire on F*c*b**k.

Idiotic memes? Yes!

Actual satire? No!

Tamara Williams doing a photo shoot with Carmen Lee Solomons in the RULA Photo Studio
Tamara’s photo shoot with Carmen Lee Solomons here in the RULA Photo Studio.

An Opinion of My Own

My complaint above, that peeps on F*c*b**k don’t read, might have some connection to your complaint in your post that peeps on F*c*b**k don’t write.

You complain that instead of articulating their own ideas, they just drop links to other peeps blogs, vlogs, and other content. I complain that they don’t read content, but only headlines on F*c*b**k. And while F*c*b**k does have the occasional deep, insightful comment, most are superficial and often charged,

Trump is a moron.

Clinton is a crook.

Given that F*c*b**k promotes low grade discussion. Given that F*c*b**k is the place where even smart people say stupid things. Perhaps the real question is, why do we even go there? Why do we care what anybody there says?

To be fair, this isn’t just F*c*b**k, it’s a problem of abundance. For most of human history and in many places around the globe today, life is defined mostly by the problem of scarcity. For we-the-lucky here in the Global North we now grapple with the problem of abundance. Abundance is a much better problem to have than scarcity. But it’s still a huge problem. We’re not good at it. We don’t have experience with it.

In spite of all this, I think your argument, that peeps should take the time to express their own ideas, is a compelling argument.

For a long time I’ve liked the idea of assembling a small virtual reading group where peeps read each other’s work. It doesn’t matter whether members are or are not “world class” thinkers and writers. We can always read the work of famous people, like Kim Kardashian. Or of smart people like Virginia Heffernan. But in the Virtual Reading Group what matters is that it’s a conversation. That the post on F*c*b**k, or a blog, or wherever, is a piece of dialog in a small, relatively critically thinking, community.

Philosophy of Jazz slide of Madison & Bobby McFerrin by Sarit Photography
Slide from the wiki I’m developing for David. Image is of Madison McFerrin and her dad, Bobby McFerrin, singing at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo by Sarit Photography.

Paddling with Robert

Robert and I had a long conversation about many things. Including a number of books. He mentioned that he doesn’t get as much practice with French and Spanish as he’d like. And that one thing he likes to try to do is find the books he wants to read in French or Spanish audiobook.

The conversation turned to some interesting ideas about language for a while, and I eventually spoke about hosting CouchSurfers. Robert really liked the idea and thought briefly about starting to host CouchSurfers himself, before realizing that he essentially already is.

Between friends visiting from France and Spain, or him visiting there, or friends from Spain coming up to “CouchSurf” for a few days when he rents a place in Paris, he feels pretty booked. And pretty satisfied.

He asked if I’d CouchSurfed myself and what that was like. I’ve only CouchSurfed once, on a trip to Vancouver. It was just me staying with a single guy. We got along well, but I described it as “good” but not “great.” Nothing was bad about it, but it also wasn’t some magical epiphany.

I added that sometimes, in ways large or small, it can be a big epiphany. Like when those amazing, larger than life Italians, Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio came to visit for 4 days.

He asked if I’ve kept in touch with all these people and I said that mostly I hadn’t. Sometimes it might be me. Or them. Or us. But I’ve found it hard to keep conversations up after visits end. And realistically you’ll probably never see most peeps F2F again.

Robert thought it was really hard to stay truly connected to more than a very small number of people. In the case of people as intensely present as Antonio, Isnaya & Fabio, while it might be sad to not have stayed in touch, their time here was so magical that it’s etched in my brain forever.

I mentioned that this Turning Pages project was nice in precisely that way. But also that while you and I seem to be blogger-documenters, that many travelers are not. Many seem to be so powerfully in the moment that the distraction of documentation just doesn’t fit in. You and I both saw that in Yulia, whose travels are so remarkable, yet also mostly undocumented, save for whatever lustre they might add to her persona.

Robert then offered a thought that seemed obvious, but that I hadn’t really considered before,

Blogging is almost necessarily narcissistic

Alyssa Arney, Glenn Zucman & Liz Flynn, sitting in a giant, crocheted, pink donut at the opening of Alyssa & Liz' exhibition "Pleasure Objects" at Gallery 211 in Santa Ana, California
Alyssa Arney, Glenn Zucman, and Liz Flynn sitting inside a giant crocheted pink donut at the opening of Pleasure Objects at Gallery 211 in Santa Ana, CA. Photo by Brian Feinzimer for Downtown Santa Ana.

The Social Narcissist?

Robert thought that blogging was necessarily about “me”. My opinions. My experiences. You might be allowed to comment, but it’s pretty one-way.

In my community of bloggers, or your community of people who actually express their own ideas, it might become 2-way-ish. And, in fact, this post is a “Reply Post” to your Hippie Picasso Facebook and education: a mirror or a lamp? post. The Reply Post is pretty cool because it becomes a conversation. Of a sort. Perhaps it is sequential monologues more than a dialog. Still, sequential monologues allow time to reflect. Dialog is a great thing! But it’s also spontaneous and perhaps can’t be thought through quite as critically. Or perhaps it can if your conversation goes on for a while.

I used to love sitting in on Christof Koch (a German neurobiologist at CalTech) lectures. More than any other “lecturer” I’ve seen, Christof would “think live.” Someone would ask a question and he’d say “ok, let’s think about that,” and then he’d pace the room and look up and talk through ideas. It’s a world apart from someone going through the same P*w*rP**nt slides yet again.

Online conversations are undoubtedly different from the kinds of conversations Robert has had walking the length of Spain. But it’s an interesting question what is possible in cyberspace? What do we want out of it?

My former Student Assistant Christine Monet Johnson in the stairwell at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California
My former Student Assistant Christine Monet Johnson in the stairwell at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California. Photo by Dani Dana.

Turning Pages

In my typical way, I added “sharing buttons” and Disqus Comments to our conversation here on Turning Pages. You suggested maybe it could just be more like “real” letters. Maybe it doesn’t need sharing buttons or comments.

Your choice in a way was counterintuitive. To be in cyberspace seems almost inexorably linked to, to self-promote in cyberspace.

I went along with your thinking and took them off. It does probably mean a few fewer eyeballs will see what we have to say. But I agree it feels better. Why does something always have to self-promote in cyberspace? Why did we get to a she who dies with the most eyeballs, the most Facebook or Twitter or Instagram followers, wins, mentality?

When Tamara looks at models she might work with, the first thing she does is see how many Instagram followers they have. As a commercial photographer she’s probably right to do that. But Kyle (photography faculty at Long Beach) complains that his students now Think in Instagram.

my students making plaster castings of their hands and feet at the Seal Beach Pier yesterday
My students making plaster castings of their hands and feet at the Seal Beach Pier yesterday.

In Our Time

I’ve just said a lot.

And possibly nothing.

I continue to be excited by cyberspace. By new media. Simply because it is new. It isn’t necessarily better than other forms. Or even as good. Yet I’m convinced that new media can uniquely explore the ideas of our time.

Maybe it comes down to the unexamined life is not worth living. So there really isn’t a right or wrong in how one lives. Just the question if you’ve truly chosen to live, to exist, in that way? Or if you’ve fallen into some not-really-chosen default life?

Like so many questions I’m a little afraid to ask that one in fear that my own life isn’t really all that examined.

Have a nice weekend Marta!



Art110 students "playing with words" at the Art Gallery Complex at the School of Art, College of the Arts, at California State University, Long Beach
My students, “playing with words.”


  1. In addition to the banality of F*c*b**k as noted, it’s important to note that F*c*b**k is a gross violator of Human Rights. The United Nations defines the ability to participate in culture as a basic human right. When you are the largest communication platform on the planet, connecting 1.65 billion monthly active users, and when you ban thousands of people every day simply because you don’t like their identity, you are denying them the ability to participate in culture. You are violating their human rights. “If you don’t like our TOS just go someplace else,” isn’t good enough when you are the “public utility” that connects all the voices. Live your life F*c*b**k’s way and be heard, or live your life your own way and be invisible, is not an acceptable choice.

    What identities does F*c*b**k not like? Drag Queens, Abuse Survivors, Dissident Bloggers, Teachers, Celebrities, and many, many others. Anybody who chooses to use a name other than the one on their tax return is in violation of F*c*b**k’s Terms of Service. On F*c*b**k your identity is F*c*b**k’s choice, not yours. As someone who has worked with Avatars, I can tell you that there are a lot of Avatar accounts on F*c*b**k. And that F*c*b**k bans thousands of Avatars all the time. Many of them have rich friend networks and have posted years of content. Years of their avatar life. F*c*b**k doesn’t care. When Avatars are banned by F*c*b**k they complain to their friends. And then they make a new account and try to get all their friends back.

    A couple of years ago when F*c*b**k started the mass banning of Drag Queens, they didn’t just complain to their friends, they complained to the City of San Francisco. After the 1st San Francisco, Drag Queens & F*c*b**k meeting, F*c*b**k said, We’re really sorry about this! We’re going to give you an extra 2 weeks to change your name to the name we prefer. After the 2nd meeting, F*c*b**k finally allowed Drag Queens to go by the name of their own choice. This was a fantastic victory, but with 2 problems: 1. it was only for Drag Queens. If you were only an abuse survivor trying to avoid your ex, or only a dissident blogger trying to not be arrested by your country, you weren’t included. And 2. a year later, in spite of their promise, F*c*b**k was still banning Drag Queens for not using the name of F*c*b**k’s choice. 

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