𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 Blissfully Metricized

Academia is not alone in dealing with the pernicious effects of this new system. With Facebook now one of the world’s largest corporations, it is not a loose analogy to say that clicks, likes, follows, page views, and so on are at the foundation of a new global economy. Clicks have radically transformed journalism, for instance, which explains in part why so many New York Times opinion pieces now have all the tone and nuance of a tweet. Increasingly, it is as tweets that they are conceived.

The same click-swipe-and-rate economy has left everyone involved in cultural production dazed and stumbling. Journalism, art, literature, and entertainment have been engulfed by a tsunami of metrics. And dare we mention love, friendship, and political community? These, too, have been absorbed by the mania of metrics coupled with so-called gamification — a treacherous imitation of play. A flood of neurochemicals saturates our dried-out brains when a heart or a thumbs-up pops up in response to a text, or when our dating profiles get a match, or when our hasty yet emphatic political opinions or our pseudo-humble tales of small daily failures are praised and echoed back to us. The more we swipe in the right direction, or achieve whatever minor virality we can get, the more we are rewarded, and the more we hone our future swipes and tweets and posts. The first flood triggers another, and we float along blissfully metricized, trading our subjectivity for an algorithm.

— from “How Social Media Imperils Scholarship” by Justin E. H. Smith

2019

Youssef Rakha: You Will Still Hear the Scream

Reading “Correction” in Cairo

Thomas Bernhard by Michael Horowitz, 1976. Source: revistacaliban.net

“If one disregards the money that goes with them,” says the narrator in Wittgenstein’s Nephew, a more or less real-life avatar of the writer Thomas Bernhard, “there is nothing in the world more intolerable than award ceremonies.” Berhard goes on to describe his experience with literary awards and how they “do nothing to enhance one’s standing”—also the subject of a dedicated little book of his, My Prizes: An Accounting—revealing the depth of his contempt for the institution, for Vienna’s “literary coffee houses”, which have a “deadly effect on the writer”, and for the compromises and dishonesties required by the writerly life:

I let them piss on me in all these city halls and assembly rooms, for to award someone a prize is no different from pissing on him. And to receive a prize is no different from allowing oneself to be pissed on, because one is being paid for it. I have always felt that being awarded a prize was not an honor but the greatest indignity imaginable. For a prize is always awarded by incompetents who want to piss on the recipient. And they have a perfect right to do so, because he is base and despicable enough to receive it.

For a Third World writer inevitably enraged by the tastes, biases and ulterior, including politically correct motives of Third World award juries, the effect is one of liberation. So even in grand old Austria this happens! It is also one of recognition. Here, dead since 1989, is someone who not only knew the truth but wasn’t afraid to say it, going so far as to integrate it into the fabric of his art.

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*4*ТНЄ ТЯΙВЄ //Saudamini Deo//العشيرة

Saudamini Deo


**Since 2011 тнє ѕυℓтαη’ѕ ѕєαℓ has brought together writers, translators, artists/photographers and others who now belong in a new kind of tribe. In this series they speak of themselves from where they are geographically and psychologically, so that visitors can meet them face to face // منذ ٢٠١١ وقد جمع ختم السلطان مؤلفين، كتابا كانوا أو مترجمين أو مصورين أو سوى ذلك، باتوا عشيرة من نوع جديد. في هذه السلسلة يتكلمون عن أنفسهم من حيث هم جغرافيا وسايكولوجيا، ليتعرف رواد المدونة عليهم وجها لوجه //

𝐹𝑜𝓊𝓃𝒹 The Whole Damn #amwriting Thing

Writing is one thing, reading is another, but the Literary Twitter is something else. At best it’s an improvised, collective, ever-updating fount of news, knowledge, and wit. At worst, it’s a column of ice chipped at by the axes of cutely compressed links to the world’s ever-expanding online literary content; endless self-promotion and sycophantic promotion of others; quipped opinion regarding live televised events (cable TV dramas, disasters du jour); public conversations better served by texts unread by thousands of strangers; declamations upon the craft of writing and everything else (as though there were anything else, ha ha ha); lesser-known writers retweeting better-known writers hoping to gain better-known writers’ favor; middling writers retweeting publicity staff hyping middling reviews in middling publications of middling novels; writers offering mash-up puns of canonical novel titles; writers tweeting daily pics of their word count function on their latest novel manuscripts; the whole damn #amwriting thing; pretentious young writers pitching surreal/absurdist novels or films or products or outerspace expeditions; famous novelists tweeting insights ripped from novels published long ago that no one reads anymore; writers with their Goodreads accounts synched with their Twitter so everyone can see they’ve given five stars to some non-fiction anthology published by their friends; writers who’ve tweeted nearly 50K times proclaiming their gratitude for writing and reading on the day of a domestic terrorist event; writers playing nice in the character-restricted sandbox but rarely letting loose and saying exactly what they think, that is unless their handle is @breteastonellis.

— from “Leeching the Seething in One Long Paragraph: @ThomasBernhard and the Comedy of Contempt” by Lee Klein

2018

Youssef Rakha: The Importance of Being Lars

Nymphomaniac’s Message for the Arab Spring

 

As an Arab you’re probably expecting me to lay into Nymphomaniac. It’s a film that must seem, if not offensive to my cultural sensibility, then irritatingly irrelevant to the poverty, underdevelopment, and upheaval that surround my life.

In most cases dropping the word “white” in the same paragraph as “Islam’s respect for women” is all it would take to slam Lars von Trier in this context. It would be a politically correct slur, too. I could even draw on Edward Said’s hallowed legacy to point out that the only time non-Europeans appear in over four hours of action, they’re portrayed as dumb sex tools. Not only self-indulgent and obscene but also Orientalist, etc..

But the truth is I actively delighted in Nymphomaniac, and I didn’t have to stop being an Arab for that to happen. To be accurate I should say I would’ve welcomed a von Trier film anyway, but this one showed up when it was needed—and it duly exploded on arrival.

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