Divide and conquer: the future of online criticism

The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online – a review

OR Book Going Rouge

Originally published on The Art of Criticism project website.

‘Online, everyone is a critic – but only insofar as everyone is also a consumer.’ A cynical, but prescient quote from Robert Barry’s essay in the 2017 collection The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online which dives into ‘the changing conditions of criticism in a digital age’. The seventeen essays in this book raise important questions: What impact has the internet had in the field of criticism? Has the internet age brought out any truly new forms of critique, or does it all just come down to marketing? Does criticism still exist at all?

I: Blurred lines “Divide and conquer: the future of online criticism” verder lezen

Essay in de Revisor: Een beetje / een beetje

EXCLUSIEF!

INCLUSIEF DATA-SELFIE!

Voor het prachtige Leugenaars-nummer van Revisor schreef ik een essay over de leugenachtige dubbelganger die rondzwerft in het aggregaat van je digitale data. Of is zij misschien meer waarachtig dan ikzelf, omdat ze niet of / of hoeft te zijn, maar altijd een beetje / een beetje blijft?

 

Notes on digital detox

The discussion on digital detox has been going on for some time now, also in the Netherlands, and is doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. After talking about the shortcomings in the detox-discourse, Geert Lovink asked me to write down my thoughts on the issue. Below is the result (published originally on the INC blog).

The phenomenon of digital detox is annoying. Obviously, it fights only the symptoms and not what lies behind them, the causes of perpetual distraction, loss of concentration, burn-outs and so on. It’s the easy way out, but in my view it’s a way out that turns out to be a dead-end. There are a couple of reasons why. “Notes on digital detox” verder lezen

Literary Writing on the Web: 10 excellent examples & personal favorites of new writing online

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-09-50-10‘How do we write when we write online?’ is the question asked by the first item on this list and by the list as a whole. We write a lot online; that’s for sure. Of course, there are discussions about the mobile phone destroying our sense of grammar, about image-biased media overturning the craft of writing, whether moving or not, and about whole populations no longer able to read books or, for that matter, anything over a thousand words.

Still, written language is very much alive on the internet, and day in day out, we write hundreds of words on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter, and so on. What does this do to the kind of language with a deep interest in language – namely the language of literature? The web must have some effect on literary writing, right? Literary writing is bound to transform in a digital context, no? Below, I’ve collected what I consider the best writing on online (literary) writing. It’s not about e-books, digital narratives or science fiction; it’s about good old Literature as found in that sphere of a medium: the Internet.

Find the contextualised list over at As We Read

Shadowbook in The Torist

torist-coverThe Torist is een nieuw literair tijdschrift uit de VS, gehost op Tor, de browser die je anoniem over het internet laat surfen. De redactie noemt het ‘what we believe to be the first dark web literary magazine’ – en heeft in haar eerste nummer een verhaal van mij opgenomen, Shadowbook.

Het wordt gerubriceerd onder ‘fictie’, of het dat ook is laat ik in het midden. Uit het redactioneel: ‘Miriam Rasch blurs the lines between short story, flash fiction and prose poem in her beautifully written Shadowbook.’

Een viervoudig debuut dus: fictie, in het Engels, in Amerika, op het dark web.

Om te lezen installeer je eerst Tor (zie hier) en ga je vervolgens naar deze link waar de pdf te downloaden is: http://toristinkirir4xj.onion/the-torist-issue-1-goes-live/

Of stuur me een berichtje.

Of lees hieronder:

Shadowbook

3 hrs
Fuck you, sun. I’ll stay in bed the whole day. I work too hard, I drink too much. I drink too much, I start smoking like a chimney. And once I start smoking like a chimney, I can’t be bothered to get up again and again for every cigarette, to walk again to the balcony door. So I put the ashtray on the table. When it comes to that point, the sun can just fuck off the next morning.

The sun rises from the left hand corner of the bedroom window and moves up with a faint bend. The windowsill is the one axis and the frame the other; growth is inevitable, although the curve flattens slightly as time moves on.

If I stay in bed long enough, the sun returns in the reflection of the windows on the other side of the street. Steep and inescapable it shines.

March 27, 2012
Why wasn’t your contract extended? Don’t know, the numbers below the line said it couldn’t be done. The numbers have spoken? Yes. Which line? Of a bloody Excel sheet. I don’t believe you. Neither do I. Then why wasn’t the contract extended? Well, the present period is one of administrative numbers.

I had a brilliant idea. I became The Human Cat. I would sit on the windowsill enjoying the sun. I would stretch out on the edge of a soft blanket and then curl up on that same blanket, into a soft, fluffy ball. With my limbs spread out I would refuse to be put in a box, and I would escape from the balcony. I would make noises with my throat and put my vowels on the tip of my tongue. I would change into a glorious animal. I had a white woolen sweater, a white woolen blanket, a white skin and white hair, I would be a white cat. I would let them stroke me and in the end I would crawl away behind the old boxes in the attic. Mon cerveau se doit reposer, I would say.

5 hrs
I quit design and became account. He said: ‘To be an accountant in the age of spreadsheet programs is – well, almost sexy.’ Now I’m project manager, meaning I don’t manage people, but Excel sheets. I’m right in the middle of a dynamic field: the project. What’s it about? It’s my responsibility, that’s all there is to it. The Excel sheets are uploaded to TopTool each month and account checks if things are okay. They are, so far. I am producer of normal behavior.

1998: My First Job
In front of me a pile of files: international train trafficking in three languages. Switches, signals. Security, securité, Sicherheit. Raise the lid, put the first page of the file on the glass plate, lower the lid and push the button. Look up to the ceiling, away from the light. Turn one quarter towards the computer screen.

Control, controllé, Kontrolle, rolle, rollé, rol.

Type F for French. Enter. Turn back and raise the lid.

Later I became in-house designer, then account (account is something you are, you say: ‘I’m account’), then project manager. Also: assembly line temp, shop assistant. J’aime bien la production, deliverance, ticking off, enter.

25 mins
My mother says: he is a nice someone. Or, when watching television: that was an interesting someone. It’s the reason I work here. Job offer: BRN is looking for someone. A someone.

I want people to say: now that’s someone, yes, A someone. Identify with a someone, whom you are yourself, being a someone yourself.

Now
Not sleeping I think of work. Thinking of work I cannot sleep.

To sleep I think of flowers, more precisely I picture a field of grass about eight inches high (stop! do not think: two bums high, because no one is here and no one is welcome), with dandelions and daisies, flowering trees made of shadows. Apple trees or cherry trees, hawthorn? – trees shadowing, very lightly, flowering their shadows above my head, my face speckled with shadows, with flowers, my body in the grass, on a field of grass with dandelions and daisies growing out of my eyes. My eyes speckled with sleep.

22 hrs. Edited
He came in and started talking immediately. ‘It all began with coffee. You know, we have three breaks a day, two shifts, and everyone takes a cup before starting the line. That’s eight coffee moments a day, to be multiplied with tens of people. All those cups disappear into the bin. Nijensleek is one of eight areas in the Netherlands that is home to the root vole and the root vole happens to be a species of communitarian importance! This creates a responsibility that the board is unwilling to take.’

I wanted to say, I’m account, but I’m not anymore. I didn’t know how this guy ended up at my desk. So I nodded.

‘In the kitchenette I unearthed some old coffee mugs that had probably been lying around since times before the coffee machine. I cleaned them, decorated them with stickers spelling the names of my co-workers and handed them out. I told them about the root vole. “Who ever saw a root vole around here,” I asked. But no one responded. “Some call him the Dutch Panda, because he’s such an endangered little fellow since the reclamation. In Vledder too, he is uncertain of his livelihood, thanks to mercenary industrials!” People were used to hearing me talk about dad like that.’

The board, I wanted to say, and nodded.

‘In the ditch behind the building, where Nijensleek is cut off from Parallel Road, lives a whole family. Right there, in the reeds! They eat grasses and herbs that used to grow out there, but which have almost disappeared because of all the rubbish we produce making our fried and frozen. I throw around some extra greens, but it’s hard to find something they like. Once I used my mom’s parakeet’s food and I actually saw something move: it was the root vole! Exactly what you would imagine a root vole to look like: a small, fluffy ball a couple of inches long, a beautiful brown fur and a pair of cutesy petite ears that vibrated in the air.’

On my screen I had brought up a picture of a root vole. He nodded.

3 mins
We change the input as many times as needed to make it right. Until the guinea pig is saved. The rabbit? Wasn’t it a guinea pig? Oh, the root vole. Saved, right. They’re fed, fed up, fed into the system! How many root voles are to be saved, are savable? A couple, a few, some. I love making things right like I’m a mob boss, getting someone’s ass saved. A someone or a root vole or a family of root voles.

A banker in a dynamic field, I am. Not a real banker, or, why not? – just as invisible and mafiose, just as attached to administrative numbers. How can one approach that which isn’t there, without changing it into something that is?

Now
The formula of the Excel sheet: You change one thing and everything changes along. Is that determinism or rather chaos? All is random – which number you choose doesn’t matter, because it’ll add up anyway. Two different numbers can actually be at the same place at the same time. Potentially, yes, they all exist simultaneously since it doesn’t matter anyway. No, wait, they precisely can’t. Black matter of formulas.

The only thing that’s certain is my responsibility.

The shadows are stretching. Whether it’s light or dark doesn’t really matter.

April 2, 2015
Throwback Thursday: one year ago I threw up in the waste bin in the Intercity Direct train. I put on my sunglasses because I knew I should have sat somewhere else. Closer to the toilet? Yes, closer to the toilet. But I couldn’t walk any further, I had to sit down. On the platform I had walked up to the end, to the spot where you look out over the water with the ferry and the museum on the other side. One mandarin in orangy fibers. All my fibers. Right, that was the mandarin, I thought. Earlier, in the office bathroom, other things – what? didn’t eat lunch, then one mandarin. All is out.

April, no time to be wearing sunglasses, let alone put them on in the train. The sun was shining, that much is true. I was in my summer coat, it wasn’t cold. Sweaty weather. Glad to get on the train – the bathroom could wait, wasn’t needed anymore. All is out.

I tried to catch it in a paper tissue; the tissue immediately dissolved in my hands, my catching hands, throwing it into the waste bin next to the seat. Sunglasses, the light out of my eyes (entering in the convent). The ticket man, the people. When is one ever checked? I hid behind my dark glasses. I’m a rock star. Rock star at 4 pm. Wish I had drunk too much.

Then the woman beat the pigeon to death with a chain lock.

8 hrs
Fuck you, sun. I’m not getting out of bed. ‘Come on, we gotta catch some sun’ – ‘come on, we gotta go have a drink’ – ‘come on, we’re gonna enjoy ourselves’. Fuck you, but I have to.

I had to. My nephew is eight years old, you can’t deny him anything. I’m the cool auntie who works hard and has a lot of money. The actors walked around in the audience singing ‘par-ti-ci-pa- tory socieieiety!’ And us too: ‘par-ti-ci-pa-tory socieieiety!’ One for all, all for one.

The student got up and spoke: Just a minute ago I stood smoking behind the station, of course, I was way early. You don’t want to get out of bed, and then when you do it’s too early. In front of me, you won’t believe it, a sparrowhawk attacked a pigeon. Sparrowhawk – the name popped into my mind immediately. Dormant knowledge always comes in handy some time. I do not know more than this name. How the sparrowhawk kills its prey, for instance. Who or what its prey is. I kicked in the direction of the birds. The sparrowhawk flew up and attacked again, hit the pigeon with a full body check, whirling it around under its claws. I raised my arms, tried to make myself look bigger. I once heard you should do that when you encounter a bear, but not a grizzly bear. The sparrowhawk flew away behind my back, leaving its prey, the pigeon, behind.

A woman came up, called on by the bird noises. Then she beat the pigeon to death with her chain lock. ‘He’s still alive,’ I said. The pigeon breathed in a gagging manner, it wrenched on the pavement as if its wings were bound on its back. The sun blinded him, possibly. There was the woman again, chain in hand. I said, let him try to die by himself. He did, the pigeon did. I put my finger into existence – it tasted of nothing.

March 10 at 10:34 pm
Who I was when he died: 25, a student, afraid of death.
Who I am now: A woman who doesn’t want to tell you her age, project manager, indifferent. Death leaves me indifferent (cold).
Death leaves me cold.
Death is the end, that’s all.

The 25-year-old still lives on somewhere – in the same place as him. A stranger.

‘A year went by, and again I had become exactly one year older.’ Repeat X times.

Yesterday at 6:45 am
I dream of the dead. Grandpa, my father, Bamse. They are living dead, for real. Zombie is an unpleasant word, whoever would take it seriously? Still, they are zombies, the dead in my dreams. I embrace them, talk to them, all the while knowing that they’re dead, knowing that it’s not correct to say that they are alive. The dream is unpleasant, stiff, cold. They can break or fall apart at any time and then a slimy substance will flow out of them. Zombies have no more fibers.

The joy of seeing them, the dead, is reserved, unpleasing. Shouldn’t it be pleasant to embrace or stroke the dead in your dreams? It should. But my embrace is careful, so as not to feel the cold and not to break them. If they break, then the fact of their zombieness can’t be denied – that which I secretly know will break through in reality. Who can love a zombie, love him to death? These are dead serious questions, no matter that I’m sleeping. I wake myself up. The fact that they’re dead makes waking up easier and dreaming less pleasant. Dreams are sinister parties that always bring bad luck.

I think of Martin Bower and his brother who call their dad ‘Our Father’. Our Father who isn’t in heaven, Our Father the crypto-alcoholic, bully, hypochondriac, loved by his students, hated by his sons, chain smoker and in the end, really sick and really dead. No one dreams of him, he was too much of a zombie while he was alive.

Yesterday at 11:44 pm
Aaron Lowery is afraid of repetition, afraid of sameness. He repeats his fear of repetition in the same wording every time I see him. His fear repeats itself. I believe one has to embrace repetition, he says, but I can’t. Blessed are those who embrace repetition, brace the blessings of those who repeat. Repeat me, reap me. We drink too much.

He wants to be right – no, he IS right, he has identified the truth. The truth is that fear of sameness is the right thing. He is so enormously right that he identifies with being right. Being right, that’s true identification, being the same, copy after copy. Doesn’t repetition consist in hardly noticeable shifts, I say, like a kaleidoscope, a myriad? Repetition is a project, a projection. Repetition, repeat me, reap me. Police man, please me, release me.

18 min. Edited
I repeat you, you repeat me, in the end every human repeats every human. Usurpation. That’s what breathing is – u. surp. u. surp. To be honest, my whole life has been a repetition of usurpations. Facts rain down on me and change me and the only thing to be done about that is to change a fact here and there, if that’s okay. Changing a fact, means the fact will change me back, there’s no escaping it.

April 7, 2015
Some people aren’t good at learning, I’m not good at working, I said. At that time I didn’t understand that order effectuates freedom. I still had to learn how to create order, while showing off, saying I wasn’t any good at working. You should never show off with whatever you’re no good at. Or whatever you don’t have. People who boast about their poorness, poor people who. Poorness doesn’t make you rich, but unhappy.

The repetition of the workingman. You think you’re trapped in repetition. Trapped, though, is the one who believes in the poorness of freedom – no, the freedom of poorness.

It’s like this: You are supposed to conform to society’s expectations out of free will. That can be deemed problematic, or you could just do it, do it goddamn it, act like you have a free will. Then you are free and able to do as you please, but that which made you free – meaninglessness – deprives freedom of its meaning.

I once thought: to be famous at 27, or goddamn it have a child at 27, welcome a civil life at 27. Being dead and living on. Then you turn 27 and think nothing. Repetition becomes necessity.

Now
Reveal the secret. Cave beast no cave.

3 hrs
Lights off, spot on. In your head. Then the night dissolves into factors. An exploding sun. Faces and their riddles, forgotten names, tasks, to-do’s, toodooloos.

Say I find an envelope with a 100 notes of a 100 euros. What could be a situation in which that happens? A shoot-out, the pursuee loses an envelope from his backpack. No, you’ll get shot yourself. By the side of the road, in the grass? A body in the ditch. If you keep it, your life won’t be certain. Money laundering, buying real estate. You know you’d bring it to the police. You used to think you wouldn’t, but you would. What do rewards do these days? 100×100 euros changes everything. But realities are slow and indescribably detailed.

3 hrs
Every living creature in this world dies alone. Repeat X times. I thought: ‘All creatures die alone’. Who cares. Well, ‘every’ surely is something different from ‘all’. Every creature, that’s them, one for one. All means who cares. And they live, every living creature lives in itself, they are living creatures who die, which is worse than just all creatures, dead or alive. In this world – we can skip that, in my opinion, ’cause outside of this world we don’t know a thing. This world, our world, the world of Our Father, but without him. Alright just leave it, so we don’t need to argue about aliens, or the dead, or zombies, or gods. It would only impair the discussion.

Whether it’s true I don’t know of course. What do we know about all creatures, every creature in this world? Sometimes I imagine that scientists find out that plants have feelings, or to be more precise: feel pain. Some animals can, we know that much: mammals, and other species with complex nervous systems. Who cares. But if all living creatures (the dandelions and the apple trees and leaves of grass and broccoli, potatoes, and so on and so on), if all that lives can feel pain, in other words, is in pain? Add up the numbers. Can humanity, can every living creature in this world live, knowing of all the pain they inflicted on the trees and the plants, on vegetables and flowers? It would increase the amount of pain in the world with the power of a billion-billion-trillion. Wouldn’t we collectively impeach ourselves and just call it a day? Or would we think: we all die alone anyway. My zombie called: ‘When I died, there was no one around to see it. I died all alone. It’s fine.’

3 hrs
I lie in bed a magnet: the sun pushes me down and up in one go. Or is it dark already and is gravity breathing? The mattress vibrates beneath my body; the vibration lifts me up. But the air above me is heavy and doesn’t want me. It’s gravity alright, too light and too heavy at the same time. Same goes for my eyelids. You need to keep the lid on, don’t squeeze, but ease. There’s a pulley on my eyelid, it starts to move on the vibrations of gravitational forces. Beneath me, glistening listicles.

Now it’s the ears, but because I want them to. I want to hear. Footsteps in the hallway, one after the other, one in front of the other, step step don’t stop, it’s kitty cat. As long as I’m not dreaming it will be the cat and not a zombie. A living cat vibrated into being by my ears; it walks across the hallway, paw by paw, I hear how she pushes the door open with her head, winds around it into the room, stops, braces herself. Then the hearing stops and I start feeling. Paws on my body, she pushes me down, into the mattress. Steps of paws. The magnet turns and sucks itself onto me. The weight of a living creature, or I don’t know, she’s dead, the kitty cat. She died alone, but as long as you’re not a zombie, you’re alive.

5 hrs
Trying very hard not to think of the other ones. Not to think at all. Of course, I still think, but not of the deceased at least. Name all the names of all the friends of your children – no, the children of your friends. Peeta, Teddy, Peeta, Teddy, Dan, no Stan, twice Luke. Name the names of the pets of the children of your friends. Teddy again. Teddy Teddy Teddy. Bamse. I follow Bamse’s steps on my body, she’s trying so hard. Where did Teddy come from? Pet, child, because Bamse, further back: the door closes, the little head, the step of the paw in the hallway, the magnet, the sun. It’s correct.

Then I see a someone, who is it? What’s he doing here? There are no steps to follow back. It’s Aaron, he’s drinking and he says: I accept chaos, because acceptation means neutralization. The joy! Logic breached itself, it means sleep is nigh. I keep calm and look at my subconsciousness. I enjoy the sight of it. There they are, my subconsciousness and me, both existing at the same time, and mutually exclusive too.

The sun dies in the shadow.

Radio-interview ‘In de platenkast van…’

Najaar 2015 was ik te gast bij het Amsterdamse radioprogramma ‘In de platenkast van…’ waar ik mijn favoriete muziek mocht draaien en met Pieter Tinbergen sprak over media, privacy, filosofie, Denemarken, boeken maken en boeken schrijven. Luister het hierboven terug, zonder de muziek – die is natuurlijk ook gewoon op Spotify te vinden.

Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler
Dirty Projectors – Gun Has No Trigger
Sex Witch – Helelyos
Fumaca Preta – Amor Tece Dor
Daniel Rossen – Golden Mile
(Extra: Jackson Scott – Broken Record Repeat)

Real-time autobiography: presentation @ Mix Digital 3, Bath Spa University, July 2nd 2015

Real-Time Autobiography: Autofiction and Autofiction

‘Autofiction’ has been named as ‘the future of the novel’ again, based on the work of authors such as Ben Lerner, Karl Ove Knausgård and Sheila Heti. The mid-20th century term takes on a new meaning by operating explicitly in the context of a digitalised environment. It bears the notion of self-referentiality but also one of automation – while at the same time echoing the surrealist concept of automatic writing. As such, an understanding of autofiction as ‘real-time autobiography’ can tie the concept of ‘uncreative writing’ and remix culture to digital writing as self-expression, as seen in the context of blogging and social media.