Comrade Nook Says ZERO INTEREST

From Isolated to Island-Hopping: China Embraces Animal Crossing
http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1005411

A unique feature of the game is the ability to import user-generated digital graphics into one’s personalized island. Within days, some gamers in China had painted their islands a figurative shade of red, adding portraits of communist icons like Karl Marx and Chairman Mao, as well as loud propaganda posters. Consistent with the current zeitgeist, some players have added disease control checkpoints and decontamination areas, or signs in Chinese instructing characters to “please wash your hands.”

Players have outfitted their virtual residences with traditional Chinese decor and furniture, and dressed their in-game characters with hanfu and fancy outfits from China’s most popular period dramas. Widely shared screenshots show one island with huge QR codes printed across them for sending the player money via Alipay or WeChat, while another island featured realistic-looking fruit business advertisements.

I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of people engaging in currency farming for Animal Crossing, but this article has some wild screenshots, and it was interesting to learn about regional subcultures in a game that has managed to become a global phenomenon during the past two weeks.

Let Me Have This Silver Lining

Now Is the Time to Cancel Student Debt
https://www.thenation.com/article/society/now-is-the-time-to-cancel-student-debt/

A coronavirus response that includes canceling student loan debt will allow borrowers to purchase the necessities their families depend on: food on their table, a roof over their head, and critical health care. It will eliminate the worry many borrowers will face when they send their last paycheck to the government, instead of using it to keep their families secure.

A broader student debt cancellation plan will ensure that the entire economy remains functional, not just select industries impacted by travel bans and a slump in retail spending. Consumer advocates at the nonprofit Americans for Financial Reform, say, “Cancelling student debt would be a powerful tool to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis on individuals, families, communities and the broader economy.”

The group says that canceling student debt would provide a short-term stimulus to the economy during the most urgent time. They point to a report by Brandeis University that shows student debt cancellation would free up hundreds of dollars each month. Americans freed from student loan debt would use that money for everyday spending and to pay other bills.

I mean, yes, it would definitely help the economy, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Twitch Studies

The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one
https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/16/17569520/twitch-streamers-zero-viewers-motivation-community

The rise of popular (and profitable) influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has also made the idea of being an online influencer aspirational. Some parents note that their children pretend to unbox toys to a nonexistent audience, and teachers report that their students often say they want to pursue YouTubing as a career. But when seemingly everyone wants to record footage or live stream, who ends up watching the content?

Starting a career on platforms like Twitch often means spending some time broadcasting to absolutely no one. Discoverability is an issue: when you log into Twitch, the most visible people are those who already have a large following. While there are tools to find lesser-known streamers, most people starting out without built-in audiences from other platforms or supportive friends and family end up staring at a big, fat zero on their viewership counter. This lonely live stream purgatory can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, months, sometimes even years, depending on your luck. According to people who have gone through it, lacking an audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online.

I found this article by searching for the title, which I saw in a screencap photo in a Kotaku article about a professor who taught a session of his class about Twitch on Twitch.

Although I sometimes fantasize that I’m recording myself when I do 100% completion speedruns of Zelda games, I have to admit that I never got into Twitch. I understand the appeal, but like… Okay, how do I put this.

So much of being considered cool in high school and college is about sharing communal experiences. You don’t just watch a movie and talk about it, you have to watch it with your friends and share inside jokes that mainly take the form of repeating the lines from the movie that everyone in your friend group laughed at. I enjoy spending time with people, but I have trouble relaxing enough to passively consume content in the company of a group, so doing something like quietly watching a television show or sports game has always felt like having to sit through some sort of awful and boring lecture.

What I’m trying to say is that Twitch isn’t for me. I’m not suggesting that Twitch isn’t worth reading about and writing about and teaching an entire college class about; but, to me, it’s really nothing more than how teenagers and people in their early twenties have always spent time with their peer groups.

The primary difference, I guess, is that people aspire to do this professionally. In fact, some of my own students are already well on their way to making a career out of streaming or Let’s Play videos.

Anyway, I was thinking about teaching a class through Twitch (or possibly Discord) myself, but I ultimately decided against it. I understand the drive to hold class sessions via videoconferencing, but I also don’t think it’s entirely fair to assume that everyone will have access both to a good internet connection and to a quiet space where they can be alone, especially not during an arbitrarily set time, and not while they’re back with their families. See also:

‘Zoombombing’: When Video Conferences Go Wrong

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/style/zoombombing-zoom-trolling.html

“Do the Right Thing”

Black Voters Didn’t Vote for Biden in South Carolina Because They ‘Lack Information’
https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/biden-black-vote/

The argument would be offensive if it weren’t also so dumb. Older black voters in South Carolina have a lifetime of education and experience dealing with the most persistent threat to their safety and rights in this country: white people.

My read of the South Carolina vote is that black people know exactly what they’re doing, and why. Joe Biden is the indictment older black folks have issued against white America. His support is buttressed by chunks of the black community who have determined that most white people are selfish and cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

‘God don’t like ugly’ is what my grandma used to say
https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/4/1924191/–God-don-t-like-ugly-is-what-my-grandma-used-to-say

One of the most valued attributes in the black community is empathy. One of our strongest motivators is survival. We see Donald Trump as a heinous enemy. That’s not paranoia. For us it is a fact of daily life. So we chose to vote for a man, a white man, who has exhibited empathy over decades, who went to Selma on Sunday, who showed up at Mother Emanuel, who attended Elijah Cummings’ funeral, and who had Obama’s back for eight years. We decided Biden has the best shot at assuring our survival.

The first article is locked behind a paywall. An easy lifehack to use to deal with these sorts of articles is that, for most web browsers, you can bypass the paywall if you hit the “esc” key before you start scrolling down.

The second article has a lot of good screencaps from Twitter, and it’s powerful. If you decide to read it, you might want to sit down first.

For me personally, there are two main things to take away from this conversation. The first is that many (but far from all, obviously) community leaders and organizers don’t actually spend that much time on social media. The second is that this country really needs to devote more effort to understanding communities that exist (for the most part) independently of the major coastal cities, and this is especially true of the American South.

Ugly, Following the Requirements of the Market

Baffled City: Exploring the architecture of gentrification
https://www.texasobserver.org/gentrification-architecture/

Ignored for years, redlined by the federal government, and systematically denied the loans that would have allowed the families who lived there to build generational wealth, these “hot,” “new” neighborhoods are being “discovered.” For someone to move in, someone else has to move out. So, in East Austin, in Houston’s Freedmen’s Town and Third Ward and Montrose, in Dallas’ Bishop Arts and Oak Cliff, among other gentrifying and -fied neighborhoods, the architectural language (what architects call “vernacular”) has become inseparable from the vocabulary of policy, where other complicated words, like “displacement,” “segregation,” “inequity,” and “NIMBYism,” are warring furiously.

The white elephants—towering over the bungalows and cottages that used to be good enough, obscuring the present and obliterating the past—reveal what Nicanor calls “two very different dynamics and two very different futures.” Maybe the saddest part is how few new Texas houses have porches, one of the features of older residential architecture that served as a gesture of welcome.

I had a front-row seat as this exact thing happened in Atlanta during the 2000s, and “ugly” is the right word to describe it. To be honest, gentrification was a major factor in my decision to go to grad school, as I could no longer afford to live in the city where I’d built my work history and made professional connections. In my experience, the point the writer makes about adding cars to these cities is prescient, as Atlanta came to have the worst traffic in the country during the relatively short span of the four years I spent in school.

And good lord these types of residences are eyesores, not to mention made of particle board.

The photos in this article are wonderful, and I recommend reading it in a web browser if you’re interested. The site doesn’t have autoplay videos or “disable your ad blocker” pop-ups, and it’s worth it.

Technologies of Behavior Modification

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff review – we are the pawns
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/02/age-of-surveillance-capitalism-shoshana-zuboff-review

While insisting that their technology is too complex to be legislated, there are companies that have poured billions into lobbying against oversight, and while building empires on publicly funded data and the details of our private lives they have repeatedly rejected established norms of societal responsibility and accountability. And what is crucially different about this new form of exploitation and exceptionalism is that beyond merely strip-mining our intimate inner lives, it seeks to shape, direct and control them. Their operations transpose the total control over production pioneered by industrial capitalism to every aspect of everyday life.

I’m not sure I’m up for reading the actual book, which sounds miserably depressing, but this is an interesting review. Two paragraphs are devoted to a blunt deconstruction of Pokémon Go, which is fair.

Even though most of the people (especially artists) I used to follow on Tumblr have moved to Twitter and Instagram, I still feel a bit weird about engaging with those two platforms. Despite its flaws, I appreciate that Tumblr is relatively chaotic and isn’t making money for anyone. Activity on the site has dropped off since the beginning of the year, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Also, as much as Discord annoys me for being exclusive, inaccessible, and difficult to use, I’ve found myself spending more time on art and sketch channels during the past few months.

Meanwhile, AO3 remains the Gold Standard of Internet and continues to be my happy place.

Time Costs Money

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/feb/27/a-dirty-secret-you-can-only-be-a-writer-if-you-can-afford-it

According to a 2018 Author’s Guild Study the median income of all published authors for all writing related activity was $6,080 in 2017, down from $10,500 in 2009; while the median income for all published authors based solely on book-related activities went from $3,900 to $3,100, down 21%. Roughly 25% of authors earned $0 in income in 2017.

I would argue that there is nothing more sustaining to long-term creative work than time and space – these things cost money – and the fact that some people have access to it for reasons that are often outside of their control continues to create an ecosystem in which the tenor of the voices that we hear from most often remains similar.

Where is the lie smh.

Something the article doesn’t address is that, putting the act of writing aside, actually submitting your work for publication is another full-time job. Although I have a ton of ideas for original stories, one of the reasons I’ve stuck with fanfic since I started getting serious about writing is that not having to deal with the fiction market has given me the space to write, edit, and be a part of a community while still putting in all the necessary hours at my actual job. I don’t want to say that it would have been impossible for me to publish original fiction as a tenure-track professor, but I feel much more comfortable facing the challenge now that I’ve left that position.