Problematizers: the Series

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided on a name for my TUMBLR experiments: Problematizers. Hopefully soon, I can write more here about why I picked that name. The post will involve a discussion of Foucault and his idea of problematization + my musings on a super hero named “The Problematizer.” 

I’ve spent all afternoon experimenting with Pixelmator to create a poster featuring some of my images + texts so far. Here it is:


Curiosity, Anxiety, Paranoia: Inspired by the North Shore

In my continued efforts to experiment with my images and text on TUMBLR, I posted the following image; it’s from my recent trip with the family to the North Shore of Minnesota:

One of the goals of these images/text experiments is to inspire or provoke me and/or the viewer to think, question, wonder, reflect, or imagine. This particular set of texts, passages from Cynthia Enloe and Avital Ronell, has certainly inspired and provoked me. I’m:

thinking about anxiety and its role within ethics,
questioning its limits for self-care and moral selfhood,
wondering who should be encouraged to be anxious (Ronell suggests that George W. Bush could stand to be kept up at night a little more, thinking about the implications of his policies–her quote is a few years old) and who is already always too anxious (people prone to panic attacks or others, like me, who seem to worry too much about their impact on others),
reflecting on the relationship between curiosity and anxiety and what happens when your curiosity isn’t rooted in a concern–or anxiousness–about the impact of that curiosity
and imagining new possibilities for practicing a feminist curiosity that involves a willingness to trouble (feel some anxiety about?) one’s own questions and wonderings.

The passage from Avital Ronell comes from the documentary, An Examined Life. Here’s how I wrote about it an post from April 2010 (which, incidentally, is the link for the image on Tumblr):

She continues her discussion of anxiety, suggesting that the truly ethical person (which she contrasts with GW Bush) is one who is always anxious and always concerned with whether or not they are doing the right thing; the ethical person is the one who can’t sleep because they are uncertain about what they are doing or failing to do. The responsible being is not the one who does one good deed and then thinks that that makes them an ethical person. The responsible being is the one who thinks they have never done enough, that “they have never taken enough care of the other.” Wow–an ethics of anxiety seems similar to my idea of staying in trouble. I was particularly struck by how she connects this (only fleetingly) to the idea of care. Anxiety and trouble (being troubled, staying troubled) are central to being ethical responsibly and effectively caring for others. Cool. I like her discussion here. I am not sure I like how she describes it as anxiety (in the interview she indicates that she is not suggesting that we should all get anxiety disorders), however. Is anxiety the best (as in most productive, most rewarding, most hopeful, most sustainable) way in which to discuss this mood?

Originally my image was only going to include Ronell’s quote, but as I thought about the questions that I posted on my original blog entry about an ethics of anxiety, I decided to contrast the promotion of anxiety, as the ethical (troubled) state par excellence, with my preferred troubled state of curiosity. So, I put Ronell’s passage beside a passage from Cynthia Enloe on feminist curiosity, on the two trees.

I really liked how it turned out; in some ways, it visually represents the relationship I imagine between curiosity and anxiety for myself. As the more important state, curiosity is on the bigger tree. But, because my curiosity always need to be troubled (questioned for its limits and effects), anxiety, in the form of concern, care and caution, is also always beside that curiosity, on the smaller tree.

There are so many ways that I want to talk about the tension between curiosity (as wonder, joy, the creative) and anxiety (as worry, concern, the critical). And there are so many ways that I’ve already discussed it on this blog. Pondering states and moods (and feelings), makes me want to put curiosity and anxiety into conversation (BESIDE/S) with a few other sources:

1. Eve Sedgwick’s discussion of paranoid and reparative reading (and maybe E Spelman’s ethics of care/repair too)
2. Megan Boler’s pedagogy of discomfort
3. Michael Snediker’s Queer Optimism

By the way, in the process of thinking through the image + texts and this post, I’ve come up with a name for my image/text posters: Problematizers. It’s inspired by Michel Foucault and his politics of problematization.

How I’m using Social Media to Make Trouble, part 3: TUMBLR

After several weeks break, I’m finally returning to my four part series about how I’m using social media to make trouble. Today, I’m focusing on Tumblr. While I have been busy with other projects (personal and professional), that’s not the only reason why it’s taken me this long to write about how I’m using Tumblr. It took this long because I didn’t really know how I was using it to make trouble. When I first started posting on Tumblr, I had a general, very vague, sense that I wanted to use it to post my examples of making and staying in trouble, but I didn’t have a more specific sense of how I would track/post these examples.

In the brief time I’ve been on Tumblr (since Jan, 2012), I’ve come to realize that it works best, at least for me, when you have a fairly focused and consistent approach to posting. One thing I’ve always liked about my trouble blog is how I can take a very broad and open-ended topic like trouble/making and open it up even further by experimenting with a diversity of ways that it can be understood; the format of the blog encourages this expanding and complicating. In contrast, there’s something about the format of Tumblr that encourages me to focus my ideas and narrow/streamline my vision of how to track and post trouble inspirations. What is it about the format? Even as I love broadening visions and being open to increasingly wider ways of being, I like how tumblr is encouraging me to focus.

Some have argued that Tumblr’s lasting contribution to social media is the single-serving site (although others, like STA, disagree with naming this as “single-serving” because a single-serving site is technically a site with a single post, not a site with a series of posts on a single theme). I’m not sure that I agree, but I do like how some people are creatively experimenting with single-serving (or single-purpose?) tumblrs. A few of my favorite include:

A Very Brady Blog
Fuck Yeah Lisa Simpson
Feminist Care Packages
Hipster Animals 

Hmm…as I look over this brief list, I’m not sure that some of these count as single-purpose/single-serving tumblrs? Maybe single-serving sites are even more focused and short-lived (like feminist harry potter or animals disappointed)?

Anyway, I like how Tumblr is encouraging me to experiment with focusing my efforts and with developing projects and products that are consistent and brief. Now, after using Tumblr for almost 5 months (and posting 80 examples), I finally have a more focused plan for how to use it in my own efforts to, as I express it in my tumblr description, “track examples of trouble for inspiration and for training to be a virtuous troublemaker.” Instead of posting tons of examples of troublemaking or troublestaying (I’m using Pinterest for that), I’m using Tumblr to post my experiments with inspiring/provocative “posters.” These posters are intended to model yet trouble self-helpy type posters and are a first attempt at playing with (troubling, challenging, disrupting) self-help methods, approaches and attitudes. Here’s a gallery of my posts far:

Each tumblr poster combines a question or a quotation that has shaped my work with a picture that I’ve recently taken with my iPhone camera while on a walk/hike/run/bike ride. Clicking on the image links to a previously written post on my trouble blog about the question or quotation. I plan to post these daily (as part of my larger goals of understanding troublemaking/staying as a virtue that needs to be cultivated repeatedly through daily practices). I’m not sure if these will be interesting for anyone else, but I think they might help me to make my feminist/queer academic ideas more succinct and accessible. Plus, it will allow me to experiment with being more creative and encourage me to get outside more and enjoy the summer in Minneapolis.

why tumblr? here’s one answer

I love Fred Astaire (and Ginger Rogers), so when an image of him leaping, in honor of Leap Day, popped up on my Tumblr dashboard, I just had to reblog it on my “Staying in Trouble” tumblr. I tagged it with “joy”; I’m using my Tumblr blog to explore some of the more playful, fun and joyful moments of making, being in, and staying in trouble.

This image, along with 18 others, was posted on Life. Your Tumblr in Pictures. I really like their “about” description. It offers some great reasons why and how to use Tumblr in tandem with a blog or website. I like the idea of using Tumblr to provide readers with a little something extra (more content + special features). And the idea of using Tumblr to emphasize engagement and community building.

John Waters/Justin Bieber: Experimenting with Pinterest

Even though I’ve been wary of Pinterest over the past couple of weeks, I’m still using it. And I’ve actually found some fun/playful/useful ways in which to experiment with it. In addition to continuing to add onto my Troublemaking Role Model board, I just, a few minutes ago, created a new board: Beside/s. It’s inspired by my continued interest in beside/s as an important concept for troublemaking and troublestaying. My first pin on this board? John Waters/Justin Bieber.

While looking for an image of John Waters (I’m planning to add him to my troublemaking role model board), I came across an article headline, “Justin Bieber could win an Oscar, according to one director”. Of course, I tweeted about it:


I also had to post about it on my new Tumblr. Here’s what I wrote on that post:

Wow, I find this fascinating. How does it fit with my tumblr? J Waters is one of my troublemaking role models and I like to create curious/troubling/playful juxtapositions: queer camp/bieber fever, shit/bubble-gum?

I don’t think that I want to do too much theorizing about this juxtaposition, but I’m glad that John Waters/Justin Bieber inspired me to create a new Pinterest board on the concept of Beside/s. I’m not sure what I will include in it, but it could be a great space for visually representing the various juxtapositions/besides that I want to perform. This board could complement by Beside/s category on this blog. Here’s my description of that category’s purpose:

BESIDE/S: In this newly developed category (as of January, 2012), I post blog entries that enable me to experiment with being beside/s. Being beside/besides is a concept and practice that I find extremely compelling for working with and through readings, ideas, understandings, and experiences; it was the central organizing principle for my essay and blog posts on living and grieving beside Judith and for my queering ethics course last spring.

Having ideas or things beside each other is to see them as next to each other. Literally, beside is a reminder of the material spaces that we inhabit. This might mean being aware of how books that you are reading/researching reside next to each other or how multiple tabs, with the various posts you are processing, are open at the same time. Conceptually, ideas or things beside (next to) each other indicates that you are reading them together, sometimes through each other, sometimes against each other, but always in ways that recognize that the various ideas/concepts/things that you are engaging with influence and shape each other. These ideas don’t necessarily fit together (and they don’t have to), but, taken together they influence how you read, interpret, understand, and produce your own ideas. To put ideas and things beside each other is to put them into conversation with each other. The process of putting them into conversation is a form of exciting and challenging work that involves much more than sitting alone and staring painfully at a blank screen.

Beside also means besides, that is, in addition to or instead of. Besides can involve the labor of thinking about and being open to alternatives to the ideas that one is reading. It can also mean de-centering one’s own perspective or the perspective of any one idea as the Idea and considering how multiple ideas/theories/experiences outside of ourselves can provide new insights and new understandings. Embracing that which is besides enables us to be, albeit temporarily, beside (not quite outside of) ourselves.