Canceled Message (Part Two)

Part One
 precedes this post


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Social Media as Corporate Cannibal

"You won’t hear me laughing, as I terminate your day
You can’t trace my footsteps, as I walk the other way"

"I'll consume my consumers"

—Grace Jones, "Corporate Cannibal"

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How to Almost Completely Disappear (on Twitter)

Last March I spent some time in Iran, where my access to the internet was severely hampered. This limitation made me snappy and tense, possibly in the throes of some sort of vacant withdrawal that I didn't get over until eventually landing somewhere with airport wifi.

In a connection-deprived space a lack of self-control can't be faulted as the culprit of this aimless malaise. One could blame the false promise of ubiquity. Going from a country with near-limitless access to one without is like having the water abruptly cut off before you're done taking a shower. It leaves a cold and shrill sensation.

I have heard from people who think and write more exclusively about this issue that the best relationship one can engender is one in which the internet becomes a "stream," an image that conjures more of a gently babbling brook than the digital culture shock I just described. The ubiquity of the internet frees us from the shackles of compulsion, goes the idea. There may be truth to this but it leaves out why off-gridding might still be desirable, difficult, or both. What if the magnification of solitude or at least simulating that one is in a semi-deprived state of access or connection is a positive value? ("It is very uncomfortable to be alone, and I think that is why we, as a globe, have fetishized connection the way that we have. But I think that we are losing a lot by losing the experience of solitude." —Jennifer Egan.)

The Iran experience was uncomfortable, but in the same way that being thrown into a pool against your will is uncomfortable. It doesn't mean you stop craving a deep-sea diving experience.

Beginning that kind of experience requires a real ending. Social media is powerful but stays too close to the surface, and requires too much squelching and self-flattening for any sort of dive. It is most "successful" when it is productive, in the sense of accumulation and accretion, and that is true regardless of the user. Whether someone engages in playful banter, sports predictions, or an aphoristic/literary Twitter creation, adding and multiplication always trump stasis or subtraction.

I more and more sought subtraction, or at least an addition without accretion. If the first part of "Canceled Message" was a dissection of that emerging concern with erasure in open view, here I am tackling the question of how one can enact it. 

Belatedly I realize I've been using "canceled" and "cancelled" interchangeably. Let's call the whole thing off.

Bio is a yearlong exploration of how to appear without accumulation. It is one approach—my approach—to the issue of becoming immersed in solitude in full "connective" mode. It's a leave-taking without fully exiting the scene, casting a self-made ghost in the machine. From May 2014 to May 2015 I update the 160-character "bio" portion of Twitter every day. No record is kept (at least to my knowledge) save for the one I keep offline. There is no data storage center to aim a "delete tweet" command to. Formation and deletion work in unlikely harmony, like those intriguing canceled artists' texts. And it's a low-tech, and in my eyes, unsuspecting, hack in the system.

This conceptual approach, a two-month excerpt of which I'm leaving below, has precipitated more questions for me than it has answered. (If it has sown a "practice" it has done so with an open, plasmatic response, not a fixed agenda.)

How do you redact the self inside the very structure erected for self-appearance?

How do you un-stream something that is meant to be streamed? Similarly, how do you un-scroll an infinite open text into finite matter?

How do you produce "content" without obligatory time-stamping, all the while not totally disregarding the limits of temporality? In other words, how do you stay within a temporal limit without being marked by time?

As of this writing, Twitter Inc. does not allow mass deletion of bulk tweets. (This makes the sudden appearance of priorly deleted tweets all the more ghostly, even sinister.) How do you manipulate the superstructure of a medium—preferably in the most low-fi way possible—to produce cancelability in a medium that immensely restricts it?

In short, how do you use a medium against and within its own confines?

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excerpted entries from the Twitter "bio" box, May and June 2014

30 June | If office-bound, not offing but offlining


29 June | Changing color in a dark, oceanic cave, like a private amphibian


28 June | Every day the encounters with the falsity all around us


27 June | Seduction by falsetto


26 June | Images disguised as speech acts


25 June | A dictionary in reverse, defining public terms in a private language


24 June | A 1-800 number reaching back and forward into previous and future centuries


23 June | Clocks reset, so hopeful become everlasting


22 June | In/process and/or out/bound


21 June | Ex tempore


20 June | Always procedure, always process. Sometimes proscenium, sometimes project.


19 June | Courting betrayal


18 June | Run, Mona, run


17 June | You say "cry like a baby" like any adult actually ever did


16 June | Going to tell it on the mountain so it can go tell it on the molehill


15 June | Capture, log, assemble, conceal, export


14 June | Treason in the age of military dominance


13 June | Clean windows are dangerous: just ask the young bird who learns the mechanics of flight in the safety of classroom instruction


12 June | A teen hotline for people in their late twenties and early thirties


11 June | Better a blind sailor near shore or a seeing swimmer lost at sea?


10 June | Desirous of making only things of no value, or more extremely, non-value itself


9 June | This is impacting my schedule


8 June | I placed a self on the internet and watched it spread


7 June | Anti-social media or non-mediated sociality are further options


6 June | Butter knives and machetes, in a particular order


5 June | Headless poet


4 June | Saudade is Portuguese for the wrangling haul of cardboard boxes and the brevity of feeling settled


3 June | New kids on the black bloc


2 June | Tehran Savings & Loans, LLC


1 June | Never not leaving; always already on arrival


31 May | Mud, mudder, murder; and other Hitchcockian themes


30 May | How to Wear a Mask (physician's office poster / alternative book title)


29 May | A soft spot for quitting stories


28 May | Communication never ceases to mis-


27 May | A suggestion box like at Qalandiya Checkpoint, only a biography


26 May | Caraca, mané...


25 May | And there was always somebody calling you on the telephone, to interrupt the fantasies of suicide (Audre Lorde on the working definition of a friend)


24 May | Femmephilia in a femmephobic world


23 May | Passport renewal services, unincorporated territories


22 May | I make myself seeing


21 May | We can self-complete when we're dead


20 May | I am fine to drink my wine. I have glee to drink my tea. I've the wits to drink my spritz.


19 May | Rushing less and less to fill irreducible voids


18 May | This month I operated power tools for the first time. It may sound delusional but I experienced them as tools that make you feel powerful


17 May | Face veils are really in right now


16 May | It's not you, it's not me, it's capital and cops


15 May | How about we didn't


14 May | Films, like __________, have to be finished


13 May | Erring and/or caring


12 May | Should I be trying to 'own' it? What are the terms of ownership? What is 'it'?


11 May | A donkey will mother almost any animal


10 May | Refresh, delete, delete, delete, close tab, scroll down, expand, select, highlight, copy, scroll up, new tab


9 May | Wild and varied dreaming.


8 May | Maybe it unsettles you now but every real beginning requires a real ending


7 May | News? I had no expectation of news


6 May | Containing live fires


5 May | What if the difference between biography and autobiography were like the one between jail and prison? In one summary detention. The other, prolonged conviction.


4 May | No forced haha's, only authentic haha's


3 May | The battle to compose life is daily fought between rhopography and megalography, between the merits of the trivial and mundane against the heroic and important


2 May | Only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter


1 May | Possessor of a telencephalon and highly opposable thumbs