[-empyre-] VI feud and passion

Jonathan Marshall Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au
Thu Oct 11 10:38:39 EST 2012

Mike writes

>One small thing to add, and again as someone who was "on" but not "of" the
>Cybermind list... I didn't realize that a lot of the darker/painful (or
>joyful/happy) things were happening as they were going on.  It was only
>afterwards when I met a few people f2f (like Alan) that I was able to
>explore further some of the rather vague hints or casual mentions on the
>list.  What I saw on the surface were occasional anomalies, hints,
>references, undeleted private conversations appended to other emails and
>thus forwarded inadvertently to the public list...

This is important. People do not perceive the same list. There are many lists among many people, and as well CM has changed over the years.
At one time for example, many members met on various MOOs, and used other lists to talk and interact, and these had different atmospheres
but what happened in those places affected what happened on CM and vice versa (pain and alliances were not confined)
[this partially hidden nature of social life, is not unique to 'the virtual' of course]

As i said i was suprised that so much of my early draft writing focused on pain and conflict and that was inadequate to the list

It did not for instance catch the intellectual excitment of the list which was particularly marked in the first five or so years,
It did not catch people's generosity of spirit, in some diffcult times.
although i hope that the book does catch some of that

I was also pretty sure that there was a gendered version of the list; most of my detailed offlist information about list life came from women
Male members would generally talk of different things in different kinds of detail.
i also tried to explore this gender effect in various places, and also tried to discuss how people approached gender, and used gender, and why it seemed so important, and was so important. 

Some list members (perhaps in the long term the majority) would never have perceived, or bothered with, the emotional complexity of the interactions between many long term list members - and i doubt that i would have normally perceived it either (not being the most socially/emotionally competant player), but nevertheless as Mike says these things tended to leave traces, anomalies, hints, they tended to have reprucussions, when something, or some reactions, just did not make sense. 

What i will say is that these events these embodied feelings/understandings did have an effect on list life. They could not be ignored in an account of list life

I do not claim all lists are the same, but i would be suprised if what Alan calls list Aura, the invisible traffic around lists, does not have some kind of effect in any long lived list (perhaps less now in CM, but i'm not persuing it anymore)

However, despite the joys and the collaborations, the meshing of online and offline lives, when i asked people (on many different occasions) about what they remembered about the list history, one thing that stood out over and over again, was that people tended to remember pain or disappointment in far more detail than they could remember joy or excitment.

That was one reason why it seemed odd that often those fights which stood out in people's memories, were often very short and did not actually occupy much of the List volume. It was another reason why i might without deliberation begin writing about online pain.

hence this apparent feature of memory, is an instance of why the troubling effects of pain, suffering, negation etc are so important online


On Tue, 9 Oct 2012, michael gurstein wrote:

> Interesting...
> As one of the (non-central) denizens/occupants/participants (but
> certainly not victims) of Cybermind in those days I don't remember it
> as a place of pain, although I do remember painful episodes --
> basically accounts of the pain of others--sometimes onlist but mostly
> off... Mostly I remember it as a place of motion--ebbs and flows of
> conversations, personalities, sometimes emotions but with a very
> strong sense of flow--a sort of time's arrow in flickering pixils...
> And very interesting people--sometimes even more interesting in the
> flesh and sometimes less but always with that heightened
> expectation/possibility that comes from the magic of turning the virtual
into the real...
> M
> -----Original Message-----
> From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> [mailto:empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Jonathan
> Marshall
> Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 11:02 PM
> To: soft_skinned_space
> Subject: [-empyre-] VI feud and passion
> VI
> Amongst my first attempted papers were long accounts of feuds and
> The first version of the thesis was almost nothing but an account of
> conflict and pain, of misunderstandings, miscategorisations of others,
> of impositions, of temper, of exile and resentment. I attempted to
> relate these to the 'structures of communication', as mailing lists
> are structured differently to newsgroups, IRC and MOOs - the age shows
> although the same is true of facebook etc - and hence the easier
> possibilities of ways of life and actions, are different on each
> format. Communication structure might be thought of as analogous to Marx
and Engel's infrastructure.
> This supposition implied there was no uniform life online, even if
> cultural differences offline, brought to the online were of no
> importance in making that online life, which seemed improbable.
> Sometimes I would relate these conflicts to the way categorisation of
> others was used in the offline world (such as gender, political
> allegiances). The politics of offline life always permeated online
> space, again whether it was wanted or not, because it allowed meaning to
be resolved with some ease and made response possible.
> And that involved repression, and attempts to avoid repression, to
> move others, to persuade others, the making of power, and patterns of
> power and convention, and what could be spoken and what could not.
> This again was 'concrete' and affective in nature, it was grounded in
> bodies and bodily or bodily/linguistic responses.
> [Currently I'm using the term 'information group' to try and work out
> how wider group allegiances filter information, so that groups have
> differing views of the world. These differing allegiances then
> maintain difference and distortion, while rendering others inhuman or
inferior or hostile.
> Communication, in information society, breaks down as a matter of
> course.]
> However, to portray Cybermind as simply a long series of hurts,
> delusions and conflict was missing the mark by a long way. There were the
other sides.
> The ease with which people gave support, even to those they had been
> feuding with a day or so earlier, the massive intertwining of
> relationships, and all the correspondence which never appeared onlist,
> the love affairs, the group meetings, the collaborative work, the way
> it was used to enable people to live offline. It was dense and not
> just dense with pain.  If had been only pain, how would any of us have
> stayed so long? Living online, at least on CM, involved a large spectrum
of affects and connections.
> But this is much harder to write about (why does it seem harder to
> write of joy than pain - for me to write comedy than to write tragedy?
> Why do we seem to value melancholy as a source of truth?). Hurt seems
> to channel attentions. Just as small amounts of flame seemed to
> overwhelm the rest of the mails which went on with either good humour
> or without connection to the hurt. That was an early 'discovery': that
> times that people remembered as completely times of pain, were in
> terms of volume, not. The singleness of mood of some mails overwhelmed
> the disparate moods of the rest. So what made that the case?
> jon

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