Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Cyberbullying and Gay Suicide

Students at Rutgers protest after Clementi's suicide

Roommate issues, gay attitudes, and technology: a recipe for disaster?

The news earlier this week that Tyler Clementi committed suicide is a tragic one. Not only for Clementi’s wrangling with his sexuality, but because the Rutgers’ freshman’s thoughts leading up to his death were so readily accessible to the public: insensitive taunts on Twitter,  questioning of actions on a gay website, and, ultimately, Clementi’s final status update on Facebook.

According to the New York Times, both Clementi and his roommate Dharun Ravi expressed their thoughts about Clementi’s sexuality in various places on the internet:

On Sept. 19, Mr. Ravi messaged his Twitter followers that he had set up a webcam in his room and then watched from Ms. Wei’s room, adding that he saw Mr. Clementi “making out with a dude.”

The postings on the gay chat site last week, reported Wednesday on the Web site Gawker, appear to show Mr. Clementi’s reactions as he read Mr. Ravi’s posts about the camera, and the apparent disdain for his homosexuality.

“And so I feel like it was ‘look at what a fag my roommate is,’ ” he wrote on Sept. 21. “Other people have commented on his profile with things like ‘how did you manage to go back in there?’ and ‘are you ok?’ and the fact that the people he was with saw my making out with a guy as the scandal whereas I mean come on … he was SPYING ON ME … do they see something wrong with this?”

Is cyberbullying the root of this tragedy? Not enough education in respecting diversity? Or a combination of both?

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Filed under: education, gay rights, technology, web 2.0, , , , , , , ,

Arcade Fire Needs Your Home Address

Whaaa…?

For the music video to their new song “The Wilderness Downtown,” Arcade Fire chose to work with filmmaker Chris Milk and to integrate Google interactive maps. Billed as an “interactive film,” you enter your home address and witness the coolness. This really pushes the envelope in combining an interactive experience, creepy Google streetview technology (when did they capture those images of my house?), and a surprisingly effective array of browser windows in all shapes and sizes, containing streaming video. The whole process takes a couple minutes, and you’ve gotta download Google’s new Chrome Experiment, but it’s worth it.

If anything, Arcade Fire provides the excellent soundtrack. Reminds me of the way Radiohead embraced Web 2.0 to release In Rainbows. Or how Jonsi totally socked it to me with his one-of-a-kind, aesthetically mind-blowing concert and film experience for go. (If you still have a chance to see Jonsi live, you’d do well to get yerself a ticket before he’s gone.)

Why aren’t more of us taking advantage of the technology at our fingertips?

Filed under: media, music, technology, web 2.0, , , , , , ,

“Regrets? Oh, I Have a Whole Big Bushel Basketful”

Needles, California. A 64 year-old man sitting on his duffel bag against a wire fence on the side of the road.

Would you stop to talk to him? Drive by, in the comfort of your car, maybe acknowledging a passing curiosity (or worse, judgement)?

Would you film the man, edit it into to a three-minute clip, post it on YouTube for others to experience?

Perhaps the most striking moment in this video from David Lynch’s intriguing Interview Project is when the subject, a white-bearded man named Jess on the side of the highway, says quite plainly, “I ain’t proud of anything except just being alive. I’m an old man; I’ve got gray hairs on my head and I’m six foot tall. So what?” Not just you, Jess, not just you.

Filed under: social justice, web 2.0, , , , , , , ,

Redefining Etiquette on the Web

Who gets to determine what’s appropriate–or inappropriate–on the Web?

Brianna Snyder writes in The New Haven Advocate a quick, thoughtful study of the state of anonymous commenting. How to protect free speech while limiting bullying (which has prompted new anti-bullying laws in my home state of Massachusetts)? When is a comment contributing to dialogue, rather than simply inflaming it? What’s the difference between internet terrorism and really strong emotion?

Many of the major news outlets like The New York Times and powerful internet conglomerates like Gawker Media have begun to establish gatekeeping systems: through tiers of commentors, or moderator-approved posts. On my own blog, I’ve debated whether to delete hateful comments or to allow them to further the conversation. No clear-cut decisions.

Complicating the issue is the dichotomy of the “Us versus Them” mentality. If, as a commenter, your opinion falls in the minority, you are often faced (or facing off) with a mob. As Snyder writes:

Chances are very good that you are already familiar with this unfortunate aspect of Internet culture, the Lord of the Flies-ness of it, the maddening, sometimes frightening, and impossible-to-read nature of online comment and message boards.

Is it bad business to regulate or discontinue anonymous posting? Or does it cut to the heart of a liberal democracy?

Filed under: censorship, media, web 2.0, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fiction Can Be Funny

Or at least the publicity for them can be.

MobyLives, operated by the excellent indie publishers Melville House, started up the first annual Book Trailer Awards this year–and a few of the finalists are fall-on-the-floor funny.

Book trailers are a strange hybrid of new media possibility and old-school literary steadfastness. I’m not sure what to make of these things (except to say that I wish I had reason to make one). In one sense, it seems to be an author/publisher being savvy. In another sense, it’s an uncomfortable appeal to Internet junkies–seemingly, the opposite of a person who wants to commit hours upon hours in a linear, non-hypertext process of stringing together a bunch of chicken scratches set in ink on a bound leaf of papers.

My favorite of the bunch of finalists for the Book Trailer Awards is this book trailer for John Wray’s dark novel, Lowboy, with comedian Zack Galifianakis. I won’t tell you the surprising, hilarious twist in this video. Galifianakis is a master at comic timing.

And though I’m still uncertain what to make of this form, I do give props to my friend Scott Heim for the eerie, compelling trailer he made for his fantastic novel, We Disappear. Both the novel and his book trailer echo Scott’s artistry and disregard for convention:

Filed under: literature, web 2.0, writing, , , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
June 2019
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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