Author: bussiertranslation

Through The Turnstiles Darkly

For many young Montrealers, or for anyone who moved here during the past half-decade or so, the metro has been a primary means of transportation for as long as we can remember. A lot of metro users probably take it for granted, and some of us even think of it as a space in which we enjoy being. However, for some others, it is a space that can become a source of distress, which can make it much more difficult for them to navigate than it is intended to be. This essay will use a phenomenological approach to talk about how body language, orientation, proprioception, proxemics, and psychogeography interact to produce the metro’s spatial practices. I will examine which objects on the metro are presented to us as more reachable than others, and which social behaviors on the metro are encouraged and discouraged by its structural configuration. Questions of access and exclusion concerning the metro are significant because the metro is the only recourse that people who cannot afford other modes of transportation can resort to. What are the design and culture of the metro trying to tell us about which kind of society is desirable and achievable? Is there a way to improve the quality of life of everyone who needs to use the metro, regardless of their circumstances?

I first started using the Montreal metro in 2004 and 2005. I had no problem using it during that period of time. However, when I moved to Montreal and started using it every day to go to work from 2006 to 2008, my trips on the metro would often be accompanied by agoraphobic and claustrophobic responses. “The insolence, the promiscuity of the crowd, jostling” (Wilson, 1) would give me “prickly feelings on the skin surface, and the more intense experience of discomfort.” (Ahmed, 57) My “intimate experience of boundaries” was that I could not get “responsibility in their construction,” (Haraway) and it was “one of the most disquieting aspects of the modern city.” (Wilson, 3) After having left Montreal in 2009 to come back to it in 2011, I can now use the metro several times a week in a calm, relaxed manner to this day. I am not certain of what changed, of how I became used to these “routinized rituals of transportation,” (Wilson, 7) but it is part of what I am attempting to figure out by writing this essay. In any case, I certainly do not miss it, and I remember the factors about it which I used to find distressing when I did, like a ‘ghost phobia’ that lingers on like a ghost limb where a limb used to be. The thought that I must have been the only person who had problems using the metro felt especially isolating at the time. When I looked around back then, everyone else seemed to have been having an easy time using it: the functional metro/other people dyad seemed to be the constant, and I the variable. Was everyone else really having such an easy time using it, or did it just seem that way? If I still believed that I was the only person who had this problem, I would not be working on this paper today – it would not seem constructive for me to write.

The very social dynamics of the metro encourage people to hold inside any discomfort they may feel about the outside world, lest they appear as weak and be singled out from the herd. Would it really be so farfetched for other metro users to now be working as hard to conceal their current distress from others as I used to work to hide my own? Convincing evidence with which I have been presented since then has persuaded me that it would not. There are limits to thinking about such issues as individual problems, as personal problems that belong in the private sphere, limits beyond which we can only move when we put them in context by conceptualizing them as collective issues, as systemic, social problems that belong in the public sphere. Enough members of the population use the metro frequently enough that issues using it are not only my problem or your problem, they are everyone’s problem. To treat such an issue as only the problem of the person who it is happening to at the time, to atomize it this way, is to approach it through the medical model rather than through the social model of disability. (Titchkosky, 39, 57) In other words, it is disingenuous to imply that only the person with the problem needs to fix themselves in order to be able to use the system the way it already is. It is more helpful to remember that there are also many ways in which it is the structure of the metro itself that can be reconfigured to adapt it to the needs of its users the way they already are, to make it into a more accessible and inclusive space for them. The metro may seem as though it cannot be any other way than how it is now because it is how we are used to it, but “no ‘natural’ architectures constrain system design,” (Haraway) only the “utilitarian plans of experts.” (Wilson, 11)

So what could have someone found “naturally depressing” (Debord, 66) about wandering the metro’s “subterranean catacombs,” (67) for which reasons could this geographical setting have had that particular effect on someone’s mood? (68) First of all, the metro’s architecture can definitely be said to “strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.” (Debord, 65) It is designed to encourage herd-like movement from point A to point B, like a conveyor belt in an industrial factory, in an airport or in a meat plant. It strives to direct the greatest possible number of users into the smallest possible amount of space in the name of ‘efficiency.’ In this space, time and space become hotly contested commodities, as one rushes not to miss the next wagon while struggling to avoid the other users, a race with limited resources in true capitalist spirit. There are only so many turnstiles, so first you must figure out who goes in first where without getting in anyone’s way, and past the gatekeeper, if you are lucky and one is present at all, otherwise you will have to get a ticket from the machine, so you had better have brought your card, not only cash, or no metro for you.

The symbolism of the turnstiles is already interesting, as though we are products being processed by a machine ourselves.

Then, you hurry down the escalator, left to go fast, right to go slow, just like on the highway, unless there are people in front of you who have not used the metro enough to have internalized this spatial practice yet. The escalators upward at Cote-Vertu are deliberately separated from those on the way down, so that if you follow someone up them to see them off, you cannot return downstairs on your own without paying again, not unless you are willing and able to run back down the upward escalator the ‘wrong’ way down (as I have). Then there is the waiting ledge, a long, narrow space in which we attempt to navigate around each other without getting shoved onto the rails and without shoving anyone onto them ourselves. I had to call the police to physically prevent a stranger from jumping on the rails themselves about ten years ago, that may be part of why I think of things like this… When ‘an incident slows service on line X,’ we all know what it means, but no one says anything. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

Lionel-Groulx station is notable because the run straight across from one wagon to another on the opposite side, with the benches that transform from spaces of rest into obstacles to avoid when you are on the run, has a particular ‘every person for themselves’, ‘you’re on your own’ vibe to it. At metro stations other people become obstacles for you, and you become an obstacle for other people. You become “one more among external objects” (Merleau-Ponty, 53) without “impingements of subjectivity.” (Grosz, 48) People will attempt to walk through you as if they could not “remember that some spaces are already occupied.” (Ahmed, 62) I remember having disliked the difficulty of finding a place to which you could have your back so that no one could get behind you without your knowledge, or those times when a second wagon would introduce twice the crowd into the station before the wagon I was to get on would show up. The varying levels and diagonal paths between them make the station seem as though it is right out of a first-person shooter. The doors of the wagons are another threshold – the STM signs near them theoretically remind us to let people out of the wagons before swarming in ourselves, for all the good it does in practice. Once in the wagons, I would always make a beeline for the corner seats, if there were any free – a corner seat could mean the whole difference between having a comfortable buffer from the crowd and having a distressing trip. Today, when I offer to give up my seat to another, I do so with a private awareness of what it means to me that I would now be able to do so. On a good day, when my load in life is uncharacteristically light, the ramps and poles almost seem as though they belong on a playground. From under feminized Earth, I briefly see them as though I were a child, engaging in “playful-constructive behavior.” (Debord, 65)

There is a flipside to the unconscious symbolism of traveling underground, though. It is underground that we bury the dead and, if the city is already a “new version of Hell,” (Wilson, 6) by being underground the metro is even closer to a kind of ‘underworld.’ I first became aware of the metaphor of the subway as underworld in 2009 in The Urban Primitive (Kaldera & Schwartztein), a technopagan manifesto for the re-sacralization and positive re-mythologization of urban space as opposed to an anti-urbanist “demonology of technology,” (Haraway) encouraging the reader to “find nature in the city.” (Wilson, 8) Thus we go down to travel through the underworld but, like Dante and Orpheus, we do so while still alive, and we make it back to the overworld, sometimes slightly different than when we went in. There can be an introspective component to going underground (where even phone signal cannot reach us), one that encourages us to dig deep within ourselves, sometimes to confront repressed material, to learn to confront and tame our inner demons without bracketing them, and to look for catharsis. The metro ‘buries the body’ metaphorically, insofar as it puts us in situations in which we must pretend to ourselves that our bodies do not exist, emphasizing “consciousness over corporeality,” (Grosz, 49) but if the body is buried, how can it “inform the mind of its needs and wishes?” (48) Yet considering the pace of action on metro stations, and the importance of being able to read the movement of the crowd to navigate it, the body takes on an important role to convey and perceive messages from other bodies as fast as possible through body language, becoming “a signifying medium, a vehicle of expression,” (Grosz, 51) our ‘means of communication with the world.’ (Merleau-Ponty, 54)

We will remember that, in the Middle Ages, it was considered important that the king be physically situated above all of his subjects, because anything otherwise would have been seen as a challenge to the superiority of the king over his subjects. Today, the upper class flies around in private jets, the middle class drives around in cars, and the lower class rides around on the metro, as though they still had to be both literally and metaphorically ‘below’ the classes that are supposed to be ‘better’ than they are. For a long time I would be disoriented if I had nothing to hold onto when the wagon would start. Today, when it happens, I try to play into it and ‘ride’ the metro as though it were a very large surfboard or snowboard built for my amusement. I try to think of navigating the crowd as just another kind of puzzle game where the pieces are always moving. Street musicians and performance artists are taken for granted on metro stations, in ways that can ‘normalize the carnivalesque.’ (Wilson, 7) But Lionel-Groulx station is notable in another way that reminds us that it is not always safe to be childlike on the metro, and that it supports hierarchy not only along the axes of gender, race, and class, but of age. It is one of the locations on which a mosquito device was installed, targeting the hearing of anyone under 25 to make space physically painful and uninhabitable for them, discouraging them from loitering or leaving graffiti by controlling space through the weaponization of sound, regardless of the form of discrimination and assault that it represents against young people. (Herland)

Finally, the metro is a space that was “organized and written to perpetuate disablist practices,” (Kitchin, 346) and the metro lines “just weren’t built with people with disabilities in mind.” (Titchkosky, 42) Haraway theorizes that “Perhaps paraplegics and other severely handicapped people can (and sometimes do) have the most intense experiences of complex hybridization.” Technologies such as wheelchairs “allow the body itself to be extended,” yet technology in the form of the metro is more of a “tool that does not extend its capacity for action,” making it a space “made for some kinds of bodies more than others.”  (Ahmed, 51) It is difficult to take claims by the STM seriously that they take the accessibility of their services for the disabled into consideration when their gates literally close on the broken legs of disabled people trying to use their services, only to have it dismissed as ‘unfortunate’ even as their plans for improved access drag so far behind schedule. (CBC News, Wheelchair user demands…) The STM blames lack of funds, reportedly making do with $80 million rather than the $240 million it was said to need to complete its 10 year plan from 2008 to 2018 to make 3 stations accessible a year, and claims its original plan was ‘overly ambitious.’ (CBC News, Montreal’s public transport…) The gap from ledges to wagons may require the help of an attendant, and there are only 8 stations that can be accessed by elevators, less than 10% of the sum total of stations, with no attendant at Cote-Vertu station. (STM Website) I have seen disabled people occupying the spaces reserved for them in certain wagons, but I have not seen the journey that took them there, or on their way out. The human rights complaint is evidence enough of its unacceptability.

Since protests against lack of accessibility for disabled people go all the way back to 1988, the STM can be said to have had all the necessary information to know that something was wrong then and there. If the STM had started its “3 stations a year” plan all the way back then, and continued it reliably onward as it was supposed to, it would have finished making all of its stations accessible approximately 4 years ago – not 70 years from now. The problems of the agoraphobic/claustrophobic and of the physically disabled on the metro are notably different, and they cannot be addressed via the same methods, but there is a larger sense in which their cause is one and the same. That is, the right to have access to transportation that makes it possible to exist as a meaningful part of the public, social world, regardless of the circumstances that have led you to be the person you are. The personal is undeniably political in each case. Moreover, the culture of ignoring the problems of others, the culture of ‘it is not my problem’, the unconscious Social Darwinism that the structural configuration of the metro implants into the habitus of its users, is in each case a logical leading point toward the bracketing of its inaccessibility. I cannot infer that anyone else’s problems using the metro will go away with time as mine did, and the damage that they cause while they do exist is no less important now even if it is to be addressed in the future. Now I may have a negotiated reading of the space of the metro, not the oppositional one that I used to have, nor the hegemonic one that others may have, but I do know this: all of my own complaints aside, when it all comes down to it, I can no longer take for granted that I can still at all, at this point in time, venture down into the belly of the beast through the turnstiles, darkly.

Bibliography

Ahmed, Sara. (2006) Queer Phenomenology Ch. 1: Orientations Towards Objects, section “Inhabiting Spaces” (51-63). Durham: Duke University Press.

CBC News, “Montreal’s public transport plan falters,” 14 August 2013, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-s-public-transport-plan-falters-1.1381366

CBC News, “Wheelchair user demands better Montreal metro access,” 15 August 2013, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/wheelchair-user-demands-better-montreal-metro-access-1.1356743

Debord, Guy. “Theory of the Dérive and Definitions.” In Gieseking, Jen J. And William Mangold, (Eds.), The People, Place, and Space Reader. (65-69). London: Routledge.

Grosz, Elizabeth. (2005). Reconfiguring Bodies. In Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco (Eds.), The Body: A Reader (47-51). London: Routledge.

Haraway, Donna. (1991). “Cyborg–Manifesto.” IN SIMIANS, CYBORGS AND WOMEN: THE REINVENTION OF NATURE. New York: Routledge, 149-181.

Herland, Karen, “Hear and Now: Sound Map,” Concordia University Journal, 7 May 2009, http://cjournal.concordia.ca/archives/20090507/hear_and_now_sound_map.php

Kitchin, Rob. (1998) “‘Out of Place’, ‘Knowing One’s Place’ : Space, Power and Exclusion of Disabled People”, Disability & Society, 13, 3, 343-356.

Merleau-Ponty. (2009). The Experience of the Body and Classical Psychology. In Mariam Fraser and Monica Greco (Eds.), The Body: A Reader (52-54). London: Routledge.

Schwartzstein, Tannin & Kaldera, Raven, “The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle,” Llewellyn Publications, October 2002.

http://www.stm.info/en/access/using-public-transit-wheelchair

Titchkosky, Tanya. (2008). “To Pee or Not to Pee?” Ordinary Talk about Extraordinary Exclusions in a University Environment “, Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, 33(1): 37-56.

Wilson, Elizabeth. (1991). The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women. Ch.1- Into the Labyrinth. (1-11). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Blog Post 3

Online space presents specific opportunities and challenges for the negotiation of the boundaries between the private and public spheres. At first it can appear as a space in which to vent about private problems under a veil of anonymity, yet the more publically one begins to appear as part of online discussions, the more authentic expression can become forced to take a backseat to how self-presentation may affect future interactions with the people involved. Many of us may be disquieted by the amount of intrusion into our private lives may be granted to the authorities by the reach of online surveillance into our daily lives as it rifles through our chats, emails and Facebooks. However, there have also been instances in online space such as Wikileaks in which it was the privacy of the powerful that was laid out for all the world to see, and police hashtags have been hijacked by victims to reveal cases of police brutality.

The interaction between media such as portable phones and ‘real’ space has created a differential space that has opened up possibilities that were previously inherent in neither. Nowadays, when many of us go out, we would no longer be able to find our ways around easily if we did not have access to online maps on our phones, and would feel disconnected from everything in our lives. Rather than thinking of ourselves as tethered to our phones, we can think of portable phones as opening up practices such as dérive to us while still allowing us to remain connected to friends, family, professional opportunities and emergency services. Police forces have learned to distrust the filming and photography by the phone cameras of protesters and activists, and the campaign to hold them accountable by forcing them all to wear one at all times has been far from incidental.

Online space can be an empowering space for transfolk, especially for those who have not yet transitioned. It can provide them with more control over how they represent themselves in a way which serves as a truer reflection of their inner self, and allow them to connect with a wider community that they could not otherwise reach. However, it can also expose them to the same kinds of harassment as other members of their true gender are exposed to online, or to online harassment for publically appearing online as trans. The devaluation of virtual space can be semantically linked to the devaluation of transfolk, as they revolve around the use of artificial constructs of what counts as ‘real’ or ‘natural’ and what does not to enact social control.

The proliferation of online sex work can be viewed through the lens of seeing the Internet as the space where much of sex workers migrated after being pushed out of RL space. In terms of class it must be remembered that online access is not always as easily to the lower class as to the upper class. Online space can become a public forum for race issues such as the Ferguson debacle, yet there are also limits to what it can accomplish, and while there are counter movements to present alternate models, online space is still unfortunately often used to reproduce whiteness-based standards of beauty. Online censorship across the web betrays various ideological underpinnings, and violence is usually treated with much more leniency than even positive sexuality.

How can we best re-appropriate contested online space so that it does not merely serve as a way to extend the reach of the powerful, but as a means of action for the disempowered?

How ‘Defensive Architecture’ Is Ruining Our Cities

http://gizmodo.com/how-defensive-architecture-is-ruining-our-cities-1687215926/+cherylvis

Cities have always struggled with the tension between the different needs of social classes who share the space. But as The Guardian documents, a new trend of defensive — and some times overtly hostile — architecture is changing the urban landscape, and not in a good way.

Defensive architecture refers to modifications of buildings and public space, often too subtle to be noticed by the general public, designed to discourage certain groups of people from loitering. ‘Homeless spikes’, studs in the ground that prevent people from sleeping rough, are the most obvious example, but it can include things like slanting windowsills to stop people sitting, benches with armrests that make it impossible to lie down, or sprinklers that intermittently come on but aren’t really watering anything.

But as Alex Andreou explains in the feature, defensive architecture hurts more than just the homeless:

There is a wider problem, too. These measures do not and cannot distinguish the “vagrant” posterior from others considered more deserving. When we make it impossible for the dispossessed to rest their weary bodies at a bus shelter, we also make it impossible for the elderly, for the infirm, for the pregnant woman who has had a dizzy spell. By making the city less accepting of the human frame, we make it less welcoming to all humans. By making our environment more hostile, we become more hostile within it.

Against a backdrop of increasing urbanisation, Andreou raises an important point. As cities grow in size and density, we’ll need to be careful to ensure that the space is welcoming to everyone. Sticking spikes in the ground probably isn’t a great way to ensure that.

Blog Post 2: Re-Orientation Exercise

The hotel I had in mind has existed since February 2003 (hotels in general have obviously been around for much longer than that). I have only been there four times in all (over the past four years) and, since it costs over a hundred dollars to get in, I am not going to be returning to it for the purposes of this post. This draws attention to the wider issue of access to and exclusion from this space based on class-based factors.

I may not consider myself rich by any means, but I cannot avoid being aware of the fact that, for an entire segment of the population, access to this space is closed off in a way which is even more restrictive than that. Being near a metro station, it can be reached easily enough by people who cannot afford to drive and who must rely on public transit to get there. The entrance has an access ramp so the hotel can accommodate the entry of people in wheelchairs, and there are supposed to be facilities in it that are specifically designed to be usable by people with physical disabilities.

Thinking of the ‘Fumeur’ misguide reminds me that the fact that the entire hotel insists on remaining a non-smoking environment makes it somewhat less accessible to smokers, who can theoretically enter but who must go outside to smoke, even in the winter cold, which must be taken into account. Having known someone who worked in hotel service a few years ago but quit after having had a hard time with it, I wonder about the quality of the working conditions of the cleaning staff who work there, and how they get treated as part of their own particular chain of command. It is often assumed that more among hotel cleaning staff are likelier to be non-white, possibly immigrants trying to make ends meet with hotel service, and that more hotel customers are going to be white, although in practice of course non-white clients and white cleaning staff are still present in most hotels.

Hotel rooms exist in a strange place in relation to the public/private dyad: on one hand they are theoretically accessible to all, which makes them public, yet while they are rented they ostensibly become private space for the people who are renting them, on the other. One may wonder about the previous and next occupants of the room one is renting, with no way to find out anything about them, but Sophie Calle’s stint as hotel cleaning staff making inferences about room renters by going through their trash raises the question of just how private a space they are. I ask myself, if I could not afford to rent the hotel room I have to clean, how kindly would I judge those who rent it?

Whereas American hotel rooms all have Bibles, Canadian hotel rooms have no such thing and, asking myself what I would want in a room if I could choose, it occurs to me how ‘modular’ this space must be, ‘reset’ from client to client. It would be intriguing to be able to leave a message to the next renter, encouraging them to leave a message to the following one, and to return later to see how far the exchange continued, yet that the space must be ‘wiped’ each time makes this impossible. Gender performance may be relaxed in private although, if two men rent one room, staff will assume they want two beds. Free Wifi invites virtual space in to superimpose itself on real space, with curtains closing off the outside glare.

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Mis-Guide: Places (Not) To Go

1) When I was a kid, I used to love spending time at libraries. They were a good place to go, where people had to be quiet anyway, where it was easy to go read to get away from the world for a bit. The library was right by where I lived, and being a kid I had a lot of free time on my hands.

            I’ve been to Vanier Library all of once. Not only do I live further away from it, but it feels longer to get there and back. With no car to get there and a schedule packed to the gills with unrelenting adult responsibilities, the idea of wasting time to go to a library to get physical books when I can avoid it has become an indulgence I couldn’t possibly imagine to afford.

            When I was a kid I didn’t own a computer. No one did. For half my lifetime, computers were for programmers. Now I never take out a book I can find online. If I can’t find a book online, I pick a different book that I can. I call it an ‘availability heuristic’. The one time I went to Vanier Library… was for a mandatory seminar on how to find books on the online library.

            I don’t think I could find it unaided to this day.

Pick a book which has been assigned for you to read for one of your classes this semester. It can be a book that only some parts of have been assigned to you, it doesn’t matter. But rather than trying to find a book online which is available in paper format, try to do the opposite. Deliberately choose a book which is already available online for you to read as part of the Concordia online reserves, maybe even that you’ve already read. Then, try to track down where it’s located in Vanier Library. Do you make it part of a trip there that you’re already making for another purpose, or are you making the whole trip for just that purpose? What else do you notice you may be able to get out of being there in person? Look at the books that are to the left and right of the physical book you’re getting, that you wouldn’t have seen online. Do they seem relevant to you, or lead you to think in new directions? How do they compare with the ones before and after the online version?

2) I’m at school. Intellectually I know I’m at school. Yet when I’m standing in front of the staircase leading all the way up to this great big Loyola building, it feels like I’m at church.

            When I first graduated from Concordia in spring 2004, I still identified as Christian. At 22, it would be the last year of my life on which this would be the case. For the whole time during which I first went to Concordia, whenever I’d see that building, it’d make me feel like I belonged there, as though it echoed part of the person I used to be.

            Now from the vantage point of the person I’ve become, I realize that you can’t go home again. I may be able to go back to school, but I can’t go back to the person I was when I went, nor would I choose to. School even contributed to leading me down this path in the first place. In my mind, I’ve decided to become what I think of as a rational person and, in my mind, I know I’m at school.

            Yet somewhere deep down, standing in front of this building, I feel small before God.

Look around the Loyola campus to see if you can even tell which building I’m referring to. A lot of them look like churches, don’t they? It’s not easy to tell which one anyone would be referring to by calling it that. Take a picture of one or two of them that strike you as particularly church-like. Try to find someone who doesn’t go to Concordia or, failing that, at least someone who doesn’t go to Loyola campus. Show them a picture of one of the Loyola buildings that you’ve photographed next to a picture of an actual church. How many of the people who don’t know which is which do you think are going to be able to tell the difference between the school and the church? How do you find that your own psycho-emotional state gets influenced by the religious architecture? How do you read it based on the experience of your own life script?

3) So we’re supposed to write a blog post about ourselves for this class. Interesting. I still identified as straight when I first graduated here, also for the last year I would. After having come back here, it took me almost a whole semester to come out to some of my teachers and classmates, however gay-positive the material and class atmosphere may have been.

As I hesitate as to how personal it’s appropriate to get, I notice that some of the other students are writing about and posting pictures of people with who they’re in heterosexual, monogamous relationships. I start to ask myself, if I hide the same part of my life, as though I’m ashamed of it, even in contradiction with the ostensible learning environment, what kind of message am I really sending? And if I only mention one, how is it fair to the other, equal one?

            I didn’t set out for this, and I can’t believe I’m about to, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t seem to justify anything else to myself. If we hide we will always remain invisible. The virtual space of the blog is created to supplement the real space of the classroom.

But when you step back from the blog into the classroom that made it possible, the virtual is made real all over again.

Remember Sophie Calle’s project in which she followed people around in the city to see where they went and try to make sense of what it meant in wider terms. Last semester we were supposed to make a Twitter for my mass communication class. It’s still up – everything we said for the class is still up. We ostensibly put things about ourselves up on the Internet so that people will see them. The Internet is supposed to be public space, accessible to all, yet we think of it as disconnected from RL, so what we put about ourselves on it seems like it should be private *in RL contexts*. Think of some of your classmates whose names you know by now. How much do you think you’d be able to find about what kind of person they’re like if you tried to look up what they’ve chosen to show about themselves online? Do you think it would change how you feel about them if you learned things about them you don’t expect? Do you feel exposed at the thought of being looked up?

4) I’m having a hard time adjusting to balancing my return to school as an adult. Someone, whose positive intentions I will defend to this day, suggests I turn for help to the Concordia counseling service and, not knowing any better, I accept. First they, no doubt from an era in which mobile interface was unknown, tell me I’m ‘very strange’ for calling someone on my portable phone before the session begins.

Having heard that I had a relationship, they begin to talk to me about my girlfriend and, when I tell them I have a boyfriend instead, their reaction rudely incredulous, they ask me ‘are you sure you don’t mean your roommate?’ When I try to describe my problems to them, all they do is stare at me stiffly as though they’re gawking at a freak show without contributing anything, before blaming me for how badly the session is going. At that point I elect to quietly vacate the premises.

            As I’m talking to the receptionist about whether or not it’s possible for me to lodge a complaint against the counselor assigned to me and/or to schedule an appointment with a different counselor, three security guards advance into the room. No doubt alarmed by the strange device I’m still waving about that I used earlier to make a ‘phone call’, the counselor decided the best way to respond to criticism of their job was with three armed men.

I can direct you to try to find the location of the counseling center. I can’t in good conscience recommend you go in.

The best way to do that must be not to let school drive you crazy in the first place. Good luck with that! 🙂

Blog Post 1: About Me

  1. Name, brief background and selfie

Hello! My name is Jean-Francois Bussiere. I am a returning undergraduate student to Concordia, having graduated from the English-to-French translation program in Concordia French Studies all the way back in 2004. Before that I graduated in Art History & Literature at St-Hyacinthe College on the South Shore. I am now in my fourth of five semesters after having returned to Concordia in Communications and Cultural Studies in the hopes of becoming some kind of media analyst.

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  1. What do you spend most of your time doing?

Since having graduated, I have performed work in transcription, proofreading, captioning, translation and fiction writing on a contractual basis. I have lived in fourteen different dwellings over the past ten years. I have never owned a car. I like to read, write, take pictures, listen to music, shop, talk to my friends, bake, do martial arts, clean, play games and watch TV. I live here in Montreal with my two wonderful boyfriends.

  1. What is your goal for the class?

I am interested in how people use body language to encourage/discourage distance/proximity in different situations (introvert/extrovert, agoraphobia, claustrophobia);

in imagining new ways of moving through space;

in how people accept or reject ownership of/belonging to different spaces;

and in reimagining the disposition of spaces to change the relations of power they imply.

  1. What is one of your favorite spaces? Describe it. Why? How do you use your body to be in that space? What bodies are excluded from that space? Interrogate any of your immediate characteristics of that space (peaceful, belongs to me, historic, etc). Include a link/image/video/etc.

I know it sounds stupid but I like being in hotel rooms. There is everything you need for the night, and you do not need to worry about where you are from or where you are going, only about getting through the night. All sensory cues encourage rest. You do not need to sit up or stand up straight but you can lounge and stretch to your heart’s content. They are rare and temporary, so they create the impression of this place that exists outside of the boundaries of normal space-time, a short vacation from everyday life. Being expensive they are excluded from those who cannot pay in general, but on a more positive level they can exclude the world and its concerns from the boundaries of a particular space.

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  1. What are the five things faculty do that make learning hard? & what are the five things faculty do that make it easy to learn?

Hard:

1 Difficulty accessing material online

2 Unclear assignment guidelines

3 Limited feedback on assignments

4 Necessity of teamwork

5 Adapting to new structures like WordPress

Easy:

1 Approachable, understanding teachers

2 Conducive atmosphere to free expression of ideas

3 Adaptability based on students’ strengths and weaknesses

4 Original, attention-grabbing approaches to teaching

5 Perceptible personal engagement of teachers with the material