Off-Topic | Alicia Eler

January 7, 2010 · Print This Article

Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome Alicia Eler as our latest guest with her post, “Where did all the Tweets go? A conversation lost on Twitter”.  Alicia is a writer, critic, curator and the Arts & Culture Community Manager of

Where did all the Tweets go? A conversation lost on Twitter


Is it easier and more efficient to host conversations on Twitter or Facebook? This was my only question when I began research for this blog post. Things changed when Twitter lost the conversation, which is ironic because the conversation is the entire point of Twitter.

I, @aliciaeler, organized what was to be my first of many conversations about lesbian movies on Twitter. The conversation would begin with tweets from Chicago celesbians @trishtype, the Blog Editor; lesbian erotic fiction writer @deviantdyke; queer sex blogger @annapulley; freelance writer and bonafide lesbian @jennispinner; and ChicagoNow tattoo blogger/ music blogger @chubbyjones. Later, we could move to Facebook and try it again. For the Twitter convo, @jennispinner and I came up with the idea to label tweets with hashtag #lezflix. The chat began promptly at 2pm on Tuesday, November 24, 2009, and lasted well over the 10 minutes we had originally planned. Lesbian twitterers from all over the country jumped in. Read more

My water just broke. Hang on–gotta Tweet that!

August 12, 2009 · Print This Article

Last Monday, a woman Tweeted that her water broke moments after the event occurred. And it was a long Tweet too – close to the 140 character limit. I guess it was bound to happen.  Now, to be fair, she’s not just any woman, she’s Sara Morishige Williams, the spouse of Twitter founder Ev Williams–probably the only person one would expect to Tweet at such a moment–and it was very early on in her labor. But still. I’m not one of Williams’ Twitter followers, but upon learning of this news of course I had to know how far into the labor she got whilst hanging on to her iPhone (wow–you’ve gotta be pretty good with that thing if you’re able to type on it with clenched fists).

Turns out, not too far. Her last Tweet before officially becoming a mother read: “Epidural, yes please.” I can’t help but think she kinda punked out by not Tweeting throughout the delivery. I mean, she’s the wife of Twitter’s CEO, for God’s sake, shouldn’t she feel some sort of cultural responsibility when it comes to this sort of thing?

Just kidding. Mostly.

Picture 10

(Via Gawker via XX Factor)

Wednesday Clips 6/17/09

June 17, 2009 · Print This Article

219_robbiecooper_jt110609_fSpecial Art PrOn Edition!!

*Visitors to the Art Institute have a jaywalking problem (Chicago Tribune).

*Getty Research Institute to close Bibliography on the History of Art (BHA, IBA) (via CAA news).

*NEA Survey indicates arts audiences getting older, scarcer (er, more scarce) (CAA News).

* Top ten best Star Wars architecture. The comparisons to real-life buildings are fascinating. (via Culture Monster).

*The history of Jewish punk.

*Shady deal: Orange County Museum of Art sells much of its plein air painting collection to a private collector. Read about it at Culture Monster and Modern Art Notes.

*I like to watch: Robbie Cooper’s Immersion: Porn (via boingboing).

*More pr0n: Russian Art Collective Voina (WAR) stages controversial exhibition (via boingboing).

*Even more pr0n!!: Highlights from the World Air Sex Championships (The XX Factor).

*Students design exhibitions that get people to talk to each other (talk! as in, ‘in person’!) (via Tomorrow Museum).

*The drawings of Chicago artist Deb Sokolow featured on Beautiful/Decay.

*You are what you Tweet: Twitter Psychology Profiling (via Avant Chicago).

*Writer Dave Eggers tells those bummed about loss of print to buck up.

*Justin Wolfe at songsaboutbuildingsandfood covers Freebird, and it’s lovely. (Thanks to Art Fag City for linking to this blog a few weeks back — I’ve been hooked ever since).

**(Image Credit: Robbie Cooper’s Immersion: Porn).

Wednesday Clips 5/27/09

May 27, 2009 · Print This Article

A webchat with Andy, Oliver Laric (

A webchat with Andy Warhol, Oliver Laric (

Here’s what’s got my attention, web-wise, so far this week:

*San Diego Museum of Art director Derrick R. Cartwright appointed director of the Seattle Art Museum.

*Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno hopes to initiate massive fundraising drive for free Museum admission.

*No Boys Allowed: yearlong exhibition at the Pompidou Center is for women-only.

*Barack Obama: The Freshman.

*Now on Vimeo: watch the NYFA Panel Discussion on ‘How the Recession Has Impacted the Art World’ (featuring Edward Winkleman, Sean Elwood, Stephanie Howe, Kay Takeda; via Edward_Winkleman).

*Scope Basil is only three weeks ago away, and still ‘aint got no permit.

*”I spent a year asking why the contemporary art bubble was the biggest, bubbliest bubble of them all”:  Ben Lewis’ The Great Contemporary Art Bubble preview clip on YouTube ( ART21′s Ben Street has a funny post on the film too).

*Boing Boing writer Joel Johnson chides Wired Online for being clueless about the importance of online media–a great post, but look to the comments for the real dirt. (via ArtFagCity’s Twitter).

*Speaking of Twitter, it could be coming to a t.v. near you.

*Grrr. Argh: Monster Kid Home Movies (via Boing Boing).

*Pierogi’s famed flat files now searchable online. (via Art Fag City).

*A live conversation with a dead Andy Warhol, via psychic via webchat (via

*Beautiful/Decay needs YOU to help pick the theme for its next limited-edition publication. Winner gets a copy of the book. For free!

*Applications for the 2009 William H. Johnson Prize are now available. Due date is July 31st. (Via Artipedia).

Searching for Bruce Sterling

April 20, 2009 · Print This Article

Yesterday afternoon I read Virginia Heffernan’s essay, “Let Them Eat Tweets: Why Twitter is a trap,” in the New York Times Magazine, and so interesting did I find it that for a good part of this morning and afternoon I bounced around the internet trying to find a podcast or YouTube video or any other web-style recording of Bruce Sterling’s speech at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive conference so I could listen to his words in context–to no freakin’ avail, I might add.

Heffernan wrote about feeling a certain sense of personal status anxiety ever since she heard Sterling (whose rants are an annual highlight of SXSW Interactive) declare at this year’s conference that, as Heffernan paraphrased it,

“the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on ‘connections’ like the Internet, Skype and texting. ‘Poor folk love their cellphones!’ (Sterling) said.”

Or in other words, as “a friend” quoted in Heffernan’s essay put it, “connectivity is poverty.” Heffernan elaborates on Sterling’s ideas as follows:

“Only the poor — defined broadly as those without better options — are obsessed with their connections. Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away. The man of leisure, Sterling suggested, savors solitude, or intimacy with friends, presumably surrounded by books and film and paintings and wine and vinyl — original things that stay where they are and cannot be copied and corrupted and shot around the globe with a few clicks of a keyboard.”

Although I’ve yet to find a recording or even a transcript of Sterling’s talk, I did find one blog entry that provided some partial notes on the beginning of the speech (in which Sterling apparently munched on chips and cookies to mirror back what he saw as the inattentive twittering (m)asses in his audience), and that of another blogger named Jim Groom, whose Bavatuesdays blog was referenced in the print version of Heffernan’s article (I think he might have been the author of the “connectivity is poverty” quote, based on the header of his below-referenced blog post), and who summarized Sterling’s argument thusly:

Bruce Sterling’s rant was right on. I was hoping to listen to it again before I talked about it in more detail. In fact, I’ll have to do that cause I can only recall bits and pieces, but there was a point in his stream of thought that really impressed me (well, besides his discussion of the future of publishing as epitomized by survivalist bookstores like Brave New Books—which I loved). He went off about how much we had miscalculated the digital divide theories of the 90s that were to define the digital world of haves and have-nots by whether they were or weren’t connected. It seemed logical to assume that the impoverished would not be connected, whereas the rich would be decadently consuming all the bandwidth.

Well, as he pointed out, it didn’t quite work out that way, connectivity became cheap with cellphones, and he comically noted that “poor folk love their cellphones!” What’s happening is that this increased dependence upon connectivity, rather than being some kind of indicator of privilege, is actually a sign of our increased impoverishment. The fact is that the wealthy are those who can afford not to be connected, not to be pimping their “online brand” so shamelessly, not twittering their asses off at all hours of the day for a quick networking fix.

Note that Groom couldn’t get his hands on Sterling’s talk either, although at least he got to see it in person before writing about it.

Continuing my own search for the elusive Bruce talk brought me to the very, very cool sketchnotes of one Mike Rohde.  Here is a page from Rohde’s sketchnotes on the talk in question:

Mike Rohde, Sketchnotes captured on-site and live in a Moleskine pocket sketchbook while attending SXSW Interactive, March 13-17, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

Mike Rohde, Sketchnotes captured on-site and live in a Moleskine pocket sketchbook while attending SXSW Interactive, March 13-17, 2009 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

Cool, no? I like how he got all the good pull quotes from the speech. Note too that Rohde’s notes have Sterling saying, “connectivity will be an indicator of poverty rather than an indicator of wealth,” and not connectivity = poverty.

What Rohde is doing is partly a tweak on Twitter (he even live sketchnoted during one  panel) but look at the difference — the drawing/handmade font aspect of Rohde’s notes make it seem so friendly and, well, readable, but also human and therefore subjective.  (You can find all of Rohde’s sketchnotes on Sterling’s talk (they’re sketchnotes 51-56) here, and sketchnotes for the entire SXSW interactive conference here.)

So, from the high of discovering Rohde’s hand-written sketchnotes I descended to the low of Twitter itself, to see what would come up if I searched “Bruce Sterling.” Ooh, now this is kind of interesting. Lots of initial reaction to the Heffernan piece, many seem to be wrongly assuming that the article was written by Sterling himself. Here are a few examples of Tweets related specifically to the Heffernan piece and/or the talk itself (make sure to follow the link to Dan’s blog given in the first Tweet – it gets a comment that’s apparently from Sterling himself, criticizing the blogger for critiquing a talk he didn’t actually attend):

natdefreitas: Dan from @peekinc took on Bruce Sterling‘s comment that “poor people sure love talking on their cell phones”

jedibunny: good grief, tweeting makes me feel so impoverished now. darn you bruce sterling.

jtzl: great article about twitter is for poor people – reeks of insecurity. bruce sterling is the ultimate troll.

marcad: “Futurists” like Bruce Sterling who live high on foppish universities, city budgets, & grand pronouncements are just another symbol.

Argh, I didn’t realize you can only search the past 7 days of Twitter, so recent chatter is all I get, that sucks. So no Tweet-notes on Sterling’s talk, just some quick (and often ill-informed) reactions to the “Poor folks love their cellphones!” quote from Heffernan’s piece.

And last, via Google, I come up with this little sketch, from what I think may be Bruce Sterling’s own flickr stream, though I’m not really sure. The caption under the photo reads: “In Austin, even the 12-year-olds get it about Twitter.”

So what does this all mean? Heck if I know. But I do find it incredibly ironic and stupid and maybe brilliant–but maybe not so much–that Sterling gave this talked-about talk at one of the biggest freaking INTERACTIVE conferences in the country, he’s one of the cultural cognoscenti whose opinion, on certain issues anyway, drives the discourse forward. He puts ideas on people’s agendas, makes writers like Heffernan rethink their assumptions and publicly question them, etc. But I can’t even find audio or video of his talk anywhere online that would allow me to form my *own* opinion about what he said firsthand (well, a recording would make it sorta second-hand, but you know what I mean). As a result I’m forced to depend on other people’s truncated versions, reliable though they may at first appear. Maybe SXSW will eventually post a podcast of Sterling’s 2009 talk, although the conference took place over a month ago, which is an eternity in internet time. Even I probably won’t care about it anymore by the time they post it. Who knows, maybe Sterling didn’t want to give them permission to reproduce his talk in the first place, in an effort to preserve some semblance of ‘the old days’ of which he is said to have spoken.  From live talk to magazine editorializing to blogger’s notes to Tweets…social networking isn’t worth much if all it comes down to is gossip. I want access to the real stuff, not just everyone’s opinion, commentary and tweets about it.  In other words, if anyone finds a link to Sterling’s speech at the 2009 SXSW Interactive conference, please let me know! Thank you.