“Sobre la Zona Río” en “Tijuana de papel”

Un fragmento de mi libro Sobre vivir Tijuana apareció en la antología Tijuana de papel, editada por Humberto Félix Berumen, Tijuana: IMAC, 2019, pp. 173-175.

Tijuana de papel

El Paseo de los Héroes, una de las arterias viales de la Zona Río, está lleno de esculturas en cada cruce o glorieta importante, a lo largo de cuatro cuadras largas. Si se viene del este hacia la Línea, la primera es una estatua de Lázaro Cárdenas, prácticamente en medio del cruce con Sánchez Taboada, justo en la esquina del antiguo predio del Casino Aguacaliente, ahora Preparatoria Federal Lázaro Cárdenas y Escuela Secundaria Técnica núm. 1. A contra esquina de la estatura se encuentra la Plaza del Maestro, con una escultura de arte abstracto.

Al seguir rumbo a la Línea, el siguiente entronque es con el boulevard Abelardo Rodríguez, alrededor de cuya glorieta hay un café y un hotel. El monumento aquí es una estatua de Ignacio Zaragoza, quien debido a su supuesto nacimiento en una población mexicana que ahora es parte del territorio estadounidense se volvió importante para los mexicano-estadounidenses, al grado que el día de celebración nacional de México en Estados Unidos es el 5 de mayo (en lugar del 15 de septiembre), que es precisamente la Batalla de Puebla, que ganó Zaragoza. Es interesante esta elección para una estatua y no la de César Chávez, por ejemplo, quien luchó por los derechos humanos y laborales de los mexicano-estadounidenses. Sin embargo, no hay que olvidar que se tenía proyectado que el nombre de la ciudad fuera Ciudad Zaragoza.

Más adelante, cruzando un hotel, se llega al entronque con el Boulevard Diego Rivera, donde se encuentra la escultura de Abraham Lincoln. Anteriormente, la oficina consular estadounidense en la que se aprobaban o rechazaban las solicitudes de visa se encontraba precisamente sobre Diego Rivera. Cuando me dieron la visa de turista, lo primero que vi al salir del consulado fue a Lincoln con unas cadenas rotas en la mano, que simbolizan la abolición de la esclavitud y al mismo tiempo la libertad que supuestamente ofrece la promesa estadounidense. Era un poco perturbador que dicha estatua estuviera tan cerca del Consulado. Si la visa era otorgada, quien salía observaba en ella dicha promesa. Si la visa era rechazada, no es difícil pensar que uno es parte de los eslabones que Lincoln aprieta, lo que puede alentar una lectura contrahecha del monumento: la opresión o perpetuación de la esclavitud.

El entronque con boulevard Cuauhtémoc, así como la enorme glorieta que se hace en medio, puede ser quizá el hito espacial más importante en términos simbólicos para los tijuanenses. Es el sitio que han elegido para manifestarse, ya sea por movimientos político-sociales o para celebrar las victorias de los equipos de futbol. Quizás esta elección se deba a que la glorieta es un punto neurálgico de la ciudad, y por lo tanto de gran visibilidad, pues conecta a la Zona Centro, la Zona Río y el este de la ciudad. Hay un meme que recurrentemente suben a las redes sociales cuando ganan los Xolos o la selección nacional, donde la estatua de Cuauhtémoc reclama: “¡Otra vez ya vienen a fregar!”.

Entre la Plaza del Zapato, la Plaza Río, el Cecut y un McDonald’s (toda una metáfora de Tijuana: la fiesta, el consumismo, la cultura y las cadenas comerciales gringas en un mismo cruce) se ubica la glorieta Independencia, en el entronque de Paseo de los Héroes con el boulevard del mismo nombre, que antes del cruce todavía se llama Décima o Sarabia. Aquí la escultura es el Monumento México, apodado a veces “Las Tijeras”, o por algunos amigos como “El matabachas”.

A vista de pájaro o en un mapa, parecería muy fácil integrar las partes administrativa, cultural y comercial de Tijuana (Cecut, Plaza Río, ICBC y el Ayuntamiento) en una misma área, pero el río Tijuana siempre se interpone. La imposibilidad de construir sobre el canal socava toda posibilidad de integración de esta área urbana. El río es el constante recordatorio de la parte macilenta de la ciudad que muchos sectores temen o no pueden aceptar: la existencia de sectores en condición de vulnerabilidad, la drogadicción, la migración precaria, la innegable realidad de personas que, si no tienen dónde dormir, van a parar ahí. Es difícil no conceptualizar, en el corazón mismo de los puntos administrativos y comerciales más importantes de Tijuana, al río como una herida constantemente abierta que se rehúsa a cicatrizar, una marca inamovible de esa parte negada de la ciudad, incluso cuando tiraron “Cartolandia”, o cuando más recientemente desalojaron a todos los indigentes y destruyeron los ñongos o chozas subterráneas que utilizaban para esconderse, protegerse del clima y drogarse.

Taller: prácticas archivísticas digitales en torno a la inscripción del sonido

Cartel Taller Prácticas Archivísticas Morelia 2019

Prácticas archivísticas digitales en torno a la inscripción del sonido

UNAM Morelia – 7 y 8 de octubre, 2009

Este taller busca proporcionar una serie de marcos teóricos a las y los participantes que les faciliten conceptualizar nociones como legibilidad, voz y escucha, así como reforzar sus perspectivas críticas frente al proceso de concepción y desarrollo de un proyecto archivístico, documental o de divulgación en torno a prácticas sonoras, particularmente la inscripción del sonido a través de formatos y materialidades digitales. Algunos de los conceptos principales a tratar son el sesgo en la centralidad de las teorías sobre la textualidad en los estudios sonoros, las técnicas de inscripción sonora basadas en presupuestos no-textuales (desde la creación y uso de instrumentos musicales hasta las grabaciones de audio análogas y digitales), las distintas iniciativas de documentación de objetos sonoros a través de esquemas de metadatos (Dublin Core, MODS etc.), así como algunos estudios de caso dentro de las humanidades digitales y el campo de la composición musical en las Américas.

Como parte de las actividades de difusión y catalogación de PoéticaSonoraMX, el presente taller busca dar a conocer de manera pragmática las premisas básicas del proyecto y exponer el campo teórico-metodológico dentro del cual se desarrolla el prototipo del repositorio digital en audio (RDA), uno de los proyectos principales del grupo.

Primera sesión

Bases Teórico-Metodológicas

  1. El “mito” de los estudios sonoros en eterno surgimiento (15-25 mins.)

1.1 El “giro auditivo” (Sterne 2003, 2012; Gitelman 1999, 2006; Birdsall y Ens 2008)

1.2 Los repositorios en audio digitales: EE UU (Ubuweb y PennSound)

1.3 Los repositorios en audio digitales: Canada (SpokenWeb)

1.4 Los repositorios en audio digitales: México (Cecilia.com.mx y Palabra Virtual)

1.5 Implicaciones de la atención a la inscripción sonora (y la auralización de la literatura)

1.5.1 Más enfoque en el plano sensorial

1.5.2 Refuerza la refutación a un origen único de la obra artística

1.5.3 Atomización de la obra sonora

1.5.4 Distanciamiento de una noción texto-céntrica de la creación humana

  1. Prácticas textuales de inscripción sonora (25-30 mins.)

2.1 Cancioneros y antologías de “poesía popular”

2.2 Notación musical y notaciones experimentales

2.3 Escritura creativa y etnográfica

  1. Prácticas no textuales de inscripción sonora (30-35 mins.)

3.1 Grabación análoga y digital en formato audio

3.2 Corporalizaciones del sonido (canto, ronquidos, beatbox, etc.)

3.3 Interpretación musical con instrumentos

3.4 Ejemplos / Sección práctica con escucha atenta de varias piezas sonoras

3.3.1 Ensambles de música medieval y renacentista (Eduardo Paniagua, Unicornio, Jacques Janequin, Grupo Segrel)

                        3.3.2 Declamación poética de “poesía popular” (Ignacio López Tarso lee corridos de Zapata; Seamus Heaney lee su traducción de Beowulf; las versiones del mio Cid)

                        3.4.3 Canto latinoamericano (Chela Cervantes)

  1. Sesión de discusión, preguntas y conclusiones de la sesión (20-30 mins)

Segunda sesión

Lenguajes de marcado y consulta para la digitalización de la inscripción sonora (textos y grabaciones)

  1. Lenguajes de marcado, programación y consulta en las humanidades digitales

1.1 Ambiente LAMP (7-10 mins.)

1.1.1. Otras opciones, WAMP, XAMPP, etc.

1.2 Open Access (7-10 mins.)

                        1.1.1. Mandatos de OA en EE.UU. y Canadá

1.1.2 Estado de OA en México y Latinoamérica

1.3 Estándares de esquemas de metadatos (7-10 mins.)

                        1.3.1. Dublin Core

                        1.3.2 MODS

                        1.3.3 Biblioteca del Congreso de EE.UU.

                        1.3.4. Otros

1.4 Programación o high-end (C++, Python) (7-10 mins.)

1.5 Consulta (SQL) (7-10 mins.)

1.4.1 PoéticaSonoraMX

1.6 Marcado (XML) (26-30 mins.)

1.5.1 Aplicaciones del XML a la vida cotidiana: Citas (Word, Zotero, RefWorks)

1.5.2 Proyectos académicos (TEI, Petrarchive, Italian Rennaisance Project)

1.5.3 Codificación de la música (MusicXML, MEI)

1.7 Otros lenguajes de marcado: JSON y las bases de datos no-relacionales (7-10 mins.)

1.8 Centros de formación (7-10 mins.)

1.8.1 Digital Humanities Summer Institute

1.8.2 DGTIC UNAM

  1. Sesión de discusión, preguntas y conclusiones finales (15-20 mins)

 

Bibliografía

Armijo, C. E. (2000). Poesía y música en el Cantar de Mio Cid: los sonidos de la épica. Acta poética, 21(1-2), 109-119.

Bernstein, C. (2009). Making Audio Visible: The Lessons of Visual Language for the Textualization of Sound. Textual Practice, 23(6), 959-973. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09502360903361550

Birdsall, C., & Enns, A. (2008). Introduction. En C. Birdsall, & A. Enns (Edits.), Sonic Mediations: Body, Sound, Technology (págs. 1-9). Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Burstyn, S. (1997). In Quest of the Period Ear. Early Music, 25(4), 692-697, 699-701.

Camlot, J. (2012). The Sound of Canadian Modernisms: The Sir George Williams University Poetry Series, 1966-74. Journal of Canadian Studies, 46(3), 28-59.

Filreis, A. (2015). Notes on Paraphonotextiality. Amodern(4). Recuperado el 28 de abril de 2019, de http://amodern.net/article/paraphonotexuality/

Gitelman, L. (1999). Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Gitelman, L. (2006). Always Already There: Media, History, and the Data of Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press.

González Aktories, S. (Noviembre de 2017b). Del coleccionismo como afición a la apuesta por la visibilización de las “voces que dejan huellas”. Recuperado el 11 de septiembre de 2019, de PoéticaSonora: https://poeticasonora.mx/Voces-que-dejan-huellas

Leñero, C. (2006). El caracol sonoro: reflexiones semiológicas sobre el lenguaje de la música en relación con la poesía. México: UNAM.

Ochoa Gautier, A. M. (2014). Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Ninetheenth-Century Colombia. Durham: Duke University Press.

Sterne, J. (2003). The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction. Durham: Duke University Press.

Sterne, J. (2012). MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Durham: Duke University Press.

#PrataOmDet [#TalkAboutIt]: Grey zones in Julian Assange’s sexual scandal

[Originally written in 2012]

Julian Assange’s extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault accusations is a subject that up to this day has not been finished; on December 5, 2011, Assange’s case was considered to be of general public importance, and as such should be considered by the British Supreme Court (CNN, 2011). Much can be speculated now, but until this story reaches an end we can get a proper answer for the gender and power implications surrounding this case. Although there are many legal, political, and even economical implications on this subject, in this article I will only focus on the representations in English-speaking newspapers and press media (mainly British or from Commonwealth nations), whether stereotypical or progressive, hostile or supportive, from big news companies as well as from freelance journalists, and the implications of such processes of representation in an equitable representation of women’s and men’s interests. In the end, I argue, the stereotypical polarity between feminism and misogyny is render unbridgeable, and considered not to have been really engaged for a change.

 

  1. Overview: Assange as an agent of socio-political and historical reality

The circumstances and factors surrounding Julian Assange’s relevance in international politics (the release US classified cables, many of which are related to the country’s foreign relations), empowered him and gave him a leading role in nowadays political, social, and historical reality. In this sense, it is clear that those who are most affected by the leaks would want to get him off as soon as possible. This situation is acidly illustrated on a Saturday Night Live sketch, where Bill Hader played Julian Assange sabotaging several television broadcasts, including one by president Barack Obama talking about US troops in Afghanistan, one by Master Card’s Diane Foster denouncing Wikileaks supporters for having attacked the company’s website, and another by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about his being declared Person of the Year by Time in 2010.  Hader/Assange’s interventions include a parody of television program TMZ, where political figures like Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Hillary Clinton, and –uncannily– the now late Gadafi are “wikileaked;” the mention of websites that Wikileaks supporters must attack if Assange is kept on British prison; and a list of differences between him and Zuckerberg. At the end of each broadcast, Julian Assange asks people to keep in mind that no matter how he dies, even if there is a suicide note, “even if there’s a video of me peacefully dying by natural causes,” it was murder. Of course, although all these events distort the complex nature of the Wikileaks affair, and this is further nuanced by the parodic, constant references and jokes to many other situations and characters, it does highlight the two most important characteristics that give Wikileaks its strength: 1) the political power he has acquired by the release in his site of sensible information on relevant topics for world politics, a feature which in the SNL sketch is compared with the effect produced by entertainment and gossip journalism, and 2) the social consequences that the release of such information might have, represented in the attack of so-called “Wikileaks supporters,” but that can be further exemplified by the effect that some leaked cables have had on the Tunisian revolution and in general in the “Arab spring” demonstrations and uprisings since 2010 (The Guardian, 2011).

It must be said from the beginning that Wikileaks is not, as the SNL sketches imply, a terrorist organization, although it is constantly portrayed by politicians as such (see The Guardian, 2010). The attacks to pages like Master Card, PayPal and Amazon (the latter being eerily prophesied by one of the SNL sketches) were perpetrated by Anonymous members, and neither them or Assange have claimed affiliation of Wikileaks to Anonymous’ agenda (The Register, 2010). But Assange has basically not been extradited to the US because he is not an American citizen (something Bill Hader jokes about: “You try me for treason—you can’t, ‘cause I’m from Austraila, but nice try”), not of any cyber-attack made on his behalf, as Hader’s characterization apparently wants us to believe. Since Wikileaks is in fact a news organization, and no press company has ever been judicially punished for publishing leaked documents, these attacks have not been translated into Assange’s definitive imprisonment. This is also the main, real reason why his period in British prison was so short, not because of the attacks on websites. He paid a $315,000 bail and was put under electronically monitored house arrest (CNN, 2011).

In this context of interests in conflict, the request of the Swedish government for Assange to answer questions on a sexual assault allegation also seems to sound logical. Although not exactly a political figure, I argue that Assange’s empowerment in the political scene makes him also vulnerable to sexual-political scandals; John B. Thompson has studied the impact this type of scandals has had on the careers of several British and American politicians, and has stated that some of them have been used by their enemies to mine their careers (Thompson, 2000, p. 119-158). After the impossibility to extradite him to the US from the UK, the sexual scandal in Sweden looks like another move made by The Man to get Assange by the neck. But, what is more relevant for this study, and independently from the struggle between the political elite and Wikileaks’ founder, a discussion has been raised relative to the gender implications of this case in Sweden, one of the countries with the most favorable regulations against women oppresion in Europe. (For example, in this country, whereas the sale of sexual services is deemed legal, purchase is not.) In the following section, I will describe the affair involving activist Anna Ardin and would-be photographer Sofia Wilen, the injured part, as well as the discussion on the “grey zones” in sexual assault legislations, and how neither Assange nor his detractors have taken the injured women’s point of view, but rather had either silenced it or demonized it as the example of a totalitarian feminist domination, in a clear display of a paranoid, veiled (and even that not so much) misogyny.

 

  1. From rape to grey zones: a gender perspective on Assange’s sexual scandal

In the context of a conference offered by invitation of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, 39 year-old Julian Assange met 31 year-old Anna Ardin, sometimes called AA in the news reports; when he arrived to Stockholm on August 11, 2010, Ardin offered him to stay on her flat while she made a visit to her family in the country (The Times of India, 2010; Prentice, 2010). The night she came back, on August 13, they had sex but the condom was broken, according to both accounts. The next day, Assange delivered a speech about truth as the first casualty of war, to which Ardin attended. That same night, a party was organized by Ardin at her flat in Assange’s honor. She is reported to have posted on her Twitter account, “Sitting outside; nearly freezing; with the world’s coolest people; it’s pretty amazing” (The Times of India, 2010). On August 16, Assange had sex with another Wikileaks supporter, 26 year-old Sofia Wilen (dubbed Miss W in the British reports), who also was at the August 14 conference. The next morning, Wilen woke up to find Assange making love to her. She asked him, “Are you wearing anything?” meaning whether he had used a condom. Assange bluntly answered: “You,” to which Wilen replied, “You better not have HIV” and he said, “Of course not,” after which they went on having sex (AFP/The Local, 2011; Gray, 2011). Later on, Wilen texted Assange; one of Assange’s lawyers said, “The exact content of Wilen’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilen’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape” (The Times of India, 2010). But it is not rape Assange is being asked for (and, until recently, not even given an arrest warrant, see Reuters, 2010), but rather for sexual assault, or what is called in Swedish legislation “sex by surprise,” involving a fine of 5,000 kronor, equivalent to $715 (Prentice, 2010). Most of the allegations of Assange’s supporters focus on what it seems as “irrefutable proofs” for them, namely that none of the women seemed to have been initially offended (see the declarations on The Times of India, 2010 and Prentice, 2010). But when Ardin and Wilen, who were friends beforehand, found out on August 18 that both had had sex with Assange, and that he did not seem to have wanted to use a condom at least once during intercourse, they considered they had been injured and filed charges against him on August 20 (The Times of India, 2010). Editor in chief at the Nyheter 24 (News 24) Swedish website Aaron Israelson states, “The two women who went to the police with the accusations against Assange, they didn’t perceive him as threatening … but on the other hand they were offended and felt he didn’t respect their integrity” (AFP/The Local, 2011; Gray, 2011).

Shortly after Assange was taken into custody in Britain in relation to the Swedish charges on sexual assault, an internet campaign was started by freelance journalist and author Johanna Koljonnen, who first shared with her Twitter followers an experience similar to that of Wilen, under the hashtag #prataomdet (or #talkaboutit in English), in which she prompted other women to talk about the “bedroom grey zones” in consensual sex relationships. She later wrote an article on Dagens Nyherter about

how she had been “tweeting with a friend on the Assange case and bedroom grey zones” when she was reminded of a similar experience she had had when she was younger. “It hit me, I tweeted, that there is a structural problem in rape legislation,” she wrote in a column, explaining how it was difficult to draw the boundaries of assault (AFP/The Local, 2011; Gray, 2011)”.

Koljonnen’s point was that Swedish legislations did not contemplate regulations on boundary situations between consensual and non-consensual sex, specifically when an initially consensual intercourse becomes for some reason non-consensual (the so-called “grey zones”). The #prataomdet discussion gave rise to important questions regarding verticality of power and/or coercion within the limited margins of consensuality. For example, it was stated by Swedish freelance journalist Rebecka Aahlund that the hashtag “was valuable in its own right, regardless of the whole Assange case and whether he is innocent or not” (AFP/The Local, 2011; Gray, 2011). However, Assange’s supporters claimed that the accusers’ changing opinion deemed the whole situation suspicious, and Assange himself stated several times that Sweden’s solicitation was part of a plot to extradite him to the US; from this perspective, the women were characterized as puppets of stronger forces, with no agency or self-awareness.[1] The Swedish press, usually hostile to Assange throughout the case, stated that he was “a paranoid idiot who refuses come to Sweden to confront trial” (quoted in Ferrada de Noli, 2011), but Ardin and Wilen’s opinion was not usually mentioned. It was until much later that some relevance was given to them, from 2011 on, mostly on internet press sites.

Assange’s case is different from other cases of sexual-political scandals (as typified by Thompson, 2000) in the fact that it was a one-night stand affair, or rather a two-night stand, instead of a long term relationship. Although this is portrayed as a “minor fault” in Thompson’s scale of sexual scandals, the implications have been proportionally higher, thus showing that “there is not a clear and direct correlation between the seriousness of a sexual-political scandal and the degree of moral bindingness of the relevant norms and codes” (Thompson, 2000, p. 124). Assange’s denied allegations on sexual rape show us how way off the point his response is to the women’s grounds for accusation. The plot excuse does not address in any way the fact that two friends found themselves offended after finding out that he systematically did not use a condom with them both. But the main allegations against their argument claim that in both cases it was consensual all the way along, subconsciously implying that women cannot refrain from decisions done in the heat of the moment, sometimes even to relatively procure their own safety. The “gray zones” debate opens up an important field for discussion in gender studies, since it speaks of those moments in which consensual sex is granted, perhaps to avoid further discussions and/or aggressions, maybe because of rash decisions that are eventually regretted. This is such a subjective matter that it is difficult to categorize or classify, and would explain the lack of legislation about it. It is not solely related to a feeling of guiltiness for doing things that probably in other situations they would not approve of, but also to anguish, anger, among other possible feelings. It was the talk between Ardin and Wilen, and also the discussion promoted by Koljonnen on Twitter, which gave raise to this issue.

From the perspective of gender and power in political figures (which, as I have argued, is a plausible way to analyze Assange, as an active agent of socio-political and historical reality), Wikileak’s founder is another good example of how powerful men tend to objectify the protagonists of the affair as “good” or “bad,” and women either as sexual providers or as dangerous females who can destroy their careers. But beside the fact this accusation is entirely dismissed, since the parties against Assange are not necessarily colluded with each other, it does not assume the responsibility on the accusations made by the women. If found guilty, no matter if it is a charge that can be paid off with a relatively small fee, Assange’s negation might prove to have so-called “second-order transgressions” (that is, denial of the initial transgression, which has a snowball effect of lies which can damage even more the person’s reputation; Thompson, 2000, p. 129), but this is less likely in this case, since Assange’s defense arguments are almost entirely based on the rape allegations, and the accusers’ charges have moved to the broader concept of sexual assault. As Thompson has argued, “sexual-political scandals can also serve as reliability tests for actual or aspiring political leaders” (2000, p. 125); Assange’s test will be to assume at some point of the discussion that he did some kind of harm to Ardin and Wilen, but because this could be used by his detractors to further attack him, the most viable way for him is to keep the plot narrative as the basis for both the extradition efforts and the sexual assault accusations, and insist that he did not rape the women.

One must not forget the role of the press and internet media in this matter, especially the Swedish one, which reacted in the most viral way towards Assange’s plot accusations. Marcello Ferrada de Noli wrote an extensive research paper in which he showed that most Swedish newspapers were not neutral, as they were mainly owned by the same businessmen, that there was a constant “character assassination” of Assange, and that the #prataomdet discussion was used by journalist as part of a misinformation and defamation campaign (Ferrada de Noli, 2011). Whereas Thompson argues that scandals “have fed off” some “codes and conventions governing sexuality” which “have, in turn, contributed to their transformation” (2000, p. 130), and on a local level the Assange affair boosted the discussion on the boundaries between consensual/nonconsensual sex, the Swedish press has, in Ferrada de Noli’s view, worked to fix and regulate the meanings surrounding Assange, Ardin and Wilen, in a stereotyiping process that Stuart Hall has broadly discussed (Hall, 1997). Assange is represented as a man of increasing power treating all women as sexual objects, while they stand not for the opposition to such exercise of power within a society concerned with gender issues, but rather as triggers of a conspiracy or of a feminist radical society. So, instead of feeding much needed discussion on “grey zones,” the press mediation of this affair essentialized the parts involved, and got advantage of the material presented by the accusers. To this must be added an article by Washington Post’s Edward Cody, in which he quotes “Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic member of Parliament who assisted Assange in editing an Army helicopter cockpit video revealed in April, [who] said after reviewing the Stockholm police report that she doubted that the charges resulted from a U.S. manipulation. ‘But once the reports were in the media, powers that are used to manipulating the media immediately seized on it’” (Cody, 2010).

 

4 On the boundary of discourses: misogynistic and misanthropic reactions to Swedish gender laws in SCUM and A Voice For Men

This discussion has reached such radical levels that a video appeared on YouTube signed by the Society of Cutting Up Men (SCUM, a name taken from a manifesto by Valerie Solanas, known for her attempt to murder Andy Warhol), as well as a response by the organization A Voice for Men, both of which portray the most polarized representations of the postures involved—the one that shows Assange as a powerful man subjected to his most basic instincts and the one that depicts women as puppets of the hegemonic system. This video is considered relevant for the discussion since it was posted on the @wikileaks Twitter account, thus forming part (no matter how implicitly) of the discourse against Assange’s sexual assault accusations. The video (which is deemed fictional, although nothing in the video lets us imply that from a first view) starts with a man in his forties or fifties reading a newspaper on a port, while a woman approaches and shoots him twice in the head. Other women come appear on the scene and start jumping, giggling and celebrating. The video ends up with the girls licking the dead man’s cranium, running while shooting and yelling through the port, along with the text message “Do your part.” This is not a safe for work video, and it is not recommended to watch it unless it is absolutely necessary to (which seems not to be the case in any situation).[2] We cannot even say who the SCUM members are, nor if they really have a political agenda, or what their purpose of making such a violent video was. The relevant thing for this article is that Wikileaks re-tweeted a version of the video uploaded by a so-called John-The-Other, who was offering (in English) a $1000 bounty for any information that may lead to identify the SCUM members, allegedly the same who featured the video. The sort of manifesto that accompanied the YouTube link uploaded by John-The-Other, written on behalf of a society called A Voice For Men, stresses the fictive nature of the video yet it highlights the sharp realism with which it was done. This manifesto was published as an article of the A Voice For Men website, which includes pictures of the murder scene with the captions “This is what a feminist looks like.” It also states,

This is the second such reward offered for the identity of an individual, the first being a blogger advocating extralegal eugenic modification of men. This blogger has since been identified as the former lawyer and published author Pamela O’Shaughnessy. O’Shaughnessy and her followers no longer enjoy anonymity – and will be pursued by their own nefarious plans for the rest of their lives (A Voice For Men, 2011).

The depiction of Sweden as “a country deep in the grip of overt, totalitarian radical feminist rule” must make us think about the fears activated when women are empowered enough as to contest allegations of consensual sex. Although in a much more “moderate” way, Assange’s denial of sexual accusations reflects John-the-Other’s fear of a world in which all “privileges” of man in sexual hierarchies are suppressed, and in the end depicts an underlying, strongly nurtured paranoid misogyny which denies women their autonomy in sexual relations. There was no reason for the release of the SCUM video (in English rather than in Swedish, one must note), and just as the plot conspiracy serves Assange to justify all his troubles, one wonders about the convenience of the spreading of such a display of gender violence, both to men and women. [3] The battle now implies all sectors of the parties, moderate and radicals alike, but now this is way far from the “grey zones” discussion, or of any constructive way for building conciliation through critic knowledge. Thus, representation of women remains in the stereotyped version as the triggers for another trial against Assange, but never as agents of their own sexual and psychological integrity.

 

 

  1. Conclusion

We have found that Assange’s case can be classified as a “sexual-political scandal,” as Thompson defines this term, even if we are dealing with a strictly non-political figure, since Julian Assange does not hold any political charge, but is rather a journalist  or, as he defines himself, “a publisher and editor-in-chief who organises and directs other journalists” (quoted in The Guardian, 2010) who is in the middle of an ethical and political discussion on the role of media spreading sensible information on US national and international affairs. Nevertheless, as in regular sexual-political scandals, there are sexual codes transgressed, the principal forms of power are symbolic and the implicated forms are inherently political, while the likelihood of the infringement is the matter of dispute (see Thompson, 2000, p. 122, table 5.1).

We have also identified that much of the scandal surrounding the case is produced by the press, since as Thompson states, “The stigmatizing potential of illicit sexual activities can also be exploited by the media” (2000, p. 125). The arguments of the accusers, as well as the discussion surrounding “gray zones” and gender legislations in Sweden, are blatantly silenced in the press media coverage, and dismissed as feminist totalitarianism by Assange’s supporters. The implications of this failure to recognize the individuals most affected by this incident show us how, in sexual scandals with political implications, the figure of woman is usually silenced or, at its best, stereotyped or essentialized, and in general not made much part of the main discussion. The importance of the #prataomdet discussion has been emphasized in this article, but it has also hinted at how press media have misused this information to damage Assange’s credibility and support. While Assange’s sexual scandal and “grey zones” will remain as an important precedent for further legislations, the most serious implications of this case are dismissed, and while trying to depict the rise of women’s power, it leaves hegemonic domination structures intact, such as stereotyping by press media. I hope that, while the final outcome of the whole Assange affair is far from visible, at least this paper can raise some important questions on how to make more progressive criticism and help us think of gender equality.

 

References

AFP/The Local. 2011. “Assange case triggers rape debate in Sweden,” The Local. Sweden’s news in English, February 9, http://www.thelocal.se/31934/20110209/# (revised December 8, 2011).

A Voice For Men (“John The Other”). 2011. “$1000 bounty to identify Swedish SCUM members,” A Voice For Men, November 20, http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/activism/1000-bounty-to-identify-swedish-scum-members/ (revised December 8, 2011).

CNN. 2011. “Assange wins latest round in extradition fight,” CNN World, December 5, http://articles.cnn.com/2011-12-05/world/world_europe_uk-wikileaks-assange_1_wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-round-in-extradition-fight-european-arrest-warrant?_s=PM:EUROPE (revised December 8, 2011).

Cody, Edward. 2010. “Wikileaks stalled by Swedish inquiry into allegations of rape by founder Assange,” The Washington Post, September 9, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/08/AR201009080 3240.html (revised December 8, 2011).

Ferrada de Noli, Marcello. 2011         “My witness statement to the London Court on Assange’s case,” Professors blog, February 24, http://ferrada-noli.blogspot.com/2011/02/witness-statement-of-professor-marcello.html

Gray, Steve. 2011. “Julian Assange case sparks rape ‘grey zones’ debate among Twitter fans,” News.com.au, February 10, http://www.news.com.au/world/govts-fear-wikileaks-truths-rally-told/story-e6frfkyi-1226003263888 (revised December 8, 2011).

Hall, Stuart. 1997. “The Work of Representation”, in Stuart Hall, ed., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, London, Sage, pp. 13-74.

Prentice, Lynn. 2010. “Marianne Ny making an arse of Swedish law,” The Standard, December 4, http://thestandard.org.nz/marianne-ny-making-an-arse-of-swedish-law/ (revised December 8, 2011).

Reuters. 2010. “No arrest warrant for Wikileaks’ Assange: lawyer,” Reuters US, December 2,http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/02/us-wikileaks-assange-lawyer-idUSTRE6B14HN20101202 (revised December 8, 2011).

The Guardian. 2010. “Julian Assange answers your questions,” The Guardian, December 3, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/amnesty-international-wikileaks-arab-spring (revised December 8, 2011).

The Guardian. 2011. “Amnesty International hails Wikileaks and Guardian as Arab spring ‘catalysts,’” The Guardian, May 13, http://www.guardian.co. uk/world/2011/may/13/amnesty-international-wikileaks-arab-spring (revised December 8, 2011).

The Register. 2011. “Anonymous attacks Paypal in ‘Operationg Avenge Assange,’” The Register, December 6, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/06/anonymous_ launches_pro_wikileaks_campaign/ (revised December 8, 2011).

The Times of India. 2010. “Sex accusers boasted about their ‘conquest’ of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange,” The Times of India US, December 9, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-12-09/us/28247531_1_wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-swedish-women-condom (revised December 8, 2011).

Thompson, John B. 2000. Political scandal: power and visibility in the media age. Cambridge: polity Press.

[1] See, for example, the following passage in an article published by New Zealand’s The Standard: “Of course, their celebrity lawyer Claes Borgström was questioned as to how the women themselves could be essentially contradicting the legal characterisation of Swedish prosecutors; a crime of non-consent by consent. Borgström’s answer is emblematic of how divorced from reality this matter is. ‘They (the women) are not jurists’. You need a law degree to know whether you have been r-ped or not in Sweden. In the context of such double think, the question of how the Swedish authorities propose to deal with victims who neither saw themselves as such nor acted as such is easily answered: You’re not a Swedish lawyer so you wouldn’t understand anyway. The consent of both women to sex with Assange has been confirmed by prosecutors” (Prentice, 2010).

[2] The original video was deleted, but it has been uploaded several times to YouTube under different names, such as “Society for Cutting up Men, SCUM,” “SCUM having fun,” “S.C.U.M. murder/dance party and credits,” and so on.

[3] In the “S.C.U.M. murder/dance party and credits” video version, we learn not only the names of the participants, but also that it was brought to the internet by A Voice For Men itself, a fact that will prove how strange the whole situation surrounding this video release is.

Sebas

Para mi hermano Joel Sebastián García Meza, atacado por porros en Ciudad Universitaria el 3 de septiembre de 2018.

Intento sobreponerme del shock escribiendo. Quisiera que estas notas no hablaran sobre mí sino sobre Emilio, sobre Naomi, sobre Sebas, ese al que todos ustedes llaman Joel (“Joe”, según el Huffington Post) y que para mí, mis hermanas y mi padre siempre ha sido Sebas y nada más. Claramente me cuesta trabajo desprenderme de su historia. Cuando sucedió lo de Ayotzinapa escribí en mi cuaderno que sentía como si me hubieran arrebatado a un hermano. Hoy, casi cuatro años después, verdaderamente casi me lo quitan. Vivir a la distancia hace todo más difícil. A veces me entero más rápido de algo en el imparable flujo de información en redes sociales que a través de la familia. Por una parte lo agradezco y por otra pienso que Sebas se está convirtiendo en un símbolo, y no quiero que sea un símbolo (una abstracción de su presencia), lo quiero vivo y lo quiero aquí.

Como dijo mi hermana Jimena en la nota que viralizó la noticia, Sebas es un chico sensible y listo. Antes de entrar a CELA estudió en el CCH sur, como ellas y como yo. Todo lo que se relacione con ese sistema escolar lo defenderemos sin dudarlo. Una foto de Alfredo Domínguez en La Jornada muestra a Sebas atento a la curación de Emilio, todavía sin heridas aparentes. Mi yo-sobreprotector pregunta por qué no se alejó de ahí, pero la secuencia de fotos de Diego Uriarte (demasiado difundidas como para seguir reproduciéndolas) parecen explicar en gran medida la sucesión de los hechos. En la foto de Domínguez no aparece Naomi. La siguiente es la ahora “clásica” en la que se observa cómo trata de defenderla de un palazo; para entonces Sebas ya tiene la nariz rota. Las imágenes en las que aparece caído seguramente corresponden a cuando ya recibió las puñaladas. Agotado pero con la adrenalina al cien, mira retador a sus agresores mientras Naomi recibe la parte más dura del embate. Salvador que se vio salvado, uno no podía irse sin la otra y ambos darían lo que fuera por sacarse de allí. Pero Sebas ya no podía levantarse. Atados en la necesidad de cuidarse, solos no habrían tenido oportunidad de contar la historia de su propia boca. Naomi linda, gracias por tu actuar.

Que quede claro: los porros lo acuchillaron, lo vieron tendido y se ensañaron como los chacales que son.

¿Qué es un porro? A mis amigxs extranjerxs les ha costado trabajo entenderlo y a mí explicarlo. En resumidas cuentas, son grupos estudiantiles (el clasismo me tienta a decir pseudo-estudiantiles) pagados por cotos de poder dentro de las universidades públicas mexicanas. ¿Paramilitares? La gran mayoría no tiene formación militar, pero sí son grupos de choque. Tampoco tienen ideología propia: los contratan para pegarte, no para hacerte cambiar de opinión. ¿Esquiroles? Sí tienen la función de quebrantar movimientos sociales (o más bien estudiantiles). Pon tú que tu profe contrata unos gandules para pegarte en la salida de la escuela, ahí donde la jurisdicción es borrosa. Los trabajadores de Auxilio UNAM nunca te pueden decir quién te agredió, pero siempre están presentes. Creo que la definición más precisa que puedo formular es una “fraternidad de matones”: creen que pertenecen a algo prestigioso, usan sus jerseys de fútbol americano como los Hell’s Angels usan sus parches: distintivos y uniformes a la vez. Debido a que Auxilio UNAM tiene prohibido el uso legítimo de la fuerza (producto de décadas de lucha estudiantil), el máximo órgano de seguridad universitaria se suele asociar con grupos porriles para hacer el trabajo sucio que ellos no pueden. No daré nombres porque hay fotos y videos por todos lados en la red que hacen evidente dicha asociación. El problema de los porros en la UNAM es, como el narcomenudeo, producto de una política extraoficial de no interferencia por parte de los directivos. Nadie quiere echarse encima a académicos, administrativos (protegidos por los sindicatos) y estudiantes al mismo tiempo. Cualquier solución viable a estos dos problemas implicaría tener un control sobre la Universidad que ningún rector ha tenido desde hace muchos años. Sería arruinar una “bella tradición” en los cuadros de poder en la Universidad, estrechamente ligados a la estructura política mexicana que ya conocemos.

En la mañana me contó mi papá que lo peor ya había pasado. Hablamos de sus días de activismo. Es difícil no encontrar similitudes con los eventos previos a la masacre de Tlatelolco en 1968, o con el “Halconazo” de 1971. Algo sí ha cambiado: en ese entonces si un activista era víctima de un atentado debían esconderlo, y a todas las personas involucradas con él. Si no me creen vean el film Francisca (¿De qué lado estás?) (dir. Eva López-Sánchez, 2002), que retrata la guerra sucia en México y la infiltración de grupos de seguridad en la UNAM. Hoy los que se deben esconder son ellos. Son las patadas de ahogado del dinosaurio, pero “es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte”. La injerencia de los porros en los movimientos estudiantiles de la ciudad de México es cíclica, recurrente (tres generaciones enfrentándolos: mi padres, mis hermanxs y yo). Sin embargo, hoy tienen nombres y perfiles, ellos mismos nos dan los metadatos para ubicar su paradero, son pendejos a más no poder. Dejaron de ser una sombra que mete la dentellada y se esconde a relamerse los dientes. Nos van a topar, a mí y a los miles que se reunieron ayer en CU.

Entendemos que mi padre haya dado una respuesta positiva al segundo comunicado de Graue porque en su época un rector no se habría dignado a dirigirnos la palabra (y a éste casi tuvimos que jalarle las orejas). Pero sus hijxs exigimos más.

Enrique Graue Wiechers: lxs familiares de Sebas somos egresadxs de la UNAM con proyectos activos en la comunidad universitaria. Si de veras te importa algo nuestra aportación, asegúrate que se terminen los cacicazgos en el CCH. Como el problema del narcomenudeo, los porros y la estructura parapolítica que la sustentan son culpa de la desidia y la fragilidad de tu rectorado y el de incontables funcionarios antes que tú. El tiempo del dinosaurio ha terminado, deja de avergonzar a nuestra casa de estudios con tus mañas retóricas. Nos debes una disculpa a todxs.

Porros: la sociedad que los vio nacer ya no existe. Hay grietas y recovecos en los se pueden esconder, pero tenemos herramientas (la red, una comunidad de apoyo bien despierta) para sacarlos de ahí.

Reporteros: vinieron muchos a zopilotear, a ustedes les pido que si realmente les importa mi hermano no dejen que sea noticia de un día.

Y para quienes nos apoyaron no tengo sino bellas palabras. Hay quienes nos dieron ánimo sin siquiera conocernos, quienes aportaron información que a veces resultaba riesgoso conseguir. Llegaron alrededor de 250 personas a donar sangre para Emilio y para Sebas. A todxs ellxs, a ti que lees esto, a quienes abarrotaron ayer Rectoría, a mis amigxs y a mi pareja, gracias. Ustedes son la semilla de ese cambio con el que soñamos lxs escritorxs de mi generación. De todo corazón, gracias.

RESPETO A LA AUTONOMÍA DE LA UNAM

NO MÁS CACICAZGOS EN LA UNAM

FUERA PORROS DE LA UNAM

Zárate: Right to Survival on the Streets

Zárate 6 Nicho semipúblico

Nicho semipúblico o residuos de rituales sincréticos, 2016

Whenever a piece of art is framed as being related to the drug underworld, scandal and morbidity usually lurk behind the merchandising mechanisms to sell it. That is exactly the way both English and Spanish-speaking media portrayed the work of Alfonso Zárate (no relation to the political analyst of the same name), initially sparked by a Vice article. This stereotypical depiction obscures part of his work’s vision and reach, while serving as an excellent example of how the media are still unable to discuss drugs without breaking into a fit of giggles and nerves. That is why it deserves close analysis before we delve into Homo Sacer, the exhibition that started it all.

The article’s title, written in Vice’s typical click-bait style, contributed to portray Zárate’s youth not as an art student, but as a drug dealer who “made ends meet selling brand name knock-offs,” (or fayuca in the local slang) in one of the oldest and most dangerous neighborhoods in downtown Mexico City: Tepito. Which other background could have better explained his work? Elliot depicts Zárate as a quasi-clandestine figure who found refuge in art and kept a delicate balance between documentation and anonymity. A few weeks later, local sensationalist tabloid ¡Pásala! picked up on Vice’s line, yet distorted the story and offered a slightly less scandalous title: “From Fayuquero [bootlegger] To Artist.” A small add on the front cover stated, “Tepito Neighbor Makes Art Out of Drugs and Hookers’ Clothes.”

Zárate 3 - Escarcha in vitro

Escarcha in vitro, 2016

What is problematic is not Zárates’s work per se—he has every right to create art out of his own experiences. It is rather the way it was discussed by various mediasometimes abusively, at other times plainly discriminatorily due to his presumable consuming, selling, or artistic habits. In an almost morbid tone, Elliot describes Zárate’s constant use of in situ drug-related materials, “The result is art that feels ghostly and pieces that seem to reveal the spirit of people and places that are usually subterranean, invisible to anyone outside of Tepito’s underworld.” From this perspective, art—or rather the aesthetic experience involving art exhibitions (as Yves Michaud points out in L’Art à l’état gazeux)—operates as a “window into chaos” (Castoriadis), allowing the gallery goer to experience a glimpse of disgrace from a safe vantage point. This depiction brings to mind Maynard James Keenan calling the average media user a cannibalistic voyeur:

’Cause I need to watch things die from a distance.

[…] Vicariously I live while the whole world dies.

Much better you than I.

The worst thing about Vice’s article is that, for all its implicit defamatory tones, it was meant to be a positive, legitimizing piece of journalism.

Zárate 4 - Loco On-Off

El Loco, de la serie On/Off, 2016

What is most interesting about Zárate, though, is that his work, as he said to Elliot, “is a conversation with the people at the end of a complicated social chain: outcasts, indigents, bandits, sicarios [hitmen], narcomenudistas [drug traffickers], addicts, alcoholics, and sex workers. They tell me the history of the streets and the neighborhood.” Here addicts are the most vulnerable link in Zárate’s chain—constantly harassed by policemen and other law enforcers, exploited by their suppliers, and rejected from society at large (sometimes because of the physical marks left on their bodies by drug use and street life).

Homo Sacer: Right to Survival on the Streets (Zárate’s solo exhibition at the Traeger y Pinto Gallery in Mexico City in 2017) refers to these outcasts from its very title (according to Giorgio Agamben, homo sacer is an obscure term from Roman law that describes a disposable individual ostracized from society). The collages most clearly using drug paraphernalia are the most eye-catching and easily recognized, yet other pieces refer more directly to modern society’s pariahs. Fire and the act of lighting objects (pen caps, beer cans, plastic lighters wanted for their inner parts) are pervasive (Frontón clásico…, Por obra del espíritu santo…, the stencil series On/Off) and often mixed with geometrical figures and patterns or materials containing drugs (cocaine dime bags, colorful crack wrappers).

Zárate 5 - Bolsas coca

Bolsas aptas para narices de a gramo, 2016

The most fascinating, though, are the ones related to Jude the Apostle, known in Mexico as San Judas Tadeo (Jude Thaddaeus). As the patron saint of lost causes, Jude has been adopted by young, low-income drug users (known by many derogatory names, such as pokemones or chacas) as their main divine intercessor. As a way of penance, every 28th of the month, those individuals make a jura or “commitment” around the city, carrying

Zárate 2 - Altares Callejeros

Ruta de altares callejeros en el mítico de Alfarería, 2016

along Jude statues. Pieces like Ruta de altares callejeros en el mítico de Alfarería document this popular belief, not recognized by the church, around a legitimate saint (as opposed to an unrecognized popular saint, like Santa Muerte or Malverde, both venerated by sicarios and drug dealers), and they reveal much of the symbolic weight given to the believers’ socioeconomic level. For example, the glass shards covering the sides of the four Jude statues in Santo protector con protección de alta seguridad echo a rudimentary security system implemented in low-income neighborhoods and squats that consists of inserting the same shards into the edges of a wall or building using concrete. Sometimes, during the juras, some Jude statues would fall and break, as portrayed not only in Nicho semipúblico…, but also in a video that went viral in Mexico in which a Jude devotee, carrying a statue on his back and presumably high, crashed his bicycle against a car and shattered the statue, inspiring countless memes that blasphemously mocked the drug users’ faith being mutilated along with the statue.

Zárate’s work is informed by more than just drug dealing, bootlegging, or stealth. Homo Sacer is about the populations most seriously harmed by the Mexican drug war, which U.S. drug policies have fueled in myriad ways. Much changed in 2006 when then president Felipe Calderón officially declared the War on Drugs in Mexico (which he later toned down to a “struggle”). portada El karma de vivir al norteHowever, cities like Torreón, in the northeastern state of Coahuila, had suffered from the effects of militarizing the eradication of drug trafficking since much earlier in the decade, as Carlos Velázquez confirms in his book El karma de vivir al norte (2013). Someone once mentioned on social media that many children born in 2000, legally becoming adults by the minute, have not known any other Mexico than the one immersed in this meaningless fight, while in Canada the state is beginning to legalize, tax, and even (in provinces like Québec) sell recreational marijuana. That is work in a completely opposite direction—a dismantling of years spent in efforts for criminalizing drug use.

Under this contrasting panorama, it is no surprise that artists like Zárate are not only in contact with drugs, but find in them (and the urban cultures associated with them) the materials for creation. Mexican conceptual artist Teresa Margolles has also talked about the residues left by the War on Drugs in her work La promesa (2012), composed from the debris of Ciudad Juárez’s demolished buildings, rematerialized into a wall, and exhibited at MUAC (Museo Universitario de Arte y Cultura) in Mexico City. Places from where such debris was brought have been continually and systematically ravaged, first by looters, then by real estate speculators, and later on by “merchants of emotions,” as Keenan has called artists like himself. As suggested by Elliott, Margolles focuses on the aftermath of violence, while Zárate seems to be reporting live from the ground. In both cases, they are building up their social capital and artistic prestige out of other people’s suffering, even if such work seeks to create visibility for the marginalized. It is always an ironic situation where good causes intended to help a vulnerable social sector end up hurting them even more. There does not seem to be an ethical way for artists, the mass media, or art critics to talk about drugs. We have to come up with new critical tools for dismantling drug use based discrimination.

Zárate 1

Santo protector con protección de alta seguridad, 2015

Walkman Vs. iPod

Recién terminé de leer Personal Stereo (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), gran libro de Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow que traza lo que supongo es la primera historia cultural del Walkman, reproductor de audio portátil que en los años 80’s propulsó cambios mayores en la industria musical y las relaciones sociales del capitalismo tardío, en una serie de discusiones que siguen siendo relevantes hoy en día, casi 40 años después de la puesta en venta del primer Walkman.

Personal stereo tuhus dubrow cover

Dividido en tres secciones (Novedad, Norma y Nostalgia), Personal Stereo es producto de una extensa investigación documental y etnográfica, en la que Tuhus-Dubrow recurre con frecuencia a entrevistas e historias de vida para reconstruir los aspectos macro y micro de su narración. Las dos primeras, Novedad y Norma, son un buen ejemplo de cómo transmitir información técnica a través de una escritura dinámica y, al mismo tiempo, conjugar las vivencias personales con fenómenos a escala nacional y global. Acertadamente ubica las barreras invisibles que impone el uso de audífonos en la esfera pública como centrales a la discusión sobre cómo la introducción de nuevas tecnologías afecta la vida cotidiana y nuestro comportamiento social:

“George Simmel remarked that the ‘metropolitan type’ generates a ‘protective organ’ as a defense against the sensory stimulation of the city as well as the proximity to countless strangers. The Walkman was arguably in part a physical manifestation of this protective organ” (p. 63).

La autora también ubica, en el contexto de la campaña “Home Tape is Killing Music” del Reino Unido, el origen de las angustias que la industria musical tradicional sentiría años después por la supuesta amenaza del MP3 (pp. 59-62). Asimismo, traza una genealogía de los formatos de audio (de la cinta magnética al CD, y de ahí al MP3) que nos permite observar la dimensión material de la música en formato digital (pp. 89-91).

Pese a ser una lectura rápida y placentera, empecé a tener ciertos recatos cuando llegué a la última sección, Nostalgia. Tuhus-Dubrow comienza su libro con la historia de un niño al que, habiendo vivido siempre bajo la influencia del iPod y el smartphone, la BBC le asignaba un Walkman para utilizarlo durante una semana y escribir sobre su experiencia. Durante todo el libro se mantiene en pausa dicha discusión sobre las diferencias de percepción frente a cambios tecnológicos entre la “generación Walkman” (es decir, quienes vieron el ascenso y caída del aparato) y la “generación iPod”, básicamente a partir de la década de 2000, para quienes el Walkman es, a lo mucho, una reliquia del pasado, y que en el peor de los casos la palabra no les dice nada. El tono imparcial y reflexivo del libro se ve radicalmente alterado al discutir los recuerdos y otros aspectos subjetivos que conforman la nostalgia por un aparato sólo en apariencia “obsoleto” (pues 2014 y 2015, dice Tuhus-Dubrow, fueron grandes años para los Walkman vintage en eBay y las compañías fabricadoras de cassettes). La autora busca responder por qué, en una época exacerbada por la mediación digital, ha surgido una nostalgia fetichista y un mercado “alternativo” para las tecnologías analógicas. A las respuestas que ofrece (sensación de unicidad, experiencia táctil, especialización) yo añadiría la de escala, aunque esta noción no es visible si nos fijamos exclusivamente en el Walkman y ofuscamos las aportaciones de sus sucesores. Además de poder almacenar más canciones que cualquier cassette en el mundo, con el iPod ya es posible no sólo organizar dentro del aparato mismo una colección de canciones por álbum, sino también por artista, género, año, entre muchos otros parámetros. Y aunque las “playlists” del iPod parecieran ser una versión skeumórfica de las home tapes (cintas grabadas por el usuario mismo, casi siempre para uso doméstico o personal), la diferencia es que ahora un mismo MP3 puede formar parte de diversas listas de reproducción, mientras que una home tape creaba copias distintas de cada canción que eran independientes de su fuente. De esta forma, la atomización de la música en canciones facilitó su redistribución y la lógica combinatoria pseudo-aleatoria de la función shuffle.

home-taping-is-killing-music-image

Visto desde esta perspectiva, el Walkman representa un momento fundamental de cambio entre las modalidades continua y discreta de reproducción musical, otra noción constantemente aludida en el libro, en la cual subyace la distinción entre análogo y digital (ver Moseley 2015). El Walkman (así como sus predecesores: el boom box, la grabadora, el car stereo, incluso el tornamesa), favorecen por sus características analógicas una reproducción continua del formato de audio. Algo como la función shuffle del iPod era impensable en la mayoría de los reproductores anteriores (algunas excepciones eran las jukeboxes o rockolas, de carácter más comercial, así como contados aparatos caseros de alta definición que podían almacenar varios CDs y reproducir pistas de cada uno de ellos). Sin embargo, esta diferencia entre reproducción continua y discreta, así como el desplazamiento de la primera por la segunda debido a avances tecnológicos, es considerada por Tuhus-Dubrow como algo negativo que limita la experiencia original del usuario: “If the Walkman gave us an ideal amount of control, its successors have given us too much. But they’ve also robbed us control—of self-mastery and autonomy” (p. 105). Aquí quiero centrar la discusión en torno a si la función shuffle genuinamente nos libera de escuchar “album filler”, esas canciones de relleno en un disco que nos saltamos cada vez que podemos. Para los nostálgicos de lo análogo, esta “liberación” resulta en una pérdida, pues el usuario ya no se ve “forzado” a escuchar todo el disco (aquí regresamos a la paradoja de la “enabling constraint” que representa cualquier técnica, según Manning y Massumi 2014). Se crea así un prejuicio en el que quien escucha cassettes (aunque también aplica para los vinilos y, en parte, los CDs) tiene mayor “grado de atención” y es “más generoso” con la música que quien escucha MP3 (pp. 104-105). Mi vivencia personal con estas mismas tecnologías y formatos me impide estar de acuerdo con una caracterización tan estereotípica de la “generación iPod”, y en los últimos párrafos explicaré por qué.

Yo llegué a tener un Walkman, aunque probablemente era una versión pirata china, a finales de los 90s. También tuve varios Discmans, y en la universidad me regalaron mi primer iPod. Pese a que por supuesto compré y atesoré cassettes y CDs, fue hasta el iPod y los MP3 (que comencé a bajar en 2000 desde plataformas post-Napster, como Kazaa, LimeWire o iMesh) que sentí una apropiación personal de la música similar a la que narra Tuhus-Dubrow en Personal Stereo. Mi iPod era el modelo Shuffle, que salió en 2005, y sus dos únicas formas de reproducción eran lineal (sin importar realmente dónde empezaba o terminaba un álbum) o shuffle, y no contaba con playlists. No tenía mucha memoria (creo que 1 GB, por lo que no tenía sino unas 200 canciones) ni pantalla digital, como el modelo clásico o el Nano; su rueda tampoco era sensible al tacto. Si pensamos en el Walkman como un aparato especializado, de acuerdo a Tuhus-Dubrow, el iPod Shuffle lo era mucho más: incluso si nunca salías del modo de reproducción shuffle estabas forzado a restringirte a las canciones que habías descargado. Y las combinaciones eran simplemente inesperadas y productivas: una “album filler” de Tool seguida por la interpretación de un ensamble de música renacentista, seguida de Jack Kerouac leyendo sus textos con música de Steve Allen. Incluso las canciones que no parecían tener mayor interés en el contexto de un disco resultaban interesantes por sí mismas, no por el conjunto en el que se reprodujeran. Al contrario de Tuhus-Dubrow y los periodistas que cita, para mí la posibilidad de romper el orden “intencionado” de SHUFFLE portada.inddreproducción me parecía una posibilidad mucho más interesante y liberadora que la de seguir las “indicaciones” del artista (o del productor, porque es una ilusión pensar que todos los aspectos del disco le corresponden a la artista, sobrecargándole de aura creativa). Pronto me adentré en el algoritmo de reproducción pseudo-aleatoria que rige dicha función, y mis reflexiones al respecto nutrieron el proceso creativo y la estructura formal de Shuffle: poesía sonora, sobre todo en la primera versión del libro (antes que la introducción fuera profundamente editada para atraer a un público menos “académico”).

Aunque sigo escuchando discos de principio a fin (sobre todo durante mis primeros acercamientos, y cuando se trata de “discos concepto”), podría decir que efectivamente tengo un “grado de atención” menor a exposiciones prolongadas de músicos o géneros específicos. Salvo en contadas excepciones (como cuando conseguí la boxset conmemorativa de Nirvana, With the Lights Out), no me paso todo el día escuchando un solo grupo o artista. No tengo la capacidad de retención de mi madre, por ejemplo, quien puede poner la misma canción varias veces al día sin que ello le reduzca su placer al escucharla. Yo siempre quiero escuchar más música, y mientras más variada, mejor. Sin embargo, creo que por lo mismo tengo una actitud menos condescendiente para con las canciones de relleno. Verse “forzado” a escuchar allbum filler es como decir que se le está haciendo un favor por prestarle atención. En cambio, la posibilidad de colocar cualquier canción, incluso las de relleno, en un indeterminado número de órdenes de reproducción nos permite apreciarlas por sus propias características. Incluso llega a pasar que una asociación inesperada con otras piezas nos la muestra desde ángulos inesperados y hasta impensables desde su álbum y orden originales.

En suma, para mí la función shuffle me proporcionaba esa sensación de maestría y autonomía que los sucesores del Walkman supuestamente nos quitaban. Tuhus-Dubrow reconoce que las angustias generadas por el smartphone y el iPod fueron similares a las que provocó el Walkman en su época. Por ello es que coincido completamente cuando dice que “the main reason the Walkman and other analog technologies never really bothered me is that I grew up with them” (p. 109). De manera similar, las desventajas que algunos encontraban en la reproducción pseudo-aleatoria del shuffle fueron para mí una mina creativa y un generador de estrategias formales de escritura, sin por ello dejar de reconocer (gracias a libros como Personal Stereo) las genealogías y los orígenes de las técnicas y tecnologías que dieron cauce a ese nicho de creatividad.