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Crawling for Horrors: Tracing Women’s Public Intimacy Online through Guest Books and Webrings 1995-1999

March 26th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

This weekend for SCMS I am presenting some exploratory work that I'm trying to make sense of in my dissertation as part of a kick-ass panel. Thanks to Fenwick McKelvey for inviting me.

Society for Film and Media Studies 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015 09:00AM-10:45AM (Session N)

N20: “Crawling Horrors” in Contemporary Network Policy Room: 20

Chair: Stephanie Schulte (University of Arkansas)

Kevin Driscoll (Microsoft Research), “Beyond the End-to-End Principle: Lessons from Store-and-Forward Internetworking”

Fenwick McKelvey (Concordia University), “Synchronizing Humans and Machines: Early Computer Networks, ARPANET, and Non-synchronous Communication”

Magdalena Olszanowski (Concordia University), “Crawling for Horrors: Tracing Women’s Public Intimacy Online through Guest Books and Webrings 1995-1999″ Respondent: Thomas Streeter (University of Vermont)



Crawling for Horrors: tracing public intimacy online through feminist spaces 1995-1999

A horror is defined, among other things, as a bad or mischievous person. Women have been continually signified as horrors (i.e., witches). As outlined in our proposal, a horror can also be an object, an object that re-inscribes itself, finding ways to continually evade signification/control.  The objects I want to explore in my presentation are the traces left behind of websites maintained in the 1990s. These traces as fragmented links/pages/images have remained attached  to the network, are archived by the WayBack Machine, not written over by Yahoo and/or Geocities, or removed by their owners. The period from 1995 to 1999 is of interest because it comes just before the internet boom of social networking and blogging platforms. Specifically, I look to website guestbooks and webrings of young women who started websites as platforms of enunciation around the horrors of mental illness, violence, and compulsory heterosexuality.  Guestbooks are public spaces built for visitors to leave their contact information and comments to the web-owner or other people commenting in the guestbook. Webrings are self-organized networks of websites, often with a theme, that serve to link users interested in that theme. These communicative networks were a large part of the internet infrastructure in the 1990s, and created conditions for an alternate layer of finding relevant data through human versus algorithmic web crawling. Through content and discourse analysis, I frame these communicative nodes as participating in a feminist intimate public (Berlant 2008). More specifically, how do we deal with traces of public intimacy? (Olszanowski 2014) What are the politics of horrors? These markers of public intimacy are often left out of internet histories. I want to elucidate an alternate genealogy of the ways in which women make use of online technologies to resist control and create spaces for them to exist (Lovnik 2009). When theorizing contemporary public social networks, what can we learn about the precarity of these practices and their concomitant data (Hestres 2013) from the communicative traces of these women?


Lialina, Olia and Espenschied, Dragan. 2014. “One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age: Digging through the Geocities Torrent” http://contemporary-home-computing.org/1tb/ Accessed 28 Aug 2014.

Berlant, Lauren Gail. 2008. The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hestres, Luis. 2013. “App Neutrality: Apple’s App Store and Freedom of Expression Online.” International Journal of Communication 7: 1265–1280.

Lovink, Geert. 2009. Dynamics of Critical Internet Culture: (1994-2001). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Olszanowski, Magdalena. 2014. “Feminist Self-Imaging and Instagram: Tactics of Circumventing Sensorship.” Visual Communication Quarterly 21, no. 2: 83-95.

Protos Festival — Austin, TX — 17 & 18 March 2015

March 15th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I'm participating in several panels, DJing, VJing and presenting a demo of my documentary on electronic music —microfemininewarfare. Go see this wonderful festival happening in Austin, Texas.



WED 3/18 | ART 102. UNIV OF TEXAS 7-11P




Please be our guest with other locals and international visitors for some lowkey vibes, learning, life affirmations and a little bit (okay a lot) of love for the media arts. We plan to cover new movements in media, electronic music, global culture, 3D/interactive, videomapping, art + tech entrepreneurship, women in tech +++

#PROTOS2015 x #SXSW2015



8:00P | ANNOUNCEMENTS Intro by Protos Founding Director/Curator Andria Benet & Jim Butler of the City of Austin Economic Development Division

8:15P | PANEL – WOMEN IN THE ARTS, SCIENCES, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY – A NEW WAVE? | Panelists: Natalia Linares [NYC], Magdalena Olszanowski [PhD candidate/Montreal], Ann Armstrong [Architect/Austin], Meeta Srivastav [PhD/Samsung/Austin], Tavia Morra [Austin]

9P | PANEL – NEW MOVES – THE FUTURE OF UNDERGROUND/ELETRONIC MUSIC AND INDEPENDENT MEDIA | Farewell Books | Panelists: DJ Earl [TekLife/Chicago], DJ Taye [TekLife, Chicago], Nati Conrazon [NYC], Nathan Laskar [BKNY], Stephen Fishman [Total Unicorn/Austin], Jimmy Allison [Ableton/Austin]

9:45P | DJ | RAISECAIN [Magda Olszanowski] DJ set / POP UP DIGITAL ART GALLERY feat. works by Rodrigo Carvalho & Stephen Fishman / INTERACTIVE TECH DEMO by Tavia Morra / MUSIC TECH DEMO by Jimmy Allison




7:00P | INTRO – Protos Founding Director/Curator Andria Benet

7:10P | ANN ARMSTRONG – TBA (re: maps and the creation of cities)

7:20P | RODRIGO CARVALHO - Synergies between Sound-Visuals-Movement on Interactive Systems

7:30P | BRENT DIXON – The Art of Technological Tinkering and Doodling

7:40P | MAGDALENA O!SZANOWSKI – microfemininewarfare : exploring space in electronic music

7:50P | NATHAN LASKER – Conception of Music to Collaboration and Distribution

8:00P |  PANEL | 3D x VR x IRL – THE FUTURE OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE IN THE ARTS, TECHNOLOGY AND GLOBAL CULTURE | Panelists: Ann Armstrong, Rodrigo Carvalho, Brent Dixon, Magda O, Nathan Laskar, Tavia Morra, Jeremy Howard, Daniel Hipilito


9:15 | THE INTERPRETER by RODRIGO CARVALHO & YAGO DE QUAY – A 3D/interactive audience-participatory installation

9:30P | DJs – SINISTARR & DANIEL HIPILITO [aka SMOKEY EMORY] in the Courtyard + VJ – RAISECAIN [Magda O]



February 5th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Sarah Ahmed’s project in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004) encourages us to think through what emotions do rather than what they are. In line with this thinking, I think through not what the wound is, but what it does —its resonances and affects— specifically on, in and through the body and as a signifier to replicate political ideology.

Ahmed defining of the wound as a “bruised or cut skin surface” (27) serves as a quick and dirty strategy to qualify the wound with a ‘body’, and to not place, the wound as a transcendental conceptual object.1 Indeed, through the book Ahmed demonstrates the relationality of objects and subjects and the various orientations a subject can take toward the object (5). “The wound functions as a trace of where the surface of another entity (however imaginary) has impressed upon the body, an impression that is felt and seen as the violence of negation” (27).

Magdalena Olszanowski, Solipsistic Exhaustion

(Why) do we care about sharpness and quality? (2013)

Ahmed asserts that the act of forgetting (an injury, trauma) would be a repetition of the violence inflicted and a reinstatement of the wound’s pain. “To forget would be to repeat the forgetting that is already implicated in the fetishization of the wound” (33). Conversely, a fetishization of the wound can appear as the wound becoming an identity of the wounded (body). The wound takes over and becomes the identity (32) and a proof of that identity (59). “Subaltern subjects (Spivak’s term) become invested in the wound, such that the wound comes to stand for identity itself” (32). This promotes a potential for the wound to become a static object as a source of representation. As representation the wound loses its heterogeneity and particular history of pain. If we think of the wound as a sign, could it be the symbolic that drives narratives of pain and violence across a mass of subjects that are turned into a collective body? Ahmed realizes that a critique of wound culture must be specific and localized as to not flatten specificity.

  1. That would be reiterating the exact discourse that Susan Sontag rallies against in Illness as Metaphor (1978)

Sophie Calle in Montreal

January 26th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

I am so excited, I cannot cope or write anything more. Sophie Calle is my favorite artist & I finally get to be in her proximity. She is doing a lecture as part of her new show at the McCord in Montreal. See you in the front row.

Tying in with her exhibition For the Last and First Time (FEBRUARY 5, 2015 TO MAY 10, 2015) Sophie Calle will be giving a talk on Tuesday, February 3 at 6 p.m.

The exhibition consists of two recent projects by Calle: The Last Image, 2010, a series of photographs accompanied by texts, and Voir la mer, 2011, a series of digital films. These two series take an incisive, poetic look at the particular reality of the mental images of blind people and at the discovery of beauty and the sublime.

Premise of The Last Image

“I went to Istanbul. I spoke to blind people, most of whom had lost their sight suddenly. I asked them to describe the last thing they saw.”

Premise of Voir la mer

“In Istanbul, a city surrounded by water, I met people who had never seen the sea. I filmed their first time.”

January 9th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

2015snow-1-7aEarlier this week, after teaching my first class of the semester, aptly subtitled Which Bodies? Which Spaces?, I marked my body with ≠, a symbol that defines difference feminism 1 to me because fuck wanting to be equal with men. Fuck being equal to those regulating power. You are not my equal and I’m not yours. I try to never gloss over someone else’s specificities and subjectivities. We all have different histories & need different things. The similar things we desire, we need differently. I dig equity because it’s about fairness, love and justice via difference.  ≠ Thanks to the tranquil and quick Jessi Preston for the tattoo and thanks to J for the attention to positionality and patience to my demands of  taking an appropriate photo.

morning rave:



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  1. Difference feminism invokes fragmented processual narratives that focus on relational spaces and support poly-vocality. See Elizabeth Grosz, Donna Haraway.

Finding our language.

January 4th, 2015 § 5 comments § permalink

Luce Irigaray:If we don’t invent a language, if we don’t find our body’s language, it will have too few gestures to accompany our story. We shall tire of the same ones, and leave our desires unexpressed, unrealized. Asleep again, unsatisfied, we shall fall back upon the words of men – who, for their part, have ‘known’ for a long time. But not our body. Seduced, attracted, fascinated, ecstatic with our becoming, we shall remain paralyzed.”

Roland Barthes: “I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me.”

Audre Lorde: “Your silence will not protect you.”

Hélène Cixous: “And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written. (And why I didn’t write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great-that is for “great men”; and it’s “silly.”

Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty-so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.”

Sarah Ahmed: “My writing moves between conceptual analysis and personal digression. But why call the personal a digression? Why is it that the personal so often enters writing as if we are being led astray from a proper course?

Joan Didion: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live […] We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

Ariana Reines:

“…I am so lazy

All I want to do is look good and write poems

And all I get to do is write poems because my time has not yet come to
look good. Sometimes

I stand up and sit down thinking about my poems

Truly they are so excellent that I should be famous

And someday too I should look good enough to stand alongside them

Maybe this will happen someday

But not today…”

Which Bodies? Which Spaces?

January 2nd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

coms324-h1I’m teaching in my Communication Dept at Concordia University again. As PhD students we are guaranteed one course to teach, but many of the students get to teach two. If I could teach three I would be thrilled but that is unlikely because my dissertation needs to be finished and other PhD students need the experience. Last year I taught Advertising & Consumer Culture, which was wildly successful for me. The 39-student class produced exceptional work and never handed in anything late, my reviews were stellar (a significant change from the oft-nasty TA reviews), and the vibes of the class were always intense but jovial. I was sure to implicate myself in all I was teaching —none of us are outside of consumer culture. Although the syllabus was my doing, the course description and assignments were already available to me and I adapted them to suit what I was teaching.

This year, I received carte blanche to teach a second-year course titled Communication Analysis of Environment. The syllabi of the past were wildly different and I wanted to teach the course I always wanted to take. Months of planning, revising, finding readings, feedback with colleagues and it finally came together last month, subtitled “Which Bodies? Which Spaces?” You can check out the syllabus if you’re interested. I’m looking forward to thinking with the students and exploring some heavy subjects without being too didactic or hopeless. The point isn’t to simply demonstrate the horrors of the exclusion of bodies in spaces, to then position us in a binary via a victimhood of Otherness, but to re-position ourselves as complicit in everything that happens in our world and go from there.

I will be incorporating poetry and art that deals with body and space into each module as starting points for us to think about our embodied engagement with space. I am curious of the reaction to poetry. We start with poetry. We end with poetry — the meticulously selected placement of words in places. In places not meant for those words. This means having badass women do guest lectures throughout the semester: artist and curator Francesca Tallone, urban geographer, writer and artist Caroline Ramirez, and disability rights activist, artist and scholar Laurence Parent.


Bodies make spaces speak. Bodies extend space. Space is constructed for specific bodies. In this way, spaces and bodies co-construct each other. Recognizing our bodies as multifaceted, fluid has significant implications for our values, lifestyles and social relations.  The body is not a singular bounded entity but a multiplicity.

This course offers a critical and creative investigation into the parameters and meanings of our body in space and the communicative connection between bodies and space(s). We examine the different ways in which the ways we conceptualize the body and the way it influences, informs and reproduces the ways in which we situate ourselves in the world and the way we analyze, observe, and understand the environment around us. We explore different forms of analysis in order to become critically aware of the power that upholds a hierarchy of the body.

The course is organized around three questions that each week’s module explores:  1) What types of bodies have access to what types of spaces? 2) What happens when we disrupt spaces with bodies that are generally excluded? 3) How do environments reproduce ideology? In part, we will explore these questions with case studies such as, but not limited to:  The Situationist International, feminicide in Canada, the Quebec Student Strike, indigenous land rights, women who attempt to circumvent censorship online, disability rights protests in Montreal, #icantbreathe.

Summertime Extremism / 2014 to 2015

December 31st, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

It’s tempting to write a review of the year— citing music you loved, books you read, tasks you accomplished, re-posting photos with the most likes on Instagram, recounting places you finally went to beyond your imagination, and people you made fall in love with you. But that’s why we keep journals. Unless you’re an illustrious writer like Sarah Nicole Prickett, whose work I read more than any other this year. And she seems to be the most unlikely person to engage in this sort of thing anyway.

I want to write in experience, not worry about my mercurial memory. I was, however, asked to contribute to Hype Machine’s Zeitgeist 2014 in which they ditched their data and asked their people for an album for every moment of the year. Given this was not a typical top 10 year end list with complicated hierarchical politics I agreed. Boundaries are flexible right? 1 My immediate choice was between two artists that were my 2014 life soundtrack — Boxcutter & Kali Uchis. Boxcutter is one of my favorite artists of all time & I couldn’t be more proud of having such a talented friend. I could spend weeks listening to nothing but his sounds. Jason Chatzilias, the inimitable 0=0, sent me a song from Kali Uchis’s free Drunken Babble Mixtape this spring and it became my ubiquitous staple. Released in 2012 so I couldn’t include it. Here she is singing to the future:

Released in 2014, Boxcutter’s Shea EP, the soundtrack of  summertime extremism made it instead. Summertime extremism started after one of my dearest friends Brad Weslake came to visit me in Montreal and we decided we were gonna go all the way on everything—food, coffee, music, dancing, adventures. Upon subsequent visits to Montreal, unyielding epic text & Skype convos, and ending with my visit to NYC in the second week of December, we made the year we wanted.

Boxcutter Shea EP » Listen

Summertime extremism is about riding your bike holding the hands of your friends instead of handlebars. It’s about being a dancecat— dancing wildly in your living room, dancing wildly waiting for the train, dancing with lemon & lime, dancing wildly alone and together. It’s having the Shea EP on you in you and with you in the holoscene.

  1. Is this a non/review review post? I hope not because I don’t know how to present all the art by people I love that’s made me want to keep living. ;o)

2015 »

December 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

My resolution for 2015 is to save time not money.

(Inevitably this will save me money, and also me.)

On families & Ferguson

November 25th, 2014 § 6 comments § permalink

Michael Brown, school photo.

Michael Brown, school photo.

A gchat conversation earlier today with my mom. »

me:  just wanted to tell you about Ferguson
 Maybe you heard some stuff
Cathy:  Who is ?
 Tell me.
 Going home now
me:  Ferguson in Missouri
 There was a young unarmed boy killed by a white cop
 shot many times
 in August
 and yesterday was the announcement of the indictment (if the police officer that shot the boy would get a trial or not)
Cathy:  I've heard about it today. What a sad story
me:  what did you hear?
Cathy:  Tomek [my baby bro] just told me
me:  What did he tell you?
Cathy:  I'm too tired to discuss it
me:  Ok, im just really curious

If it is safe to do so, please talk to your parents, cousins, family members about #Ferguson — Be gentle with them. Be patient. Don’t talk at them. Listen to what they have to say, what language they use, and if their rhetoric is one repeated from mainstream news sources. Knowing that, you can meet them there and then try to unravel all the assumptions alongside them. They may not be as invested as you, and that’s ok. Not everyone fights the same battles. Not everyone fights them the same way. We can’t simply exist in an echo chamber. We can go to protests, be bodies in the street, be bodies on Twitter, talk to our students, talk to our co-workers, talk to each other, but we also need to engage with those that don’t do those things, that don’t have access to those things, and don’t know they too can do those things. My parents are too tired and too overworked trying to stay alive with the accrued financial and emotional debt of the immigrant experience to make sense of the spectacle of current events. But they are also people that vote, that have friends, that know people who work in all areas of life including local newspapers, and it is in those transmissions that the metaphors of ideology and white supremacy spread. It doesn’t go away if we turn away.

I write this thinking of them. I write this because I have the privilege of being privy to the stories of those acutely affected. I have the social and cultural capital and the energy to parse the news.But that doesn’t mean I’m smarter, or know better, or that I should dismiss those that don’t think like me. I have the awareness not to caught up in my own frustration, rage and despair of the situation, because I am an ally. These are some of my obligations as a white woman who is implicated in this system. It is my responsibility to be sensitive, in all the ways, and recognize that these sensitivities are imbricated in the ways, I too, perpetuate the system I am actively fighting to dismantle. This statement isn’t an excuse to evade responsibility, but as a recognition to continue to face my subject position and do the solidarity work of an ally. When I speak, it is from that place, and I speak to my parents from that place, from that situated knowledge, which only provides me with a partial perspective. I speak also knowing I have the choice to pull out when it’s not safe. Not everyone has that choice. I don’t always have that choice.


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