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vancouver is abuzz with the news, and the notion, that a young couple would try and sell their seven-day-old baby on the popular online classifieds page craigslist. this post is neither about the morality of such an act nor an investigation of the act itself. it is about the media framing around the decision to attempt to sell a baby on the interwebs, and how, as always when it comes to media portrayals of the internets, this “proves” that cyberspace is a dangerous, and potentially (culturally) damaging, place to dwell.

as the story goes, on tuesday may 27, 2008, a 60 year-old woman browsing the website came across a ad tagline that read MUST HAVE!!!!!!!!! and upon opening it, discovered the advertised “product” was a “very cute” baby girl. having a number of grandchildren of her own, this woman informed the police in the event it was not a joke or a hoax. police then tracked the couple down in the west end apartment through the cellphone number provided in the ad. the couple was arrested for public mischief and the child has been removed from their care.

interestingly, the immediate local media coverage of this event focused on the woman who reported the posting, who was said to believe in angels and who was being touted as a heroine. much of the emphasis on this woman neglected the fact that craigslist is a self-regulating community meaning that members (users) flag posts for any number of reasons from level of appropriateness to general maintenance and organization of the site. no doubt this woman did the “right thing” in reporting inappropriate behaviour, but her actions reflect what is expected of craiglist users. as an “internet user” (the identifying label under her name explained), this woman was held up as an exemplar of the regulating morality the internet is understood to lack. thus, the wild west imagery associated with the internet persists while self-regulating communities like craiglist have been operating since pre-web days.

my frustration with this story reflects a broader frustration with popular culture notions of the internet as a scary place, and moreover, a place where social rules and mores are somehow non-existent. we do not become different people on the internet, we bring our identities, our problems, our life circumstances online with us. there is no break between ourselves online and off. the fluidity of our experience is captured in our presentations and representations online. this young couple is having a bad time. their baby was unexpected. instead of dumping it on a hospital doorstep, or setting it free on a bed of reeds, they turned to another everyday aspect of their lives, the internet. this does not reflect the depravity of contemporary existence. it reflects the different ways that people have to do what they have been doing forever – even if it reflects a part of humanity that makes us uncomfortable, that is the fact that some children are unexpected, and ultimately not wanted.

this story has a particularly gendered and normalized aspect to it as well, which ultimately accompanies any critical investigation into constructions of technology. it is better therefore, to think of this young couple as “known to police,” familiar with drugs, and generally monstrous – and taking that monstrosity to that place of anonymous, dangerous, unregulated danger: the internet – than to think about the structural conditions of their lives. the poverty that would lead them to such an act, the desperation they must feel. the internet is a place to blame that doesn’t talk back, that will remain a place of fear until we recognize that we are the internet. the constitutive force behind the technology we produce, enable, and use.

technology is the humanity of today, not the danger of tomorrow.

instead of being dead, my bloggy friends, i am just suffering from a seven-day migraine which was post-vegas induced. here are a couple of things i have realized in the past two weeks (four days spent in vegas, and the remainder spent in a post-vegas induced personal headache hell):

  • the united states is indeed a place of overindulgence. i know cause huge food portions, 24 hour a day oxygenation, and vats of alcohol almost killed me
  • the desert is hot
  • i don’t like to gamble. it makes me feel nauseous like when i spend too much money on jewelry
  • migraines are not the thing of myths and fairy-tales like i once thought. migraines are the devil
  • that if indeed my headache was brain-tumor-induced like i originally thought (shut up – you’re a hypochondriac) i would call my brain tumor paul
  • cirque de soleil is perhaps the most spectacular thing i have ever seen. i have no idea what gave me the impression that it would be like an expensive circus. wait. maybe it is an expensive circus. but sooooooooo cool.
  • i can eat and digest most of a 99 cent half-pound foot-long hot-dog. pretty impressive, right?
  • migraines are a good excuse not to write my dissertation
  • i don’t own anything skanky enough to truly fit in in vegas
  • i like mexican inspired beer that already contains salt and lime. i also enjoy walking around with alcohol even though when i first arrived in vegas and saw people walking around with necklace-like contraptions resembling the eiffel tower full of booze i was like, “classy. i would never do that.” my resolve was gone by day two
  • i equate smoking indoors with pissing in the corner. all indoor smoking, even in one’s own residence, should be banned. it is perhaps the worst thing in the world. ‘cept for migraines
  • i prefer sitting by a pool to the following: sight-seeing, walking, drinking, talking to others, experiencing something new, BUT not to eating. yup. eating wins.

that is about it. i am going to go off and feel relatively sorry for myself. however, my migraine has turned a corner so i think i might live. that is, as long as paul remains dormant.

despite the fact that i will one day revel in being referred to as “dr. jacks” (without the “almost”), i shy away from the label of expert. we could chat about why this may be (not knowing of what i speak, making things up, blatant lies;), but suffice to say that i try follow in the footsteps of the most unpretentious woman i know, my supervisor. plus, pretentious people, in general, give me the shits so there is no reason to be one of them. and, most of the time, when i tell people i am a graduate student, and a phd student at that, they invariably (no joke, invariably) say “good for you!” like a am a potty-training toddler that just waved bye-byes to mr. poopy. so proclaiming expert status, whether i wanted to or not, would prolly result in something equally horrifyingly humiliating like someone trying to change my diaper and/or burp me. like you don’t wear a diaper. anyhoo. my point is that you don’t always get the response you are looking for which is why i am less and less inclined to discuss my dissertation topic at parties.

for those of you who know me, and those of you who don’t cause i keep telling you, i am an attention-whore. this results in interesting choices such as dramatically changing my hair and then disdaining of anyone who draws undue attention to it or choosing ridiculous things to study and then reacting with horrified anger when they say things like “you got a master’s degree after spending a couple of months on a nude beach,” “sociology is a nice hobby but you can’t feed yourself with it,” and my personal favourite, “well what is your phd actually in? online datingology” (followed by guffaw, guffaw, guffaw). most people’s reactions, are by and far, very positive. so positive, in fact, that i often get advice on how to do my doctorate. the standard party conversation goes like this:

stranger: “so what do you do?”

me: “i am student, which basically means not gainfully employed in any meaningful way.”

stranger: “oh yeah? that’s cool.”

me: “actually, i am a graduate student. i study sociology. but it is basically equivalent to unemployment and poverty-like conditions.”

stranger: “you’re doing your m.a.?”

me: “nopers. i’m a phd student.”

stranger: “GOOD FOR YOU!!!”

me: “gee. thanks.”

stranger: “what is your thesis on?”

me: “i study online dating.”

stranger: “no you don’t!”

me: “yeah. really. i do.”

stranger: “well that’s interesting!”

me: “not what you were expecting, huh?”

stranger: “NO! i didn’t even think you could study that!”

me: “yup.”

stranger: “so how successful is online dating? i mean how many people that you talked to get together?”

me: “i don’t really study that.”

stranger: “cause i mean, if you algorithmically calculated all the components of a good match, well then, you could -“

me: “i could sell my work to an online dating company?”

stranger: “YES!!! all it would take would be crunching the numbers and then putting together a detailed proposal -“

me: “are you an engineer?”

stranger: “yeah! how’d you know!?!?!”

this exact situation has happened to me twice. the exact same thing. and i wasn’t at an engineering convention about how to sell your work in the marketplace. swears.

so since chatting about my dissertation isn’t getting me the popularity i feel i want and deserve (read: need), perhaps i will start talking about it more on here. cause all ya’ll can’t talk back.

and all of you certainly can’t be engineers. (not that there is anything wrong with that).