What happens when you don’t have a physical body or can exist in multiple places at once?

The Life Online workshop debuted at the 2014 Allied Media Conference in Detroit, inviting participants to share their experiences & memories of life online. We discussed early online memories, anonymous/fractured personas, strange/unsafe/nurturing cyberspaces & supervision (or lack thereof), and speculated what’s to become of our cyberselves in the growing state of big data algorithms and total identification.

It’s been a long time coming but the worksheet available at the AMC session is now available for download in PDF form. Click on any of the pictures below.

Life Online worksheet page 1life-online-worksheet-02life-online-worksheet-03

1st PART: HOW TO USE THE WORKSHEET (sheets 1 + 2)
You are collecting memories, remembering what used to exist, how you used to feel, what kinds of things you did and where, when you first began to have an identity somewhere other than In Real Life. You will use these memories for an important 2nd step. You can fill out the worksheet questions alone, individually, or read them out loud, with a group.

In our experience reading the questions off one-by-one with your group, then going back over them one at a time together is a super fun thing to do. People get excited remembering and sharing things they don’t really talk about in public. It’s also really cool when your group is made up of people from different age groups/generations, places, genders, and cultures because the things people remember can be super different and interesting.

If you are doing the worksheet as a group activity or part of a discussion, we recommend marking a good chunk of time just for talking. You can also have someone who keeps track of time so you don’t all get waaay way off track all hype talking about chatrooms and IMs and TOP 8s.

~ Write, map, draw your responses ~

  1. Describe an early or past experience you had online.
    This can be a description of virtual place/s or space/s, an event, a habitual occurrence, a feeling or atmosphere–– anything!
  2. “Where” was it?
    Examples: A chat room, fansite, forum, MMORPG, message board, AIM/Yahoo/MSN chat window, blog or journal platform, text exchange, etc.
  3. What were the “physical” characteristics of the virtual space/s?
    Examples: Design/layout & colors, event sounds, other users present, etc.
  4. What were the “cultural” characteristics in the space/s?
    Examples: Etiquettes, community morals/rules, handle/screen name conventions, in-jokes, taboo actions/behaviors, etc.
  5. Did you choose to “be” someone other than who you were In Real Life (IRL)? What was this virtual self (or selves) like? Describe the personality, abilities, appearance, relationships, or anything else you remember.
  6. What were your actual physical surroundings like? Were other people present? How old were you? What was the device you used to get online like? Did you have rules or limitations for using the device or being online?

2nd PART: TALK ABOUT HOW LIFE ONLINE FEELS NOW (sheet 3):
A whole lot of us experience life online nowadays almost explicitly through using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Google, and other corporate owned social media networks that gather all manner of information/data from us in exchange for using their “services.” For a lot of us, these cyber spaces are very different from the ones we first encountered years ago. Many of us feel like we have to exist in these cyber spaces and networks in order to know what’s going on In Real Life anymore. Even the way we access these cyber spaces/places—the physical devices and interfaces we use—might be really different, from a big desktop computer to the smartphone in our hand. We think it is important and useful to compare and dissect current cyber spaces of today from ones we remember.

  1. Why do we all use these online spaces? Why do they look and feel and run the way they do? What are the consequences of my participation in these online spaces?
  2. Who made these cyber spaces? Why? What do they gain from them? How were they built and how do they run?
  3. What’s missing from these cyber spaces of today?
  4. How can I tell??
  5. Is there a kind of life online that I wish existed? What would I do differently than what currently exists?

Yea I miss the days when cyberspace was space. Now it's like a shitty mall full of mirror stores.

3rd PART: HOW DO YOU FEEL? REFLECTING & DOING
The worksheet is a meditation. It is a tool to help you think about what used to be, and how you felt, and how you feel today. For those of us in Metroplarity, life online used to be glorious anonymity in an AOL role-playing chatroom, a familiar digital dormroom in a text-based Multi User Dungeon, a PHPbb forum where your avatar, signature, and post count were the currency of cool, before Likes and Followers existed. For us now, life online is frustrating, surveilled, and a distraction from things we wish we were doing. We wonder what life online is like for children, teenagers, youth, for people whose lives IRL are being negatively impacted because they don’t have a connection to the networks. We wonder how our lives will be shaped by the ambitions of the governments, advertisers, and telecom corporations who harvest our data, and the privileged gatekeepers who will decide what to do with it.

This is a meditation.

BONUS PART: RECOMMENDED READING

WHAT CAN AN ALGORITHM DO? by Josh Scannell

The consequence of “whitewashing” data collection obviously materializes in the policing of the “real world.” IBM claims that their data analytic programs helped reduce crime in Memphis by over 30%. Microsoft, with the NYPD, hopes that the Domain Awareness System’s capacity to do things like digitize and compute bodily radiation levels and human spatial mobility will effectively nullify the emergence of criminal behavior. Every time a body is stopped and frisked by the NYPD, the relationship that is enacted is not a one-to-one, but also a production and performance of data, virtualizing the dissolving and dangerous body of crime into a graspable and controllable horizon of the real. These spectral data bodies are not preempting the real; they are actively producing the real. Data is neither representational nor hauntological (Derrida 2000), it is ontogenetic.

WHAT DO WE SAVE WHEN WE SAVE THE INTERNET? by Ian Bogost
Do we have such a “better world” thanks to the “free and open” Internet that we can feel 100% great about “saving” it? You’ll say “yes,” I know you will. Even to pose the question is considered obscene. You might even say so, posting angrily on multi-billion dollar services like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr. Such “discourse” is the very point! The system is working!

BIG DIARIES: THEA BALLARD ON THE SURVEILLED EXPRESSIONS OF YOUNG WOMEN
By far the more formative of these platforms was LiveJournal, a space of intense feeling and ecstatic opinions, often a way to self-consciously posit myself as a person of a certain taste in a way that felt impossible elsewhere. Entries see-sawed between meditations on insecurity and an uneven family life, proclamations of new indie music or fashion magazine discoveries—a hint of honest, unhinged adolescent emotion tempered by re-imagining myself through cultural signifiers. This was viewed by a small circle of friends and a few internet acquaintances acquired through pop-punk message boards and Last.FM. But the fact that it was viewed at all served as a validation of my existence, injecting realism into the imagined selves about which I wrote.

COMING OF AGE WITH THE INTERNET: REMEMBERING WEB 1.0 by Jacob Savage
Back in 1994, AOL wasn’t even hooked into the World Wide Web—you couldn’t browse web pages—so we did the only thing we could do: we went into chat rooms and pretended to be people we weren’t.

PEOPLE WHO WRITE ABOUT THE 90S INTERNET AND HOW CYBERSPACE WAS THIS CRAZY SPACE BACK IN THE DAY by Maggie Eighteen
WHAT WERE THESE CYBERFEMINIST ACADEMICS DOING ON THE 1990S INTERNET?
WHY GLAZE OVER THE BASE? THE EMBARRASSING INTERNAL SEXUAL WORLD WHICH WAS THE NET? THE PREDECESSOR TO NOW? WHY FORGET THE MICRO GOVERNANCES & TRIBE LAWS OF AOL GUILDS? OF BULLETIN BOARDS AND FORUMS? OF MIRC? ::WONDERS WHY THEY NEVER MENTION ALL THE UNDERSTOOD RULES OF MARKING ACTION:: OR HOW THE CHATROOM COMMANDS DICTATED OUR BEHAVIORS? THE IMPORTANCE OF A FONT AND COLOR, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE 10 CHARACTER AND 16 CHARACTER SCREENAMES? THE MALICIOUS TOS BOOT?
THE LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG?

http://cyborgmemoirs.tumblr.com/tagged/life-online


A/S/L: Where Looks Don’t Matter and Only the Best Writers Get Laid by Elvia Wilk

Rather than proving to each other that they were humans, users of the developing system had fantasies of transcending their bodies altogether

TEENS REACT TO 90s INTERNET

KIDS REACT TO OLD COMPUTERS

A BRIEF GUIDE TO INTERNET NOSTALGIA by Gavin Haynes
…featuring the Hampster Dance, AskJeeves, Badger Badger Badger, and a few more.

some throwback 90s memorabilia jawns
http://cyborgmemoirs.com/map
http://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/
http://www.internetarchaeology.org/
http://www.oocities.org/
http://reocities.com/

OrDeR Of ThE ShAdOw Wolf cyberzine
http://www.legowelt.org/cyberzine.htm

Did you know? Eighteen is turning their All That’s Left zine into a novel with full audio book accompaniment. The original zine stories will be expanded and joined by several new tales of post-binary dystopian cyborg drama. But what is All That’s Left?

all-thats-left-zines-and-cyborg-gear-2

ALL THAT’S LEFT? IT’S A ZINE ABOUT PEOPLE. A NON-LINEAR PIECEMEAL DRAMA. AN OBSESSION WITH THE PRESENT DAY FROM THE FUTURE PAST, AND ALL THE DYSTOPIAN MOVIES, COMICS, AND ANIME OF THE 1980S-90S AND RELATED PERIODS. ALL THAT’S LEFT IS ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH TECHNOLOGY; THE INTIMATE/SEXUALIZED AND TENDER/RELIANT RELATIONSHIPS WE DEVELOP OUT OF OUR PROSTHETICS. ALL THAT’S LEFT MUSES: SEX IS A FREEDOM, PRESENTATION DEMANDS EFFORT; POWER IS WHAT YOU MAKE FROM THE SCRAPS OF THE MATERIAL-HOARDING, SPIRIT-THWARTING AFFLUENT. ALL THAT’S LEFT IS SAD. ALL THAT’S LEFT IS WISTFUL.ALL THAT’S LEFT IS STILL STRUGGLING. ALL THAT’S LEFT IS ABOUT CYBORGS, WHICH IS REALLY ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, WHICH REALLY MEANS TOOL USE, WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION: HOW DO WE SEPARATE OURSELVES FROM OUR TOOLS? ALL THAT’S LEFT IS YOU AND ME.

Read, listen, or purchase.

Follow Eighteen’s tumblr or twitter for angry tirades against cyberpunk (among many other topics), as well as updates.

Creative director of The AfroFuturist Affair and our own founding member put out a book this year. Have you heard about it?

“The major linchpin of the book is Phillips’ slippage between reality and fiction. It pervades throughout the entire book as well as in a metafictional sense. Walls between the reader and book seems to break down at several points with the inclusion of chapters of Experimental Time Order interspersed, and especially in one of the later chapters, it seems as if the reader is the one to whom the book addresses.”
Reese Francis of Futuristically Ancient

rasheedah-phillips-recurrence-plot-and-other-time-travel-tales-2014-cover-shots-10

“Recurrence Plot achieves the delightful symmetry of being a novel about experiencing time out of sequence, with a main character who has faulty memory and incomplete information, and about the discovery and reading of a self-published, postmodern, pseudoscientific, multimedia and multi-genre, portmanteau book, which is told out of sequence, leaving the reader confused and with incomplete information, and in a portmanteau, postmodern and pseudoscientific style…”
Djibril al-Ayad of The Future Fire

Certainly more quantum physics than I have ever read willingly, Phillips is an extremely creative story teller. From time travel to trauma, she tackles it all, in this slim but packed volume. Intriguing.
Sarah Katz

Time travel, zines, neurobiology, racism, choose your own adventure books, quantum physics, memory, Robert Anton Wilson, the prison-industrial complex, astrology… the number of disparate ideas and influences Philips incorporates into the complex structure of this books would be admirable simply for her ambition alone. That she pulls it off in a novel/book of short stories which manages to be intricately experimentally structured without ever feeling completely opaque is a major accomplishment. This book is a masterpiece by a major new talent, and is not to be missed.
Rachel K. Zall

rasheedah-phillips-recurrence-plot-and-other-time-travel-tales-2014-cover-shots-4

Available now at AfroFuturistAffair.com

Over the past several months, the four of us at Metropolarity HQ have seen our likenesses, labor, and wordsmithing appear on myriad outlets across cyberspace and IRL, but visitors to this site probably wouldn’t know about any of that since our primary propagandist is a slovenly beast with failing prosthetics and not enough time discipline, limbs, or plausible fake names to keep up appearances. They now wish to apologize for this lowly recap post, the contents of which you might already know about if you follow us on tumblr, where we are slightly more active, or if you peep the #metropolarity tag on twitter and instagram

But without further ado, we present a small collection of our articles and celebratory bits of news, in screencap format.
Click the pictures to read the articles in full. =}

 

MARCH 2014 ~ We appear in a very favorable arts & culture feature in our local City Paper. Contrary to the headline, we are not all based in West Philly…
crew-city-paper-feature1

 

JUNE 2014 ~ The squad and network organize the Liberation Technologies: Science Fiction for World Building and Survival programming track for the 2014 Allied Media Conference in Detroit. One of several, the LibTech track contains eight sessions of speculative workshops and panels for radical educators, artists, and activists involved in media-based organizing.
amc-libtech

 

AUGUST 2014 ~ Ras and Eighteen write about our current operating parameters for Broken Pencil magazine’s Zine Philosophy section. Eighteen is especially fond of the cover tagline “Queer Cyborgs Liberate High Tech,” a delicious conflation of Metropolarity’s work with Eighteen’s own.
us-in-broken-pencil

 

AUGUST 2014 ~ Rasheedah begins a stint as contributing columnist to the Atlanta Blackstar’s BLERDS series, with a solid array of interviews and topical features covering the arts, technology, and the in-between.
rasheedah phillips for atlanta blackstar's blerds series

 

OCTOBER 2014 ~ Eighteen is named a recipient of the Leeway Foundation’s Art & Change grant, money which will help them on their Quest to self-publish a print book and audiobook of their dystopian cyborg series, All That’s Left.
leeway-grant-Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 1.07.05

A few days later, they find out their work was included on the syllabus of a gender and sexuality class for the University of Penn’s English department. One of the required reading pieces is Gentry, a piece written for the 2nd Metropolarity zine, which namedrops Penn in a speculative tirade about a gentrified and flooded out future Philly…………..
our-cyborgs-our-selves-penn-class

 

OCTOBER 2014 ~ Alex writes a Highly Appropriate article for the Philly Weekly about one of the grand masters of sci-fi, Samuel R. Delany. People are rightfully stoked.
alex talks delany

We also did a few zine fests, put out the Future Now collab zine, and Rasheedah incredibly (bow down) put on her yearly AfroFuturist Affair‘s annual costume and charity ball, this year themed Black Holographic Memory, which expanded from the original ball into several days worth of film screenings, workshop days, and rock and roll shows (AND is a community fundraiser that you can still donate to!!). So that’s what we’ve been up to, besides our full time jobs of course. ¬__¬

Make sure to check out our Events Calendar for what we’ve got coming up for these final weeks of 2014.

The quoted part of this post’s title comes from Ursula K. LeGuin’s acceptance speech at this year’s National Book Awards. We consider it a call to arms.

((it took us a minute but eeeeyyyy it’s out now!))

–>TODDLERS ON TOUCHSCREENS CAUSE THEIR FINGERS WAS BORN WITH IT — DRONE SURVEILLANCE OVER ALL YR BODEGAS — SUPERBACTERIA TALKIN BOUT FUCK YR PENICILLIN — SCI FI IS NO LONGER ONLY FOR THE FUTURE — SCI FI IS HERE ON YOUR FRONT PORCH — WE WANT YOUR FUTURE PRESENT — YOUR SCI FI REALITIES — THE FUTURE IS NOW <-- COLLAB ZINE W/ WORK FROM:::::::::: + IT IS OKAY by Laura Pollard + SPONSORED MESSAGES from grey nebraska + comments from Azeem Hill, Fred Pinguel, n Carolyn Lazard + BATTLEFIELD REPLICA SYMMETRY RETROSPECTA by Moor Mother Goddess + THE 40TH ST. CON by Skribbly LaCroix + CONSTANTEMIEDOCONSTANTE by Natis + DISTRICTS by Aja Beech + FLYBOYS by Billie Blazer + G.P.S. by Althea Baird + LIFE ONLINE WORKSHEET by Eighteen & Ras + PORTRAIT OF THE ACTIVIST AS A YOUNG SUPER-HERO by Alex Smith + BLACK QUANTUM FUTURISM by Rasheedah Phillips + A YOUNG THUG CONFRONTS HIS OWN FUTURE by Ras Mashramani AND SOME OTHER JAWNS <3333
PICK IT UP IN THE ZINE SHOP OR AT OUR EVENTS IRL.

And as our 2013 Archive Zine approaches being sold out, we’ll continue to post its contents on the site here (maybe even a dang PDF if someone in the crew has the fortitude to format the thing).

zine orders get urs

)))Metropolarity is a Philly-based sci-fi arts collective comprised of city queers of color, cyborgs, time travelers, aliens, non-specifics, and gratuitous stardust.(((

AS A CULTURAL NEONATE, THE METROPOLARITY CREW DISCUSSES ITS INTENTIONS, SCIENCE-FICTION, AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO ‘THE POLITICAL.’ NOTE THE POINTS OF OVERLAP AND POINTS OF DIVERGENCE. RELISH IN IT ALL! WE ENJOY URBAN PARADOX. IT’S IN OUR NAME, IN FACT.

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R.Phillips of the AfroFuturist Affair and founding Metropolarity member says:

The Institution that is Western Science was born of the politics of the 17th century, bifurcating itself as a practice and institution of empirical thought separate and distinct from philosophical thought. It is essential to note that the scientific institution’s development coincided with the emergence of the TransAtlantic enslavement system, used as a justification for subjugation. Its development was also impacted significantly by the Roman Inquisitions The Inquisition had condemned Galileo for teaching that the Earth moved; Descartes delayed publishing, and likely tweaked his philosophical theories on heliocentrism, due to the Inquisitions’s belief in the Earth as the center of the Universe. Newton conducted his experiments in an effort to prove Descartes wrong, and many of his theories have failed to stand the test of ‚time‛ (whose own scientific history is convoluted, in the realm of thermodynamics and relativity). Science is the ultimate political body, the mind-body split, the dualism that persists into present times, the reason why classical physics and quantum physics seemingly contradict.blinded by its own so-called enlightenment and thusly setting light and dark as opposites/eternally at odds inside of the cascading, chaotic universe. Science is really the resulting end of a negotiation; the laws and principles we hold to be commonly true about the universe and world were all shaped by the hands of a privileged few.

Traditional sci-fi, a more imaginative retelling of science history and an anticipation of its trajectory, is steeped in the dark age from which it emerged, reinforcing the narratives of white superiority. Because we know science-fiction to be social commentary on the (d-)evolution of society through the use of parable, it is easy to see where the lines split between the Science of the haves and the have nots, and thusly where the lines split between traditional and DIY sci-fi. People on the edges/intersections/margins of society can no longer continue to try to rectify their lack of representation and their lack of survival in traditional science fictional worlds; it no longer computes for our program of living. We are here and we are many and we are political. We are political because skin color is political, because body parts are political, because gender is political, because who you like to hump is political, because breathing clean air and drinking clean water is political. And in order to disavow the political, to challenge the political, to break-down the political, you must first understand how it already has you confined, then proceed to unravel it from the inside. Out of the dust of the crumbling institutions of science divorced from imagination (what they call the hyphenated science-fiction) comes science and speculative possibility in the form of Metropolarity. A nu science for a nu world of our own shaping. Here, with Science left in our care, the thermodynamic arrow shoots out into all possible directions. Here at Metropolarity, there is no difference between the Experimental and the Theoretical. Science-fiction is the dying remnant of the old ways of living. We are Science’s proposal to imagination for a happy, lifelong union, we are time = space. ∞

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M Eighteen Téllez of All That’s Left series and founding MP member says:

Politics is just a reference word to describe the obscene and greedy fight for power dominance and all its selfish machinations used to exploit one’s community and achieve ideological supremacy. I dislike words that compress and obfuscate the vastness of insidious control mechanisms like that, especially in this centuries-long era of white-supremacist colonialist patriarchal capitalism… But humans began utilizing the language tool to be able to communicate quickly. So for brevity’s sake in an informal setting I would chance suggesting that awareness of “politics” is important, that sci-fi is political, or that I am political in certain ways. But really I’m a cyborg (the Haraway kind), and I think the world has many more lenses than “politics” to be seen through.

Science fiction is a lens. It’s a conceptual tool in a paradigm still woefully clinging on to old technologies like Progress, Men, Money, and God. The word-phrase-concept “science fiction”, or sci-fi, is really a shorthand piece of reference language that has since morphed from its originally intended use, much like the word-concepts gender and mestizo. Like a cyborg, science fiction is not merely the joining of science and fiction (or human and machine), but something much more complex, fluid, and contradictory.

Is sci-fi political? I think “political” is another cloudy word, successfully wielded by mass media and its gatekeepers of dominant culture to devalue and mock those who express ideals that would disrupt the well-oiled exploitative power dynamics at play. Situated within dominant paradigms, sci-fi is inherently political because it provides vision outside of those very paradigms. Let’s not front though–the very phrase “being political” is a divisive control mechanism, particularly one that’s been polarized as aggressive/active and mired in Left/Right ethical ideologies. But sci-fi doesn’t operate on Left/Right being/not being aggressive/passive dominant/submissive binaries. It operates on desire, hope, despair. Ultimately, sci-fi is a tool, a feedback mechanism, just another piece of cyborg technology to get us beyond this oppressive existence and connected to the universe.

[Metropolarity] is a brand. We’re the ghost of 1990s Internet come back to remind you what it was like to live adventurously without the trappings of your pre-signified body. We’re a time travel start-up. We’re spirit ritual from a world without money. Connect with us. ∞

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Alex Smith, founder of Laser Life queer sci-fi reading series, the Afterverse, and MP OG says:

SCI-FI is psychotropic super-spiritual revelation, a futuristic dream and sigil ritual. It’s both surreality and reality. It has, like magic and religion, been used as a political tool, but it’s true manifestations are not political in the most overwrought sense of the word. I don’t believe sci-fi has any political aspirations outside of complete liberation. To me, liberation can not be found through the machinations of politics. From Proudhon to Ginsberg to Rammellzee, all of these visionaries brought liberation technology to the masses.

Quickly, I will say that psychotropics refers to sci-fi’s ability to induce dream like trance in the writer and the reader, the participant. It’s similar to psychotropic hallucinogens in that the quality of the fiction appears to be both real (possible) and wholly surreal (impossible). The affects of the best sci-fi is like the effects of the best drugs. While the participant “sees things” many of us still without sci-fi in our lives can’t see, the participant also engages in these “things” they see; they act and behave as if being chemically induced. This is a simplification of it, because all things that sci-fi are working in conjunction to produce the effects and spiritual continuity of sci-fi.

I see say super-spiritual in that sci-fi is the teachings, experiences and being of Thor, Buddha, Einstein, Jesus, Mohammed, Athena, orishas, lwa and shamans throughout the course of time, but turned into something grander in our own, post-modern world. They are all reimagined through a futurist lens but in the hands and hearts of those who are sci-fi, they are made EVEN MORE POWERFUL! because their true natures are ALL that is siphoned. We’ve abandoned all of the clutter, the dogma, the messiness and focused on the now. Like, Neo in the Matrix takes the red pill; this is the complete, purified form of spiritual thought made into a pill! He has absorbed ALL through the means of futuristic imaginings. It’s not that he has somehow bypassed all of the Mecca pilgrimages, all of the baptisms, the hail mary’s, the sitting under trees in a Himalayan forest meditating; he’s done more by simply imagining all of those things and super-focusing it into a vast technology of the will.

And so, you can see how these descriptions all collude to form the basis of real sci-fi; you can understand the futuristic dream and the sigil ritual working together to inform, build, and create the other. The dream is the machine, the ritual is the fuel; the sigil (a symbol in ritual magic) is the on/off switch. Since this is all powered by the individual where only the imagination limits them, the idea of the introduction of politics fails miserably. This is where Ayn Rand and her ilk have misstepped, as rightists often do; combining overwrought political metaphor in an attempt to simulate freedom is completely useless. The meaning is derived from our psycho-spiritual reaction to the dream, not the dream itself.

I hesitate to say that a polemic can be built for the left from strands of sci-fi, because sci-fi is an end in and of itself. sci-fi is diametrically opposed to systems- even when systems are implied in the telling of the tales; eventually, in most of these tales, the system fails anyway! From Dhalgren to the Fall of the Towers to the Deathstar to the Tyrell Corporation; they all fucking DIE in the end. As revolutionaries, radicals, shamans and visionaries, we are wise to understand this. Replacing one system with another results in that system falling. However, when I’m staring at another cop trying to fuck with me on the streets of Philadelphia, I see the image of Goggles from Cyber City Oedo 808 smashing through a robot that’s clearly representative of the machine, of man’s nature to make himself extinct, a robot that’s pure hyperbole for “the system”, and in my mind as the metal rains down from Goggles’ final strike, i meditate on that image and I’m strengthen. But that’s not political, that’s sigil. That’s liberation.

Listen, I’m not utopianist really. I sometimes cringe at the sloganeering and sort of simplistic banality that we’re all over here guilty of, even Metropolarity and Laser Life at times. But I mean, sometimes, yes, “There IS a fucking tree under this concrete” and nearly every time, “Silence DOES equal death”. I just prefer to use sci-fi to express the beauty of things long held sacred now rotting, decaying. This transformation is what powers me. ∞

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Ras Mashramani, glorious founding MP member and purveyor of the Nightspace says:

For me, Metropolarity is an expressly political endeavor. No I’m not concerned with politics–with rubbing elbows with old white men, or lobbying for marginal legal successes–fuck all that noise. Marginalized populations are politicized not because we want to be, but because it’s a political act to express the uneven distribution of power in our country. As blacks and queers and women and working poor, we carry generations and generations of fragmented stories, ones created out of anger, fear, disconnection, isolation.

But now we live in a newborn world of information, increasingly co-dependent with that resilient, inclusive, mostly free, anarchic machine: the Internet. And culture and change can be generated by the internet. Voices that are commonly disenfranchised can build their own spaces on the Internet. My own identity has been formed in large part by the internet | memories, stories, and identities I have created and interacted with through AOL chats, multi-user dungeons, forums, and personal web pages. Queer kids coming up now are experimenting with identities in places where they are protected from our country’s religions and popular kids.

I truly believe that we are living in a science-fiction reality, and if science-fiction has taught us anything, it’s that a mastery of technology is integral to survival in a plugged-in world. Today, the digital divide is real and tangible! And our identities hinge on our ability to create and manipulate data in the cybersphere to affect change in real life.

The free for all who can access it, open-source, information-sharing nature of the Internet is a model for our real life. Cities like Philadelphia are hurting for a space to discuss the future of our communities. Fragmented histories and fictions have exhausted their reactionary, grieving, angry stories. The advent of the information age can also mean the beginning of new stories for us freaks and outcasts, whose existences are politicized by overpowering mainstream media that tries it’s best to distract the masses with golums like Jennifer Aniston and google images of Kim Kardashian’s vampire face bath. Metropolarity is the real life answer to this void of critical, future oriented stories for the urban have-nots. I intend that we become a space where we can examine our world speculatively while sharing skills to control the media in the cybersphere, where ideas | solutions | hope can spread like a virus globally.

When we began forming and developing Metropolarity, I had in my head science-informed consciousness raising. I was thinking about the democratic power of the internet–of perfecting the art of coercion by digital means in the name of justice and education, art and expression. I was praying desperately for a space, as populations with difficult and fragmented inter-generational stories to tell, to explore, and critique our increasingly globalized and complex world, while learning to master the technologies that we have been blesses with in our science-fiction age.

Let’s create memes with more substance than feisty kitty cats and babies eating lemons. Let’s take hold of our representations and worm our way into the mainstream.

MEME BE A MEME!! ∞

At the close of 2013, we decided not to reprint our pilot and season premier episode zines. However, we saw the need to make them available, and thus the 2013 Archive was born. 69 pages of ≈Ω≠¡.

This zine encapsulates
1) the is sci-fi political/debut zine
3) the weapons of perception (media literacy jawn from our brochure)
2) the gentrification/space/community zine
4) our 2013 media dump/selections/reading list
5) bonus story from Alex Smith

Pick it up from our shop & our upcoming events <3 And thanks for the continued love, universe! ;-; SONY DSC

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2013 archive zine with neon cover!?

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Download a PDF of this most excellent document here.

Some time ago we decided it would be a good idea to make a brochure for people to take at events. This was good for when people were curious about us but didn’t want to spend their hard-earned money on buying a zine.

So Eighteen designed a brochure that did the double duty of being informative and offering some basic media literacy questions. We ended up calling this section the Weapons of Perception.

metropolarity brochure inside

What’s media literacy? It’s the ability to actively analyze and understand media messages. How do we do that? We ask some questions, that’s what.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS MESSAGE?
WHAT’S MISSING?
WHO MADE THIS?
HOW CAN I TELL?
WHAT WOULD I DO DIFFERENTLY?

Most of us are never told to ask questions about the movies, TV shows, songs, ads, books, news, and other media messages we encounter at all day every day. Media doesn’t grow out of the ground like a tree, it’s made by somebody! For a reason! And we should be able to figure out why and what for.

It turns out that a lot of people that think media literacy is a good idea. We thought it would be another good idea to make our brochure available for download, so you can print your own copies out.

Download a PDF of this most excellent document here.

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One of these days we’re going to have enough time out of our day jobs and personal projects and group organizing efforts to write some beefy articles up on this chumpie, but until then we’re going to keep updating you with media from our efforts in the meatspace.

Here’s a bit of backlog coverage from two events, The Apiary Corp & The Dream Oven‘s Come As Your Madness smut reading in September 2013, and the 11th annual Philly Zine Fest in October 2013

Ras Mashramani readily reads a bunch of filth at Little Berlin in the world’s best ambivalent dial-up monotone (this is one of the multitude of reasons she is loved).

Jump ahead a month and here she is reading a piece about cyberspace adolesence and chatroom survival called The Nightspace at Philly Zine Fest 2013 At the Rotunda, October 12th, 2013

R.Phillips (also of the Afrofuturist Affair) reads from Literary Social Vision & Building Benevolent Institutions Part 1 at the same fest. If you like hard SF, do yourself a favor and get turned on here.

“Like newborns to an umbilical cord we remain tethered to institutions all our lives.”

Then she follows up, reading the excerpt “Zero Point” from the tentatively titled Slice Convergence and Non-Local Spaces. She read this at the last Laser Life and everybody’s head exploded (then reassembled by reversing the thermodynamic flow of time)

Don’t miss us. We regularly post about our upcoming events here in our Events Calendar, and more readily at our Surveillance Facebook page.

And feel free to invite us out too 😉

The following was performed at the 3rd annual ROCKERS BBQ weekend. Consider it a part of our episode, the SPACE INVADERS :: Gentrification x Community issue of our Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies. Video by Kaos Blac. Feature image by House of Hayes.

So, I opened a customer’s check book, and inside, there was a pamphlet about god. My boyfriend had visited me at work, kissed me on the cheek and dashed off to an adventure on his own. It made my day. I think the three-top sitting at D4 saw this. After I dropped the food at their table, they asked me to pray with them. I declined. Fortunately, as the note they’d written on their check said, “God cares. Even for sinners such as you” . In a saner, more just universe (one with leprechauns in the Senate, one with were-dragon ballerinas as Septa train operators, one with talking lucky squirrels that spin acid jazz and jungle dub plates at barmitzphas), I would bring them back their change mixed in with shredded pieces of the Jesus pamphlet. I’d leave them a note as well. This is what it would say:

“The grid shapes us, molds us, makes us uniformly square. The binary assault on our senses has dulled us. We are trapped, thinking that our sexuality stems from some kind of intrinsic pre-determined genetic code, or that it can even be unlearned. We are all existing on levels of love, on a cosmic string that stretches across and over galaxies like electrical wires. When I lay down and kiss my boyfriend at night, I’m crossing the streams of countless eons of information, of pre-cybernetic memory, the ancient kind of memory that tells me that “I exist”. So, no matter what you write *now* on this little receipt, I’m giving you, in return, a sort of inter-dimensional banjee girl effect. I am kissing your son and husband passionately, deeply on the mouth, even now, just by writing this. I do appreciate your prayers, because I recognize that it is essential to humanity to create stories and dreams that explain the science of the world, that reassures us of our place, even as granular as it is, within the multiverse, but I also recognize that just as essential is our notion to be connected in grander ways to each other, that our holes are there for traversal and transmission and communication, and that we are portals, always and forever. So, yes, I am eternally in need of God, but only so much that god is creation and sex and fervor and life.“

(And yes, I could write all of this in-between serving customers and waiting on my other tables; sure, i’m *that* good. Plus, I keep a cache of “verbal beat down” tucked into my brain for just such occasions so it was all a matter of channeling, really)

Even in this reality, where ever “this reality” currently is, where we danced on top of DHL trucks at bonfires. Where we filled our baskets with the cosmic dawn, with the tools of the culling, marched over the horizon and struck a blow at the sun. Even here we are flying things, vast and unicorn, radiating in free effervescent thought chroma, bursts of the burgeoning universe lilting over radiant nebula, cloud and ash. We are baristas and shamans at the desks of the apparitions, the waitstaff in white gloves on the yachts of freedom ghosts with our time cards stamped until eternity.

My hands are gold and steel, wrapped up time machines. I push the button and black goo pours out in delicious crema. I stare at it as it coalesces into a filthy golden ring, a soul sapping halo of procured anti-vitamins, a sun-sucking ember extracted from a plant three thousand miles, one hundred leather straps on the back, an ocean of dead black bodies buried at sea, away. And then I pour it into the cup.

“Hello?” The pregnant white woman is holding her purse, her lips curled up in a half crescent of desire and thirst. She sees my black skin first, ignores the beading droplets of sweat coagulating on my brow. I think of the nights where we set fire to a rib shack, where we etched “death to gentrifiers” on the windows of the newest Wendy’s on Lancaster avenue, where we pricked our ankles on barbed wire and left bloody DNA tattoos on the walls of art museums. I think of the night sky opening up, afterglow sparking, ebullient rush of the wind, the party doors swinging wide and androgynous avatars announcing to the world, this is the land of the freaks and warriors and we’re taking things back, we’re busting out, we’re clearing this world, swollen on the fruit, still starved for the meat.

I wrote so many things down in those days, on the back of Spider-Man comic books, on napkins and napkin holders, on pieces of trash stuck and corroding on the side of the curb. I wrote of taking the artifacts out of the glass cases and putting them back into the ground- the sacred ground. I wrote of the ground.

“I’ll be with you in a moment,” I say, as I stir the pure brown down into the creamy liquid mass of the white white milk. Ah, an easy metaphor, I think, a clear and beautiful piece of hyperbole, consisting of the life blood of yuppiedom. I can set this thing on the counter, watch its pale beige swirl inundate the glass, cascade over the clear, nameless, not-there ice cubes, as it turns into the perfect mix of the people of the planet, of the people of Philadelphia, this great city of love, of understanding.

But this isn’t an 11th grade essay or a melting pot narrative. I’m standing behind a counter with a uniform on, the blackest beacon in a white universe, easily Google-able, so simple it is to Yelp my non- name: the star artist in this cappuccino and iced americano crazed continuum is ______. You can type my form into the entry for the café, it’s simple, and they will know who you are talking about. It’s not like we’re standing in a bodega in South Philadelphia or a five and dime in Kensington or a donut shop under the L at Girard. We’re here where the encroaching horizon of academia clashes with the shrinking border of hunger and death pangs. It’s real simple: I’m the black guy that works there.

“Are you ready for me?” she asks, as I stand staring her into her crisp blue eyes. She held her smart phone, tethered to her hand like a cyborg arm connected with nano machines. I could not tell where she ended and the iPhone began.

She is not ready to order. She is just there.

And so they all list into being, like a star-studded wikipage unraveling, falling into life and birthed in a line. They all want something from me, every inch of my black body, all that I can muster for them. They want everything except my story. A cop. A minister. A priest. A man in a Duke Lacrosse t shirt. An elderly woman with a tripod cane. A seeing eye dog. A boy in ripped jeans with a handlebar mustache. Another cop. A man with a souvenir paint brush from Milan. A woman wearing a dress made of kente cloth. A punk rocker.

I sat on the stoop outside of the café, watching children play in a puddle, the water rising and falling with their every excited splash. A police car came tearing through the intersection, slowed down when it passed the kids, rolled it’s window down. A white man in the back seat peered out plaintively, shook his head at the children then mouthed something to the cop driving and the squad car sped on.

When I’m emptying the trash, I am still a super-hero flying through the air, talking to dwarf stars and dreaming in quasars. When I’m picking up used napkins off of tables, I’m still a griot mystic, weaving light constructs from tiny threads of reality. When I’m making your coffee…

I saw the pregnant white woman on the 34 trolley. She got on at 36th street. I could feel the air sucked out of of the car from the vacuum created by the many men and women rising to give up their seat. I felt the searing heat of x-ray eyes, as the air got thinner, hotter, at 40th street station, where a black woman with three kids, weighed down with grocery bags got on. The look of disdain from the same passengers was hot enough to bake vampire flesh. I kept reading my comic book, stitched into my aisle seat.

When we reached 48th street, the sea of color had dispersed. The swirling yellow and porcelain white, the garish garments and cargo pants and Birkenstocks had disappeared. The announcer stopped announcing the street numbers. There was just us: monolithic, vast, black, and unicorn.

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Metropolarity’s Journal of Speculative Vision + Critical Liberation Technologies

presents

(((((Season One Episode Two :: The Gentrification x Community Issue :: July 2013)))))

featuring cover art & design by
KELLYANNE MIFFLIN OF STITCH PRISM
and
PRECOLUMBIANA OF CUTN PASTEAZUCARHEY QUEEN

and work from

SUZY SUBWAYS
PATROKOLOS
MELISSA MOORE
SHAWN ALLEYNE
JOHN THE LIBERATOR
DANIEL RICHTER
AND THE METROPOLARITY CORE CREW

AVAILABLE AT OUR HUMBLE SHOP, WOODEN SHOE BOOKS IN PHILADELPHIA, AND ALL OF OUR UPCOMING EVENTS.

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METROPOLARITY ZINES

For past issues and other work from our members, please visit our humble online shops here and here. Or email us to work out other arrangements.

WANT TO APPEAR IN THE NEXT EPISODE? WE’RE CURRENTLY CASTING!

metropolarity call for submissions

THE SPACE INVADERS HAVE ARRIVED

They’re saying we’re all neighbors here, aren’t we? We belong here, don’t we? This is our space, these are our communities. We have a right to our catchments, cafes and co-ops. People can move as they please and no one is pushed. What’s the problem?

WHO ARE THE SPACE INVADERS?

Metropolarity seeks essays, fiction, diagrams, maps & multimedia regarding GENTRIFICATION, GEOGRAPHY, INTENTION, COMMUNITY, and SPACE.

Please send clearly labeled submissions to metropolarity@gmail.com by 7/16/13