The US Government is Unhinged

Posted by matthew on Nov 3, 2006 in politics

Recently I’ve been following the case of Indiana graduate student Chris Soghoian, who got himself into trouble with the FBI after putting up a website that creates fake boarding passes, just to show how stupid airport security can be. You can argue that Chris made a mistake by creating a script to automatically generate a fake boarding pass, but he did it to prove a point. He probably should have stopped at describing how someone could do it rather than actually creating the script. But the FBI beating down his door to confiscate all of his computer equipment after the site had been taken down? That is not a response that’s in proportion with the crime.

Today’s Wired story on the incident has a good summary of what happened. Chris has been heartened by a back-down from one of the politicians who was rather hasty in calling for his apprehension, but the fact remains that undue force was used. The story reads more like something you would expect in China or a few years ago in the USSR, not “the home of the free”. The speed of descent of United States into a police state is truly astounding, and the sad truth is that it is probably only because Chris is young, articulate, English speaking and computer literate that we’re hearing his story at all. I happened to be watching CNN the other night when they were discussing the state of delusion that the US government appears to be in. I couldn’t agree more with Andrew Sullivan in that interview. If you happen to be a US citizen, you should do something about it. Write to a politician and tell them you don’t think it’s right. Link to Chris’ blog. And whatever you do, don’t vote for the GOP.


Desire Lines and Lacan

Posted by matthew on Nov 3, 2006 in education, eroleplay.net, research, roleplays

For the past week or so I’ve been doing a little research into the idea of “desire lines” after it came up in a discussion with my co-worker, Lee. I was talking about stories I’d heard about landscape architects waiting for people to make trails before laying down official paths, as metaphor for observing where people stray from the beaten path as a way to understand how the path is inadequate.

It occurred to me that this has happened with The Campaign. I know from talking to the students that the Mailbox function failed, and they strayed to email to take up their own interchanges there. This had the unintended effect of changing the students’ experience of the role-play, however, because they then spoke to each other out of character for the most part. This is a desire line for them — wanting to talk to each other, student-to-student. An oversight in the design of the system. An example of where the system was subverted.

What’s interesting is that they also described the fact that they knew how to subvert the system even further by getting to materials ahead of time, but they didn’t. While in The Campaign, where they knew they could be watched, they behaved. Foucoult, anyone?

Lee reminded me of Jacques Lacan’s work in relation to desires. I realise I’ve only really been in touch with Lacan through Turkle’s later work. So I’m hoping to get a hold of some of his stuff to check out what he says about desires.

Wikipedia tells me he wrote this:
The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis*, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968