I helped Merry Death setup her URL and website Merry Death.life today. She’d been wanting to do this for about a year but didn’t know how, and so she was very happy, and very grateful. She asked what do I owe you? Twice.

I said she didn’t owe me anything, except to make a powerful site. She wanted to at least give me a bottle of fine wine. I said a muffin would suffice. I think Merry didn’t want to be only a taker, but to also give something for the help. In that sense I probably should have let her give me something.

photo of Merry Death from the neck down and holding a book in front of her

Merry Death reading Thomas Joiner’s, Myths about Suicide

Free with Purchase

The thing is, Merry’s a student at CSULB, and I’m faculty. Which means that just like any of the other 2,148 faculty members here, I’m happy to help any student. Sometimes students can get so buried in coursework and other university hoops, that they forget that the university is like a gigantic, physical Wikipedia. It doesn’t matter if you’re enrolled in someone’s class or not, you can always drop by a faculty member’s office hours and ask them questions.

As a working class university we have students balancing all kinds of responsibilities and work loads. Still, if a student jets on and off campus barely stopping long enough to attend class, they’re really only getting half of the experience and value they’re paying for. Even with 7.275 billion humans alive today, history still holds 15 dead humans for every living. And every one of those 101 billion ancestors, and most of the 7.275 alive today, have never had the privilege of a resource like CSULB and its wildly diverse 2,149 faculty members. I’m happy that Merry took advantage of a little of what CSULB has to offer today. And I can’t encourage other students enough: sieze the opportunities that your time at the university offers! Why pay tuition and then sit in the last row? 59 years ago Rosa Parks redefined freedom in America by demanding her right to a seat in the bus. Why don’t CSULB students demand a seat in the (often empty) front row of the classroom?

It’s about Community

Merry truly owes me nothing. But if I have a wish for her and other CSULB students, it’s to use the extraordinary tools of our time to create compelling communities. Facebook and many other online platforms where we are the product, not the customer (aka meat packing factories) have an undeniable stickiness and allure to them. They’re quite literally designed to trigger dopamine releases.

Older sites like Facebook have converted from “pages” to “streams,” and newer platforms like Instagram (owned by Facebook) were born as streams. There’s no doubt that streams are efficient ways to surf a lot of content. Got a 10-minute break from your barista job? With a few finger swipes of your iPhone 6 Plus you can scroll past hours of your friends lives with enough time left over to even like a few of them.

Streams are a nice way to quickly update yourself on a thousand little things. The are new communities and have interesting power that I don’t want to be too quick to ignore. But I still love Pages.

The Blogosphere Lives?

Pages, and The Blogosphere, sort of died, perhaps in part because tycoons like Mark Zuckerberg steamrolled over them on the way to paving his industrial parking lot, but also because we’ve been flailing wildly trying to deal with the problem of abundance. Compared to the problem that those earlier 101 billion humans had, and that so many of the 7.275 alive today still have: scarcity, abundance is a good problem to have. But just because it’s better than scarcity, doesn’t mean that abundance isn’t a real and serious problem.

Your Facebook stream lets you have it all. One bite of every single dish at the endless buffet. But is it a meal?

People like David Weinberger, Thomas Vander Wal, Marco Arment, Gina Trapani, Jason Snell, and Andy Baio have been calling for a sort of Blogosphere revival often focusing on fast and modest length posts.

I’d love to see Merry find other students and faculty here at CSULB, at the grad school she’ll be soon heading off to, and out in the rest of the real world, that she can create her own corner of The Blogosphere with. People who read each other’s posts. People who leave comments. People who write reply posts. (tangential as it may be, this is more-or-less a reply post to Merry’s 1st post)

If Merry can start creating that sort of community, it’d be a far bigger thank you than even the nicest bottle of wine. If she can use these tools to build a community, she’ll have done something extraordinary.

And BTW, my favorite tool for reading blogs is Feedly.

Written by Glenn Zucman

BA, Psychology, University of Hawaii, MFA, Intermedia Art, Long Beach State. Host of American Public Media's "Border Patrol." Host of KBeach Radio's "Strange Angels." Interested in Identity Art that explores our Oracle-at-Delphi-like straddling of corporeal and virtual realms in our new media century. Civil rights in online space. 10 years...
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1 Comment

Merry Death

The concept of community in and of itself has grand potentiality to become a fluid one, especially if the digital age is unlocked. Even more interesting is the breakdown of the consumer becoming a producer in a society where the consumer is never meant to maneuver into a space of production.

The tools and social media outlets available, without a doubt, can be overwhelming. The ‘Blogosphere’ seems to enable a creation of much stronger and more profound space for a community to exchange thoughts and opinion, and challenge one another as it relates to these messy topics. Suicide is only one example of a messy life experience.

I can only hope that through the scattering of my ideas into this alternate realm of thought, theory, and connection, a community will begin to morph, take shape, as well as reshape as ideas evolve.

Also, a muffin always makes things better.


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