Archives for category: Reflection

Wow, has this blog not been updated in a minute and half. But all this Wikileaks stuff has been making me nostalgic for junior year, when I spent a whole semester with the illustrious Prof. Chris Kelty organizing ROFLCon reveling in the accounts of hackers/activists thinking seriously about the ethical and political ramifications of their actions.

In particular, I went digging for a paper that was absolutely fascinating even before the Internets totally went to war and stuff–a paper written in February of 2000 (ten years ago!!) by the ElectroHippies collective, a cyberactivist* organization, about client-side distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and whether they were a legitimate form of political action for the internet, whether the bots sending repeated requests to a server was the same as a physical occupation or a sit-in. The fascinating thing here, you’ll note, is that it’s not a declaration: the ElectroHippies were genuinely interested in sparking a debate, and the paper was their opening argument in it. The other interesting thing is that they were also attacking Amazon.

From their own mouths: “We must make sure that both the positive and negative aspects of Internet activism are clearly debated, and that cyberspace is not excised from the everyday realm of constitutional rights and freedoms.” (The paper then goes on to laud JavaScript as the enabler of a “client-side revolution”. I think no one has said anything nicer about JS since.)

Thanks to some derp-assistance from Alex Leavitt, I was able to find the paper. It’s here. Read it if you care about the WikiLeaks thing.

That semester, my research into hippies and hackers took me to a strange publication–the forefather of the illustrious 2600. Given 2600‘s image and community nowadays, it was shocking to me that its ancestor, the Youth International Party Line, was actually founded by none other than Abbie Hoffman, leader of the disruptive-performance-art-hippie-group Yippies! I ended up writing my junior paper about the evolution of this oft-neglected publication, and rereading it was useful to me for being reminded of the many historical contexts in play when hackers go to war. Maybe it will be useful to you, too?

Download it here: The Secrets of the Little Pamphlet (pdf)

* Please note, I can use “cyber-” as a prefix here because they were active in the 90s and that’s what they called themselves. Arbitrarily adding “cyber-” in front of nouns now makes you look like you are wearing adult diapers. I’m looking at you, New York Times.

(The following post is an assignment for my class, Imagining Asian Americans, but that doesn’t make it any less real talk.)

I used to be one of you. Yeah, two years ago I would have skipped out of this post like you’re tempted to right now just after reading the title.

What happened?

Early on, I was taught without words that if I didn’t think I was a minority maybe they won’t treat me like one. That I was better than those minorities. So like a camel sticking its head into the sand, I disavowed that I was different and loudly questioned why we spent so much time studying race at schools. I argued against affirmative action because I thought we should be postracial and colorblind. Whenever minority issues came up, the knee-jerk reaction was to shrug it off, to prove that I wasn’t like those militant-for-no-reason minorities.

In this way I isolated myself from the other minorities. And then I left the Asian-Americans behind, too. I traded in my model minority mandates for new-to-me white rebellion (as much as I could, anyway) because sex, drugs, and rock and roll were way more appealing than the only agenda pop culture ever laid out for me. I avoided other Asians like the plague, worried that people would think I was one of those Asians. I fought to be included in that edge case of “cool” Asians as if my lives depended on it–my throat hoarse from proving that I can be just as loud as anyone else, my purity score plundered by (occasionally reckless) experimentation. Fighting the expectations with increasing intensity, I broke free of the gravitational pulls of the communities I grew up with–to find myself eating moon cakes alone.

It wasn’t really until I went to Jamaica that I started questioning all of this. First, I learned that despite answering “China” for the last 12 years when asked where I came from, I actually identified more as an American at a third point because it explained much more about who I was. Second, I learned that I was pretty happy with my perch outside of the racial binary in Jamaica, which made me realize that I was on a similar perch here. Finally, despite the racialized (racist?) catcalls (“Pssssst Ms. Chin” and “Chinese Japanese!”) that hurricaned on me, I found myself happier about being Asian than I had been in a long time. Why? Because despite the frequent politically-incorrect statement from black Jamaicans, Asians in Jamaica didn’t seem as constrained as Asian-Americans in terms of expectations and stereotypes. They were accepted as just as Jamaican as everyone else. All of a sudden, I felt freed from having to constantly distancing myself from The Stereotype (because it didn’t exist on the island!), an activity that occupied far more of my time and energy than I realized. And then I started wondering why things were so different in America.

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Flickr tells me I uploaded 1676 this year–and I’ve definitely gotten pickier about what to upload. So, picking the following 10 photos was hard. They aren’t the best 10 pictures, but I think they capture the year pretty well…

Rios and OE in the elevator, February 2008

Alternative Spring Break, March 2008

8 AM prep for ROFLCon Registration, April 2008

Davone playing in the pool, June 2008

Hammock during the summertime, June 2008

On the road in West Virginia

On the road in West Virginia, July 2008

Telecommuting from Colorado

Telecommuting from Colorado, September 2008

Fred at the National Free Culture Conference, October 2008

Friends celebrating on election night, November 2008

Dad stirring the hot pot, November 2008

I’m a little afraid of 2009, not just because it’s the number next to the “Expired in:” section of my Harvard ID card, but because I’m pretty sure that it’ll be less awesome than 2008.

This has been a year in which I worked incredibly hard but was also really rewarded by it. I met lots of super cool people. I helped organize a crazy conference and got mad internet cred for it. I got into Asian-American identity politics. I learned how to look at the cultures and subcultures I am immersed in critically. I got addicted to Twitter. I listened to a lot of Blue Scholars (and I mean a lot). I learned the exhilarating feeling of loving my schoolwork and, perhaps more remarkably, my job. I got lost a lot but also discovered that in a pinch, I can actually navigate if I need to.

Sometime in the middle of all of this, I felt my brain turn on for the first time in a while, and I suddenly became capable of creativity and thinking and ideas again. All in all, I think this was a year in which I really grew up and came into my own, which feels like a huge relief. Thanks, 2008!

So, this here is a list of all the firsts that 2008 has brought me. It’s quite a long list! In the days to follow, I’m planning to post favorite pics, favorite tracks, etc…but don’t hold your breath. You all know how good at updating I am.

(As a side note, compiling the following lists makes me really grateful for my external brain–Google Calendar, Twitter, this blog,, and perhaps most helpfully, Flickr. I know I’m supposed to be worried about privacy and who owns the data and all that, but at the end of the day I’m so extremely glad to be able to look back and relive 2008 in a pretty complete way. Hooray for personal (and not-so-personal) archiving!)

2008 Firsts:

At this point, we’re just all beating a dead horse over and over again: there are more than 2000 pictures just in our public Flickr pool, dozens of accounts from mainstream media and bloggers alike, and more Tweets than is ever appropriate. Youtube videos were being put up before stuff even happened. And really, Ryan North already wrote his thoughts on ROFLCon, so what else could I really possibly contribute?

Well. So I thought until I was a) nagged consistently by Diana, b) shamed by Rachel and Carrie’s postmortems, and c) invited to write on the issue for iDC. So here it goes. The following is a slightly revised and augmented version of the email I sent to iDC.

ROFLCon was an idea that Tim Hwang and I came up with while we were at the xkcd meetup last September. We were fascinated by the real world manifestation of this community that had been constructed around a piece of internet culture–the social structures it took on, the way people interacted with each other once they were face to face, and the Stone Soup mentality of the participants involved. It got us joking around about what the rest of the internet would look like in real life (Goatse and Tron Guy and Star Wars kid all in the same room?), which we quickly decided was the most horrifying idea we had ever come up with in a storied tradition of bad ideas. Then we decided to do it–it was just too epic not to.

The image of many internet celebrities in one room was really all that we had in the way of a coherent vision at the beginning, but we decided pretty early on that the “con” in ROFLCon would stand for both conference and convention. We recognized that at some level, we were doing this out of fandom, and that part of the appeal of the event would be being within arm’s length of these internet stars. However, we were also interested in thinking about this stuff at a higher level, and being steeped in academia as we were, it was natural for us to consider a conference-like format with panels and moderators.

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