Mighty Works

That Paranormal “We”

I’ve previously noted the readiness with which some commentators inform “us” of how “we” feel about a given subject. This eerie divination reveals, remarkably often, that “we” feel almost exactly as the author does. Another example of this preternatural knowledge comes courtesy of Professor Carolyn Guertin, whose areas of expertise include,   

Digital media, cyberfeminism, digital narrative, hypertext, new media arts, digital design, information aesthetics, participatory cultures, Web 2.0 technologies, women’s writing, cyberculture, media literacy, science fiction…


Hacktivism, born-digital arts and literatures, cultural studies, postliteracy and the social practices surrounding technology.

Some readers may remember Professor Guertin for her doctoral dissertation on “quantum feminisms,” discussed at length here, and which includes such dazzling insights as,

Within quantum mechanics, the science of the body in motion, the intricacies of the interiorities of mnemonic time - no longer an arrow - are being realized in the (traditionally) feminized shape of the body of the matrix.


Where women have usually been objects to be looked at, hypermedia systems replace the gaze with the empowered look of the embodied browser in motion in archival space. Always in flux, the shape of time’s transformation is a Möbius strip unfolding time into the dynamic space of the postmodern text, into the ‘unfold’.

A more recent sharing of wisdom appears in the online journal, Fast Capitalism. For those unfamiliar with that publication, here’s a helpful introduction:

Fast Capitalism is an academic journal with a political intent. We publish reviewed scholarship and essays about the impact of rapid information and communication technologies on self, society and culture in the 21st century. We do not pretend an absolute objectivity; the work we publish is written from the vantages of viewpoint.

In an essay titled All the Rage: Digital Bodies and Deadly Play in the Age of the Suicide Bomber, Professor Guertin extends her expertise still further and grapples with, among other things, terrorism as celebrity and the use of modern media to disseminate jihadist propaganda. Though this latter, fairly obvious, point is expressed a little excitedly:

Serial killers, mass murderers and suicide bombers appropriate the tools of the powerful (from planes to cameras to the World Wide Web) to spread terror far more effectually than their considerable death counts do, for the fear they cause is a viral weapon that spreads like a pandemic via our own addiction to networked communication.

Note the phrase “tools of the powerful” and its Marxist residue. I’m inclined to think that having the means and inclination to slaughter dozens, perhaps hundreds, indiscriminately makes one powerful in a rather more immediate and visceral way than, say, having a camera does. Still, Guertin is happy to quote “media ecologist” Lance Strate, who tells us,

Guns and cameras are both weapons… that is why we talk about cameras using words like shoot, snapshot, load [and] capture.

This profundity leads Guertin to confidently explain “our” feelings regarding Islamic terrorism:

As terrorism spreads messages of fear, we simultaneously revel in their instantaneous global broadcast and are appalled by their content. In reality these attacks come from the inside out, for they mirror Western culture’s violence as they incite and recruit us to do more harm against each other and ourselves.

I’m not at all sure who the “us” here is. I can’t say I’ve ever revelled in the “instantaneous global broadcast” of jihadist propaganda, and I don’t imagine my friends do. My reaction is, if anything, closer to dismay. Nor do I recall any subsequent urges to harm myself or anyone nearby. But perhaps Professor Guertin is thinking of some other “us” – one to which I’m not privy. One to be accessed only by paranormal means.

Incidentally, fans of Professor Guertin will be thrilled to hear she’s working on a new book - called, somewhat improbably, Connective Tissue: Queer Bodies, Postdramatic Performance and New Media Aesthetics.