Design, Platforms and "Status"

©2015 Trudy | Drift Sojourn

©2015 Trudy | Drift Sojourn

I usually receive fairly entitled, exploitative and downright disgusting correspondence from academics and journalists...that they initiate. While many of them think that people like me are just jealous of their status, people like me are about to invest what little pittance we have into research for a personalized Romulan cloak to hide from these muthafuckas by any means necessary. Now, I do have friends who are academics and journalists; they're great; this still means absolutely nothing in regards to how these institutions function, however. I have years upon years of tweets and writing on the exploitation of indie artists and unaffiliated writers/creators, especially when we are Black women, so I am not interested in rehashing these particular thoughts right now, but here are a few links:

Instead, I am interested in discussing design, platforms and status. As a visual artist, this is very interesting to me. For example, many academics and journalists have been entitled, plagiaristic little shits for the entire time that Gradient Lair was live between 2012-2015. However, ever since I launched as a place to bring my creative work together in a single space—my writing and art on Gradient Lair, Drift Sojourn, Cinemacked, and anything else that I may work on or think about—a very different thing has been happening here. From the sheer visual design of this space (and platform), some people have decided that now I am a serious writer and thinker, solely because they disrespect people—primarily people of colour, primarily women of colour, especially Black women—who use Tumblr. Thus, Gradient Lair being pecked by content vultures (which includes academics, journalists, writers, and "activists") on a daily basis at worst, to be being respectfully engaged on over 50 college campuses a day and by people outside of the academe as well, at best, was deemed par for the course solely because it was hosted on Tumblr. I should have been thankful that people of these statures found my "lowly" space of interest. Right.

However, because this site here, is hosted on Squarespace, a company considered more reputable and White-friendly in the way that Medium is over Tumblr as well, now certain people with status who couldn't see me before, all of a sudden can, and now recognize what Gradient Lair means in terms of womanist/Black feminist discourse and other critical topics, months after I closed that space and years after I initially created that space. Since last December when I launched this new space here, some people have been beating my door down for interviews, as if I was just born on the day this site launched. This site here meets their "status" requirements. As if they are not still contacting me about the years of work that I did on a space like Gradient Lair, hosted on Tumblr, which they deem beneath them. When I think about what I have dealt with via email in just the last 3 months alone, the extreme consent violations (I clearly stated what my email can and cannot be used for, and academics, journalists, writers and "activists" do not care since they have zero grasp of consent) and the follow up abuse once I re-state my "no," it makes my stomach turn. 

An unfortunate side effect of me enjoying the clean lines and large images of this new design is that some people who were "comfortable" with me on Tumblr—the same space that the aforementioned types of people look down on or degrade—are not comfortable with this space for the same reasons that abusive people obsessed with status are comfortable. They think the appearance of this space is not as welcoming as interacting with me via Tumblr (and through the Tumblr dashboard, which strips all individual design away and makes everyone's content look the same, which helps to unravel some of the status that people assign to design; these users do not interact with Gradient Lair via the URL; that actually does have professional design, though it still does not look like Squarespace or Medium). Some people have actually told me this and that they miss me on Tumblr. But for reasons that I made clear in my farewell post on Gradient Lair (though I still use Tumblr for Drift Sojourn and Cinemacked; those spaces are smaller, quieter and relatively safer), there is no way that I could continue using Tumblr for Gradient Lair. Further, all good things come to an end and it felt like the right time to end that space (though there will be subject-specific anthologies available later in the spring). My own mental health and safety has to come before the comfort of readers, as much as I care about them. There is nothing to read if I am not well enough and safe enough to write. My own mental health and safety is definitely more important to me than exploitative status-obsessed weirdos whose obsession with me is more about them trying to leech from me (exploit my hypervisibility to boost themselves, and hypervisibility is already abusive enough on its own) or control someone that they deem uncontrollable, than about any good feeling that they have about me. Every time one of the latter people contact me, I think of Goldie Taylor's quote "be careful who you let tell your story." Why would I want people who do not respect me—they do not understand consent and could not even acknowledge me until my online presence matched their "status" requirements—to tell my story? I do not trust them. It has been a horrible three months of correspondence, though I enjoy my new space here regardless of these people's despicable actions. 

I love beautiful design. I love visual minimalism. But I am aware that design communicates messages and this communication is happening in a capitalist society. There are different income levels for a platform such as LinkedIn versus one such as Tumblr, for example. Class is heavily informed by race and gender. It is not a coincidence that the poorest people in the world tend to be darker and women/femmes. I understand that this design here conveys a message to some people that now I am "good enough" for their media shenanigans, while at the same time conveys a message to other people that I am no longer as "accessible" as they once thought I was. I mean, there is a clear reason why most people on Tumblr will not reblog an essay if it is a Text post at the same rate that they do Photo posts that include screenshots of tweets and the very same essay as a text caption. The formal essay looks less "accessible" than the latter with tweets. The sheer format, not even the content itself, conveys a message to readers. I watched and tracked this for years, by the way. To be clear, this is not me being ableist and classist and asserting that poor people are "too stupid" to engage complex topics. That is something that is said by elitist writers who honestly are just jealous of the fact that some writers (like me) have a reach that they do not have (so they try to shut me up by declaring my words themselves inaccessible, despite the fact that people from a variety of walks of life engage them). Poor people—and I am included in this group—easily embrace a lot of political language; many of us actually create and expound upon this same language that elitist writers think we are too poor and "too stupid" to understand. A lot of scholarship that people use right now to build their social media "activist" and artistic platforms is the work of Black women. Black women are targeted with antagonism or cultural appropriation in a very tight binary, by everyone, from individuals to multi-billion dollar brands. Black women have a median net worth of about $5.00, however. Thus, my point is about messages that design and platforms convey, not about what people can or cannot understand beyond the design itself.

The fact that I can now daily count on my email address being exploited by some consent-violating status-obsessed weirdo is pretty distressing. Again, I created this space to talk art and to share my upcoming work. It is one of the reasons that I started a series of posts called Artists Make Art, recently shared one about my work in January, and will share something similar for February, later this week. My past work life involves being an analyst; I notice behavioral trends and how they correspond to use of products or enrollment in services. I am dealing with the fact that I may have lost some kind people and gained some status-obsessed parasites and sadly all over design and messages that design conveys. It is painful. However, I hope that the former people will still interact with me on Twitter even if they do not feel comfortable here on this space. I also hope that they will eventually understand that I am the same person regardless of design and if they cared about me on Tumblr, they can care about me here too. The latter people though? I hope they fall into a volcano. They clearly are not going to respect my boundaries. I wish they would stop exploiting my email address, follow my Content Use Policy if citing me, do not contact me for free labor, and for the most part, simply leave me alone.