I’m a writer, PhD student and instructor at Virginia Tech. In my research life, I look at emerging data technologies through continental philosophy and STS frameworks. In my pedagogical life, I teach courses on modern comparative literature and critical theory.

I also make music, short fiction and websites. You’re on one of those websites right now.

Disclaimer: there’s not much rhyme or reason to what I post about on o-culus.

Here’s a page where I’ve indexed a lot of recent writings, some published.
Music: http://stamm.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @turing_tests
I dig it when people put things here
Other creative nonsense lives at www.realyou.me (which sometimes doesn’t load).
And you can contact me via email: stamm[at]vt.edu.

Thanks for visiting!

— Emma Stamm

writing warnings

[1] Fact: writing is made of words, not ideas.
[2] “Nothing is like an idea so much as an idea” — Bishop Berkeley
[3] Fact: writing and ideas and content all refer to ontologically separate entities.
[4] “I myself prefer an Argentine fantasy. God did not create a Book of Nature of the old sorts Europeans imagined. He wrote a Borgesian library, each book of which is as brief as possible, yet each book of which is inconsistent with every other.For each book, there is some humanly accessible bit of Nature [“the natural”] such that that book, and no other, makes possible the comprehension, prediction and influencing of what’s going on” — Ian Hacking on Borges and Berkeley

“Writing is made of words…” means that to write is to write. Thinking about writing != doing it. It’s something to put on a post-it note and keep over your computer, it’s a reminder that thinking about working != working.

It also means that writing done right self-contextualizes and self-legitimates.

Good writing cuts through the hell of sameness that is the digital space (and capitalism! Capital writ large). It doesn’t produce anything new, of course, but it reveals.

And writers have to be very careful as they pick through Pandora’s box. Some spells are stronger unsaid.

health talk

“Starting from no fixed place I soon came, while preparing this paper for a foreign society, to my surprise, to the right not to communicate. This was a protest from the core of me to the frightening fantasy of being infinitely exploited. In another language this would be the fantasy of being eaten or swallowed up. In the language of this paper it would be the fantasy of being found…

I have tried to state the need that we have to recognize this aspect of health: the non-communicating central self, forever immune from the reality principle, and forever silent. Here communication is not nonverbal; it is, like the music of the spheres, absolutely personal. It belongs to being alive. And in health, it is out of this that communication naturally arises.

Explicit communication is pleasurable and it involves extremely interesting techniques, including that of language. The two extremes, explicit communication that is indirect, and silent or personal communication that feels real, each of these has its place and in the intermediate cultural area there exists for many, but not for all, a mode of communication which is a most valuable compromise.”

(From D.W. Winnicott’s Communicating and Not Communicating Leading To A Study of Opposites, which I found in this essay ,the latest from Rob Horning, and reminds me of Heinrich von Kleist’s On The Gradual Construction of Thoughts During Speech ).

How much are we really able to compromise anymore? The side that forces speech is winning, as absolutely personal communication — the kind that supposedly comes from health — dies out. This is the mandate of the digital social. To be or not to be is no longer a question; the condition of peaceful not-being is a luxury.

world music

“In a crowded room I looked for you
In a sea of people

I’m all out of hope
And I’ve looked so hard

I’m all out of hope
And I’ve looked so hard

In a crowded world I looked for you
Through a sea of people

How can you sleep
When you’ve worked so hard?

How can you sleep?
How can you sleep?”

freaked out / afraid

Life itself as base, profane, material, reified, Earthly, earthly, grotesque, transparent, brazen, manifest, grounded, concrete, real, obtuse, open.

Fear of the real, fear of the body, the material, the committed, the law, the inviolate, the principle, the fixed, the One.

Maybe illness and disability don’t freak us out because they remind us of death, but because they remind us of life. All this stuff that keeps us from transcending, life itself.

the plastic flowers of perception

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called psychedelics “plastic flowers for the mind,” meaning that they’re false prophets, insufficient for self-realization. Meanwhile, Anaïs Nin (a psychonaut if there ever was one) described her LSD experience beautifully in her diary, but came to a similar conclusion — its meaning is diminished because it’s fake. “Fake.” Of course acid trips are “unnatural.” They do not emerge spontaneously from meditation or other contemplative practices, and LSD in particular is more refined than a lot other drugs, like mushrooms and pot.

But, these instruments of consciousness-alteration should be treated outside the division of real/fake and given the special considerations we afford technology — which we normally understand as “unnatural,” but whose impacts are undeniably real. Drugs are media, screens, in a sense, like eyeglasses. They enable us to apprehend the world in entirely new ways and, like many technologies, blur the distinction between mind / body / everything beyond the limits of our skin.

A chapter in Richard Doyle’s book Darwin’s Pharmacy, which is about how hallucinogenic plants assisted human evolution, is called “The Flowers of Perception.” Flowers emerge from the earth but so does plastic. Humans intervene in both. But nobody yet has devised a solid argument for a stable and exact degree of intervention that divides natural from unnatural. Anaïs Nin and Trungpa Rinpoche both observed the transient nature of the drug experience as an indication its insubstantiality. But acid trips, Buddhist meditation (Trungpa’s formula) and the artistic consciousness (Nin’s concern) all denote different experiences. If the idea is to maintain a certain respect for all of this — and in particular for the possibility that there is a metaphysical ground of creation, which Trungpa and Nin both believed — even when forces of society undermine this — we probably need all tools at our disposal. Some will be disposed of more quickly than others. (And they should; when asked about psychedelics, Alan Watts said that “once you get the message you should hang up the phone.” People who do a lot of acid are weird..) I’m not sure that any one is more or less worthwhile than any other.