3 Little Piggies

I remixed the fairytale The 3 Little Pigs and made it into a detective/mystery game call Three Little Piggies. In the game, you play Harry Hoot, an aging detective who tries to solve the mysterious string of events that start happening on the farm. You only will have so many hours to solve the case before the trail goes cold. Also, be sure you choose your actions wisely, as the choices you make will determine the outcome of your playthrough. Good luck!



A Semester Worth of Thoughts

When I revisit my posts from the beginning of this semester, I am truly struck by how far I have come since those posts. This semester has been one of the most difficult times of my life and in seeing the way in which my thoughts and posts reflect my journey through the past 4 months is pretty surreal.

Throughout my posts, one of the most common themes that I find is that my writings were almost always concerned with comparisons and contrasts. Initially I blogged from a more comparative view first in contrasting the POV of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Exorcist and then going on to compare the different characters from Dead Set before I followed up with a comparison of two of our readings: “The Resonant Tomb” and The Audible Past. These first three posts were effectively based in my own observations. While I did analyze the parties involved in my comparisons, I was not really asserting one over the other but was rather stating my own observations in an informative manner. This style of comparison and exploring dichotomies stayed constant for my final two posts as well but my style evolved from simply observing to more directly stating my own thoughts and opinions.

My final two posts followed the tract set of comparisons except this time I was comparing the thoughts and assertions of the readings with my own. In my final two posts I argued against the idea of discrediting any type of cyber-relationship as not being part of the “real world” and I held that dark tourism was not some new phenomenon related to Chernobyl specifically. I directly disagreed with the readings and my blog posts reflected the contrasting views as I had done so previously except this time the view was my own. This is the strongest development I have observed and is really indicative of how this semester has played out for me in my opinion. I feel like I have gotten much better at being direct and advocating for myself both in and out of the classroom and the trend of my blog posts match this evolution.

Planned Disappointment

Planned obsolescence is a phrase I first encountered long ago (well, more than a decade ago, at least) when I got my first iPod.  I was obsessed with the little metal brick and its clean, white wheel to navigate the menus.  I took that iPod everywhere with me, and so I was understandably upset and a bit confused when, after taking as good care of it as a 10 year old can, I discovered the wheel no longer scrolled up, only down.  I was told by my dad that the device was simply too old, that it was bound to break eventually.  I remember this notion striking me as odd and even unfair, and I definitely did not understand right away why planned obsolescence existed.  My dad, being the cynic that he is, explained that it was largely for the corporation (Apple, in this case) to make money more regularly from their customers.  If your device that you love and become attached to breaks, you will not hesitate to spend another several hundred dollars to replace it.  Beyond this, its not even possible to repair your own device when it breaks without voiding the warranty, essentially making the device worthless if anything else does wrong.  I didn’t grapple with this notion as much, as I was young and not able to fix the device myself anyway.  With time, I either forgot about planned obsolescence or just grew comfortable with the concept.  Furthermore, I don’t know what say I have as an individual about the matter.

Reflecting more on that idea and that experience now, I realize that I was right to be upset, disappointed, angry even that we are not allowed to fix our devices when they break or even expect them to last more than a couple of years.  It is crazy that we spend thousands on computers and phones, hundreds on watches and other devices, none of which are designed, let alone can be expected, to work as planned for any significant period.  Jackson asks ‘how are human orders broken and restored (… and who does this work)?’ (223) The answer of course is people, but specifically the people who are involved in both the formation of the order, and those who are a part of its function.  Jackson also wonders ‘who fixes the devices and systems we “seamlessly” use?’ (222).  The answer, if you ask me, should be the same- that is, it should be both the corporations who are responsible for the formation of the devices and systems (because they are knowledgable and have the means) and the people who interact with the devices and systems everyday (because sometimes it is just easier, cheaper, and more simple to solve the problems as they arise, when they do).  It seems to me that once you purchase an item, it is yours and you should be free to at least follow preset instructions to try to fix it if and when it breaks.  Finally, it is ridiculous that we should allow products to be built specifically with their destruction date in mind.  This is a horrible waste of material resources, power, and time that could all be cut if devices were just made to last, and especially to be easily repairable.

If we could make cars in the 60s that were relatively fast, stylish, effective, cheap, and comfortable and they were easy to repair and keep running for at least 60 years, it seems just as possible to do so with our electronic and other devices.  If we can shift our way of thinking to this mindset that Jackson supports where we focus on the longevity and repairability of our things, we might just save a lot of trash, pollution, and energy while also improving customer satisfaction at the same time.

Why Death as a Marketing Tool Is Not So Bad

Recently, one of hip-hop’s major icons, Nipsey Hussle, had recently been murdered outside his co-owned shop last Sunday. His positive impact on the music industry and his activism to help the poor socioeconomic communities in Los Angeles had made him a popular artist among many. However, the news of his death created a wave of people to immediately use his death as a form of advertisement. Many people have milked the use of his music in their YouTube videos or used his name in titles to gain a surge of audiences. In the matter of fact, his active Instagram has just gained an estimated seven hundred thousand followers along with his music gaining more streams. Although we see this with many celebrities after their death, some individuals have used the names of such artist to milk out as much coverage for their benefit and profit out of those margins.

Despite the benefit of using an artist’s death as a form of further exposure, artists that continue to live past their deaths can be beneficial to future generations. I find that many artists today are influenced by other artists who have passed away but continue to live in current society because their work is still used and distributed. For instance, young rap artists XXXTentacion who was murdered is still producing music and artwork under his name. Although much of the work that is being distributed is being profited by his family, his unique form of screaming rap has influenced other artist to borrow from his style.

If we take a break from music and look into films, Stan Lee, the creator of many superheroes including Spiderman, holds an essential role in Marvel films. There is this tradition where he appears in many films as an easter egg for many fanatics. In the most recent Marvel film, Captain Marvel, Stan Lee had made an appearance even after his death. However, the fact that his name was never used as a marketing technique for the film itself, many fans were curious in how the company would be incorporated and maintained the tradition of Lee appearing in the films. Therefore, this continuous act not only interest fanatics in how the film will incorporate Lee into the film but also highlights the importance of tradition with Marvel films.

Although there are benefits to the use of celebrities names after their death, the question remains of where the line is drawn to respect those individuals and when should celebrities stop being used for profit.

Parasociality or just sociality? Quotidian Occurrences of “(Estranged) Familiarity”

Though all of the pieces we read for today have to do with celebrity culture, I’d like to move the focus of this discussion for a moment away from celebrity deaths. Predominantly because, when discussing parasociality invovled with phenomenon like holograms and the utilization of soundbites from dead people, I think we can apply these instances to more quotidian occurrences as well.

Case in point: the mutual friend. Many people in my experience accumulate a wide variety of “mutual friends” via Facebook, Instagram, etc, who they have never met, but nonetheless develop a somewhat tangential relationship with. We become aware of significant or insignificant moments in their lives, their political opinions, their food preferences, date of birth, etc. But the relationship is, to an extent, one dimensional. We cannot conceptualize their “humanity” in its entirety, because they are, and in most cases, will always be, a relational “photograph,” or rather, profile picture to us. Alexandra Sherlock dwells on the notion of para-sociality within celebrity culture, and the way this forms a continuity with Walter Benjamin’s anxieties regarding “aura” and “authenticity” (Sherlock 168). But what if our notion of a person’s “aura” in fact obliterates their entire material reality? How is “aura” defined? In relation to the intrinsic object or to the crowd-sourced perception of the object?

What I mean to say is, to what extent is our real presence actually not that significant in the grieving process for tangential acquaintances? Are we always mourning the holograms of one another if all we are, initially, is holographic to one another? This might be one of those theoretical worm holes that has no end of holes and no resolutions.
But perhaps my conception of parasociality is somewhat skewed. It’s a complex definition that is increasingly complicated by what we are defining as simply “social.”
When I think of the wide majority of my relationships now, many of them have moved from the explicitly social realm to the para-social.

What We Don’t Know: Life Before Death

In comic books, “women in refrigerators” are the brutally murdered or injured love interests of male superheroes, characters used as devices that provide the men with motivation to defeat their nemeses (Simone). One of the most famous characters who has fallen to the commonplace trope is Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s first girlfriend and potentially his one true love. Gwen was thrown off a bridge in The Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1. Issue #121, “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” and died not from the fall but when Spider-Man’s web jerked her upwards too quickly, snapping her neck. Her death sparked a massive change in comic stories, as the heroes were no longer guaranteed to win. Gwen is famous only for her death, not her life or character, and in my project I explore the pieces missing from her character, the things that would make her more real, and how her death erased what few pieces of her were not directly linked to her relationship with Spider-Man.

I staged an old phone to appear as if it belongs to Gwen Stacy right around the time of her death, including bookmarks in her web browser, photographs, social media apps, and health information. The pink-and-blue color scheme is meant to match Spider-Man’s iconic suit. Gwen was a science student at the same university as Peter, a choice the writers made so that the two would run into each other easily and not because Gwen had any ambitions (Gianola and Coleman 253). From her very first thought bubble to her very last, Gwen spoke and thought only of her relationship with Peter, occasionally interspersed with doting comments on her father, a police captain with the NYPD. A few months before Gwen’s death, her father, George Stacy, died in a fight with one of Spider-Man’s nemeses, and she was still in mourning when she died in the comics. At the original time of writing, Gwen blamed Spider-Man for her father’s death, a point of contention in her relationship with Peter Parker, who she did not know was Spider-Man.

Gwen’s Photos app conveys her story most clearly. In the beginning of the album, Gwen is pictured with Peter, obviously very in love. Then in December she abruptly begins taking pictures of places in London such as Westminster Abbey and the Darwin exhibit at the National Museum. She takes pictures in London for a month, including some photos from a lab there, and then returns to New York in January. She gets lunch with Peter, hangs out with MJ, and on Valentine’s Day we see her ready for a date with Peter. After that, they have pictures as a couple again. In March, she goes to her father’s grave and takes pictures of the flowers there, has dinner with her family the next Sunday, and does more lab work with Oscorp. All of this is to reflect what we know about Gwen Stacy’s life after her father died: she decided to break up with Peter and went to study in London for a few months before returning to New York, reuniting with Peter, and abruptly dying.

Throughout the whole album, Gwen is seen drinking and partying, two things not consistent with the modern depictions and memories of Gwen. Gianola and Coleman discuss how Gwen Stacy was transformed into a saint after her death, innocent and delighted by the beauty of nature, intelligent enough to work in a chemistry lab (258). The collective memory of Gwen is not so much who her character was as who the fans wanted her to be. In her first appearances in the sixties, Gwen was flighty, interested mainly in hooking up with whoever she found attractive, and partied frequently. She was vain and frequently jealous when Peter paid attention to other women. Gwen’s sainthood came with her death, much like how society tends to idealize real people after their deaths even if that person did terrible things.

The photos in the album, which have edited metadata so they have the same date and time they would if Gwen had actually taken them, are meant to contrast and augment the cultivated Instagram feed. Gwen’s public persona, and the one people are able to reference, is sweet, smart, and loving. She posts flowers at her father’s grave and colorful lab work; her “uglier” tendencies are hidden. Arnold Blumberg suggests that because the boys who read the Spider-Man comics were meant to identify with and sees themselves as Peter Parker, they were also encouraged to see Gwen Stacy as their girlfriend. These readers do not want to see Gwen as she was but as they remember her, a perfect innocent who could not be saved, a representation of first love lost.

The differences in how Gwen presents herself in her Photos app versus her public page highlight the second focus of my project: public and private data, and how those forms of data affect how we are remembered. Gwen’s party photos are kept where those who would grieve with her cannot see them, locked behind a passcode. Her Instagram profile, on the other hand, is open and visible to everyone. The cultivated persona Gwen presents through Instagram is another form of the “packaging” Sontag describes, arranging and preserving photos for the future (5). The Instagram album emphasizes the images Gwen was willing to show others, the ones that proved that “the program was carried out, that fun was had” (Sontag 9). Her Photos app similarly provides evidence of the places she’s been and things she’s done, but only for her and the select people to whom she shows her physical phone. After Gwen dies, her private data–phone calls, iMessages, iTunes, saved articles, and especially unpublished photos–are lost. Her social media profile would exacerbate the nostalgia that erased what few parts of Gwen’s identity that were not one-hundred percent connected to Peter or her father.

As I’ve implied through the last few paragraphs, Gwen’s Instagram page, or public data, acts as a memorial to her through which others (fictional loved ones or real-world fans) can mourn her. Instagram accounts, once memorialized, do not appear any different from a regular account. As time goes on, they remain a snapshot of that time before the person’s death. When I first created the Instagram account, I followed some accounts made by fans of other characters such as Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker, and Harry Osborn for added realism. A few of the accounts followed back, and several other people have also decided to follow this fake account. In doing so, they unwittingly created a network of the sort Graham et al. describe, a secondary set of mourners beyond Gwen’s family. I also used the account to post a tribute to Captain Stacy, Gwen’s father and the second man around whom her life revolves. The post is tagged with a cemetery in New York and corresponds with a visit scheduled in Gwen’s calendar, establishing a connection between mourning in the physical world and the digital world. Gwen’s memorial page, however, is purely digital and can be “visited” in whatever moment the viewer chooses. It also does not have the same weight that a grave does; there is no gray stone or cross to indicate that Gwen is dead and rests beneath the viewer’s feet. The post is meant to highlight the difference between physical gravesites and Website memorials.

This project is meant to be something of a critique of how female characters in comics have very little to them, but it was more difficult than I expected to create a true personality for Gwen and represent it through her phone. Because there is so little information about Gwen’s life beyond Peter, anything I came up with was pure speculation. The things my project lacks–conversations with other people, evidence of mourning beyond surface-level examples, evidence of Gwen’s ambitions and plans for the future–are the same things that the comics lack. In the end, I felt that sticking purely to what was expressed in canon provided a stronger basis for the project. Even with what little information I had, I was able to construct a trip to London, friendships with other women, and an interest in science-based art.

Representation of women in media has changed quite a bit recently, illustrated by the recent release of Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman; some things, however, have not changed. The Gwen Stacy of The Amazing Spider-Man series still revolves around Peter, still has no defined ambitions, and, most importantly, still dies to further Peter’s character development. What is the purpose of her death, when the shock value from the sixties has worn off and superhero stories are already dark and steeped in desperation? Her ignored backstory aligns nicely with the idea of forgotten data, the things we lose when a loved one dies. Companies like Apple cannot unlock someone else’s phone without a court order, rendering a dead person’s phone a useless brick of encrypted information. What pieces of our lives will be lost when we are gone, and will our families even know to look for what is missing?



Blumberg, Arnold. (2003). The Night Gwen Stacy Died: The End of Innocence and the Birth of the Bronze Age. Reconstruction. 3.

Gianola, Gabriel, and Janine Coleman. “THE GWENAISSANCE: GWEN STACY AND THE PROGRESSION OF WOMEN IN COMICS.” Gender and the Superhero Narrative, edited by MICHAEL GOODRUM et al., University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2018, pp. 251–284. JSTOR.

Graham, Connor, et al. “Gravesites and Websites: A Comparison of Memorialisation.” Visual Studies, vol. 30, no. 1, Mar. 2015, pp. 37–53. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/1472586X.2015.996395.

Simone, Gail. “Women in Refrigerators.” LBY3, Beau Yarbrough, March 1999.

Sontag, Susan. “In Plato’s Cave.” On Photography, Penguin Books, 1997, pp. 3-24.

Anti-vax Grief Trolls

Over the last few class sessions, we have discussed how technology and media are used as tools and vehicles for the grieving process. Many of the bereaved turn social media in search of support, comfort, or “thoughts and prayers.” Unfortunately, while there are many out there who genuinely do offer condolences and their own grief for the deceased, there is a population of media-users who capitalize on the digital expression of grief. We have spoken about “grief trolls,” who make jokes or seek personal gain at the expense of someone’s public grief. I did not fully understand this concept until having read a CNN article which popped-up on my feed earlier today, entitled “Her son died. And then anti-vaxers attacked her.” This short article tells the story of a young mother who’s 2-year-old son tragically dies of the flu, and her choice to reactively vaccinate her two other young children to avoid similar fates. As many of members of this generation do, she sought out the comfort from friends through her expression of grief via facebook. Yet instead of receiving messages of sympathy, kind comments, and sad face emojis, she opened her facebook to find alarming and condemning messages from those referred to as “anti-vaxers.” These messages ranged from blaming her for the death of her child and attacking the young mother’s personhood, to claims that the mother has made up this story to champion vaccinations.

This is a perfect, yet upsetting example of the grief trolls who transform another person’s public grief into a much uglier entity either for their own personal gain or just because they have nothing better to do. To claim that this young mother’s grief is unfounded, that she is to blame for the death of her child, or that the very existence of her child is fabricated completely invalidates the grief experience. These anti-vaxer grief trolls both inflict emotional harm on the bereaved and politicize another’s experience of grief to advance their own political agenda: that vaccines are bad.

While people have been using tragedy for political gain for years, this widespread grief trolling with specific political goals would not be possible without the role of social media in today’s grieving. The popular expression of grief through media platforms has rendered the grieving process notably more public than before, especially given the taboo nature of death in our society. Unlike the previously private dying and grieving process, this unboundedly public grief not only expands the audience which is witness to grief, but also creates a new platform through which strangers can appropriate and exploit the experiences of others.



Can someone who looks like they were in the Brady Bunch haunt you?

On a run with my friend Maura a few days ago, we passed the abandoned cabin collapsed into the mossy thrush that lines Davidson’s cross country trails.

I commented in passing that the sloping log edifice disintegrating into damp soil was a perfect representation of Mark Fisher’s definition of “the eerie”: a family had been once present here, we could see their turned over sink and ice-box. Ostensibly they were now absent, for reasons we were sure were fraught and nefarious.

“I want to take a photo of this but I feel like some spirit would possess my phone or something,” I commented jokingly.

“I found like a 1950’s saddle shoe here once,” Maura said, and then added “empty of course.”

Which provoked a strange thought, “ghosts like are never from like a decade after the 40s though.”

In the media, rarely do you see a ghost that isn’t a small victorian child in white-ish night gown with long stringy hair and empty eyes.

Enter Bethan Bell’s “Taken from life,” in which dead victorian folks are propped up with what I can only imagine are coat hangers and photographed. I was struck by the fact that the images were the crystallization of what my brain thought of when it thought of “ghost.” A ghost had to be someone distant from me in sense of dress and in decade. The more antiquated the more likely to come back haunting.

“Yeah like you wouldn’t see a ghost from the 1970’s. What would they do shake their bell bottoms at you and boo?” I said.

“But you also wouldn’t see like the ghost of a caveman or something” Maura decides.


So evidently one’s perception of “ghosthood” is highly temporal. It has a scopic element that refracts our categorization of who can who can’t be a ghost.

Why particularly are Victorian people so much more likely to be ghosts? Were they sadder, more melancholic, more ashen faced, more hysterical, more generally creepy?

Well, honestly, probably, but also we might find the answer in Jeffrey Cohen’s theses on monsters. Just as monsters are a “cultural body” so too seemingly is our perception of the ghost inflected with cultural anxiety (Cohen 4). 

I’m no historian on the late industrial period, nor am I exactly sure why the people of this time are the recycled fodder of many a haunting T.V. show, novel, or film.

Maybe some of this may connect to the insurgence of gothicism that began in the mid to late 18th century, maybe some of this was related to the increase in population, which meant a proportional increase in death, maybe victorian people were really just that more creepy than the rest of us. I can’t particularly point  to one reason. But it’s worth interrogating why I can’t fathom someone from the 80s rocking shoulder pads and a bad haircut haunting me.