Dayna Tortorici

N+1 Magazine

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 31, 2015

Discussion

Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
I'm Dayna Tortorici, one of the editors of n+1 magazine, a journal of literature, culture, and politics based in New York. I started as an intern at the magazine in 2010, and during my time here I've worked on a dozen issues (most recently As If , a handful of pamphlets and limited-run newspapers, and three small books. The third, No Regrets , consists of three transcribed interviews between women writers, artists, activists, and academics about what they read (or wish they'd read) in their twenties. I most recently wrote about Italian feminism and the novels of Elena Ferrante for n+1.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@dtortorici Hey Dayna! thanks for joining us today. You mentioned in our podcast that people in tech could benefit from reading some critical theory. Can you recommend where one should start? for those interested in more Dayna, our podcast episode here: https://soundcloud.com/product-h...
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@eriktorenberg Thanks for having me! "Society of the Spectacle" (http://bit.ly/1roqj49) by Guy Debord might be one place to start: "The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images." A "social relation among people, mediated by images" is as good a description of what we're doing right now as I can think of. I loved Roland Barthes's books when I first read them. He's a beautiful, mystical writer with a very winning style. "Camera Lucida" (http://monoskop.org/images/c/c5/...) in particular helped me think about photography in a new way, which was important to me as someone both fascinated by images and uncomfortable being photographed. The first section of "Distinction" by Pierre Bourdieu was also formative for me. I read it in a book group when I was 20, and the copy of the book I borrowed from the NYPL had an angry set of folded notes from the previous reader slipped in between the pages. He was trying to come up with a critique of taste, like Bourdieu's, but about indie rock, which was totally inscrutable to me; all I could decipher was his rage. I appreciated finding those notes because it really illustrated how alive this debate still is—about whether "taste" is a natural facility that some people have, or more like unconscious manners you pick up in cotillion or inherit from your parents. Nicholas Dames wrote a great piece in n+1, about Bourdieu and that 33 1/3 book about Celine Dion, that gives the gist of the argument: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-8/.... One of the editors also wrote a piece for the magazine against Bourdieu and "sociological thinking" when it comes to art. (The basic idea: not all aesthetic appreciation is predetermined by your social class https://nplusonemag.com/issue-16...) Michel Foucault's lectures from the College de France are wonderful because they're lectures; he's talking, and it's much easier to follow. "The Birth of Biopolitics" is a particular favorite (http://www.amazon.com/The-Birth-...). If you want to learn about biopower you'll be disappointed, because he never quite gets to it—I think in the last lecture he says, "sorry we never got to biopower, I had to lay out all that other stuff first"—but it's a great crash course in political economy and certain concepts that are everywhere in business today: human capital, viewing relationships as investments, the subordination to anything rational to an economic rationality. For feminist theory, I recommend the very readable "Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community" (https://libcom.org/files/Dalla%2... bell hooks's "Feminist Theory from Margin to Center"; Michelle Wallace's "Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman"; "The Dialectic of Sex" by Shulamith Firestone; "Bodies that Matter" by Judith Butler. For some lighter fare, some theoryish n+1 hits: "Female Trouble" by Elizabeth Gumport: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-13... "Politicopsychopathology" by Benjamin Kunkel: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-15... "Against Exercise" by Mark Greif: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-1/... "The Concept of Experience" by Mark Greif: https://nplusonemag.com/issue-2/...
jaytoles@jaytoles · Writer Wormly
Hi, Dayna. I wonder: If the hipster is no more, what or who has replaced him? (Asking for a friend, since I'm neither hipster nor hipster-successor, I swear.) Julian
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@jaytoles I think my friends at K-Hole (k-hole.net) answered this question best in their trend forecast YOUTH MODE (http://khole.net/issues/youth-mode/) about Normcore. It's worth getting past the fashion concept and reading their original piece about it. Fashion is important, though. Some aesthetic differences noted, more about bar decor than individuals, plagiarized from my twitter: Brick wall painted white is the new Margot Tennenbaum zebra wallpaper Succulents are the new taxidermy Tin bucket painted white as restaurant bathroom wastepaper basket is the new rusty tin bucket as restaurant bathroom wastepaper basket
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's the biggest (even if personal) critique of your work that you are most sympathetic to?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
besides n+1, what are some of your favorite non profits + art orgs?
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Do you believe certain questions can serve as effective litmus tests to get to know someone as a person? If so, what is your favorite question?
Moira Donegan@megamoira
Hi Dayna! Not sure if this is the sort of thing that interests you at all, but here goes: I've been reading a lot lately about how feminist and queer movements seem to be forgotten and erased from memory, only to be eerily reenacted by subsequent generations of activists who seem to have only a peripheral understanding of their own history. The consensus seems to be that this is partly because queer and feminist activism advocates for the creation of lives that do not fit into received narratives of what a life looks like. This problem—of needing to create a sort of life that we haven't read about before, haven't seen before in our cultural representations—strikes me as a question that can be particularly salient for those working around technology and towards economic justice. Have you read anything about this "narrative problem"? Can you point me towards any thinking about narrative and activism, especially as it might apply beyond feminist and queer advocacy, even towards questions of technology and workers rights? XO Moira
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@megamoira I don't have a good answer to this question and really wish I did. I guess what I'd say is that I don't think this problem is unique to feminism or queer movements, even though both movements are invested in troubling what we understand as "the family," and therefore may have a different relationship to the generational transfer of knowledge than other movements. (I.e., literally: if you don't have a family, you're not passing the message down to your kids.) Just because you've attained feminist consciousness doesn't mean your baby will, and though I'm too young to really speak about this at all, but my sense is that you can't force your kids to care about what you cared about anyway. But back to the point: I think that what we think of as "forgetting" is actually something different. Movements that are based on critical consciousness—or whatever you want to call that moment of realizing there are ways to live and to think that are different from what you were taught by your parents, or in school, or wherever—will *always* require that moment of realization in new converts and young people. So it has to start again, over and over, with each generation. I think there's something preemptively self-defeating in considering that problem—the "these kids think they invented this stuff!" problem—as evidence of stalling, or regression, or failure to gain traction and move forward. It's just part of the process, like being a moody teen and getting mad at your parents, and chances are those people will be embarrassed about it later, just like you were. This is not to dismiss the real forgetting, though. I think that chronicling your efforts is important. And so is institution building—whatever your institution may be (law, literature, science, etc).
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
Thanks for the great questions! Do yourself a favor and subscribe to n+1: nplusonemag.com/subscribe x
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
Hi Dayna, you recently wrote about Italian feminism. What did you learn when doing research for that topic?
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@colazionearoma A lot of things, but the most interesting to me was that unlike in America and France (which had important feminist movements around the same time), the Italian feminist movement didn't move so quickly into the academy. As a result, important feminist groups were very regional, working mostly in cities through bookstores, collectives, and small journals. As someone who runs a small journal, I found this fascinating and encouraging.
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Dayna, hi! Thanks for being here :) Tons of Elena Ferrante reads in your book collection on PH. Do you have a favorite? Also, is it true she reached out to you? Would you be able to share what she said?
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
@dtortorici also, what did your parents (or whoever raised you) do right, what did he/she/they do wrong?
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
ok last one -- do you believe polyamory will become mainstream? general thoughts on polyamory also welcome!
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@_helpmeranda no sure bets, but I would not be surprised.
Jonah Bromwich@jonesieman · Editor, New York Times
@dtortorici Hi Dayna! I was really struck by what you said about different magazines' house styles in your Longform interview: that pieces in which the magazine's style is most obvious are often the weakest, which is why the editorial voice is then so explicit. Since then, I've been thinking a lot of about magazines' voices more generally: Do you it makes sense for magazines (and newspapers) to attempt to have a unified voice still? Can strong individual writers still contribute to a recognizable institutional stye?
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@jonesieman This is really a matter of taste, but I like it when a magazine has a distinctive house style. Few writers hit upon a strong voice right away, even if they're very smart and talented, and it's helpful to have something to push back against. I believe in constraints—I take them as opportunities to be inventive. To me, a publication is strongest when it has a distinct character but knows when to make room for different or dissenting voice, one that broadens the world a little bit. (In literary-theory terms, I often think of this question in terms of Jauss's "horizons of expectation")
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@dtortorici Hey :) Thanks for doing this! What writers do you most admire and why?
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hey Dayna, Great to have you here! What is your dream for n+1 ? What does success look like?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey Dayna! To follow up to Ben's question, what people in general do you most admire and why?
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
@dtortorici hi! what do you think the literature and tech communities can learn from each other?
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
what do you wish you'd read when you were 21?
Tom Name@tom02476
@dtortorici Are you really interested in the preservation of the human race once you and all the people you know are no longer alive? State briefly why. How many of your children do not owe their existence to deliberate intention? Whom would you rather never have met? Are you conscious of being in the wrong in relation to some other person (who need not necessarily be aware of it)? If so, does this make you hate yourself – or the other person? Would you like to have perfect memory? Which person or persons, now dead, would you like to see again? Which not? Would you rather have belonged to a different nation (or civilization)? If so, which? To what age do you wish to live? If you had the power to put into effect things you consider right, would you do so against the wishes of the majority? (Yes or no) Why not, if you think they are right? Which do you find it easier to hate, a group or an individual? And do you prefer to hate individually or as part of a group? When did you stop believing you could become wiser – or do you still believe it? Give your age. Are you convinced by your own self-criticism? What in your opinion do others dislike about you, and what do you dislike about yourself? If not the same thing, which do you find it easier to excuse? Do you find the thought that you might never have been born (if it ever occurs to you) disturbing? When you think of someone dead, would you like him to speak to you, or would you rather say something more to him? Do you love anybody? How do you know? Let us assume that you have never killed another human being. How do you account for it? What do you need in order to be happy? What are you grateful for? Which would you rather do: die or live on as a healthy animal? Which animal?
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@tom02476 OK, gotta answer this one. I admire the ambition. Yes. I'm having a nice time, others ought to, too. I am more at peace with the idea of human extinction than I am with the idea of Earth extinction, though. None of my zero children. Nobody Often, and no. Cringing in shame, or apologetic, but not self-hating. Probably not My grandfather I guess I'd see them all, it'd be rude to pass up the opportunity. Hard to say. Old enough to be ready to go. Depends. It's easiest to hate a straw thing I believe in growing wiser. 26. Yes Probably a venn diagram Not really Depends Yes!
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@dtortorici wait....which animal????
El Capitán@pisat3l
Hey Dayna, In What Was The Hipster, you talk about the relationship between the female Hipster and photography, and how the photographic medium was a major part of the female Hipster's aesthetic. I'm curious if you've ever reflected back on this theory since the rise of the selfie, and wondered if there was a connection between the two. Also, do you think there's a correlation between the death of the Hipster and the rise of the selfie?
Dayna Tortorici@dtortorici
@pisat3l What a great question. I was already thinking a lot about selfies when I wrote "You Know It When You See It," only back then they were mirror selfies on myspace or whatever. I've abstained from "theorizing the selfie" for better or for worse, as I trust that there are people who are thinking about it harder and more intelligently than I am. As for the correlation: I suppose there is. I suspect the old hipster would find selfies too easy to take; difficulty was (is?) an important filtering mechanism and/or moral stance for what we thought of as "the hipster" when that book was published.
El Capitán@pisat3l
@dtortorici Thank you for answering my question. :-) On the second part, I agree on the point about difficulty being "an important filtering mechanism", and that was something '90s-'00s hipsters prided themselves on. I would also go on to say that the downfall of the hipster was due in part to the absorption of the Hipster aesthetic into the mainstream, which made it harder to "Know It When You See It". An example of that would be how easy it became to produce the Polaroid effect, something that previously required a Polaroid camera, which were pricey (relative to other digital cameras back then), or a $200 dollar digital camera and some photoshop, on everyday pictures with apps like Instagram.