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---
title: "4chan isn't weird"
description: "An examination of modes of socialisation on 4chan and how they defy (but align with) sociological theory"
date: 2020-08-01T12:15:10+10:00
tags:
- 4chan
- sociology
recommended: true
kinds:
- essay
---
<p>In the context of empathy, decency, and general kindness, 4chan is unique, to put it very diplomatically. In the context of sociological inquiry, 4chan is unique, full stop; the place is home to misfits that defy and elude theoretical account. They’re loners, but they’ve gathered together. They’re terrible to each other, yet they’re a community. They’re anonymous, yet they have a culture. The userbase grows, yet that culture hasn’t changed a lick, Eternal Septembers<a href="#fn1" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref1"><sup>1</sup></a> be damned. What gives?</p>
<p>In truth, 4chan doesn’t defy theory. Rather, it just reconfigures theory in ways that nowhere else on the web can match. To appreciate just how extensive those reconfigurations are, 4chan (and its culture) need to be separated according to a life-cycle; splitting the forum’s cultural timeline into its creation, spread, and perpetuation will give each sociological framework at play the opportunity to be turned on its head.</p>
<h2 id="in-the-beginning">In the beginning</h2>
<p>Online social organisations are best typed according to a two-step evolutionary scale, beginning at online group, and ending at online community <span class="citation" data-cites="matzat">(Matzat 2004, 10–12)</span>. Online groups are primarily functional: they exist to discuss a certain topic or perform a certain task. Online communities are a superset of groups, with the additional trait that individuals in the community express a collective identity. Typically, emotional engagement in a group is what evolves it into a community <span class="citation" data-cites="matzat">(Matzat 2004, 66–68)</span>. Anecdotally, 4chan is an online community. Groups like the hacktivists Anonymous exemplify the presence of a collective identity. Moreover, there exist unfortunate cases, such as the 2019 Christchurch massacre, where individuals have anecdotally identified 4chan as a social influence on their identity and behaviour <span class="citation" data-cites="fascists">(Sparrow 2020, 8–21, 108)</span>. In the context of this typology, 4chan raises two questions: <em>how do a bunch of loners form a group?</em>, and <em>how do horribly abrasive people form a community?</em></p>
<p><em>Group of loners</em> is a bit of an oxymoron, especially according to sociological theory. The loners in question are outcasts or, to put it formally, deviants. Any attempts to assemble or communicate loner-to-loner should, theoretically speaking, be thwarted by wider society. At the very least, even if they can gather, the loners shouldn’t be able to gain enough of a foothold to establish complex social organisations. Enter Internet, screen left. The web reconfigures social structures such that even the most shunned and deviant can communicate and be heard. Doubly so if you give them something to talk about. 4chan began as a board for the discussion of niche (read: nerdy) topics like anime, manga, and other otaku cultural produce. Armed with a central topic and purpose, and the ability to actually find one another, the deviants have the makings of, and come together to form, an online group.</p>
<p>Assembled they may be, but that doesn’t satisfy the conditions necessary to form a collective identity and a community. 4chan has a very belligerent method of communication. How, then, can anyone using the site experience enough of a (positive) emotional connection that they begin to identify with other individuals in the group? Answer: trick question. The belligerence, as we’ll see, is just a cultural thing. Being mean is how 4chan talks, much like you might be very rowdy with your friends but still be incredibly close with them. The real roadblock to establishing a collective identity is the ubiquitous anonymity. How do you emotionally engage with strangers? Answer: trick question again. By way of its unique demographic, 4chan achieves community status by short-circuiting the need for emotional engagement to form collective identity. Channers already have a collective identity: they’re deviants. By having a label assigned to them, they don’t have to develop one to become a community. That said, perhaps it’s not such a trick question. Anonymity needn’t preclude emotional engagement. Actors may not experience their interactions as being with diffuse, anonymous individuals. Their interactions, from their perspective, might simply be with 4chan as a collective. As they continue to interact with that collective, they can have the prolonged, multiplex social exchanges necessary to form an emotional attachment. The coming section will elaborate on this.</p>
<p>Moving beyond the social structure of 4chan as a collective, There’s one more question to ask: how was its culture born? Where <em>does</em> all of that sourness come from? In a word (or two), subversion and transgression. The web is a veritable Globe Theatre for the performance of the self. 4chan is no exception, and is subject to the typical Goffmanian processes of self presentation. Consider the performance of self’s statement that we perform out identities. The oft-neglected corollary there is that we <em>must</em> perform our identities. Channers already have an identity, one that is embedded in the embodied world; they are deviants. Applying the corollary, channers must perform this identity. They do so by employing Goffmanian front, the the “expressive equipment of a standard kind intentionally or unwittingly employed by the individual during his performance” (Goffman, quoted in <span class="citation" data-cites="ambivalent">Phillips and Milner (2017, 67)</span>). On 4chan, this front is all manner of subversive and transgressive behaviour, in accordance with imagined audience of other deviants. That front is refined, pushed, and played with by the audience, what Goffman calls “reciprocal influence.” The audience can even go so far as to define an expected front for participants to adopt <span class="citation" data-cites="ambivalent">(Phillips and Milner 2017, 67)</span>. In other words, misfits must be misfits. The identities assigned to channers embedded in the physical world force them to grapple with that identity in all facets of life. Online, and on 4chan, that grapple becomes an embrace.</p>
<h2 id="going-viral">Going viral</h2>
<p>Performed selves establish a cultural baseline, or an archetype of sorts, but where do we go from there? What about the memes 4chan is so famous for? How do cultural artefacts—like certain ways of using new words, pictures, or new behaviours—spread? Here, 4chan’s behaviour can be explained by a new spin on those epidemiologically-inspired sociological concepts: contagions and ties.</p>
<p>Normally, for something like cultural innovation to spread, you need strong ties <span class="citation" data-cites="weakness_long_ties">(Centola and Macy 2007, 709–10)</span>. Culture is a complex contagion—it requires multiple contacts with the infected in order to spread. Moreover, the infected have to be trusted, because you don’t want to make a fool of yourself trying the new thing just because some stranger told you to. 4chan, though, has the notable impracticality of anonymity. Technically speaking, there shouldn’t be any cultural spread because there shouldn’t be any strong ties because no one knows who anyone else is. Nevertheless, life seems to have found a way. There are two possibilities here, then. Either the ties on 4chan aren’t what they seem, or the contagion isn’t what it seems.</p>
<p>Suppose the former. Though it is technically impossible to form the strong ties necessary to spread a complex contagion like that on 4chan, they may be present in a different form. Recall the earlier supposition that the same anonymity that makes strong ties impossible may invoke some sense in actors that they’re interacting with a single, homogeneous mass, regardless of whom they’re actually replying to. Rather than having multiple weak links to individuals, an actor forms a single tie with 4chan as a monolithic whole. Because actors never discern that they’re having multiple short social actions with several individuals, they’re instead lulled into the sense that they’re having one long social relation with a single entity. The social processes occurring are artificially pushed up the sociological hierarchy, permitting and creating stronger social bonds.</p>
<p>Alternatively, suppose the latter. It could be that there is no such thing as a complex contagion on 4chan. One reason for that might be that the domain-specificity of a complex contagion reduces its complexity. Say what? Let me unpack that a bit. While culture is a complex contagion, it’s also a contagion that only infects its host and shows symptoms in certain scenarios. You’re hardly going to show all the symptoms of your heavy metal fandom culture when you’re at your new workplace, for example. Because of this, the complexity (riskiness) of adopting this culture while you’re in the domain it’s most suited to is reduced quite a bit. So much, in fact, that it functionally becomes a simple contagion, able to spread without all the arduous social reinforcement. The other potential reason complex contagions don’t exist on 4chan is (surprise) anonymity. Because anonymity eliminates any way of identifying you, if you try to make some risky cultural moves and get rejected, you can just pretend to be another person, no skin off your nose. This means that the complexity (again, riskiness) of the cultural contagion is functionally zero, making it as easy to spread as it is to appear in a new thread under a different guise. In both of these models, a complex contagion is able to spread through weak ties.</p>
<p>So, the culture either spreads through the hybridisation of ties (perceived strong ties where there are actually weak ties) or through the collapse of a complex contagion into a simple one. Either way, the spread of culture on an anonymous platform, however baffling and unprecedented, is not out of the scope of theory. And the trend continues...</p>
<h2 id="the-secret-to-immortality">The secret to immortality</h2>
<p>Online communities die. No ifs, no buts, no digital coconuts. As the apocryphal Eternal September goes, the more a userbase grows, the more a community’s sensibilities must be diluted to accommodate the heterogeneous influx. Eventually, the culture converges on a locus of broadest appeal, and ceases to exist in any recognisable form. 4chan, though, has managed to stay remarkably true to its roots, despite a steady growth in numbers.</p>
<p>The secret to 4chan’s defiance of death lies, as always, in its uniquely deviant demographic. From the outset, normies<a href="#fn2" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref2"><sup>2</sup></a> are discouraged by the website’s taboo relative to other platforms. At the very least, this gives the site some longevity as the terrible tipping point of cultural erosion is staved off. This isn’t enough on its own, though. To stay true to its roots, a culture needs to successfully indoctrinate any new initiates to be fluent enough that nothing changes. This is where Usenet failed and succumbed to the college plague. 4chan’s deviant demographic, though, creates a deviant subculture that uniquely positions it to fend off would-be cultural revolutionaries. Kek, BTFO, dubs and trips of truth, GIFs of George Costanza, PNGs of fish being (or avoiding being) hooked by bait; all of these cultural artefacts demand weirdness from participants.</p>
<figure>
<img src="/images/pepe.jpg" alt="A social artefact. No, I don’t understand it, either. Image from Furie (2010), retrieved from Khan (2020)." /><figcaption>A social artefact. No, I don’t understand it, either. Image from <span class="citation" data-cites="pepe">Furie (2010)</span>, retrieved from <span class="citation" data-cites="khan_2020">Khan (2020)</span>.</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>If you aren’t transgressive enough, you’ll be shooed (to put it politely) away before you can do any harm. Post with enough weirdness and venom, and you’ll have passed your digital hazing and be welcomed into the fold. You’re still forced to keep on your toes, though; you’re anonymous, so there’s never any trust that you’re bona fide unless your actions play the part. If 4chan wasn’t so subversive, it would be all too willing to let the uninitiated be promoted; they’d be too busy respecting the wider social norms of politeness to protect their own.</p>
<p>This phenomenon is a weaponisation of anticipatory socialisation—individuals either adjusting their behaviour to fit a group, or turning away from it after rejection—combined with a deep, and nearly inscrutable digital folklore crafted with the affordances of digital mediation. Folklore is fundamentally vernacular and noninstitutional <span class="citation" data-cites="ambivalent">(Phillips and Milner 2017, 32)</span>. It underpins most everyday socialisation, especially in collective contexts. It’s also fundamentally hybrid, blurring boundaries between then and now, commercial and populist, conformist and subversive. As a result, it can often be impossible to trace and understand. Digital mediation makes this impenetrability skyrocket. Digital mediation affords social artefacts—pictures, text, and so on—archivability, modifiability, and modularity <span class="citation" data-cites="ambivalent">(Phillips and Milner 2017, 50–53)</span>. That’s all to say that digital mediation makes it possible to endlessly reconfigure and reinterpret social artefacts, to the point where they are completely unintelligible to an outgroup. 4chan, whether intentionally or not, makes heavy use of this in order to keep the bloodline pure.</p>
<h2 id="unique-but-not-alien">Unique, but not alien</h2>
<p>Surficially, 4chan certainly defies conventional wisdom. Explaining the ways its users socialise necessitates a little massaging of theory. Nevertheless, the theory works. That’s a boon, and it has two wider implications. The first is something of a hint at the answer to the question <em>is the web a new way of socialising?</em> If something as unconventional as 4chan can be accounted for by theory, perhaps it is the case that the web merely reconfigures what’s already happening in the social world. The other important news is that being able to explain some of these processes could prove incredibly useful for some of the problematic social processes occurring on the web. Understanding how 4chan works could be the key to curtailing the cultural attitudes that permit fake news, science denial, radicalisation, and general antagonistic, deviant behaviour on the web. In any case, despite every 4chan user’s subversive dreams, it seems that nothing is new under the sun.</p>
<h2 id='references'>References</h2>
<div id="refs" class="references">
<div id="ref-weakness_long_ties">
<p>Centola, Damon, and Michael Macy. 2007. “Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties.” <em>American Journal of Sociology</em> 113 (3): 702–34. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/521848">https://doi.org/10.1086/521848</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-pepe">
<p>Furie, Matt. 2010. <em>Boy’s Club</em>. Pigeon Press.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-khan_2020">
<p>Khan, Imad. 2020. “The Story Behind 4chan’s Pepe the Frog Meme.” <em>The Daily Dot</em>. <a href="https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/4chan-pepe-the-frog-renaissance/">https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/4chan-pepe-the-frog-renaissance/</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-matzat">
<p>Matzat, Uwe. 2004. “Cooperation and Community an the Internet: Past Issues and Present Perspectives for Theoretical-Empirical Internet Research.” <em>Analyse &amp; Kritik</em> 26 (1): 63–90. <a href="https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/auk/26/1/article-p63.xml">https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/auk/26/1/article-p63.xml</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-ambivalent">
<p>Phillips, Whitney, and Ryan M. Milner. 2017. <em>The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online</em>. Polity.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-fascists">
<p>Sparrow, Jeff. 2020. <em>Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre</em>. Scribe Publications.</p>
</div>
</div>
<section class="footnotes">
<hr />
<ol>
<li id="fn1"><p>The Eternal September refers to the September of 1993, when ISP America Online began to offer Usenet services to subscribers. Prior to 1993, September, the month when university classes began, new students would flood the Usenet platform, uneducated in the platform’s cultural norms. Over time, the new users would learn to fit in. After 1993, the influx simply became too constant for the old guard to teach.<a href="#fnref1" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
<li id="fn2"><p>4chan, and now wider Internet, parlance for the broader, conformist public.<a href="#fnref2" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
</ol>
</section>

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---
title: "Heaven (not) on Earth"
description: "Why classical utopianism leaves us hanging, and how the ideal utopia is already in front of us"
date: 2020-08-01T12:15:10+10:00
tags:
- utopia
- cyberspace
- sociology
recommended: true
kinds:
- essay
---
<p>Will we ever get to utopia? We’ve been drawing the map since we first put pen to paper, but the moment we like the look of our sketch, we scrunch up the paper and toss it in the trash.</p>
<p>To get to utopia, we need to stop asking “are we there yet?”, and accept what’s already in front of us.</p>
<h2 id="one-and-done">One-and-done</h2>
<blockquote>
<p>Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache.<br />
<span class="citation" data-cites="orwell_socialists">(Orwell 1943)</span></p>
</blockquote>
<p>Orwell has hit the bullseye. Like a bad Hollywood franchise, utopists keep rebooting instead of continuing. It’s not their fault; the entire purpose of utopia is to mend the broken... but mending the broken is what forces utopias into obsolescence.</p>
<p>The utopian recipe is to trumpet a radical idea, to lock horns with hegemons, and to reorder hierarchies <span class="citation" data-cites="brossard">(Brossard 2019)</span>. Each of these acts is regrettably, but necessarily, static; utopias must be restricted by context because they are a result of context, of utopian niches <span class="citation" data-cites="brossard">(Brossard 2019, 436–38)</span>. The radical idea dissipates to no more than a point on an already-unfolding political trajectory. The hegemons fade, morph, and grow until they are no longer the opponent you picked a fight with. The hierarchies are only reordered from the author’s perspective. I’m sure Plato was thrilled with philosophers being kings, likewise More with being put out of a job, but what about everyone else?</p>
<p>Context restricted the utopias of old to a particular period of fashionability: after that, they became passe and a new one was ordered; utopias are thus forever kept just out of reach. Plasticity, then, is the utopia’s ally and our utopian hope. Plasticity will keep these great utopian monuments from being covered in pigeon sh*t.</p>
<h2 id="the-human-problem">The human problem</h2>
<blockquote>
<p>The Modern Utopia must be not static but kinetic, must shape not as a permanent state but as a hopeful stage, leading to a long ascent of stages.<br />
<span class="citation" data-cites="wells">(Wells 2004, 16)</span></p>
</blockquote>
<p>H.G. Wells recognised the durability of a plastic utopia. He knew that you could never find ‘a balance of happiness won for ever’ <span class="citation" data-cites="wells">(Wells 2004, 16)</span>. Needs and desires evolve; the definition of perfection evolves likewise. Wells then proceeded to pen some 400 pages doing the exact opposite. Barely a paragraph after decrying Morris for making ‘the whole race wise, tolerant, noble’ <span class="citation" data-cites="wells">(Wells 2004, 18)</span>, he mentions that, in his modern utopia, he’ll ‘permit [himself] a free hand with the mental conflict of life’ <span class="citation" data-cites="wells">(Wells 2004, 20)</span>. Orwell slammed Wells for persisting in that naivety when Wells later insisted Hitler was somehow destined to fail, the goodness of men somehow destined to prevail, and the war would somehow peter out without further bloodshed.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>Before you can even talk of world reconstruction, or even of peace, you have got to eliminate Hitler, which means bringing into being a dynamic not necessarily the same as that of the Nazis, but probably quite as unacceptable to ‘enlightened’ and hedonistic people.<br />
<span class="citation" data-cites="orwell_hitler">(Orwell 1941)</span></p>
</blockquote>
<p>What emerges from Orwell’s words is a cruel paradox. Utopia cannot come into being without enforcing a common philosophy. Paradise must be born in blood. And it can only persist with bloodshed. Our innate individuality will always birth conflict, and we must either allow conflict, or quash it. Neither option is particularly utopian, and all the plasticity in the world can’t save us from that.</p>
<h2 id="untangling-the-web">Untangling the web</h2>
<p>... but perhaps it can. Until the late 20th century, humanity had never actually beheld true plasticity. The wet blanket of our corporeal reality and the certainty of scarcity kept plasticity out of our reach. But the chirping modems of the 90s threw off the blanket. They made a new world that was entirely plastic.</p>
<p>Cyberspace is our utopia. Cyberspace offers the limitless potential to sate the ever-evolving tastes of humanity. Whether mansions or huts are trendy, you can have one—everyone can have one; 50-acre mansions only sip a few more cents in electricity than a riverside hut. And in its limitless potential, cyberspace paradoxically does limit the wrath we can inflict upon one another. Even if you had reason to kill someone, you couldn’t; virtual forms don’t play by physical rules.</p>
<p>Virtual forms, in fact, can be anything. This fact alone could dismantle much of what creates conflict. Our physicality: sex, race, and so on, are the basis of much conflict that isn’t materially based. Virtual forms needn’t take human silhouettes, so our cyberutopia needn’t see the conflicts of physicality.</p>
<p>We also know that eternal happiness is an oxymoron. From <em>A Christmas Carol</em> to <em>The Good Place</em>, we’ve long known that happiness is the absence of sadness <span class="citation" data-cites="orwell_socialists">(Orwell 1943)</span>. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, presence makes happiness grow weaker. Even utopia needs breaks. Lucky for us, the portal to cyberspace is as omnipresent as the devices it runs on. Perhaps more interestingly, the exit is omnipresent, too; when utopia begins to bore you, as paradise can tend to do, you can leave. And you can come back, too. Maybe even to a different utopia, whose inhabitants’ attitudes and philosophy are more in line with how you’re feeling today.<a href="#fn1" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref1"><sup>1</sup></a></p>
<p>Cyberspace offers everything we’ve been looking for.</p>
<h2 id="right-under-your-nose">Right under your nose</h2>
<p>So, utopia is already here. Perhaps a little underdressed until our technology can fully immerse us into cyberspace, but here nonetheless. Our plastic paradise has finally come. Utopian texts, of course, will never die. Nor should they. The political purposes they serve are too important; they’ll likely even shape what we implement as paradise in cyberspace. But the worlds they dream of, and that we’ve dreamed of, are already right under our noses.</p>
<p>We must be cautiously optimistic in this space, though. The capitalist digerati of our time have warped cyberspace into another space for subjugation to surveillance, control, and value extraction. The ideas described here are drawn from the emerging federated web: a collection of services mimicking traditional social media, but maintained by individuals with their own hardware, and a technologically-enforced democracy among those individuals.<a href="#fn2" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref2"><sup>2</sup></a> That is where our utopia will come from, and we must tread carefully to avoid ensnarement in the same capitalist traps that litter our physical world.</p>
<h2 id='references'>References</h2>
<div id="refs" class="references">
<div id="ref-brossard">
<p>Brossard, Baptiste. 2019. “Elements for a Theory of Utopia Production.” <em>Utopian Studies</em> 30 (3): 422–43. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/utopianstudies.30.3.0422">https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/utopianstudies.30.3.0422</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-orwell_hitler">
<p>Orwell, George. 1941. “Wells, Hitler, and the World State.” <em>Horizon</em>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-orwell_socialists">
<p>———. 1943. “Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun.” <em>Tribune</em>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-wells">
<p>Wells, Herbert George. 2004. <em>A Modern Utopia</em>. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg.</p>
</div>
</div>
<section class="footnotes">
<hr />
<ol>
<li id="fn1"><p>Incidentally, this is the mobile utopia Wells fawned over.<a href="#fnref1" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
<li id="fn2"><p>The technology behind this is outside the scope of this article. For more information, see the <a href="https://fediverse.party">Fediverse website</a>. A very accessible article on the topic is also available at <a href="https://newatlas.com/what-is-the-fediverse/56385/">New Atlas</a>.<a href="#fnref2" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
</ol>
</section>

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---
title: "Make room for Elsewhere"
description: "An inquiry into the usefulness of Elsewhere in the production of utopias"
date: 2020-08-01T12:15:10+10:00
tags:
- utopia
- sociology
recommended: true
kinds:
- essay
---
<p>Utopia is an exercise in balancing extrapolation with feasibility. Utopianism has forever been a project of blueprinting the course society should take <span class="citation" data-cites="engels">(Engels 1880)</span>; feasibility is therefore the name of the game. To understand what’s possible to the minds of a particular social context is, then, to understand how the utopian project will be undertaken in that social context.</p>
<p>But what defines feasibility? To put that another way, what restricts the utopian project? It’s certainly nothing to do with the sociological; nearly every utopia includes a drastic (or at least partial) social reconfiguration. You could probably find a cave painting of a proletarian uprising if you looked hard enough. It’s not the material; utopias have been rich enough to make chains from gold, and advanced enough to achieve international travel via low-orbit spaceflight. No, the boundary of a utopia (and of utopian thinking) is the fundamental law no amount of ingenuity or willpower can make a dent in. Utopia is caged by space.</p>
<p>As the manifestation of space, the Elsewhere of a utopia is its potential: it is the selection criterion limiting the otherwise limitless solutions to the utopian impetus. The Elsewheres available in a context are much the same to the utopian project as a whole in that context. Let me illustrate this with an examination of our contemporary dearth of utopias. To put it diplomatically, we live in quite interesting times. There is no shortage of utopian impetus, so where are all the utopias? The answer to that question seems to lie in the simple fact that we have nowhere to go <span class="citation" data-cites="brossard">(Brossard 2019, 438–40)</span>. Earth is explored. Even the most remote islands now belong to someone. We don’t quite have the ability to say if expanding to the cosmos is a viable option. Sure, we have plenty of room on Earth, but the utopian project is not sufficed by mere room. It needs more than a slice of land carved out for it. To appreciate why, let me draw from David Harvey’s reading of Lefebvre: materialisation encrusts and crystallises power flows <span class="citation" data-cites="harvey">(Harvey 2000, 182–88)</span>. It is an innately authoritarian act, and one that flies in the face of the utopian project, which is fundamentally concerned with the exploration of alternatives. Utopia can’t be built off already occupied space, lest it be subject to this restriction of alternatives. Harvey’s critique of Foucault’s heterotopia underscores this point; despite the permission it grants to explore alternatives within space, heterotopia is evolution, not revolution <span class="citation" data-cites="harvey">(Harvey 2000, 184–86)</span>. Heterotopia grows outward from already-claimed space, and it’s subsequently subject to the same encrusted power flows of that space. This begins to account for the missing utopias. I repeat, we have room on Earth, but we don’t have space. If we understand Elsewheres better, we can begin to think outside the box to find space and reignite the utopian project in a time when we most desperately need it.</p>
<p>What contemporary utopias we do have exemplify how, without total severance, utopia becomes marred and tarnished by the trappings of the room it inherits. Robert Llewellyn’s Gardenia suffers from exactly this affliction. Without any space left, Llewellyn is forced to use time as a context distortion. With bountiful apologies to Einstein, time is no substitute for space. Gardenia subsequently manifests all the critiques Harvey makes of heterotopia. Gardenians live peacefully to 150 years old, but they’re only able to do so because of the material inheritance left by the non-utopian dynasties of war and progress preceding them. The residents are painfully aware of their dependence, and the precariousness of their dependence:</p>
<blockquote>
<p>‘One hundred years, Mr Meckler,’ said Paula seriously. ‘That’s how long we’ve been struggling to make this frail system work. It won’t last forever, we all know that, but for now, we have reached a sustainable equilibrium between people and nature.’ <span class="citation" data-cites="gardenia">(Llewellyn 2012, 174)</span></p>
</blockquote>
<p>The adoption of time as a context distortion is not limited to Llewellyn’s contemporary utopia. The musical and artistic microgenre vaporwave adopts the same technique in the face of a modern absence of space. Placing itself in a past of unfulfilled promises, vaporwave’s utopia is unsurprisingly defeatist; an ironic celebration of the hypercapitalist, politically unstable world left in the wake of 1990s naivety shattered by post-millenial tragedy and upheaval <span class="citation" data-cites="vaporwave">(Barilaro 2020)</span>.</p>
<figure>
<img src="/images/vaporart.jpg" alt="A vaporwave artwork, from SleepoBeepos (2020)." /><figcaption>A vaporwave artwork, from <span class="citation" data-cites="vaporart">SleepoBeepos (2020)</span>.</figcaption>
</figure>
<p>Perhaps the best example of space-limited utopia comes from real-world commmunes. Consider Rojava. Birthed from the unloving parents of a civil war and violently unstable region, Rojava certainly sets forth on the utopian project in Syria; under its ideals, gender equality, education, and peace have flourished in a space where they’ve traditionally suffered. In an unfortunate case of following suit, Rojava still exhibits the limitations of a space-limited utopia. As a place fundamentally born of, and still inhabiting, a lack of space for Kurds, Rojava is only utopia for the Kurdish. Rojava is guilty of exclusion and isolationism, adopting policies and rhetoric that implicitly attempt to keep out, or at least pacify, non-Kurds <span class="citation" data-cites="rojava">(students 2020)</span>. Hardly paradise on Earth. The trends, sadly, continue. <em>The No. 9 Bus to Utopia</em> details David Bramwell’s nomadic journey through real-world attempts at Utopia. Each of them tragically manifests Harvey’s critique of heterotopia <span class="citation" data-cites="bus">(Bramwell 2014, 60–61, 140, 173, 176–77)</span>: Christiania, the anarchist, drug-happy commune in Denmark is frequently raided by police and forced to pay rent to the government for otherwise unused land; the Other World Kingdom, a “gynarchic” sex-focused commune was abandoned after disputes about finances; Puye, a free-love commune was denied land by Indian authorities; Damanhur, the builders and worshippers of a mighty underground temple built in mountains near Turin, was decried by the Vatican as home to cultists practising witchcraft, black magic, and drug use<a href="#fn1" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref1"><sup>1</sup></a> and has since been allowed to stay, but only after taxation and opening its doors to commodification.</p>
<p>These modern utopias are not the children of a new generation of particularly cruel utopists. Their uniting theme is a ‘do the best with what you’ve got’ attitude; the shortcomings of contemporary utopias are the result of the cruft they have to deal with in lieu of a blank canvas. In the case of those real-world communes, compromise is also the consequence of nearby authorities’ dissatisfaction and contempt for new spaces attempting to claim sovereignty (even if the land is completely abandoned). If the role Elsewhere (or lack thereof) is playing here is ignored, the best a theory of utopia production can hope to do is guess. Nothing else links these utopias; their creators, their format, their utopian impetus, and their contexts are heterogeneous and plural. Nothing else in the theory of utopia production’s armory can be leveraged against this phenomenon. To fix it, we need to better understand Elsewhere, and how it can be created.</p>
<p>This issue of debris opens another line of intriguing inquiry. Perhaps I have overstated Elsewhere’s role, and the utopian project simply requires a blank canvas free of all the nastiness that’s come before; a context distortion powerful enough to enable a fresh start. The real-world utopias certainly support this proposition in their difficulties navigating their existence as components of a heterotopia—that is, connected to hegemonic, ‘old-world’ civilisation. Perhaps all a utopia needs is a distortion powerful enough to achieve total severance, and maybe the other tools in the utopist’s belt are capable of achieving such a distortion. Maybe, to draw more from Foucault’s ouevre, heterotopia can still manifest powerful enough sites of resistance to permit severance from encrusted power flows, even without spatial severance. But is it just, in this case, to diminish the efficacy of Elsewhere? Elsewhere is evidently indispensable among these tools—at least, it is certainly the most detrimental to be left without, as contemporary utopias illustrate. Even supposing this more general requirement of utopian production, Elsewhere is important.</p>
<p>All this is not to say, of course, that Elsewhere is a breeze to analyse. Searching for Elsewheres can often be an exercise in searching for a needle in a haystack written 200 years ago. But why bother searching? Call off the needle hunt. The mere knowledge that there’s a needle at all should suffice. Consider works like <em>La citta del sole</em>. Campanella never mentions the city’s foundations lying in an island, continent, spaceship, or otherworldly dimension. It merely suffices that the City is somewhere out of the reach of obstacles. The contextual potential for an Elsewhere is enough to instantiate the utopia. The contextual potential for an Elsewhere, then, should be the focus of any concern for Elsewhere. The implicit or explicit Elsewhere in a particular work is merely an artefact of this potential, and the associated trouble with identifying it should not dissuade from the importance of the concept.</p>
<p>So, after all this, where are we left? This inquiry into the usefulness and importance of Elsewhere as a critical element of utopia production leaves us with a certain, but nuanced answer. Elsewhere is useful and perhaps more useful than any other tool to distort context. However, this significance is only symptomatic of a more pressing issue; the utopian project requires total severance in its context distortion to be truly limitless. Elsewhere is only useful, therefore, until more effective methods of context distortion are proposed. Even if it is phased out, though, Elsewhere will remain useful as a driving force behind historical utopian production (i.e.: before this hypothetical innovation in context distortion) and certainly as part of a framework that uncovers how the utopian project is restricted and stifled by context in general.</p>
<h2 id='references'>References</h2>
<div id="refs" class="references">
<div id="ref-vaporwave">
<p>Barilaro, Alessandro. 2020. “Broken Promises, or, Vaporwave: The Barren Utopia.”</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-bus">
<p>Bramwell, David. 2014. <em>The No. 9 Bus to Utopia</em>. Unbound.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-brossard">
<p>Brossard, Baptiste. 2019. “Elements for a Theory of Utopia Production.” <em>Utopian Studies</em> 30 (3): 422–43. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/utopianstudies.30.3.0422">https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/utopianstudies.30.3.0422</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-engels">
<p>Engels, Friedrich. 1880. “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.”</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-harvey">
<p>Harvey, David. 2000. “Spaces of Hope.” In. Edinburgh University Press.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-gardenia">
<p>Llewellyn, Robert. 2012. <em>News from Gardenia</em>. Unbound.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-vaporart">
<p>SleepoBeepos. 2020. “Goodnight and God Bless America.”</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-rojava">
<p>students, SOCY2053. 2020. “Rojava Collaborative Working Document.”</p>
</div>
</div>
<section class="footnotes">
<hr />
<ol>
<li id="fn1"><p>When raided by police, they “didn’t even find a cigarette”<span class="citation" data-cites="bus">(Bramwell 2014, 178)</span><a href="#fnref1" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
</ol>
</section>

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---
title: "Riding the line"
description: "Motorcycling and the techno-utopian/Luddite divide"
date: 2020-08-01T12:15:10+10:00
tags:
- technology
- sociology
recommended: true
kinds:
- essay
---
<h2 id="background">Background</h2>
<blockquote>
<p>“To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes–a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance– with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.”</p>
</blockquote>
<p>Attitudes toward technology are beset by an extremist, binary division. The above quotation from Jonathan <span class="citation" data-cites="quote">Franzen (2013)</span> and its especially Luddite leanings are mirrored by equally zealous rhetoric from proponents of techno-utopianism. Both approaches are dogmatically rigid; neither acknowledges the conditional agency of technological artefact–the fact that technology only operates when a human thinks about or uses it–or the non-finality of technology–that technological progress is entirely linear. Over the next few pages, I will analyse the discourse surrounding motorcycles to exemplify the conditional agency of artefacts to develop a more total account of technological ‘topianism’– the ultimate goals and consequences of a technological society–that avoids both iconoclasty <em>and</em> lofty ideals.</p>
<h2 id="displacement-versus-replacement">Displacement versus replacement</h2>
<p>Both Luddism and techno-utopianism subscribe to a formulation of technology that seeks to “replace the natural world”; they only differ in their propositions of how that replacement will fare for the human race. Such attitudes depend upon the framing of technology as an end in and of itself, rather than a means to other ends. Regardless of how the techno-social interaction is modelled, it stands that this depiction of technology is at odds with reality; technology is a tool. It may shape us, or we may shape it, but it does not exist independently of human desires or goals, nor is it somehow divorced from reality and capable of conjuring its own space for humans to occupy–this is the essence of conditional agency.</p>
<p>The other failure of Luddism and techno-utopianism is their incredibly naive tendency to formulate technological progress as linear. Both philosophies hinge upon the ‘finality of technology’–the idea that each technological update solves some problem in part or entirely for every stakeholder under the sun, without introducing any problems of its own. Needless to say, this is a deeply problematic conceptualisation, and again one that is at odds with reality, lest we’d all be walking around with the same model of smartphone and wearing the same pair of shoes. There cannot be a world brought by technology that is free of resistance or a mere extension of the self because that same technology is what creates resistance, or at the very least, doesn’t address all the resistance it purports to solve. Technology can be seen to remove the ‘superficial friction’ of some process or experience–think logistics, like travel time or amount of sweat shed–while at the same time preserving or even introducing ‘essential friction’–think deeper problems, like where to travel to or why sweat should be shed for that particular task.</p>
<p>Conditional agency and the non-finality of technology elicit the understanding that technology exists to facilitate–to <em>displace</em>, not to replace. That displacement is twofold: first, it displaces the natural world from a site of inaccessibility and situates it within, or closer to, that new human realm, without changing its fundamental resistances. In other words, a gentle bending, rather than a breaking, of the natural will. Second, it displaces the natural world by the insertion of a human world that similarly brings its own set of resistances.</p>
<h3 id="post-luddism">Post-Luddism</h3>
<p>Technology, then, does not represent a force for the replacement or destruction of the natural world (which word you pick depends upon which extreme you subscribe to, dear reader). This paves the path for a reduxing of Luddism and techno-utopianism by recognising displacement over replacement. Post-Luddism is a Luddism informed by techno-utopianism, or vice versa. Post-Luddism understands technology does not occupy a position of totally destructive or totally constructive power, but instead a position that facilitates the creation of a human world, the integration of a natural world, and the preservation of the experiences and resistances of both.</p>
<h2 id="facets-of-post-luddism">Facets of post-Luddism</h2>
<h3 id="facilitating-the-natural">Facilitating the natural</h3>
<p>Understanding technology from the post-Luddite perspective necessitates an appreciation of how nature can be integrated into the human world without being erased or assimilated. The motorcycle offers an exemplary demonstration of technology existing to or imagined as facilitating the natural.</p>
<p>Sociotechnical imaginaries of the motorcycle capture a patently liberating machine. The motorcycle is imagined as a tool to emancipate the individual from the confines of the human world. It frees the human experience from the walls of the human world and pushes it into the natural world, or, alternatively, it closes the distance between the natural world and the human world and reintroduces the natural world into the human experience.</p>
<p>As denizens of the capitalist world, let us lean on what we know to capture precisely those imaginaries and illustrate the post-Luddite perspective; the humble, oft-loathed, primetime-interrupting advertisement. Advertisements offer a unique insight into sociotechnical imaginaries– their depictions of a technology must resonate with the viewers (i.e.: be held by the wider population) in order to translate into sales, but they must also present technology in an ideal or novel way that pushes the boundaries and status quo of the viewer in order to be seen as offering a worthwhile product. For these reasons, advertisements deliver an excellent view into both the idealised and realised imaginaries of a technology. Understanding the idealised and realised imaginaries show the desired endgame for a technology based on the current accepted reality of that technology. In short, they are an accurate depiction of the essential characteristics of a technology, and why the technology is used.</p>
<p>Fire off a YouTube query for motorcycle ads, and you’ll be presented with the quintessential post-Luddite video playlist. Across the heterogeneous cultures of motorcycle riders, from off-roaders to racers, from Eastern to Western, from retro to bleeding edge, at every turn, the motorcycle is imagined in the same fundamental way. Take the Ducati Diavel 1260–an urban, thoroughly fashionable and futuristic motorcycle. Although the advertisement begins with a dark, cyberpunk alley illuminated only by neon and the motorcycle’s headlight, by the halfway point of the video, there isn’t a city in sight. Instead, the motorcycle is shot carving through canyons, flanked by trees, mountains, and otherwise rugged terrain <span class="citation" data-cites="diavel_ad">(Ducati 2018)</span>. Moving on to the Kawasaki Ninja H2–the world’s fastest production vehicle, a supercharged behemoth capable of shredding rubber to the tune of 400 km/h. The ad begins with an engineering rundown, with stats and specs flowing across the screen describing the immense engineering complexity and finesse. Again, by the halfway point of the video, the motorcycle is riding on a road surrounded by savannah, with summits in the distance <span class="citation" data-cites="h2_ad">(KawasakiUSA 2014)</span>. Moving onto something endowed with a smaller engine, and at a more entry-level price point, is the unapologetically retro-Americana Harley Davidson Iron 883. Old-school through and through, and an extremely American counterpoint to the fast-paced Japanese Kawasaki, the Iron is again seen riding through sweeping plains and natural beauty <span class="citation" data-cites="883_ad">(Spain 2013)</span>. And finally, to the smallest of the small, the least sporty, the least powerful, the most practical; the humble Vespa. At first, it appears scooters may be the exception to the rule, but soon, all fears are allayed as the bike smoothly sails along the Mediterranean coastline <span class="citation" data-cites="vespa_ad">(scooterfilm 2019)</span>.</p>
<p>Nature isn’t the point here, however. Rather, it’s not the whole point. Each of these videos starts out in a aggressively human location: a decrepit city, an airport hangar, a garage, and a small, ancient town. Even more interestingly, at almost the exact halfway point in each of these videos, the motorcycle ventures out into nature. Each of these advertisements, and undoubtedly hundreds more, hits you over the head with imagery of a merging of worlds, of a displacement of worlds. The technological artefact in question–here, the motorcycle–bridges the gap and space between these two realities. It displaces them, makes them less separate, and brings them into one another. Neither world is outright replaced, nor do they lose their most important traits or resistances; the mountains are still rugged, the roads are still treacherous. Perhaps most importantly of all, the motorcycle, despite being the product that is being sold, somehow doesn’t take center stage. The technology plays a concurrent, rather than primary, role. It sits alongside the marvel of nature and human coming together. This is the post-Luddite view in action–a technology that displaces, rather than replaces; a technology that does, rather than is; a technology that is a means, not an end.</p>
<p>Although they may be termed imaginaries, these conceptualisations are incredibly reflective of reality. The post-Luddite imaginaries of the motorcycle, then, are reflective of a post-Luddite reality. Applying similar analyses to other artefacts would undoubtedly uncover similar imaginaries depicting technology as a means, not an end. Although the specific displacements of nature into the human world may be harder to grasp for a blender than a motorcycle, they are certainly present.</p>
<h3 id="the-human-world">The human world</h3>
<p>I mentioned that Post-Luddite displacement entails more than the movement of the natural world. The second facet of displacement is the introduction of, or growth of, a human world adjacent to the natural world. This may immediately seem to support <span class="citation" data-cites="quote">Franzen (2013)</span>’s “extension of the self”, but we must remember the non-finality of technology precludes a resistance-free world–superficial friction may be gone, but essential friction still remains. Coupled with the fact that conditional agency extends human agency, and thus human problems, technology does anything but create an entirely responsive world. The human world is one distinctly defiant of techno-utopian visions of a resistance-free world. Rather, it is characterised exactly by the challenges and obstacles it presents.</p>
<h4 id="same-world-same-problems">Same world, same problems</h4>
<p>Technology does not always do what it sets out to do. Every artefact is a compromise–some problems get addressed, some problems are made worse, some are ignored entirely.</p>
<p>Technology is a tool that displaces and facilitates–we’ve established that much. It displaces and facilitates almost anything, but especially social relations and interactions–that is, social networks. Technology has conditional agency–agency that is dependent upon human action and interpretation. In that way, technology can be seen to extend human agency–it facilitates and displaces more than humans can alone, but it does so with the imbued values and actions of whoever is operating it. The resultant techno-human social networks, or actor networks, exacerbate the existing social relations and processes in any given frame. In other words, technology doesn’t create a world free of resistance because any worlds it does create are in part shaped by a multitude of heterogeneous human actors who will always resist against one another.</p>
<p>Where can we see technology exacerbating human problems? In the venerable motorcycle, of course. Actually, not quite–we can see it in the actor networks surrounding the motorcycle.</p>
<p>Since the 1950s, when the motorcycle first became cheap enough for middle and lower classes to afford, the motorcycle has been associated with, and contributed to, a culture of rebellion and law-breaking. Back then, they were called greasers and rockers, and they were leather-clad wannabe racers who celebrated the fact that they didn’t fit in. Now, they’re called 1%ers, a term derived from the maxim that 99% of riders are law-abiding, ‘normal’ citizens.</p>
<p>Outlaw culture and several gangs would be nothing without the motorcycle. At the very least, they would be less intimidating and less prominent. That hints at the significance of a technological artefact in constructing certain social worlds–in this case, the motorcycle and bikie gangs. It goes without saying that a law-breaking gang makes for a resistance-free world, so we arrive at the conclusion that even if technology “replaces” the natural world (it doesn’t), the human world that it replaces the natural world with is far from truly responsive, or a mere extension of the self.</p>
<h4 id="new-world-new-problems">New world, new problems</h4>
<p>Technology does not always do what it sets out to do. Every artefact is a compromise–some old problems get addressed, some problems are made worse, some are ignored entirely. Deja vu, I know, but here, I want to discuss how technology doesn’t just exacerbate the old problems, but introduces new conundrums of its own.</p>
<p>I could prove this to you by the simple tenet that right now, there are multiple models of motorcycle simultaneously available for purchase, but that would be rather anticlimactic. As dull as it may be, though, this fact is rather instructive–no single artefact can single-handedly address every problem for every individual. Examining the social construction of an artefact demonstrates just how little finality there is to technology and erases any assurance that it is capable of, or seeks to, create a world free of resistance.</p>
<p>Turning to our prodigal child as an example, let’s take a look at the MotoGP. MotoGP is the current creme-de-la-creme of motorcycle racing. Million dollar machines dripping with engineering prowess, sophisticated electronics, and space-age materials scream around tracks upwards of 250km/h–and that’s on practice laps. These machines have constructed an entire social world–the world of motorcycle racing–yet this world is a far cry from the docile playpen <span class="citation" data-cites="quote">Franzen (2013)</span> describes. There is resistance in the new world because its participants are heterogeneous, and their experiences are different.</p>
<p>So far in the 2019 season, Yamaha bikes are having very varied results. In MotoGP, there are several teams competing using bikes from the same marque. Although the factory Yamaha team uses an all-new 2019 model, other teams are free to mix and match parts across generations. Invariably, most teams end up using a very similar configuration simply because it’s tried and tested. Valentino Rossi, touted as one of the greatest riders of all time, has been vocal about just how similar the bikes are this year: “From what I know... the four bikes are very similar”, going on to elaborate that “the engine, the chassis and everything is the same” <span class="citation" data-cites="rossi_interview">(Beer and Gruz 2019)</span>. And yet, Rossi, competing with the factory Yamaha team, is falling behind the satellite (independent) Yamaha teams. When questioned why, after a comparison with another rider, he shrugs and says “He is able to enter the corners very naturally. In that area, I don’t feel very comfortable” <span class="citation" data-cites="rossi_interview">(Beer and Gruz 2019)</span>. Clearly, not a world that is a mere extension of Rossi’s self.</p>
<p>But the resistance doesn’t just end at general skill on a particular bike, it even comes down to variations on the most specific aspects of the bike’s feel. The factory MotoGP team manager, Massimo Meregalli, when asked if the bike could be improved, offers that “with the electronics we could make the power delivery smoother... in this area we have to improve”<span class="citation" data-cites="meregalli_interview">(Morrison 2019a)</span>. But Wilco Zeelenburg, manager of the satellite Yamaha team Petronas SRT, is asked why his racer, Fabio Quartararo, performs so well, Zeelenburg says Fabio does better simply because “he’s very smooth, so he suits the Yamaha” <span class="citation" data-cites="zeelenburg_interview">(Morrison 2019b)</span>.</p>
<p>Even in this new world created by a technological artefact, there is resistance. That resistance arises because of non-finality of technology; there is no one solution offered by technology because people are heterogeneous and plural, and technology is socially constructed to meet the plural needs of those people. To put it bluntly, as long as there are two people left on the planet, technology will never create a resistance free world.</p>
<p>Nor does it try to. I mentioned that there are multiple motorcycles offered for sale right now, and multiple offered by the same company. Technology has conditional agency–its goals are not its own, but the goals of its creators and operators. So, then, if there are multiple iterations of an artefact in concurrent use, and those artefacts only have the goals of their humans, then it stands to reason that technology does not seek to create a world free of resistance; it doesn’t aim to offer a single solution.</p>
<h2 id="conclusion">Conclusion</h2>
<p>Phew, that’s a lot of motorcycles. I’ll forgive you if you’ve started to run out of fuel (pun very much intended). But what a ride it’s been (sorry); we’ve seen the motorcycle do everything from harness the natural to create the human. Importantly, the motorcycle as a technological artefact never replaced the natural world, but merely displaced it closer to the human one so we could enjoy it more. It never replaced the natural world with a human one, but merely displaced it so that the two could sit side by side. And even in that human world, the motorcycle never made a world that is a mere extension of the self–partly because it just facilitates the existing human world, which is full of resistance, and partly because in the new worlds it creates, the people making and operating motorcycles know that they could never please all the people all the time, so why bother trying to?</p>
<p>Of course, it could be that the motorcycle is an anomaly, and that technology broadly does try to rid the natural world. But at the very least, we have a strong counterpoint; although it may be a while before the Luddite/techno-utopian divide is bridged by post-Luddism, the beginnings of a bridge are starting to form.</p>
<h2 id="references">References</h2>
<div id="refs" class="references">
<div id="ref-rossi_interview">
<p>Beer, Matt, and David Gruz. 2019. “Rossi: SRT beating works Yamahas with same bike in Jerez MotoGP.” <em>Autosport</em>. Autosport.net. <a href="https://www.autosport.com/motogp/news/143174/rossi-srt-beating-works-yamahas-with-same-bike">https://www.autosport.com/motogp/news/143174/rossi-srt-beating-works-yamahas-with-same-bike</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-diavel_ad">
<p>Ducati. 2018. “Ducati Diavel 1260 - So Good to be Bad.” YouTube. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lZDatAzPEA">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lZDatAzPEA</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-quote">
<p>Franzen, Jonathan. 2013. <em>Farther Away: Essays</em>. Picador USA.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-h2_ad">
<p>KawasakiUSA. 2014. “Kawasaki Ninja H2R Official Action Film – ‘Built Beyond Belief’.” YouTube. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBL6BYP8kbA">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBL6BYP8kbA</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-meregalli_interview">
<p>Morrison, Neil. 2019a. “EXCLUSIVE: Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha) - Interview.” <em>Crash</em>. Crash.net. <a href="https://www.crash.net/motogp/interview/914792/1/exclusive-massimo-meregalli-yamaha-interview">https://www.crash.net/motogp/interview/914792/1/exclusive-massimo-meregalli-yamaha-interview</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-zeelenburg_interview">
<p>———. 2019b. “Exclusive: Wilco Zeelenberg Interview.” <em>Crash</em>. Crash.net. <a href="https://www.crash.net/motogp/interview/922284/1/exclusive-wilco-zeelenberg-interview">https://www.crash.net/motogp/interview/922284/1/exclusive-wilco-zeelenberg-interview</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-vespa_ad">
<p>scooterfilm. 2019. “A compilation of vintage Vespa commercials.” YouTube. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq3PXBCMEog">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq3PXBCMEog</a>.</p>
</div>
<div id="ref-883_ad">
<p>Spain, Harley-Davidon. 2013. “Harley-Davidon Iron 883.” YouTube. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lExpvE2SH28">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lExpvE2SH28</a>.</p>
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}
// Load content stored at href for a seamless transition
@ -82,6 +81,9 @@ async function transition(href) {
window.history.pushState({content: newMain.innerHTML, title: pageTitle}, '', baseURL+href);
document.title = pageTitle;
Shynet.newPageLoad() // Tell stats script that a new page was loaded
// Stop href from working from a click (but preserve it for new tab opens)
return false;
}
function getInnermostHTML(element) {

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