For Boston: Boston is my second home.

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My partner lives in the South End, so I am up every other month or so, FLL to BOS.  My editor lives in Boston, as do all the wonderful Bedford people I know.  I’ve weathered Boston’s bitter cold and its sweltering heat, I’ve enjoyed its food and culture, and yes I’ve walked the street where those bombs went off. Two essays from Emerging came to mind as the events of that day unfolded.  The first is from the first edition: Joan Didion’s “After Life.”  Didion writes about the processes of grief and mourning, specifically around the sudden loss of her husband.  She has a particular phrase that has always stuck with me: “the ordinary moment.”  The ordinary moment is a reminder that abrupt and disruptive and tragic change doesn’t tend to announce itself; it tends instead to arrive in the most mundane of moments, in the ordinary course of ordinary days in the ordinary stream of life.  For Didion, one moment she was cooking dinner (as she had any number of nights) and the next her husband was dead.  For those watching the finish line of the Boston Marathon, it was the same.  It was just an ordinary moment, a regular day, and in a flash that all changed. The other essay I’ve been thinking about is in the second edition: Peter Singer’s “Visible Man: Ethics in a World Without Secrets.”  It was especially on mind since it was part of the set of assignments I taught this semester, focused on privacy and property in an age of social media.  Singer opens with the Foucault-famous Panopticon, suggesting that technology has created a panoptic society of surveillance, where standards of privacy change rapidly.  One remedy that Singer sees is “sousveillance,” surveillance from below, represented for Singer by the citizen taping of Rodney King’s beating. I think that, for Singer, these modes of watching are opposed (or at least counterbalanced).  Sousveillance, through sites like Wikileaks, allows us to keep an eye on those keeping an eye on us.  But on the day of the Marathon I was struck by how both surveillance and sousveillance can work together.  As law enforcement tried to disentangle the day’s events it was both surveillance cameras and every cell phone, camera, and video camera that made the difference: everyone was watching and, because of that, something was seen. Other essays spring to mind but these two are resonating for me today, in my shock and in my grief and in my hope.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.