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October 19, 2020
While researching the often-invisible role of women in computing, I read an article by Alexander Galloway about how some things might be unrepresentable in a world saturated with data and information. Galloway looks at networks, algorithms, diagrams and systems which, according to him, “fall, more or less, under the umbrella of information.”1 I wondered what information even means anymore in our current digital context.
Galloway makes the case that (to put it simply) data has no necessary visual form, while information does. “Information exists whenever worldly things are ‘in-formed,’ or ‘put into form’. As Vilém Flusser put it once in an illustrative vignette, the leaves that fall in the autumn have no information because they are scattered to and fro, but if one puts them into form—for example by moving them around to spell out a word, or simply by raking them into piles—the leaves gain information. Thus, if data opens a door into the realm of the empirical and ultimately the ontological, information by contrast opens a door in the realm of the aesthetic.”2
I found this striking as I had been using the word “information” all my life without knowing what it really stood for. After looking at an online dictionary definition (noun 1. facts provided or learned about something or someone and 2. what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things), I pictured a squad that would stand in formation to present information. I came up with the silly idea of commissioning cheerleaders for a cheer that spelled out the word “information.”
I wasn’t convinced this would be worth pursuing but contacted Nathalie Carter, Yale’s Sr. Associate Athletic Director for Fan Engagement, to ask if the Yale cheerleading team was practicing at this time. I got a response from Eliza Keogh, Director of Ticket Operations, who thanked me for my interest but said, “unfortunately the cheer team is not practicing due to the strict restrictions around use of athletic spaces due to COVID-19.”
I put a call out in the #random channel of a university Slack group. “does anyone know any cheerleaders on campus? working on an art project and would love to have them be a part of it. let me know! thanks!” Within a few minutes, I received a message from a graduate student in the Divinity School who had been a cheerleader in undergrad. He was available for a quick chat so I could pick his brain about cheerleading.
I asked if he knew a team of cheerleaders in New Haven but he didn’t. I asked if there was a universal language for body letters within cheer but there wasn’t. As it turns out, each team does their own thing and it’s hard to make cheers alone (working in pairs is more common). I thanked him for his time. After some thought I texted to see if we could work on “an interview piece/a conversation” while trying to make a cheer together. I saw us working like Flusser’s leaves: putting ourselves into form to gain information.
The following weekend we met up at the School of Art for coffee and the much-anticipated cheer. With his permission, I recorded our time together. We had a long conversation about religion, school, preaching, the military and colonizing Mars. I borrowed his TCU Cheer sweatshirt. We choreographed Information.
1 Galloway, Alexander (2011). Are Some Things Unrepresentable? Theory, Culture and
Society 28 (7-8):85–102.
Read Act 1
I like your finger tattoos. They’re so ornate.
Where did you get them done?
In New York. Not all together, but some here, some there. They really hurt.
How long did each little design last? Cause I’m, I’ve been considering getting some stuff.
Oh really? Uh, around 30 minutes.
So the moon, how long did that take? Just to do the moon?
20 minutes or so.
But you see, I can show you if you get closer... The ink bleeds out, like, because of the nature of the
skin on your hands. It’s not as exact as getting a tattoo on your arm or leg.
I have this arrow here that I had to get done twice.
How long did it last? Before you had to re-do it?
I had it done again as soon as it healed, like two weeks after. It also healed really
So like when you get a regular tattoo, you know how you can still feel the lines as if they’re above
your skin? It’s not like that?
The ink acts differently on the hands. I think people who get them on the bottom of their feet say the
same thing. But what do you, what would you want to get?
Um, I was thinking of getting just some, like, religious symbolism somewhere, probably around the thumb
or wrist area.
Yeah. That’s nice. Wrist is, should be fine, I think.
I live very close to the Divinity School, in East Rock. If I go up Canner all the way, I basically hit
If you choose to go up Canner, that is a hard hill to walk on. It’s like 90 degrees.
I know! I went down on my bike over the summer and it was scary.
Oh my gosh.
The bike is... I’m not a cyclist and it’s a cruiser.
That sounds scary. I’ve run down the hill before. Once I felt like my knees were about to explode in
front of me. Because I was leaning back so much. And I felt like even just a little bit of momentum was
hard to control.
What’d you do before you lived here?
Architecture. I studied architecture back home and then went to New York and did a two-year design
program. And, um, and then I was working and then I came here.
Right. I had some friends who were in graphic design back in Texas. The graduate program, is it more
like a performance degree in which you’re able to really craft the skill that you want?
Yeah. Well, good question. I think we still set typography, make books, websites, we code, we work with
paper…it all still operates within a design context. But the work that we do here isn’t client work.
Some people do performance, they’re interested in the body, sexuality, identity politics…it’s really
Um, but then, you know, when we graduate we’ll need jobs, but we’ve been making... There’s always just
the real world and we have to work I guess.
Hm. What you describe, it hits the nail on the head with the Divinity School. It’s an open environment
where we are given stuff that we have to do. We have to operate within that, but we’re given lots of
freedom too. We have to take four classes within sacred texts, but notice I said sacred texts and not
Right. Oh... So it could be from all different kinds of...
Taught by different angles and whatever. You can take, you know, the old Testament and the new Testament
classes, which are very, very common, but there are lots of classes that you could take that are beyond
that spectrum. Um, half the school is three years, that’s the professional degree, which means you’re
going to go into official church or religious jobs. Like a chaplain in a hospital. Then there’s another
degree for, like, if you want to go into academics and be a professor, or you’re just here because
you’re trying to figure things out. And the same thing happens in everyone’s final semester... How do I
get a job? “I’ve been doing four semesters of intense women’s studies. Who’s going to hire me with this
degree?” There are people out there, but the job market is tiny.
What is it like for...do you know what you’re going to do when you graduate?
I, uh, last year the answer was no, but now I finally do. I think COVID brought that feeling of...I gotta
figure this out before it’s too late. So I have family in the military and I’ve had an interest in it
and there’s a program where I can be sort of like an intern. It’s called the Air Force Chaplain
Candidate Program. When I graduate, I’ll have the opportunity to then secure a job after I finish my
church work. That’s what I’m planning on doing. I’ve got two years left and then I have to do three
years of residency for my church ordination. Which is like, yay. Anyway, um, technically my ordination
is where my home church is, which is back in Texas. Luckily I can transfer to that, which I
This is just...it’s complicated. Working with religion in general, it’s very regional. So I’ll do two
years of school, three years of residency and then I would actually be able to enter into the Air
The steps, yeah. It’s one of the primary reasons why there’s lots of nondenominational churches. Most
nondenominational churches when they first begin, and this isn’t like a highbrow educator comment, uh,
most of them don’t have formal education. They’re just very, very spiritual and very active in their
faith. And they feel that it’s what they want to do. Compared to established churches, Catholic,
Methodist, Baptist, where you have to go to college, you have to get a master’s degree and you have to
do a residency. And then you can be a leader.
So the residency is like a practice program?
They used to call it a probationary period. It just means that I work with the church under some
supervision, where I am able to practice leading the church, but I’m not independent. They take very
seriously who they’re willing to put in front of people to guide and to teach. As I’m sure you’ve seen
in the world that we live in today, you know, the power of religion to influence how people see the
world is very impactful and could be very dangerous.
I know. Yeah, totally. And the people who study here in the Divinity School, are they all
It’s part of the reason why I came here. It’s sort of like the Art School, how different people have
different backgrounds and intentions and you come here together and they put you in the same room. Same
thing. There is a small group of Catholics, but they’re there. Most people are part of a group called
the United church of Christ, UCC. That’s a very popular denomination. Second would be Episcopal, which
is like Catholic, but protestant. And then there’s a medley of everyone else. There’s about 400 people
in the entire school.
I’m going to break the polite lines. Are you guys fully funded?
We’re not, which is just awful because we’re so small. I think some of our funding comes from the
endowment and we do fundraising too. So all that goes to financial aid but it’s not enough for everyone.
What is it like for you?
It’s similar. A small group of students are fully funded and it brings up all sorts of issues that the
country is facing when it comes to diversity and inclusion and equity.
When the pandemic hit, classes were moved to Zoom. But the big change was...we would have chapel every
day and it’s a Christian service, but it’s very pluralistic, meaning any expression of faith could enter
into the facility and they would feel welcomed. Now that’s all on Zoom.
And it’s weird to have church on Zoom because the whole point of church was the congregation aspect of
it, you know? You’re with the people and you do the things. And now you’re staring at the screen and
you’re sitting on your couch. And so church life was really affected. Not to mention that, churches are
all nonprofits. They operate with donations. And you can’t give money to
the church if you’re not going to the church and the likelihood that you’re going online to fill
out a form to give $5 is low.
So with, um, the dynamics of the School of Art, you mentioned that some people are doing political work
and stuff. How is it interacting with each other to discuss these issues?
Mmm, graphic design comes from a history that’s really white and modernist and European, and that’s the history that’s taught here. It’s the tradition all over really. It’s become now an active
process for students to try to decolonize the program. It can be difficult to just look at all these
publications made by white dudes. All of this comes up when we talk to each other and with
Our dean has been sending emails about what they’re doing, um, with fighting whiteness and the claim of
white supremacy in academia even when there was lots of advocacy for black theology already. Certain
professors are hired specifically for the job of teaching it. And so I guess school was already going in
that direction and this sort of supercharged it.
Um, the only adverse effect I’m beginning to think of is that we’re not giving productive critiques. Now
you can’t disagree with students that identify in the oppressed group. Certain groups, the students have
been able to, um, get by now without receiving feedback. And so my heart, like, worries for them because
they’ll get into the real profession and they’ve spent three years being told that everything they do
and say is right.
For instance, I’m in a course, I’m going to preach in class and we’re all giving sermons and we have to
critique each other’s sermons. Here’s my project I’m going to present and everyone’s going to tell me
everything that’s wrong with it. There are six of us in the class. And one student who happens to be an
African American woman preaches and not a single person was willing to give a negative comment. And even
though she was an amazing preacher and whatever, well, can we not say anything? And I asked a friend
after my class and he was like, I just didn’t want to be the guy that says the wrong thing, because I’m
a white male. Yeah. And so that’s, that’s what we’re wrestling with.
Uh, I swear I’m not, like, some crazy racist white supremacist.
I feel like in the crits here everyone is encouraged to talk, like, it’s somewhat mandatory that
everyone participates and, uh, so it can get mean or nice but, you know, it’s usually a productive
What do you want to be in the church? Do you want to be like a... I don’t even know what the positions
It’s a good thing you’re sitting down because what I’m about to tell you is going to blow your mind. If things
work out, 20 years from now, once I finally get my first job, I want to be a chaplain stationed in
Northern Italy at the US Air Force base because it’s international. So cool. Yeah. Um, I’m half Italian.
And my wife is on board, she’s a hospital nurse. So that’s goal number one, getting to do the
international living thing. Then long term, if things work out, I’d love to transition to the US Space
Force, which is a new branch of the
military. It was created a couple of years ago, it’s in its infancy, meaning I’m, like, at the right
time, in the history of the military, to be able to enter and help, not just only grow myself with this
department, but grow and define what chaplaincy could look like in that branch compared to, like, you
know, every other
So what’s the Space Force?
Okay. So you’ve got the US Army and then you have like, the Marines who are the first people who go in.
They operate under the umbrella of the Army. Then you have the Air Force and then the Space Force who
operate under the Air Force. The Space Force is designed as a non-combatant government branch of the
with the likelihood of space travel in the next generation, the government is working on creating the
resources and institutions now that will help expand the military space then.
Fun fact: I believe that we will be going to Mars, um, and like colonizing it most likely in our
lifetimes, probably when we’re really old, but the way that technology and everything’s working,
people will most likely be going to Mars and living there.
So it begs the question, what is religion on Mars? In the universe? You may not think about it but
Christmas is December 25th on Earth. When is Christmas on Mars? The Mars calendar is longer. We’ll have
to create an entirely new church calendar to accommodate for the year there. Are there two Christmases?
What are the implications of celebrating Easter twice in one year?
Is a year 16 months in Mars?
I think, and each month is like 40 days long.
Wow, I didn’t realize that, yeah. So you get to be in the team that can make those decisions.
Right. I could write the handbooks that could be used for the rest of time. Forever. Of course, they
would be edited probably once they got there. The other big things are, you know, in Christianity, the
communion, the bread, the wine.
Oh yeah. These symbols, right.
How do you, um, make bread in zero gravity? Cause you’d have to, you know...the bread needs to
germinate and grow. So what do you substitute for that?
You’re interested in these, like, translations.
The interpretation of faith and the expression of it in the context of space.
Well, I’ve always, always loved space and the way that it seemed almost like it was divine...
Oh, yes. Wonderful news. I just got this text message, one second. This is so good.
Well, first of all, I’m so happy that we’ve been able to keep chatting and just talk. This is lovely. I
was thinking I was going to kind of come in and we were going to take pictures. I got a text. I’ve got a
part time job.
Thank you. Yeah. I got a part time job at a gym that, sorry, that’s not the news. Um, but thank you for
your congratulations anyways. Cause having a job in this economy and stuff like that. I work every other
Saturday, which is why I was like Saturday works and I got a text, my manager’s like, Hey, so I haven’t seen you, are you on your way? Oh no. And I’m like, no I said that I was going to be doing
this, let me know if you still need me to come in? And I just got the text saying that I’m good. I’m now
absolutely time free. And this has just been so much fun.
So, um, I’m curious being in Brazil and your parents, did you grow up Catholic?
Yes. Yeah. And it’s funny. I mean, that’s why I’m asking about all the different, you know, options, because in Brazil or at least in Rio, Catholicism is huge.
My dad’s a travel agent, so we would travel a lot. And I guess that’s why I ended up coming here. My
parents were really comfortable coming to the US all the time. And I remember walking around in New York
as a tourist and seeing beautiful churches like St. Patrick’s and I would think they were all Catholic
There was only one option, you know what I mean? And my mom would be like, what is this church? Oh, it’s
a Methodist church. And I didn’t know any of that.
But yeah, I went to Catholic school. My school was attached to this big church that was, like, the
neighborhood church. You could go to the church and not go to the school. In college I think they had a
chapel and, you know, religious spaces, but they weren’t connected to one big church like that. So I had
mandatory religion classes in school and college. And I don’t remember anything because my memory is so
bad and it was so long ago...
But I remember some, um, yeah. And my grandma was super Catholic and had an area in her apartment where
she would pray and like to spend time there. My mom is technically Catholic, but I feel like she’s not
really. She goes to church every once in a while, but it’s not a routine thing for her... She has
her own kind of relationship with it. Oh! My grandpa was more active in the church. He helped with the
communion, I think. Like he would be one of the people who would, um, you know, there’s the main guy,
the other two guys, um...
He was an accolade. It’s nice to think about him because he was just so helpful, a really helpful man.
He had all these tools, he was really into fixing things. He loved animals and he saved a bird he found
on the street once, you know, he was just into fixing and helping. And I feel like working for the
church was a
classic consequence of that kind of personality and wanting to be close to people. He loved it.
Did you go to Catholic school?
I didn’t. I went to an Episcopal school and then I transferred to a public school for the rest of my
education, but I’m familiar with it.
I have really fun memories of going to the church. Every week or so we would have to go either for a
class or, like, for 30 minutes or something, we would just go to the church and, um, and the leader of the
school was, uh, he was called… I guess he was like a priest.
Yeah, exactly. So there was this Father for a long time and then he got very old. And so there was a new
one when I graduated and they would be the ones who would do mass over the weekend and, and every day
also, but the bigger ones on Sundays and all. I had a really good experience with that school but I was
connected to Catholicism. Some people really hated it. I guess the discipline… It was also a really
I think people may sometimes associate that with, you know... I don’t think the difficulty had anything
to do with it being a Catholic school. Um, I don’t know. I always did fine. I guess I’m an atheist, but
I don’t, uh, talk about it all the time. And it’s not like...
You don’t believe in anything, I know. Having conversations about religion in general is not very
common. But compared to my life...it’s all I talk about. So I’m the exact opposite of the
spectrum, I’m very comfortable with it. It’s cool. Don’t worry, I’m not like...
You’re leaving! I know. Ha ha.
So where I’m from, you live at home until you get married. When I moved out to come to the US, it was
kind of freeing. I was alone for the first time and I would have lived with my parents for a while
longer if I hadn’t left. And I didn’t know I was going to stay here, but I got a job. I got sponsored
and got a visa.
And so I was able to be myself, outside of my room at my parents’ house, you know? It was great. Uh, and
my grandma died when I was here already and my mom got really into Catholicism again for a
Did you grow up... so you grew up religious.
Yes. Yeah. Um, I need to add some time to my parking meter. Can we walk and talk?
End of Act 1.
I still believe that the communion is like a holy, um, is a holy act.
And so the only people who can do it are those who are willing to, um, believe in that, but you
don’t have to be Methodist. You have to be Christian. You have to believe that what we’re doing is
something sacred. This means it’s open to anyone who comes into our church.
Great. Um, so you’re still Methodist. Right?
Yes, that’s the church that I’m going to be working with. Three years of my probationary period will be
in a Methodist context. It used to be the number one denomination in all of America. In fact, this area
was considered the, um, the burned-over... I think it’s called the Burned-down District. Meaning people
were on fire with the holy spirit.
And they were like, have you ever been...do you know about Pentecostal speaking in tongues? That started
a hundred years ago right here, in this region. Um, if you ever heard of Martha’s Vineyard, it got
really popular post- civil war. Not because they were like, oh, we’re ritzy and we’re trying to get away
city. They were trying to go to a summer Christian community where there were daily prayers and daily
worship services. And people had this belief that they could get to a point of what’s called Christian
This belief that you could be so in line with your faith and with God that, like, you are truly free
from sin. And all the giant churches we see here were built from the money that came from the people
that were here a hundred years ago.
So in school, do you have big arguments because of your differences in faith?
Yeah, of course.
I aligned on the moderate side of things when I first came here. I thought based on my
experience in Texas, that I was more left leaning, liberal, democrat... And so I got here and I’m like,
yeah, this will be great. It’s a diverse environment, but at least I’ll be able to interact and engage.
difference though is that it’s very progressive and liberal here. I knew that I was going to be coming
into the Northeast, which is traditionally that way, but I expected at least some allowance for
Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. What I’ve noticed is that even though the school is diverse, it has
the same intellectual approach. So the school sells itself as a diverse place physically and
spiritually but the actuality is that academically it is a hegemony. The big word, that’s the word everyone’s
Just one. Yeah. Right.
Um, so it’s, it’s very, uh, how do you say it, in other words, you know, it’s, it’s mono, it’s one
I see. And it’s a progressive model.
Yeah. Meaning that, like, in my faith, I believe that Jesus was a person, he did live, he did die, and
he did rise again. And the super progressive people believe that he exists in text. And that his
existence is a reflection of a symbol of God and it’s all symbolic meaning. And that the way to be a
Christian is not about, um, professing faith. They say God is love. And so if I’m loving, then that must
be what God wants.
Even though I respect it and I get along with people and I’m not threatened by it, if I’m like, well I
believe that he was real. Then it’s oh well, you’re supporting the patriarchy and the white supremacist
notions within you. And the fact that you disagree with us proves that you actually do have racist
tendencies and if you disagree then you have white guilt and white privilege and you deny the reality of
the world in which we exist. And if you’re denying our world, you’re denying me and my context. So why
don’t you not say that? Or why don’t you think before you speak? Because now I’m really offended by what
And that actually happens. People say that.
But I feel very thankful that I’m here. When I first got here I was really bothered by everything. I
can’t be myself. I can’t speak up. I don’t feel I can talk to people about what I’m thinking. Yeah, it
bothered me a lot. And then I started thinking about it more. Now that I’m a second year, I’ve had time
to pray and meditate on it. I’m thankful that I have this experience because it’s teaching me. I’m
learning to sit with my discomfort and cope with it. It gives me an opportunity to know what it feels
like to be in a minority situation where I don’t have the power to engage.
Since I don’t feel comfortable arguing, it means I have to listen. And the more I’ve listened, the more
I’ve learned. And at first I was really agitated by it and dismissive. And then I got to know the people
behind the words and better understand where they’re coming from. And even though what they might
believe is very different from what I believe, now that I know who they are better, I really feel like I
can connect with them.
This makes me think of friends I had in school that, um, not related to religion, but...we became such
different people over time. I left and when I would come back to visit there would be this disconnect.
We were in school every day and I would see these people and, and we were just very different then too
were all in class together. And my school...there were no lockers, no cheerleading... It all happened
in a building and we were in these classrooms and our classrooms were fixed and the professors would
come and go for the different classes.
We would stay in one room and were organized alphabetically. I was in the class with people whose names
start with L, M, N and Os. We’d often be called by our last names, kind of like in the military, I guess.
I’ve never been in part of the military or anything like that, but, uh, it was this thing, you know…
was difficult and we’d go every day, we had uniforms, uh, we were in this room, you know what I mean? It
was a rigorous group experience. And I’ve always loved group activities where we’re all together, all
going through the same thing.
One of my best friends, Marina, became a lawyer, and my mom is a lawyer too actually. Marina would come over
when we were in middle school, we’d have sleepovers... She always knew she wanted to become a lawyer.
Now we’re just very, very, very different, you know, uh, and we don’t talk as much.
It brings up the issue of, um, who you become in the time that you’ve been separated and who they think
Exactly. Sometimes I’ll see my parents and we’ll go to lunch or whatever. And it’s me and my mom and
dad, and I’m suddenly 16.
Stop it. I hate it.
I’ve got a group of old friends from school... I’ve known these guys since I was 11 years old and I
still stay in touch with them over text, but we don’t speak as much. When I go back to Texas and
interact with them I start cursing and spitting and yeah. And I want to show these guys who I’m like,
like how you know me as me.
So before the Divinity School, you did...
My degree is in education. I taught for three years, including teaching in Italy. I lived in a small
town in Southern Italy, on the coast where I’ve taught English in high school. Are you familiar with
A little bit. I have a friend...my parents have been, I’ve never been.
I got married in this little beautiful town. So I taught there and I came home. I was supposed to start
here a year earlier, but I had to defer because my wife had a contract with her job. It was the best
thing for us because I got to do another year of teaching.
I’ve always wanted to be a minister, a pastor of some sort, it was a deep calling. I’ve had religious
experiences since I was 5 years old.
And your family...
My brother is actually in the Air Force. Part of the reason why I wanted to go besides the Space Force
is that, um, being able to see how well he’s been treated and the opportunities it’s provided him and
having those conversations for the last 10 years has been helpful. Um, and his wife is a Mormon. A
So how, okay. So how does this all mix up with...
Cheerleading? A great transition. Well, it’s a group activity and a rigid one too.
How did you get into it?
I was a gymnast in high school, I did gymnastics all throughout high school. I was by no means stellar
but I did it. Then I got to college and it was sort of like your experience when you got to New
I met myself in college. During freshman year I just really wanted to get involved with people. And I
realized that within me, I have this, um, sometimes insatiable desire to try new things. I’m not really
afraid of failure, I’m afraid of missing out.
So I found out cheer was having open tryouts and there were guys I knew on the team already. I tried out
and because I had gymnastics experience, I was automatically put on the team. But I didn’t have any,
um... it’s called stunting, when you throw the people up and catch them. I didn’t have any stunting
It’s a lot like dancing in a way where not only you have to know your moves, but you need to know your partner's moves and you need to be able to trust each other that you’re going to be at the right
place at the right time.
Here, I’ll walk you through it. Okay. So, um, you put your hands on the hips. Um, and then you’re in a
stance like this and it’s a motion where we move together. It’s on a count. And it’s all about making
sure that you’re not, you know, going back and forth, but it’s a true push all the way up and
And then your hands are here, they should be pushing on my wrists. If you’re comfortable with
Yep, I see. Oh, like acrobatics.
Yeah. So you would go up and your legs would say straight and then I would catch them.
And so then my legs would be sort of like this.
Strong legs here. And you’re pushing your toes. Then my role, while I’m holding you here is to keep your
foot flat. You’re trying to keep your balance.
What happens is that the girls are also really light.
Yes. Like, less than a hundred pounds.
They weighed like 46 kilograms.
Let me show you some old photos. Oh my God, what a throwback. Um, this is in 2000. So this was from my
senior year. My friend and I ran for seniors of the year.
So you see how her foot isn’t flat and that my grip isn’t good. It should be more like two fingers in
the back and then around. So that’s not right.
Yeah, but when this is all happening, it’s in a flash, like, you don’t really know what’s going
Do you have pain in your wrists?
Not really. The issue that I developed is actually in my knees because the explosion of pushing up comes
from your legs, but it’s a very minute movement. So you can go here and then step and push. But then
when they come down, you have to reverse it. You have to throw them and come up and catch and you’re
literally becoming a suspension. And that’s a hundred pounds coming down. And maybe this is like
the fifteenth time that you’re doing it in an hour.
So you got into the team and you would practice all the time?
Yes, we practiced twice a week. We were a spirit squad compared to a competitive squad. For them it’s
more of a sport.
I know, I watched the Netflix show about this. It was fascinating. The pressure is intense, everyone’s
crying and falling.
It’s an echo chamber, because there’s this, you know, it doesn’t matter what it is, people enjoy being
cared for. And the way that you get cared for is by complaining. And so in that context, the more that
you complain, the more you’re cared for and people felt left out so then they began to complain. The
cheerleading are very complicated. There was lots of drama.
“Why am I not on top of the pyramid?”
Do you think it was particularly vicious for the women or were the guys also in the drama?
The guys were fine. The dynamic within the men is that there was this diverse group of men, like
sexually diverse. So there were gay men who were more feminine and masculine guys that were trying to
break free from the stereotype of cheer. Um, which, you know, talk about a disgusting stereotype! Why
is cheer gay? I hate
that so much. Yeah. Sorry.
Um, and so anyways, within the guys, it was us guys being dudes and buff and it was great. It’s a good
sport. And then there were the guys that were more feminine who would go to their girlfriends during
break to chat and just be girls together. That was one thing that was beautiful about it, it was a great
of people respecting each other. There was none of that disgusting bigotry, you know?
So, remember when we first talked… I’m coming from such a bizarre place to get to cheerleading because I
was never a cheerleader and there is no cheerleading where I’m from. There is less emphasis on sports in
education. There’s no football and there’s just no tradition and no space, no fields, no…the school
experiences are different. I didn’t have any of those activities growing up.
A lot of the work that I’ve been doing here has been for the screen, partially because of what we’re
going through. I’m interested in depicting people through the screen, in how we can tell stories
through an interface and how much of a simulation the interface is. Can you really trust it? Who’s
making it, what’s
behind it? Where are the servers? Where’s the labor, where are the people?
There was one reading I did recently
about how unrepresentable it all is, how the network is unrepresentable. I was reading about
information, it’s this really great text... I can send it to you.
The argument about information is that you can only understand how things work once you organize them,
when you put them in formation. So I thought about cheerleaders in formation making a cheer. I was, uh,
I was curious if we could make a cheer together.
So, um, let’s see... straight arms like cross, yup. Feet are together, making your fists, good wrists
not floppy. They’re straight, that’s a T and then C as you bring up...that way. Yeah. And see, I’m not
very flexible, but you’re gonna really, you’re not leaning your body straight and to keep this arm in,
90 and then bring this arm over. I’m sorry. It’s like this. So your fists are facing each other. So
yeah. So let’s see. And you see that I’m not doing that. Great. But there, see, and then you, you keep
the 90 degrees...
90 degrees is harder than it seems.
Okay. So it’s a T.
Oh, cool. Okay, cool.
When you said the word information, I distinctly recall being back in practices. They’re like, all
right, guys, get in formation. Yeah.
Two, three, four, five, six... Good. Straight as possible. Yep.
I, and then N would be interesting if we could do it together, I guess a lowercase N.
But if I’m just starting I’m here. Yes, sir.
Okay. This is fun. I don’t know what F...
Right. Like, can we do this? Is that that’s, that’s kinda ugly. Right? Cause you’re not supposed
Right. So, um...
Oh, what if someone, what if, what if...
There. You can come in, you step into me. And then, then like, this becomes this, which hand?
Oh, oh yeah. That way. I don’t know. I guess that way?
That’s cool. Oh, this would be this fist.
I guess you could flip it. We just have to make sure that it’s constantly pointing out.
Okay. So this way it would be... But what…because I feel like if
we’re going, if I’m in like that, we’re on we’re at...
And then we’ll step to the middle. Uh, oh, shit.
It’s confusing me, but I guess it’s this side. Okay. Okay. F and this hand is also fist.
Yes. This down. Okay.
Okay, cool. Yeah. All right.
You can go in and you’ll set up the center and I’ll step to center and all step right behind you. Okay,
So for the end though, do we need to, whatever it’s going to happen for the end, we need to be on the
Yeah. And then I’ll just make sure I step right behind you. I-N-F-O was hard, right?
Yeah... Is this allowed?
This, um, yeah. Would it be close fist? No. I’m thinking of what I’ve seen... Okay.
And then you won’t, you’d never do leg.
Gymnasts and cheerleaders both incorporate tumbling but gymnastics is considered the purest best way of
tumbling and cheerleading is considered sloppy.
I don’t know how to do any of that. I would have no idea what’s going on while I’m up there.
And the foot is straight like that.
That’s great. Um, and if we step back...yeah.
Hold on. This is like this.
Maybe more like a ballet pose where this foot is really just like a placeholder. Yeah. Not fully
correct. That looks like an arm.
Yeah, that’s easy.
It’s important that our angles are the same. See, okay. Yeah.
When I read about assembling leaves in formation to get information,
cheerleading came to mind and I didn’t think much of it then. I suppose cheerleading is my go-to
representation of female performance: an
activity that requires that women present their bodies with discipline and smiles to communicate clearly
with an audience that comes to see something else but during the moments when that something isn’t
happening, they are to be distracted by the cheers.
In some ways I find cheerleading defining of the way young women are expected to behave. We are to try
hard, practice, bend our bodies, do well in school, pose for the camera and dance. We are also to
compete with each other and strive to be the best.
Lastly, cheerleading makes me think of being a teenager, when I was unsure of how to act and felt a mix
of shame, guilt, pleasure and pain, all at once. Growing up in the 90s, these paradoxes were exacerbated
online. In Updating to Remain the Same, Wendy Chun asks, “Why does the Internet evoke such
contradictory passions? The answer: new media are so powerful because they mess with the distinction
between publicity and privacy, gossip and political speech, surveillance and entertainment, intimacy and
work, hype and reality.”1
Practice is predictable, constant, part of the routine. It’s also oppressive at the same time. It’s a
time slot that repeats over and over, with the same characters and therefore can be a telling setting
for social relations. In this piece, practicing a cheer routine (even though just once) served as proxy for
At first, I thought this project was about a new acquaintance I was fascinated by. But now I see it is about
experiencing difference, a rare sight in times like ours. Most of my relationships happen online where I
am connected to people who I believe think like me. Social media shows me content I’ve approved of
and suggests new friends based on my interests. I was stunned when, in real life, I met someone who the
algorithm would have never paired me with. It was unnerving to not be able to cancel, block or ignore
Homophily is defined as the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others. “Today,
the assumption that homophily is a rule also underlies online social and economic interactions, as
platforms reinforce the axiom that ‘similarity breeds connection.’ What began as descriptions or
social life have become a rule for algorithms shaping social interactions online.”2
The “information” that titles this work refers to the one gained when we encounter
difference. How do we communicate outside of the echo chambers of online networks?
1 Chun, W. H. (2017). Updating to remain the same: Habitual new media. Cambridge,
MA: The MIT Press.
2 Kurgan, L., Brawley, D., Zhang, J., & Chun, W. (2019). Homophily: The Urban History of
an Algorithm. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from
INFORMATION is to be experienced on mobile devices only.