New Criticals

This looping presentation of family and its life keeps mothers oriented away from digging into feelings of anger that might foster new ways of living. Lauren Berlant characterizes contemporary precarious life as an impasse, “a thick moment of ongoingness” (200), or “a stretch of time in which one moves around with a sense that the world is at once intensely present and enigmatic, such that the activity of living demands both a wandering absorptive awareness and a hypervigilance that collects material that might help to clarify things, maintain one’s sea legs” (4). This is a “cul-de-sac,” in which one “dogpaddl[es] around” (199). Carly was in this cul-de-sac, cycling in and out of jobs, trying desperately to secure her economic situation and take care of her family, and the promise of a fun summer became a way to hold her head above water. Enacted through self-presentation, Carly’s summer of fun became a kind of “hypervigilance,” a mode of being in the world and looking for “material … to clarify things.” In building, finding, curating, uploading, and organizing material for the albums, Carly scraped happiness out of the muck of economic troubles and familial frustrations. Happiness apps that invite mothers to constantly upload, note, and curate family happiness thus become technologies of hypervigilance, helping mothers to continue dogpaddling in the impasse.