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New Book: The Public and their Platforms

I’m so excited the book I’ve been working on with Lambros Fatsis over the last few years is coming out in June. It’s the result of a long conversation we’ve had about our mutual frustrations concerning ‘public sociology’ which led us to rethink what it means to be public scholars once digital platforms are ubiquitous and the public sphere has been decimated by COVID-19.

The reification of social change

There’s a lovely expression in this newsletter describing how pop-futurist Alvin Toffler reifies ‘change’ “into an autonomous abstraction, something that appears to cause itself, with consequences society must then adjust to”. It’s worth reflecting on quite how mainstream this move has become, particularly with regards to a centrism which sees […]

The political economy of Bidenism

There’s an excellent piece in the NLR by Cedric Durand putting Biden’s apparent left turn into historical context. My initial assumption was that Biden was doing what Starmer promised to do i.e. rebuilding his party by brokering a coalition between the left and the centre, built around the most popular […]

The ontological preconditions for radical digital citizenship

The thrust of the argument was that if social science exists within the horizons of platform firms (i.e. it restricts itself to asking empirical questions which can be answered by platform generated data) then it can’t take platform capitalism as an object, instead leading it to fade into the background as a precondition for analysis. My point was largely about the empiricism of data science and (much) computational social science.

Conspiracy theories as assembly devices

In our forthcoming book The Public and their Platforms, myself and Lambros Fatsis write about assembly devices. When watching the superb HBO documentary Into The Storm about QAnon (trailer below) I was struck by Cullen Hoback’s description of Cicada 3301 in terms of “collecting like minded others through an internet game”.

The compulsive search for signs

I’ve just finished reading Robert Fine’s Being Stalked: A Memoir. It’s a thoughtful and self-therapeutic reflection by the late political theorist on his experience of being stalked by a former student in the 1990s. Throughout the book, I’ve felt an eery sense there are aspects of his diagnosis which touch upon the psychodynamics of platform capitalism and the epistemic chaos which it generates.

The malaise of modernity

I was delighted to discover that one of my all time favourite lectures has been uploaded to YouTube in its original form. The 1991 Tanner Lectures by Charles Taylor were the basis for his Ethics of Authenticity, in which he investigates those “features of our contemporary culture which people feel very very worried about even as they seem to flow from the development of our civilisation”.

The pedagogical principles of the Python bootcamp

Phil Brooker and I recently completed our second NCRM funded Python for Social Scientists bootcamp. For obvious reasons we switched from a four day intensive face-to-face bootcamp to a five week cross-platform (Slack, Wordpress, YouTube and e-mail) model for the second bootcamp. We reflected on this in a session for the Faculty of Education’s Ideas Lab on Thursday and a colleague suggested it might be a valuable exercise to distill some of the pedagogical principles underlying the project.