Digital Sociologist, Social Theorist and Engagement Strategist

Digital platforms are driving a tectonic shift in public culture, creating a range of intellectual challenges for research, scholarship and higher education. Learned societies have a uniquely important role to play in responding to these problems. But it can be difficult to do this when social media, open access and academic precarity make their organisational […]

Europe is lost, America lost, London lost Still we are clamouring victory All that is meaningless rules We have learned nothing from history

Friday, 03 April 2020, 11am-5pm in London, UK  Register online here: https://www.srhe.ac.uk/events/details.asp?eid=456 There is widespread agreement that universities are undergoing a profound transformation but much less agreement on what these changes mean and how we should characterise them. The Digital University Network has stressed the role of new technologies in transforming practice within the university. […]

In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of Digital Anthropology, Digital Geography and Digital Sociology as distinctive subdisciplines. However there has been relatively little dialogue between them, least of all with regards to common challenges they respond to and common concerns they share. We feel this absence matters for the subdisciplines themselves but also for […]

A provisional reflection on where I’ve got to six years after my PhD and where it is I want to go with my research over the next six years There are a wide range of topics I have worked on in the last decade: online communities, social movements, digital scholarship, realist social theory, the transformation […]

The philosopher Daniel Little has long been my favourite theory blogger. I was so pleased to read this thoughtful reflection on the scholarly purposes of social media which included a generous endorsement of Social Media for Academics: The appearance of a second edition of Mark Carrigan’s Social Media for Academics is therefore timely. Both young academics — […]

Do you edit an academic journal? Would you like it to have a higher profile and greater impact? Do you need advice on navigating the changing landscape of scholarly publishing? I can help you develop a cost effective and powerful strategy customised to your journal, with a particular expertise in community building and digital engagement. […]

This description of life within the publishing industry, from Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley loc 133, struck a chord with me: Every assistant I knew quietly relied on a secondary source of income: copyediting, bartending, waitressing, generous relatives. These cash flows were rarely disclosed to anyone but each other. It was an indignity to talk about […]

I was fascinated by the account Adam Phillips offers in this conversation of psychoanalysis as a less clamorous place from which to come to terms with our lives. Obviously each individual is going to be different. But for a lot of people, the political world seems unintelligible, overwhelmingly complicated and frightening. And yet everybody feels […]

From The Convivial Society vol 1, no. 1:  At the same time, however, it also seems to me that especially given the scale and scope of our problems, it may be that we need to draw attention again to very basic and fundamental realities. That we must learn again what it means to take responsibility […]

This call for papers looks brilliant: Special Issue CFP: “Marxist Transhumanism or Transhumanist Marxism?” To be published in New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry  Guest editors: James Steinhoff and Atle Mikkola Kjøsen In this special issue call, New Proposals asks authors to explore how Marxism and Transhumanism might be brought into conjunction. Could […]

This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign: While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content on social media by going […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants pg 343 captures something important about the sociology of Donald Trump’s presidency. I think he’s correct about the use of constant strife, echoing the argument by Will Davies about the blurring boundary between war and peace, to dominate the media agenda in a way which ensures the […]

We should be cautious about apparent signs of Big Tech’s willingness to accept regulation when we consider the history of AT&T. As Tim Wu documents on pg 56 of The Master Switch, the telephone monopoly was willing to accept regulation once it had already won: The trick of the Kingsbury Commitment was to make relatively painless […]

This passage from pg 333 of Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants connects to my analysis of cultural binging. It brings to life the specific cultural characteristics which encourage binge watching, even if they don’t create it: While House of Cards might have made binging mainstream, in the decade before, writers of shows were inventing what Vince Gilligan (of […]

This suggestion from Tim Wu on pg 352 of The Attention Merchants asks a question which has been on my mind a lot in the last year. If we accept the idea that distraction increases in a digital environment, in the sense of a difficulty in sustaining focus driven by the multiplication of disruptions, what does this […]

This passage from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 225 offers a useful account for making sense of the rise of a figure like Lawrence Fox. When the ‘arms race of exposure’ is more intense than ever because social media means a great many of us have entered into it, new strategies become necessary to […]

I’ve resisted blogging about the Labour leadership election in spite of the fact I’m both obsessing about it and deeply conflicted about who to support. To my surprise I’m taking Lisa Nandy very seriously and this is in large part because she seems to be the only candidate to have thought deeply about the profound […]

There’s an interesting parallel between Durkheim’s conception of social regulation and what Archer calls ‘bounding variety’ and Cybernetics describes as ‘attenuating variety’. As Durkheim writes on pg 300 in a discussion of marriage and divorce, “One cannot avoid looking outside the place where one is when one no longer feels the ground to be solid […]

From Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 202: Among the sources of such comfort would be AOL’s infamous chat rooms. Chat rooms had actually been invented by CompuServe in the 1980s (under that ’70s handle “CB simulator”), but AOL allowed the creation of “private rooms,” which anyone could open, hosting up to twenty-three total strangers. By […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 192-193 makes clear how the immersive character of video games has been treated as addictive from the outset. It raises the question of where the former characteristic ends and the latter begins: In both markets Space Invaders was a sudden and unexpected success—nothing quite like it had […]

I saw an exhibition at the Scott Polar Museum yesterday which made a passing referencing to ‘wikibombing’ as a practice. In this case there was a concerted project to produce wikipedia entries for female explorers and scientists who were absent from the site. I’m recording it here because it’s a useful phrase I hadn’t heard […]

I’ve written before about the ontological assumptions inherent in the framing of the attention economy. To consider the issue in economic terms tends to imply the fungibility, commensurability and valorisation of attention. There’s much of value here but it easily overlap is the quality of attention, described usefully by Tim Wu on pg 125 of […]