This talk will discuss how the university has changed over the last 18 months, as well as which of these changes are likely to remain. We can’t expect that the university will snap back to pre-pandemic normality, particularly with regards to the central role that digital platforms now play in academic life. If we’re entering a future where online will have equivalent status to face-to-face then digital scholarship becomes essential to academic practice.
Are you interested in doing a PhD with me at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Education? I’m interested in supervising on educational topics related to critical realism, social media, the impact of the pandemic and platform capitalism.
You can follow me at the feed below. It feels narcissistic to talk about the reasons I’ve changed my mind after I spent lots of time talking about deleting my account. I’m happy to do so if anyone’s interested though.
It will soon have been twenty years since Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation was published. This groundbreaking book was the starting point for Archer’s reflexivity trilogy, published over the next nine years and building on her previous trilogy which ended with Being Human.
At no point does Succession suggest these characters are sociopathic, as unlikable as they are. What makes it so powerful is how vividly we see the emotional damage which this over-saturation of strategic conduct does to them. The points at which they want to reach out, to find comfort through closeness, only to realise they’re imprisoned by the logic of a situation in which they’re in a zero-sum competition for succession with those closest to them.
I like this framing by Zuboff in Surveillance Capitalism as a way of talking about what Bacevic has described as independent irrational animals. It fits interestingly with what Ben Tarnoff and Moira Weigel describe as ‘tech humanism’: the belief that “unhealthy and inhumane” business models can be fixed through better design which rests on an ironically dehumanising language of our ‘lizard brains’ being ‘hijacked’.
I increasingly think of this in terms of the symmetry principle in which we cultivate an understanding of the constraints and enablements of both modalities, as well as the technological reflexivity necessary to think about how they might be best suited to certain kinds of encounters.
I can’t stop thinking about this James Meadway piece reflecting on what he terms our new age of scarcity. The fundamental point he is making is a simple one, concerning the environmental shocks which are increasingly ubiquitous. There is a tendency to see each of these as exceptional but the routine occurrence of once exceptional events means we urgently need to stop framing them as exceptional.
I don’t mean this post as an attack on people who’ve done this. However it does leave me worrying that the level of digital literacy remains relatively low even with regards to a technology like e-mail that’s been around for decades.
Over the last year I find myself listening to academic works in audiobook with ever greater frequency. In part this reflects the screen fatigue which the pandemic has provoked.
It’s rate of growth has vastly outpaced the rest of the UK for years while housing and infrastructure have failed to keep up. The result is a city which is as dysfunctional as it is beautiful, as cacophonous as it is twee and one which I no longer want to live in.
In the early pages of Surveillance Capitalism there is an evocative description of personal loss. Shoshana Zuboff recounts the experience of watching her house burn down, struggling to recognise the reality of what she was saying. The point she is making is that the unprecedented character of this event left her unable to fully comprehend what was taking place.
I just noticed this webinar I did a few years ago has been uploaded to YouTube. The sound quality is really poor but it’s the most comprehensive introduction I’ve recorded online:
wrote a little essay around ten years ago about The Dark Knight film and the broader cynical turn in cinema, riffing on the line “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. It was originally spoken by Harvey Dent early in the film before being repeated by Batman late in the film as he runs into the night
This captures something of the phenomenology of the conspiracy theorist but also, I think, the stalker: the compulsive search for signs. A sense that it it all connected and that we can trace out those connections, if only we exhibit enough independence of thought and reject those agencies which kept us unknowingly under their tutelage until we began to do our own research.