Updates from January, 2011 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 6:06 pm on January 31, 2011 Permalink

    Domain Analysis (draft #1) 

  • Mark 3:31 pm on January 31, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , , self knowledge,   

    The self to itself 

    In his Emotion in Social Life Derek Layder (2004: 13) argues that there are three main objects which individuals seek to control through the exercise of their agency: “the self as object of its own control, other people and the individual’s current life situation”. Through an understanding of our own characteristics – our needs, desires, capacities and habits – it it becomes possible for us to modulate our reactions to suit the demands of our situations. Through an understanding of these characteristics in others we are able to predict (and thus control) the reactions  of the other individuals who populate those situations. Finally, through harnessing such understanding and exercising it in particular situations, we are able to control our life situation as a whole: the emergent sum of different life sectors (work, leisure, private life etc) which each consist of an array of interconnected situations.

    This has left me thinking about the way in which our characteristics are rendered pertinent to our attempt to negotiate (a) particular situations (b) life as a whole. Layder plausibly argues that “the common focus of these possible objects of control is the individual’s dependence on them for the fulfilment or satisfaction of needs, concerns and problems” (Layder 2004: 14).  So while disinterested reflection upon our personal characteristics is certainly possible, it is the exception rather than the norm. As with the other possible objects of control Layder discusses, our stance towards our characteristics is inherently a pragmatic one. We ask questions of our selves as and when they are posed by the situations we confront:

    • Why do I always act that way?
    • Am I capable of doing this?
    • Do I want to do that?
    • What do I need to do this?
  • Mark 1:08 am on January 22, 2011 Permalink

    Why I like blogs 

    Blogs are often seen as a somewhat unglamorous medium. Witness BBC journalist Andrew Marr’s dismissal of bloggers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year:  “A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting.”

    However in conversations about blogging, the product is often confused with the platform. While many people do use blogs for the sort of sole authored ranting that Marr suggests, this is simplyone use of the underlying technology. The platform itself is immensely powerful: zero cost, immediate, easy to use, customisable, collaborative online publishing.

  • Mark 5:25 pm on January 17, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: explaining the normative, future of the university, , , ,   

    Two new podcasts 

    Stephen Turner on Normativity and Steve Fuller on the Future of the University.

  • Mark 3:50 pm on January 11, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: eating disorders, lifestyle journalism, medicalization, orthorexia nervosa, sociology of eating disorders,   

    Orthorexia Nervosa? 

    Eating disorder charities are reporting a rise in the number of people who suffer from a condition known as orthorexia nervosa – which derives from the Greek word meaning ‘right’ or ‘correct’. Unlike anorexia, orthorexia is not recognised as a medical term but instead classed as a mental health condition because criteria vary so much from case to case.

    Those affected are so obsessed with eating healthily, they often cut out entire food groups such as wheat, dairy or meat, believing it’s good for them. However, it can have a devastating effect on their overall health.

    An article from yesterday’s Metro which is beyond satire. It reports on a new ‘mental health condition’ sweeping Britain as an obsession with healthy living leads people towards obsessive eating behaviours which are themselves profoundly unhealthy:

    Orthorexia affects both men and women. Sufferers tend to be over 30 but the condition can manifest at a much earlier age. ‘Children learn by copying – and that includes their parents’ eating habits,’ says Jenkins. ‘If parents are setting a poor example, then the same pattern can be reflected in their children.’

    Deanne Jade, from the National Centre for Eating Disorders, says the condition is becoming more widespread in modern society because of the pressures put on us to eat ‘healthily’ by writers, nutritionists and health and fitness professionals.

    While I’d hope much of this stems from it being oversimplified for a feature in a free newspaper, it nonetheless represents a new (and interesting!) front in the medicalization of human behaviour. In an empirical sense the claim is fairly banal: constant invocations to eat healthily engenders a pathological fixation on the quality of the food that they eat. Who’d have thought it!? What I find interesting about this is the manner in which a fairly obvious claim has been reified into a ‘mental condition’. In a sense it represents the popular medicalizing discourses becoming conscious of their own effects and, rather than calling into question the underlying axioms of this approach to understanding human life, its own lack of theoretical reflexivity leaves it postulating another behaviourally defined and theoretically uncertain pathological category.

    In the process what becomes of human freedom? If we fixate on quantity it’s deemed pathological. If we fixate on quality it’s deemed pathological. If we don’t  evaluate our intake of food at all it’s deemed pathological. Basically unless we eat just the right amounts of the right kinds of foods (with ‘right’ being a function of fleeting fashions) then our behaviour is seen as pathological. There’s a profoundly moralistic and intellectually vacuous set of presumptions underlying this (the implicit positive case of ‘healthy’ behaviour drawn through a contrast with behaviours deemed pathological) but if it was stated outright, thus losing its aura of faux scientificity, then no one – at all – would take it seriously.

    Lazy journalists, underfunded newspapers/magazines and self-appointed lifestyle gurus have a lot to answer for. Every small act of lazy writing and evaluation adds up to something that, as a whole, is really quite nasty.

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