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  • Mark 11:26 pm on December 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    2012 in review 

    The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 28,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

    Click here to see the complete report.

  • Mark 2:09 pm on December 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ruth levitas,   

    Why do people believe what they believe? Getting beyond the idea there’s something wrong with people who disagree with us 

    I’ve always been fascinated by the question of why people hold the political beliefs they do. In part this is because of how badly most people handle this question. From across the political spectrum, there is a pervasive tendency to explain away the beliefs of others: idiocy, ignorance, naivete, self-interest etc. In a recent Twitter conversation, someone invoked psychoanalysis to explain why neoliberals are committed to their project. Why are we so bad at dealing with the beliefs of others? To a certain extent it’s because we don’t approach them in a vacuum, we too have our beliefs and these stand in relations of contradiction or compatibility to those of others. It’s also perhaps, as Chantal Mouffe might suggest, a reflection of political incivility within the unhealthy democracies of late capitalism: seeing the other as an enemy to be defeated, rather than an adversary to debate with.

    However I think a much more important factor is the sheer complexity of the question. Why do people believe what they believe? Our beliefs are caused and yet somehow transcend those causes. Our political worldview is marked by our natal context and yet escapes it. If we treat the question too abstractly we risk subsuming the messy complexity of the political worldview of thinking, feeling and fearing embodied agents into the conceptual abstraction entailed when we talk about things like ‘socialism’, ‘liberalism’, ‘libertarianism’ etc. This can seem justified by the fact there are people who consciously embrace the systematicity of these positions but this blinds us to (a) their normative commitments are always more complex than their stated beliefs make apparent (b) such people are, in this strict sense of having made an agential commitment to a position, surely a minority. An alternative approach is to treat the question in an empiricist manner, risking that we collapse a subject’s political worldview into the chain of events which led them to their present position and beliefs.

    To get beyond these two approaches, I think what Ruth Levitas talks about as an archaeological approach to understanding political thinking is extremely useful. My understanding of this is based on a talk I saw her give two years ago  (see below) so what follows is more a summary of the line of thought this sparked off in myself, rather than an accurate summary of her thinking on the issue.

    The archaeology of political thought involves making explicit the idea of a good society that is embedded in particular political positions. These may be, to varying extents, inchoate. Alternatively there may be a contradiction between what an individual expressly endorses as a good society and that which is implied by their substantive politics. But there is nonetheless a deep structure to political position taking. When we make normative claims about social and political arrangements, our statements carry further normative entailments which frequently outstrip our discursive awareness of them. This is why dialogue and debate help us elaborate our worldview i.e. arguing about politics helps expand our awareness of the unacknowledged entailments which stems from our acknowledged commitments, as well as offering us the opportunity to review and revise them.

    If we consider this in biographical terms then the picture becomes, superficially at least, rather complex. The coherency of a political world view is something which is real (a logical structure holds between normative propositions) but unavoidably partial at the level of the actual (the cognitive tracing through and drawing out of these connections by a subject) and the empirical (the observable political commitments made by a subject). However we can make this complexity manageable if we focus on the actual: what brings about this ‘tracing out’ of the further commitments entailed by our existing beliefs? 

    I think it’s inevitably sparked by the necessity of making sense of our experience. We read new things, we encounter new people, we discuss new ideas and we see things happen in the world. In doing so we are confronted with novelty which stands in a contradictory or complimentary relationship to our existing commitments. In doing so, assuming we don’t engage in what are arguably extremely common avoidance strategics to evade the moment, we are compelled to trace out entailments of our commitments.

    To put it more directly, I’m saying that deliberation is central to this everyday experience of being a normative being. There is a rationalistic moment to this deliberation given that it is driven by things we experience as contradicting or complementing our existing beliefs. But it is not in any meaningful sense a rationalistic process. What can be reconstructed in rationalistic terms represents the possible contours of normative commitment but what leads us to make choices is the fact that things matter to us. To bring this back to the original question: adequately making sense of the political beliefs of our opponents involves recognising:

    1. They are also beings to whom these things matter
    2. Their current beliefs are part of a biographical unfolding driven by a perpetual struggle to make sense of what they encounter
    3. Their backgrounds have shaped their beliefs, in so far as it has patterned the novelty they’ve confronted and the cultural resources available to them in making sense of this novelty
    4. Their unfolding set of normative commitments have also been shaped ‘internally’ by the sort of deep structure, most easily identifiable in what we term ideology but by no means exhausted by this.
    5. While this deep structure exercises causal power via logical relations of contradiction and complementarity, normativity itself is a causal force. Ideas of the good life and the good society (encoded in mental images and cultural products) can ‘pull’ us towards them. We can be driven to systematise our thinking because of our desire to get ‘closer’ to the notion of the good life and/or good society embedded within it.

    For an actual case study of this approach, this post discusses common attitudes towards asexual people.

  • Mark 9:55 am on December 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Ethics and Social Theory: The Work of Andrew Sayer 

    University of Wales, Newport (City Campus)
    22 February 2013  |  09:45-16:45

    Ethics and Social Theory: The Work of Andrew Sayer

    Andrew Sayer’s work in critical social science has ranged across political economy, social theory and ethics — combining insights from each, and shedding light across them in rare and valuable ways.  His most recent books The Moral Significance of Class(Cambridge, 2005) and Why Things Matter to People: Social Science, Values and Ethical Life (Cambridge, 2011) have developed a distinctive position, critical of both modernist and postmodernist  orthodoxiesand of the tendency among social scientists to neglect or deny the importance of normativity in social relations.  As an alternative, Sayer offersqualified ethical naturalism, combined with a realist social theory.  It is a position whichdraws fruitfully on diverse theoretical resources — Adam Smith, Pierre Bourdieu, the‘capabilities’ approach — while staking out distinctive ground of its own.

    This seminar will explore this recent work from a series of critical angles, and include a response from Andrew Sayer himself.  It will be of interest to sociologists, social theoristsand those with an interest in how moral philosophy relates both to wider questions of social understanding and critique, and to everyday lived experience.


    Dave Elder-Vass (Loughborough) ‘The moral economy of digital gifts’

    Carol Smart (Manchester) ‘Talking about what matters: the view from empirical research’

    Gideon Calder (Newport) ‘Lay normativity, critique and the institutions of ethics’

    Ted Benton (Essex) ‘Norms, naturalism and social explanation’

    Gregor McLennan (Bristol) Summation

    Andrew Sayer (Lancaster) Response

    Fee (registration and food) | 

    Places are limited.  Formal booking will open in mid-January, but places may be reserved before then.

    Further details Gideon Calder
    : gideon.calder@newport.ac.uk

  • Mark 10:22 am on December 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Impacting publics: striking a blow or walking together? 

    Creating Publics keynote lecture event with Rachel Pain

    (University of Durham)

     Impacting publics: striking a blow or walking together?

     Tuesday, 19 February 2013, 14:00 – 16:00

    Michael Young Building, Room 1&2, Ground Floor, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

    Outline: “The University is just one site where the idea of public good is under threat from marketisation and shallow audit rather than deep accountability. My starting point is alignment between Universities and a range of wider publics and organisations in the context of recession and austerity. Reflecting on different responses to the impact agenda, I suggest that the particular form of impact being measured is reproducing longer-standing power/knowledge hierarchies. I consider some alternative framings and practices of impact (with) publics.”


    14:00               Welcome and introduction: Jef Huysmans and Nick Mahony (CCIG)

    14:10               Keynote lecture: Professor Rachel Pain (University of Durham)

    15:00               Response by Clive Barnett (CCIG)

    15:15               Q & A and collective discussion

    The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

    The event will be webcast live and accessible here. Those viewing online will be able to post questions and comments, which will be relayed live to the event.

    To register to attend in person, please go online on the CCIG website.

    For more details about the Creating Publics project, please visit CCIG website.

  • Mark 7:17 pm on December 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Qualitative360 Europe, April 17-18 2013 Berlin – Call for Abstracts – Deadline coming up soon! 

    Qualitative360 Europe: 3rd Annual Conference
    April 17-18, 2013 Berlin, Germany

    For anybody wanting to submit a presentations synopsis for the upcoming Qual360 Europe conference, the deadline is coming up shortly – 22 December.

    Qualitative 360 Europe, now in its third year, is the cross-disciplinary event bringing together academics, professional researchers and consumer insights specialists to discuss cutting edge research techniques.

    The conference is steered by an advisory panel that reviews speaking submissions, ensuring the highest possible quality of speakers and an exciting mix between industry experts, academics and independent researchers.

    For information on how to submit your synopsis, please visit http://www.qualitative360.com
    (Please note that the deadline for submission is by 22 December 2012)

  • Mark 2:09 pm on December 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Doing research inclusively, doing research well, 7-8 Feb, Southampton 

    Course: Doing research inclusively, doing research well
    Date and place: 7-8 February 2013, Southampton
    Presenters: Professor Melanie Nind and Dr Hilra Vinha
    Fees: £60 for UK registered PhD students; £120 for staff at UK academic institutions, ESRC funded researchers and registered charity organisations; £440 for all other participants.

    Further info and register: http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/training/show.php?article=3820

    This training is a dialogical encounter based on the approach of Paulo Freire. It builds from an ESRC study looking at quality and capacity in inclusive research in which researchers outside and inside the academy, with and without a label of learning disabilities, came together in focus groups to discuss their research methods, priorities and working practices. The research generated guidance for judging quality in inclusive research with people with learning disabilities, together with practical guidance and case study materials for teaching which are used here. The trainers work from the position that it is unhelpful to limit ourselves to an uncritical ‘nothing about us without us’ agenda in which one way of doing inclusive research becomes prescribed and policed. Instead, there are many different models of inclusive research and much to be learned from exploring these. Participants should expect an interactive/active experience using dialogue and involving seeing, reading, using and developing a range of methods that change the dynamics of knowledge production. The examples come from the field of learning disabilities but the methods have relevance for researchers in other fields.

  • Mark 6:12 pm on December 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: EU Kids Online, Internet Safety,   

    How safe are European children online? An interview with Leslie Haddon from the EU Kids Online project 

    In this interview I talk to Leslie Haddon about the EU Kids Online project. The project explored the internet use of children, as well as the risks they encounter as a consequence, across 33 countries. It is unsurprising that this issue has received much media attention given the rapidity with which internet access has spread across society and become a everyday feature of the lives of many, though by no means all, children. However it is an easy target of speculation and moral panic. I found the research project intriguing because it was such a systematic attempt to empirically map the contours of a process which can so easily treated with little but hyperbole and fear.

    • nellsberry 6:09 pm on December 8, 2012 Permalink

      Reblogged this on Wider World Web and commented:
      I’ve finally started following some decent bloggers on wordpress, this is a great example.

  • Mark 4:32 pm on December 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alex smith, , new ethnographies,   

    What does the future hold for ethnography? An interview with Alex Smith 

    In this interview I talk to Alex Smith (right) about the New Ethnographies book series he edits. I was interested in this series because of its deliberate intention to embrace and ferment the extension and productive growth of this most traditional of qualitative approaches. As Alex describes in the forward to the series which is quoted from below:

    This includes the growing number of books that seek to apprehend the  ‘new’ ethnographic objects of a seemingly brave new world, some recent examples  of which have included auditing, democracy and elections, documents, financial  markets, human rights, assisted reproductive technologies and political activism. Analysing such objects has often demanded new skills and techniques from the ethnographer. As a result, this series will give voice to those using ethnographic methods across disciplines to innovate, such as through the application  of multi-sited fieldwork and the extended comparative case study method. Such  innovations have often challenged more traditional ethnographic approaches. New Ethnographies therefore seeks to provide a platform for emerging scholars  and their more established counterparts engaging with ethnographic methods in new and imaginative ways.

  • Mark 4:17 pm on December 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    The ‘prestige’ of journals in a social media age 


    1. reputation or influence arising from success, achievement,rank, or other favorable attributes.
    2. distinction or reputation attaching to a person or thing andthus possessing a cachet

    Journals seen as prestigious have a reputation for possessing favourable attributes: they are well managed, have high editorial standards, publish good papers. In fact all these factors are, in practice, related. They’re also seen to be related – perhaps, once might suggest, to an extent which outstrips the reality. Great faith has been placed in their capacity to filter – with high rejection rates, stringent editors, thorough review process and imposing reputations, the readership can be confident that only high quality papers make the grade (with the often implicit corollary that papers not in these journals aren’t high quality).

    As a cognitive category, a presupposition which undergirds our evaluative judgements – meant in a way which encompasses this notion – it’s profoundly 20th century. But if you question it too naively, people are likely to construe this as an  attack on academic standards. Why would they leap to this conclusion? Because the conceptual architecture of alternative judgemental practices had not, until recently, emerged: this is where social media comes in.

    The notion of ‘prestige’ – with its hierarchical connotations and intrinsic links to bureaucracy – rests on the assumption that filtering, as a social and culture process, relies on fixed elite organisation and, contingently, commercial motives to meet the inherent costs. But that obviously isn’t true anymore. Social media enables an ongoing process of communal filtering which, depending on the dynamics of participation, can be come profoundly refined – for a trivial example, if you use Twitter in an engaged way, just look through your feed and see what percentage of the links posted are things you find interesting. For me it’s often 90% or more. Now imagine the same process, working in an organised way, with the radical difference that there are clearly delineable communities of practice within academia (and, if you see this as a venn diagrams, with specific topics and subdisciplinary areas co-existing within disciplinary and methodological clusters, the notion becomes a very powerful one) which, in principle, means the filtering process can be incredibly powerful.

    …. which is what open access online journals, run non-heirarchically as collectives, organised thematically in a way which maximally connects with the values and passions of those involved would be.


    [I was reading this and it reminded me, particularly the fourth section, of this old post which I hadn’t thought about in quite some time]

    • Stille Tanzer 4:47 am on December 8, 2012 Permalink

      When I, as a student, have no access to the quantity of papers published in the variety of “prestigious” journals, there’s no validity in my assessment of the quality of said journals and/or their filtering process, etc. etc.So immediately, what this brought to mind is the unfair practice these “prestigious” journals keep! They charge the public to have access to the published papers that are written by the researchers whose research was paid for by government grant (i.e. the public). They often get the research results relatively inexpensively and the reviews are often freely done by Professors who consider this part of their job. Here is one article denoting some of the complaints.

      But I would agree the entire system likely needs reviewed. Well written. Thank you.

    • jasonzevin 10:03 am on December 10, 2012 Permalink

      Have you seen this?


      Many fields are already experimenting with ways to do this, or at least thinking about it. It will take time for these practices to become mainstream, but the ideological arguments about “gatekeepers” and “signal to noise” are starting to lose credibility with many scientists.

      Exciting times.

  • Mark 10:29 am on December 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event Thursday 13th December 2012 

    BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event Thursday 13th December 2012

    Gender and Bourdieu, “Is doing gender unavoidable?”

    Bourdieu first entered the sociological discussion of gender relationships in the 1990s. In 1998 he published La Domination masculine . Bourdieu argues that the relations between men and women are tied to masculine domination and that this masculine domination or habitus gives men and women a specific role in society.

    Bourdieu’s work often causes divisions between feminists. Many argue that although he explored gender relations in his work he paid very little attention to feminist theory, focusing instead on gendering of taste or how structured sexual division of labour generates a sexually differentiated perspective on the world. However, others dispute this insisting that his contribution has scarcely been recognized by feminists. They claim that one of Bourdieu’s most important insights is that gender is present in all social relationships. Furthermore, Bourdieu’s work is valuable to feminist approaches because theoretical frameworks and political programmes are always embedded in social relations.

    There has been a range of responses to Bourdieu from feminists and this event will aim to bring together different perspectives for discussion with key note speakers: Dr Catherine Hakim, Dr Lisa Mckenzie and Professor Derek Robbins.


    10-30-11.00: Registration and tea and coffee
    11.00-12.15: Dr Catherine Hakim key note speech
    12.15-13.15: Lunch
    13.15-14.30: Dr Lisa Mckenzie key note speech
    14.30-14.45: Refreshments
    14.45-16.00: Prof. Derek Robbins Key note speech: “La domination masculine and social constructionism”.
    16.00-17.00: Discussions with key note speakers
    17.00-17.30: Wine reception.

    Venue: School of Law and Social Science, University of East London, Docklands Campus.
    BSA members £20, Non-BSA members £30
    Places are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment!
    Online, via email: events@britsoc.org.uk, or Tel: 0191 383 0839

  • Mark 3:06 pm on December 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply

    Seminar, 5th December – Learning, team-working and co-creation of knowledge: Two case studies 

    Learning, team-working and co-creation of knowledge: Two case studies

    Dr Mark Childs

    Wednesday 5th December
    Venue: WE029
    1.30 – 2.30pm

    Learning, team-working and co-creation of knowledge  have  specific  needs,  barriers  and solutions.  This  seminar  will  present  two  research projects  conducted  earlier  in  the  year  that  employ different techniques for learners to work together at a  distance.  The  seminar  will  be  an  opportunity  to explore  how  distance  technologies  are  having  animpact  on  mainstream  education,  and  the  issues and opportunities that arise when distanced collaborations take place.

    Further details:

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