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  • Mark 3:15 pm on January 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: asmr,   

    “Oh! There are other people just like me? I’m not so weird after all”: the transformation of identity in the digital age 

    The internet was integral to the formation of the asexual community. While the details are slightly messier than such an account suggests, the sociologically important aspects of its history can be summarised as follows:

    1. Individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction are made to feel ‘broken’, ‘damaged’ or ‘fucked up’ by a culture which places great stress on sexual activity as a marker of personal fulfilment. While they recognise that they are different in relation to a given reference group (often peers at school) the nature of this difference is assumed to be pathological – they deviate from norms they observe and assume that this deviation means that something is wrong with them. 
    2. If they try and explain these differences to others then what were previous observations of norms endorsed become encounters with norms enforced. Rather than just observing that others orientate themselves towards sexual activity in certain ways (both attitudinal and behavioural) they encounter the expressions of these norms. Commonly individuals who try and explain a lack of sexual attraction will be told by others that they are ‘late bloomers’, ‘haven’t met the right person yet’, have a problem with their hormones or their minds (etc).  What was an interior self-directed assumption of pathology becomes one encountered from others as well. 
    3. However when the internet came along, it became possible for people with this experience to talk. Initially this wasn’t a case of ‘I am X’ and I want to find others like myself because there was no sense of what X was. However the sheer communicative possibilities afforded by the internet, to express oneself and encounter the self-expressions of others enabled a convergence of experience [note for those who know asexual history: I’m simplifying massively here for theoretical purposes] as people recognised aspects of their own experiences in the accounts of others.
    4. These dialogues give rise to the emergence of the sense of an X. People generate labels to describe what they share, as well as labels to express their differences. The dialogue the internet affords affirms commonality but also elaborates differences. Not only does a community form but it becomes internally differentiated.
    5. The growth of the online community makes it easier for people to come to define themselves in this way. Whereas many older asexuals spent years or decades searching for some workable understanding of why they were different, many younger individuals simply type ‘do not experience sexual attraction’ into a search engine and find themselves at a n asexual discussion forum. This online growth fuels ‘offline’ media attention – it comes to the attention of journalists eager to document the novel and surprising, which in turn helps the community grow as further individuals encounter the label and find it online, fuelling the trend which was deemed to be newsworthy in the first place.

    Now consider a very different group: people who experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response:

    ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and is a physical sensation which can often be felt as a tingling feeling which begins around the scalp and can often travel all around the body particularly down the back and into the persons arms and legs.

    Most people descibe it as a tingling in the head.

    What can trigger ASMR?

    ASMR can be brought on through acts known as triggers. These can be visual or through sounds.

    Watching another person complete tasks can induce ASMR with activities such as:

    • Nail tapping
    • Scratching
    • Drawing
    • Coloring in pictures.
    • Whispering
    • Hand movements
    • Brushes
    • Haircuts
    • Massage
    • Handling items

    When triggered ASMR can be very relaxing for the person and can help them feel a lot calmer and in some cases can be so relaxing that some people may fall asleep.

    There are some striking similarities observable here. Internet culture was integral to its recognition. The phenomenon has received media attention and the group who recognise themselves as having the experience has grown as a result. Both directly (“oh, so that’s what that is!”) when encountering such coverage and indirectly through friends and acquaintances who later recount what they have read. In essence it constitutes a label which has only come into social circulation via the internet. The label doesn’t create the experience but nonetheless it renders it both easier to recognise (i.e. to acknowledge something it is necessary for it to have a label to constitute it as a thing) and articulate, either in internal conversation with oneself or with external others. Once it becomes an object of internal deliberation, people form plans and projects on the basis of it. Until ASMR was identified as a ‘thing’ it wasn’t going to occur to anyone to make any of the thousands of videos on youtube relating to it.

    Some people who felt weird about it suddenly feel relieved that they have a label with which they can now identity, rather than the experience being a site of anxiety and confusion. Those who didn’t feel weird but didn’t understand the experience simply find some interest in recognising that it is a ‘thing’. The parallels can be overstated – crucially, it doesn’t seem particularly likely to me (though I’m not 100% sure) that anyone experienced massive distress about their ASMR experiences. Sure, it perhaps made them feel a bit weird if, for contingent biographical reasons, they were prone to dwelling on it. But it’s unlikely to have given rise to the feelings of social erasure and marginalization which many asexual people experience. Nonetheless there are some converging elements and I think they are very interesting. Crucially they apply much more broadly. This post is hopefully the first step in branching out (meant non pejoratively) from this aspect of my asexuality research – how is the internet reshaping the biographical dynamics of normativity? Or in other words, how is the internet changing how our sense of who we are and how we differ from those around us unfolds over the life course?

  • Mark 11:12 am on January 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CFP: Capitalism and Erotics 

    Call for Papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2013, London, 28th-30th August 2013

    Capitalism and Erotics

    Organiser: Jason Lim (Queen Mary, University of London, UK)

    Sponsored by the Space, Sexualities and Queer Research Group of the RGS-IBG

    This session seeks to examine the multitude of ways of thinking about the relationship between capitalism and erotics. Much recent research has examined how our intimate and erotic lives have become more explicitly commodified, assigned value, advertised, commercialised, packaged and consumed. Feminist and queer analyses have addressed, for instance, how gendered domination associated with sexual divisions of labour (work, social reproduction etc.) is related to capitalist erotics, or how contemporary transformations of labour often rest upon a commodification of sexualised aesthetics. Other work has explored how capitalist processes and practices produce and manufacture our erotic desires. Erotic desires have also been theorised as residing at the heart of the Sovereign modes of power and subjectivity that are the correlates of the nihilism of contemporary post-Fordist and neo-colonialist capitalisms. Conversely, Eros has sometimes been understood as subversive of capitalism – a transformative desire that promises to incite new forms of economies beyond capitalism.

    Contributions are invited that address or reflect upon some aspect of the relationship between capitalism and erotics, both broadly conceived. Empirical and/or theoretical contributions are welcome, and paper ideas both from within the discipline of Geography and from other cognate disciplines are invited.

    Paper ideas may relate to, but are not limited to:

    –          Erotics and sexual divisions of labour – the production of work and of social reproduction

    –          The commodification of sexuality

    –          Sex work, sexualised work and precarity

    –          Erotics, business and finance

    –          Pornography and the abstraction of sexual desires

    –          Labour migration and erotic regulation

    –          The erotics of leisure, consumption, distinction and taste

    –          Online transformations of erotics, sexuality and citizenship

    –          Capitalist imaginaries, simulacra and the circulation of erotic derivatives

    –          Representation, erotic imagery, and the market (e.g. the role of the media and other cultural intermediaries in shaping erotic desire)

    –          Eros and the contemporary capitalist city

    –          Erotic capital

    –          The eroticisation of class

    –          Non-capitalist erotics/utopian erotics


    Please send a title and abstract of c.250 words (with name, affiliation and contact email addresses of all authors) to j.lim@qmul.ac.uk by 8 February 2013

    For more details about the conference, please visit the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) website:


  • Mark 8:54 pm on January 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Becoming Who We Are – a realist approach to studying personal change 

    In this presentation I draw on critical realist theories of the person to offer an account of how persons change, or fail to change, over time. I argue that many of the substantive concerns of biographical and lifecourse research can be fruitfully recast as questions relating to personal morphostatis (staying the same) or personal morphogenesis (changing). I engage with theoretical questions of temporality and identity to sketch out a practical methodology for studying morphogenetic processes in personal life. This approach was developed over a two year multi-method longitudinal study of 18 undergraduate students across five academic disciplines.

    I’m now close to half way through what will be the fifth and final year of my (part time) PhD. So I figure it’s time I learn to summarise my PhD in 20 mins or less. Hence the above abstract, which is for a presentation I intend to refine iteratively on as many occasions as I can over the next 6 months or so. This is something which worked wonderfully well for my asexuality research, knitting together a long sequence of similar(ish) presentations into one ongoing project.

  • Mark 5:27 pm on January 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    What is ‘academic blogging’? 

    This question has been on my mind a lot this week. Largely because it occurred to me that I have yet to encounter a non-trivial answer to it. Sure, it’s easy to say academic blogging is blogging by academics. But what does this really tell us? Martin Weller has an interesting discussion along these lines in his book the Digital Scholar:

    ‘Scholarship’ is itself a rather old-fashioned term. Whenever I ask someone to think of scholarship they usually imagine a lone individual, surrounded by books (preferably dusty ones), frantically scribbling notes in a library. This is somewhat removed from the highly connected scholar, creating multimedia outputs and sharing these with a global network of peers. Scholarship is, though, a sufficiently broad term to encompass many different functions and so has the flexibility to accommodate new forms of practice. It is not only focused on teaching, or research, but also on a wide range of activities. In fact, a rather tautological definition of scholarship is that it is what scholars do. And a ‘scholar’ can be defined as a learned person or a specialist in a given branch of knowledge.

    Traditionally we have tended to think of scholars as being academics, usually employed by universities. This is the main focus of this book; it is the changes to university and higher education practice that will form the main discussion and research. However, digital scholarship broadens this focus somewhat, since in a digital, networked, open world people become less defined by the institution to which they belong and more by the network and online identity they establish. Thus a well-respected digital scholar may well be someone who has no institutional affiliation. The democratisation of the online space opens up scholarship to a wider group, just as it opens up subjects that people can study beyond the curriculum defined by universities.

    A simple definition of digital scholarship should probably be resisted, and below it is suggested that it is best interpreted as a shorthand term. As Wittgenstein argued with the definition of ‘game’ such tight definitions can end up excluding elements that should definitely be included or including ones that seem incongruous. A digital scholar need not be a recognised academic, and equally does not include anyone who posts something online. For now, a definition of someone who employs digital, networked and open approaches to demonstrate specialism in a field is probably sufficient to progress.

    Similar ambiguities obtain with the term ‘academic blogging’. I guess my fear is that that, unless this is more widely recognised, certain possibilities about what it could be taken to entail might be foreclosed i.e. ‘academic blogging’ comes to be defined as only one of the many specific activities that are currently subsumed under this rather vague term. I think there’s a real need for empirical research into how academics are using blogging platforms – looking at their intentions behind the activity, the practical results of it and developing taxonomies to better capture how these tools are actually being used (as well as the relative frequency of these uses and their distribution across disciplines) rather than taking the categories already in circulation as being heuristically useful for understanding this emerging field of activity. My fear is that the term ‘blogging’, as well as having all sorts of negative cultural connotations, actually obscures more than it reveals when used as an interpretive category.

    • Tuhin 6:24 pm on January 26, 2013 Permalink

      Blogs started gaining popularity in the 1990s, but became widespread throughout the web around 2003. Most blogs are produced using an online interface, enabling the blogger to access and update his or her blog from any device with Internet connectivity. The most popular blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress. What is blogging?

  • Mark 5:14 pm on January 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Do you find social media taking up too much of your time? 

    Do you find social media taking up too much of your time? If so then IFTTT could be incredibly useful for you. It allows different social media channels to be connected up using statements of the form IF [x] THEN [Y] – where X is an event occurring on one channel and Y is an action on another channel.When I found out about this, I was instantly fascinated but it can be quite tricky to work out how to actually use it. That said, I’ve been using it for months now and I was surprised to realise recently that I actually have 10 IFTTT statements running. These do things which previously were either impossible or only possible by hand. It’s an incredible time saving tool and I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of it.

    Here are the ones I’m currently using:

    • Every new post on the LSE Politics Blog (via the RSS feed) gets saved as a new document on my Google Drive. 
    • Articles I favourite on Pocket (Read It Later) get saved in Google Drive as a PDF
    • New posts on Sociological Imagination get their details entered on a spreadsheet archive in Google Drive
    • New posts on the Public University website get placed in my Twitter buffer for Sociological Imagination
    • New entries on markcarrigan.net go into my Twitter buffer for Sociological Imagination
    • New entries on markcarrigan.net go to the Sociological Imagination facebook wall.
    • New posts on Sociological Imagination go to the Sociological Imagination facebook wall
    • New posts on Sociological Imagination go to the Twitter buffer for Sociological Imagination.
    • My favourited items on Google Reader go into the Sociological Imagination twitter buffer.
  • Mark 4:55 pm on January 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Citizenship and Belonging: A Postgraduate Conference 

    Call for Papers: Citizenship and Belonging: A Postgraduate Conference
    Posted on December 3, 2012 by citizenshipandbelonging2013

    Call for Papers and Participants for a two-day BSA-Sponsored Regional Postgraduate Event

    Citizenship and Belonging: A Postgraduate Conference

    Hosted by the University Nottingham

    On Monday the 25th and Tuesday the 26th of March 2013

    Within Sociology, the study of citizenship has recently become more prevalent. T. H. Marshall’s (1950) writings in the early post-war years and his conceptualisation of the development of citizenship in the UK helped to spark some of this interest. Marshall demonstrated the importance of different forms of legal rights and obligations – namely civil, political and social – for the enactment of citizenship in a particular nation-state. It is increasingly being recognised, however, that the legal or formal aspects only constitute one part of citizenship as such. A range of studies have recently sought to investigate the more psychosocial dimensions of citizenship as exemplified by the different forms of belongings amongst ordinary people – citizens and non-citizens alike. This is particularly important to investigate in contemporary times of immigration/citizenship policy restrictions that coincide with and, some would argue, contribute to the anti-immigration sentiments that have made an increasing re-emergence across Europe and beyond.

    This is a two-day BSA-Sponsored Regional Postgraduate Event with keynote speakers, postgraduate presentations and a poster competition. Confirmed keynote speakers include:

    Prof. Nira Yuval-Davis (University of East London)
    the BSA President Prof. John Holmwood (University of Nottingham)
    Dr. Michael Skey (University of East Anglia)
    Dr. Davide Però (University of Nottingham)

    We are calling for postgraduate students interested in and researching a broad range of issues related to the emerging academic field of citizenship and belonging. We intend the conference theme to be interpreted widely; however, we are keen to see abstracts from those who can best demonstrate a critical engagement on research into citizenship and belonging to their research projects, with these (non-limiting) guidelines:

    the role of the nation-state
    interactions between ethnic majority, minority and migrant groups
    the prospect of world citizenship/cosmopolitanism
    empirical case studies and/or comparative studies
    policy-oriented research
    theoretical conceptualisations
    methodological concerns

    Prospective participants are invited to submit a 250-word abstract to be considered for a 20-minute oral presentation or a poster presentation. We are also inviting postgraduate students who want to attend the conference, but do not wish to present, to submit a 250-word rationale in which they demonstrate how the conference might benefit them. We will only be able to select the best proposals for the presentations and the attendees, as places will be limited. Please note that you are expected to attend both days of the conference. We ask for applicants doing a PhD or an MA at a UK or Irish university.

    Please submit your abstract by Sunday the 20th of January 2013, filling out the registration form (found here: http://citizenshipandbelonging2013.wordpress.com/) and send it to belonging2013@gmail.com

    Conference registration fee, which will cover both days, including catering and refreshments during the conference:

    BSA members £15

    Non-BSA members £25

  • Mark 10:37 am on January 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Research Seminars, Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster 


    Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster

    All seminars take place in room A6.9 at Harrow campus, University of Westminster

    All welcome, but please email Dr Anastasia Kavada at A.Kavada@westminster.ac.uk if you’d like to attend

    [Please scroll down for more information on each seminar and speaker]




    6 Feb.

    Ben O’LoughlinRoyal Holloway

    Nick Anstead

    London School of Economics

    Semantic Polling: Real-Time Public Opinion and the 2010 UK General Election

    27 Feb.

    Toby MillerProfessor of Cultural Industries, City University

    Blow Up the Humanities

    6 Mar.

    Christian FuchsProfessor of Social Media,

    University of Westminster

    Reflections on the Digital Labour Debate

    13 Mar.

    David McKnightSenior Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, Australia

    Murdoch’s Politics

    20 Mar.

    Graham MeikleProfessor of Social Media,

    University of Westminster

    Social Media, Visibility and Activism: The Kony 2012 Campaign’

    3 Apr.

    Hannu NieminenProfessor of Media and Communication Policy, University of Helsinki

    Challenges of convergence to media regulation: tools for analysis

    Title: ‘Semantic Polling: Real-Time Public Opinion and the 2010 UK General Election’


    Ben O’Loughlin, Professor of International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London

    Nick Anstead, Lecturer, London School of Economics

    Date: 6 February 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: What are the consequences of the Big Data revolution for electoral politics? We explore semantic polling, an approach to public opinion research based on the harvesting of large datasets from social media services and analysing those datasets using natural language processing, network analysis and other techniques to generate analysis of political opinions, attitudes and – potentially – behaviour. We explore how semantic polling was used and understood by parties, pollsters, social media analysts, journalists and regulators during the 2010 UK General Election. Our study is based on interviews with those professional groups, analysis of news media during the election period, and firsthand experience of conducting semantic polling. Semantic polling promises to enrich electoral politics since it allows real-time, segmented, qualitative understanding of public, naturally-occurring conversations about politics, yet based upon the quantitative analysis of very large datasets. However, data can be low quality and unrepresentative, analysis lacks reliability, and no presentation format has emerged that make findings intelligible to journalists and citizens. Interviewees label it a ‘wild west’, and regulators are barely aware it is being used. Our study is significant in several ways. First, if representations of public opinion can affect how members of the public view themselves (bandwagoning etc), then new types of representations may have new effects. Second, this is becoming another area colonised by party management and control. Third, it is an area that is difficult to regulate and which present ethical issues around data creation and use.


    Ben O’Loughlin is Professor of International Relations and Co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is co-editor of the Sage journal Media, War & Conflict. His books include Radicalisation and Media: Terrorism and Connectivity in the New Media Ecology (2011) and War and Media: The Emergence of Diffused War (2010). He has carried out projects on media and security for the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure. Ben has presented research to the No. 10 Policy UnitHome Office,Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeOFCOM, the European Commission and European Broadcasting Union, as well as expert groups like the Global Futures Forum. He has contributed to the New York TimesGuardianOpenDemocracySky News and Newsweek. He is a regular columnist for Global Policy. Ben is currently completing a study for the BBC evaluating the extent to which the 2012 London Olympics created a multilingual ‘global conversation’. (Email: Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk; Twitter: @Ben_OLoughlin)

    Nick Anstead is a Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, where his work focuses on the evolving nature of institutions, political communication and participation, and especially draws on comparative work. His work has been published in journals including The International Journal of Press / Politics, Information Communication and Society, and the Journal of Information Technology and Politics, while he also co-edited (with Will Straw) the 2009 Fabian Society pamphlet The Change We Need, which featured a foreword by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. During 2011-12, and with colleagues from the LSE, Nick worked on a European Union project funded by the EACEA entitledYouth Participation in Democratic Life which looked at both formal and informal politics. Nick blogs at nickanstead.com and tweets @nickanstead.

    Title: ‘Blow Up the Humanities’

    Speaker: Toby Miller, Professor of Cultural Industries, City University 

    Date: 27 February 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: There are two humanities in the United States. One is the venerable, powerful humanities of private universities; the other is the humanities of state schools, which focus mainly on job prospects. There is a class division between the two – both in terms of faculty research and student background – and it must end. These two humanities must merge in order to survive and succeed in producing an aware and concerned citizenry.

    Biography: Toby Miller is a British-Australian-US interdisciplinary social scientist. He is the author and editor of over 30 books, has published essays in more than 100 journals and edited collections, and is a frequent guest commentator on television and radio programs. His teaching and research cover the media, sports, labor, gender, race, citizenship, politics, and cultural policy, as well as the success of Hollywood overseas and the adverse effects of electronic waste. Miller’s work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, German, Turkish, Spanish and Portuguese. He has been Media Scholar in Residence at Sarai, the Centrefor the Study of Developing Societies in India, Becker Lecturer at the University of Iowa, a Queensland Smart Returns Fellow in Australia, Honorary Professor at the Center for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland, CanWest Visiting Fellow at the Alberta Global Forum in Canada, and an International Research collaborator at the Centre for Cultural Research in Australia. Among his books, SportSex was a Choice Outstanding Title for 2002 and A Companion to Film Theory a Choice Outstanding Title for 2004. Born in the United Kingdom and brought up in England, India, and Australia, Miller earned a B.A. in history and political science at the Australian National University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in philosophy and communication studies at Murdoch University in 1991. He taught at Murdoch, Griffith University, and the University of New South Wales and was a professor at New York University from 1993 to 2004, when he joined the University of California, Riverside. Miller is now Professor of Cultural Industries in the Centre for Cultural Policy and Management at the City University of London.

    Title: ‘Reflections on the Digital Labour Debate’

    Speaker: Christian Fuchs, Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster

    Date: 6 March 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: Internet Eyes is a platform that outsources the monitoring of CCTV in shops to Internet users. Marketing campaigns are increasingly crowdsourced over the Internet with the help of platforms like Ideabounty. The creation of avatars for computer games is outsourced to young players in China (so-called “gold farmers”). Minerals needed for the manufacturing of ICTs are partly extracted from African mines under slave-like conditions (“conflict minerals”). The business model of Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc is based on targeted advertising that works by monitoring users’ activities. Wikipedia’s success depends on the voluntary collaboration of its users.

    For understanding the power structures of phenomena that are connected to the rise of “social media”, a debate on digital labour has emerged in recent years. In this talk, I will reflect on ideas, concepts and issues from this debate. Important questions in this context are: What is labour? What is work? What is the difference between digital work and digital labour? How can these concepts be used for understanding “social media”? I will argue that we need the approach of a political economy of digital media in order to provide answers to such questions and that work and labour are crucial concepts for Critical Media and Communication Studies.

    The talk is based on a recently published article that focuses on the role of Dallas Smythe’s thought for contemporary Media and Communication Studies and is available here: http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/443. It also presents further reflections and ideas on related topics such as the use of digital media in the Occupy movement by posing the question what the role of commercial and alternative media is in this movement and if we here can conceptually speak of working class movement media or not.

    Biography: Christian Fuchs’ research interests are digital media & society, information society studies, media & society. He is chair of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research, co-founder of the ICTs and Society Network and editor of the open access online journal tripleC – Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society. In February 2013,  he will take up a position as professor of social media at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute.

    Title: ‘Murdoch’s Politics’

    Speaker: David McKnight, Senior Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, Australia

    Date: 13 March 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: Rupert Murdoch’s commercial success is obvious, but less understood is his  particular brand of conservatism. David McKnight’s book, Murdoch’s Politics, examines Murdoch’s support of conservative ideas, from Reagan and Thatcher to the Tea Party and to his campaign against Obama.  He examines the corporate culture of News Corporation: its private political seminars, its sponsorship of think tanks and its global editorial campaigns on small government and deregulation, on climate change skepticism, support for neo-conservative adventures such as Iraq and criticism of all things ‘liberal’.

    Biography: Dr David McKnight is a senior research fellow at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia.  His latest book is Murdoch’s Politics. A previous book is   Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War . He co-editedGood Bye To All That? a study of neo-liberalism after the global finance crisis. His current research is on the future of newspapers and news.  He formerly worked as a newspaper and television journalist.

    Title: ‘Social Media, Visibility and Activism: The Kony 2012 Campaign’

    Speaker: Graham Meikle, Professor of Social Media, University of Westminster

    Date: 20 March 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: On 5 March 2012, the 30-minute activist campaign film Kony 2012 was uploaded to YouTube by the US non-profit organisation Invisible Children. It was intended to mobilise support and action to stop the activities of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a paramilitary organisation founded in Uganda in 1987. Within its first week online, the film had been viewed 100 million times, the fastest any online video had ever reached that number, and had figured in more than 5 million tweets. Yet despite the 100 million views, and the millions of tweets, links, likes and shares, participation in the campaign’s planned mass action event on 20 April 2012 fell well below expectations, with media reports from around the world telling of tiny gatherings of supporters in empty public spaces.
    The film and its accompanying campaign were both built around the affordances of social media — in particular, the Kony 2012 campaign illustrates the importance and centrality of questions of visibility in relation to social media. Social media bring with them new kinds of visibility, new opportunities and requirements to monitor and be monitored, to perform and display, and to connect with others who are newly visible to us and to whom we are ourselves in turn made visible. The case of Kony 2012illuminates some of the possibilities, the limitations and the dangers of a politics of enforced visibility or radical transparency. It also suggests that the use of a consumption model of social media activism is not necessarily going to translate into widespread offline action.

    Biography: Graham Meikle is Professor of Social Media at the University of Westminster, UK. His most recent book, co-authored with Sherman Young, is Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life (2012)He is also the author of Interpreting News (2009) and Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet (2002), and co-editor, with Guy Redden, of News Online: Transformations and Continuities (2011).

    Title: ‘Challenges of convergence to media regulation: tools for analysis’

    Speaker: Hannu Nieminen, Professor of Media and Communications Policy, University of Helsinki

    Date: 3 April 2013

    Time: 2:00-4:00 pm

    Room: A6.9, Harrow Campus, University of Westminster, Northwick Park tube (Metropolitan Line)

    Abstract: The main question in my paper is:  from the viewpoint of the ideal of democratization of communication policy and regulation, how are we to understand the changes taking place in media & communication policies and regulation? Traditionally policies and regulation have followed sector-based logics (i.e. print, av-media, telecoms, recorded media). However, due to digitalization and computerization, sector-based approach appears to have lost much of its validity, and there is a drive for a new regulatory ideology with conflicting elements.

    Some recent attempts to describe the emerging new regulatory environment include McQuail & van Cuilenburg’s (2003) thesis of the media policy paradigm shift and Hallin & Mancini’s (2004) prediction of the triumph of the North Atlantic liberal model of media system. There is not, however, consensus among researchers of the character and quality of the changes in European media policy. In my paper I develop a historically based approach to analyse these changes. I will apply the concepts of path dependence, policy transfer, multiple streams analysis, and politics of justification to chart the ways how policies and regulatory frameworks have historically emerged in the fields of media and communication.

    Biography: Hannu Nieminen (hannu.nieminen@helsinki.fi) is professor of media and communications policy at the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland. He received his Ph.D. in 1996 in the University of Westminster, London. His research interests include media and democracy, theories of public sphere, and communication policy and regulation. Currently he is leading a Finnish Academy funded project “Facing the Coordination Challenge: Problems, Policies, and Politics in Media and Communications Regulation” (2011-2015). Professor Nieminen is a member of the European Science Foundation Pool of Reviewers (2010-). (E-mail address: hannu.nieminen@helsinki.fi)

  • Mark 10:11 am on January 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Call for Papers Qualitative and Ethnographic Research (QER): Sharing and shaping pedagogies 

    Reminder: Call for Papers
    Qualitative and Ethnographic Research (QER): Sharing and shaping pedagogies – learning through doing. May 10th 2013, Department of Drama, University of Exeter, UK.

    We invite your proposals for papers, presentations, and other forms of dissemination for the HEA funded workshop, QER: Sharing and shaping pedagogies on May 10th 2013.

    We are pleased to confirm that the keynote for the QERN Symposium will be given by Professor Maggie O’Neill of Durham University.  Professor O’Neill teaches in the School of Applied Social Sciences and her research interests include a focus upon innovative biographical, cultural and participatory research methodologies; and the production of praxis – knowledge which addresses and intervenes in public policy. Her research activity includes interest in innovative participatory, performative and visual methodologies.

    This event aims to stimulate dialogue and debate regarding the ways in which digital media is shaping qualitative and ethnographic research projects. The event is interested in how scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds are using digital technologies to capture, analyse and disseminate data.

    Following the turn in the humanities towards narrativity and performativity, a significant number of academics have begun working with qualitative and ethnographic research methodologies. For those academics without a background in sociology, qualitative and ethnographic research methodologies are often self-taught and acquired, by trial and error, through doing – being out ‘in the field’ with research participants and students, or through a reflexive cycle such as Participatory Action Research (PAR).  As a result, practices and pedagogies are emerging which challenge and compliment the more traditional, sociological focused, approaches to qualitative and ethnographic research. At the same time, sociologists who specialise in qualitative and ethnographic research are calling for new and alternate ways to present research data, to disseminate findings and to engage with academic and non-academic audiences.

    This event will bring emergent and established scholars of qualitative and ethnographic research together to open up a dialogue about methodologies and dissemination. It will provide a space where pedagogies can be shared and shaped in a multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary manner. Drawing on multi-disciplinary expertise, including but not limited to, performance ethnographers, linguists, sociologists, educators, and digital scholars, the event will enable participants to practically explore the various ways in which qualitative and ethnographic research is being conducted. The event will enable new and emerging scholars to question how we learn and shape pedagogies through practice.

    The workshop is particularly interested in exploring the ways in which research data is collected, analysed and disseminated. With advancements in digital media and digital technologies, how do researchers balance innovation and possibility with ethical and methodological concerns? What have those of us who are engaged in qualitative and ethnographic research learnt from doing? We are seeking papers or alternative presentations of 20 minutes which address notions of pedagogy in qualitative and ethnographic research.

    Possible themes include but are not limited to:

    •       Multidisciplinary approaches to QER projects

    •       Creative Analytical Practices

    •       Participatory Action Research

    •       The balance between ethics, methodology and creative forms of data capture and dissemination

    •       What has been learnt from doing

    •       The role of performance within QER projects

    •       The value of mistakes and the lessons learnt from the unexpected

    •       The challenges, joys, and frustrations of engaging in multi, or cross-disciplinary QER projects

    •       Methods for the dissemination of findings to the participants of the study.

    •       The impact of dissemination

    250 word proposals, with a brief bio about the author, should be sent to q_e_r_n@yahoo.com<mailto:qeresearchnetwork@gmail.com> by 4th February 2013. Successful applicants will be notified by March 4th. Registration for the event is free and refreshments will be provided.

    (QER): Sharing and shaping pedagogies – learning through doing is a Higher Education Academy funded event hosted by the Department of Drama, University of Exeter.

  • Mark 8:33 am on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CFP: Queer geographies and the politics of anti-normativity 

    CFP: Queer geographies and the politics of anti-normativity
    RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London, 28-30th August 2013

    Convened by Eleanor Wilkinson (University of Leeds)
    Sponsored by the Space, Sexualities and Queer Research Group

    This session aims to critically question queer theory’s political commitment to anti-normativity. It seeks to challenge any rigid distinction between the normative and the anti-normative, by examining both the normativity of anti-normativity, and the potential queerness of the normal. At times the normative subject (rather than normative discourse) has become the target of queer critique, resulting in a disparaging dismissal of those who live ‘normal’ lives. The session therefore begins from the proposition that it is important to distinguish between a critique of normativity, a critique of the normative, and a critique of the normal.

    The session welcomes both empirical and / or theoretical papers that challenge any neat distinction between the normative and the anti-normative, and emphasize the importance of placing these discussions about normativity in specific geographic and historical contexts. Contributions are invited that address the hierarchies that emerge within queer spaces, and the norms that are created in spaces that are claiming to be anti-normative. The session also seeks to challenge any monolithic understanding of normativity, and critically questions what a blanket dismissal of ‘the normal’ might foreclose. Papers that explore people’s investments in ‘the normal’ are welcome, alongside those that seek to examine queer anti-normative moments that take place within seemingly ‘normal’ lives. Contributions from disciplines beyond geography are especially welcome. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Anti-normative normativities
    • The pleasures of ‘the normal’
    • Queer desires for the domestic
    • Seeking state recognition for queer lives
    • Class, distinction and disgust in the politics of anti-normativity (particularly regarding the construction of the ‘homonormative’ LGBT mainstream)
    • Queer racisms
    • Queer patriarchies
    • Queer aesthetics and the commodification of queerness
    • The creation of queer as a new kind of identity category (despite queer’s anti-identitarian logics)
    • Asexuality / celibacy as a challenge to pro-sex attitude of queer studies
    • The shifting sexual-norms of heteronormative culture (sexualization, pornification, and the changing definitions of the ‘normal’)
    • Queer moments in ‘normal’ lives

    Please send your name, affiliation details, and email address along with your abstract of no more than 250 words to Eleanor Wilkinson (e.k.wilkinson@leeds.ac.uk<mailto:e.k.wilkinson@leeds.ac.uk>)
    Deadline for submission is 10th February 2013.

    For details about the conference, please visit the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers) website:

  • Mark 8:33 am on January 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CSWG Graduate Seminar Series @SocioWarwick – 23rd of Jan! 

    The CSWG Graduate Seminar Series starts this term with a seminar session on the topic ‘Women, Work and Family’. The seminar will be held on Wednesday the 23rd of January, 5pm-7pm in the Ramphal Builing, room R0.14.

    Presentations include:

    NATALIE WREYFORD, Kings College London – Gender and Networking for Work, Inside and Outside the UK Film Industry

    LUCILLE NONZWAKAZI MAQUBELA, University of Venda – Work-Family Reconciliation within African Families in the Post-Apartheid South Africa

    LENKA PELECHOVA, University of Nottingham – Negotiating the ‘appropriate closeness and distance’ – host parents’ and au pairs relationships

    There is a Facebook event you can join for this seminar here: https://www.facebook.com/events/589435007737780/?notif_t=plan_user_invited

    For more information on the seminars running this term, please see the attached poster or visit the graduate seminar website for more information: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/rsw/research_centres/gender/graduateseminars/gsprogramme/

    All welcome!

  • Mark 8:21 am on January 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    2013 Call for Papers about Asexuality 

    2013 Call for Papers about Asexuality
    National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)
    November 7-10, 2013, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

    The NWSA Asexuality Interest Group welcomes papers for the 2013 NWSA
    annual conference. These asexuality-related themes are orientated
    towards the full NWSA 2013 CFP which can be found here:

    If you are interested in being a part of the 2013 Asexuality Studies
    panels at NWSA, please send the following info to the designated panel
    organizer (listed under each theme) by Monday, February 11, 2013:

    *Name, Institutional Affiliation, Mailing Address, Email, Phone
    *NWSA Theme your paper fits under
    *Title for your talk
    *50-100 word abstract

    We will try to accommodate as many qualified papers as possible, but
    panels are limited to 3-4 presenters. NWSA will make the final
    decision about which panels are accepted.  Presenters accepted into
    the conference program must become members of NWSA in addition to
    registering for the conference.

    Theme 1: The Sacred and the Profane

    • What is secular?  Spiritual?  Religious?  Sacred?  How do these
    terms work as we begin to open a dialogue between asexual communities
    and celibate communities?  What are the challenges asexual people face
    from religious communities; what are the challenges celibate people
    face from asexual communities?  Where do we understand the place or
    non-place of the sacred, religious, or secular in these conversations?
    • How do the sacred and religious inform identity in a global context?
    What paradigms deemed
    central to asexuality or celibacy shift when these terms are
    incorporated?  How does the common assertion of celibacy as choice and
    asexuality as inherent become troubled when we move the terms to a
    global context, or between religious and spiritual connotations?
    • Is feminist critique inherently secular?  Can feminist frameworks
    provide key insights into religious beliefs, affects, and practices
    that go beyond secular versions of insight and knowledge?  Can
    feminist frameworks enhance how we understand celibacy and asexuality
    both within and without religious beliefs and practices?
    • Is there more overlap or disconnect between celibacy and asexuality
    when understood from perspectives of indigenous studies, queer
    studies, and/or trans studies?  And how does this tension between the
    terms challenge the meaning of sex, desire, sexuality, the sacred and

    Please submit materials to theme organizer Karli June Cerankowski at

    Theme 2: Borders and Margins

    • How are the borders and the margins of asexuality studies being
    constructed over time?
    • In what ways does asexuality studies “traffic” in the objects,
    knowledges, preoccupations, desires, and/or body of disciplines of
    study, identities or movements?
    • How has the field of asexuality studies been shaped by or enhanced
    by utilizing women’s and gender studies methodological approaches or
    pedagogical perspectives?  How does this relationship and its converse
    exist or manifest (or not) in the visibility of asexual interests?
    • How have shifting geographies of technology, labor, economy, and
    migration impacted study of asexuality?  How might these new forms of
    “encounters” be studied and enacted through asexual movements in the
    • How do the actual geographies of women’s and gender studies
    locations—in institutions of higher education, in surrounding
    neighborhoods, communities, cities, towns, and other
    spaces—renegotiate the borders and margins of the discipline?

    Please submit materials to theme organizer Aasha Foster at aasha.foster@nyu.edu

    Theme 3: Futures of the Feminist Past

    • What are the visible and invisible feminist and queer histories of asexuality?
    • What are asexuality’s archives and how do they bear on the present
    asexuality movement and community?
    • Given the difficulty of tracing asexuality historically, what
    strategies of historiography can we undertake to render asexual
    histories? How might feminist and queer historiography help us in
    telling asexual stories?
    • How might the definitional parameters of asexuality be questioned,
    complicated, and rethought when searching for asexuality historically?
    What possible overlaps might there be between asexuality, celibacy,
    frigidity, and singlehood?
    • How could we account for moments of anti-feminist asexuality and
    what are the points of encounter between feminist and non-feminist
    modes and moments of asexuality?
    • In what ways does asexuality complicate our relations to the past,
    to history, and to temporality?  • What new categories, methods, and
    strategies might an asexual history call for?
    • Who and what are the subjects of asexual histories and feminist &
    queer asexual histories?  How might various affects, including loss,
    mourning, desire, and hope be mobilized by these histories?
    • Finally, what is at stake in telling asexual stories and seeking
    asexual histories?  How does the past bear on asexualities’ presents
    and futures?

    Please submit materials to theme organizer Ela Pryzbylo at przybylo@yorku.ca

    Theme 4: Body Politics

    • What role does the body play in communal articulations of asexual
    identity? How do members of asexual communities understand the
    relationship between embodiment and asexual identity?
    • Given that asexual identities have primarily been articulated in
    online spaces, to what extent are communal articulations of asexual
    identity detached from the body?  At the same time, how have bodies
    remained relevant and/or present in online asexual communities?
    • What is the relationship between asexuality and medical/psychiatric
    categories like hypoactive sexual desire disorder?
    • What is the relationship between asexuality and disability rights
    politics and/or disability studies?
    • Does asexuality facilitate particular types of bodily practices,
    such as types of bodily comportment or bodily presentation?  Does
    asexuality facilitate particular ways of relating to the bodies of
    • What does theorizing about asexuality have to offer theories of
    embodiment in general?

    Please submit materials to theme organizer Kristina Gupta at kgupta2@emory.edu

    Theme 5: Practices of Effecting Change

    • What does it mean to create visibility about asexuality?  What are
    the strengths and limitations of identity politics surrounding
    • How do we teach about asexual identities, communities, and movements
    in women’s and gender studies classrooms?
    • How do social movements–such as antiracist, feminist, and LGBT
    movements–relate to asexual movements?  How do asexual activists and
    scholars take inspiration from and work with other social movements?
    • What do asexual communities have to learn from radical queer and
    trans communities? From polyamorous communities?
    • What are the interpersonal, contextual, institutional, and
    ideological factors that constrain and/or nurture the legibility of
    asexuality as an identity and social movement?
    • How might we harness new technologies and media in our efforts to
    create visibility and awareness about asexuality?

    Please submit materials to theme organizer Regina M. Wright at

  • Mark 9:03 pm on January 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Social Theory Postgrad Seminars @SocioWarwick 

    The Social Theory Centre Postgraduate Seminars will take place in the odd weeks of the second term of 2012-2013 in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick. This series is particularly designed for postgraduate students interested in all aspects of social theory; whether based in Sociology or other social science of humanities disciplines – All are welcome.

    Some representative themes are as follows:

    Ideology | Secularisation | Modernity | Theology and Social Theory | Social Epistemology | Political Philosophy | The Role of Intellectuals

    If you would like to present your current research in this seminar series, please send a short abstract of your paper to Daniel Fairbrother <d.j.fairbrother@warwick.ac.uk> or Morteza Hashemi Madani <s.m.hashemi-madani@warwick.ac.uk>.
    DEADLINE for sending the abstracts: 21 January 2013

  • Mark 6:34 pm on January 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Want to join the BSA Digital Sociology group? 

    Fill in this form and we’ll keep you up to date via e-mail with everything we’re doing:

  • Mark 4:26 pm on January 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Education, Employment and Social Mobility: what is really going on and what can be done? 

    University of Greenwich Business School Work and Employment Research Unit Seminar Series
    Wednesday 13 February 2013, 2 – 6p.m.

    Ken Roberts (Liverpool) ‘The real trend in social mobility: from upwards to downwards’
    Lefteris Kretsos (Greenwich) ‘The persistent pandemic of Work Precariousness and Insecurity’
    Martin Allen (NUT) and Patrick Ainley (Greenwich) on ‘Too Great Expectations of Education’*

    Plenary/ summing up: Ian Greer (Greenwich); Liam Burns, (President NUS)
    Chair: Maria Papapolydorou (Greenwich)

    Return to economic growth is increasingly uncertain and for many people living standards continue to fall. Official figures in late 2012 showed more people than ever employed but often this is only part-time or in other precarious forms of employment, such as contracting and outsourcing. The UK unemployment rate remains over 2.5 million, while the situation is much worse in many other parts of Europe. Young people particularly find themselves ‘overqualified and underemployed’ as social mobility goes into reverse and the occupational class structure goes ‘pear shaped’. Rather than more occupations being ‘professionalised’, previously skilled and professional work is being ‘proletarianised’. According to several studies, not only is the current generation of young people likely to be worse off than their parents, but it is increasingly forced to depend upon them – living at home well beyond what is generally regarded as the period of ‘youth’. These are global trends for which the solution is usually restricted to greater investment in education, training and in employability schemes (apprenticeships, internships, employer subsidies, coaching and financial support for self-employment, etc.). Many still assume that ‘we can educate our way out of recession’ and so demand more resources and a greater commitment to increasing education. At the same time, governments make more demands on education, particularly schools, expecting them to solve the youth crisis or at least to compensate for major failures elsewhere in economy and society.

    This day seminar seeks an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the issues faced by young people that result in problematic transitions to employment and adulthood. It further aims to examine the role of education in the context of the current economic and social crisis. The seminar is relevant to all those who work with young people as well as those involved in research into labour markets and precarious employment, education systems and youth studies. There will be presentations but also plenty of time for discussion and lively debate.

    * Patrick and Martin will also launch their new e-book: The Great Reversal, young people, education and employment in a declining economy.

    Hamilton House, 15 Park Vista, London SE10 9LZ

    (Nearest Rail Maze Hill or DLR Cutty Sark Station, several buses and adjacent parking or come by boat/ Thames Clipper to Greenwich Pier.)

  • Mark 8:35 am on January 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Digital Sociologist #2: Les Back from @SociologyGold 

    In this podcast I talk to Les Back from Goldsmiths about his Academic Diary project.

    So what is the Academic Diary? 

    How did the idea for the project come about? 

    What did the process of crafting it entail? 

    Was the experience of producing it different to that of a more traditional publication?

  • Mark 1:51 pm on January 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Academic blogging – both/and rather than either/or 

    How do you feel about academic blogging? If you are reading this then, chances are, you feel reasonably well inclined towards it. However if you are an academic blogger then you will undoubtedly be aware that many people are not so well inclined. This raises an obvious question: why? There are many different answers which could be given to this question. Most of which are grounded entirely in anecdotal evidence. This is an issue that is crying out for empirical research. But given its continued absence, I want to focus on one issue which I believe, on an entirely anecdotal basis, to be pertinent – does academic blogging dangerously blur the boundary between research and journalism?

    It’s an important question and one which advocates of academic blogging can sometimes dismiss too quickly. Underlying it is an entirely understandable fear of the relatively ephemeral nature of blog posts. The speed with which blog posts come and go, as well as the cultural connotations attached to the term ‘blogging’ itself (not all of which, it must be admitted, are unjustified) may lead many, when confronted with the advocation of academic blogging, to see ‘blogging’ as corrupting ‘academic’.

    However I think this misconstrues exactly what academic blogging is. Or at least what it could be. Rather than turning academics into journalists, it actually holds out the possibility of protecting against this. By opening up a distinctive space between academic research and journalism, a thriving academic blogosphere mediates between them. It provides a space for translation, in that blog posts within it will tend, to varying degrees, to communicate in a way that is less specialised than the more familiar modes of academic communication which underwrite both their content and their authority. It also aids discoverability, in that navigating the academic blogosphere as a non-specialist will tend to be intrinsically easier than negotiating the world of staff pages, journals and paywalls.

    The crucial point is that academic blogging does not take place in a vacuum. It is grounded in existing research and expertise. The flexibility it affords allows this relationship to be a dynamic one – blogging can be underwritten by research conducted, in progress or is merely planned. It also provides a degree of space and freedom to extend beyond the realms of research. It is widely acknowledged that social media offers new possibilities for public intellectualism but what is much less understood is the transformed nature this can take. Rather than the broadcasting which defined the public intellectuals of the 20th century, social media facilitates ‘narrowcasting’ – relatively narrow audiences can be reached, with little or no funding needed, facilitating a broader and much more democratic relationship between academics and various publics.

    Academic blogging holds out the possibility of extending the role of the academic, rather than threatening its diminution. I share many of the fundamental concerns which I hear expressed about impact and public engagement – particularly the entirely justified fear that this agenda, as well as the broader changes within higher education within which it is unavoidably implicated, threaten the autonomy of academic work. I think there’s a risk that the production of academic knowledge (in the broadest sense of the term) becomes subjugated to the contingencies of the political cycle, particularly as its mediated by funding bodies and other intermediaries.

    Part of the difficulty stems, I think, from the unavoidably top down way in which ‘impact’ and ‘public engagement’ are introduced and enacted. But I’ve always felt conflicted about this issue because, at least when they are construed in ‘bottom up’ terms, I’ve both enjoyed them personally and increasingly seen such activities as important. Using social media has helped give my research a media profile which otherwise would have been impossible, particularly at this stage of my career. It’s made me easy to discover for journalists and it’s helped me forged a rich array of connections with the broader community who have been the subject of my research. I’ve also found that, increasingly, journalists have read my blog posts or listened to my podcasts before they contact me and it hugely aids the subsequent dialogue. The use of social media can help get academic knowledge into a public forum in a form which is broadly comprehensible but not simplified. In doing so, it helps ameliorate some of the more problematic issues that can emerge from the culture clash of academic knowledge and journalistic constraints. Far from subjugating research to journalism, actively participating in this making public of academic knowledge will actually fortify academia against the intrusions of media imperative i.e. the academic blogosphere mediates between academia and the media.

    What is recounted above is simply my own personal experience but it’s one which, I’m sure, others have had. Furthermore, it seems likely that as academic blogging becomes more widespread, so too will this experience. Likewise as, for a variety of reasons, organizations invest in multi-author blogging projects which facilitate broader engagement (allowing those who only want to write an occasional blog post to get traction for their writing online) and add value to the content through curation and editing. Imagine if blog posts recounting the aims, arguments and findings of research papers become as ubiquitous as abstracts? What would the effects be? Among many others, it would likely make academic knowledge navigable to a great majority of people who are otherwise excluded from it. Rather than reducing scholarship to blogging, the former is extended through the latter, giving it a public visibility which it currently lacks and making it available in a way in which it currently isn’t.

  • Mark 7:01 pm on January 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Asexuality, Sexual Culture and Pathology – Interview for a Greek magazine 

    What is it about this time in particular that has made asexuality so popular? Why now? Why is it visible now as opposed to 40 years ago?Is it because sex has become the focus of attention?

    This is a fascinating question. Until the early 21st century, there was no sign of an organised asexuality community or an asexuality identity of the form we see now. It would be obviously silly to imagine that the people who now identify as asexual magically popped into existence at the turn of the millenium – so what explains the sudden growth of the asexual community?  Clearly the internet played a large role in this, in that it allowed otherwise emotionally and geographically dispersed individuals to connect with each other and, through those connections, develop a shared understanding of what they had in common.

    Once this shared understanding is out there (the idea that there are people called ‘asexual’ who share certain experiences) it becomes easy to see how, particularly with increasing media attention, the community would grow. New people search for others like themselves and because of the increased visibility, it becomes easy to find them. One of the striking findings of my research was the disjuncture in the experience of older and younger asexuals: for the former, the process of ‘searching’ could take decades, whereas for the latter, they will often just type ‘do not experience sexual attraction’ (or something similar) into google and soon find an asexual website. 

    But I think there must be more to it than this. What makes people go looking for others like themselves? What creates this desire to connect? In my research I found that what I termed ‘assumed pathology’ was a near universal experience – when people begin to realise that, unlike some peer group, they do not experience sexual attraction, it leads them to assume that something must be wrong with them: that they’re ‘broken’, ‘damaged’ or ‘fucked up’. This reaction is reinforced by those around them with depressing frequency – who tell them something must be wrong with their hormones, or they’re repressed or must have been abused as a child. So I’d argue that experience of pathology, the sense that something must be wrong with you for not experiencing sexual attraction in the ‘normal’ way, has driven the format of the asexual community. The internet was crucial to it but it was, ultimately, only the means. I think a more interesting question is whether this pathologisation of asexual experience is something recent. Or in other words: has sexual culture changed in recent years in such a way as to render the experience of asexuality more problematic? I strongly suspect that it has but, at this stage, I’ve yet to do the empirical research necessary to justify a stronger answer.

    Is there a risk in labeling yourself as asexual too soon? A lot of people seem to think that there are underlying psychological problems to being asexual.

    Indeed they do and that’s something which has come to fascinate me over the last few years. In a slight odd turn, my interest has shifted from asexual experience to the way in which people who aren’t asexual react to the existence of asexuality – I find the assumptions sexual people make about asexuality fascinating, given the sheer uniformity you begin to recognise when you encounter it a lot. They also tend to be remarkably flimsy, in the sense that if you question the basis of the reaction, it soon becomes apparent that it’s an assumption. I’ve argued that underlying these assumptions is something I’ve termed the sexual assumption: sexual attraction is both universal (everyone ‘has it’) and uniform (it’s fundamentally the same thing in all instances) such that its absence must be explicable in terms of a distinguishable pathology. I have a project planned to test my hypothesis that this assumption is something which demonstrably emerged in the second half of the 20th century, as an assumption made within academic discourse which ‘broke free’ and came to structure the way in which we think and talk about sexuality in everyday conversation.

    It’s certainly possible that people might label themselves too soon – various researchers, including myself, have noted that we’ve yet to see the kind of longitudinal research about asexuality which would help us  understand this issue in greater depth. But equally it’s important to recognise that this notion of ‘too soon’ is something most asexual individuals encounter in their everyday lives. As friends would put it, “maybe you’re just a late bloomer?” or “maybe you haven’t met the right person yet?”. It’s not exactly something people are likely to be in the dark about, simply because the omnipresence of this reaction means they must think about it. But what makes these questions so corrosive is the simple fact that it’s not possible to know that these friends are wrong. How do you know that you might not come to be other than you currently are? In a sense I think it’s the wrong question, with the caveat that I also think the assumption of essential identity which underlies it (i.e. by coming to identify in this way, I am revealing a permanent and unchanging aspect of myself which I can never repudiate) is also the wrong way of looking at the issue.

    Ιs asexuality hormone related/ genetic/ societal?

    It’s an understandable question but I don’t think you can explain asexuality in these sorts of terms i.e. like most human things of any complexity, it’s both ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’. I’d reject the idea that asexuality can be ’caused’ by genes or hormones on philosophical grounds. However I’m completely open to the possibility that there may be a hormonal and genetic element in asexuality, though the diversity within the community (e.g. between people who are actively disgusted by sex and those who are simply indifferent to it) suggests that there are likely to be different causal pathways at work. Furthermore, the process of going from not experiencing sexual attraction to coming to identify as asexual is clearly a near entirely social one.

    How did you become interested in asexuality?

    Sheer curiosity. I didn’t really understand it when I first encountered it and, in the process of coming to understand it, many assumptions I hadn’t been aware of became apparent to me. This is a pretty common experience of people working on this topic. Once you really start to look at the data and think through the implications of it, it soon becomes blindingly obvious that many of the concepts we use to think and talk about sexuality are extremely limited. Not least of all the fact that everyone assumes that sexual attraction is a universal thing.

    Do you see asexuality as a movement or as a sexual orientation? Or both?

    It’s obviously both but I think there are sometimes tensions between the two. There are people who don’t experience sexual attraction (i.e. share a common orientation) and pretty pervasively find that wider society doesn’t recognise that they exist – this leads many of them to seek to change perceptions, increase their visibility and make connections with other groups in similar situations. Without the sexual orientation you don’t get the movement but they are practically two distinct things.

  • Mark 3:57 pm on January 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    European Geographies of Sexualities Conference 

    5, 6, 7 September 2013 | FCSH, UNL, Lisbon, Portugal | http://egsc2013.pt.to

    Call for papers and sessions

    Sexualities have become a legitimate and significant area of geographical research, across diverse areas ranging from cultural, social and feminist geographies, to political and economic domains. One of the main characteristics of studies on sexualities has been its critical and reflexive perspective, namely questioning hegemonies and modes of sexualised power relations. Although this work has brought some significant changes and developments, still, many of the contemporary modes of knowledge production reflect inequalities and hegemonies that need to be challenged.

    The II European Geographies of Sexualities Conference wants to create a space of debate, discussion and questioning to explore how we might attempt to move beyond such normative domains and practices.

    Conference sessions and papers will contribute to the questioning and debating the following topics:

    • The hegemony of heteronormativity in social relations and everyday environments, and across various other spaces;
    • The hegemony of the ‘Western’ views, the relative invisibility, and lesser significance of research on sexualities in other social and cultural contexts, as constraints in exploring cross-cultural variations on sexual diversity and complexity;
    • The hegemony of English in academic publishing and wider modes of knowledge production systems; work on sexualities in diverse languages has become obscured and thus devalued, as reflected in invisible citation records and general knowledge about its very existence;
    • The hegemony of large publishing companies which although profit- rather than ethos-driven do influence and control the academic knowledge, decide on its relevance, influence academic career and funding prospects;
    • The hegemony of globalisation discourses; ‘sexual citizenship’ and its relation to the key sites of contemporary sexual politics and theoretical debates on sexuality in relation to consumption, space and globalization;
    • The hegemony of whiteness and how it mediates other social categories such as gender, sexuality, religion, social class and so forth;
    • The male hegemony in the ‘power positions’ in academia, and as valued knowledge producers; intersections of gender and sexualities research;
    • Knowledge production through quantitative methods, measuring sexualities.

    A comprehensive text of this call for papers is available at Beyond hegemonies.

    We encourage contributions in a diverse range of formats. Alongside traditional academic conference papers, we welcome panel discussions, open space discussions, film screenings, installations and other contributions. We seek to foster networking, debate and discussions across national borders, across language communities, and across academic disciplines.

    Language: we currently do not have funding for the translation at the conference. We plan a multilingual conference, and encourage participants to present in the language they feel most comfortable in using.

    Interested contributors should send a max. 300-word abstract of a paper, or a max 500 word proposal of a session/panel discussion/other activity/format via online submissions by 28 February 2013 – Sessions and 31st March 2013 – Papers.

    Contact: geosexualities@gmail.com

    The conference is organised by:

    • Centre for Geographical Studies, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Lisbon (CEG-UL)
    • e-GEO, Research Centre for Geography and Regional Planning, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
    • Space, Sexualities and Queer Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society (with Institute of British Geographers)
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