Updates from February, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 3:29 pm on February 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CfP: Normality in an uncertain world 

    Normality in an uncertain world

    6th ENQUIRE Postgraduate Conference, 10th and 11th September 2013

    Call for Abstracts

    This conference aims to bring together post-graduates and researchers, with an interest in normality, to explore the development, current application and possible future of such research.

    We are pleased to confirm our keynote speakers:

    • Derek McGhee, Professor of Sociology, University of Southampton
    • Angharad Becket, Associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Leeds
    • Julia O’Connell Davidson, Professor of Sociology, University of Nottingham

    In a world of uncertainty, never has ‘the normal’ been so important. All societies operate normative patterns of behaviour that are enforced by sanctions. Such patterns are now interwoven and valorised at global, national, communal and personal levels so that ‘the normal’ has become a powerful entity. Ideas of biopower and self-governance are structured around the control of bodies and the creation of ‘normal’ ways of being. It can now be argued that tyrannies of perfection structure contemporary social life.

    While social research has often focused on explaining deviance and the abnormal, such explanations are dependent upon a perception of ‘the normal’ for their existence. ‘The normal’, therefore, becomes important across disciplines, resonating with researchers as a central concept in addressing the pressing sociological issues of our time.

    The idea of a ‘normal’ raises pertinent questions for future research. Who defines normality? What are the implications for deviance? Why do researchers construct and deconstruct the abnormal? Does normality serve as a mechanism of control? What function does normality play in different cultures/societies? Is normality inevitable?

    Such questions apply across the discipline and call into question the normality of research itself. Indeed, are there such things as normal and abnormal methodologies? How important is the statistical norm? What structures the conception of ‘valid’ or ‘useful’ research?

    In order to create a conference that pushes the boundaries and stimulates further and continued debate, we welcome broad interpretations of the conference title. Example themes for papers include but are not limited to:

    Gender and sexuality Families
    Migration and Citizenship Globalisation
    Health, illness and disability The body
    Statistics Methodology
    Culture Technology
    Social policy Political action







    Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words by Friday 3rd May 2013 to  enquire@nottingham.ac.uk

  • Mark 7:15 pm on February 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Request for help from New Social Media, New Social Science 

    How do you make decisions about ethical questions when designing online research? Where are the gray or sticky areas? What resources have helped– what do you need? The New Social Media, New Social Science project would like your input so we can assess what resources are needed. Please share your insights, frustrations and questions in this short questionnaire: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/e-ethics.  For more, see: http://nsmnss.blogspot.com/2013/02/thinking-ethically.html.

  • Mark 4:16 pm on February 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    The four characteristics of internal conversation 

    The four features of internal conversation: privacy, ellipsis, personalization and context dependency. The first refers to the unavoidable interiority of internal conversation, as well as the topical freedom and the impossibility of misinterpreting the literal meaning of our inner dialogues. The second refers to the contraction of internal conversation relative to external speech, such that the “redundancy of communicated information, whether in spoken or written form, which linguists estimate at 60-70 per cent” is absent i.e. internal conversation is faster and shorter than external speech. The third refers to the tendency of internal conversation to proceed in terms of personalized and idiosyncratic meanings terms take on internally which are often difficult to communicate in a straight-forward manner in external speech. The fourth refers to the form and content of our internal conversations being context bound, in the sense that we take for granted a certain mental topography which is dependent upon characteristics of the external environment (Archer 2007: 73-86).

  • Mark 8:49 am on February 23, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    An introduction to multi-author blogging 

  • Mark 7:00 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    How to get started as an academic podcaster 

    I first encountered the idea of academic podcasting when working for a University of Warwick based project a few years ago. It gave a small stipend to PhD students in exchange for producing a short podcast profiling the research of someone within the university, which was then edited and posted online by myself and the other conveners. This was the first time I’d ever considered the notion of podcasting about academic topics and I was instantly struck both by how fun it sounded and what a natural form of communication it was for academic ideas. Since my work on the project ended, I’ve continued to podcast as a hobby. As I’ve gone on, I’ve become ever more convinced that this is something which more people, particularly PhD students, would benefit from doing.

    photo credit: danieljohnsonjr via photo pin cc

    I’d undoubtedly be unsuccessful if I e-mailed a distinguished researcher to ask if we could meet up for a chat about their most recent book. Yet in the time I’ve been podcasting, I’ve sent precisely this sort of e-mail to scores of academics and none of them have turned me down. In some cases it has taken quite a long time to actually schedule the interview but all have, at least in principle, been willing to meet. It’s a chance to meet academics whose work you admire and explore the thinking behind their publications. It’s also a chance to range beyond your own research area, exploring topics you’d love to know more about it if you had unlimited time to sit and read.

    In this article I’ll focus on podcast interviews because it’s the type of podcast I’m most familiar with. It also requires the most thought. If you’re capable of successfully recording a podcast interview then you’re perfectly capable of recording a lecture, or anything else, as long as you think carefully about how to position the recorder and consider the more complex issues of consent involved, for example, I’m personally uncomfortable with recording questions from the audience, even if you ask at the start of the session whether this is ok.

    How do you plan a podcast?

    If you’re engaging intellectually with someone’s book or paper, it makes you the most natural interviewer in the world. Every question, idea and comment that’s occurred to you while reading someone’s work constitutes the raw material for an interview. Although it’s important to structure the podcast in a way which makes it accessible and enjoyable for the listener, what you need more than anything else isenthusiasm and engagement. If those conditions are in place then the whole process will come to feel entirely natural, at least after you’ve done it a few times. If you have an idea for someone you’d like to interview then send them a quick e-mail, explaining what you want to do and why, then take it from there.

    Reflecting on what I do when planning a podcast, I came to the eight questions below:

    1. Who do you want to interview?
    2. What do you want to interview them about?
    3. Will you interview them on person or on Skype?
    4. How long do you want the interview to be?
    5. What topics do you want to ensure you cover?
    6. Given your answer to (4) and (5), what questions do you need to ask?
    7. Will you stick rigidly to the questions or ask follow ups on the spot?
    8. Is your interviewee ok with your planned questions?

    It’s worth noting that these are just suggestions. There are no rules to this, particularly given how new the format is. It is however worth thinking about what you want to achieve with the podcast. If you intend the podcast to be an exploration of specialist issues then it’s fine for it to be lengthly and even obscure. I’ve recorded some fairly substantial social theory interviews which, though not of interest to the vast majority of people who might stumble across them on my websites, nonetheless interest others who work in the area.

    However if you intend to disseminate a set of ideas to as wide an audience as possible, it’s best to restrict the length of the podcast (e.g. 10 minutes), to not assume prior knowledge and to avoid specialist vocabulary. How you approach the podcast depends on what you want to achieve with it. Try not to obsess too much about form, after all this is effectively just an academic chat with an unusual degree of structure, just consider what the end result will be like and how it will be engaged with by others.

    What do you need to podcast?

    The technical skills involved in podcasting are minimal. Though, it should be noted, getting podcasts into iTunes is something which I’ve found fiddly and frustrating as someone who isn’t particularly technically minded. However the other aspects of the process are astoundingly quick and easy once you get to grips with them.

    • Do you have a voice recorder? If not is there one you can borrow in your department? It’s possible to podcast with a very basic voice recorder. Or indeed a smart phone: http://www.audioboo.fm is great fun. Read the manual and explore the settings, as once you understand how to calibrate the recorder in the way most suitable for podcasting, you can largely forget about the technical side of the process and get on with the fun bit.
    • If you’re recording a podcast via Skype then you need call recording software. I personally use the unimaginatively named Call Recorder which is simple and reliable. I’m sure there are also freeware alternatives available online. The advantage of a Skype podcast is, unsurprisingly, the ability to interview anyone anywhere in the world. Similarly, the flexibility it affords makes scheduling a lot easier. The downside is that a certain element of rapport is invariably lost, as there simply isn’t the same kind of interaction taking place without physical presence in the same space.
    • I must admit that editing is the only part of the process I don’t enjoy. It’s not particularly demanding though. Audacity is free software which, though packed with features, remains easy to pick up as long as you screen out the 99% of the software which you won’t need to use as an academic podcaster. There are many video guides to using the software on Youtube. The only functionality I regularly use is deleting sections of the audio and amplifying the volume.
    • If your voice recorder or Skype recorder doesn’t export files in MP3 then you’ll need a piece of software that can do this. There a range of options available online.
    • If you are interviewing in person then you need a quiet space. In practice most academic offices can serve this purpose but it’s best to avoid conducting interviews at a particularly busy time of day and/or year. Likewise in summer it might be necessary to shut the windows in the office. The better the environment in which you record the interview, the less hassle you’ll have with the editing afterwards. The same point applies to positioning the voice recorder. Try and get the placement equal between the two speakers, as well as cautioning people to avoid moving too much if possible (chairs on wheels can be a bit of a danger here). If you’re new to the process and/or you’re using a lower-end recorder then it’s best to test the sound levels to save yourself difficulty later.
    • Finally you need a place to host the podcast. It’s worth checking if your institution offers a way of uploading audio to your webpage, as many will. Likewise if your institution has a presence on iTunes U or any other central repository. Podcasts can also be posted easily on blogs and increasing numbers of multi-author blogs are hosting podcasts.

    What else do you need to consider?

    The sense that your podcasts need to be slickly produced can be a huge barrier to getting started. While some people may disagree with me, I think functional adequacy is the key here. We’re not media professionals, we’re researchers and the aim of academic podcasting is to communicate ideas rather than to impress the wider world with our flashy production skills. By all means do record elaborate introductions with jingles if it’s appealing to you to do so. My point is solely that these are in no waymandatory. Explore podcasting and find what works for you.

    As someone who had done a lot of research interviews prior to starting podcasting, I’d already got past the stage of being unnerved by the sound of my own voice. However if this is new to you, don’t let it put you off. If you listen back to the podcast and think you sound silly/ponderous/strange (insert negative epithet here) it is completely normal and it goes away. Listening back can also be a good way to gauge if you are talking too quickly. If you think this might be a problem for you then practice with your voice recorder to get the pace right prior to your first podcast. Likewise avoid talking too much (unless the podcast is deliberately intended to be a dialogue rather than an interview). Use your questions as prompts to get the interviewees talking in the way want about the subjects you’re interested in. Avoid the temptation to cut in too frequently because the content is getting so interesting. I have to admit I don’t always manage to avoid doing this.

    Finally, although norms of consent and ownership about academic podcasts are yet to be firmly established, remember to be respectful to your interviewee. Offer to let them check the podcast before you publish it and remind them that you an easily cut out sections they are unhappy with. Even if this means more editing work for you, it’s the least you can do given that they’ve offered their time & attention for the interview.

    If you want a bit more guidance about podcasting, I’ve collected resources specifically geared towards academic podcasting here. I’d particularly recommend the BSA PG Forum podcasting handbook. There’s also a lot of generic podcasting resources available online.

    • justinohearn 12:47 am on February 23, 2013 Permalink

      As someone who has been toying with the idea of an academic podcast, I found this post most excellent and reassuring. Thanks for doing this and providing a nice introduction into (what I used to think was) a terrifying mix of technology and planning. Are you sure the anxiety of hearing one’s own recorded voice goes away for everyone?

    • Mark 8:26 am on February 23, 2013 Permalink

      I’ve yet to encounter someone for whom it hasn’t! But then again, perhaps the people who don’t persist with podcasting are the ones who might not get over the sound of their own voice…?

    • Christopher P. Thames 1:32 pm on March 5, 2013 Permalink

    • niccipallitt 12:57 pm on September 20, 2016 Permalink

      Link to your resources seems to be broken? I made one for the first time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yXKskiZS2c and think I will be making more as I think it’s great for developing country researchers with limited bandwidth.

    • Mark 8:32 am on September 24, 2016 Permalink

      Oh yes I think that got lost many website updates ago unfortunately.

  • Mark 6:44 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Publishing on the web for researchers 

  • Mark 12:00 am on February 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    An introduction to academic podcasting 

  • Mark 10:07 pm on February 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Creating a successful online presence 

  • Mark 9:39 pm on February 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    The value of multi-author blogging for communicating research 

    The word ‘blogging’ often has negative connotations. Yet blogging can be understood both as an output and as a platform. Many negative views about blogging are connected to a certain idea of what it is: a single author, using it as a forum to express their views to a world which, in my cases, isn’t particularly interested. However this is only one kind of output which the platform can be used to publish. Increasingly, popular and successful blogs are taking on a new form: the multi-author blog. As the LSE’s Chris Gilson and Patrick Dunleavy have argued,

    (photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via photo pin cc)

    The truth is that the single-author blog model has already gone out of fashion, and is in rapid decline. A blog is only as good as its readership and without consistently strong posts, and an easy way of finding them, there will be no readership. In the modern world of web 2.0, RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter, it simply is not very effective to have a single author, single issue, rarely updated blog; all the effort made in writing and posting will be typically wasted.Even creating a combined blog portal for a whole university is no guarantee of success. For instance, the Warwick University blog portal lists over 7,000 blogs which in combination have over 140,000 entries. But there are no indications of which are the popular or timely blogs, nor even a separation of staff and student work.

    These considerations help explain why the vast majority of popular political blogs are now multi-author blogs (MABs); that is, themed and coherent blogs run by a proper editorial team and calling on the services of multiple authors to ensure that the blog remains topical, can cumulate a great deal of content and can ensure a good ‘churn’ of high quality posts. We believe that MABs are a very important development, and they can be an assured way for an academic institution to become more effective in the context of the web.

    Such websites function more like online magazines and take full advantage of the power of modern blogging platforms: free, instantaneous, collaborative publishing of a kind which has never previously been possible. While the uptake of such tools within academia is still relatively new, there are already countless examples of ongoing successes, such as the LSE Impact Blog, the LSE Politics & Policy Blog and the Sociological Imagination. As Gilson and Dunleavy argue later in the article above:

    We believe that there is a huge untapped market for well-informed, continuously updated and varied academic blogging. Academics are already writing content and universities already function as huge dynamic knowledge inventories that insiders know about, but the wider public cannot access. The difficult creative job is therefore already done. Multi-author blogs are a fantastic, easy, and moreover, cheap way for academics and universities to get their research out to what is essentially an unlimited audience. From this process, we can all benefit.

    Perhaps the most exciting aspect of such tool is that they require little technical knowledge to utilise. If you are capable of using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word, you’re capable of using these tools. Furthermore, the extremely sophisticated collaborative functions built into them enable projects to be maintained without the need for regularly scheduled meetings or large amounts of communication. They enable an entirely new form of academic communication: a kind of ‘middle-range publishing’ that falls between books/journals & conferences/seminars.

  • Mark 9:06 pm on February 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    What does Twitter have to offer academics? 

    What’s the point of Twitter?

    Twitter has an image problem. It first penetrated the public consciousness in a way which has left it defined by celebrities and, particularly for academics, this is unattractive. However the academic twittersphere (for lack of a better term) is a relatively self-enclosed ecosystem. While you’ll undoubtedly find a bit of celebrity gossip and X-Factor chat, this is strikingly absent in comparison to Twitter more broadly. In fact, academics are using Twitter in all manner of creative and useful ways. These are some of the responses I received when I posed the question “why do you find Twitter useful as an academic?” to my followers on the service:

    • Quick answers to questions on things like … where do I find this tool or that tool ..  (@rjhogue)
    • We discuss concepts (@Annlytical)
    • There are people who are practicing what I’m researching academically and give me a reality check (@Annlytical)
    • Twitter is brilliant for keeping up with things, networking, finding new ideas, people’s blogs and publications (@BenGuilbaud)
    • meeting new people (in all disciplines), academic support, public engagement, increased visibility, filtered news (@Martin_Eve)
    • What Martin said. I think you already saw this but it’s the Prezi I made for grad students http://bit.ly/uK05VM (@qui_oui)
    • Also, I’ve found Twitter useful for augmenting F2F academic conferences, extending the conversations (@JessieNYC)
    • Twitter is incredibly useful 2 me as an academic 4 many reasons, perhaps chiefly curating the ideal academic dept  (@JessieNYC)
    • Twitter’s unique advantage is that very quickly allows me to spread word of my work to non-academic audiences (@elebelfiore)
    • Keeps me up-to-the-minute with news in my field ie; policy issues, and connects me to conferences/other academics (@DonnaBramwell)
    • connects me to other delegates at conferences, allows me to interact with students in lectures, keeps me uptodate (@timpaa)
    • We trade references for research (@annlytical)
    • great source of information & resources wouldn’t have found otherwise (@nicklebygirl)
    • Twitter makes it possible for me to engage with global community even though I now live in Australia & am #altac (@katrinafee)
    • a PhD can be very isolated so I think twitter is a great way to meet people who can help and give advice (@CET47)

    It’s difficult to convey the point of Twitter. Partly this is a result of the inadequacy of ‘micro-blogging’ as a concept: it doesn’t get across what such a service is, how it can be used or what value these uses have. Twitter is a profoundly practical service and yet it is difficult to convey this because much of the terminology, interface and minutiae of Twitter are inherently confusing until you have engaged with the service. Furthermore, the somewhat steep learning curve isn’t a very attractive proposition to time-poor academics.

    So why should you make the leap? The only reason I can give is that people just like you are finding the service astoundingly useful. The reasons cited above represent a small fraction of the uses to which academics are already putting Twitter and, at present, academic usage of the service is still in its infancy. Why not give it a go? All the evidence suggests you’ll find at least some uses for it.

    The LSE Impact Blog has created a list of active academic tweeters.If you want to see for yourself what all the fuss is about, sign up and follow all the people you can find in these lists who work in your area, as well as any others who look interesting. Say hello, post some links to your work and explore a bit. It’s possible that you’ll find Twitter simply isn’t for you. In which case, what have you lost? However it’s much more likely that you’ll joint the ever-growing numbers who are finding that Twitter is the most natural social networking service for academics.

    How academics should use Twitter

    The fact Twitter offers no real tools to control who follows you is a source of concern for some academics. In part this might be a function of a broader reticence towards online publishing. However I think it also stems from how Twitter is conceived as a medium. If you are presenting at a conference, you wouldn’t obsess about the identity of each person in the audience. There might be a variety of reasons why you are presenting: sharing your ideas, promoting your work, connecting with others in your field. At any conference, these motives only partially overlap. The reasons for each individual being there varies but nonetheless everyone is working within the same constraints of how the sessions are organised within a physical venue.

    Twitter is no different. It’s a spot on the internet that’s staked out as yours. What you do with it is up to you. Some people choose to wander over to their podium every now and again, make an announcement and then wander off. Some people give their presentation at the podium and then leave, only returning when they want to give another. Some do their presentation but thrive on the Q&A afterwards. Some might not like the feel of the podium and eschew a formal presentation to go and chat more directly with their audience. Likewise some people just want to listen and ask questions of other speakers. Others would rather ditch the conference and go straight to relaxing at the pub.

    Most academic users of Twitter fall into one or more of these categories. Likewise people move between categories. But the interpersonal dimensions of it are fundamentally no different to a conference. It’s just that the form of communication is so dramatically concise, as well as lacking any direct parallel other than the text message, that until you’ve been using it for a long time, it’s difficult to see quite how much like everyday life it is. So don’t be anxious about it. If you want to use it to draw attention to your work then stop worrying about who follows you and just restrict your tweets to topics you would discuss in a formal work setting. If you want to connect with other people who have similar interests then just tweet about the things that interest you and respond when others do the same, just as you would in any other setting. If you want to get drunk and gossip then go ahead, just remember that people might overhear you and that, on twitter, what you’ve said echoes in the room for a little while before it dissipates.

    The same rules of interaction apply on Twitter as they do offline. If someone habitually goes over time for their talk, monologuing at an increasingly bored audience then people in the audience will eventually leave and new audience members won’t stay for long. If someone gives a good talk but obviously resents the Q&A afterwards, people might sit in the audience because of intellectual interest but they’ll think the speaker is a bit rude. If someone turns up, loudly and briefly announces their new book/paper/insight and then leaves the conference, people won’t pay much attention, unless they’re a globe trotting academic superstar. While the norms of interaction which apply to Twitter as a mediumare still in their infancy, the nature of that interaction isn’t radically new.

    • mountaingirl 3:52 pm on February 26, 2013 Permalink

      This blog entry was very useful to me. I am just beginning to use Twitter and you have been most helpful Thanks.

    • Mark 1:45 pm on March 4, 2013 Permalink

      Glad it was useful!

  • Mark 8:54 pm on February 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Tending your ‘ideas garden’ 

    Do you value your ideas? If you’re reading this website then chances are you answered ‘yes’ to that question. Yet unless you record all your ideas I’d argue that you don’t value them. At least not as much as you could. It’s a difficult habit to acquire and it can be time-consuming. But technology is making it so much easier. If you have a smart phone, use twitter or blog then you have easy outlets for both recording your ideas and making them publicly available.

    In the appendix to Sociological Imagination, entitled On Intellectual Craftsmanship, C. Wright Mills advocates keeping a file or journal within which to record your ideas. He argues that doing so:

    encourages you to capture ‘fringe-thoughts’: various ideas which may be by-products of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience […] by keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications, show yourself either how foolish these feelings or ideas are, or how they might be articulated into productive shape.

    So why not start? Tools like Posterous or Tumblr can be great places for ‘online scrapbooks’ or ‘ideas gardens’.  Though of course not all our ideas are good. But I take Wright-Mills to be saying that it’s only through recording our ideas in such a file that we become able to properly evaluate them and that, in doing so, we learn to keep ourselves intellectually alive.

    • Mark Murphy 4:22 pm on February 26, 2013 Permalink

      I’m pretty new to blogging/tweeting so not sure if this kind of thing has been done, but it would be interesting to see people provide a trace of an idea they’ve had and present it online over time. Then readers can gain an insight into the development of particular ideas, while at the same time lifting the veil on the process that moves an idea from germination through to the published version (or whatever counts as ‘realised’). In fact I might even do this myself! if anyone else has done anything similar I’d like to hear about it, Mark

    • Mark 1:43 pm on March 4, 2013 Permalink

      That’s sort of what I was trying to get at here -> http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/02/29/reflections-continuous-publishing/

      But I guess I’d see it more as an example of ‘transactional data’ – doing the work ‘out in the open’ rather than consciously curating it to show the development of the idea.

  • Mark 2:30 pm on February 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    How can researchers use curation tools? 

  • Mark 8:34 pm on February 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CfP: Education and Learning: Sociological Perspectives 


    Wednesday, 25th September 2013, University of Surrey


    Keynote speaker: Heather Mendick, Brunel University

    This one-day conference, supported by the British Sociological Association’s Education Study Group, will showcase the diverse and innovative range of research that is currently being conducted within the Sociology of Education. We welcome theoretical, methodological and empirical papers on any aspect of the sub-discipline, including, but not limited to:

    Pre-school learning
    Compulsory schooling
    Further and higher education
    Adult education, lifelong learning and work-based learning
    Gender and sexuality in schooling
    Race, ethnicity and education
    Social class
    Cross-national and comparative studies of education
    Place, space and education
    Education and sociological theory
    New technologies and learning
    Teacher education
    Education policy
    Identities and education

    Abstract Submission: Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by 31st March 2013 to Rachel Brooks at the University of Surrey: r.brooks@surrey.ac.uk. Please use the heading ‘SocEd Conference’ in the subject line of your email.

    Registration: £40 standard price; £30 for PhD students and unwaged. To register, please follow the link on the conference webpage: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/sociology/news/events/2013/education_and_learning_sociological_perspectives.htm

    Conference organisers: Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey), Kalwant Bhopal (University of Southampton) and Mark McCormack (Durham University).

  • Mark 10:37 pm on February 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    CFP: The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting 

    (via AyeshaKazmi from the Occupy Boston protest)

    There is a name for those under- and precariously employed, but actively working, academics in today’s society: the para-academic.

    Para-academics mimic academic practices so they are liberated from the confines of the university. Our work, and our lives, reflect how the idea of a university as a place for knowledge production, discussion and learning, has become distorted by neo-liberal market forces. We create alternative, genuinely open access, learning-thinking-making-acting spaces on the internet, in publications, in exhibitions, discussion groups or other mediums that seem appropriate to the situation. We don’t sit back and worry about our career developments paths. We write for the love of it, we think because we have to, we do it because we care.

    We take the prefix para- to illustrate how we work alongside, beside, next to, and rub up against, the all too proper location of the Academy, making the work of higher education a little more irregular, a little more perverse, a little more improper. Our work takes up the potential of the multiple and contradictory resonances of para- as decisive location for change, within the university as much as beyond it.

    Specialists in all manner of things, from the humanities to the social and biological sciences, the para-academic works alongside the traditional university, sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice, usually a mixture of both. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities to research, create learning experiences or make a basic living within the university on our own terms, para-academics don’t seek out alternative careers in the face of an evaporated future, we just continue to do what we’ve always done: write, research, learn, think, and facilitate that process for others.

    We do this without prior legitimisation from any one institution. Para-academics do not need to churn out endless outputs  because of the pressures of a heavily assessed research environment. We work towards making ideas because learning, sharing, thinking and creating matter beyond easily quantifiable products. And we know that this is possible, that we are possible, without the constraints of an increasingly hierarchical academy.

    As the para-academic community grows there is a real need to build supportive networks, share knowledge, ideas and strategies that can allow these types of interventions to become sustainable and flourish. There is a very real need to create spaces of solace, action and creativity.

    The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting, edited by Alex Wardrop and Deborah Withers, calls for articles (between 1,000-6,000 words), cartoons, photographs, illustrations, inspirations and other forms of text/graphic communication exploring para-academic practice, and its place within active intellectual cultures of the early 21st century.

    It will be published by HammerOn Press in 2014.

    Enquiries tomail@hammeronpress.net
    Deadline for submissions 1 July 2013.

    • ambrouk 6:57 pm on May 15, 2013 Permalink

      Hi Mark, I have linked to this post in the comments on a post I did on “bring your own identity”. I find the concept of para-academics useful because I consider myself to be one!

    • ambrouk 6:57 pm on May 15, 2013 Permalink

      I forgot to put the URL of my post! http://amberatwarwick.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/byoi/ 🙂

    • Mark 11:38 am on May 17, 2013 Permalink

      That’s excellent! Just wrote v brief response – I’m also fascinated by the question but any concrete answers still elude me.

  • Mark 2:20 pm on February 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , intellectual politics, , , ,   

    +1 for Efficient Labour: Gamification, Capitalism and Intellectual Responsibility 

    Earlier this week, it was reported in a number of outlets that Tesco has been using armbands to monitor employees at a distribution center, enabling management to track moment to moment activity in a way which was previously impossible:

    The armbands, officially known as Motorola arm-mounted terminals, look like something between a Game Boy and Garmin GPS device. The terminals keep track of how quickly and competently employees unload and scan goods in the warehouse and gives them a grade. It also sets benchmarks for loading and unloading speed, which workers are expected to meet. The monitors can be turned off during workers’ lunch breaks, but anything else—bathroom trips, visits to a water fountain—reportedly lowers their productivity score. Tesco did not respond to requests for comment, so it’s hard to know if the arm bands have been a success.

    What struck me was the muted presence of gamification themes, both in the deployment of the technology and in the reporting of its use. The technology allows management to ‘grade’ workers and compile real time moment-to-moment data (facilitating Taylorism 2.0?) in a manner which produces ‘scores’:

    The former employee said the device provided an order to collect from the warehouse and a set amount of time to complete it. If workers met that target, they were awarded a 100 per cent score, but that would rise to 200 per cent if they worked twice as quickly. The score would fall if they did not meet the target.

    Micro-measurement of employee behaviour is obviously not new, however the use of mobile technology (that looks like a Game Boy) to produce ongoing scores for each individual is more novel. It produces the sustained, coherent and linear feedback which is integral to game dynamics. It doesn’t stretch one’s imagination to conceive of Tesco giving out FourSquare-esque badges for sustained levels of achievement by individuals in the depot or publishing league tables in order to ‘motivate’ workers in the depot to achieve ‘better scores’. When/if it takes such a form, gamification looks and sounds little like the radical technology described by its advocates, which draws together a trendily eclectic selection of behavioural knowledges into a easily saleable intellectual ‘movement’ which is increasingly in vogue within management schools.

    However is there really such a disconnect? Drawing on the work of people like Nikolas Rose, it could easily be argued that technologies of motivation and affect (the ‘psi disciplines’) are intrinsically political. Or that, at the very least, they cannot be detached from their political implications. While I would resist any poststructuralist turn which, in my view, risks collapsing intellectual inquiry into cultural politics, I’d nonetheless suggest that people who work in these areas have a responsibility to consider the implications which their work might hold. I find gamification fascinating in a number of ways. Nonetheless my engagement with it (which to be fair amounts to watching some videos, reading a single book and doing a Coursera course) has also left me with the sense of it as deeply troubling. Largely because there seems to be little or no engagement with the question of the consequences that might be held by this work when it is thrown ‘out there’ into the world, free to be deployed in a world riven with inequalities of power and status, facing a long-term crisis of economic growth and an increasing tendency towards structural (near or total) redundancy for large swathes of the labour market. Within such a context, the failure of gamification people to engage with the politics of gamification is deeply troubling.

  • Mark 11:38 am on February 8, 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 3:20 pm on February 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    “The Last Outing” Project 

    “The Last Outing: Exploring end of life experiences and care needs in the lives of older LGBT people”. The study has been funded by Marie Cure Cancer Care Research Programme, and is led by Dr Kathryn Almack at the University of Nottingham.

    We are now at the stage of launching our survey and we are keen to extend our contacts with LGBT individuals and groups across the UK to publicise the survey to potential participants as widely as possible, and so we wonder if you would publicise the project via any groups or networks to which you belong.
    We are looking for participants who meet the following criteria:

    ·         Currently live in the UK

    ·         Identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans, or their gender identity and/or gender expression is different from the one assigned at birth

    ·         Are aged 60 or over OR are under 60 but have a partner or a person for whom they care who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or trans and is aged 60 or over.

    We hope that the project findings will have an impact on present and future health and social care provision and so we would very much appreciate your help in reaching people who meet these criteria.  We would be pleased to hear from individuals and groups alike, who would like to participate.

    The study will run for two years (to Aug 2014) and we will be capturing people’s experiences in two ways:
    1. A UK-wide survey of LGBT older people’s end of life experiences and care needs
    2. In-depth interviews with a sub-sample of the survey respondents (up to 60 people) to examine in-depth issues highlighted from the survey.
    More information about the study and the research team can be found at:
    The above website contains a link to the online version of the survey or we are more than happy to provide a hard copy of the survey for anyone wishing to participate who does not have access to computer or who would prefer to work with a paper copy. For the latter we would need a postal address and we will provide a prepaid envelope for the survey’s return.

  • Mark 4:30 pm on February 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    PhD & ECR summer school on Contesting Claims for Expertise in a Post-secular Age: In Search of Intellectual Life 

    CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: Contesting Claims for Expertise in a Post-secular Age: In Search of Intellectual Life

    IAS Summer School, University of Warwick, 15-19 July 2013

    The current moment seems to be one of ‘crisis’ or at least of dramatic change for the authority of academic expertise. Policy debates over climate change, embryology and the like have often seen scientific knowledge politicised, problematised and reduced in public imagination to just another partial ‘perspective’. These issues are particularly acute where scientific expertise runs up against that of, or associated with, markets. Whilst authority that is grounded in the experience of practicing natural and social science seems to flounder, authority that is associated with market forces seems only to gain in stature – despite recent disasters wrought under the watch of just such expertise. This creates and compounds a series of dilemmas for critical academic practice that are bound up with changing conceptions of what constitutes public life. The arrival of a post-secular moment in which religion has re-entered the public sphere further unsettles debates about expertise, science and religion. This summer school provides a space for postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other early career academics to come together to respond to this ‘crisis’ and to think through new avenues for intellectual life, practice and collaboration – reaching across boundaries of science, religion, critique, participation, pragmatism, vitalist ethics, and explanation. Together, we will work through the challenges of the present moment and ask whether there is a conceptual language or theoretical framework for addressing such challenges beyond disciplinary divides. The summer school offers a mix of expert lectures and participant-led discussion groups as well as workshops organised by members of the Authority Research Network. For more information about the summer school, please visit our website: http://buff.ly/UzqIhe

    Keynote academics:

    Bob Antonio (University of Kansas), John Holmwood (University of Nottingham), Amy Levine (Changwon National University), Celia Lury (University of Warwick), Andrew McGettigan (Independent), Thomas Osborne (University of Bristol), Stephen Turner (Florida University), Sarah Whatmore (University of Oxford)

    Application process:

    1. Please complete an application form (attached) and return to alexander.smith@warwick.ac.uk by 5pm, March 15th 2013

    2. We will consider all applications, and inform successful applicants, by April 15th 2013

    3. All successful applicants will be required to register for the summer school by May 15th 2013

    Registration fee: £200 to include accommodation and food for the duration of the summer school. Applicants are required to cover their own travel costs.

    Bursaries: We have some money available for fee waivers and travel bursaries. If you would like to be considered for either or both of these, please indicate this on the application form. Our resources are limited, and we will prioritise those applicants without sources of institutional support.


    Alex Smith, Claire Blencowe and Gurminder K. Bhambra, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick


  • Mark 4:27 pm on February 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Evaluative playgrounds Audit and government after neoliberalism 

    Evaluative playgrounds

    Audit and government after neoliberalism

    Dr. Will Davies

    Assistant Professor, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies
    4-5.30pm, Monday 11th February
    Cowling Room, S2.77, Social Sciences Building

    Neoliberalism depends on forms of audit and government, through which activity can be subjected to independent economic evaluation and critique. The epistemological crisis of neoliberalism consists of the collapse of the distance between auditor and audited, model and reality, in which the claims to ‘objectivity’ on the part of the evaluators are no longer tenable. But what can or might succeed this type of auditory or governmental gaze? This paper uses metaphors of ‘play’ to understand different ways in which relationships of judgement can be organised. It proposes the idea of the ‘playground’ – spaces in which agents freely assemble and interact, but have their behaviour constantly assessed for its sustainability – as a formal model for emerging modes of government. Emerging approaches to financial and behavioural regulation (such as macro-prudential regulation and happiness education) recognise the role of values and valuations within socio-economic systems; but they add a judgement as to how these values and valuations are affecting the system as a whole.

Compose new post
Next post/Next comment
Previous post/Previous comment
Show/Hide comments
Go to top
Go to login
Show/Hide help
shift + esc