Updates from September, 2014 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 9:06 pm on September 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Music to contemplate life to (#1) 

    So I have been hanging out down by the train’s depot. No, I don’t ride.
    I just sit and watch the people there. And they remind me of wind up cars in motion.
    The way they spin and turn and jockey for positions.
    And I want to scream out that it all is nonsense.
    All your lives one track, can’t you see it’s pointless?
    But then, my knees give under me. My head feels weak and
    suddenly it is clear to see that it is not them but me, who has lost my self-identity.
    As I hide behind these books I read, while scribbling my poetry,
    like art could save a wretch like me, with some ideal ideology that no one can hope to achieve.
    And I am never real; it is just a sketch of me.
    And everything I made is trite and cheap and a waste of paint, of tape, of time.
    So now I park my car down my the cathedral, where floodlights point up at the steeples.
    Choir practice was filling up with people. I hear the sound escaping as an echo.
    Sloping off the ceiling at an angle. When voices blend they sound like angels.
    I hope there is some room still in the middle.
    But when I lift my voice up now to reach them. The range is too high, way up in heaven.
    So I hold my tongue, forget the song, tie my shoe and start walking off.
    And try to just keep moving on, with my broken heart and my absent God
    and I have no faith but it is all I want, to be loved and believe in my soul, in my soul…


  • Mark 8:53 pm on September 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    If winter ends 

    I dreamt of a fever,
    One that would cure me of this cold, winter set heart.
    With heat to melt these frozen tears
    Burned with reasons as to carry on.
    Into these twisted months I plunge without a light to follow
    But I swear that I would follow anything
    Just get me out of here.
    And you get six months to adapt
    Then you get two more to leave town.
    And in the event that you do adapt
    We still might not want you around.
    But I fell for the promise of a life with a purpose
    But I know that that’s impossible now.
    And so I drink to stay warm
    And to kill selected memories
    ’cause I just can’t think anymore about that
    Or about her tonight
    But I give myself three days to feel better
    Or else I swear I’ll drive right off a fucking cliff
    ’cause if I can’t learn to make myself feel better
    How can I expect anyone else to give a shit?
    And I scream for the sunlight or a car to take me anywhere
    Just get me past this dead and eternal snow
    ’cause I swear that I’m dying, slowly but it’s happening
    And if the perfect spring is waiting somewhere
    Just take me there, just take me there, just take me there
    And say, and lie to me, and say, and lie to me, and say
    It’s going to be alright [x9]
  • Mark 10:16 am on September 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Stuff I want to find out 

    1. How do norms emerge ‘online’ and is this different from how they emerge ‘offline’? What does this tell us about the ‘online’/’offline’ distinction?
    2. Is “all science becoming data science” and, if so, why is this happening?
    3. Is it possible to visualise theory in a manner akin to how we visualise data? Should theory visualisation be a specialisation comparable to data visualisation?
    4. Are voluntary self-trackers contributing to the normalisation of a socio-technical mechanism that begins to look extremely sinister when applied in work places?
    5. Is it possible to empirically demonstrate that higher education is ‘speeding up’? What are the consequences of this for scholars working under these conditions and how are they contributing to this acceleration? What are the implications for the possibility of scholarship itself?
    6. Can we do a ‘sociology of thinking’ that doesn’t just conjoin psychology and sociology but instead retrieves what is lost by the disciplinary division itself?
    7. What is social theory for and what do social theorists think it is for?
    8. So what is Digital Sociology exactly? What is it for?
    9. How, if at all, do we need to rethink public sociology to take account of social media?
    10. How are social movements changing in a digitalised environment and how, if at all, should this lead us to rethink how we conceptualise and study them?
    11. What does it mean for a person to change? Should we incorporate this into sociological explanation and, if so, how do we do it?
    12. What does realist social theory have to offer the social sciences?
  • Mark 9:53 am on September 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Reflections on five years spent studying asexuality 

    It occurred to me earlier that it’s been five years since I started my research on asexuality. After a year, I wrote this article reflecting on my experiences. When I read it back, I’m struck by how little my thinking has changed since then. I’ve felt for ages that I’m just repeating myself whenever I talk or write about asexuality and this has been making me increasingly uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea that I’m contributing to a process in higher education which I find immensely problematic: expressing the same insights and ideas across an ever broader range of (repetitive) publications. This research was something I conducted independently at the same time as my PhD and at times the former was crucial to sustaining my enthusiasm for research when the latter was proving intractable and frustrating. So having officially completed my PhD a few weeks ago, it feels like a good time to declare my asexuality research complete as well – in a sense it was a couple of years ago, I’ve just been habitually saying ‘yes’ when people ask me to do things about asexuality since then.

    Looking back on it, I’m quite pleased with what I’ve done: I think I’ve made a strong argument that the everyday experience of asexual people needs to be integral to the study of asexuality and that we in turn need a wider historical and social frame of reference to understand this everyday experience. It’s also been lovely to see people cite my idea of the sexual assumption (the unexamined assumption that sexual attraction is universal and uniform so that deviations from this are seen to be inherently pathological) which I think is a useful theoretical concept that’s firmly rooted in my empirical research. However when I read asexual blogs, I’m increasingly aware of how much the online community has changed in four years and the need for qualitative research to be up to date in this respect. I’ll probably still read the literature on occasion because there are a few questions I still hope that people address:

    • Are there ‘parallel’ identities to asexuality in different national contexts? I mean this in the sense of forms of identification which people who don’t experience ‘enough’ sexual attraction (relative to prevailing social norms) are drawn to as a means to assert that their experience is non-pathological.
    • How persistent is asexual identification across the life course? I think this is crucial for how we understand asexuality from a sociological perspective but unfortunately it would take a lot of time and money to investigate it adequately. Ultimately I don’t think this can be separated from the consistency or otherwise of the underlying orientation but I think the identification question is more important given its implications for the cultural consequences of continually expanding asexual visibility.
    • Is it possible to trace the emergence of the sexual assumption empirically? The idea I had in mind for ages was to compile a corpus of popular and academic materials, using concordancing software to search for collocations with sexual discourse i.e. can we find shifting evaluative terms associated with sexual terminology? I’ve lost interest in doing this myself but I hope someone does do it.
    • In what sense, if at all, is it meaningful to talk of the ‘asexual community’? In what sense, if at all, is it meaningful to talk of an ‘asexual social movement’? I’m increasingly hostile to the former notion, even though I keep using the phrase and uncertain about the latter.
    • What are the commonalities and differences in how non asexual people respond to an acquaintance with asexuality? How does it change their own self-concept with relation to their sexuality? What are the broader cultural consequences of these trends? I suspect a discourse analysis of media commentary could prove interesting in addressing this question, in so far as there are clearly recurrent tropes (e.g. “it’s a fourth sexual orientation”, “they don’t have sex but they enjoy life”) which visibility work is feeding into in some respects.
    • Is sex-favourability the same thing as sex-positivity? I’m not sure that it is but it’s one of those questions which is vastly more complex than it seems once you begin to look into it in a serious way.

    I’ve been quite negative about asexuality research recently because I’ve long felt that I’ve basically lost interest and I feel bad about this. However it occurred to me when writing this post that what I’d seen as ‘losing interest’ could equally be seen as having satisfied my curiosity. I started the research because I was fascinated by the topic (I just didn’t ‘get it’) and I’m ending it having come to an understanding that entirely satisfied that curiosity. There are many other topics I’d like to do this with and I’m realising that it just won’t work unless I learn to focus on one thing at a time, even if this means excluding other things that interest me in a way that risks feeling (superficially) arbitrary and unnecessary. Doing everything at once doesn’t become possible simply because I really dislike having to choose where to focus my finite energy and attention.

    For my own interest as much as anything else, here’s what I’ve spent these five years doing:

    1. The special issue of Psychology & Sexuality that the Routledge book is based on
    2. An entry on ‘Asexuality’ in the LGBTQ encyclopaedia forthcoming with Sage
    3. A chapter on Asexuality and Applied Psychology in a forthcoming handbook
    4. Review of Celibacies that’s forthcoming in Sexualities
    5. An interview with David Jay in an upcoming book on sexualities
    6. Asexuality and Its Implications for Sexuality Studies. Psychology of Sexualities Review, Vol 4(1
    7. Review of Understanding Asexuality, by Anthony Bogaert. Psychology & Sexuality (2013)
    8. Editorial w/ Todd Morrison and Kristina Gupta. Special issue of Psychology & Sexuality (2013)
    9. How Do You Know You Don’t Like It If You Haven’t Tried It? Asexual Agency and the Sexual Assumption’(pp 3-19). In T.G. Morrison, M.A. Morrison, M. Carrigan and D. T. McDermott (Eds.) Sexual Minority Research in the New Millennium. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science
    10. There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexuality community’, Sexualities (2011), 14 (4)
    11. Loads of blog posts here and some scattered around various other tags on this blog (including here)
    12. A panel at Sexualisation of Culture a few years ago which I organised with CJ Chasin and Ela Przybylo
    13. The AsexualityStudies.org blog which is now archived here
    14. The Spotlight on Asexuality event I organised with Ruth Pearce and Lyndsey Moon archived here.
    15. Lots of talks at various conferences (my favourite ones attached below) – not entirely up to date list here
    16. Lots of interviews with the media (my favourite ones attached below) – not entirely up to date list here
    17. Two educational workshops I ran at Warwick with Michael Dore (podcasts are somewhere but can’t find them)
    18. A photography project with my friend Holly Falconer which is finally finished and will be on display at some point next year
    19. A year spent trying to get a documentary made about asexuality which ultimately went nowhere (and left me with a profound cynicism about tv)
  • Mark 8:03 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    Learning to say ‘no’ in #highered 

    When I was younger, I used to feel plagued by boredom. It’s only in recent years that I recognised that it was boredom. I was aware of the experience but it had never occurred to me at the time to use that word to describe it. Part of the reason it seems so clear to me in retrospect is that the solution to this boredom was to have things to which I could apply myself. My experience has been that life starts to feel shapeless and repetitive (i.e. boring) in the absence of projects through which I can challenge and express myself. These days I have lots of projects and I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced anything approaching boredom.

    I’m not quite sure how or why but early in my PhD I got into the habit of saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity I encountered. I think this was the right thing to do for much of this time. But as time progresses, I encounter ever more things that I want to commit myself to and the more in tension these various commitments tend to get. I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that I need to say ‘no’ to the overwhelming majority of opportunities I encounter because my enjoyment of research diminishes progressively as my focus divides between different commitments. Creative challenges come to be replaced by logistical ones, producing the right number of words for a necessary deadline rather than going where curiosity leads me. I’m not sure if it’s going to be possible for me to work on one thing at a time but I’m realising I need to at least aim for something like this because I’m just not going to enjoy research otherwise. Unfortunately I’m not really sure how to do this – I’m wondering if I should finish off my social media book, convert a few of my PhD chapters into publications and then aim to give myself a long break from ‘serious’ writing. I feel like I’d much rather talk and listen than write at the moment.

  • Mark 7:23 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bond, , , ,   

    The internal conversation of James Bond 

    Earlier this week I read Solo by William Boyd. The idea of a new James Bond novel wouldn’t have appealed to me if it had been written by anyone other than Boyd and it lived up to my expectations. One curious aspect of it which I wasn’t expecting was the prominence of James Bond’s internal conversation in the narrative:

    Bond lay in bed thinking about the plans for the following night – the crossing of the lagoon and trusting this man, Kojo, to deliver him safely. And what then? He supposed he would make his way to Port Dunbar and introduce himself as a friendly journalist, provide himself with new accreditation, and say he was keen to report the war from the Dahumian side – show the world the rebels’ perspective on events. Again, it all seemed very improvised and ad hoc. (pg 84)

    Bond forced himself to think about his options for a while, kicking at bits of the shattered road surface. (pg 99)

    To be honest, Bond had to admit that he hadn’t thought much about what he was doing once the urgency of the situation was apparent and the beautiful clarity of his plan had seized him. All that had concerned him was how best to execute it. (pg 146)

    Bond paced slowly to and fro, affecting unconcern, but his mind was hyperactive. Something must have gone very wrong – but what? No clever strategy suggested itself. (pg 173)

    He stopped. It had come to him like a revelation. All you had to do was give your brain enough time to work. A solution always presented itself. (pg 200)

    There was nothing so invigorating as clear and absolute purpose. There was only one objective now. James Bond would kill Kobus Breed. (pg 272)

    Bond’s mind was working fast – sensing opportunities, weighing up options, minimising risk. (pg 282)

    Bond turned the Interceptor on to the London road and put his foot on the accelerator, concentrating on the pleasures of driving a powerful car like this, trying not to think of Bryce and whatever dangers had been lurking out there in the darkness of her garden. (pg 321)

    I use the phrase ‘internal conversation’ because I think Boyd is doing something more here than simply describing the contents of Bond’s mind. These ‘contents’ enter into the narrative because they represent the basis for action rather than solely being a subjective response to the protagonist’s circumstances.

  • Mark 10:12 am on September 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , online norms, , ,   

    How not to use twitter as an academic 

    I usually tend towards the view that there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. These evaluations only make sense relative to some prior purpose and so I’m sceptical when blog posts pronounce on the right way to use Twitter or parallel claims with other platforms. However I realise there are a few things which I do see as intrinsically negative things to do on twitter, at least if you want to build positive connections with others working in your field:

    1. Don’t tweet everything you blog at people. It’s hard to build an audience as a blogger and a sense that no one is reading what you write can erode the enjoyment of blogging. But repeatedly tweeting links to new posts at people (i.e. “@soc_imagination my new blog post http://www.myblog.com&#8221😉 is the digital equivalent of looking up phone numbers of people in your field and cold calling them to announce that you’ve done some writing. If there’s some particularly pressing reason why this one post needs to gain an audience then that’s fair enough but before you send it directly to scores of people, it’s worth thinking about whether you’d do this ‘offline’.
    2. Don’t tweet requests for people to follow you back once you follow them. Much as with the first point, I’m surprised at how frequently I see people do this and more so they’ve done it with scores of people in quick succession. I understand the impulse to do it in some cases but again consider the ‘offline’ equivalent to this. I can’t quite work out what it would be but I’m sure it would be slightly creepy.
    3. There’s no need to thank people for retweeting you. If you remark something in conversation and someone says “that’s interesting” would you say “thank you for finding my remark interesting”? Retweeting is usually some variant upon affirming that a tweet was interesting or valuable in some way. Thanking people for retweeting (or following for that matter) makes a momentary interaction feel creepily transactional to me.

    What would you add to the list? If a certain number of people share an antipathy towards a way of acting on twitter then at what point should we start talking about these as norms?

    • gfschmidt 11:18 am on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      These advices are very useful. I share your odd feelings about each. It’s good to define a twitter-etiquette, but I’d rather keep that list as short as possible, so no addenda from me, three is sufficient 😉

    • Robert S. Miller MD 2:46 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      These are good. Applicable to all, not just academics. Here’s few more:

      1. Don’t consistently tweet links to journal articles behind a paywall. Every now and then is ok, or if you feel you have to share this type of content regularly, acknowledge the paywall.

      2. Don’t reply to every “@mention” (variation on your #3 above)

      3. Don’t tweet your freakin’ summary stats “My week on Twitter – 10 new followers, 35 RTs blah blah blah.” EVER.

      4. I’m not a fan of paper.li etc.

    • anacanhoto 3:58 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      I like point 1, and point 2 is a must!

      But I am not sure that I agree with point 3. While I understand what you mean, I think that the netiquette is still that you should acknowledge that someone noticed and shared your post. So, what you suggest may be the logic thing to do, but may not be the socially acceptable thing to do, specially if you are not a “twitter star”.

    • Mark 8:22 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      There might be more!

    • Mark 8:23 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      I really don’t get (1) thought I recognise it’s a widely held opinion.

      Couldn’t agree more about (3) – suspect this is people who don’t notice the access the apps have in some cases.

    • Mark 8:24 pm on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      Hmm is there a distinction to be drawn between people thinking that it is the etiquette and people actually feeling it makes sense to them? I’m not convinced there are widely shared standards of this sort – that’s partly what this post was about, the other part being grumpy rant 🙂

    • Corrie 10:04 am on October 26, 2014 Permalink

      Don’t RT everything on someone’s profile in a single day, it makes the RT’d feel like they are being stalked by a plagiarist.

    • tgpb 10:08 am on October 26, 2014 Permalink

      When people write ‘Excited to be on my way to…’, or ‘So great to catch up with…’, ‘Pleased to be giving a paper at…’ or similar. There’s an awkward creepiness that comes from the conjuncture of promotion, emotion, and irrelevance to others, and reads like a clumsy social media celebrity brand ambassador.

    • Mark 2:53 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink

      I see what you’re saying but are there not instances where that’s the least awkward way to articulate something that needs to be said? There are some situations in which I feel the need to acknowledge an event or meeting on twitter and apart from these constructions, I don’t see how it’s possible to do it.

    • tgpb 3:20 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink

      It’s not the fact of acknowledgement which is awkward – it’s the excited promotional tone that says, not just ‘I am doing a thing that you might be interested in…’, but also ‘Hey! I am an interesting person!’

      You could just easily say: ‘I am on my way to…’; ‘x and I were talking about…’; ‘I am presenting a paper at…’ – with a much lower cringe factor in each case.

      Perhaps this is just a case of British reserve.

      (See also: overuse of exclamation marks more generally…)

    • Mark 3:22 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink

      But maybe it’s reserve that leads people to use that construction? To say “I am on my way to X’ is such a blunt descriptive statement that it feels like saying “I had toast for breakfast this morning”. Perhaps adding the excitement implies the reason for posting e.g. I’m sharing the fact I’m going to this conference because I’m excited by the conference, not because I think there’s something intrinsically shareable about the brute fact of me going there?

    • tgpb 3:52 pm on October 27, 2014 Permalink

      Excitement alone doesn’t make something share-worthy unless there’s a pre-existing relationship in place (IMO). As Twitter is a public forum and I follow lots of people I don’t personally know (and vice versa), excitement just doesn’t feel ‘natural’ to me in the same way as it might on, say, Facebook, where I also know everyone there in the offline world: I know their personality, their interests, habits, and so on. Unless I’ve built up an idea of what an individual is like over time, then it feels like personality branding or something, seeking to persuade. e.g. not just ‘this product is available to purchase’ but also ‘this product is super cool, guys!’ Out-of-context excitement feels like an almost totalitarian injunction to emote (‘be excited with me!’) – so I’m far happier with blunt description as default. As long as the intention is also clear of course: why is it important for me to know that you had toast for breakfast?!

      Again though, maybe it’s my own cynicism or insecurity speaking here…! But – do people really get that excited about going to conferences??

    • Mark 7:43 am on October 28, 2014 Permalink

      probably not! you’ve just got me self-diagnosing (and self-justifying) my tendency to write these sorts of tweets….

    • Lily Casura 5:40 am on September 3, 2018 Permalink

      #1 seems incredibly lame and I’ve actually never seen anyone do that. But an equal and opposite one to that frustrates me to the hilt. If someone bothers to include you in their mentions because they cited your work in their piece, could you at least remotely pay attention to that? It depresses me that 3/4 of the time I do this I find the organization usually has yes, a Twitter account, but clearly, never checks it. They could be excited to be included and instead it’s just crickets. Boring and a waste of time … and an otherwise good opportunity for them.

    • Mark 4:15 pm on September 22, 2018 Permalink

      What do you want them to do? From the perspective of someone who manages organisational accounts, it doesn’t mean they don’t care as much as that it’s often hard to respond in an organisational capacity & simply retweeting every mention of you dilutes your stream very quickly.

  • Mark 2:53 pm on September 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    7 ways to use a blog as a research journal 

    1. Recording particularly powerful extracts of texts to which I might wish to refer later. This can serve a practical purpose, constituting a form of reference management which both indexes a source amongst a heterogeneous range of other materials and foregrounds a particular extract of the text. This transforms the status of the archived source and, in my experience, increases the ease with which one is able to later connect it with other ideas and artifacts. It also serves a communicative process which can, if the extracts are posted ‘in real time’, constitute a form of live-blogging. This form of post can help others navigate the academic knowledge system, with quoted extracts constituting an alternative to abstracts. The context provided by the author of a blog having chosen to share an extract from a source can, presuming knowledge of their interests and work, help elucidate connections between disparate literatures and disciplines which might otherwise go unrecognized e.g. a sociologist of personal life introducing other sociologists to work within human geography that has a similar focus through posting extracts on a blog.
    2. Capturing ideas and insights which occur, usually when engaging with the ideas of others. What I would have once written down in a notebook or scrawled in the margins of a book I instead record on my blog. The knowledge that others will read the ideas inculcates a desire to fully explicate it so as to leave it at least potentially comprehensible to others. My note taking otherwise tends to take the contracted and personalized form of inner speech (Archer, 2007). This limits the utility of these notes when it comes to academic writing, leaving a gap between the analogue record of the thought and the mode of articulation required in academic writing. In contrast the digital record on my blog avoids this gap by already being articulated in something approaching the manner which would be required to include the thought in an article or chapter. Furthermore, such indexed, tagged and searchable posts usually include an extract from the text which sparked the idea in question. Most of the posts that fall into this category result from an engagement with literature but by no means all. Blogging can also provide an outlet for ideas sparked by face-to-face conversation and can, in many cases, extend those conversations across contingent barriers of time and space.
    3. Brainstorming sessions in response to particular ideas or around particular themes. The articulation of a whole sequence of connected ideas, usually in bullet point form, which have begun to emerge in my mind as a potential cluster. This has often been a result of particularly stimulating conferences or public engagement events and the blog, as an immediately available public forum to record ideas, provides a unique and valuable outlet for the sort of creative ‘buzz’ which can ensue. To use a personal example: I gave a TEDx talk a number of years ago at the University of Warwick. This is a format structured around “ideas worth spreading”, necessitating the distillation of a research agenda into the core elements that excite and concern, with the caveat that the audience members are unlikely to be familiar with either your discipline or the topic in question.  This process of ‘translation’ from my own sociological language of talking and thinking about my research area of asexuality and sexual culture already proved extremely thought-provoking, allowing me to step back and detach myself from an area in which I have been deeply immersed. The talk itself and subsequent questions and post-event discussion were enormously enriching, with the effect of detaching a number of lines of inquiry from the disciplinary and cognitive structures within and through which I had been habitually approach the underlying questions. The result was to leave the ‘familiar seeming strange’ in a way which inculcated a newfound and enriching energy into my interest in the topic area. However it was the capacity the blog afforded to subsequently go home and spend an hour capturing each and every one of the thoughts now bubbling through my mind in a document (“11 random thoughts about asexuality studies”) which allowed this creative energy to find an expression which it would not have otherwise had.  My contention is not that such moments of creative ‘flow’ are rare in academic life or that blogging is the only productive outlet for them (Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). Instead I am arguing that the particular characteristics of a blog (e.g. freedom from institutional structures, stylistic informality and its accessibility via tablets and smart phones) render it a particular congenial medium for the expression of such creative energies, given they tend to occur in an intensely situational and contingent manner. Furthermore, the indexing function of the blog then allows these ideas to function as an open archive. Permitting easy and instant reacquaintance has obvious practical benefit for the research process but these ideas also have a life of their own (Beer, 2013a). They provoke reactions in others, stimulate dialogues and occasionally impinge upon the author’s own life via the reactions they provoke in other people. This action takes place while such notes are either ‘in storage’ waiting for further use by the author or, as often may be the case, entirely forgotten by the author. This autonomy has always been a characteristic possessed by books and journal articles, which both circulate and retain the capacity to be understood independently from their author (Archer, 1988). However blogging as ‘continuous publishing’ generalises this status from the finished ‘products’ of the research process to the continual outputs ensuing from iterative processes of knowledge production.
    4. Longer form reflections on particular topics. These often take the form of reflections on practice (e.g. “reflections on editing books and journals”) but can sometimes be explorations of particular substantive issues. In such cases the post then sits nearer to the formal presentation of these thoughts. In this sense it could be thought of as sitting ‘between’ brainstorming or capturing ideas on the blog and formal academic writing. This might pose complications because of a potential tension between writing of a style that might be deemed suitable for more traditional forms of scholarly publishing and the question of how, if at all, it is directly reproduced in journal articles or book chapters. Does this constitute a form of ‘wasting’ the writing on a ‘mere’ blog (Mills, 1959, p. 218)? In a discussion of book reviews Beer (2013b) offers the interesting suggestion that the lack of any “describable or measurable payoff” means that the time spent on such forms of production almost constitutes a form of resistance “against the constraints and expectations of contemporary higher education”. If this point can be sustained with reference to book reviews then it is difficult to see how it could not also be extended to other forms of writing: those approached with equivalent care and exhibiting equivalent quality to that which the author might otherwise submit to a journal, which are nonetheless intended solely for a blog and will not be directly reproduced. It constitutes a form of performatively grappling with the internalised values of the audit culture which could, perhaps, be seen as a form of proto-therapy (i.e. learning to take pleasure in ‘wasting’ work on a blog) for those who feel pathologically affected by the instrumentalizing malaise of the contemporary academy (Gill, 2008).
    5. Sharing ‘homeless’ bits of academic work that have been cut from papers. My own tendency to desire that I ‘save’ bits of writing that have been cut from papers and chapters by posting them on my blog sits uneasily with my comments in the previous section as to the subversive value of ‘wasting’ academic work through publishing outside the remit of processes of credentialisation and auditing. However I suspect a dual meaning characterises the term ‘waste’ here. On the one hand, one could ‘waste’ through self-publishing on a blog a piece of writing that could form a sizable portion of a journal article which one could leverage for instrumental gain. On the other hand, one could ‘waste’ a piece of writing that was formerly intended for public consumption by extracting it from a manuscript and saving it in a private file or, indeed, deleting it altogether. This later sense of waste seems less problematic, in so far as that it expresses an attentiveness to the autonomy of our cultural creations and a desire to let them ‘out in the world’ to take what action they may (Beer, 2013a).
    6. Developing conference presentations. Increasingly my habitual form of preparation for conference presentations or longer talks is to produce a brainstorming blog post of the sort described above and then use this as a basis upon which to develop a set of slides. I then upload the slides via the Slideshare service and embed them into the original blog post. Having done this, I often choose not to use the slides on an OHP but instead draw on them as notes. My experience has been that the iterative method (blog post → slides → presentation) helps collate ideas in my mind in a way which is inherently structured rather than, as was my previous experience, using the format of powerpoint slides as a framework into which I attempted to ‘squeeze’ a relatively disparate and unstructured cluster of ideas.
    7. Planning forthcoming writing projects. This is the aspect of my blogging which I suspect many would find most questionable and I have grappled with it myself. As part of a commitment to ‘openness’ I plan my future projects out in the open. I oscillate between a worry that I am being deeply naive by doing this and a belief that the processes described by Burrows (2008) have inculcated a deep sense of incipient paranoia within contemporary academic life. The truth likely lies somewhere between the two polarised views. I recognise the affordances which my own position entails for such a practice, in that I work in two relatively obscure areas which likely curtails the ability or willingness of anyone to ‘steal’ ideas from my blog. Nonetheless, I remain sceptical about the origin of such fears, at least assuming we exclude work that is commercially sensitive in some way. This may be a function of some underlying naivete on my own part but, equally, it seems important to consider the possibility of latent conflicts between academic habitus and the culture of openess (Gill, 2008; Weller, 2011).
    • gfschmidt 11:25 am on September 27, 2014 Permalink

      Reblogged this on Mitredner and commented:
      Mark Carrigan beschreibt hier, wie man seinen Blog als eine Art kollaboratives Notizbuch nutzen kann. Ich finde diesen Ansatz bemerkens- und nachahmenswert, wenn man seinen Blog nicht nur zur Publikation belletristischer Artikel nutzt, sondern als wissenschaftliche Plattform, um seine Meinung über ein best. Thema darzutun oder ein Thema überhaupt anzustoßen. Der von Marc Carrigan vorgeschlagene Weg führt zu der hier schon öfter wiedergegebenen Idee der kollaborativen Webgesellschaft von Gerald Fricke. Ich würde mich freuen, wenn das Beispiel Marc Carrigans viele ansteckte – ich jedenfalls werde versuchen, meinen Blog in diesem Sinne zu verwenden.

    • Gabriel Matthews 3:56 am on October 12, 2014 Permalink

      Really superb post.

  • Mark 7:53 am on September 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    I Coulda Been A Contender 

    I have no idea why but I woke up with this stuck in my head. Posted here in an attempt to externalise it and get on with my day:

    I’m broke and I’m hungry, I’m hard up and I’m lonely
    I’ve been dancing on this killing floor for years
    And of the few things I am certain, I’m the captain of my burden
    I’m sorry doll, I could never stop the rain

    Once you said I was your hero
    You would dance with me on a dime
    We could spin this world right right right round
    And catch back up on the flip side

    I was gonna get this real big engine
    I was gonna get them Broadway stars
    You were gonna be my Judy Garland
    We were gonna share your tin man heart

    There’s a dirty wind blowin’, there’s a storm front comin’ in
    There’s an SOS on the seas tonight
    Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
    It’s heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams tonight

    We used to drive all night
    All over town
    We’d go waltzing Matilda
    When Matilda came around

    I sang them blues to you

    There’s a dirty wind blowin’, there’s a storm front comin’ in
    There’s an SOS on the seas tonight
    Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
    It’s heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams tonight

    There’s a dirty wind blowin’, there’s a storm front comin’ in
    There’s an SOS on the seas tonight
    Steady now, steady now, soldier, hold fast now
    It’s heads or tails and heart attacks and broken dreams

    And heart attacks and broken dreams
    Atlantis is my only dream tonight

  • Mark 8:50 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    The Para-Academic Handbook: Discussion Event, Saturday 11 October @Hydra Books 

    The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting was published by HammerOn Press on
    September 15 2014.

    To celebrate we are holding a discussion event at Hydra Books, 34 Old Market, Bristol on Saturday 11 October, 3-5pm.

    This event will extend the conversations in the book, reflecting on the challenges faced by those seeking to research,
    learn, teach and think alongside the ruined neoliberal university.

    The discussion will be facilitated by the editors of the collection, Alex Wardrop & Deborah Withers. Further contributors to the day include Gary Rolfe (author of University in Dissent), Tom Henfrey and Jamie Melrose (member of Bristol & Bath Universities UCU Casualised Staff Network).

    All welcome!

    For more information:
    Buy paper copies, download OA Copy of the Para-Academic Handbook: http://hammeronpress.net/page19.htm



    *please share with networks, thankyou*

  • Mark 5:26 pm on September 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    What do you actually use Evernote for? 

    I’ve written in the past about my dislike for Evernote and near continuous search for an alternative to it. I won’t rehearse my issues with it here but the one that really matters is that I simply can’t stand the interface. I find it hard to pin down precisely what my problem with it is but I feel immensely antipathetic towards using it. It just doesn’t cohere with how I think or with the kinds of information I want to use it to record. The notebooks soon become arbitrary structures, filled with information organised in a sub optimal way and I’m never known how to rectify that state of affairs. To be fair, this was every bit as true when I used to carry organisational clutter around in moleskine notebooks instead: ‘notebooks’ provide too much organisation at the macro level and too little organisation at the micro level. Perhaps for these reasons, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that there’s something about Evernote and something about myself which just isn’t going to be compatible, no matter how many times I hear people who I respect sing its praises. I’ve tried Centrallo, which uses a structure that does work for me, though I realised that in spite of the ontology (I like lists much more than notebooks!) being more suitable, as well as the interface and synching being excellent, it was set up to store much more information than I was ever likely to need it for.

    I recently started using Day One journal instead. It’s a carefully designed app, available for iOS and OS X, described as a “simple and elegant journal”. However it’s remarkably feature rich in spite of this simplicity, including reminders, photos, location, automatic backup, iCloud synching, publishing to social media and PDF exports amongst many others. I suspect there’s a risk the developers compromise its ‘elegance’ if they continue to add functionality but at least thus far they have not. The thing that made me fall in love with this app was the experience of writing – in a manner only matched by the Medium blogging platform, it makes writing a pleasure with a lovely distraction-free white screen waiting to be filled, complete avoidance of the lag that often characterises typing on iOS apps, markdown support and oddly satisfying Tweetbot like tapping noises as you type. The entries are filed chronologically, which I realised I associate with blogging these days much more readily than I do an actual journal, though can be favourited and tagged, as well as searched in a variety of ways.

    The material I wanted to use Evernote for is probably much more specific than what most people use it for. I want a place to store my plans – I’ve been using Omnifocus for a few years now and I’m so entrenched in this way of reflexively organising my life that I would probably cease to function without it. However Omnifocus is task-orientated – the whole system is designed around the enactment of short, medium and long-term projects as sequences of discrete actions which should only be visible to you at the correct moment. It’s a system designed to overcome procrastination and inertia by offering you a continuing stream of relevant actions which you can take to work towards overarching projects of whatever sort, avoiding overwhelm by shielding the many actions which aren’t relevant (at this particular moment in this particular context) from your awareness. It’s hard to use, literally taking me a year to get to grips with the software, but when it does work it’s difficult to describe how powerful it is. Hence I think the creepy tone which often creeps into discussions about it. The problem with Omnifocus is that it’s not set up to store reference material (in the GTD sense) adequately* – the information which both informs your planning and is required by it, stuff you need to consult in the process of doing things but also to work with as a basis to decide what to do. This is what I’m now using Day One journal for and it really seems to work – I write ad hoc notes in the diary as things occur to me, stuff that I used to put in my Omnifocus inbox but that isn’t actually action orientated and so shouldn’t be in there, which I then review in the same way as I do with Omnifocus. Those thoughts, ideas, realisations etc that are important get tagged and incorporated into a structure which keeps track of the broader perspectives (20,000 to 50,000 feet in GTD terminology) which I’ve found tend to be collapsed into the temporal horizon of a few months at most in Omnifocus:

    photo (1)

    really like this way of working and it’s the first time I’ve found an app like this which I suspect I’ll stick with. However I think my experience illustrates a broader point about information capture and organisational apps like Evernote: what do you actually want to use it for? What is it you’re trying to capture? How are you trying to organise it? It’s only when we address these questions that we can begin to get a handle on which apps will actually help us do things more effectively in a way that avoids distraction and procrastination. So in that spirit, here are the various apps I use and the purposes I use them for:

    1. I use my Gmail account as a catch all place to store URLs that I might later want to retrieve. I can access it from anywhere I have an internet connection and everything goes into two folders ‘blogging/twitter’ and ‘reading’ (for academic papers) which then become inboxes of sorts for blogging (particularly for Sociological Imagination) and for research (the papers are unstructured but the reason I’ve saved them is because they’re relevant to a project).
    2. I use Pocket to capture online stuff (up to and including LRB length long reads) which I want to read but don’t care about saving the citation details for. If I don’t think I’ll pay attention to it when I come across it or if it would distract me to do so then I save it to Pocket. This leaves it accessible on my iPhone and/or iPad at a time which is more conducive to reading it attentively.
    3. I use Bundlr to organise online stuff for other people. If I think it’s useful to others to collect a package of links and share on Twitter then this is an easy and effective way to do it.
    4. I use Papership to collect PDFs, bibliographic details and notes I’ve made on journal articles and books etc.
    5. I use my blog as a commonplace book – extracts, videos or images that I’ve found interesting in some way and want to ensure I can retrieve at a later date (i.e. unlike things in Pocket where I just want to make sure I read them properly).
    6. I use my blog as a research journal – collecting short thoughts, mini essays, notes on reading, responses to papers etc in a way that I group into thematic tasks and come back to as a resource when I’m doing ‘serious’ academic writing.
    7. I use Day One to keep track of what I’m doing and why in a general overarching sense.

    I suspect Evernote works very well for 1-6. I’m not convinced it works well for 7. Part of the reason I’m writing this post is to disentangle my own use of apps from the broader practical needs they serve because I’m writing a chapter of my social media book on curation tools and managing information at the moment. So if anyone has got this far, I’d love to hear whether activities 1 to 7 map on to your own use of apps and experience of reflexively approaching your work.

    *You can add attachments to projects but this atomises overarching plans. There’s no space for ‘big picture’ stuff in Omnifocus.

    • Hildegerd 5:42 pm on September 21, 2014 Permalink

      I don’t use Evernote at all more, but before I used to storage text, but the interface sucks and doesn’t suit the way I organise things, I should just delete the account, but have been lazy and not got it done yet. Centrallo on the other hand came as an angel from heaven right after Springpads demise. I still miss SP though, but life must go on.

    • frankman777 11:55 am on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      Hi Mark,

      It seems like you may be expecting Evernote to do just about everything. I’m not sure why you would want Evernote to keep track of tasks… nor why you would try to wangle a reference material repository out of Omnificus. It’s like trying to substitute pineapple in banana split.

      I do have the sneaky suspicion that WorkFlowy might be a solution to many of your organizational woes on this journey of yours. I am a raving Evernote fanatic… But it just doesn’t make sense to manage my tasks there… Or do any complex outlining. WorKFlowy is note taking on a lot of the workflow that Evernote used to shoulder, mainly in the area of planning.

      It seems like you’ve got some decent solutions already for task management… But for sure, Evernote is not your app for that. WorkFlowy could easily take on task management, although I use another system similar to Trello.

      For academic writing, you might want to take a peek at Gingko app. It is the only tree-based word processor that exists. It’s gaining a reputation for itself. I would liken it to a hybrid between Trello and WorkFlowy. It has to be seen to be understood.

      If anything, Evernote is fantastic in the following departments, if not in a category of its own:

      1. OCR in images
      2. Web clipping + email clipping
      3. Sheer diversity of integration with many popular apps (Pocket, for one)

      I don’t expect the world from Evernote, but it is irreplaceable in many ways. But then again, it depends on your use case(s). You did mention a near continuous search for an Evernote alternative. That’s going to be a tough one. If you can look past my very opinionated and biased response here, you would be pleasantly surprised by WorkFlowy and/ or Gingko app.


    • gfschmidt 3:41 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      Reblogged this on Mitredner and commented:
      Social Media dienen nicht nur dem Teilen von Gedanken und Gefundenem, sie lassen sich auch hervorragend nutzen, um die eigene Arbeit zu organisieren und zu strukturieren, wie @marc_carrigan in seinem Post zeigt.

    • Mark 8:29 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      Crossed wires, I’m saying the exact opposite! I thought if I had wanted it to do everything (the 1 – 7 things I mentioned) then Evernote might have worked much better for me than it did. I wouldn’t for a second try and store tasks in Evernote, I’ve only ever wanted it as somewhere to store my GTD reference material i.e. I’ve wanted something as a specialised supplement to Omnifocus

      I like Workflowy on the web version but really struggled with the iPad version. Never heard of Ginko, will take a look, thanks!

    • frankman777 8:33 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      Okie… Got it. BTW, it’s Gingko. Adriano, the creator of the app intentionally misspelled the app 🙂

    • Charles Knight 8:35 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      Here’s what I use it for (not all academic related):

      1) Cookbook
      2) Insurance documents
      3) Pictures of valuables to go along with insurance docs
      4) Serial numbers for software for work
      5) Copies of project expenses (just take a photo)
      6) PDFs of work documents that I want to searchable
      7) Meeting notes – I write in a normal notebook, rip out the pages, email them to myself and evernote makes them readable
      8) Copies of project emails so that I have longtitude record of what I occured if/when writing impact case-studies
      9) Clipping webpages in a easy to read format (as it strips out adverts and the like)

      I don’t write or have research journals so I can’t comment on that.

    • Mark 8:50 pm on September 22, 2014 Permalink

      I love it!

    • Mark 8:08 am on September 23, 2014 Permalink

      that’s really helpful thanks charles, do you use a smart phone to record the pages to e-mail to yourself?

    • david_h 2:34 am on October 8, 2014 Permalink

      I found Evernote to be a great repository app, basically a ubiquitous and searchable file cabinet. I eventually moved to OneNote as I’m in a Microsoft centric workplace.

      Neither replaces Outlook as my primary (work) GTD collection and task system however.

    • Mark 8:05 am on October 8, 2014 Permalink

      I quite like the new OneNote for iPad!

  • Mark 1:45 pm on September 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Music I find inexplicably conducive to writing (#8) 

  • Mark 11:58 am on September 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Social media: a political tool or apathy’s partner in crime?

    This is a test post – I just noticed that Pocket now has wordpress integration and I want to see how it works!

  • Mark 4:55 pm on September 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Crisis and Social Change: Towards Alternative Horizons 

    Cambridge Sociology Conference
    Crisis and Social Change: Towards Alternative Horizons Friday Sep 26 – Saturday Sep 27 2014 Department of Sociology, Free School Lane

    Hi everyone,

    You are all hereby invited to attend the Crisis and Social Change conference next week at the Department of Sociology. With 36 presenters from the UK and abroad, two plenary panels and four keynote speakers it is set to be a stimulating and memorable event.

    Our keynote speakers are:

    Professor Ted Benton (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Essex)

    Professor Donatella Della Porta (European University Institute, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies)

    Professor Emeritus Goran Therborn (Faculty of Human, Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge)

    Professor Greg Philo (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow)

    The final conference programme is attached below. Registration is free and takes place through our Eventbrite page found on the conference

    An informal conference dinner will be held on Friday, September 26th at
    18:30 on the top floor of the Cambridge Centre (http://www.unicen.cam.ac.uk/food-and-drink/places-to-eat/main-dining-hall).
    After Professor Ted Benton’s afternoon keynote, we will walk together to the dining hall. The dinner is open to the conference audience in the hope that it will allow for everyone to continue their conversations and discussions. After the dinner, we will head to The Mill downstairs for a digestif.

  • Mark 4:17 pm on September 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , mark featherstone, , ,   

    Why does the iPhone matter to us? 

    My initial impressions of Bernard Stiegler were far from positive, largely ensuing from the sheer incomprehensibility of his writing. However this essay by Mark Featherstone (HT Emma Head) has reminded me why I bought Stiegler’s books in the first place after a few people explained the themes he addresses in his work. Featherstone is concerned with Stiegler’s work as a resource to help illuminate a way out of our being “lost in a hyper-functional technological world” in which “the masturbatory logic that supports, for example, the Apple universe” leads me to “become my own other”. His point here concerns the deliberate eroticisation of these products, coupled with the designed inevitability of their obsolesce. The iPhone, so sleek and seductive, encourages us to invest ourselves in it while the commercial system upon which we depend to attain it strenuously works to preclude the sustainability of that investment:

    The effect of this reliance is that we escape our lack through the object. Of course, the additional problem of the technological object today is that, unlike the transitional object — such as the ageing teddy or the old blanket, which grow with us — the evolution of the modern technological object is organised around planned obsolescence. Where we are meant to outgrow the transitional object, the technological gadget outgrows us. It moves on — the iPhone 3 becomes the 3G, the 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 5C. As Steve Jobs famously said before the unveiling of Apple’s latest gadget, “one more thing.” Following the logic of Marxist commodity fetishism, there is always “one more thing . . .” that indicates to us that we always lack.


    His argument makes me think back to an exhibition I saw at the Tate Modern earlier in the summer. It involved a dark room, into which people entered and were assailed by fleeting apparitions projected onto the walls. But the contents of the exhibition itself were largely irrelevant. What struck me was how utterly the efficacy of it depended upon the jarring impact of entering a pitch black space and how manifestly this failed because the majority of those entering the room immediately reached for a smart phone to pierce the darkness, in many cases subsequently clutching it protectively even after they had ceased to depend upon the reassurance of its light to acclimatise themselves to the installation. My initial reaction to this was irritation, followed by curiosity and then paroxysms of reflexive doubt when I realised that the immediate expression of my internal realisation (“isn’t it weird and interesting that people do this with their iPhones?”) was to reach for my own iPhone and open Twitter.

    To a cynic this might sound like an awfully long winded way of saying that our consumer objects bring us comfort. I think there’s more to it though. Featherstone’s point in contrasting ‘my smartphone’ to a transitional object is that we come to outgrow the latter. It serves to facilitate a transition from the unmediated dependency of early natality through to our individuation within a network of relations in which we gradually come to negotiate this need without ever entirely overcoming it: it’s the consistency of this dependency throughout the life course, depending on others throughout even if dependency on a particular other is fleeting, which is repudiated within the culture of late capitalism. Others recognise us in a way that disowns our dependency, with ‘co-dependency’ widely seen as pathological, in turn encouraging us to disown it in others. Where dependency is acknowledged it is sequestered in specialised institutions, constituting a way in which modernity itself mitigates against our learning to live with dependency. If it is acknowledged, it is framed as something which is overcome through childhood and which cannot be overcome in old age. This confusion becomes particularly pronounced if we consider that one way of reading the findings of the emerging adulthood literature is that the extent of dependency in late adolescence is expanding rather than shrinking, at least in the industrial west.

    Against this background the iPhone becomes a strangely overloaded object. As the people in the Tate modern installation showed, it is literally a torch we can use to pierce the darkness. It allows us to absent ourselves from social situations, escaping from others and their recalcitrant disinclination to cater to the dispositions we are often only dimly aware we posses. It leaves the knowledge system at our fingers, in the process allowing us to evade the limitations of our capacity to remember and our willingness to even try. It is our entire network, all those we know and all those we might wish to know, compressed into the palm of our hands. The latent capacity of the object is bewildering and overwhelming: in allowing us to say whatever we want to whomever we want to, it obscures the question of why we would want to do these things. Stripped of the horizons imposed by scarcity, we struggle to orientate ourselves to the endless possibilities it affords. The iPhone comes to represent everything we could do and could be but are not. It helps us repudiate our dependency (“I don’t need them, there’s no end to the things I could do”) without making us independent – in fact it undermines this because the simultaneous expansion of possibility and contraction of grounds upon which to choose can easily engender compulsivity (i.e. never exhausting the novelty in my hand and having no grounds upon which to choose between novelties leads to mindless repetition and inertia). This is how I understand the lack that Featherstone discusses and I’d be interested to know if my understanding is substantively different to what I assume to be the Lacanian notion he invokes or if I’m just rearticulating it in a different theoretical jargon. It’s the relationship between our being and becoming: the possibility of becoming some other being that precludes the self-subsistence of our present being. We can never just be because we are always in the process of becoming and we always have some evaluative orientation to the possible selves we (fallibly) see ahead of us. It matters to us what kind of person we might become. The ‘masturbatory logic’ suggested by Featherstone is, on my reading, the tendency of these devices and the ‘ecosystems’ within which they exist to leave us mired in what I see as an existential gap between what we are and what we could become rather than a ‘lack’ that characterises our being.

    In this sense, we can see the iPhone as an object both reassuring and destabilising. It induces a sense of autonomy but at a cost of undercutting our capacity to sustain meaningful commitments in a life structured around its omnipresence. It helps us symbolically overcome our dependence but detracts from our capacity to meaningfully enter into new relations with all the capacity for dependency they herald: why commit to these people when I can so easily meet those people? What I’m trying to get at is the relationship between a technological artefact like the iPhone and our capacity to live with what Ian Craib calls ‘disappointment’:

    Why disappointment? In common usage, and in the dictionary, we talk about disappointment as what happens, what we feel, when something we expect, intend, or hope for or desire does not materialise. One of the difficulties of living in our world is that it is perhaps increasingly less clear exactly what we might expect or hope for or desire. In fact, these words mean different things. The most basic is desire: it carries connotations of needing urgently, yearning, to the point almost of trying to will something into existence. Sometimes we desire something so completely that we revert to our infant selves and scream, metaphorically or in reality, in the hope that our desire may be realised – just as, if we were lucky, the milk used to appear in response to our screams from the cot.

    Ian Craib, The Importance of Disappointment, Pg 3

    In fact I’d go as far as to venture that the iPhone is the most potent artefact ever constructed for escaping disappointment. Our desire to get out of the mess of life finds expression in this shiny implement for which we pay so much and from which we expect so much. It serves this practical function (distraction, connection, escape) but it also comes to represent our capacity to float free of others, wriggling free of the bonds of dependency in which we are all irrevocably entwined. However it is a fleeting object, soon to be obsolete, offering a chimerical sense of autonomy generative more of compulsion than purposiveness. This is precisely what Featherstone’s essay has persuaded me that Stiegler actually does have a lot of insight into, in spite of the latter’s atrocious writing style. I was also interested to find that Stiegler’s prescriptions parallel my own:

    Stiegler tells us that we must fight for the right to the future. Like Prometheus, the original rebel with a cause, we must struggle to save the possibility of hope. We must struggle to save our openness to change, which is, of course, based in our humanity, which is, in turn, rooted in our fundamental lack — our default.

    Stiegler argues that we must find time and space in life for otium, or studious leisure, which is today absolutely subordinate to negotium, or calculation and necessity. [70] Fundamentally, he explains that this is not about supporting the importance of the pleasure principle, but rather a defence of art, craft, and the value of cultural discipline, because this is how we insert ourselves into a world and co-individuate ourselves through communication with others. In this sense, he is critical of Foucault, who he argues advances a one-dimensional view of the idea of discipline, a view that ignores the importance of discipline in suturing people into social symbolic systems that allows them to become human and elevate themselves beyond mere bestial necessity. This is why he thinks we need valuable objects that can enable us to create historical fictions — realisable fictions based in the past that can act as guides to the present and help us to think about moving forward into the future. These good fictions, or fictions of the good, are essentially utopias, narratives necessary to escape the horror of our contemporary un-world and which we can only create on the basis of the care, attention, and discipline we learn through immersion in culture. This is why Stiegler writes in Taking Care of Youth and Generations about the culture industries and what he calls the “battle for intelligence,” because it is here, in the psychopolitical struggle for available brain time, that the possibility of care, attention, and discipline is destroyed in the emergence of hyper-attention and drive-based culture characterised by a complete lack of focus. [71] Stiegler is scathing of consumer culture because there is no know-how or craft in the channel or web surfer who says I want this, that, and the other, and I want it now.


    The capacity of this technology to consume is paralleled by a capacity to create. In fact the mobility of the technology allows us to build a life around creation, turning the interstices of late modernity into sites for a renewed craft – if only we can cultivate an attentiveness that is sufficiently durable to avoid being diluted by compulsivity.

  • Mark 6:57 pm on September 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    CfP – special issue on The Quantified Self at Work 

    The Quantified Self at Work
    Special Issue
    Call for contributions
    The quantified self movement (QSM) refers to an emerging trend identified by a range of technological devices used for self-tracking.  Examples include Microsoft’s wearable camera, the SenseCam, which provides the possibility to record autobiographical data and is worn on clothes. The Narrative Clip, formerly known as Memoto, is another miniscule life logging camera that users wear and which takes geotagged photos. Autom is a personal health lifestyle coach robot that provides customised responses based on data input about eating habits over time. Such technologies can be used for first-person digital ethnographies, lifelogging, and self-tracking of mental and physical activities as well as recording surroundings and actions also seen in the police force (Atkinson, 2014) and professional sports (Wade, 2014). Interest in such technologies is evident in health, fashion, and increasingly in workplaces.

    Wearables and other types of tracking devices in the workplace places responsibility firmly into the hands of productive bodies, but simultaneously remove autonomy through transferring tracking to a device that produces extensive data used to inform management techniques. Further, the link between wearables and self-improvement/well-being is inseparable from productivity in the way these technologies are framed and marketed. Although this brings an unprecedented dimension to the potential for control at work many of these devices are self-imposed. Recently they are also becoming interconnected with labour processes and, whether through employer-mandated use or self-use, are  intended to enhance ‘responsible’ performance in order to achieve the goal of accelerated productivity.

    Recognition of the relationship between emotion, health and work is not new. The emotional labour thesis accurately identifies exploitative dimensions of service work (Hochschild, 1983). Subjectivities are already privatised while expressing dominant social norms through social media, self-branding, visible consumption and socially mandatory hedonism. Building on these arguments, quantification in the workplace through technology now demonstrates:

    1)    attempts to measure emotions and physical well-being so as to maximise productivity
    2)    the quantification of the connection between physical and emotional states by technological means
    3)    the ambivalence arising from a growing reliance on self-management of emotions and health

    Here, we take very recent empirical cases of use of wearable and other quantifying technology as a starting point to understand implications for work and workplaces, whether workplaces and thus bodies are mobile or static, looking at theoretical and philosophical questions that arise with the emergence of these technologies as linked with work and labour, including questions of subjectivity,  surveillance, productivity, resistance, emotional and affective labour, wellbeing, lifestyle, and the new world of work in contemporary neoliberal capitalism.
    Journals we will pitch
    We are currently approaching Theory Culture and Society; New Technology, Work and Employment; Body and Society

    16th September 2014 – Initial call for contributors
    15th October 2014 –  Deadline for submission of proposed titles and abstracts. Please send to Chris Tillc.till@leedsmet.ac.uk<mailto:c.till@leedsmet.ac.uk><mailto:c.till@leedsmet.ac.uk> and Phoebe Moorep.moore@mdx.ac.uk<mailto:p.moore@mdx.ac.uk><mailto:p.moore@mdx.ac.uk>
    1st November 2014 –  Decisions on submitting titles and abstracts
    We will contact contributors separately and at that point send the proposal to these journals:
    30th April 2014 – Deadline for submission of papers
    We have to be fairly strict about this so please let us know asap if this isn’t possible so we can have a rethink.
    30th July 2014 – Estimated return of first round of reviewer’s comments and revisions finalized.
    Journals have specific methods for dealing with Special Issues so depending on which one we work with we will tell contributors the exact process.
    Dec 2014/Jan 2015 – Estimated publication
    Editors’ contributions
    Chris Till:
    Tracking data subjects: Digital self-tracking, networked labour and resistance.

    This intervention will theoretically explore the strategies used to engage people in self-tracking of exercise and health through digital devices and applications, corporate wellness strategies and public health programmes and the potential resistances which they form. Self-tracking practices are increasingly widespread and are generating ever greater volumes of commercially valuable data which I have previously suggested approaches populations as a thermodynamic mass of potential energy. The techniques used to stimulate engagement will be compared and analysed in relation to their constitution of productive subjects through encouraging particular relations to the self. Further, it will be proposed that these practices are in the process of constituting networked relations of labour with the potential for new forms of collective resistance distinctive to the current era. Analytical categories used for the assessment of health and productivity data will be analysed for their role in subjectification which enables relations of control as well as resistance.
    Existing work in this area:

    Till C. Exercise as Labour: Quantified Self and the Transformation of Exercise into Labour. Societies. 2014; 4(3):446-462.


    Blog Post ‘Are Google making money from your exercise data?: Exercise activity as digital labour’


    Phoebe Moore:
    Managing the self through quantification
    According to ABI Research, more than 13 million wearable fitness tracking devices will be incorporated into employee wellness programs 2014-19 (Nield, 2014). BP, Amazon, Tesco, and Autodesk are leading this trend. Employers have increased focus on well-being in 2014, up from 33 per cent in 2012 (Paterson, 2013), and wearables are seen as a cutting edge method to improve employees’ well-being and health (Wilson, 2013b; Nield, 2014). A recent report shows that one employee can create more than 30GB of data per-week based on three wearable devices. ‘Scaled across an organisation, this is clearly a huge amount of information that needs to be captured, stored and analysed’ (Rackspace, 2014). So the incorporation of wearables in well-being projects simultaneous to big data accumulation has become a popular concept with business. This article takes these trends and beings to analyse what the implications are for workplace well-being programmes that include self-quantification, in particular using Bergson’s thesis on divisibility with reference to labour process theory.
    Existing work in this area:
    P. Moore (2014 in press) ‘Tracking Bodies, the Quantified Self and the Corporeal Turn’, in Kees van der Pijl (ed) The International Political Economy of Production, Volume for Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series, eds. Benjamin J. Cohen and Matthew Watson (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar).
    Interview with Imperica (2014) ‘Wearable Politics’ http://www.imperica.com/en/features/phoebe-moore-wearable-politics
    Blog post ‘Self tracking and the Quantified Man’ http://phoebevmoore.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/self-tracking-and-the-quantified-man/

  • Mark 6:57 pm on September 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the Connected Communities Programme 

    See below for information about an event on research careers, identities and methods- email dave.obrien.1@city.ac.uk to register. More information on the project is here http://earlycareerresearchers.wordpress.com/


    Connecting Epistemologies: Methods and Early Career Researchers in the Connected Communities Programme FREE EVENT 28/10/2014 City University London

    Early Career Researchers (ECRs) face a variety of issues in the changing world of contemporary academia. To mark the publication of the final report from the Connecting Epistemologies project (available to download here on 28th October 2014), City University London are hosting an event that engages with questions confronting ECRs.

    Connecting Epistemologies worked with a variety of ECRs, from PhD students and postdocs to early career lecturers, over the course of the summer to capture their experiences on the Connected Communities programme. The project explored their identities as academics and their methods and practices.

    The afternoon will explore the way ECRs within Connected Communities may represent a new form of academic with a new form of identity; how they negotiate issues of precariousness; the skills needed to work as an ECR; and broader questions of what is legitimate as research, as methods, and as knowledge.

    The session consists of three papers: one from the project team; one from AHRC reporting on the recent report Support for researchers in the Arts and Humanities post-doctorate; and one from Connected Communities Leadership Fellow Professor Keri Facer and project Post-Doctoral researcher Bryony Enright.

    The session will then have a discussion on the future of ECRs within higher education and the arts and humanities.

    All are welcome! The event is free, but to make sure we have an idea of numbers, please book a place by emailing dave.obrien.1@city.ac.uk

    Venue: Poynton Lecture theatre, City University London, Northampton Sq, EC1V 0HB

    1.30pm welcome and coffee

    2-3pm presentations

    Keri Facer and Bryony Enright (Bristol) The shaping of a new generation? Early career researchers working at the interface between universities and communities

    Connecting Epistemologies team: Understanding ECRs in Connected Communities

    Sue Carver (AHRC) Support for researchers in the Arts And Humanities

    3pm-4pm Q&A and discussion.

  • Mark 10:03 am on September 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: sage francis,   

    I wouldn’t chide you, out perform, out write, and out rhyme you 

    We’re headed to our own damn thing, prepare kid
    Why you think I’d let you get away with doing radio-friendly versions of what I do?
    Like I wouldn’t chide you, out perform, out write, and out rhyme you
    Outsmart, out heart, and out grind you
    Out shine you with the torch that was given to me
    Torches are not passed to the bastards of the little league

  • Mark 9:31 am on September 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    The future of social science blogging in the UK 

    Earlier this week, NatCen Social Research hosted a meeting between myself, Chris Gilson (USApp), Cristina Costa and Mark Murphy (Social Theory Applied), Donna Peach (PhD Forum) and Kelsey Beninger (NSMNSS) to discuss possible collaborations between social science bloggers in the UK and share experiences about developing and sustaining social science blogs over time. We didn’t do as much of the latter as I expected, though I personally found it valuable simply to voice a few concerns I’d had in mind about the direction of academic blogging that I’d heretofore been keeping to myself for a variety of reasons. The manner in which the audience for Sociological Imagination seems to have stopped growing over the last couple of years (unless I make an effort to tweet more links to posts in the archives) had left me wondering why I’d been operating under the assumption that the audience for a blog should be growing. I realise that I’d been working on the premise that an audience is either growing or it’s shrinking which, once I articulated it, came to seem obviously inaccurate to me. Considering this also raised questions about overarching purposes which I was keen to get other people’s perspectives on: what was the website for? To be honest I’m not entirely sure. After four years, it’s largely become both habit and hobby. It’s an enjoyable diversion. It’s a justification for spending vast quantities of time reading other sociology blogs. I’m invested in it as a cumulative project, such that even if I stopped enjoying it, I’d probably feel motivated to continue. I’m still preoccupied by how genuinely global it has become, something which feels valuable in and of itself. I’ve also had enough positive feedback at this point (I never know quite how to respond when people send ‘thank you’ e-mails but they’re immensely appreciated!) that all these other factors, essentially constituting its value for me, find themselves reflected in a sense that it’s clearly valuable for (some) other people as well.

    Much of the early discussion at the meeting was about the limitations of metrics. It’s sometimes hard to know what to do with quantitative metrics of the sort that are so abundantly supplied by social media. What do they actually mean? Other people have seemingly had the same experience I’ve had of being provoked by these stats to wonder about what isn’t being measured e.g. if x number of people visit a post then how many people read the whole thing, let alone derive some value from it? We discussed the possibility of qualitative feedback, which is essentially what the aforementioned ‘thanks’ e-mails constitute, as something potentially more meaningful but difficult to elicit. Are there ways to pursue qualitative feedback from the audience of a blog? Cristina and Mark described their current project aiming to use an online questionnaire to get information about how Social Theory Applied is seen by readers and how the material is being used. Are there others ways to get this kind of feedback? Perhaps I should just ask on the @soc_imagination twitter feed? I guess the thing that makes me uncomfortable is the risk of slipping into a publisher/consumer orientation, given this is a relation so well established in contemporary society – I don’t see the people reading the site as consumers and I don’t see myself as a publisher. In fact I’ve found it immensely frustrating on a few occasions when I’ve felt people adopt the mentality of a consumer with me e.g. leaving a comment that “there’s no excuse for posting a podcast with such low audio quality” or “why haven’t you fixed the broken link on this [old] post?”. While I’d like to get qualitative feedback on Sociological Imagination, particularly more of a sense of how people use material on the site if it’s for anything other than momentary distraction, I basically have no intention of doing anything other than what I want with it, as well as leaving the Idle Ethnographer as my co-editor to do the same.

    We also discussed a range of potential collaborations which we could pursue in future. One of my concerns about the general direction of social science blogging in the UK is that the LSE blogs and the Conversation might gradually swallow up single-author blogs – in the case of the former, the fact they often repost from individual blogs mitigates against this but I think there’s still a risk that single author blogging becomes a very rare pursuit over time, simply because it’s difficult to sustain it and build an audience while subject to many other demands on your time. I think the likelihood of this happening is currently obscured by academic blogging becoming, at least in some areas, slightly modish, in a way that distracts from the question of whether new bloggers are likely to sustain their blogging in a climate where their likely expectations are unlikely to be met by the activity itself. I like the idea of finding ways to share traffic and I suggested that we could experiment with aggregation systems of various sorts: perhaps framed as a social science blogging directory which people apply to join, at which point their RSS feed is plugged into a twitter feed that automatically aggregates all the other blogs on the list. Another possibility would be to use RebelMouse to create what could effectively be a homepage for the UK social science blogosphere (in the process perhaps bringing this blogosphere into being, as opposed to it simply being an abstraction at present). Chris Gilson suggested the possibility of creating a shared newsletter in which participating sites included their top post each week or month, in order to create a communal mailing which profiled the best of social science blogging in the UK. Despite being initially antipathetic towards it, this idea grew on me as I pondered it on the way home – not least of all because it could be a way to connect with audiences who are unlikely to read blogs on a regular basis. However while it would be easy to create prototypes of any of these to test the concept, it’s less obvious how they would work on an ongoing basis. The latter two would require a small amount of funding and/or someone willing to take on an unpaid task. Perhaps more worryingly from my point of view as someone who goes out of my way to avoid formal meetings in general and those concerned with elaborating procedures in particular, it seems obvious to me that some filtering criteria would be required (e.g. should blogs have to be continued past a certain point to join the aggregator? should there be quality criteria and, if so, who would assess them?) to ‘add value’ but I have no idea what these would be nor do I see how they could be fairly elaborated without a long sequence of face-to-face meetings that would likely prove tedious for all concerned. Perhaps I’m being overly negative, particularly since two of the ideas were my own, but I don’t see the point of writing a ‘reflection’ post like this and not being upfront about where I’m coming from.

    We also discussed the possibility of longer term collaborations. Would social science blogging in the UK benefit from something like The Society Pages and, if so, how do we go about setting it up? I cautioned against overestimating the possible benefits of the umbrella identity TSP provides but I really have no idea. We discussed whether we should talk to the editors of the site in order to learn more about their experiences. I can certainly see the value in pursuing something like this and, as with the aggregators, it has the virtue of facilitating collaboration while retaining the individual identities of the participating sites – for both principled and practical reasons, I don’t want to collaborate in a way that dilutes the identity of the Sociological Imagination. Plus, even if I did, I’d have to ask the Idle Ethnographer and I suspect she feels even more strongly about this than I do. This discussion segued quite naturally into a broader question of how to fund academic blogging in the UK – framed in these terms, my initial ambivalence about pursuing funding melted away because I’d like nothing more than to find a way to fund blogging as an activity. My experiences at the LSE suggest this might be harder than it seems but we discussed this in terms of winning money to buy out people’s time to participate in these activities. I’ve always been an enthusiast for the LSE model of research-led editorship (as opposed to the journalist-led editorship of the Conversation, which I think leads to an often sterile product in spite of the faultless copy) so I’d like it if this possibility, as a distinctive occupational role in itself, doesn’t slip out of the conversation but it’s difficult for all sorts of reasons. I think it would also be beneficial to find ways of employing PhD students on a part-time basis, either for ad hoc assignments or work on an ongoing basis, given the retrenchment of funding and the congruence between the demands of a PhD and paid work of this sort. My one worry here is that the pursuit of funding undermines what I would see as the more valuable outcome of establishing blog editorship on an equivalent footing with journal editorship – given the latter does not, as far as I’m aware, factor into workload allocations anywhere, advocating that time for blog editing should be bought out risks preventing an equivalence between these two roles which I suspect would otherwise be likely to emerge organically over time.

    My sense of the key issues facing the UK social science blogosphere:  

    • How to share experiences, allow practical advice to circulate and facilitate the establishment of best practice
    • Finding qualitative metrics to supplement the quantitative metrics provided by blogging platforms
    • Making it easier for new bloggers to build audiences and promote their writing
    • Experimenting with aggregation projects to help consolidate the blogosphere and share traffic
    • Finding ways to fund social science blogging (for students, doctoral researchers and academics)
    • Increasing the recognition of social science blogging as a valuable academic activity
    • Ensuring that social science blogging remains a researcher-led activity and doesn’t get subsumed into institutionalised public engagement schemes
    • Encouraging the development of group blogs as a type distinct from single-author blogs and multi-author blogs with designated editors
    • Stephen 3:49 pm on September 17, 2014 Permalink

      A blogosphere is a great idea but given that the world is round and society is global, it should be international.

  • Mark 7:14 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply

    Gigs I wish I had attended (#2) 

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