Updates from February, 2015 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 12:00 pm on February 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Inner resources:  the roles of reflexivity, self-awareness and emotional responses in the work of the academic researcher. 

    CONFERENCE AT BIRKBECK COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
     
    Inner resources:  the roles of reflexivity, self-awareness and emotional responses in the work of the academic researcher.
     
     
    Conference: 9.30am-5.00pm
    Film Screening: 6.00pm-8.00pm
     
    The Keynes Library, Birkbeck, University of London, 43, Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD.
     
    brain-researchers-know-thoughts-1
     
    Can feeling useless open up possibilities?
     
    Is there any value in procrastination?
     
    Can intuition be trusted?
     
    When does self-criticism become self-attack?
     
    Is uncertainty an ally?
     
    If these or similar questions have arisen for you over the course of your research you will find this conference helpful. Speakers from varied academic disciplines are coming together to talk and explore the issues arising from such questions in the hope of instigating a dialogue that will reveal the personal struggles and triumphs that those engaged in post graduate research, whatever their discipline, encounter in the course of their work. By the end of the day it is hoped that participants will have found a way to speak to each other that fosters a sense of community based on the value of subjectivity in academic research.
    There is no charge for the day but registration is essential. It is open to PhD candidates and those engaged in postdoctoral research. 
    Further details and registration: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/15175141256
     
     
  • Mark 12:11 pm on February 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Routines and Reflexivity – March 10th @SocioWarwick 

    Alistair Mutch NBS

    Alistair Mutch (Nottingham Trent University)
    March 10th
    17.00-18.30, R1.04
    Ramphal Building, University of Warwick

    Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.

    All welcome! E-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with any questions

     
  • Mark 8:57 am on February 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , psychopaths, psychopathy,   

    Selling psychopathy in late modernity 

    A few weeks ago, I was browsing the bookshop in Kings Cross while waiting for the Eurostar and came across this disturbing book:

    Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 08.50.56

    Given I was on my way to a much needed holiday, I didn’t buy the book at the time, intrigued though I was by it. I just went on Amazon to finally purchase it and was genuinely surprised to discover that this isn’t the only one:

    Product DetailsProduct Details

    The author is a psychologist at Oxford who seems to be carving out a media career as Dr. Psychopath. However there are also many other texts with ‘psychopath’ in the title which intrigue me. Many seem to be self-published texts offering advice on avoiding manipulation by ‘psychopaths’. Others are confessional texts of various sorts. Whereas others seem to be popular science books which, I imagine, likely come close to the territory of Kevin Dutton’s books at points.

     
  • Mark 12:11 pm on February 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Routines and Reflexivity – March 10th @SocioWarwick 

    Alistair Mutch NBS

    Alistair Mutch (Nottingham Trent University)
    March 10th
    17.00-18.30, R1.04
    Ramphal Building, University of Warwick

    Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.

    All welcome! E-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with any questions

     
  • Mark 9:10 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    How to turn a wallet full of cards into a book 

    That’s the challenge I’ve set myself for the next three months. The remaining sections of Social Media for Academics exist in embryonic form within this wallet. Each of the cards has an idea or theme written on it, functioning as a prompt for what I’m guessing will be 300-1000 words of writing. As well as pulling together the near finished chapters in order to send them off to my editor, I’ll be aiming to do 1000+ words per day from these cards. The wallet will be going with me everywhere I go (in the next month: Manchester, New York, Dubrovnik, Oxford, London x 2, Edinburgh, Manchester) to ensure that I get plenty of writing done while I’m travelling. I don’t normally travel this much and I was concerned it would break my writing rhythm. Whereas now I’m confident I’ll actually get a lot done. There’s going to be a weird combination of structure & minimalism in how I’ll be writing (a wallet & an iPad with no laptop in sight) that I’m actually quite looking forward to.

    Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 21.02.25

    As I wrote earlier this week, I’m really taken with my Artefact Cards. I’ve only had them for a week and I’m already convinced they’ll be a permanent part of my writing life. There’s a subtle permanence to the cards which lends a really useful sense of fixity to the ideas inscribed upon them. It really does feel like the rest of my book is contained in this wallet.

     
  • Mark 9:03 pm on February 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ava DuVernay, selma,   

    The sociological imagination of Ava DuVernay 

    The latest issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound has an illuminating interview with Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, in which she describes her sensibility and approach to directing. The film itself resists a tendency towards hagiography, instead focusing upon Martin Luther King as a ‘leader of leaders’, continually seeking to explore the social and cultural context within which these networks worked together as part of a movement. When asked about a focus upon bureaucracy in the film, DuVernay replies:

    I don’t see it as bureaucracy, I see it as my interest in process … the process by which minds are changed and hearts are changed. And part of that is bureaucracy and heavy lifting, and passion. That’s where my interests lie as a filmmaker. “How does this work?” is usually what I’m asking for

    While sociology cannot be reduced to this, it nonetheless captures much of interest. When presented with social change, asking “How does this work?” and looking to the processes through which people and circumstances are transformed surely represents the sociological imagination in action: connecting biography and history in a way that helps us better understand both. Selma offers a wonderful example of what this looks in practice and it’s something that would be worth engaging with in the way David Beer describes in Punk Sociology:

    Using cultural resources to think through problems, issues, and questions is not uncommon in academic work. It is far from a mainstream approach, but there is a growing body of work that attempts to use literature (Lewis et al., 2008; Carlin, 2010; Taylor, 2008, Daniels et al., 2011), poetry (Abbott, 2007; Brown, 1977; Martin, 2010), film (Diken, 2005; Alsayyad, 2006), TV (Gregg & Wilson, 2010; Penfold-Mounce et al., 2011), music (Beer, 2014), social media (Crampton, 2009), and other types of cultural resources to explore social and cultural phenomena. These works often use such resources to engage the sociological imagination and to think through the analytical issues that are being considered. In these instances fictional and other cultural resources are used to explore actual social and cultural phenomena. This type of work can be seen to be controversial in some respects, but it appears to be the way that cultural forms enable the illumination and reappraisal of established research topics that generates a good deal of enthusiasm amongst researchers. Loc 665

     
  • Mark 8:48 pm on February 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Can relational reflexivity be fractured? (cc @weaver_beth) 

    This is a question I’ve been pondering after an interesting discussion last night. Fractured reflexivity is the tendency of a person’s deliberation to intensify distress rather than leading to a course of action. The process of trying to work out what to do generates anxiety rather than helping them come to a conclusion. Exactly how this manifests itself varies a great deal: the character Llewyn Davis is a vivid example of fractured reflexivity, someone who drifts through his life episodically in a way he finds unsatisfying but seems unable to extricate himself from.

    However this is a matter of personal reflexivity. It’s been identified and analysed at the level of the internal conversations of specific individuals. Can a similar process be identified at the level of relational reflexivity i.e. how networked individuals come to orientate themselves reflexively to the relations between them? So rather than discussion and dialogue leading to the elaboration of some course of action for ‘us’, it instead distresses all concerned and actually works to preclude deliberate action? If this is something which occurs then it raises the further question of how social circumstances might work to engender tendencies towards fractured relational reflexivity.

     
    • badger 7:26 pm on February 19, 2015 Permalink

      Like this, but think there’s a typo: “…how networked individuals come to orientate themselves reflexivity REFLEXIVELY to the relations…”

    • Mark 5:56 pm on February 21, 2015 Permalink

      So I did. Can you be my proof reader!?? I can’t find mistakes in my own writing, despite being adept at proof reading the work of others

  • Mark 10:59 am on February 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , derek sayer, , , , the massive, the wellness syndrome   

    Things I’ve been reading recently #2 

    Following on from this post:

    I wasn’t enormously impressed by Malign Velocities. I had assumed it was a book about social acceleration but was surprised to find it’s actually about accelerationism. To be fair, it’s quite clear about this in the blurb, it’s just that I failed to read the blurb properly. Its concern was far more with the cultural valorisation of acceleration than it was with the (putative) social process of acceleration, whereas mine is precisely the opposite of this. It’s also written in precisely the kind of continental philosophy speak that I always find mildly irritating. Nonetheless, its review of various iterations of accelerationism was interesting, even if parts of it were familiar: I’d read about the Futurists before but the detail on the communist accelerationists after the Russian revolution was new to me. The most impressive part of his argument was the author’s critique of the direction of French postmodern thought, with the deconstructive impulse – along with intellectual one-upmanship – progressively leading to “a politics of radical immanence, of immersion in capital to the point where any way to distinguish a radical strategy from the strategy of capital seems to disappear completely” because of an unwillingness to theoretically allow for an ‘outside’ to capital. My opinion of Baudrillard and Lyotard has declined even further as a result. The author locates the contemporary impulse towards accelerationism in this theoretical trajectory, seeking escape through the fusion with and overcoming of capital because there’s no longer anything beyond it. We embrace the system to transcend it. It’s basically somewhat silly but the author does an effective job of demonstrating how people who aren’t idiots get taken in by it. Though when he writes of accelerationists working to “continue Land’s project to break with the despotism of Western reason through a parodic hyper-reason, through an acceleration into the iterative” I wonder if we shouldn’t instead point to the possibility that Land simply took too much speed and went slightly mad.

    In contrast Rank Hypocrisies: The Insult of the REF by Derek Sayer was fantastic. It’s a blistering inditement of the lunacy of REF and persuaded me of a position I’d been slowly, up till now reluctantly, moving towards: metrics are obviously the lesser of two evils. They’re far from perfect (to say the least) but they would be a huge improvement on REF2014. He makes the case convincingly that the ‘peer review’ of the REF falls dramatically short of accepted standards of peer review. Far too few people are asked to review far too much. They also frequently have little to no specialist knowledge about the work they’re ‘reviewing’. He’s particularly interesting on the politics of the ‘internal REFs’ that have been conducted and paints a vivid picture of the vast REF bureaucracy being reduplicated within each university itself. He argues that this is an important tool for the disciplining of academic labour, extends the power of managers and the exercise as a whole (‘modernization’ of higher education) entrenches a small elite within the sector. To use the memorable phrase offered by Will Davies, which I’ve had stuck in my head for ages now, the whole thing is an exercise in heating up the floor to see who can keep hopping the longest.

    I’d forgotten how much I like Mark Fisher’s writing until reading Ghost of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. I’m not overly taken with the notion of hauntology which, as I understand it, refers to the latent connections which serve to constitute any seemingly subsistent entity i.e. how the past lives on in the present and things like that. But I loved reading this nonetheless. Much of it is his music journalism and I ended up with 4 new Spotify playlists after reading this book, including the discovery of Burial and the rediscovery of Tricky, who I used to listen to obsessively years ago but had largely forgotten about. It’s a bleak and downcast book, offering a depressive counterpoint to ‘crack capitalism’: it’s not concerned with the spaces of hope that exist within our present circumstances but rather with the potential futures which were latent but have now been lost. He offers an inditement of 21st century culture which, though convincing in its own terms, I can’t help but note was written by someone who clearly used to take a lot of drugs in the 1990s… I’m not saying this to be snide, I have immense respect for Fisher, only to point out that there’s likely a biographical element in this which oddly doesn’t figure into the text in any direct way despite it being such a personal book

    Another brilliant book was The Wellness Syndrome by Carl Cederström and André Spicer. It’s an attack upon biomorality: the social injunction to enjoy, thrive and be healthy (as well as the corresponding shaming of those who fail in this task). I should blog more extensively about this at a later point in time because I have a lot to say about it. In short, I think they overstate their case but it’s nonetheless a very important case. It’s not entirely clear to me from where this injunction to enjoy is being issued: if it’s a case of attitudinal change then this in itself needs to be explained. My fear is that some quite specific political projects (of the sort I’m looking forward to hearing Imogen Tyler talk about on Friday) are being subsumed into a general claim about social morality. It has its virtues, in that it helps draw together a diverse range of phenomena into one analysis, but we need to be careful about undertaking explanation on this basis. As a descriptive project, I think it’s great and of immense value.

    The only graphic novel I’ve read since my last post in this series was The Massive volume 4. This has already become one of my favourite series and generated my current preoccupation with civilisational collapse. However it’s walking a fine line in this volume between exploring the world of the crash & developing the plot of a thriller. Volume 4 is the first time it’s gone too far in the direction of the latter for my liking.

     
  • Mark 5:51 pm on February 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    Interesting research project worth supporting: Social Media in the First-Year Experience 

    This just got posted on the Social Media Discuss list which I allegedly administer:

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am conducting research throughout selected Irish and European colleges on Social Media in the First-Year Student Experience, as part of ITT Dublin’s Teaching and Learning Fellowship.

    As part of this research, I wish to survey staff (lecturers, academic managers, college marketing staff and agencies) involved in recruiting new students to a third-level college, as well as those involved in lecturing to first-years and managing their transition to third-level education.

    Please consider completing this short staff survey at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SocialMediaStaffSurvey1. Your opinions are very important to my research.

    I would also like to get the opinions of your students on how social media may have influenced them in choosing a college and/or course of study, and to see if students believe social media can play a better role in making the transition to third-level education. Therefore please also share the student survey link at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SocialMediaFirstYears to your students.

    I would be very grateful if you could distribute this message to staff and students in your college (and other colleges) over the next week. For your convenience, I have included a short statement for promotional purposes along with the survey links below, which can be easily pasted to emails/messages/posts encouraging others to complete the survey(s).

    Link and suggested promotional message for Staff Survey:

    Please take just ten minutes to complete an online survey on Social Media in the First-Year Student Experience available athttps://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SocialMediaStaffSurvey1, and get a free e-book Infinite Ripple – The Social Media Revolution. Share this message to other colleagues.

    Link and suggested promotional message for Student Survey:

    Students, we need your opinion on social media in education – how can it be used more effectively to communicate with you? Click on the link to take a short online survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SocialMediaFirstYears and share with your friends!

    Each survey should take no more than ten minutes to complete. For lecturers who teach in a computer laboratory, this makes for an interesting survey in the computer lab, and can open up discussion on the topic of social media in education for any lecture.

    As a small thank you for sharing the survey links, each participant can opt to receive the survey findings. Further, staff participants will also receive a free e-copy of my most recent book Infinite Ripple – The Social Media Revolution which is an up-to-date resource (with European examples) on the impact of social media on business, society, education and politics.

    Should you wish to find out more about this research, please click reply and I would be happy to send on further information. This research has been approved by the ITT Dublin Research Ethics Committee. All responses are anonymous and will be kept confidential.

    Thanks in advance for your most valued support in this research.

    Kind regards,

    Glenn

     
  • Mark 10:52 am on February 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , nonlinear creativity, , , , ,   

    How to use @Artefact_Cards for academic writing 

    I finally received my Artefact Cards last week and I love them. They were a pain to get hold of due to a spectacularly inept delivery company but Artefact soon rectified this when I e-mailed them to complain. They’re probably only likely to appeal to those with a real stationary problem but if you too find yourself fixated on Moleskine notebooks and their ilk then I suspect you will like them every bit as much as I do.

    The idea behind the cards is to materialise ideas. This is a concept that appeals to me immensely. One of the weirdest experiences of my life was the first time I printed out my PhD thesis. Suddenly the ethereality which had recurrently seeped into every part of my life over the past six years was transmuted into a thing… it was just some stuff that I had written. This was a more intense form of a feeling that I often get when writing. Getting the words out into the world, giving them a form, somehow makes my mind feel lighter, even if that form is digital. The idea becomes something ‘out there’ rather than ‘in here’, with a definite form rather than a potential range.

    The card themselves are designed to “help you craft better ideas, create new idea combinations by moving, shuffling, stacking, dealing and matching them”. In essence they’re just blank playing cards, with a look and feel which has obviously been the subject of much thought, which can be filled using the supplied Sharpie. They’re perhaps slightly overpriced but it’s hard to begrudge an individual creator this for a product that so much love has clearly gone into.

    I’m already finding them immensely useful. In the cards below are the talk I’m giving at the Digital Sociology conference in New York in a couple of weeks. I recorded everything I wanted to say on its own individual card. I’m now going to arrange them in order to draw out clusters, perhaps discard a few and then write the talk using these cards as prompts. In this sense, it allows me to organise my ideas in a more systematic way without sacrificing the writing-to-see-what-happens approach which I prefer. I’m sure some of the prompts will be discarded, others will be rethought and all of them will exceed the limits of what I placed on the card itself.

    IMG_0099

    In the past I’ve blogged about this in terms of non-linear creativity. I’ve always struggled to write and think in a linear way. I find it difficult to develop ideas sequentially and planning pieces of writing just doesn’t work for me. I often don’t completely know what it is I’m trying to write when I start the process. Assuming I’ve previously baked ideas in the unconscious mind the kind of writing I enjoy most is quasi-automatic. I prefer to write in fragments and piece them together, with the overall structure being something that emerges through this process:

    Another example in a very specific area is given by a client in a follow-up interview as he explains the different quality that has come about in his creative work. It used to be that he tried to be orderly. “You begin at the beginning and you progress regularly through to the end.” Now he is aware that the process in himself is different. “When I’m working on an idea, the whole idea develops like the latent image coming out when you develop a photograph. It doesn’t start at one edge and fill in over to the other. It comes in all over. At first all you see is the hazy outline, and you wonder what it’s going to be; and then gradually something fits here and something fits there, and pretty soon it all becomes clear – all at once.”

    Carl Rogers – On Becoming a Person Pg 152

    I find this immensely enjoyable and blogging is the apotheosis of it for me. However in the last couple of years, I’ve taken this too far and I’m trying to reintroduce structure into the process. Overly-enthused by the discovery that I can write pretty endlessly about subjects that I’ve thought a lot about, I submitted a series of journal articles that were basically 7000 word blog posts. The responses weren’t actually that bad but they were uniformly requests for major revisions and the experience made me realise that I need to introduce much more discipline into my academic writing and this is what the Artefact Cards seem to be helping with already. I need to develop ideas in a more sustained way, producing more tightly argued and well integrated scholarship, without sacrificing the creative side of the process that I enjoy so much. In other words, I have lots of ideas but I need to learn to develop them much more systematically in order to produce journal articles of the standard which I’d like to.

    I’m convinced that the Artefact Cards will prove very helpful in this respect. They introduce another step in the planning process before any kind of writing has taken place: rather than having the ideas churning in the back of my mind, it’s possible to get them out into a physical form where they can be sifted, shuffled and sorted. Here are some other ways I’m using them:

    1. I’m setting myself 500 word writing assignments for Social Media for Academics. I’m going through the book as it currently stands and recording every idea I have about something that should be added in. I’m going to take some of the ensuing cards in my wallet whenever I travel so that I can do brief bits of focused writing on my iPad on the train.
    2. I have close to 100 cards now which record every idea I have about the acceleration of higher education for the project I’m doing with Filip Vostal. I did hit exhaustion point with the cards and that was interesting. I had a very definite sense that “this is everything I think about this subject” and I’ve had no further ideas since (whereas with others, ideas keep occurring to me). It’s presented me with the limitations of what I have to say about the subject but also left me with a more clearer sense of what I do want to say, even if it’s not quite as expansive as I thought it was. I’m going to use these cards to do some prompted blogging on accelerated.academy, consult them when planning the conference and use them as a source of ideas in the writing we’re doing.
    3. I have a stack of cards for the large post-doc project that is starting to take shape in my mind. This is much more provisional and I only have 20 or so cards thus far. This has left me aware of how much more work I need to do because the ideas on the cards are very general. I’m going to try and develop these in clusters: going from an idea like ‘cognitive triage’ to develop many other related notions. I plan to add to these over time and hopefully by the time I start putting together a grant application at the end of the year, I’ll have a much more concrete sense of the planned project than I do at present.

    These are just a few ideas I’ve had in less than a week of owning the cards. I’m sure I’ll have many more. Though I’ve almost finished a £36 box of cards since then, it’s been a really useful experience and left me with a much greater degree of purchase upon the projects I’m in the process of developing. I doubt this intensity of usage will be the norm but I’m certain that Artefact Cards will be a regular part of my working life from this point onwards.

     
    • typingandthinking 11:00 am on February 16, 2015 Permalink

      They sound link a good idea- might have to try them out!

    • Janet 12:39 pm on February 16, 2015 Permalink

      Thanks! Just what I need at the moment. I need to synthesise a number of complex ideas into a generative framework. Going to try these- thanks!

  • Mark 9:00 am on February 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving in the UK – TOMORROW @SocioWarwick 

    Balihar Sanghera (Kent)
    Tuesday, February 17th
    5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, R1.04
    Ramphal Building, University of Warwick

    This paper examines how charitable giving is an outcome of different interacting elements of lay morality. Charitable giving reflects people’s capacity for fellow-feeling (or sympathy), moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving is warranted because of the complex nature of the object. Though ordinary people engage in ethical reasoning, they often think and act in piecemeal fashion, so that confusion and inconsistencies can occur. This is particularly evident when gender, class and ‘race’ shape people’s feelings and evaluations of others, their attention and care for others, and their understanding of responsibility and blame for social issues. Morality is further complicated because it takes place in the mundane world of everyday life that can result in inconsistent and confusing judgements and actions on giving.

    All welcome! E-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with any questions

     
  • Mark 12:47 pm on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    The Lure of Minimalism 

    What is ‘lifestyle minimalism’? To a certain extent it depends upon whom you ask. It’s often talked about as a ‘tool’ to live a simpler and more meaningful life. It’s often framed in terms of reducing ‘stuff’ through sometimes extremely rigid regimes of limiting ownership to a certain number of objects. It’s correspondingly hostile to ‘clutter’ and imbues it with almost magical capacities to shape one’s psychic life. It sometimes celebrates nomadism – of a very privileged sort – including a permanent home within the category of ‘stuff’ that constrains our lives. It’s most influentially propounded by people who are making a career out of propounding it.

    I see it as one strategy amongst others that is emerging to cope with acceleration. Lifestyle Minimalism is a response to a particular sort of consumerist ennui, responding to a failure of possessions to bring happiness through a corresponding declaration of possessions as being the enemies of happiness. It’s hard not to see a neurotic element in the recurrent counting of possessions: it’s like an ascetic bodily regime but enacted at the level of the lifestyle, purging one’s life of ‘stuff’ in order to apophatically enact purpose. While I find Lifestyle Minimalism immensely off-putting, I nonetheless find minimalism itself appealing. It becomes so in relation to what Harmut Rosa describes as the growing sense of the good life as the full life: 

    the idea that an accelerated enjoyment of worldly options, a “faster life,” will once again allow the chasm between the time of life and the time of the world to be reduced. In order to understand this thought one has to keep in mind that the question concerning the meaning of death is indissolubly tied to the question of the right or “good life.” Thus the idea of the good life corresponding to this answer, which historically became the culturally dominant idea, is to conceive of life as the last opportunity, i.e., to use the earthy time span allotted to humans as intensively and comprehensively as possible before death puts a definitive end to it. Pg 181, Social Acceleration.

    Left unchecked this inclines one towards doing everything all at once. There’s a latent agony in every moment of choice because of the possibilities it forecloses. Given that our knowledge of possibilities expand faster than our capacities to act on them (there’s always more books to read, more people to meet, more places to go, more things to do – with each one we do, we learn of many more) there’s a performative contradiction loaded into this existential ethic. The desire to live most fully, with a maximum intensity, continually thwarts itself through a perpetual expansion of horizons that inevitably elude us. We’re always looking beyond what we are now doing.

    Lifestyle Minimalism is a particular regime (or cluster thereof) which aims to regulate this tendency through behavioural prescriptions of various sorts. Minimalism as an ethos distinguishable from this reflects a concern for the quality rather than the quantity of experience. The frantic movement of a full life in which no experience is ever really attended to can only be considered ‘full’ in a very truncated sense. It opens up the possibility that we might live maximally but in a self-consistent way, following the paths outwards from our present possibilities but doing so at our own speed in a way that enables us to attend to the reality of our present activity.

     
    • SimpleLivingOver50 11:24 pm on February 16, 2015 Permalink

      You are right. It is a move to slow down the pace of life itself.

    • mehretbiruk 3:49 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink

      While I find minimalism an excellent tool in helping me focus on what I deem most important in my life, I find the obsession with Lifestyle Minimalism in a pursuit of personal identity troublesome.

  • Mark 12:15 pm on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    The Pleasures of Speed 

     
  • Mark 10:32 am on February 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    The Pleasures of Acceleration 

    Acceleration is often framed as a problem. Things are speeding up. We never have enough time. We’re always falling behind. These will be familiar experiences to most. While the problem is more complex than may initially appear to be the case, with little quantitative time squeeze actually registering, it nonetheless leaves us with a sense of late modernity as a ‘runaway world’ in which things are accelerating beyond our capacity to cope with them. This diagnosis tends to identify the causality at the systemic level and occludes the role of agency: it’s ‘modern life’ which is running away from us while we’re left merely struggling to catch up.

    The difficulty here is that the role of agency is crucial if we are to understand the time-pressure paradox. If we have roughly the same amount of time, what is it about how we orientate ourselves towards temporality that accounts for the pervasive sense that we are perpetually running out of time? It’s important that we resist the urge to do what Andrew Sayer calls a ‘pomo flip’ and respond to the systemic bias of the acceleration thesis with a corresponding bias towards agency. The motor of acceleration cannot be seen as straightforwardly arising from the social system, in the sense that it produces changing circumstances to which agents can do nothing but adapt or fail. But nor should it be seen as something that arises from people ‘using time badly’ (whatever that would mean) or any other account of (implicitly pathological) responses by agents leaving them feeling more harried while the objective availability of time remains constant.

    Instead we need to understand acceleration in terms of the interface between the social system & agency. Crucially, this doesn’t mean ‘agency’ in a schematic sense: we need to understand how embodied people, with capacities & liabilities, live through the temporal horizons obtaining within the system and, through doing so, contribute to the transformation or reproduction of those (temporal) structures. One useful concept I’m thinking about at the moment which helps in this respect is that of the pleasures of acceleration. For all that people complain about time pressure – particularly, it should be noted, when responding to researchers studying the time-pressure paradox – there are also pleasures to be found within it:

    1. Time-pressure can be a symbol of status and flaunting it can represent one of the few socially acceptable forms of conspicuous self-aggrandisement available.
    2. Time-pressure can reduce the time available for reflexivity, ‘blotting out’ difficult questions in a way analogous to drink and drugs.
    3. Time-pressure can facilitate a unique kind of focus in the face of a multiplicity of distractions. If we accept that priorities are invested with normative significance (i.e. they matter to us in direct and indirect ways) then prioritisation can be pleasurable. This can take the form of people who rely on deadlines to ensure things get done. More prosaically, it can undercut procrastination by leaving one with finite temporal resources to utilise for non-negotiable obligations.
    4. Time-pressure can leave us feeling that we are living life most fully. If the good life is now seen as the full life then living fast feels like living fully.

    We need to understand the pleasures as well as the pains of acceleration. Through doing so, it becomes possible to flesh out the rather anaemic conception of agency usually found within the acceleration literature and instead look at speed as something which matters to people, in ways that are complex and often contradictory. We don’t just have first-order responses to our circumstances (whims and desires) but also second-order responses (concerns and commitments) which are themselves shaped by our cumulative experience of circumstances past. Understanding how people cope with acceleration requires that we attend to the former and the latter. We can’t treat agency as a cypher in the analysis of acceleration.

    Nonetheless my point isn’t that people are embracing acceleration because they (secretly) like it. I’m only suggesting that there are pleasures to be found in it, alongside the many pains, which need to be recognised before we can even begin to grasp the agential dimension of social acceleration.

     
  • Mark 3:55 pm on February 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving in the UK – Feb 17th @SocioWarwick 

    Balihar Sanghera (Kent)
    Tuesday, February 17th

    5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, R1.04
    Ramphal Building, University of Warwick

    This paper examines how charitable giving is an outcome of different interacting elements of lay morality. Charitable giving reflects people’s capacity for fellow-feeling (or sympathy), moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving is warranted because of the complex nature of the object. Though ordinary people engage in ethical reasoning, they often think and act in piecemeal fashion, so that confusion and inconsistencies can occur. This is particularly evident when gender, class and ‘race’ shape people’s feelings and evaluations of others, their attention and care for others, and their understanding of responsibility and blame for social issues. Morality is further complicated because it takes place in the mundane world of everyday life that can result in inconsistent and confusing judgements and actions on giving.

    All welcome! E-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with any questions

     
  • Mark 10:09 pm on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , student politics,   

    Misdirection as technique of governance, or, “it’s student activists attacking freedom of speech, not the state!” 

    Earlier today I read a Guardian article on the ‘crisis around debate’ at UK universities. It was a well written article with a valid argument that made some interesting points and to a certain extent some of these concerns had occurred to me in recent years. I’ve long been a proponent of no platform and it’s an issue I feel extremely strongly about – I helped lead the (unsuccessful) campaign to keep it in place at the Warwick SU and my relationships with quite a few people never really recovered from arguments over those few weeks. But I see no platform as a very specific strategy to deal with a very specific enemy. I find its effective generalisation extremely worrying, even if I sometimes share the hostility to those it is directed at.  So in one sense I found the article to be a perfectly valid contribution to an important debate.

    But in another sense, I found the article to be almost offensively stupid. It holds up left-wing student activists as the source of ‘a crisis around debate’ at UK universities at a time when parliament is considering a bill which, as the THE summarises, would mean universities “have a statutory duty to implement measures that prevent radicalisation that could lead to acts of terrorism”. Radical advocates would be barred from speaking on campus. Every local authority would be required to to “set up a panel to which the police can refer ‘identified individuals’ who are considered to be vulnerable to radicalisation” with universities as partners of local authorities in this process. We risk drifting into a police state – the words of the chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police, not my own – while the Guardian is blaming this on student activists?

    We’ve already seen the police ask a university for attendees of a fracking debate. The president of the Lancaster Student’s Union was warned by police, who she discovered taking photos of her office, that she may have been committing a public order offence by displaying a poster in her office window. Police used CS gas and pulled a taser on Warwick students who were screaming in terror.  They launch secret operations to spy on peaceful student protestors. University staff are increasingly expected to function as proxy border guards. Police violence is increasingly an expectation at student protests, including some astonishing and egregious instances of brutality. Punitive bail conditions are becoming the norm for student activists and some university managements have gone out of their way to exclude and persecute ‘trouble makers’.

    But the ‘crisis of debate’ is being caused by left-wing activists? Get real. If we consider this broader context for even a moment then this case is offensively stupid at best and mendacious misdirection at worst.

     
  • Mark 11:19 am on February 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Productivity 

    Coffee
    Meditate for focus
    What do I want to achieve today?

    Do,
    Delete,
    Discard
    Inbox zero!
    (fleetingly)

    Remind self of priorities

    Meeting
    Get ahead on e-mail
    (how did people cope without iPhones?)

    Meeting

    Insufficient steps walked
    Resolve to do better tomorrow

    Reflect on day: what did I learn?
    Scan horizon

    Meditate for sleep
    Adjust sleep goals

    Rest
    (fleetingly)

     
  • Mark 8:00 pm on February 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: burial, haunting, ,   

    “Excuse me, I’m lost…” 

    “Excuse me, I’m lost…”
    “Who are you? Why would you come to me?”

    Here we are (“up here at night”)
    (yeah!)
    I’m tied down
    in the dark in my mind
    baby, come on, come on
    and i know
    girl i know you want
    to trust you
    and going and going
    the night you feel alive
    the night you feel alive for me
    (“come down to us”)

    “don’t be afraid to step into the unknown”
    “become one…”
    “don’t… don’t… don’t be afraid”
    stars, down
    come on, the stars, down to us, in the dark, in my mind!
    “This is the moment when you see who you are!”
    baby, come on! come on!
    stars, dark, down, in my mind, in my mind, yeah!
    “let yourself go, don’t be afraid”
    to trust in you and
    going

    “go”
    “…love me”
    you are a star to me
    angel
    you are the world to me
    you send a good a star
    look for assure you
    unlock the love
    key and lock
    want the love
    “sorry I ran away”
    just to be me
    you

    you are a star
    there’s no one like you, angel

    saw myself crying
    and i feel hunger or i feel sick of
    somewhere with love, somewhere
    “what you should never do is give up.”

    “you love me?”
    i am down… to me
    “you are not alone.”

    “There’s something out there!”
    there’s something in all of us

    “Without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head, that I am a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never lovable. Years later, I find the courage to admit that I am transgender, and that does not mean that I am unlovable. This world that we imagine in this room might be used to gain access to other rooms, other worlds, previously unimaginable.”

    “…who are you? …why would you come to me?”

     
  • Mark 7:54 pm on February 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , social totalities,   

    What constitutes a civilisational collapse? 

    What constitutes collapse? This is the important question which Phil BC asks in response to my post on the sociology of civilisational collapse. If I mean the notion as anything other than a fleeting speculative thought* then conceptual clarification is essential. I said in the original post that I understand collapse to be the loss of an ability to change state, as opposed to any particular catastrophic change in the social order. By this I mean that the social order, as an emergent totality, ceases to possess the capacity to change its state. It’s these objective possibilities for change, known fallibly by situated actors through all manner of cultural constructions, through which collective agents seek social transformation. It’s the activation of these latent capacities for change which is what people are fighting over.

    But what change ensues comes about through the unintended consequences arising from their conflictual plans rather than as the result of any grand design. But latent in any project of social transformation is a set of claims, implicit or explicit, concerning the capacity of the social order to change state. These claims may be idiotic, deluded or incoherent but they nonetheless have an objective referent. Accepting the objective capacities for change within any social order (though not necessarily our ability to know them with any reliability) allow us think about collapse in a sociological way. All manner of epistemological obstacles impede our knowledge of collapse but I don’t see this as creating any difficulties for attempting to posit it as a possibility.

    If the social order is an emergent totality, collapse can be best understood as its de-emergence (if anyone could suggest a less clumsy antonym than this, I’ll be forever in your debt). The social order loses its malleability as a totality. This doesn’t mean it dissolves but it does mean it begins to crumble. It loses its susceptibility to steering. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold (etc). Most of the examples Phil cites are about dramatic social transformations and in this sense they’re not instances of collapse: it’s this very susceptibility to transformation, even if the actual changes elude the intentions of those groups fighting over them, which I’m suggesting is lost under conditions of civilisational collapse. This is not a matter of the ‘parts’ of the society (people, social relations, organisations, institutions) but rather a feature of the ‘whole’: an emergentist ontology lends itself to quite a specific understanding of civilisational collapse but this is obviously neither an argument for that ontology nor the notion of collapse itself.

    The de-emergence of the social order in this sense does not mean that we see the collapse of social order as such. As Phil points out, the durability of social relations mitigates against this:

    Therefore theorising about collapse has to take into consideration is the durability of social relations. At certain levels of abstraction, sociology assumes the durability of social relationships because they have proven to be just that. There is social change, but the – on paper – precariously balanced division of labour with its innumerable interdependencies has not just survived, but has thrived economic shocks and world wars, and has spread itself across the globe. The social substance is elastic and tough, I’d wager, because on the one hand capitalist societies are constituted in their production and reproduction by irreducibly antagonistic relationships, and on the other human beings cannot be anything but social, meaning-making beings in the Goffman mode who, in turn, constitute/reproduce social structures as per Giddens and Bourdieu. It’s also worth noting that crisis tendencies are organic to capitalism, that each of its myriad points of tension are pregnant with destruction and creation, of enculturation and barbarism. In other words, while there are precedents from history of civilisations coming and going, none have attained the level of social complexity and productive prowess as our own. Fundamentally speaking, the Romans, the Mayans, the Hittites, and the Babylonians were static societies. The advanced capitalist, industrial societies of today are dynamic and fluidic. They have momentum that might carry them through a huge disaster, or allow them to adapt to real and imagined threats posed by climate change, pandemics, artificial intelligence, and so on.

    http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/theorising-mortality-of-advanced.html

    While I’m far from clear in my own mind about these questions, it’s the characteristics of social orders as emergent totalities (for which I’m using ‘civilisation’ as a lazy shorthand) which interests me. I’m undecided whether I’m serious about the notion of the collapse or if I just see it as a thought experiment with which to consider the characteristics of social totalities with the widest possible lens. It offers an interesting way to consider what it means to talk of a social totality as ‘having momentum’ or attaining a certain level of ‘social complexity’ and ‘productive prowess’.

    *I’m still far from certain that I do.

     
  • Mark 3:55 pm on February 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving in the UK – Feb 17th @SocioWarwick 

    Balihar Sanghera (Kent)
    Tuesday, February 17th

    5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, R1.04
    Ramphal Building, University of Warwick

    This paper examines how charitable giving is an outcome of different interacting elements of lay morality. Charitable giving reflects people’s capacity for fellow-feeling (or sympathy), moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving is warranted because of the complex nature of the object. Though ordinary people engage in ethical reasoning, they often think and act in piecemeal fashion, so that confusion and inconsistencies can occur. This is particularly evident when gender, class and ‘race’ shape people’s feelings and evaluations of others, their attention and care for others, and their understanding of responsibility and blame for social issues. Morality is further complicated because it takes place in the mundane world of everyday life that can result in inconsistent and confusing judgements and actions on giving.

    All welcome! E-mail socialontology@warwick.ac.uk with any questions

     
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