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  • Mark 9:01 am on September 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    A Trump Presidency and the Militarisation of America 

    There are many reasons not to take Trump seriously. But given the real possibility he might win the election, we need to think through the stated consequence of his policies, particularly given the evident inability of the Republican establishment to restrain him before he holds political office, let alone when he has it.

    To take one example: a former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement cautions that Trump’s stated plan to deport all illegal immigrants is foolish but not impossible. What would it look like in practice?

    Julie Myers Wood, who headed Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Bush Administration, told me that she is appalled by parts of Trump’s immigration plan and cautioned critics not to assume that it is impossible. “It’s not as binary as some people suggest,” she said. “You could think of some very outside-the-box options.” A President Trump could permit ice officers to get access to I.R.S. files that contain home addresses. (Undocumented immigrants who pay taxes often list real addresses, in order to receive tax-refund checks.) He could invoke provision 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, in order to detail thousands of local and state agents and police officers to the deportation effort. “You’d put people on a train,” she said. “Again, I’m not recommending this. You could have a cruise ship.”

    The American Action Forum, a conservative Washington think tank, ran budget projections of Trump’s plan: raids on farms, restaurants, factories, and construction sites would require more than ninety thousand “apprehension personnel”—six times the number of special agents in the F.B.I. Beds for captured men, women, and children would reach 348,831, nearly triple the detention space required for the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Thousands of chartered buses (fifty-four seats on average) and planes (which can accommodate a hundred and thirty-five) would carry deportees to the border or to their home countries. The report estimated the total cost at six hundred billion dollars, which it judged financially imprudent.


    What would this do to America? A logistical exercise of this scale and cost could perhaps be seen as a dark and fascistic stimulus plan, bringing together vast numbers of Americans into an (evil though nonetheless) collective project. The discord this would sow at all levels of American society would lead to further polarisation, inviting ‘tough measures’ to crack down on opposition to this ‘necessary policy’ of the Trump administration and ‘protect our brave law enforcement’ officers.

    Even if Trump’s alleged fascism is opportunistic rather than ideological, I find it very easy to see how this policy alone – let alone the other stuff – could lead to an unprecedented militarisation of America and a very rapid descent into actually existing fascism.

    If we consider the second-order and third-order effects, high profile injustices and protests against them and reactions to those protests, it’s worth asking how the structures of repression (digital or otherwise) built up in America over recent years might be leveraged against those seen as hostile to the executive? Furthermore, if American troops and law enforcement are widely perceived by the right to be under threat, could this unite currently anti-Trump figures in the security establishment against him?

  • Mark 8:19 am on September 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    External economic relations and the norm of imbalance 

    From And The Weak Suffer What They Must? By Yanis Varoufakis, loc 353-368:

    What this means is that a closed, autarkic (meaning self-sufficient) economy, like that of Robinson Crusoe in literature or perhaps North Korea today, may be poor, solitary and undemocratic, but at least it is free of problems caused by other economies, by external deficits or surpluses. 

    In contrast, all modern economies have relations with others and can expect that these relations will almost all be asymmetrical. Think Greece in relation to Germany, Arizona in relation to neighbouring California, northern England and Wales in relation to the Greater London area or indeed the United States in relation to China – all imbalances with impressive staying power. Imbalances, in short, are the norm, never the exception.

    As he goes on to explain, trade imbalances have particular significance for international relations because they have important second order effects for both financial systems. From Loc 368-382:

    Just as one person’s debt is another’s asset, one nation’s deficit is another’s surplus. In an asymmetrical world the money that surplus economies amass from selling more stuff to deficit economies than they buy from them accumulates in their banks, but these banks are then tempted to lend much of it back to the deficit countries or regions, where interest rates are always higher because money is so much scarcer. In this way, banks help maintain some semblance of balance during the good times. If an exchange rate seems likely to remain stable or even the same, banks will tend to lend more to the deficit country in question, unworried by the prospect of a devaluation further down the line that might make it hard for debtors in the deficit country to repay them.

    Bankers, in this sense, are fair-weather surplus recyclers. They profit from taking a chunk of the surplus money from the surplus nations and recycling it in the deficit nations. But if the exchange rate is fixed, the banks go berserk, transferring mountains of money to the deficit regions as long as the storm clouds are absent, the skies are blue and the financial waters calm. Their credit line allows those in deficit to keep buying more and more stuff from the surplus economies, which thrive on a spree of exports. Import-export businesses grow fatter everywhere, incomes boom in surplus and deficit countries alike, confidence in the financial system swells, the surpluses get larger and the deficits deeper.

    Fixed exchange rates preclude this imbalance being wholly or partially corrected by a fluctuation in the relative value of the currency that would make the debtor nation’s goods more attractive on the international market and reduce the size of the debts denominated in this currency. In their absence, incomes shrink while debts remain unchanged, prompting a precipitous decline into economic ruin. 

  • Mark 12:51 pm on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The concept of ‘social editor’ 

    I like the concept of ‘social editor’, though think it has to be treated carefully:

    In an earlier post for this blog, we argued that Facebook has crossed the line from being a mere host of user-created content to functioning as an editor of (professional) media content, at least for certain parts of its website, such as Trending Topics. However, it is also clear that Facebook is not an editor in a traditional sense, and certainly not in the sense that media law and policy are accustomed to. Facebook does not itself produce news, but it does aggregate news, it closes deals with media publishers for Instant Articles and even commissions content , for example for Facebook Live. Facebook establishes editorial and community guidelines – guidelines that apply to Facebook’s users, not to Facebook, as Facebook itself has no editorial mission. The social network plays a pivotal role in providing the edited recommendation service ‘Trending Topics’, with its ability to bring important issues to the attention of a wide range of users and to rank other topics into oblivion. Most importantly, social networks like Facebook organise the way in which the public debate around content takes place. It does so by collecting and integrating data from Facebook users into the recommendation process, by calculating popularity and shareability and by offering an entire architecture of tools for users to engage and share. This makes Facebook first and foremost a social editorthat exercises control not only over the selection and organisation of content, but also, and importantly, over the way we find, share and engage with that content.


  • Mark 12:16 pm on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    10 facts about the changing digital news landscape 

    A really useful starting point for Pew research on this, saved here for future use:

    Digital news continues to evolve, pushed by a variety of innovations in recent years, from groundbreaking new technologies like virtual reality and automated reporting to experiments on social platforms that have altered campaign coverage. As journalists and media practitioners gather for the annual Online News Association Conference, here are 10 key findings from recent Pew Research Center surveys and analyses that show how these rapid digital shifts are reshaping Americans’ news habits


  • Mark 11:57 am on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Call for Abstracts: Minconference on Digital Sociology 

    Mini-Conference on Digital Sociology

    Call for Abstracts

    Eastern Sociological Society

    2017 Annual Meeting,

    Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown
    Philadelphia, PA, February 23-26

    The Eastern Sociological Society’s theme of “The End of the World as We Know It?,” references the rise of digital sociology in the following:

    “Technology is revolutionizing everyday life: powerful hand-held computers are ubiquitous, communications are much easier, and commercial drones will soon fill the skies. Yet the consequences for social life are contradictory. People can be in touch with many more people, yet they are often not fully present in personal interaction. Racism and class inequality persist or worsen. The life-long career with one employer may be giving way to a “gig economy,” in which people offer their own assets or temporary labor for hire.” 

    The Digital Sociology Mini-Conference seeks papers that address the many ways digital media technologies are “revolutionizing” everyday life.  Suggested topics, include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

    • Critical Theories of Everyday Digital Life: How have we theorized everyday life, and how are these theories being challenged by digital transformations? What challenges does the digital pose to epistemologies underlying sociological theories of the everyday?
    • Digital Labor: How is the “gig economy” shifting the means of production, alienation from labor, and wages? How is creating online content a form of labor and who benefits from this? What are the consequences for social life of temporary labor done primarily online?
    • Digital Citizenship: Given the changing landscapes of public and private life, what does it mean to be a citizen in the digital era? Do the affordances of ditigal technologies changes our responsibilities as citizens? How do citizens respond to moves toward “open government” in an era of pervasive government surveillance?
    • Digital Structures, Digital Institutions: The datafication of everyday life is posing unique challenges to the composition of social institutions and giving rise to new instantiations of education, finance, labor, and governance. How do we theorize, study, and conceptualize the re-composition of these institutions?
    • Digital Sociological Methods: How do traditional, analog sociological methods become digital? Are there new, “born digital” sociological methods? Is knowledge production different now? Will big data replace survey methodology?
    • Identity, Community, and Networks: How do sociological concepts of micro and macro, personal and public, “front stage” and “back stage,” evolve as digital and mobile technologies increasingly blur these boundaries? How do digital environments shape identities of race, gender, sexuality and queerness?
    • Social Movements, Digital Technologies: Given the increasing attention to social media as a tool used by both political and social movements and campaigns in the U.S. and abroad, we invite papers that address the connections between movements and media. Topics may include but are not limited to comparisons of online and offline activism, risks and costs associated with online activism, comparisons of traditional and social media, online activist identity, and ways in which social media platforms transmit movement content such as frames.
    • Digital Pedagogy: How are educators using digital tools to teach in innovative ways?

    We encourage submissions from scholars at all levels, and are particularly enthusiastic to support the work of graduate students and early career researchers. We welcome submissions for individual papers and for entirely constituted sessions. The organizers share a commitment to creating a field that honors diverse voices, and as such are excited to see scholars from groups that are typically underrepresented in sociology. When proposing entirely constituted panels, please keep this commitment to diverse voices in mind.

    If you have any questions about proposals, topics, or session ideas please contact one of the organizers: Leslie Jones (lesjones@sas.upenn.edu), Rachel Durso (rdurso2@washcoll.edu)  or Jessie Daniels (jdaniels@hunter.cuny.edu).

    Please submit to https://www.meetingsavvy.org/ess/frmLogin.aspx an abstract of no more than 250 words, as well as the title of the paper, name of presenter as it should appear in the ESS program r , institutional affiliation and contact details. The deadline is October 15, 2016.  In the “Submission Details” window, select “Paper” for “Type of Submission,” and select keyword: “miniconference: digital sociology” for “Select the topic area that best describes your submission.”  Be sure to include a paper title along with your abstract of 250 words or less, your name as it should appear in the ESS program, institutional affiliation, and contact information

    Proposals not accepted for the Mini-Conference will be submitted to the ESS general call for submissions.

  • Mark 11:55 am on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The political economy of podcasting 

    Saving this five part series to come back to properly later:

    Money is chasing money. Podcast advertising expanded at a 48 percent rate last year, and it’s forecast to grow about 25 percent a year through 2020. By that point, it would be approaching half a billion dollars in annual ad revenue. That growth is rising from a small base, yes, but it’s very reminiscent of the old Interactive Advertising Bureau charts of Internet advertising we saw at the turn-of-the-century: tiny numbers growing explosively.


  • Mark 10:49 am on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Some thoughts on fast and slow science in the accelerated academy 

    Notes for my talk at the Accelerated Academy on Friday 

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how the social sciences are proving too slow in catching up to developments in digital technology. This means that engagements with new possibilities are often piecemeal and ad hoc, pushing the threshold of innovation in methods while methodological and theoretical discussion lags further behind. We see changes at the level of platforms, infrastructures, devices and practices which allow new techniques to be developed but discussion of the implications of these techniques, how we should understand what they’re doing and how they fit with older and more established techniques struggles to catch up.

    I’ve argued that the reasons for this are largely to do with the structure of scholarly communication. The proliferation of publications, with an estimated 28,100 journals publishing 2.5 million articles a year, encourages specialisation in both writing and reading. I’ve watched this happen first hand with the asexuality literature, something which has grown from literally a handful of articles seven or eight years ago to a topic which would have to now be my primary focus to ‘keep up with the literature’. This is a microcosm of a much broader trend which I think it’s important for us to understand.

    This is compounded by a norm for much longer articles in many social science disciplines vis-a-vis scientific reports. The imperative to ‘keep up with the literature’ militates against exploration and experimentation, while established forms of social scientific writing make it difficult to get important technical details included in substantive articles in mainstream disciplinary journals. Furthermore, publication is slow and this compounds the inter-journal competition which inculcates intellectual conservatism all around by discouraging epistemic risk taking on behalf of those seeking to be published in the highest status journals and instrumental strategies from lower status journals seeking to raise their impact factors. The more that’s published, the more markers of prestige get fought over in order to ensure that one’s intellectual wares stand out in a crowded market place.

    Established structures of scholarly communication engender slowness in catching up with technical developments. Is the solution therefore to find structures which facilitate faster communication? Two obvious examples stand out here: open science practices and social media. It’s surely a positive thing that open science is becoming better established within the social sciences, such as a journal like Big Data & Society requiring authors to publish datasets and self-archiving of pre-prints becoming an established practice now mandated in the UK in the case of papers. Likewise I think it’s a good thing that social media has been taken up by so many social scientists. It reduces the opportunity costs of exploring outside one’s own area e.g. it’s much less onerous to follow a data science blog then it is to keep up with the latest data science papers. As a corollary, it also makes it easier to form connections outside one’s own circles, both by making it easier to have things in common to talk about and also simply making contact with these people in the first place.

    But the idea these practices would fix the problems of scholarly communication appears to me to rest on a fallacy: ‘slow’ communication is problematic because it entails friction and lag in what would otherwise be ‘fast’ communication. If we break down the barriers, will everything flow more freely and these seemingly intractable problems might be solved? There’s a rich imagery of ‘fast’ & ‘slow’, ‘open’ and ‘closed’, lurking in the background here which we need to be critical of on a political level. But in a more prosaic sense, I think it straight forwardly distracts from the fact that the problem with slow scholarship isn’t simply a structural matter, such that the established system of scholarly communication (aided and abetted by the incentive structures of the contemporary academy) moulds academics to be ‘slow’ and that if we ‘hack the system’ then it might then mould academics to be ‘fast’.

    Under present conditions, I can see how ‘open science’ might lead to all sorts of new pathologies, particularly if the transition from ‘filter then publish’ to ‘publish then filter’ is tied up with the commercial logic of platforms like Academia.Edu, Mendeley and now SSRN. If monetisation of these platforms is dependent on user attention and user data, it stands to reason that engineering strategies serving to maximise both will become a commercial imperative, if they’re not already (and we shouldn’t underestimate how long tech companies can be propped up with capital while making zero profit). The in itself entirely reasonable proposition that non-traditional forms of influence should be incorporated into scholarly metrics is likely to compound such a move, naturalising the algorithmic black boxes of social media and open science platforms and creating new forms of prestige available for fast scholars.

    These mechanisms might not dominate the platform, but the idea of fast, free, open scholarly communication allowing a million flowers to bloom away from the disciplinary structures of the contemporary academy is a dangerous illusion. It represents the common sense of the ‘market’, the epistemic superiority of the crowd, creeping into how we view scholarship. We can need to be profoundly critical about how attention, reward and hierarchy work on these new platforms without jettisoning their affordances entirely in our rush to critique. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use social media, only that we shouldn’t culturally embrace it as the superior ‘new’ in relation to the inferior ‘old’. It should be both/and rather than either/or. This is something which I think will be much harder if we continue to think in terms of ‘fast’ and ‘slow’, at least as an abstract dichotomy we apply to complex systems.

    Nonetheless, I do think we need to in some way hack the structures of scholarly communication if the social sciences are going to reliably keep up in anything more than a narrowly technique-driven way to emerging technologies. But rather than ‘fast’ and ‘slow’, we should perhaps see this in terms of ‘collaborative’ and ‘atomised’: resisting the algorithmic incentives of platforms while embracing the affordances they offer for new forms of working together, even within the constraining structures of the accelerated academy.

  • Mark 8:35 am on September 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , cultural scaffolding, social roles, ,   

    Cultural scaffolding for greedy social roles 

    We all occupy many social roles. All of them are, as Margaret Archer puts it, ‘greedy’: there’s always more things we can do, more time and care we can give to others based on our existing obligations. Many of the reasons we don’t are personal, reflecting our evaluations of what matters to us but also deeply rooted dispositions about how we orientate ourself to life and how we prioritise. 

    But there’s also an obviously cultural dimension to this. In Sweat Equity, by Jason Kelly, he describes the motivation of charity runners. From loc 2577:

    For some more experienced athletes, charity provides cover for what’s ultimately a selfish endeavor. A number of runners conceded this to me, asking not to be identified. One says, “It helps defray the being-away-from-the-family guilt.” Another puts it more bluntly: “When you’re riding your bike for five hours on a Saturday, it’s harder for anyone to argue with you when you say you’re helping cure cancer.”

    Could we consider charitable running as a sort of cultural scaffolding that can be discursively employed, in relation to self and other, in order to justify prioritising one role over another? What other ideas serve this purpose? For instance this is perhaps the role served by the discourse of ‘passion’. Repeat to self when doing email at 11pm on a Sunday night: “I’M DOING WHAT I LOVE”.

  • Mark 10:49 am on September 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The monopoly bias in the sharing economy 

    This struck me as an interesting case that reveals a broader truth about the sharing economy. A description of the very early merger of two companies offering city wide access to unused capacity in fitness classes, from Sweat Equity, by Jason Kelly, loc 1343:

    “When you look at quality fitness inventory in each city, there aren’t thousands of studios,” Kapoor says. “You’re talking in the hundreds range, so the supply is limited. It’s difficult for more than one marketplace to win aggregating this type of supply. We asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to go head to head like Uber and Lyft? Maybe it makes sense to come together. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to help the industry for us to spend time and resources fighting each other versus focusing on our partners and consumers.’”

    The evolution of one of the two companies is itself quite interesting, detailed on the same location in the book:

    Founder Kadakia created the company, initially called Classtivity, as a one-time (one-month) sampler; the service was called the Passport, and it allowed the user to try out various workouts with the assumption that she’d settle on a favorite and join up. The Passport holder was entitled to skip around, depending on mood and availability of classes, and pick what to do that day. One New York magazine writer dubbed it “How to have an open relationship with exercise.” It was such a good idea that people wanted to do it for more than a month.

    The author makes the interesting point that the transitory nature of the ensuing experience erodes the shared experiences which he argues are integral to understanding the fitness boom. From loc 1374:

    One thing ClassPass lacks is a community. Sure, there are lots of ClassPassers running around, and users may collude by text and e-mail to grab a couple of free spots in the same cycling or barre class. But ClassPass removes a key element of what makes so many of its client boutiques so attractive in the first place—the ability to show up, on a regular basis, with your people.

  • Mark 6:46 pm on September 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Collapsing the parameters of our worlds 

    For many years I’ve been interested in the phenomenology of endurance sport. Or rather the phenomenology of the training required by endurance sport. How does this give order to life? What pleasures are derived from the training regime? What’s foreclosed by the strict management of self and how does this add to the appeal?

    I thought back to these questions for the first time in a while when reading Sweat Equity, by Jason Kelly, an interesting discussion of well-being as an economic sector. This passage is on loc 404:

    He was hooked. Du Bey signed up for several more local triathlons. Something inside him changed. “I’d been a working drone on Wall Street for seven years, solely focused on work,” he says. “I think a lot of people throw themselves into careers and get numb, a kind of lack of inspiration and passion for life. Triathlon helped me find that; I think maybe it really changed my life.”

    It suddenly occurs to me that so many things which interest me ultimately relate to this: drug and alcohol addiction, lifestyle minimalism, hyperactive professional lifestyles, travelling without the punctuation of a return home. I’m interested in forms of social practice that individualise in new ways, something which one of my favourite novelists Ruth Ozeki captures beautifully here:


    Under what conditions do the parameters of our world collapse? How, if at all, does this engender a reinflation? When do people seek this? How do they try and avoid it? What are the consequences of living life in this mode? The best way I’ve managed to describe this so far is in terms of the sociology of cognitive triage but this still isn’t quite right.

  • Mark 5:17 pm on September 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Algorithmic Guerrilla Warfare 

    This documentary is worth watching for many reasons but there’s a particularly fascinating section in which the presenter goes undercover at a digital activism training course. The facilitator describes how he spends half an hour a day finding liberal books on Amazon and giving one star reviews, before explaining how this practice needs to be extended across other platforms in order to counteract the influence of liberal culture on young people. I knew this occurred but I’d never heard someone advocate the practice, let alone so enthusiastically. It brings me back to a question I’ve thought about a lot recently: how much of ‘trolling’ is self-understood as digital activism of this sort?

  • Mark 12:03 pm on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Three weeks, four requests and still no ballot paper  

    I just got off the phone to Labour for the third time in three weeks, punctuated by a hopeful online request as well. When I last spoke to them, I was told my ballot paper would arrive by midnight yesterday. Now I’m told it will arrive by midnight on Monday. 

    Given it’s already too late for a postal vote and the deadline for online votes is next Friday, the (likely?) non-arrival of my ballot by Monday night probably signals I won’t get a vote. 

    It’s hard not to feel paranoid at this point and wonder if I’m being denied a vote through a plausibly deniable tale of bureaucratic blunder. In other situations this would have incensed me sufficiently that I’d think seriously about action I could take after but that would only hurt a party I’m trying to support. 

    It’s hard not to wonder if ‘giving up’ is precisely the reaction some in the Labour Party are hoping to engender in hundreds of thousands of new members. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

  • Mark 9:00 am on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The cosmopolitan self vs the endurance self 

    I like this contrast drawn by Arlie Hochschild on loc 2780-2795 of Strangers In Their Own Land:

    Not only her values, but even the kind of self she proudly exhibited—an endurance self—seemed to need defending, because it too seemed to be going out of fashion along with all the blue-collar jobs. “They used to brag on my dad at the plant that he was so reliable and steady.” Janice tells me proudly. But what did that count for anymore? Like her father and uncle, Harold Areno, Janice feels proud to have a rooted self, a self based in a busy, dense, stable community of relatives, co-parishioners, and friends. A newer cosmopolitan self, one that seemed uprooted, loosely attached to an immediate community, prepared to know a lot of people just a little bit, a mobile, even migratory self—this seemed to be coming into vogue. Such a self took pride in exposure to a diverse set of moral codes, but did a person with that kind of self end up thinking “anything goes”? It was frightening. It was wrong. And Janice was having none of it.

    However I think it’s important to recognise how social media could buttress the endurance self, facilitating the experience of that embedding in the absence of face-to-face reality, something likely to become more important as the social conditions liable to generate such an experience of continuity erode yet further. How would/does this mediated endurance self differ from the situated endurance self?

    • Martha Bell 9:06 am on September 16, 2016 Permalink

      I think that is an important question. They might differ greatly in the obligations generated and practised, the ‘taking the role of the other’ and being able to reach out and meet another’s needs before they find themselves in need or in trouble. The situated has always been stitched together by reciprocity. Do we know yet if and how reciprocity forms any part of mediated endurance self?

    • Mark 8:33 am on September 24, 2016 Permalink

      And there’s a risk of falling into seeing ‘offline’ and ‘online’ as distinct: what about when interaction through one reinforces interaction through the other?

  • Mark 8:17 am on September 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The moralisation of insecurity and exploitation 

    From Strangers In Their Own Land, by Arlie Hochschild, loc 2587-2603:

    Not claiming to be a victim, accommodating the downside of loose regulations out of a loyalty to free enterprise—this was a tacit form of heroism, hidden to incurious liberals. Sometimes you had to endure bad news, Janice felt, for a higher good, such as jobs in oil. I was discovering three distinct expressions of this endurance self in different people around Lake Charles—the Team Loyalist, the Worshipper, and the Cowboy, as I came to see them. Each kind of person expresses the value of endurance and expresses a capacity for it. Each attaches an aspect of self to this heroism. The Team Loyalist accomplishes a team goal, supporting the Republican Party. The Worshipper sacrifices a strong wish. The Cowboy affirms a fearless self. Janice was a Team Loyalist.

  • Mark 3:51 pm on September 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    What’s the collective noun for a group of social theorists? 





  • Mark 9:37 am on September 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    music I find inexplicably conducive to writing (#24) 

  • Mark 8:08 am on September 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The poor white American abject  

    From Strangers In Their Own Land, by Arlie Hochschild, loc 2422:

    “Crazy redneck.” “White trash.” “Ignorant Southern Bible-thumper.” You realize that’s you they’re talking about. You hear these terms on the radio, on television, read them on blogs. The gall. You’re offended. You’re angry. And you really hate the endless parade of complainers encouraged by a 1960s culture that seems to have settled over the land. 

    On top of that, Hollywood films and popular television either ignore people like you or feature them—as in Buckwild—in unflattering ways. “Two missing front teeth, all raggedy, that’s how they show us,” one man complained. The stock image of the early twentieth century, the “Negro” minstrel, a rural simpleton, the journalist Barbara Ehrenreich notes, has now been upgraded, whitened, and continued in such television programs as Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. “Working class whites are now regularly portrayed as moronic, while blacks are often hyper-articulate, street smart . . . and rich.”

  • Mark 7:32 pm on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The “least resistant personality profile” 

    A really disturbing extract from Arlie Hochschild’s new book, Strangers In Their Own Land. On loc 1445 she shares the profile of the “least resistant personality” offered by a consultancy firm in 1984, hired to advise on locating waste-to-energy plants in areas likely to provoke little resistance from the local community:

    – Longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest 

    • High school educated only 
    • Catholic 
    • Uninvolved in social issues, and without a culture of activism 
    • Involved in mining, farming, ranching (what Cerrell called “nature exploitative occupations”) 
    • Conservative 
    • Republican 
    • Advocates of the free market

Are there other examples of political passivity, a lack of inclination or capacity for collective action, being so nakedly modelled as a desirable goal?

  • Mark 11:38 am on September 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , jeff sachs, , , ,   

    Ambient intimacy and cultures of overwork 

    In a recent book about the neoliberal superstar turned aspiring world saviour Jeffrey Sachs, a quote from his wife caught my attention. On loc 2909, she describes how Sachs only sleeps for four hours a night and works constantly throughout his waking hours. Even on a family holiday, he

    often gave two or three speeches a day in addition to meetings starting anytime from 7 a.m. till late at night. He then spent most nights writing technical papers, articles, memos and proposals, while keeping in daily contact with his colleagues, working with them via phone, fax and email. All this, while consuming about a book a day on topics ranging from ecology through tropical diseases.

    How do you feel when you read this? Sachs is obviously an extreme case but the uptake of social media in academia makes it much more likely we’ll be exposed to information about the working routines of people outside our immediate circles.

    In some cases, this can be a good thing and such ambient intimacy can be a foundation for solidarity, as people see the possibility of working collectively to ameliorate shared conditions. But it can often be decidedly negative, creating unrealistic perceptions of how much others are working and helping contribute to cultures of overwork.

    We need to be careful about how we present our own working habits through social media, as well as how we interpret the self-presentation of others.

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