Updates from November, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 4:36 pm on November 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The Political Economy of the American South 

    From Paul Theroux’s Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads, pg 48:

    I was to hear this story all over the rural South, in the ruined towns that had been manufacturing centers, sustained by the making of furniture, or appliances, or roofing materials, or plastic products, the labor-intensive jobs that kept a town ticking over. Companies had come to the South because the labor force was available and willing, wages were low, land was inexpensive, and unions were nonexistent. And so a measure of progress held out the promise of better things, perhaps prosperity. Nowhere in the United States could manufacturing be carried on so cheaply. And that was the case until these manufacturers discovered that however cheap it was to make things in the right-to-work states of the South, it was even cheaper in sweatshop China. The contraction and impoverishment of the South has a great deal to do with the outsourcing of work to China and India, Even the catfish farms—an important income-producing industry all over the rural South—have been put out of business by the exports of fish farmers in Vietnam.

  • Mark 1:36 pm on November 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    This week: the second Accelerated Academy 

    30 November-2 December 2016, Leiden (Scheltema, Marktsteeg 1)

    Conference organisers
    Sarah de Rijcke, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University

    Björn Hammarfelt, University of Borås, Sweden | Leiden University

    Alex Rushforth, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University

    Scientific committee

    Mark Carrigan, University of Warwick

    Tereza Stöckelová, Czech Academy of Sciences

    Filip Vostal, Czech Academy of Sciences

    Paul Wouters, Leiden University

    Milena Kremakova, University of Warwick

    From the 1980s onward, there has been an unprecedented growth of institutions and procedures for auditing and evaluating university research. Quantitative indicators are now widely used from the level of individual researchers to that of entire universities, serving to make academic activities more visible, accountable and amenable to university management and marketing. Further demands for accountability in academia can be related to general societal trends described under the heading of the audit society (Power 1997), and the evaluation society (Dahler-Larsen 2011). As part of broader transformations in research governance, indicators on publications and citations are now permeating academia: from global university rankings to journal-level bibliometrics such as the journal impact factor and individual measures like the h-index. Yet, it is only recently that considerable interest has been directed towards the effects that these measures might have on work practices and knowledge production (c.f. de Rijcke et al. 2015), and the role they might be playing in accelerating academic life more generally (c.f. Vostal 2016).

    The Accelerated Academy draws together a number of cross-disciplinary conversations about the effects that acceleration towards metric forms of evaluation is having upon research, and the implications this holds for living and working in contemporary academia (Felt et al. 2009). Building on the successful maiden edition of the Accelerated Academy series in Prague in 2015, this year’s Leiden conference will be especially focussed towards the following questions:

    What does acceleration mean in different research contexts?

    What are the implications of digitally mediated measurement and tools for quantifying scholarly performance?

    What are the knowledge gaps regarding the effects of metrics on scientific quality and societal relevance of research?

    How can we harness the positive and minimize the adverse effects of performance measurement in universities?

    Keynote Speakers

    Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna) – Valuing time: Temporalities, regimes of worth and changing research cultures

    How are the temporal reorderings of contemporary academic research cultures related to (e)valuative practices? This is the core question addressed in my key note. It will start from the diagnosis that many of the critiques and doubts raised about the quality and efficiency of our research systems have been frequently addressed through profoundly restructuring the temporal dimensions of academic lives, work, knowledge production and management. From there the presentation will invite a reflection on the effects of this re-timing of academic research environments and how it in turn supports and stabilizes specific valuation practices. It will invite to look beyond phenomena of acceleration and engage with the wider phenomenon of politics of time at work in academia. Looking into one exemplary field where we can observe chronopolitics at work, the talk will focus on the complex relations of temporalities and indicators (as one expression of worth).

    Peter Dahler-Larsen (University of Copenhagen) – The Evaluation Society and Academia

    In the evaluation society, evaluation machinery and infrastructure connect measurements and objects across time and space in unprecedented ways. Evaluation contributes to contingency and acceleration. The effects upon research and research quality are complex, including, potentially, the reconfiguration of the very meaning of research, relations among colleagues, the definitions of research fields, and relations between research and society. The impact of evaluation upon research is difficult to interpret. Our interpretations rest on assumptions. This key note offers three perspectives, roughly described as “the metrological perspective”, “the political perspective”, and the “constructivist perspective”. Each perspective is characterized by distinct assumptions, issues of interest, and orientations regarding what needs to be done.

  • Mark 1:30 pm on November 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Why are there 3 philosophy magazines but no sociology one? 

    I just spotted New Philosopher for the first time, in an airport newsagents. I’ve occasionally bought or subscribed to Philosopher’s Magazine and Philosophy Now in the past. That makes three popular magazines about philosophy aimed at a general audience. Why such an abundance of philosophy magazines and yet no comparable sociology publications? Is it because the public appetite couldn’t support a sociology magazine? Or is it because sociologists haven’t tried since New Society folded? Is it time for Discover Society to launch a print edition? Or something else entirely?

  • Mark 2:08 pm on November 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Five propositions about #publicsociology 

    Some thoughts after yesterday’s public sociology day in Manchester:

    • The meaning of ‘public sociology’ is not always self-evident and the enthusiasm of the impulse expressed through the term can cloud its meaning yet further. We need to be clear about what we are doing and why.
    • This clarity can help us negotiate the ambivalent spaces for public sociology created within institutions that speak the language of ‘impact’, ‘public engagement’, ‘knowledge exchange’, ‘enterprise’ and ‘outreach’. There are opportunities for public sociology here but also dangers.
    • The competitive individualism of the academy risks being reproduced in a discourse of ‘public sociology’ dominated by white, male professorial public sociologists. We need to celebrate the practice of public sociology, rather than the academic brands of the most prominent public sociologists. [thanks to the res-sisters and Lambros Fatsis for making this point so clearly, in slightly different ways]
    • Our prevailing systems of scholarly communication risk canalising the impulse towards ‘public sociology’ into abstract reflection upon what should ultimately be a practical activity. Sustaining employment in the academy necessitates ‘outputs’ of a certain restricted kind but we must avoid letting these define what we take public sociology to be.
    • We can take these limitations of existing systems as an inspiration to build new systems. How do we create platforms for public sociology that facilitate and encourage it as a collective endeavour, rather than the lone pursuit of isolated individuals within an accelerated academy?
  • Mark 1:50 pm on November 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    What is ‘the literature’? 

    My experience of watching the literature on asexuality spiral from a handful of papers ever through to new ones each month has left me fascinated by how quickly ‘the literature’ can become unmanageable. Within a relatively small and nascent field, it’s possible to grasp ‘the literature’ as a totality. But past a certain point, circumscribing it becomes an inevitability for purely practical reasons: focusing on this, ignoring that, excluding material from different disciplines.

    At what point does it become impossible to represent ‘the literature’ as a totality? The impulse to do this doesn’t cease but with its growth these depictions are increasingly performative rather than representational. Demonstrating mastery of ‘the literature’ entails authoritatively circumscribing large chunks of the total knowledge stock within the field, naturalising these occlusion in a way liable to influence others. 

    Furthermore, ‘the literature’ as a totality necessarily eludes depictions of it because each of these claimed attempts to represent the object in fact contribute  to that object’s spiralling complexity. 

    The way we talk and think about ‘the literature’ is unsuited to the realities of publishing in the accelerated academy.

  • Mark 6:02 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Nick Land   

    The lineaments of techno-fascism 

    A fascinating essay exploring the possible relationship between Nick Land’s right-accelerationism and possible future techno-reactionary movements:

    Nick Land, like Moldbug and many other neoreactionaries, typically shuns the term “fascist.” Admittedly, they have some good reasons to do so: despite NRx racism and authoritarianism, its political economy is closer to Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore than Hitler’s Reich. Yet there’s a problem. Land is an elitist, more loyal to IQ than ethnicity, and with a marked contempt for the “inarticulate proles” of neoreaction’s white nationalist wing. But Land himself notes that it’s precisely these “proles” that make up most of the actual “reactosphere,” and that “if reaction ever became a popular movement, its few slender threads of bourgeois (or perhaps dreamily ‘aristocratic’) civility wouldn’t hold back the beast for long.” It’s entirely possible that reaction never does become a popular movement — a new economic boom, for one, would do a lot to soothe the disaffection on which it feeds — yet if it were to grow, the proposed alliance of convenience between the tech elite and an intransigent white identity politics begins to look a lot like the Nazi coalition of German industrialists and a downwardly-mobile middle class. That doesn’t mean it’s “fascism,” a term both so broad and so particular as to be all but meaningless these days, per se. But in the twenty-first century, it may be that the Dark Enlightenment is what we get instead.


  • Mark 5:29 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , enschlatung, guidance, , , , unburdening   

    The substitute socialisation of the marine corp 

    From J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, pg 173-174:

    The Marine Corps assumes maximum ignorance from its enlisted folks. It assumes that no one taught you anything about physical fitness, personal hygiene, or personal finances. I took mandatory classes about balancing a checkbook, saving, and investing. When I came home from boot camp with my fifteen-hundred-dollar earnings deposited in a mediocre regional bank, a senior enlisted marine drove me to Navy Federal—a respected credit union—and had me open an account. When I caught strep throat and tried to tough it out, my commanding officer noticed and ordered me to the doctor. We used to complain constantly about the biggest perceived difference between our jobs and civilian jobs: In the civilian world, your boss wasn’t able to control your life after you left work. In the Marines, my boss didn’t just make sure I did a good job, he made sure I kept my room clean, kept my hair cut, and ironed my uniforms. He sent an older marine to supervise as I shopped for my first car so that I’d end up with a practical car, like a Toyota or a Honda, not the BMW I wanted.

  • Mark 2:47 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Social Media and Public Sociology 

    Notes for The Practice of Public Sociology

    It can seem obvious that there’s some relationship between social media and public sociology. After all, these are platforms which offer free, instantaneous and immediate access to audiences ranging from the tens of millions to the billions. However unpacking the relationship between social media and public sociology requires we be careful about exactly what we see social media as allowing us to do. Social media platforms allow us to publish in a way that bypasses traditional intermediaries. It facilitates new forms of multimedia engagement. It allows us to do this with an immediacy which couldn’t be further removed from the time-consuming process of traditional scholarly publishing.

    However this isn’t necessarily doing public sociology. Communicating sociological ideas doesn’t entail that anyone hear or responds to them. We can publish work without necessarily making it public. Being clear about the sense in which we’re trying to do public sociology is crucial if we’re going to take advantages of the opportunities it offers us. In our current climate, universities are expecting academics to embrace social media to indicate their capacity for impact, creating a risk that we embrace these platforms without any clear purpose in mind. Without serious thought, there’s a real possibility that, as Bourdieu once put it, we confuse “verbal sparring at conferences for ‘interventions’ in the affairs of the polis”.

    An obvious question then: for what sort of purposes might we use social media as public sociologists?

    • As an extension of traditional public sociology: using social media to try and enter into public conversations, increase the influence of sociological ideas and ensuring sociological findings are prominent within public debates. I paraphrased John Holmwood’s keynote at the BSA a few years ago as advocating that we “occupy debate and make inequality matter”. This has traditionally been through writing books for a wider audience, opinion columns in newspapers and making appearances on national media. Social media can support this activity by making sociologists more easily discoverable by journalists and producers. It’s also extending the range of online outlets, with newspapers and magazines having large digital sections and new online-only publications opening up which specialise in academic content. But it creates new opportunities for narrow-casting rather than broadcasting, connecting with specific audiences who might previously have been marginalised within mainstream media. For this reason, writing for specialised blogs and engaging with niche social media forums can be an effective form of traditional public sociology if the publics you want to engage with are pre-constituted and specific.
    • As an extension of organic public sociology: working in a scholar-activist capacity with groups, organisations, campaigns and movements. Social media offers new ways of identifying and beginning to engage with groups, it offers new ways of supporting groups (albeit ones that might often blur into the category of traditional public sociology) and it offers new ways of making this activity visible within the academy in a way that might draw others into their remit. Social media is changing how such groups can come together, particularly in their initial stages, by offering new opportunities and challenges for assembling similarly-concerned people in time and space. But the very fact of these changes also transforms the relationality of how digital public sociologists engage with them over time. Though we should of course be wary of overstating the point, with the risk that we license a lapse into slacktavism.

    There are important new challenges public sociologists face in both cases. Traditional public sociology may be easier than ever but it creates the problem of being heard above the noise. How do we ensure that our attempted interventions have an effect? Existing academic platforms like The Conversation, The Sociological Review, Discover Society and the LSE Blogs serve a purpose here by pre-assembling a public and mediating engagements with them. It can be difficult to assemble your own audience, unless you invest a lot of time and energy in regularly engaging on social media, have a pre-existing reputation to leverage or are seeking to communicate with a very specialised public. Learning about platforms like these helps you identify which, if any, seem right for your purposes. They all offer clear guidelines about how to submit material and are edited by people who are used to working with academics in this capacity.

    Organic public sociology may be more visible but with this too comes hazards. When it is informed by our own research, the gap between researcher and researched narrows precipitously. For instance, my own experience of researching asexuality was that I very readily got drawn into doing media and campaigning work as an ally. But this also meant that many people in the asexual community were reading and engaging with material I was sharing online, as well as sometimes criticising it. In one case, this was a really informative critique that changed my mind on a specific issue. In another, it was a quote taken out of context which got circulated widely on Tumblr. These are examples of new challenges which we’re not trained for and we need to consider carefully

    There’s a risk that the style of communication we’ve all been traded in proves utterly ineffective for digital public sociology. One of my favourite passages by C Wright Mills concerns the tendency of academics to “slip so readily into unintelligibility”. An “elaborate vocabulary” and “involved manner of speaking and writing” become props for a professional self-image which defines itself, in part, through the inaccessibility of the work being produced. If that work is now accessible then it holds this writing up to scrutiny. It may seem absurd, it may provoke offence but it’s perhaps much more likely to simply fail to gain any purchase and leave us talking amongst ourselves.

    We also need to be careful about the climate within which we’re trying to do digital public sociology because it’s so dominated by a competitive individualism in which people are seeking to win attention for their work. The problem is that winning attention for your work doesn’t take place in a vacuum. As the digital anthropologist Melissa Gregg puts it, “even uniqueness starts to sound the same when everyone is trying to perform”. If everyone is seeking to build an audience and stand out from the crowd then the challenge of achieving these aims spirals ever upwards, excluding ever more people from the process in gendered and classed ways while this subordination is masked by the powerful rhetoric of openness.

    To give one example of trend, George Veletsianos found in a study of educational tweeters that “the top 1 percent of scholars have an average follower base nearly 700 times that of scholars in the bottom 50 percent and nearly 100 times that of scholars in the other 99 percent” (loc 1162-1708). Rather than undermining old hierarchies, social media supplements new ones, with complex emergent effects: sometimes allowing the already celebrated to quickly amass a social media following or to allow those with a big social media following to translate this into academic capital. This is part of the reason why I think community-orientated platforms such as The Sociological Review and Discover Society are likely to prove so important in mitigating the ‘celebrity’-generating effects of social media.

    But hopefully if we focus our discussion of digital public sociology on specific aspirations, projects and publics then we can negotiate these institutional difficulties. There are real opportunities here but also profound challenges.

  • Mark 1:20 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , tyrants   

    The Affectivity of the Nascent Tyrant 

    By far the best film I’ve seen this year was The Childhood of a Leader. It recounts a number of episodes in the life of a nascent tyrant, exploring the emergence of what is hinted to be a boundless rage that might one day transform the world:

    I’ve been thinking about this film since encountering Auden’s Epitaph on a Tyrant yesterday:

    Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
    And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
    He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
    And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
    When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
    And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

    What makes a potential tyrant? It’s the most obvious question to ask when history presents us with towering, pathological and destructive figures who have seemingly remade the world in their image. It’s one sociology is instinctively sceptical towards, given the risk that we uncritically adopt a ‘great men’ theory of history and obscure the social and cultural forces which allowed any such figure to assume the power that they did. But it’s one which I think can be legitimately asked, from a psychosocial perspective, without lapsing into reductive individualism.

    This must surely involve resisting simplistic applications of labels. As Jon Ronson points out in his new book on Trump, there’s something that could be seen as a tad psychopathic about arm-chair diagnoses of psychopathy from afar. From loc 538:

    A FEW WEEKS BEFORE I flew to Cleveland, I sat in the Green Room at the Pasadena Convention Center. I was there to give a talk entitled “Is Donald Trump A Psychopath?” All year, people had been asking me my opinion on that topic. (This wasn’t random: I had written a book about psychopaths.) I consider it somewhat psychopathic to label someone from afar as a psychopath. We love nothing more than to declare other people insane, especially people we don’t like. Diagnosing people as psychopaths from afar, I’d say, speaks to Items 2, 8 and 15 on the Psychopath Checklist —Grandiose Self-Worth, Lack of Empathy and Irresponsibility. You might even add Item 9, Parasitic Lifestyle, if you consider diagnosing Donald Trump from afar as a psychopath to be a parasitic lifestyle.

    But can we nonetheless try and imaginatively enter into the affectivity of nascent tyrants? I have no idea of how to begin this process in a systematic way but there are cultural resources which might offer us hints. Two songs I’ve always liked came immediately to mind when I had this thought:

    One concerns rejection and the other mastery. In the first case, we can imagine a refusal to accept rejection and an absolute mythologisation of self that emerges from this. In the second case, a preoccupation with the pleasures of mastery and where this might ultimately lead someone in how they orientate themselves to the opportunities they see in the world to assume further control.

    They both suggest the sheer potentiality inherent in raw emotion, how this is usually canalised in predictable patterns but the terrifyingly open-ended possibility of where certain individuals might under certain conditions be led in their coming-to-terms with what they confront.

    Has anyone got suggestions of further pieces of music that explore these themes?

  • Mark 12:12 pm on November 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , mega cities, , , urban sociology   

    Towards a sociology of Pikettyville 

    From this fascinating paper by Roger Burrows, Richard Webber and Rowland Atkinson:

    To talk of ‘Pikettyville’ is then to conjure up an image of an urban system that has become hardwired to adopting, channelling and inviting excesses of social and economic capital in search of a space in which the rich not only find safe haven but are also privileged by the kind of property and income tax regimes and wider economic climate that allows them to thrive on their capital investments, while the wider city experiences some of the most challenging economic conditions since the early 20th century (Atkinson et al., 2016b).

  • Mark 7:07 pm on November 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , friction, , , , ,   

    No longer praying at the altar of virality 

    An important idea offered by Mike Caulfield. The embrace of frictionless sharing and the relentless pursuit of engagement have created the problems which are now being naturalised by the emerging ‘did Facebook lead to Trump’ discourse:

    We have prayed at the altar of virality a long time, and I’m not sure it’s working out for us as a society. If reliance on virality is creating the incentives to create a culture of disinformation, then consider dialing down virality.

    We know how to do this. Slow people down. Incentivize them to read. Increase friction, instead of relentlessly removing it.

    Facebook is a viral sharing platform, and has spent hundreds of millions getting you to share virally. And here we are.

    What if Facebook saw itself as a deep reading platform? What if it spent hundreds of millions of dollars getting you read articles carefully rather than sharing them thoughtlessly?

    What if Facebook saw itself as a deep research platform? What if it spent its hundreds of millions of dollars of R & D building tools to help you research what you read?


  • Mark 3:03 pm on November 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chronoautonomy, , , chronosolidarity, , ,   


    In Work’s Intimacy, Melissa Gregg pays much attention to the challenge faced by part-time workers in knowledge industries. Many of her participants within this category reported regularly finding themselves checking e-mail outside of their paid hours, something they saw as necessary to ensure they were ‘prepared’. In this way, ‘catch up days’ become an unpaid accompaniment to the hours part-time workers are actually paid for. These activities were often explained in terms of personal autonomy and choice, sacrificing free time in the name of professional performance on work days. But as Gregg writes on loc 1273:

    Even though their language speaks of personal preference and exceptionalism, their consistent stories point to a clear problem in the way part-time work is recognized in information and communication jobs. No formal policies existed for them to manage online obligations; nor were there guidelines for appropriate response times. Employees operated on the basis of vague and self-imposed ideas about what management would or wouldn’t expect. In each case, there was simply no framework for discussing how part-time work was repositioned in light of the widespread reliance on online technologies in team-based office cultures (see chapter 4). Technology served to confirm, when it did not also accelerate the temporality of the workplace. Improvised and makeshift arrangements left many part-timers feeling apologetic for their so-called “flexible” positions.

    I agree this is a failure of management. But it’s also a failure of colleagues, in terms of what we might call chronoimagination (recognising that someone else’s temporal experience might be different to yours) and chronosolidarity (identifying a common interest in sustainable temporalities of work in spite of these differences). Chronosolidarity is easy when people are obviously in a similar position to yourself, though small communicative acts of reassurance and understanding are no less valuable for the fact they come easily. But the challenge comes when temporal positions work rather differently, too easily giving rise to the assumption someone else’s working life is easier or perhaps not giving rise to thought at all.

    Under working conditions which are informal, flexible/precarious and desynchronised, chronoimagination and chronosolidarity should be regarded as important factors in shaping the experience of work. Doing so should not blind us to the structural origins of these problems, such that they are reproduced to interpersonal challenges susceptible to a technical fix. But we need to recognise the imagination relating to converging/diverging experiences of time which we bring to bear, or fail to, in our dealings with others who are differently placed in relation to organisational hierarchies.

  • Mark 10:50 am on November 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    A vicious circle of reprisals and hostility 

    From this week’s Economist leader. I suspect they’re underestimating the extent to which Trump will largely enact the Ryan-ist mainstream in economic policy. However they’re surely correct about the underlying dynamic: Trump’s policies intensifying the conditions which gave rise to him, creating more anger and encouraging the ethno-nationalist channeling of that anger as a political survival mechanism:

    Mr Trump needs to realise that his policies will unfold in the context of other countries’ jealous nationalism. Disengaging will not cut America off from the world so much as leave it vulnerable to the turmoil and strife that the new nationalism engenders. As global politics is poisoned, America will be impoverished and its own anger will grow, which risks trapping Mr Trump in a vicious circle of reprisals and hostility. It is not too late for him to abandon his dark vision. For the sake of his country and the world he urgently needs to reclaim the enlightened patriotism of the presidents who went before him.


  • Mark 3:18 pm on November 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The Practice of Public Sociology: Sociological Review Early Career Event 

    We’ve recently had some cancellations for the forthcoming event, The Practice of Public Sociology: Sociological Review Early Career Event. 

    If you would like one of these places, please registered here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-practice-of-public-sociology-sociological-review-early-career-event-tickets-28652394082 
    The Practice of Public Sociology

    Manchester Digital Laboratory, November 24th, Manchester

    For over a decade public sociology has been a mainstream topic of discussion within the discipline. While practiced prior to the 2004 address by Michael Burawoy to the American Sociological Association, its identification and elaboration on an intellectual level was crucial to its popularisation. But is it possible that the voluminous literature that emerged in the years following has left us with a public sociology that is overly-discursive? While undoubtedly important, is there a risk that theorising about public sociology gets in the way of its practice? This event organised by The Sociological Review’s Early Career Forum takes as its starting point David Mellor’s 2011 argument that “we don’t need to debate public sociology anymore; we need to get good at it“. We invite early career researchers who share this aim to join us for a day of workshops, discussion and debate about how we can collectively improve our practice of public sociology. 


    Maddie Breeze, Queen Margaret University

    Mark Carrigan, The Sociological Review

    Ipek Demir, University of Leicester

    Lambros Fatsis, University of Southampton

    Ruth Pearce, University of Warwick


    Working With Community Groups Dan Silver, Social Action & Research Foundation and Alex Albert, University of Manchester

    Theorising Public Sociology, Lambros Fatsis, University of Southampton

    Social Media and Public Sociology, Mark Carrigan, The Sociological Review

    Teaching Public Sociology, Maddie Breeze and Karl Johnson, Queen Margaret University

    Writing Clearly for a Public Audience Simon Makin, Science Journalist

    Working with Photo Archives, Ben Kyneswood, Photo Mining

    Resistance in Higher Education, Res-Sisters

  • Mark 3:06 pm on November 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Call for Papers: State Crime and Digital Resistance (Deadline 30 November) 

    Special Issue, State Crime Journal (May 2018)


    Sign up for 6th January 2017 workshop here: http://statecrime.org/state-crime-research/call-for-papersworkshop-special-issue-of-state-crime-journal/

    This special issue of State Crime seeks to investigate how changing patterns of state crime are being shaped by the massive growth of a digital communications infrastructure which permeates everyday life for billions of people through the explosive spread of networked mobile devices, social media platforms and cloud computing systems. It will also highlight how and to what extent these same technologies and infrastructures can be repurposed to expose and resist state crime. The long-standing entanglement between monopolistic digital media corporations, the government and military has facilitated the creation of privatized systems of mass surveillance, alongside the expansion of mass surveillance systems controlled by states. Is this leading to the development of a ‘networked authoritarianism’, which in turn is altering state-society relations and creating a fertile environment for unaccountability, corruption and human rights violations?

    While amateur, user-generated digital content can be used to challenge the information monopoly of professional media conglomerates, a more nuanced understanding of verification methodologies is needed to enrich the critical discourse on citizen participation in human rights reporting. More importantly, emergent forms of digital activism can highlight how civil society can serve as a counterweight to the political and economic hegemony of states and corporations. Here, case studies of digital resistance from below can further demonstrate the extent of civic engagement in (1) naming, defining, exposing and challenging state crime (Green and Ward, 2004); and (2) developing a more open, democratic and participatory digital architecture which facilitates ‘unmasking the crimes of the powerful’ (Tombs and Whyte, 2003).

    We welcome submissions for this special issue on ‘State Crime and Digital Resistance’ with a focus on the following three sub-themes:

       – The state / corporate / crime nexus from the perspective of digital infrastructure and the political economy of digital media and services

       – Issues in digital verification and evidence

       – Digital activism and resistance

    We will be convening a workshop at QMUL for potential contributors to the special issue on 6 January 2017. This will provide a valuable opportunity to present and discuss research which will form the basis of accepted articles. The workshop will also serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas with other contributors to shape the intellectual agenda of the special issue.

    Please indicate if you would like your paper to be considered for inclusion in the workshop.

    All submissions will be subject to a full peer review process. The timetable for submission and publication is as follows:

    Submission of abstracts (up to 500 words): 30th November 2016

    Response to abstract submissions: 7th December 2016

    Workshop Date: 6th January 2017 (Sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/state-crime-and-digital-resistance-workshop-tickets-29274521883)

    Submission of full article: 31st April 2017

    Decisions/Reviewers’ Responses to Author(s): 31st June 2017

    Submission of Final Versions: 31st January 2018

    Publication: May 2018

  • Mark 2:38 pm on November 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Out Now: Selected Papers of Margaret Archer 

    I was first taught by Margaret Archer in 2006, as an MA Philosophy student at the University of Warwick. At that point I was a committed Rortian but the discussions and debates we had in seminars over that year laid the groundwork for my later turn towards critical realism. She subsequently supervised my part-time PhD for 6 years and for the last 3 years I’ve worked with her as research fellow in the Centre for Social Ontology.

    During that time, I’ve had countless conversations about her work which have left me with a clear understanding of how it fits together. In essence, the whole thing is one vast project which she’s been working on for much of her life. This internal coherence leaves her work rewarding sustained engagement but it can also make it somewhat difficult to initially engage with. This is why myself, Tom Brock and Graham Scambler thought it would be a good idea to edit an introductory volume of her papers:

    9781138932944Professor Margaret Archer is a leading critical realist and major contemporary social theorist. This edited collection seeks to celebrate the scope and accomplishments of her work, distilling her theoretical and empirical contributions into four sections which capture the essence and trajectory of her research over almost four decades. Long fascinated with the problem of structure and agency, Archer’s work has constituted a decade-long engagement with this perennial issue of social thought. However, in spite of the deep interconnections that unify her body of work, it is rarely treated as a coherent whole. This is doubtless in part due to the unforgiving rigour of her arguments and prose, but also a byproduct of sociology’s ongoing compartmentalisation.


    As well as thirteen chapters covering the full range of her work, we’ve compiled a number of other features intended to help orientate those who are relatively new to it:

    • A forward from Doug Porpora introducing Maggie as a person and the approach she takes to her work.
    • An overview of the overarching approach and key themes which can be found in her work.
    • A systematic account of the morphogenetic approach, summing up six books worth of developments in one chapter.
    • A first-person account of the development of the morphogenetic approach.
    • An annotated bibliography.
    • An interview with Maggie about her intellectual trajectory.

    Unfortunately the book is rather expensive. We hope people will still be able to obtain a copy and encourage them to order one for their institutional libraries. We’d love to hear from people who are engaging with the book, whether for their own research or for teaching Maggie’s work. Though she’s widely respected within social theory, we don’t believe she’s engaged with or taught as widely as she deserves to be. Hopefully, this collection we’ve put together might help change this.

  • Mark 3:57 pm on November 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    The affinity between enlightened technocrats and digital elites 

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