Month: March 2019

I’m saving this here to come back to because I’m very interested in this theme. Call for Workshop Participation Algorithms on the Shop Floor: Data-driven Technologies in Organizational Context Deadline for applications: April 19, 2019 Workshop date: June 14, 2019 in NYC at Data & Society <; Application link: <; For questions, email <> On […]

There’s an interesting aside in Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain on pg 98 which has left me thinking about why I’m so interested in distraction: Here he tied his essay into a venerable tradition in psychiatry going back at least to the early twentieth century, namely, that madness and mental illness pointed to a failure to […]

My notes on Brooker, P. (2019). My unexpectedly militant bots: A case for Programming-as-Social-Science. The Sociological Review. In this thought provoking paper, Phil Brooker takes issue with the scaremongering surroundings bots which positions them as epistemically dangerous due to their quantity and capacity to evade deception. Instead he propose sociologists engage with them as […]

From pg 68 of Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain: Thus if the arrangement is such that the sound becomes positively associated both with the attracting light and with the withdrawal from an obstacle, it is possible for both a light and a sound to set up a paradoxical withdrawal. The ‘instinctive’ attraction to a light […]

This section of Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain just reawakened my interest in psychedelic drugs and their effects upon consciousness. From pg 73: Walter’s 1953 book The Living Brain is largely devoted to the science of the normal brain and its pathologies, epilepsy and mental illness. But in different passages it also goes beyond the […]

Another theme which feels important to me in Pickering’s superb The Cybernetic Brain is the ontological gap between entities and interaction. If we imagine the world as composed of discrete entities with defined characteristics, it invites an approach to knowledge in which we merely place them into a taxonomy in a manner which leaves them in […]

It’s difficult to read Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain and not be swept up in his infectious enthusiasm for the British cyberneticians. They were the fun wing of an approach which “emerged from nowhere as far as established fields and career paths were concerned” with the “cyberneticians and their projects were outsiders to established fields […]

Despite widespread condemnations of ‘methodological nationalism’, calls for a more ‘global sociology’, and vibrant debates about decolonising the university, sociology cannot sustain the pretence that the ‘global North’ has been decentred. Indeed, sociology, even with its interdisciplinary posturing, remains dominated by theories and methodologies which emerge from and refer to the (over)developed world. In this […]

I’m very taken with Andrew Pickering’s concept of veiling. If I understand him correctly, it refers to how knowledge production can circumscribe reality by taking us on a detour from certain aspects of it. Those features which resist representation in our approach risk dropping off stage, unseen and unheard. He uses it to refer to how […]

This is a term which Andrew Pickering uses on pg 10 of the Cybernetic Brain to describe the conference series and dining club around which cybernetics coalesced, as organisationally loose and somewhat self-selecting gatherings substituted for the secure institutional base which the majority of participants lacked. Scholarly centres of gravity are what bring people together […]

This is a wonderful section from pg 9 of Andrew Pickering’s The Cybernetic Brain: Unlike more familiar sciences such as physics, which remain tied to specific academic departments and scholarly modes of transmission, cybernetics is better seen as a form of life , a way of going on in the world, even an attitude, that […]

This looks like it’s going to be a brilliant conference: CALL FOR PAPERS (deadline: 22 April 2019) The third culture? // Literature and Sociology University of Warwick (Coventry) – 14 June 2019 In 1985 Wolf Lepenies argued that sociology should be considered a ‘third culture’ arising between science and literature. Contemporary discourses and research, however, […]

I was struck by this phrase by Ivan Illich in Deschooling Society, conveying his scepticism of the promise of educational technology in the 1970s. On pg 67 he writes of an “attempt to escalate an old dream into fact, and to finally make all valuable learning the result of professional teaching”. It left me wondering […]

My notes on Lupton, D. (2018). How do data come to matter? Living and becoming with personal data. Big Data & Society, 5(2), 2053951718786314. In this paper, Deborah Lupton extends her work on the quantified self into a broader theorisation of how people come to live with data. It foregrounds the voluntary dimension of this process, in […]

This is a fascinating analysis of demographic trends in the UK, considering the implications of a coming expansion of 18 year olds for UK higher education in the 2020s. Extrapolating forward from current application rates, 50% of this cohort will be applying to go to university and the system is currently ill equipped to absorb […]