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  • Mark 4:10 pm on July 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: digital condition   

    The Digital Condition: An Experiment in Mediated Dialogue 

    What does it mean to speak of a digital condition? How can we describe, explain and understand our digital condition? What is it, that we are trying to come to terms with? Where exactly does ‘the problem’ of technology lie? Beginning in October 2019 we will embark on an experimental discussion group centred around those questions. 

    Each week we will collectively engage with one text before moving on to a jarringly different take on ‘the digital condition’ in the following week. Instead of presenting a syllabus with a canon of text, our intention is to produce a participatory anti-canon that doesn’t follow a straight line but disorients, refracts, shocks and meanders. 

    We are therefore asking anyone interested in participating to send us a suggested reading. What text do you think is important to make sense of the digital condition? What text would like to introduce to and discuss with a larger, interdisciplinary group? This can be any text (journal article, book chapter etc) by any author, but please bear in mind an appropriate length for a weekly reading.

    To participate please send a suggested text and 100 word description of your choice and a short biographical note to mark@markcarrigan.net and contact@milanstuermer.com by September 30th 2019. 

    We will select 10 texts from contributions on the basis of the following imperatives. Our intention is to produce an anti-canon, assembled in a participatory way through the juxtaposition of submissions: 

    1. Maximising the disciplinary diversity of contributors
    2. Maximising the disciplinary diversity of contributions 
    3. Minimising thematic and substantive replication amongst contributions 

    If your suggestion is selected, we would ask of you to write a short article about it to kick off the week’s discussion, as well as to give a brief, five-minute audio introduction to the text which addresses the following questions: 

    1. What is the text? 
    2. Why does it excite you? 
    3. How does it connect to broader debates? 
    4. How does it reflect a particular tradition?
  • Mark 8:52 am on July 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , introversion   

    Boris the introvert 

    I found this interesting from pg 13-14 of Sonia Purnell’s immensely readable biography of Boris Johnson:

    Boris–or rather ‘Al’–would move house but he would do so a total of 32 times over the next 14 years. 8 As a whole, throughout his childhood he lived in five cities, five London boroughs, one Somerset village (in at least two different houses), three US states, three countries and two continents […]. Even in adulthood, though, there are moments when he appears to retreat into an inner Al, far away from the commotion and distractions of life around him. Sometimes only a forceful and repeated direct question can pull him back from this private world, his re-entry into reality accompanied by much eye-rolling, hair-ruffling and frequent ‘aaarhs’ and ‘grrrrs’. This detachment can be a somewhat disarming trait in such a physically large man with an even bigger personality, but it’s a characteristic he shares with others who have suffered hearing difficulties and subsequently created their own internal worlds.

  • Mark 6:57 pm on July 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    This is how it works 

    This is how it works
    You’re young until you’re not
    You love until you don’t
    You try until you can’t
    You laugh until you cry
    You cry until you laugh
    And everyone must breathe
    Until their dying breath
    No, this is how it works
    You peer inside yourself
    You take the things you like
    And try to love the things you took
    And then you take that love you made
    And stick it into some
    Someone else’s heart
    Pumping someone else’s blood
    And walking arm in arm
    You hope it don’t get harmed
    But even if it does
    You’ll just do it all again
    • BeingQuest 3:18 am on July 25, 2019 Permalink

      I will lose my mom due to health complications in the near future…and I feel that torn from me, while seeing her still, and now more than ever in the eyes of other women her age and experience and health. THEY are MY mom, a truer friend than any Best Friend I ever could have, and been blessed to enjoy all the while, now over 5 decades. IF and when that moment passes, baring the natural course of events, time and aging, I will ever see MY mom in the eyes of all her generation’s companions of Role. May I be that good Son and keep Company with her and them all the while, till death do us part, or heaven impart our next joyous exultation, anon. Thank you for the Reflections. BB

  • Mark 4:17 pm on July 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    A few sketchy thoughts on how theory is accelerating 

    To speak of the acceleration of social theory can sound counter intuitive, as we often regard theory as a quintessentially slow pursuit in which careful reflection leads to a gradual accumulation of insight. But there are a number of mundane senses in which theory is getting faster:

    1. There is likely to be more being published with a theoretical inclination, even if it remains difficult to provide precise estimates. The journal system is growing at a spectacular rate, though it remains a matter of debate whether that reflects an increasing rate of publication by individual academics or simply the corollary of more academics operating within an increasingly globalised system. As a consequence what we refer to as ‘the literature’ within a particular field changes more rapidly, leading to a corresponding pressure to read more quickly and/or more narrowly in order to keep up with this change. Abbott’s (2008) observes the number of references in a typical sociology paper have increased alongside a decrease in the number of those references which refer to a specific page, suggesting an expansion in the scope of reading co-existing with a decline in the specificity of referencing.
    2. There are more opportunities to publish work with a theoretical inclination. This can be inferred from the increase in journals itself, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that journals with a theoretical focus are liable to be amongst the grass roots initiatives, utilising the affordances of open access software such as Open Monograph Systems, unlikely to be indexed in the main scholarly databases. But it also reflects the more public life which organised grey literature avenues such as work in progress paper series are likely to have   when research centres and departments are rendered digital in a comprehensive way, accessible through web pages and promoted through social media. Social media itself entails a range of opportunities for writing, not least of all through the informal yet substantial exchange facilitated by blogging. There is more theoretical writing one existence and it tends to circulate with greater velocity than would have previously been the case.
    3. While the relationship of theory to the social world is a complex question, the inevitably of some relationship gives reason for us to expect that an increase the rate of social change will lead to new objects emerging within theoretical discourse (consider populism, the anthropocene and the biosocial as major areas of theoretical inquiry which ave been driven by political, social and scientific developments respectively). Another way to make this claim would be to suggest that exogenous influences upon theoretical discourse have their own tempo. The occasional emergence of new objects of interest which are liable to become objects of concern for significant numbers of theorist may in themselves have little impact upon the temporal dynamics of theoretical discourse. But their continual emergence of new objects leads to changes within the theoretical landscapes that can be characterised in terms of fragmentation on the one hand and acceleration on the other.

    To suggest this means theory is getting faster necessitates clarification. A more precise way of formulating this claim would be in terms of the temporal structures which the academics who produce theory are subject to, as well how their negotiation of the associated challenges shapes  their ensuing work. The fact there is more to attend to does not mean that theorists must inevitably work faster, as would be obvious to anyone who has ever heard a complaint about lacking sufficient time to read. But this quotidian complaint helps illustrate the temporal predicament in which theorists find themselves when this intellectual intensification is underway. Should you follow the trails you encounter and read more widely at the cost of depth? Should you focus narrowly and ensure your specialism at the cost of being widely read? Should your sense of what ‘keeping up with the literature’ entails be reconsidered given the sheer quantity of literature which is available? There are not straight forward answers to these questions, itself reflected in the lack of a systematic language in which to frame them as environmental constraints upon a professional activity rather than idiosyncratic difficulties which individuals contingently encounter.  I only take reading as an example because it can be portrayed so straight forwardly. There are comparable questions which can be asked about any of the activities which theorists engage in, nor are they confined to those who work on social theory as Vostal (2014) illustrates.

  • Mark 7:24 pm on July 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    CfP: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University 

    Call for Papers for the Second Annual Conference: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University

    28 – 29 November 2019 at Lancaster University

    Higher education is increasingly ‘platformised’. Indeed, digital platforms have become ubiquitous. They are dominant intermediaries not only in our social, economic and political life, but have become central forms of capitalist accumulation. While platforms differ in terms of openness to developers and public access to data, they operate on similar principles. Some have grown to the extent that have become infrastructures in their own right such as Facebook, while others ‘plug-in’ and become parts of the digital infrastructural backbone. The technical and business aspects of platforms are two sides of the same coin – the market-making aspect of platforms is thus driving technological development, and the technical aspect is configuring markets. These processes, as well as their fast growth and complexity, pose methodological challenges including even identifying appropriate units of analysis.

    Higher education is increasingly subject to platformization processes. Yet, in the growing scholarship on platforms, there is a lack of focus on universities and their constituents. Especially scarce is work that would critically examine what platforms are in higher education, what they do, and what is the impact on the sector. The inaugural ‘Platform Universities’ conference, organised at the Faculty of Education in Cambridge in December 2019, opened these questions. This year’s conference at the University of Lancaster will take the debate forward.

    We invite papers addressing the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including:

    • Platforms and infrastructures
    • Theorising platforms in higher education
    • Big data, analytics and platforms
    • The politics and political economy of platforms
    • Methodological and analytical challenges in studying platforms
    • Platform education and the platform university

    There will be keynotes from Bev Skeggs (LSE) and Sam Sellar (MMU).

    Please send abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2019, sent to j.komljenovic@lancaster.ac.uk. Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three keywords to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. The conference is free to attend. Unfortunately, we do not have any financial support for travel and accommodation costs.

    This event is co-organised by the Culture, Politics and Global Justice cluster at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation at Lancaster University.

  • Mark 9:41 am on July 17, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , empirical ontology, , theoretical ontology, theoretical parochialism, theoretical pluralism   

    A conversation between empirical and theoretical ontology 

    The tendency for critical realists to get irritated when people talk about political/empirical ontology gets in the way of what has the potential to be a fascinating dialogue if constructed in an open and engaging manner. In my experience, critical realists treat this tradition as self-evidently absurd or simply insist “that’s epistemology, not ontology” without being able to get past the fact that people use words in different ways so as to converse about what is being said about (CR) epistemology. The reverse is true such that people from this other tradition often say “that’s just ontology” without recognising how far removed the CR conception of natural and social ontology is from the metaphysical connotations this style of theorising is seen to entail. A good place to start for a conversation like this could be this passage from pg 111-112 of Material Engagement by Noortje Marres:

    The debate about whether non-humans ‘have agency’ misses the point, to an extent, because it assumes that the significance of non-humans to political and democratic life must be established once and for all. But non-humans do not play an equally significant role in different situations and in relation to different aspects of social and political life. Their contribution is both more dynamic and more specific than the general idea of non-human agency allows us to acknowledge. Non-human entities come to matter–and, sometimes, cause trouble–in particular settings and situations, and under such circumstances they become invested with specific normative capacities (or, as the case may be, dis-invested of them). It is then a task of social and political research and theory to attend to this circumstantial or empirical specification of the normative capacities of non-human entities (Marres and Lezaun, 2011; Marres, 2012).

    It is precisely this question of where, what and how that the two positions meet. In CR’s case, it’s a question of the relational mechanisms through which X comes to embody certain capacities within specific situations. Could we call this ontologising the empirical i.e. invoking the real to explain the empirical? In the other case, it’s a matter of specifying why things unfold in the way that they do e.g. empiricising the ontological? As Noortje puts it later in the book, “if we are serious about ‘empiricising’ ontology, a move in the opposite direction is required as well, that of ‘ontologizing’ the empirical”. My point is that CR is well placed to assist in this endeavour, if it can overcome its slightly parochial tendency to stop trying in the face of other traditions speaking a different language to it.

  • Mark 9:02 am on July 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cognitive Triage: Practice, Culture and Strategies, lifestyle minimalism,   

    Experiments in everyday life 

    This section from Material Participation by Noortje Marres brought home the sociological significance of lifestyle experiments to me. I’d been prone to framing things like lifestyle minimalism as a form of neo-asceticism and I can easily see a more charitable framing along the lines of pg 91 here:

    They can be likened to the experimental technique for researching everyday life developed by the ethnomethodologist Harold Garfinkel and his disciples in the 1960s, the so-called breaching experiments. Like these famous exercises, sustainable living experiments involve the controlled disruption of ordinary scenes (Garfinkel, 1984 (1967)). Breaching experiments challenged social conventions according to a simple but strictly defined set of rules, for instance by asking experimenters to stand too close to colleagues during conversation, or to address their parents as strangers over breakfast. Sustainable living experiments, too, dismantle everyday ways of doing things according to a basic experimental protocol. These protocols may take various forms, with some dictating ‘one simple change a day’, while others set a quantitative target, such as reducing energy use or waste by X percent.

  • Mark 9:22 pm on July 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    So what do I actually research? 

    Saved here because I’m deleting the tweet:

  • Mark 9:47 am on July 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply

    The public role of academics in a social media era 

    It’s difficult to be precise about how many academics use social media, as it depends on what is meant by ‘use’ and ‘social media’. For example how do we draw a consistent boundary between personal and professional use when social media tends to complicate this distinction in all manner of ways? Furthermore what counts as ‘social media’ and how do we distinguish this from older forms of media which are themselves obviously social? Nonetheless, there is now a substantial evidence base which finds a significant trend in academics using social media for seemingly professional purposes. There are good reasons to expect this will continue to grow, reflecting the entrenchment of social media within wider social life, the competitive dynamics which ensue when some people gain benefits from it and its perceived relevance to the third mission of the university beyond teaching and research. This has important implications for how we think about the public role of academics and I’d like to suggest a few points for discussion as part of our session at the Doxa summer school:

    • What does it mean to make scholarly ideas public? If it’s more than a matter of simply disseminating knowledge to a wider audience than would read a scholarly journal, can we say what this additional element is? There’s a common sense here which tends to see it as a matter of removing constraints on the circulation of ideas i.e. taking research out of paywalled journals, removing scholarly jargon which makes things difficult to read, addressing real world problems. But could this be a matter of supply when the real question is demand. Who wants to use the knowledge which has been produced and what do they want to use it for?
    • What does social media mean for scientific objectivity? The ideal of objectivity has involved the removal of the personal from public interaction whereas social media encourages its insertion. See for example the later chapters of this excellent book by William Davies for an exploration of what this means for expertise. The public pronouncements of academics can be seized upon for their apparent bias. Arguments can be more easily attached to personalities in a way which undercuts the established norms of scholarly exchange. There’s a fundamental tension which raises questions about how academics use social media. Should they strive for a detached professional image in order to preserve objectivity? Or can we embrace the personalisation which social media encourages and try to adapt scholarly norms and practices to it?
    • Particularly within the critical social sciences, there is a tendency to invoke the ‘public’ as a politically salient force. But what happens when academics have unplanned and unpredictable meetings with members of this public through social media? How do they respond when people are not interested in what they do? How do they respond when people are explicitly hostile to it? How do they cope if attacked by reactionary forces? What support is available under these conditions?
    • If social media makes it easier for academics to work with the media, how do these collaborations unfold in practice? At what point does understandable fear of vulgarisation become a unjustified rejection of the expertise of print journalists or broadcast researchers who understand the constraints of mass communication much better than academics do? The public role which social media affords involves encounters with other forms of expertise for which academics might be poorly equipped.


    • landzek 12:13 pm on July 3, 2019 Permalink

      And what about all the people that will have an opinion but who don’t really understand the issue?

      I’d like the idea of a partition; the work of knowledge occurs behind a wall that is semi permeable, and what comes back through the wall from the public sphere is considered and taken with some salt. Thought of for what it actually is. But I think this happened even without SM, come to think of it.

      Then there’s the notion that intellectual discourse never approaches the “public”. The public just does shit regardless, and the intellectual discussion about it thinks itself into what the public is doing, but never actually reaches it. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Mark 9:36 pm on July 7, 2019 Permalink

      agree v much

  • Mark 8:24 am on July 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    The light we steal when we write our books 

    “Books and drafts mean something quite different for different thinkers. One collects in a book the lights he was able to steal and carry home swiftly out of the rays of some insight that suddenly dawned on him, while another thinker offers us nothing but shadows – images in black and grey of what had built up in his soul the day before.”

    ― Friedrich Nietzsche

  • Mark 2:25 pm on July 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Did oil prices cause the financial crisis? 

    I’m a little wary of the causation here but it’s a provocative claim. Perhaps it does constitute an INUS condition, as J.L. Mackie put it, with the oil price spike igniting a precarious system which could have gone up in flames for other reasons. From Societies beyond Oil, by John Urry, pg 34-35:

    But this extravaganza came to a shuddering halt when oil prices increased in the early years of this century. Suburban houses could not be sold, especially where they were in far-flung oil-dependent locations. Financial products and institutions were found to be worthless. Easy money, easy credit and easy oil had gone together. And when oil prices hit the roof in these US suburbs, then easy money and credit came to an abrupt halt and the presumed upward shift in property prices was shown to be a false dream. The financial house of cards had been built upon cheap oil. When the oil got prohibitively expensive the house of cards collapsed to the ground. Timothy Mitchell observes how the ‘shortage of oil from 2005 to 2008 … caused a six-fold increase in its price. … The surge in oil prices triggered the global financial crisis of 2008–9.’

  • Mark 1:26 pm on July 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    This is not a pipe 

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