This is the fifth of Walter Benjamin’s thirteen rules for writing. I would love to know more about what this meant in practice to him. How often did he record his ideas? Where did he record them? How did their quantity and quality wax and wane in different circumstances? My conviction that blogging constitutes a technology of scholarly attentiveness rests on its capacity to habituate this practice.

Such a great project. Going to try and think of something to contribute to this:

All sociologists write stories – Game & Metcalfe, Passionate Sociology

The relationship between fiction and sociology is as old as the discipline itself. Sociological fiction is receiving increasing attention of late – see The Sociological Review’s blog series on sociology and fiction, and Patricia Leavy’s work with the social fictions series. As I’ve raised recently, parallel threads run between contemporary sociological and literary methods, their subject matter, and their critical approach. Fiction and sociology can do more than reciprocally illuminate understandings of social life. Sociologists can bring sociology not just to fiction, through sociological readings of fictional texts, but into fiction as writers.

I’m seeking submissions of fiction writing that strives to do just that. Bring sociology into fiction. Creatively enliven the sociological imagination. Tell a story.

The first volume of So Fi, a sociological fiction zine, is accepting pieces up to 1000 words until May 31, 2017.

Send submissions to ashleigh.watson@griffithuni.edu.au.

A really fascinating discussion between Kristi Winters and The Wooly Bumblebee (HT Philip Moriarty). The latter’s experience could be seen as a model for de-radicalisation in the more toxic spaces within social media. An important reminder that platform incentives might encourage this behaviour but they don’t necessitate it. Furthermore, just because someone has come to act a given way doesn’t mean they will always act that way.

Postmodernity. Second modernity. Network Society. Late modernity. Liquid modernity. Such concepts have dominated social thought in recent decades, with a bewildering array of claims about social change and its implications. But what do we mean by ‘social change’? How do we establish that such change is taking place? What does it mean to say that it is intensifying? These are some of the questions which the Social Morphogenesis project has sought to answer in the last five years, through an inquiry orientated around the speculative notion of ‘morphogenic society’.

In this launch event, contributors to the project discuss their work over the last five years and the questions it has addressed concerning social change. The day begins with an introductory lecture by the convenor of the project, Margaret S. Archer, before a series of thematic panels presenting different stands of the project. It concludes with a closing session in which participants share three issues the project raised for them, as well as a general discussion.

At the end of the day, there will be a wine reception to which all participants are invited. There will also be an opportunity to purchase discounted copies of the books from Springer.

Book here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/social-morphogenesis-five-years-of-inquiring-into-social-change-tickets-33813890256

Participants:
Ismael Al-Amoudi
Margaret S. Archer
Mark Carrigan
Pierpaolo Donati
Emmanuel Lazega
Andrea M. Maccarini
Jamie Morgan
Graham Scambler (Chair)

More speakers to be confirmed.

The Social Morphogenesis project was funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation through six years of support for the Centre for Social Ontology. This support was generously extended to enable this book launch.

The term ‘curation’ has got a bad press in recent years. Or rather the use of the term beyond the art world has. To a certain extent I understand this but I nonetheless always feel the need to defend the term. There are a few reasons for this:

  • In a context of cultural abundance, selection from variety becomes important within a whole range of contexts. Inevitably, it is something most people within these contexts will do most of the times. But ‘curation’ is becoming a specialised activity, even if detached from a specific social role.
  • I’m prone to thinking of what I do, at least some of the time, as curation. I spend quite a lot of time each week sorting through mailing lists, newsletters, websites, blogs and social media to identify relevant content for The Sociological Review’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. This is 46 social media posts per day. I’ve also shared something on Sociological Imagination daily for almost seven years. I don’t particularly care what anyone else calls it but, as far as I’m concerned, doing it effectively is a skilled activity and ‘curation’ is the term I’ve taken to using.
  • The modern sense of the word ‘curation’ rests on a specific set of institutional arrangements which are themselves relatively recent. The word has a longer history, emerging from the Latin curator (“overseer, manager, guardian“) and what many construe as a misapplication could just as easily be taken as a further shift in its use. Language is dynamic and the anti-‘curation’ rhetoric is an attempt to police its change, albeit not a particularly significant or pernicious one.

Ultimately, I don’t care if people reject this use of the term ‘curation’. I do care if people reject what the term ‘curation’ comes to designate. I don’t dispute it is often used in a vacuous way, but it is not always used this way. It is nebulous and modish but the terms which emerge in relation to socio-cultural transformations often are.

It’s the socio-cultural changes which interest me, the abundance digitalisation is giving rise to and the epistemic fog which emerges as a result. To talk of ‘curation’ is a facet of that conversation and if people want to reject its use, I hope they’ll offer an alternative language for talking about selection from abundance as an institutionalised function within digital capitalism.

Manchester Digital Laboratory
Thursday 8th June 2017
09.00-17.00

The Sociological Review Foundation is delighted to announce our forthcoming workshop using graphic novel methods to present social research.

We invite applications to take part in a Graphic Novel Workshop with Tony Lee. If your research involves incorporating graphic methods or you are simply interested in doing this to present future research, this workshop will be of interest to you.

Workshop Format
· Introduction on graphic novels: how the medium works, different genres, how they’ve changed and the design & production process
· Story telling through graphic novels: how to develop the story, what works and what doesn’t, constraints of the medium etc
· Delegates introduce their ideas for graphic novels and get feedback
· General discussion & advice about next steps

This event is FREE but places are limited to 25 people.

This event is brought to you by The Sociological Review Early Career Researcher Board. We welcome applications for this workshop from people in all stages of their careers. However, should we receive significantly more applications than available places – priority will be given to ECRs and PGRs.

Application deadline is 17.00 GMT, Monday 2nd May 2017. Please ensure to outline your research interests in the relevant section.

Apply here: https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/events/using-graphic-novels-to-communicate-your-research.html

I just came across this student essay in which a blog post written by Les Back was attributed to me. This isn’t the first time it’s happened and I’m unsure how to respond to it. The backlist of posts on Sociological Imagination is sprawling by this point, numbering in the low thousands. Most of these were written by me, though they vary between simple sharing of material elsewhere and substantive writing.

Regular guest-writers all have their own accounts so their authorship has been clearly marked. Our settled practice for irregular guest writer has been to have “by x x” in bold at the top of the piece, followed by a biography in bold at the bottom.

Unfortunately, it still indicates the name of the person who published the guest post on the blog, in this case Sadia Habib. Does this attribute authorship clearly enough? I’m starting to wonder if we need a different system. But I’m reluctant to create a new account for each guest author, both because it would add to the time demands of a website I already don’t have enough time for and I really don’t want to have to go back and manually add these for every previous guest post. Any alternative ideas would be much appreciated.

After Michel Foucault died in 1984 at the age of fifty-seven, Pierre Bourdieu wrote a tribute in Le Monde, reflecting on his life and what could be learned from it. Bourdieu attributed to his former colleague at the Collège de France a great consistency in his intellectual work, much more than is often assumed:

The consistency of an intellectual project, and of a way of living the intellectual life. Starting with the desire to break – which explains and excuses some of his famous apothegms on the death of man – to break with the totalizing ambition of what he called the ‘universal intellectual’, often identified with the project of philosophy; but to do so in the sense of escaping the alternative between saying nothing about everything or else everything about nothing.

Political Interventions: Social Sciences and Political Action, Pg 138

To become what Foucault described as the ‘specific intellectual’ required foregoing the temptation to speak on behalf of others. What Bourdieu admired was his ambition to “substitute for the absolutism of the universal intellectual, specific works drawing on actual sources … without abandoning the broadest ambitions of thought” (p. 138). The point was not to counterpoise a neutral expertise, content only to make claims comprehensively licensed by agreement within the community of inquirers, against the sweeping grandiosity which characterised the pronouncements of a figure like Sartre.

The specific intellectual existed in a new space, beyond this dichotomy between the epistemically timid expert working in obscurity and grandiose celebrity forever on an epistemic rampage in the name of truth and justice. As Bourdieu put it, Foucault “always stubbornly rejected the division between intellectual investment and political commitment that is so common and convenient” (p. 138). In this he represented a new kind of intellectual:

For him, the critical vision was applicable first of all to his own practice, and in this respect he was the purest representative of a new kind of intellectual who has no need to mystify himself as to the motives and themes of intellectual acts, nor to foster illusions about their effect, in order to practice them in full knowledge of their cause.

Political Interventions: Social Sciences and Political Action, Pg 139

This entailed a remarkable humility, at least relative to the general intellectuals of the previous generation. His political action, “conducted with passion and rigour, sometimes with a kind of rational fury, owed nothing to the sentiment of possessing ultimate truths and values” (p. 138). He embodied the possibility of commitment without dogmatism, action without certainty. Bourdieu described how Foucault not only “rejected the grand airs of the great moral conscience” but also found them a “favourite object of laughter” (p. 138).

This was a repudiation of the universal intellectual in terms of both politics and intellectualism. The specific intellectual rejected lofty rhetoric of truth and justice for the contingent realities of situated struggles. The specific intellectual rejected generality for specificity, forsaking an assumed right to speak for a methodologically grounded sense of what one can bring to the conversation. But crucially this was done while sustaining commitment, pushing against the boundaries of received wisdom. The specific intellectual remains orientated towards the universal, while always remaining embedded within the specific.

From Making Sociology Public, by Lambros Fatsis, pg 240:

Having already introduced Cardinal Newman’s ivory tower conception of the university, and Minister Humboldt’s equally idealistic depiction of it as a hub of culture and academic freedom, Barnett’s (2013) anthology of epithets, each of which furnishes 240 a different vision of and for the university, is indicative of definitional pluralism as it is bewildering; there is the university as a feasible utopia, the entrepreneurial university, the commodified, the civic or public goods university, the accessible university, the university as a debating society, the anarchic, the borderless, the collaborative, congested, corporate, corrupt, creative, dialogic, digital, ecological, liquid, multi-nodal, performative, socialist, soulless, technologico-Benthamite, as well as the theatrical, translucent, imaginative, imagining, first class, edgeless, capitalist and even the university as fool (sic).

Alongside this admittedly fanciful parade of adjectives, as offered by Barnett (2013), stand other visions of the university as ‘global’ (Miyoshi, 1998), ‘postmodern’, ‘virtual’ (Smith and Webster, 1997), ‘enterprising’ (Williams, 2003), ‘corporate’ (Jarvis, 2001), ‘McDonaldized’ (Parker and Jary, 1995) ‘meta-entrepreneurial’ (Fuller, 2009), public (Holmwood, 2011), ‘without conditions’ (Derrida, 2002), ‘post-historical’, ‘in ruins’, conceived as a ‘community of dissensus’ (Readings, 1996), or a ‘site of activism’ (Lynch 2010), ‘in crisis’ (Scott, 1984), ‘for sale’ (Brown and Carasso, 2013), in need of ‘rescuing’ (Furlong, 2013), defined as a public agora (Nowotny et al. 2001), a cooperative (Boden, Ciancanelli, and Wright 2011, 2012), and even a ‘science park’ embedded in the life of the city (Goddard and Valance, 2013). Following this multiplicity of interpretations of what the university is, can be, may be, should be, or no longer is, reflections on its uses (what is it for) are equally varied and perplexing, making Derrida’s (2002: 213-4) overly confident view of the university as ‘autonomous, unconditionally free in its institution, in its speech, in its writing, in its thinking’ difficult to sustain pragmatically.

http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/51588/1/Fatsis%2C_Lambros.pdf

This essay on ‘the cult of cruelty’ has some interesting points to make about the role of what danah boyd calls persistence and searchability in facilitating incivility online. It makes it possible to trawl through someone’s activity, enabling a degree of engagement with choices and representations that would not otherwise be possible:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately — the ways in which people exact their hurt. It’s common for people to subtweet about their hate-follows and hate-reads. Nothing distinguishes between the hate cultivated for people we know as opposed to strangers — we’re all fair game for someone else’s vitriol. People have no problem playing armchair therapist; they analyze our lives from a computer screen and then proceed to deliver play-by-play commentary on how we should live our lives based on how they live theirs. Many have come to believe that an online representation of one aspect of our lives is the complete story, the whole of our lives. Who we are, the content of our character, is reduced to what we choose to publish. The choices we make — from what we wear to how we parent and whom we love — should be obvious based on the collective’s personal experience and we’re admonished in text or in forums for “not getting it”. We crave authenticity yet we vilify others for their public missteps, for being human. People talk smack behind our backs to then kiss-kiss, hey, how are you? to our face. People leave hateful comments tearing apart our appearance: Why is she naked in every picture on Instagram…ugh! Who does she think she is? Why does she wear such unflattering clothes? If she didn’t want to hear about how bad she looks she shouldn’t be posting pictures of herself online. Apparently, being public is an open invitation for hate, and it’s frightening that groups exist on the Internet devoted to the care and feeding of that hate.

It also makes it possible to trawl back through the incivility that has been directed at us:

We live in a country that espouses free speech, but many are forced into silence in fear of the hate avalanche. In a private Facebook group, many women talk about not reading the comments of their published articles out of self-preservation. “Don’t read the comments is a constant refrain. Women leave social media because they’re beaten down by people in fear of losing their privilege. A whole group of people has been reduced to a patronizing “snowflake” moniker because of their inability to toughen up, and it’s as if the Internet has become Darwinian in the sense that only those who hate, and those who can withstand and endure that hate, survive. A few years ago, I was the subject of a man’s ire, someone whom I believe I knew (or at least had come into contact with during my agency career, which makes the whole situation that much more unsettling), who wrote about how much he hated me because I stood up for women who had been ridiculed online because of their appearance. Fifteen years ago, a small circle of literary bloggers posted cruel blind items about me and I remember being at work, in front of my computer, reading these posts and my whole body going numb.t

There’s an excellent overview of ‘hate reading’ here:

Underlying all this is a weirdly common human tendency toward “hate-reading.” Call it that for short, at least, because it also includes “hate-listening” and “hate-watching.” In short, many people seem strangely drawn to material that they know, even before they’re exposed to it, will infuriate them. And hate-reading in its purest form involves not just seeking out the aggregated fodder of Media Matters or Newsbusters, but actually going straight to the source: a conservative mainlining Keith Olbermann; a liberal recklessly exposing herself to a Rush Limbaugh monologue.

A lot of us do this, but why? No one knows for sure, but there are a few potential explanations. One is that hate-reading simply makes us feel good by offering up an endless succession of “the emperor has no clothes” moments with regard to our political adversaries. In this view, we specifically seek out the anti-wisdom of whoever appears dumbest and most hateful as a means of bolstering our own sense of righteousness. “If the commentary is dumb enough, it may actually have a boomerang effect in that it reassures us that our opponents aren’t very smart or accurate,” said Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a media psychologist at the University of Texas San Antonio.

There’s a fascinating footnote in Radio Benjamin, loc 395-410, discussing Adorno’s description of Benjamin’s ideas as ‘radioactive’:

The full sentence reads, “Everything which fell under the scrutiny of his words was transformed, as though it had become radioactive,” … Although Adorno’s metaphor uses a different register of boundary crossing, the German radioaktiv, like the English radioactive, shares with Rundfunk, or radio, a connotation of atmospheric spreading, dispersal, and uncontrolled movement across and within borders and lines of containment; the airwaves, like the air or the atmosphere, represent a quasi-invisible scene or medium of transmission. While the German does not directly imply the coincidence of these two (roughly contemporary) modes of radiality, the notion of Benjamin’s gaze, and from there his work, effecting a radioactive transformation suggests the potentially dangerous, if also exciting and new, power of radio and its power to broadcast.

Radioactive ideas effect a transformation. Viral ideas simply pass through. The logic of social media platforms too easily inclines us towards a concern for virality. What we should aim for is to use their affordances to ensure radioactivity, even if this registers much less impressively on a numerical level.

Social Media Training Workshop
Led by Holly Powell Jones
City University, London EC1V 0HB
 
Monday 8 May 2017, 12.30 – 4.00 pm
This workshop will be of interest and assistance if you wish to use social media to disseminate your work, identify and share relevant opportunities, communicate a cause, or promote an organisation, charity, or business services.

Some cyber-optimists see the digitalisation of the archive as offering an endless abundance of cultural goods available to all. However this chapter takes a more gloomy view, arguing that the digitalised archive can in fact contribute in many ways to the disorientation and distraction of contemporary persons, rendering the process of ‘shaping a life’ more challenging than ever. Two often co-occurrent mechanisms are identified which generate this propensity towards distraction: the curatorial imperative and the algorithmic imperative. Through an analysis of their operation, profoundly conditioning the digital landscape within which ever increase tracts of social life are played out, this chapters maps the changing relation between personal reflexivity, collective agency and the cultural system under digital capitalism.

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-49469-2_8

I saw the science journalist Simon Makin give an excellent talk yesterday on how social and natural scientists can make their writing clearer. He offered some excellent tips to this end, including assuming your reader is exactly as intelligent as you are, but has absolutely none of your knowledge. For this reason, clarity isn’t about being simplistic: aim to clarify without simplifying.

What struck me in the discussion of drafting and redrafting was how likely this is to fall by the wayside when rushing. If you’re working to a deadline, particularly when other deadlines immediately follow them, it’s unlikely you’ll invest the time needed to do this. His description of drafting involved careful tinkering, picking and poking at a text in a way which leads to incremental improvement. As opposed to simply trying to get it out of the door so you can move onto the next demand.

This isn’t simply a matter of time. It also reflects the moral psychology of rushing. When we rush, we close down our engagement with the objects of our attention. Things that might have been deeply meaningful to us instead become obstacles to surmount. We simply can’t care about the clarity of our writing in the same way when we’re rushing.

Creative Methods for Research and Community Engagement Summer School

6-8 July 2017, Keele University

PhD students and Early Career Researchers are welcome at this event organised by the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre (CASIC) at Keele University.

The Summer School will be held in central England at the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme (6-7 July) and Keele University campus (8 July), where you will experience the KAVE (https://www.keele.ac.uk/pharmacy/digital/kave/) and our Makerspace facilities (https://www.keele.ac.uk/make/).

The facilitator will be Dr Helen Kara, author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide. Speakers will include:

  • Professor Mihaela Kelemen – CASIC Director
  • Dr Lindsay Hamilton – Keele Management School, Keele University
  • Véronique Jochum – Research Manager, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
  • Dr Emma Surman – Keele Management School, Keele University
  • Dr Ceri Morgan – School of Humanities, Keele University
  • Professor Rajmil Fischman – School of Music, Keele University
  • Sue Moffat – Director of New Vic Borderlines, New Vic Theatre

The Summer School will enlighten, inspire and guide ECRs and students at all stages of scholarly or professional doctorates. Each day will be packed with interactive hands-on sessions addressing six broad topics:

  • Arts-based research
  • Transformative research frameworks
  • Mixed-methods research
  • Knowledge co-production
  • Research using technology
  • Writing creatively for research

We are offering an “early bird” price of £230 for bookings received and paid by 21 April. After that date the price will be £270. The cost includes refreshments and lunches and a complimentary copy of Dr Kara’s book on creative research methods.

There will be a dinner and performance of ‘Around the world in 80 Days’ at the New Vic Theatre on July 6th, at an extra cost of £20.

For more information go to https://www.keele.ac.uk/casic/summerschool2017/

Please follow #CRMSS17 on Twitter for pre-event updates.