Category: Archive

I thought this extract from Ulrich Beck’s final book Metamorphosis shed light on our current situation. The role of expert systems in rendering the crisis legible is familiar, with “the means to make the invisible threat to their life visible” lying in the mediation of events. The obvious different though is how intensively mediated Covid-19 […]

I’m currently rereading Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a cheery accompaniment to the early signs of civilisational collapse. The translator R.J. Hollingdale captures something important about what has always drawn me to Nietzsche when he writes that “unlike most people, even most philosophers, Nietzsche lived with his intellectual problems as with realities, he experienced a similar […]

Digital platforms are driving a tectonic shift in public culture, creating a range of intellectual challenges for research, scholarship and higher education. Learned societies have a uniquely important role to play in responding to these problems. But it can be difficult to do this when social media, open access and academic precarity make their organisational […]

From The Convivial Society vol 1, no. 1:  At the same time, however, it also seems to me that especially given the scale and scope of our problems, it may be that we need to draw attention again to very basic and fundamental realities. That we must learn again what it means to take responsibility […]

This call for papers looks brilliant: Special Issue CFP: “Marxist Transhumanism or Transhumanist Marxism?” To be published in New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry  Guest editors: James Steinhoff and Atle Mikkola Kjøsen In this special issue call, New Proposals asks authors to explore how Marxism and Transhumanism might be brought into conjunction. Could […]

This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign: While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content on social media by going […]

Europe is lost, America lost, London lost Still we are clamouring victory All that is meaningless rules We have learned nothing from history

This suggestion from Tim Wu on pg 352 of The Attention Merchants asks a question which has been on my mind a lot in the last year. If we accept the idea that distraction increases in a digital environment, in the sense of a difficulty in sustaining focus driven by the multiplication of disruptions, what does this […]

Friday, 03 April 2020, 11am-5pm in London, UK  Register online here: https://www.srhe.ac.uk/events/details.asp?eid=456 There is widespread agreement that universities are undergoing a profound transformation but much less agreement on what these changes mean and how we should characterise them. The Digital University Network has stressed the role of new technologies in transforming practice within the university. […]

This passage from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 225 offers a useful account for making sense of the rise of a figure like Lawrence Fox. When the ‘arms race of exposure’ is more intense than ever because social media means a great many of us have entered into it, new strategies become necessary to […]

There’s an interesting parallel between Durkheim’s conception of social regulation and what Archer calls ‘bounding variety’ and Cybernetics describes as ‘attenuating variety’. As Durkheim writes on pg 300 in a discussion of marriage and divorce, “One cannot avoid looking outside the place where one is when one no longer feels the ground to be solid […]

From Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 202: Among the sources of such comfort would be AOL’s infamous chat rooms. Chat rooms had actually been invented by CompuServe in the 1980s (under that ’70s handle “CB simulator”), but AOL allowed the creation of “private rooms,” which anyone could open, hosting up to twenty-three total strangers. By […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 192-193 makes clear how the immersive character of video games has been treated as addictive from the outset. It raises the question of where the former characteristic ends and the latter begins: In both markets Space Invaders was a sudden and unexpected success—nothing quite like it had […]

I’ve written before about the ontological assumptions inherent in the framing of the attention economy. To consider the issue in economic terms tends to imply the fungibility, commensurability and valorisation of attention. There’s much of value here but it easily overlap is the quality of attention, described usefully by Tim Wu on pg 125 of […]

From Richard Seymour’s wonderful Patreon blog: It was in this context that what Evans calls “communal listening”, in which the Führer’s speeches were broadcast to workplaces and schools each week, worked. They were, yes, propaganda. But they were also a form of entertainment, organising a grotesquely celebrified relationship between leader and followers. They were glamorous, […]

The popular character of this diagnosis, summarised by Tim Wu on pg 6 of his Attention Merchants, poses the question of how we should treat it as common sense, in the Durkheimian tradition of skepticism about received wisdom. How widespread is this? To what extent does it misrepresent the nature of the problem? To what […]