Category: Personal morphogenesis and platform socialisation

  • Post-truth as liberal populism: revisiting Cambridge Analytica

    I’ve argued in a few places in recent years (such as this paper) that the notion of ‘post-truth’ has often constituted a form of liberal populism. I mean this in Laclau’s sense of an empty signifier which symbolically structures the social environment. It imagines that a formally harmonious environment was undermined by the intrusion of […]

  • John Stuart Mill on libidinal collapse: some thoughts on socialisation and human purpose

    I’ve intended for years to read the autobiography of the liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill. As an undergraduate philosophy student being introduced to utilitarianism, the lecturer briefly explained Mill’s peculiar biographical trajectory as an aside to explaining his mature philosophy. He was raised by his father James Mill, close collaborator of Jeremy Bentham, with the […]

  • Habermas on colonisation of the lifeworld

    I am surprised to find myself coming back to this for making sense of the role of social media in the lifeworld, through the gateway drug of thinking about algorithmic isomorphism plays out in everyday life. I must say I wasn’t expecting that my thought might take a Habermasian turn and I feel a bit […]

  • Recovering critique in an age of datafication

    Notes on Couldry, N. (2020). Recovering critique in an age of datafication. New Media & Society, 22(7), 1135-1151 This thought provoking paper reflects on how “the now utterly banal embedding of digital interfaces of many sorts into our working and resting lives, and the emergence across those platforms of new forms of power” has become an object […]

  • A theory of learning for the future: the realist concept of reflexivity and the pragmatist concept of experience

    I was interested to discover how pragmatism is being used within education to develop a “theory of learning for the future”. The point of such a theory, argues Bente Elkjaer in this chapter, rests in its “teaching of a preparedness to respond in a creative way to difference and otherness” including how “to act imaginatively […]

  • The chasm at the heart of our agency

    In every house, in the heart of each maiden and of each boy, in the soul of the soaring saint, this chasm is found, between the largest promise of ideal power, and the shabby experience. – Ralph Waldo Emerson In my slightly bleak exploration of finding joy on a dying planet, I’ve thought a lot […]

  • What does it mean to live a good life in a broken world? Some post-pandemic thoughts on Charles Taylor’s philosophy

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the existential challenges created by a world which is cascading towards systems failure. My assumption is that, as Charles Taylor puts it in A Secular Age, “Every person, and ever society, lives with or by some conception(s) of what human flourishing is” involving questions such as what makes […]

  • The temporal ontology of modernity

    I’m currently reading Mike Savage’s The Return of Inequality as I belatedly develop my PhD thesis into a book. His concept of epochal theorising shaped how I approach the work of Anthony Giddens on late modernity which I took as the foil for my thesis. It was encountering thinkers like Bauman, Beck and Giddens which […]

  • Finding joy on a dying planet: failing to act as psychic self-defence and how to overcome it

    I’ve been reluctant to write this blog post for some time. This reflects a certain unwillingness on my part to self-disclose past a certain limit; I’m happy to share my thought online but I rarely share my life. There’s also a certain unwillingness to grapple with the underlying question I intend to address here. In […]

  • The highly evolved, politicised, social industry-based apparatus of personal destruction

    This is a disturbing and insightful piece from Richard Seymour. Highly recommend you subscribe to his Patreon if you haven’t already. He closes with the warning that it’s only “matter of historical contingency, lets say of the vagaries of uneven and combined development, that we do not yet have such a highly evolved, politicised, social […]

  • Clive Lawson’s Technology & Isolation (ch 1-3)

    What is technology? I often use the term overly loosely to refer to devices, as well as the distributed systems in which they are embedded. In Technology & Isolation Clive Lawson observes how the term is “frequently portrayed as knowledge, as artefacts, as ways of doing things, as any means to an end, as a […]

  • Critical Realism & Technology Reading Group

    How do critical realists make sense of technology? What are the major themes, challenges and debates concerning technology within critical realist social theory? The purpose of this reading group is to explore these questions through monthly meetings to discuss relevant works on technology and critical realism. We meet from 1pm to 2pm on the final […]

  • Some notes on social generativity

    I recently encountered the concept of ‘social generativity‘ which Eric Lybeck characterises as a post-critical move responding to a dead end in critical social theory during the earliest 21st century. He organised a session at the University of Manchester with Mauro Magatti, Chiara Giaccardi, Paolo Pezzana, Patrizia Cappelletti and Elvira Uyarra. These are some rough […]

  • What’s the difference between a cult and a community?

    This might seem like an odd question to ask but it occurred to me when listening to the podcast Sounds Like a Cult. In a fascinating episode on the Landmark Forum (which I hadn’t realised was initially founded by Werner Erhard) they describe how the group provides “a new vocabulary” for people who “arrived broken […]

  • The Evisceration of the Human Under Digital Capitalism 

    This is a pre-print of Carrigan, M. (2018). The evisceration of the human under digital capitalism. In Realist Responses to Post-Human Society: Ex Machina (pp. 165-181). Routledge. Please see the final version if you want to cite this. Introduction In the summer of 2008, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine and techno-evangelist Chris Anderson wrote a much circulated article […]

  • Notes on the conceptual grammar of platforms

    To recognise that platforms intervene in this profoundly asymmetric way doesn’t negate the agency of their users, as Burgess and Baym’s (2020) insightful study of Twitter makes clear. They point to the many features of the social platform, such as the retweet and the hashtag, which actually began with user behaviour. As opposed to a […]

  • André Gorz and the concept of hygiene

    From David Frayne’s The Refusal of Work pg 149-150: As Bruce described his self-care habits, I was reminded of Gorz’s definition of ‘hygiene’, which for Gorz means something much more than the mundane rituals of preening and cleanliness. For Gorz hygiene consists in a more rigorous attempt on the part of individuals to understand their […]

  • Reflexivity, contingency and platforms

    I enjoyed this recent paper by David Beer on what he terms ‘the looping of the social‘. This is a useful way of framing the recursive character of social life in which the outcome of a process feeds into the unfolding of a subsequent process. There is nothing inherently technological about this process, in so […]

  • The Mother of All Demos, presented by Douglas Engelbart (1968)

  • What are socio-technical transitions?

    The category of ‘socio-technical transition’ is increasingly central to how I define my research agenda. What I used to call digitalisation or platformisation (loosely, the insert of platform intermediaries into existing social interactions) can be better described as a socio-technical transition in which the diffusion of new technologies through the lifeworld are driving a fundamental […]