Category: Pre 2020 reading notes

There’s an interesting passage in Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, in which he discusses the contrasting experience of Amazon Mechanical Turk by users and workers. From loc 719: While AMT is profiting robustly, 11 it has –following the observations of several workers –not made significant updates to its user interfaces since its inception, and […]

This excellent essay by Jan-Werner Müller in the London Review of Books raises an important issue about the forms of political mobilisation facilitated by social media: Trump has called himself the Hemingway of the 140 characters. He has ‘the best words’. He loves Twitter, he says, because it’s like having one’s own newspaper, but without […]

I love this concise formulation by Trebor Scholz in Uberworked and Underpaid. From loc 338: Every day, one billion people in advanced economies have between two billion and six billion spare hours among them. 13 Capturing and monetizing those hours is the goal of platform capitalism.

I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship to the idea of late modernity. It was the work of Bauman, Beck and Giddens which drew me into Sociology, presenting a till then cynical philosophy student with the possibility that one could meaningfully engage with the world and diagnose the times in a philosophical register. But coming to recognise the […]

In Zygmunt Bauman’s Legislators and Interpreters, he identifies two different contexts in which the role of the ‘intellectual’ is performed and two different strategies which develop in response to them: The legislator makes “authoritative statements” which “arbitrate in controversies of opinions and which selects those opinions which, having been selected, become correct and binding”. The […]

In the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the poetics of impact. I’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about the impact agenda, initially suspecting that it might open up opportunities for valuable activity to be recognised within the increasingly restrictive confines of the accelerated academy. I wasn’t alone in this. This is how […]

Does the situation of skholḗ still obtain in the accelerated academy? This is what Bourdieu described as “the free time, freed from the urgencies of the world, that allows a free and liberated relation to those urgencies and to the world” (p. 1). This condition was always unevenly distributed, its ubiquity apparent only relative to one’s own elite status […]

In the last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about online harassment. Even writing that sentence, I come face-to-face with my own privilege, as ‘online harassment’ is something I’m able to elect to think about rather than an unavoidable feature of my use of the internet. But the evidence is clear that online harassment […]

In Platform Capitalism, Nick Srnicek seeks to address what he sees as a profound oversight in the existing literature on digital capitalism. One set of contributions focuses on emerging technologies and their implications for privacy and surveillance but ignores the economic analysis of ownership and profitability. Another set critically analyses the values embodied in corporate behaviour but […]

An interesting extract from Conflict In The Academy, by Marcus Morgan and Patrick Baert. From loc 556-569: As Wyn Grant has noted in reference to the history of the discipline of Political Science in the United Kingdom, ‘intellectual openness and tolerance of eclecticism has its merits, but if it is allowed to become too uncontrolled […]

There’s an excellent discussion in Nick Srnicek’s Platform Capitalism of the immense cash reserves that technology companies have built up in recent years. As he notes, the headline figures don’t tell the whole story because these reserves don’t take into account the other debts and liabilities of these corporations. But the broader financial context is one in […]

I really like this overview in Conflict in the Academy, by Marcus Morgan and Patrick Baert, concerning the conflicting pressures towards discipline and innovation which afflict all disciplines. From loc 408-421: We would like to suggest that the story of the MacCabe controversy ought to be placed within a broader account of disciplinary professionalisation, one […]

This interesting aside in Jamie Woodcock’s superb Working The Phones is worthy of further discussion. From loc 2698: Researchers often attribute a level of importance to their own research that is not shared by others, assuming that because they spend so much time on it others will want to know all about it too. How does […]

This introduction to Conflict in the Academy, by Marcus Morgan and Patrick Baert, nicely captures something I’ve been preoccupied by recently. From loc 63: we would like to suggest that tired clichés of ‘ivory towers’ and ‘dreaming spires’, or even more self-complementary myths of universities as platonic institutions directed towards disinterested enlightenment lead to an […]

An interesting concept from John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture which I think has important implications for scholarly publishing. From pg 276-277: Oprah and Richard and Judy are prime examples of what I shall call ‘recognition triggers’. I use the term ‘recognition trigger’ to refer to those drivers of sales that have three characteristics. First, they […]

This short exchange with Michael Burawoy offers some thought-provoking reflections on teaching social theory. He identifies the major traditions of teaching theory within American sociology, before outlining his own ethnographic approach: The Survey: surveying extracts from a comprehensive range of social theorists, each one treated as an instance of a broader category. Essentially disconnected and decontextualised. Teaching theory in an […]