Tag: Becoming Who We Are

This expression used by Alain de Botton in his How Proust Can Change Your Life (pg 42) stood out to me. He uses it in relation to the morning news, reflecting on how reporting inevitably strips away from the reality of what is reported on. This is an example of a broader tendency for human experience to “be […]

I woke up with this phrase stuck in my mind recently, after a strange and vivid dream. It involved a landscape somewhere between Deep Space Nine and Snowpiercer, dark corners filled with metallic pools and steam hissing across braying crowds. I can’t remember the narrative of the dream but a crucial idea from it remains […]

I saw a wonderful exhibition this weekend, collecting work by Alex Prager combining photography and film in intricately staged hyper-real scenes. The collection that has been playing on mind since seeing it is Face In The Crowd. If you click on the screenshot below, it will take you to the website where you can see the […]

A few months ago, I recounted to a collaborator the details of a foolish mistake I made when planning a special occasion. Assuming the cake would be the easiest item on a long to do list, I left this till last, failing to recognise that cakes of this sort would require a lot of notice. […]

Why do people do what they do? It is a question at the heart of the human sciences but it is also one we ask in everyday life. However the way we ask it often tracks our prior feelings towards the people we ask it of. For instance, as Jana Bacevic has argued, many fail […]

After the busiest few months of my life, I’ve spent the last couple of days doing what feels like nothing. I’ve been for a shave, bought a graphic novel, seen a (crap) film, had a walk, been out for dinner and had a massage. But otherwise I’ve just read, slept and watched tv. It’s obviously […]

One of the key ideas of my PhD was fateful moments, points in our life which constitute turning points and shape the person we become. I argued the epistemology of such moments is more complex than it might initially appear to be, as turning points have a narrative as well as a biographical existence. The stories we tell about our […]

In a recent paper, I’ve argued we find a cultural project underpinning ‘big data’: a commitment to reducing human being, in all its embodied affective complexity, stripping it of any reality beyond the behavioural traces which register through digital infrastructure. Underlying method, methodology and theory there is a vision of how human beings are constituted, […]

Digital Infrastructures: Poetics, Politics and Personhood – AAA San Jose 14-18 November 2018 Lorraine Weekes (Stanford University) Gertjan Plets (Utrecht University) Government databases, digital archives, online voting systems, and e-portals enabling the submission of everything from insurance claims to income tax returns increasingly define mundane engagements between citizen-users and a suite of public and private […]

What is a ‘student’? To many outside higher education, such a question would seem absurd. A student is “a person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education”. But what this means has undergone profound change in recent years, such that ‘the student’ as a category, as well as a material factor […]

While Margaret Archer’s theoretical work is widely respected, it is often categorised as little more than an elaboration of Roy Bhaskar and a critique of Anthony Giddens. This framing leaves it secondary to Critical Realism and Structuration Theory, understandable (though limiting) in the former case and deeply inaccurate in the latter case. Reading Envisioning Sociology […]

We often think of self-narrative as something self-grounding, reflecting the truth of a person even if that truth might change over the life course. If we take issue with this, we turn to the bare objective facts of someone’s life as a counterpoint to the unreliably subjective stories they tell. This oscillation misses the important […]

The individual is an unpopular category within contemporary social thought. To be concerned with the individual is taken to imply individualism, something which falls outside the range of acceptability for the cultural politics prevalent within British sociology. This is amplified by an intellectual impulse to transcend the individual as a unit of analysis, bound up […]

A line amongst fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus says ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing‘. This was the inspiration for Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay on the hedgehog and the fox. Berlin takes these words figuratively to illustrate a divide between two styles of thinker: For there exists a […]

Anyone who has read my blog for a while will be aware that I use it to self-archive. As Cory Doctorow explains in this wonderful piece, it’s a mode of information storage suitable for those whose working lives revolve around the identification, evaluation and retrieval of information: I consume, digest, and excrete information for a living. […]

In today’s Guardian, Neal Lawson offers a cautious reading of Corbyn’s Labour, accepting the ascendancy of the left within the party but urging it to look outwards. I’m sympathetic to many of the substantive points Lawson makes in the article but there’s a rich vein of problematic assumption running through their articulation which needs to […]

Does social media lead to a devaluation of introspection? This is what Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp claim on loc 4098 of their The Mediated Construction of Reality: The selfie stamps the marker of ‘the self’ onto whatever things a person wants to record as a way of increasing its value. But why should that […]

My relationship with the work of Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, Richard Sennett and Ulrich Beck has been a complicated one. Discovering their work as an intellectually frustrated philosophy student led me to move sideways into a sociology department rather than starting a PhD in political philosophy. Their approach excited me, opening up the possibility that […]