Posted on | May 14, 2013 | No Comments
Notes from Bruno Latour’s closing keynote at Paris CHI.
Latour’s opening provocation set the agenda: ‘There are no collective phenomena’. Rather, collectives contain the work of collecting (as we will see, contain can have several senses here: to hold, to include, to limit). There are many collecting devices which generate collected data.
There is no way of avoiding the oligopticon, or a highly specialised view. This means ‘a little bit of the whole’, and anticipates the idea of monadology Latour takes from Tarde and earlier Leibniz. Since we are not gods we can only ever have a unique point of view on the whole universe.
Latour maintains that there is no better, more comprehensive mode of representation beyond the particular. We never shift to a higher level of perception; the notion of a ‘change of scale’ never actually occurs. ‘The fallacy of the impossible zoom’ refers to the perceptual trick played by services like Google Earth. When we use Google Earth we assume an optical illusion – a fallacy in coherence that is the ‘zoom’ function (see also Charles and Ray Eames, The Powers of Ten).
For Latour, a global view is never larger: information is simply discarded or formatted differently. His talk used photography by Armin Link and others to underline the work of collecting. The process of collecting has many instruments, which may be high or low tech.
Visualizing phenomena at scale is a flawed means of linking the individual to the collective. The foundational premise Latour destabilizes is the division between the individual and the collective – the motivating tension at the heart of sociology.
Just as there is no collective view there are no individual phenomena either. Instead there are individualizing agents. In the Paris Invisible project a state ‘surveillance’ camera or an ordinary person in the street are each collecting data flows and thus have the same ‘size’. What they don’t have are the same connections.
Our present prejudice: big because collective; small because individual. Why is this prejudice indivisible?
What is usually meant by an ‘individual’ is an extended center of perception shaved of all its connections. In turn, a collective is perception shaved of its data flows. How to ‘reconcile the two levels’ is thus an artificial conundrum. As is the question: how is it possible to obtain the ‘collective’ level out of the ‘mere interactions’ of individual agents (who are previously deprived of all their relations!)
The other possibility: once the collectivity’s collecting activities are foregrounded in all cases it is possible to identify the monad (what Latour elsewhere calls the actor-network). This alternative project for sociology was elaborated by Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) in Monadology and Sociology but lost favour due to the entrenched influence of Durkheim. In an era of large data sets and enhanced collection methods it is an approach that can be reawakened and realized.
The monad provides an individualizing grasp of the whole universe of relations (what is meant by ‘collective’ phenomena is usually the superimposition of these particularities). Digital technology allows for the first time a direct experience of the monadic principle, which is simultaneously individual and collective, and comes from the fact that there exist as many collected phenomena as there exist collecting paraphernalia.
Merging visually the many collecting display styles (e.g. through data visualisations of various kinds) has become a most banal experience – think of stock market graphs or weather maps on the nightly news. The simple act of performing an online search merges ‘in one seamless move’ both the extension and individualization of an entity in line with the monadic principle.
Similarly, Googling someone and finding their CV (Latour used Wendy Mackay, the conference organiser as an example, very funny) is a way of recognizing someone as both an individual and part of a paradigm. The more individual the features of the CV, the more collective the data (Wendy is a CHI person, a field which has its own journals, conferences, hierarchies, etc). The more individual, then, the more collective: we share information to artificially produce an atom. In Latour’s hilarious turn of phrase, reading Wendy’s CV, ‘I am trying to squeeze everything to make her a dot’.
In sum, monadology means we should abandon the key principle of impenetrability of entities and understand any whole as overlaps (see The Whole is Smaller than its Parts).
Challenges to CHI in light of the monadic principle (where structures do not cohere/comprise/contain individual entities):
- Visualising without losing data
- Capturing the inner narrativity of overlapping monads
- Qualitative and quantitative are each effective methods
- If there is no structure, then there are passing connections: how to represent them?
- If you link the idea of the monad to profiling, what does it do?
- The study of association
For a century, social theory was entrenched in a vision of the social based on Durkheim’s ideas (namely, the individual vs. the collective). In this vision, structure is assumed to last. The individual is assumed to pass. This is a false idea: an event like CHI shows that we and it are part of a monadic system which has overlaps.
We need to recognize other kinds of association, and this involves replacing models, building and describing emergent structures, and highlighting differentially overlapping monads. These priorities will move us away from the Great Social Theory. They will also show that an instrument does not construct or record a phenomenon but performs it.
Posted on | April 23, 2013 | No Comments
This month the ISTC-Social hosted Nina Wakeford and Kat Jungickel from Goldsmiths College, London for a discussion called Transmissions and Entanglements: Uses of inventive methods. Both Nina and Kat are interested in presenting research in non-textual forms, and creating methods that are crafted to the problem under consideration. Kat’s phrase to capture this epistemology – ‘Making things to make sense of things’ – is key to many of the projects underway in the ISTC, from critical design to theorising hackerspace and studying maker communities.
Our workshop discussed ideas introduced in Nina’s recent book with Celia Lury. A key quote is this one:
It is not possible to apply a method as if it were indifferent or external to the problem it seeks to address, but that method must rather be made specific or relevant to the problem…
Inventive methods are ways to introduce answerability into a problem… if methods are to be inventive, they should not leave that problem untouched (Lury & Wakeford, 2012, p3).
In her talk, Nina gave examples to illustrate alternative ways of transmitting research findings, including a sound installation she produced for Said Business School. Here Comes Experience (2008) used a parabolic speaker with multiple translations from Mandarin to reflect the social and economic conditions underpinning the Business School itself. This example enacts what Andrew Abbott calls ‘lyrical’ rather than ‘narrative sociology’ with its emphasis on ‘present-ness’ and intensity.
Nina also described previous exhibits – e.g. work on bike couriers, which Intel funded – where ideas were brought ‘inside Intel’. Quotes and objects from a bike courier’s typical day were placed in and around office cubes and work spaces. This helped to convey the feeling of being a courier for those who may not be used to the narrow streets of London let alone riding a bike. Meeting desks were covered with visuals of tools in the courier’s kit, juxtaposing different infrastructures for labor. Life size cut-outs of buses that couriers squeeze through were installed to create a sense of compressed mobility and temporality. A phenomenological experience is here suggested if not necessarily experienced.
Kat presented examples of her previous work such as the 73 Bus project and her PhD research on wireless activists in South Australia. She described a backyard BBQ held with research participants as another inventive method: photos from the study were pegged around the party to facilitate responses, reflections and engagements. In this case the researcher and the researched each ‘hang out’ with the data.
For Kat, ‘Making Things to Make Sense of Things’ means being faithful to experiences of mess, ambivalence, elusiveness and multiplicity (Hine 2007: 12). Embracing mess (Law 2004) does not mean ‘just adding pictures’ to traditional research. It means asking what new forms of knowledge production are needed.
Kat’s work follows others who are interested in thinking against the narrative, linear path for writing results. Latour and Yaneva (2008: 80-90) discuss how the work of research is rendered invisible in the end product. Kat encourages a process of ‘journeying through the data’; actually entering in to the research – including being with the objects and taking bits home. Her innovative approach plays on the punk/hacker ethic of DIY to describe a process of DIT- or doing it together.
These methods attract people in to the research – people who might not otherwise be involved. This preference for involvement overcomes the solitary nature of the writing process. But welcoming others also means risk as questions are raised or installations collapse in the course of display. In these ways the research becomes ‘annoyingly human’ (Les Back 2004).
More notes from the afternoon’s discussion are below, including contributions from Geof Bowker, Tom Boellstorf and other staff and students affiliated with the ISTC. I’ve linked to some of the references – but there were many more I missed. I would love to keep a bibliography here in comments, if anyone can help.
The impressionistic style is acknowledgment of the main point and revelation I took from the workshop – that there is value in transferring knowledge in all of its mess
Inventive methods introduce answerability to a problem
An installation might be seen as the creation of a ‘situation’ (referencing Berlant in Cruel Optimism: ‘we have a situation here’).
On art installations – see Claire Bishop (2005)
Clough (2009) and the empiricism of sensation (not of the senses) – the inexpressive of the reaction
Methods are about changing a problem as it performs itself
Generalization which is not universalism
Mike Michael – on anecdotes
The consultant’s duty to industry: ‘just give me the nugget’. Nina, remembering a conversation with Kris: What kind of nugget? A gold nugget? A chicken McNugget?! What about instead of a nugget, a piece of lego?
Research that is hard to do in text
You can’t do one without the other. You can’t have new technologies without new forms of developing and engaging and bringing new knowledge in to the world.
As much complexity in the model as in the world itself
Why do we need to contort it into a form that is a shadow of the original when we can go directly from one to another?
Radical multiplicity of what it means to be in the world
The story/the anecdote that allows a jump shift. Michel de Certeau: the revolution begins with telling the story
Creating a situation vs. participating in a situation already happening
Methods carry on the disciplines.
Method is the last (only?) gift of sociology!
What do disciplines still have to offer?
Interdisciplinarity is mining for methods
What are the normative effects of the term ‘inventive’? Methods are formulaic; methods are used as recipes (except people often use recipes inventively!)
Vulnerable to being transformed by the field site in every way
Writing and ethnography: capturing more data than you realize you are capable of
Recognising that the world is messy is an analytical choice.
The labor of installation
online analysis is ‘temptingly accessible’ – the problem of ‘weekend ethnography’
traditional forms of reward, status, reception
Nina’s retraining/ MFA: aesthetic form actually works to discount the register of the sociologist.
How a university – or a bus – becomes a ‘world’.
You hit someone with impact. Entanglement is involvement.
What is the labor of rigor?
Validity in excess.
Posted on | April 16, 2013 | 3 Comments
Recently I finished a review essay of three books written by feminist scholars that I seriously admire. It was hard work, as the tone of the piece will make obvious, and I’m not quite happy with the conclusion. Since one of the lessons I learned in the books is that happiness is not an entitlement, I should know better. So I am essentially writing a postscript to deal with my dissatisfaction with writing and its ends.
Having sent the piece to a few friends now I can see that the final para leaves things decidedly flat. I’m not sure how much that has to do with me or the books themselves or the artificial framing I gave the review by hitching it to the provocations of a Twitter account. Pitting the present generation of debt-ridden graduates against the leading practitioners of any field is an unfair opposition. The ending falls on a forced choice, between allegiance to established structures for academic achievement and a rejection of the theoretical mode that seems crucial to reward and recognition within it.
Association with academia is far more complicated than this, however. It is certainly far more complicated than my metaphorical title for the essay, ‘Stepping off the conveyor belt’, implies. I chose that name because being on a conveyor belt is what academic life started to feel like for me some time ago. Working at Sydney I was at the end of a production line that began with my undergrad degree and led to Honours, a PhD, two postdocs, and tenure (it probably started a lot earlier than that, really, if I count college and high school, and the supportive family of readers that raised me). At times it was my ideas and teaching that felt like the widgets being pressed into the right formulaic box for auditing. At other moments it felt like I was the one traveling down a factory funnel that just kept speeding up as my husband, friends and family veered away from me, headed in another direction. Every time I tried to thwart the destiny I was facing – to ‘throw a spanner in the works’, as we Anglos say – I was made aware of the expectations involved in following ‘the line’.
Having left the University of Sydney I haven’t left the competitive stress of professional work, nor am I cushioned from the consuming work culture of academics. My new job as a Researcher in Residence has me just as exposed to the day to day concerns of teaching staff and students, even if my position is doubly ‘alien’ as a corporate-funded visiting researcher from Australia. The real point to emphasize is that in January I was in a position to step off the conveyor belt in the first place. S put it plainly: ‘you left what is a form of privilege with a certain guarantee of recognition/ power/ status… it’s easy for you to say/do because you can’. This is the context missing in my review essay, of course: ‘you worry about writing your papers’, says S, ‘I worry about how I’m going to eat’.
Can I hold sympathy for both of these positions? Not really. This misrecognition is at the heart of precariat solidarity where well paid workers on renewable contracts feign affiliation with those not getting paid at all. Still, I can recognize my good fortune while also being annoyed at the university’s role in the shift to a winner-takes-all economy. In this system, success ‘in’ the edu-factory means being caught up in a rewarding cycle of busy-ness, an adrenaline-fueled task explosion that few students see because it is not in their interests to know that those with power over them (lecturers, advisors) also struggle to keep their head above water. Profs who spend countless hours in thankless and unrewarding service roles (read: good teaching) think that their ceaseless labor is helping – other colleagues, students, etc. To those outside the system, the same labor looks like hoarding, since the amount of work being attempted is typically more than any one person can do. It also prevents others from being hired to help when the sheer amount of work is actively obscured.
For those locked out of academia, unable to translate sessional contracts into viable portfolios, the reasons for their ‘poor luck’ are far from accountable. Particular combinations of desirable qualities are unspoken and highly rewarded, and include inexhaustible capacities to be enthusiastic, motivated, deferential and grateful. I’ve seen people abandoned by mentors, deemed unprofessional and refused regular work for reasons as stupid as: not being on campus on the day someone else quit, having an affair with the wrong person, wanting to go away for 2 weeks, wanting to pick up the kids, not living in Sydney long enough, not wanting to be on Facebook, not knowing there was work available. Beyond the sessional pool, hiring processes are geared towards metrics over all other contributions regularly enough. Sustaining the discipline is not as important as the faculty ERA result. Yet a department full of people who only know how to publish will have few teachers and no leadership.
This is the era of para-academic practice, of zombies in the academy. On a bad day, the job market can seem like so many vultures picking over the entrails of ‘opportunity’ that have been detached from the corpse of a career. Dozens of my friends who see this and reject it left homes, lost families, moved state, and built new lives around the promise that education would give them the financial and psychological resources to contribute to a community. These sacrifices too often mean that in their 30s the most pressing philosophical question is, How long can I keep paying this rent? And will anyone be around to help me move house – again?
How do we care for each other, what institutions do we need to sustain lives in the impasse? So far my best answer is: bandwidth. (I used to think it was social networks. But I don’t want some white boy profiting off my loneliness, however much of a Harvard punk he might have been. I certainly don’t want my secrets going towards the paycheck of someone who calls herself a feminist while answering email at 5am.) How do we create our own sense of belonging, stability, and reassurance that things are not necessarily going to get easier, but that this suspension is ours to embrace? Well, we can use our movement and our travels to be humbled by the worlds we see beyond our normal horizons. We can share this knowledge and appreciate how hard life is for just about everyone else, everywhere. And we can use our skills where they matter: where they are needed most. For some this will mean universities (though hopefully more state colleges, tech campuses, and non-metro locations). For others it will be in administration, government service, a church or a non-profit. For me, for now, it’s industry, and I am really enjoying the change.
Writing my PhD, I was convinced that the university was a more ethical location than others: that more could be done with these great containers of knowledge and privilege if we just stayed committed. I feel better for not expecting so much of one institution anymore. It is forcing me to be creative. I am rediscovering how to write in ways that gain traction. I’m trying to find platforms for expression that remain free. The important thing to be learning, after the bewilderment of higher education, is that when we are relieved of the illusion that university work is somehow more righteous, we no longer need to be scared to talk about it. Whatever we have achieved along the way – finding jobs, sustaining websites, cooking meals, publishing books, running marathons, surviving parents’ deaths, falling in love, winning fellowships, traveling the world, getting gay married – these successes can’t be stockpiled. We are no closer to the cherished sense of having arrived. But we are articulate and hungry to tell our stories, to demand more options. This is a better ending.
Posted on | March 26, 2013 | 1 Comment
Notes from Andrew Ross’ keynote at the International Labour Process conference last week. These are just the sections on virtual labour.
One of the founding principles of the labor movement was that the bosses needed the workers. Now we may be reaching a point where bosses have worked out how to get by without workers.
Offshoring: still need workers but can use cheaper ones
Productivity: existing workers work harder and longer or face cuts in wages
Unpaid labour: previously paid positions (like internships) no longer paid;
free online content as an industrial norm.
Virtual labor has several fronts:
- data mining: we know not what they do
- e-lance programs: mechanical turks, microtasks
- crowdsourcing: of creative / interesting work (the more interesting the less compulsion to demand payment)
- personalized algorithms for extracting rent
- distributed labor
Distributed labour once referred to trends like offshoring white collar work or the mobile office (anywhere, anytime work). Distributed labour now includes the boom in ‘microtasks’: small jobs that only require minimal concentration. These tasks entail deskilling and dispersal as much as they deprive workers of the broader perspective to see their work in the context of a wider whole. This lacking perspective is what makes workers unwilling to see their contribution as labor.
Virtual labor also characterized by ‘donor labor’: work that you can’t help doing (see No Collar).
On Facebook/ Google: The revenue v. employee ratio for these companies is historically unusual. This reflects the value of users’ unpaid virtual labor (their ‘click signals’).
On internship ‘opportunities’: a kind of hazing now obligatory for students seeking white collar work. A new glass ceiling giving substance to the accusation that there is a ‘cultural elite’ in the US – since only those already wealthy can afford the lost wages of successive internships.
Studies suggest the majority of unpaid internships go to women.
This adds to the argument that student debt is a condition of entry for the modern workforce, a system of indenture.
Posted on | March 8, 2013 | No Comments
A month later, I am slowly getting my head around the new job, and the wonders of Southern California (also downtown Hillsboro, OR, where my Intel lab buddies are located). On top of the adjustment to the corporate world, the amount of life admin involved in the move has been relentless, so I won’t dwell on that here. But I will try to blog a bit more now that I feel slightly less stressed on a daily basis!
One of the first orders of business for me is getting organised for conferences sooner and later. Shortly I will be visiting NYC and NJ to speak at the ILPC conference at Rutgers. I am also excited to be going to Paris next month for my first ever CHI. And then there’s 4S in nearby San Diego in October. One of the PhD students affiliated with the ISTC-Social, Luke Stark, is right now looking for panel participants, so I’ve put the CFP below. Get in touch if you want to come join us! Proposals are due in a week or so.
Call for Papers
Affect, Emotion, and Digital Media
Open panel at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) October 9-12 2013, San Diego
Panel Discussant: Melissa Gregg, Intel Center for Social Computing, University of California-Irvine
Panel Organizer: Luke Stark, New York University
Feeling has long been of interest to science. Following on 19th-century efforts to quantify and subdue human feeling with the techniques and technologies of scientific observation and evaluation, disciplines as diverse as physiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, and information science have sought to integrate human affect into the realm of the calculable and predictable. Over the last twenty-five years, makers and theorists of digital information technologies and media alike have begun to integrate affect and emotion into their programs of study. Drawing in large part from the fields of knowledge outlined above, computer scientists and technology designers concerned with problems of machine learning and human-computer interaction are increasingly using the language of affect and emotion to describe their work, integrating affective and emotional elements into the user experience of digital media, and engaging with broader socio-economic trends seeking to monetize feeling itself.
This panel seeks to explore the “digitization” of affect and emotion both historically and contemporaneously. In what ways are feelings quantified, categorized, classified and integrated into algorithmic processes? How have broader social, economic and cultural trends, such as the rise of social media or the concept of affective labor, been impacted by the integration of emotional factors into consumer digital technology?
The panel welcomes papers from a wide range of disciplines; possible themes and topics include, but are not limited to:
-In what ways are existing regimes of scientific knowledge about emotion being integrated into the conceptualization and building of digital information and communication technologies, and to what ends?
-What is the relationship between emotions and algorithms? Can feeling be proceduralized?
-How are the practices of digital subjectivity and the “quantified self” tied to affect and emotion?
-Where, when, and why do affects and emotions manifest themselves in and through our daily use of digital media?
Abstracts should be approximately 250 words. Please submit your abstract electronically via the conference website: http://www.4sonline.org/meeting; also, please send a copy of the abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline for abstract submissions is March 17, 2013.
For further information contact Luke Stark – email@example.com
Posted on | January 4, 2013 | 1 Comment
Just before Christmas I went public with the news that I’ve been hired as a Researcher in Residence at the new Intel Centre for Social Computing based at UC Irvine. This is the last of a series of centres Intel is funding across the US and internationally. It’s a massive investment.
This latest centre is particularly significant for the humanities and social sciences. The research themes set an agenda that will be transformative for what we understand internet studies, the socio-digital, and human-computer interaction to mean.
Obviously this is about as good as it gets for me. I couldn’t have dreamed up an opportunity this exciting. Until very recently I have put off talking about it because I didn’t want to jinx anything while my visa petition was being considered. Also because the timing has been extremely awkward while I have been on sabbatical from Sydney.
Officially I am leaving Sydney this month after four years on faculty, which followed my previous four year stint as a PhD student. The postdocs at UQ in between were the most fortunate years I could have had immediately after my degree: the ARC fellowship I had from 2007-9, coupled with the Research Excellence award I received from UQ, were major injections of support that helped me travel, experiment with new research methodologies, write books, and develop international links.
Sydney has offered brilliant conditions in support of this work too – in a department with some of the sharpest minds around. But there is no question that without the investment others were prepared to make in me early I wouldn’t have had a chance at a tenured job at a sandstone campus. Since then I am grateful for all of the time I’ve had to teach, meet students, learn from colleagues, and enjoy a new part of Sydney in postcodes 2010-11.
I don’t have much of an eloquent position on industry/academic alignment. Others have more considered feelings about the state of higher education and research, and it’s always hard to compare the Australian context with the US. My interest now is knowing more about technology and its industrial setting in ways I could never imagine from Australia, and bringing others along for that ride.
On a personal level, I have wanted to try something different for a long time. I have been uncomfortable with the competitive and elitist dimensions that seem to come attached to working at a big university; upset and confused about the limited leadership guiding the profession; and unconvinced that academia is as great as some people within it say that it is. The past year has been particularly grim on this front locally, with some of my closest and most valued colleagues singled out for unconscionable managerial intervention.
But this move is also as simple as acknowledging that I have never left school. I feel more than ready to take a step towards that. It’s time for some new horizons, literally. And from February they will include watching the sun set from a different direction, somewhere off the coast in Long Beach.
Posted on | December 13, 2012 | 2 Comments
Notes from Alec Mackenzie (1990) The Time Trap: The New Version of the Classic Book on Time Management. Published by The Business Library – an imprint of Information Australia [anyone with further info on this imprint and its history, please get in touch]
The number-one underlying cause of telephone interruptions is your presumption of legitimacy. And so the number-one solution is to ditch the idea that the caller’s need is necessarily more important than your need to concentrate on your work (66)
The screening hierarchy: Handle, refer, postpone, expedite (66)
The Quiet Hour: everyone has the luxury of uninterrupted concentration (67)
If you don’t have an assistant (68):
• Plan with colleagues – cover each other’s phones.
• Install a message system like voice mail.
• Mechanical aids: a cut-off switch or a blinking light to replace the ringer. You can train yourself to ignore the light (or move the phone out of your line of sight).
• Unplug the phone.
• Take your work and go somewhere in the building where there are no phones.
Good phone techniques: Batch your calls. Return them all in a block. Work on something else at the same time. (70)
Three minute egg timer on desk. (71)
Posted on | December 6, 2012 | 2 Comments
One of the little pleasures of rewriting is forcing yourself to add nuance and further examples to test your overall argument or theme. This week I’ve been trying to improve a paper I started roughly a year ago for a conference on surveillance in everyday life, one that I’ve already submitted for publication in an edited book. So I’m torn between the temptation to start all over again, because I ‘finished’ the previous version, and the sense that there might be more to say, if I just add layers to what was already an OK skeleton.
I have no idea how people make decisions about this sort of thing. I feel like other academics know how to repurpose content in some smart way without people noticing or minding. But I get caught up in all kinds of neuroses about it, from copyright issues to concerns about being repetitive. So I never really published chapters from my monographs as journal articles, for instance. But is that stupid? Who is ever going to read my book anyway? Why can’t I be more pragmatic about publishing?
Maybe it’s some kind of delusion that your best published work should be good enough to stand alone in a singular version. But how realistic is that in an age of remix, piracy and download… when people read from Google scans or pdf grabs without ever feeling a text. Besides, I am always reassuring anxious students that their writing is never finished – it just takes particular shape for particular readers and institutional purposes. This advice is intended to help absolve the preciousness that can affect PhD writing. But what happens if you give up on the idea of a piece of work ever being complete – to your motivation, to your sense of achievement? Does it mean a life condemned to the abstract sensibilities in this description of writing? Is it possible that I share drafts too early, when they aren’t yet ‘cooked’ (but that’s kind of the point of this blog’s title, right?) What are the consequences? ? ?
All this is a roundabout way of saying that I have re-written the piece on adultery technologies that I first finished earlier this year. I would be grateful for any feedback! It’s being considered for a special issue of Surveillance & Society coming out of the February conference, so it is playing up to some of those concerns. Aside from the descriptive side of things, investigating the bizarre world of spouse-busting, I am trying to unpack the idea of truth as it comes attached to sexuality in the psychoanalytic and Foucauldian traditions. I’m looking for ways to theorise fidelity and loyalty that don’t depend on confession, since information and knowledge dispersal are so morbidly our currency in a knowledge economy. It’s about other things too – like the forms of solidarity and love that emerge in societies divided by digital literacy. But I’m not sure that all of these things belong in one paper.
Otherwise – just to finish this totally nerdy discussion about writing – another joy of redrafting is seeing the world come in to synch with what you are working on (even if secretly only you know it is happening!). During the week I accidentally watched this Clinton documentary which helped me nut out a few footnotes on adultery. In fact, in the process of editing I even decided to promote this mini-paragraph out of footnotes to its own transitional role in text.
That adultery anxiety continues to focus on the elite class is certainly evident in the routine tactics of electoral politics whether of the Right or Left. The 2012 resignation of CIA Director General David Petraeus following email evidence of an ongoing affair is a further example of the political stakes of mediatised infidelity. As in the Clinton scandal, the crime of adultery in high office is taken to be especially significant since it can be placed on a sliding scale of dishonesty – ending in treason.
Even if no one ever notices this tiny addition, even if it gets cut entirely during peer review… I’m going to remember this momentous decision!
Posted on | December 6, 2012 | 1 Comment
In The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage tells the story of F. B. Morse, inventor of the Morse code, whose wife Lucretia ‘died suddenly at their home in New Haven, Connecticut on the afternoon of Feb 7, 1825.’ Away on business, Morse remained oblivious: “I long to hear from you,” he wrote on February 10, at which point she was already dead. By the time Morse received the news of Lucretia’s passing, in a letter sent by his father, it was the day before her funeral. Travelling as fast as he could from Washington, Morse could only make it home the following week, and was unable to see his wife again before her burial. It would be another seven years before Morse came up with the idea that led him to invent code, the communication system that hastened the speed of messages for good, and helped so many others avoid the tragedy that marked the end of his marriage.
Posted on | December 2, 2012 | 1 Comment
When you are deep in a book, it’s my experience that you check out of life a little; to others you look like you’re there, but you’re never completely present. You try talking, but you can’t quite tune in; you try listening to people, but you can’t quite concentrate. You’re working harder than ever, but you have little to show for it, and it grows ever harder to explain what you are up to: at the instant somebody asks, you’re probably attempting a dozen different things, none of them really intelligible to an outsider because they may or may not form part of an as-yet inconceivable whole.
The trouble with this quote is that it explains my life rather than any specific moment when I am writing a book…keep looking »