And another thing…

•25 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

My Delicious bookmarks (to be found along the right-hand side of the screen, just below my “academic” Twitter feed) are updated *almost* every day, with material flagged by my Google Alerts (on the topics of Facebook, Twitter, social media, social networking and web 2.0) and other sources.

I tend to tag everything from the academic to the popular, the useful to the ridiculous. Check ’em out!

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Comps Wordles

•25 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

My comps papers, as visualized by Wordle.

Field Survey:
Wordle: Cultural Studies

Topic Paper:
Wordle: Social Media

Words linked to other words

•24 February 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s the “new” site, created/completed quite a while ago now, but made public only recently.

It has been moderately helpful during the writing process. I think it would have been more helpful 1) had I prepared it as I read and 2) had I been slightly more discerning with the terms I chose to include.

Stay Tuned

•10 January 2011 • Leave a Comment

Did you know that is also the title of a 1992 movie starring John Ritter? Did you know I’ve seen it, like, at least a dozen times and can rhyme off quotes like it’s my job? The shame.

Anyways, what I meant to say is “stay tuned” for a forthcoming post that links to another (comps) blog I’ve been working on, in which I post every piece of criticism I’ve read (roughly 94 distinct pieces), categorized (in terms of authors and works) and tagged (in terms of key words) to assist in the preparation of my examination papers. As I’ve mentioned before, the comps blogging plan kind of failed, but I’m not ready to give up all hope just yet.

In the meantime, here’s a link to yet another blog I’ve been spending time on: a personal blog that’s more a lesson in the discipline of blogging than anything else.

Putting the “Christ” back in “Social media”

•24 December 2010 • Leave a Comment

Happy holidays, all.

Everyday Life 2: Le quotidien dure

•13 November 2010 • Leave a Comment

As James Brown would say, “I’m back!” Yesterday’s “live” blog was pretty ridiculous, but at the end of the day it helped me accomplish the reading and that’s what matters. Thus, I bring you part two of my everyday life theory blog. Today’s challenge? Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life, Volume I. I’m feeling a little more confident heading into this one as I’ve recently read significant chunks of both the first and second volumes, including the second of the two chapters I’ll be looking at today. No introduction or conclusion distractions this time around; I didn’t bother to photocopy them, opting instead to adhere to Pam’s Comps Commandment: To thine own comps list be true, i.e. NO MORE OVER-READING! Enjoy.

Chapter 4: “The Development of Marxist Thought”

10:15 – You’ve gotta love a chapter that begins, “…one may say, Marxism already offers a complete critical knowledge of everyday life! No.” No. Bam.

10:20 – “aufgehoben,” or “to abolish something (as it was) and to raise it to a higher level” “at the same time” // Bolter’s “remediation” (or any of the new media theories that “resolve” the many binaries (that essentially amount to “good” v. “bad”) by opting for the “both” explanation, or the incorporation, extension and supersession argument)

10:35 – I just lost a fair amount of time looking up “supercession” and “supersession” on dictionary.com and the OED online.

10:41 – I love (or strongly dislike?) how much use I get out of individual summaries of Marxist theory (like the one Lefebvre provides at the beginning of this chapter). One of my greatest concerns as a “scholar” (yeah, I still feel the need to scare-quote that term…also to turn “scare quote” into a verb) is my discomfort and nascent knowledge/understanding of Marxism. Do some people emerge from the womb with a copy of Capital in their hands? Is this taught as the go-to theory everywhere but where I did my undergraduate studies?

10:46 – “The human has been formed through dehumanization – dialectically.” (180)

10:52 – For someone who slammed the insufficiency of Marxism in the chapter’s opening sentence, he sure has come around. Marxism, as it turns out, is still the answer, but a specific kind of Marxism, i.e. Lefebvre’s.

10:53 – I am taking notes and marking up my photocopied reading with a purple pen.

10:58 – DO!

11:00 – *moment of silence*

11:22 – Or a few moments…

11:26 – “Literature does not deserve to be held in excessively high esteem, but nor [?] does it deserve the fate of being degraded by resentful, disappointed people….Literature cannot bring us salvation, because it needs to be saved itself” (186). I think this is the first time in all of my “cultural studies” comps reading I have come across this sentiment. To be honest, I expected to encounter it a whole lot more.

11:28 – Lefebvre’s refrain: “Action and action alone…”

11:31 – The “new man” is/should be – apparently – capable of finding “the appropriate level for talking precisely about things” (186). Way to sell it and not vague it up at all.

1:10 – Yep, this is my life. URGENT phone calls, URGENT emails, URGENT distractions leading to other distractions…and I have to leave to teach in less than an hour. Won’t be getting much reading done this afternoon…

1:18 – “The immediate – the given human raw material of everyday life – at one and the same time reveals and disguises the deepest of realities, both implying them and concealing them.” (189-90)

1:21 – “Here is a major problem which Marxists know well: to find a link between the immediate and the solutions Marxism proposes, so giving the immediate a positive function as practical and historical intermediary between theory and reality.” (190) This seems potentially problematic to me, for several reasons. 1) ‘Finding’ a link easily slides into “forcing” a link, where Marxism emerges only as the “right” answer/strategy because someone (or many people) has/have already decided that this is the case. In other words, the theory begets the reality, as opposed to the other way around (I do not deny the possibility of this, but question its desirability as a critical practice). 2) The idea of ‘giving the immediate a positive function’ implies that it lacked such a “positive” valence on its own, and/or that functionalizing it (the “immediate” or “human raw material”) is necessarily “good.”

1:39 – Some of this is a little cheesy, a little obvious, a little beside the point…

1:43 – For a limited time only, get your Dialectical Materialism/Marxism for the low, low price of forgoing all other theories (because there is only one). Act now! No, seriously, act now. For real, guys. Just do it.

1:45 – “…nowadays, we do not know how we live. And at the end of our lives, we scarcely know how we have lived them.” (195) – Henri Lefebvre, on The Oprah Winfrey Show

1:52 – When Lefebvre gets down to business describing his “How we live” project (196), all nuance of thought seems to go right out the window. All of a sudden “the Frenchman has long been one of the most exploited members of the capitalist universe” (197) and is “rushing headlong into slavery” (198), and we can dare to know “what is true and what is false” (197). I’m not down.

1:56 – Done! Just in time to run for the bus…Will continue with next chapter later this evening.

Chapter 6: “What is Possible”

7:22 – I read this a few months ago for a course on the archive and everyday life. I’m curious to see if my thoughts/opinions have changed.

7:23 – I only have about 40 minutes to read before I have to leave to go see Jackass 3 (no, not a typo…an IOU for a friend). Hopefully I will be awake enough to finish the reading upon my return later tonight.

7:25 – “…the optimistic idea of ‘Progress’ lacks flexibility and dialectical understanding.” (229)

7:30 – “life is lagging behind what is possible” (230) – I think I initially read this a few months ago in far less Marxist terms. It’s funny, though, reading it now with a better understanding of its context, I’m kind of let down. “What is possible” but not realized ends up as no more than the gap between the haves and the have nots: a valid, but ultimately unimpressive statment.

7:43 – Oh, right. Initially published in 1947. I need to bear this in mind when I read about the U.S. as “a country where the general crisis of capitalism has scarcely begun” (235). Hehe. Old writing is old.

7:49 – Argh, it’s nearly impossible to do reading well (yeah, that’s a legitimate phrase) when you know you have to leave in mere minutes. I so wanted to be at least halfway through before taking off but I don’t know if that’s going to happen…

7:53 – Trying to decide if the terms of Lefebvre’s “false individuality” or “façade of individuality” (237) are equivalent to the terms of Adorno/Horkheimer’s “pseudo-individuality.” Obviously they are similar, but I don’t think they are equivalent- not that discerning slight variations between the two is really of any use…

[Note: It took me three tries to get that “ç.” It appears my memory of Alt codes, painfully garnered in my undergraduate years while working towards a Minor in French, has grown somewhat fuzzy. Le sigh.]

7:58 – And with that I think, unfortunately, I must call it quits. For now. Time for a ridiculous movie and possibly some popcorn. Back with more later tonight.

[Note: While this may look like a neat transition of an hour or so – and I wish it was – this transition was in fact brought to you by…the past few days. Whoops.]

9:06 – And so we begin again in order to conclude…

9:12 – The everyday is just like Auschwitz? No. (I know this isn’t straight up what he’s saying, and I know treating the Holocaust as an event apart, an exception, could be as dangerous as not recognizing it at all, but c’mon. Are [the feelings of those in the camps with regards to the simultaneity of the absurd and the rational] not precisely the most constant of all the feelings underlying everyday life…? Not precisely. Um, no.) That having been said, I’m imagining what it would have been like to attempt to critically address the concentration camps in 1947…and it’s kind of blowing my mind.

9:18 – “…the everyday life of the ‘modern’ man in modern towns and on industrial housing estates…is tragically controlled by unresolved contradictions and by the most painful contradiction of all: that between absurdity and Reason, both equally inhuman, both indivisibly united.” (244)

9:21 – The crux of the comparison: “if Fascism represents the most extreme form of capitalism, the concentration camp is the most extreme and paroxysmal form of a modern housing estate, or of an industrial town…[T]he link is clear.” (245-6)

9:23 – The habitual, the everyday, the quotidian is revealed in the exceptional…

9:25 – “The possible,” as Lefebvre uses it here, is not just the positive, the potential, but also the negative, the regressive (i.e. “the possibilities of man and Reason can be transformed into the most monstrous of realities” [246]).

9:27 – “…should we…wish to ‘look into the future’…there is one childish error we must avoid: to base the man of the future on what we are now…[W]e should acquire…another attitude of the human being towards himself.” (246)

9:30 – “no one individual can really grasp what the overall meaning and consequences of his labour might be.” (247)

9:32 – “The modern individual is ‘deprived’ not only of social reality and truth, but of power over himself.” (248)

9:37 – “With its speculative (metaphysical) vocabulary, philosophy is itself part of human alienation. But man has developed only through alienation: the history of truth cannot be separated from the history of errors.” (249)

9:44 – “Dialectical method applies its criticism to its own efforts as well. The ‘vision’ of the world it strives for, a vision it first glimpses at certain ‘moments’ of thought – the total conception of the world, the possibility of the total man – will only make sense once it stops being a ‘vision’ and a ‘conception’: once it penetrates life and transforms it. This ‘philosophy’ wants to be serious without taking itself seriously.” (251)

9:49 – Oh, Lefebvre. You had me until “genuine humanism:” “Going beyond the emotional attempts by philanthropists and sentimental (petty-bourgeois) humanists to ‘magnify’ humble gestures, and beyond that allegedly superior irony which has systemically devalued life, seeing it merely as back-stage activity or comic relief in a tragedy, the critique of everyday life – critical and positive – must clear the way for a genuine humanism, for a humanism which believes in the human because it knows it.” (252)

9:50 – FIN. In the end, does Lefebvre really say anything more here than ‘shit is real’? I don’t know. I think the second volume of Critique had a lot more useful stuff. Or maybe I’m crazy…

The Practice of Everyday Life…LIVE! and in colour

•10 November 2010 • 1 Comment

Okay, so, this blog didn’t really pan out as I had planned. At the end of the day, when it comes to choosing between doing comps readings, completing comps notes and type type typing comps blogs, the blogs, it seems, will always get CUT. I have guilt complexes about my guilt complexes about this particular compsfail (e.g. How can I possibly discuss social media without constantly engaging with them in my own work?!?! panicpanicpanic), but I’m trying my best to just let it go. Shit happens. I’m behind on comps and, at the end of the day (or February), I will not have blogged my comps experience as I had so hoped I would. Moving on.

The perfectionist part of me (which comprises a considerable, albeit constantly diminishing, part) would at this point conclude, ‘If I can’t blog everything, I will blog nothing.’ But that’s no way to live (seriously, Perfectionist Me tends/tended to get much less done as a result). So here you have my latest (in over two months???) attempt to social mediatize this school year: a live (!) blog of my reading of Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. “Live” in that I’m writing it as I read. “Recorded,” I suppose, in that you will not actually get to read it until it’s done. Life’s hard.

[One additional note: I take small comfort in the fact that the past two months have not been productivity-free. I submitted OGS and SSHRC proposals. I attended the MPCA/ACA conference in Minneapolis. I submitted a draft chapter for a forthcoming critical collection on Harry Potter with Palgrave Macmillan, due in 2011. I continue to attempt to teach first years what cultural studies is about. And I’ve been preparing for this.]

The Practice of Everyday Life

“General Introduction”

[It’s important that you know I’m using a New England Patriots pencil to take notes and listening to my iTunes DJ.]

7:45 – I start reading the introduction, even though I don’t have to.

7:50 – Consumption as production.

7:55 – “…bring to light the clandestine forms taken by the dispersed, tactical, and makeshift creativity of groups or individuals already caught in the nets of ‘discipline’ [Foucault].” (xiv-xv)

8:03 – Still not done the introduction, I take a quick break to review some notes and tweet.

8:07 – Back. Lame revelatory tweet accomplished.

8:12 – I “learn” the “difference” between “strategy” and “tactic” (and overuse quotation marks in the process).

8:14 – As it turns out, Appadurai and de Certeau make a favourable, if accidental, pairing.

8:22 – I finish the introduction. Fourteen pages in over half an hour. Miserable. Time to read the chapters I’ve actually assigned myself!

Part I: Chapter I “A Common Place: Ordinary Language”

10:08 – Back after a “short” (cough, cough) break to read at least chapter 1. Predicted use value of this “live” blog? Zero. If nothing else, it’s a good motivational tool…to, you know, read…faster.

10:12 – A de Certeau “hidden gem” (for any EW/DWTS fans…yeah, just try and understand that without proper context): “by producing a certain kind of anonymous laugher [sic] a literature defines its own status: because it is only a simulacrum, it is the truth of a world of honors and glamor destined to die.” (2) [No, the spelling mistake, likely limited to my particular edition, is not the hidden gem.]

10:25 – Sometimes (oftentimes?): de Certeau’s “Expert” = tenured professor, “Philosopher” = contract newbie.

10:40 – As this chapter draws to a close, I realize: de Certeau is an enigma wrapped in a pile of jargon. I hate when people read things (Foucault, Derrida, Agamben, Butler, maybe even folks like Adorno, I don’t know…) and make statements like this. And yet… Having only read “Walking in the City” before tonight, I have simply not been in a place (until now) to corroborate the theory with regards to de Certeau. So consider this my confirmation. There is some crazy shit, here.

10:42 – You know what would be helpful? A thorough knowledge (or any) of Wittgenstein).

10:44 – “…since one does not ‘leave’ this language, since one cannot find another place from which to interpret it…, since in short there is no way out, the fact remains that we are foreigners on the inside–but there is no outside…we must constantly ‘run up against the limits’ or ordinary language…” (13-4)

Chapter II “Popular Cultures: Ordinary Language”

10:36 – You might ask, ‘How did she go back in time?’ She didn’t. It’s morning, and the next day. And with it, the next chapter.

10:37 – Current track: “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” by Three 6 Mafia. You said it. Word.

10:54 – I need coffee. Also, I need to remember why I thought these chapters would be useful…

10:56 – Back with coffee in my “Live happy” (ha!) mug. This blog, in the end, will prove entirely useless, but it has kept me entertained.

10:58 – Phone call. “Pause.”

11:09 – End of phone call. Disruptions. Argh.

11:14 – Proverbs, games and legends (“examples of terrains on which one can locate the specific modalities of ‘enunciative’ practices” [24])…oh my?

11:22 – La perruque! (i.e. how I spent easily 50% of my day in my old job…)

11:30 – Chapter complete. Okay, that last part was worth it, even if I can’t completely endorse the transgressive characterization of la perruque, noting the potential for it to be viewed instead as a diversion that reinforces–as opposed to subverts–the dominant system. That having been said, do I go as far as to say this blog ‘has made a kind of perruque of writing itself’? I do, and I did.

Part IV: Chapter X “The Scriptural Economy”

11:43 – Let’s do this. All 23 pages of it.

11:45 – Or I could get more coffee. And turn up the volume for the Glee mash-up of “Borderline” and “Open Your Heart” (embarrassing, certainly, but even though the show’s not great and, generally speaking, covers are a terrible idea, I found this one particularly enjoyable, likely due to my 10-year-old obsession with Madonna’s True Blue album).

[Note: If you’re interested in the complete musical accompaniment to today’s comps readings, you can check it out here.]

11:54 – “…orality insinuates itself, like one of the threads of which it is composed, into the network–an endless tapestry–of a scriptural economy.” (132)

11:55 – My open Gmail window distracts, much like the phone.

11:59 – “Scriptural practice has acquired a mythical value,” whereby “myth,” as defined by de Certeau, represents “a fragmented discourse which is articulated on the heterogeneous practices of a society and which also articulates them symbolically.” (133-4)

12:03 – de Certeau reverses/confuses everything I know about the distinction between writing and discourse in his insistence on practice and “producing” (i.e. myth not carried by the constellation that is discourse but by the carrier that is writing).

12:05 – Now I will refrain from explicitly stating why I need a quick break. Boy, that cup and a half of coffee…

12:09 – Back with the reading and progress is slow. There is a lot of (potentially useful) content, here. Sorry, Gorillaz. Down goes the volume…

12:19 – “Revolution itself, that ‘modern’ idea, represents the scriptural project at the level of an entire society seeking to constitute itself as a blank page with respect to the past, to write itself by itself (that is, to produce itself as its own system) and to produce a new history…on the model of what it fabricates (and this will be ‘progress’).” (135) – yeah, it’s taken me this long to get only this far

12:22 – “Today…the scriptural system moves forward on its own; it is becoming self-moving and technocratic; it transforms the subjects that controlled it into operators of the writing machine that orders and uses them. A cybernetic society.” (135-6)

12:24 – “I have to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time…” (No, not de Certeau, but Lennon/McCartney, currently playing on my iTunes.)

12:30 – Facebook break. (These comments are increasingly off-topic…I am increasingly off-topic…)

12:38 – The Law <- -> The Body

12:44 – “Blue, songs are like tattoos / You know I’ve been to sea before / Crown and anchor me / Or let me sail away / Hey Blue, here is a song for you /Ink on a pin / Underneath the skin / An empty space to fill in” (Okay, I admit it; I totally forced this simultaneity. Although it would have been truly spectacular had my random picked this song just as I was reading this section on writing and bodily inscription…)

1:00 – “The credibility of a discourse is what first makes believers act in accord with it. It produces practitioners. To make people believe is to make them act. But by a curious circularity, the ability to make people act–to write and to machine bodies–is precisely what makes people believe….normative discourse ‘operates’ only if it has already become a story, a text articulated on something real and speaking in its name…” (148-9)

1:05 – Not entirely sure I understand what de Certeau means by this system-escaping/surpassing “cry”…

1:13 – One more down, one to go (+ the conclusion, if I choose to read it). Lots of notes from the first half of this chapter, while the second half kind of dropped off (does de Certeau really offer anything more than an unnecessarily long-winded and convoluted definition of postmodernism?).

Chapter XII “Reading as Poaching”

4:47 – Hurray for ridiculously long breaks? Okay, time to hammer out the last of it. It’s trivia night and I take my trivia very seriously.

4:51 – I had forgotten, for a moment, that this is where Jenkins gets his “poaching” from (or that they are one in the same).

4:55 – “The efficiency of production implies the inertia of consumption. It produces the ideology of consumption-as-a-receptacle.” (167)

5:01 – “The reader takes neither the position of the author nor the author’s position.” (169)

5:03 – “…the text has a meaning only through its readers…” (170)

5:06 – “…’literal’ meaning is the index and the result of a social power, that of an elite.” (171)

5:12 – “Indeed reading has no place….[T]he reader…escapes from the law of each text in particular, and from that of the social milieu.” (174) That’s a nice thought, but it’s painfully naive (and overwhelmingly reminiscent of many of the new media/Internet criticisms I’ve been reading the past few weeks). The other day, during a discussion of Adorno and Horkheimer, a student of mine suggested that we can escape the trappings of the culture industry through literature, essentially through the imagination. My heart almost broke. It was lovely, really, to hear a first year say such a thing. But I can’t get on the side of this imaginary criticism that I find so often in contemporary literary criticism (and some cultural studies criticism, too). It distracts with its beautiful, shiny facade, concealing the fact that not only is it not an effective answer, it’s no answer at all, and is instead a well-crafted diversion couched in some sort of nostalgic, fairy-tale rhetoric. I digress…

5:22 – Reading as bricolage (174), reading and the body (175), reading as a “visual poem” (175)…

5:26 – de Cereau thinks “we mustn’t take people for fools” (176). Aw. End of chapter.

“Indeterminate” (I assume to avoid stating “Conclusion”)

5:29 – “A strange chiasm: theory moves in the direction of the indeterminate, while technology moves toward the funtionalist distinction and in that way transforms everything and transforms itself as well.” (199)

5:33 – “This is the logic of production…It rejects the relevance of places it does not create.” (201)

5:38 – I tend to find one phrase in every conclusion I want to hold on to (whether “useful” or no): “a putting-together of what coheres without being coherent” (202). And so I give you this “live” blog, captured across almost 22 hours, with little actual content but the process of creating it. I’ve done the reading, I have my notes and now, even though I’ve not exactly produced something of discernible merit, I can sleep sound (for one night, anyways) knowing I’ve updated this blog with something. Perhaps I’ll attempt a part-two with Lefebvre.