Sunday, May 06, 2007

Historical ontology

In going through Foucault’s various books and articles that I’ve read this semester, I came across this very dense and apt phrase in Order of Things that seems to sum up the entire concept of historical ontology:

“History shows that everything that has been thought will be thought again by a thought that does not yet exist”
(p. 372)

I am grappling now with this concept as shown by this quote: that of historical ontology, which argues for the specific situatedness of modes of being and specific epistemes.

I’ve been reading Hacking’s book by that name, in which he is arguing for the situated understanding of being in a specific episteme. He argues through Foucault, without directly referencing Foucault much, a method I find quite interesting as an approach for the Foucault paper I’m working on, that presents a historical ontology of digitality. It needs to be a long-ish paper, so I should be able to nicely sink my teeth in it. I’ve still got some of that “white paper syndrome” going on, where I am a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of the argument I want to present. As I spend time playing solitaire on my computer or concocting new recipes, I feel the whole paper swirling around in my head.

The question then is, when will the thought that I need to capture on whiteness in Word coalesce into thoughts that can be coherently stated?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Discourse communities?

I just finished writing a rather mediocre paper last night that analysed death memorial websites as fulfilling a kind of networked digital author function.

Part of my somewhat muddled argument in the paper was the idea that the narratives and practices of the people and the platform and functionalities of the net cooperate to create a specific discourse about what death means to these people and what it does to their selves as subjects.

But today I stumbled across a Terra Nova post by John Bilodeau that speaks of discourse communities. He describes them as:
Both practices and vocabularies are shared within particular social groups.

I find it most interesting that he lumps actual practice in with the notion of discourse. This is one of those areas that I find to be somewhat gray - where does sociological notions of interaction, sociality and self management butt up or overlap with the linguistic and semiotic notions of language and discourse theory? Or perhaps a more pertinent question, why does it?

If discourse is now being widened out to take into account not just a larger ensemble of what people say and believe as a result of a circulating concept, but is also now including all kinds of action and practice in it... what does this do to various concepts of self management, identity practice and power/knowledge within the social sciences? Is this a turf war or just another example of interdisciplinary muddling together of concepts? Another idea of the postmodern doing violence to the originary textual meaning?

Who does Google think I am?

While googling myself today as part of an exercise to see how well social networking sites work to make one visible on the net (part of a project I'm working on), I found an entry in the results from Terra Nova.

Surprised and a bit nonplussed, I clicked over to find this topic thread from last November, quoting something I'd said on the GameCODE blog.


Considering the cred of Terra Nova, I'm now awed and humbled.

But I also found this listing at All Academics, referencing the paper I presented last summer at the American Sociological Assocation annual meeting. What is All Academic? It is the conference submission system that ASA used for the paper submissions. What I'm not sure about is why it has my paper info archived that way. Very odd.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A philosopher's mindset?

"The philosopher who has learnt and adopted the attitudes of philosophy (contemplation and speculation) sees everyday life as the repository of mysteries and wonders that elude his discipline.”
--Henri Lefebvre, 1971, Everyday Life in the Modern World, p. 17.

Is this my problem with my paper writing right now and my feelings of inadequacy? Am I being too much the philosopher?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stuttering, stumbling, succeeding?

It has been a strange few semesters in graduate school so far. I started with optimism, passion, excitement, delight and hope. I'm finishing my second semester feeling somewhat disheartened, uninterested, bored even.

While my fellow students are just as smart and engaged as I expected them to be, the issue for me is that they aren't particularly engaged in the same sort of things I am. I got used to this somewhat in sociology, where the idea of studying digital culture was an oddity that was tolerated by my fellow students studying the more serious topics related to race, gender, economics, politics and quantitative research. I had hoped that this more inter-disciplinary program would allow me to connect with like-minded grad students and we could form a community together, arguing theory, trading links and cfps and generally starting to form a network based on our shared interest and passion for theory and digital culture.

What I'm finding is a program that is heavily slanted towards visual culture, art, literature on one side, and politics, political economy, policy reform and the actual hard-core tech of technology on the other side. The theory ideas are there, but in works I'm already quite familiar with for the most part (e.g. Debord, Adorno, Habermas, Baudrillard). Once again, I'm falling outside of those margins and am feeling the lack of others who share my interests.

Case in point -- trying to start taking a stab at some topics that relate to what will be my MA thesis. My end-of-term-paper proposal in a core communications class did not go over well with the professor and I got a stunningly low grade on it. Ego hit aside, I just needed to talk to a few fellow students who'd get my reaction to it, not just to the grade or the professor's reaction, but to the entire topic, and who could help me kick start it and get going anyway and prove to the professor that my topic is, indeed, worthy of being in a communications course. I didn't and don't have that, so I've been stumbling along, starting things, reading a few others, stuttering out some words on digital paper and generally feeling an increasing fogginess of my brain and lack of interest in my topic.

I've had a few pointers to some relevant literature, most notably the work of french theorist Henri Lefebvre. Problem is, his most influential book is checked out at pretty much any Ontario university I try to get it from, and I don't have the luxury of waiting for inter-library loan on this. I'm trying to piece together his ideas from secondary sources, such as Rob Shields' book about Lefebvre's corpus, but I'm feeling somehow like this is cheating a bit. So I debate -- do I pay the $15 they want to get it to me by Monday morning? And what do I do about the paper before then?

Right around now, with some RAship work also breathing down my neck and two papers due on Tuesday, April 17, I'm feeling more like I'm stumbling towards failure than success.

Oh sure, probably come June, things will feel more positive, but right now? eesh.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Postmodern meals?

Are these particular meals what a postmodernist would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Paper accepted to AoIR 8.0

I got my Second Life political economy analysis paper accepted to the Association of Internet Researcher's annual conference, "Let's Play!", which takes place in Vancouver this year, October 18-20.

I'm pleased about this, obviously, though one reviewer's comment gave me pause. The comment basically put down my paper for being a theoretical exploration rather than an "empirical study". Since I don't remember ever hearing that AoIR discourages theoretical exploration of topics, I found this a curious admonishment.

At the same time, if this is a standard view of what AoIR's conferences are supposed to be about, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the last AoIR conference I attended was skewed so heavily to presentations of quantitative data.