Via The Data Justice Lab.
Another important home of Cultural Studies research, Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies, is apparently under threat. I encourage anyone reading this to please read about this and why it’s important and consider signing the petition here:
Some really interesting work from the Tactical Team looking at the ways in which different people and their skills and knowledges move in and out of government and the ‘Alphabet empire’. Worth a full read, but here’s a snippet to whet the appetite…
The Alphabet Empire by Tactical Tech and La Loma as shown in The Glass Room in New York. Based on openly available information, this 3-D infographic combines a quote from its chairman, Eric Schmidt, with a mapping of its acquisitions and investments.
By Google’s own admission, the company, like many others, cultivates close relationships with governmental bodies and public officials. Google disclosed that in 2015 it spent over €4 million on lobbying the European Union – considerably more than the €1 million on lobbying spent just three years previously in 2012.
But some of Google’s relationships with public bodies and officials come with a smaller price tag: Over the past ten years at least 80 people have been identified to have moved jobs between Google and European governments.
It’s this “revolving door” that formed the basis of our investigation. We started out with a number of questions: who were these people who had moved from Google to government or vice versa? Where exactly did they move from and to, and when? And most importantly how many of these questions could we find answers to using open, publicly-available information?
Paula Crutchlow, with Ian Cook and I, invite submissions for the following session for this year’s RGS-IBG conference. Please do share this with anyone (doesn’t have to be geographers) who may be interested. As we say below, we welcome any kind of creative response to the theme. The session builds on Paula’s PhD project The Museum of Contemporary Commodities, which will be active before and throughout the conference in the RGS-IBG building.
Museum of Contemporary Commodities: creative propositions and provocations on the heritages of data-trade-place-value
How do we open out the messy digital geographies of trade, place and value to the world? How can we work with the digital beyond beyond archives, spectacle and techno-dystopian imaginations? How do we do so in a ways that are performative, collaborative and provocative of the digital?
This session builds on the planned hosting of the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) in the RGS(IBG)’s Pavilion in the days leading up to the annual conference (and its partial installation in the RGS(IBG) building during the conference) where it will join the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums on London’s Exhibition Road. Developed as acts of valuing the things we buy today as the heritage of tomorrow, MoCC’s artworks take the form of dynamic, collaborative hacks and prototypes; socio-material processes, objects and events that aim to enrol publics in trade justice debates in light footed, life-affirming, surprising and contagious ways as part of their daily routines.
We invite prospective participants to offer propositions and provocations that stitch into or unpick the complex and sometime knotty patchwork quilt of data-trade-place-value. This is an invitation to contribute to and convene conversations that enliven geographical understandings of the governance, performance, placings and values/valuing of contemporary (digitally) mediated material culture. The resulting session is not conceived as a ‘conventional’ paper session. We invite submissions of ten-minute contributions that might take various forms, which might include essay, performance, video and many other creative responses to the theme.
This invitation should be understood in its broadest sense. We are interested in the commingling and mash-up of the theme(s) data-trade-place-value. We very much encourage submissions that push back against the normative authorities or discourses surrounding ‘the digital’ (however that might be conceived). So, we hope that all involved in the session will thereby be challenged and inspired by creative propositions and provocations that begin to get to the heart of how we open out the messy digital geographies of trade, place and value to the world.
Themes could include:
- lively methods that work with and through participatory media
- intimacy, humour, trust and the internet of things
- mashups, subversions and hacks of big data from the bottom up
- discourses and practises of future orientation and the spatial imaginations of ‘the digital’
- an intersectional internet and the rise of ‘platforms’
- alternative trade models, value systems and networked culture
- DIWO (Do It With Others), scholar-activism & public pedagogy
- the economic geographies of the battle for ‘open’
- Please submit 250 word abstracts to us by email by 7 February and we will get back to you by 13 February.
The petition of the AAG by the Network of Concerned Geographers (NCG), expressing concern about the growing involvement of the US military in the discipline of geography has only a few more signatures needed.
If you have not signed and are interested to know more about this, please visit the petition web page and consider signing.
There’s lots going on, much of it creative and interesting – so if you’re in Exeter or nearby: come and visit!
Two immediate things this week:
RIGHT NOW!: help re-create the internet in paper with Artist Louise Ashcroft from 11 -2 in the Exeter University Forum.
TOMORROW: sign up to do a data walkshop with Alison Powell from the LSE on Saturday from 10-1. Places have to be booked, and the Eventbrite page is here https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mocc-data-walkshop-tickets-24464719635
87 Fore St,
Open 10:00-18:00pm Weds-Sat, 4th-21st May.
This looks good. Another interesting event found through Mark Purcell…
Over on his blog Path to the Possible Mark Purcell has written a thoughtful and interesting piece diagnosing a slip into a kind of cynicism, or perhaps a rut in ‘critical’ thinking in geography, that the predominant disposition of criticality in ‘critical geography’ is of being against— : “against colonialism, against capitalism, against racism, etc.”.
Purcell argues that a negative consensus of what constitutes ‘criticality’ has developed that has created an orthodoxy of negation:
“I worry that we have become inordinately attached to singing in this key, that we have become unable to do anything other than cancel what we oppose.”
Indeed, this echoes a criticism of the over-coding of the various readings of what one might mean by ‘neo-liberalism’ by James Ferguson in Antipode that, as Clive Barnett summarises: “identifies a standard style of critique as denunciation of exploitation, inequality and oppression” but that can also be rather limited.
In this way we might understand such an orthodoxy of a perpetuation of an adaption to the contemporary milieu, in the form of a negation of its conditions (such as, for example, labelling everything ‘neoliberalism’) rather than an adoption and then rethinking the practices/processes of the conditions that produce it [I’m riffing on Stiegler’s distinction between adaption (as a tendency towards dis-individuation) and adoption (as a tendency towards co-individuation)]. This ‘orthodoxy of negation’ (as I have chosen to call it) can be characterised as a kind of entropy, a slip from proactive thought into what might be a kind of un-thinking or ‘unreason’ and ‘stupidity’ (as Stiegler has it in States of Shock). Stupidity is a necessary tendency for all of us insofar as it is the precondition for knowledge, but we need a shock to thought in order to reinvigorate our capacities for knowledge. Of course, we are overburdened by shocks (as Naomi Klein outlines in The Shock Doctrine) that appear to arrive with increasing frequency. Rather than submit to simply adapting to the onslaught of ever-more-frequent shocks, following Stiegler’s analysis, we need to engender a therapeutic form of ‘shock’ to our thinking that doesn’t simply confirm a status quo of the orthodoxy of negation.
Reading this together with the argument presented by James Ferguson, who argues:
“what if politics is really not about expressing indignation or denouncing the powerful? What if it is, instead, about getting what you want? … Denunciatory analyses often treat government as the simple expression of power or domination—the implication apparently being that it is politically objectionable that people should be governed at all. But any realistic sort of progressive politics that would seek a serious answer to the question “what do we want?” will have to involve an exploration of the contemporary possibilities for developing genuinely progressive arts of government.”
Thus the habitual ruts of critique that Ferguson calls the “antis” (anti-globalisation, anti-neo-liberalism, anti-privatisation, etc.) in which any exercise of power is considered in some way dubious are, perhaps analogous to the forms of ‘stupidity’ (of entropy) that Stiegler argues against. I am not offering a simple and pejorative sweeping dismissal of any of those so-called “anti–” positions, neither am I making a glib appeal to Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach. Nevertheless, I am suggesting that a more affirmative attitude might be necessary and that we all need to be aware of our own ‘stupidity’ (otherwise there’s simply no hope for individuation!).
I welcome a call for ‘joyfulness’ in research and in ‘critique’, a more affirmative attitude towards the exercise of power in the face of the orthodoxy of negation and all of this reminded me of Clive’s excellent reading of James Ferguson’s paper, upon which some of this post has been based. So, for me (and for what its worth) I guess I would advocate a kind of practical joyfulness – one that aspires to the same precepts of communing, of mutual aid, of solidarity that Purcell discusses in his blogpost and begins from the everydayness of doing geography (as an academic, as a teacher, as an activist and so on).
I’ve hardly slept due to a poorly child but I do think it’s worth reading all of these things I’ve linked here together to formulate a way of moving forward… just my grain de sel 🙂
Over on the LA Review of Books site there is a really interesting sort of ‘call and response‘ debate, in which Geoffrey de Lagasanerie (Prof. of Philosophy at ÉNS) and Edouard Louis (author) offer a manifesto for counter-acting a perceived capturing of politics by a kind of right-wing intellectualism (this was originally published in Le Monde, and translated for LARB), to which Bernard Stiegler (philosopher & activist) offers a forthright response (translated for LARB).
de Lagasanerie and Louis observe:
Against this massive political-intellectual dynamic [populism, Islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, antisemitism], a general mood is established. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there are many today who make their living off of this disarray and sadness. To experience politics, for most of us now, is to experience powerlessness.
and offer a kind of manifesto, or set of principles, in response: to refuse to recognise particular ideologues; to recognise refugees and racists alike as what they are rather than bow to a perceived deception; to ‘redistribute shame’ by making those on the far-right understand that their remarks are worthy of nothing but contempt; and finally: to intervene, wherever possible. They argue that:
…we cannot just lament the situation without questioning the means of creating new structures. In fact, all hope is not lost: the Zemmours and Houellebecqs are bent on denying what they really are, and lying. The left continues to dominate symbolically. In France, “intellectual right” remains an oxymoron, better still: an impossibility. We must at least rejoice in that.
In response, Bernard Stiegler opposes the sweeping generalisation of the identification of any kind of ‘intellectual’ which for him validates a kind of proleterianisation (after Marx) that is (in fact) a loss of knowledge (regardless of class position):
In the first place, for any thinking that claims to think powerlessness (and “to say things other than what is already agreed”), the common noun “intellectual” (“an intellectual,” “intellectuals”) must not only be the subject of critique, but should be scrupulously avoided. […] The figure of “the intellectual” is an unfortunate invention that unquestioningly internalizes the opposition between “manual workers” and “intellectuals,” […] Behind all this lies proletarianization, which today affects all forms of knowledge, and firstly as a destruction of knowledge — of how to live, do, and conceptualize.
Stiegler moves on to discuss how the issue of powerlessness not only stems from the issues that de Lagasnerie & Louis diagnose but are, further, entrenched and tied up with these forms of proletarianisation (losses of knowledge), in which even those apparently radical thinkers on the left are somewhat complicit (with a particular withering for Badiou). It is worth quoting at length here:
Geoffroy de Lagasnerie and Edouard Louis deplore the absence of intellectual debate. For my part I deplore that, like Manuel Valls, they have apparently never heard either of Pharmacologie du Front National or of States of Shock — in which I argue that so-called “post-structuralism” has significantly contributed, in France and elsewhere, to the legitimation first of neoliberal discourse and then libertarian discourse, the libertarians being those who are the practitioners of disruption.
This is occurring not only because “intellectuals” yield to the drive-based ideology of the extreme right as it continues to gain ground. It is because there is no thought of the present age worthy of the name — and here, where I am resolutely “on the left,” I would never say that such a thought “worthy of the name” would necessarily be on the left.
The “intellectuals,” whether of the “left” or the “right,” are stuck in an antiquated opposition between “intellectual” and “manual” that refers in a more profound way to the opposition between logos and tekhne against which Marx fought, and which he posited as the basis of the ideology that was then called “bourgeois.” This has largely been forgotten, in particular by the heirs of Althusser and firstly by Alain Badiou. For the consequence lies in the fact that, contrary to what Badiou’s hero, Plato, wants to prove, knowledge is always constituted by technics, which in so doing always constitutes a social relation.
In this forgetting of the technological composition (in all of the meanings of that word) of society and humanity we fail to recognise the context of what is variously (by politicians and technologists alike) referred to as ‘disruption’. Stiegler argues (somewhat) in passing here, and in greater detail elsewhere, that this is precisely what is stake in coming to know/understand the ‘anthropocene’. He discusses how this relates to contemporary feelings of powerlessness through the trope of entropy/negentropy – which he has been working with across various books (some of which have recently been translated and some which are still to be translated):
Entropy is becoming, devenir. Negentropy is what inscribes within it a future, avenir. Becoming and future have until today been confused. It is this confusion that makes us powerless, and it is what the impasse of the Anthropocene reveals. Such a perspective is also an immense building site for intellectual construction — open to all those who still have the ability to think for themselves, rather than vainly repeat received ideas.
These two articles are well worth a read, they offer an interesting counter-poise to anglophone debates about the multiple ‘crises’ in Europe (of refugees, of the rise of the far-right, of the capitulation of democracy to technocracy etc. etc.). Plus they’re good fun to read 🙂
Manifesto for an Intellectual and Political Counteroffensive by Geoffroy de Lagasnerie & Edouard Louis, translated by Adam Briscoe.
Power, Powerlessness, Thinking, and Future by Bernard Stiegler, translated by Daniel Ross.