graeber in exile

David Graeber
The Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday published an excellent article on David Graeber: A Radical Anthropologist Finds Himself in Academic “Exile”

His academic “exile,” as he calls it [Graeber meanwhile is a professor at the LSE], has not gone unnoticed. “It is possible to view the fact that Graeber has not secured a permanent academic position in the United States after his controversial departure from Yale University as evidence of U.S. anthropology’s intolerance of political outspokenness,” writes Jeff Maskovsky, an associate professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, in the March issue of American Anthropologist.
    That charge might seem paradoxical, given anthropology’s reputation as a leftist redoubt, but some of Mr. Graeber’s champions see that leftism as shallower than it might first appear. Anthropology “is radical in the abstract,” says Laura Nader, a professor in the field at the University of California at Berkeley. “You can quote Foucault and Gramsci, but if you tell it like it is,” it’s a different story, she says. […]
    Responding to anthropologists’ frequent claim that they embrace activist scholarship, he [Graeber] echoes Ms. Nader: “They don’t mean it”—at least when it comes truly radical activism.
    “If I were to generalize,” Mr. Graeber says, “I would say that what we see is a university system which mitigates against creativity and any form of daring. It’s incredibly conformist and it represents itself as the opposite, and I think this kind of conformism is a result of the bureaucratization of the university.” […]
    But she [Laura Nader] finds it deplorable that scholars would value superficial clubbability over originality of thought; she decries the “‘harmony ideology’ that has hit the academy.” She also thinks the fact that he “writes in English,” eschewing jargon, hasn’t helped him. […]
    Mr. Graeber, who says he gets along just fine with his colleagues in London—and, indeed, with most of his former colleagues at Yale—has his own take on what scholars mean by “collegiality”: “What collegiality means in practice is: ‘He knows how to operate appropriately within an extremely hierarchical environment.’ You never see anyone accused of lack of collegiality for abusing their inferiors. It means ‘not playing the game in what we say is the proper way.'”

SHEA, CHRISTOPHER. 2013. A radical anthropologist finds himself in academic ‘exile.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education 15 April 2013. Available online.
sent to me by KvS—tnx!

academia’s indentured servants

Outspoken anthropologist Sarah Kendzior [<-- have a look at her blog!] has an opinon piece published at Al Jazeera, called Academia’s indentured servants.’ Very worthwhile—here are some snippets from the beginning and the end:

On April 8, 2013, the New York Times reported that 76 percent of American university faculty are adjunct professors – an all-time high. Unlike tenured faculty, whose annual salaries can top $160,000, adjunct professors make an average of $2,700 per course and receive no health care or other benefits. […]

Last week, a corporation proudly announced that it had created a digital textbook that monitors whether students had done the reading. This followed the announcement of the software that grades essays, which followed months of hype over MOOCs – massive online open courses – replacing classroom interaction. Professors who can gauge student engagement through class discussion are unneeded. Professors who can offer thoughtful feedback on student writing are unneeded. Professors who interact with students, who care about students, are unneeded.
    We should not be surprised that it has come to this when 76 percent of faculty are treated as dispensable automatons. The contempt for adjuncts reflects a general contempt for learning. The promotion of information has replaced the pursuit of knowledge. But it is not enough to have information – we need insight and understanding, and above all, we need people who can communicate it to others.

And if you already are at it, you may also like her essay on why anthropologists do ignore the Internet: On Legitimacy, Place and the Anthropology of the Internet at Ethnography Matters.

KENDZIOR, SARAH. 2013a. On legitimacy, place and the anthropology of the Internet. Ethnography Matters 13 February 2013. Electronic document. Available online.
KENDZIOR, SARAH. 2013b. Academia’s indentured servants Al Jazeera 11 April 2013. Electronic document. Available online.

futuristic user interfaces

An interface from 'Prometheus' (Scott 2012)

An interface from ‘Prometheus’ (Scott 2012)

The HUD of 'The Terminator' (Cameron 1984)

The head-up display (HUD) of ‘The Terminator’ (Cameron 1984)

VisualPunker has amassed a nice collection [containing a lot of animated gifs] of futuristic and retrofuturistic interfaces and HUDs from anime, other motion pictures, and computer games. In this respect I fullheartedly recommend Make it so: Interaction design lessons from science fiction (Shedroff & Noessel 2012):

Many designers enjoy the interfaces seen in science fiction films and television shows. Freed from the rigorous constraints of designing for real users, sci-fi production designers develop blue-sky interfaces that are inspiring, humorous, and even instructive. By carefully studying these “outsider” user interfaces, designers can derive lessons that make their real-world designs more cutting edge and successful.

Make It So shows:
    Sci-fi interfaces have been there (almost) from the beginning
    Sci-fi creates a shared design language that sets audience expectations
    If an interface works for an audience, there’s something there that will work for users
    Bad sci-fi interfaces can sometimes be the most inspiring
    There are ten “meta-lessons” spread across hundreds of examples
    You can use—and not just enjoy—sci-fi in your design work
    Over 150 lessons and 10 “meta” lessons that developers can use to enhance their realworld interfaces

There is a companion blog to the book, carrying additional visual material, interviews, and more. All this is a fine example of the to and fro between fictional and non-fictional technology, the mutual influences, one creating and reproducing the other and vice versa.

CAMERON, JAMES FRANCIS. 1984. The terminator [motion picture]. Los Angeles: Orion Pictures.
SCOTT, RIDLEY. 2012. Prometheus [motion picture]. Century City: 20th Century Fox.
SHEDROFF, NATHAN AND CHRISTOPHER NOESSEL. 2012. Make it so: Interaction design lessons from science fiction. New York: Rosenfeld Media.

the differential gear

The above is the most clear-cut explanation of ‘how a differential gear works’ I’ve ever seen. The video below is complementary—Richard Feynman explains why a train car stays on its tracks when ‘going around the corner,’ although no differential gears are involved:

differential gear and feynman on trains via entries at boingboing

african telecom reach

Internet usage around the globe infomap by intac
From ITU statistics intac made some interesting infomap posters. The above one shows the Internet usage around the globe (click the picture for full-size). The lighter a nation state is rendered, the lesser percentage of its population are using the Internet. As you can see a lot of Africa completely drops out, rendering the continent as a skeleton. The poster below takes a closer look on Africa and gives both percentages and total figures of Internet users and mobile subscribers.
Telecom reach in Africa infomap by intac, based on ITU statistics


batman arkham origins

Detail of a screenshot from 'Batman: Arkham Origins' (Warner Bros. Games Montreal 2013)
It’s scheduled for release in late October this year—‘Batman: Arkham Origins’ (Warner Bros. Games Montreal 2013), the prequel to ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Batman: Arkham City’ (Rocksteady Studios 2009, 2011). Here are the until now known details, and here is a full history of the ‘long line of Batman games stretching back more than 25 years.’

ROCKSTEADY STUDIOS. 2009. Batman: Arkham Asylum [computer game]. London, Burbank, New York: Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, DC Entertainment.
ROCKSTEADY STUDIOS. 2011. Batman: Arkham City [computer game]. Burbank, New York: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, DC Entertainment.
WARNER BROS. GAMES MONTREAL. 2013. Batman: Arkham Origins [computer game]. Burbank: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

brand on thatcher

The Guardian carries a fine and more than worthwhile essay by Russell Brand. Here’s a snippet:

When I was a kid, Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring—I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four. She remained in power till I was 15. I am, it’s safe to say, one of Thatcher’s children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

BRAND, RUSSELL EDWARD. 2013. Russell Brand on Margaret Thatcher: ‘I always felt sorry for her children.’ The Guardian 09 April 2013. Available online.

the daily levitation

Daily levitation by Natsumi Hayashi
Daily levitation by Natsumi Hayashi
Natsumi Hayashi lives in Tokyo and mainly photographs levitating self-portraits, sometimes even in 3D—see her how-to. Her blog yowayowa camera woman diary almost exclusively consists of the mentioned levitating pictures (with some cats interspersed) which for quite some time appeared on a daily basis. To my eye the pictures have a poetic quality. The sheer mass of them, no comments whatsoever, the somewhat distanced facial expression—all adds to it. Natsumi had an exhibition of her pictures in 2012, another one took place in late March 2013 in the Spiral Garden. Also in 2012 her first photo book, naturally titled ‘Today’s Levitation’ was published by Seigensha. Finally I know where all the levitating online pictures from East Asia stem from—the fashion was started by Natsumi’s blog and then went viral. On the one hand the pictures are instilling within me the ambience of some of Mœbius‘s drawings. On the other hand I’ve got an association with certain visuals from Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions (1995), showing illusionist Swann levitating, but can’t find the right picture.

initially via entry at infocult

here and now

Nice, someone cites me in the affirmative ;)

Führen wir uns nun vor Augen, dass z.B. Knorr für die Ethnologie zu Recht festhält: »Cyberanthropology ist eine Spielart der Ethnologie des 21. Jahrhunderts. Eine notwendige, ja unausweichliche […]. Denn nur wer sich mit jetztzeitiger Technologie befasst, kann auch den Menschen des Hier und Heute verstehen« (2011, 161; auch Escobar 1994, Breidenbach/Zukrigl 2002), so liegt die Antwort auf die Frage nach dem besonderen Forschungsdesiderat auf der Hand. Denn die Beschäftigung mit interkultureller Cyberkommunikation als Spielart interkultureller Kommunikation des 21. Jahrhunderts ist unausweichlich, um einen guten Teil der interkulturellen Kommunikation im Hier und Heute zu verstehen. (Reutner 2012: 14)

REUTNER, URSULA. 2012. “Von der digitalen zur interkulturellen Revolution?” in Von der digitalen zur interkulturellen Revolution edited by Ursula Reutner, pp. 9-32. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

cyberpunk science fiction

It’s in German only, sorry folks, but Jiré Emine Gözen’s doctoral thesis ‘Cyberpunk Science Fiction’ (2012) is exactly what we need. Here’s the publisher’s official description:

Die Cyberpunk-Literatur – eine kurzlebige, aber bis heute einflussreiche Strömung der 1980er Jahre. Als erste ausführliche Auseinandersetzung mit den nahen Zukunftswelten der Cyberpunk-Literatur zeigt dieses Buch, wie das Genre mit seinen zentralen Topoi der Verschmelzung von Mensch und Maschine medientheoretische Konzepte in sich aufnimmt, fiktionalisiert – und letztendlich fortschreibt. Neben der Auseinandersetzung mit Cyberpunk und Medientheorie des 20. Jahrhunderts präsentiert Jiré Emine Gözen einen ausführlichen Überblick über die deutsche und anglo-amerikanische Science-Fiction-Forschung sowie die künstlerische Umsetzung postmoderner Ästhetik und Wirklichkeitsdarstellung.

The table of contents and introduction [.pdf | 1.5MB] are downloadable, and here’s a snippet from Rolf Löchel’s review:

In ihrer Analyse der medientheoretischen Bezüge des Cyberpunk, vertritt Gözen die These, dass in den “Weltentwürfe[n]” des Genres eine “künstlerische Verarbeitung von Medien- und Gesellschaftstheorien” auszumachen sei. Als “Denker”, deren Einfluss auf die Cyberpunk-Literatur am deutlichsten hervortritt”, nennt die Autorin Marshall McLuhan und Jean Baudrillard. Allerdings habe der Cyberpunk den Medientheorien der Genannten sogar noch einiges voraus. Baudrillard entwerfe etwa ein “Bild der Zukunft”, das nichts weiter als eine “recht unspezifische apokalyptische Vision der westlichen Zivilisation” böte, die von einem “eher negativen Blick auf Technologien geprägt” sei. Sei die “postmoderne Welt” von Baudrillard “glatt, rational und ohne Überraschungen”, so seien die “Universen” des Cyberpunk “mysteriös”, “lebendig” und “voller Bedrohungen”.

… water on my mills, because the matter reaches even way deeper—compare:

And just over the American border, in Canada, in the summer of 1950, Donald Theall, a young American graduate student at the University of Toronto, introduced his English professor, Marshall McLuhan, to Wiener’s work and to the new thinking of the cybernetics group. Theall handed McLuhan copies of Cybernetics and The Human Use of Human Beings and witnessed McLuhan’s reaction. “The relevance of Wiener in McLuhan’s mind had to do with Wiener’s image of the communications network as the contemporary symbol for the ‘age of communication and control,'” Theall recalled. Wiener’s ideas stimulated McLuhan’s thinking and spurred him on to build “a foundation for a contemporary theory of artistic communication” that became a conduit for the flow of cybernetic ideas into art, literature, and the whole of popular culture.
    In 1953, McLuhan launched his celebrated seminars on “culture and communication” at the University of Toronto. A decade later, he would use Wiener’s ideas liberally, but without attribution, in his own watershed work, Understanding Media, which dissected the effects of television and every other medium of communication on human consciousness and culture. The book’s subtitle, The Extensions of Man, and its oracular pronouncements that “the medium is the message” and that electronic media had turned the world into a “global village,” echoed Wiener’s words in The Human Use of Human Beings that “the transportation of messages serves to forward an extension of man’s senses … from one end of the world to another,” and that “society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it.” (Conway & Siegelman 2005: 277)

Since quite some time I do maintain the notion, that cybernetics substantially has, and still does influence sociologic, anthropologic, and media theory. Be it Parsons, Luhmann, Rappaport, Bateson, McLuhan, Geertz, Foucault, Latour … you name it, and I’ll show you the cybernetics inside. (Knorr 2011: 41-46, 124; 2010) On the other hand I maintain that cyberpunk relays cybernetic notions and thinking. (Knorr 2011: 102). Now Gözen provides me with yet another element of those nested dialectics: Cybernetics inspire and influence McLuhan, cyberpunk not only relays, but furthers McLuhans thinking.

CONWAY, FLO AND JIM SIEGELMAN. 2005. Dark hero of the information age: In search of Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics. New York: Basic Books.
GÖZEN, JIRÉ EMINE. 2012. Cyberpunk Science Fiction: Literarische Fiktionen und Medientheorie. Bielefeld: Transcript.
KNORR, ALEXANDER. 2010. Review: Living on Cybermind: Categories, communication, and control by Jonathan Paul Marshall. 2007. New York et al.: Peter Lang. Anthropos 105(2): 662-663.
KNORR, ALEXANDER. 2011. Cyberanthropology. Wuppertal: Peter Hammer.