April 2011


The other day I found myself amused to discover that a friend who had attended a conference heard grad students remark that I have a privileged Ivory Tower existence and a plush academic position as an established scholar. Few things could be further from the truth. You see, I teach at a junior or community college, have five courses a semester, and generally have 150 students a semester. In addition to this, I only teach intro level courses and there is no major in philosophy. There is no tenure here, but rather we work on contract. For the first three years we have yearly contracts, then after three years you jump up to three year contracts. Those contracts stipulate that your position can be terminated at any time, with or without reason. We are all expected to do a significant amount of college service, so over the years I have racked up quite a bit of committee work. We have a fairly generous travel stipend, especially for a community college, though that is likely to disappear as a result of education cuts our State Senate and Governor are currently pursuing.

Such is the reality of my existence. Don’t get me wrong. Collin is an extraordinary institution, especially for a community college. We have talented, accomplished, and smart faculty. We have wonderful students. The administration is supportive of academic research and conceives of itself as a two year university (the first community college in the United States to define itself in those terms). I earn a fairly decent wage, my job is, for the moment, stable, and I like Dallas and my colleagues. Nonetheless, I am exhausted. I am exhausted by a combination of teaching, my insane research commitments, and all of my speaking commitments. At some point, I suspect, something will have to change. Perhaps I will give up research, writing, and just live and work. After all, why do I kill myself in this way? My research contributes, in no way, to my job here. I wear myself out doing it. I often take on debt as a result of attending conferences. And I get rewarded with snarky hecklers that suggest either that I’m just a careerist, that I hate human beings, and a number of other ugly things. My generation seems to believe that mean-spirited snark is the height of wit and charm and that there’s some sort of virtue in dehumanizing others and cutting them down when they’ve scarcely ever done anything to you.

read on!
(more…)

Advertisements

Here’s an interesting review of Jane McGonical’s Reality is Broken somewhat in line with my earlier post on gamification. Please note that I’m not opposed to gamification in principle. It will be recalled that for Foucault power is productive. It can generate oppression. It can generate new and emancipatory possibilities. Power is always ambiguous. However, I do think that there isn’t nearly enough critique in digital humanities. Often we hear a great deal about the utopian and emancipatory possibilities of the new technologies without examining the new forms of oppression that come with these technologies.

I remember, with great intensity, when I got my first pair of glasses. It must have been right around the second or third grade. I had been doing poorly in school, especially math, so my teacher suggested that perhaps I had vision problems and was unable to see the board. After a trip to the optometrist and a week long wait I finally went to pick up my plastic rimmed, tortoise shell specs. That drive home was unforgettable.

Suffering from a slight bit of nausea and a raging headache, coupled with deep shock and amazement, an entire world had appeared that I hadn’t imagined existed. Lines were crisp, colors were vivid. I could see blades of grass as we raced down the highway. It was a disturbing and exhilarating experience. I hadn’t the faintest clue that this way of experiencing the world was possible. I had no idea that such a world was available. Such is the nature of von Uexküll’s concept of umwelts and Harman’s concept of objects withdrawn from one another. In the image to the left, von Uexküll depicts the difference between the umwelt of humans perceiving a field of flowers (top) and the umwelt of the bee perceiving one and the same field (bottom). When I got my first pair of glasses, I had made a similar transition from one umwelt to another. Without my glasses, my umwelt consisted of wavy, vibrating, fuzzy lines, indistinct shapes, and blocks of flat color. With my glasses, distinct lines, lively colors, and delineated shapes burst into existence. The world came to be organized in a very different way.

read on!
(more…)

In an interesting tweet, Kathleen Sulli remarks that the student readers of Bogost’s Newsgames say, “don’t just explain how to play the game– explain the underlying issues.”. The question would be that of how to get at the underlying issues. How do you determine what questions to ask? What to analyze? And how to analyze it? To answer these questions you need concepts and a theory. Concepts and theory are not so much representations of reality as they are ways of organizing empirical research and posing questions. Here my post has to be brief as I’m heading out the door soon, but I would like to suggest that my previous post on double articulation is just such a model.

It will be recalled that the first articulation of double articulation deducts and forms matters, turning them into organized substances. Here we’re talking about the plane of content that pertains to assemblages of material bodies. The question is one of how these machines form bodies in new ways, generating new assemblages and bodies. A piece of software or a game is just such a machine that deducts matters and forms them in a particular way. But here we must ask, what are the materials being deducted and formed by a game, and what new formed substances are they producing? Here the matters being formed would be of four primary sorts: the human body, human modes of perception, social relationships, and cognition. For any game we can ask how the software and hardware used changes the nature of our perception, cognition, affectivity, use of body, and influences our social relationships. In what way does it form these matters into particular sort of substances? This was, I believe, precisely what Bogost sought to determine with Cowclicker and social games. More needs to be said here but it’s time to run. It’s also important to analyze the plane of expression but more on that anon.

As I argued in my post entitled “Towards a Theory of the Self-Organization of Objects“, the fact that objects are composed of other objects entails that every object is the result of a genesis. Objects can be simultaneously viewed as substances and as assemblages. As a substance objects are unities that have, within certain limits, conquered entropy for a time. They are organized and structured. As assemblages, objects are composed of other objects that are themselves independent substances that have, for a time, conquered entropy. How, then, do we get from these smaller scale objects to the larger scale object composed of these objects? What are the processes by which this genesis of a new object takes place?

read on!
(more…)

« Previous Page