Category Archives: media

BBC Magazine trinketizing

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A bit of pointless commentary that would have had more impact had it come out at the time:

What would you take from your desk?

Leaving with just a box

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

If you were told to clear your desk of personal belongings and leave the building, like staff at the UK headquarters of Lehman Brothers, what would you take?
Photos of the kids, spare ties, trainers, mugs – a cuddly toy? What was in the cardboard boxes being clutched by stunned staff as they left the London offices of the bankrupt US investment bank Lehman Brothers?.

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The bank’s 5,000-strong workforce turned up on Monday only to be told they were to clear their desks of personal items and go home. Images of the newly out-of-work carrying their possessions were beamed around the world
But if you got the same instructions from an employer, what would go into your box?
“I’d take a piece of card with my name written in Arabic on it, a 30-year-old photo of my school football team, a Barcelona football club mug, a copy of my friend’s novel, a two-year-old thank you card from a student, some spare contact lenses, an iPod charger and two pairs of shoes,” says teacher Chris Baxter.
“Mainly they’re little things, but most of them are very personal. A lot of the time I don’t really focus on them, but other times they trigger good memories. I wouldn’t want to leave them behind.”
For some it’s a case of accumulation by stealth, rather than a conscious decision to personalise a drab little corner of corporate space.

Cats pics go in Mag reader Siria’s box
“Generally, I have a problem with what I call the ‘trinketisation’ of one’s workstation, so I don’t have things like pictures or figurines to take away with me,” says fellow teacher Sian Allen.
“But I would take my draw full of shoes for various social occasions after work, including one pair of Manolos.
“Also a broken iPod, six Tupperware pots in various sizes, a M&S bra with broken under wiring, a selection of unread classics, half-used packets of Ibuprofen and a small selection of thank you cards with obsequious messages from students, to remind me that I am loved and appreciated.”
When people personalise their desk they are marking their territory, says workplace behavioural expert Judi James.
Socialising
“It’s something humans are hardwired to do. We’re basically animals and need to mark out what is our space. We’re also nesting and making ourselves comfortable.”
But it’s also about opening ourselves up to others and that can be very good for business.
“Personalising your work space is also about giving other people the opportunity to ask questions, it’s about socialising,” says workplace psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon.

A few little friend would go with reader Thomas Cogley
“If someone sees a photo on your desk, or picture, it is easier for them to strike up a conversation and for communication to flow. Generally, if someone shows an interest in you, then you are more likely to help them when they ask.”
But the evolution of the modern office environment, with its hot desking, can make stamping some personality on your workspace a bit harder. Modern technology has also had an impact.
“There probably wasn’t many family pictures in those boxes being carried out from Lehman Brothers because the screensaver has replaced them,” says Ms James.
“Nowadays, personal possessions at work quite often come down to a pair of trainers and tracksuit for the gym.”
Here is a selection of items that you would take from your desks.
I think I’d be content with my Alfa Romeo mouse mat and the rather dog-eared pictures of Joyce Grenfell and Margaret Rutherford that are currently adorning the casing of my monitor.
Jonathan, London
If only Faust had heard of hot desking.
John, Tower Hamlets, London, England
In front of me I have a model house, a toy TARDIS, two sea shells, a model of a 17th Century English pikeman and a picture of Kate Blanchett. Me, a geek? How very dare you sir …
Mike Molcher, Leeds
On my desk I have: A jar of honey (for my morning porridge); the Statue of Liberty (obviously a copy – a souvenir of a trip to NY); hand cream; tea bags; a stapler (a battery-operated one I brought with me); my mug, bowl, plate, spoon, knife and fork; a container full of porridge oats; a packet of dried apricots; a packet of chopped nuts; several notebooks full of information; vitamin C tablets; and a packet of instant pasta – red wine and mushroom flavour! Also a few other bits and pieces scattered on the shelved behind me, including a coat, pair of shoes, items to do with my motorcycle club (newsletters etc.) and my hole punch.
Anne Boyce, Halifax, England
I have a longboard, rock from mountain, pic of my two-year-old old daughter, pic of Johnny Cash, rear view glasses.
Ste Mc, Leeds, UK
I have a picture of my dog to remind me of her, pencil with funny tops on them from places I’ve been around the world, a little cartoon character figurine (Chucky from The Rugrats) a stone that’s supposed to be good luck.. bright coloured tabs on each side of my monitor with phone extensions just to brighten my desk area up. My drawers are filled with food for breakfast and lunch!
Emma Hamilton, Lisburn, NI
What would I take? Everything that wasn’t nailed down!
Paul, Stoke, UK
10 weeks ago on my redundancy I took: 1. All my personal bits & pieces. 2. As much of the stationary cupboard as I could pour into my large cardboard box. 3. Several DVD’s of data & client info. 4. As many of the data wall-charts (£1200 each) as I could fold up and put in my cardboard box. 5. My company laptop that I just happened to have left at home the previous week. 5. Anything else that wasn’t bolted down in my office. 6. Oh, and a smug smile on my face.

Citizen Marx/Kane

My text on reading Capital in the cinema- with Orson Welles (forthcoming in ‘Marx at the Movies’ – edited collection [email me for details if needed]).

 

The cinema hall as a place to sell Eskimo Pie.

 

‘No matter how many customers there are, it’s still an empty building’ (Orson Welles in Welles and Bogdanovich 1998: 8)

 

This chapter addresses the question of how, today, to start reading that rich book that is Marx’s Capital:– of which an immense, even monstrous, accumulation of commentary on the Marxist mode of literary production appears to have already shaped its elementary forms. In reading Capital, if anything about beginnings should be considered necessary, it is usual to say it is good to start at the beginning – not always of course, but usually to start with what is immediately at hand. Commentaries, primers, prefaces, intros, first sentences, first chapters: start at the beginning and continue on from there. This is itself debated, but my argument is that we can only approach Capital through the already existing commentary, even as we would like to start as if the book were new. And the commentary that exists is not only that which is explicitly marked as such, but also includes all the ideas we have already received about so many things – about Marx, capitalism, communism, exchange, commodities, and so much more. A vast accumulation of things that filter reading, so that it would be naïve to simply say that materialism might start with things themselves, even if it makes sense to start with commodities, the objects that are the souvenirs or detritus of our lives.

 

The key to the beginning of volume one is where Marx starts with ‘a monstrous accumulation of commodities’ [‘ungeheure Waarensammlung’ - translation modified by author], but there are many possible starts and many people don’t get much further than chapter one, or they take chapter one as the ‘proper’ beginning. I want to suggest that there is something more here and so want to begin with something else, or even someone else, who might seem the total antithesis of the celebrated critic of the commodity system. A monstrous figure to expose the workings of monstrosity all the more (the monstrous will be explained). My reading is angular, so I choose a character from a parallel history of commerce, although glossed through a film. I have in mind William Randolph Hearst – moneybags – portrayed by Orson Welles in the classic film Citizen Kane. In this chapter, I want to develop this as an introduction to Capital, through its incarnation in the figure of moneybags Kane, and to begin to get at commodities through a focus on the kind of obscure, miniature, almost irrelevant and insignificant of objects to hand – those baubles and trinkets that mesmerise Kane, and us all.

Read the whole thing here: Citizen Marx-kane.

South Asian Television Studies articles free till Dec 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 08.50.28Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 08.50.53Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 08.53.58

Daya Thussu new book

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Daftaripara

And the best student workplace inquiry of the year award goes to… http://www.daftaripara.org/

Screen shot 2013-10-10 at 22.09.47Click to enter.

Suicide Without Fame, without Responsibility

I have mentioned before the Joy Devotion picture book out by Jennifer Otter (launched last week) – It is a study of the things left by Joy Division/Ian Curtis fans at Curtis’s graveside in Macclesfield. A year of trinkets:

http://www.blurb.co.uk/bookstore/detail/3364538?utm_source=badge&utm_medium=banner&utm_content=140×240

Makes me think of the media frenzy over a the Batman deaths in Texas, and about having watched footage on Syria and Libya back to back with documentaries on Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain recently… What would the various Death devotions around Curtis and Cobain be if not the industrial remnants – turned trinket commodity detritus – of people spat out by the individualization machine, in which there are no longer actual individuals, only icon figurines of abjection that come to stand in their place – ie, stand in for actual expressive individuality. All the while mass death at the hands of the weapon system barely raises a murmur. This is trinketization, expressive if dysfunctional personality and creativity is turned into a mass produced semblance of a false individuality – and it must be embodied in a fallen idol who is then unable to remain alive inside this brutalizing system. The myopic fans (we?) cling on to this brutal departure because as fans/we are unable to find a way out ourselves – somehow both caught wanting to leave, but with no-where to actually go, because suicide without fame is nothing. This, sadly, also gives a hint as to why someone might style themselves the Joker and shoot a dozen people at a movie screening. Think Brievik in Norway too – these are also the people that the Curtis and Cobain cults create. Along the way distracting from NATO’s more gruesome wars, which are barely opposed by STW or anyone.

Zurker the Zucker(berg) punch…

Still a lot to be worked out but OK, why not gamble on FB not even being here in 8 years (as reported in the SMH today) and join this other (maybe nicer) pyramid scheme social networking site. I’m happy enough to say my invite is from Stewart Home – so get in early enough and it might not fall over on you – link page here: http://www.zurker.co.uk/i-226925-yvgyvoykwn

Market project Talk transcribed

The folk at Market Project incredibly transcribed what I had to say at their gig in November at Colchester. Much obliged to them. This was after Alex Pearl‘s project Pussycat film (which recommends a final solution for artists), and debate contributions from others that you can also here and here. Mine in full follows. The discussion still to come perhaps.

Market Project’s public debate TOO MANY ARTISTS took place on November 9th 2011 at Firstsite in Colchester.

On the panel were: From Market Project, artist Alistair Gentry and TED Fellow Julie Freeman (with the latter chairing the debate); Dave Beech, artist, writer and member of Freee collective; Professor John Hutnyk from the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University; Susan Jones, director of a-n The Artists Information Company.

 

Julie Freeman: Our final speaker tonight is John Hutnyk. He’s a professor and academic director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London. He is author of a number of books on politics and cultural studies. He’s been the editor of several volumes of essays, including ‘Disorienting Rhythms, the Politics of the New Asian Dance Music’ and has contributed to the journals ‘Theory, Culture and Society’ and ‘Postcolonial Studies’. He’s woprking on a new book at the moment called ‘Pantomime Terror’ and writes occasionally for ‘Stimulus Respond’ and is a contributing editor of ‘The Paper’, which I believe he’s got a few copies of with him…

John Hutnyk: We gave them out today at the rally in London, so we’re running a bit low.

Julie Freeman: He’s fresh from being kettled. You can find him at hutnyk.wordpress.com.

John Hutnyk: Right, thank you very much. Thanks for inviting me. I’ve got the lucky position of having to speak after all these comrades. So I want to- it’s going to be a typical cultural studies thing, I apologise for this, the thing that we usually do is kind of dismiss the categories in which everybody else has spoken and try to redefine the grounds in order to win the debate. So I’m going to say that the categories are wrong! I do appreciate that there are too many artists in Putney or wherever, or active engagement in producing art, but I think that depends on a bourgeois notion of what art is and issue of what is an artist is just too big a question. And it’s not about making bread, although I do appreciate the question of labour.

I want to ask who makes art. Not 1%, but 99%. Before you think I’m going to talk about Occupy Wall Street all night and the occupation of St Paul’s, I think the 99% has to be decolonised and there are many differences and so on, but for the purposes of this I’m going to say even one word can be part of the 99%. Did you read the paper today, The Guardian, no, sorry, The Evening Standard had a spread on The Rolling Stones. They’re still wayward, they’re still drinking. Ron Woods although sometimes reformed and in rehab has a second career after the Rolling Stones of being an artist. I figure if Ron can be an artist, we all can. Well, he did go to art school, it’s true, he did go to art school in the 1950s. He met Keith Richards and the Small Faces and fifty years later he’s become an artist.

I should talk about artists, but to make my point about the 99%, talk about Anthony Gormley. I like Anthony, he comes to Goldsmiths occasionally- and in fact if you think about his work, he does employ artists to make his work… but that’s a question about the labour thing. He could be doing bread. But this is remarkable, I was reminded of this just reading the paper yesterday, he was one of the people- because [government minister Theresa] May’s in trouble over immigration, a few years ago Anthony came out as a sort of spokesperson for a campaign to make the UK Border Authority, the governing body of fortress Europe if you like, or fortress Britain, ease up on restrictions over bringing artists into the country. Freedom of movement for artists was the call, and I think that’s welcome and important but deeply problematic because why should artists get freedom of movement, why should they have privilege of movement, in fact? Why shouldn’t it be freedom of movement for all? Which is the No Borders campaign slogan. So let’s see what Theresa May thinks of that one, if she’s still in office tomorrow. What would the passport check be on the artists, to check whether they come in or not?

So I’m asking just what is it we mean when we say “artist”? Or baker, or breadmaker, or candlestick maker? Is it about getting in a gallery and selling your work, or is it about getting into Goldsmiths and getting a grant? There are two sides to that, I think.

Gentrification’s another issue I want to talk about. Gentrification, or it was called regeneration at one point, sorry, I want to change the terms of the debate again. Gentrification- I think there are too many artists because it’s changing the way we live and certainly colonised Goldsmiths and New Cross and Deptford, I’m uneasy about this because it’s welcome and so on but- great employment for artists or art students at Goldsmiths, we do have a few of them there, in fact everybody in every department thinks they’re going to be artists, the 99% are there alive and well, still pretty privileged and pretty white mostly… but they’ve found a pretty pleasant line in being recruited by real estate agents who want to develop the old schools in the East End.

There was one thing called The Assembly a few years ago, which the developer knew they were going to develop the school into luxury flats, Yuppie flats, Gentrification, but it was going to take two years to get the money and the contracts together and they didn’t want squatters coming in to the school in the mean time so they gave the premises to Goldsmiths and the RSA for a couple of years to run a show, have as studios, basically as holding operation to keep anarchists and undesirables out. Problematic. We had too many artists in that sense.

The other thing is commodification. We talked about the cost and sales of work… Ron Wood is selling work, great good on you. There hasn’t been a Rolling Stones album for a couple of years, but they were pretty lucrative as well, those Rolling Stones albums. Actually what was really lucrative for the Stones was not the ‘Street Fighting Man’ years, the old Decca label stuff and the good songs when they were rebels, and we do recognise that were rebels once, don’t we? Before they started to do tours sponsored by Volkswagen? Advertisements on the telly, I could go through a whole list of musicians who started to do it. There’s one, who’s started to sell insurance now.

Julie and Alistair: Iggy Pop.

John Hutnyk: He must be really bored. “I’M BORED. I’m the chairman of the bored.” He really is, now. The Rolling Stones were “street fighting men” but they became complicit in another kind of sonic gentrification, if you like. Pacification. I have problems with that… complicity has always been part of the game for artists, even the rebels. You’ve got artists in the employ of the state, you’ve got artists providing their work- however critical and troubling- it might be on the walls of bourgeois homes on the West coast of America, and even banks, most banks. Soon we’ll have Banksy on the wall of banks, let’s just drop the “S Y”, well he has: ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’. Complicity is one big thing, royal patronage and T-shirts and cappuccinos and lovely coffee shops with galleries attached. It’s all part of the commodification where Artists with a capital “A”, that’s what I’m saying we’ve got too many of. Turning us all into, and I’m worried about something that was said, viewers. Are we going to get to view, rather than make? I think we can all make.

Yes, the artists are rebels but they get co-opted and consumed, recuperated by the culture industry. It makes me want to talk about an old, grumpy German theorist called Theodor Adorno, I’m sure you all know about him, because we actually started with a sort of homage to Adorno, which was the whole thing about art after Auschwitz. [Note: JH is referring to Alex Pearl's Project Pusscat film which was shown at the start of the presentation]. OK it was sort of displaced into comedy and I appreciated that, and Sarin gas, I like the pantomime terrorist thing but I like to think about the Adorno art after Auschwitz thing as something you have to keep on the boil. Instead of art after Auschwitz, talk about art after Guantanomo… is it still possible, Adorno asks, to still make art after that crisis? After that atrocity, after that moment of barbarism?

I want to talk about that, but Adorno is one who talks about the culture industry and the way this recuperation, this commodification and this complicity keeps on working to draw artists into the mode of production we know as capital, or capitalism. And of course that’s what the people, the 1% versus the 99% thing is about at St Paul’s. Art is an instrument of capital.

This of course has its history in the post war reconstruction programmes, I’ll skip some of it, the 1980s programmes of art to mollify and placate communities that were rising up in London, let’s just take South London where I live, in Brixton and Lewisham and so on, when the black political uprising movement, rebellion, whatever you like, something very similar to what happened over the summer here, was in full flight. Scarman’s report, then, throws money at the “ethnic arts” in order to divide up the allegiances of the black movement. And I think art in the employ of politics and artists in the employ of the state is something we need to discuss.

Of course capital “A” Artists, not all of them get grants. In fact it’s 1% of artists that get grants, and certainly does imply that we all make are, we could make art. In fact the question is: what is art? I mean is art only the bourgeois category of stuff that gets into galleries, or is handwriting an art, or is knitting an art? Singing at the football, is that an art? It depends on what we mean by art and what we mean by artists.

But to go back to the percentage, I’m not so worried about the percentages, that’s another part of the debate I want to displace, but if you think about who gets grants- and I’m surprised that you applied, Alex, to something like the Arts Council for your project. You should have applied to the makers of Zyklon B, or someone like that. Who gets an Arts Council grant is not the relevant policy domain. The thing that’s effecting artists in this country right now is the cuts, and social policy. Unemployment benefit, housing benefit [Kirsten Fockhart’s excellent PhD at Goldsmiths – completed 2011 – discusses this in detail], and all those artists, you know the landscape painters who do a little bit in their shed, they’re artists as well. They don’t get into the same establishments, but they’re more effected by social policy and the winding the back of social policy in this country which has been grave, serious, desperate in the last couple of years, well, in the last ten years. They’re much more effected by that than anything the Arts Council could do with its, what was it? .0093% of the budget. Sorry… see, I wasn’t very good at statistics… .093 of a billion [£] compared to £49.1 billion spent on defence. So arts policy, talking about Arts capital “A”, is not an issue- we have too much of that. What we have is a blind spot to social policy, that’s more important.

So, Adorno. He’s famous for this dictum, “Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It would be co-opted and recuperated… well, actually he’s still anxious about that. He thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… not even.

He talks about it being a still undecided question, whether in the culture industry, in the contemporary bourgeois capitalist regime, it might still be possible that there is a secret omnipresence of resistance, a kernel of rebellion in the project of making art, but only insofar as it resists recuperation by the culture industry. And I’m sorry, our mates, our capital “A” Artists are recuperated, they are in the employ of the Borgias. There are too many artists.

Searching? read this first.

http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3344/2766

First Monday, Volume 16, Number 2 – 7 February 2011

First Monday


Personal Web searching in the age of semantic capitalism: Diagnosing the mechanisms of personalisation by Martin Feuz, Matthew Fuller, and Felix Stalder


Abstract
Web search engines have become indispensable tools for finding information online effectively. As the range of information, context and users of Internet searches has grown, the relationship between the search query, search interest and user has become more tenuous. Not all users are seeking the same information, even if they use the same query term. Thus, the quality of search results has, at least potentially, been decreasing. Search engines have begun to respond to this problem by trying to personalise search in order to deliver more relevant results to the users. A query is now evaluated in the context of a user’s search history and other data compiled into a personal profile and associated with statistical groups. This, at least, is the promise stated by the search engines themselves. This paper tries to assess the current reality of the personalisation of search results. We analyse the mechanisms of personalisation in the case of Google web search by empirically testing three commonly held assumptions about what personalisation does. To do this, we developed new digital methods which are explained here. The findings suggest that Google personal search does not fully provide the much-touted benefits for its search users. More likely, it seems to serve the interest of advertisers in providing more relevant audiences to them.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. The rise of the personalised search engine
3. Methodological considerations
4. Description and discussion of research methods
5. Research findings: The ambiguities of personalisation
6. Conclusion and further questions


1. Introduction

Google’s mantra is ‘to give you exactly the information you want right when you want it’ [1]. They operationalize this by providing ‘personalised’ search results and recommendations. This is achieved on the one hand through logging of interactions whenever a person uses one of the many Google services and on the other hand by techniques such as collaborative filtering to generate group and user profiles based on which Google produces ‘personalised’ search results and recommendations (Stalder and Mayer, 2009).

Such a situation raises a number of profound questions

Keep reading HERE.

The Student Handjob

So here’s a publication that seems somewhat different to the usual glossy numbers offered to incoming students. And a very impressive set of articles too: Hard copies handed out at the Centre for Cultural Studies party on weds – electric version now live @ http://studenthandjob.wordpress.com/ -most Goldsmirths publication ever.

The Student Handjob studenthandjob.wordpress.com so radical… it’s fucking bodacious. .

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Learn to Like it – archival 1990 – [click to enlarge]

 

 

I do hope calling for Regime Change on Danish radio is treason!

Along with some eloquent comrades, this, for Danish listeners (English snippets) is a just broadcast interview about the current conjuncture, cuts, coalition shenanigans and possibilities for regime change in the UK… Download the pod-cast here. The first 12 minutes are Lara, Nina and I.

Britisk protestbevægelse

Europa lige nu 03. april 2011 kl. 17:10 på P1

En studerende på et britisk universitet skal fremover betale op til 75.000 kr om året i afgift til universitetet for at få lov til at studere.

Det er en del af den britiske regerings store projekt om at skære ned og øge brugerbetalingen.

- Vi føler os sat tilbage til Thatcher-tiden,  og fremover er det kun de riges børn, der får en uddannelse,  siger en britisk filosof, Nina Power,  mens en anden univeritetslærer, John Hutnyk på trods af besparelserne også glæder sig, for nu er de studerende begyndt at gide at læse Marx igen.

Hutnyk mener også, at briterne er ved at vågne op med en ny politisk bevidsthed – sidste week-end resulterede det i en efter britisk målestok usædvanlig stor demonstration – nemlig en halv million mennesker i Londons gader i protest mod de offentlige besparelser.

Download the pod-cast here

Looking forward to a June visit to see the Danes – Jeg savner dig.

UfSO

a posh hypocrite takes time out from selling guns to murderous dictators in order to encourage popular uprisings against a vicious and corrupt elite, clinging to power without democratic legitimacy… well, you heard him!

Scott McQuire at Goldsmiths 28.6.2010

CCS Guest Lecture:

Scott McQuire

28 June 2010 at 5pm, Goldsmiths Cinema (Richard Hoggart Bldg)

Networked cultures and participatory public space

As contemporary cities become increasingly media dense environments, the mode of inhabiting urban space is changing.  The growing use of geo-spatial devices and the availability of real-time location specific information favours new forms of micro co-ordination of social activity,  but also the extension of surveillance via data-mining and aggregation. As networked interactions become an everyday dimension of negotiating contemporary public space, there is a pressing need to think about how this trajectory transforms the older power-geometries of the city.  Drawing on a range of contemporary projects, this talk will examine the contemporary politics of ‘participation’ and will investigate how networked media might be utilised to facilitate ‘participatory public space’.

Bio
Scott McQuire is Associate Professor and Reader in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.  In 2004, Scott founded the Spatial Aesthetics research program with Nikos Papastergiadis, to pursue interdisciplinary research linking the fields of new media, urbanism, contemporary art, and social theory. Scott’s book The Media CityMedia, Architecture and Urban Space(Sage/TCS 2008) won the 2009 Jane Jacobs Publication Award presented by the Urban Communication Foundation.  His most recent publication is the Urban Screens Reader (2009) which he edited with Meredith Martin and Sabine Niederer.

All Welcome

Economy of contribution

deckchairWe’ve had Bernard Stiegler at CCS this year (and next). Radar has kindly posted two video interviews on the Economy of Contribution event held at Goldsmiths a couple of months back.

This one and a half day workshop was hosted by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London on February 10th/11th 2009. It was organized by Scott Lash (CCS), Bernard Stiegler (Centre Pompidou/CCS), Robert Zimmer (Computing), Nina Wakeford (INCITE, Sociology) and Götz Bachmann (CCS). The event was kindly supported by Intel Research.

The Stiegler video is embedded here (there is also an interview with Scott Lash on the radar site):
Interview part 2: Bernard Stiegler from ‘studioincite‘ on Vimeo.

Russell Brand nazi boy

OK, it got rapidly silly but no-one should be surprised that the Russell Brand Jonathan Ross said-fucking-on-the-radio absolute pap story was manufactured to distract us. Distract us from the front page news obsession with ‘the’ crisis – which, I am so sorry to say, is not the end of the world everyone thinks – and if you find yourself afraid that things are suddenly falling apart, please consider Afghanistan for the last thirty years, life in Iraq, Palestine, Congo, Colombia, other global atrocities of capitalism, etc etc. In the meantime, lets not try to present this ‘radio event’ as the dreaded consequence of a – wait for it – scheming ‘situationalist’ comedian- as Russell was described tonight on Channel Four news – but rather take the opportunity to consider his excellent early work ripping into a foolish young Nazi. Maybe now that he has honourably resigned for offending Grangpa and that Georgina from that obscurely named band, he can get back to this kind of worthy journalism. Watch Russell among the Young Nazi’s here.

Russell’s New Cross heritage mentioned here. And he will be honoured as a pioneering sound performer at Sonic Border – details here.

Spectacular Transports

Terrorists: you ignore them for ages, then a whole bunch come along at once. Or so it seems, as the everyday profiling of Muslims as threatening others reconfigures how we all move about the city. An old fashioned racism based on looks, surface and skin has risen to unquestioned prominence at the very time when discussion of race transmutes into talk of religion, ways of life, and civilizational virtues. We hear over and over in the mainstream press, and from the Government, talk of a clash of values, integration and of the need for community cohesion. This old ‘new’ racism is blatant and its prejudice is clear. Policy by scare-mongering and tabloid popularity poll. There is also a theoretical parallel to this in the work of scholars who write today about ethnicity, identity and culture, and even in the work of those who ostensibly would offer up radical critiques of the way the war of terror has been prosecuted by those in power.

Profiling is designed to fill us with dread. A culture of fear and anxiety provokes shivers and panic, has us tingling with unease. Everywhere I look I see intimations of this story – as I commute to work, railway station announcements warn that my belongings may be destroyed if I leave them; I am told not to hesitate to ask someone if an unattended bag is theirs; a general air of uncertainty pervades the tube; fellow passengers are almost too careful and too polite to each other; I suspect them of moving far away from anyone with even a hint of a beard and a backpack; and we all move away from those with Brazilian good looks (because we remember Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot by police at Stockwell). I avert my eyes and read my newspaper (a free advertising sheet, with minimal – often sensationalist – news); and even at home I am not spared, a constant stream of bombings on screen. Myriad incidents conspire to make us squirm.

This squirm is strangely marked by a transportation theme, and an iconic one, which – as I will suggest – is inflected with an unexamined uncanny aspect. It will be easily accepted that the red double-decker bus is the globally acknowledged symbol of London, you can buy trinket sized models of them in the souvenir stalls. As everyone knows, the bus became even more potently symbolic after the devastating bus and underground attacks on the morning of July 7th 2005. Indeed, we are continually forced to recall the horrific details: on that day three tube carriages and a number 30 Routemaster were destroyed, leaving 52 people dead.

The real face of terror for me is a delinking of cause and effect in relation to this incident and the bombing of this particular bus: it is what I will call a transportation mutation and a blindness of representation. It is my argument that as commentary turns to religion or culture, any critical response to the scene of the ripped open vehicle becomes somehow silenced, and that we become blind to what this image means. I am invoking here the terms used by Susan Buck-Morss and Slavoj Žižek in books that address issues of terror and violence. Along with Alain Badiou, they refer to such atrocities, and to the actions of suicide bombers, as mute, blind, silent and disconnected. This was also the perverse refrain of former British Prime Minister Blair in defending British foreign policy in the wake of the London bombings (‘there was no link between last week’s bombings in London and the Iraq war’ 25 July 2005 BBC).

In his 2008 book Violence, Žižek calls terrorist attacks and suicide bombings a ‘counter violence’ that is a ‘blind passage a l’acte’ and an ‘implicit admission of impotence’ (Žižek p69)? I find this not dissimilar to how Badiou, writing of September 11, 2001, starts his essay on ‘Philosophy and the War on Terror’ by saying ‘It was an enormous murder, lengthily premeditated, and yet silent. No one claimed responsibility’ (PolemicsThinking Past Terror, offers ‘the destruction of September 11 was a mute act. The attackers perished without making demands … They left no note behind … A mute act’ (Buck-Morss 2003 p23). It should be said she qualifies this with a question ‘Or did they?’, but the suggestion of an absent verbal – mute – message is something we should attend to, listen closely, consider again, and not just with our eyes scanning for evidence (hint: on the side of the bus, see inset), but with our ears and minds as well. In a similar tone, we might pass over the curiosity that Žižek chooses the infirmities of blindness and impotence to characterise the terrorist suicide bomber, as if the twin towers of September 11, 2001 in New York indicated a scene of masturbation (too much and you lose your sight) and castration (impotence, symbolic castration of the towers, mummy daddy, the old psychoanalytic staples are invoked, later it will be called a parallax). 2006 p15). Susan Buck-Morss, in her book

The point is that these theorists all agree on an absence of meaning that sets these acts apart. Badiou and Žižek’s claims about suicide bombings recall earlier comments by Buck-Morss on New York, where she suggests that the ‘staging of violence as a global spectacle separates September 11 from previous acts of terror’ and, as we should underscore, all three, dwell upon the absence of message: ‘They left no note behind … Or did they?’ (Buck-Morss 2003:23-4). More uncompromising and perhaps mischievous, Žižek in Welcome to the Desert of the Real, presents the event in his own peculiarly Lacanian perspective:

“The spectacular explosion of the WTC towers was not simply a symbolic act (in the sense of an act whose aim is to ‘deliver a message’): it was primarily an explosion of lethal jouissance, a perverse act of making oneself the instrument of the big Other’s jouissance” (Žižek 2002:141)

I for one am not satisfied with this. The task of a critical commentary is not just to stop and stare. It is also not just a matter of listing ever more details of the symptomatic eventuality that has to be pathologized. We might do more than read surfaces if we look closely at one such revealing detail, that has, curiously, been thus far ignored.

The scene of the July 7th tragedy is captured in widely circulated images of the wrecked bus in Tavistock Square, taken by US based photojournalist Mathew Rosenberg. One of his pictures, appearing in most newspapers the next day, showed the bus from a 45% frontal angle with a disturbingly ironic film advertising placard visible on its side. This was for the film The Descent, due to be released the next day (2005 dir. Neil Marshall). The Descent was a schlock horror-thriller about inhuman monsters in a cave visited by a group of friends who become lost and are subsequently killed off one by one. The cave is the least of the coincidences however, as Londoners read reports and looked at grainy mobile phone video footage from the dark underground. Could we even begin to understand this horror? And were we ready to absorb the irony that the portion of the film placard left on the side of the bus after the explosion clearly displayed a message for us all. Tangled metal and stunned commuters foregrounded by a torn but still legible placard. It says: “Outright Terror, Bold and Brilliant – total film”.

Hasib Mir Hussain was said to be the bus bomber (generally accepted as fact, although questioned by bus passenger and witness Daniel Obachike in his book The Fourth Bomb). Hussain detonated his bomb some 50 minutes after the three tube explosions. Speculation was that, having planned to also blow up a tube carriage, he had lost his nerve and was fleeing the scene, perhaps accidentally setting his bomb off while trying to diffuse it (there were reports of him fiddling with his rucksack). Because the bomber is dead, it is not possible to ascertain whether Hussain had intentionally targeted this particular bus. But some seem ready to decide, for example, my sociologist colleague Victor Seidler says the Tavistock Square bus bombing was ‘unplanned’ (Seidler 2007:10). Whatever the case about the bus – and I tend to think it is a gory coincidence – the thoughts and motives of a suicide bomber are never readily available even where the bombers leave messages and – in the case of Hussain’s co-conspirator, Mohammed Sidique Khan – bequeath us justificatory ‘confessional’ videos to be broadcast after the event. We have however to analyse these with something more than anxious fear. The interpretive work of reading the sign on the bus means refusing the broad brush that paints these bombers as merely mute and blind, even as we put names and faces to them – the very gesture which allows fear to proliferate. To profile and to silence is a double-play that only confirms the ‘bold and beautiful’ success of this terror, this atrocity.

Of course we can only watch those images for so long. Indeed, the image from the side of the bus seems to have been erased. It was not ‘Total Film’, despite the terrible irony, and it looks as if we cannot bear to discuss this much at all. Instead, we have a different mode of commentary, in which – I want to note this as irony too – we see a lot more Muslims on the news than ever before. Bombers Hussain and Khan are off-screen, but the frequent presence of Muslim community leaders as ‘spokesmen’ on British television news talkback is a part of a larger project, in part orchestrated by Government and its agencies (police, media) to manage the postcolonial nation in a context of war. Carefully selected ‘moderate Muslims’ must be identified, shaped and disciplined into a discursive non-fighting force – a class of persons of colour, compliant in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect (pace Macaulay’ minute) – while ‘extremist’, outspoken or otherwise non-compliant figures serve as characters fit for demonization, scaremongering and foreign policy justification. The good cop bad cop scenario is transmuted here into a management of appearances – the good community leader is set against the aggressive, often ridiculed, aberrant complainant. Brown skins are offered on screen in dual roles. Scratch the surface of appearance and what we have is a struggle over national identity, a contested arena of civil freedoms and a lost opportunity for real debate.

That the debate scenario of televisual news is a colour-coded fashion show is counterfactually reinforced by the continued parade of white models, white presenters, white authority – but I am no longer persuaded that the mere fact of having brown faces on television is a step towards equality. Visibility must mean something more – such that while we might now insist the skin tone of the speaker matters not so much as the speakers’ allegiance or not to a set of ideas, the degree that those ideas may more or less conform to a white supremacist agenda is itself reinforced again by skin. Rather than the contours of distraction and anxiety, the theoretical arabesques about jouissance, or of mute and blind violence, a louder and wide-eyed debate must be had now. Much has already been said, but the meaning is obscured and if we refuse to read the signs before our eyes. I think this is a part of a general obfuscation, a general avoidance. There are some that talk about war-on-terror fatigue – we are no longer capable of paying attention to the impact of this war on our day to day lives – but I think it amounts to a strangely deflected reaction to the suspicions that we know are everywhere present. In full face profile, the upfront discussion we need about everyday racism on screen and on the buses might then filter through our convoluted anxieties and point towards better understandings, and a more robust defense of those under attack. It is unacceptable to see brown faces accused and detained, having to deny wrongdoing over and over (as was 23 year old ‘lyrical terrorist’ Samina Malik, as well as so many other ‘suspects’). This war of terror as it plays out in the city means Muslims are subject to stop and search, special investigations, harassment and inconvenience, train stations and airports are an ordeal, suspicious looks are just a step away from violent attack and a rendition flight to Guantanamo. The face of racism renewed is that Muslims today are required to ‘get their house in order’, or they must ‘leave’: a spurious double play that sets a superficial tone for media commentary and excludes deeper perspectives. We cannot remain mute nor turn away blind to a racism that wreaks such pervasive destruction upon us all.

For publication in “Stimulus Respond”, issue four.

references cited:

Badiou, Alain 2006 Polemics London: Verso.

Buck-Morss, Susan 2003 Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left, London: Verso.

Seidler, Victor Jeleniewski 2007 Urban Fears and Global Terrors, London: Routledge.

Žižek, Slavoj 2008 Violence, London: Profile Books.

Žižek, Slavoj, 2002 Welcome to the Desert of the Real, London: Verso.


http://daniel77witness.blogspot.com/ [accessed 24 march 2008]

Naples

From Paolo, a collection of you tube clips of the fire attacks on Roma in Naples. These in the context of the new right crackdown where Italian ‘authorities’ just three days back ‘announced they had arrested nearly 400 suspected illegal immigrants during a week-long series of raids across the country’ (BBC) . Crap as the BBC report is, I’ve added a link to it at the end. Its perhaps this sort of stuff that Gramsci had in mind when calling on communists to build organizations that can win hegemony from the fascists and racists, preventing such outrageous actions. Hegemony would include informative leftwing newspapers, radio and television, which we sorely need. And no doubt Paolo will be amongst the reporters…:

“since a few days in one of the suburbs of Naples (Pontincelli) a major hunt for “Roms” is taking place (see the links below). Chased by angry hordes, people have been obliged to leave their camps in a rush watching their houses and tents being put on fire (under the auspices and celebrations of large parts of the local population and the careless attention of the police).
This is indeed not something regarding Naples nor an isolated phenomenon . It belongs to the wider process of demonization of migrants at large (and of so-called “illegal” migrants and “nomads” in particular) that Italy’s newly installed government has been recently able to promote (also with the silent and indirect support of the parties that today are at the opposition). With a clever use of the politics of fear (directing all thoughts and actions regarding security towards migrants) they have not only won the political elections but been able to install a man grown up politically within the Italian fascist extreme right as the mayor of Rome (after 15 years of centre-left governance).
In order to keep their electoral promises, during the past week the government has enacted controls in 9 Italian regions against so-called “illegal” migrants resulting in the detention of at least 400 people. It has promoted a new migration law that immediately translates “illegal” migration into a crime (leading up to 4 years of jail), the creation of a constant militarized patrolling of the national sea borders (in order to prevent the boats from landing on the shores), the suspension of EU treatises for the free movement of people coming from Rumania and Bulgaria and the creation of more CPT (“centres for temporary reception”) aimed at functioning as specialized spaces of detention for “migration crimes” (proper jails in other words).
Unfortunately this situation, which regards not only Italy, is countered by the silence of the opposition and is probably just at its beginning stages. This is NOT a local problem!”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7404616.stm

INDIAN MASS MEDIA – Keynote Oct 19 2007

SACREDMEDIACOW

and the Centre for Media and Film Studies (SOAS)
presents:

INDIAN MASS MEDIA
AND THE POLITICS OF CHANGE

One-day conference for Postgraduates & Early Career Researchers,
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Saturday, 19 October, 2007

Keynote Speaker: Dr John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Advisors:
Prof Annabelle Sreberny (Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS)
Dr Mark Hobart (Centre for Media and Film Studies, SOAS)
Dr Rachel Dwyer (Dept of Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS)

Call for Papers:

India has been the focus of much attention in the international media in the recent years. Rhetoric concerning its rapid economic growth, spearheaded by its IT industry and its burgeoning middle classes, suggest that something new and significant is taking place. Something is changing, we are told: India is shining; the elephant is rising; the 21st century will be an Indian century. Even a recent election campaign was debated around this image. India was/was not shining, with disastrous results for the leading political party in power.

What unites many of the debates concerning such re-imaginings of India is the notion of change and its different ramifications. Elections, commentators, drawing room debates and activists all cut their teeth around this complex notion. Who, it is debated, benefits from change? Who is left out from these fantasies of progress and economic growth? Do such re-imaginings really reflect the complex economic reality of large parts of Indian populations ‘somewhere out there’? In any case, what is certain is that ‘change’ has now become the new articulating principle par excellence when we speak about India and its contested future.

One of the crucial sites where such debates take place is the Indian mass media: its newspapers, TV channels, advertisements and burgeoning online communities. It is also the loci, we argue, where the politics of change are most visibly played out and that needs to be carefully looked at in order to understand the complex reality of India today. It is important to note here that we believe the nation state is one of categories that needs to be critically investigated when we look at India and change and therefore include the wider Indian diaspora into our definition of what contemporary India is. With this in mind, The Politics of Change conference aims to bring together researchers looking at Indian films and media and interested in the question of change.

We therefore now welcome abstract for papers and presentations of 20 minutes each from post-graduate and early career researchers. Specifically, we are inviting papers that would broadly address the following questions:

● How is change imagined in different forms of Indian media? How are the press, television, film and online communities involved in this imagining? How do different media differ in how they imagine change?
● What kind of day-to-day practices are deployed to articulate these imaginings of change? What kind of verbal and visual images is used towards such imaginings and how do they differ between the media? What are the differences between the English-speaking and the vernacular media? What about the diasporic media?
● What are the politics of such imaginings? Who are such articulations thought to benefit? Who in turn do they disarticulate? What is the political economy of imagining change?
● How have these articulations changed historically? Can we trace historical precedents to such current imaginings? What are the similarities? What are the differences?
● Is there something distinctive about how this change is imagined in (India as opposed to other rapidly-developing countries such as China?)? What do these similarities and differences tell us about Indian media and society?

Abstracts, including a brief biography, should be emailed to papers@sacredmediacow.com no later than May 15, 2007. These will then be discussed with our advisors and team, and we will get back to you by the 15th of June. Please do let us know in advance if you would like us to organize projectors, or any other special requirements you might have.

The conference is jointly is organized by SACREDMEDIACOW, an independent student-led research centre on Indian media and the Centre for Media and Film Studies at the School Of Oriental and African Studies. Having said that, SACREDMEDIACOW is not really a centre for India media research (perhaps a periphery of Indian media research would be a more appropriate title), but more of a Collective. Either way, being both practitioners as well as academics interested in the India media, one of our key aims to build bridges between academics and media practitioners globally. Therefore, a significant portion of the activities around the conference will also take place on our website
http://www.sacredmediacow.com.

Our aim is to include the people we talk about when we research Indian media as much as possible in the dialogue and debates through the possibilities allowed by new technologies: by distributing conference material online, by creating an online platform where the questions raised can be debated during the conference and by allowing distance participation as much
as possible through teleconferencing, video broadcast and other such means.

Please also visit our working space for the conference at http://www.sacredmediacow.com/wikindia)
where many of these ideas will be collectively worked out.

For further information, please email the SACREDMEDIACOW collective:
collective@sacredmediacow.com
or:
Somnath Batabyal, som@soas.ac.uk
Meenu Gaur, meenu@soas.ac.uk
Matti Pohjonen, matti.pohjonen@gmail.com
Angad Chowdhry, angad.chowdhry@gmail.com

Sacred Media Cow


From Somnath over on on “Sacred Media Cow” [SACREDMEDIACOW is an independent postgraduate collective on Indian media research and production at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London]:

Oh Calcutta

Folks, been away from active blogging for a while. Apologies. The PhD writing and thinking alongwith other activities been taking its toll. Hopefully back now.

My thesis concerns itself with two urban news centres, Calcutta (I still cant bear to do away with the colonial imageries) and Mumbai. Been reading a bit about both the cities lately and a book by John Hutnyk called The Rumour of Calcutta is a quite fascinating account of the city and deconstructs the myths around this “city of extremes” created through the views and notions of representations, from foreign travellers on missions of mercy staying at a cheap tourist lodge to travel guides, books and films.

I have also been logging how the media in recent times has been portraying the city. By all accounts, Calcutta has finally come of age. It is the city on the mend. The government is being applauded, the Chief Minister felicitated. Right wing Conservative Shekhar Gupta in Indian Express speaks and applauds the Indian Left and its erudition, the Politburo and its concerns. Sagarika Ghose cant stop gushing in her interview with Buddha Babu. Protests by “nay sayers” are brushed aside as the crumbling city wakes up to a new dawn. These are not my metaphors. So what’s going on.

It is very much like the errant child who has come home. Give it it’s just rewards, bring it into the fold, hand out the sops and make sure it feels welcome. The media house, the corporate entities cant stop falling over each other to felicitate Buddhadev Bhattacharya’s “coming to sense” wisdom and merging Calcutta with the other metros; long live the Left, so long as it can be managed.

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