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A quick announcement about two new pieces from me, both of which relate to my ongoing research on the subject of algorithmic culture.
The first is an interview with Giuseppe Granieri, posted on his Futurists’ Views site over on Medium. The tagline is: “Culture now has two audiences: people and machines.” It’s a free-ranging conversation, apparently readable in six minutes, about algorithms, AI, the culture industry, and the etymology of the word, culture.
About that word: over on Culture Digitally you’ll find a draft essay of mine, examining culture’s shifting definition in relationship to digital technology. The piece is available for open comment and reflection. It’s the first in a series from Ben Peters’ “Digital Keywords” project, of which I’m delighted to be a part. Thanks in advance for your feedback—and of course with all of the provisos that accompany draft material.
Lawrence (Larry) Grossberg, my doctoral advisor, has penned a moving tribute to Hall, his mentor, with whom he worked at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in 1968-1969. Here is an excerpt from the piece, which appeared this past Saturday on Truthout:
When I think of Stuart, I think of an expanding rich tapestry of relations, not of followers and acolytes, but of friends, students, colleagues, interlocutors, participants in various conversations, and anyone willing to listen, talk and engage. Stuart Hall was more than an intellectual, a public advocate for ideas, a champion of equality and justice, and an activist. He was also a teacher and a mentor to many people, in many different ways, at many different distances from his immediate presence. He talked with anyone and everyone, and treated them as if they had as much to teach him as he had to teach them.
Hall’s work was as much about the interpersonal—his kindness, charisma, and generosity—in other words, as it was about the many influential writings and lectures he produced over the course of his career.
I wish I’d had the chance to get to know Hall better. I had the privilege of sharing a meal with him once, in 1996, during my second year of graduate school. He was extraordinarily gracious and, indeed, patient, as I barraged him with what must have been dilettantish questions. Afterwards we shopped for books at a nearby used bookstore. I still have the copy of Erving Goffman’s Asylums that I happened to pick up that day; even now I associate the book more with Hall than with its author.
I also got to know Hall indirectly, through a study of the Birmingham Centre annual reports, which I conducted with my friend and colleague Mark Hayward. Hall’s imprint is all over those documents, and not only because he authored the bulk of them. In their inventory of daily life at the Centre one can plainly see Hall’s emphasis on the interpersonal—in the way the Centre’s working groups were organized; in the spirit of sharing that so defined its (as well as his own) intellectual modus operandi, and that had more than a little to do with cultural studies’ success; in the way Hall empowered students to collaborate in the production of a serious academic journal; and certainly more.
Larry’s tribute to Hall is also a call, too: for the American mainstream media to pay heed to such an influential figure, one whose passing has not received the attention it deserves; and for the American Left to embrace Hall’s legacy, a legacy defined not only by his towering intellect but, equally important, by his luminescent being-in-the-world.
Stuart Hall, a founder of the field of cultural studies and one of my intellectual heroes, has died. Two of his former students, David Morley and Bill Schwartz, have penned an obituary, published today in The Guardian.
Here is my favorite passage from Hall, from his 1992 article “Race, Culture, and Communications: Looking Backward and Forward at Cultural Studies”:
The work that cultural studies has to do is to mobilize everything that it can find in terms of intellectual resources in order to understand what keeps making the lives we live, and the societies we live in, profoundly and deeply antihumane in their capacity to live with difference. Cultural studies’ message is a message for academics and intellectuals but, fortunately, for many other people as well. In that sense, I have tried to hold together in my own intellectual life, on one hand, the conviction and passion and the devotion to objective interpretation, to analysis, to rigorous analysis and understanding, to the passion to find out, and to the production of knowledge that we did not know before. But, on the other hand, I am convinced that no intellectual worth his or her salt, and no university that wants to hold up its head in the face of the 21st century, can afford to turn dispassionate eyes away from the problems…that beset our world.
Nothing sums up the project of cultural studies better for me and, indeed, the type of work I aspire to do.
Thank you, Stuart Hall, for your bravery, intellectual leadership, and resolve. The world is a better place for your having been a part of it. You will be missed. Sorely.
Did you know that books were among the very first commercial Christmas presents? That’s right—printed books were integral in helping to invent the modern, consumer-oriented Christmas holiday. Before then it was customary to give food or, if you were wealthy, a monetary “tip” to those who were less well off financially. (The latter might come to a rich person’s door and demand the “tip,” in fact.) The gift of a printed book changed all that, helping to defuse the class antagonism that typically rose to the surface around the winter holidays.
You can read more about the details of this fascinating history in my post from a few years ago on “How the Books Saved Christmas.” And if you’re interested in a broader history of the role books played in the invention of contemporary consumer culture, then you should check out The Late Age of Print. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, it makes a great gift.
Call for Papers: The European Journal of Cultural Studies
Special issue on Data Mining/Analytics
Editors: Mark Andrejevic (University of Queensland, Australia); Alison Hearn (University of Western Ontario, Canada); Helen Kennedy (University of Leeds, UK)
The widespread use of social media has given rise to new forms of monitoring, mining and aggregation strategies designed to monetize the huge volumes of data such usage produces. Social media monitoring and analysis industries, experts and consultancies have emerged offering a broad range of social media intelligence and reputation management services. Such services typically involve a range of analytical methods (sentiment analysis, opinion mining, social network analysis, machine learning, natural language processing), often offered in black-boxed proprietary form, in order to gain insights into public opinion, mood, networks and relationships and identify potential word-of-mouth influencers. Ostensibly, these various forms of data mining, analytics and machine learning also are paving the way for the development of a more intelligent or ‘semantic’ Web 3.0, offering a more ‘productive and intuitive’ user experience. As commercial and non-commercial organisations alike seek to monitor, influence, manage and direct social media conversations, and as global usage of social media expands, questions surface that challenge celebratory accounts of the democratizing, participatory possibilities of social media. Remembering that Web 2.0 was always intended as a business manifesto – O’Reilly’s early maxims included, after all, ‘data is the next Intel inside’, ‘users add value’ and ‘collaboration as data collection’ – we need to interrogate social media not only as communication tools, but also as techno-economic constructs with important implications for the management of populations and the formation of subjects. Data mining and analytics are about much more than targeted advertising: they envision new strategies for forecasting, targeting, and decision making in a growing range of social realms (employment, education, health care, policing, urban planning, epidemiology, etc.) with the potential to usher in new, unaccountable, and opaque forms of discrimination, sorting, inclusion and exclusion. As Web 3.0 and the ‘big data’ it generates moves inexorably toward predictive analytics and the overt technocratic management of human sociality, urgent questions arise about how such data are gathered, constructed and sold, to what ends they are deployed, who gets access to them, and how their analysis is regulated (boyd and Crawford 2012).
This special issue aims to bring together scholars who interrogate social media intelligence work undertaken in the name of big data, big business and big government. It aims to draw together empirically-grounded and theoretically-informed analyses of the key issues in contemporary forms of data mining and analytics from across disparate fields and methodologies. . Contributions are invited that address a range of related issues. Areas for consideration could include, but are not limited to:
Prospective contributors should email an abstract of 500-700 words to the issue editors by 9th December 2013 (to firstname.lastname@example.org). Full articles should be submitted to Helen Kennedy (email@example.com) by 12th May 2014. Manuscripts must be no longer than 7,000 words. Articles should meet with The European Journal of Cultural Studies’ aim to promote empirically based, theoretically informed cultural studies; essayist discussion papers are not normally accepted by this journal. All articles will be refereed: invitation to submit a paper to the special issue in no way guarantees that the paper will be published; this is dependent on the review process.
Abstract deadline: 9th December 2013 (to firstname.lastname@example.org);
Decisions on abstracts communicated by 13th January 2014;
Article submission deadline: 12th May 2014 (to email@example.com);
Final submission/review process complete: 13th October 2014;
For publication in 2015.