Nov 292009

Early last year, after I learned my wife was pregnant, I sat down and did a great deal of planning for how to organize the next year of work – conferences, essays, course development, etc – in order to figure out how to best balance work and family. Of course I’m sure that my best-laid-plans will be laid to waste by, “the Aleatory,” a phrase stolen from Mike Fortun.

One of the conferences that didn’t make the “last conference until post-baby will be prior to the start of November,” promise was the Digital Labor conference at the New School in NYC. Nick Montfort has a nice write-up, though.

I am also happy to see that other academics are beginning to take seriously the performative aspect of presentation. So props to Hector on his “stunt,” a title I wont give the staging and instead call it simply, “academic performativity.”

I’ve had a great deal of success taking the performative seriously lately with my talks. My recent 4S talk in particular, which spoke to many of the themes discussed at the D.L. conference. It was presented using a Nintendo DS Emulator running a program developed using DS Homebrew tools (a DS running the software on an R4 cartridge also was available for a “play along at home” version as well), was very successful. That talk, which examined the relationship between “software/firmware” and the ability for hardware/technologies to now participate in hegemonic discourse was recieved well. Too often when we talk about “hegemony” as academics, we fall into a tired-and true diatribe about static domination. For me it has more to do with “ruling relations” as Dorothy Smith calls it or Omi and Winant would talk about hegemonic projects. Ultimately it about negotiated dominations. The empirical aspect of the talk dealt with groups of DS homebrewers, and thus the materiality of the talk dovetailed well with the material it examined.

What Nick indexes as the “oooh, shiny!” syndrome is something I’ve written and thought a great deal about in the context of the game industry as well, as it seems to be a major factor between any kind of organizing within that field, well, that and a rampant vein of Libertarianism.

Sad to miss this particular gathering, but happy to hear that it seems to have been successful.

Digital Labor, NYC, Nov 12-14

At conferences on digital media, there are too few critical perspectives about large-scale hegemonic systems that are increasingly coming to define the computer and Internet experience. At some events, people exhibit general awareness of the complexities and problems that such systems pose, but they still turn and say oooh, shiny! when presented with Google Wave.

Scholz will run two more conferences on related topics. This conference on digital labor was a great start, advancing the discussion of how we work and play online and of how we can thoughtfully approach technologies that have been made to generate profits in a certain way, even if we want to use these technologies for political, aesthetic, or other purposes. I hope that this conference’s critical approach to digital systems and online communication will be carried over into other digital media contexts, which desperately need this perspective.

  2 Responses to “One that I Missed…”

  1. […] Shambling Rambling Babbling This is a random collection of thoughts or notes that I’ve decided to collect here. Continuity is not my friend. « One that I Missed… […]

  2. I wonder if you are actually on to something. Two words spring into my mind, with a rather profound implication. “Conservatism”, and “prejudice”. The golden standards for business models. Is it possible, that rather than philosophy, perspective, or criticism, they are both synonyms for inertia? Kind of like water, following the path of least resistance? Not evil, but also certainly not innovative or creative in any sense.

    It is the judgment itself that comes into question. We often act as if any flaw we can find in some corporation means they are not doing something worthwhile. Last I checked, feeding my family is about all I can ask for. Developing some profound revelation that is beyond criticism is probably falling faster than anything else on my to do list.

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