Thursday, March 23, 2006

...and still more chatter

Since my previous post--heck, it was just a few hours ago--more people have chimed in on the piece Siva Vaidhyanathan's penned for Kembrew McLeod and my special issue of Cultural Studies. Here are some links to the discussion, courtesy of Kembrew:

  • Liberal Education Today

  • Virtualpolitik

  • Funferal

  • ACR Log

  • Simong
  • People are talking...

    I just caught wind of the fact that people already are talking about the special issue of the journal Cultural Studies Kembrew McLeod and I co-edited on the politics of intellectual properties. The buzz thus far mostly has concerned Siva Vaidhyanathan's Afterword to the issue, in which he talks about an emergent field he calls "Critical Information Studies." You can check out what's been said on Siva's Blog. It contains some links to Boing Boing and other sites where the conversation has been happening. I should mention that the rest of the issue is fantastic, too, and definitely worth checking out.

    The funny thing is, I don't think the issue's actually out. I haven't received my copy of the journal yet, nor have I gotten a hold of any offprints. (I haven't even received the preceding issue, for that matter, but that's another story....) Needless to say, I'm eagerly anticipating seeing the issue, especially now that it's starting to create something of a stir.

    Thursday, March 16, 2006


    Last November, I posted a short piece called "Will the future unfold?" It concerned Lawrence Grossberg's latest book, Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, Politics, and American's Future (Paradigm Publishers, 2005). If you haven't read it, please make sure to. It's a fantastic piece of scholarship.

    I'm writing now to ask for your help. I've been charged with composing a letter nominating Caught in the Crossfire for one of the National Communication Association's annual book awards. (NCA, for those of you who don't know, is the major professional organization for communication research and scholarship in the United States.) I'm thrilled to do this, obviously, because I'm convinced everyone ought to be reading the book. The trouble is, I'm not able to speak very well to its reception. It was published just this past May, and to the best of my knowledge it hasn't yet been reviewed or widely commented on. That's where you come in. If you've read and enjoyed Caught in the Crossfire, would you mind leaving a comment, below, along with your name and where you're writing from? If you do, please know that I might include your response, or an excerpt thereof, in my letter to NCA. I'd like it to reflect a wide, international readership, so comments from people both inside and outside the U.S. are welcome.

    Please post your comments by no later than March 21st. Thanks in advance for your help!

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Culture Machine

    CULTURE MACHINE 8 (2006)

    Edited by Dorota Glowacka

    In recent years, the notion of community has emerged as an important but also contested field of enquiry. The ‘new’ discourse of community has challenged the understanding of community as related to the nation-state, and as an ‘imagined’ cultural and political artifact that provides a collectivity with the sense of unity, continuity, and closure. Jacques Derrida has insisted that such circumscribed articulations of community conceal but also perpetrate foundational violence that underlies the collective myth. Philosophical investigations of this myth by Jean-Luc Nancy, Maurice Blanchot and Giorgio Agamben have opened up the concept of community onto a broader politico-ethical and cultural context. Here, Nancy’s call for the disbanding of the immanent community has been especially influential. According to him, community as the dominant Western political formation, founded upon a totalizing, exclusionary myth of national, racial or religious unity, must be tirelessly ‘unworked’ in order to accommodate more inclusive and fluid forms of Being-in-common, of dwelling together
    in the world.

    The contributors to this issue of Culture Machine navigate multiple tangents of community as a socio-historical, politico-ethical, and cultural construct. The authors comment on the nascent virtual or networked communities as the forum for cultural avant-garde and politically progressive forces but also as, potentially, the mainstay of political conservatism. They ask about the function of community in rapidly shifting geo-political contexts, of which the European community
    is a fecund if also volatile contemporary example, as is the plethora of post-colonial, post-Western articulations.

    The ‘Community’ issue features:

    * Editorial, 'Community: Comme-un?'

    * Kuisma Korhonen, 'Textual Communities: Nancy, Blanchot, Derrida'

    * Ignass Devisch, 'The Sense of Being(-)with Jean-Luc Nancy'

    * Marie-Eve Morin, 'Putting Community under Erasure: Derrida and Nancy
    on the Plurality of Singularities'

    * Dorota Glowacka, 'Community and the Work of Death: Thanato-ontology in
    Hannah Arendt and Jean-Luc Nancy'

    * Timothy J. Deines, 'Bartleby the Scrivener, Immanence and the
    Resistance of Community'

    * Angela Mitropoulos and Brett Neilson, 'Cutting Democracy's Knot'

    * Paulina Tambakaki, 'Global Community, Global Citizenship?'

    * Daniel H. Ortega, '"En Cada Barrio": Timocracy, Panopticism and the
    Landscape of a Normalized Community'

    * John Paul Ricco, 'The Surreality of Community: Frederic Brenner's
    Diaspora: Homelands in Exile'

    * Jake Kennedy, 'Gins, Arakawa and the Undying Community'

    * Petra Kuppers, 'Community Arts Practices: Improvising Being-Together'

    * Natalie Cherot, 'Transnational Adoptees: Global Biopolitical Orphans
    or an Activist Community?'



    Culture Machine publishes new work from both established figures and up-and-coming writers. It is fully refereed, and has an International Advisory Board which includes Robert Bernasconi, Lawrence Grossberg, Peggy Kamuf, Alphonso Lingis, Meaghan Morris, Paul Patton, Avital Ronell and Nicholas Royle. Among the distinguished contributors to the first seven editions of Culture Machine are Mark Amerika, Alain Badiou, Geoffrey Bennington, Bifo, Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, Diane Elam, Johan Fornäs, Henry A. Giroux, Lawrence Grossberg, Stevan Harnad, N. Katherine Hayles, Peggy Kamuf, David Kolb, Ernesto Laclau, J. Hillis Miller, Anna Munster, Michael Naas, Mark Poster, Melinda Rackham, Tadeusz Slawek, Bernard Stiegler, Kenneth Surin, Gregory L. Ulmer, Hal Varian, Cathryn Vasseleu and Samuel Weber.

    Culture Machine welcomes original, unpublished submissions on any aspect of culture and theory. All contributions to Culture Machine are refereed anonymously. Anyone with material they wish to submit for publication is invited to contact:

    Culture Machine c/o Dave Boothroyd and Gary Hall
    e-mail: and

    All contributions will be peer-reviewed; all correspondence will be
    responded to.

    For more information, visit the Culture Machine site at:

    Monday, March 06, 2006


    Did you watch the Oscars? I'll say that, on the whole, I was pleased with the winners. I was most excited to see Ang Lee win a long-overdue best director award, and inasmuch as I was sad that Brokeback Mountain didn't take home the best picture honor, at least another socially-conscious movie, Crash, did. Still, I was bothered....

    I'll admit that the stage set was quite nice, decked out as it was in the look of a resplendent art-deco movie palace. The scrolling movie posters were a nice touch, as was the dynamic overhead marquee that displayed the winners' names. By mid-broadcast, though, it was clear that the set design was more than just elaborate window-dressing. It was part of a rather heavy-handed--and frankly pretty sad--effort on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to convince viewers of the enduring virtues of theatrical movie-going.

    Jake Gyllenhaal led the charge during what can only be described as a painfully awkward monologue in which he impugned portable DVD players--doubtless at the Academy's request. It was clear from his body language and the way he stumbled through his lines--I think he nearly laughed once--that he didn't believe what he was saying. Gyllenhaal was followed by Academy President Sid Ganis, who dragged out the tired old saw about how nothing's better than seeing a movie on the big screen, with the sound coming at you from all sides, and how the DVD home theater experience simply doesn't compare.

    I have to admit to being baffled by these anti-DVD philippics. Sure, box-office receipts were down this year. But you'd think the movie industry would embrace the fact that DVD sales have become its cash cow, given how they've now more lucrative than theatrical movie-going. (See Charles Acland's brilliant Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture, if you haven't already.) So why dis the DVD? Why not simply own up to the fact that Hollywood needs to figure out how to make DVDs and theatrical movie-going lead an even more complementary and compatible existence? Is this just nostalgia for silver screens and celluloid, or is there something more at stake here?

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    The greediest guys in the room

    Last night, I had the good fortune of seeing the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. I'll say right off the bat that I would like to have heard more from the workers whose pensions and retirement plans got scuttled along with the company. Beyond that, though, the documentary provides a pithy look into the world of unmitigated corporate greed.

    First, I'm just fascinated by Enron's use of "mark-to-market" accounting, which essentially allowed it to claim earnings on investments that hadn't yet generated any revenue--and in many cases never generated any revenue at all. As it happens, a few days ago I happened to be reading over one of's annual shareholder reports. (No...I'm not a shareholder. I was referring to it for book-related research.) There I discovered--and the company doesn't try to hide this fact--that it's remained afloat in part through infusions of venture capital, but also, and more importantly, by maintaining positive cash flow. It's done so by keeping a "negative operating cycle," which, I gather, means that the company collects on payments from customers weeks before it ever has to make payments on its loans. Essentially, Amazon gets a free, short-term cash "loan" every time someone makes a purchase.

    So where's all this going? I'm beginning to believe that those of us interested in cultural studies need to become more mindful of these kinds of accounting tactics. They seem to me part and parcel of the new capitalism, and any political-economic analysis that doesn't "get" modern accounting is likely to come up short in the end. It's not, for example, all about bio-power and affective labor, as important as those "public" activities might be. I'm not saying that we need to become accountants, but we do need to understand the extent to which accounting constitutes knowledge work integral to capitalism's continued wellbeing. We need, in effect, a better understanding of what goes on in capitalism's back office.

    The other thing that struck me about the documentary was what it had to say about "free market" economics. Evidently, there's no such thing. Enron and others pushed hard for California to de-regulate its energy market, claiming that government only stultified possibilities for keeping prices down and letting profits soar. Yet, the documentary clearly showed how Enron intervened in the California energy market to manipulate electricity supply and demand, with the intention then of inflating prices. Those who champion the "free" market, it seems, really want to pull the market's strings themselves.