Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Check out this CFP


Editors for this issue: Paul Hegarty and Gary Genosko

What is the current state of aural art media in ‘an era of digital reproduction’? Which trails were followed in order to reach the present of online and/or digital (sub)versions? Due consideration needs to be given to the residues of technologies, the anachronisms, the failures, the less-than-excellent, the dated, the outmoded, and even the yet-to-work. Once we take into account the material (or dematerialised) art object, what about collecting cultures, recycling, destroyed and broken media (the TV thrown from the window….), new broadcast media, turntablism, noise, radio and its avatars, podcasting, any casting, the range of material ‘supports’ (vinyl, the 8 track, betamax, different audio files). Still, has the digital and informational swamped the world in a mass encoded simulation? What and where are the resistances? Are they within or outside of the digital? In the junk heap of analogue machines? In Ebay dreams? What are the material forms/formats that offer critical models, avant-gardism, metacommentary and so on? What is the status of the art commodity, non-commodity or hypercommodity? Contributions on any of the above are welcomed, from any theoretical or historical perspective. Whilst sound is very important, due to its apparent disappearance in ubiquity, submissions are invited to consider other media (notably video art, DVD, streaming), provided it addresses some of the above ideas.

Recommended length: 4000 – 7000 words

Submission deadline date: 1 Feb 2007.
All contributions to Culture Machine are refereed anonymously. Authors should follow the Culture Machine Style Manual in preparing their articles:

Editors for this issue: Paul Hegarty, University College Cork, Ireland
Email: phegarty@french.ucc
Gary Genosko, Lakehead University, Canada

Contributing to Culture Machine
Culture Machine publishes new work from both established figures and up-and-coming writers. It is interactive, 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 eight editions of Culture Machine are Mark Amerika, Alain Badiou, Geoffrey Bennington, Bifo, Oran Catts, 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, Ted Striphas, Kenneth Surin, Gregory L. Ulmer, Hal Varian, Cathryn Vasseleu and Samuel Weber.

Culture Machine welcomes material from Britain, Australia and the United States, and is particularly interested in acquiring contributions from those working outside the usual Anglo/Australian/American nexus that currently seems to dominate so much of Cultural Studies/Cultural Theory. Appropriate unsolicited articles of any length from academics, post-graduates and non-academics will all be accepted for publication, as will contributions which respond to or seek to engage with work previously published in Culture Machine. So-called ‘inter-active’ texts are welcomed, as are any forms of contribution that take advantage of and explore the uses and limitations of digital technology.

Dr Gary Hall
Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, Middlesex University
Co-editor of Culture Machine
Director of the Cultural Studies Open Access Archive:
My website

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tone down the meta

I always look forward to the fall.

I excitedly anticipate the start of each new school year, often to the point of insomnia, and I love experiencing the change of seasons as the harsh summer gives way to the more mellow autumn. The fall also means the start of another new season--the television season. This week and the preceding one have seen a deluge of new and returning shows.

I'm most intrigued by the new Aaron Sorkin production, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Sorkin, you may recall, wrote and created The West Wing (before his ouster) and is widely regarded as a doyen of "quality television." I caught a rerun of the Studio 60 premiere last night on Bravo, and I'm looking forward to seeing episode #2 tonight on NBC. The show revolves around a television writer-director team played by Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford, who return to a Saturday Nigh Live-esque show after having been fired several years before by an uptight network executive.

The premiere featured an extended rant by Judd Hirsch, who plays (or played) the longtime producer of the fictitious show-within -the-show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. After having received word from network standards and practices that one of the night's skits wouldn't fly, Hirsch breaks into the broadcast and kvetches about how television programming has gone down the toilet, to the point of "lobotomizing" the television audience--an audience that doesn't seem to care, for example, that a global war's been going on for years. All the TV audience seems to care about anymore, he inveighs, are programs about marrying one's sister.

I was both thrilled and saddened by what I'll henceforth call "the rant." I was thrilled because, though I don't necessarily agree with the arguments about the decline of "quality" television, it's rare that television writers get to indict or critique the medium within which they're working to the extent Sorkin appears to have. The show's "meta" dimension works quite well, as it were, in terms of talking about the possibilities and limitations of our existing televisual system on TV. By the same token, I get the sense that Studio 60 may, in the end, be too "meta." The rant was followed later by fictitious news coverage, which likened the monologue over and over to the famous "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!" speech from the 1976 film, Network. That coupled with the fact that Perry and Whitford's characters seem to embody key elements of Sorkin himself seem to me to make the show, at least at this early stage, just another TV program that aspires to little more than announcing itself as "postmodern" or self-aware of itself as TV. And that's just not all that interesting to me.

I'm going to give Studio 60 a shot, though. It's remarkably high production values, clever writing, and potential make it worth watching. Let's just hope that Sorkin can tone down the meta.

P.S. While I'm on the subject of TV, a quick follow-up to my summertime post about Rockstar: Supernova. Despite the fact that Dilana clearly was the better front-person, the band took the easy way out and picked--surprise, surprise--a guy to lead them, Lukas Rossi. The band claimed in the finale that their decision was based on the call-in and online voting. It's depressing to me how people can't seem to get their heads around the fact that women can rock. I might well have purchased Supernova's album had Dilana recorded with them, but now there's not a chance.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy birthday, D&R!

Maybe it's cliched to say this, but how quickly a year goes by! On September 14th, 2005, I launched Differences and Repetitions. To tell you the truth, I didn't have any idea at the time what I was doing or if I'd even sustain my interest in blogging. One year later and I'm happy to report a solid, engaged readership, and as of this writing 62 posts. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

As I said, it took me some time to figure out what D&R would be about--almost a month, really. In October 2005 I wrote what amounts to the D&R manifesto (people don't write enough manifestos anymore), which, if you're new to the site (or you simply don't remember what I think I'm up to), you can access by clicking here. No doubt, in the next year, D&R will continue to evolve in unexpected ways, and perhaps I'll have to write a new manifesto. If nothing else, the last year has brought a mix of political, intellectual, and more light-hearted posts. I imagined this blog to be pretty serious, and indeed it often is, but I'm glad my readership has helped me to loosen up a bit.

Speaking of readers, THANK YOU! Without your reading and commentary, there wouldn't be much point to my doing what I'm doing here. I'm especially grateful to those of you who've pushed me on some of my opinions and insights, which, admittedly, are perhaps somewhat raw when I put them out here. I really imagine D&R as a public forum in which to think out loud--something I find fewer and fewer people in the academy seem to do these days, at the risk of seeming intellectually unpolished. Thank you, all of you, for indulging me.

Please continue to spread the word about D&R, and please keep reading, responding, and cajoling. It's been a great year, and I look forward to many more with all of you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Becoming intense, becoming Haraway

Tonight I had the good fortune of seeing Donna Haraway deliver a lecture here at Indiana University. Her talk, "We Have Never Been Human: When Species Meet," was the keynote address at IU's first-ever Kindred Spirits conference, which is taking place here today, tomorrow, and throughout the weekend. It promises to be a remarkable event interrogating the relationship between human and non-human animals. The lineup even includes (among other notables) Carole Adams, whose The Sexual Politics of Meat is a remarkable, thought-provoking book about vegetarianism.

I'm writing, though, to talk about Haraway's relationship to the work of Deleuze and Guattari. Judging by the title of the talk, perhaps it comes as no surprise to hear that one of her objects of interest was Deleuze and Guattari's chapter from A Thousand Plateaus, "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible" (chapter 10). She began by noting that many had suggested to her over the years that her work was Deleuzo-Guattarian in spirit, and so after some time she decided, finally, to read them. She also noted many of Deleuze's individual writings (most notably one of my favorites, Difference and Repetition), and generally seemed laudatory toward his larger body of work. (I'm not sure how she feels about Guattari, who was the self-avowed environmentalist of the duo.) ATP chapter 10 was another story, however. She described it as something to the effect of, "the 50 pages that deserved to be burned at the inquisition." Ouch. If I gather correctly, she most objected to their celebrating the wolf pack and denigrating the image of the lone, older woman walking her dog.

From a feminist standpoint, I can certainly understand the objection. I also agree that D&G are wrong to dismiss the significance of the woman-dog scene, which, as Haraway pointed out, is a deeply complex moment of interspecies encounter. As a dog parent (see the photo above-left of my canine companion), I intuitively "get" what she was getting at. What's intriguing to me, though, is how, in a way, Haraway seems to shoot out the other side in trying to achieve an ethics of interspecies interaction. To me what's so significant and interesting about D&G's discussion of the wolf pack is precisely the absence of people in that moment, or their implicit suggestion that philosophy/critical theory need not always return in some moment to the human in order to address broad ontological questions. Haraway, in the end, seems to want to understand the human through the non-human and vice-versa, which I take to be a different kind of project--a new humanism, I think, rather than a Deleuzo-Guattarian ahumanism. And for my part, the latter continues to be a more compelling project, precisely because it doesn't demand that human beings always dwell within the philosophical proscenium.

I don't plan on lighting any fires at the inquisition anytime soon, in other words. I should say, though, to be fair, that Haraway's talk was provocative, engaging, and nothing short of amazing--precisely the kind of work people have come to expect from her. I was lucky to have had a chance to see her in person.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

V for, "Does it really matter?"

Last weekend I rented V for Vendetta, the Natalie Portman/Hugo Weaving vehicle that's based on comic book impresario Alan Moore's graphic novel. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, it's set in the not-too-distant future and is about the people's struggle against a totalitarian state--Britain, to be exact. V, the main character, is a modern-day Guy Fawkes who inspires the oppressed masses to rise up and to confront the homophobia, religious intolerance, fear-mongering, and lack of civil liberties that have beset jolly-old England.

What's abundantly clear is that the film is a warning about the slippery slope countries like Britain and the United States find themselves on these days. The future Britain it portrays--where copies of the Koran are banned, sexual minorities must live underground, art is suspect, and eavesdropping on the populace is the order of the day--is, in some respects, embodied in our present, though perhaps not in quite those extremes.

You might say that the film offers a scathing critique of the current policies of the British and U.S. governments, especially many of the initiatives that have begun under the auspices of the "war on terror." My question is this: Does it really matter?

Perhaps I've been out of the loop, but I don't get the impression that V for Vendetta has sparked much of a serious public dialogue about democracy's slide toward totalitarianism in either country. Perhaps that's asking too much from one film. But for me it raises a larger question: to what extent are the media genuinely effective in producing concrete shifts in governmental policy? Another way of putting this would be to say: to what extent is cultural politics able to change formal governmental politics or policy anymore?

V, for me, is an intriguing test-case. To the extent that it hasn't seemed to produce much public outcry (or effective public outcry), my inclination would be to say that the power critics once attributed to cultural politics may be on the decline. Don't get me wrong. I still believe cultural politics matters. By the same token, a film like V suggests to me that cultural politics may not matter in the way that it once did.