Sunday, April 27, 2008

Peer-reviewer personae

Josh Gunn over at The Rosewater Chronicles has an excellent post about the various critical personae one might encounter in the process of double-blind academic peer-review. He classifies them (us?) as "gushers," "assassins," "turf pissers," and "empaths." My favorite characterization (although probably my least favorite type of reviewer) has to be the "naysayer," whom Josh describes like this:
The Naysayer: Nothing of quality or interest has ever been published in the field, and your essay is no exception. Communication Studies is a sub-par and parasite field, and your essay continues this horrible, alien existence. The Naysayer wanted to be a philosopher or studied comparative literature, but reluctantly took a position in Communication Studies out of necessity. S/he is bitter about being in Comm, and will take it out on you—especially if you take up concepts from high theory or philosophy.

I'm sure anyone who's been through the gauntlet of double-blind peer review has encountered at least one cranky naysayer in her or his lifetime, and probably one or more of the other characters as well. I only wish there were more gushers and empaths out there. Too often, I find, academic peer-review seems as much about hazing as it does about ideas and execution--and I say that as someone who's enjoyed reasonably good success at getting published.

Anyway, be sure to check out Josh's post and the lively discussion that follows. Great stuff.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Your name in binary code

THEODORE STRIPHAS = 01010100 01101000 01100101 01101111 01100100 01101111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01010011 01110100 01110010 01101001 01110000 01101000 01100001 01110011.

Binarize (is that a word?) your name here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Latest issue of Collapse

Collapse is one of the most intriguing scholarly journals available. It's independently published, which means, on the positive side, that it's not part of the corporate journal-industrial complex. I really admire that. On the flip side, though, independence has resulted in Collapse's flying somewhat under the radar of readers and scholarly groups for whom the journal is less well known than it should be.

Now in it's fourth issue, Collapse consistently has published cutting-edge theoretical work within and beyond the orbit of post-structuralist philosophy. I've blogged about Collapse before, when the editors published an issue featuring what's probably Gilles Deleuze's first known scholarly work. The original contributions from contemporary authors are consistently provocative as well.

If I had to find an analogue, I'd say, think Semiotext(e) from the 1970s, when the journal helped to introduce English-language readers to the likes of Deleuze, Guattari, Kristeva, Baudrillard, Irigaray, Negri, and many others. Or, better yet, just think. Because that's exactly what Collapse will always make you do.

We are delighted to announce that Collapse Volume IV will be published May 2008 and is now available for advance purchase online.

Contributors to this volume include: Kristen Alvanson, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Iain Hamilton Grant, Graham Harman, Michel Houellebecq, Oleg Kulik, Thomas Ligotti, Quentin Meillassoux, China Miéville, Reza Negarestani, Benjamin Noys, Rafani, Steven Shearer, George Sieg, Eugene Thacker, Keith Tilford, Todosch, James Trafford.

Collapse IV features a series of investigations by philosophers, writers and artists into Concept Horror. Contributors address the existential, aesthetic, theological and political dimensions of horror, interrogate its peculiar affinity with philosophical thought, and uncover the horrors that may lie in wait for those who pursue rational thought beyond the bounds of the reasonable. This unique volume continues Collapse’s pursuit of indisciplinary miscegenation, the wide-ranging contributions interacting to produce common themes and suggestive connections. In the process a rich and compelling case emerges for the intimate bond between horror and philosophical thought.

George Sieg's Infinite Regress into Self-Referential Horror demonstrates the simultaneously cognitive, existential and political nature of Horror, through a conceptual investigation of the primacy of victimhood for the affect of horror, tracing its origins to the Zoroastrian concept of Druj.

In The Shadow of a Puppet-Dance, James Trafford tracks weird fiction writer Thomas Ligotti's anticipation of the radical thesis of neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger's book Being No-One: namely, that 'nobody ever was or had a self'.

In Thomas Ligotti's own contribution to the volume, Thinking Horror, he takes up the work of obscure Norwegian philosopher Peter Zapffe, among others, to take an unflinching journey into the depths of pessimistic thought. As a counterpoint to Ligotti's deflation of human hubris, Oleg Kulik, the internationally-acclaimed Ukrainian contemporary artist known for his disturbing investigations into the borders between life and death, human and animal, contributes his photographic series Memento Mori: Dead Monkeys.

Eugene Thacker's Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror gives a detailed and penetrating account of the 'teratological noosphere', discussing the way in which a certain horror has perenially accompanied the concept of 'life', from Aristotle to Lovecraft.

Novelist Michel Houellebecq is well-known for his evocation of the horror that dwells within the banalities of contemporary life. His poems, of which a selection are translated into English here for the first time, distil his powerful vision into translucid moments of dread.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, the notorious Brothers Grim of the British artworld contribute a set of drawings created exclusively for Collapse. The cartoon-horror of I Can See continues their investigations into the connection between laughter and horror through the programmatic impoverishment of the aesthetic.

In the third of a 'trilogy' of essays published in Collapse, Spectral Dilemma, Quentin Meillassoux reveals some of the ethical consequences of his deduction of the 'necessity of contingency', through an examination of the problem of 'infinite mourning' for the dead.

Kristen Alvanson's photographs, at once repellent and fascinating, of preserved specimens of deformed and mutated animals and humans, are accompanied by a text which discusses Paré's sixteenth-century treatise which makes of taxonomy itself something monstrous, as demonstrated in Alvanson's diagrammatic presentation of the Arbor Deformia.

German artist Todosch's meticulous sketches seem to depict varieties of heterogenous slime in the process either of disintegration or coagulation, making them a perfect companion to Iain Hamilton Grant's Being and Slime. This untimely excavation of the work of nineteenth century naturephilosopher Lorenz Oken - according to whom the generation of the universe from a 'primal zero' corresponds to its coagulation from a 'primaeval mucus' - puts an entirely new slant on Badiou's notion of 'founding on the void'.

Benjamin Noys meditates on Lovecraft and the real, revealing that the most abyssal of Horrors is Horror Temporis.

In Thinking with Nigredo, Reza Negarestani shows how Aristotle and Plotinus both unlock and dissimulate the ontological mechanism expressed by an unspeakable form of Etruscan torture.

Canadian artist Steven Shearer contributes a new series of his Poems - striking graphical pieces created through a manipulation of the nihilistic and extreme titles and lyrics of death-metal bands.

China Miéville, better known for his bestselling weird fiction novels, writes on M.R.James and the Quantum Vampire, interrogating the dyad of the weird and the hauntological, and introducing us to a new fearsome creature from his arsenal ... behold the Skulltopus!

Czech art collective Rafani present their cycle Czech Forest, an adaptation of folk-tale imagery which presents a very modern tale of warcrime and revenge from the end of WWII.

Graham Harman returns to Collapse with On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl. In a polemical defence of 'weird realism', Harman demonstrates that philosophical thought has more in common with weird and horror fiction than it might like to admit. Singular Agitations and a Common Vertigo, Keith Tilford's series of images - deftly disintegrated objects with more than a hint of 'pulp' - anticipate and shadow Harman's invocation of the weird inner life of objects.

Collapse Volume IV // Ed. R. Mackay // May 2008 // 390pp // Limited Edition 1000 copies // ISBN 978-0-9553087-3-4 // £9.99

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The big announcement, at long last

I've been hinting for weeks (maybe longer) that I had a B-I-G announcement forthcoming about my book, The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture From Consumerism to Control. At long last, here it is: the book will be published in 2009 by Columbia University Press!

I'm thrilled, needless to say, because Columbia's such an esteemed press and has published so many books I love: from Rachel Bowlby's Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping to Gary Cross' An All Consuming Century, and from David Henkin's City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's What Is Philosophy? and beyond.

What's also thrilling is that Columbia has agreed to make available, for free, a Creative Commons licensed PDF of The Late Age of Print. It will be released on the internet, concurrent with the publication of the print edition of the book. This is the first time Columbia is producing a book this way, and given my own proclivities toward intellectual property (not to mention the arguments I make in the book), I couldn't be happier to be the test case. What's more, I'm pleased to see another major university press taking a strongly affirmative stance toward open access to ideas.

Many of you who read this blog will find yourselves thanked in the book's acknowledgments. For now, though, a big, blanket "thank you" to all who've supported me throughout the process of researching, writing, revising, and finalizing The Late Age of Print. It's funny--for someone who writes about book publishing, I feel like I learned as much about the book business by trying to get The Late Age of Print published as I did by actually writing it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Society of the Spectacle©

Sorry for all the quiet. The last couple of weeks have been hectic, to put it mildly, with me finalizing my book manuscript and delivering a keynote address at a wonderful conference organized by the graduate students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UC Berkeley. And this week, my old mentor and very dear friend, John Erni, is headed here to Indiana to deliver a talk on "The New Sovereignties." Good things are happening, but unfortunately, Differences & Repetitions has suffered as a result. So thanks, readers, for sticking around.

I'm writing to share a story from this week's Chronicle of Higher Education. It talks about how Alex Galloway, an Associate Professor at NYU and someone I knew from grad school, has run into copyright trouble with, of all things, the estate of Marxist Guy Debord! Here's a taste of the article:
Guy Debord, the Marxist and French philosopher who died in 1994, may be rolling over in his grave.

A lawyer representing his widow has threatened Alexander R. Galloway, an associate professor of culture and communication at New York University, with legal action. Mr. Galloway said the lawyer sent him a letter demanding that he cease and desist from distributing his online war game, claiming it infringes on the copyright of the Debord estate. The philosopher had created a similar war game.

But copyrights and intellectual property were anathema to Debord, said Mr. Galloway. The Situationist International movement that Debord founded in 1957 is a mix of anarchism and Marxism. Its followers scrawled, "Abolish copyright" on building walls during the May 1968 student uprisings in Paris.

I know capitalism's supposedly rife with contradication, but this is getting ridiculous. (And here I'm reminded of Deleuze and Guattari's claim, "Nobody's ever died from a contradiction.") Indeed, to me, Alex's game is clearly a transformative use of Debord's concept and therefore well within the bounds of fair use.

Isn't it depressing when Marxists, or at least the spouses thereof, don't see things the same way? And isn't it even more depressing when the work of great Marxists comes to be seen not as a source of critical heuristics but rather as a lucrative revenue stream? Perhaps I'm naive, but I thought Debord's ideas and creative work were supposed to give us some distance from the excesses of the "society of the spectacle" and not, as it were, to become them.

Anyway, you can read the full story here. This is a very interesting case to me, since it would seeem to hold not insignificant implications for the matter of academic freedom, above and beyond any copyright considerations that may be at stake.