Presented without comment #30

Nick Srnicek‘ interviewed at Figure/Ground Communication.

By a large margin, most of my academic colleagues are people I first met online, whether through blogging or emailing or tweeting. I’ve since gone on to meet a number of them in the physical world, but the initial connections have almost invariably been via the internet. There’s a pragmatic benefit to this, which commonly goes under the label of ‘networking’ – simply put: the more people you know, the more opportunities arise. Yet on a much deeper and more important level, these connections have truly shaped and developed every one of “my” thoughts. The beauty of the internet – the beauty of philosophical and political communities online – is that one is forced to face up to a simple fact: cognition is collective, extended and embodied. Who “I” am as a scholar – my own process of individuation – has been undertaken and produced only through the medium of online collective thought.

At the same time, in enmeshing oneself in these networks one quickly comes to realize how often you are wrong. Writing on the internet will tend to attract experts on the smallest aspects, and you will inevitably have your claims being torn apart by people who are more knowledgeable in a particular academic corner than you are. As a result, one is forced to take a healthy scientific stance towards your own claims: “I tentatively take this claim X to be true insofar as I believe Y and Z.” Given our own cognitive defects and biases this is the only justifiable stance towards one’s own claims, and the internet effectively mandates that one take such a stance. Again, thought is collective and extended: recognizing our own errors is part of a much larger project of knowledge production.

So if I had one piece of advice for younger students, it would be to get involved in the online communities. It’s been the best intellectual and professional step I’ve taken.

new laptop tonight?‘ by Graham Harman at Object-Oriented Philosophy.

The fourth one, on which I am typing this blog post, was purchased in Cairo in late September 2010. It’s still perfectly workable. However, the keys are starting to stick just a little bit due to all the typing of the past year. 15+ months. That’s probably the reasonable lifespan for my laptop these days, given the amount of writing I do. This time I will probably keep this one rather than give it away. It will be nice to carry a beater around to cafés, not worry about spilling tea on it or being robbed while carrying it, and so forth.

Also, writing is my job. It’s what I do. It hardly seems extravagant to have two of these machines.

“Law and Order” as cultural artifact‘ by Mark Stewart at Television FTW.

What has struck me, 3-ish seasons in, is the way that L&O operates as an artefact, as a cultural historical record. Early seasons are filled with references to AIDS, to DNA, to mobile phones. Incident reports are being completed on type-writers, a foot cop runs to a pay-phone to call in a crime. Sexual harrassment seems to become a common trope as the series progresses. Females serving in the police force and the military becomes a theme. Homosexuality becomes more and more in the public eye, as does racism. I’m struck by the number of derogatory terms used in the show’s early seasons, especially n***er, which seems to be used in every second episode.