Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's a snow day today

A few weeks ago, I realised that I had oh-so-quietly slipped into that dreadfully boring place where I respond to most questions or statements with "Well, really you should read [insert academic du jour]". Let me assure you that few comments can so effectively end a conversation, and it was clear something had to give. This finishing of the PhD is really dehumanising and I prefer to be fully human.

So, more exercise, more meditation, more reading and writing of fiction, and way more laughing has brought me back to life. And, perhaps not surprisingly, I'm getting more accomplished and enjoying it more while I do it. Plus, Christmas is coming and I've hand-crafted all this year's gifts and I can't wait to give them away. Even better, I'll be spending the holidays with my family for the first time in eight years. But the point is, as Webb put it in IM, "goofy is good for you".

That reminds me: Jack and Matt (as Schulze & Webb) have documented their mobile phone personalisation project for Nokia.

"As well as looking at how materials (and the practices of the people who work with these materials) affect the phone, we’re also looking at how personalisation of Nokia phones can change their meaning or impact culturally. Large-scale manufacture is inevitably distanced from the very precise social context of use. Once we bring in short-run manufacture, however, the mobile can be more culturally situated. Manufacture can occur locally, and be influenced and shaped by everyday usage."

Not only are the material explorations interesting, but they've raised some issues around where the mundane rubs against the extraordinary. They mention the "bespoke creation of expensive items" but what is the relationship between everyday usage and luxury/status? Is this personalisation for the many or the few? And what kind of personalisation? Is the purchaser personalising it her "own way" like when she builds her "own" Mini Cooper online? Or like when he knits a matching winter scarf and cozy for his iPod?

Good stuff. An article in the latest issue of First Monday also caught my eye. Sumanth Gopinath's Ringtones, or the auditory logic of globalization takes a look at technical and cultural transitions in ringtones, and explains them in terms of auditory culture (refreshing enough when so much has to do with the visual) and capital accumulation over time. A good Marxist analysis, with everything that implies. And since I often think it's lame that we can't talk about nationalism without conjuring fascism or neoconservatism, I have to point to this piece on Benedict Anderson (via). It's not that he's got it all figured but I'm pulling together stuff for next term's lectures on cosmopolitanism and he raises some interesting points.


Blogger elizabeth said...

First off, I love that your class is being taught in the "Tory Building." Just one more reminder of how national politics shape everyday life...

And second, have you considered adding a little bit of Renan to any Anderson readings? He's not so much talked about now, I suppose, but "What is a nation?" is a quick read and is a good historical background.


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