Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Power & everyday life


Sociology 2700 - Power & Everyday Life

This fall and winter I'll be teaching a new (for me) course and I'm excited. I knew I wanted to reinvigorate my long-standing love affair with theories of everyday life (it is where we live, after all) by better combining them with technosocial studies, and better grounding technology and media studies in lived experience. But on a more fundamental level, I think I was happiest to be able to dedicate an entire course to "questioning everyday life and allowing everyday life to question our understandings of the world."

As a second-year undergraduate course open to arts and science majors, the first half of the course builds a foundation by focussing on historical and contemporary theories of everyday life and power relations. Drawing on my interests in material culture and feminist theory, I wanted to concentrate on how daily living involves shaping and being shaped by the people and things around us. The second half of the course focusses on technoscience as a primary force shaping everyday life today, and how this affects our different experiences with, and understandings of, everything from space and time to bodies and objects. If nothing else, I wanted students to get a solid sense of how even the mundane and taken-for-granted activities of our daily lives involve complex relations of power where it's not always clear and obvious who - or what - is in control. (And how sometimes, of course, the powers-that-be totally kick your ass but that doesn't mean you have to take it with a smile.)

In any case, I decided to stick to the equal parts lecture/seminar/workshop structure that's worked so well in recent classes, but I also decided to become more prescriptive with the assignments. Maybe it's the subject matter, or maybe it just has to do with becoming more comfortable and confident in the learning I want to facilitate, but this fall I also sense a greater willingness and desire to put my own politics and values on the line. This should be good.

Now, that's just one of five things on my to-do list so...

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Glitched

My body is not running to current specs. Repairs have been ordered but delays can be expected. Thank you for your patience.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Connecting anthropology & art

I was working on my paper for the CJC special issue on wireless technologies and mobile practices when my friend (and exceptional research artist*) Kevin Hamilton sent me a link to a workshop held earlier this year at Manchester Metropolitan University called Connecting Art & Anthropology.

Because I'm writing about connections between critical cultural studies and art in the development of pervasive computing and locative media, I was excited to see Amanda Ravetz draw out some of the affinities and discomforts between two practices dedicated to defining culture:

"A consistent issue for contemporary art practice has involved negotiating the borders between ‘life’ and ‘art’ that originated in part from Kant’s idea of a distinct realm of aesthetic human judgement. Anthropologists on the other hand are trained to approach each aspect of sociality in relation to a wider context. The western conception of art – as something transcendent and external to everyday life – is understood by anthropology as socially and historically contingent. However, the line that separates these two positions is neither stable nor neutral... "

Even closer to my interests, Pavel Büchler hints at "particular issues for the recent forms of artistic practice that seek a close critical participation in the social, for the validation of their results, for their sense of purpose, integrity and legitimacy, for the ways in which they conceptualise and reflect on their own condition and so on" - and perfectly sums up my own academic concerns about art:

"When anthropologists are interested in art, they are interested in what art can make of life. When they ask ‘What is art?’, they want to know what life is - or, more accurately, how life is lived, experienced and expressed. And when they enquire about what it is that artists do, they want to find out how their diverse creative pursuits are shaped by the specific cultural and social relations and practices which, at any given moment, make both art and life what they are."

And as if that's not enough, the Connecting Art & Anthropology website contains all the documentation for how 14 workshop participants responded to this intriguing brief.

Anyway - good stuff and lots to mull over as I continue writing!

* To learn why I prefer the term "research artist" to "artist researcher" you'll have to wait for the paper.

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