Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Teaching Carnival: Power & Everyday Life

So. The first couple of weeks of school have been a bit intense and weird, what with a brutal rape on campus and the strike and whatnot. But the picket line comes down today and everything on that end should get back to normal shortly. I really don't see how anyone could make the case that the uni doesn't effectively grind to a halt without its support staff - and it'll be great to have them back!

My Power & Everyday Life course is off to a good start, I think. Lots of people, over a dozen different disciplines, and they're engaged! Our first workshop was a way for students to get to know each other in small groups. Everyone chose the most important thing in their bag and explained to the others what it said about their personal attitudes and values. I saw lots of debit and credit cards, mobile phones (and quite a bit of concern about that being a bad thing), keys, sunglasses and even deodorant. All of this led quite nicely into discussing the assigned readings by Raymond Williams, Erving Goffman and Betty Friedan - and asking some questions about where, when and for whom is everyday life?

This week I'll be lecturing on the poetics and politics of everyday life, and the students will be discussing the revolutionary and creative potentials of subverting everyday life as well as conducting a quick-and-dirty postering campaign. I'll also get them going on their first assignment, inspired by Mass Observation. And if we're lucky, we'll have time to discuss the City of Ottawa's recent decision to put "We Support Our Troops" stickers on all municipal vehicles.

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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, July 31, 2007

August is for writing

After a couple of weeks of weather in the mid 30s (celsius) I'm mostly used to it, but the humidity here is killing me. It makes everything more difficult to move through. Plus, I'm having one of those slightly shocking mornings when I realise that I've way more work to do than I anticipated.

I'd like to write a short essay about my single greatest challenge during the BNMI residency: understanding how "research" is differently defined and practiced by social scientists and artists. I think this has interesting implications for collaborative work, and for how we approach creative interventions and technological innovations.

In other news, I'm teaching a new 2nd year undergrad course this year: "Power & Everyday Life." I'm currently working on the syllabus and deciding whether or not to assign textbooks or compile a reader myself. And it runs full-year so I have to plan twice as many lectures and seminars and workshops and assignments as I have in the past.

I've got two journal papers due by end of August: one for a special issue on software and space and the other for a special issue on wireless technologies and mobile practices. That's 14000-18000 words currently unorganised and/or unwritten and/or lost in dissertation.

Which reminds me I've also got a dissertation to submit. Because as we all know: "A good thesis is a thesis that is done."

So all things considered, I'm really glad that I'll be home for awhile. I want to make it back to Oslo and London in the fall, and there's the 4S Meeting in Montréal in October, but that's all the travelling I've got planned and it's quite enough. I'm also hoping to have friends (you know who you are!) come visit.

But thankfully summer's not over yet. There are still flowers to smell, dinners to cook, cats to take naps with, novels to read, walks and bike rides to take, and garlic festivals to attend! You know what they say about all work and no play...

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