“For Fable III explicitly to take up questions about entitlement spending, taxation, resource management, and the long-term financial health of its fantasy nation, and then treat those questions in terms of shallow moral binaries, makes it a party to the political discourse problem.”
[TL;DR: it’s been a whole lot of reading. Skip down to Qualifying Exam Areas for a description of exactly what it is that I’m reading about.]
In just under three weeks, I write my qualifying examination. Preparing for this ritual hoop-jumping has occupied most of my time over the past few months. It’s been an arduous and eye-opening process of discovering exactly how much I don’t know (or, at least, didn’t know when I started), and of teasing out the boundaries and relationships that define my research specializations and situate my dissertation project.
At iMAP, we’re following the exams schema set out by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Critical Studies program (with the addition of a “portfolio review” of creative work, which will take place in January). According to this schema, doctoral students need to identify three distinct areas of inquiry or specialization. Reading lists and descriptive statements outlining these research areas are submitted to the student’s committee in advance (I submitted the first draft of mine back in March of 2010), and the scope of the questions on the exams is limited to the material covered in the reading lists.
The exams themselves consist of five days of non-stop writing in response to three questions the student chooses from a pool created by their committee members. The answers to these questions take the form of imaginary dissertation chapters — which, hopefully, can become early drafts of actual dissertation chapters.
The official rule with this process is that the student should submit a reading list, then stick to it. While this rule undoubtedly has many good and practical reasons for existing, it’s a constraint I’ve had a bit of trouble observing. As I’ve read through the texts on my original list, I’ve learned more about exactly what it is that I’m investigating. References to other writers, projects, movements, and theories demand to be followed up on, and some of these tangents have ultimately become foundational to my research.
The big questions underwriting my work — questions around the poetic, social, and cultural implications of pervasive computing and social media — have functioned as a kind of razor here, shaving off truly irrelevant material and preventing the process from turning into a random walk. But my reading list now — and the ways in which I frame it — has evolved rather massively since last March. I expect it to continue to do so right up until I start writing on lucky December 13th.
With all this in mind, I present the following descriptions of my research areas, along with bibliographies for each.
- New media spaces [blog archive]
- History and theories of participatory culture and art practice [blog archive]
- Interaction design for social media and pervasive computing [blog archive]
I’ve also written a brief post on the ongoing role that this website is playing in my research:
Finally, you can download the latest version of my exam area descriptions and bibliographies in .pdf form here.
“To put it plainly: I am absolutely committed to breaking scholarly publishing of its dependence on gatekeeping and transforming it into a Shirkyesque publish-then-filter model. No question. But our filters can only ever be as good as our algorithms, and it’s clear that we just don’t know enough about Google’s algorithms. O’Malley acknowledges that, but I’m not sure he goes quite far enough there; the point of opening up peer review is precisely to remove it from the black box, to foreground the review process as a discussion amongst peers rather than an act of abstracted anonymous judgment.”
“[While] the web may indeed foster the related sensations of volitional mobility, scan-and-search, and transformation, our understanding of these modalities needs another working through in order to discern how they underwrite particular spatialities and temporalities, enabling specific selves and particular publics.” (466)
“The web’s chunking [or experiential sequencing] is spatial as much as temporal; our experience of moving through these chunks may seem akin to our experience of television’s flow, but this is also a boundlessness we feel we help create or impact. It structures a different economy of attention than that underwritten by flow. We move from the glance-and-gaze that theorists have named as our primary engagements with television (or film) toward the scan-and-search.” (464)
“Ultimately, what [sites like Amazon] and other tools for the creation and publication of metadata on the Web point towards may also be a wider phenomenon of disconnection between the processes of content creation and the processes of the produsage of further information and knowledge from such content. On the one hand, any process of content creation is necessarily also a process of metadata creation: any content, when analyzed, necessarily also yields internal metadata about itself (such as key words, date and time of publication, and other information about features of the text). On the other hand, in an online context which allows third-party produsers to tag, publishers to link to, and users to browse that content, these three core practices also provide the basis for the generation of external metadata through annotation at a distance, thereby creating a wide range of further information and knowledge about the content well beyond what its original creators may have had in mind.” (177)
-Axel Bruns, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond
“Our epoch is one in which space takes for us the form of relations among sites.”
“Brothels and colonies are two extreme types of heterotopia, and if we think, after all, that the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development (I have not been speaking of that today), but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”
“It is no surprise, then, that these other forms of “creating” are becoming an increasingly dominant form of “writing.” The Inter- net didn’t make these other forms of “writing” (what I will call simply “media”) significant. But the Internet and digital technolo- gies opened these media to the masses. Using the tools of digital technology—even the simplest tools, bundled into the most innova- tive modern operating systems—anyone can begin to “write” using images, or music, or video. And using the facilities of a free digital network, anyone can share that writing with anyone else. As with RW text, an ecology of RW media is developing. It is younger than the ecology of RW texts. But it is growing more quickly, and its appeal is much broader.”