Sunday, February 26, 2012

Held in abusive custody by the laws of becoming, they hang on to your finger for dear life. (139)

—Avital Ronell, "On the Unrelenting Creepiness of Childhood: Lyotard, Kid-Tested," in Minima Memoria, ed. Nouvet, Stahuljak, and Still

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Baptisons-la infantia, ce qui ne se parle pas. Une enfance qui n'est pas un âge de la vie et qui ne se passe pas. Elle hante le discours. Celui-ci ne cesse pas de la mettre à l'écart. Mais il s'obstine, par là même, à la constituer, comme perdue. A son insu, il l'abrite donc. Elle est son reste. Si l'enfance demeure chez elle, ce n'est pas quoique mais parce qu'elle loge chez l'adulte. (9)

[Let us baptize that which does not speak infantia. A childhood that is not a phase of life and which does not pass. It haunts discourse. It {discourse} never ceases to set infancy apart, yet infancy persists, constituting it, as if lost. Unknowingly, then, {discourse} shelters infancy; infancy is its remainder. If infancy remains in its own place, it is not despite dwelling in the adult, but because of it.]

—Jean-François Lyotard, Preface, Lectures d'Enfance (Galilée, 1991; bootleg translation my own fault).

As soon as we attempt to talk about infancy we freeze it; we make it something that "loge chez l'adulte" and "qui ne se passe pas." Yet the fact that it passes is the defining condition of childhood. The state of infancy is all-confining, all-determining, inexorable, and is at the same time always slipping away, minute by minute: that's the point. It's temporary.

Temporariness is a difficult concept; therefore, so is childhood.
If infancy is to be something like a "faculty of enthusiasm," it is because it proceeds from a kind of yes. The child gives itself to the other, and indeed this giving takes a fabulous form, but in the fable there is a yes, a yes that echoes even among all the infantile "noes." [...] If it is possible to envision surviving the grounds for despair provided by this century (in sum, a spreading banality of evil in the face of multiple forms of devastation), it is because there survives in the mind an affirmative relation to non-being, and thus the capacity for opening to the event, for projecting upon an "Is it happening?" This is not a childlike optimism; the joy that is known in infancy cohabits with terror, if only the terror of the jouissance it has known. The "yes" is radically dispossessed; it opens, and it opens in, Jean-François says, a "desert" of desolation. (136)

—Christopher Fynsk, "Jean-François's Infancy," in Minima Memoria: In the Wake of Jean-François Lyotard, ed. Claire Nouvet, Zrinka Stahuljak, and Kent Still (Stanford UP, 2007)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Against this view it is urged that we underestimate the automatic powers of the normal subject. We are told that many of the acts which we usually do quite consciously might really be done without consciousness. In support of this assertion such facts are pointed out, as men completely undressing without knowing it, when their attention is distracted by other matters.

—Leon Solomons and Gertrude Stein, "Normal Motor Automatism" (1896)

Yes, you know how it is when that happens. (By the way, Solomons did the write-up.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Three days a week I get to talk with undergrads about feminism and robots. I love my life.

Excellent story of the day: a student's baby brother started picking up words from a Furby.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? [...] Sex and its nature might well attract doctors and biologists; but what was surprising and difficult of explanation was the fact that sex—woman, that is to say—also attracts agreeable essayists, light-fingered novelists, young men who have taken the M.A. degree; men who have taken no degree; men who have no apparent qualification save that they are not women.

—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

One Week, One Tool

"A digital humanities barnraising."

It is striking how the project is presented. This much labor, measured out in terms of this much time, produces this product. The meting out of time for product, the neat measuredness of each, is here pointed up as the essence of the project. It almost doesn't matter what the tool is. The workshop wasn't designed to solve any particular problem. It was set up to construct one unit of "product" in one unit of time.

This is by and large the opposite of digital humanities labor, which is interstitial, ongoing, and in significant part custodial (to take my own example: time spent blocking spammers at Arcade). This is of course why the language of "one week, one tool" is appealing.

One week, one book. One week, one conference. Are we feeling productive yet?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What does this mean, that we are the gold farmers? It means that in the age of postfordist capitalism it is impossible to differentiate cleanly between play and work. It is impossible to differentiate cleanly between nonproductive leisure activity existing within the sphere of play and productive activity existing within the sphere of the workplace. This should be understood in both a general and a specific sense. [...P]ostfordism is a mode of production that makes life itself the site of valorization: that is to say, it turns seemingly normal human behavior into monetizable labor. [...] I dispute the ideological mystification that says: we are the free while the Chinese children are in chains, our computers are a life-line and their computers are a curse. (120-1)

—Alexander R. Galloway, "Does the Whatever Speak?," in Race after the Internet, ed. Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White (New York: Routledge, 2012)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

         In the short legged, fit-
ful advance, the gurgling and all the minutiae—we have the

multitude of feet. To what purpose! Truth is no Apollo
   Belvedere, no formal thing. The wave may go over it
      if it likes.
Know that it will be there when it says:
   "I shall be there when the wave has gone by."

—Marianne Moore, "In the Days of Prismatic Color," 1924

Monday, February 6, 2012

If a little learning is a dangerous thing, jeopardy from that source is today universal. The millions have fragmentary knowledge of societary relations, and they are trying to transmute that meager knowledge into social doctrine and policy.

—A. W. Small, "The Era of Sociology," American Journal of Sociology 1.1, 1895

Friday, February 3, 2012

A singular disadvantage of the sea lies in the fact that after successfully surmounting one wave you discover that there is another behind it just as important and just as nervously anxious to do something effective in the way of swamping boats.

—Stephen Crane, "The Open Boat" (LoA edition, 886)

(Nervously anxious!)
The central forms of productive cooperation are no longer created by the capitalist as part of the project to organize labor but rather emerge from the productive energies of labor itself. This is indeed the key characteristic of immaterial labor: to produce communication, social relations, and cooperation.

—Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude (113)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unconferences of a non-THATCamp variety

I returned to my desk after teaching this morning to see a brief exchange between Adeline Koh and Marta Rivera Monclova, the upshot being that there should be a cultural studies THATCamp.

I don't disagree, but I wonder if in fact we need ever more proliferating THATCamps, or if we should just have a couple of cultural studies unconferences aimed at the novice, to which DHers might be inclined to go?

Conferences like CESA often circulate around star power (six plenary sessions, y'all?) and expertise. This is largely a good thing: usually the whole point of going to a specialized conference is that you work in the field and want to hear the newest, hardest stuff, because if you wanted to hear the basics rehearsed, you could just listen to your own self teaching the intro survey on Tuesday. The down side is that it can be hard for anyone working outside the field to gain purchase on the conversation.

But an unconference is perfect for novices in a field, because it requires that you get over your insecurities and admit ignorance. An unconference is much more conversational, rather like a seminar, but containing only brainy students who want to be there, and no teacher. The difference between an unconference and a working group is largely affective, although it has partly to do with scheduling (one intense burst rather than a sustained series of meetings across a semester or year). Most of us have had the pleasant experience at a THATCamp of finding out some things we didn't know before, and also finding out that we already knew more than we thought we did.

Obviously, the transformational DH (#transformDH) group has a specific interest in bringing cultural studies concepts into relief in digital humanities projects, so a THATCamp would make sense. And THATCamp is great, first of all because it's the only unconference most of us have been to and thus provides a model, and second and perhaps most importantly, because CHNM has set up such a useful infrastructure for organizing them.

But I wonder if there isn't a need for an unconferencelike structure in different fields as well, not to replace conferences as they now exist (contra those who capital-H Hate regular conferences like MLA) so much as to supplement them, to make them friendlier places for grad students and for people looking to cross over into a field they haven't worked in before but in which they have determined that they need some literacy. Poetry Camp, anyone?