Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Phd's: an act of faith or congealed labor

'think of technology as congealed labor' so says Latour (1994) On technical mediation - Philosophy, sociology, geneology. Common knowledge, 3(2), 29-65.

I am thinking how naive I ever was to think I might study change and understand how change occurs. My insight now is that I/we can only ever have limited knowledge.
What I might know is only what i can congeal at that moment. What at a particular time is held together. In looking I observe more, I broaden a picture, but there's always more, the traces are never fully made. And I suspect some of the traces I make might be seen by others as distractions or only loosely connected. The researcher is always situated. What brings me to this?
The path of being a Phd student is anything but straight. The iterative processes have me doubting my purpose and any end product. I sense that I might lose myself in navel gazing but for a willingness to consider a Phd as an act of faith made real; A pragmatic piece of work thats done when its done.

"I rely on many delegated actions that themselves make me do things on behalf of
others who are no longer here and that I have not elected and the course of whose
existence I cannot even retrace."
Latour (1994)
Taking this further; when i think i am acting, more than just me is acting, I am a product too of past and current actors, as are others involved, both human and otherwise. I might be able to say of the actors I identify, that they had such and such an influence, but even in this my sight will be limited to what I am able to perceive and uncover.
To use another of Latours analogies; at any time, some parts of the cloth will be more, and less, uncovered.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Multiple realities or alternate perspectives

Elderly care provokes alternate realities to consider. With Annemarie Mol the issue of other perspectives or multiple realities was always a sticking point for me; what was the difference?
Mol would state that in alternate perspectives the view remains the same just seen from different angles. I have had to mull this over for a considerable time before being willing and able to totally endorse this. But she is right. My mum and i do no look at the same view. We are in different realities when looking at the options available.
We might as well be in parallel universes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Holiday reading has included Seth Godin's the dip, the extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick). Not because my job needs this and not because of the PhD either, but it's still a worthwhile read on reviewing where one is at as well as a parallel area of interest in studying change.
I am still finding it a bit hard despite reading the book to know what's a dip vs a cul de sac except when looking back retrospectively. How will i know when persevering is going to do it or not? Its a bit like caving (not that i do this) but the ideas a bit like not throwing good money (or one's time) after bad. There's lost opportunities that might also be considered.
What i have found is some gems relevant to my study of change vis a vis Bruno Latour. While Seth Godin does not mention any philosophers there is a resonance in here. He describes the valley of death where 'the dip is so long and so deep that the nascent competition can't catch up.' Its a bit like cj talking of the habits and ruts made where the walls then get so high that doing anything else becomes harder and harder, you get out of the rut for a moment but are likely to fall back in. Its an easier path where its well trodden. And one that can be deliberately made in shaping th epath so getting out of it is harder still and its here that Seth Godin refers to microsoft where the building of relationships and establishing so many stds makes it essentially inconceivable that word or excell could be challenged. A similar analogy is also provided with ipod anditunes and apple. Instead of resting on laurels a whole raft of essential relationships are formed to make the "network"

Seth Godin describes how its easy to be seduced by the new (just as with the bright and shiny, just coz its new doesn't mean its good) and i like his description of how this leads to addictions and short little spans of attention but he also points out that many people are not led by the new but by the tried and true. Both can be problematic.

And thats where i find myself wondering if I'm in a dip or a cul de sac, again.
I'm left knowing, retrospectively, what I've got myself into. Nonetheless a few more clues provide me a bit more hope in not working myself into corners.

These are timeless themes, when is it useful to change, and when is it not. How might change be made, and what contributes to its fluidity or to its stickiness...And then there is also the effects not only of the dip on the people dipping, but the effects of the people dipping, on the dip... aggressive acts may not only make the people worse, but also the dip.
A very actor-network way of thinking about change.

Friday, January 09, 2009

It's the conversation that matters

Debating value in text counselling can usefully be viewed as a debate over what constitutes the boundaries of said texts.
The value is in the conversation, organic and open, and not in the transmitted increments. Yet wariness on the value of text messaging for counselling, more often then not, is because the focus stays on the transmitted increments, that is, singular messages of 160 characters or less, rather than the conversation. The analogous argument would be to criticize face to face- or any other form of counselling- based on sentences. The overall experience would be lost.

What is new about txt counselling?
It enables new forms of intimacy, new ways to perform counselling with distributed participants and new forms of performative practice. What then arises are differences in relating that can be considered.
1) What does txt counselling do to our sense of time and place and of being there for someone? Or as Jean Baudrillard provokes, what changes in the relationship when "the instantaneity of communication has miniaturized our exchanges into a succession of instants"?
2) There is a lot of "work" that goes into txt counselling, and this work is not always transparent, how is it configured, what reshaping occurs for counsellors and counsellees, as well as consideration for who benefits from the shift?
3) And a further problematic consideration: sms messaging is, at root, a database, and we are happily populating it with text based utterances, giving little thought to the uses to which such information could be put. Participants are "users" of the data base with little knowledge of, and no control of, the database. How does or should this affect how we use these technologies?

An so its worth looking at the actors involved in the performance, and of the work involved, for at present we do not know.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Whats my mobile good for?

Apparently its better than many other means for identifying weather, not in a pet-rock sense (if its wet, its raining) but strength of signals (fade) is apparently an excellent source for accurate weather scanning.
And also, apparently, for exposing my very human habits.
Seems my mobile has me covered in more ways than I realised.

Given that its seen by the BBC and by Pew and Horizon reports for higher ed as a, if not the, significant player in 2009, I will maintain my current symbiotic relationship, even though s/he is now appearing somewhat developmentally challenged...

The BBC item identifies that there are 3 billion mobiles in the world to 1 billion PCs, my prediction for 2009 is that they will breed more prolifically and have smarter protege.

Invisible / Visible Paris

I was prompted by Lina's blog to have a look at Bruno Latour's Paris invisible exhibition (online) and was thinking about what else might be added. In traversing paris he demonstartes Paris' digital traces, and Paris woven as a city of light, I would add this:

My daughter was awarded a Jenesys scholarship to fund her AFS year in Japan student exchange, so on her hard earned savings and slavings as a checkout chick she (virtually) took me to Paris :) and here is the virtual evidence which she kindly let me take and place on my blog.
Paris becomes dispersed, a form of it having been distributed. A social that is multiple. In invisible Paris Latour puts together a montage of stories of the social. This provides me a further avenue for considering a montage of stories (similar too to Annmarie Mol on the body multiple, for structuring my own thesis).
Invisibe Paris provides a provocation to think deeply as well as in fun as well but I am really pleased to see a virtually practical application :)