Archive for December, 2009

ANT job at the New School

31 December 2009

This might very well be the first time I have ever seen a job advert specifically looking for someone with expertise in actor-network theory. And it’s not just any old school, it’s the New School in New York! They are looking for an Assistant Professor of International Affairs. Apply here. Good luck, job seekers!

The New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA), a multidisciplinary Master’s level program that bridges critical theory and practical training, invites applications for a three-year term faculty position at the level of Assistant Professor, beginning on July 1, 2010. (Faculty appointments are renewable.) We are looking for a social scientist who works on issues relating to governance or conflict and security, both broadly understood. Candidates whose research agenda stems from engagement with social and political theory, actor-network theory, critical political economy, or comparable approaches, are of particular interest. The ideal candidate should have a strong interest in the methodology of inquiry in the social sciences and a focus on geographical regions outside of Europe and the United States would be of particular interest. While the position is primarily dedicated to supporting the graduate program, there will be opportunities for undergraduate teaching.

Market Studies Workshop

21 December 2009

See this call for papers for EIASM’s 1st Interdisciplinary Market Studies Workshop to be held near Stockholm on 3-4 June 2010. The announcement gives a good summary of the recent surge of interest in the nature of markets and the contributions actor-network theory driven approaches and science and technology studies (STS) have made to this area in recent years. The workshop aims to be interdisciplinary and calls for contributions from all areas that have an interest in markets, such as business studies, marketing, STS, economic sociology, economics, economic geography, consumer research, cultural studies and anthropology.

Possible topics:

  • the various forms markets may assume
  • the processes through which markets are realized
  • the import of economic theories at large on markets (economics, marketing, strategy)
  • the role of devices and metrics in shaping markets
  • the role of “market professionals” in the organizing of markets
  • how regulators act in and on markets
  • how representations of markets contribute to shape the markets they depict
  • how market agencies are equipped
  • how markets produce values

To apply, submit a 3-page abstract by 29 January 2010. The organising committee consists of Hans Kjellberg (Stockholm School of Economics), Debbie Harrison (Norwegian School of Management), Claes-Fredrik Helgesson (Linköping University), and Susi Geiger (University College Dublin). Guest speakers include Bernard Cova (Euromed Marseille), Barbara Czarniawska (Gothenburg School of Economics), and Steve Woolgar (Saïd Business School, Oxford).

Algorithmic Allure

19 December 2009

It is nice to learn from Graham Harman that his Bournemouth talk last year on Heidegger’s “origin of the work of art” essay has directly inspired this interesting forthcoming paper by Robert Jackson: “Heidegger, Harman and Algorithmic Allure.” That event was actually organised by Tammy Lu at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth (since then  renamed as the Arts University College at Bournemouth), although I was the one who took this crazy photo of Graham:

Three days later Graham gave another talk on “The Greatness of McLuhan” at the Media School at Bournemouth University. We posted the recordings of both talks on this blog and they both became quite popular, however the Heidegger talk has the edge: it has been downloaded 1,027 times since 8 February 2008, as opposed to the 884 downloads of the McLuhan talk.

Strangely, both of these talks are more popular than Harman’s first lecture at the LSE  “On Actors, Networks, and Plasma: Heidegger vs. Latour vs. Heidegger” on 29 November 2007, which has been downloaded 778 times, even though that was the event that launched the Heideggero-Latourian project most explicitly. I would have thought that the juxtaposition of Heidegger and Latour and the invocation of Latour’s concept of the plasma would be provocatively alluring (or alluringly provocative) enough to attract more attention. But the most popular Harman download (besides the respectable 1,688 downloads of the Harman Review itself) seems to be his “Assemblages According to Manuel DeLanda” from November 2008, with 1,385 downloads since then.

[Although I should hasten to add that these figures are somewhat misleading, as both the plasma talk and the Harman Review are also available on the LSE website, so probably just as many people if not more would have downloaded them from there. As for the DeLanda talk, it received a boost after being listed on Speculative Heresy.]

Jackson’s paper sounds very interesting though, so I’ll reproduce his abstract here:


Object-Oriented Octopus

17 December 2009

I hereby nominate this very clever octopus to the post of official mascot of object-oriented ontology. If there was any doubt that humans (and primates and ants and birds and so on) were not the only creatures that can use tools, then this should settle it. Even an invertebrate knows how to use tools. More than that, this octopus uses tools to build a dwelling, for the very practical and sensible reason of protecting and furthering its existence. As Heidegger put it, “Dwelling, however, is the basic character of Being in keeping with which mortals exist. (…) Building and thinking are, each in its own way, inescapable for dwelling.” (p. 158). If that’s the case, then it’s time perhaps to freshen up Heidegger a bit. Enough talk of man, how about octopus?

“What if octopus’s homelessness consisted in this, that octopus still does not even think of the real plight of dwelling as the plight? Yet, as soon as octopus gives thought to his [or her] homelessness, it is a misery no longer. Rightly considered and kept well in mind, it is the sole summons that calls mortals into their dwelling. ” [After Heidegger, p. 159]


Heidegger, M. (1975). Poetry, Language, Thought. New York, Harper & Row.

Inscribing Einstein

16 December 2009

If you are one of the 17,570 people who have signed UCU’s petition against the so-called Research Excellence Framework (REF) proposal and now you are wondering what happened to your signature, you might be interested to know that besides submitting it to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), UCU also turned the signatures into a giant poster of Albert Einstein, who on this topic of research is reported to have said: “If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”


Stand up for research!

8 December 2009

Calling all academics: stand up for research and sign the University and College Union’s (UCU) petition against the current Research Excellence Framework (REF) proposal, which is an attack on fundamental research in the UK. According to this proposal, 25% of the assessment of a given research output would be based on its perceived ‘economic and social impact.’ Why is this important? Because this assessment will affect the amount of research funding granted to the particular university.

More than 16,000 academics have signed the petition as of today, including six Nobel laureates and 2,500 professors. However, time is running out, as the consultation process ends on 16 December. Read Sally Hunt’s article (general secretary of UCU) on why this REF proposal is the “worst of all worlds.”

A quote from Michael Polanyi on the Stalinist disdain for ‘pure research’ would also seem appropriate here:

I first met questions of philosophy when I came up against the Soviet ideology under Stalin which denied justification to the pursuit of science. I remember a conversation I had with Bukharin in Moscow in 1935. Though he was heading towards his fall and execution three years later, he was still a leading theoretician of the Communist party. When I asked him about the pursuit of pure science in Soviet Russia, he said that pure science was a morbid symptom of a class society: under socialism the conception of science pursued for its own sake would disappear, for the interests of scientists would spontaneously turn to problems of the current Five-Year Plan. (p. 3)

[Michael Polanyi (1966) The Tacit Dimension. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul]

Finally, listen to the words of 2009 Chemistry Nobel prizewinner Venki Ramakrishnan (one of the signatories) on his views on the relationship between basic research and applied research (comment starts at 5:15) [hat tip to The Nature Blog]:

stand up for research and sign the UCU’s petition against the current Research Excellence Framework (REF) proposal, which is an attack on fundamental research in the UK.

Polanyi on science

1 December 2009

A Latourian moment in Michael Polanyi’s “A Society of Explorers” lecture:

The popular conception of science teaches that science is a collection of observable facts, which anybody can verify for himself. We have seen that this is not true in the case of expert knowledge, as in diagnosing a disease. But it is not true either in the physical sciences. In the first place, you cannot possibly get hold of the equipment for testing, for example, a statement of astronomy or of chemistry. And supposing you could somehow get the use of an observatory or a chemical laboratory, you would probably damage their instruments beyond repair before you ever made an observation. And even if you should succeed in carrying out an observation to check upon a statement of science and you found a result which contradicted it, you would rightly assume that you had made a mistake. (more…)