Archive for March, 2011

Installing (Social) Order

17 March 2011

An interesting new blog focusing on the social studies of infrastructure, with a penchant for STS and ANT.

No doubt that computer science is the formative mode of building the models of contemporary social life. Interactional settings, inter- and transorganizational networks as well as the internal structures of macro-social phenomena like science, politics, economy, art and the media are ‘nerved’ with heterogenous, overlapping and sometimes antidromic tendencies to be formed by extremely distributed but nonetheless large scaled information infrastructure.

Hybridisation in architecture and urbanism

11 March 2011

A new book on transdisciplinarity and the hybridisation of knowledge production, edited by Isabelle Doucet and Nel Janssens: Transdisciplinary Knowledge Production in Architecture and Urbanism: Towards Hybrid Modes of Inquiry, from the Urban and Landscape Perspectives series, Vol. 11 (Springer).

The volume includes contributions by Michael Biggs, Daniele Büchler, Carole Deprés, Halina Dunin-Woyseth, Andrée Fortin, Tony Fry, Rolf Hughes, Ronald Jones, Fredrik Nilsson, Tatjana Schneider, Geneviève Vachon, Albena Yaneva, and a foreword by Julie Thompson Klein.

The volume addresses the hybridisation of knowledge production in space-related research. In contrast with interdisciplinary knowledge, which is primarily located in scholarly environments, transdisciplinary knowledge production entails a fusion of academic and non-academic knowledge, theory and practice, discipline and profession. Architecture (and urbanism), operating as both a discipline and a profession, seems to form a particularly receptive ground for transdisciplinary research. However, this specificity has not yet been developed into a full-fledged, unique mode of knowledge production.

In order to dedicate specific attention to transdisciplinary knowledge production, this book aims to explore (new) hybrid modes of inquiry that allow many of architecture’s longstanding schisms to be overcome: such as between theory/history and practice, critical theory and projective design, the adoption of an external viewpoint and a view-from-within (often under the guise of bottom-up vs. top-down). It therefore offers the reader a mix of contributions that elaborate on knowledge production that is situated in the (architectural and urban) profession or practice, and on practice-based approaches in theory.

Technology and the financial crisis

8 March 2011

The Information Systems and Innovation Group (ISIG) in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics will be hosting the 11th Social Study of ICT (SSIT) Workshop on 28 March 2011. Here is the detailed programme and you can register here.

This year’s SSIT workshop has invited leading academics and practitioners to open the discussion on the way information systems development has coped with the continuous innovation in the financial sector in the past decade; the resulting information infrastructures; and the pressures for new enterprise architectures and IS development practice at the aftermath of the crisis.

In this one-day conference, organized by the Information Systems and Innovation Group of the Department of Management, information system scholars, social scientists and CIOs from commercial and central banks, will present their views and lead a discussion on this topic.

SSIT11 will be followed by the 7th Social Study of IT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF7) on 29 and 30 March 2011, also at the LSE. SSIT-ORF is a unique venue for PhD students and junior researchers to present their work in progress on technology and information systems related topics in a constructive atmosphere.

Barbie experiment fails in Shanghai

8 March 2011

It seems highly symbolic that Mattel’s experiment to try to create attachments in Chinese girls and women to the blond Barbie has failed in Shanghai. A project to try format Chinese girls – or at least their imagination – in the image of a doll with exaggerated Western features would seem breathtakingly arrogant. If you watch the video of the store launch or look at any of the photos of the displays, the rows after rows of blond Barbies surrounded by Chinese customers and shop assistants brings the battleground for cultural imagination and body stereotypes into sharp relief.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Mattel that the Shanghai test may have exposed the limits of Western cultural dominance itself, which is literally embodied in their Barbie doll? Could that be the great unthought of Mattel?

Despite the failure of the Shanghai experiment  (where the store was apparently modelled on the ‘American Girl’ concept) , Mattel is not giving up on its project. On the contrary; they now want to roll out Barbie across China, with a new brand strategy. We’ll have to see whether that means a Chinese Barbie, or the same old Western caricature. If the latter, Mattel will be launching the greatest in vivo experiment yet about the limits of Western cultural imperialism.

Bruno Latour on networks and spheres

7 March 2011

In e-flux journal Issue no. 23:

Some Experiments in Art and Politics

Inspired by Tomas Saraceno’s installation Galaxies Forming along Filaments, Like Droplets along the Strands of a Spider’s Web (2008), Bruno Latour looks at the topology of the sphere as an alternative to that of the network. Whereas networks are able to articulate cursory and diffuse forms of connectivity in the midst of an infinite expanse, the sphere can be seen as pointing the advantages of networks to another technology by which local, fragile, and complex “atmospheric conditions” can gain a form of resilience by way of a container within a broader network. How can we then apply the same logic to a means of “recomposing” disciplinary divides in a way that sustains a common vocabulary, yet overcomes established hierarchies?

The curious marketing fate of human curiosity

4 March 2011

A presentation by Professor Franck Cochoy, CERTOP, University of Toulouse

The curious marketing fate of human curiosity: Technologizing consumers’ inner states to build market attachments

Wednesday March 16th, 4-6pm
Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Hoggart Building, Room 308


STS has done a terrific job in exploring the sociology of technical devices, but in so doing it has somewhat tended to neglect the properties of human subjects. I would like to suggest a more symmetrical analytical approach, by focusing on some market dynamics that bring “devices” and “dispositions” together. More precisely, I would like to focus on a particular disposition – curiosity – and the technologies market professionals have developed as a means to seduce consumers. The idea is that, more than any other disposition, focusing on curiosity can help in understanding how market professionals and technologies, in playing on human subjects’ inner states, may reinvent their very identity and behavioral logic. I will show that from Genesis to the curiosity cabinets of the 15th-18th centuries, to modern shop windows and the “teasing” strategies of today’s advertising, seducers and merchants have constantly built “curiosity devices”, that have helped ordinary persons to become curious and/or to become consumers. In the process, they have freed themselves from previous action schemes – routine and tradition for example –, as well as coming to behave in patterns very different from those  understood according to the more familiar logics of interest and calculation. The contemporary commercial game introduces a real market of consumer drives, where “Blue Beard’s curiosity” ends up facing a real “rainbow market” of competing dispositions.

Organised by the Department of Sociology, Goldsmith University of London

The ANT and the SPIDER

4 March 2011

Here at ANTHEM we like discussions between fairytale characters like PRINCES and WOLVES, especially if they are talking about social theory and philosophy. So here is a hilarious exchange between an ANT and a SPIDER about actor-network theory. It should raise a chuckle or two:

Ingold, T. (2008). When ANT Meets SPIDER: Social Theory for Arthropods. Material Agency. C. Knappett and L. Malafouris: Springer US: 209-215.

‘You are SPIDER, and you stand for the proposition that Skilled Practice Involves Developmentally Embodied Responsiveness. I appreciate your views; they are indeed worth their weight IN GOLD (which is very little, I might add, since you are such a lightweight creature). But I am ANT. I stand for Actor Network Theory. Not for nothing am I known as THE TOWER among arthropods. For my philosophy towers over yours’.

Thank you to Van Troi Tran for the link.