New blog newsletter…

I’ve started writing a new blog newsletter. If you are interested in signing up to recieve the emails the site is here https://davidbeer.substack.com

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The end of my Thinking Culture blog

This is my 610th and final post on Thinking Culture. I’ve been running the blog for around 2 years and 4 months. This is a lot longer than I expected it to run when I first set it up. I originally set the blog up as a way to observe what I ended up calling ‘the politics of circulation‘, I was developing a book project at the time and I wanted to understand the folding-back of data into culture – including what became visible and what didn’t. The blog served it’s purpose, allowing me to see how content circulated, whilst also taking on a life of its own. I ended up averaging several posts a week and archiving all sorts of materials. Most of the posts curated interesting content that roughly related to culture, but I also added longer posts on things I had read, academic practices, cultural analysis or responding to things I thought were interesting. This seemed to work ok and over time the blog built a modest number of readers (most though were discovering the content through search engine connections to tags I’d used or by clicking on a Twitter link).

Having the blog has been productive in the large part. I was able to develop ideas and archive materials for potential use in my research and teaching. I also made lots of connections with people I didn’t previously know (this was probably the best thing about it). So I’d certainly recommend blogging to others.

Given what I’ve said, you might wonder why I’m stopping. There are a couple of key reasons why I’ve made the decision. In the time since I started this blog the opportunities to write in different formats has drastically escalated. There are now some great spaces that make the most of the communicative potential of new media forms. I won’t list them here, but there are a number of really good online magazines and variations on multi-authored blogs now. One thought I’d had was that I’d like to be more of a part of this community and network of (genuinely open access) knowledge creation and sharing. I want to take the limited time I have and use it to write for these collaborative outlets. There are opportunities to be a part of these developments, and I’d like to free up some time to do that. I’ve really enjoyed writng pieces for these types of spaces in the past, and i’d like to try to do more of that sort of writing and blogging. Having your own blog is a solitary (if networked) practice, and I’d like to put more effort into being part of these emergent collaborative publication spaces. As my workload has grown in various ways, I’d simply like to prioritise this other mode of writing/blogging for a while. This means I’ll no longer be able to curate content in the same way, but I think it will be enjoyable and worthwhile to take this alternative approach for a while and focus on more substantive type posts for various outlets. And there are still some great places to go to keep-up with interesting and important books, talks and the like – progressivegeographies.com is still the best blog for keeping-up with important publications etc.

Alongside all of this, I’ve blogged previously about my new role at Theory, Culture & Society. A little while ago I joined the journal’s editorial board (as social media editor), and I also co-edit their open site. The TCS site is a kind of open access supplement to the journal. I’d recommend taking a look, it can be found at theoryculturesociety.org  . I’ve been working on this for a few months and it’s been great. The site is really developing now. I see this as an important development, and I want to put as much time as possible into helping to make it a really vibrant resource. I’ve been commissioning pieces, a number of which are now on the site, and I’ve also recently completed three interviews with authors (the most recent interview can be found here). If you are interested in the general themes covered by the journal I’d recommend following the developments at the TCS site. As well as interventions and interviews we also publish video abstracts. Soon we hope to add book reviews and other types of content. At the moment we are publishing a couple of pieces a week, and this is likely to increase over time. Part of the reason for ending Thinking Culture will be to focus my efforts on developing the TCS site. It is already proving to be an interesting role, and the site is, I think, publishing some really interesting materials.

So these are the reasons. For a while at least I’d like to focus on the above (for anyone who is interested I’ll keep using Twitter, for the time being at least @davidgbeer ). It’s been very enjoyable using this blog and I may possibly resurrect it one day – it was a hard decision to stop and I may find I miss using it. For the moment I’d like to focus on writing and editing for these collaborative ventures. Thanks for your interest in my blog, I hope it was of some use (the archive will still be available). I also hope you might add theoryculturesociety.org to your regular eading list (the TCS site can also be followed on Twitter @TCSjournalSAGE ).

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A new preface for Les Back’s The Art of Listening

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Les Back has written a new preface for the Japanese edition of his book The Art of Listening. The preface has been published in full on the Sociological Imagination site. In this new preface Les reflects on the reception and writing of the book, he also talks of the anxiety of publishing the book. The preface us really revealing about the writing process and gives some backstage insights into the experience of authorship. Anyone interested in writing will find it to be of interest.

I bought this book when it was first published. I was working on sound at the time and I took the title a bit literally. I was expecting it to be an extension of Les and Michael Bull’s edited book The Auditory Culture Reader, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a book about the practice of sociology. I remember finding the conclusion to be particularly inspiring. In that chapter Les discusses the way that our ability to listen has been diminished and begins to develop the concept of live sociology (which has since been further developed). So I would fall into the category of early career sociologists who were influenced by the book, as described by Les in his new preface.

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Where to start with reading Peter Sloterdijk?

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Following from his recent guides to reading Lefebvre and Foucault , Stuart Elden has added a guide to where to start when reading Sloterdijk. The post runs through Sloterdijk’s key publications, their specific contributions and what use they might be. So far I’ve only really read Bubbles, I’ve also read parts of Stuart’s edited collection Sloterdijk now (I’d recommend Stuart’s editorial introduction to that collection as a helpful guide to Sloterdijk).

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Globalisation, textbooks and teaching

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The Antipode open site have published a review symposium focusing on Matthew Sparke’s book Introducing Globalization: Ties, Tensions and Uneven Integration. There are four reviews and a response from the author. The reviews are by Stephen Young, Jamey Essex, Farhang Rouhani and me. As this is a textbook the remit was to review the book but to discuss it in relation to broader questions about globalization and pedagogy – the reviews therefore represent a broader discussion of the teaching of globalization and the use of textbooks (my review also touches on the need to defend the space for textbooks to be written).

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Discount voucher for Will Davies’ The Limits of Neoliberalism

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Will Davies’ book The Limits of Neoliberalism will soon be published in the TCS book series. A substantial discount voucher for the book is now available on Will’s blog. This looks like an excellent book and the discount puts it at paperback price.

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Interfaces, bodies and materiality: an interview with Daniel Black

I recently interviewed Daniel Black about his article ‘Where Bodies End and Artefacts Begin: Machines Tools,  and Interfaces’ which was recently published in Body & Society for the Theory, Culture & Society site. The interview, which is open access, focuses on a number of questions that emerge from the article. It follows up on some the details of the conceptual framework that Daniel’s article develops. The interview covers his concern with the concept of interfaces and also how his work develops material perspectives on bodily limits. Daniels work links into some broader themes in social theory around object oriented approaches and interests in material analyses, these are briefly discussed in the interview. I’ll hopefully be able to post some further interviews on the TCS site soon.

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Mike Savage on cultural sociology in Britain

Mike Savage has been asked to write an overview of cultural sociology in Britain for the American Cultural Sociology newsletter. He has posted a draft version of the piece on the Stratification & Culture Research Network blog. The piece provides an account of the key areas of development in cultural sociology – including cultural studies, cultural theory and cultural class analysis. Mike provides an account if each of the key developments. There are also some interesting comments at the end of the post. It’s hard to summarise British cultural sociology, it’s quite diverse in terms of theories, methods and topics, but this piece brings together the core issues. It’s interesting to reflect on why the cultural turn has played-out in the way it has.

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Britpop at the BBC

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To celebrate to 20th anniversary of the Britpop music scene, the BBC have various programmes and other features. These are all described, with links to podcasts, on the Britpop at the BBC site. It is taking place all week, but I’m not sure how long the podcasts of the programmes will be available. There is quite a bit of historical content, with various protagonists reflecting back on the Britpop scene. It’s been quite insightful listening to descriptions of the records being made, the excitement of being in the movement and also the problems and difficulties that came with the scene.

One of the features they have resurrected for the week is the Evening Session radio programme. It originally broadcast on BBC Radio One in the evenings through the mid-90s. It’s strange listening to the show now, this was a programme I listened to most nights from 1994 through to 1995. It was how I kept up with music and the Britpop music scene coincided with my mid to late teens. I give a lecture on my second year module on music scenes, and we focus on how individual biographies intersect with broader cultural movements. This lecture forces me to recall how my own biography intersected with Britpop. It’s a soundtrack that has stayed with me (even in my sociology), and provided the cultural backdrop to a period of my life. In the lecture we reflect on how cultural experiences and personal experiences are defined by the broader cultural moments in which they are lived.

These radio programmes are clearly nostalgic, but they still provide some interesting reflections on the scene. Culturally, it’s interesting to look back and to listen to the music 20 years on. Some of it has aged surprisingly well – ‘This is the sound of youth’ by These Animal Men still sounded great (there is a BBC session for this band here) There is also some interesting material here that might allow for some sociological insight into how music scenes develop. In the case of Britpop it’s interesting to hear about the central and knowing part that media forms played in the formation and development of the scene. Developments and changes at BBC Radio One seemed to coincide with Britpop (would the scene have happened without these changes?) and there was also the need for content for a much larger music press (with journalists keen to design scenes and categorise music). And then there are the usual narratives about the end of Grunge and the rise of British optimism. I’m a bit more sceptical of these last two. At least they didn’t fit with my experiences.

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Bev Skeggs on values beyond value

In a previous post I mentioned some of the reading I was doing, I’ve now had chance to read Bev Skegg’s article ‘Values beyond value? Is anything beyond the logic of capital?‘ in detail. I found it to be genuinely inspiring. The last three pages in particular are programmatic in their scope and they lay out a marker for how values might be defended and studied, and also how our analysis of values might also potentially escape the logic of capital. Bev’s piece is really provocative and it poses some really thoughtful questions about the types of issues sociology should be addressing and how it might approach them.

More broadly the article, which is based on Bev’s 2013 British Journal of Sociology Annual Public Lecture, draws a range of themes together from her earlier work. In the piece Bev explores how, in different ways, her previous research projects explored the relations between values and value. This is set in the contemporary context, in which the ‘logic of capital…commodifies every aspect of our lives’ (2). These strands of her research are then explored in their convergence with developments in the neoliberal agenda of calculation and competition. The article asks what can escape this logic of capital. This question is explored through the language of value and values, and through an exploration of how these are applied to different types of people.

These discussions culminate with some far reaching conclusions that speak directly to some of the broad issues that face contemporary sociological analyses. For example, Bev tellingly argues that ‘living within the logic of capital does not prefigure internalization’ (15). She attempts to then briefly think through the spaces that are not necessarily ‘completely colonized by capital’. The article claims that we are not just shaped by disenchantment, alienation and anomie. There are ‘moments’, as Bev describes them, where we find such spaces. The article closes with some observations about how we might capture and use such moments of resistance, affection and attention.

In one crucial passage, Bev suggests that:

‘If we can only see from within the blinkers of capital’s logic we will never understand or recognise the values that live beyond value. Our own analysis will trap us into that which we are expected to reveal. We therefore, as sociologists, have a duty to look beyond and search for the gaps, the un-captured and better ways if being and doing’ (16).

To do this, the article argues that we need to ‘pay attention to our own and others’ moments of love, care, and enchantment, to the connections that enable us to flourish’ (17). It is in these passages that Bev’s article offers some orientation for the ongoing analysis of values and value. A focus on these moments, the article closes, ‘may block the logic of capital as it tries to capture absolutely everything, including our analysis’. This opens-up a range of questions for sociology to consider and sets a really interesting agenda. As I understand it, this is an early piece from a 3 year fellowship on values and value, with the topics covered in this article likely to unfold over the coming years. I can’t really do justice to Bev’s article in this short post, it really needs to be read in full.

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