Engineering a change of direction…back to Walter Benjamin perhaps


I’ve just been working on revising a co-authored article today. In addition to this piece I have a couple of other articles under review and I’m trying to get a complete first draft of a my book together. For the last 10 years (I did my PhD between 2002-2006 and I’ve been working as a researcher or lecturer since) I’ve been focusing upon the intersections between popular culture and new media. This focus has a strange origin I suppose. I was actually trying to think about using some postmodern and late modern type theories to think about popular culture. I always felt popular culture was a bit neglected by sociologists even though it is such a big part of people’s lives. What I found was that the changes in media were essentially where the action was in understanding culture. Of course the last 10 years have seen some significant changes at the intersections between popular culture and media. So I tried to adopt Nigel Thrift’s advice, from his book Knowing Capitalism, and follow a little way behind these changes. This was quite exciting and it felt like I was responding to things as best I was able. The result was that my writings tried to capture and conceptualise some of these changes almost as they were happening. I’ve written a few bits over the years that reflect on the problems this creates.

What I’m thinking now is that it might be time for a bit of a change in direction. Not a massive overhaul but a reassessment of what I’m going to do for the next 10 years. I’m thinking that my current book is a bit of a line in the sand. The book is entirely new material but I’m seeing it as a culmination or accumulation of thoughts and ideas of this intersection between popular culture and new media. One of the articles I have under review is about recording engineers and that points towards one thing I’d like to pursue. But more generally I think I’d like to return to my earlier interests in social theory. So I’m seeing what I might be able to do with this in terms if a research plan. I’ve got some ideas for a broader project, but I want to see if I can get the ball rolling by returning to Walter Benjamin. I read quite a bit of Benjamin’s work a few years ago (thanks to Barry Sandywell) and I’ve used it in various places in my writing and in my teaching. I also organised this enjoyable little event on ‘Working with Walter Benjamin‘ last year. I see this as a starting point for the broader project. My plan at the moment is to attempt a short authored book and perhaps also an edited collection on Benjamin’s work. But I’ve got quite a bit of planning to do first. But I’m hoping to finish my book and use the period after to work on shaping my slightly new direction and projects.

As I try to do on this blog from time to time, I wanted to try to reflect on this shift in direction. It’s interesting that making this move feels a bit risky. The safe option I suppose is to stick with my current research. I suppose that there is a balance between developing research directions whilst also building a coherent research narrative. The tension is between playing it safe and moving out of a comfort zone in which there is a level of security into some exciting new terrain. I’m not too worried about that as I tend to think that enthusiasm is the most important thing in my research. I think branching out a bit might help me to keep the enthusiasm going. I suppose the challenge in my planning will be to connect the story together. I’ve got an idea of how to do this. But I quite like the idea of taking a bit of a risk. I think that a challenge is a good motivator. I’ll see how things go. When I think this writing plan through in more detail I may make a retreat. I’ll see how it goes.

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2 Responses to Engineering a change of direction…back to Walter Benjamin perhaps

  1. Pingback: Walter Benjamin: a biography | Thinking culture

  2. Pingback: Mark Carrigan on academic blogging | Thinking culture

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