On his blog on the sociological imagination, Jon Rainford has responded to an article I wrote with Rowland Atkinson on the TV show The Wire. The article, which is titled ‘The Ivorine Tower in the City: Engaging Urban Studies after The Wire‘, was published in 2010 in the journal CITY (there is also a shorter blog post of the article here).
In his response Jon asks ‘Is The Wire the solution?’. He responds to some of the key arguments from our article an applies some of them to more recent developments, such as the REF. Jon points towards the need for us to continue to think about how exemplary sociological formats like The Wire might continue to shape our practice. He asks how we might do this. We cover this a little in the article but Jon is right in suggesting that there is more scope for such an engagement with cultural resources (in fact this is something I’ve tried to continue, and I hope to do more on it in the future). This is a bit of a tricky question. Jon points towards a need to collaborate in the construction of sociological media content. This makes sense, although it might prove to be difficult in practice. In the article and elsewhere I’ve pointed toward the possibility of combining collaboration with curation and critical response. The Wire is worth returning to because it is such a telling example. Clearly though a lot has now been written about this particular show, which is an interesting phenomenon in itself (what other TV show has created that sort of reaction). Zizek’s comments on The Wire have attracted particular attention. This broad interest indicates that sociologists and others found something important in The Wire. We covered this in a bit of detail in this article, and Simon Parker talks about it here too.
Maybe though the answer to Jon’s question is no. The Wire in itself is not the solution, but it is suggestive of the potential of alternative forms if representation for telling about the social world (as Howard Becker has put it). We just haven’t yet found a way to tap into this – although I’m sure that lots of colleagues use such resources in their teaching.