My current reading, writing and the ebb/flow of the academic year

Over the last three or four weeks I’ve not really posted very much on here about my research. This is largely because of the ebb and flow of the academic year. The end of the second term is always a busy period, with department planning, visit days, the conclusion of modules, supervision and the like. This led to me having little time to add much of substance to this blog. I’ve now completed my marking, and I’m now shifting my focus to my research and this will hopefully be reflected by the type of posts on the blog (I’ve written before about switching between modes during the academic year). If possible I try to steadily chip away at research, but sometimes this has to go on hold. I’m just now thinking about where to focus my energy.

I’ve got some longer term plans in place but these are going to be reliant on the outcome of a book proposal and a potential funding bid. So, I’m thinking a little more short term at the moment. I’m planning to work on three related things over the coming weeks (these are the things I’ll post about on here as I read things, discover audio and visual materials, etc). All three relate in different ways to the bigger projects I’ve mentioned, they’ll give me a bit of a running start if the bigger projects are successful.

At the moment I’m putting together a journal article, revising a book chapter and preparing for a talk I’ve got to give in May.

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I’ve previously posted some notes about my planned talk on ‘Measurement, Circulation, Possibility‘. This talk is going to be used to lay out some of the broader issues I’m working on at the moment. I’ve managed to do a little more work on this since my earlier post. The review of Btihaj Ajana’s Governing Through Biometrics that I was working on has now been published (in very quick time) on the early view section of Information, Communication & Society, the link to an open access version is available here. I’m going to use the review and the notes that I posted earlier as the basis of my short talk. I’ve been using the talk though to plan ahead, its only a short talk but focusing on it has helped me to discover some new possibilities and ideas. I’ve also managed to find some other materials to use as I develop these ideas further, including a great article on value by Bev Skeggs and Luigi Doria’s book Calculating the Human (which is now on my reading pile).

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The two pieces of writing I’m focusing on both develop aspects of the above talk but in specific contexts. The book chapter I’m revising is called ‘Algorithms in the academy’ and is a significantly expanded version of this blog post. The chapter is complete but I’ve got some additions to make and I’m planning to use the opportunity to update some of the literature and examples. The piece is about the way that algorithms are shaping the formation and dissemination of knowledge. I’ve been thinking about how algorithms are already shaping discoveries and the encounters we have with books and articles.

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My second piece of writing is a written version of a presentation I gave on football, but it is actually an analysis of the way that data circulates through the social world. I’ve got a very rough draft together, but it needs a lot of work. The conceptual aspects of the analysis need developing and I need to flesh out the points using the literature pictured above (amongst other resources). I’ve not written about football before, but it just seemed to provide a perfect case study. The article has developed in an unusual way for me. I realised I had inadvertently posted a series of notes about football on this blog. When I was asked to give a work-in-progress talk, I compiled a series of slides from those blog posts. I’ve then used the slides as the basis for the article, simply writing through the examples pretty much in the order they were presented. I’ve not written an article in this way before.

Both the book chapter and article will extend the analysis offered in my politics of circulation book, both applying the ideas to new examples and also seeing if this enables new insights. The new literature I’ve been working with is giving some new perspectives on these questions. My plan will be to blog about some of the texts pictured above, amongst others, and then hopefully to start posting about the bigger projects they relate to if my bids are successful. Hopefully that will give the blog a bit of a substantive focus over the coming weeks and months.

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