Understanding the human machine

The notion of the quantified self has been getting quite about of attention recently, particularly with mobile phone apps providing various ways of measuring the self. When searching around I came across this excellent short commentary article, ‘Understanding the human machine‘, by Deborah Lupton. It outlines the key issues relating to the quantified self, including self-tracking, the inducements of data, links to neoliberalism amongst other themes. It’s a short piece but its very comprehensive and clear in setting out the core issues.

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A video of Deborah Lupton talking about social media and academic research

In this short video Deborah Lupton talks about her experience of using social media as part of her research. In this instance she focuses in particular on her use of her blog and Twitter to disseminate her research. Deborah has posted a few things about this in the past, including these detailed reflections on academic blogging which I understand are a part if the book she is writing on digital sociology.

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The British in Rural France in paperback

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Michaela Benson’s The British in Rural France is now available in paperback.

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Gender and Neoliberalism by Christina Scharff

We are continuing to develop the Theory, Culture & Society site. We have had a series of posts on neoliberalism, the most recent of which is a post by Christina Scharff on Gender and Neoliberalism. There are likely to be some further posts in neoliberalism on the site soon, as well as other topics. The aim is now to expand the types of posts. We have interviews on interfaces and biometrics coming up soon, as well as some other materials on film, waste and fiction – as well as regular video abstracts and, hopefully, book reviews. I’ll post links as things continue to develop with the site.

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Calculating the Social

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I’ve just come across this interesting looking collection Calculating the Social: Standards and the Reconfiguration of Governing edited by Vaughan Higgins and Wendy Larner. The editorial introduction is available open access here.

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Audio interviews on 50 years of sociology at Goldsmiths

I’ve posted links to some of the materials celebrating 50 years of sociology at Goldsmiths. They’ve now posted four audio interviews reflecting on the development of sociology at Goldsmiths, and also how the department has influenced individual careers and broader trends in the disciple. The interviews are with Les Back, Heidi Mirza, Nikolas Rose and Vic Seidler. There are some really great personal insights into the department and the history if sociology in these interviews.

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Punk Sociology reviewed in LSE Review of Books

Dave O’Brien has reviewed Punk Sociology for the LSE Review of Books.

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A series of exchanges on participation in culture, media and politics

The International Journal of Communication (which is a free open access journal) is using its forum section to publish a series if exchanges on the topic of participation. The introductory exchange between Nick Couldry and Henry Jenkins introduces the idea and explains its focus. The idea is to focus on different sub-concepts relating to the overarching topic of participation. Following the introductory piece the current issue includes pieces on creativity and labour. Each exchange will be based around a dialogue between groups of academic researchers working in the field being discussed. It’s an interesting innovation that is likely to produce some revealing dialogues. As I understand it, there are four more pieces to be published in future issues of IJOC. These will participation in relation to politics, knowledge, education and platforms.

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Les Back on the PhD Viva

One of my favourite books is Les Back’s open access Academic Diary. I’ve posted some links to it before. Les’ book is a collection of short pieces about various aspects of academic life. This week I examined a PhD thesis, which triggered me to return to Les’ Academic Diary to see what he had to say about the process. I found this piece. After reading the piece it seemed like a good idea to share it here. As with the other entries in the book, it gives a really thoughtful analysis of a routine part of academic life.

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Youth Subcultures: What are they now?

There is a really interesting piece on youth subcultures by Alexis Petridis in The Guardian. He attempts to think through the forms that subcultures take today, using examples and some reflections from sociologists. The piece raises some questions about the possibility and form of contemporary scenes, movements and subcultures. Alexis asks some really important questions in the piece and considers a range of possibilities and potential causes for what appear to be transformations in subcultures. He concludes that despite the perseverance of certain visible subcultures it may be that the very concept of subculture is no longer fitting for understanding youth cultures. As he puts it:

‘It’s hard not to be struck by the sensation that, emos and metalheads aside, what you might call the 20th-century idea of a youth subculture is now just outmoded. The internet doesn’t spawn mass movements, bonded together by a shared taste in music, fashion and ownership of subcultural capital: it spawns brief, microcosmic ones.’

This article could prove really useful in sparking student discussions on subcultures. One of the problems with the term is its conceptual baggage, subculture has been used in so many different ways that it has probably lost some of its purchase. It would seem that we either need a renewed engagement with the concept that reanimates it and uses it to reveal the nature of contemporary cultural movements. Or we need to devise a new terminology that works for understanding these cultural formations. This work is being done though – there is quite a bit being done in subcultural and post-subcultural studies. I’ve also seen some really interesting work on the types of questions that Petridis’ article raises by undergraduate and postgraduate students.

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