Author Archives: nathanjurgenson

short comment on Facebook as methodologically “more natural”

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No doubt of interest to sociologists, Facebook is throwing a sociology pre-conference on its campus ahead of the annual American Sociological Association meetings this fall. When the company is interested in recruiting sociologists and the work we do –research of the social world in all of its complexity– their focus, as shown in the event’s program, is heavily, heavily focused on quantitative demography. Critical, historical, theoretical, ethnographic research makes up a great deal of the sociological discipline, but isn’t the kind of sociology Facebook has ever seemed to be after. Facebook’s focus on quantitative sociology says much about what they take “social” to mean.

My background is in stats, I taught inferential statistics to sociology undergrads for a few years, I dig stats and respect their place in a rich sociological discourse. So, then, I also understand the dangers of statistical sociology done without a heavy dose of qualitative and theoretical work. Facebook and other social media companies have made mistake after mistake with their products that reflect a massive deficit of sociological imagination. The scope of their research should reflect and respect the fact that their products reach the near entirety of the social world. (more…)

Panopticon For whom?

Sometimes it feels that to be a good surveillance theorist you are also required to be a good storyteller. Understanding surveillance seems to uniquely rely on metaphor and fiction, like we need to first see another possible world to best grasp how watching is happening here. Perhaps the appeal to metaphor is evidence of how quickly watching and being watched is changing – as a feature of modernity itself in general and our current technological moment in particular. The history of surveillance is one of radical change, and, as ever, it is fluctuating and rearranging itself with the new, digital, technologies of information production and consumption. Here, I’d like to offer a brief comment not so much on these new forms of self, interpersonal, cultural, corporate, and governmental surveillance as much as on the metaphors we use to understand them.

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#review: Facebook’s Archival Subject

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#review features links to, summaries of, and discussions around academic journal articles and books.

Today, guest contributor Rob Horning reviews: Life on automatic: Facebook’s archival subject by Liam Mitchell. First Monday, Volume 19, Number 2 – 3 February 2014 http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4825/3823 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i2.4825

If, like me, you are skeptical of research on social media and subjectivity that takes the form of polling some users about their feelings, as if self-reporting didn’t raise any epistemological issues, this paper, steeped in Baudrillard, Derrida, and Heidegger, will come as a welcome change. It’s far closer to taking the opposite position, that whatever people say about their feelings should probably be discounted out of hand, given that what is more significant is the forces that condition the consciousness of such feelings. That approach is sometimes dismissed as failing to take into account individual agency; it’s implicitly treated as an affront to human dignity to presume that people’s use of technology might not be governed by full autonomy and voluntarism, that it’s tinfoil-hat silly to believe that something as consumer-friendly and popular as Facebook could be coercive, that the company could be working behind users’ backs to warp their experience of the world for the sake of Facebook’s bottom line.

Mitchell is not so overtly conspiratorial in this paper; (more…)

Healthcare Dot Gov

DotGov_Logo

The debate over the ACA is carried out in ideological dogwhistle, waged with words barely capable of pointing to the concepts they are supposed to grip. While this well-oiled chatter is par for the course in American politics, it is doubly fruitless in the case of healthcare dot gov. The object of inquiry is a website, a kind of thing that is newer than our daily interactions would have us remember, and it has different ontological and anthropological qualities than our political commentators have learned to address. It is a kind of thing less suited to the language of communist bogeyman and other imaginary evils than the technics of networks and the processual language of software project management– topics where most of our politicians sound clueless and should follow Wittgenstein’s advice (“hey, shut up a minute”).

At the most basic syntax of domain naming, the phrase “healthcare dot gov”, repeated as much by its detractors as by its proponents, is a statement about the relationship of these two things: healthcare and government. (more…)

In Their Words

cachemonet.com

sites that rely heavily on simple voting have much higher percentages of male users

an ideology that sees every person as a potential threat & every communication as potentially worth surveilling

How does someone that with an obvious resentment for the social sciences, also make a joke about how we were always already alienated?

ViralNova does not exist. Those who speak of ViralNova miss the point of ViralNova

the gruff man taking drags from the e-cigarette may also have conceivably traversed the space-time continuum(more…)

In Their Words

Computer Virus TV News Report 1988

a prior exposure on Facebook will lead to increased arousal during a face-to-face encounter

we have to build the community as an online audience and hold it together by performing for it perpetually

I cursed the gendered nature of tech design that has written out women from the group of legitimate users

The billionaire-to-be co-founder of Twitter is a regular at Wisdom 2.0 events and began meditating just over a year ago

The cruel trick is that “the internet sucks” is a self-fulfilling prophecy

everyone who has ever masturbated understands the limitations of the [openness] paradigm

misogyny doesn’t come from the internet, it comes from contemporary culture. It won’t be fixed by the internet & it wont be fixed by women

seeing yourself do something to make yourself become something(more…)

In Their Words

Franzen’s 6,400-word piece in The Guardian may be the last cry of the last dinosaur going down for the last time in the tar pit

the Internet is where we live. It’s not a place we go to anymore; it’s a layer over everything

Unsolved Mysteries injected a sense of the enchanted in an otherwise mundane suburban landscape

the tools used to make film, the science of it, are not racially neutral

why must a photo of my face be justified when a photo of my bookshelf is not?

selfies suggest the world we observe through social media is more interesting when people insert themselves into it

Week 5: Feedback: Bruno Latour comments on your blogs

the “government as a platform” agenda assumes that private industry is the best way of delivering public services

The problem with the relentless “search for meaning” is that it extinguishes all meaning in favour of pure emotion

the Internet is producing more extreme forms of modernism than modernism ever dreamed of

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [nathanjurgenson.com].

In Their Words

The drone is a sonic paradigm grounded in neoliberal values and conventions

Blurring the lines between machine and organic humanity, Haraway-like, shows that those lines are in fact blurrable

Replicants are obsessed with photographs

the visual regime of the drone, its will to omniscience and precision

A Predator drone stays aloft for 18hrs & the pilots were pushed to be as tireless as the technology they controlled

they had not yet grown comfortable playing themselves before the camera

Soft Culture is hard for some to look at

a grocery shelf that comes equipped with sensors to determine the age and sex of passing customers

Tinder feels like a stopgap solution

the question of whether or not something is digital is no longer really important

Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride

Nathan is on Twitter [@nathanjurgenson] and Tumblr [nathanjurgenson.com].

Self Out Of Time

Lewis Powell (1865)

Lewis Powell (1865)

Go read “Dead And Going To Die”, a beautiful essay by Michael Sacasas posted today at The New Inquiry on the subjectivity expressed by people in old photographs. Part of why subjects look different in these images is they are expressing a different subjectivity to the camera lens. As the photographic gaze went from novelty to ubiquity, we’ve collectively oriented our selves to the camera differently. (more…)

In Their Words

Raw video of the quadcopter drone flight and crash on the streets of Manhattan

you cannot take a picture without involving an act of selfishness

The anxiety some people feel over the mass advent of digital is not unreasonable but their response to it often is

the Bluetooth RoboRoach, the first cyborg to be commercially available to the general public

TV has gotten a lot more intimate, more entwined with our subconscious, closer

Facebook’s temporal orientation puts undue pressure on its users to conform to its system(more…)