Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page
I was surprised, in a way, to learn of the extent of the bias. After all, Wikipedia is the place where one can find all sorts of only slightly diluted corporate and personal marketing about more or less culturally recognizable objects and people. But I ought not to have been surprised, for of course Wikipedia only follows the cultural corrugations that have been so deeply grooved into systems of thought and judgement as to be invisible. They become evident, or more evident, and probably not for long, after disputes like this.
I guess that I and many others in my fields are more aware of the grooves (ruts) that trip us up and channel our valuations because of my academic (and in my case personal predilection). But that training produced critical thinking almost by accident. It used to be, say around 30 years ago, before New Historicism gained its name and when New Criticism still held sway (incredible to think that), that the study of literature and culture was really all about the study of cultural inevitability and the certification of value. With the philosophical, anthropological, political, and economic revolutions of the late 60s (particularly in France, where Anglo-British satisfaction didn’t go far), all the smugness of what literature is, what it does, what its value is (in some abstract way, as if it were a kind of arithmetic of the soul, comprised of Platonic forms rendered into words of unbearable significance), all this was put into question. Even the idea of “literature,” which is fairly hard to define, was questioned. (Sadly, this level of scrutiny has not been applied universally, and move outside of the key universities and into other areas and you’ll find not the fades of the New Criticism but vigorous existants; and not the absence of Leavis types and others proclaiming the virtue and essential need of literature for culture en civilization–as in Kulchur, that is–but its very real presence. Literature, outside of these institutions remains the shibboleth by which power enjoins its identity and separates out.)
So I was lucky–I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad and studied with Walter Michaels; and as a grad student, I was able to continue working with those who would regard the interesting things about culture being not its timeless and perfect forms but the ways in which power, as a cultural modality, works. And this made me then think: Why on earth do we study the supposedly “great” works, many of which were utterly ignored (and for good reason: boring) and not the popular ones? Sure, the latter category may be utterly artificial, but that’s not my judgement and doesn’t really affect the ways in which people receive the commodity.
Kate Middleton’s dress, that is, merits a Wikipedia entry if only because there are probably tens of thousands, if not millions, of people actually quite interested in it. And it *does not matter* what the provenance of their interest is, nor the supposed “value” of the dress in some putative cultural idea or plausible future. It matters now.
The same can be said of her shoes, her every article: these are of interest because there is interest. If there are people who can write the entry and do so according to the stylistic and factual standards of Wikipedia, then yes, let’s have that.
And so it goes down the line. That this discussion is essentially an American one, is not surprising. I’d venture that it’s actually classic: a discussion about the value of a cultural artefact could really only take place in a milieu contoured by deep anxieties over its own cultural operations, and thus concerned over nuancing what counts as literature vs junk fiction (literature vs science fiction, say), films vs movies, vs TV; high-brow vs lowbrow. I tend to think this kind of cultural anxiety–that what “we” are is never quite enough to sustain the next generation–is particularly powerful in post-colonial environments. But, obviously, it’s not by any means special to them.
I’ve been impressed by the sheer quantity of adulation poured on Roberts’ head for his ACA decision by self-proclaimed liberals: people who should know better. I was amazed because Roberts’ seemingly reluctant decision did on the face of it quite a lot of damage. Yes, it upheld the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) but it did so by gutting the accepted and fairly unquestioned power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Put another way, as I see it, the power of the Federal government has just been put into question, at least as it pertains to an enormous volume of interstate commerce.
So it was with pleasure I read Toobin’s analysis: it reflected my own judgment and again made me wonder: Why are liberals so very eager to hail Roberts and anoint him so quickly–without thinking through the problem now presenting itself? People: It’s not as if the far-right wing of the court has at all been weakened. It hasn’t. In fact, the opposite arguably obtains. So….? Why the celebration? Yes, the woefully inadequate and deeply problematic ACA has been preserved, but isn’t that a reason then for moving aggressively to protect other rights we have seen put into jeopardy? Isn’t it time, in fact, to attack the retrogressive agenda of the right, when it seems–seems, not is–in some disarray and split?
An interesting summary, though not sure I’m persuaded. But the problem described–one of community and its identity–is probably true for many Foss communities. Actually, I’d be interested to learn of those that do not suffer from fracture. (And isn’t it the privilege of open source to have forking rights? A fork is not necessarily a death; the opposite is often true. The further virtue is that the risks–economic, technological, social–are simply lower with a lot of open source endeavours, though not for all.)
Is it just me or is this not obvious? And has been so for years. Or do these coming in from older generations still see computer technology (even the term stinks of fustian age) as something “new,” the way that, say, the NYTimes continues to place “Technology” in a separate section.
It’s not just that “technology,” that “computers” that ICT in general are now ubiquitous and even definitive of the New Modernity. It’s that all this fascination with what the aged would call gizmos and so on obfuscates the reality of work, use, distribution characterizing modern ICT economies. Actually, outside of ProPublica’s periodic articles on the issue, it’s probably only the NYT’s iEconomy articles that take the needed steps to comprehend the economic logistics of this present world. And that’s just a start. For instance: The role of ICT in, say, Africa or Brazil or India is not about cool gizmos but about necessary communications and the shift from traditional economic practice (read: farming built during an epoch of climate benevolence–the not now world of Global Climate Change or Hell on Earth, HoE) to economic modalities that are slowly being established to accommodate the displaced, displacing workforce. Not about gizmos and not really about survival but all about sustainability: Living today so that we can live tomorrow.