Technology and Culture Reading Group

TCRG – School of Culture and Communication – University of Melbourne

March 18: “The conditions of interdisciplinarity” (Martin)

by robbiefordyce


Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc


This week’s reading for the TCRG comes from the Edufactory collective. Following certain trends in scholarly writing, we might call the Edufactory collactive an “alter-academic” system, which has been informed at least in part by Paolo Freire and certain strands of the autonomists.

This week’s article, by Randy Martin, engages with interdisciplinarity as an element of the structure of the University. No longer simply a tacked-on characteristic of some academics, Martin argues, it has become a core determinant for the university model.

“[I]t is hard to sustain the claim that the humanities as an institutional formation are somehow less caught up in university-business models. Humanities core curriculum requirements have themselves provided templates for casualization, outsourcing, contingent graduate student labor and a variety of other schemes by which norms of accumulation have been installed in the university irrespective of the putative content of the field.”

Martin’s text clearly contains some content that is prime for discussion, and I welcome all to attend the reading group tomorrow.

[PDF] Martin, R. (2009) “The Conditions of Interdisciplinarity” Towards the Global Autonomous University, Edu-Factory Collective, Autonomedia: New York.

Interested parties may wish to peruse the short introduction to the first and last Edu-factory journal issue, available here.


March 11: “Making Sense of MOOCs” (Daniel)

by lukevanryn


A recurring theme in our discussion last week was MOOCs, which we admitted to not knowing a great deal about. In a bid to fill in that blind spot, this week we read a recent discussion by Sir John Daniel, which details the histories, ideologies and trajectories of MOOCS.

While the hype about MOOCs presaging a revolution in higher education has focussed on their scale, the real revolution is that universities with scarcity at the heart of their business models are embracing openness

We meet as usual at 5pm in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, University of Melbourne. All are welcome.

[PDF]/[HTML] Daniel, John. “Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility.” Journal of Interactive Media in Education (2012).

March 4: “In Modulation Mode: Factories of Knowledge” (Raunig)

by robbiefordyce

Photo Credit: _Hadock_ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: _Hadock_ via Compfight cc

Hot on the heels of a lively discussion on Tuesday, we have next week’s reading already planned.

In 2013 Gerald Raunig’s Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity was published in the Semiotext(e): interventions series. I recommend Raunig’s book for its critical engagement with academia and the university system. While somewhat lacking in theoretical innovations his position is scrawled across every page. An excerpt from Chapter 2 states,

“We cannot understand all these aspects of the transformation of the universities by looking only at the assaults by authorities that come from above and outside. We also have to consider a certain degree of subservient self-government. Particularly from the perspective of self-reforming and self-deforming, however, there is also a strategy of resistance that can be gained, a double form of immanent desertion.” (p. 26)

On Tuesday we will be reading Chapter 4 of Raunig’s book: “In Modulation Mode: Factories of Knowledge” which is available for free online.

[HTML] Raunig, G. (2013). “In Modulation Mode: Factories of Knowledge”

TCRG – Tuesday March 4th, 5-6pm, Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building

Stuart Elden @UniMelb: Foucault’s ‘La société punitive’

by lukevanryn

Photo Credit: duncan via Compfight cc

Stuart Elden is giving a lecture at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday, 4th March at 2pm.

This lecture provides an overview and critical discussion of Foucault’s 1973 lectures La société punitive. This was Foucault’s third course at the Collège de France, and links in important ways to the two previous ones, as well as looking forward to the 1975 book Surveiller et punir (translated as Discipline and Punish) […] This presentation will concentrate on four areas: the interlinked themes of measure, inquiry and examination; shifts in modes of punishment; the discussion of civil war and the social enemy; and the treatment of popular illegality in England and France.

Further details and registration are at this link. Stuart is speaking at RMIT and Monash University; his blog has all the details.

Directions for 2014

by lukevanryn


Photo Credit: Schub@ via Compfight cc

A few weeks ago we met to discuss our plans for 2014: what we’d like to read, what we’d like to achieve, and what the TCRG would look like in a year. Some of those collected thoughts are below.

Potential Topics

Education and work

Raunig: “factories of knowledge” etc.
Quantified self, discipline etc.
Vostal “academic life in the fast lane”
Dead man working


Introduction from Neither Sun nor Death
Rules for the human zoo
Selections from Critique of Cynical Reason and Spheres trilogy

Space and Geography

Elden’s new book the Birth of Territory
Christophers, “The Territorial Fix”

Upcoming conferences


Swinburne Uni, July 2014
Abstracts due end of Feb


Bangkok, October 22-5
Abstracts due March

Knowledge, Culture, Economy

UWS Parramatta, November 3-5
Abstracts due 15 June

February 18: “Notes on Gesture” (Agamben)

by lukevanryn

Photo Credit: jinterwas via Compfight cc

To follow up on our reading last week, I’ve chosen Agamben’s short piece on gesture from “Means Without End”. Although Agamben is writing about cinema, this essay is frequently cited in discussions of gestural computing interfaces such as the iPhone.

Through a discussion of Tourette’s syndrome, early cinematic experiments of Muybridge, and the Nichomachean Ethics, Agamben comes to see gesture as a “the exhibition of a mediality … the process of making a means visible as such” (58).

We meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building at 5pm.

[PDF] Agamben, G. (2000). “Notes on Gesture” in Means without End: Notes on Politics (V. Binetti & C. Casarino, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 49-60.

February 11: “The Political Ecology of Gestures” (Citton)

by lukevanryn

Antonio Saura

After meeting last week to discuss some of our goals and directions for the year ahead, the TCRG starts this Tuesday.

Yves Citton’s recent article in New Literary History seems appropriate, as it connects many of our favourite themes in a pretty rapid fashion. The “Political Ecology of Gestures” that Citton describes encompasses, among others: the act of reading; bodily habit; interactions with ATMs; and literary interpretation. Citton positions gesture as an important means for humans (and the humanities) to escape the relentless drive of semiocapitalism through opacity, equivocation, and reformulation:

Literary studies, therefore—and, more broadly, the humanities at large […] —appear as a crucial site for our societies to refine the interface through which we interact and collaborate. What is at stake in our fields of study is the obstinate resistance of human gestures to any attempt to subsume and entrap them in any form of rigid programming protocol (302-3)

We will meet in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, at 5pm. All are welcome.

[PDF]/[HTML] Citton, Yves. “Reading Literature and the Political Ecology of Gestures in the Age of Semiocapitalism.” New Literary History 44.2 (2013): 285-308.

TCRG x AIME 6: “Intensifying the experience of scruples”

by lukevanryn


We finish the year and the Inquiry with chapter 16: “Intensifying the experience of scruples”. In the previous two chapters, Latour has been unravelling the Economy, and showing its reliance upon three different kinds of beings: those of organization, attachment and morality. Chapter 14, which we read last week,  presented “scripts” as crucial quasi-subjects in organizational life [ORG]. Chapter 15 drew out the importance of attachment (and detachment) [ATT] to economic life. This chapter attempts to understand morality [MOR] as a specific mode of being, even though all Modes contain a form of judgement (452).

…just as no one, once the instrument has been calibrated, would think of asking the geologist if radioactivity is ‘all in his head,’ ‘in his heart,’ or ‘in the rocks,’ no one will doubt any longer that the world emits morality toward anyone who possesses an instrument sensitive enough to register it. (456)

Also included is the conclusion chapter, “Can we praise the civilization to come?”, which provides a summary of the book’s goals and some suggestions for how we might measure its success.

We meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, at 5pm this Tuesday 17th December. All are welcome.

[PDF] Latour, B. (2013) “Intensifying the experience of scruples” and “Can we praise the civilization to come?” An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 16, 17.

TCRG x AIMe 6: “Speaking of organization in its own language”

by lukevanryn


In this chapter Latour tackles the economy, which troubles the Inquiry, because it seems to already have provided a “powerful metalanguage” for the description of everyday life (383).  Latour finds three key problems with thinking about the economy: economic theory describes in a cool, even tone the heat of economic activity (386); economics finds calculation everywhere, and decision nowhere (387); attributes to a different order of being what should be immanent, as one of his interlocutors expresses it:

behind all that agitation you haven’t yet detected the assured presence of the real sources of organization: Society, the State, the Market, Capitalism, the only great beings that actually hold up this jumble (388).

Noting that the Economy relies upon the resources of attachement [att], morality [mor], and organization [org], he spends the bulk of the chapter discussing organization, or as he would prefer to put it, organizing. Drawing on work by John Law and Michel Callon, Latour attempts to get at what is specific to the work of organizing, and the contribution of organization to what we think of as the Economy, particularly through the extended metaphor of the “script”.

We meet as usual in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, at 5pm this Tuesday 10th December.

[PDF] Latour, B. (2013) “Speaking of organization in its own language” An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 14.

TCRG x AIME 5: “Invoking the Phantoms of the Political”

by lukevanryn


After a brief hiatus, we return to Latour’s Inquiry into the Modes of Existence. In this chapter, Latour introduces the political mode [POL], which approaches autonomy in a circular fashion. As in the modes of reference and religion, political truth is produced at great expense: not by attending to the actors that claim to be political — politicians, protesters, pamphleteers — but by tracing and retracing the outline of a potential public (337-8). This circular movement is difficult (even painful), and continually vulnerable to being interrupted, approximated, abbreviated by those who want to “straighten out politics” (333). Latour’s hero in this chapter is Machiavelli, who attempts not to rationalise politics but to respect the kind of rationality particular to politics.

Political beings are always accused of lying, whereas they they begin truly to lie, to lie politically, only if they ‘go off on a tangent’ […] by beginning to proffer straight talk, that is, wanting [to] be ‘faithfully’ represented or ‘faithfully’ obeyed (344).

We meet as usual at 5pm in the Pierre Gorman Room, 1888 Building, University of Melbourne.

[PDF] Latour, B. (2013) “Invoking the Phantoms of the Political” An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, ch. 12.