The EPINET project, in which I work as Research fellow, has a brand new website!
Change of title and abstract for my ICA London paper, 20 June. I will present work that I’ve done in the Storycircle project (in case you were coming to hear about queer referential metaculture, I will still answer questions).
Paper 1. Telling the story of the stories: imaginaries and materialisations of digital engagement
Aristea Fotopoulou, Goldsmiths, University of London
This paper presents findings from action research conducted with a civil society media organization in the North of England. It examines how, in collaboration with staff in the organization, we planned and implemented the development of a digital infrastructure, which aimed to facilitate sustained digital engagement and narrative exchange. The development of a digital infrastructure was envisioned by the organization to enable a long term process: one of ‘telling the story of the stories’. The paper discusses how the aim of connecting communities of reporters and their stories was supported by a redesign of the website and by experiments on content curation and ‘community tagging’. The paper also reflects on some challenges that the organization and our fieldwork met. For example, the web design needed to be complemented with a programme of training and of building the skills required for these digital experiments in community engagement to be successful. With limited resources and whilst operating within a sector-wide context of funding cuts, such training was difficult to happen. With focus on the potential and the hinderances of materializing voice, the paper discusses the project as an attempt to create a wider network of community reporters. The emergent story circle is contextualized within both the realities of limited resources and the broader narratives and imaginaries of digital engagement. As such, the paper provides a balanced account of the interplay between material contexts and these narratives, and suggests that both these need to be considered as conditions for sustaining voice.
I am back from the Second Annual IFjP Conference (Im)possibly Queer International Feminisms (University of Sussex 17-19 May 2013) where, after chairing an interesting panel on Queer research methods and pedagogies, I attended Lisa Duggan‘s keynote address Atlas Shrugging:The Impossible Queer Desire of Ayn Rand. This talk was particularly interesting for me because I am at the moment writing up two different articles* about social imaginaries and materialities of networking and digital engagement, in relation to civil society actors – and Duggan is thinking about fantasies and figurations of the heroic enterpreuner which sustain the neoliberal dream.
It comes as no surprise (if one thinks back at the ‘homonormativity’ position) that she argued that queer politics become enfolded in neoliberalism because they have aspirations in its three vital institutions – marriage, military and the market. And it is no surprise that audience response was heated, either. Duggan worked her argument through Lee Edelman’s No Future thesis of anti-sociality, to argue that the figure of the queer outsider is basically what captures the queer and feminist community into this romantic fantasy, and enfolds us into the neoliberal belly of the beast.
Which brings me to Ayn Rand, who, Duggan explains, with her bad writing and fascination for America’s serial killers, is responsible for many of these figurations of greedy heroic individualism. These are the figurations that sustain our psychic investment and political consent to a neoliberal, murderous state, she suggests (which is what Duggan calls ‘optimistic cruelty’, in response to Berlant’s cruel optimism). Complex but interesting, huh? Some clips that were shown manifest the huge influence that Rand has had in American politics and pop culture (such as the Simpsons clip below).
Less about psychic investment and more about popular consent in something that has obviously failed is what the Kilburn Manifesto deals with. Duggan’s keynote introduced me to this and I am reading the first intallment now (After Neoliberalism? The Kilburn Manifesto Edited by Stuart Hall, Doreen Massey and Michael Rustin).
** One paper was partly presneted with the title Digital and networked by default? Feminist politics media lived at Queer, Feminist and Social Media Praxis, University of Sussex, 17 May 2013. The second will be presented with the title Telling the story of the stories: imaginaries and materializations of digital engagement, at ICA 2013 London (International Communication Association), 20 June 2013, Panel The Materiality of Voice.
I have just secured funding from the RCUK Digital Economy Nemode network for my new research project Tracking biodata: sharing and ownership. The project examines social and policy implications of emerging models of sharing and ownership, in relation to the use of personal data & biodata for medical research and other purposes. It focuses on online services of personal data analytics and self-tracking, and will involve interviews and participant observation with specific Silicon Valley internet start-ups & Quantified Self actors in the San Francisco area. The project is attached to a research placement at the Science and Justice Research Center, University of Santa Cruz, starting in January 2014.
The project will have its own, designated webpage, so watch this space!