[iDC] musing on humanities and other jails

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Mon Jul 11 20:47:29 UTC 2011

Dear IDC,

I was asked to tell you something more about the underlying ideas of  
our INC, the Institute of Network Cultures here in Amsterdam (NL).

Like at other mailinglists you never know if people respond, and I  
like that. There is no recipe for a 'good' posting. Often a lively  
debate is sparked off by something random, a small observation, a  
detail in the introduction, something personal. Essays you work on for  
a long time remain unanswered. So be it. It's very much like the  
weather (which often changes here).

I am not sure if I agree with this somewhat orchastrated and filtered  
'discussion' mode. Maybe I am more in favor of forum software and  
slightly more dirty conversations with higher noise levels but I know  
that's not popular these days (with all of us having busy lives and so  
on). There is already enough oversight and control on the Net.

My own work is hoovering between activism, arts and culture and extra- 
mural (academic) research and theory. I never saw as part of  
'education'. In my experience you learn outside of school, and that  
has remained the case, even now that I part of an educational setting  
(since 2004). School is about getting formal degrees. You sit there  
and wait till it is over. I personally do not mind that overall  
approach. Maybe this is my 1970s background of school as a prison.  
There are always power relations in the edu field, and probably always  
will be. There are teachers and students, and a equally unhealthy  
social hierarchy amongst those who teach and do research.

Interesting work is mostly done outside the academic context, for  
instance in activism, engaging with programmers and coders, arists,  
and free exchanges between friends, comrades, and other who conspire  
in the critical and speculative conceptual realm. Ideas appear when  
you wait for a bus, dream, make a few notes. The idea that academic  
write better and do more interesting work when that have 'tenure' or  
get some time off I never bought.

This is the problem that I have with a general debate on 'the  
humanities'. It is such a mythological general institutional  
container, it is not my project. Is it worth defending? Very often it  
is not. Often humanities are dull and asleep, and straightout  
conservative. I really wonder if such organisational constructs from a  
perspective of radical politics are defendable to start with. Authors  
are. Libraries, for sure. To make your school, yes, that would be brave!

This is why I think, for instance, that theory cannot really have a  
place inside academia. Once it exists and has developed to a certain  
degree, it can be taught and find its legitimacy inside the  
institutional politics, but this is not where it comes into being. And  
that is why I like Trebor's emphasis on small initiatives outside the  
School System inside this MobilyShifts project.

What we at INC have been doing lately is supporting forms of writing  
and research that could not find a place inside the regular regime of  
academic publishing. I like the idea that authors can gain control  
over their publishing channels (not just tools). However, this can  
only be, in part, be a concern of individual empowerment. I strongly  
believe in mutual aid and collective support outside of the 'peer  
review' logic.

More tomorrow!


More information about the iDC mailing list