[iDC] musing on humanities and other jails
geert at xs4all.nl
Mon Jul 11 20:47:29 UTC 2011
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
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