Archive | Topics for Discussion

Made in Palestine

Christopher Pinney, UCL

[Please note: this  post was written before the intensification of the current Israeli offensive on Gaza]

I decided to transgress the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) injunction and attend a conference on ‘The Photographic Imagination’ in Tel Aviv in June 2014 for several reasons.  The two central ones concerned, firstly, the Apartheid analogy. Having taught a short course at the University of Cape Town in 2000 it was quite apparent that there were many courageous dissident academic intellectuals that had been a key element of the resistance during the 1980s and earlier. Collaboration with them would have been quite different from buying South African produce. The second reason has an element of illogicality, which is repeatedly pointed out to me: Syria.…

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An update on our perspective on Open Access

Haidy Geismar, UCL

In October last year (2013) I posted a draft of an editorial for the Journal of Material Culture which rehearsed some of the options we (the editorial board led by myself and Susanne Kuchler, with guidance from Danny Miller) have been working through regarding taking the journal towards Open Access. The take home message for that piece was that we felt strongly that the current recommendations for open access “compliance” in the United Kingdom were inadequate and inappropriate in terms of their effect upon ideas not just of scholarship, but on scholarly community. The prevailing models in the UK for Open Access, known as Green and Gold, both depend on individuals to decide whether or not their individual articles should be made open access.…

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Chipping into the debate on Open Access

Haidy Geismar, UCL Anthropology

As the incoming co-editor of the Journal of Material Culture, as well as one of the editors here at Material World Blog, I have been involved in many conversations regarding the politics, economics, and materiality of Open Access.

It is clear that there is great concern about open access in many arena from policy (see for instance, the UK’s Finch Report  “Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications”), within academia (see the discussion on Open Access in the new online only journal, Hau and this interview with Tim Ingold) and in the world of cyber-(h)activism (a good summary of the Aaron Schwartz case is actually presented on JSTOR’s website).

It’s hard to find a place in which all the issues in fact coalesce: some people are concerned about democratizing accessibility to research (particularly across national borders, and to people without the support of privileged universities).…

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Discarded ontologies

Blanca Callén Lancaster University,

Email: bcallenm@gmail.com

Behind the images and narratives of progress, effectiveness and innovation of electronics that make us believe in dematerialized technology without consequences (Gabrys, 2011:57), there is something dirty and ‘forgettable’ (Hird, forthcoming). That is electronic waste (e-waste).

Over the past November and December, I followed a group of informal waste pickers in Barcelona to study how they re-materialize and re-purpose discarded computers. What I found is that e-waste is not merely about dirtiness and forgettable materials. It is also about innovative everyday practices that compete to establish and negotiate different ontologies of value and functionality as waste moves across different legal regimes.

A common European Directive, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), currently regulates the Spanish system of e-waste management.  As a legal tool, the WEEE defines a new scenario where agents are more interconnected with their (contaminating) activities and responsibilities.…

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e-waste

The computer that you have in front of you right now will die sooner or later. And when it does you will get rid of it, perhaps, if you are well-behaved citizen, in one of the designated recycling drop-offs points your city council has created for technological equipment. That, however, won’t mark the end of your computer’s life. It will only mark the end of the first phase of its life as a valuable cultural and technological object.

After you dumpt it, you computer will start a second, and more complex, life as e-waste, most likely somewhere in India, China or Africa. You can see some pictures of what will likely be your computer limbo here and here, or here. And, if you are interested, you should also check this timeline to map out the evolving set of relationships, conflicts and strategies developing between the market, consumers, institutions configuring the particular political ecology of e-waste.…

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Invoking the Apocalypse: A Promenade with Pentti Linkola

 

Interview by Francisco Martínez (EHI, Tallinn Univ) & Larissa Vanamo (Dept of History, Univ. of Helsinki). “A democracy where there is freedom of consumption is the worst thing possible”  The worth of an individual is smaller when there are a lot of humans”Force and oppression are needed because life as such is a value”

A promenade with Pentti Linkola

Pentti Linkola is a Finnish fisherman and ornithologist. He was born in Helsinki in 1932 and lives in a 30 square meter wooden cabin in Sääksmäki (Ritvala).

We visited him together in March 2011. Despite our awareness of some general gossip about his temperament, he kindly attended to us for several hours. During this time we talked and took a walk.…

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Together Again: the link between transnational ties and photo archiving among Ghanaian families

Elad Ben Elul, Department of Anthropology, UCL

 

Photos from Ghanaian family reunions are distributed through Facebook. The elders are often recorded telling family tales.

Recent debates around the motivations for taking digital photos ask whether people document for memory or as tools for communication (Dijck 2008:58). However, this debate tends to dichotomise memory and communication while romanticising digitisation as a revolutionary force brought from beyond the cultural landscape. Moreover, digital archiving destabilizes traditional divides between storing and sharing and creates new forms of memory through ‘distributed storage’.

During my research with diasporic Ghanaian families living in London and their digital archives, it was essential to put photos and videos in their wider context of transnational communication and new media.…

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The Art of Being Infrequent: Erratic Cultural Consumption and the Attachments of Taste

Ana Gross, Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick

anagross@me.com

 

A number of years ago I conducted research amongst infrequent audiences to the Opera, Ballet and Theatre in London. I was working within the cultural policy arena, looking at identifying the dispositions, gestures and mechanisms which perpetuate infrequent and erratic patterns of attendance to such artforms. By that time, we were focusing the analysis on an understanding of cultural inequalities as being produced by qualitatively distinct social tastes. However, one could also explore such inequalities by trying to understand how they are being actively produced via the implementation of collective techniques, myths and ceremonies of pleasure (Hennion 2001), attachments which can contribute to explain from a micro perspective the quantitatively unequal exposure to culture across different social groups.…

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Sherlock Holmes: The Father of Material Culture?

Christopher Pinney, UCL

Sherlock Holmes was many things: cocaine addict, violinist extraordinaire, expert on Ceylonese Buddhism, master consulting detective, and accomplished amateur boxer. He was also a published anthropologist of sorts having (as is revealed in The Adventure of the Cardboard Box [1889]) published two short articles on the outer morphology of the human ear in the Anthropological Journal. But was he also a pioneer in Material Culture?

The firmest evidence for this proposition comes from the first chapter of The Sign of Four (1888). Titled “The Science of Deduction” there is much here that lays the ground for Alfred Gell’s later elevation of the Peircean notion of “abduction” as a key element in his theory of a new anthropology of art (Gell was an ardent Sherlockian).  But it is here that Holmes also reveals that several of his “works” were in the process of being translated into French for publication.…

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Rethinking material relations: Happiness, wellbeing, and alternative indicators

Haidy Geismar, UCL and NYU

In 2006, the New Economics Foundation (nef) published the Happy Planet Index, a quantification of the “happiness quotients” of the world’s nations which considered life expectancy, the experience of wellbeing and, most importantly, ecological footprint as indicators of happiness,  displacing the usual measure of happiness: GNP or ability to consume endlessly. Surprisingly (or not) the UK, US and Australia were placed amongst the unhappiest nations of the world, Vanuatu the small Melanesian country where I have done research over the past 12 years, came top. By the second edition, Vanuatu was no longer top (due to data collection problems rather than unhappiness) but a widespread move to devise alternative indicators of wellbeing and to institutionalize them was well underway.…

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