Making a case for Interdisciplinarity

or, perhaps less ‘buzz word’-y: making a case for speaking the same language.

I’m in the process reviewing my chapter on Google and I continue to find myself hitting a wall with two radically different ideological realities between the geographer’s cry of neoliberalism and the libertarian cry of open source. It feels patently clear to me that these two ideas and their respective successes have a symbiotic relationship, but what is also clear is that neither discipline has been able to get a ‘little air from the outside’, to recall a perfectly articulated sentiment from AO.

I recently ran across one article from two Poli Sci PhD students at Berkeley that conducted a study on the use of neoliberalism. While their findings were interesting (generally negative connotation or equally neutral connotation, there were very few ‘positive’ uses of the term), what I found more interesting was their disciplinary scope of the project, making claims that in general, there were no ‘definitions’ given by people using it in relation to empirical studies. What was missing was any nod to the plethora of geographers that have engaged neoliberalism- ( I would argue, almost ad nauseaum… sorry)- in the past 15 years, many of which have become quite established as key thinkers in a variety of specialty areas.

I think that sufficiently substantiates my suspicion about the lack of acknowledgement of the compatibility between open-source and neoliberalism. I cannot find a link, primarily because those writing about open-source are generally positive (blanket statement, I know; there are some defectors) and neoliberal literature is not part of their ‘scholarship’ they draw from. In fact, there is little mention of the economic/business environment, other than it stands as a positive alternative to ‘business as usual’.  Geography seems to have a certain positive relationship to ‘web 2.0’ technologies and participant potential, which likely keeps the ‘neoliberal’ analytic off the table and instead, opts for a more feminist or foucauldian framework. Within the more critical work, surveillance of the subject becomes the focus. Neoliberalism is one of Geography’s specters of evil, and seems to provide a ‘satisfactory’ explanation of the contemporary milieu, regardless of the ‘crisis’ examined, but I haven’t found any economic geographers that look specifically at open source.

Maybe it just isn’t spatial enough?

Regardless, I see some real missed opportunities to place these two concepts into conversation. As part of my convoluted dissertation, I have begun to do just that. Post degree, however, it feels like a pretty fruitful to continue to build on this symbiotic condition with a critique or interrogation that, following Manovich in Software Takes Command, seems to be missing from our use of software and the role it plays in our daily lives.


More London activities

London Conference in Critical Thought 2014: Goldsmiths, University of London, 27-28 June 2014

Call for Papers

The third annual London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT) will offer a space for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas for scholars who work with critical traditions and concerns. It aims to provide opportunities for those who frequently find themselves at the margins of their department or discipline to engage with other scholars who share theoretical approaches and interests.

Central to the vision of the conference is an inter-institutional, non-hierarchal, and accessible event that makes a particular effort to embrace emergent thought and the participation of emerging academics, fostering new avenues for critically-oriented scholarship and collaboration.

The conference is divided into thematic streams, each coordinated by different researchers and with separate calls for papers, included in this document. We welcome paper proposals that respond to the particular streams below. In addition, papers may be proposed as part of a general stream, i.e. with no specific stream in mind. Spanning a range of broad themes, these streams provide the impetus for new points of dialogue. Read the full call for papers here:

Download Views PDF_2 LCCT 2014 Call for papers

  • Aesthetic Refusals: Oppositional Citizenship and Public Culture
  • Conceptions and Practices of Critical Pedagogy
  • Critical Approaches to Care Relationships
  • (Dis)orders of Migration
  • Dissenting Methods: Engaging Legacies of the Past, Defining Critical Futures
  • ‘entitled’
  • ‘everyday political’
  • How Does One Think Difference?
  • Legal Critique: Positions, Negotiations and Strategies
  • Moving Through the Intersection? Interrogating Categories and Postintersectional Politics
  • Philosophy and Critical Thought Inside and Outside The University
  • Pragmatism and Critical Traditions
  • Sounding the Counterfactual: Hyperstition and Audial Futurities
  • Strategies of Silence
  • Street Level: Towards a Critical Discourse on Urban Aesthetics
  • Subjects in Space(s): Navigating Multiplicity
  • The Critical Brain
  • The Human After Anthropocentrism? Life. Matter. Being.
  • Time Discipline
  • What is the Question of Critique? 

Please send paper/presentation proposals with the relevant stream indicated in the subject line to Submissions should be no more than 250 words and should be received by the 10th March 2014.

CFP: Rendering (the) Visibile II

Fresh from my inbox…. looks like a good event for all you Deleuzians that are interested in aesthetics

On Feb 7-8, 2014, the Program in Moving Image Studies at GSU will host the second Rendering (the) Visible Conference, on the theme of “Figure.” At this time we would like to remind everyone that the September 20th deadline is fast approaching and hope you will make plans to join us in Atlanta. We are also happy to announce our keynote speakers will be Pasi Väliaho, author of Mapping the Moving Image (Amsterdam UP, 2010) and Anne Anlin Cheng, author of Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (Oxford UP, 2010). In addition, the conference’s opening night will feature a screening of video and new media art from the figural perspective of the screen, curated and introduced by Professor Timothy Murray, Curator of Cornell University’s Rose Goldsen Archive
 of New Media Art and author most recently of Digital Baroque: New Media Art and Cinematic Folds (University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

The 2014 edition of Rendering focuses on contemporary theories of visuality, as they move their focus toward process and away from representation, the notion of the Figure (or “the figural”) has become increasingly important. Emerging in French philosophy in the 1960s, the figural reacts against the notion of the “figurative,” or the representational fixity of an image; the figural refers to that which induces discord within any closed system of signification, by way of forces, energies, or intensities. This idea is taken up by Deleuze as “the Figure” in his work on Francis Bacon, where the Figure is that force of deformation which pushes the image away from the cliché which continually haunts it. The Figure thus moves our attention toward gesture, rhythm, modulation, and resonance within –and at the edges of– the moving image, whether we’re talking about Eisenstein’s neuro-aesthetics or the dynamic assemblages of first-person shooter games.

This conference, thus, seeks to encourage a wide-ranging discussion of how the Figure might provide new avenues for thinking about contemporary media, as well as for reconsidering the history of the moving image in the 20th century. We invite papers that mobilize the concept of the Figure in the exploration of any visual medium. Possible areas of investigation (or experimentation) might include—but are not limited to—such issues as:

* The “aesthetic event,” and its connection to catastrophe, the accident, the mark, the spasm

* The Figure in relation to movement, animation, “non-organic Life”

* The Figure in relation to recent thinking about political affect, aesthetics, and sensoriality

* Approaches to geopolitical mapping animated by notions of contour, ground, diagram

* Connections to aesthetic theorists of modernity, such as Benjamin, Bataille, etc.

The Rendering (the) Visible conference encourages interdisciplinarity and experimentation in the study of visuality and moving image media. We are also open to projects that play at the intersection of theory and practice.

Send paper proposals (300–500 words), including 3-5 bibliographical sources and a brief biography, by 20 September 2013 to movingimagestudies[at]gmail[dot]com. Queries can be sent using the “contact us” page on our Website or directed to conference organizers Angelo Restivo, Alessandra Raengo, or Jennifer Barker (e-mail addresses available at

rabbit hole, or insights into crowdsourcing

As part of my dissertation, or what I will lovingly refer to as a rabbit hole, I am diving into yet another unfamiliar body of literature.

Somewhat ironically- anyone know of any excellent studies or articles published that engage crowdsourcing as a phenomenon? Subject content is irrelevant…

AAG Schedule

The AAG schedule is finally up-

My co-conspirator and I organized two panels “Geophilosophy and the Planes of Urban Experience” for the meeting. We are really excited about the breadth of the panels- and are looking forward to helping Deleuze and Guattari’s work make more inroads into Geography. The sessions can be viewed here, my contribution here.

and very much looking forward to returning to LA and taking in some of that sunshine.

Identity Crisis called ‘Interdisciplinarity’

I’m currently contemplating future jobs (ok, applying for jobs) at the behest of my committee chair. And while fruitful to sit down and focus on statements of research, teaching interests, pedagogical positions, etc., what I’m really learning is this: interdisciplinary work can create an identity crisis. I might be somewhat unique in that my background is fine art, my interest lies in ‘the city’, much of my visual work engaged the built environment, with an emphasis on suburban development, obliquely engaging political economy, geography, urban and architecture theory, etc. Given that my visual work was so research-driven and I had a strong interest in writing, I found myself heading into a PhD program, with my intellectual promiscuity and a developed preference for ‘sketches’, or, in visual art terms, visual experiments that worked through intellectual ideas.

Going into the program, I imagined myself furthering my work on the single family home and really digging into the scholarship. I think I even fancied myself to work on developing a theory, based on an oxymoronic pairing of the words ‘oblique’ and ‘economy’. But my idle interest in Google Street View got the best of me, and I found myself switching topics, and with it, a whole host of ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ was set aside in order to focus on a fascinating visual phenomenon that suddenly pulled together a long standing interest street engagement and the public realm, phenomenological understandings and mental maps, as well as a host of other concepts that seemed to yield questions that needed to be asked, like “what happens to the concept of the derive in the era of Google Street View?”, and “Is it smooth or striated space?”

But now I find myself fighting an easy passage into geo-web, communication and ICT driven discussions, as I am not particularly interested in those discourses, at least not to the degree in which I see myself advancing the scholarship, though my topic simply begs to go that route. And I cannot even imagine teaching foundational coursework in ‘communication’… However, I continue to think about the city and how this navigational tool might affect our engagement with it, but I find myself drifting further and further from the discourses of the actual material city, for the discourses are not directly applicable to my topic.

So as I sit and look at job postings, the few that are out there, I find myself unable to articulate a clear future research interest that would place me back in an Urban Studies realm, for I do not anticipate a continued engagement with Street View, nor do I want to be Google expert. I’m also finding myself ill-equipped to engage something like a comparative studies program, as I lack some of the foundational coursework and am not fluent in other languages. I don’t know new media or media studies well enough, nor do I necessarily wish to put myself back in the art department, for I’m not currently making work, nor do I want to rejoin the faction of gallery artists. In short, my interest in theory and the activity of playing with it has left me with a broad understanding of a whole lot without content depth in what I’m truly interested in.
Despite that, I am applying for a position in an interdisciplinary arts & sciences program, trying to fit myself into the niche they are looking to fill. But as I sit and attempt to articulate the broader themes of my research and how it phases with art, the language I really need to wield has receded. I fear that I will be entirely unpersuasive in my ‘future’ trajectory, given that it needs to fit in the space of a page, and as my ‘co-conspirator’ Keith says, ‘that sounds really hard for someone who is not known to be concise.’  While I truly believe in the value of interdisciplinarity, I continue to be haunted by the words of Julia Kristeva (paraphrased) ‘to be interdisciplinary, one must first be disciplinary’. Those words always stuck with me, for I wasn’t sure then that I believed them. But increasingly, I believe them more and more, simply for pragmatic reasons, but also for the need for an intellectual lineage.