A little slice of pop culture nirvana for you today..
Chasing Dragons will return to regular posting in the new year.
Solidarity with those who cannot stand the snow!
Photo credit: mikebaird
The Watson Institute at Brown University has long been at the leading edge of public engagement with regards to the dissemination of research that provides insight into contemporary problems.
This video with Prof. Mark Blyth is an excellent example of innovative public engagement. It provides a timely intervention into current debates taking place around the world. More importantly, it is also informative, entertaining, and easily digestible.
To university administrators out there who continue to hold on to antiquated ideas about what public engagement entails, where it takes place, and what counts as impact, this video should serve as a call to have a considered rethink. As the Watson Institute illustrates, using new media in combination with social media platforms to distribute research is the future model for successful public engagement in higher education.
Image and needlework credit: Cross-stitch ninja
This video by False Economy communicates two important messages about the move towards fiscal austerity in the United Kingdom.
The first is a message about fair-play, a significant trope within British culture. The message is quite simple: is it fair that the people who are being asked to bear the brunt of cuts are the least responsible for what has transpired?
The second message is that there are alternatives to using spending cuts as the primary means of pursuing balanced budgets. Thus, this message dismantles the current ConDem talking point that if one is against the cuts that they must be a 'deficit denier.'
It remains to be seen if this video will resonate politically, but its success in distilling complex economic issues into easy to digest arguments is ripe with promise.
Although I am all for the presence of complex arguments in political discourse, it is about time that the Left pay more attention to directly counter-acting the emotive appeals and 'common-sense' representations that have become the preferred rhetorical tactics of the Right.
This video makes a valuable contribution to engaging in that war of position.
Have a good weekend!
Image credit: webtreats
Historians of photographic practice often draw attention to how photography has been a central aspect of the state apparatus and its field of security since the nineteenth century. From portraits (or mug shots) of criminals, the mentally ill, colonial subjects, and victims of imperial violence to landscapes of exotic locations that were prize possessions of European empires, the modern state has used the photograph and a realist scopic regime as performatives of power.
The recognition that we see the authorities and that the authorities see us has been internalised by political subjects. Despite the ubiquity of surveillance and other practices of visualization, to be seen by the state apparatus can be intimidating and isolating. The state scopic regime is one that in part is designed to make us feel vulnerable when we are subject to the governmental gaze. Photography has thus been constitutive of the very power-relations of sovereignty, discipline and biopolitics that link government and society.
It is seeing this scopic regime in action at a micro-level that I find so interesting in the photo above. As Newcastle University students stage a protest in the student centre on December 1st, the university's head of security takes close-up photographs of the protesters. The message is clear: 'we will know who you are.'
Is the Newcastle security team now rifling through their database of student photographs in order to initiate disciplinary procedures? Probably not. And in fairness, both security and the administration have been quite reasonable and flexible in comparison to other institutions with their handling of the current occupation.
But, that's not the point. The purpose of the photographs was not necessarily to initiate formal disciplinary procedures but rather to catalyse internal disciplining by the students themselves. The portrait as a practice of individualisation is intended to make these students feel vulnerable by accentuating a feeling of separation from the larger collective of student protesters on campus.
This mirrors other statements coming from across the UK that have attempted to isolate student protesters in general from the student body by arguing that their concerns lack democratic legitimacy. This is a position whose implications have not been thought through very clearly by those in positions of authority within institutions who are themselves, mostly unelected.
How then have the protesters responded to this scopic regime and its practices of seeing?
Rather than acknowledge or internalize its practices of power, they have instead chosen to mock it, to hold it in contempt, to reveal it for the travesty that it is. To me, this indicates that there may be something deeper and less transitory about the student demonstrations, occupations, and direct actions proliferating across the UK than one might otherwise think.
Photo credits: Newcastle Student Occupation