The Radical Open Access Collective: Community, Resilience, Collaboration

An Open Insights interview with Janneke Adema and Sam Moore

Reblogged from: https://www.openlibhums.org/news/278/

Interviewed by James Smith (OLH)


Janneke Adema and Sam Moore are the authors of a March 2018 UKSG Insights essay entitled Collectivity and collaboration: imagining new forms of communality to create resilience in scholar-led publishing. Today we explore the context behind the Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC), and their thoughts on the complexities of scholar-led open access publishing.

The ROAC is holding the Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care conference at Coventry University from 26-27 June 2018.


OLH: Hi Janneke and Sam, thanks for talking to us! To start, how would you summarise the core philosophy of the ROAC?

JA & SM: Thanks for the invitation! We feel that the core philosophy behind the collective is about returning control of publishing to the scholarly community. While the member presses do not represent a unified or homogeneous set of values or practices, they are each interested in practicing a vision of open access that is accountable to (and reflective of) their various communities. This affords experimentation, critique, collaboration and a range of other practices that traditional publishing currently prohibits to a lesser or greater extent. The collective ultimately hopes to offer a mutually supportive, non-hierarchical environment for exploring the futures of open publishing practices.

The collective ultimately hopes to offer a mutually supportive, non-hierarchical environment for exploring the futures of open publishing practices.

Taking this into consideration, some keywords that come to mind with respect to the ROAC’s philosophy are: collaboration, non-competitive, not-for-profit, horizontal (non-hierarchical), scholar-led, ethics of care, diversity, community, experimenting, global justice, affirmative creative critique, performative, progressive, radical, mutually-supportive, mutual reliance, multi-polar, resilience, communality, inclusivity.

OLH: What ethical principles does the ROAC seek to normalise, and what challenges does it face in doing so?

JA & SM: We are not sure “normalise” is the right word here, given the implicit normativity this word brings with it. Ethics, many of us feel, is not something that can be defined in advance or that can be predetermined, we cannot resort to moral criteria or predefined values or truths when it comes to publishing, scholarly communication or openness, for example. A responsible ethical approach to openness, to publishing, to the book, would not presume to know what these are, nore what ethics is, in advance. If anything we feel ethics is, or should be, non-normative: its meaning cannot be predetermined. We also do not follow any set “principles” in this respect; however, our ethics is not relativistic either; instead it responds to specific singular practices and situations, around how openness is implemented and the materiality of the book changes, for example. Our ethics are therefore performative, they arise out of the way we (as scholars, publishers) become with the media we publish.

OLH: Why is being radical a good thing?

JA & SM: Being radical is neither good nor bad, it is a terminology we have adapted to distinguish the specific version of open access we want to promote from more neoliberal or top-down versions, for example. The etymology of “radical” shows it derives from the Latin radix, for root, where it means going back to the origin, to what is essential. For us, radical open access simply represents what we always perceived open access to be, it is a way for us to position ourselves within the wide diversity of meanings open access represents and conjures up.

The etymology of “radical” shows it derives from the Latin radix, for root, where it means going back to the origin, to what is essential.

Being radical does however offer us the chance to present an affirmative counterpoint to the dominant discourses around open access, particularly those promoted by commercial publishers and governmental funders—such as HEFCE and RCUK (now UKRI) in the UK—who tend to be interested in OA inasmuch as it promotes business, transparency, and innovation or merely protects the interests of commercial publishers (see the Finch report, for example). This is how the average humanities and social sciences researcher is likely to encounter OA—as merely representative of a neoliberal ideology and a top down instrumental requirement—and so the ROAC seeks to illustrate that there is an alternative and that OA can have a basis in something both emancipatory and transformative.

OLH: The ROAC is an advocacy group, but it is also a community-builder. How does a strong community translate into a response to the pressing issues of open access?

JA & SM: Because it offers us the opportunity to scale-up or as we have previously argued, to “scale small”—keeping the diversity and independence of the (often small-scale) endeavours of our members intact—both horizontally and vertically. By harnessing the strengths and organizational structures of not-for-profit, independent and scholar-led publishing communities we hope to further facilitate collective efforts through community building and by setting up horizontal alliances. Next to that we hope to enable vertical forms of collaboration with other organisations, collectives, institutions and agencies within scholarly publishing, for example libraries and universities, but also with collectives of artists, technologists and activists. As we have argued elsewhere, we want to explore how we can set up so-called “chains of equivalence” (Laclau) with other movements and struggles that are also dealing with aspects of openness – not just those associated with open knowledge, open science, open data, altmetrics and so on, but also those areas in the Arts and Humanities that conceive digital media more explicitly in terms of power, conflict and violence. Those associated with critical media theory, p2p networks and shadow libraries, for example. We are interested in exploring a plurality of open movements, theories and philosophies in this respect, which may at times conflict and contradict one another, but which can nevertheless contribute to the construction of a common, oppositional horizon.

By harnessing the strengths and organizational structures of not-for-profit, independent and scholar-led publishing communities we hope to further facilitate collective efforts through community building and by setting up horizontal alliances.

In this respect the ROAC also intends to present a unified voice in response to certain issues of advocacy and policy. Having a strong community allows us to discuss and respond to various issues around publishing and openness, around how open access is being implemented for example, highlighting why funders should take alternative, scholar-led publishing initiatives seriously as part of this discussion. Think for example of the recently announced intention of the UKRI in the UK to have a mandatory OA monograph component to the REF after the next. This could present a threat by commercialising and formalising a particularly kind of OA monograph practice in the same way that the current REF policy has done for journal articles (including for example the adaptation of (high) BPCs for monographs, which are unsustainable), which is to say, in accordance with the wishes of commercial publishers. This has already summoned conservative reactions from organisations such as the Royal Historical Society, positioning themselves against this development. Yet, such funder requirement for OA books could also potentially present an opportunity for many presses within the ROAC who already publish OA monographs (such as ROAC members punctum books, Open Book Publishers, and Mattering Press, for example) as well as for scholars looking for options to publish their books in OA without (excessive) BPCs. Making both funders and scholars aware of the existence of these scholar-led models for publishing open access books is of the highest importance here. This is where we would see the ROAC coming in.

OLH: How do you imagine the role of radical experimentation as a tool for humanities open access?

JA & SM: Many of the ROAC member presses would understand the relationship the other way round, that openness affords experimentation and is the reason many OA projects adopt an open approach to begin with. This means that openness is often foundational to radical projects, a natural way of working that permits different kinds of experimentation in certain contexts. Openness is thus not about being more open, for instance, but is rather about being open to change and experimentation—depending on the contingent circumstances, the political and ethical decisions and cuts that need to be made, and so on.

… [B]y experimenting in an open way with the idea and the concept of the book, but also with the materiality and the system of material production surrounding it—which includes our ideas of the material and materiality—we can ask important questions concerning authorship, the fixity of the text, quality, authority and responsibility; issues that lie at the basis of what scholarship is and what the functions of the university should be.

This is why, in foregrounding experimentation, the ROAC reflects a range of practices and ideologies, rather than a single, coherent movement for making research freely available. Experimentation in this respect can be seen as a form of ongoing critique, serving as a means to re-perform our existing institutions and scholarly practices in a more ethical and responsible way. Experimentation thus stands at the basis of a rethinking of scholarly communication and the university in general, and can even potentially be seen as a means to rethink politics itself too. For instance, by experimenting in an open way with the idea and the concept of the book, but also with the materiality and the system of material production surrounding it—which includes our ideas of the material and materiality—we can ask important questions concerning authorship, the fixity of the text, quality, authority and responsibility; issues that lie at the basis of what scholarship is and what the functions of the university should be.

OLH: How does a radical approach to open access empower researchers in the Global South, and those outside of traditional institutional frameworks?

JA & SM: We would rather emphasise the opposite: it is researchers in the Global South and those outside or on the fringes of institutions (so-called para-academics) that empower the open access movement and scholarly publishing more in general. Dominique Babini has for example stressed that “the international community would do well to follow the examples of initiatives in Latin America, where open access is already the norm and where costs are shared among members of scholarly communities to ensure lasting impact”. In Latin America, Babini points out, the cost of publishing has always been an integral part of the cost of research, where it is universities and academic societies, not commercial publishers that predominantly publish journals and books. There is also the example of sustainable publishing platforms and models developed here, based on cost sharing, in opposition to the commercial enclosures APCs impose for example. Think of portals such as SciELO and Redalyc, but also the organisation (and ROAC member) Babini represents,CLACSO, which brings together hundreds of research centres and graduate schools in the social sciences and humanities, predominantly in Latin American countries.

… [I]t is researchers in the Global South and those outside or on the fringes of institutions (so-called para-academics) that empower the open access movement and scholarly publishing more in general.

From the perspective of being outside of established structures, we also need to acknowledge the essential role shadow libraries and guerrilla open access play in providing access to research in a global context, where for example LibGen and Sci-Hub have achieved with relative ease what the open access movement has for decades been striving for: quick and easy and near universal access to the results of scholarly research.

OLH: Open source tools and open access publishing are intertwined. What needs to be free and open for smaller initiatives to thrive?

JA & SM: If possible the entire production process (open that is, nothing is free), although we appreciate we will always be implicated in commercial, profit-driven, proprietary structures, platforms and models to some extent. It is about making strategic choices on the basis of what we, or better said, the ROAC’s members, think is important. Sometimes this means using proprietary software, sometimes it includes publishing in a closed way. There are no pre-set answers or guidelines here, although there are now many open-source options for scholar-publishers to choose from. Future work of the ROAC will be, based on the information portal we have already set up, to further collate many of these options and to develop a toolkit of advice so that other communities can start their own publishing projects too.

In many ways we’re heading in the wrong direction with increased control of the means of production by large corporate entities.

That said, the current push for centrally-controlled walled gardens, such as those being developed by Elsevier (see e.g. this article by Posada and Chen) and Springer-Nature, is very disturbing. Publishers now seek to lock users into their ecosystems, monetising not just user intellectual property but their interaction data too. In many ways we’re heading in the wrong direction with increased control of the means of production by large corporate entities. A perhaps missed opportunity to counteract this is the recent tender call for the European Commission Open Research Publishing Platformthat does not specifically require open infrastructure to protect against corporate capture.

Nonetheless, instead of centralised and one-size-fits all publishing platforms, we would like to emphasise the value of decentralised ecosystems of small open source publishing projects, where platforms are often based on implementing a specific model or solution aimed to solve the crisis in academic publishing. This kind of imposed uniformity could lead to a loss of control of certain aspects of the publishing process and threaten the independence and individuality of small experimental projects. This is why the ROAC intends to complement library-based and university press publishing projects that share a more decentralised vision, and urges funders to support a biodiversity of publishing projects and models.

OLH: What are your views on volunteerist labour in publishing? Is this something for which people should always be paid or is unpaid publishing work acceptable?

JA & SM: Our feeling is that academic publishing is already sustained by (and couldn’t exist without) large amounts of volunteer labour contributed by academic editors, reviewers, copyeditors and interns. Presses in the ROAC simply divert some of this labour from commercial publishing (and encourages other academics to do the same) towards something more transformative, that is truly in the communities interest as well as community-owned and controlled. Yet labour is not a zero-sum game and will be always be a site of struggle between individual commitments as part of the traditional publishing industry, due to the prestige this confers, and collective commitments to transforming this system through experimentation into alternatives. Ultimately we want to make the appeal that publishing should be valued as both an integral aspect of research and something for which scholars should be paid as part of their academic positions.

Ultimately we want to make the appeal that publishing should be valued as both an integral aspect of research and something for which scholars should be paid as part of their academic positions.

That said, many of our initiatives are currently committed to paying their designers, typesetters and proofreaders, interns, or other people they do work with, fairly (whilst they often don’t receive a wage themselves). On the other hand, members of the ROAC have also been critical of applying a market logic or a logic of calculation to all the relationships within research and communication. There are different ways than mere monetary ones in which we can recognise the contributions of the various agencies involved in the publishing process.

The ROAC also aims to decrease the amount of volunteer labour in publishing to some extent by enabling scholar-led and not-for-profit projects to work closer together and to encourage them to, as a community, share amongst themselves, tools, best practices and information that might aid with working more efficiently, including information on how to obtain funds and grants to subsidise publishing projects. To encourage this, we have set up the Radical Open Access mailing list, which we use to discuss issues around the politics and ethics of publishing, and to share best practices and strategies amongst each other.

OLH: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Janneke and Sam!

Join us again soon for more #EmpowOA Open Insights.

Registration for Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care now open

Radical Open Access II – The Ethics of Care


Two days of critical discussion about creating a more diverse and equitable future for open access

The Post Office
Coventry University
June 26-27 2018 

Organised by Coventry University’s postdigital arts and humanities research studio The Post Office, a project of the Centre for Postdigital Cultures

Find out more at: http://radicaloa.co.uk/conferences/roa2/

Attendance and participation is free of charge but registration is mandatory. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/radical-open-access-ii-the-ethics-of-care-tickets-44796943865


Co-curators: Culture Machine, Mattering Press, Memory of the World/Public Library, meson press, Open Humanities Press, punctum books, POP

Speakers: Denisse Albornoz, Janneke Adema, Laurie Allen, Angel Octavio Alvarez Solís, Bodó Balázs, Kirsten Bell, George Chen, Jill Claassen, Joe Deville, Maddalena Fragnito, Valeria Graziano, Eileen Joy, Chris Kelty, Christopher Long, Kaja Marczewska, Frances McDonald, Gabriela Méndez-Cota, Samuel Moore, Tahani Nadim, Christopher Newfield, Sebastian Nordhoff, Lena Nyahodza, Alejandro Posada, Reggie Raju, Václav Štětka, Whitney Trettien


Radical Open Access II is about developing an ethics of care. Care with regard to:

  • our means of creating, publishing and communicating research;
  • our working conditions;
  • our relations with others.

Radical Open Access II aims to move the debate over open access on from two issues in particular:

THE QUESTION OF ACCESS. At first sight it may seem rather odd for a conference on open access to want to move on from this question. But as Sci-Hub, aaaarg, libgen et al. show, the debate over access has largely been won by shadow-libraries, who are providing quick and easy access to vast amounts of published research. Too much of the debate over ‘legitimate’ forms of open access now seems to be about how to use the provision of access to research as a means of exercising forms of governmental and commercial control (via audits, metrics, discourses of transparency and so on).

THE OA MOVEMENT’S RELUCTANCE TO ENGAGE RIGOROUSLY WITH THE KIND OF CONCERNS THAT ARE BEING DISCUSSED ELSEWHERE IN SOCIETY. This includes climate change, the environment, and the damage that humans are doing to the planet (i.e. the Anthropocene). But it also takes in debates over different forms:

  • of organising labour (e.g. platform cooperativism);
  • of working – such as those associated with ideas of post-work, the sharing and gig economies, and Universal Basic Income;
  • of being together – see the rise of interest in the Commons, and in experiments with horizontalist, leaderless ways of self-organizing such as those associated with the Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and the Dakota Standing Rock Sioux protests.

Background

In 2015 the inaugural international Radical Open Access Conference addressed an urgent question: how should we set about reclaiming open access from its corporate take-over, evident not least in the rise of A/BPC models based on the charging of exorbitant, unaffordable and unsustainable publishing fees from scholars and their institutions? The conference saw participants calling for the creation of new forms of communality, designed to support the building of commons-based open access publishing infrastructures, and promote a more diverse, not-for-profit eco-system of scholarly communication. With these calls in mind, the Radical Open Access Collective (ROAC) was formed immediately following the 2015 conference as a horizontal alliance between like-minded groups dedicated to the sharing of skills, tools and expertise. Since then it has grown to a community of over 40 scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other projects. The members of this alliance are all invested in reimaging publishing. And what’s more, are committed to doing so in a context where debates over access—which in many respects have been resolved by the emergence of shadow libraries such as Sci-Hub—are increasingly giving way to concerns over the commercial hegemony of academic publishing. So much so that the issue addressed by the 2015 conference—how can open access be taken back from its corporate take-over? —now seems more urgent than ever.

In June 2018, Coventry University’s postdigital arts and humanities research studio, The Post Office, will convene a second Radical Open Access conference, examining the ways in which open access is being rendered further complicit with neoliberalism’s audit culture of evaluation, measurement, impact and accountability. Witness the way open access has become a top-down requirement – quite literally a ‘mandate’ – rather than a bottom-up scholar-led movement for change. Taking as its theme The Ethics of Care, the concern of this second conference will be on moving away from those market-driven incentives that are frequently used to justify open access, to focus instead on the values that underpin many of the radical open access community’s experiments in open publishing and scholarly communication. In particular, it will follow the lead of Mattering Press, a founding member of the ROAC, in exploring how an ethics of care can help to counter the calculative logic that otherwise permeates academic publishing.

What would a commitment to more ethical forms of publishing look like? Would such an ethics of care highlight the importance of:

  • Making publishing more diverse and equitable – geographically, but also with respect to issues of class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality?
  • Nurturing new and historically under-represented cultures of knowledge – those associated with early career, precariously employed and para-academics, or located outside the global North and West?
  • Ensuring everyone is able to have a voice – not least those writing on niche or avant-garde topics or who are conducting hybrid, multimodal, post-literary forms of research, and who are currently underserved by our profit-focused commercial publishing system?

Indeed, for many members of the ROAC, a commitment to ethics entails understanding publishing very much as a complex, multi-agential, relational practice, and thus recognising that we have a responsibility to all those involved in the publishing process. Caring for the relationships involved throughout this process is essential, from rewarding or otherwise acknowledging people fairly for their labour, wherever possible, to redirecting our volunteer efforts away from commercial profit-driven entities in favour of supporting more progressive not-for-profit forms of publishing. But it also includes taking care of the nonhuman: not just the published object itself, but all those animals, plants and minerals that help to make up the scholarly communication eco-system.

Radical Open Access II is community-driven, and is being co-organised and co-curated by various members of the ROAC in a collaborative manner. It includes panels on topics as diverse as: Predatory Publishing; The Geopolitics of Open; Competition and Cooperation; Humane Metrics/Metrics Noir; Guerrilla Open Access; The Poethics of Scholarship; and Care for the Commons. The conference is free to attend and will also be live streamed for those who are unable to be there in person.

Hacking Capitalist Realism: on serendipity, social innovation and emancipatory politics – Interview with Sebastian Olma

14/05/2019 – Luca Recano and Sebastian Olma

 

Sebastian Olma is Professor in “Autonomy in Art, Design & Technology” at “Avans” University of Applied Sciences in Breda and Den Bosch in the Netherlands. He lives in Amsterdam. For years he has been dealing with social and cultural criticism, in particular with regard to the politics of cultural industries. In his book, “In Defence of Serendipity. For a radical politics of innovation “(2016), Sebastian Olma advances a powerful cultural critique against the neoliberal paradigm of innovation, which crushes the possibilities and the differences of social innovation on the incremental scale of technological and economic innovation, and so making the development of innovation in general sterile.

 

Luca Recano: “In Defence of Serendipity” opens with a preface by Mark Fisher, a brief but dense critique of what he calls “the great digital swindle”. In it, Fisher states that “generalized insecurity [precariousness] leads to sterility and repetition, not to surprise or invention”. Fisher was the protagonist of a profound investigation in the malaise of our age. What do you think when you reread his words today; after he took his life and his writings became a symbol of desperation for those who long for change but are confronted with the absence of alternatives to the present?

 

Sebastian Olma: I think that what Mark Fisher said in the preface to In Defence of Serendipity still very much applies. Perhaps even more so today than it did when he wrote it. I mean this in the sense that his critique of the Californian Ideology is becoming more and more mainstream now. There is still a lot of propaganda out there celebrating the blessings of smart cities and digital societies and so on, but it has become much more difficult to deny the existence of the brutal extraction economy that such corporate marketing is supposed to mask. When even someone such as Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff writes a damning critique of “Surveillance Capitalism” and the illicit exploitation of “behavioural surplus” it means that the tide is turning. Mark relentlessly attacked digital propaganda from very early on and he did so from a position of deep fascination for cybernetics and the (pop)culture it spawned. One of the reasons why his 2009 book Capitalist Realism was met with such an enormous resonance was that it revealed the digital pipedream to be part of a reactionary political strategy. This was absolutely crucial for people like myself at the time because it proved that not everyone had lost their mind, not everyone was buying the digital cloud-cuckoo-land that organisations such as TED and O’Reilly Media were pushing on us.

If you ask me, I think this is how we should look at Mark’s intellectual legacy. There is nothing in his writing that would indicate submission to desperation. I’d argue that the opposite is true. There is a radiant intensity in his work that is extremely life affirming, always searching for cracks in a suffocating present; cracks that might lead toward a possible future. This comes across with particular vivacity in his last two books, Ghosts of My Life and The Weird and the Eerie. If one can speak of gloom there, it’s always that of the present that needs to be overcome. So no, I don’t see Mark as a symbol of desperation at all; for me he was and remains a fiercely optimistic thinker who inspired so many people in their belief in and struggle for “a world which could be free” as he puts it in his fragment on Acid Communism.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

L.R. In the book there is much emphasis on the role of social movements and counter culture. You live in Amsterdam, a city that was once famous for its innovative squatters movement, and, at the same time, for corporate innovation. In the book, you discuss the American counterculture and its role in the formation of the so-called Californian Ideology. What would you say is the role today’s social movements and countercultures play in terms of the development of capitalism (innovation, creativity etc.). Do you think they have become fully absorbed within the neoliberal paradigm of creative and digital work, as the French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiappello seem to argue? Is there still room for autonomy and experimentation in innovation processes and if so, under what conditions?

 

S.O. You’re right to single out Amsterdam as a city with a certain historical legacy of cultural openness and political progressiveness that in the second half of the 20th century translated into a proliferation of spaces for subcultural experimentation. These spaces formed a network that indeed drove cultural innovation throughout the city, turning it into a beacon of late 20th century urban creativity. Some sociologists have argued that Amsterdam was the European city that gave Richard Florida a kind of blueprint for his idea of the creative city. On the US side the model was San Francisco. So yes, there are definitively a number of similarities between the Dutch and Californian experience with regard to the historical role subcultures played in processes of cultural, and following from that, economic innovation. You’re also right in pointing to the destruction of these drivers of innovation by neoliberal politics. The suffocation of urban space by massive financial speculation and overinvestment in real estate seems to be much worse in San Francisco but is also painfully felt in Amsterdam.

This is a development that goes far beyond the question of subculture. In fact, certain forms of artistic and subcultural practice are often perverse beneficiaries of the neoliberal re-modelling of our cities as they are functionalized as the “creative” veneer of an otherwise homogenized urban fabric. Those who suffer are lower and middle income households but increasingly also the young, small business owners, teachers and even doctors who can’t afford the rising rents anymore. So the problem is not so much (or, at least, not only) the disappearance of subcultural spaces but the de-diversification of urban life. This is what destroys the city as a serendipity machine and makes it increasingly predictable and boring. What’s more, by destroying the serendipitous potential of the city, a society’s capacity to innovate also goes down the drain. Which in today’s situation means the destruction of the possibility of any kind of future. I’m not sure our city planners and political strategists have grasped the gravity of their failure to challenge the current trajectory. Who’s going to stop the neoliberal extraction economy that is causing the sixth mass extinction if not a truly cosmopolitan politics born out of the city’s powers of invention?

 

L.R. The historical and etymological reconstruction of the concept of serendipity (in short: the process of discovering or finding something useful, valid or good, without specifically looking for it) that you do in the first pages of your book, refers directly to an epistemological and ontological problem: how does the world become, what moves it, how are new realities “produced”? Later in the book, you invoke Gabriel Tarde’s “forgotten” sociology and its usefulness for a social theory of innovation. Why do you think a theory of social innovation is needed today? Why are “good practices” not enough?

 

S.O. We desperately need a political discussion on social innovation as a way of countering the destructive impact of the neoliberal extraction economy on our cities, societies and, ultimately, on the planet. What is currently staged in the name of social innovation is a farce with the aim of keeping the great challenges of our time unaddressed.  Actually it’s quite obvious, if you look at the methodologies on which organizations such as the British Nesta or their smaller Dutch counterparts operate: a “wicked” problem such as, say, world hunger, economic exploitation or environmental destruction is put through a series of steps, reducing it to something that can be solved by an app, a business model or a combination of both. Design thinking is an obvious example of this, but the so-called social innovation community has developed their own versions of this. In my book, I call this the “gymnastics of changeless change”. It’s a little bit like Evgeny Morozov’s “solutionism” only much more cynical. Instead of addressing our complex and often global problems in such a way as to work towards an appropriate response, a symbolic act is performed that doesn’t change anything at all but gives those “solving” the problem the feeling that they are “making the world a better place”. The perfidy of the changeless change variety of social innovation lies in the fact that it wastes the energy of a young generation who are really serious about wanting to change the world for the better; energy we desperately need.

We need a theory of social innovation to help us separate changeless change from real change. The younger generations need to be able to decide what’s worth investing their energies in and what isn’t. Examples of “good” or  “best practices” can sometimes be inspiring but if you really want to save the world, you have to understand how our complex social systems work, how emancipatory social change has been brought about historically, and what the powers are that you are up against today. Supporting the new generations in finding their way is a great responsibility. The most deplorable role today is played by those grown up functionaries who know exactly what’s going on but keep on playing the game of changeless change in order to defend their acquired institutional position.

Gabriel Tarde’s work is interesting in this respect. If even a century old sociologist can help us unmask social innovation as changeless change, imagine what kind of innovative thinking we could produce if we taught students once again to think critically about society. By way of consideration, the Anthropocene hypothesis needs an intellectual mobilisation powerful enough to stop the sixth mass extinction.

 

L.R. Tarde’s theory seems very useful in describing social ontology as the basis for innovation, especially when it comes to the micro dynamics of innovation. But when innovation processes involve society as such, the dynamics of invention-imitation that Tarde postulates for individuals move to communities and complex systems, involving other factors, both structural and contingent. Here things get complicated.

There are social theories, some related to Tarde’s sociology, that address social innovation in all its complexity. Manuel Delanda’s Assemblage Theory, Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory or theories of complexity come to mind. Furthermore, critical theory, Marxist and feminist radical theories and in particular the theory of political ecology and that of social reproduction provide us with a framework to understand the relations of power and domination and the social relations of production in new ways. They attempt to open the problematically universalist view on humanity to include relations to non-human, natural and technical entities. Thinkers like Bernard Stiegler and Yuk Hui develop new theoretical tools by opening up new paths of philosophical and “cosmotechnical” thinking with regard to the challenges of our age, beyond the paradigm of the Anthropocene.

Do you think using these theories to reconstruct a critical approach to innovation is useful, clarifying the contradictions, conflicts and possibilities that it entails, and frame it in the light of the challenges of ecological and social change of contemporaneity?

 

S.O. Are you referring to your own approach here? I’m not sure it matters so much what your theoretical resources or references are as long as you don’t use them for purposes of academic mystification. Take something such as actor network theory. Career academics have a weakness for it because it provides them with a million complex sounding ways of saying “there are relations”. This works towards successfully getting research grants because it allows one to adapt to the latest policy fashion and write dozens of vacuous papers. Unfortunately, it is less effective to address the challenges we are facing. Which is exactly why Bruno Latour, the intellectual architect of this approach, returns to a surprisingly radical political analysis in his consideration of the Anthropocene. According to him, a powerful elite understands extremely well that the neoliberal extraction economy is, at the very least, going to cost the lives of billions of people. However, they have decided that it’s worth it. These are not people one can challenge by building an app or tweaking a mobile phone into a more sustainable product. It’s going to require gargantuan political effort to deprive them of their power. If your theory or analysis is going to be helpful to build momentum that could lead to such an effort, then you’re on the right path. However, in order to do this, you need to say much more than “there are relations”. Some relations are more powerful than others and we need social theory that helps us understand how to confront those.

You are right to point to Bernard Stiegler as one of the great philosophers of our time. Unfortunately, he isn’t widely read – something for which his convoluted writing style carries at least part of the responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, no one understands technology and its role in social change processes better than Stiegler. It just seems that the world has un-learned to engage with this kind of defiantly complex thought…

 

L.R. Throughout your book, you refer to Bernard Stiegler’s notion of technology as pharmakon, i.e., its ambivalent potential to be poison and/or cure. The public discourse on the relationship between technology and social change reflects this ambivalence: there are enthusiastic techno-utopians and doom-mongering dystopians; techno-determinists  techno-neutralists and so on. It’s quite a confusing picture. What is the antidote to this confusion? Is it possible, to paraphrase Donna Haraway, “to stay with the trouble”, and  to be involved in today’s world of technology while at the same time designing a different techno-social paradigm, or at least working toward it?

 

S.O. I don’t really see any reason for confusion. Take the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler that you’re referring to. Technology has always been part of human development and, as Stiegler argues, can even be seen as that which defines the human life form. So, of course it can be either good or bad. That’s true for a stone wedge as much as for a computer. In this case you’re right, techno-determinism is mental. However, I would take issue with the picture you’re painting here. There is no balance at all between techno-euphoria and doom mongering. The last two decades have been dominated by the idea that digital technology in its current use is necessarily beneficial to society. Take social media. We were so euphoric about its supposedly positive effects that we have more or less forced social media onto the fragile psyches of our youngsters without even the slightest cautionary warning or preparation. You can compare this to parents giving their 16-year olds cocaine because “it makes them think faster”. I’m not playing the fool here. The addictive impact of social media has been programmed by the industry down to each and every micro-dopamine boost. Ten year’s later, the first longitudinal studies are coming out, clearly documenting the harm that’s been done. We’re pulling our hair out in despair because of the seriousness of this form of addiction.

By contrast, I haven’t seen anyone who’s argued that the invention of the computer signals the inevitable end of the world. There might be some nutcases out there, but they have nowhere near the visibility that the digital evangelists have. If you want to know why this is the case, you only have to read aforementioned Harvard Business scholar Shoshana Zuboff who meticulously documents the enormous resources and strategies employed by the IT-industry in order to influence policy making and public opinion in their favour.

So, this is the anti-dote to the situation you’re describing. Calling out these strategies and understanding that there is nothing natural or neutral about the technological trajectory but that it follows political and economic interests. If we want tech that makes our lives better and helps us save the planet, we need to create the political conditions that force it into doing so. This is no enigma, but again requires enormous political effort.

 

L.R. Despite the neoliberal hegemony, spaces of resistance and experimentation still exist. There are self-organized communities linked to the hacker and maker culture (hacker spaces, hack labs, critical maker spaces); initiatives around “the commons” (P2P, free software, free hardware, open access); platform cooperatives; IT unions and new forms of organized labour; activism against war, exploitation and the invasion of privacy; initiatives for progressive policies such as basic income (involving activists, designers, entrepreneurs and politicians). What do you make of these different movements? Is it possible to frame them in terms of an ecosystem of alternative possibility in the context of the global ecological and social crisis? Is it possible to construct a common discourse and a political practice among these experiences?

 

S.O. I’m not sure. Some of your examples here are pretty straightforward. Forms of organized labour for precarious workers? Of course. Anti-war, pro-privacy, feminist activism? Absolutely. For the rest, it all depends on what it is these different movements and initiatives are after. Are they seriously interested in developing practices that could help us build a desirable future? Or are they merely trying to carve out a comfortable niche for themselves in the existing system?  For those who want to seriously build a future, they have to be extremely careful and (self)critical when it comes to deciding what works and what doesn’t. What we see at the moment, particularly in The Netherlands and Belgium, is a very unfortunate attempt to resuscitate the nineties zombie-idea “small is beautiful”. In the name of “the commons” or, even worse, “commonism” [sic] good initiatives (in line with those you’re describing) are lumped together with the most revolting neoliberal projects in order to generate a map showing that in fact, the new society (of the commons) is already here. Everything is fine, we’re saved, thank you very much! The logic here is: these are not big organizations so they must be part of the commons. At a slight of hand, economic precarity and political weakness become the aspirational parameters of the future. Is there a more appalling way of throwing the new generation under the neoliberal bus?

I’m not convinced by the hypothesis of the commons precisely because its real political effect has thus far been extremely problematic. Celebrating a potentially emerging infrastructure of a future commons has done nothing to prevent the ongoing destruction of the actually existing infrastructure of the public. I’m referring to the ruthless privatisation, outsourcing and commercialisation of our public services from health care and housing to government itself. The brilliant work of economist Mariana Mazzucato has done a lot to uncover the obliteration of public value that the religious belief in the superiority of the market is causing there. I mean, I’m all for dreaming about a future commons but isn’t it more pressing to stop the sell-out of the public first? As long as the proponents of the commons turn their back on this outrage, they don’t deserve to be taken seriously. If the idea of the commons is overwhelmingly employed to sustain careers, initiatives, research and policies that defend the neoliberal status quo, it clearly doesn’t belong to what you call “the ecosystem of alternative possibility”!

 

L.R. In your book there is a fairly explicit criticism of organizations like Nesta and its director Geoff Mulgan, for the role they play in the field of digital social innovation. These organizations are central in defining EU policies with regard to the use of digital technologies in the industrial, logistic sector and urban development (smart cities). It seems to me that the EU is trying to find a position that is different from both, the ultra-capitalist and neoliberal model of Silicon Valley and the statist and centralist model represented by China. What role can social innovation play in this context? Is this more than rhetoric and marketing? Do you think the EU has learned from the way its creative industries and digital economy programmes have aided the gentrification of our cities and the precarization of labour, and masked the further financialization of the economy?

 

S.O. It’s absolutely fascinating to see that the very same people who were responsible for the creative industries paradigm are now at the helm of the digital social innovation agenda. Let’s have a quick look at the creative industry paradigm. The basic idea was to create a set of policies that proactively intervene in the structural transformation of the economy (very broadly: from industrial to post-industrial) by infusing it with the power of creativity (read: art and design). Creative industries “thought leaders” like Geoff Mulgan and Charles Leadbeater were very close to Tony Blair whose Third Way politics implemented neoliberalism in Britain in the sense of the market becoming the central principle of government. Like Blair, they were in favour of abandoning the European approach of social democratic policies, including more democratic forms of economic governance. Instead, they looked at the US in search of a new industrial model. The most effective path toward a creative economy our “thought leaders” believed to have found in the business models of Silicon Valley.

However, the power of the American ICT-industry had grown out of specific historical conditions, was backed by massive government funding and, increasingly, protected by a powerful apparatus of corporate laws and regulations. So, what happened was that the European creative industries discourse became a rhetorical shell that imported Silicon Valley’s corporate culture – the famous Californian Ideology – into Europa without having an industry that could profit from it. The creative industries were supposed to grow basically by building cultural and creative clusters in our cities and infusing them with West-Coast entrepreneurial zest. Obviously, I’m simplifying somewhat. However, instead of becoming the engines of a newly emerging creative economy, these clusters became the creative bulldozers of the real estate machine that is now vandalizing our cities. Clearly, the industrial strategy failed. Despite this failure, the EU and national governments continued to push the ideological dimension of the creative industries agenda, effectively implementing a Californian re-education programme for Europe’s cultural and educational sectors: artists (and citizens in general) needed to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs, collective creativity made way for individualistic competition, social values were declared null and void unless they generated a price on the market. Obviously, none of this helped European economies to become more competitive. Instead, it laid waste to a cultural sphere that could have generated an effective European defence against and response to the Silicon Valley extraction economy. While it would be nonsense to blame the creative industries agenda alone for the suffocation of our cities or the degeneration of our political culture, it has definitively been an enabling factor.

Are we really supposed to trust armchair strategists, who are responsible for this absolute disaster because they have the cheek to refashion themselves now as digital social innovators? Who approach emancipatory politics as if it was a question of launching a series of digital start-ups? You must be joking. There are serious scholars and activists who think about emancipative forms of utilising digital technology. Morozov has just published a luminous intervention on what he calls “digital socialism” in New Left Review. Let’s pay attention to them, not to irresponsible consultant types who cling to a failed approach.

 

L.R. You regularly challenge and criticize prestigious cultural institutions in you hometown Amsterdam for their complicity in gentrification processes or for uncritically promoting ideological tropes like smart city or sharing economy. Yet many of these institutions are quite ambiguous in their nature: their opportunism is interlaced with an imaginary of radical or progressive social transformation: ecological transition, social justice, global citizenship, commons, civil rights. Amsterdam’s cultural institutions, of course, are no exception in this. Is it possible to intervene in these contradictions, “hacking” these institutions so they become more autonomous and regain some political utility?

 

S.O. I think this depends on each institution’s individual level of corruption. Many of them were set up explicitly as infrastructural support of the creative industries paradigm. You can compare them to the Stalinist “culture palaces” of the former Eastern bloc. They exist for one purpose only; to streamline civil society according to the needs of neoliberalism. Their message to the new generation is that politics has become obsolete. Celebrate your individual identity, believe in technology, optimize yourself for a life of constant competition, that’s all you need to do to make the world a better place.

In other words, – and here we return to the beginning of our conversation – they contaminate us with the toxicity of capitalist realism, i.e., spreading the lie that it is neither possible nor necessary to change the rules of the neoliberal game. The fact of the matter is that we can and urgently have to change these rules if we want humanity to survive. It’s called emancipative politics. It’s what neoliberals fear more than anything else. There are many ways in which cultural institutions can contribute to the construction of such a politics, from raising awareness of the debilitating psychic effects of precarity and permanent competition on the individual level to building collective agency against the continuing vandalising of the city by the rich and powerful. If that’s what you mean by hacking, then yes, let’s hack away!

SO! Amplifies: The Electric Golem (Trevor Pinch and James Spitznagel)

SO! Amplifies. . .a highly-curated, rolling mini-post series by which we editors hip you to cultural makers and organizations doing work we really really dig.  You’re welcome!

On March 24th, 2019 the record release party for The Electric Golem’s 6th CD Golemology was held at the Loft in Ithaca, New York. The Electric Golem is an avant-garde synthesizer duo featuring Trevor Pinch and James Spitznagel, that has been in existence for about ten years.

Trevor Pinch is a local sound artist and professor at Cornell University. He is an STS (Science and Technology Studies) and Sound Studies scholar. As a key thinker of STS, Trevor is the coproducer of theories about Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), and the role of users in technological history and innovation. However, Trevor’s interest in dates back much farther; he built his first modular synthesizer when he was a physics student in London in the 1970s.

The other half of The Electric Golem, James Spitznagel, is a multi-media artist who uses the iPad as a musical instrument and to create digital paintings. While he has played many roles in the music and culture industries—guitarist in a rock band, record store owner, art gallery and guitar shop investor, and even business manager for the Andy Warhol Museum—he moved to Ithaca to focus on producing abstract art: digital paintings and experimental, improvisational music. Being an energetic and enthusiastic person who has unrestrained fantasies, James finds that everything around him can be his inspiration.

Pinch and Spitznagel formed the group after Spitznagel read Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco) and realized Pinch also lived in Ithaca. Spitznagel simply looked his name up in the phone book and called him up: “I go, ‘is this Trevor Pinch?’ He said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘well, you don’t know me, but I just read your book and I love it.’”  And then they got together for a beer and have been best friends and collaborators ever since.  Once Spitznagel heard about Pinch’s homemade synthesizer, he asked Trevor to try to make something together and it turned out to be a fascinating mixture of analog–Trevor’s synth, Moog Prodigy, and a Minimoog–and James’s digital instruments.

Building from this first moment of discovery, The Electric Golem’s music is electronic, experimental, and totally improvised. Typically, the pieces of music last twenty minutes to half an hour and expresses their interaction with the machines and with each other in the studio. James is much more controlling of the tone and rhythm, and patches the sound as he goes along, whereas Trevor is much more about making spontaneous weird sounds. They complement each other and the creation process is usually by random and spontaneous, as Spitznagel describes: “I didn’t tell Trevor what to do or what to play, but I said, here’s the piece of music I’ve written. He just instinctively knew what add to it.” Reciprocally, “he might just play something that I go, oh, I can weave in and out of the ambient sound he’s putting there.”

Trevor Pinch, Electric Golem at Elmira College, 2012

For the duo, the process of producing music becomes a shared experience with their listeners. The music is ever changing and evolving. In addition, unexpected drama adds vitality to the palette. “The iPad might freeze up or synthesizer might break somehow,” Spitznagel notes, “that’s happened to us, but we carry on. Like Trevor looks at me and says, it’s not working there. Or, I look at him and go, I have to reboot my computer, it’s not working. But, those times actually inspire us to try new things and go beyond what we are doing.” James explained. Their inspiration comes from the unknown, which just emerges from their practice. “Generally, this sort of music is completely unique to Electric Golem.” Trevor concluded.

The name “Electric Golem” comes from a series of books with Golem in the titles that Trevor collaborated on with his mentor Harry Collins. “The golem is a creature of Jewish mythology,” Pinch and Collins wrote in The Golem, What You Should Know about Science, “it is a humanoid made by man with clay and water, with incantations and spells. It is powerful, it grows a little more powerful every day.  It will follow orders, do your work, and protect you from the ever threatening enemy.  But it is clumsy and dangerous.  Without control, a golem may destroy its masters with its flailing vigour” (1).  Noting Trevor’s association with the concept of the Golem, Spitznagel added the “Electric” twist not just as a metaphor for their sound but also because “it’s kind of like a retro name.” The Electric Golem mushroomed from there, and in the past decade they have had many invitations and bookings to play out, receiving the first recording contract from the Ricochet Dream label, and have played with a bunch of notable musicians, such as Malcolm Cecil of Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Simeon of Silver Apples, and “Future Man” (aka Roy Wooten), and they haven’t stopped there.

According to Pinch, the key feature of The Electric Golem’s music is its ability to encompass different moods. “I think Electric Golem has become good at one thing: its changing and transitioning from one sort of mood of music to another. And we have become quite good at those transitions. I think people would say that’s what they kind of like about us.” These sorts of slow transitions construct a unique texture of sound that can be quite cinematic, so much so that in 2012, the Electric Golem performed the accompaniment to the silent movie A Trip to the Moon, a special Cornell cinema event. Overall, as improvised experimental music, it is sometimes challenging to listen to, with no regular rhythm or reliable melody. Trevor produces warm, rich drones from the analog side that contrast with the sharper digital rhythms that James programs. In short, the Electric Golem varies between these two affects but the music goes far beyond the representation of emotional states; sometimes it conjures up the feeling of the vastness of space and time.

Experimental music, is a collaboration and negotiation process between instruments and their users.  No matter if analog or digital, instruments have autonomy; they are non-human actors with their own agency to some extent. As Trevor Pinch intimates, “I understand the general sort of sound that can be produced, but the particular details of how it will work out, you don’t really know, that’s much more spontaneous, you have to react to that.”  Instruments can often be uncontrollable–making their own sounds—so that Electric Golem must respond in kind. “So, it’s sort of like higher level meta-control versus actually doing what you’re doing in response to the instrument that combines together,” Trevor describes, “which I think is the secret to controlling these sorts of instruments.” It is incredible that Pinch and Spitznagel know each other so well—and each know their instruments so well–that they can improvise for long periods with no trouble. Trevor says: “Follow the use of these instruments! Follow the instruments! They are not essentialized. They are just stabilized temporarily.”

On the whole, The Electric Golem shows an artistic form which breaks the traditional paradigm, deconstructs and then reconstructs it, seeking to free sound from the instruments. Their music is beyond pure melody and rhythm, beyond the expression of existence, expressing more of an aesthetic state of transcendence. They challenge what music is, and what musical instruments are; they challenge divisions between the identities of engineer and musician. Electric Golem’s music co-constructs art and technology and binds them together; art, for them, is a mode of presenting technology, and vice versa, technology is a pathway through which art can flourish.

My favorite Electric Golem piece is called “Heart of the Golem.” What is the heart of the Golem? According to Pinch, “It is a mystery, a process of unfolding and discovery. It is somewhere where analog and digital sound meet, and an improvisation.” What the magic is remains unknown and unlimited, just like the future of the Electric Golem.

Featured Image: Courtesy of The Electric Golem

Qiushi Xi is a PhD candidate in the subject of Philosophy of Science and Technology in Tsinghua University, Beijing and in a joint PhD program in the Department of Science and Technology Studies in Cornell University, working with Prof. Trevor Pinch. Her research areas are Sound Studies, STS, Cultural Studies and Gender Studies. Her current research focuses on the sociology of piano sound and the negotiation and construction of piano sound in the recording studio (PhD dissertation), gender issues in recording industry, experimental music, auscultation and sound therapy. She holds an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries from King’s College London; a BA in Recording Arts and a BA in Journalism and Communication from the University of China, Beijing. She is also an amateur pianist, writer, and traditional Chinese painter. As a multiculturalist, she is am fascinated by different forms of art and culture in different cultural contexts.

Rachel O’ Dwyer: The Bank of Facebook

Marshall McLuhan argued that money is communication. This rings particularly true at a time when so many platforms are entering the payments space. The US payments app Venmo has created a social network for payments, while the Chinese mobile messaging app WeChat has created social and playful ways of exchanging payments as messages, even incorporating the traditional Chinese ‘Hung Bao’ (red envelopes) into the payments process.

At the same time, communication is now money. Platforms with a legacy in information and data are concerned with the circulation of value, going so far in some instances as to produce their own money-like instruments. This includes not only cryptocurrencies but also the use of things like phone credit, SMS, instant messages, data and loyalty as a means of payment. Companies like Safaricom and Vodafone are de facto banks in the Global South. The platform Amazon, with a legacy in e-commerce, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, is opening a checking system and is rumoured to be applying for a financial license. Companies like Google and Apple are hustling around digital wallets and payments.

The exemplar is China, where Alipay and WePay are the ‘superapps’ of payment, creating an integrated environment where users can message or send payments to friends, order a taxi, buy their groceries and apply for a loan all in the same application. Alibaba, the Chinese retail and AI conglomerate that’s bigger than Amazon, founded Alipay in 2004 as a payments platform for in-app purchases. They quickly expanded to include peer-to-peer payments, store payments, and, over time, its own financial services company, ANT financial, that offered customers products based on their performance on the app. ANT financial later released Sesame Credit scoring, a new algorithmic credit rating based on data gleaned from the Alipay app and additional social network activity such as who users are friends with and what they share online. And in a culture where grandparents pay for groceries with their smartphones and the poor don QR codes to accept passing donations, there’s plenty of data to choose from.

Recently, people have been asking if this is a uniquely Chinese phenomenon and if not, who is set to become the WeChat or AliPay of the Western world? Will it be Apple, with Apple Pay and their recent launch of the Apple Card? Or maybe the bank of Amazon? The most recent is Facebook’s announcement that it is developing a digital cryptocurrency called Libra alongside a payments app, Calibra. The venture is supported by 28 investing companies that include network operators and Telcos (Vodafone); microlenders (Kiva); Payments providers (Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, Stripe, Coinbase), venture capital (Ribbit, Thrive), E-commerce (Spotify, EBay) and sharing platforms (Uber, Lyft). Banks are notably absent from the consortium.

It’s early days, but what exactly are Facebook setting out to do with Libra?

#1 Facebook are interested in the 1.7 billion people in the world who have access to a mobile phone but no bank account.

The Libra whitepaper waxes lyrical about money as a public good, the world’s underbanked and their desperate need for financial inclusion. Catering to the unbanked isn’t a new proposition for an ICT company. The best example is M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service founded in 2007 and run by Vodafone that allows for payments and financing through simple SMS services. Crucially this allows for secure and safe forms of remittance for people who are working abroad and sending money home or transferring money from place to place.

For a vast portion of the world for which Facebook is already synonymous with ‘The Internet’, using the platform for domestic and global remittances might seem like the logical next step. In a nutshell, Facebook aren’t offering a solution to a problem that isn’t being solved by innovations like M-Pesa, or even BitPesa, a payments platform that uses blockchain settlement for fast, secure payment to and from Africa. But it’s probably in a position to leverage its existing monopoly to eclipse other solutions.

#2 The business model of Libra isn’t about transactional data, at least not initially.

Hearing Facebook want to have anything to do with payments will undoubtedly set alarm bells ringing. Platforms entering into online payments have adopted a business model that, like their other services, is often less interested with transaction fees and pay-per-use than with monetising data. In other words, this is usually less about charging for transferring payments from place to place like Western Union, or transaction fees like MasterCard and more concerned with monetising transactional data for advertising (if you bought this you’ll like this), or risk (people who buy violent video games may default on loans quicker than those who buy stair gates for their small children).

Considering that Facebook’s business model is based around data monetisation and positioning itself at the centre of a broad online advertising eco-system, do we really want them also handling our transactional data?

This said, the business model doesn’t appear to be based around transactional data, or at least not initially. Instead it’s based on a more traditional model of transaction fees. If instated, Libra will charge users a small fee for every transaction, similar to the way the cryptocurrency Ether charges ‘Gas’ to execute smart contracts. The goal here is to use the existing monopoly of Facebook to create a payments monopoly and siphon off some of the fees currently going to incumbents like Western Union, Mastercard and relatively new entrants like M-Pesa.

#3 But this doesn’t mean that Facebook isn’t trying to position itself as a superapp in the near future.

While most of the whitepaper is dedicated to discussions of how Libra can be used to liberate the poor and underbanked from financial insecurity, ushering forth a future where a Kenyan businesswoman can use the app to order a ride-share and pay for it with Libra tokens, there is mention of the possibility of other services such as loans and risk assessment in the future. One can presume that at this point the transactional data coupled with social media data (what you like, who your friends are etc.) will provide the ideal basis for in-app scoring and assessment.

Questions of financial services and risk assessment also touch on another offshoot of payments and remittances – KYC (know your customer) or, in other words, prove your identity. As Josh Constine puts it, ‘the 1.7 billion people who lack a bank account might choose whoever offers them a financial services alternative as their online identity provider too.’ Here Facebook becomes the arbiter of a global, sovereign, digital identity. Couple this with Facebook’s recent investigations into a ‘trustworthiness score’ for its 2 billion users and you’re looking at something a lot like Alipay’s Sesame Credit score, or even Chinese Social Credit.

So too, the membership structure of the Libra association gives a clue that the longer aim is probably an integrated app and includes partners not only in payments, but in e-commerce, ride-sharing apps and micro-lending. When a platform with this kind of monopoly over social communications issues what amounts to a global coin and identity system, this has huge implications for the future of money, privacy and the overall structure of the global economy.The whitepaper claims that financial data gathered by Calibra (the digital app associated with the coin) won’t be used for targeted advertising or shared with Facebook or third parties “without consumer consent”. But seriously, when a platform the size of Facebook controls everything from your social connections to your payments through to your proof of identity, what choice will a user really have to refuse consent or to opt out in the future?

#4 Libra’s Blockchain is not a decentralised database or even a chain of blocks. It’s business as usual.

For those with a particular interest in the ins and outs of the token, I’d direct you to this Techcrunch article that does a great breakdown of the overall issues concerning issuance of the tokens, exchange and cashing out. A few things to note, however, are that Facebook are trying to counteract the volatility associated with cryptocurrencies like Ether and Bitcoin by creating a coin that is backed by ‘real world assets’. In turn the assets in question are designed to be as non-volatile as possible (things that don’t fluctuate significantly in value) such as gold, short-term government securities and bank deposits. Bypassing some of the wild fluctuations of other crypto-coins and difficulties with transaction speeds and recourse, Libra is trying to cash in on some of the positives, such as the security of cryptographic encryption and the ease of settlement and transfer of funds across borders.

A read of the whitepaper shows that the blockchain in question is not a decentralised database or even a chain of blocks but a permissioned database managed by the 28 investing partners listed above. Business as usual then. The system uses a new programming language called ‘move’ for issuing smart contracts. But it does take certain aspects of the blockchain, such as the ability to prevent double sending of digital assets and automatic clearance of transactions using cryptographic proof through a byzantine fault tolerance system. Talk of ‘Blockchain’ then seems to be mostly lip service to greater transparency and privacy. It’s possibly an attempt to offset growing criticisms and privacy concerns with the gloss of transparency and decentralisation associated with early iterations of the blockchain.

#5 Libra might come to nothing

Of course, all of this might come to nothing. This isn’t the first time that Facebook has attempted to launch a digital wallet. See a recent Financial Times article for more details on the specific regulatory hurdles that the cryptocurrency may face when a company the size of Facebook try to take on the banks. A proliferation of speculative ICOs and even Bitcoin might be one thing, but when a force the size of Facebook enters this space, significant financial regulation surely won’t be far behind. And finally, who knows, Libra might also be the mainstream push that actually empowers people to engage with less mainstream alternatives as more than speculative instruments, normalising alternative forms of money for users who are still unfamiliar with the technology. But probably not.

Can’t Nobody Tell Me Nothin: Respectability and The Produced Voice in Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”

It’s been ten weeks now that we’ve all been kicking back in our Wranglers. allowing Lil Nas X’s infectious twang in “Old Town Road” to shower us in yeehaw goodness from its perch atop the Billboard Hot 100. Entrenched as it is on the pop chart, though, “Old Town Road”’s relationship to Billboard got off to a shaky start, first landing on the Hot Country Songs list only to be removed when the publication determined the hit “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version.” There’s a lot to unpack in a statement like that, and folks have been unpacking it quite consistently, especially in relation to notions of genre and race (in addition to Matthew Morrison’s recommended reads, I’d add Karl Hagstrom-Miller’s Segregating Sound, which traces the roots of segregated music markets). Using the context of that ongoing discussion about genre and race, I’m listening here to a specific moment in “Old Town Road”— the line “can’t nobody tell me nothin”—and the way it changes from the original version to the Billy Ray Cyrus remix. Lil Nas X uses the sound of his voice in this moment to savvily leverage his collaboration with a country music icon, and by doing so subtly drawing out the respectability politics underlying Billboard’s racialized genre categorization of his song.

Screenshot, “Lil Nas X – Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus”

After each of Lil Nas X’s two verses in the original “Old Town Road,” we hear the refrain “can’t nobody tell me nothin.” The song’s texture is fairly sparse throughout, but the refrains feature some added elements. The 808-style kick drum and rattling hihats continue to dominate the soundscape, but they yield just enough room for the banjo sample to come through more clearly than in the verse, and it plucks out a double-time rhythm in the refrain. The vocals change, too, as Lil Nas X performs a call-and-response with himself. The call, “can’t nobody tell me nothin,” is center channel, just as his voice has been throughout the verse, but the response, “can’t tell me nothin,” moves into the left and right speaker, a chorus of Lil Nas X answering the call.  Listen closely to these vocals, and you’ll also hear some pitch correction. Colloquially known as “autotune,” this is an effect purposely pushed to extreme limits to produce garbled or robotic vocals and is a technique most often associated with contemporary hip hop and R&B. Here, it’s applied to this melodic refrain, most noticeably on “nothin” in the call and “can’t” in the response,

After Billboard removed the song from the Hot Country chart in late March, country star Billy Ray Cyrus tweeted his support for “Old Town Road,” and by early April, Lil Nas X had pulled him onto the remix that would come to dominate the Hot 100. The Cyrus remix is straightforward: Cyrus takes the opening chorus, then Lil Nas X’s original version plays through from the first verse to the last chorus, at which point Cyrus tacks on one more verse and then sings the hook in tandem with Lil Nas X to close the song. Well, it’s straightforward except that, while Lil Nas X’s material sounds otherwise unaltered from the original version, the pitch correction is smoothed out so that the garble from the previous version is gone.

In order to figure out what happened to the pitch correction from the first to second “Old Town Road,” I’m bringing in a conceptual framework I’ve been tinkering with the last couple of years: the produced voice. Within this framework, all recorded voices are produced in two specific ways: 1) everyone performs their bodies in relation to gender, race, ability, sex, and class norms, and 2) everyone who sings on record has their voice altered or affected with various levels of technology. To think about a produced voice is to think about how voices are shaped by recording technologies and social technologies at the same time. Listening to the multiple versions of “Old Town Road” draws my attention specifically to the always collaborative nature of produced voices.

In performativity terms—and here Judith Butler’s idea in “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” that “one is not simply a body, but, in some very key sense, one does one’s body” (521) is crucial—a collaboratively produced voice is a little nebulous, as it’s not always clear who I’m collaborating with to produce my voice. Sometimes I can (shamefully, I assure you) recognize myself changing the way my voice sounds to fit into some sort of, say, gendered norm that my surroundings expect. As a white man operating in a white supremacist, cisheteropatriarchal society, the deeper my voice sounds, the more authority adheres to me. (Well, only to a point, but that’s another essay). Whether I consciously or subconsciously make my voice deeper, I am definitely involved in a collaboration, as the frequency of my voice is initiated in my body but dictated outside my body. Who I’m collaborating with is harder to establish – maybe it’s the people in the room, or maybe my produced voice and your listening ears (read Jennifer Stoever’s The Sonic Color Line for more on the listening ear) are all working in collaboration with notions of white masculine authority that have long-since been baked into society by teams of chefs whose names we didn’t record.

“Tools in a Recording Studio” by Flickr user Carol VanHook (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In studio production terms, a voice’s collaborators are often hard to name, too, but for different reasons. For most major label releases, we could ask who applied the effects that shaped the solo artist’s voice, and while there’s a specific answer to that question, I’m willing to bet that very few people know for sure. Even where we can track down the engineers, producers, and mix and master artists who worked on any given song, the division of labor is such that probably multiple people (some who aren’t credited anywhere as having worked on the song) adjusted the settings of those vocal effects at some point in the process, masking the details of the collaboration. In the end, we attribute the voice to a singular recording artist because that’s the person who initiated the sound and because the voice circulates in an individualistic, capitalist economy that requires a focal point for our consumption. But my point here is that collaboratively produced voices are messy, with so many actors—social or technological—playing a role in the final outcome that we lose track of all the moving pieces.

Not everyone is comfortable with this mess. For instance, a few years ago long-time David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, while lamenting the role of technology in contemporary studio recordings, mentioned Adele as a singer whose voice may not be as great as it is made to sound on record. Adele responded by requesting that Visconti suck her dick. And though the two seemed at odds with each other, they were being equally disingenuous: Visconti knows that every voice he’s produced has been manipulated in some way, and Adele, too, knows that her voice is run through a variety of effects and algorithms that make her sound as epically Adele as possible. Visconti and Adele align in their desire to sidestep the fundamental collaboration at play in recorded voices, keeping invisible the social and political norms that act on the voice, keeping inaudible the many technologies that shape the voice.

Propping up this Adele-Visconti exchange is a broader relationship between those who benefit from social gender/race scripts and those who benefit from masking technological collaboration. That is, Adele and Visconti both benefit, to varying degrees, from their white femininity and white masculinity, respectively; they fit the molds of race and gender respectability. Similarly, they both benefit from discourses surrounding respectable music and voice performance; they are imbued with singular talent by those discourses. And on the flipside of that relationship, where we find artists who have cultivated a failure to comport with the standards of a respectable singing voice, we’ll also find artists whose bodies don’t benefit from social gender/race scripts: especially Black and Brown artistsnon-binary, women, and men. Here I’m using “failure” in the same sense Jack Halberstam does in The Queer Art of Failure, where failing is purposeful, subversive. To fail queerly isn’t to fall short of a standard you’re trying to meet; it’s to fall short of a standard you think is bullshit to begin with. This kind of failure would be a performance of non-conformity that draws attention to the ways that systemic flaws – whether in social codes or technological music collaborations – privilege ways of being and sounding that conform with white feminine and white masculine aesthetic standards. To fail to meet those standards is to call the standards into question.

So, because respectably collaborating a voice into existence involves masking the collaboration, failing to collaborate a voice into existence would involve exposing the process. This would open up the opportunity for us to hear a singer like Ma$e, who always sings and never sings well, as highlighting a part of the collaborative vocal process (namely pitch correction, either through training or processing the voice) by leaving it out. To listen to Ma$e in terms of failed collaboration is to notice which collaborators didn’t do their work. In Princess Nokia’s doubled and tripled and quadrupled voice, spread carefully across the stereo field, we hear a fully exposed collaboration that fails to even attempt to meet any standards of respectable singing voices. In the case of the countless trap artists whose voices come out garbled through the purposeful misapplication of pitch correction algorithms, we can hear the failure of collaboration in the clumsy or over-eager use of the technology. This performed pitch correction failure is the sound I started with, Lil Nas X on the original lines “can’t nobody tell me nothin.” It’s one of the few times we can hear a trap aesthetic in “Old Town Road,” outside of its instrumental.

In each of these instances, the failure to collaborate results in the failure to achieve a respectably produced voice: a voice that can sing on pitch, a voice that can sing on pitch live, a voice that is trained, a voice that is controlled, a voice that requires no intervention to be perceived as “good” or “beautiful” or “capable.” And when respectable vocal collaboration further empowers white femininity or white masculinity, failure to collaborate right can mean failing in a system that was never going to let you pass in the first place. Or failing in a system that applies nebulous genre standards that happen to keep a song fronted by a Black artist off the country charts but allow a remix of the same song to place a white country artist on the hip hop charts.

The production shift on “can’t nobody tell me nothin” is subtle, but it brings the relationship between social race/gender scripts and technological musical collaboration into focus a bit. It isn’t hard to read “does not embrace enough elements of today’s country music” as “sounds too Black,” and enough people called bullshit on Billboard that the publication has had to explicitly deny that their decision had anything to do with race. Lil Nas X’s remix with Billy Ray Cyrus puts Billboard in a really tricky rhetorical position, though. Cyrus’s vocalsmore pinched and nasally than Lil Nas X’s, with more vibrato on the hook (especially on “road” and “ride”), and framed without the hip hop-style drums for the first half of his versedraw attention to the country elements already at play in the song and remove a good deal of doubt about whether “Old Town Road” broadly comports with the genre. But for Billboard to place the song back on the Country chart only after white Billy Ray Cyrus joined the show? Doing so would only intensify the belief that Billboard’s original decision was racially motivated. In order for Billboard to maintain its own colorblind respectability in this matter, in order to keep their name from being at the center of a controversy about race and genre, in order to avoid being the publication believed to still be divvying up genres primarily based on race in 2019, Billboard’s best move is to not move. Even when everyone else in the world knows “Old Town Road” is, among other things, a country song, Billboard’s country charts will chug along as if in a parallel universe where the song never existed.

As Lil Nas X shifted Billboard into a rhetorical checkmate with the release of the Billy Ray Cyrus remix, he also shifted his voice into a more respectable rendition of “can’t nobody tell me nothin,” removing the extreme application of pitch correction effects. This seems the opposite of what we might expect. The Billy Ray Cyrus remix is defiant, thumbing its nose at Billboard for not recognizing the countryness of the tune to begin with. Why, in a defiant moment, would Lil Nas X become more respectable in his vocal production? I hear the smoothed-out remix vocals as a palimpsest, a writing-over that, in the traces of its editing, points to the fact that something has been changed, therefore never fully erasing the original’s over-affected refrain. These more respectable vocals seem to comport with Billboard’s expectations for what a country song should be, showing up in more acceptable garb to request admittance to the country chart, even as the new vocals smuggle in the memory of the original’s more roboticized lines.

While the original vocals failed to achieve respectability by exposing the recording technologies of collaboration, the remix vocals fail to achieve respectability by exposing the social technologies of collaboration, feigning compliance and daring its arbiter to fail it all the same. The change in “Old Town Road”’s vocals from original to remix, then, stacks collaborative exposures on top of one another as Lil Nas X reminds the industry gatekeepers that can’t nobody tell him nothin, indeed.

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Featured image, and all images in this post: screenshots from “Lil Nas X – Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus” posted by YouTube user Lil Nas X

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Justin aDams Burton is Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University. His research revolves around critical race and gender theory in hip hop and pop, and his book, Posthuman Rap, is available now. He is also co-editing the forthcoming (2018) Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Music Studies. You can catch him at justindburton.com and on Twitter @j_adams_burton. His favorite rapper is one or two of the Fat Boys.

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The Radical Open Access Collective: updates, events and governance

Since our previous update in October last year, the Radical Open Access Collective has continued to grow and now contains over 60 scholar-led publishing initiatives from around the world, alongside many hundreds of listserv members. With so many new members, it is worth reminding ourselves what the intentions behind the ROAC were. This post provides an update on the activities of the collective and explores what the ROAC might want to focus on in future.

The Radical Open Access Collective is a community of scholar-led, not-for-profit presses, journals and other open access projects. It was formed in 2015 as a way of building connections and mutual reliance between mainly academic-led publishers looking to try something different and self-managed in scholarly communication, as an alternative to the closed down commercial behemoths. Our members come from a variety of geographical and disciplinary contexts, publishing a range of books, journals and experimental material, from small ad-hoc DIY projects to more sustained initiatives. We maintain resources and host a listserv which we use to communicate with our members and to discuss issues around openness, access, and experimental and scholar-led publishing, and through which we aim to stimulate and nurture a community of different forms of publishing.

While Janneke Adema and I (Sam Moore) have been the main ‘organisers’ behind the ROAC – i.e., the ones who add new members to the website, update resources and field general queries – the idea behind the collective itself has always been that as a community it is horizontally governed and democratic in its decision making. The only real criteria for membership has been that the press or project engages in some form of open access publishing (loosely defined) and shares our philosophy of mutual reliance and non-competitive publishing. Yet in practice, the absence of any defined governance system (and Sam and Janneke’s lack of time) has made it hard to do things as a ‘collective’. One of the questions now is: with so many new members, and a clear excitement about alternative forms of open access and scholar-led publishing, what can the Radical Open Access Collective actually do to support its members?

With these ideas in mind, in May we surveyed the Radical Open Access Collective members[i] to better understand their participation in the collective, what they hope to get out of membership and whether these needs are currently being met. We were particularly interested in learning how best to support our members from outside the Global North, where our membership has grown most in the past year, and especially how to promote greater linguistic diversity rather than simply relying on English for all our communications. It was encouraging to see that many of these goals were shared by our members.

We found in the survey that there is clearly a pressing need for the Radical Open Access Collective. Members described how the collective confers a level of legitimacy, solidarity with a movement and a sense of community between other members. They were also positive about the listserv, the resources we share and our desire to work collaboratively for more ethical open access publishing futures. In practice, though, many members had yet to experience any ‘tangible’ benefits from participation and some of our newer members were perhaps unsure of what the collective does. This was particularly alienating for those outside of the Global North who felt a strong sense of detachment from the ROAC community (and maybe assumed that the collective is more active offline than it in fact is). The results highlight that the community aspects are highly valued and need to be nurtured in order to maximise benefits for the ROAC’s members.

We also heard that members were positive about collaborative approaches to marketing and promotion at various conferences around the world (and we received many excellent suggestions for conferences we could attend in the future). The ROAC is non-competitive and encourages its members to work together to promote their activities and not-for-profit community-led approaches to publishing. Members were enthusiastic about this collaborative approach to cross-promotion and encouraged the ROAC to look beyond the collective and build links with other organisations for alternative publishing practices. They also saw the listserv as a valuable source for planning in this regard.

Given the survey findings, Janneke and I have identified two immediate initiatives to focus on (and more for the longer term), which we wanted to outline to the collective in a series of blogposts. The first of which is to identify a light-touch governance model – with input from ROAC members –  that will allow the ROAC to do more by bringing others in to help steer the collective and increase linguistic (and other kinds of) diversity. This may entail better geographical representation, more input from interested parties, or simply help from those who want to stimulate activity on the listserv or who want to contribute to the ROAC information platform. I will be working on issues of governance over the next few months (as part of a book project on the relationship between open access publishing and the commons), but expect a more detailed blogpost on governance and what might best suit the ROAC in the coming weeks.

Secondly, the survey made clear that the ROAC should aim to be more proactive in facilitating collaboration between its members and should provide more tools/resources for them to promote not-for-profit and scholar-led publishing and to showcase its members publications at various online and offline fora.

One idea we had is to build on the fantastic bookcase our friends and colleagues from ScholarLed (all also ROAC members) developed, a version of which is currently held at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. We have been using this book stand to also promote ROAC publications and initiatives. A key feature of this book stand has always been that is should be ‘open source’ and we are hoping to work with the original designers to put the designs for the book stand online for members to set up their own ROAC or member-branded book stands at events they attend. This is a simple set of printable materials for displaying physical publications and promotional literature at events. We also hope to find funding for a branded flash drive containing member publications that can be distributed at conferences. We will be describing these ideas in more detail in a forthcoming blogpost and would love to see collaborative promotion being adopted by ROAC members and others in the community.

The Bookstand

Radical open access in the wild

Pirate Care conference

Many ROAC members will be attending the Pirate Care conference at Coventry University on 19-20 June – all are welcome to attend. The term Pirate Care condenses two processes that are particularly visible at present. On the one hand, basic care provisions that were previously considered cornerstones of social life are now being pushed towards illegality, as a consequence of geopolitical reordering and the marketisation of social services. At the same time new, technologically-enabled care networks are emerging in opposition to this drive toward illegality. The conference will feature projects providing various forms of pirate care ranging from refugee assistance, healthcare, reproductive care, childcare, access to public transport, access to knowledge, a number of reflections from and on such practices, and a film programme.

Janneke and I also discussed the Radical Open Access Collective or hosted the book stand at the following events:

  • Janneke presented the ROAC most recently as part of a keynote at the Digital Humanities Institute Beirut 2019 (DHIB). Next to the Pirate Care conference, Janneke will bring the book stand with her to the Association for Cultural Studies Summer Institute 2019: The Future of Publics. 22nd – 27th July, Friedrichshafen (Germany)
  • Sam presented a paper entitled ‘‘Sneak into the university and steal what one can’: Locating the commons in small press publishing’ at the Poetics in Commons meeting last month.
  • Radical OA was also an important topic at Critical Issues in Open Access and Scholarly Communications hosted by Goldsmiths on May 24th.
  • Finally, members of the Collective discussed alternative forms of open access at the recent ELPUB meeting in Marseille.

[i] Made possible due to the generous support of the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University, which has provided funding for the ROAC to develop an outreach project

The dialectic of open

Presentation to the Canadian Communication Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, June 6, 2019.

Abstract

In contemporary Western society the word open is used as if the concept were essentially good. This is a logical fallacy; the only concept that is in essence good is the concept good itself. In this paper I will argue that this is a dangerous fallacy that opens the door to misdirection and co-optation of genuine advocates of the public good accidentally through misconception and deliberately by actors whose motives are far from open, that a critical dialectic approach is useful to unravel and counter such fallacies, and present a simple pedagogical technique that I have found to be effective to teach critical thinking to university students in this area. The province of Ontario under the Ford government describes itself as open for business. In this context, open means open for exploitation, and closure is protection for the environment and vulnerable people. This is one example of openwashing, taking advantage of the use of the term by large numbers of “open” advocates whose work is based on very different motives.

Open access, according to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, is a potential unprecedented public good, a collective global sharing of the scholarly knowledge of humankind. A sizable portion of the open access movement is adamant that open access requires nothing less than all of the world’s scholars making their work not only free of charge, but free for downstream manipulation and re-use for commercial purposes. This frees up knowledge for creative new approaches to more rapidly advance our knowledge; it is also a new area for capitalist expansion and can be seen as selling out scholarship. Is this necessary, sufficient, or even desirable to achieve the vision of global sharing of open access? Open education can be seen as the next phase in the democratization of education, a new field for capitalist expansion, a tool for authoritarian control and/or a tool for further control of the next generation proletariat or precariat. Open government can facilitate an expansion of democracy, to further engage citizens in decision-making, a means of enhancing and improving government services, and/or another means of transitioning public services to the private sector that is typical of the (perhaps post) neoliberal era. Proactive open government can mean more transparent, accountable government; it can also mean open access to the documents and data that those in power choose to share. This paper will analyze the rhetoric of key documents from the open movements, evidence presented to support these beliefs, and explore whether these belief systems reflect myth based on misconception and/or misdirection by actors with ulterior motives using a theoretical lens drawn from the political economics, particularly Hegelian dialectics in the tradition of the Frankfurt School and contemporary Marxist analysis.

Link to full presentation:

https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/39300

Dɔnko. Études culturelles africaines

Sous la direction d’Isaac Bazié et Salaka Sanou

Pour accéder au livre en version html, cliquez ici.

Pour télécharger le PDF, cliquez ici (à partir du 15 juin 2019).

Pour commander le livre en version imprimée au Québec, en France ou en Afrique, cliquez sur le bouton Paypal ci-dessous (information à venir).

Acheter un livre, c’est nous soutenir et permettre à ceux et celles qui ne peuvent l’acheter de le lire en libre accès.

Comment lire et comprendre les pratiques culturelles africaines? Comment mobiliser les savoirs sur l’Afrique, ses arts et ses cultures sans verser dans la réification ou le folklorisme? Profondément novateur, cet ouvrage collectif mobilise les outils théoriques des cultural studies pour proposer un généreux panorama de l’étude de la culture en Afrique. Il rassemble des textes d’auteurs et d’autrices d’Afrique de l’Ouest, théoriques ou descriptifs, qui mettent en lumière la réévaluation passionnante des modes d’appréhension des pratiques et objets en contexte africain que proposent les études culturelles africaines. L’épilogue qui clôt le livre n’est donc point fermeture, mais plutôt ouverture sur les enjeux relatifs à ce nouveau champ d’études, plein de promesses pour rendre compte de l’extraordinaire créativité des cultures africaines.

ISBN ePub : 978-2-924661-82-6
ISBN pour l’impression : 978-2-924661-81-9
501 pages
Date de publication : juin 2019

Utilisez le bouton Paypal ci-dessous (à venir) pour commander le livre imprimé au Canada ou en Europe ou l’obtenir en format ePub (prêtable).  Le livre sera bientôt disponible dans nos librairies dépositaires : la Librairie du Quartier à Québec, Zone libre à Montréal, à venir pour Paris, Genève et l’Afrique.

Table des matières

Table des matières

Introduction

Regards pluriels sur les cultures africaines comme lieux de savoirs
Isaac Bazié et Salaka Sanou

Le recyclage : un paradigme des études culturelles africaines
Philip Amangoua Atcha

Littérature-monde ou littérature-mode? Éloge du copiage chez Sami Tchak et Alain Mabanckou
Adama Coulibaly

La critique africaine : de l’autorégulation à la systématisation
Kaoum Boulama

Sociologie des petits récits. Essai sur « les écritures de la rue » en contexte africain
David Koffi N’Goran

Littératures africaines et lecture comme médiation. Réflexions sur l’appréhension des cultures africaines à partir des violences collectives dans le roman francophone
Isaac Bazié

Pour une taxinomie des genres littéraires bààtɔnù
Gniré Tatiana Dafia

Le mariage polygamique dans les arts en Afrique. La polyandrie comme parodie de la polygynie dans deux œuvres africaines
Aïssata Soumana Kindo

Masques, alliances et parentés à plaisanterie au Burkina 173 Faso : le jeu verbal et non verbal
Alain Joseph Sissao

Épilogue. D’hier à demain, les études culturelles africaines
Salaka Sanou

Amsterdam Launch of Sad by Design @droog June 18, 5 PM

Amsterdam Booklaunch of Geert Lovink, Sad by Design, On Platform Nihilism, Pluto Press, London, 2019

Date: June 18, 2019, 5 PM

Where: @Droog, Staalstraat 7A/B, Amsterdam.

More on the location at www.selfdesign.nl.
Contact: yara@imagesociety.nl, arina@imagesociety.nl

The book will be for sale at the event.

Geert Lovink will give an introduction to the book and have a dialogue with Miriam Rasch (Institute of Network Cultures) about the background of the different chapters.

The event will be closed by the presentation of the musical collaboration between John Haltiwanger and Geert Lovink called ‘We Are Not Sick’. John Haltiwanger will present several newly composed theory songs of the upcoming album and will do a brief presentation about the custom instruments driving the songs and the sloganistic ‘ambient theory machine’ that works with key words and phrases taken from the Sad by Design essay, as heard during the opening and closing of the event.

Book

Just out: the English edition of the Sad by Design book

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