Blog Post

Blog Diss: Statement of Research Plan (4/4)

Part One here, Two here, Three here

POTENTIAL CHAPTER SUMMARIES

Chapter one will establish the theoretical intervention of the study. Here I will draw upon affect theory (Berlant, Ahmed, Ngai), materialist analysis (Jameson, Federici, Williams), and current applications of both in the fields of new media and digital humanities (Gregg, Liu, Nowviskie) to argue for the value and necessity of an affective materialist approach

The second chapter will treat discussions and representation of labour within fan cultures. Whether the product is artwork, fanfiction, or detailed critical analysis, fans increasingly generate a wealth of content related to the media they are consuming. While often characterized as a labour of love, for which the lack of compensation is both an ethical and legal imperative, the recent publications of 50 Shades of Grey, a work of Twilight fanfiction, and the Lexicon, a Harry Potter companion, as well as the recent development of Kindle Worlds, a fanfiction sale platform, all suggest that fan labour is coming into increasing contact with the commercial logic of capital. Given that many fanbases, including the two I have named, are heavily populated by women, I hope to consider how the fraught nature of this intersection cannot be understood without attention to how fan’s love and/as production are frequently gendered female.

In the third chapter of my project, I will take up the practice of academic blogging and micro-blogging. As a para-academic practice, blogging has been positioned as a way to use low-stakes writing to increase productivity and make academic work more accessible to a general audience (Weller). Yet, the recent controversy which erupted when a female scientist, Danielle Lee, declined an opportunity to submit her work to a blog when she learned she would not receive compensation, and then was publically attacked on deeply misogynistic terms, suggests that academic blogs are also a site for the violent reinforcement of normative assumptions regarding for whom particular affects are pre-supposed to be compensation enough for all online work (Lee). Assuming that the blogging of my own work continues, I would also use this chapter as a space in which to reflect upon the affective labour involved in producing my own work. While my ability to comment specifically on that section of the chapter is obviously limited at this early stage, I would likely consider how my own blogging participates in a set of strategies some term professionalization, while also attempting to complicate the terms under which the category of ‘professional’ is constituted.

The fourth chapter of my study will take up piracy collectives, organizations that (often illegally) circulate material currently protected by intellectual copyright laws. Regulations governing such spaces, which often include a requirement to maintain a certain ratio of uploading to downloading (such that a user is required to give at least as much as they receive to the community), often resist the language which links love for an artist or organization to the necessity for paying to access that material. Loving other pirates, in other words, is the site of emphasis rather than loving (and offering payment for) a work. Yet, piracy collectives are often overwhelmingly populated by white, straight male subjects, and understood in highly masculine terms (Phillip), such that their oppositional relationship to capital seems predicated upon a myriad of normative privileges. Here, then, I will ask what expressions of loving are pre-supposed as revolutionary, anti-capitalist acts.  

In the final chapter, I consider the role of crowdfunding. In the case of YouCaring, a platform devoted to raising funds primarily for out-of-pocket health care costs, or the recent crowdfunding of Jessica Padron’s internship with a US senator (Ohlheiser), affect is seemingly placed in the service of unpaid, non-digital labour, or positioned as a small-scale alternative to larger systemic changes. However, the crowdfunding campaign undertaken on behalf of transgendered college student Donnie Collins, managed to not only successfully raise enough money to cover his top surgery, but also produced a shift in his health care provider’s policy towards transgendered students (James). This suggests that the affective force of a crowd can also extend beyond the moment of monetary exchange and in fact trouble the conditions that made this exchange necessary. While it remains essential to be critical of the systemic conditions rendering it necessary for some of the most precarious of subjects to generate a crowd willing and able to fund them, the affective labours and force of the crowd in crowdfunding also threatens to exceed the normative boundaries structuring their relationships and potential.

Works Cited

 

Adorno, Theodor. “Free Time.” The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. Ed. J.M. Bernstein. London: Routledge, 1991. 187-97. Print.

Ahmed, Sara. “Affective Economies.” Social Text 79.2 (Summer 2004): 117-139. Web.

— —. The Promise of Happiness. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Print.

Berens, Kathi. “Judy Malloy’s Seat at the (Database) Table: A Feminist Reception History.” Kathi I Berens. Kathi I Berens, 19 July 2013. Web. 1 August 2013.

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. Print.

Bury, Rhiannon. Cyberspaces of Their Own: Female Fandoms Online. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. Print.

Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch. New York: Autonomedia, 2004. Print.

Gold, Matthew K, ed. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.

Gregg, Melissa.  Work’s Intimacy. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2011. Print.

Hardt, Michael. “Affective Labour.” boundary 26.2 (1999): 89-100. Web. 1 May 2012.

Hennessy, Rosemary and Chrys Ingrahm, eds. Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women’s Lives. New York: Routledge, 1997. Print.

hooks, bell. All About Love: New Visions. New York: William Morrow, 2000. Print.

James, Susan Donaldson. “Emerson College to Pay for Teen’s Transgender Surgery.” ABC News. ABC News, 7 March 2013. Web. 19 April 2013.

Jameson, Fredric. The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998. New York: Verso, 1998. Print.

— —. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Condition of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1991.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Lee, Danielle. “Responding to the No Name Science Blog Editor Who Called Me Out of My Name.” Scientific American. Scientific American,11 October 2013. Web. 12 October 2013.

Liu, Alan. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Print.

McPherson, Tara. “Why are the Digital Humanities So White? Or Thinking the Histories of Race and Computation.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print.

Nakamura, Lisa. Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2008. Print.

Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Print.

Phillip, Kavita. “What is a Technological Author? The Pirate Function and Intellectual Property.” Postcolonial Studies 8.2 (2005): 199-218. Web. 12 January 2014.

Nowviskie, Bethany. “Resistance in the Materials.” Nowviskie.Org. Nowviskie.Org, 4 January 2013. Web. 6 January 2013.

Ohlheiser, Abby. “Meet the Student Crowdfunding Her Unpaid Internship with Harry Reid.” The Atlantic Wire. The Atlantic Wire, 12 August 2013. Web. 26 September 2013.

Scholz, Trevor, ed. Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Tokumitsu, Miya. “In the Name of Love.” Slate. Slate, 16 January 2014. Web. 17 January 2014.

Weeks, Kathi. The Problem With Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2011. Print.

Weller, Martin. “The Virtues of Blogging as a Scholarly Activity.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 29 April 2012. Web. 22 December 2013.

Wiley, Juniper. “No Body Is ‘Doing It’: Cybersexuality as Postmodern Narrative.” Body & Society 1.1 (1995): 145-162. Web. 12 February 2008.

 

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4 comments

You've done a nice job summarizing here and each of the chapters sounds like it will be an interesting component of the work.  You don't need to do a ton here except: 1) Go back to my comments on methodology and once you've made a clearer linking argument among these domains, embed those links here in the desciptions.  Repetition is your friend. 2) Take at least some of this chapter breadown and use it up front in the "shovel to the head" section.  This is the first time in the whole document that you refer to the actual content of the chapters and it's too late.  This should be a repetition and expansion of what we've already been braced for.

Happy to discuss any or all of this at your leisure!  You're really close now.  Let's do this.

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First of all, I should say that I'm starting here, at the end, with some global comments and then going back to make the piece by piece comments after.  I've read all the sections, but my feedback will just be organized differently from Mo's.

Let me start with my realization that I think we might have got our wires crossed about the process here, which I hope will also explain why I'm weighing in so late here.  Somehow, I thought, Megan, that you and Mo were going to exchange multiple drafts (kind of like the process we went through with your SSHRC application) and that I would stay out of that back and forth until later.  I realize now that you have probably been waiting for my feedback.  I apologize for that.  I really was on another page with this.

I've read through the document as it's laid out here.  I admit to finding the form challenging.  I'm not used to reading the Statement of Research Plan in pieces.  It's a new learning curve, but interesting for that.  The examples with which I'm most familiar aren't typically broken down into sections like this.  Your document, in away, resembles the Long Thesis Proposal, in precis form.  This might help you to imagine the sections of that next document more clearly.  So ithe organization may prove to be quite productive, despite its being a little disorienting.  But don't worry: I'm not complaining.  I'm just learning and noticing the difference.  

Some of what I am about to say is going to run counter to what Mo has said, not becase I disagree with her, but because I think the grad committee might push back against some of it simply for the purposes of this document.   Normally, for instance, I agree that you need to articulate your arguments boldly.  And that approach is also consistent with the genre of the SSHRC proposal and the abstract.  But my understanding of this document is that it should precisely not make bold claims.  It should be speculative and investigatory.  It should flag what you still need to learn, what the history of this problem might be that is not immediately evident, and it should gesture to questions you will ask and how you will answer those questions through your plan of summer work.  In that spirit, in addition to saying what your chapters "will" do, you might consider saying something as well about what you still need to read/learn in order to prepare those chapters.  What gaps in knowledge do your ideas for chapters open onto?  And what are your plans for how to fill those gaps?  

On the whole, it's that sense of, well, let's call it planniness, that you need a little more of, I think.  What you've got here is smart and compelling.  Maybe as you prepare the next draft, you can use those places where the verbs aren't quite as strong or as bold as sites wherey ou can open up the inquiry.  I'm about to go back through and make some comments on specific sections.  I'll try to have an eye toward ways you can do some of this in each section.

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Hi Megan-

This project seems awesome. Just a quick suggestion: you might find Henry Jenkins' _Convergence Culture_  interesting and applicable to your second chapter. See: http://henryjenkins.org/2006/06/welcome_to_convergence_culture.html.

Also, I know Timothy Causer has written a few articles on Transcribe Bentham, which may be of interest (crowdsourcing vs. crowdfunding, though) to your final chapter. I mention it specifically because Causer writes about crowdsourcing as being financially inefficient (ie, it would have been cheaper to pay transcribers) but that non-financial goals (awareness, public humanities) may outweight those considerations. I believe the articles are in Literary & Linguistic Computing. 

Either way, I hope to read all of your posts on your work here. :)

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Hi Daniel,

Thanks so much for the suggestions, and for taking the time to comment! I had come across the Jenkins but had never seen Causer's work at all, and it seems really interesting. I think the question of efficiency you point to is especially interesting, particularly when we consider how this might be inflected differently in crowdfunding campaigns. It might actually be more efficient (as far as time, resources, etc.) to crowdfund something like healthcare or unapid internships than it is to attempt to achieve some type of systemic change. But yet, in several of these cases, whether the actual campaign has been succesful for not, the necessity leading them to exist has provoked really important conversations about these topics beyond the level of the individual. So we might say that they became efficient in a different sense, or even inefficient in the financial sense, and that this inefficiency was in some ways their most succesful attribute.

Lots to think about, anyway. Thanks again for the comment and the reading suggestions! I look forward to chatting more with you.

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