Accidently Written

One day I hope to accidently write what needs to be written.

A thousand monkeys on a thousand typewriters and all that? No.

One day a monkey will write something, a configuration of signs, which is perfectly meaningless to the other monkey that picks it up. Nevertheless, in the cut of the arrangement between falling-grasped paper, the desk, the chair and the chains, something will spark, perhaps off a lone bright sunbeam directed off a passing car through a slit of a window. It will catch the eye of the monkey and the weight of the task, of the sound and fury of nine hundred and ninety eight monkeys typing on nine hundred and ninety eight typewriters. It will compound and condense and drive the monkey to pause, to be silent in all this meaningless fury. He will breathe and crush this feeble piece of paper in a ball, and the fist will feel good, it will feel powerful, it will feel like something that shouldn’t be used to strike the keys of the typewriter. The fist will feel wrong. The paper screwed up in his little balled fist will tear and rip slightly, yet the monkey will drop the paper for he now has a new object in the shape of the fist, something in front of his little screwed up face, something that shouldn’t be used to strike the keys of the typewriter. He hits the table slamming his fist down, hard, and his co-worker on another table hears the sound and it registers above the din of nine hundred and ninety seven monkeys typing on nine hundred and ninety seven typewriters out of a thousand. He lets out a whoop, and slams some more. He gets up on his chair and stands as much as his chains will allow him, to his full restricted height. Others turn and raise their heads to gaze at this unknown thing that is not a hand held aloft in front of the little mokey’s screwed-up face and which should not be used to strike the keys of the typewriter. It is a fist and it feels wrong. Others now stand, and whoop, some screech, the sound has changed, and everything has changed. Their hands fashioned into tools to strike the keys of a typewriter can become something else. They are excited, the sound becomes more furious. Twenty nine monkeys type on twenty nine typewriters out of a thousand for they are deaf from half a lifetime or more of typing in a room with the other nine hundred and seventy one monekys on nine hundred and seventy one typewriters, and they are slow, and they don’t hear the sounds, but eventually they smell the change and feel the difference in the air. There is too much and not enough movement at the same time. There is one monkey who does not move, and hasn’t for a few hours now, for he is dead, and has been for a few hours now. Most recently, this last dead monkey is the first that did not move and did not strike the keys of one of a thousand typewriters. The monkey with the fist screeches and whoops and rocks back and forth in his chains. The chair slides and scrapes on the floor amongst the hours of shit and piss. The monkey takes his fist into the air above his head and waves it aloft and the air above his head around his fist is heavy with the putrid stench of hours of shit and piss, but the monkey knows know other smell. It is in this putrid air that something passes along with the sound of a scrap of paper forgotten and full of meaningless signs, and with scraping chairs, and with whooping monkeys. Something catalyses in the large slit-windowed room around his fist, something that feels right just as it feels wrong. He brings his fist down upon the typewriter and indeed it is something that should not be used to strike the keys of the typewriter, because the typewriter breaks and flees from his fist in a thousand pieces. The fist is of the room where the monkey accidentally picked up another’s trigger of meaningless writing. The accidental configuration of the meaninglessness with everything is precisely that which triggers the fist, the force that destroys the machine of monkey enslavement.

Ghost in the Shell

During one of the workshop sessions at the recent Media and Technology Symposium and Workshop (see Anya’s blog post here), I recommended to one of the academics that they watch Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex which is currently screening on Australian televsion on Thursday nights (although there are only 2 episodes left in the 26 episode run). I have mentioned Ghost in the Shell before. Anyway, the academic was forwarding the idea of a “Lifelong Digital Me” project: a digital storage facility somehow connected to each and every person that records important information in each individual person’s life. Those who watch the show or are familiar with the Ghost in the Shell cultural franchise would know that some of the philosphical problems regarding ‘cybernetic brains’ and emergent ‘human ghosts’ (the ‘human spirit’ of cyborgs and AI/Androids) have been addressed in the series.

I really like this show. To give you an idea of why I think this is the coolest show on TV at the moment: in episode 16 one of the artifical intelligence tanks (called a Tachikoma) of the police team that the show centres around (Section 9) is holding a copy of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus! Crazy! I only found that out today, I must have missed that episode. I knew there was something going on with this show that I just loved. Of course! It was made by Deleuzians! It all makes sense now…

On March 29 the complete box set of the DVDs comes out in Australia. Even though there are already torrents out for the DVDs, I am going to buy it.

There is a series two, of the tv series, too, plus two movies. Tagline from the preview to the second series: “When the online world and the real world collide, the ‘truth’ is a fluid concept.” Also this this book/DVD thing that looks awesome; I may have to get that, too! Sweet!

CSAA and Postgrads

As a number of readers would know (because they were there!), at last year’s CSAA annual conference I was shuffled in as the representative for postgrads on the CSAA Executive.

The first thing I am trying to do is to create a wiki on the CSAA website for postgraduates. This postgraduate wiki will serve as a ‘living document’ to hopefully help postgraduates during and after their candidature/degree. The goal is to begin addressing the problem of, firstly, defining what it is to be a postgraduate, and, secondly, outlining some of the common issues involving Cultural Studies postgraduate students and those who have actually completed their studies. The wiki will be constructed by postgraduates or those who have recently finished studying as postgraduates. The following are some ideas I am developing for the executive meeting coming up. Feedback from all relevant parties would be appreciated!

A document of this kind is necessary because postgraduates exist in a grey area between academic staff and students. For example, I once read that a PhD is both one’s first scholarly work and one’s last student essay. Indeed the lack of a clear definition is evident in the literature on the DEST website. University staff are most often defined in terms of academic staff and non-academic staff. Postgraduates are normally thought of as apprentice academics yet the reality is that they often do the work of actual academic staff while they are postgraduate students as research assistants, tutors, lecturers or course covenors, but once they finish their degree they can not actually get a job as an academic. In what sense is a postgraduate degree an apprenticeship, if one can not get a job in the given (academic) vocation relatively soon after finishing?

The other major issue I am trying to begin addressing with this wiki is the involvement of non-university based practioners of Cultural Studies within the association. There is a long history in Cultural Studies exemplified by individuals (such as Meaghan Morris) or entire cohorts (many of the postgraduates in the early days of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies), whereby one did not have to have an institutional home at a university to be considered doing cultural studies research or contributing through other scholarly work or practical engagements. For example, Morris worked as a journalist for a long time, while the postgrads at the BCCCS did postgraduate research to help them with local problems in their communities. The restructuring of scholarly work around project (or ‘event’) based researching funding locks out from the association and the circuits of conferences and research funding those who have pursued different professional paths and who may be employed in the media or cultural industries or other social institutions (governments, unions, organisations, etc). The career is now though of something produced rather than something you end up with at the end ot it. The ‘career’ needs to be rethought organised around a critical commitment and expressions of this through practical engagements rather than only as a successful publication record. That is, in the context of postgraduates, ‘professional development’ needs to be rethought to take into account the realities of the current research funding situation. What does it mean to be an early career non-ECR? So the actual situation of ‘non-institutionalised’ cultural studies practioners that have completed some form of postgraduate degree/diploma. What are the actual prospects for newly minted MA or PhD students? What are the different jobs that actual graduates have pursued? How can you be involved in the CSAA more? What has to happen?

Those familiar with wikis will know the general layout. Another dimension of the wiki will be as an online resource for links to articles or other resources for postgraduate students in Cultural Studies regarding issues of graduate student labour, lifestyle/problems, variance between national contexts (here I am thinking primarily between Aus and the US), but also variance between Australian states and territories, and, a very important issue, sources of funding!

I will be calling on several friends or interested parties to write short (roughly two paragraph) ‘seed’ documents for the wiki so a basic database architecture and thematics can be established. What should these themes be is another question I need help on.

To paraphrase the hair dye ad, I am not expecting this to happen over night, but it will happen. It will happen because it needs to happen. No one is going to do it for us. We need to produce our own supports and spaces of discussion.

EDIT: Plus I need a catchy title! Suggestions?

Oh, and this has not happened yet, it still needs to go to the executive, plus the actual wiki needs to be sorted with the website guy. Patience!

Automobile Queues

Looks like someone has had the same idea as me regarding automobile traffic and queues. Damn that is annoying when an idea pops up elsewhere. I need to read the article, but I wonder if he goes into what a queue actually does?

Oh, and check out the rest of the first issue of the new journal Mobilities.

EDIT: Hurrah! From the article:

“Queues are also the sign of a deficiency within the car-based transportation system. Congestion calls for solutions.” pg 67

Awesome, another strawperson to argue against. If it is necessary to have an individualist car-based transportation system, a stalwart of postwar neoliberalist tendencies in most western countries, then queues are its highest achievement! Highest! There is no other perfection (of Weber’s rationalism or Ellul’s technique) known to humanity other than the self-assembly of complex queues. Want evidence of a ‘control society’? There it is!!

Traffic is the production of immanent and active containers for the distribution of the road as a resource. Traffic is a social technology of road-resource distribution. Without traffic, the road would not be shared. Instead of seeing the ‘evil traffic’ as producing the accident-event or the congestion-event, we should instead think about how traffic itself — as a complex interweaving of heterogenous queues — is produced as the socio-technical event of traffic (the traffic-event).

There are many forms of traffic, the road and car-based traffic is just one, but all queueing systems involve the distribution of relatively scarce resources. Surely this is a problem for any critically minded scholar…?

Or, let me put it this way, there is one dominant form of rage amongst all the ‘current affairs’ tabloid news stories about rage (ie road rage, shopping rage, etc.), and that is queue rage. There are so many queues, so many systems of resource distribution organised around the distribution of unnecessarily false-scarcities that people are getting annoyed, continually. Invoke the queue, manage your (self) frustration, stay in the queue.

There is no society. Only The Queue.