Defamation

Just finished putting together a monstrosity of a power point presentation for my first-year journalism lecture tomorrow on defamation. While preparing for this lecture I realised that the textbook set for this unit (which I inherited) is out of date. There was massive reform to defamation law in Australia in 2006. Textbook was published 2004. Sigh… That is fine for my students as they are not training to be lawyers, but getting a sense of what defamation is and the basics of defending defamation.

Back?

Serious issues with my hosting company regarding my server space. It has been a bit annoying, but they have excellent service and I think they had to reinstall wordpress for me. Anyway, now I have a proper MySQL server, and I can have a blog roll again, woot!

Look to your right! Hurrah!

Oh, and I am in marking hell at the moment. One student got 15%, another 90%. Go figure…

bookish

I’ve been having a few bookish ideas of late. Not ideas that indicate I am of a ‘bookish’ disposition, which, of course, I am, but ideas for producing a book… or two. (And why isn’t the study of ideas called ideology?) I have been doing research online reading various information sheets from different publishers on how to transform one’s dissertation into a book. I am not too interested in an attempt at a wholesale publication of it as a single work.

My first idea is to produce a popular history of the scene of modified-car culture in Australia. I have about 60% of the content done, including most of the hard work of actually figuring out what happened. This part would be derived from my dissertation. I am thinking the history will be organised as a genealogy of various issues. For example, the first chapter would be on the importance of the ‘street’ in Australian modified-car culture, so I’d follow the current usage of ‘street’ back to 1973 and the formation of the Australian Street Rod Federation (and the Australian National Drag Racing Association) from the Australian Hot Rod Federation. The ‘street’ side of rodding split with the ‘drag’ side (ie organised motorsport). Next would be a chapter on the road registration/engineering of modified cars followed by another on the transition from rodding and panel vanning in the 1970s to street machining in the 1980s. Then on processes of globalisation and the near-death of the V8 in the early 1980s, and the spectacularisation of the scene, etc.

The historical stuff is sorely needed in the scene to give enthusiasts some awareness (‘consciousness’) of what has gone on and how the scene has developed. There have been a handful of similar books in Australia in the past. Most have not been written histories as much as they have been pictorial accounts of the past. One was an attempt at a kind of social analysis of the 1970s mucle car era. This failed because I don’t think the author or publisher realised that hoons and car dudes simply don’t go into bookshops to buy books. You need to take the books to them, i.e. set up a stall at every major car show event on the eastern seaboard for a year. Robert Post did the same thing with his history of US drag racing. In Australia, most (about 5 or 6 different shows) get more than 20-25,000 people through the gates. Summernats gets 80-100,000. Not all of the same demographic or market. All would be catered for in my book, however. Only 10% of the enthusiast market (of at least the 120,000 enthusiasts I guestimate who regularly purchase the main 5-6 car mags every month) would need to buy the book for it to be a success. I think it would have broader appeal though…

So I have started writing the introduction, and it is so much fun. I am writing in similar style to that of when I used to write for car magazines. It is almost poetic. While I aimed for conceptual precision and evidential competence in my dissertation, now I am aiming for expressive style. I have a few ideas about the layout, too. It would follow more the magazine-style (which in this context would almost be text book style!) of ‘breakout boxes’ for side stories and the like. (Latour did it in Reassembling the Social.)

I am not sure if this is the sort of thing that I could apply in the hope of postdoc funding? I am a bit sick and tired of the fucked university system at the moment after weeks of fine-paying and logon-details waiting. I would much rather fund it myself as the labor intensive hoop-jumping that I see my colleagues and mates perform really doesn’t interest me. The lumbering hulk of university bureaucracy inculcates a kind of organisational stupidity that I detest. Not that people who work at universities are stupid, but that they need to perform their jobs as if they were stupid. I don’t want that sort of burden. If I can get a few regular teaching gigs, then i would rather fund myself. Maybe I can’t? See what happens.

The other 40% content will come from interviews I hope to do with important people who played important parts in this history. I need the authenticity of their stories and their knowledge of events to fact-check the accounts I have gleamed from magazine archival work. I reckon this would be fun as it would require carrying out a whole bunch of interviews with very fascinating people.

The other book is a fuck-off theory number. I think called something like: “Enthusiasm: The ontology of the challenge” (Has anyone else noticed how often the word ‘challenge’ is being used at the moment?) Anyway, it would also be written in a performative expressive style, but in such a way to present a challenge and inaugurate a different kind of enthusiasm… Not sure about this one. It would be quite short, 4 or 5 chapters at most. It has to be some viscious sinister-looking thing, with a matt black cover and metallic chrome writing.

First I need to graduate and let the monstrous infantilising machine of the university do its thing.

Eventalization and Popular Culture

Below is an edited extract from my dissertation. In it I discuss my use of Foucault’s historical method, which I term, following Foucault, ‘eventalization’. It does not include any of the actual historical work and is selected from roughly 15 pages of one chapter. Plus, to conform to the blogging form, some of the footnotes have been included in the text, while others have been deleted. I am posting it here to give some of my students a sense of what it means to follow Foucault’s method beyond simply using the philosophical concepts (‘theory’) he created through his method.

Continue reading “Eventalization and Popular Culture”

Working Soft

Besides the non-paid work of writing, I have four jobs this semester. I have my Gleebooks job working events. This is on-going and I am reluctant to give this up because all the teaching work is sessional and there is no guarantee of work next semester. Teaching-wise I have tutoring gigs at two universities and a sessional lecturing position at a third. I am assuming all start this week. Well, they do start this week, but I haven’t actually signed any contracts yet. Hopefully, the two units I shall be tutoring in are first-year ‘popular culture’ units and I’ll be running a first-year journalism unit.

Even though I have a relatively large amount of experience dealing with the media either as a writer or as a source (related to my research), I have not worked as a ‘journalist’ in the way ‘journalism’ is taught at universities. There is an unwritten (but oft-spoken!) prestige associated with working in ‘hard news’ media, and the character of journalism taught in universities, from my experience, is largely congruent with producing ‘journalists’ who can produce ‘hard news’. A focus on ‘hard news’ throws up a whole bunch of problems for academics or journalists who teach with the practical process of becoming and existing as part of the ‘journalist’ machine. One of the biggest problems involves the question of what ‘news’ is and how it can be defined.

In part, there is the complex issue of ‘hard news’ always refracting hegemonic processes of reproducing power relations through the very nature of its ‘newsworthiness’. ‘News’ is an event within which the interest of the audience, the commercial expectations of the media apparatus, and the challenge of institutionalised power all intersect. Grossberg’s work on mattering maps is useful to think this through. For example, so-called counter hegemonic discourses still often operate according to the hegemonic terrain of the dominant mattering map. To be truly resistant means producing singular perspectives on any given situation, one which cannot be appropriated or commodified back into the hegemonic terrain of the dominant mattering maps.

In most textbooks ‘news’ is eventually associated with readerly ‘interest’. In part, this is a biopolitical question of collectively individuating audiences. Media sources are used to navigate everyday life. The affective dimension of all ‘hard news’ therefore means that ‘hard news’ is always ‘soft news’ as well. One part of the character of the dominant mattering maps is to expel this ‘soft’ or ‘affective’ dimension not matter how shrill the moral outrage or shocking the scandalous expose.

Enthusiast magazines all operate primarily on this affective level of discourse, to capture enthusiasm, and the collectively individuate an audience. One of the questions that the challenge of the enthusiast media poses to the rest of the media industry can therefore be posed this way: What distuingishes ‘special interest’ from ‘general interest’? Is it merely a biopolitical or demographic question of the composition of the readership?

So due to this quite large work load this semester I’ll probably be writing up various bits and pieces from each of the respective courses up here on my blog.