12 Jan

Live-blogging the Readings: Miller (2011)

Live-blogging the readings was something I started doing for An Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning, the first module in this course.

Now, when I take notes for academic writing, I use the Cornell Method–which is analogue (handwritten on paper), atemporal (designed to be used again and again across a writing or research project, and its multiple revisions) and strictly analytic (that is, the thoughts, comments and notes I include fit squarely into the tradition of academic writing and logics). It is also, interestingly, less linear, more map-like, with its multiple panes for meta-analysis and reflection.

Live-blogging is is rather a stream-of-consciousness (or rather, I suspect, a form of “free indirect discourse“), rag-bag of links, thoughts, quotes and responses to the reading. This makes it messier than my neat notes, but it makes it more linear chronologically. It therefore lays out clearly my route (rather than my map), my growth and way of getting there. If this sounds fragmentary, repetitious, and kind of modernist, it is. Eliot wrote: “And all is always now“, and texts are always present to the person reading them, and yes, I was thinking about Mrs Dalloway (and Ulysses) when writing this paragraph.

I think that makes it less interesting for anyone else to read, but useful to keep track of my progress–in the same way the ‘Lifestream’ does.


So, on with the reading.

Miller, Vincent, (2011) “9. The Body and Information Technology” from Miller, Vincent, Understanding digital culture pp.207-223, London: Sage

In which we make the required nod to Blade Runner

I don’t like Blade Runner much. I love the opening sequence, and the vision of the city of the future. I love the scene where Racheal meets Deckard for the first time, but I’d rather watch it with the sound off–the dialogue spools out better if you imagine some original Bogart and Bacall dialogue instead. The rest of it I can take or leave.

Oh, yes, and Deckard is a Replicant.

In which we nod at the Post-human, the Cyborg, and Homo faber

I’ve already engaged with some of these ideas in a 3-part ‘web essay‘ for IDEL, ‘Embodying Learners in New Media Literacies: Cyborgs, Androids and the Dance Apocalyptic’, which makes extensive use of two of the secondary readings:

Haraway, Donna (2007) A cyborg manifesto from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds),  The cybercultures reader pp.34-65, London: Routledge.

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine,  How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

The web essay also makes some use of Clarke (2002). I would like to read more on this, starting with Shilling (see list below). Latour’s later Reassembling the Social is on my summer reading list  already.

In which we get to the bit where mobile phones change everything

I’m always sceptical about these claims, what I have called before the “things are all different now, because interwebs” claim. (Yes, this is another blog-post for IDEL that I reblogged for a wider audience).  I always read these claims about, say, the mobile phone, and wonder… ‘yes, but what about the letter, the telegram? what about film, about portraits, about dageurrotypes? what about short-wave radio, and the telephone?’

For example, how might be understand Van den Berg’s (2009) claims about GPS compared to other traditional methods of navigation?

Miller (2011) p 221

Miller (2011) p 221

Okay, this is clearly different from, say, an (imaginary) wild tracker who looks at how the moss grows and the direction of the sun and navigates that way.

But I wonder how much this might be like the sailor with his sextant navigating via star charts? Or a cross-country runner using a compass and an ordinance survey map (as in orienteering) ? Or a driver on a motorway, chosing one of a score of identical-looking  exits because of the road signs? All of these modes of navigation also use a “God’s eye” view, a typical aspect of maps since… well, here is an example from 500BC, so we’re looking at 2,500 years.

Baylonianmaps“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In the fascinating discussion that emerged from my earlier rant post, I said:

I agree that the internet has made major differences to degree, speed and scale of reading and writing.

And I continue to agree that the ways in which we might be present or not present through mobile phones are made easier, quicker and more portable than ever before. No longer do I need to take an image in a professional studio with a camera the size of a small suitcase, holding my pose for some minutes. The image does not need a complex, multi-stage development and fixing process. Without wrapping it carefully, franking it, and walking it down to a postbox, I can share it with those who are emotionally connected to me but physically distant. Moreover, my recipient needn’t wait for weeks for the steamship to cross the oceans.

Miller (2011) p 221

Miller (2011) p 221

But anyone who thinks that people in the past were mentally and emotionally ‘with’ the people around them, or ‘in’ the spaces they inhabit, has clearly never read a novel. Not read The Catcher in the Rye, or The Scarlet and the Black, or Northanger Abbey, or seen The Cherry Orchard or The Three Sisters.

A young woman gazing at the portrait of her beloved and Wellcome L0051327


Source: http://www.observatoriofucatel.cl/la-necesidad-de-un-diario-publico/

Source: http://www.observatoriofucatel.cl/la-necesidad-de-un-diario-publico/

Rant over.


To Read:

Shilling, Chris. The body and social theory. Sage, 2012.

Licoppe, Christian. “Connected presence: the emergence of a new repertoire for managing social relationships in a changing communication technoscape.” Environment and Planning D 22.1 (2004): 135-156.


Review: Since this was a live-blog, I didn’t go back and edit  what I wrote (except to correct typos etc). However, it’s interesting that I was thinking about literature and maps in my reflection about this as a way of taking notes, long before I got to the bit where I was having qualms about mobiles changing human relationships.  I’d quite forgotten about that, though clearly it was still in my mind.

3 thoughts on “Live-blogging the Readings: Miller (2011)

  1. Nice post, and I particularly like your explanation of your writing approach here, and the distinction between route and map. Is this an approach that you plan to pursue throughout the course this semester?

    I enjoyed your ‘rant’ on the over-stated claims for transformation through mobile phones. It made me think you might enjoy delving into the ‘mobilities’ paradigm in social science – the overview on wikipedia isn’t bad – as this develops a nuanced take on the question of mobility, which equally concerns itself with ‘moorings’ and the co-dependence of stability and flux. John Urry’s book – Mobilities – is the key text here.

    • Thanks Sian! Yes, I had some of the Sheller and Urry I had read for IDEL in mind as I was writing this, so I’ll get down to the Library and find out more! (The Wikipedia entry is very good–as it so often is for social theory).
      I am also thinking about trying to read some Borges on the map and the territory (online is the map the territory?).
      I haven’t quite worked out what my approach is for this semester. I’m always most interested in social history and taking a post-Marxist approach (sometimes it’s feminist, sometimes it’s post-colonial, sometimes it’s about social capital), but I find that there are so many ways of taking that further through the theoretical models I encounter in the course, so I’m trying various approaches on for size in each module.

  2. Pingback: MScDERM Week 1: Responding to Selwyn | Sandpit space for MScDE, University of Edinburgh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>