The Economics of Attention

kris_r | November 4th, 2009

Richard Lanham’s ‘The Economics of Attention – Style and Substance in the Age of Information’ (2006) is indeed very worthwhile to be brought under attention. I concur with the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s review: “Head-smackingly insightful”

Book cover

The gist:

“If economics is about the allocation of resources, then what is the most precious resource in our new information economy? Certainly not information, for we are drowning in it. No, what we are short of is the attention to make sense of that information.

With all the verve and erudition that have established his earlier books as classics, Richard A. Lanham here traces our epochal move from an economy of things and objects to an economy of attention. According to Lanham, the central commodity in our new age of information is not stuff but style, for style is what competes for our attention amidst the din and deluge of new media. In such a world, intellectual property will become more central to the economy than real property, while the arts and letters will grow to be more crucial than engineering, the physical sciences, and indeed economics as conventionally practiced. For Lanham, the arts and letters are the disciplines that study how human attention is allocated and how cultural capital is created and traded. In an economy of attention, style and substance change places. The new attention economy, therefore, will anoint a new set of moguls in the business world—not the CEOs or fund managers of yesteryear, but new masters of attention with a grounding in the humanities and liberal arts.”

Why Narrative?

kris_r | October 30th, 2009

According to Jerome Bruner:

“Living in a culture requires not only knowing what’s conventionally expected, but having some sense of the unexpected troubles that the conventional can produce. And now at last can we come to the functions of narrative, and why it is in effect universal. It is precisely narrative’s function to instantiate and localize what is conventionally expected in a culture, and also to illustrate the troubles and perils that the conventionally expected may produce. I shall argue that story telling – fictional and “real” alike – is every culture’s way of altering its members to just such vicissitudes.” (Bruner, 2006, p.231)

Literature as moral fiber

kris_r | October 23rd, 2009

Reading about the functions of literature, I stumbled upon the following quote:

“Perhaps the guerrilla promoters of literacy who offer a shag to anyone spotted reading a novel are on the right track. Novels, surely, can still be sexy, time wasting, and subversive—or do they have to be vitamin- enriched bowls conveying good-for-you moral fiber?” (Keen, 2007, qtd in Takolander 2009)

Takolander, M. (2009). Energetic Space”: The Experience of Literature and Learning. College Literature 36(3), 165-183.

Telling Stories

kris_r | March 6th, 2008

Telling Stories: Building bridges among Language, Narrative, Identity, Interaction, Society and Culture.

Narratives have been studied in many different disciplines: linguistics, literary theory, clinical psychology, cognitive and developmental psychology, folklore, anthropology, sociology and history.

The primary focus of GURT 2008 is the linguistic study of narrative, especially as it has developed within discourse analysis and sociolinguistics.

As our theme suggests, however, studying the language of narrative can take us far afield to other concerns: the construction of self and identity; the differences among spoken, written and computer-mediated discourse; the role that small and big (e.g. life) stories play in everyday social interactions; the contribution of narrative to social status, roles and meanings within institutional settings as varied as therapeutic and medical encounters, education, politics, media, marketing and public relations.

Thus GURT 2008 will be a forum for building interconnections among language, narrative and social life.


kris_r | June 12th, 2007

Filosoof Richard Rorty overleden

De Standaard:

De Amerikaanse filosoof en cultuurwetenschapper Richard Rorty is vrijdag in Palo Alto (Californië) op 75-jarige leeftijd na een slepende ziekte overleden. Dit heeft de Universiteit van Stanford maandag op haar internetsite gemeld.
Rorty gold als een van de meest invloedrijke hedendaagse denkers. Tot de belangrijkste werken van de postmoderne taalfilosoof worden “Philosophy and the mirror of nature” (1979) en “Contingency, Irony and Solidarity” (1992) gerekend.

De op 4 oktober 1931 in New York geboren Rorty wuerd met name bekend als vertegenwoordiger van het nieuwe Amerikaanse pragmatisme. Rorty, die zich eerder postnietzscheaans dan postmodern noemde, zag filosofie als taalspel temidden andere taalspelen als religie, wetenschap, kunst en politiek. Rorty keerde zich tegen de aanspraak van de traditionele filosofie op (de) “waarheid”, en zorgde met literair hoogstaande provocerende en zelfironische teksten voor discussie.

Hij veroordeelde de Amerikaanse invasie van Irak en riep Europa op, de rol van “globale politieman” over te nemen.

Continue reading »

Cyborgs – interactive or indifferent kinds

kris_r | April 26th, 2007

On this blog I already mentioned Ian Hackings groundbreaking work “The Social Construction of What?”

His central argument is that much of the work that has been done to ‘unmask’ certain phenomena as constructions often starts from the idea that these constructions are ‘false’ or in any case a ‘bad thing’ and according to Hacking this does not need to be so:

“Social constructionists about X tend to hold that:

1. X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not inevitable.

Very often they go further, and urge that:

2.X is quite bad as it is.
3.We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least radically transformed.

A thesis of type (1) is the starting point: the existence or character of X is not determined by the nature of things. X is not inevitable. X was brought into existence or shaped by social events, forces history, all of which could well have been different. Many social construction theses at once advance to (2) and (3), but they need not do so. One may realize that something, which seems inevitable in the present state of things was not inevitable, and yet is nor thereby a bad thing. But most people who use the social construction idea enthusiastically want to criticize, change or destroy some X that they dislike in the established order of things”. (p. 6-7)

He goes even further by stating that the denial of the truth value of these constructions is in fact the incentive for talking about is as a construction:

“Notice how thesis (1) – X need not have existed – sets the stage for social construction talk about X. If everybody knows that X is the contingent upshot of social arrangements, there is no point in saying that it is socially constructed.
People begin to argue that X is socially constructed precisely when they find that:

0.In the present state of affairs, X is taken for granted, X appears to be inevitable.

Statement (0) is not an assumption or presupposition about X. It states a precondition for a social constructionist thesis about X. Without (0) there is no inclination to talk about the social construction of X.”


Continue reading »

Performative turn

kris_r | April 23rd, 2007

The last edition of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival was organised around the theme of interactivity. Interact or Die! focused on interactivity in general (“Interaction not as a deformation of existing forms, but rather an addition of information, an informing, a formation of forms”) and the notion of interactivity in art in particular (“Interactive art is an open kind of art, one that permits multiple perceptions, though not every perception”).

The symposium that took place during the festival brought several speakers from diverse backgrounds together around this notion of interactivity. (a.o Detlef Mertins, Lars Spuybroek and Howard Caygill).

Noortje Marres presented a paper around the question whether there is “drama in social networks”. She problematized the fact that “in some respects, the organizational form of networks (…) make them ill-suited for the staging of political drama”. Especially interesting was that she referred to the “performative turn” described by Edmund Burke and the American sociologist Erving Goffman who “described everyday life as a set of dramatic performances (and came to the conclusion that) all social interaction can be characterized in terms of people putting on shows for others”.

For the complete development of her argument I refer to her chapter in the symposium book, but she concluded by stating that the possibility of drama in (political) networks “depends on the type of networks we choose to focus on and our idea as to what the drama of politics consists of”.


kris_r | April 22nd, 2007

“The 16th -century humanists were the founders of the modern Humanities just as surely as the 17th -century natural philosophers were founders of modern Science and Philosophy: for instance, the ways of describing human cultures implicit in Book VI of Aristotle’s Ethics, and reintroduced in our day by Clifford Geertz as “thick description”, were already put to use in Montaigne’s omnivorous ethnography. Indeed, the contrast between humanism and rationalism – between the accumulation of concrete details of practical experience, and the analysis of an abstract core of theoretical concepts – is a ringing pre-echo of the debate on the Two Cultures provoked by CP Snow (…)” (Toulmin, Kosmopolis, p.43)

Fictions, diffractions and deconstructions

kris_r | January 25th, 2007

In his phd thesis (Intertextual turns in curriculum inquiry: fictions, diffractions and deconstructions) Patrick Gough explores a “methodology for curriculum inquiry” focussing on the “generativity of fiction in reading, writing and representing curriculum problems and issues”. In his introductory chapter he explains how he used the original version versus the director’s cut of the SF-film Blade Runner in his teaching as a means to give a meta-perspective on “our day to day comedies”:

“These differences between the two video versions of Blade Runner prompted me to think about how we ‘frame’ the other actors in the day-to-day comedies, dramas and soap operas in which we participate in schools and universities. What sense of ‘real’ life would we get if we ‘re-edited’ our perceptions of our students and peers and their interactions with one another and with their settings? What difference would it make to place some of the peripheral actors in our everyday lives at ‘centre screen’ (and vice versa)? More importantly, perhaps, how do the frames we put around actors get there? What cultural mechanisms are the equivalents of ‘pan and scan’ editing? How many of the people with whom we interact (students, colleagues, etc.) are surrounded by ‘dead space’ that we do not see. How can we put the material conditions of those who are marginalised and alienated by our perceptual editing processes onto the ‘screens’ of our visual imaginations?

Sharing these questions with students drew their attention to the significance of Le Guin’s (1989b) thoughts on narrative, as quoted in the opening of this chapter. By imagining ways in which they might ‘recut’ their autobiographical accounts, they recognised their stories as ‘active encounter[s] with the environment’, as fictions that do not ‘reflect… without distortion’ but instead offer ‘options and alternatives’ for enlarging (and perhaps improving upon) present realities. Such experiences reinforce my preference for focussing my (and my students’) intellectual efforts on taking responsibility for the fictions we choose to privilege rather than being diverted by unproductive struggles to distinguish between stories of the imagination and of ‘reality’.”

(Gough 2003: 55)

Webs of Significance

kris_r | January 14th, 2007

“We are animals ‘suspended in the webs of significance’ we ourselves have spun. Culture is that web. So: the analysis of it is therefore to be not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning”

(Clifford Geertz 1973: 5).