Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quick Hits: Procrastination Edition

It's the early part of the semester here in Ann Arbor, which can mean only one thing: I have tons of work to do, and I'm not managing it as well as I should be. Research and writing have taken over my life, including the times when I'm not actively working on my article. Although last term ate up all my blogging willpower -- it's hard to want to write more words when getting out a pile of them on a specific topic is the only thing on your to-do list for today -- I've decided that keeping things updated is both an effective means of procrastination and a way to take a break from reading past issues of the ASR over, and over, and over, and over.

For those of you who are looking for some good reads to distract you from more important things, I've got a few that should serve just fine:

  • From back in May of this year, Jonathan Franzen on technology and love in the NYT. The article also covers birdwatching and mirrors, but as with any Franzen piece, it's best to let him take you along for the ride:  "To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self...Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn." 
  •  A fantastic piece on Anonymous by Gabrielle Coleman in Triple Canopy. Coleman's exactly the right person to be writing about Anonymous -- a professor at McGill University in Montreal, she styles herself an anthropologist of "digital media, hackers and the law". But unlike most writers on the subject, Coleman clearly has an affection for Anonymous and 4chan, the community that sprouted it. It's not often you hear 4chan called "endearing", but it happens here. Also has one of the best explanations of "for the lulz" that I've seen in a more traditional-style publication. 
  •  On the subject of online activism, the SOPA/PIPA protests led to a lot of good links floating around. While most of them were of the "here's why SOPA is bad for the internet" variety -- a statement with which I heartily agree -- I also wound up devouring a few less targeted pieces on intellectual property in general. If you don't mind your politics Left, this piece by sociologist Peter Frase is an excellent parsing of the intellectual property debate, as specifically relates to legislation like SOPA/PIPA: Intellectual Property and the Progressive Bourgeoisie. An unexpected response from the left is here at Mr. Teacup's highly readable blog: Facing the Google Vanguard.

On the subject of Franzen: his recently published collection of essays, The Ecstasy of Influence, is one of a kind. Drawing its title from his fantastic 2007 piece in Harper's (a must-read!), it's got essays on everything from sci-fi to Dylan to clerking in a used bookstore to sex in cinema. On top of that it has two of my current favourite essays, both of which have inspired me to get back to blogging: "What I Learned at the Science Fiction Convention" and "Postmodernism as Liberty Valance". Can't go wrong with titles like that!

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