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27 JUNE 2016

The Materiality of Research: 'Woven into the Fabric of the Text: Subversive Material Metaphors in Academic Writing'

"In the social sciences, though, often we write about our research as if theories and arguments are buildings. Theories have frameworks and foundations and they need support. Arguments can be constructed, shored up by facts and buttressed with a solid line of reasoning. Sometimes they can be shaky and even fall down. But as well as communicating what we mean, metaphors structure our thinking. Or, at least, the metaphors we choose when we write can reveal a great deal about underlying assumptions. The theories-as-buildings metaphor always makes me imagine an enormous wall made of rectangular bricks, orderly and straight, progressing upwards and onwards. The researcher's job is to climb the scaffolding, find a gap near the top and make a brick to fill it, or to knock a few crumbling bricks out and replace them with others, strong and freshly fired. Or rarely, to grab a spade and start digging a new foundation, because this metaphor doesn't work like Minecraft: bricks can't float, unsupported.

Why does this way of thinking about knowledge hold such sway over us? For one thing, it offers a comforting sense of progress and control. Buildings have blueprints; their construction appears to proceed in a predictable fashion; engineers can calculate precisely where the load bearing walls and lintels need to be; construction workers know how to mix the mortar so it won't crumble. Making buildings is also something that happens in the public sphere; even with houses, the insides only become private when the work is finished and people move in. And though we all know full well that knowledge creation doesn't actually happen in the controlled and predictable way the metaphor implies, this is the structure that it imposes on our writing: an activity that is orderly, involves rationality over emotion and inhabits the public sphere not the private."

(Katie Collins, 27 May 2016)

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2016academic writingaffordances • building metaphors • conceptual metaphorcreative practicecultural practicesfeminine voice • generative practice • integrative practices • Katie Collins • material metaphors • metaphors structure our thinking • needlecraft metaphors • piecing together • predictable fashion • progress narrativesresearch activitiesresearchersewingsocial sciencestitching • theories-as-buildings metaphor • theory building • thinking about knowledge • underlying assumptions

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 JUNE 2016

Digital Sociology: Beyond the Digital to the Sociological

"Where sociologists differ from many other social researchers in researching digital media is their awareness that digital data, like any other type of data, are socially created and have a social life, a vitality, of their own. They are not the neutral products of automatic calculation, but represent deliberate decisions by those who formulate the computer algorithms that collect and manipulate these data (boyd and Crawford 2012; Cheney-Lippold 2011; Ruppert et al. 2013). The data that these devices and software produce structure our concepts of identity, embodiment, relationships, our choices and preferences and even our access to services or spaces. Without the knowledge of digital technology users, algorithms measure and sort them, deciding what choices they may be offered (Beer 2009, 2013a). Algorithms and other elements of software, therefore, are generative, a productive form of power (Lash 2007)."

(Deborah Lupton, 2013, p.4)

Deborah Lupton 'Digital Sociology: Beyond the Digital to the Sociological', Paper presented at The Australian Sociological Association 2013 Conference, Monash University, 27 November 2013.

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2013 • algorithms • cultural concept of technologycultural practicescultural technologycultural understanding of technologyculture and societyDanah Boyd • David Beer • Deborah Lupton • digital data • digital media • digital sociology • digital technologyembodiment • Evelyn Ruppert • identity • John Cheney-Lippold • Kate Crawford • material culturemediated interactionMonash Universitynew mediaScott Lashsocial mediasocial policysocial researchsocial theorysociology • sociomateriality • software affordancestechnology practicesUniversity of Sydney

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
02 JUNE 2015

A Game of One's Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space

"In the opening pages of her classic essay, A Room of Ones Own, Virginia Woolf describes being blocked from entering the 'turf' of the University in Oxbridge by an administrative gate-keeper.

Instantly a man's figure rose to intercept me. … His face expressed horror and indignation. Instinct rather than reason came to my help, he was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me' (Woolf, 1929).

This scene invokes the ways in which women have been systematically barred from the digital playground, both as players and as creators of play space. To a large extent, the video game industry in the U.S. remains dominated by a boys-only ethos that harkens back to the gender-biased practices in the British academia of Woolf's day.[1] Games that are female-friendly are often couched in derogatory or dismissive terms: The Sims (Maxis, 2000) is 'not really a game'; casual games are not counted as 'real' games by many in the industry.[2] The result is that certain types of games, game mechanics, play patterns, and, as we'll see, particular types of game spaces have tended to dominate the field of games.

Although this paper discusses the ways in which digital game spaces have been strongly gendered towards male constructions of space and play, this does not necessarily mean we advocate creating exclusively female (or 'pink') games. As Woolf points out in her essay, the solution is not simply to create a distinctly feminine voice (although this is one potential angle of approach), but rather to promote the cultivation of an 'androgynous mind', which, she suggests, is already possessed by male authors of great note throughout history (she cites Shakespeare as an example). We propose drawing from a number of cultural practices, literary sources, and existing games in order to pave the way for a playground that is more open to female players. Thus we promote not only the definition of new feminine game spaces, but also encourage designers to think in terms of 'androgynous space' that engages all aspects of all persons: a space into which women and girls are invited and welcomed, but in which men and boys can also enjoy more diverse and nuanced forms of play than are typically available to them."

(Tracy Fullerton, Jacquelyn Ford Morie and Celia Pearce, "A Game of One's Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space", The Fibreculture Journal : 11)

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2008 • A Room of Ones Own (1929) • androgynous mind • androgynous space • boys-only ethos • British academia • casual gamesCelia Pearce • concepts of space • contested spaces • cultural practices • dangerous spaces • digital game spaces • digital playgrounddigital spacedolls house • domestic spaces • emotional space • enchanted worlds • female games • female players • female-friendly spaces • feminine conceptions of space • feminine game spaces • feminine voiceFibreculture Journal • game design as cultural practice • game mechanic • game spaces • games industrygames research • gender-biased practices • gendered spaces • gendered technology • gendered voices • gendering game space • Jacquelyn Ford Morie • male authors • male constructions of play • male constructions of space • MMOG • narrative spaces • nuanced forms of play • Oxbridge • pink games • play patterns • play spaces • poetics of digital space • procedural space • real games • regendered play space • regendering game space • secret places • social spacesThe Sims (2000) • Tracy Fullerton • video games industryVirginia Woolfvirtual spacesWilliam Shakespeare • women and games

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
27 FEBRUARY 2015

The reality of shark fin soup served at Chinese wedding banquets

"The majority of the demand for shark meat is from the shark–fin industry, centered in Asia. Singapore is one of the main consumer countries, along with Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand. For every Chinese wedding banquet in Singapore that serves shark fin soup, the world loses another 40–50 sharks."

(Animal Concerns Research and Education Society)

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2012 • alpha predator • Animal Concerns Research and Education Society • animal cruelty • animal welfare • animated ad • anthropocentrism • apex predator • Asia-Pacificbarbaric practices • cartilage • Central America • Chinese soup spoon • Chinese wedding banquet • Costa Rica • crude barbarism • cruelty to animals • cultural practicesdestructive practicesethical consequencesethical consumption • fin • food productionhave dominion over all other living creaturesHong Kong • human supremacy • humane treatment of animals • inhumane treatment of animals • instrumental view of nature • Mainland China • MalaysiaPeoples Republic of Chinaporcelainredshark • shark fin soup • shark finning • shark meat • shark-fin industry • Singaporesoup • soup spoon • South-East Asia • spoon • status symbol • super predator • systemised crueltyTaiwanThailand • top predator • top-level predator • unnecessary suffering • video campaign • wanton destruction • wasteful destruction • wasteful practice • wedding banquet • wedding celebration • wedding ceremonywildlife reserveswillful ignorance

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 NOVEMBER 2013

The struggle for technology: instrumentalism versus culture

"This age–old conflict about social status remains at the heart of present–day struggles over the meanings of technology. On one side, defenders of technicians view technologies as creative expressions of human culture. In this view, technology is imbued with human values and strivings in all their contradictory complexity. I term this position the 'cultural' approach to technology. On the other side are those who see technological action as a narrow form of rationality that seeks only the best means for a given end. For such people, technology is something purely technical, essentially uncreative and devoid of values, subordinate to ends given by others. I call this second position the 'instrumental' conception of technology. ...

the discourse of technology favors the instrumental over the cultural. An entire tradition of philosophical critique is based on a reduction of technology to instrumental rationality. But technological enthusiasts also embrace the instrumental definition of technology. From their perspective, our modern technological civilization represents the embodiment of reason in the world, with new technologies as the vanguard of progress. Technological utopians like Kevin Kelly epitomize this instrumental perspective. In contrast, the cultural understanding of technology recognizes the creativity expressed in everything from steam engines to iPhones. But the cultural approach is definitely in the minority. This view is most common among people like me, historians of technology and other scholars who connect technological choices to specific aspects of culture and society."

(Eric Schatzberg, Rethinking Technology)

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aesthetic creativity • aesthetic sensibility • aristocratic hierarchies • concrete material practices • contradictory complexity • craft skills • creative expression • creativity and craft • cultural concept of technologycultural practicescultural technologycultural understanding of technologyculture and society • Eric Schatzberg • fear of technology • formal knowledge • genius of the individualhuman agencyinstrumental conception of technology • instrumental means • instrumental rationality • instrumentalism • inventive genius • just a tool • Karl Capek • Kevin Kellylate modernitymaterial culture • means to an end • modern technological civilization • new technologies • non-technical qualities • out of controlprogress narrativesscientific knowledgesocial hierarchiessymptomatic determinism • technical elite • technical skill • technician • technological action • technological choices • technological determinism • technological enthusiasts • technological instrumentalismtechnological utopianismtechnology as neutral • technology discourse • technology is a tooltechnology neutralitytechnology transparency • transparent technologies • value ladenvalues

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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