Due by midnight Tuesday, December 1st (350-400 words).
When outlining the subscription process at WELL, Turner (2006:145-146) argues that Brand “lay down boundary conditions for a self-governing system.” Drawing on details from chapter 5 which describe the virtuality and community on the WELL, explain how you think a self-governing system operates.
I’ve said this in class, but I want to thank all of you again for bringing so much energy and insight to the themes and issues addressed in this course. You are all so thoughtful and have made this class really fabulous.
For your interest, I want to tell you about another course I’m teaching this spring. This is in addition to the Urban Sociology course we discussed in class. This is a hybrid course on the family (I think it’s listed as Sociology of the Family.)
I’m not quite done with the syllabus yet, but there will be some interesting connections to the work we’ve done this semester. We are going to explore Arlie Hochschild’s work on emotional labor, a concept not unrelated to the “free labor” connected to digital economies online.
In addition, and I think this might be particularly interesting to some of you, we will explore how the shape of the family (in the U.S. and around the world) is influenced by war. There is a lot of really smart work that has been done about how the Korean War impacted family life, both there and here. We will discuss how traumatic events like war can have structural impacts on the family. Alongside these impacts we will ask after the psychological implications of war on family life, considering how war can lead to an unresolved trauma unconsciously passed from one generation to the next through the family.
Thanks again everyone and see you Thursday!
In response to the question posed in this week’s reading, about what distinguishes the New Left from the New Communalists, many of you noted the change of consciousness that was sought by the New Communalists in contrast to political efforts to eliminate the hierarchy of power prevalent in the US in the 1960s. There is an interesting relationship to institutionality that is implicit to the way Turner distinguishes these two groups. Where members of the New Left were fighting the University, “laying their bodies across the stairways and office floors of the institution” (Turner 2006:13), Turner proposes the New Communalists sought freedom from the institution itself. More over freedom from the institution is characterized in relationship to matter, and an identity that has no body. As former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, writes “Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based in matter, and there is matter here. Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge” (Quoted in Turner 2006:13).
But equally as curious as the identity that Barlow describes is the way Turner is linking this social identity to the institutional context of MIT’s Radiation Laboratory (the Rad Lab). He describes Rad Lab as “a site of flexible, collaborative work and a distinctly nonhierarchical management style” (Turner 2006:19). Turner suggests that the new interdisciplinary networks that produced technologies for fighting the war were at the same time generating new ways of thinking and speaking. Drawing on the work of Peter Galison, Turner writes that “scientists, engineers, and administrators in the wartime laboratories worked not so much as members of a single culture, but rather as members of different professional subcultures bound together by common purpose and a set of linguistic tools they had invented to achieve it” (2006:19). Turner suggests the process of computation emerged from this context: where cybernetician Norbert Wiener and electrical engineer Vannevar Bush alongside others pursued scientific work in the boundaries between their varying disciplines.
All this is even more interesting when we consider how Turner connects the metaphor of computation to Wiener and Julian Bigelow’s visions for the automaton and the self-regulating system. Wiener and Bigelow suggest that human beings are machines on some level that can be programmed as mechanical information processors. Understanding the relationship of behavior and purpose for these processors in connection with information theory is how Wiener defined the field of cybernetics. Cybernetics can also be understood as altering the way that society is defined. As both an organism and a machine, Wiener viewed society as a self-regulating system that uses the TV screen to measure and adjust its performance.