Reflections of nothing

On the politics of Whatsapp, storytelling, ideas and the future of journalism

After posting a couple of longer newsletters over the last couple of weeks (one on the changing social media ecology and the other on the difficulties of making sense of the ongoing social changes), I’m going to keep this one quite short and use it to highlight some articles, books and podcasts.

Grungy loops…

First, I wrote a short piece for the Transforming Society blog. It's about music and thinking - I reflected on whether music can be an inspiration for creative social research. The piece describes some comparisons between music and writing (is a writing a book like making an album? And so on). Here's the opening paragraph of the post:

I turn over the vinyl and place it back on my mini-record player, the bass echoes behind me as I amble back to my desk. Emails and Sleaford Mods. That’s been the pattern of recent days. Their grungy loops seem to fit into the locked rhythms of laptop-mediated remoteness. As the next Zoom call kicks in I realise that I’m still nodding along to side B.

You can read the rest here.

What is up…

I always keep an eye out for new pieces by Will Davies. Considering it's number of users, WhatsApp gets relatively little sustained analytical attention. In a Guardian long read article, Will explores the political consequences of the closed networks that it facilitates. It's a really interesting piece that offers lots of insights into the impact of the specific closed features WhatsApp offers, which contrast with other social media platforms.

I notice that Will also has a new book out with Verso later this year - This is Not Normal: The Collapse of Liberal Britain.

Techno…

Maz Hardey talks about her new brilliant book The Culture if Women in Tech in this New Books Podcast. More information about the book is here and there is a sample chapter available here.

Telling Stories…

Experimenting with the way that sociology can be communicated, Ash Watson has written a sociological fiction novel that has been published as Into the Sea by Brill. Ash also edits a sociological fiction zine and a section of the Sociological Review website.

New sounds…

The Vitalities Lab at UNSW in Sydney are running a Breaking Methods webinar series on Youtube. So far there are videos on TikTok methods, storyboards, map making and story completion.

This is the rhythm of social media…

Exploring the time and algorithmically defined flows of social media, Elinor Carmi has written a crucial article on ‘rhythmedia’. It details the way that social media set a rhythm for engagement.

Past ideas…

I’ve been following Stuart Elden’s blog for the best part of a decade. Recently he linked to a long podcast interview with Quentin Skinner on the history of ideas. The interview covers lots of ground, but it central focus is about how and why we might wish to study old ideas and the context in which those ideas developed.

Stuart writes updates on his research, and has indicated that he is planning to the do the same for his fourth and final book on Foucault’s ideas and intellectual trajectory.

Those algorithms…

Bernard Rieder has a new book out on algorithms. Engines of Order: A Mechanology of Algorithmic Techniques has just been published by Amsterdam University Press.

Words…

I found this select committee focusing on journalism to be really interesting. It includes an interview with the editors of the New Statesman and the Spectator, covering the challenges to the sector, their approach to editing and the future of political journalism.

Still here…

On this point, readers of Q magazine are witnessing a microcosm of journalism unfold in real-time. In the current issue the editorial from Ted Kessler indicates that he is unsure if it will be the last ever issue. The issue went to print on a Friday and he was to find out their fate on the Monday. As a result, the issue is set up like a final issue - with reflections on the history of Q from writers and past editors. Judging by the shape of the issue, it seems that the editorial team were pretty convinced that it would be the end. I’ve been keeping an eye on the story, and it seems that despite the cutbacks at Bauer, a group that owns Q and a range of other magazines, Q might yet survive (unlike a number of Bauer’s other titles). It seems though that looking at the field as a whole, music journalism has a difficult future. I’ve recently read Sylvia Patterson’s book I’m Not With the Band - which tells the story from the perspective of an established music writer. With that picture in mind, if the next issue of Q does go to print, it might feel a bit like a delay of the inevitable.

davidbeer.net

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