The comma

On Derrida, deconstructing music, streaming and a bit more on social media memories.

I’ve been reading Peter Salmon’s new book An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida. It’s a really good book that weaves through some tough territory. Amongst the expansive ideas, the thing that stood out to me was the way Derrida worked in an almost responsive mode, focusing on reviewing and dissecting texts and perspectives. Apart from the philosophy and literary analysis, there is something here about academic practice as well. Derrida’s reviewing becomes a kind of productive action, with the review taking on a life of its own and seeking to add to, expand or redirect debates.

Salmon’s book focuses largely on embedding Derrida’s philosophy in his life and events, it is mainly focused on the development of Derrida’s thinking and how it can be situated. A few years ago I read Benoit Peeter’s biography, which contains more details of the events in Derrida’s life, experiences, social network and career. Both are great books and they work well alongside one another. In different ways both bring out this productive reviewing in Derrida’s work.

It’s perhaps Derrida's eye for a thread to pull upon that is the message that emerges from Salmon’s grappling with the complexity of the ideas in these works. Salmon is careful to bring some of the key ideas to life in his book. He works closely with the texts themselves and there is a clear attempt to try to retain as much of the complexity and subtlety of Derrida’s writings as possible without overwhelming the reader. Not an easy task, especially in a single book - and one additional problem Salmon’s task creates is that the book also then has to provide short interludes into the writers and texts that Derrida was writing about. These brief accounts of Derrida’s interlocutors are helpful asides, but they also hint at the depths of materials that are needed to grasp Derrida’s works.

I’ve found some of Derrida’s writings to be really useful, such as his book on the archive, but other texts have proven to be difficult to grasp. Perhaps the issue is one that Salmon points toward, which is that Derrida tends to assume that the reader has an established knowledge of the texts to which he is referring. Salmon’s book is not just a very good biography, it is a great way into Derrida’s wide and prolific works. Salmon’s book is well worth reading, not least because it shows the work of a thinker seeking to creatively grapple with ideas, it also captures the consequences.

Deconstructing sounds…

Whilst on the topic, I've found that there are a number of interesting podcasts around that explore how particular pieces of music were produced. A good example of this is the podcast Tape Notes. On each episode an artist and producer talk through the way they made a particular set of tracks. As well as describing the techniques and processes of production, these episodes often include the breaking down of the individual tracks into their component sounds. There are 68 episodes so far. I found this recent episode featuring Fontaines DC and the producer Dan Carey to be particularly interesting. In that episode Carey talks about how when he heard the band rehearse the sound echoed to produce an extra dimension, he talks about how he then tried to recapture that in the more controlled studio space. This episode with DJ Shadow was also very good.

Perhaps podcasts like this are an exercise in the art of deconstruction.

Islands in the Streams…

David Arditi has just published a new book titled Streaming Culture with Emerald books. The book looks at the way streaming platforms are shaping cultural consumption.

On some related questions, this article by Fabian Ferrari and Mark Graham on ‘Fissures in Algorithmic Power’ is very important. The article, which is published in Cultural Studies, looks at the spaces in which algorithms do not govern as they were intended to do.

And here are Jo Haynes and Raphaël Nowak discussing why cultural researchers were never cool.

Three things on memories…

As of this week, there are three things now published from the collaboration I’ve been working on with Ben Jacobsen.

There is a short piece published in The Conversation that looks at how social media ‘likes’ can shape how people feel about memories.

That short article reports on one of the things we discuss in a broader journal article on Quantified Nostalgia - that journal article looks in detail at the relations between social media, metrics and memory (its available open access). This article was published this week in the journal Social Media + Society.

And then, as a I mentioned in my last newsletter, our book Social Media and the Automatic Production of Memory is now out and available. This includes a very well priced ebook/kindle (£7.99 last time I checked) - and the hardback is still available for a discounted price from the publisher Bristol University Press. Some further information and the story behind the book are here.