Archive for the ‘social science’ Category

Now printing: page 1369.

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Exhaustion. Luckily, the laser printer is still doing solid work, jutting out one page after the other. 6 times 308 pages. I did not get a lot of sleep last night. And I have some difficulties focussing on things that are more than a few meters away. I guess everything will be fine. Tomorrow I will drop the dissertations on their table…

The last line.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Last night I finally reached it! Time to take a deep breath and then plunge into the text again… Moving, changing, editing, cutting, adding – this is what will keep me occupied for another week.

The space of a dissertation.

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

thumbnail image of my wordprocessor's windowSince I am writing about the production of space right now, and since I neglect abstract or representational space in my dissertation a bit, I want to offer at least to you, dear readers, a small insight into the space in which I myself produce knowledge and abstractions. On the image here you can see what my workspace looks like. (You can click on it to open or download it at full size.) Actually, I still enjoy this environment and I am very thankful to the Redlers for producing such an excellent piece of software. Not a single crash, and that with more than 140 images.

The final frontier.

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Well, today I have finished the last empirical section of my dissertation. Only the conclusionary chapter remains to be written – it consists of probably eight sections and, as usual, each section should take me a day to write. This means I should reach the last page sometime next week. Whew. And then: correction, shifting, adding, cutting and so on and so forth. I am now on page 249 with more than 140 images embedded in the text. Must sleep now.

News from typing-land.

Friday, August 18th, 2006

Yesterday, I completed the second of the three analytic chapters which make up the bulk of my dissertation. That is excellent news for me, especially since it means that work is proceeding according to plan. Which – surprise, surprise – is not the plan that I developed more than one and a half months ago. The good news is that the new plan (from two weeks ago) put me beyond mere page mongering and switched my writing mode to content mongering. That means that my daily dose of writing now consists of sections defined by their content.
One section per day. Twenty sections to go. One section has between one and ten pages. (I crossed the 150 page threshold yesterday.)
I have to hand in my dissertation September 22nd. The calculation is up to you. However, do not forget that I still have to give presentations in Lausanne and London this month. ;) Yes, time’s tight. But not too tight, I think. Please bear with me for the remaining five weeks…

What should I bore you with?

Friday, August 4th, 2006

These days my life consists of getting up, checking the online world, eating breakfast, writing, drinking lots of water, puzzling together still images cut out of my video recordings, having a small snack in the afternoon, writing or doing more Photoshop work, having another snack, perhaps playing a game of Bohnanza with Kerstin and Olli, and either more writing or some idling around until bedtime comes. Not that interesting. I guess that’s what routine is about. At least it brought me over the totally irrelevant but somehow symbolic 100 pages mark today.

Sight of land or overtaking the thesis.

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Good news, I guess. In the course of the last few days I was able to wrap up the chapters in which I introduce the term envelopment (Einhüllung). Because of the seething heat I lost track of my work for a few days, first bathing in the North Sea, then staring at the screen without seeing anything. Either frustration with lack of progress or adaptation to the heat finally set in and pushed me forward again, so that now – for the first time – I feel that I have completed a significant part of my dissertation. It is now quite a bit longer than my diploma thesis. There is land at the other side of the sea of words. Ahoy!


Friday, July 21st, 2006

Is it better to sit indoors with blankets in front of your windows, stuffy air, and temperatures of about 29° Celsius or would you prefer to have open windows, perhaps a hint of air movement every 30 minutes, and temperatures of about 35° Celsius?
This kind of question kept revolving crawling around in my head today. I tried to drown these questions in about five liters of tap water. Without success. Even sprinkling some lime juice into the water did not help.
Now it is almost midnight and my brain still feels like the embodiment of sloth.
I tried to stick to the editing and insertion of images when working on my dissertation today. What I succeeded in sticking to is my chair. If only dissertating would be as easy as transpirating…

An innovative approach to visual experience in the city.

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

That is what Lars Meier and I were striving for when working on our new book Encountering Urban Places – Visual and Material Performances in the City, which is going to be published late this year. To our delight, the publisher has now prepared the website for this book on urban places and their relation to life in the city. We are very happy with the contributions we were able to gather for this volume, because the authors all put a real focus on developing the main theme of the volume in their individual chapters: visual performances – that is, the ways in which what we see, what is displayed in our actions and in material artifacts impacts and interacts with social life, producing contests about social control, hierarchy, and representation. If you are interested in the theory, the methodology, and the practices of implementing the visual in social sciences and geography, this book is a must-have.>

The summer of dissertation writing.

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

There was a lot of work to do during the last four months: finishing the editing process of Lars Meier’s and my upcoming book, preparing presentations for three international conferences and one guest lecture, traveling to the places where the conferences were held and actually giving the presentations, feeling tired after getting back from the conferences and taking a few days to get back into working mode, writing a few applications, and, last but not least, dealing with social welworkfare institutions and our extremely bothersome landlord in Berlin. In all of this time, day after day, I knew that I also have to work on my dissertation, that my dissertation is the one thing that really and importantly must be finished as soon as possible. However, I did not write a single page.
This Summer was my answer to people asking me about when I think I will be finished. Now, summer has officially begun. As has work on my dissertation. During the last three days I typed 2.5 pages per day (line spacing is 1.2) and I intend to keep this speed for the next weeks. If this works out and I take a day off now and then I would be finished sometime in August, I guess. Well, it is not as easy as that, sadly. There will be the concluding ceremony of our post-graduate college in Darmstadt next month – for which I want to prepare a short movie – there will be a christening which I am going to attend, there will be the Gartenfest in August which will take a week and, at the end of August, two more conferences await. Summer ends in September. I think even with these foreseeable delays my dissertation will also be done before the end of summer. To be able to achieve this I will have to cut back on communication and socializing – for which I want to beg your pardon in advance. Keep your fingers crossed for me and we’ll have a very happy Lars sometime in September who will invite you to some major festivities!

Hotel, City, Maghreb.

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

To give you a first impression of my experience of life in a conference hotel in Algiers, I recorded a brief video clip with my mobile phone – I recommend paying attention to the sound also.

Algiers as seen from the Hotel El-Aurassi. Cliplength 43 seconds

PS: The webserver did not deliver the video clip with the information that is necessary to interpret the video data type – this has been fixed now. If you still have problems seeing the clip, please e-mail me.>

Ibn Khaldûn – Reception at the rim of contemporary German sociology.

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Coming back from Algiers, I just realized that I haven’t yet put the abstract for my presentation in Algiers online.

Germany’s colonial history is often neglected and the ties between Germany and the Maghreb, the former Ottoman Empire and the Arab world in general seem to have faded out of the academic disciplines that are not explicitly dealing with either the Islam, North Africa or the arab-speaking countries. References to classic non-western scholars are rarely found and if people talk or write about them their value
sometimes seems to be only anecdotal. This talk will focus on the places and persons who bring Ibn Khaldûn into German sociological discourse. The obstacles that have to be overcome while carrying Ibn Khaldûn into the realms of accepted academia are manifold: the ignorance of non-western academic traditions has already been mentioned, knowledge about the history of the Maghreb cannot be expected from German students, the two German translations of the Muqaddimah are incomplete and out of print (one of them has been published in 1992), the established canon of sociological works tends to start with Auguste Comte, and including an Arab scholar into a syllabus might be regarded as irritating or even suspect. However, there are also several factors that make Ibn Khaldûn a compelling subject for sociological study in Germany: general interest in the Arab world seems to be rising, the number of people with an Arab background or of Islamic confession who find their way into academia
is growing, and post-modernist theory may have strengthened the position of “alternative voices” in sociological discourse. How do protagonists of Ibn Khaldûn cope with these obstacles, what are their resources and why do actually take the step and include Ibn Khaldûn? Based on German texts on Ibn Khaldûn and interviews with
several sociologists, this talk will analyze the images and usages of Ibn Khaldun and trace the ways in which German sociologists appropriate Ibn Khaldûn.

Some more information may be necessary: Three days ago I presented a paper on the international conference called Figures d’Ibn Khaldûn – Appropriation, usages (Arguments). The conference was sponsored by the Algerian Ministry of Culture, and the opening speech was held by the Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika himself. I will post another entry soon – the conference was very interesting and it was my first stay in the Arab-speaking world!>

JobCenter vs. Wissenschaft. Teil 1.

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Na, super – nachdem ich nun leider einen negativen Bescheid von der sogenannten Agentur für Arbeit bekommen habe ist klar, dass ich nicht den Luxus einer angemessenen sich jedenfalls minimal auskennenden Behandlung erfahren werde. Mit der Agentur für Arbeit war abgesprochen, dass ich einfach in der Woche bevor ich auf eine der von mir noch zu besuchenden Konferenzen fahre anrufe und Bescheid sage. (Es herrscht ja Anwesenheitspflicht, dass heisst ich muss immer schön daheim sitzen und warten, denn es kann ja sein das mir von heute auf morgen eine super Arbeitsstelle zugewiesen wird.) Nun ja, da aber nicht mehr die Agentur für Arbeit für mich zuständig ist, sondern eines der zu Recht berüchtigten JobCenter, gilt diese Abmachung nicht mehr. So wurde mir bei meinem heutigen Anruf erfreulicherweise mitgeteilt, dass ich doch bitte am Montag vorstellig werden solle. Da darf ich mich dafür rechtfertigen, dass ich Himmel und Erde in Bewegung gesetzt habe damit jemand den Flug und die Konferenzgebühr für mich bezahlt, dass ich ein Stipendium von der Kanadischen Soziogischen Gesellschaft ergattert und einen großzügigen Doktorvater habe, der mir auch aushilft. Ist ja nicht so, dass der deutsche Arbeitsmarkt mit Stellen reich gesegnet wär und das eine der wenigen Möglichkeiten, die einem bleiben darin besteht, die in Deutschland teuer bezahlte Ausbildung woanders zur Verfügung zu stellen.
So lohnt die wunderbar repressive Gesetzgebung Engagement und Initiative und so werden Arbeitplätze geschaffen. Woanders. Bleibt allgemein nur zu sagen: Vielen Dank liebe Sozial- und Christdemokraten. Ach ja, die Grünen haben ja auch mitregiert. Auch vielen Dank.
Und mir geht es noch gut, das sollte man nicht vergessen – wenn ich sehe (und vor allem höre, denn es ist ja nicht so, dass die Privatsphäre der Vorsprechenden im JobCenter in irgendeiner Weise gewahrt werden würde), wie andere Leute im JobCenter behandelt werden…

Doorology or social science making the news.

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

I am glad that the catchy titles of presentations such as Alana Clifton-Cunningham’s The sock – A reflection of the sock in society or Rita Colavincenzo’s Peasant Food in Disguise: Cheese as Class Indicator in the Retail Market or my Opening, Closing, and Revolving – Studies in Doorology (all to be presented on the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences) were not taken as indicators of postmodern irony, or as symptoms of the waning significance of the social sciences in the article published two days ago in Canada’s National Post (written by Anne Marie Owens). Many people in the social sciences fight hard and frustrating struggles for their work, trying to steer clear between the Scylla of science whose economic interests, scientific trends, and academic establishment threaten to devour you and your work, and the Charybdis who will swallow those who linger to long on their work, getting lost in the esoterics of in-depth research. The hardest thing is to steer clear of these monsters and still remember where you wanted to go, when you originally left your safe harbor…

Simultaneous publication.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

Welcome to the world of parallel publication. These days our new book is being printed and sent out to distributors. You can read many things on Negotiating Urban Conflicts : Interaction, Space and Control. Thanks to transcript Verlag – I am really looking forward to having the thing in my hands. You should too: go to your library and tell them to order it (or buy it yourself if your account allows spending about thirty Euros for a book you might not desperately need…)
At the same time, the website that accompanies my article goes online. Since it was not possible / too expensive to put a CD or DVD into the book I had to rely on other means to make the video and sound sequences that I analyze in the article accessible. I’m excited about this parallel publication in two media and we’ll see how it works out. The major backdraw is that I can’t publish the whole article online, since Transcript wants to sell the book. Too bad. I did not invest much time into the negotiation, but I will try to improve how this is negotiated with future publications. However, I fear this will be difficult, especially since I do not have the status of a Bruno Latour, who publishes most of his printed work online too. Kudos for being an example, M. Latour!
Regarding the multimedia content on the new website: it is possible to embed multimedia objects in a way that makes them display in most browsers. Usually, that would mean breaking web standards. It is also possible to use a trick or two to keep to standards and still display the content in most browsers. This was the way I chose for several years. But my patience has run dry and now I am using straightforward, standard-compliant code with neither tricks nor bells and whistles. The result is that Internet Explorer for Windows is not really doing very well with the page – surprise, surprise. The solution? Browse Happy.

Opening, Closing, and Revolving – Studies in Doorology.

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Things are working out very well conference-wise: the abstract I submitted for the panel on Everyday stuff: narrating the social lives of material objects of the annual meeting of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association (CSAA) in Toronto, May 30th – June 2nd, has just been accepted. The abstract:

This contribution will unfold the life of an artifact on the border: the door. Based on field observations and digital video recordings of doors and their use in railway and ferry terminals I want to present the door as an entity that participates in the everyday lives of commuters and travelers, old and young, men and women. The door has many aspects that make it a very peculiar and highly interesting object of study for researchers in the social sciences. One of the most prominent aspects is its inherent duality – it is one of the most basic devices of exclusion and inclusion. It can be inviting and open but it can also shut out the unwelcome or unable. The door establishes a visual and material barrier that has to be taken to access whatever lies on the other side. But the door also is a mundane technological artifact with quite specific properties depending on the way it is designed. Sliding doors make up a very thin barrier while revolving doors cover a large amount of space. Doors may work automatically or be pushed and pulled by the hands, feet and shoulders of the people that walk or roll trough them. The presentation will focus on the way in which the life of different kinds of doors is intertwined with the lives of the people that use them. Some of the stories that will be told are linear narrations that talk about reaching a goal lying far away from the door itself. Other stories will be of a more Kafkaesque nature – they will revolve around doors that confront some people with a weakness they probably do not like to display in public while others pass through seemingly undisturbed, pursuing their everyday lives and ignoring the door as an entity with its own curious life. Telling these stories, the presentation will alternate between talk, the showing of video clips, and still photographs of doors or the people using them. Particular focus will be put on the social reconfigurations that happen in contact with the door.

The only backdraw is the funding. I do not have any money to pay for the flight and the conference fees. To my shock, the four month deadline for the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) conference grants has passed one week ago. Perhaps they will accept a late submission, but probably not. I’ll have to look for other sources, which probably won’t be easy to find…

Moving through the terminal – Investigations into material practices.

Monday, January 30th, 2006

My proposal for the session on Landscape, Mobility and Practice has been accepted, allowing me to participate in the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) in London. Following is the abstract on which my presentation will be based:

This presentation will accompany people who use railway and ferry terminals, demonstrating how the materiality of these terminals interacts with people’s movements, their bodies and perceptions. The terminal itself is located at an intriguing juncture between travel and rest, between movement and pause. It is both a place of rushing through and of lingering or loitering. Based on ethnographic observations and many hours of video recordings, both subtle details of bodily arrangement and spatial relations on the scale of the terminal as a whole are examined from a phenomenological perspective. How do the practices of people in the terminal reconfigure the socio-spatial constellations that permeate these places? How does the rigidity of walls, rails, gangways and doors participate in the production of localised normalities? These questions will be answered by examining sensual experiences and material practices. Perceiving their environment by sight, hearing, smell and touch, opening doors, managing bodily movements, interacting with machines, displays and people – a wide array of subtle but powerful practices produces the dynamic socio-spatial setting that is the terminal.

I am very happy to finally be visiting London – the city about which I read more than about any other city, but that I never visited in spite of the relative ease of getting there. So many novels, so many remembrances about a place I have never seen with my own eyes…

A focus on buildings.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

I am happy to announce that the session proposal that Michael Guggenheim and I wrote has been accepted for the 2006 conference of the EASST which will take place August 23rd–26th in Lausanne. Check out the call for papers on Buildings, Technology, Interaction.
It is great that Michael approached me on this subject. I am really looking forward to discuss the role of buildings with researchers who have an STS background and it will be interesting to see how different the discussion in such an environment will be compared to discussions with urban studies people. Usually, I know discussions of places or the role of space in general; this session, however, will focus on buildings and it will be exciting to see what details and what specific features will come to light if one concentrates on the material entity of the building, on its uses, and on its change through use.

Seeds becoming sprouts.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2005

Slowly, slowly the tender cultivating of this website produces the first tendrils of plants that are to grow in size, develop leaves, blossoms, and with a bit of luck, further seeds. Two new sprouts have been observed this week.

Yesterday, Michael Guggenheim contacted me asking if I would like to organize a workshop in next year’s easst conference together with him. Of course I do! Today, we wrote the call for papers on the topic Technology, buildings and interaction. (This was the first time that I used SubEthaEdit for scientific writing and I must say that it worked out really well. We completed the call in just about two hours, both writing in one text document at the same time, connected over the internet. Most excellent.) I really want to thank Michael for his initiative and for contacting me about this.
While I was editing around in the call, a mail arrived in my inbox, which I first ignored because we wanted to get the call done as soon as possible. When I finally read the mail I was taken by – pleasant – surprise. The editorial board for the 2nd edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Macmillan) contacted me, asking if I would contribute an entry on Ibn Khaldun. That I will very gladly do. It is excellent to see that Ibn Khaldun‘s contributions to the social sciences will be acknowledged in the encyclopedia.

The gardener is happy, I have to say. Caring for this website will continue in the hope that further germs develop into plants. I am excited about what kind of sprout we see popping through the surface next.

Multimedia ahoy.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005

Frers Productions is proud to present: Perception, Aesthetics and Envelopment a video recording and the outline of my talk at our post-graduate college’s concluding conference. Thanks to Lars Meier for recording it – and of course for co-hosting the session, thanks to the rest of the grandiose organization team of the conference and thanks of course to the other participants of the Larses’ panel Urban Spaces and Private Quarters for a good and constructive discussion.

I was made aware of a two people who developed similar ideas to the concept of envelopment: Georg Simmel (could have thought of that myself, since I read and even lectured about the relevant essay on Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben several times. The other hint was on the term personal bubbles which seems to be used quite frequently in the anglo-american world – I am still looking for more info on this term, but it seems that it carries some different connotations. Furthermore, I don’t think of the envelope as something that can burst or pop like a bubble. It is more like a field or sphere or a ball of cotton. Nonetheless, good to know about it. Another idea came back to me later: Richard Sennett, of course, has also talked about a sphere of comfort that is produced in city of today in the book that still has the most pivotal influence on my current work: Flesh and Stone.

Back to the title: I have embedded the video into the new page using valid XHTML code without any fiddling & CSS tricksing. That means that the embedded video won’t be displayed in all browsers though. I would be very happy to hear about the cases where it does / doesn’t work – please write a comment (if you have been a lurker until today: you can write a comment by clicking on the ‘x notes’ link below) and tell me about it. In case the embedded stuff does not work, one can just download the .mp4 file and then play it. I would like to hear about the minimum requirements for playing this, too (for example, I have no idea what version of Windows Media Player is required for playing this file).