Archive for 2006

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…


Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Ist es ein Zeichen dafür, dass der Schinken nicht mehr ganz frisch ist? Oder ist es einfach eine kleine Freude für die Sinne? Immerhin, es bringt etwas Abwechslung ins Frühstücksgespräch. Und geschmeckt hat der Schinken auch.

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.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – We want drama, not theme parks.

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Keira Knightley is just not the kind of woman that should be put into glamorous costumes with lush hair. To see her real beauty, one must see her fine features contrast with a harsh style of clothing and behaviour. Luckily, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest she is granted at least a few of these moments. In addition, we are also allowed to feel more affection for her since now she also is permitted to show her interest in Captain Jack Sparrow more … explicitly. Good thing. I guess, though, that this is the only actual improvement over the first part of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It is still a clean story without real drama, without real frustration – without the desperately hoped for grittiness of characters. Instead, it again featured scenes playing in the dreaded pirate theme park called Tortuga in this movie. Bah.
Small expectations – that was the title which I thought would be appropriate for this entry, because watching this movie actually was a fun experience. A much better experience than watching the first part. Lovely tentacles, and a well designed face of horror and pity for the enigma that is Captain Davy Jones. After some reflection about the movie, however, it became apparent that this is only because our expectations were much, much lower than what we allowed us (I went to see it with Kerstin and Olli) to grow before watching the first part. Pirates! Adventure! Loss! Love! The Sea! Well, all of this is there – only in the sad and pitifully clean Jerry Bruckheimer production kind of way. We can only be thankful to Johnny Depp and are paying our tributes to him for keeping the movie alive and enchanting.
IMDb entry | Trailer

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…

Von wegen Meckern über die Bahn.

Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

Schon dem guten Herrn Gintschel war ich für meine Vergeßlichkeit bekannt – der Hausmeister meiner Grundschule hat mir des öfteren Zutritt zur Grabbelkiste mit den Fundsachen gewährt, wenn ich mal wieder meinen Turnbeutel liegen lassen hatte. (Oder meine Zahnklammer.) Heutzutage lasse ich andere Sachen liegen. In der vergangenen Woche zuerst meine BahnCard auf dem heimischen Schreibtisch, so dass ich im Zug nicht die Gültigkeit meines OnlineTickets nachweisen und auch keinen reduzierten Tarif für den neu fälligen Fahrschein Berlin-Darmstadt nutzen konnte. Dumm gelaufen. Aber immerhin gab es einen netten Zugchef, der mir einen entsprechenden Eintrag auf die Rückseite meines neu gelösten Fahrscheins anfertigte und mir riet, noch am gleichen Tag bei der OnlineTicket Hotline Bescheid zu geben, dass ich meine BahnCard vergessen hätte und ein Ticket nachlösen müsste. Er sagte, dass in meinem Fall wohl entweder 15 € oder 8 € Gebühren erhoben werden könnten, je nachdem, ob mein Fall als vergessene BahnCard oder als vergessener Bezahlungsnachweis für das OnlineTicket behandelt würde. Ausserdem solle ich in jedem Fall eine Kopie meiner Fahrscheine machen, bevor ich selbige an die Bahn schicke. Nett und auskunftsfreudig der gute Mann.

Doch damit nicht genug. Am Freitag bin ich dann von Darmstadt nach Freiburg (Breisgau) gefahren und musste in Mannheim umsteigen. Es war heiss. Portemonnaies in der Hosentasche bei heissem Wetter sind eine unangenehme Sache. Also lag meine Geldbörse neben mir auf dem Sitz. Wo sie natürlich liegengeblieben ist, als ich ausgestiegen bin. Glücklicherweise fiel mir der Verlust sehr bald auf, denn als ich in die Lounge des Mannheimer Bahnhofs ging, griff meine Hand ins Leere. Zum ServicePoint geschickt berichtete ich mein Unglück, eine Verlustmeldungsbestätigung wurde ausgefüllt, die nette Dame am ServicePoint nahm meine Handynummer auf und sagte, sie würde sich melden, sobald sie mehr vom Zugchef des betreffenden Zugs gehört hätte. Wenn die Börse gefunden würde, könnte ich diese wohl entweder in Saarbrücken (der Endhaltestelle des ICEs) abholen, oder sie mir per Post zustellen lassen. Doof. Aber selber schuld., dachte ich.
Ich musste nicht lange warten und der Zugchef meldete sich persönlich auf meinem Mobiltelefon und sagte mir, dass er das Portemonnaie gefunden hätte und es an der nächsten Haltestelle in einem anderen Zug wieder gen Mannheim schicken würde. Famos! Leider hat das nicht geklappt, wie mir ca. 20 Minuten später mitgeteilt wurde (ich sass derweil angenehmerweise in der DB Lounge und konnte mich mit Getränken versorgen), ich solle also nicht auf den nächsten Zug warten, sondern statt dessen einfach so nach Freiburg fahren, wo ich um 23:10 das Portemonnaie in Empfang nehmen könnte, denn eine Kollegin würde noch am selben Tag zufällig nach Freiburg fahren. Hei! Wie nett!
So bin ich dann ohne Fahrschein oder Portemonnaie aber mit Verlustmeldungsbestätigung ausgestattet nach Freiburg gefahren (was man aber vorher mit dem Zugchef absprechen sollte) und habe ein paar Stunden später mein Portemonnaie von einer freundlichen Angestellten der DB AG überreicht bekommen – nicht ohne mir vorher die Scherze eines witzelnden Kollegen anzuhören. Den Spaß gönne ich unter solchen Umständen sehr gerne. Das Überraschendste war allerdings, dass das Portemonnaie voller war als vorher! Drin steckte nämlich eine Visitenkarte:

Mit freundlicher Empfehlung
Herr A. Schmidt

Vielen Dank, Herr A. Schmidt! Ohne Portemonnaie wäre der Aufenthalt in Freiburg und insbesondere die Rückfahrt wenig erfreulich gewesen…>

Einbalsamierung mal anders.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Es ist geschafft. Anlässlich des Auslaufens unseres Graduiertenkollegs haben Reinhard und ich die Webseiten des Kollegs überarbeitet und in einen Zustand überführt, in dem sie den Zustand des Kollegs an seinem Ende für die Nachwelt erhalten – sie wurde gleisam mit standardkonformem XHTML 1.0 Code einbalsamiert. Mumien im Internet. Eine politisch korrekte Mumie, denn sie genügt auch noch recht vielen Kriterien der Barrierefreiheit. Das Antlitz dieser Mumie soll also nicht abschreckend, sondern eher eine Fundgrube für weitere Untersuchungen sein – es sind keine Labors oder Computertomografien notwendig, um sich das Innenleben der Mumie zu erschließen. Ein paar Klicks genügen.

Siechtum und Geselligkeit.

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Unlängst haben mir die Hexen ins Kreuz geschossen. Nachdem ich erst das Leiden mannhaft ignorieren wollte (einige mitleidheischende Seufzer dann und wann an dieser Stelle mal ausser Acht lassend) und mir Konferenztage sitzend um die Ohren geschlagen habe, musste ich vor einigen Tagen doch die Waffen strecken. Hetze und Hexen sind eine unselige Mischung. Letzte Woche musste ich nämlich inklusive Gepäck doch die eine oder andere Treppe hinauf und hinunter hasten, um noch den Flieger nach Oslo zu erwischen. Das hat meinen gemarterten Bandscheiben dann den Rest gegeben und nachdem ich mich einen Tag lang schon weniger mann- und mehr greisenhaft über den Campus der Universität Oslo geschleppt habe schien es dann doch an der Zeit, Bettruhe einzuhalten und den Bandscheiben und ihren gequetschten Gallertkörpern Zeit zu geben, sich wieder in Form zu bringen.
Drei Tage lang liege ich nun bei schönstem Sommerwetter auf dem Sofa in Kerstins 10qm Wohnheimzimmer. Zur Verwunderung der Mitbewohner, die mich nur dann und wann zur Toilette tapsen hören. Alles natürlich nur möglich dank der großzügigen Fürsorge der Liebsten. Die sich allerdings auch besseres vorstellen kann, als einen seufzenden, pseudogreisen Kerl zu betütern und entsprechend gerne mal das eine oder andere Maß gerüttelter Ratschläge zum Besten gegeben hat.
Soweit so gut, mag der geneigte Leser denken, während die Leserin sich vielleicht fragt, wie es denn um die in der Überschrift angekündigte Geselligkeit bestellt sein mag. Liebe Leserinnen und Leser, diese Frage soll nun, aus dem Bett heraus und auf meinem braven Laptop tippend, beantwortet werden. Heute morgen nämlich hat sich die Gute und Schöne dazu erdreistet, mir den Status des alleinig Leidenden abspenstig zu machen. Erst ein bisschen Gewälze und Geleide, es sei ja alles so komisch und ob das Essen gestern wohl in Ordnung gewesen sei und ratz-fatz eine Heilungsmassage später (verabreicht von Ihrem geschätzten obgleich etwas angeschossenen Autor), gibt es einen Kurzstreckensprint zum WC und Gehuste und Gebreche. Unschön. So kommt es nun, das wir hier das Haus der Siechen eröffnet haben. Noch jemand mit akuten Gebrechen? Immer hereinspaziert, sieche Geselllschaft ist herzlich willkommen!

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!

Angel-A – Luc Besson and his breathtaking women.

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Milla Jovovich was wonderful in The Fifth Element, Natalie Portman was strangely enchanting – and young – in Léon – The Professional and now Rie Rasmussen makes me marvel at the other gender. As always, Luc Besson shows what many men dream of (at least sometimes, I would guess): a woman that is more attractive than they would ever imagine to be in their company but also a woman that is open, accessible, and full of trust in you a male actor with which you can identify. Or at least with whom you dearly want to identify, since he is so intimate with such an otherworldly being. This is what makes this movie a special experience to me.
In addition, I enjoyed the leading male role in Angel-A. Rie Rasmussen’s beauty (which is more than just looks) and Jamel Debbouze’s deer-like eyes work together perfectly. Nonetheless, the script is not exactly perfect. The main characters sometimes talk too much, taking the depth out of the pictures. In addition, some of the turns in the story are a bit too obvious for my taste.
However, the images were beautiful and evocative and I liked the way in which Luc Besson paid homage to Wim Wenders’ Himmel über Berlin – a movie that also offers beautifel yet remote images of a city, telling the story of a painful bridging of the distance between living, experiencing, and dying mortals and remote, superhuman angels. I enjoyed the movie, its pictures, and its characters very much. However, you should be aware and not build you hopes too high, particularly if you’re not that much into Luc Besson and his emphasis on strange aesthetics.
IMDb entry | Official Movie Site with Trailer

X-Men: The Last Stand – no distortions.

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

I was hoping that the third part of the X-Men series would disappoint me less than the third part of Mission Impossible. Admittedly, this is not a very high-flying hope and to my relief it was fulfilled. Although I feared the worst, since the director has changed to Brett Ratner. Well, we did not have to suffer actors such as Tom Cruise, which helps a lot. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, both solid actors, and also the main character Hugh Jackman as Wolverine along with the rest of the crew do their jobs as decently as they did in the first two episodes and, in contrast to Mission Impossible, the special effects department along with the screenplay writer did not fall asleep during the production of the movie. An enjoyable movie if you liked the first two parts, definitely good enough if you are looking for an entertaining action movie to load into your DVD player and also offering some pictures splendid enough to fill a larger screen.
IMDb entry | Trailer

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!>

Good Night and Good Luck – Best smoke of the year.

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

First, an apology: I am really lagging behind in the blogging business. It seems to me that since I did not have the opportunity to write on my dissertation for several weeks I do not feel it would be legitimate to write for fun. At least I think that is part of the explanation…

It is quite a while ago that I saw Good Night and Good Luck. Actually, it was at the Ryder film club in Bloomington during my stay in the U.S. of A. this April. I rarely have the chance and the money to go to the movies these days, but this one was definitely worth it. David Strathairn was a breathtaking cast for the role of the broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow. Seeing the way he smokes, feeling his sincerety in look and in holding his cigarette – this alone was an experience you should not miss. If only smoking wouldn’t cause cancer… it is a sensual delight, isn’t it? However, the rest of the movie is also very much worthwile. The casting and acting is excellent, the story enthralling and the screenplay works out well too. This is definitely one of the best movies to come out of Hollywood in a long time and I can only recommend taking the time to see it. Even if you are not interested in the way the anti-communist threat seeped into every little bit of American culture during the McCarthy era. For me it was crazy to see that someone like McCarthy – just an American senator after all – was able to tap into the anti-communist feelings of a select few, build on them and use them to terrorize a whole population.
IMDb entry | Trailer

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…