Toward Publishing

A short time ago, we issued our first call for the Networked Publics: Publish project. Last Thursday a group of panelists from the Networked Publics panels met together with Netlab staff to discuss the abstracts.

The result is as follows: 

Everyone who submitted to the publication should finish their piece and post it online, tagging it #netdomus and sending an e-mail to me (use the contact form on the left) to let me know that they’ve done so. Anyone interested in submitting who hasn’t submitted yet should do the same. We’re facing a number of deadlines right now, the call for very specific things to write about isn’t yet out, but the general consensus here (or at least, the one I am most inclined to follow) seems to be that we are going to think of this as a newspaper or news magazine and conceive of appropriate sections, for example, sports, business, domestic, national, and international news, business, politics, weather, interviews, op-ed, entertainment, literature, society, tourism, automobiles, style, cooking, health, home decoration, real estate, family, and so on (I cribbed this list from here and you might find further ideas there). All the while, keep in mind the original context of networked publics, which is outlined here. 

One thing everyone should keep in mind is to write for a general readership. In other words, if you’re going to employ theory, don’t assume that anybody knows it. Explain it! 

Let’s say that the pieces are due on the 18th of July. That’s two and a half weeks from now, which is a long way away in newspaper or magazine time. After that, we will select from this list for work to publish on the Domus site and… well, we’ll see about what the next step (or media) after that will be.

Oh and if you don’t have a blog, don’t worry about it. We’ll find a means by which you can get your material posted! Just give us another week or so.  

 

 

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Why Did Actor-Network Theory Run out of Steam?

Lately, I’ve been consumed by analyzing the biggest story of the decade:  financialization and the ensuing economic crisis which now seems likely to be with us for a decade. In thinking about the #domusweb project, I’ve been struck by how the critical tools that have been en vogue during the last decade have proved bankrupt in the face of the economic crisis.

What strikes me most about this is how clear the crisis was to anyone who reads materialist historians. Take Giovanni Arrighi’s brilliant The Long Twentieth Century. The description he gives of financialization and systemic cycles of capital accumulation in the Introduction should be enough for anyone to make reasonable sense of what happened in the last decade. What’s more remarkable is that it was written not this year but in 1994.  

Or take Fernand Braudel, the other great inspiration for Arrighi beyond Marx. Arrighi points out that in observing the development of the capitalist cycle in eighteenth century Holland in the third volume of Civilization and Capitalism, Braudel writes "At all events, every capitalist development of this order seems, by reading the stage of financial expansion, to have in some sense announced its maturity: it was a sign of autumn." (Braudel, Civilization & Capitalism, volume 3, 246). 

In contrast to Alan Greenspan’s boldfaced lie that nobody could have seen the crash coming, materialists understood full well what was on the way. What puzzled us was the dimension and duration of the boom.

But in certain ways, the academy did miss the obvious. Cogent analyses of capitalism were never part of the discourse in most fields. Instead, capital became too abstract a force, divorced from reality. Everything could be read as a manifestation of capital and rote critiques made for an easy conclusion to "critical" essays. Such deep reading wasn’t deep at all, really, and thus its understandable that such "lite" criticism was rejected wholesale under network culture.

Instead, other explanatory models rose to the fore, models like actor-network-theory. Famously, Bruno Latour asked the rhetorical question "Why has Critique Run Out of Steam?" For Latour and most other advocates of Actor-Network-Theory, capitalism was as much a construct produced by Marxists as an actual entity. Instead, they argued, agency had to be traced across a network of actors, both human and non-human. 

The sad thing about all this is that Actor-Network Theory wound up about as useful as lite criticism, which is not very much. To be mean: how is it that Actor-Network Theory proves so irrelevant to the contemporary crisis? Why, in other words, did it run out of steam? 

Let’s turn all the talk about Marxist analysis being irrelevant in the 2000s on its head, where it belongs: Marxist analysis was way ahead of the game. It proved far more relevant than monetarism in the end. Our contemporary crisis is a crisis of overaccumulation. If that’s not clear to you, then go and read Marx or Arrighi or Mandel or Braudel or any one of a number of thinkers who explain it well. For here perhaps Latour might have something if we read him against the grain: see, it wasn’t Marxism that was irrelevant—it was the construction of Marxism’s irrelevance. A world beholden to the bubble—including in academia—simply never understood that nothing had really changed, except for the level of delusion.  

 

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Networked Publics: Publish

I have announced this over at the Netlab site, but I wanted to make sure that the readers of this blog had a chance to see it as well. I’ll be blogging about the topic a bit throughout the summer and into next year, so stayed tuned for more. 

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The Network Architecture Lab and Domus announce Networked Publics: Publish, an open call for submissions to a new collaborative publication. 

During the last fifteen years architecture and the media have been turned on their head as technologies of production and communication integrated into our daily lives. But instead of the delirious optimism of the last decade, we now also face panic and crisis. The media industry is in flux: as new media rise, old ones are victims of creative destruction. The tools of architectural production, meanwhile, have been thoroughly transformed; yet thanks to technological and legal innovations that made possible the securitization of buildings, architecture faces its greatest economic crisis since the Depression. If we can be certain of anything, it’s that as Karl Marx wrote, "all that is solid melts into air."
 
We invite brief submissions (under 1,500 words) addressing the consequences of these changes for the architectural community. What are the transformations taking place in the architectural profession, in architectural media, in criticism? How are these transformations interconnected? What do these mean to you? What do they mean to the future of architecture and cities?
 
We are keenly aware that it is the engagement with precisely these epochal transformations that will define the critical output of our generation, and that the legacy of the previous generation of critics and theorists is no longer able to deliver the kind of thinking necessary to help us address and catalyze these conditions. This publication is intended as forum for debate through which the accepted understanding of the word ‘publication’ itself can be challenged, redefined, dismantled and rebuilt.  It will polemically frame our context, but it will also constitute a toolbox of ideas that outlines an agenda for criticism in network culture.
 
Domus, one of the earliest and historically most influential architecture magazines, sets itself as a case study for debate around the role of printed magazines in the contemporary era. If the magazine is no longer spontaneously embraced as a locus for debate, should the permanence of printed matter induce it to serve as a historical register for ideas developed elsewhere, e.g. on the Web (the magazine understood as an archive-in-progress of excellence)? Or, conversely, should it pursue agility, hybridizing across platforms? Does the notion of architectural criticism, understood in conventional terms, bear any relevance today? What forces designate the formal and conceptual frameworks of contemporary built architecture?
 
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There are three ways to submit.
 
The first way is to send in an abstract by 12 noon, EST June 24 pitching an article on the topic. This should be one brief paragraph on what you would like to write about although if you are inspired enough to submit your entry in full, you may also do so at this time.
 
An editorial team will meet to review submissions and send feedback to contributors on the 24th. At this meeting we will also discuss the gaps in the publication and post a call for submissions that specifically address such topics. A second way to submit an article is to respond to this call. Abstracts for projects responding to the call for submissions are due on July 2.
 
Final work for both submission tracks will be due on July 15. 
 
A third way to submit is to join a conversation over the Internet by tagging a blog or twitter post #netdomus. 
 
The publication will be available for free download at Domus’s Web site. A launch event will be held at Columbia’s Studio-X at the end of the summer but this conversation—and publication—will continue for some time to come.  
 
Contributors may find potential references in Networked Publics, a book published by MIT Press in 2008 and produced in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication to examine how the social and cultural shifts centering around new technologies have transformed our relationships to (and definitions of) place, culture, politics, and infrastructure. This spring, the Netlab hosted “Discussions on Networked Publics” at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation’s Studio-X Soho facility, exploring the ramifications of these changes to architecture and cities through a set of four panels—culture, place, politics, and infrastructure. Discussions were recorded and are available here.
 
Please submit your proposals here.   
 

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On Hipster Urbanism

Over at Fantastic Journal, Charles Holland writes about hipster urbanism, comparing the High Line, which turns infrastructure into tourism with the reopening of a train line in east London as…get this: a train line.

Hipster urbanism is hardly rare anymore. A short while back, I enjoyed a stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson, a former railroad bridge in upstate New York. Near where I live in New Jersey a project is underway for a train line that leads into Hoboken. The idea of building a bike path to the city is laudable. After all, I could get a Brompton and ride to the PATH train and head to Studio-X. But note that not only do trains still use the line, the train company that owns it expects that use will expand in the next few years. So is riding my bike to the city really the best use of the line? Maybe industry is old hat? 

[Walkway over the Hudson]

In the countries once known as the developed world, we’ve replaced productivity with tourism. This is a prime difference between modernism and its successors, postmodernism and network culture. Few modernists could have understood relinquishing production. Think of Tony Garnier’s fabulous Une Cité Industrielle, for example. Today, however, industry plays little role in (formerly) developed economies like the United States or the United Kingdom. In the case of the former, where finance generated roughly 12% of the GDP in 1980 and industry generated around twice that, today the figures are reversed… and this has only been exacerbated by the economic crisis. 

Remember the Roger Rabbit conspiracy theories that General Motors paid to destroy the train system to favor the automobile? It’s hardly so simple, but surely as we are heading into a new century, we wouldn’t want to exacerbate those mistakes, would we?  

 

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