Tag Archives: Academia

Theoretical Physics Status Envy?

A PhD thesis on the writer’s hobby of letterboxing, which leads to profound observations about actor network theory.

This study focuses on actor network theory which deals with any entities equivalently and therefore which serves to elucidate touristic phenomena in society being composed of diverse entities. Through the activity of letterboxing, this study aims at advancing actor network theory in regard to (1) networkscapes, (2) linking acts and (3) artefacts’ meanings. Through the qualitative methods of autoethnography, interview and participant-produced drawing, it turns out (1) that the configuration of the letterboxing network has many non-absolute leaders respecting each other and a non-resolute boundary and a non-definite participant composition because of such mutual respect, and (2) that linking acts in the letterboxing network are carried out not only through rationality based tactics and objectivity-based technology but also through corporeality and subjectivity, and (3) that artefacts in the letterboxing network have not only a general meaning and a network-specific meaning but also individual-specific meanings. Basing on these results, this study recommends actor network theory (1) to extend in regard to networkscapes from a presupposed fixative configuration with a single or a few absolute leader(s) and with a resolute boundary and a definite participant composition to a non-fixative configuration with many non-absolute leaders and with a non-resolute boundary and a non-definite participant composition, and (2) to extend in regard to linking acts from a rationality-based tactical and objectivity-based technological linking act to a corporeal and subjective linking act, and (3) to extend in regard to artefacts’ meanings from general and networkspecific meanings to individual-specific meanings.

If there are profound observations in there, the arcane and obfuscatory language doesn’t help make them clear. The density of jargon turns it into word-salad that to the ininitiated might as well be machine-generated gibberish.

Why do academics in the humanities write like this?

I wonder if there’s an element of status envy from subjects like theoretical physics. The concepts behind theoretical physics are hard for non-specialists to understand. So much so that a caste of writers have evolved whose job is to explain those concepts in terms that can be understood by wider audiences, lest people start to question whether things like Large Hadron Colliders represent value for money. The humanities do not have shiny toys like Large Hadron Colliders to play with, but they still feel the need to write in a suitably arcane manner.

I must stop posting these things.

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Extreme Metal and Critical Theory

Via the inimitable Peer-Reviewed, an academic paper on Extreme Heavy Metal Music and Critical Theory.

Extreme heavy metal music is transgressive, but can it be understood as resistant in Adorno’s sense of “serious music?” This article seeks to show how extreme heavy metal music approaches what Adorno valued in serious music and the interests of critical theory. I begin with the method of negative dialectics—a difficult and contradictory notion. The philosophy of negative dialectics is, I argue, crucial for the material studies informed by it. I consider next the idea of resistant music itself, distinguishing the negations of serious music from “positive” popular protest music. Finally, I provide an analysis of the negative dialectics of extreme heavy-metal music, considering the music and its culture in historical context. Overall, I offer a side-by-side “critical model,” in Adorno’s sense, of negative dialectics and heavy metal music and culture.

If somebody was to translate this from academic word-salad into readable English, this might actually be an interesting read. But given the inpenetrable nature of that extract, I think I’ll give it a miss and just listen to some music instead.

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Peer Reviewed

Following Peer Reviewed on Twitter is making me wonder if academic postmodernism is the modern-day secular equivalent of the Gnostic heresies of centuries past.

This Twitter account is the work of someone who possibly has too much time on their hands, who trawls academic journals in search of the most ridiculous-looking papers, and posts screengrabs of the abstracts.

This is a typical example.

Gnostic Heresy Screencap

It really does read like something out of Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner. Indeed, one ot two people have implied that the combination of tortured logic and awful academic prose worthy of H. P. Lovecraft is actually triggering.

I have no idea of the compiler’s personal politics, but the selected nonsense skews very heavily leftwards, with a lot of references to Critical Race Theory and intersectional feminism. This might just be down to the author’s biases, but it might equally be that the prevalence of  pseudo-intellectual codswallop skews heavily towards the left.

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Academic Drivel Report

Great post by sociology professor Peter Dreier on his Sokal-style hoax in which he managed to troll a conference in Tokyo with a conference paper extract that was in fact complete gibberish.

This panel addresses absences—the gaps, silences, and remains within the construction of knowledge and ignorance—in order to contribute to an ongoing STS dialogue; one that has roots in Bloor’s “sociology of error” to more recent work in agnotology (Proctor and Scheibinger) and in residues (Bowker and Star). From feminist and postcolonial theory, we have learned to be continually vigilant about the dynamics and non-dynamics in knowledge construction and application. This panel addresses these negations, unseen crevices, deletions, and leftovers from multiple perspectives. Its aims to identify and theorize some of those areas that demand our vigilance in order to broaden and provide systematic ways to understand how absences and gaps are a continual part of social interactions and our STS studies. Interested Presenters: Please send us a brief abstract and title of your talk with your name, email and affiliation. We would like contributions no later than 15 January to compile and submit the session.

And that’s not gibberish itself; it’s the call for submissions to which he responded.

The whole thing is well worth a read as a polemic on the opaque and pretentious nature of so much academic writing, especially in the social sciences.

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