Friday, November 27, 2009

State of the Industry conference - Genevieve Bell presentation

Second presentation from from the State of the Industry conference at the University of NSW, hosted by the Cultural Research Network is from Genevieve Bell, who heads the first social science oriented reserach team at Intel, the User Experience group in the Intel Home Group. She was also identified as one of the 50 Most Creative People by Fast Company in 2009, as well as an Adelaide Thinker in Residence for the South Australian government.

Genevieve Bell

  • PhD in anthropology at Stanford University after a very diverse and eclectic childhood and upbringing - has struggled to "fit" with either the university or the industry environment;
  • Was going to take up an academic post, but was in Palo Alto in 1998 and was offered a job (again, in interesting circumstances) at Intel;
(Hope this is podcast, as its a great talk, in ways that can't quite be captured in a blog).

  • Challenge between the very predictable path of academic tenure track employment and jobs that are not defined at Intel;
  • She was hired out of the "irrational exuberance" at Intel in 1998, and being "the only woman who didn't cry" at the day-long interview;
  • Job was to be in charge of "women" and "Rest of the World";
  • Working with people from maths, sciences and IT backgrounds from an arts/humanities background requires disrupting dominant logics within Intel (e.g. everyone wants to be American), but they often relapse (graphic of three generations of white people watching TV together);
  • How to mobilise stories about the "messiness of everyday life" to talk back to dominant understandings within Intel - this generates sharp debates, and forces a willingness to stand up for what you know in the face or arguments and scepticism;
Research Questions
  1. There is no single trajectory through which technologies are adopted or no single pathway for the Internet - the "feral Internet", which is a very Australian interpretative concept (Internet as undomesticated, like feral animals in the Australian desert);
  2. How technologists imagine technologies as being perceived? How to unpack underlying notions of the body, space etc., but privacy is becoming less of a core concern than what can be called reputation - telling other people about every aspect of your identity. Contrast between "messiness' of identities and desire for seamless personas among technology developers - image, authenticity, reputation more than trust, risk;
  3. Concerns for policing behaviour: what it is devices want and what people need? Devices that work better when "always connected" versus desire of people for discrete moments of engagement/non-engagement;
  4. How people talk about their lives as technologically engaged citizens? What are the "overheads" of everyday life in a technological age, and how do people struggle to deal with them? Don't map easily onto existing sociological categories (age, gender etc.) or life stages.;
  5. Contributing theory in unexpected places. All kinds of people can do good fieldwork, but the caapcity to make sense of it requires exposure to a rich array of theoretical resources. Sometimes theory is taught to Intel engineers e.g Adrienne Rich on "compulsory heterosexuality" and why engineers should know about this. What seems to be "internal tools in the academy" can be used outside of the academy e.g. Foucault on bodies and power.
There are a lot of people doing work of this nature in various areas of high-tech industry, who are using the intellectual tools learned in the humanities academy for other purposes.

  1. Increasingly complex trajectories for cultural researchers, and thinking about how people with PhDs may move in and out of industry, academy etc. Also how to see work done outside of the academy as rigorous, engaged etc. There are a lot of lacunae in the higher education sector about this, especially in the US academy. Australia can avoid this. They recruit people who do not come out of the Intel industry template model, but you need to know how to talk with them without thinking you have to sacrifice your theoretical training - not "dumbing down" training, but expanding horizons and career possibilities;
  2. Finding the questions and asking them, and new jobs to be created. Development of a National Broadband Network in Australia will require cultural knowledge that Australia is not good at developing, as well as engineering knowledge which it is good at - how to you concretise the "digital economy" into everyday life? How to get beyond "putting the 'e' in front of everything" to the more complex questions of socio-technical questiosn of citizenship, identity, inclusion etc. The critique from within the academy is important, but so too is the scope to insert ourselves and our own positions into the government agencies, consultancies, companies etc. that are actively engaged in these decisions?
  3. How can Australian cultural reserachers be global drivers of theory and analysis of the changing socio-cultural environment? Australia can be an incubator of new ideas, that can then be "talked back" to the rest of the world.

State of the Industry Conference - Graeme Turner presentation

Live blogging from the State of the Industry conference at the University of NSW, hosted by the Cultural Research Network.

Professor Graeme Turner, Convenor, Australian Research Council Cultural Research Network, and University of Queensland

  • Problem of how to replenish the academic labour market as up to 50% of "baby boomer" academics retire over the next decade;
  • The market will be increasingly internationally competitive - arts & humanities generate a lot of PhDs, but there are slower completion rates, higher attrition rates and more discontent with casualisation of work than in other Faculties/disciplines/sectors;
  • This will be approached as "the university's problem" but it is increasingly one for government;
  • The myth of "lots of jobs in the near future" has been around "since Graeme was 25" - beware of that mantra, although it may be more true this time.
Issues that need addressing and their attendant causes:

  1. Perpetuation of casual/sessional appointments - originally designed to eliminate "exploitative" contract employment, but is itslef more exploitative;
  2. Collapse of discipline-based departments;
  3. Exploitative behaviour by unviersities and departments and resultant loss of trust;
  4. Low level of PhD stipends and effects on personal living conditions esp. for those with families;
  5. The end of the Masters degree as a PhD training ground - requires too much to be done with inexperienced PhD candidates;
  6. Anti-intellectualism in Australia and disapraging of people in universities;
  7. Increasing vocationalisation of universities, and use of "interdiscplinarity" to develop economies of scale by forcing disciplines together;
  8. Marketisation of univerisites and short-term responses to shifts that see wholesale disappearance of disciplines and departmentsesp. outside of metro universities and G8 universities (seen in ERA exercise, soon to be public);
  9. Poor advice from research offices and other entites trying to "second guess" where the funding will be e.g. whole Faculties being told to submit ARC grants.
Such factors influenced the decision to set up the CRN. Aims were to:
  • link up senior reserachers with PhDs and ECRs;
  • enable grassroots development of research ideas;
  • build collaborations across disciplines and build multidisciplinary teams;
  • address problems associated with professional development and lack of institutional mentoring for ECRs;
  • liberate researchers from constraints of their particular institutions and departments by linking up to a wider communtiy of scholars.
Issue of how not simply to draw attention to constraints but build capacity for collective agency c.f. presentations by Simon Marginson and Staurt Cunningham on Day One of State of the Industry conference.

Whta are the consequences of loss of capacity in the humanities generally over the last 15 years and the unevenness of critical strength across the sector? Capacity was largely built in the sciences, particularly during the Howard years.

Ongoing arguments about how to get government to take our claims seriously. Poor results in first round of Future Fellowships an illustration of the problems arising. Can become a "vicious cycle" since governments respond to evidence of results rather than special pleading for more cash.

Maintain a focus on the quality of your work, and not on short-term exigencies of research offices e.g. first-tier journals after ERA.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Cultural Economy Moment now in Cultural Science

My paper "The Cultural Economy Moment?", first presented as a keynote at Murdoch University in Perth, is now accessible from the online journal Cultural Science. Thanks to John Hartley, Eli Koger and anonymous referees for feedback on this.

The full paper can be accessed here. The abstract is below:

This paper explores the rise of cultural economy as a key organising concept over the 2000s. While it has intellectual precursors in political economy, sociology and postmodernism, it has been work undertaken in the fields of cultural economic geography, creative industries, the culture of service industries and cultural policy where it has come to the forefront, particularly around whether we are now in a ‘creative economy’. While work undertaken in cultural studies has contributed to these developments, the development of neo-liberalism as a meta-concept in critical theory constitutes a substantive barrier to more sustained engagement between cultural studies and economics, as it rests upon a caricature of economic discourse. The paper draws upon Michel Foucault’s lectures on neo-liberalism to indicate that there are significant problems with the neo-Marxist account hat became hegemonic over the 2000s. The paper concludes by identifying areas such as the value of information, the value of networks, motivations for participation in online social networks, and the impact of business cycles on cultural sectors as areas of potentially fruitful inter-disciplinary engagement around the nature of cultural economy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Creative Suburban Geographies

The Creative Suburban Geographies event was hosted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation last Thursday (12 November, 2009), and I am pleased to say that the Powerpoint presentations from Alan Davies, Christy Collis and Emma Felton, and Simon Freebody are now available on Slideshare. We will have podcasts available shortly. Thanks to Rebekah Denning, Eli Koger, Courtney O'Connor and Colleen Cook for egetting this together.

I've provided my introductory talk to the session below. Again, a podcast will be available shortly.

Creative Suburban Geographies

Professor Terry Flew, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Introductory presentation to Creative Suburban Geographies: Rethinking the Cultural Geography of Creativity and Creative Cities, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation workshop, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 12 November 2009.

Today’s event brings together papers and presentations that draw upon the themes of creative cities and creative suburbs, and whether the creative industries develop primarily in one type of urban zone over another. In particular, we are seeking to open up a discussion on whether thinking about creative industries in Australia needs to give more attention to Australia’s outer suburban regions, and what might be the implications of doing so.

Creative industries emerged on the horizon in the late 1990s and early 2000s with an implicitly urban cultural and economic geography. Creative industries were seen as something that were most strongly developed in cities, and particularly in the densely populated inner city areas. In the language of the time, creative industries developed in the parts of creative cities that were attractive to the creative class, who in turn would form creative clusters that would incubate new forms of creative enterprise.

As creative industries were presented as a people-driven, bottom-up alternative to top-down cultural policies driven by nation-states and government arts agencies, this raised the question of how did people form communities, and act collectively to achieve certain types of outcomes? There was a rapid growth of interest in how networks were formed, as a category between that of bureaucratic hierarchies and impersonal markets, and with this was a surge of interest in notions of community, situated knowledge and what Ash Amin and Joanne Roberts have referred to as “organizing for creativity”. 1

The most visible representative of all of this has been the writer Richard Florida, who has given us the term “creative class” and linked growth in the 21st century global economy fundamentally to the attributes of this group and the forms of cultural amenity that they seek from cities. Florida’s work is widely critiqued around the statistics used to measure a creative class and its rise and rise, which can easily sound like most people with a tertiary qualification, but there is no doubt that he has given us a highly influential image of what the 21st century creative worker looks like. Possibly tattooed and lycra-clad, she/he cycles off to new projects, incubating and generating ideas by day and trying out new cultural scenes, small bars or designer drugs by night, keeping a dense network of loose ties, but never becoming too fixed to any one job, place, scene, relationship or set of ideas.

Caricatures aside, Florida’s work draws upon a recognisable and longstanding history of thinking about the modern city. Sometimes termed the “new urbanism”, it draws upon the highly influential visions of cities and their social and cultural role developed by authors such as Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs. Recalling how central debates about whether the move from the countryside to cities was so central to modern sociology (e.g. Ferdinant Tonnies on gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, Georg Simmel), authors such as Jacobs and Mumford stressed the social and cultural value of cities in the outcomes that arise from proximity, diversity and sociality. The more that people are forced to mix with others who are in some way different to themselves, and the more that the city provides “third spaces” for social interaction outside of work and home, the more dynamic cities will be, and the more conducive they will be to creativity.

Jacobs and Mumford wrote about cities when the issues were not only migration from the countryside, or migration from other parts of the world, but the movement to suburbs. Suburbanisation was a trend of the early 20th century, and accelerated in the period after the Second World War. In his book Suburban Century, which traces 20th century suburbanization and debates about its impact in the United States and England, Clapson identifies Mumford as an exemplary anti-suburbanite:

In the mass movement into suburban areas a new kind of community was produced, [a] multitude of uniform, unidentifiable houses, lined up inflexibly, at uniform distances, on uniform roads, in a treeless communal waste, inhabited by people of the same class, the same age group, witnessing the same television performances, eating the same tasteless prefabricated foods, from the same freezers, conforming in every outward and inward respect to a common mould, manufactured in the central metropolis. Thus the ultimate effect of the suburban escape in our time is, ironically, a low-grade uniform environment from which escape is impossible.2

So anti-suburbanism has a long lineage, and when columnists such as The Age’s Catherine Deveny attack the Chadstone Shopping Centre as ‘soul-destroying cathedral to emptiness’, and those who go there as ‘dead-eyed wage slaves attracted to this cynical, hermetically sealed weatherless biosphere by the promise a new phone will fix their punctured soul’, it follows a longer and more intellectually respectable tradition.

But we are reminded in Australia that so much that is seen as our contributions to global culture has suburban roots. Australia’s most famous bands, such as AC/DC, INXS and Midnight Oil, came out of a pub-rock culture that was deeply suburban. Our major television exports, Neighbours and Home and Away present images of suburban life that have had international appeal. Kylie Minogue’s trajectory from a mechanic on Neighbours to a global pop princess is a suburban one. From Barry Humphries and the character of Dame Edna Everage, the housewife superstar from Moonee Ponds, to Kath and Kim, the foxy morns of Fountain Gate, Australian humour has drawn from what Humphries termed “the vast suburban tundra”.3 Even Australian cultural studies has a suburban inflection. To take three early landmark works, Meaghan Morris’s “Things to Do With Shopping Cetnres”, Myths of Oz by John Fiske, Bob Hodge and Graeme Turner, and John Hartley’s Tele-ology: Studies in Television, are all dealing at some level with Australian suburban culture.

So suburbanism and anti-suburbanism have sat cheek by jowl in Australia. The historical Graeme Davison suggests that it may have ever been thus. He notes that when Governor Arthur Philip was preparing the first town plan for Sydney in 1789, he instructed that streets be laid out:

… in such a manner as to afford free circulation of air, and when the houses are built … the land will be granted with a clause that will prevent more than one house being built on the allotment, which will be sixty feet in front and one hundred and fifty feet in depth. 4
While Governor Philip never used the words “quarter acre suburban block”, he was nonetheless planning for an urban environment where, as Dame Edna would taunt Michael Parkinson on British television 210 years later, ‘In Australia, our houses aren't all joined together like yours to stop them from falling over’. Davison argues that suburbanization has always found a rich response in early Australian history as ‘Australia may be thought of as the farthest suburb of Britain and ambitions for land, space and independence, frustrated in the crowded cities of the homeland, were often realized on the suburban frontiers of Australia’.5 In contemporary multicultural Australia, the aspiration to a detached suburban dwelling across ethnic groups and class divides remains. To take one example, Terence Lee from Murdoch University has discussed the appeal of Perth to Singaporeans, to the point where the term ‘Singaperth” is used in the Straits Times, in terms of the desire to have the sorts of housing that is simply not available on a small and densely populated island, and where ‘Perth might be seen as a “new frontier” for these Singaporeans to strut their creative stuff’.

The Australian Research Council project that inspires today’s symposium has the title Creative Suburbia: A Critical Evaluation of the Opportunities and Scope for Creative Cultural Development in Australia’s Emergent Suburban Communities. The aims of the project have been to:

  1. Map and analyse the experience of the creative industries workforce in outer suburban areas, through grounded case studies in the Australian cities of Brisbane and Melbourne;
  2. Better understand creative enterprise work practices in Australia’s emergent suburban communities, and the role played by networks and dynamic clusters, through a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies;
  3. Identify qualitative cultural factors affecting the employment and productivity of these workers, and the effectiveness of existing mechanisms of government and other forms of support;
  4. Address a potential gap in creative industries research and policy literature arising from a primary focus upon inner-urban areas as sites of creativity, drawing upon the techniques and methodologies of cultural studies and cultural geography.

In developing the project, we were very cognizant of the extensive creative industries mapping project that has been conducted through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, in the project involving Stuart Cunningham, Peter Higgs and Simon Freebody. There has also been a significant amount of research being undertaken in the field of urban infomatics, looking at how the increasing ubiquity of digital technology, internet services and location-aware applications in our everyday lives are changing both the visible and invisible infrastructure of cities, led by Marcus Foth, Greg Hearn and a large range of researchers across disciplines and Faculties. We are also pleased to have Alan Davies and Richard Brecknock with us today, who bring extensive understanding and experience of how such trends are developing in Australian cities and internationally, and who have been engaged with policy-makers at local and state government levels in shaping responses to these trends.

Before introducing the first speaker, I’ll conclude with two potential pitfalls that can arise in this area. The first is what I would call suburban realism. Suburban realism had something of a high water mark in Australia between the arrival of the MV Tampa in Australian waters in 2001 and the arrival of Work Choices legislation in Australian workplaces in 2006. It became very popular among conservative politicians in Australia, and was responded to by Labor in electing a leader in Mark Latham who was a self-described “suburban warrior”, and who will be the only Australian political leader to ever identify Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell as his all time favourite musical work.

It championed the folk wisdom of suburban Australia, a world of tradies, ute-men and hairdressers, over the “out of touch elites” of the inner city, the “latte set” who thought that republicanism, refugees and Australia’s cultural standing in the world were more important than Bunnings, Officeworks and plasma TVs from Harvey Norman. The Liberal former member for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly, captured suburban realism in her infamous statement that the people of her electorate in Western Sydney were not much interested in what happened at the university located in the region, as her electorate was “pram city”, where people were too busy having babies to worry much about higher education. If the stereotype of suburban Australia as brain dead bogans is not accurate, as the work in this project and elsewhere is finding, there is little point in inverting the stereotype and presenting a hitherto perceived lack as some form of vernacular cultural advantage.

The other potential pitfall is what can be termed suburban romanticism. The trope of ‘romancing the suburbs’ arguably goes back to colonial times in Australia and elsewhere, but it can acquire a new tenacity in the age of creative industries. Chris Gibson, Chris Brennan-Horley, Susan Luckman and Julie Willoughby-Smith found elements of this in their study of creative workforce in Darwin, where the ‘serenity’ of parts of the city could equate with having ‘spaces to think’ that were not possible in more concentrated urban zones.7 It is useful to challenge what is often the relentless urbanism of creative industries and creative cities discourse, not least because it frequently conflates attributes of place with consequences of positioning in global circuits of capital and culture, so that the “global city” status of places such as New York, Los Angeles and London is presented as a result of their people and communities rather than their place in the global economy.

But simply romanticizing the suburbs, no less than demonizing them, has the effect of constructing as homogeneous entities places that are highly diverse. This is one reason why the Creative Suburbia project has chosen a qualitative research methodology, as it allows for responses from those actively engaged in developing networks as creative workers in different Australian suburbs to present experiences, and to codify these in ways that don’t force the outcomes back into pre-existing categories. How to better balance positive and negative perceptions of Australian suburbia, and to challenge one-dimensional stereotypes without presenting a patchwork of ineffable and irreducible difference – these are challenges facing those engaged with researching the cultural economic geography of creative workers in Australian suburbs today.

1 Ash Amin and Joanne Roberts, ‘The Resurgence of Community in Economic Thought and Practice’, in A. Amin and J. Roberts (eds.), Community, Economic Creativity and Organization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
2 Lewis Mumford, The City in History, quoted in Mark Clapson, Suburban Century: Social Change and Urban Growth in England and the United States, Oxford: Berg, 2003, p. 5.
3 Sue Turnbull, “Mapping the Vast Suburban Tundra: From Dame Edna to Kath and Kim”, International Journal of Cultural Studies 11(1), 2008, pp. 15-32.
4 Governor Arthur Philip, Letter to Lord Sydney 1788, quoted in Graeme Davison, ‘The Past and Future of the Australian Suburb’, in L. C. Johnson (ed.), Suburban Dreaming: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Australian Cities, Geelong: Deakin University Press, 1985, p. 100.
5 Davison, ‘The Past and Future of the Australian Suburb’, p. 102.
7 Chris Brennan-Horley, Susan Luckman, Chris Gibson and Julie Willoughby-Smith, ‘GIS, Ethnography and Cultural Research: Putting Maps Back Into Ethnographic Mapping', The Information Society 26(2), 2010 (forthcoming).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

HASS on the Hill 2009 - Day 2

Day 2 of HASS on the Hill, being written a day after due to late flights and lots of October 30 deadlines around the place.

Going to New Parliament House (using that term because we had dinner the previous night in the Old Parliament House) is a lot of fun. This is the political class in its natural habitat, and the designers of the building created a cavernous space with lots of nooks and hiding places which seem to facilitate plotting. The famous cafe Ossie's also facilitates arriving early and staying late, with its collection of breakfast cereals, wines, toilet paper, noodle packets, condoms and so on alongside the standard cafe fare. A chance meeting there with Rhys Muldoon revealed many fascinting stories about the political world and the arts world in particular (no spoiler alert here).

The main event for me was meeting Senator Mitch Fifield. Mitch is a Liberal Senator from Victoria, and was a Senior Political Advisor to former Treasurer Peter Costello prior to entering the Senate in 2004.

From Mitch's well designed web site, I gauged that an area of potentially fruitful discussion could arise from his being a patron of The Song Room, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing music education opportunities for children in disadvantaged schools. We were also both at the University of Sydney in the 1980s, so there were some common touch points, ranging from smuggling items into the Fisher Library stack, to students form the era now in the Federal Parliament, including Anthony Albanese, Joe Hockey, Greg Combet, Belinda Neal and (after the Bradfiled by-election, barring a big surprise) Paul Fletcher.

[The road not taken here involves Mitch also being a vocal campaigner for Voluntary Student Unionism. While I have been around universities enough to have seen some truly daft things happen in student unions, withdrawal of the funding that came from student union fees has left a funding hole on campuses that has proved difficult to fill. At any rate, it can be noted that perhaps the daftest thing ever done by a student union was by Liberal Students at the University of New England, in their creation of a position of Heterosexuality Officer.]

Anyway, the meeting was off to a good start. I noted that I wasn't asking for support for any paticular project, which met the affiring respomse from Senator Fifield that being in the Opposition, he couldn't give me anything anyway, so just go ahead and ask. I was also struck by the fact that, just as I had Googled him prior to the metting, he had similarly Googled me, and fould this very blog.

My points from the meeting were:
  1. The National Library of Australia's digitising newspapers initiative is something well worth supporting, not least because it may mean that Sydney Uni. students spend less time in the Fisher Library stack;
  2. 50% of Australian universities' funding coming from non-government sources (discussed yesterday) of which the largest is student fee income, has had a distorting effect on what happens in the sector that is a problem for developing strength in the arts, humanities and social sciences;
  3. A case can be made, and I sought to make it, for a national audit of Media and Communications courses around Australia (including areas such as journalism and public relations as well as areas of multimedia design) to see if they are still growing, and how they are responding to a plethora of industry and technological changes, as well as their general balancing of vocational skills orientation and contextual material.
In realtion to the last point, the last major study in this area was the report prepared by Peter Putnis and his team at the University of Canberra, which was recognised internationally as a landmark study. The time may well have arrived for an equivalent new study, and CHASS may be the entity through which this can be pursued in conjunction with ANZCA.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HASS on the Hill 2009 - Day 1

Being late October, it is time for HASS on the Hill, which I am attending as ANZCA President.

My trip to Canberra turned out to be more eventful than expected for three reasons. First, I discovered the night before that in the course of changing the timing of my return flight to allow for my meeting with Senator Mitch Fifield at 4pm on Wednesday, someone (ether QANTAS or my travel agent) managed to eliminate my flight to Canberra altogther, so I had to make a hurried ticket purchase on my own credit card on Sunday night.

Second, on my revised flight – later than was originally planned – I found myself sitting next to the Independent MP for Kennedy in Far Far North Qld, Bob Katter. Bob wore the most impressive hat onto the plane, an R. M .Williams cowboy number. Finally, leaving Brisbane where the current temperature range is 21-32 degrees Celcius, and the tracksuits are well and truly packed away, I forgot that it is still cold in Canberra, making for a challenging night of rugging up. Still, it could have been worse, as I met people who took the later flight out of Brisbane, only to find themselves stuck at the airport for 3 ½ hours due to the storm.

HASS stands for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and HASS on the Hill is an annual event held by the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS). A lot of acronyms here, but the aim of CHASS – founded in 2004 – is to “promote and provide advocacy for the humanities, arts and social sciences and to serve as a coordinating forum for academics, students, business, practitioners and the broader community”.

CHASS aims to build recognition, profile and influence for the humanities, arts and social sciences akin to the influence acquired by the science and technology sectors, with the specific aims of:

  • Promoting the work of the sectors to government, industry and the public
  • Advocating for policy reform and resources to allow Australia to further develop and use the knowledge and skills it has developed in the humanities, the arts and the social sciences.
  • Providing a coordinating forum for discussion in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences sectors in Australia
  • Creating networks linking experts and researchers in the sector with industry, policy makers and media
  • Building the innovative capacity of Australia through better linkages between these sectors, and science, technology, engineering and medicine
  • Supporting members by building an effective and well-resourced organisation able to provide policy briefing, advocacy and communications advice, and leadership in promoting the sector.

From the first session, which provided an overview of making the case for the value of the HASS sector, two points caught my attention. The first was from Professor Stuart MacIntyre, President of the Academy of the Social Sciences, that higher education in Australia accounts for 1.6% of GDP, of which 0.8% is contributed by private sources, primarily domestic and international fee-paying students. The private contribution ratio is second highest in the world after the United States, but the public contribution in the U.S. is considerably larger. This is another way of saying that Australia has one of the most market-driven higher education sectors in the world, and one of the lowest proportionate contributions of government to higher education funding.

The other point was from Jan Fullerton, Director-General of the National Library of Australia, and her description of the NLA’s process of digitizing Australia’s newspapers. As of June 2009, 4.3 million articles are now available and full-text searchable, with 1.95 million pages scanned from microfiche, and now available through the Google news Archive service. Following the Web 2.0 principle, participants are encouraged to scan, correct and tag text, and users have corrected over 3.4 million lines of electronic text in over 150,000 articles, while adding 70,000 tags to articles and including comment and further information about articles. The plan is to have 40 million searchable articles by 2010, and you can put a link to Australian Newspapers beta from your own website:

Then it was off to lunch at the National Press Club to hear Peter Garrett on a national cultural policy. Underwhelming is the term that stays with me. The National Press Club is an underwhelming venue, with its mix of leathery steaks, bad red wine, and rules that only the journalists can ask questions even if they – by their own admission – know nothing about the topic. And when did the guy from (he kept adding the domain name in his questions) become such an authority on the arts that he gets to ask two questions about Australia’s future population! Future historians and archaeologists may well draw a link between the general dodginess of the National Press Club and the poor quality of Australian newspaper commentary.

The last time I saw Peter Garrett on a stage, it was 1982 at the Royal Antler Hotel in Narrabeen, at a Midnight Oils show. After hearing a decidedly underwhelming presentation on an Australian national cultural policy here, I was certainly a bit nostalgic for the old days. There are certainly a series of old debates about a cultural policy that invariably generate what Peter would call “deep thinking” and a “fair dinkum exchange of views”. What I found most odd was how readily Peter Garrett accepted the formula the arts = culture = flagship companies and big festivals. Its not odd because it’s a view – not everyone subscribes to a cultural studies zeitgeist – but because its coming from someone who has had such an impact on Australian national culture from completely outside of that institutional terrain. It feels like a determined disavowal of his old tribe of the live musicians.

Afternoon involved a debrief on how to deal with an MP or a Senator, with six presenters doing their pitch to a panel in an event described by one panelist as “Australian Idol for smart people”. It was pretty engaging and quite a lot of fun, even as we all wondered who is meeting with Wilson Tuckey MP tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Twelve

• ‘Homo economicus strips the sovereign of power inasmuch as he reveals an essential, fundamental and major incapacity of the sovereign, that is to say, an inability to master the totality of the economic field. The sovereign cannot fail to be blind vis-à-vis the economic domain or field as a whole. The whole set of economic processes cannot fail to elude a would-be central, totalizing, bird’s-eye-view’ (p. 292).

• Possible solutions were : (1) to demarcate market and non-market spaces, and enable political power to be exercised in non-market domains; and (2) to cede control over economic processes but develop superior maps of the economic process (Physiocrats) – ‘in the Physiocrats’ perspective the sovereign will have to pass from political activity to theoretical passivity in relation to the economic process’ (p. 293)

• As neither of these options are satisfactory, “governmentable” subjects are developed through a new domain or field of reference for the art of governing, which is civil society

• The question of civil society is one of ‘how to govern, according to the rules of right, a space of sovereignty which for good or ill is inhabited by economic subjects?’ – ‘The problem of civil society is the juridical structure (economie juridique) of a governmentality pegged to the economic structure (economie economique)’ (p. 296)

• Civil society as a governmental technology: ‘An omnipresent government, a government which nothing escapes, a government which conforms to the rules of right, and a government which nonetheless respects the specificity of the economy, will be a government that manages civil society, the nation, society, the social’ (p. 296).

• Civil society is not a ‘primary reality’, but rather a ‘transactional reality’, like madness or sexuality – ‘an element of transactional reality in the history of governmental technologies’ that correlates to liberalism as ‘a technology of government whose objective is its own self-limitation insofar as it is pegged to the specificity of economic processes’ (p. 297)

• From the mid C18th, and particularly with Adam Ferguson’s History of Civil Society (published at roughly the same time as The Wealth of Nations), civil society appears as:
1. A historical-natural constant beyond which nothing can be found;
2. The spontaneous synthesis of individuals – the social bond which requires no contract non-egoist interests represented in civil society, which is nonetheless territorially bounded in ways that the market is not;
3. A permanent matrix of political power, that is spontaneously formed rather than being the expression of a social contract between governors and governed – ‘in civil society the groups; decision appears to be the decision of the whole group, but when we look more closely at how this takes place we see that the decisions were taken, as [Ferguson] says, “in more select parties”;
4. A motor of history, in so far as it presents the possibility of a stable equilibrium between market society/homo economicus and that which is outside of it (benevolence, community, consent) – developments in economic society and civil society must bear a relationship to one another, as expressed through government and law – civil society can therefore never be static

• The German tradition of counterposing the state and civil society is contrasted to the English tradition of conceiving of civil society within problematics of government – ‘Does civil society really need a government?’ (Thomas Paine) (p. 310)

• The recentring of government associated with liberalism is the shift from government based upon the wisdom of the sovereign (raison d’Etat), to government based upon rationality and calculation. Rationality as a governmental technology is limited, however, by both the invisibility of economic processes and the autonomy of economic subjects. The concept of homo economicus exists less as an attempt to describe human behaviour than as a means of pegging a rationality to subjects that makes them amenable to governmental actions that act as changes to the external environment.

• The different governmental rationalities that have overlapped and competed since the 19th century have been government according to truth (Marxism as government according to the truth of history), art of government according to reason/rationality of the sovereign state, and art of government according to the rationality of economic agents.