slower, softer

Let me just frame this by saying that I am at the business end of trying to construct a doctoral thesis on the implications for cultural citizenship of vernacular creativity in “new media” contexts. I use radically mixed methods and my concept maps always start with ‘worms-eye’ views. I try to live up to the ethical ideals of cultural studies, participatory action research and the power of specificity and radical contextualisation. I’m doing this in a research context where the speed of innovation is utterly incompatible with any kind of scholarly pace.

Also, I recently got external feedback on a collaborative project that is explicitly designed to mount a grounded, pragmatic critique of some of the ethical implications of “creativity” and “innovation” in particular contexts – something that almost nobody who might actually make use of such an understanding seems to have time to do, because we’re always too busy trying to find the cutting edge. The feedback wasn’t overly negative, but I was gobsmacked to find that it said there was not enough emphasis on the future.

So let’s pretend for a moment that I’m in the business of making naive and idealistic manifestoey statements. This is what I’d want to say about how “new media” talks about itself, and about how new media scholars talk about it:

Old things are as interesting as new ones.

The speed and spectacular novelty of a particular innovation should never be a measure of its value or the basis of its justification. (But I get why they are).

We* need time to explore slow and ethical innovation.

We need more space for quiet voices, more room for thoughtfulness and more recognition of the value of boredom.

We have a lot to learn from the practices of late adopters, as well as those of the thoughtful, the sceptical, and the reluctant. We should watch them. We should listen.

But that’s just between you, me and the choir.


*designers, users, researchers, critics, teachers, students, policy-makers, journalists. you. me.

5 thoughts to “slower, softer”

  1. “I write in the conviction that sometimes it is best to sabotage what is inexorably to hand, than to invent a tool that no one will test, while mouthing varieties of liberal pluralism”, says Gayatri (with an uncharacteristic grammatical slip).

    The key word for me is “test”. How does one know what an innovation is? The approval of one’s research community (let alone the media) is no longer / never was sufficient to guarantee the beneficience of one’s activity. Instead, as you point out, to measure the value of our innovations amongst the reluctant/skeptical (not to mention the poor, the dispossessed, and the unimaginable) is a different kind of value which can never be gained (and will not be recognised) in the speedy economies of serial prognostication and the next big thing.

    Good luck and don’t be discouraged!

  2. Ya!i do agree with danny. Your blog is really superb. What an interesting site!!! Great info about new research methods. Your innovations can be valued through degrees of pressure. Doing a great job. Keep going!

  3. thanks danny – i like the quote, although I think part of what I’m trying to communicate is the interesting challenge of doing something *other* than either ‘sabotage’ or be hegemonised into any given project. For example, I’m trying to remember that even hype has its uses (such as the diffusion of the idea that a particular media technology is in fact open to use at all – after which point we can start to notice just how constrained or skewed or partisan this apparent openness is, and try to do something about that). But I share the spirit of your comments absolutely and I will definitely take your advice re discouragement!

  4. yes yes and yes.
    had to reference this over at mine as i totally agree. i assume it refers partially to the AOIR feedback david mentioned to me some weeks back.
    only problem is, i need to speed up slightly as i am taking it a bit tooooo slow i think! 😉 Happy easter!

  5. Trine, your assumption may or may not be correct. 😉 Enjoy the thoroughness and care with which I will bet you’re approaching your DPhil – I’m so aware that after graduation it’s going to be hard to find that much thinking space ever again!

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