Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the sparks (in response to the previous)

in response to my last post:

You can be smart as hell
Know how to add
Know how to figure things
On yellow pads
Answer so no one knows
What you just said
But when you're all alone
You and your head
What's the computer say, it's mumbling now
It says "hey Joe"
It's spelled it out and
"You've got angst in your pants"
"You've got angst in your pants"


memes and much better ways of describing

somehow i came across this... which seemed interesting but also like a science-centric, hopeless and not so fun or compelling way of saying just about the same thing as Tom Wolfe says here:


Understanding the fantastic process of natural selection we can see how our human bodies came to be the way they are. But what about our minds? Evolutionary psychology does not easily answer my questions.

For example, why do we think all the time? From a genetic point of view this seems extremely wasteful - and animals that waste energy don't survive. The brain uses about 20% of the body’s energy while weighing only 2%. If we were thinking useful thoughts, or solving relevant problems there might be some point, but mostly we don't seem to be. So why can’t we just sit down and not think?

...Thus we all become unwitting hosts to an enormous baggage of useless and even harmful meme-complexes.

One of those is myself.

Why do I say that the self is a meme-complex? Because it works the same way as other meme-complexes. As with astrology, the idea of "self" has a good reason for getting installed in the first place. Then once it is in place, memes inside the complex are mutually supportive, can go on being added to almost infinitely, and the whole complex is resistant to evidence that it is false.

First the idea of self has to get in there. Imagine a highly intelligent and social creature without language. She will need a sense of self to predict others’ behaviour (Humphrey, 1986) and to deal with ownership, deception, friendships and alliances (Crook, 1980). With this straightforward sense of self she may know that her daughter is afraid of a high ranking female and take steps to protect her, but she does not have the language with which to think "I believe that my daughter is afraid ... etc.". It is with language that the memes really get going - and with language that "I" appears. Lots of simple memes can then become united as "my" beliefs, desires and opinions.

...Zen does this too, though the methods are completely different. In Zen training every concept is held up to scrutiny, nothing is left uninvestigated, even the self who is doing the investigation is to be held up to the light and questioned. "Who are you?".

After about 15 years of Zen practice, and when reading The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, I began working with the koan "Who...?". The experience was most interesting and I can best liken it to watching a meme unzipping other memes. Every thought that came up in meditation was met with "Who is thinking that?" or "Who is seeing this?" or "Who is feeling that?" or just "Who...?". Seeing the false self as a vast meme-complex seemed to help - for it is much easier to let go of passing memes than of a real, solid and permanent self. It is much easier to let the meme-unzipper do its stuff if you know that all it’s doing is unzipping memes.

Another koan of mine fell to the memes. Q. "Who drives you?" A. "The memes of course." This isn’t just an intellectual answer, but a way into seeing yourself as a temporary passing construction. The question dissolves when both self and driver are seen as memes.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Current Fellows, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan

Current Fellows, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan

someone i'd like to talk to...

"My core intellectual interest is in imagination and mediation – how ideas emerge, circulate and generate other ideas, narratives and forms. Representations – both textual and visual – are central to my work as products that are formed by and reflect particular cultural and historical environments and yet, as fixed entities, can travel and have influence far from their points of origin. In one form or another, all my projects explore cultures of knowledge production: how the circulation of representations, as well as the organization of information and technology shapes the imagination and how, in turn, innovations in narrative form, including communication technologies, come about.

Trained in literature, anthropology and film studies, the question that guided my dissertation fieldwork was highly interdisciplinary by necessity: What ways of seeing are global news audiences offered and how do the structures that shape these ways of seeing, also shape ways of imagining the world and political practices possible within it?

Specifically, international news photographs play a critical role in how the world is imagined today – they mediate and manage diverse imaginations. Against the backdrop of Gulf War II, commonly referred to as “the most photographed war in history,” my fieldwork centered on key nodal points of production, distribution, and circulation of the international photojournalism industry in its centers of power in New York and Paris. My informants were various “brokers of images,” such as photo editors and agencies, who act as mediators for views of the world, and in so doing also become mediators of our imagination. Currently I am completing the resulting manuscript, Images and their Brokers: The Work of International News Photographs in the Age of Digital Reproduction, an ethnography of a very loose community of people collectively engaged in visual knowledge production at a time when the core technologies of their craft, their status amidst a growing pool of amateurs, and the very relationship between representations and acts of violence was changing rapidly.

My next projects involve: the novelty introduced to visuality with photographic representations of the human body, the use of photography as a tool of governmentality, the expansive photo albums of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II, the confluence of changes in transportation, communication, distribution of capital, industrialization, and perceptions of time and space that coincide with several innovations in the history of media, and Turkish coffee grinds.

Research interests: Visual anthropology, media anthropology, ethnographic and documentary film, cultures of knowledge production, photography, anthropology of news and journalism, anthropology of the imagination, moving image studies, theories of representation, narrative forms. France, Turkey, USA."