The Future, As It Happened


Here, by way of further undermining my academic credentials, I present my typed up notes from the conference I was at/sort of helped with on April 11th. I’m not exactly sure why I am presenting them here, except I did last year and I wanted to prove I am not just some bile filled face of fun. The topic under discussion was ‘The Future of Sociology’, and for the most part the talks and panels were very interesting, more so than the people I rubbished possibly unnecessarily last year…no…wait…they were awful. Justified. I didn’t take notes for everyone largely because, as a drunk man called Jack pointed out in the pub afterwards, I kept wandering off. My notes or lack of notes for certain speakers in no way reflects interest/disinterest; everything was subjective…if I felt like writing I would. Sometimes I didn’t, but found the content no less interesting. Any way. I’ll add my own reflections on typing this mess up in this style of parenthesis – [ ]. If anyone who wasn’t there fancies a punt at working out what the talks were about using my piss poor descriptions you’ll win a shiny penny (don’t do this).

Interview with Barry Sandywell. Questions by Dave Beer.
So softly spoken the blinds at the window win out, rattling, producing some interesting sounds. Seems slightly dream like. Perhaps I am hungover. Face warm, ears warm, head fuggy. His book stemmed from a personal glossary and became nodal terms for visual phenomena. UPDATE MY GLOSSARY. Problematizing methods of seeing. Destabilize. Engage in polemics. Trolley outside scraped across the pavement. ‘History as an imagined past’ – hauntological link [I’m always on the look out]. Now a lorry reversing. The significance of occlusion. The future is the past [This is the overall theme of the day I think; the future of sociology is the past, just presented better].

John Poulter from Leeds
At the Shankill Road memorial to 5 protesters killed by ‘a Republican murder gang’, there is a reflection in the shiny stone of a man, possibly Poulter, staring at the engraving. ‘Fuck you’ is inserted in to the talk, via the medium of war memorial graffiti.

Nuala Morse from Durham
Missed. Occasionally I have blood sugar issues. This was one of those times. I left and bought a Lion bar. The vending machine was overwhelmingly Nestle, which is to be expected in York, and although I haven’t eaten anything made by the babykillers for about 10 years, I had little option [this is a lie…there was a Cadbury’s snack bar but I didn’t notice it until I’d punched the numbers in]. I ate it outside on a bench, whilst a goose looked at me, possibly disapproving.

Tom from York itself.
Time/space dioramas for displaying geospatial data. I’m meant to ask a question but I forget what we agreed on. Dan asks a questions, as does Dave. Absolved of responsibility.

Keynote Speech by George Steinmetz of the University of Michigan
C Wright Mills to open, followed by justifiable complaints about the narrow focus of sociological enquiry. Links between positive imperialism and the discipline in French and German anthropology. Discussion of American empire building in terms of overseas military bases and the use of ‘powerless people’ e.g. experts undermined by reliance on state funding (similar to Nelkin’s critique). Anthropolgy as the ‘handmaiden of colonialism’. The word ‘Polandian’ is used; Polish surely? Bourdieu’s rules of art comes up. The sound of dumper trucks outside. I am flagging. His future for the discipline again looks at the past, reconfiguring our understanding of empire and the relationship between colonialism and the untranslated work of anthropologists of the time. Additionally, he’s much better than Thornton last year – he came out with us for food and booze the night before. Kudos.
C Wright Mills Reclines

Dave Hill from York no less [These notes don’t especially reflect what Dave was talking about, but rather what I was thinking about in relation to what he was talking about.]
The performative aspect of facebook. ‘Stalking as browsing’. Presentation of self via photos and comments. Expression is defined by the limitations of the technology or the way in which your input is guided. Can facebook be used to create an effective alternative ‘self’ – a site of truth that is make believe and consumed and assumed ‘real’ by the ‘stalker’. How long can the make believe be maintained – does it become real eventually? [More importantly, why bother doing this…what the hell was I on about?]. Bauman, the stranger and the stalker [Sounds like a recipe for a great kids story]. Brian Loader suggests older social spaces, the pub for example – is it a glorified past facebook is being compared with? Wasn’t the old set up equally problematic? The future again relies on the past. Is it possible to perpetuate the strange via the medium.

Danny Singh from York
I am more curious about his way of speaking; he ends a lot of sentences with ‘Ok?’ He wanders round a lot too, whilst pointing at his own hand. He is quite commanding, like a miniature giant if that makes sense. He obviously knows his stuff, but the use of lists in terms of who he has been in contact with in Afghanistan, combined with my state of mind/bad attitude, means I am not paying attention.
[missed middle whilst pissing…I left the conference room for this obviously]
Not sure how this fits in to the future of social science, aside from Afghanistan gradually moving towards not being fucked. And Sam is shouting unnecessarily.

Alexandra Sherlock from Sheffield
A fully funded PhD looking at identity in relation to footwear choices? I didn’t get funding for mine. Where is my money? Maybe I need to learn how to fill forms in properly. Objects have social lives – by following the trajectory of a thing you can understand its value. This project seems quite fun [following plastic bats with cartoon faces as they are passed about and people picture the bats in various situations] though I am unconvinced by its usefulness. The anthropomorphosis on display is more through design than ascribed meaning…they’re cartoon bats. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to follow something like a featureless cube, something without explicit characteristics or functionality? No…someone will probably just draw a face on the cube. There are similarities with the Trobriand Islands thing Malinowski did in the 20s…again, the future in the past, though not moving anything forwards, simply noticing the similarity. Did rebuff Dave Hill either, despite suggesting it would. Again, it was fun.

Keith McIntosh from York as I live and breath
The future’s predisposition towards certain aesthetic conventions. Hauntology falls in to this I think, with the importance placed on assumed conventions and implicit understanding of objects and their relationships with the boundaries of the movement. Good presentation, linking the natural imagery of advertising and Windows XP with the urban aesthetic and credibility of new technologies…why this emphasis on the natural?

I gave up writing notes at this stage, though Rowland said something interesting in his closing remarks where he complained that sociologists should be doing things as relevant as the Wire. Why are we not the social commentators when that is our raison d’être? I wonder how I can better incorporate film and visual elements in to my research, possibly collaborating with my talented compadres in other fields.


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