There has been so much going on during the last few months and so little time to update the blog! After coming back from the States (my activities there are summarised in this report: AFotopoulou_Nemode End of Placement052014 –Tracking biodata: Ownership & sharing, research placement output, RCUK Digital Economy NEMODE), I’ve been busy writing up a bunch of articles. My research in San Francisco was only partly about the Quantified Self (there is plenty of ethnographic research being done by anthropologists at the moment, such as Dawn Nafus), and it has resulted in a rather sociological approach to the phenomenon – which got published recently in Open Democracy. Here I raise some questions about the political potential of formations that engage with data policy in some way or another (such as the Quantified Self), and propose that this experimental engagement (a bit geeky, technical, but at the same time involving storytelling and meeting offline) might signify a new type of public, what I heuristically call ‘smart publics’. Of course this idea, and a theorisation of ‘smart publics’, is developed more clearly in an academic article (forthcoming, watch this space!).
At this point, priority for me has taken writing about cultural understandings of data sharing, and the underlying discourses that circulate in the media, particularly in fiction. I have been exploring how circulating ideas of ‘data utopia’ (a utopia of data abundance and a particular vision of democracy) informs user practices. I happily completed a draft of the article, with a working title ‘All these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data’ and due for submission any time now, during a three-day writing retreat at Forrest Hills, in Lancaster, organised by the Department of Sociology. Of course I’ve been testing these ideas since February this year, first in an invited talk at the Center for Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, and then at Crossroads 2014, the Cultural Studies Conference, in July in Finland, in a panel on Permeable Boundaries: Bodies in Science, Medicine, and Culture.
Joining the Department of Sociology in Lancaster University, on September 1st, has of course been absolutely thrilling – it’s a top department and a great fit for my work – especially because of the Centre for Science Studies and the Gender & Women’s Studies Centre (with current directors Imogen Tyler & Celia Roberts, and former directors Jackie Stacey, Sara Ahmed, Celia Lury, Bev Skeggs, Gail Lewis, Lynne Pearce, Anne-Marie Fortier, Vicky Singleton and Maureen McNeil). I have now the opportunity to complete my monograph ‘Feminist activism and new media: digital and networked by default?’, which will be published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2016. This is based on my PhD thesis but will include some new research and a refined theoretical framework. I pose a question in the subtitle, which many people have found intriguing – and I explain why I pose the question in the article Digital and Networked by default? Women’s organisations and the social imaginary of networked feminism, coming out any day now in New Media & Society. (So watch this space too!)
July also brought about the publication of the special issue on Queer feminist media praxis, which I co-edited with Alex Juhasz and Kate O’Riordan in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No.5. And the launch of SusNet – the CCN+ funded network which brings together feminist cultural production, art and activist practices and enables exchanges between different researchers, activists, artists and aims to contribute to knowledge exchanges across these areas and beyond.
So a lot of research activity and productive interactions this Autumn – but I’m also looking forward to teaching Media and Cultural Studies courses. This term I’m teaching the 101 course in Media and Cultural Studies with Adam Fish, and Critical Cultural Theory with Debra Ferreday. Good stuff!