Tag Archives: Mark Carrigan

Collegiality v bureaucracy v palm trees and Stamford Raffles. And Instagram.

It’s been a while since I posted, because I have been
a) thesising
b) writing a book chapter (intimately related to a) above))

Still, this and a book I just read (see next post) deserve recording for posterity (or at least until the electricity systems collapse).

My friend Mark Carrigan (top bloke, btw) has just written a v. good post “the social struggle between collegiality and bureaucracy”.  It’s not long, and it’s a corker.

It put me in mind of The Peter Principle (people are promoted to their level of incompetence and stay there) and the way people who couldn’t do a job at the coalface got eased (or eased themselves) sideways into ‘management’ and then gradually rose/climbed their way up.  While often harbouring resentment/envy (consciously or unconsciously) of those who could Do The Job.  And then punished those people for being competent, collegiate etc.  Herman Melville wrote a whole novella about this, Billy Budd.

It also put me in mind of something I read (in a Granta?) of a factory in Wales where there had been a lovely view of the hills… till someone calculated they could extract more work if people didn’t sometimes stop and look at those hills, and had the windows bricked up.

An older example of this and a newer, really scary one.
Older one – Stamford Raffles.

When Sir Stamford Raffles went to Singapore, he went by way of Indonesia and saw how self-reliant people were with the palms that provided them with everything they needed. He said ‘These people are ungovernable’. There was nothing the government could give them that they wanted or needed. So what had to be done was clear. Cut the fucking palms down, so they became dependent, and hence governable. You can’t govern independent people. They have no need of anything you can bring them.”

Bill Mollison (founder of ‘permaculture’) in Jeremy Seabrook’s book ‘Pioneers of Change’

And more recently (like, now) from this terrifying article
The makers of smartphone apps rightly believe that part of the reason we’re so curious about those notifications is that people are desperately insecure and crave positive feedback with a kneejerk desperation. Matt Mayberry, who works at a California startup called Dopamine Labs, says it’s common knowledge in the industry that Instagram exploits this craving by strategically withholding “likes” from certain users. If the photo-sharing app decides you need to use the service more often, it’ll show only a fraction of the likes you’ve received on a given post at first, hoping you’ll be disappointed with your haul and check back again in a minute or two. “They’re tying in to your greatest insecurities,” Mr. Mayberry said.
Instagram denies this – MRDA.

Academic (self)-branding and Andon Boards, or “The Panspectron as Tetris”

Was at an event only advertised on Twitter (how 21C is that?) I met some interesting people. One of them was the chief twitterer himself, Mark Carrigan (see post “coping with acceleration.”)

In a discussion about the ‘need’ for branding and the intensification of academic (if not intellectual) life, Carrigan approvingly cited the work of Will Davies, who talks about how the floor is being heated to see who can hop the longest.

This speed-up, analogous to what the political class has gone through with the coming of 24 hour news and now social media, is moving, like universal acid in the space ship , to academia.

For me the best way of thinking about it is via Andon Boards

esq-andon-board-1012-lg1Andon (アンドン, あんどん, 行灯) is a manufacturing term referring to a system to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem. The centrepiece is a signboard incorporating signal lights to indicate which workstation has the problem. The alert can be activated manually by a worker using a pullcord or button, or may be activated automatically by the production equipment itself. The system may include a means to stop production so the issue can be corrected. Some modern alert systems incorporate audio alarms, text, or other displays.

Ostensibly about quality control, they make very good intensification tools, since teams can be pitted against each other to see who is doing best (fastest). Sort of like the evening sky signs of who died during the Hunger Games

(I first heard of Andon Boards in an extraordinary (as in brilliant) book called Pandemonium: The Rise of Predatory Locales in the Postwar World, which, when I am chief fascist dictator, everyone will be forced to read.)

There was a useful reference to Patti Lather on doing within/against work around the (academic) game.

Other similar concepts – the Japanese word ‘karoshi’, which translates as “death from overwork”.

Juking the stats. They won’t let me embed!  You MUST watch this clip. It’s only 100 seconds, of sheer genius.

Panspectron – the panopticon, but splintered and everywhere, all the time.  No longer a central point of observation, it is all around us, in the CCTV, the RFID, the Facebook, the phone, everywhere, all the time; skynet, basically.

Tetris– a game where your mental and physical dexterity are tested at progressively higher velocity.  Eventually your ability to close your ooda loops and recover from previous mis-judgements or mis-deliveries is overwhelmed.  The (speed of) the medium is the message…

Further work:  There’s probably also something on the early factories, with the surreptitious speed increases and clock slowing downs (EP Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class has stuff on this – I am told, not having (yet) read it.

To Read: David Noble’s Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education

Neologisms to coin – something that combines academics and precariat.  Precarademics? Brainetariat?  Para-cites?  (the last one is perhaps better for people who pad out their reference lists with things they’ve not actually read? About that Thompson book, um….)