Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, August 29, 2008

Um, So, Yeah

We'll see how this works out.

I've missed my blogging voice more than I can say during this unexpectedly long break I've found myself taking, but it just hasn't seemed possible to muster up the energy to blog for a long while now. The complaint that "I'm too busy" has become a placeholder for everything and so nothing by now, I know. But the simple truth is that teaching two summer intensives these last few months -- that means six hours of lectures on difficult and urgently important (to me) theory in institutions on either side of the Bay with just an hour and a half to commute between them on public transport -- just left me boggled and obliterated much of the time. And so the time I used to devote to blogging has often been given over instead to a blandly recuperative but distressingly fattening dead-eyed contemplation of CSI-marathons pizza-delivery boys and empty booze bottles.

The term ahead of me is also a scarily daunting one, I'm afraid. Or, it would be better to say, as usual, at once daunting and frankly exhilarating to contemplate, given the absurd miracle of being permitted to do the one thing you most want to do for a living in any kind of ongoing terms, however difficult they may be.

This time around I'm teaching a survey of critical theory from Marx, Nietzsche, Freud then to Arendt, Fanon, Foucault and then to Haraway, Butler, Gilroy, with a little Oscar Wilde, Valerie Solanas, and William Burroughs thrown in to keep things nice and queer at SFAI on Tuesdays.

I'm teaching a seminar on the three rapid-fire generations of network-mediated radical politics from the still-lingering libertopians of the 90s, to the still-emerging p2p-ethos of the Netroots and copyfighters redefining politics all around us here and now, to the now-upcoming threatening and promising global bioremediation of the medical-industrial-climate-security complex, also at SFAI but on Thursdays.

Tuesday and Thursday late afternoons I'm teaching an introduction to the rhetoric of argument to an auditorium-throng of undergraduates at Berkeley, not only providing basic critical thinking skills and delineating a sense of the work of a critically-theoretical rhetoric more generally, but engaging in particular the fraught intersection, so crucial in this historical moment, where what we come to call persuasion is at once our best alternative to the violent adjudication of differences and at the same time inevitably constituted through structural violences that are most invisible at the very moments when they facilitate personal non-violences.

And then finally I'm directing MA students at SFAI in the writing of their theses again.

It's an enormous amount of work, demanding hours of lecturing, far more hours of reading and preparation, enormously frustrating collisions with administrivial details to which I'm hideously unsuited as a matter of temperament and skill… and I know that the simple urgency of addressing the needs of an audience sometimes a hundred strong and right before my eyes, or a student facing me in office hours with a real problem to solve or a real idea setting them on fire just a foot away from me, often just makes it enormously difficult to invest my imaginative energies in what feels like the more remote and abstract contemplation of the audience that might or more likely might never find its way to a piece of writing released into the world on a blog or otherwise.

But, come what may, I've been missing Amor Mundi terribly lately. I've missed the blog-mediated conversation of the I with myself that Arendt called (not the first to do so, of course, but the one who matters to me) "thinking," and best of all the thinking offered up to the hearing of peers that Arendt demanded (not the last to do so if we are to survive the demands of this historical moment) when she defined critical theory as simply, urgently, openly, "thinking what we are doing."

I do know that in the past I've thought through many of the most fruitful ideas that eventually found their way into my teaching precisely in the effort of formulating posts here and in the give-and-take of conversation with my thoughtful commentors (which is not at all to say that all of my commentators have been thoughtful), and so even as a straightforward practical matter I know my teaching is better when I'm also writing here.

And so, I'm really going to try to give it a go again. All of this may mean that my posts will be somewhat more directly conversational with the material I'm teaching in a day to day sort of way than in the past. Be that as it may, I'm sorry for the long silence. I've missed this place. There is a lot that is happening and there is a lot to say.

So, here I go, here I go, here I go again. We'll see how this works out.


laura said...


squirrel said...

Glad to have you back. I've missed your voice.

Jonathan Pfeiffer said...

Great. I am going to have to get re-acclimated to your style all over again. Thank you for remembering we the unseen, the invisible audience in the cloud. We have been waiting.

Robin said...

"The term ahead of me is also a scarily daunting one, I'm afraid. Or, it would be better to say, as usual, at once daunting and frankly exhilarating to contemplate, given the absurd miracle of being permitted to do the one thing you most want to do for a living in any kind of ongoing terms, however difficult they may be."

This is absurdly accurate.

I'm so glad you're back. Your schedule looks TORTUROUS. I don't know how you do it.

Kakalina said...

Like everyone else is saying, wonderful to have you back ^-^

And wow, that's an unbelievable schedule you've taken on...I'm not sure it's possible to say good luck without implying a dubious tone of voice, but what do I know? (not a whole lot ^__~)

Good luck! :)

AnneC said...


Your schedule does sound insane, which is sort of what I was guessing was going on. Good luck with that. But I am very glad to see you back online. And to see your lovely linguistic hi-jinks. I have so missed phrases like "Christianist Death-Eaters", after all!

Nato Welch said...

Welcome back, Dale. I was wondering where you'd gotten to.