[-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Mon Feb 8 04:22:15 EST 2010

I agree with Tom¹s sympathies here. My earlier emails on cultural analytics
were critical, not damning. I also agree that there is intense pressure in
academia for the non-quantitative subjects to quantize themselves in some
manner. Nevertheless, the argument should be fought from one¹s high ground.
To accept the quantitative mantra at the outset is to have lost the war
before battle has been engaged (no more military metaphors ­ I find them

In the UK the ground has shifted somewhat with the creation of the Arts and
Humanities Research Council, alongside the other councils (Medical,
Engineering and Physical Sciences, Economic and Social, etc), and thus
qualitative and practice based reflective methods are now accepted as valid
research modalities. Nevertheless, there are considerable pressures to
instrumentalise such activities, the government (which still funds 90% of
all research in the UK) demanding that research proposals can demonstrate
their economic and social impact in advance of the work being done. The
irony is that this has negatively impacted on the blue sky sciences
(physics, astronomy, etc) and certain traditional humanities subjects
(medieval studies, philosophy, etc) but has favoured practice based
activities, which have tended to be public facing (involving exhibition,
broadcast, networks, etc). It is a double irony as the government introduced
these guidelines partly to bias monies towards STEM subjects (science,
technology, engineering and medicine).

I would still argue that what is being presented as ³cultural analytics²
will fail in its objectives without accounting for the reception
(contextualised and/or inter-textual reading) of artefacts as well as their
formal and material existence.



Simon Biggs

s.biggs at eca.ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk  Skype: simonbiggsuk
Research Professor  edinburgh college of art  http://www.eca.ac.uk/
Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice

From: "Thomas LaMarre, Prof." <thomas.lamarre at mcgill.ca>
Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Date: Sun, 7 Feb 2010 11:22:22 -0500
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] visualization as the new language of theory

If I have reservations about such research developments, it is not in the
spirit of objection or rejection.  What is more, it is clear that if we
don't undertake any of these challenges in the humanities, we won't set any
of the directions or agenda, since researchers, largely in cognitive
science, are leaping in it, and with a massively scientifistic attitude -
perhaps to compensate for the fact that, at the end of the day, actual
scientists (chemists, physicists, biologists) don't consider such work any
more scientific than Freudian psychoanalysis.  Agreeing with Foucault,
however, that institutions are not structures but sites of confrontation, I
am willing to confront.

Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201

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