Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Baudrillard

Fall Break Links!

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* CFP: The Fourth Annual David Foster Wallace Conference, June 2017. CFP: The Marxist Reading Group 2017.

* Tolkien news! Beren and Lúthien coming in 2017. Elsewhere in things from my childhood that I’ll almost certainly repurchase: Inside the new D&D Monster Manual.

* “Whoa,” said the gangster/minotaur, awed at how close he’d just come to losing his forearm. He was beginning to understand that this wasn’t the relatively straightforward world of street-level dope dealing anymore; this was Dungeons and Dragons.

* I’m glad somebody finally paged KSR: “Why Elon Musk’s Mars Vision Needs ‘Some Real Imagination.'”

* Forget Mars. Here’s Where We Should Build Our First Off-World Colonies.

“People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” This is how computer scientist Pedro Domingos sums up the issue in his 2015 book The Master Algorithm. Even the many researchers who reject the prospect of a ‘technological singularity’ — saying the field is too young — support the introduction of relatively untested AI systems into social institutions.

* TFW you cut down a 600-year-old tree.

* On translating Harry Potter. Harry Potter by the Numbers. And did you know Harry Potter was nearly a major cultural phenomenon?

* On The Strange Career of Steve Ditko.

* If you want a vision of the future.

* Mistake on a Lake: In Michigan, privatization and free-market governance has left 100,000 people without water.

* One teaching artist sees it differently. “There will always be bad artists with a lot of money who want to go to art school,” she said. On the Future of the MFA.

* The Professor Wore a Hijab in Solidarity — Then Lost Her Job.

2016_1018b_2* The Secret History of Leftist Board Games.

* There’s More to Life Than Being Happy: On Viktor Frankl and Man’s Search for Meaning. Relatedly: The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That.

Degree programs in French, geology, German, philosophy and women’s studies are suspended, effectively immediately. Eight additional majors within existing departments, six teaching programs and four graduate programs have been shut down. The university is planning a teach-out program for currently enrolled students. Tenured faculty members in affected programs will be reassigned to different departments. The future of the campus’s nursing, dental education and medical imaging programs is still under discussion. Degree programs in environmental geology and environmental policy were cut previously, in July.

* Advice for how to use Twitter as an academic. Of course, as everyone knows, the only winning move is not to play.

* From David M. Perry: “My non-verbal son communicates through ‘Hamilton.'”

* From Adam Kotsko: From his rebellious debut to modern day, the devil has always been a political figure.

* Dylan, Christ, and Slow Train Coming. Teaching the controversy: Kurt Vonnegut in 1991: “Bob Dylan Is the Worst Poet Alive.” Imperialism-in-Artistry: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Win Is Proof Adichie Is Right about Beyonce. Local Boy Makes Good. But not too good: The Nobel Prize Committee Have Given Up on Trying to Get in Touch with Bob Dylan.

* Game of Thrones is even whiter than you think.

* The self-driving car, Baudrillard, and America.

* On the history of fantasy scholarship.

* Free speech and the kids.

* David Letterman and his beard.

* My friend Sam.

* The LSAT and class struggle.

* Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks. ‘What Kind of Mother Is 8 Months Pregnant and Wants an Abortion?’ No, There Are No Ninth Month Abortions.

The notion that American literature might have an imperial bent—that it might be anything other than a string of lightly co-influential works of “imaginative power,” and might itself reflect our national desire to dominate—is lost on its critics, both right and left.

* America dreams of rivers.

* Another gerrymandering primer. I’m inclined to make a joke about Obama’s proceduralism even ruining his post-presidency but this really is a major issue worth throwing his weight against.

* Texas?

In The Hollow: The changing face of Appalachia—and its role in the presidential race.

Derek Black, 27, was following in his father’s footsteps as a white nationalist leader until he began to question the movement’s ideology.

* The Anthropocene and Empire.

* How Trump’s Casino Bankruptcies Screwed His Workers out of Millions in Retirement Savings.

* Atlas Obscura: The Land of Make Believe.

* A People’s History of John Stewart, Green Lantern.

Fear of a Feminist Future.

* And then there’s this one: Earlier this October, at a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice, London paid its rent to the Queen. The ceremony proceeded much as it had for the past eight centuries. The city handed over a knife, an axe, six oversized horseshoes, and 61 nails to Barbara Janet Fontaine, the Queen’s Remembrancer, the oldest judicial position in England. The job was created in the 12th century to keep track of all that was owed to the crown.

* Breastfeeding as captivity narrative.

* The Fear of Having a Son.

* Joss supports Spuffy.

* I’ll allow it, but know that you’re all on very thin ice.

By 2050, it’s likely that plastic in the oceans will outweigh all the oceans’ fish. Some reports predict 850-950 million tons of plastic (the equivalent in weight of 4.5 million blue whales).

* Thank god the Mac version isn’t ready yet: Civ VI is out.

* A dark, grittier Captain Planet: Leonardo DiCaprio wants to make a Captain Planet movie.

* Hungerford makes Infinite Jest represent how commercial publishers and their enablers in the mainstream media engineer a novel into a canonizable success. The market is corrupt, she says. But is it any more corrupt or distasteful than the publication and marketing of her university press book? “Post 45” is a scholarly association; Hungerford is one of nine Board members. Two other Board members are the series editors for the “Post 45” imprint. The “Advance Praise” for Making Literature Now includes effusive comments by two people whom Hungerford praises in the book, a blurb by a former colleague at Yale, and other comments so hyperbolic that they appear to have been written under the influence of laughing gas. Hungerford put out a misleading trailer for the book in the Chronicle, excising the misogyny charge that’s essential in her closing chapter, perhaps because she feared anyone who had read Infinite Jest would see through that charge and not order Making Literature Now. Her title is grandiose because her data is extremely limited. Rather than the survey that the title implies, Making Literature Now is literary tourism combined with two takedowns.

* Nonsense paper written by iOS autocomplete accepted for conference.

* Student writing in the digital age.

* Live long and trick or treat.

* I’m telling you, the simulation is crashing.

* And ours is truly a fallen world.


Written by gerrycanavan

October 22, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Infinite Summer #5: Maps and Territories

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Anyone who has been in graduate school as long as I have recognizes a reference to maps and territories immediately:

If we were able to take as the finest allegory of simulation the Borges tale where the cartographers of the Empire draw up a map so detailed that it ends up exactly covering the territory (but where, with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts – the metaphysical beauty of this ruined abstraction, bearing witness to an imperial pride and rotting like a carcass, returning to the substance of the soil, rather as an aging double ends up being confused with the real thing), this fable would then have come full circle for us, and now has nothing but the discrete charm of second-order simulacra.

Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory – precession of simulacra – it is the map that engenders the territory and if we were to revive the fable today, it would be the territory whose shreds are slowly rotting across the map. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself.

What destroys the Interdependence Day Y.D.A.U. game of Eschaton—which I must admit is another personal favorite sequence in the novel—is exactly this Baudrillardian sense of (Pemulis’s words) “map-not-territory equivocationary horseshit” (337), i.e., the postmodern inability to distinguish between maps and territories that is, in the end, the inability to locate “territory” at all. For Pemulis this kind of cognitive breakdown threatens our ability to think at all:

Pemulis howls that Lord is in his vacillation appeasing Ingersoll in Ingersoll’s effort to fatally fuck with the very breath and bread of Eschaton. Players themselves can’t be valid targets. Players aren’t inside the goddamn game. Payers are part of the apparatus of the game. They’re part of the map. It’s snowing on the players but not on the territory. They’re part of the map, not the clusterfucking territory. You can only launch against the territory. Not against the map. It’s like the one ground-rule boundary that keeps Eschaton from degenerating into chaos. Eschaton gentlemen is about logic and axiom and mathematical probity and discipline and verity and order. You do not get points for hitting anybody real. Only the gear that maps what’s real…

…and Pemulis shouts across that it’s so totally beside the point it doesn’t matter, that the reason players aren’t explicitly exempted in the ESCHAX.DIR is that their exemption is what makes Eschaton and its axioms fucking possible in the first place. … Pemulis says because otherwise use your heads otherwise nonstrategic emotions would get aroused and Combatants would be whacking balls at each other’s physical persons all the time and Eschaton wouldn’t even be possible in its icily elegant game-theoretical form. He’s stopped jumping up and down, at least, Troeltsch observes. Players’ exemption from strikes goes without saying, Pemulis says; it’s like preaxiomatic. Pemulis tells Lord to consider what he’s doing very carefully, because from where Pemulis is standing Lord looks to be willing to very possibly compromise Eschaton’s map for all time. (338)

It’s not hard to see Pemulis’s impotent, rage-filled anxiety over the fate of Eschaton’s objective purity as, in miniature, the reaction of traditional Enlightenment rationality to its challenge from an increasingly hegemonic postmodernity that is characterized by cognitive decentering, indeterminacy, irrationality, and labyrinthine self-referentiality. Pemulis is not the first to shout that we must build floodwalls against certain lines of speculation and deny the possibility of alternate subjectivities for fear of total cognitive chaos (whether said chaos is named postmodernism, social constructivism, cultural relativism, theory, or something else entirely)—to claim, in other words, that only a sufficiently abstractive and “objective” faux universality, the terms of which have always been agreed upon in advance, properly counts as Thought in the first place.

Two further thoughts emerge: first, that this anxiety about maps and territories is clearly a central problem for the reader of Infinite Jest as well, who, I think, must struggle to stay afloat in a narrative whose irony is confusingly unstable, with satire that is constantly threatening to devolve into parody and even to mere gag. 390 pages in, I find that I am still trying to get a firm grip on what is “real” and what is “not real” in this text, that is, what is best understood through a conventionally realist interpretive lens and what is better described as hyperbolic and hyperreal in the style that James Wood famously named hysterical realism.

And second, that the opposition between maps and territories laid out in the Eschaton section is central to one of the more memorable turns of phrase that DFW uses throughout IJ: the endless variations on “eliminate his own map for good” as a euphemism for suicide. That we ourselves are maps, not territories suggests, on the one hand, a idealist vision of the universe in which objective reality takes a backseat to our subjective understanding of it and on the other a psychoanalytic framing of consciousness itself as essentially false and illusionary—the latter take driven home at the end of the section by Hal’s need to feel his own face to see if he is wincing (342). What do we do if consciousness itself is a simulacrum without a referent, and all self-reflection therefore a kind of hopeless mise en abyme?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Book Reviews and Such

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I’ve got a review in the Independent this week of Mobility without Mayhem, a new book by NCSU professor Jeremy Packer on the rhetoric of safety and the technologies of control surrounding the automobile. I like the book a lot, but as I say in my review, I find it a little incomplete at its margins; Packer addresses neither the historical circumstances that caused the car to become the central technology of American domestic life in the first place, nor the way this dialogue of safety has shifted in contemporary debates about consumer culture and its environmental costs.

I just find both of these questions too key to be bracketed or put aside.

Jaimee’s also been busy with the Indy lately, with a review of a local press’s limited-edition art book on birdhouses of the South and another of perennial McSweeney’s contributor Dan Kennedy’s novel-memoir of life in the record business. She was also a judge for their recent poetry contest, which you can read all about here

Written by gerrycanavan

March 20, 2008 at 5:06 am

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Written by gerrycanavan

August 9, 2007 at 7:00 pm