Friday, January 30, 2009

David B: Impressions and such from week one

I'm in a hotel room in Sioux Falls. Work stuff. 18 below. Austin seems a world away. I often find this 'disembodied' sense helpful in thinking about--maybe, disassembling--what I'm feeling about things in general.
In thinking about class and the subject matter at hand, I'm really fascinated by the historic aspect of the development of cultural/critical studies. You know, the stuff about the BCS (had never heard of it before) and where Lazarsfeld rose from.
Which brings me to my first real question: I gathered from last week's readings that Lazarsfeld was part of that movement based at Columbia, but I've always thought of him in the 'numbers' camp: the group that made mass media studies (as we think of it in Nielsen/ratings/marketing terms) commonplace. Did I get this wrong? Did he start in critical studies and 'cross over'?
Back to feelings, now:
Someone in class talked about what seemed like the "paranoia" underlying some of these ideas in crit/cultural theory, and though "paranoia" doesn't seem like the right word to me, I get it. Paranoid or not, it doesn't really bother me that others think the world is out to get them, or that its unfair. Indeed, it just seems to me that the critics want another status quo, which, in my way of thinking, is no better than the status quo ante. Just another somebody's idea of what's right/just/fair. And kum-ba-yah idealism ("Can't we all just get along?") seems naive, at best (corrosive at worst.)
And yeah, I guess I have a problem with the idea of setting up theories in support of one's preconceived idea of justice or addressing imbalances of power. Why? Cuz they seem just power grabs dressed in fairy dust and unicorns. And in general, I'm not crazy about power grabs, regardless of my unicorn-love. On the other hand, if you're gonna try to upset the apple cart (to thoroughly mix metaphors), why not telegraph it up front? Seems dumb, but so be it. 
I think history shows the most durable paradigms are those built on unspoken lattices of self-interest...but whatever. Che looks cooler on a tee-shirt than Thatcher. But let's be honest. Thatcher got a lot more done. And shattered a lot of old-school in the process. Again: whatever.
But I think its really, really stupid to waste my semester gnashing my teeth over what these theorists are trying to accomplish and why. My favorite part of this whole endeavor is observing the deconstructionist approach which constantly pricks and claws at common understandings and pi**es off people who think they know it all. May it ever be thus.
And I genuinely look forward to thinking about how I can corrupt my own work at school with the dangerous ideas of cultural/critical studies.
David D. Brown

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