amor mundi

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Week

The week has passed in a blur, my teaching intensives dominating everything while I am teaching them, and then reading and preparation for the next lectures filling up even more of the hours in the days in between. I cannot remember a more challenging teaching season, and my recent battles with anxiety and insomnia (after the one-two gut punch of hospitalization and Trumpism, among other things) make everything that much more fraught and exhausting. All that said, the topics of the course -- varieties of green discourse and anti-democratizing threats in digital formations -- are as riveting as always, my students are engaged and engaging, it is impossible not to feel gripped by the issues and by the great insights and marvelous energy of earnest students grappling with the assigned material, full of ideas, humor, and objections... I often forget how tired I am right up to the moment I get on the bus back home, collapse into a heap, scarcely five o'clock by then but already pining for bed and hoping the night will bring rest and not more worry.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Yeah, It's Gonna Be Like This For A While

My Berkeley summer intensives are being intensive like you wouldn't believe. I'm spending twelve hour days the whole weekend through prepping ahead of lectures, six hours of which I am delivering three days in a row each week. Teaching has always required a real push past my introversion into speech, but the older more fragile more precarious deeply anxious post-illness post-Trump catastrophe insomniac version of myself is finding what was always a rather daunting (and rewarding, mind you) enterprise truly, truly difficult these days. Expect five more weeks of spotty posts, retweets without comment, punctuated by occasional exasperated expressions of panic and aggravation. Sound like fun?

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Teaching Retreat

Began teaching summer intensives last week, the, em, intensity of which is compelling a retreat from twitter and blogging... not the worst thing in the world. Compulsively retweeting outrageous headlines scarcely seems like a form of awareness that affords agency rather than just endlessly amplifying alarm. Who needs it?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Roman Concrete for Rising Seas?

Via BBC Science, a story appealing at once to my fascination with all things Roman as to my passion for all things ecological:
Ancient sea walls built by the Romans used a concrete made from lime and volcanic ash to bind with rocks. Now scientists have discovered that elements within the volcanic material reacted with sea water to strengthen the construction. They believe the discovery could lead to more environmentally friendly building materials. Unlike the modern concrete mixture which erodes over time, the Roman substance has long puzzled researchers. Rather than eroding, particularly in the presence of sea water, the material seems to gain strength from the exposure... "Contrary to the principles of modern cement-based concrete," said... Marie Jackson from the University of Utah, US, "the Romans created a rock-like concrete that thrives in open chemical exchange with seawater." ... The ancient mixture differs greatly from the current approach. Modern buildings are constructed with concrete based on Portland cement... The process of making cement has a heavy environmental penalty, being responsible for around 5% of global emissions of CO2. So could the greater understanding of the ancient Roman mixture lead to greener building materials? Prof Jackson is testing new materials using sea water and volcanic rock from the western United States. Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, she argued that the planned Swansea tidal lagoon should be built using the ancient Roman knowledge of concrete. "Their technique was based on building very massive structures that are really quite environmentally sustainable and very long-lasting," she said. "I think Roman concrete or a type of it would be a very good choice [for Swansea]. That project is going to require 120 years of service life to amortise [pay back] the investment. "We know that Portland cement concretes contain steel reinforcements. Those will surely corrode in at least half of that service lifetime." There are a number of limiting factors that make the revival of the Roman approach very challenging. One is the lack of suitable volcanic rocks. The Romans, the scientists say, were fortunate that the right materials were on their doorstep. Another drawback is the lack of the precise mixture that the Romans followed. It might take years of experimenting to discover the full formula.

Protest Is Patriotic

Never more true.

Monday, July 03, 2017

How To Resist the Trump GOP Shock Doctrine

Absolutely vital. Very concise.

Libertechbrotarians Are Turning Earth Into A Dead Mars...

...all the while planning to escape responsibility by moving to a dead Mars.

Climate Alliance Continues To Provide Countervailing Power to Trump GOP Climate Criminality

Vox on The US Climate Alliance:
President Trump['s] announc[ment] that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement... has sparked an extraordinary amount of counter-organizing. In recoiling from Trump, states, cities, and institutions are entering into closer cooperation. A coalition is forming, a Blue America, and at least on climate change, it is going beyond mere resistance to a more proactive role, negotiating with the international community on its own behalf, like a separate nation.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Changes

Since Trump's inauguration I have lost over fifty pounds from diet and exercise (and, possibly, worry). Also, I have probably watched more cooking competitions and home renovation shows on tee vee than I managed in the full ten years prior to this distressing time. I must say, neither of these results were even in my mind's eye last November... Minute changes seeking even modest self-care have already yielded vast changes in my health, my appearance, my state of mind, the shaping of my day to day time. There is always more going on in life than we attend to. I suppose I could try to talk about that more. Pointing out the authoritarianism, bigotry, cruelty, corruption, hypocrisy, stupidity of the Trump GOP in power is too demoralizing after the bazillionth expose.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Grateful

Reading Angela Davis on prison abolition/abolition democracy and Judith Butler on performative assembly/sensate democracy this summer is finally dragging me out of the despair and defeat I've been feeling all year.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

California Continues To Lead


SACRAMENTO June 29, 2017 – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla today released the statement below in response to a letter from Kris Kobach, Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The Commission was established through executive order by President Donald Trump after he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election. Because he lost the popular vote, Trump has falsely alleged that three to five million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election. This, despite the fact that his claims of voter fraud are unsubstantiated and that academics and bipartisan leaders have confirmed that there is no evidence of large scale, let alone massive voter fraud.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued the following statement in response to Mr. Kobach’s request for voter data:

“The President’s commission has requested the personal data and the voting history of every American voter–including Californians. As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state’s voters. I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach. The President’s Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections.”

“The President’s appointment of Kobach–who has a long history of sponsoring discriminatory, anti-immigrant policies including voter suppression and racial profiling laws–sends a clear and ominous message. His role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens.”

“I will continue to defend the right of all eligible voters to cast their ballots free from discrimination, intimidation or unnecessary roadblocks.”

Thinking What We Are Doing

The following is excerpted from a history of teaching and statement of teaching philosophy requested as part of a dossier summarizing my position at SFAI as I'm assessed for the new union contract. The creation of the dossier was mostly a tedious and time-consuming slog, but I did find clarifying and useful the opportunity to think more explicitly about what it means to be trained in rhetoric teaching critical theory to art students in California in the time of Trump's GOP... 

The title of my version of the Critical Theory A survey course -- no doubt the single course I have taught the most often over the years here at the San Francisco Art Institute -- has usually been "The Point Is To Change It." The title is drawn, of course, from the last of Marx's "Theses on Feuerbach": "The philosophers hitherto have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it." Since I go on to read Marx on the fetishism of commodities as the recommendation of a kind of radical reading practice -- changing the world BY interpreting it, as it were -- things get sticky pretty quickly here. But I first read this quotation simply as marking a re-orientation of western philosophical thinking in critical theory, especially under the pressure of the technoscientific transformations of late modernity and neoliberal postmodernity, away from the otherworldly consolations of the contemplative life to the provocations and promises (and betrayals) of the active life of worldly concern.

On this understanding, critical theory is (or at any rate was definitively shaped by) a return to the classical rhetorical tradition, a return the terms of which set the scene for the postwar biopolitical turn and the present turns of planetarity. Although I do not imagine it is particularly surprising to hear that someone trained in rhetoric would bring a rhetoricized conception to the teaching of critical theory here, what I would emphasize is the possibly more surprising fact that it has been my teaching of critical theory to art students here at SFAI that has been by far the most definitive encounter shaping my understanding of my subject and my work. At the heart of a rhetorical elaboration of critical theory will be an insistence on the distinction of literal from figurative language and an emphasis on the constitutive and resignifying force of the latter. For me, an understanding of the work of figurative language in the ongoing reconstitution of persuasion and meaning connects all theoria to poiesis, that is to say all analysis to art-making.

This is an observation that sits very well with my sense that Nietzsche is as indispensable a figure for teaching critical theory as both Marx and Freud are, as it does also with congenial historical and intersectional critiques pitched from poststructural/ posthumanist/ queer precincts in the present. I would now go so far as to say that what Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud have in common as the three threshold figures who take us from philosophical orthodoxy into the post-philosophical discourses of critical theory is the proposal of (anti-)fetishistic models of reading to re-write the world and ourselves in the image of our contingent values -- where ressentiment, commodification, and sexuality offer up their fetishistic Keys to History -- and in which the fetish functions as a quasi-figure generating false-facts.

My understanding of the rhetorical constitution of society and figurative work of collectivity derives as much from my collaboration with students applying the theoretical language of textual criticism to their own life experience and art practice as from taking up Arendt's understanding of the political, Fanon's posthumanism, King's "revolution of conscience," Davis's abolition democracy, and Butler's performative theory of assembly.

Over the years, in teaching critical theory to art students the work of figurativity in the construction of collective agencies, resistances, meanings has loomed ever larger in my understanding and emancipatory hopes. I have been stunned by the formal experimentation students at SFAI will bring to my assignments for mapping conceptual spaces or crafting new definitions, introducing temporal, visual, tactile interventions into textual argumentation for example. In coming slowly to understand better how my students come to understand the place of critical theory in their own lives my sense of the work of critical theory and rhetoric in everyday life and in my own life has utterly expanded and transformed.

For me, education was never primarily a process of professionalization but of self-creation: It is through my years of education that I was politicized, came out and into my queerness, discovered my vocation for teaching -- and that work of self-creation and politicization and queer expressivity is ongoing. I teach my students that we are all of us incarnated poems -- and that our freedom requires both the legibility of literality before the "Eye of the Law" but also the provocation of a figurativity questioning that legibility to open up legibilities otherwise. As students testify to their hopes and to their histories in the classroom, critical theory becomes a site through which to connect reading practices, writing practices, artmaking practices, and worldbuilding practices more generally. In this work I am not only a guide but, gratefully, a collaborator with my students every term.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

This Is True Enough To Be True

Sunday, June 25, 2017

No Justice, No Pride

No Pride blogging this year, it seems, not even to post my usual grumping. I'm happy to see folks protesting pinkwashing corporate sponsorship and racist policing in the spirit of the anti-Trump Resistance. Still and all, Eric and I are well-pleased these days to leave Pride to the young.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Green Rhet This Summer

Summer 2017
Rhet 153: GREEN RHETORIC

Instructor: Dale Carrico: dcarrico@sfai.edu, ndaleca@gmail.com
Course Blog: http://greenrhetoric.blogspot.com/2017/06/our-syllabus.html
Meeting: July 3-August 11, 2017, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 9-11.30am, Rhetoric Conference Room, 7415 Dwinelle Hall

Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies -- Participation/Attendance, 15%; Reading Notebook, 15%; Object Reading, 1-2pp., 10%; Toulmin/Precis, 2-3pp., 15%%; Presentation, 15%; Final Project/Keyword Map, 30%.

Course Description

Of what does "Greenness" consist? In what does "Greenness" abide? Just what is "Greenness" good for? In this course we will survey a range of key vocabularies of environmental thought and activism -- Deep Ecology, eco-socialism, eco-feminism, environmental justice, anti-civilizationism, permaculture, sustainable development, disaster capitalism, and futurological geo-engineering -- as well as engage with more specifically and indicatively American traditions, from Transcendentalism to wilderness conservation (or exterminism), the land ethic, and consumer lifestyle ecology. We will also delve into what seem to be prevalent rhetorical strategies to communicate the urgency of environmental crises and mobilize sufficient constituencies to address them. What is compelling or not about current forms of environmental journalism? What delights lie in store for the reader of international agreements on climate change and policy papers available from the Environmental Protection Agency? Does the scientificity of statistics lend force to environmental claims or alienate people from narratives of lived distress and shared threat? If liberal governance is inadequate to address environmental catastrophe are efforts to circumvent the political via macro-design strategies or micro-mindfulness lifeways more likely to succeed? Does the proliferation of environmentalist identities and subcultures facilitate necessary political organization or undermine it or simply reveal its ineradicable intersectional stratification? We will even ponder why so many environmentalist websites make recourse to similar color palettes and fonts and images. Our focus will never drift far from current dilemmas, but the premise of the course is that these dilemmas are illuminated by critical vocabularies just as the critical vocabularies are substantiated by the dilemmas to which they are applied. At the end of the term, each student will create a conceptual-keyword map tracing their own course through the course materials and finding their own settlement within them, however unsettling it may be.

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

Tuesday, July 4 -- Holiday

Wednesday, July 5 {Introductions}

Thursday, July 6 {Inconvenient Truths}
-- Screening and discussion of film, "An Inconvenient Truth" (1-2pp. Object Reading due Tuesday)
-- Bill McKibben, With the Ascent of Trump Is It Game Over for the Climate Change Fight?

Week Two

Tuesday, July 11 {Hyperobjects, Slow Violences, Number Soup, Intersections}
-- Timothy Morton, The End of the World
-- Naomi Klein, Climate Rage
-- Rob Nixon, Slow Violence
-- Bill McKibben, Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
-- Brentin Mock, Are There Two Different Versions of Environmentalism, One "White," One "Black"?

Wednesday, July 12 {Transcendentalist Precursors and Successors}
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Nature
-- Henry David Thoreau, from Walden
-- Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain
-- Aldo Leopold, Thinking Like A Mountain
-- Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic

Thursday, July 13 {Ah, Wilderness!}
-- PBS Site for the Ken Burns Miniseries, America's Best Idea
-- Alan Spears, No, National Parks Are Not America's "Best Idea"
-- Lisa Campbell, National Parks and Environmental Racism
-- John Muir, Save the Redwoods
-- Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Chapters 1-3
-- Astra Taylor, Who Speaks for the Trees?

Week Three

Tuesday, July 18 {Deep Ecology}
-- Arne Naess, The Shallow and the Deep
-- Arne Naess and George Sessions, Deep Ecology Platform
-- Stephen Harding, What Is Deep Ecology?
-- Joanna Macy, The Ecological Self
-- William Cronon, The Trouble With Wilderness
-- Murray Bookchin, Social Ecology Versus Deep Ecology

Wednesday, July 19 {Eco-Feminism}
-- Rosemary Radford Reuther, Ecofeminism
-- Cathleen and Colleen McGuire, Ecofeminist Visions
-- Catherine Keller, Dark Vibrations: Ecofeminsm and the Sacred
-- Nick Estes, This Land Was Made for Decolonized Love
-- Allison Kilkenny, 5 Reasons You Should Care About Environmental Justice If You Care About Women
-- Greta Gaard, Toward A Queer Ecofeminsm
-- Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands, Unnatural Passions? Notes to a Queer Ecology

Thursday, July 20 {Eco-Socialism} (Precis/Toulmin)
-- John Bellamy Foster, The Four Laws of Ecology and the Four Anti-Ecological Laws of Capitalism
-- John Bellamy Foster, Trump and Climate Catastrophe
-- Vandana Shiva, The US Patent System Legalizes Theft and Biopiracy
-- Systems Change Not Climate Change, What Is Ecosocialism?
-- Jason Moore, The End of Cheap Nature
-- David Schwartzman, From Climate Crisis to Solar Capitalism

Week Four

Tuesday, July 25 {Environmental Justice}
-- Robert Bullard, Poverty, Pollution, and Environmental Racism
-- Laura Pulido, Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism
-- Sarah Lazare, From Fracking to Coal Waste, NAACP Confronts Environmental Racism in North Carolina
-- Melissa Harris-Perry, Being Black on Earth Day
-- Larry Buhl, The Color of Pollution
-- Rio Declaration
-- Johannesburg Declaration

Wednesday, July 26 {Permaculture/Polyculture}
-- John Zerzan, Agriculture
-- Malcolm Scully, The Destructive Nature of Our Bountiful Harvests
-- Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry, A 50-Year Farm Bill
-- Wes Jackson, Becoming Native To This Place
-- The Land Institute, Vision and Mission and Our Work
-- David Holmgren, Permaculture Design Principles
-- UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Agroforestry, Basic Knowledge (By all means, dig deeper.)

Thursday, August 27 {Green Eats} (Potluck Brunch)
-- Clara Jeffery, Michael Pollen Fixes Dinner
-- Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels
-- Claudia Deutsch, Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change
-- John Vidal, Ten Ways Vegetarianism Can Help Save the Planet
-- Sarah Henry, Former Black Panther Launches Urban Farm to Give Ex-Prisoners a New Start
-- Marc Abrahams, Food for Thought
-- Gretel Schueller, The Truth Behind Food Labels
-- EPA, Food and Pesticides
-- Tom Philpott, Trump's EPA Greenlights A Nasty Chemical

Week Five

Tuesday, August 1 {Standing Rock}
-- History
-- Nick Estes, Fighting For Our Lives
-- Wikipedia, List of Pipeline Accidents in the 21st Century
-- Julian Brave Noisecat and Ann Spice, A History and Future of Resistance
-- Black Lives Matter, Solidarity With Standing Rock
-- Anna J. Willow and Sara Wiley, Politics, Ecology, and New Anthropology of Energy: Hydraulic Fracking

Wednesday, August {Peak Everything}
-- James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency
-- Michael Klare, Are Resource Wars Our Future?
-- Maxwell, Fuller, Brooks, and Watson, Biodiversity: The Ravages of Guns, Nets, and Bulldozers
-- Saul Landau, Reagan and Bottled Water
-- World Wildlife Fund, Deforestation
-- Kate Kelland, Antibiotics Overuse Threatens Modern Medicine

Thursday, August 3 {Green Capitalism/Disaster Capitalism}
-- Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism
-- Michael Albert, Natural Capitalism?
-- Richard Stroup, Free Market Environmentalism
-- Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend, Sustainable Growth: An Impossibility Theorem
-- The Economist, The Triple Bottom Line
-- IPCC, Thirty Years To Climate Calamity If We Carry On Blowing the "Climate Budget"
-- Harvey Wasserman, King CONG vs. Solartopia
-- Bruce Watson, The Troubling Evolution of Corporate Greenwashing
-- Naomi Klein, Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump's Disaster Capitalism

Week Six

Tuesday, August 8 {Green Urbanity} (Last of the Presentations)
-- Mike Davis, Slum Ecology
-- Mike Davis, Sinister Paradise: Does the Road to the Future End at Dubai?
-- Stewart Brand, How Slums Can Save the Planet
-- Bob Berwyn, To Keep Cities Cool We Must Green Them Right
-- Joshua Leon, What Broadacre City Can Teach Us
-- Annalee Newitz and Emily Stamm, 10 Failed Utopian Cities That Influenced the Future

Wednesday, August 9 {Tech Talk}
-- John Zerzan, Against Technology
-- Kirkpatrick Sale, Lessons from the Luddites
-- Bryan Walsh, Your Data Is Dirty
-- Aaron Labaree, Our Science Fiction Apocalypse
-- Marc Stiegler, The Gentle Seduction
-- Naomi Klein, Geoengineering: Testing the Waters
-- Karl Mathiesen, Is Geoengineering A Bad Idea?

Thursday, August 10 {Final Symposium} (Hand in Final Project, Keyword Map)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good Vs. Evil

Democrats seek to alleviate precarity in order to build equity-in-diversity. Republicans seek to amplify precarity in order to exploit-&-control. Needless to say, one wishes more Democrats were better at building equity-in-diversity, and one can imagine or at any rate remember Republicans who weren't entirely given over to exploitation and control, but I gotta say this distinction seems pretty apt and it pretty much is the difference between good and evil and, like it not, here we are.

Which Side Are You On?