Things I Wrote For My Dissertation and Then Cut: Technologies of Smell

When I started my first dissertation chapter, I thought it was going to be about smell and digital media. Over the past few months, smell has dropped out entirely and I doubt it’s going to come back in the way I first imagined. I haven’t posted on here in a good while, so I figured why not drop this probably ill-advised fragment on misguided smell technologies and gimmicks on the blog? Better here than filed away, I suppose.

A semi-comprehensive list of my obsessions circa 1 Jan. 2018 to 20 Dec. 2018

I’m supposed to be writing an essay this week, but I’m bone tired and so have spent most of it pointedly not. Now I am far from the first person to suggest that 2018 has been an exhausting year. I am so exhausted by it that I will not bother to go back through my Twitter feed and find the people who said that. You’re going to have to take it as an article of faith, or just reach inside yourself and experience your own tiredness, which if you don’t have after this year, please give me your exercise or medication regimen. But since, as Umberto Eco said, “we like lists because we do not want to die” (which I read in Liam Cole Young’s excellent List Cultures), instead of writing that essay I will instead write this list of what got me through this hellscape year.

On Mapmaking: My Dissertation Prospectus

A friend once told me that your dissertation prospectus should be the best piece of speculative fiction you’ve ever written. An advisor concurred, observing that the prospectus is a necessary fiction that one can only hope turns out to be a useful one. In any case, given that some folks seemed to have benefitted from me sharing my qualifying exams list, I thought it might be useful to share at least the abstract to my prospectus, with a few thoughts about the mapmaking process that writing such a document entailed.

On Having Been Qualified

Setusko Yokoyama, Purdom Lindblad, and I started up a digital studies / digital humanities writing group this semester through the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, where Purdom works (and where I frequently haunt, playing Seadragon on my advisor’s old Apple II). The purpose of this writing group is essentially peer pressure: to guilt all of us into putting our butts in seats and getting along with the damn work of putting words on a screen. My task for myself during our first session today was to get back in the swing of blogging and put up this post reflecting on having gotten through my qualifying exam process.


There comes a time in a doctoral student’s life wherein they have to qualify to keep going on toward a dissertation. Usually it takes the form of an exam on a comprehensive list of materials. I find these lists useful and interesting not only for how they frame a field of inquiry for a person’s diss, but also how they function as snapshots of what academia looked like for a particular student at a particular time. In assembling my list (my exam’s in September), I found other folks’ lists immensely helpful in thinking about scope, framing, and blind spots. Maybe you’ll find mine to be too.

We Should Probably Leave Social Media?

Facebook fucked up again, everyone. Or rather, the Cambridge Analytica fiasco has put the spotlight once again on Facebook’s data harvesting and profit practices, its exploitative business model, and its overall net-negative effect on human social relations—and maybe this time some of the criticism will stick? I don’t know. Facebook has weathered similar storms in the past and came out just as strong in the end because at the end of the day we really don’t have that much of a choice for social media platforms anymore? What Benjamin Bratton and others have called the “added value” of platforms has borne out: the more we give Facebook, the more “useful” it becomes to us, and the more useful we become to it.1

  1. Bratton, Benjamin. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. MIT P, 2015, pp. 41 

“Her Beckett”

I’m taking a seminar with Kari Kraus right now on ruins, and we do some regular writing for that class. I liked this blog post I wrote on Anne Carson’s poem “Her Beckett” and decided to cross-post it over here.

The Price of Admission

I want to try to knit together two things that are discouraging me about the way we talk about the relationship between academia and the world at large, in particular, between academics whose work levies critique against technologized systems and the industries that architect those systems in the first place.

@withdrawbot: An Exercise in Peripheries

A star-gazing technique: we know that the darkness is full of light too faint to see and too far away. To see fainter stars and galaxies, which brighter stars tend to occlude, avoid looking at a spot in the sky head-on. Rather, gaze just off-center from where you want to see, and relax your peripheral vision. Then fainter stars will begin to appear.

Generating Jekyll Tags with a Shell Script

I think blog tags are art.


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