Monthly Archives: August 2008

Finishing up with Marianne

So I will get back to this at last and wrap things up from this interview a little more quickly so I can get to the next ones of the women, plus I still have Brenno and Florian to add, and I then have to actually do the interviews with Jaromil, Mirko, and maybe some others, not to mention follow ups with Hajo and Alex. Yeesh.

So, toward the end of the email part of the interview, I asked what Marianne thought about the the people involved with new media, whether it was or is a community.

No I don’t think in terms of community, more in terms of a scene, which I consider less coherent than a community. Very different people, hackers, journalists, organizers, artists, idiots, designers, querulants, activists, often fighting each other (as at the aftermath of the Digital City).

And the same question again–did she still find this range of people getting involved?

Actually I am not sure. It may be that I just don’t attend as much of the meetings and events as I did before, but I would say today there are less journalists involved and more students. And mor artists/dsigners – but that may be my perspective, since I have spent the last weeks with all these plans of e-culture institutions. What is clear anyway is that what was once a scene is now a social-cultural sector, the e-culture sector.

I think this has been a gradual change, but the changes in the Dutch funding structure seem as though they could potentially lead to a petrification of the e-culture sector because there will be so many more bureaucratic hurdles to get through in application for support that only very established professional groups will be able to manage it.

Finally I asked her what had led her back into academia to get her PhD.

That must have been somewhere in 2000, when I was finishing my book Leven op het Net – De sociale betekenis van virtuele gemeenschappen (in Dutch, title can be translated in: Life on the Net – The social meaning of virtual communities; though here the nice ambiguity of the Dutch word ‘leven’ which means both ‘life’ and ‘cosy noise’ is lost.)

Every time I was really inspired in writing and was starting to have real fun (when writing about the meaning of media, of space and spatial metaphors), the publisher said: No, that’s too complex for the intended audience for this book, don’t do that in this book, write a PhD if you want that kind of stuff… And so I finally did. First as a nomadic savage, without an appointment, later at Utrecht University, which also had connections to my supervisor in Rotterdam, the Dutch ‘cyberspace philosopher’ Jos de Mul.

When we met in person I followed up on the e-culture aspect, but unfortunately the whole discussion has to remain confidential. I need to speak with someone in charge if the sector who would have the authority to say I can reprint or repeat her replies without her getting into some kind of trouble!

But we did talk about other things, one being what the dept. looks like from her perspective which was interesting in the way it is similar or different from what I’ve heard from Erna, William, Mirko, and Nanna. Overall they all have good things to say, but for example, the extent to which they find it very collegial or just somewhat, leading the way, or keeping up–all these things depend on the other communities and academic groups they compare UU with, and on their own personal preferences. So someone who really pushes to publish and go to conferences and is always in the middle of the global academic debate on new media may feel the dept is ok, but just keeping up, or maybe out in front, but shouldn’t relax. While someone who is not so interested in that may feel it’s a bit of a pressure cooker already. Very subjective.

I’ll be following up with Marianne later, as with everyone, but that’s it for now. Time to get to my next victim, I mean interviewee… 😉

hopefully getting back on track

OK, so I ended up spending much longer on the East Coast than I originally planned for this summer, which means I had a really poor network connection–both slow and sporadic–and I didn’t have the books I needed to finish up various articles, reviews, and so on. Then I came home, and oh yeah, no day care. Sigh.

Now I might normally feel a bit bad that I am complaining about my kids being home, but anyone who has tried to write while small kids are in the area interrupting every 2 minutes (literally) will understand. Also, I had the dubious pleasure of having my mom and sisters insist to me for most of my visit in the east that working so much is hurting my children. This was especially ironic given my current research on women’s use of tech and participation in the new media scene in the Netherlands. I heard from several women there that they often encountered a sort of incredulity from other people at their not wanting to be home all the tie with their kids.

Incredulity is bad enough, but I wonder how many encounter what I have? Actual resistance from the people we might have expected to help us manage work and family. I now know that I can’t turn to my parents or sisters if I have another research trip or conference, because they don’t think I should be going anyway. My husband travels as much as I–he’s also an academic–but apparently “it’s different for men.” –So says my mom. It’s no mystery that women are still not equally represented in so many fields or at upper levels in fields where they are present if we are still being pressured and socialized this way.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled discussion.

Quick update

For a variety of reasons (some will be elaborated later; most will not) I have fallen behind on my entries, especially on writing up the interviews. Fear not. Posting will resume shortly.