Public Lecture July 21st at University of Queensland

In a large metropolis, what is governed? by Professor Patrick Le Galès, Science Po

Monday, 21 July, 2014, 3pm – 5pm


Large cities are well known for being complex; too large, with too many actors and with too much informality. The planning literature, critical urban studies and anthropologists emphasise the ungovernability of major large cities as well as the role of social movements and insurgency. Despite these difficulties, it remains that projects are developed, utility networks built, new neighbourhoods established, and policies (including social, transport and education) implemented that have great impact for populations. The paper argues that the governance of large cities is not linear, is discontinuous and does not explain their whole development. The rise of governance capacities and the developments of policies are having influence from Mexico to Delhi, from London to Sao Paolo or Istanbul.

Patrick Le Galès, CNRS Director of Research at Sciences Po’s Centre d’Etudes Européennes and professor at Sciences Po has been elected a Corresponding Fellow of the Political Science section of the British Academy. His comparative research centres mainly on questions of governance, public action, the restructuration of the state, and the detransformation of cities. His key publications include European cities, social conflict and governance, and Gouverner par les instruments., co-authored with Pierre Lascoumes



Monday 21 July 2014 3pm – 5pm


Room 116
Sir Llew Edwards Building (14) The University of Queensland St Lucia campus

Afternoon tea will be provided


Wednesday 16 July

limited places

Chapter Abstracts for Deb Lupton’s Digital Sociology book

Re-blogged from Deborah’s Lupton’s blog This Sociological Life:

I am pleased to announce that my latest book, Digital Sociology, has now gone into production with Routledge, and is due for publication around October this year. Here are the chapter abstracts to give some idea of the book’s contents.

1 Introduction: life is digital
In this introductory chapter I make an argument for why digital sociology is important and why sociology needs to make the study of digital technologies central to its very remit. It is argued that ubiquitous and mobile digital media have changed the ways in which social life is represented, conducted, monitored, managed and analysed. Digital technologies affect social relationships, concepts of identity and embodiment, the monitoring and organisation of people’s movements in space and the creation of and access to information and knowledge. I provide an overview of how digital sociology has developed and outline its four main aspects: professional digital use, analyses of digital technology use, digital data analysis, and critical digital sociology.

2 Theorising digital society
Chapter 2 provides a foundation for the ensuing chapters by reviewing the major theoretical perspectives that are developed in the book. The literature reviewed in the chapter is mainly drawn from sociology but also includes contributions from scholars in media and cultural studies, science and technology studies, surveillance studies, software studies and cultural geography. The perspectives that are discussed include analyses of the global information and new forms of power, the sociomaterial perspective on the relationship between humans and digital technologies, prosumption, neoliberalism and the sharing subject, the importance of the archive, theories of veillance (watching) that are relevant to digital society and theories concerning digitised embodiment.

3 Reconceptualising research in the digital era
Chapter 3 focuses on sociological and other social research in the digital era. The aim of the discussion is not to outline how to do digital research in detail. Rather I present an overview not only of some of the approaches that are available and their possibilities and limitations, but also of the more theoretical and critical stances that sociologists are taking to digital social research. I also devote attention to innovative ways of performing digital social research that are part of attempts to invigorate sociological research practice as a way of demonstrating the new and exciting directions in which sociology can extend in response to digital society.

4 The digitised academic
The higher education workplace has become increasingly digitised, with many teaching and learning resources and academic publications moving online and the performance of academics and universities monitored and measured using digital technologies. Some sociologists and other academics are also beginning to use social media as part of their academic work. In this chapter I examine the benefits and possibilities offered by digital technologies but also identify the limitations, drawbacks and risks that may be associated with becoming a digitised academic and the politics of digital public engagement.

5 A critical sociology of big data
Chapter 5 takes a critical sociological perspective on the big data phenomenon. The discussion emphasises that big data sets are systems of knowledge that are implicated in power relations. Big data are both the product of social and cultural processes and themselves act to configure elements of society and culture. They have their own politics, vitality and social life. Following an overview of the ways in which big data discourses and practices have achieved dominance in many social spheres, I discuss how digital data assemblages and algorithms possess power and authority, the metaphors used to describe big data and what these reveal about our anxieties and concerns about this phenomenon, big data hubris and rotten data and the ethical issues related to big data.

6 The diversity of digital technology use
Chapter 6 reviews research that has studied the use of digital technologies in different areas of the globe and how socioeconomic, cultural and political factors shape, promote or delimit the use of these technologies. I move from a discussion of the findings of large-scale surveys involving large numbers of respondents from specific countries or cross-nationally to in-depth qualitative investigations that are able to provide the detailed context for differences in internet use. The chapter shows that digital social inequalities are expressed and reproduced in a range of ways, including cultures of use as well as lack of access. Social inequalities and marginalisation may also be perpetuated and exacerbated online.

7 Digital politics and citizen digital public engagement
In Chapter 7 I examine the politics of digital veillance, activism, privacy debates, calls for openness of digital data and citizen digital public engagement. It is argued that while digital activism and moves to render digital data more open to citizens can be successful to some extent in achieving their aims, claims that they engender a major new form of political resistance or challenge to institutionalised power are inflated. Indeed digital technologies can provide a means by which activists can come under surveillance and be discredited by governments. Other negative aspects of citizen digital public engagement are outlined, including the ways in which the internet can incite discrimination and vigilantism and promote the dissemination of false information.

8 The digitised body/self
Chapter 8 addresses the ways in which digital software and hardware are becoming part of our identities as they store more data about our experiences, our social relationships and encounters and our bodily functioning. Digital sociologists and other digital media researchers have recognised the ways in which human embodiment and concepts of selfhood are represented and configured via digital technologies, digital data and digital social networks. It is not only the data or images produced via digital technologies that are important to research and theorise, but also how the objects themselves are used in practice. This chapter examines the incorporation of digital technologies into everyday lives across a range of contexts.


Suggestions welcomed for TASA 2014 plenary sessions

The organising committee for the 2014 TASA conference in Adelaide (November 24-27) have asked for expressions of interest for plenary sessions during the meeting.

If you have an idea for a plenary that the Cultural Sociology Thematic Group could put forward please get in touch with us via email. Proposals must forwarded to the TASA organising committee by June 15.

Sara and Nick

O’Farrell resignation: red wine, political blood and cultural memory

 By David Rowe

Reblogged from The Conversation

Ritzy red wine has come to represent political influence-peddling in the resignation of NSW premier Barry O’Farrell. AAP/Julian Smith


Political scandals, the perennial product of the grinding gears of greed and governance, proliferate in the age of digital media, the 24-hours news cycle and anti-corruption bodies with wide powers.

Constant tonal inspiration is drawn from the tracking of the1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., all the way back to Richard Nixon’s White House. Many investigative current affairs programs and fictional political dramas framed a “Deep Throat” in the sinister concrete gloom of a multi-storey car park in homage to the 1976 film All the President’s Men.

Few tyro journalists of the last 40 years have not fantasised about posing the famous Watergate question in the US Senate:

What did [fill in the accused] know and when did they know it?

Scandals involving politicians (as well as sportspeople and others) routinely attract the suffix “-gate”.

“Gate” has often been attached to an object, deceptively innocent in its connotations, that only serves to highlight the egregious nature of corruption and deceit. Sometimes “affair” works better, as was the case with the 1982 colour TV affairinvolving Fraser government ministers Michael MacKellar and John Moore and the alliterative 1984 Paddington Bear affairconcerning Hawke government minister Mick Young. All three men lost their ministerial positions in these “affairs”.

All this is essential cultural background to interpreting“Grangegate”, the boilerplate description of the sudden resignation of New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell last week over the unacknowledged receipt of a A$3000 bottle of Penfolds 1959 Bin 46 Grange Hermitage from a lobbyist. Divining the significance of the wine has somehow become entwined with the political ramifications of the scandal itself.

There is an obvious – if rather worrying – reason for this heavy focus on the expensively fermented grape. There have been so many high-profile political scandals it is hard to keep track. Many people – not least those in a news media dedicated to the quick, relentless turnover of news stories – have resorted to mnemonic triggers to aid recall and to distinguish one scandal from another.

Forging collective cultural memory while being deluged by information relies on highlighting a single detail to symbolise the whole sorry business of political exposure. In communication theory this is known as metonymy – the use of a part to signify the whole.

In O’Farrell’s case, ritzy red wine stands for political influence-peddling and duchessing.


Living in An Audit Society – Upcoming Public Lecture

Hi all,

The lovely Theresa Sauter has asked that we share this Public Lecture flyer.

The flyer advertises a public lecture by Professor Mike Power from the London School of Economics on “Living in an Audit Society: Performance Reporting Systems after the Global Financial Crisis.”

The public lecture will be held on Wednesday April 9th, 2014 at the University of Queensland in Brisbane (St Lucia campus). It is hosted by the UQ Schools of Social Work and Human Services and Education.
Afternoon Tea will be served and the lecture is free and open to the public.
Contact person for enquiries is Marion Carrett.
Nick Hookway

Critiquing Moral Decline Sociology – Or How To Punk Durkheim

By Nicholas Hookway

I recently had a paper published with Journal of Sociology titled Moral Decline Sociology: Critiquing the Legacy of Durkheim. You can view the abstract and full-text here.

I promise it’s not as boring as it sounds.

Although looking backwards to Durkheim, this paper is fundamentally about how us sociologists can help make sense of contemporary moral life. One of the anonymous reviewers described the paper as a ‘discussion that has long been overdue in Sociology, and is fundamental to it’s philosophical core, as least the Durkheim branch’. Nice praise, indeed.

I argue that starting from Durkheim, sociology tends to be dominated by accounts of moral ‘decline’ or breakdown. I then go on to identify and critique a set of key assumptions within the Durkheimian tradition and show how they map onto more recent diagnoses of moral decline by the theoretical likes of Rieff, Bell, Lasch, Etzioni and Bellah. Australian authors Clive Hamilton, Hugh Mackay and John Carroll also get a mention.