David Theo Goldberg / Praise the [Lord] Web


Ya lo he dicho: everything I do gon be funky from now on. This does not, of course, mean every day will be perfect. Still, I am now an expert in how to do things, and I can give insight and tips like everyone else. I will repeat what my colleague said at lunch: you may have time management skills, and you may have a vision of what you want to do, but   without access to certain conditions and materials, you are still stuck. This is true and people should realize it, although I would add two points:

a) You must know how to envision vision. Not, do you want to work in a SLAC or an R-1, but what kind of work do you want to do more broadly? What kind of job(s), inside or outside academia, would bring you the closest to that? Also, how do you want to define your field(s) of expertise in terms of chronology, geography, discipline, topic, theme?
b) You probably already know how to manage time. You may not know how to manage projects, but that is different and should be thought of in those terms and not in terms of time.


Now, let’s read David Theo Goldberg, “Praise the Web,” PMLA 126:2 (March 2011): 448-454. This is for fun – I am a note taker from way back, I like doing it, and I am doing it to this article because it is the title in that PMLA which most interests me.

1- Foucault in The Hermeneutics of the Subject (17-19) distinguishes between ancient and modern modes of philosophizing: how is truth and falsehood determined, and how does the subject gain access to these (in antiquity and in modernity)? What he says is not really new; what Goldberg will say is that with the WWW a new situation arises, which carries elements of both the ancient and the modern paradigm.
2- For the ancients, says Foucault, the path of access to the truth is prepared by “spirituality” … the practice of searching through which subjects transform themselves in order to gain access to and recognize the truth before them. It is the “work of the self on the self” which opens the subject up to the truth. It involves “research” (a form of searching), ordered activities and experience that lead to a change in the self and its perceptions and interactions or relationships with others and the world.
– The point of this preparation is to transform self to subject, for it is the subject which can perceive the truth. And when that happens, one reaches a state of “beatitude.” Thus, for the ancients, the discovery of the truth is a religious experience.
4– Moderns, by contrast, need only recognize the conditions of knowledge. The reward of learning is not then beatitude but learning itself. So truth no longer “saves” the subject (19).
5– Goldberg does not see the sharp distinction between ancient and modern Foucault does. Religion and religious ways of knowing, for instance, have not disappeared from modern life and are in fact on the rise.
6– On the WWW, truth is co-created, mashed-up and crowdsourced; it is an enterprise and not an arrival point; this is a new kind of subjectivity and not the modern, individual one.
7– Web life has some features of religious life, and knowledge is authorized differently than in modernity.


This is a light piece and these notes are lighter still. I thought the fun would be the piece itself but I think the actual fun is thinking about Foucault again. I am fascinated to see that there is so much video of him available, so easily, and I might look at it all. Here is a French documentary; the voices remind me how much I still miss the University of California I once knew.

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