Friday, October 08, 2004

This term, I'm going to be teaching on a new degree course here at Surrey: MSc Digital Technologies and Society. It's designed to foster critical thinking within the design and production of digital tech. My course is entitled "Concepts and Theories." I'm going to meet the students in a couple of hours and I'm curious about their backgrounds. My guess is that most of them will have come from computer science, rather than the social sciences. I'm not exactly sure why I think that. I suppose it's easier to imagine a computer scientist deciding they wanted to know something about research, theory, and method AS A PART OF their practice as a computer scientist. It's much harder for me to imagine a theorist (social scientist, cultural stud, etc) wanting to take courses in computer science without imagining that this represents some kind of career change. Probably this says much about my biases, and the tenacity of a view which stupidly divides theory and practice (despite theoretical and practical allegiances to the contrary). Maybe it also says something about disciplinary flows: which disciplines can conceive of themselves AS themselves while taking onboard another discipline's optics and methods; which have a harder time with this kind of expansion.

In The Pirate's Fiancee, Meaghan Morris says this about expansion and engagement across boundaries that seem to divide theory from practice: "...serious engagement with popular culture must eventually accept to take issue with it [popular culture] and in it, as well as about it, and I think this means writing seriously about popular theories as well as (or even rather than) writing 'popular' spin-offs from academic theories." The successful practice of which would go a long way towards undermining our capacity to talk meaningfully about theory as un-practical and practice as un-theoretical.