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Canon Politics

 “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go”

That’s a chant from the 1980s. Student protests on California campuses (at Stanford, most famously) brought national attention to the problems of Euro-centric bias in the literary canon, precipitating radical shifts in curriculum design. I’ve been thinking about the historical significance of that moment for a number of reasons. There have various cultural, political and economic shifts since the 1980s, and yet some challenges remain similar to the ones those Stanford students faced.

Here I muse – and invite your thoughts — on cross-cultural shifts, historical shifts, and challenges of canon-formation as the sites of canon-struggles migrate beyond the literary arenas of the 1980s protests.

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Actor Network Theory in Southern California

Some more opportunities to extend conversations across the humanities, social sciences, and informatics:

Dominique Boulier, who works with Bruno Latour’s group at Sciences Po, is visiting UC Irvine this week, on friday, May 18:

Latour will visit in UC Irvine in Spring 2013. He recently visited the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, where Nishant Shah organized his visit.

[Hmm, if I were Professor Latour and had to choose among a slew of international invitations in the middle of a busy term, I think I would choose CIS over UCI too. Of course that’s just speculation – I imagine there was no direct choice, but it’s a productive fiction to dwell on briefly: I’ve been struck by how many exciting conversations – those that touch on issues seemingly urgent and critical in those traditional intellectual tasks of analyzing pasts and imagining futures – happen these days in spaces that until very recently were marginalized and ignored by scholars in the metropole. I think this is a good change, historically speaking. How scholars in the industrialized North will deal with this change remains to be seen.]

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Will the semantic web be gendered?

Via maybe maimed but never harmed, Read Write Web reports researcher Corrina Bath’s cautions of gendered ontologies in the Semantic Web.

Too often, “binary assumptions about women and men are not reflected [upon] or the (gender) politics of [a particular] domain is ignored. Thus, the existing structural-symbolic gender order is inscribed into computational artifacts and will be reproduced by [their] use.”

Bath cites Bowker and Star’s example of how phone books in the US were first arranged indexed by the husband’s name, reflecting assumptions about the use of infrastructure and truth of American social life at the time.

In the original, longer interview at Austrian Semantic Web, Bath expands that the stakes of feminist ontology in the semantic web are two fold. First, what kinds of relationships between knowledge objects will be formalized, how will minority interpretations be handled, and what room for contestation of knowledge obects will there be? Second, and relatedly, will the semantic web recognize the contingency of truths and the situatedness of ontologies?

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