OK, so this guy Graham Harman shows up, he’s from Cairo or something, wrote a book or two about Heidegger apparently, and all of a sudden after like two blogposts (he posts one every minute or two, at a staggering gem rate to boot) he’s the best thing to hit the blogosphere since html. Seriously, it’s like Shamu jumping into your goldfish bowl. And instead of eating up all the little fishies in sight, he’s like this totally nice guy, with all sorts of encouragement and uplifting thoughts and actual helpful advice for everybody, and it’s catching. I mean, he’s changed the game. Guy’s a Dude.
Neat stuff. He’s totally got the Prof Whisperer thing down.
Bloggery, like any creative product, can have an emotional ambiguity about it: a sense that not just ideas but persons are in play. In a typically wide-ranging post Rob at Marginal Utility has recently talked about this in relation to artistic amateurism and professionalism. When faced with someone’s homemade labor of love he suspects that “the desired and appropriate response is ‘That’s great that you are doing that. Yay, you!'” In contrast, “professionalism is the cue to audiences that they are allowed to engage seriously with a work….” The professional difference, he argues, is not so much whether there’s filthy lucre involved but
a matter of creating something that isn’t merely an extension of one’s ego, a matter of wanting to give a social life to some idea or thing that can then circulate independently from us. Amateur culture often fails to achieve that separation, doesn’t rise to a level where it can be seriously criticized because it seems that its primary purpose is to secure recognition for the maker.
This last point reminds me of Patchen Markell’s argument in Bound by Recognition that there is an important difference between an ideal of recognition and an ideal of acknowledgment. The former, he says, requires of us an impossibly comprehensive understanding of the Other. And it’s based on a mistaken, doomed and counterproductive attempt to control the irreducible contingencies of human existence and interaction, in part by locking down static ‘recognizable’ identities that foreclose complexity, freedom and change and thus torture their occupants like procrustean beds. In contrast acknowledgment means taking us each seriously as whole, dynamic beings without any pretense of understanding each other fully or addressing each other completely in any given interaction; without attempting to pin us down or foreshorten us to any given batch of traits or performances.
What does acknowledgment actually look like? Maybe the relations of professionals. And what Graham does.
UPDATE: The blog has had a couple of its biggest days ever, most of it legit as far as I can tell, but lots brought by my weird sense of humor. See, if you do a Google image search for “Shamu,” this blog comes up first. What are the chances that someone looking for a picture of Shamu is also looking for my little pearls of wisdom? If that’s you, welcome and do please come again!
Btw, my other most popular post is the one that comes up on an image search for “garbage barge.”