This post would be much more interesting if it concerned the nexus of its three subjects. Sadly, it does not.
- I’m working on a forum piece with Vincent Pouliot on Actor-Network Theory (ANT) — one written from the explicit perspective of outsiders. We’ve been puzzled by the apparent lack of theorization of “the body” in Latour. For example, if social relations must be ‘fixed’ by physical objects, why isn’t the human body one such object? If any of our readers are able to weigh in, I’d appreciate it.
- I’ve been considering discontinuing the m4a versions of the Duck of Minerva podcast. They take much more time to produce than the mp3 versions; most people seem to listen to the mp3 versions anyway. Is there a constituency in favor of retaining the m4a variants, i.e., the ones with chapter markers and static images?
- Henry Farrell tweeted a paper by Gary King on setting up quantitative social-science centers. Henry highlights the section on the end of the quantitative-qualitative divide. I’m sympathetic to it: I certainly feel the pull of teaming with computational-savvy colleagues to do interesting things with “big data,” and I find myself often thinking about how it would be neat to use particular data for uncovering interesting relationships. But it also strikes me as a bit cavalier about the importance of questions — and forms of empirical analysis — that don’t fit cleanly within that rubric. Nonetheless, right on the direction that sociological and economic forces are driving social-scientific research.
For those of you intrigued by the title: how about doing a research project on quantitative social-science centers using ANT and reporting your findings via an m4a audio recording with Latour-esque pictures?
Re the podcasts. A while ago I listened to the Buzan podcast (actually I only got halfway through, I’m planning to listen to the rest eventually). With the mp3 version it was not all that loud even on the loudest setting (I could hear but had to lean in toward my computer and really concentrate); with the m4a, the audio was much better and I could sit back and relax and hear it v. clearly. (My hearing is fine, btw, so that’s not the problem; it may, however, be my particular computer or the conditions under which the Buzan interview was recorded.) Earlier I had listened to one or two of the previous mp3s and the audio was a bit better though still probably not as good as the m4a is. (I have listened only to a quite small proportion of all the podcasts you have up, so take this fwiw.)
The audio on the Buzan interview was terrible, but I find it interesting that they produced such disparate results as I simply mixed/transcoded both from the same Garageband file. This might be something that I can fix within the export settings by increasing the quality (at the expense of size) of the mp3s. As I’m starting to flail here, any techie readers are welcome to chime in :-).
Thanks. (Wish I could help on the techie front, but can’t.)
There’s a few differences between your mp3 and m4a versions.
The m4a mixdown is at 32KHz rather than 44.1Khz. You don’t need the upper range for spoken word so you could save some bits there. Not sure where to do this in GarageBand.
The mp3 is in stereo, so that means there’s only 32kbps per channel available to store the audio. Consider using a mono mix, especially as the recordings aren’t stereo. Ideally, you want to use “Joint Stereo” for the conversion, but GarageBand doesn’t support this as far as I can tell.
For optimum quality, you would need to save the mix to iTunes, then convert to WAV, and then use Audacity for the final conversion.
Setting the mixdown parameters is actually quite easy.
Some of the original recordings *are* stereo, and are recorded as mp3s. So I’m basically importing an mp3 into GarageBand and then remixing.
@LFC: how are you listening to the different version. This might not be a function of the underlying recordings.
As I mentioned, I did the two-versions comparison once, w/ the Buzan podcast. I started listening to the mp3 and the sound was so weak I decided to see if I could download and listen to the m4a. In both cases I used the only device for this sort of thing that I own — i.e. my laptop. I accessed both the mp3 and the m4a from the blog’s podcast tab (since I don’t do ITunes or feeds). The m4a took a few minutes (at least) to download is my recollection. I am obviously just one listener and I did the two-version comparison just on that one occasion, so I don’t know what if any general conclusions you can draw from this…
Latour has one article explicitly on the body: “How to Talk About the Body? the Normative Dimension of Science Studies.”
I don’t think he addresses the questions you suggest anywhere else, perhaps because he thinks that such issues have been done already by others in science studies (Haraway for one). The whole point of focusing on non-human objects seems to be that they’ve been ignored by those preoccupied with language, the body, etc. I don’t think it is ever suggested that human bodies are unimportant. ANT empirical works have human bodies performing actions throughout (that is the larger part of them, in fact).
Also, to speak of them in abstraction (as in “the body”) rather misses the point that they they do not actually exist in abstract space but are always already bound up in all the socio-technical imbroglios that ANT describes. ANT might not theorise bodies alone but it doesn’t theorise anything alone, that’s kind of the point.
They don’t speak of “the body”, not because human bodies have no role, but since human bodies aren’t a priori privileged above other kinds of things and, consequently, cannot be spoken of as though they were a unique category, deserving unique theorisation. The real question is: are human bodies deserving of unique and particular theorisation in abstraction from other kinds of things? I think you can make that case but to say that ANT ‘lacks’ an account of the body implies that it needs one and, on its own terms, it needs no such thing. It understands human bodies as being basically like other sorts of things. Consequently they have a role, it’s just not a different one to other things.
Or, long story short, “why isn’t the human body one such object?” — it is; I don’t know where you get the idea that it isn’t.
Phillip, great! It sounds like the piece you mentioned will have what I am looking for. Given that, please take what I am about to say in good humor.
I have now engaged in a number of discussions online and via email about my query — all of which have been terrifically informative and much appreciated. But it seems like there’s something inherent to Latour that the act of summarizing his views flirts with the edge of pedantry. Because everyone I’ve engaged with, wittingly or not, has crossed over into it.
Indeed, the more I read of Latour the more I think that his criticisms themselves are about creating a kind of “art of the pedantic,” in which various process-reduction fallacies and dualisms are ascribed to interlocutors based upon, for example, analytic shorthand. That says nothing, of course, about the merits of the rest of the package.
Regardless, *extremely* helpful. Thanks much!
Hi Dan, glad to be helpful! Good luck with the project. I was at the Millennium conference in London last year and there were a lot of papers on ANT and associated things there. It’s a growing subject of interest in IR. I know what you mean about seeming a little pedantic but isn’t that academia in a nutshell: socially sanctioned pedantry?!