Review in Postmodern Culture, Vol. 22, No. 2, by Carol Colatrella
Review of Katie King, Networked Reenactments: Stories Transdisciplinary Knowledges Tell, Durham: Duke UP, 2011.
Rob Wilkie, The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network, New York: Fordham UP, 2011.
Over the past year, faculty members in my interdisciplinary department at Georgia Tech responded to the request by an external review for improved descriptions of our programs and department. The process of strategic planning is inherited from the corporate world and is the most obvious way that academic institutions are being pressed to function better (i.e., more like corporations). My colleagues and I struggled to agree on the best description of our research and teaching, because we knew that the reputation and future configuration of the department were at stake. Recessionary university budgets meant that we had to be both accurate and persuasive in descriptions that would be read by various interest groups: our university colleagues; administrators, including our dean, provost, and president; former, current, and prospective students and their parents; employers of our graduates; the citizens and legislators of our state who underwrite part of the budget for our institution; and the various other funding agencies and donors who contribute to our research and curricular programs.
After considering what each faculty member does and relating it to the university’s recently issued strategic plan, we reached a consensus that our scholarship and curricular programs focus on culture and technology, and particularly on building and critiquing technologies, including technologies of representation. While agreeing on our core activities, however, we also recognized diverse affiliations with other disciplinary and interdisciplinary humanistic fields: rhetoric, literary criticism, creative writing, cinema studies, performance studies, and cultural studies of science and technology. Because it is impossible to be both universally transparent and cutting-edge, there are irresolvable, permanent tensions between our department’s general project and individual faculty members’ specific research; these tensions are reflected, furthermore, in the differences between our department’s configuration and those of similar departments in the state system and beyond.
Our experience of strategic planning represents what Katie King calls “networked reenactment” in building community-identity and embodies what Rob Wilkie describes as the necessary, if unpaid, labor to create culture. King’s and Wilkie’s respective books, Networked Reenactments: Stories Transdisciplinary Knowledges Tell and The Digital Condition: Class and Culture in the Information Network, both consider the economic forces affecting the creation, deployment, and consumption of technologies and related representations. Both books explain how macroeconomic processes affect scholarly work and undervalue it in the marketplace. Theoretically rigorous, these books are also highly pragmatic in recommending activism for social justice. Read more