(Site update: May 21, 2017)
Spring has sprung, and it is a busy one.
Just completed teaching a week-long course on strategic planning for a great group of students. Sadly, my other slated course on HR was cancelled, which may be a blessing in disguise as I also received my reader reports for that book on Social Capitalism I'm writing for Westminster Uni Press, so revisions, revisions, revisions.
In fossil news, I've been able to get out for a few local hunts, but am looking forward to a major dig at a quarry near Lake Simcoe. I've also been pressed into service as a Moderator at the Fossil Forum. New blog post on recent finds here.
My article on "Why Plans Fail" also came out this month in Municipal World. Also, in the consulting column are some pretty interesting upcoming gigs - more about those when they are finalized and the ink dries.
And in the YOLO travel column, I'm going back to Lisbon, Portugal in July for some deep cultural R&R. Deb and I will be going for an 8-day adventure involving some mini-trips to Sintra and Evora. Very exciting.
The BIG DIG!
What could be a better vacation for someone like me now that the semester's grading is done? A four day trip to Buffalo's Penn Dixie site to haul rock with friends! Read about it here.
FIGHTING FIT & FORTY
So, that happened.
actually made it to 40, which qualifies me as middle-aged! Pictured above is the cake Deb had made for my lovely party (and my thanks to everyone who came and made it a fantastic time).
Quite a chunk of newsy bits to share as this is my first post of 2017 after an unusual winter. I may as well sort them by type:
For many of us, it will be good to put 2016 behind us. Events that would have beggared belief a year ago, like Brexit and Trump, have happened. We lost giants like Prince and David Bowie. Anyhow, pictured above is a Flexicalymene trilobite from Morocco. (new post on the fossil blog to run out the clock on the year)
The missus and myself have returned from a lovely ten day stay in Jamaica only to return to the cold clutches of winter. This year has seen its share of ups and downs, and a heck of a lot of work. I taught around five courses in 2016, one webinar, and completed the strategic plan revision for the Town of St Marys. My firm is contracted to revise the plan for the Township of Clearview, and the preliminary session occurred a few days before boarding a plane to Jamaica. Deb and I traveled to Ottawa in May, went fossil hunting quite extensively this year with some very great finds from many different places. I semi-emerged out of writing retirement to have a few pieces published in a few places, and released my book B0T.
Looking ahead, I'll be turning 40 in April, I have a book under contract I need to complete, another book to co-edit on strategic planning, a few irons in the consulting fire, a trilogy I need to start sketching out, and three courses to teach this winter. I'll have anywhere between 3-5 consulting projects already in the hopper, and I really need to update this site a bit more to cut down on the clutter. In a word, despite world events and a few disappointments, I'd class 2016 as "good." See you in the new year.
OCTOBER IS LOVELy
Autumn trees are in full-spectrum foliage. Pictured to the left is a noble looking praying mantis I encountered on the sidewalk on the way to the dojo. Courses are in full swing, and that always comes with a lot of grading. Deb and I got back down to Penn Dixie during the Thanksgiving weekend for a lot of rock breaking and hauling, but we were able to bring back quite a few hundred pounds of material to keep us occupied in the winter. Plenty of trilobites were found, and it was fantastic collecting with some members of the Fossil Forum.
Deb and I have also taken the plunge in indulging a new passion for learning kung fu and ju-jitsu. But, boy is it an intense workout! You think you're physically fit until the sifu puts you through the grinder with cardio drills. But we are learning and loving it.
A lot of goings-on as of late. I recently gave a webinar for the AMCTO on social media in the municipality, there was another trip to Hungry Hollow (possibly the last trip of the season before snows fly), and my consulting company was awarded a contract for providing strategic plan revision services.
There's still some fossils I have to clean up and photograph, but when I do it will go up on the fossil blog. Until then, get out there and see the trees and enjoy the crisp air!
School begins. I'll be trading in the hammer and the strata for the lectern. As one last blast of summer, go here to read about our Penn Dixie weekend, and see me begin the gentle art of fossil preparation here.
End of Summer, What a Bummer :(
Well, it's just about done. School starts imminently, and we have just one more travel adventure before it begins to Penn Dixie in Blasdell, NY. Check out the fossil blog to keep tabs on the rock-breaking adventures. Pictured above is a new acquisition. This coin is a "billon" from the reign of Constantine I (307-337), issued from the mint at Siscia in either 319 or 320 AD. The reverse includes the legend, VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP (well deserved victory to the eternal prince) with two Victories holding a shield with the inscription VOT P R, which is short for VOTA POPVLI ROMANI (the vows of the people of Rome).At the bottom we can see the ASIS denoting the location of the mint (Siscia). This location is significant because Constantine had secured victory over Licinius to gain this eastern territory. Given the "troubles" with the barbarians in the north, the coin was issued with Constantine with his battle helmet, a nice touch of military propaganda. (If students of my propaganda class are creeping my site, I'll bring this to class for show and tell).
This billon is between 4-25% silver with the remainder being copper.
Much of summer is sadly behind us now. And what an interesting summer it has been, albeit feeling so brief. And it is also silly season with the clickbait Trump, which affords us no end of stupidity, humour, and possibly fright. But as summer draws to its inevitable close, it also means the beginning of autumn and the new school year (I'll be teaching propaganda, and net-work: labour and profit this semester). But I should reflect on this lovely summer. It has been adventurous, with plenty of day trips and fossil hunts. In July we made it out to Lucan's annual Baconfest. There were trips to Port Stanley, Arkona, Port Bruce, and Grand Bend - mostly fairly typical summer jaunts.
On the work front, things have been mostly quiet or just "behind the scenes." We finished the revision for St Marys' strategic plan, I continue work on two academic projects: a smaller one for an entry on Bebert for a proposed Dictionnaire Celine being produced in France (on the left is a picture of my own Bebert climbing a chain-link fence!), and a larger one involving a contract to write a book on social capital and alienation for the Uni of Westminster Press in the UK. Ever more feathers in the cap, I guess. I've also applied to several jobs, and bid on several opportunities (some of which I'm waiting to hear back on), while I've also been headhunted for a few bidding opportunities in the domain of strategic planning. In the meantime, just scroll down here is an for one of the featured AMCTO webinars I'll be giving this fall, this one on social media in the municipal workplace..
I suppose the greatest achievement this summer has been my definitive and conclusive quitting of cigarettes. Been nearly a month now and I simply do not miss them. But I am absolutely thrilled with the rapid improvement in health - and I'm already the most fit almost-40 year-old you might know! And with all the money I'm saving not pointing a cigarette-shaped gun at my heart and lungs, why not buy a few tools for fossil hunting? Check out my new mini-sledge, hatchet, and pry bar to join the family of the Estwing rock pick and hand-guard cold chisels.
So, what's next? I will be teaching at least two courses at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies with another elsewhere still in discussion. The known courses I'll be teaching include Net-Work: Labour and Profit, and Propaganda. Perhaps just as exciting will be the fact that I will be putting on my first webinar for the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks, and Treasurers of Ontario. The webinar will focus on tactics for best practices in integrating social media in municipalities. So, yes, I am now an AMCTO trainer.
Looking ahead in the next few months, I anticipate a mad whirlwind of activity, particularly if my firm gets the nod for a number of consulting projects. That, plus the teaching rigours, might make it tough for me to get out and do some fossil hunting in the more colourful and cooler autumn, but you know I will try! And although I have given up one nasty habit (smoking) I continue with another one (writing). I have a few small pieces accepted in various places, but I'm pleased to announce this one in Danse Macabre's 100th issue. Yes. 100th. It is a fantastic literary magazine and I urge you to plunder its archives! Here is my contribution. And finally, below is a frog who visited my patio.
My newest novel is out, available here. It's intentionally quite choppy, involves a speculative history, and is a follow-up to my previous novel, B1T. Follow the link for a detailed synopsis.
I am even more thrilled by the arrival of my new Estwing 22 oz. rock pick. This is the Cadillac of rock hammers, and in a preliminary trial of its function, it was able to split some very hard Hungry Hollow limestone. I will be taking it out into the field this weekend for its real trial run, but already I am absolutely impressed with it. Others who own Estwings swear by them, and have used the same one for 30 or 40 years(!). A single piece drop-forged steel with excellent weight distribution - ok, I'm geeking out over a tool, but just glad I get to retire my old claw hammer so it can resume its duties driving nails instead of cleaving rocks.
And two more book reviews at Western News with one on historical female piety and the other a novel on confronting the taboo subject of VD after the Great War.
Watch this space: I might be updating the fossil blog with new finds after tomorrow. UPDATED: new post from Hungry Hollow here.
A mix of new and old news marks the end of spring:
* The third and final instalment of a series on strategic planning has been published in the June issue of Municipal World.
* Deb and I have been away for a week in Ottawa. Pics here.
* Fossil hunting has involved one hill and two rivers. Updated blog entry here.
* I am now under publishing contract with the University of Westminster Press' Social and Critical Digital Studies series to write a book on social capital and alienation.
* My novel, B0T, is slated for summer release.
* I have been solicited to provide an entry, or entries, to a planned Dictionnaire Celine.
* I have completed all the units for the AMCTO's municipal administration program, earning very high grades, and merely await the official notice of certification.
* Work continues on the strategic plan revision for the Town of St Marys
*I appear as a guest on Public Radio International's The World in Words, speaking about the Codex Seraphinianus. Listen here.
Lots of things going on, but a lot of those things are in process and have yet to materialize. No sense playing my own jinx.
What I can report is that I'm bringing Deb on a roots tour to my native Ottawa next week. Pictures to come after the experiences are had. Also have a few book reviews at Western News, and posted my first entry on my fossil blog to retire the old fossil webpage format. And my speculative Soviet computopia novel "B0T" is inching ever so close to completion and release. For all my 16 vigintillion fans who are just dying to get updates from me, it will just have to wait. So much more to say, but the weather is just too nice for any of us to dawdle around here.
SPRING UPDATE - April 5
It's my birthday, and the above picture is a gift to myself: a silver denarius from the reign of Septimius Severus (193-211 AD). Perhaps it was subconscious of me to purchase something far older than myself to not feel as old as I am, now that I've turned 39. For those who are keen on Roman history, Severus outmaneuvered the other candidates for the imperial throne after the murder of Pertinax and the Praetorian Guard pretty much auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Severus himself preferred living in Syria than in the palace in Rome. Although the reverse of this coin is "FVNDATOR PACIS" ("founder of the peace"), this refers to his lacklustre campaign against the Parthians. Severus was succeeded by his two sons, Caracalla and Geta, with the former having his brother murdered. Caracalla was a piece of work, for sure, and very taxation crazy.
So, I have two new articles to share:
1) The first of a three-part series on strategic planning appearing in Municipal World (April, May, and June issues) with my co-author Bill Irwin. I'd give the link, but the content is only available for those who subscribe to the magazine (which is quite affordable, and is absolutely the benchmark for municipal affairs).
2) An article on the Codex Seraphinianus appearing in the monsters dossier over at the Semiotic Review
My consulting firm has an insane amount of bids out there, with others in the works (including some consortium work), and it is far too early at this point to share any news. I do anticipate that this summer will see a lot of interesting and engaging consultation work throughout the province, as well as the potential of me finishing up a novel and getting cracking on a university press monograph on social capital and alienation. I still have to doll up the sample chapter. Also applied to some fairly high level municipal jobs, so we shall see what happens.
Will there be fossils this year? You bet. We had an unwelcome blast of winter, but in the next few weeks I anticipate getting back out into the field in search of ever more trilobites.
Physically doing very well and continuing on my diet of no added sugar, salt, or fat. Apart from an irritating bout of tendonosis in the distal biceps which requires a bit of at-home physio, I'm fighting fit!
Finally, I plan on bringing Deb with me for a nostalgic return trip to my hometown of Ottawa this May, and then off to Montreal.
[Pictured above is the view from the plane between Jamaica and Cuba, minutes before sunset]
This past year has been an interesting and experiential one. I went as far north as Iceland, and as far south as Jamaica for a second stay at the lovely Sandals Montego Bay. This year has also seen a lot of provincial travel, whether it be for consulting work or going on many fossil hunts with Deb (who has now moved in with me). I taught several courses this past year, and managed to work on various municipal consulting projects, including for the Town of Goderich, a strategic plan for the Municipality of Bluewater, and ongoing work for the Town of St Marys. By year’s end I was able to formally register a general partnership consulting firm. I wrote book reviews, had a few articles published, have some co-authoring of articles on strategic planning in the works, and even managed to publish a novel. Health-wise, I have kept to my diet and exercise regimen, seeing good gains and improved overall function. I also went back to school and am now registered in AMCTO’s diploma program for municipal administration. On that front, I am proud to say that I scored very well on the first two courses.
Although I initially was aiming to change career tack, it seems that I’ve simply added another few mini-careers to the mix. I have no idea what this next year will bring. All I know is that there are some consulting projects to complete, a few courses to teach, and a few courses to complete toward the diploma. I plan on writing one academic book and the followup novel to B1T, amidst other projects. In terms of travel, I have no idea where I might end up visiting. In terms of health, I will be making more good modifications to the current regimen to fine tune toward my goals. Will there be fossil adventures? Definitely. If you haven't seen my newest finds this year, go here.
CfP Announcement - Nov 17, 2015
Vegetal Ontologies: a Stroll through the World of Plants and People
A Call for Papers for a special issue of Semiotic Review on Phytosemiotics
With the recent animal and multispecies turns in critical theory and philosophy, everything from cats and dogs to microbes and mycorrhizal fungi have become vital allies against anthropocentrism, yet plants have been largely ignored. This is a call for papers that consider the importance of plants as contributing thinkers and actors within multispecies interactions, landscapes, and worlds. We begin with the path breaking insight of Martin Krampen (1928-2015): that the study of plant life cannot be reduced simply to mechanical descriptions of efficient cause, but must account for phytosemiotics, or sign use and interpretation by plants. Like other life forms, plants are autonomous subjects with their own, meaning- laden life worlds, from which those of human and nonhuman animals emerge. The role of plant cultivation in human civilization, from the rise of the state to the green revolution, is well known. But recent botanical research shows that plants also respond to and communicate about their surroundings, not only by exchanging chemical signals through the air, but also by sharing and stealing nutrients via symbiotic networks underground. In climate change policy and practice, furthermore, plants are leading indicators of, and countermeasures deployed against, the dawning Anthropocene.
Plants lack nervous systems that mediate between life worlds and experience, which means that they are characterized by a degree of immersion in their habitats that other creatures depend upon, and may come to dread or desire for ourselves.1
The activities of “individual” plants give rise to multi-species collectives, including forests, swamps and jungles, of which animal subjects are living thoughts.2 For Krampen, the fact that all animal bodies and behaviors must establish correspondence with the “vegetative rules of endosemiotics” (1981: 208), places an ethical demand on us to know and care for plants lest we asphyxiate ourselves and destroy the planet we share with them.
We seek contributions from various disciplinary perspectives that will consider:
1 Marder, Michael. 2013. Plant Thinking. Columbia University Press, Press, p. 12.↩
2 Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think. University of California Press.↩
October 28, 2015 - Fall Roundup
It has been a while since I've updated the page - but mostly on account of being fairly busy with consulting work, teaching, and being a student. There have been several outings this summer, be it to attend local festivals, hiking, fossil hunting, etc. I was recently honoured to win the Dean's Award for Excellence in Part-Time Teaching this year. I am also very excited to be working with the Municipality of Bluewater as we approach the final phase of developing their strategic plan; with St Marys as we revise their existing strategic plan and develop an implementation schedule. And, academically, a colleague and I eked out something on pedagogy/invisibility as a chapter appearing in the International Handbook of Semiotics (Springer). You can read the abstract here.
I did manage to get out to collect fossils, which you can view here. I have snapped a few pictures throughout the year that have no other home than some miscellany page, but if you like nature, go here to see how I captured the changing of the seasons.
And finally, pictured below is a new and treasured acquisition of mine: a leaf from the Strassburg Bible printed in 1485 by Johann Reinhard Gruninger. This is the tenth of the pre-Lutheran bibles printed in German (I believe it is based on the Mentelin Bible of c.1466). Keep in mind that the Catholic Church did not authorize translations, and that this leaf is incunabula (that is, in the first 50 years of the printing press). About 100 or so copies of the Strassburg Bible exist, of which maybe 80 are complete.
New Novel & Other News - July 4, 2015
My new novel, B1t (that's letter B, number 1, and letter T) is now available, and I know your credit card is burning a hole in your pocket to buy it NOW. Okay, so that will prove my only effort at a hard sell for a soft launch! It's a rather (intentionally) disjointed with little to no resolution, which just sets itself up for the sequel. B0T (b, number 0, t) is already in development, along with several other writing projects that I'm tinkering with.
In other news, I forgot to make mention of a small interview I conducted with Mark Rayner at Western News. Definitely check out Mark's site for satirical hard proof of his biting hilarity.
On the education front, I am absolutely thrilled to report that I am now officially registered in the AMCTO's Municipal Administration Program, and am looking to apply to Western's Diploma in Public Administration for the condensed May-June 2016 semester. I'm still undecided as to whether to also go for the MPA, but I already know what sort of project I'd like to focus on as part of my area of specialization. You can take a peek at my municipal musings to get a sense of my thought process. The title of that blog leaves something to be desired, but in terms of content I plan to spruce up a few posts on citizen engagement, collaborative partnerships (intermunicipal, private-public, service clubs, etc), and an important piece on economic development that focuses on diversification on a sector by sector approach.
Solstice Update - June 19, 2015
The tail end of spring has been anything but idle. Not long after I returned from Iceland, there were reports to write and file, strategic planning consultations to be scheduled, and a novel to finish up drafting. On the last item, I am pleased (and exhausted) to announce that the first draft of B1T is complete and now in the hands of a trusted reader. That only leaves the sequel, B0T, to write and sundry other writing projects.
It hasn’t all been desk-riding. Deb and I have continued taking advantage of the fine weather and a desire to get out and about. A day trip to Stratford was lovely, and we had a fabulous time at Hensall Fair as I mixed a bit of social fun with official duties.
In just a few weeks, I’ll be registering for my first course provided by the Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) as part of their Municipal Administration Program. Ultimately, my goal is to complete all units of the MAPP to obtain official designation as a CMO. In other words, I’m going back to school, and indulging my passion for municipalities. I’m kicking off a blog on municipal musings here.
Happy solstice to everyone.
Just so that I can share something more visual, here are some mocks I've worked up for the novels B1T and B0T:
In Bloom, Updates for Spring, 2015
Spring cleaning comes to my website. The last six months has seen so many changes that it is challenging to record them all. I am less than 24 hours from boarding a plane with Deb for a week-long hike in Iceland, and my little prodigious cuddly companion Bebert (pictured above) thought to give me a bon voyage gift by dragging in a rabbit.
It has been busy as I negotiate a shift in career trajectory to cultivate a nascent love for all things municipal. Yes, I am fascinated by municipal government in all its core functions, across its broad range of provided services such as water, policing, curbside collection, fire protection; the concerns of more remote and rural communities such as the ongoing adjustment to amalgamation, economic development, stemming out-migration, etc.; building and sustaining diverse communities, ecological initiatives, drive-through tourism, mixed-use housing development, and meeting the needs and challenges of a changing demographic. Municipal governments ARE the future - direct, local, and an impact on our daily life. If there is going to be change in our country, our provinces, it begins at the local level. My passion for municipal government will find expression as I am returning to school to complete a program as a prerequisite to earning a designation as a Certified Municipal Officer, and I hope to apply next year in a position to add my skills, energy, and leadership to assist rural municipalities in Ontario not only survive, but to thrive.
In a similar vein, I was recently invited to facilitate a visioning session with Goderich Town Council to identify strategic priorities, which was an enormously positive exercise. Work continues with my consulting partner Bill Irwin as we engage stakeholder groups in the Bluewater strategic planning process. Communities such as these are the essence of community spirit, and it is immensely gratifying to work with, and listen to, communities to achieve their goals.
Fossil hunting is still ongoing, and I've been doing a bit of writing on the side when time allows. I'm currently reading a textbook on the history of municipal governance in Ontario, Oil by Upton Sinclair, various field guides on edible plants, insects, mammals of Ontario, wetland plants of Ontario, and eastern North American trees. I eat well, and exercise all the time and just enjoying as much sun and fresh air as possible.
Until my return from Iceland!
From Winter to Spring, 2015
It has been a fairly busy and surprising winter semester. I had a few more book reviews published, but mostly I've been teaching four courses and preparing for the spring and summer. Most of my work has been "in-house", and it involved a rather drastic reassessment of personal and professional priorities, including a new direction I'll detail later. I'm happy, extremely healthy, and ready for the challenges ahead. Yeah, I'll be writing books, too, but I also expect to keep up my active lifestyle. Less desk time, more getting out there on the trails, throwing around the ball, and travel. Deb and I will be off to Iceland in May. Plenty of updates, but they can wait!
[Photo by Deb - we hit up Hungry Hollow for fossils to kickstart the first episode of 2015]
Dec 20-28: The Semester IS OVER! - Pass The Tanning Butter.
It has been a very long, challenging semester: four courses across two universities, 270 students, and over 750,000 words of grading (just shy of the word count for the entire bible, both old and new testaments combined). And it has been challenging for other reasons, too, not least of which having to manage grieving, paperwork, and the last leg of labour negotiations (we reached an agreement that has now been ratified).
The image above depicts exactly where me and the kids are going: Montego Bay, Jamaica. And we certainly deserve it. I'm even willing to relax my usual Marxist anti-colonialist stance to indulge in the simulacrum-paradise of an all-inclusive resort walled off from the grim sociopolitical realities of those who live there. This has been by far the most trying semester in all my years teaching, and I am just relieved that I can take a breather from 90-hour weeks. That means, for the week, I am not answering work emails. In fact, I am abdicating all responsibilities for the duration to be a beach bum.
2015 promises to be a very active and exciting year, but I'm going to allow the last sand grains run out on the hourglass of 2014 in the spirit of full R&R. See you all in January! [Update: some pics here]
OCT 18 - MEDIA ROUNDUP
On October 6, I appeared on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paikin on the topic of precarious labour. In an age when 40% of Ontarians are precariously (under)employed, cobbling together a large number of poor paying, insecure jobs with possibly no benefits or pension while major companies continue to net record profits (using said profits for share buybacks or dividend payments instead of job creation), this issue is one of the most pressing for labour health today. Tied in with insecure employment are issues of gender, ethnicity, childcare, and dignity. As a "full time part time" contract faculty member, I am also a member of the precariat. Click on the image above to view the video on the TVO website. I would like to thank my friends and colleagues of the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA), and especially Andrea Calver, for helping to arrange this. It was an absolute thrill to work with the producer, Hilary Clark, and have an opportunity to meet Steve Paikin in person.
I also was quoted in a recent Salon.com article, "Professors on Food Stamps" which appeared on September 21. You can read the article here. In addition, I was quoted in a Western Gazette article entitled "The Precarious Path to Professorship" written by Amy O'Kruk, featuring our most excellent President of UWOFA, Alison Hearn. The article references a YouTube video created by Travis Welowszky of the Faculty of Information and Media Studies Undergraduate Students' Council. You can read the Gazette article here, and view Travis' contribution to academic labour woes by clicking on the image below.
I also saw my most recent academic article on precarious labour published by Confero: Essays on Education, Philosophy and Politics. You can read Alienation and Precarious Contract Academic Staff in the Age of Neoliberalism here.
I have also recently joined the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) as a member of its International Advisory Board, was elected to be OCUFA Director of UWOFA, and continue serving proudly in many capacities on my faculty association during this time of negotiations.
In other publishing news, you can read my most recent entry in my regular column of Contractually Bound at University Affairs entitled "Tips on Surviving Chronic Adjunctivitis." In addition, I had three book reviews published with Western News on September 25.
And finally, my friend, colleague, and fellow pen-rustler Mark Rayner wrote a kind and glowing review of my novel, Professor Montgomery Cristo. You can read his musings here, and do feel free to read his other posts, fiction, and other monkey-pirate-y goodness.
OUR JULIE. November 14, 1963 - September 10, 2014
It has taken me a long time to take this step, and it is likely that it will take me much longer to ever process this. My wife's tribute page will forever be under construction. Please excuse the mess, but it mirrors my state.
AUGUST 27: Summer roundup
Despite a bit of silence on the research front, summer of 2014 was an active one in other areas as I have extended my involvement in issues pertaining to precarious academic labour. The jewel in the proverbial crown regarding such efforts was my attending the biennial Coalition of Contingent Academic Labour (COCAL) conference hosted at John Jay College (CUNY) in New York City on August 4-6 (you can read a small debrief of the event by Sydni Dunn here). Over 200 attendees from Canada, the US, Mexico, and even Argentina converged to discuss strategies and tactics for improving the working conditions of exploited sessional/adjunct labour, and this through a series of intensive interest or working groups, each tasked with a particular issue. I participated in the "Building National Agendas" working group where I suggested the creation of a democracy index to function as a means of re-balancing much of the arguably lost power among faculty of all ranks with respect to budgetary, socioeconomic, intellectual, and other related issues. I will be hard at work with my colleagues in COCAL to develop this metric, which we hope will restore the proper place of higher education whereby it is the faculty - not the money managers - that represent the true university. I am also working with partners at CAUT and OCUFA on the issue of adjunct labour, with some exciting and bold initiatives to be disclosed at the appropriate time.
This upcoming academic year will also see me teaching up a storm as I occupy that position of being a full-time part-timer with no fewer than 8 courses, and an average of about 300 students per semester. My usual courses are being offered at FIMS (Propaganda in Print and Visual Culture, two sections of Social Networking) in addition to one new course (Net-Work: Labour and Profit) and one first-year course to revise (Information and its Contexts). In addition, I will be teaching two sections of an online course (Sociology of Law) and one course for Laurier's Society, Environment, and Culture program (Social and Digital Media).
While all that is going on, I continue preparing column entries for University Affairs, my usual swathe of editorial responsibilities at various academic journals, and continue to serve proudly in many capacities on my faculty association during this very crucial time of collective bargaining. There are a host of other projects and initiatives on my plate for this upcoming year that I may as well not mention until they firm up. My personal writing and research time will most likely have to be put aside as I manage a heavy teaching load, committee work, and throw a hard shoulder into research concerning precarious academic labour.
In other news, I was interviewed by a host of media outlets, including a CBC radio documentary on sessional employment, among other engagements. And so the new academic year begins...
July 1: New Article
My article on digital astroturfing now appears in the Journal of Intelligence, Propaganda, and Security Studies courtesy of the Austrian Centre for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies
JUNE 19: ANOTHER FOSSIL SEASON BEGINS
I'll be back on the fossil hunt. Catch up with what you missed in 2013 here and read the season opener here.
June 6: The Big Summer Update
What am I doing this summer? Click here to read more about my ongoing research, literary, and labour organizing activities.
May 24: A New novel
Accused of an act of plagiarism he did not commit... Condemned to teach as an underpaid adjunct for 14 years... Resolved to right the scales of academic justice...
Adapted from the masterful epic by Dumas, a retelling of the story of Monte Cristo in the shadow of the ivory tower.
Dantes had it all. Close to defending his dissertation, the praise of his mentors, an insider tip about an upcoming tenure-track hire in his department, and a shot at the prestigious Mercedes Chair - all of it lost when he was accused of plagiarizing his recently deceased supervisor, Dantes' career prospects tumble into precipitous ruin as he must suffer in the purgatory of precarious adjunct teaching at another university. But in the decrepit D'If wing where the adjuncts hold their office hours, Dantes meets a long-time adjunct by the name of Faria who tutors him on how to survive as an adjunct, and is told of a scholarly treasure: a hitherto unknown manuscript by Nietzsche buried in Sils Maria.
Dantes comes to discover who was behind the plot to sabotage him, and how it was done. Under an alias and with the treasure in hand, Dantes rebuilds his academic career from scratch - all to achieve his one ultimate goal: revenge.
Now available in print and on Kindle
May 1: a new friend
Our daughter Paige recently adopted Zooey (who we are cat-sitting as the "grandparents"). She was born with only three legs, but that doesn't seem to present any trouble as she has adapted incredibly well, leaping and scampering about with as much ease as any other kitten.
On March 4th, our beloved cat, Coco, went on his last adventure. He is survived by his feline friends Portia, Jackson, and Bebert. The undisputed alpha of the cat clan, he acted as sage and guardian to several kittens. A noble, intelligent, and loving friend, we will miss him dearly. He first arrived 15 years ago, on the doorstep in the rain. Extremely sickly, Coco was nursed back to health and enjoyed a wonderful life with us where all his needs were met.
In his younger years, he prowled the neighbourhood as a small but mighty scrapper who could hold his own. As he grew older, he kept closer to home but could be seen climbing up his favourite tree, teaching younger cats how to bathe, enjoying long summer days on the patio, and rarely more than a few feet away from any of us. He provided a great deal of love and affection to our family.
As he grew even older, he was afflicted with numerous health problems. At a certain point we had to make one of the hardest decisions. But to look into his eyes, it was as if he was telling us it was the right decision, that he was ready.
Those who have lived with cats for any length of time know that they each have their own unique personality. Coco was certainly one of those very distinct creatures with a bold, adventurous, and wise spirit.
Feb 15: Conference talk, interrogating access conference, feb 14-16, 2014
Tweaking the Crowdfunding Model: Supplementing Research Funding
In the Canadian context, it is no secret that available funding resources are both “drying up” due to top-down government-based austerity measures, and an increase in government intervention as to what constitutes valid research as indexed on the ideological context of commercialization of scholarly activity.
The crowdfunding phenomenon differs in both content and intention from its closely resembling cousin, crowdsourcing, in that it makes specific use of online tools for the acquisition of funds from a broad spectrum of disintermediated sources. Heralded by some as an entrepreneurial instrument (Schwienbacher and Larralde, 2010) that mobilizes audiences (“crowds” in some of the literature, “communities” or “customers” in others) for the purposes of either ex ante or ex post facto initiatives (Kappel 2009), it has been popularized as a means by which successful financing for projects can be brought to term.
This paper will explore an alternative funding source specifically for the Arts and Humanities based on the crowdfunding model, but modified in such a way that said initiatives may result in improved funder-fundee matching and evaluation using a phase-based approach. As the current crowdfunding model generally favours entrepreneurial start-ups and content that is more populist or topical in nature, a series of modifications would be required to optimize the potential success of such initiatives. The benefits and limits of such crowdfunding initiatives will be of a piece in this discussion, while ultimately such a model may be repurposed as a supplement to more traditional funding sources, open to a global audience, and of some utility for facilitating research at particularly critical phases.
Kappel, Tim. (2009) Ex Ante Crowdfunding and the Recording Industry: A Model for the US? Loyola.
Schwienbacher, Armin and Benjamin Larralde. (2010). Crowdfunding of Small Entrepreneurial Ventures. Handbook of Entrepreneurial Finance. Oxford University Press.
Feb 13: new article
tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 12.1 has just published an article of mine on Veblen and social capital.
Veblen 2.0: Neoliberal Games of Social Capital and the Attention Economy as Conspicuous Consumption
Abstract: The purpose of this article will be in reading acts of prosumer behaviour in social networking environments through a Veblenian lens, supported in part by the post-Marxist insights of Guy Debord, especially with respect to the issue of celebrity emulation, conspicuous leisure as constructed by the labour of profile management and promiscuous online interactivity, and acts of status enhancement or aggrandizement. Such a discussion must be set in the current context of the normative frame of neoliberal ideology which champions the values of the entrepreneurial self, devolved competitiveness as a form of - in this case social rather than strictly economic - neo-Darwinism, and the touted virtues of speed and connectivity. Ultimately, it is our hope to link these conspicuous online practices to the ideological framework to demonstrate how prosumption plays an integral role in the quantification of the social economy as expressed as “social capital.” In order to achieve these objectives, strict and operational definitions of prosumption, conspicuity in the Veblenian literature, and neoliberalism will be required. The line between social and economic capital is not a definitive one, and that the behaviours and motives associated with increasing social capital may be weighted more to the individual and influenced by neoliberal values that recode the social as derivative of the economic.
Feb 5: new monthly column at University affairs
Introducing the first in a series of entries for my new column at University Affairs on the plight of contract academic staff - and developing working solutions.
jan 21: foreword to new book
Honoured to be given the opportunity to write the foreword to Robert Lort's newest book, Eat the Word, a Deleuzian-inspired series of literary vignettes. The book is due to be released in 5-7 days.
Jan 21: quoted on selfies; jan 22: quoted on digital narcissism
Quoted on "selfies" in a Western Gazette article written by Jacqueline Baker, and on digital narcissism in an article written by Roberto Nanni.
Jan 12: New article / ed intro -
Happy new year.
My editorial introduction to the themed section on digital narcissisms is now out, as well as my article on modular capitalism and geomorphia. Both are now available in the recent issue of Reconstruction.
The editorial intro on digital narcissism: "Triumph of the Id"
The article: Geomorphia: Did the Earth Move for You? Mobile Capital as Geomorphic Agent
Dec 21: New article
The Journal of Documentation Studies just published an article of mine. The full article, as an "early cite" since the issue has not yet been printed, is available for those with institutional access to the Emerald Journal Group.
"An Information Meta-State Approach to Documentation"
Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to bring both Simondonian and Deleuzian insights to bear upon the nature of documents and documentation by viewing them as non-representationalist, and as products of transduction and reticulation that render documents assemblages that are in constant negotiation with an environment as instances of a perpetually renewing problematic.
Design/methodology/approach - Simondon’s work on metastability and transduction can offer particular insights into how we view documents in terms of their materiality, signification, and possibly to move beyond the phenomenological bias in the treatment of documents.
Findings - In understanding or describing the process of documentation as a reticulation or unfolding, we also come to view the document as an assemblage in perpetual negotiation. This paper adapts Deleuze and Guattari’s articulation framework of expression-signification and provides a bit of groundwork toward two registers of information (first and second order) according to the preindividual process of that allows for the individuation of documents.
Originality/value - This paper makes an original contribution to understanding the process of documentation and the product of documents in a more fluid, interdynamic context by shifting or displacing the traditional view of information.
a few old books
Feeling rather bummed out today, but a small bit of solace comes by way of some old books I purchased from Attic Books yesterday. You can read about them here.
Every once in a while it is nice to set my geeky work aside and do something... geeky and non-work related.
In this short piece, posted on this site, I take very sharp things and a lot of obsessive patience to the inside cover of a book from 1787 to reveal secret pages hiding beneath!
Join me as I peel back the pastedown to reveal the historical secret inside.
nov 13: usc teaching honour roll
Just learned that I made the teaching honour roll again, along with ten other of my colleagues at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies. Official news copy from the FIMS website:
"Congratulations go to 11 FIMS faculty members who were recently named to the 2013-2013 edition of the USC Teaching Honour Roll.
Included are: Andrea Benoit, Tim Blackmore, Jacquie Burkell, Chris Clark, Norma Coates, Sally Colwell, Kane Faucher, Amanda Grzyb, Selma Purac, John Reed and Sharon Sliwinski.
The University Students' Council each year names to the Teaching Honour Roll those instructors who receive an accumulated average of 6.3 or higher out of 7 on the first 14 questions of the UWO Senate-mandated course and teacher evaluations."
OCT 31: western news book reviews
Book reviews of four worthwhile books by Rachel M. Heydon, Bernd Steinbock, Don Gutteridge, and various authors under the fine editorship of Linda M. Morra and Jessica Schagerl. The books under review takes us from intergenerational learning, what it really means to be an Athenian, archival practices with respect to women scholars and artists, to a fable on what makes Gavin so great. Check out my reviews in the Read All Over section here.
oct 23: new edition of codex seraphinianus
Rizzoli is issuing a new edition of the Codex Seraphinianus on Oct 29 with new plates supplied by Serafini. This exciting news for Codex nerds like me may precipitate some further work on the Codex, if not also plans to create an homage edition of my own. Those interested can peruse the incomplete analysis and initial attempts to construct some Serafini-esque work here.
This digitized Serafini "majuscule" above was constructed by me, using a mixture of hand-drawn elements that were scanned for processing in font-making software. My own incomplete Serafini alphabet has been converted to true-type font (.ttf) and can be used on most word processors.
OCT 20: presented at apps & affect conference
image streamed from blog.teamtreehouse.com
Hosted at Museum London on October 18-20. This conference will bring together a diverse group of scholars from a variety of disciplines to present work on the significance of apps, be them openly creative points of access and invention, or a form of regulatory control.
My own contribution to the discussion by way of the abstract:
App as Non-Apparition: The Counter-Alethic Function [white walls and black holes]
Apps already grid the subject and its conditions of possibility through a regime of signs, aligned in part by a technocratic restructuring of the myth of progress where the app is positioned as the essential filter through which problems can find their immediate or ready-to-hand solutions. However, despite the optimism of the technocratic solutions-as-tools, like the algorithm the app effectively regulates subjectivity by distributing uniform diversity rather than acknowledge the already-different. In Deleuze and Guattari's sense, it may qualify as simply another, albeit etherealized or computationally embedded, molarity that captures, regulates, and distributes the flows of difference by also shaping the Weltanschaaung through the precise pre-programmed aperture of the app itself. For example, the app of Google Maps alters the way we view and engage space, distance, and point-concentrated relevance. If there is no "app" for that particular "that," it may be implied as part of the computational logic that it is of no value or significance, thus appealing to valuation by omission. The emergence of affect generally must follow an intensive feature where the virtual is made immanent to the process of individuation. The app, however, might conceal the intensive affects and function to cancel out the real differences required for a truly expressive means of creating something other out of the tracing of the subject-user and the object-app, both of which enter into a dialectical relationship. The question upon which this turns would be in determining whether the app provides a mechanism for feedback or feedforward. By an appeal to the works of Heidegger, Simondon, and Deleuze, this talk will trace the logic of the app as possibly being less conducive in recognizing affect or the fold that exists between subjectivity and technology, still subordinating the affect of sense as a secondary quality.
oct 8: Book release
The word “information” carries a number of connotations depending on context, and can be said to be one of the most problematic words to define despite many efforts by statistical theorists, mathematicians, physicists, cyberneticians, communication theorists, computer scientists, and philosophers. Is information physical or non-physical? Is the universe digital, analog, or a “chaosmic” mixture of the two?
This book explores a Deleuzian way of understanding information by retracing Deleuze’s ontology of difference back to Gilbert Simondon’s concepts of transduction, metastability, and perpetual individuation as a source for Deleuze’s concept of the virtual. Although Deleuze did not address information specifically in his oeuvre, this book attempts to construct what a Deleuzian theory of information might look like as a consequence of his philosophical insights.
The reader is presented with a brief survey of information theories, capsule explanations of the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon and Gilles Deleuze, and a discussion on the roles of metastasis and metastability as a means of addressing the problematic known as information outside of computing regimes, and as a critique of cybernetics, informatics, and memetics. Can information be reconfigured as affirmative difference, transformed into a “nomad science,” or must it remain consigned to the realm of probabilism?
sept 26: teaching award
Dean's Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients announced: 9/26/2013 4:14:33 PM
Susan Knabe, Anabel Quan-Haase, Mark Kearney and Kane Faucher have all received the award for 2013.
The awards were announced at a reception on Wednesday, September 26, held in University College. Acting Dean Nick Dyer-Witheford presented each recipient with a certificate marking the achievement.
sept 7: WNDER's new website
The Western Network for Digital Education and Research website has now been launched. Read about WNDER's ambitious mandate here.
general update - august 22, 2013
Image streamed from Christrains.com
1. An article accepted with revisions; 2. Proofs for my upcoming book with Sense Publishers; 3. Work on the book, Datapolitik in full swing; 4. Course revisions complete for this coming year (Propaganda, Social Networking, Media & Audiences); 5. Nominated for Dean's Teaching Award; 6. Work on "crowdfunding" article with collaborator continues; 7. Co-editorial work on Deleuze and Guattari on Capitalism/Economy continues; 8. A smattering of other articles in various stages; 9. Revving up for a negotiation year at Western; 10. New member of the Western Network for Digital Education and Research (WNDER)
july 15: Back from lisbon
A weeklong stay in Lisbon as part of the Deleuze conference. For those who like pictures, I snapped a few here.
july 8-10: Deleuze conference presentation
On July 8-10: I presented Seed De/Re-Territorialization: Monsanto and Genetic Drift as Deleuzo-Guattarian Capital (6th International Deleuze Conference, Faculty of Science, Lisbon, Portugal).
The abstract is as follows:
Recent legal disputes involving Monsanto's genetically modified organisms highlight issues of enviro-genetic territory with respect to the effects of gene drift from GM crops to non-GM crops. Although Monsanto prides itself on a Baroque-inspired philosophical outlook where human purpose is to "perfect" nature, and in thus controlling and correcting nature in ways reminiscent of cybernetics, gene drift reterritorializes environmental space in ways that cannot be properly contained, and may suggest a purposive plan on the part of Monsanto to recode the environment according to its own genetic capture and hyper-capitalist flows as united with bioinformatics. This paper will apply Deleuze's and Guattari's insights on the war machine and the apparatus of capture to better position Monsanto's relationship to environmental and genetic territory. This paper will argue that despite any superficial resemblance to rhizomatic spread, Monsanto is engaging in a covert arborescent strategy which attempts to overdetermine environmental and genetic space according to a despotic "corrective" regime under the guise of benevolent utility.
Not only will this prove exciting in rubbing shoulders with D&G giants, but I will also have an opportunity to spend time in a city that is older than London (the one in the UK, not here). As someone who is an advocate for farmers' autonomy, organic food, and biodiversity, my hope is that this will be the first in a series of papers and possible articles critiquing the practices of major GM seed developers from a Deleuzian standpoint.
june 14: ulises mejias' new book
UMinn Press has just released the long-awaited (at least by me and a handful of other geeks) "Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World" by Ulises Mejias, a scholar and researcher at SUNY Oswego. One of the central questions Mejias asks (and one that my Debordian 2.0 self asks with respect to the tyranny of the social web algorithm) is how can we unthink networks? What are the hegemonic traits of current largely corporate networks that divide and rule over its "nodes" (are we more than just nodes in a network?), and how has this marginalized others, alienating users from what they can do? - there may be a Nietzschean question in there! Anyhow, while the glut of zombie novellas and Victorian romances continue being extruded by the publishing apparatus, Mejias' book has been bumped up on my beach read list. I hope to pen a review once I have finished it.
June 14: book review
I wrote a review of "From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin" by Henry Whittlesey (ed.) on their interesting and procedural method of "transposition" at Sein und Werden. Read about it here.
June 7: consultancy position
I have recently been taken on as an associate consultant for the Toronto consultancy firm, Eco-Ethonomics, which focuses on providing strategic planning, sustainability, organizational development, and social enterprise. Read about what they do here.
JUNE 1: Some advocacy stuff
I recently sent a letter to leaders of all the federal parties outlining my concerns with the proposed changes to the Seeds Act. I received a good reply from the NDP. You can read my letter and their response here. (.doc)
Also, I would urge anyone visiting this site to sign the online petition to save Windsor's Centre for Studies in Social Justice, slated to be shuttered this July. This program not only boasts an amazing pool of talented researchers, but also produces students with the ability to advocate on issues of social justice and labour. You can sign the petition here.
June 1: the Infinite grey released
The final book in my trilogy is now available on Amazon. You can read about it on the infinity page. The publisher, Civil Coping Mechanisms, is currently building the landing page with an excerpt.
This is a "soft release," which means I have no plans on any book tours, signings, interviews, or any other PR mechanism beyond what my publisher arranges. Marketing the third in a trilogy is a distinct challenge since it favours those who have already been following the first two volumes.
The cover image appears courtesy of Dale Dunning (the sculptor and photographer of the image). Check out his other work at his page, and read about my raves on him and the other excellent artists who have supplied images for the trilogy here.
may 12 - goodreads blogpost: black market books
Image streamed from Ceciliatan.com
Free books... at the expense of indie authors and publishers. Read my post on the matter here.
may 5 - goodreads blogpost: The infinite grey... soon!
What a long, strange textual trip it's been. Read some of my reflections on the long lead-up to the final book in my hefty tome-like trilogy here.
april 23 - goodreads blogpost: the art of cover art
image streamed from bazaardesigns.com
Instead of discussing what is between the covers, I give plaudits to the fine practicing artists who supplied the images that appear on the covers themselves. Read about them here.
April 18: noise matters
I was invited by L.-F. Celine scholar Greg Hainge to give my meandering reflections on his newest book, Noise Matters at 333sound. Why not join in?
Greg has a solid grasp of Deleuze and Guattari in addition to L.F. Celine. For those keeping track, he and I co-authored a short paper back in 2010 on Celine and ventriloquism for Etudes Celiniennes.
april 12 - goodreads post: on the trilogy
Violating my own personal rule that authors should not speak about their own work, I do so anyway - but with a bit of cheek, and then veer off into issue-based rambling. Read it here.
april 5 - goodreads post: ranking practices
Today I got to rank myself 36 / 36 on number of years I have been post-womb. But what do book rankings mean? What can we learn from them, and what can we not? I weigh in on the popularity metrics and algorithmic nature of book rankings. Read it here.
april 4; two book reviews at western news
Two reviews at Western News: Bipasha Baurah and Terence M. Green.
April 3: western annual author reception
Along with several of my Western colleagues, the Western Bookstore put on a little fete for us. Vice Provost Janice Deakin did the honours of presenting us with awards; esteemed shutterbug Lotte Huxley snapped the occasion; President Amit Chakma dropped by; and I had some very lovely conversations with some very talented Western writers.
march 29 - goodreads post: goodreads + amazon = ?
image streamed from forbes.com
If Amazon cannot buy out its competition, it can surely edge them out. The recent news of Amazon's desire to purchase the reader network Goodreads may change the very nature of the site. Read about some of my best guesses of what those changes might be here.
march 27: thumbstruck: the semiotics of liking via the phaticon
I had an academic article published in the newly refurbished, online-only, open-source journal, Semiotic Review (formerly The Semiotic Review of Books). What's it about? Digital thumbs, of course! (This piece should not be confused with a more gen-audience piece I wrote many years ago on the "thumbstruck generation").
This article will be an early attempt to ground the ubiquitous icon of the “thumb” present on several SNSs and online comment fora in both semiotic and semantic registers. The digital convention of making use of the thumb must first be clarified in terms of its status as either icon, index, or symbol, and furthermore what role it plays in human-computer interaction (HCI), gamification of SNSs, digital gesturality, and the inherent mechanisms of arithmomania that guide approbation in the command and control environments of computer-mediated communication (CMC) that rely on prompting to guide online behaviour. In addition, we might ask if the thumb functions as part of the currency in online social capital accumulation and social transactionalism.
Read it here.
march 25: western research day
march 8: symposium presentation
On March 8, I presented Creative Engagement and Reflective Practice: Two Approaches to Teaching Social Media (Technology in Education Symposium, J.G. Althouse Bldg, Faculty of Education, Western University). It was a lively panel including other faculty members addressing issues of a digitally interactive (if not ergodic) syllabus, the use of YouTube for instructional delivery, vodcasting lectures for distance studies courses, and other uses of the digital milieu for exploration, teaching and learning.
ABOUT: Dr. Kane X. Faucher is an award-winning instructor who teaches several courses in propaganda and social networking. His research specializes in the political economy of information and data, and municipal affairs. He also works as a consultant, a book reviewer, and in sundry other areas.
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