Live Blogging Narrative Analysis: #3

We have to quit class early… which unfortunately means I have to quit live blogging early.

Spending time going over the readings that have been assigned this semester:

Davis, Joseph E. (2002). “Narrative and Social Movements: The Power of Stories.” Stories and Change: Narrative and Social Movements. Joseph E. Davis (ed). Albany NY: SUNY Press. Pp. 3-29.

“Narratives create experiences.” Study stories as… stories. What I have is the story I am being told, not using the interviewee as a junior ethnographer doing the work for me. “Stories are the basis of social relationships” – Latour wants to rephrase: relationship that enacts the social -studying how relationships become social, through being organized around stories.

p. 17: people step into the story and make them their own. They step into the story. Understanding, in this way, the story as being an actor. Stories configures an actionable world to be experienced. Stories connect people into groups that have shared understandings.

Mattingly, Cheryl. (1998). “The Mimetic Question.” In Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots : the Narrative Structure of Experience. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Pp 25-47

Stories are never simple mimesis. Stories have a power to transforming and distorting life as lived. Experience comes to be only with stories.

A stories are not only a clear mirror of a persons experience (the subjectivity approach). Experience is there because we have stories. Experiences is at best derivative of pre-given stories. First you have a story, then you enact it, and then call that your experience.

“Stories speak through me. I do not speak through my stories.”

Wetherell, Margaret. (1998). “Positioning and Interpretative Repertoires: Conversation Analysis and Post Structuralism in Dialogue.” Discourse and Society, 9(3). Pp. 387-412.

Sorting out the difference between conversation analysis and discourse analysis. Telling of a story that is referenced, but never actually told. Never a beginning, middle and an end. Conversation about the story without telling it. What makes the conversation sensible is a story they all already know. Conversation analysis then will always be inadequate in this sense.
Conversation and discourse acting in this. p. 388 – Conversation analysis alone does not offer an adequate explanation for “why this utterance here”? The best CA start in a puzzle – how is this conversation complete (if it isn’t to us). Critique of this is that it alone cannot answer this question. Makes sense because they know things going in. If you keep asking, you never get to the bottom. Set of prior understandings that go all the way back. Always find another story before it. Stories always mean “in relation” to other stories. If we didn’t know any stories, we wouldn’t be able to understand any other story.

Brings in Shapiro, conversation dependent on proto-conversation. The history that makes “this” conversation possible. There is always a proto-story.

White, Hayden. (1978). “The Fictions of Factual Representation.” In Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Pp. 121-134

Deconstructs the dichotomy of history and fiction. White realizes that there are imaginary occurrences. History is no less fiction than a novel is historical representations. This split is modern – 19th century when history becomes

“Any discipline is constituted by what it forbids its practitioners.” If you want to play, stay within the forbidden range. If you want to go for the high stakes, go for the forbidden.

Not “what are the facts” but “how should the facts be described” – describing in order (tactically) to sanction one mode of explanation over another. Those who insist on facts fail to recognize that language has its own form of terminological determinism. No way out. Always have figures of speech.

Tilley, Charles. (2002). “The Trouble With Stories.” In Stories, Identities, and Political Change. Lamham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Pp. 25-42.

Stories patch social life together. What makes life social is nothing but the patches. What makes life social is nothing but the patching (patchwork quilt). There is no latent pattern maintenance – nothing but the patches.

Describes the standard story: Standard stories stand out among all the accounts we sometimes call stories by their combination of unified time and place, limited sets of self-motivated actors, and cause-effect relations centered on those actors’ deliberated actions (p. 29).

Forms of connections: stories connect by common projects, common terms of judging, stories are emotional. Stories spur action because stories touch us in their emotional zones. Stories elicit fear.

Need contextualizing stories: identify social situations in which stories arise. How are these settings defined by the stories that are typically told? What are the stories that bankers tell after a hard days work, and then tracing the consequences of telling these stories and not those others. Crucial.

Generalizing stories: what are the ways in which people create, adopt, negotiate and alter their stories. Cannot get this over a few interviews. Most stories spin out over much longer periods of time. Maybe another forms of auto-ethnography (not approved of).


Somers, Margaret R. (1994). “The Narrative Constitution of Identity: A Relational and Network Approach.” Theory and Society, 23(5). pp. 605-649.

Narratives are an ontological condition of social life. Stories aren’t optional, any more than breathing and reproduction. Stories are not mere representations. Four narrative types: ontological – stories, then tailoring reality. Public narratives, conceptual narratives, metanarratives.

Dumping concepts like “interest” – in favour of narrative identity. To talk about interest is to cheat. To invent another actor. How explanations happen. Need explanation, bring in another actor. Stories that get people to do things. Close to narrative habitus, parameters and possibilities.

Need to talk about relational setting instead of society. Society is merely a bunch of relational settings.

Limited repertoire: what kinds of stories predominate. What is the implication of orientating to these stories. Presuppositional story is that behind any conceptual apparatus is a story that makes that conceptual apparatus make sense.

How do you get across a sociological concept: film and tv. We make sense of an idea by reference to a presuppositional story. Brings us to this week.


(there is some talk right now about Somers, I am uninterested and reading Bloglines again: check out this amazing blog post: a collection of excuses for not blogging.



1) Thematic narrative analysis: Coding stories for common themes. Never get full story, but soundbytes and fractured stories. Pressupposition: no question of person in that social type. The story gives surrogate observation in the life of that person’s life. Even if we are never told any stories: topology mixes metaphors (“prison of the body”) and categories that represent oppositions (“fighting against the body”), and evaluations (“… but still coping”). Mixed bag of tropes.

Question never asked (but crucial): what is the topology designed (work) to do? the topology just “is” – why that one? Work never tells the back story, and completely others other possible stories.

2) Sequential analysis: Conversation analysis of a course of story telling as a strip of talk. Harvey Sacks analysis of teenage girls telling of a dirty jokes. How do participants know, right now, that I am talking and you are not. What makes the joke funny? How will the story affect the group developing.

3) Contextual analysis: narratives are retold in the course of an ethnography. Stories of the local inhabitants. Example: Paul Draus Consumed in the City. Told from the people whose life the stories represent. What are the effects of living in the life that is thus represented.

Ethnographer needs stories to see how the person telling the story lives their life. If you tell these stories, you have a hard time getting out of this way of living. Parameters and possibilities.

4)Topology building: immersed attention. Listening to the stories over and over again. Immersing, and pushing towards general categories.

Three questions:

1) How are the stories providing reasons for tellers?

2) How do stories display and demand recognition?

3) How do stories create and sustain relationships?

4)What teleos do the stories generate for those who share them?

Explain? Who wants or needs that explanation? Danger of trying to explain to much:

Danger of narrative contstuctionism: world is seen as nothing but stories, stories are chosen. People are simply “chosing” out of a small prop-basket that people are given. Consciousness is too central – makes people the source, instead of seeing the narrative tradition…

Ignore the unique work stories are able to do. The unique work: different stories without seeing the sme way (interpretive openess).

How do we let stories breathe? People don’t perform, nor do they construct: people enact. Enactment depends on practice, and practice involves manipulation.

When people enact stories, they are making the world actionable. Form in which it can be acted upon.

Need to overcome two divides: overcome the divide between subjects and humans on one side, and objects and nature on the other. The humans are the ones capable of knowing, and the objects are the ones that do this on the other side. Makes it a one way of knowing and acting.

If an obect is “Real” it is because it is part of a practice.

Telling a story in response to an audience. Dialogue.

To be is to be related: the story teller and listener each allow each other to be. This is what it means to be a relation. They don’t exist until they run into each-other, and there is no independent existence before.

The social is no longer adjective. the social is something we need to show coming into being. The social is to be demonstrated, not explained. What is the practice that makes the interation social. Say, what has to be done to render the world social.

Need to ask how people are captured by the pervasive stories? If there are moments of escape (moments where a story that you were living within becomes clear and you have a narrative choice).

Remember: principle of symmetry. Are we being symmetrical between the story and the actor? Like hardware and software.


1) What kind of person tells a story like that? What is the narrative habitus?

2) What are the commonly told stories? Who hears which story as a call for what story? Advantage of group interviewing: what is the follow up?

3) What is the formatting of the pervasive stories in this setting? (i.e. handbook for telling the story at a CODA meeting?) How do people use this format to tell their particular stories

4) What is most admirable about those who tell those stories? How are they holding their own?

5) What is the worst thing about lives that are caught up in those stories?

6) Whose stories are rendered “other” in the story? Too many people are caught up in stories that render “others”

7) Why, after all this, do stories still seem unavoidable

8) How does interpretive openness lead to differing understandings? Who understands the same story differently?

9) Who would want those stories told differently or telling different stories.

10) How this story could be told differently? How might a different story be told on this ocassion?

Singly or together, these questions will not a set of steps to go through to get “a number” – you have to decide what you want to put on trial.

What difference do you want your work to make? / Truth is important / political relevance. Work can matter. Issues of justice / aesthetics (beautiful typology) / analysis can have theoretical relevance / problems of the 20th century have come to an end (at Bourdieu) / sociology needs to generate new sets of problems / curiosity / legitimate call of witness – one of the priveledges of academia is to give stories an audibility.

Stories are here to make life social, and to make selves knowable to the selves. Stories desire to be told. If you write about stories (instead of telling them), don’t expect the story to help very much.





Watch as Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) punches a fan…

Watch, at about 1:10, Jeff Tweedy puches a fan… in the face!:

and then the apology:

I woudn’t have apologized if I was in Jeff’s place. When you are on stage, you are in a vulnerable position, you are not in your right frame of mind, and so it makes sense for him to have reacted in this way. As a concert goer and sometimes musician, I know full well that the “bastards” usually win, and make every attempt to spoil the show for the rest of the audience.

Wilco’s website has the following to say about it:

“It was clear fairly early on that security was a bit lax at the Shrine Mosque. We had decided in advance to not have a barricade in front of the stage (a mistake?) so the band and crowd could be as close together as possible. The band prefer it that way…

During the first encore a young man jumped onto the stage and did the requisite salute to his pals. While we certainly do not encourage that kind of behavior, we were prepared to let it go, as he was, it seemed, heading back into the crowd. Just when it appeared he was walking off the stage he turned around and moved towards Tweedy from behind. Jeff did not see him approaching, but felt the guy’s hands on his head. To this, Jeff reacted. As Jeff put it… ‘I really regret what happened last night. I wish it had gone another way… and i suspect had i felt safer on that stage, had security been doing a better job all night long, well things would have gone differently. He approached me from behind… and I reacted in defense to get him away. I didn’t know what his intentions were… and I had to get him off of me. I’m sad that it happened at all.'”

I saw Wilco this summer for the first time, and it is one of the best shows I have ever seen.

On: Powerpoint and its excuses.

I got a shoutout on Metafilter yesterday, congratulating me on my first academic teaching job. Oh yes, I have my first academic teacing job! I am teaching a sociology of Mass Communications course at the University of Lethbridge starting in January.

This is terrifying…

Not because I don’t know how to teach (I have had plenty of experience teaching, which was one of the best reasons for doing my Masters at UofL), or because I am not confident that I can do a good job at it (after all, it’s mass media, not social statistics. If there’s one thing I know about, it is mass media). Rather, I am worried about the whole thing blowing up in my face – what with juggling my PhD workload and teaching what will likely be 75 students or so… I know that this is what academics do, and I am just anxious to start. I have all this knowledge that is spilling out of my brain, and because I have known about this since early summer, I have been doing a lot of preperation.


I am eager to try out the lessons I have learned from David Byrne on powerpoint presentations. I experimented with this somewhat in the past (I designed presentations for two courses that are currently being taught at the UofL – Sociology of Religion and Sociology of Youth). These slides were unique, but I think I made a lot of crucial mistakes in them – first, I put way too much text on them, and secondly, I didn’t work to make the presentations cohesive enough.

I see powerpoint presentations all the time that make me want to fall asleep or kill myself. The biggest mistake is allowing the software to structure the lecture into its prefabricated bullet point mode, because lectures then have a tendenct to become constrained into following the rythm of the software.

I also see powerpoint as having a tendency to minimize participation in a classroom. With the room darkened, and the huge image projected on the front of the room, students have a tendecy to stare complacently towards the “show.” It creates yet another barrier between the lecturer and the class.

So how can these problems be minimized? I think that to a large degree, my above concerns may be unsurmountable. However, if a certain level of creativity is involved, Powerpoint does have the capacity for adding a dynamic element to the classroom. This article titled “Presentation Zen” makes a lot of the same points I do, and is where I got the idea of “blank slides” placed throughout the presentation.

Hello Bastards!

When I was in 1997, I was really into a band called Lifetime. Then, when I was in 1998, they broke up. This was bad, you see, because I was, like, really into them (I even have a shirt!).

Now I am in 2006, and this band, Lifetime, have gotten back together. In the interim period, the members of Lifetime were in a lot of other bands – Kid Dynamite, Zero Zero, Paint it Black…

They have a new album coming out, and for now, you can listen to a new song. You might not like it, but I think it is radulon.

Morrissey is a dick…

So I ended up abandoning my paper on the Latino/Morrissey paradox, but it is only because I know nothing about Latino subculture, and felt uneasy about speaking for a subculture I know nothing about. I could learn about it, but then that would take a long time and time is of the essence.

I read an interview this morning with the guitarist from the Dears (who opened for Morrissey a few times), and he says that they had to avert their eyes when Morrissey entered the room. I have tickets to go see the Dears at Macewan Hall on November 23, and I also still love Morrissey, even if he is a dick.


I didn’t go off the road last night, but it was a close one. I almost died a few times, and made it to the grouphome I work at overnights at one minute before my shift started. Good thing I didn’t leave today, because the roads were very icy last night, and icy is worse (marginally) than zero visibility.


Last night, unable to sleep from the amount of adrenalin in my system, I plowed through the rest of Howard Becker’s The Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. No, not the “stay gold, Ponyboy” Outsiders, but the one where Becker introduces his Labelling theory. My favourite part of the book dealt with the hipster Jazz musicians from the 1960’s, who wanted to create “art,” but instead had to play pop music in order to make a living.


Things I am giving up: Diet Coke.

I seriously used to drink a liter or two a day, and I am definitely going through withdrawal symptoms. ugh.

70 Days Left until Christmas…

…and I know what you’re thinking: What should I get Paul for Christmas? Now, if you know me, you will know that I have refined, complex taste (sort of like you would expect of a monkey dressed in a bell hop outfit, and I know that this can produce some serious anxiety in making sure that I get exactly what I want without knowing that I wanted it.

Thus, I decided to produce this handy shopping guide so that you can get me exactly what I want: I give you the “shit I want” list:

The Sushi Pillow – $60 (including shipping)

A pillow shaped like Sushi does the obvious and combines my two favourite things: sushi and sleeping.


Hanso Foundation Notebooks / Lost “Hatch” Diorama

I am a tad fanatical about this show, which means you should order me some lost stuff.


“Sweet” alarm clock

I am in dire need of a sweet alarm clock, like the one above, but with maybe a cd player?


A Baffler Subscription


A N+1 Subscription 

An Adbusters Subscription 

 I like to read Magazines. This should keep me busy!


Morrissey Singles Box Set 

I have wanted this set for a long time. A perfect gift!!


I’ll keep adding to this list, so check back for more “stuff to buy me.”


Dial a cliché

So… 130am, and I was planning on staying up all night to write a paper for my narrative analysis class, but these things take time (and I know that I’m the most inept that ever slept). I am writing on Morrissey and his stories (presented throughout the major themes in his discography), and how his rabid United States based Latino fan base have formed their subculture around these stories. How, for example, some stories are selected and related to (Morrissey’s songs about poverty, alienation, being an “outsider”) and some are ignored (Specifically, the fact that Morrissey’s love songs are written to other men, as well as his sexual ambiguity, and I am going to relate that to the Latino concept of “machismo”). This theme is presented as a device for me to explore some of the big ideas in narrative analysis that I want to contend with and/or challenge.



Thus, I have spent the last many hours reading about Morrissey’s Latino fan base. I find it truely fascinating, in that I myself have self identified as a Morrissey fan since I was 12. In fact, I am going to begin my paper with the story of how I first came to hear Morrissey…

Either way, instead of writing, I have been reading (which is good), and trying to decide if this is the right paper to write (my alternative is to play it safe and discuss issues relating to my field of research). Also, I need to finish this paper by Monday, so I am running out of time. I have a massive amount of materials now, so I think that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I am going to sit down and get to work, and just write the damn thing



I just took a break, and saw a trailer on the telly for what appears to be the greatest film ever made by anyone outside my own brain:

Dial a cliché: I want to see this movie.

I found out some important information about myself:

As of 10/14/2006 6:07:50 PM EDT
I am 28 years old.
I am 341 months old.
I am 1,481 weeks old.
I am 10,373 days old.
I am 248,970 hours old.
I am 14,938,207 minutes old.
I am 896,292,470 seconds old.

There are 219 days till my next birthday
on which my cake will have 29 candles.

Those 29 candles produce 29 BTUs,
or 7,308 calories of heat (that’s only 7.3080 food Calories!)

My date of conception was on or about 28 August 1977 which was a Sunday…

Excuse me while I go throw up in the sink. . .

I am giving you two choices right now: go find out this information for yourself, or, watch this music “video” about Unicorns. Think about it: do you really want to know your date of conception?

Justin Case

If you were me, sitting alone (as in entire floor of this building alone), would you, my dear friends, sit with headphones on, music blaring, or would you sit and listen to the expansive nothingness, the sound that is an empty concrete building.

The reason I ask is because I was sitting here, rocking out to some Pointer Sisters, and I didn’t even notice the cleaning guy (this diminutive Asian man who always says “Hello Professor.” I don’t correct him). So, there I am, bopping, and I feel someone reach beside me, and I fucking lose it, like this:

Except more high pitched and “grrrl-y” like.


So, new Lost last night? I watched it this evening, and much to my chagrin, it is a Sun/Gin episode, which are always Lost low-lights. The reason for this is simple: we don’t care about Sun/Jin. They are the two least interesting characters. Even when Sun had her big “turn” tonight, I just wanted to saw my arm off so I could remember what it is to be aive again.


Other than that, I got a lot of vvork done today, so this is good. Next week, I have to write a paper for that Narrative class that we (royal) are always going on about. It should be fun, and for once in my life, this is said without sarcasm.


This guy is totally what is going to happen to me in a few years. Except fat.

Back by popular demand: Live blogging Narrative Analysis (#2)

Discussion day. . . hold on a minute, not enough copies.

Robert Park. Most influential American Sociologist? Had been newspaper person, with a rich uncle who financed his Phd. with Simmel. The statement was that there wasn’t that much difference between a journalist and a sociologist. Some sociologists saw this as a problem. One of the ways to tell “the story” was theory. What differentates the worst of sociologists from the best of journalists was theory (Harvard group). The Columbia answer was method.

Noah Richler article from Globe and Mail (October 9, 2006, A11). What counts between morality and truth counts is stories. Instead of a clash of civilizations, what you have is a clash of narratives. “A contest that has less to do with faithm than it does the kind of story each society uses. Story provides the very basis of a community – and its defence.”

It isn’t the content of the stories, it is the kind of story. Not what is represented, but how it is represented. Kinds of stories rather than interrigating the particularity of the content of the story.

Richler examines the epic and the novel. the big difference being moral subtlety and taking multiple points of view. Epic stories tell good vs evil, and readers just know. A novel is morally ambiguous world. In the culture of the novel, good and evil cannot be absolute. This raises another problem with reading stories.

Going back to epics in light of a novelistic sensibility. Asking questions on multiple points of view and moral ambiguity. Richler is looking it in terms of a tribal reading. We now read epics cross-nationally, with indifference to their production. When they, at one time, had political salience, quasi state of war. Maybe Richler is being overly harsh on the epics?

Reminds us that what we are about here is not divorced from macro problems of society (politics, inequality, the big themes). Now in recovery from the dichotomies of the 80’s (Structure and action?). Narrative analysis is most important in light of political issues – Jihad and “War on Terror” are both stories. We have become retrograde in the world in terms of decomplexifying our stories.

Resonance: stories that resonate through, even withouth understanding the original source. If we take this at one end of the continuum, we see kitchen table stories. Stories we all tell with spouses, roomates. Sociology spent too much time on anomie and not enough time on nomos and nomos building: reaffirming to each other what kind of world we live in and share. Marriage: stories told to spouse to having world reaffirmed.

Start off with the epics that teach society how to tell a story, and end up at the other side of the spectrum with discussions in less structured way to get response to see if one other person is understanding it the same way. Nomos.

Thus, if anomie is that we make sense of the world alone, nomos is this reconnection.

Somers: public narratives. Fully formed narratives and applied narratives. Advertising is implied because the before and after is not included, but the single shot makes sense: people “fill in” in predictable ways (despite that this can be incorrect – the fallibility). We spend our whole days selecting which stories to get caught up in, and al the stories we pass by (mail unopened). Life is walking this corrodor with everything grabbing at you, but you only pay attention to a few of them. At the end of the day, “funny thing happened at the way to the office.”

Take a day or two, and make note of and notice all the story potentials. Note the amount that you grab ahold of, and the infinite others that are passed by. Our narrative identity is the choices of stories. A story we blew off originally will sometimes come stampeding back into our lives. A shifting gestalt. We are all recievers, whether or not we acknolwledge things or not.

Summary statement of what we have gotten out of narrative analysis, and wrap around data that one already has. How many pages do we go on for without tellings the stories?

Sociological theories rest on narratives. Following Somers, teasing out presuppositions, seeing and understanding the problems. At the end of this, prospectus mode, laying out how to use the multiple modes of narrative analysis. Any good narrative analysis will push the parrameters. All of this is open.

Somers (1992) does an nice stylistic job of explaining right from the start of telling what she is going to talk about in the body of her paper (similar to finding the body – pointing out the problem). A good article should be like a detective story: the body is the “too be explained” – we all know the body (what it is), and what has to happen to provide revelation (ending). Opening of the essay is like a contract. Needs to be clear from the start what is for sale.

Sommers: problem with class formation theory, and she states she is going to set it straight, laying out how to re-do it, and set out to provide new way to clean up a whole mess of other theories.

The useful thing we get from Marx is writing as a way to work out ideas. Bring understanding into articulation, experiment and play.


Emphasis in Somers: Limited repertoire in telling stories. Goffman: telling own stories, but they are not making up stories by themselves. Everything has already been said.

So how does progress occur? Post modern sense that all that can happen is rearrangement, boardering self-parody. Architecture is a good example of this. Limmert

How do stories overtake those who tell them. The story becomes the experience which acheives its possibilities through the story. No temporal orgin between event and story. Not that the story represents something through the telling. In acts of narrative selection, we are making the foreground of the world available to ourselves, and rendering everything else non-available. Perpetual acts of othering.

How is the story itself an actor? Retain a consciousness centred, human centred view, and understand those as resources that are picked up and used according to preexisting products.

Take up instead the symettry – producing traces and treating them as the actionable reality. That which what we take action in respect to.

Medicine: Physicians cluster around computer screen and look at selective representations that are processed through machines and then arriving in black box form. What is on the screen is the actionable reality is the patient. Stories work in this way: take messyness, turn into narratives (beginnings, middles, ends, figures of speach etc) and then we act on the story. Whatever requires doing – take the job, move, etc. based on stories that have black boxed the descision. Or, we disconnect because we cannot agree because the story doesn’t work for us.

Peoples thoughts are completely deliniated by these black boxed stories, without any appreciation of the nuances of the moment.

How do we avoid treating the stories as objects of group consciousness (or interests – categories of actor (working class), and attributes interests to that category of actors, and explains action based on this)? How do we avoid this? Symmetry – the story and the storyteller are both actors. The problem with Marx is that he has them living in one master narrative: they don’t!

Stories as unchosen stories: people are telling their stories, but what is going on is reflections of habitus. Ways in which they are embedded in a rich history of with which we have so much to learn and so much to tell. People either enter into certain feild and others are kept out. Some should be kept out of, this isn’t always bad. Social class transpires because stories to advanced careers. Feel for the game: stories to be retold. Key is that we need multiple narrative resources.

End of part 1)

Not everything is a story, and we do need to have some rules. People do speak in other forms: narrative forms that aren’t stories. Somers using narrative and stories in the same way.

Marx sets out writing about the working class almost like a character, gradually becoming self aware. Standards: things they will do and things they won’t do.

Q: what about ambushing?

A: ambushing is unpredictble, stories one wan’t expecting to be caught up in. Ambush (John Law) is part of the mess because it is contingents. You never know how these stories work to reempot your lives.

Q: Genres – don’t really need the idea of a character, but to look at genres…

A: Genres set expectations and allow an appropriate response. Queues us early how to respond to certain stories. Genres are enabling and constraining at the same time (Giddens). For literary scholar: novel, epics, tragedy, comedy, romance and irony etc – close to forms of emplotment. Three types of stories are not genres but a typology.

About the prevailing themes and plots. Not the only three themes and plots, but at least three biggies. As people tell their stories (within limited repertoire), they are frameworks within which people can bring out their own lives. Get back to being overtaken – as people tell stories in these forms, they are overtaken by forms of the genre, have to withought experiencing disconnect.

The tricky part is creating this type of typology – who is it for, and what is it supposed to do for them? Generating themes is easy: any monkey can do it.

People need more stories vs. validating available stories.

I think I have a Phd. Supervisor!

Here is the bait I used:


The media has been focusing on Google’s recent purchase of for the tune of 1.65 billion dollars US earlier this week. At this point, YouTube has not made a single penny in profit, so the question being asked is “why so much?” Though there are many, one of the main reasons is that YouTube brings with it a built in community of users. In marketing-speak, these massive online communities translate into ‘eyes’ that can be directly marketed to, and as such multinational media corporations have been purchasing them for a great deal of money in the last few months – for example, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Corp purchasing Myspace late last year for $580 million dollars. It is clear that online communities are important to the business world, and are taking them very seriously.

Given this, how has sociology approached the study of online communities? After all, community studies is one of the founding pillars of sociology, so one would guess that sociology would be well placed to be on the cutting edge of researching these new and unique forms of social organization, correct? Well, apart from a few notable exceptions, the sociological study of online communities has been stuck in an endless debate whether or not “online social aggregates” can be properly defined as “community” (in the sociological sense of course). Some sociologists argue that they cannot be defined as “real” communities (for various reasons that I won’t get into here), while other sociologists say that you can, and have a variety of reasons and explanations for this as well.To me, this debate is uninteresting, and more importantly, entirely beside the point. One only has to invoke the Thomas theorem, and the debate is settled. If these “online social aggregates” are defining themselves as communities, who are we to tell them otherwise?

As such, the dissertation that I am looking to work on under your supervision will examine online communities and social groupings as they are perceived by their members. I want to understand how sociological constructs, theories and qualitative sociological methodologies work in an online environments. Along with this, I plan on examining action that occurs online that have no direct counterpart or effect in the real world. For example, when studying for my Master’s thesis, I uncovered a distinct form of capital (virtual capital) that is used to stratify the members of the Metafilter community (as per Bourdieu’s theory of capital and class formation). This form of capital, while vital in the Metafilter community, has no basis in the real world, and I am eager to explore this idea further. This notion of action that has no real world effect or counterpart (that is, their consequences and effects remain in the “virtual world”) goes against one of the main avenues of sociological inquiry into online communities. There are those who believe that all action that occurs online has direct consequences for individuals offline, real world lives. While I do not argue that this is not true, I do argue that there are things that occur in online communities that have no direct effects consequences in the “real world” lives of online communities


Tell us old lies again / when it comes we never have a chance

So I spend my entire morning in stats class, right? Uv course, those who know me know how much I detest this stuff. I am always understanding it… barely. I think I would be fine if I would be able to concentrate long enough on what Dr. Wanner (a dyed in the wool stats guy) is so exuberantly teaching. It isn’t for the lack of his trying, I am just morally opposed to reducing society to numbers, and thus I am not invested in what is going on. Oh, and wireless Internet doesn’t help matters.

So, I am in stats today, and I got an email with my cell bill, which managed somehow to end up at about $500. For real. Apparently, when people call me from out of town while I am in Calgary, it costs me long distance. God damnit anyways,

So, uv course I leave stats this morning, and I am just sick and fucking tired of the shit , so I decide to fuck off and go see a matinee of Martin Scorsese’s new film The Departed. Damn fine acting in this film – especially Matt Damon, who is amazing in his role as the detective that had been groomed by the mob since he was a wee lad. Not my favourite Scorsese film, but a lot better than The Gangs of New York or The Aviator.

After, I stumbled upon a used book store, and found myself a copy of Mcsweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue #16.

Issue 16 presents new stories from McSweeney’s regulars like Roddy Doyle and Denis Johnson, and exploits a never-before-seen tripartite format to bring you a hilarious Ann Beattie novella and a special deck-of-cards story from Robert Coover, one of the great masters of American experimental fiction. This issue uses more cloth than any issue to date. Also, it comes with a comb.

Yes, you read that correctly. It comes with a comb.


I know this should go without saying from me, but the new Robert Pollard album Normal Happiness is amazing. I liked his last album From a Compound Eye quite a bit as well (released last April, though I had a copy since summer of 2005, so I consider it a 2005 release).

From my listening pattern, I think that I like Normal Happiness a little better as an album, though nothing compares to the song Gold from FACE.

Perfect songs: The Bonaduces “We Never Close” (1996)

Picture my summer of 1996: fresh out of high school, working a shitty retail job, sleeping all the time, watching the Summer Olympics at 3am, shutting out all my friends, and listening to this song on repeat (like, I literally programmed my CD player to play it over and over again).

This song came to me from some sampler which I picked up only because I was obsessed with The Bonaduces. Actually – one of the guys from the Bonaduces gave me the sampler when I organized a concert for them (20 people came, and I think I paid the band gas money to get to Calgary…).

There is just so much to like here – the upbeat, yet melancholy musical arrangement, the buzzy lead guitar, the emotive singing, and the lyrics (especially the lyrics). Is there any song that more perfectly captures the teenage drama? Working in fast food, in jobs so mundane that you can’t help but getting lost in your thoughts…

My body wrapped up in a uniform / Old man is staring at my breast / His excuse is a nametag /

The resin lights / giving me a migraine / trace the outline of your name / on the pressure cooker
My favourite part has to be the bridge (at around the 4:10 mark)

I’ve got hours left of this / And I’m wound up so tight / My eyes gloss over when they order / They ask if I’m all right / Well I’m so sick of looking at beef / at the best of times / now I’m covered up in grease / when I just want to sort out this mess in my life

We Never Close

Fetishing Commodities – McSweeney’s stuff

Today I went to the Kensington district (a part of Calgary that I usually stay away from). I don’t have a specific reason for this, per say, I just find it too manufactured for my tastes (yes, I realize that this is a weak criticism, but I am reacting to the area more on a gut level, and “over manufactured” is simply the first thing that comes to mind).

The reason for this foray into yuppytown was very specific – I found out through the McSweeney’s website that there is actually a place in Calgary – Pages on Kensington – that carries McSweeney’s products (as well as a lot of awesome, literary geek stuff as well, like the Moleskine notebooks I use).

Needless to post, I was in heaven, and wanted to buy everything they had. I have read Believer magazine and McSweeneys Quarterly concern before (my friend Jess used to get them!), but this is the first time I have seen it at a physical store. Here is what I purchased:

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #20

Every fourth page is a full-color figurative painting, each one by an excellent artist. The other three pages have fiction on them, with only one color but lots of words, including punched, pants, and Puerto—that’s actually just the first page. After that, there are stories exploring animal-plant romances, psycho librarians, and passive-aggressive ventriloquism. No fewer than two dictators appear as protagonists. And after all that, loosely glued to the inside back cover, there’s a fifty-page booklet containing a harrowing excerpt from Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, which will be out from McSweeney’s Books in October. A handsome, handsome issue, brimming with fulfilling things.

Believer – October issue

and I also got the DVD magazine – Wolphin #2

Wholphin no. 2 features a brand-new film from Steven Soderbergh, the Japanese Bewitched rescripted by writers of The Daily Show, two Oscar-nominated animated shorts, and special appearances by Andy Richter, Donald Trump, and a monkey-faced eel. Issue no. 2 also includes a special bonus disc containing a controversial political documentary, one that the UK Guardian accurately called “The film U.S. TV Networks dare not show.”