The digital (PDF/EPUB) version of my new book Material Media-Making in the Digital Age is available now! Head to the Intellect site to purchase (or tell your institution’s library to do so!).
From the blurb:
“How might one craft a personal media-making practice that is thoughtful and considerate of the tools and materials at one’s disposal? This is the core question of this original new book. Exploring a number of media-making tools and processes like drones and vlogging, as well as thinking through time, editing, sound, and the stream, Binns looks out over the current media landscape in order to understand his own media practice.”
There are many strange and scary things about this pandemic. About this year more broadly, too.
But on the strange side, there’s the way the mundane, the ordinary, the unconscious, becomes at best unwieldy, and at worst nigh impossible.
A simple outing, today, planned well within the rules of Stage 4 lockdown. My bike wheel is busted, and my local repair shop is doing contactless repairs. Great. We also needed a couple of things from the supermarket. Cool.
Kind of weird to have to ‘clump’ errands together to minimise outings, but whatever.
The mildly irritating part came when, very shortly after dropping off the wheel, the bike shop calls to give me a quote for the repair and to let me know it’ll be ready in 30 or so minutes.
In and of itself, completely normal and, in fact, welcome, news, that the task I need done will be finished quickly and relatively cheaply.
But the timing throws everything off.
Once I’m done at the supermarket, I’ll have 20-30 minutes to spare. Not quite enough time to drop things at home and come back, and besides, that would make it two outings, which is pushing the rules a little.
In the end I settled on what I would’ve done in non-COVID times, which is to grab a coffee and wait for the wheel. But obviously I now do so in the car, semi-hiding, rather than in the cafe.
None of this is dangerous, or particularly egregious. Just an observation on how the most normal thing in the world is suddenly made into one mild stressor among many others.
Today is Tuesday. We’ve not had internet since Friday morning. Five long days.
It’s a little thing. An inconsequential thing. Pretty rough for work, but generally not a huge loss: I can do research offline, tethering my iPhone when I need to, I’ve rescheduled meetings.
I became reacquainted with boredom, with that lack of control over how you spend your time. But I also became a little concerned about how reliant I am on the internet for entertainment, for distraction.
It’s an old conversation now, rife with misinformation and half-baked platitudes. But there is a loss of the moment when you’re swept along by the stream.
We watched a bluray on Saturday night; a movie I grabbed from the bargain bin at JB a few years back. I have a whole bunch of such purchases, still in their plastic wrap and gathering dust on the bookcase.
I read 550 pages of a book on Sunday: I’ve not done that since I was a teenager. I wouldn’t have done this if the old modem was ticking along. With hindsight, it was kind of wonderful: I did it because there was not much else I felt like doing, and I was bored.
I got some Lego for my birthday; another thing I’ve not touched since even before my teenage years. It was perfect: just follow the instructions, put it together. The perfect occupation for a tired and overwhelmed mind.
I’m not 100% sure what I’m getting at here. I’m certainly not singing the praises of the offline experience: Jesus H connect that broadband to my veins I need it, particularly during lockdown. I guess I’m more or less saying that rifling through the bookcase, the DVD collection, these were kind of nice things to do at a weird time.
There is no old media or new media, as Simone Natale writes; rather there are cycles of use, dynamic shifts and re-organisations of our perception of and attitude towards different artefacts, platforms, systems.
Nothing forces you to reevaluate your relationship to what surrounds you than being forced to live in it with no escape for months. And having looked closer, there are some hidden gems, new experiences to be had. (And then, doubtless, one hell of a spring clean once this damnėd lockdown ends.)
Sun streams in through the window. I’ve left the light off today: for some reason the sunlight is enough. The driveway is being dug up, so the door to my study is closed, and my noise-cancelling headphones are nestled over my ears. In my head, for once, things are relatively calm.
I’m working through a project that necessitates deep thought. Deep thought is hard at the moment. I suppose that’s why I opened up this blog post: something simple, something gentle, to clear out the cobwebs.
Deep thought? On the one hand, I mean deep theoretical ruminations, the kind for which academics are stereotyped. But on the other, it’s strategic thought. How will this fit my narrative? Where can I publish? Can this be put up for funding?
This strategy is something I need to do more, anyway, but particularly at the moment, when academic work is increasingly precarious. More so than ever, one feels the need to be not just productive, but scheming, pragmatic, to think laterally about one’s place in a discipline, an institution, the world.
It ruins everything. Takes away the magic of things. I remember posting here when I first got this job. I mentioned an overwhelming sense of relief, that someone finally noticed that I could fit somewhere, that I could bring something to the table.
But I remain happy where I am, and that’s something. I’m still tired, but this year, in spite of the world burning, I feel like I’m getting somewhere.
I shared on the weekend that I had been working, and how rare that was (working on the weekend, not working full stop!). I’m now further into that particular grind, working through Day 8 of a nine-day stretch.
I’m very much feeling it now. At times through a stretch like this you’re in the zone, you find your flow. But then there are times like now, when you feel like there’s nothing left.
It’s like a day after a rough night’s sleep; but just lengthened over a period of days.
One more day tomorrow – a full day, but away from the office. A time to discuss, to reflect, to plan.
Then two perfectly-planned research days, to get my head back into reading and thinking mode.
It’s been over a year since I worked on the weekend. Since some pretty severe burnout I’ve had to make sure that weekends and most weeknights are kept free, though sometimes the latter is unavoidable.
But this weekend, between a full and crazy week last week, and an equally insane three days from tomorrow (Monday), I literally ran out of time to get everything done.
I would now never advocate for weekend work, but occasionally – very occasionally – the grind can have its satisfactions. Particularly if it’s a typically grey and awful Melbourne day outside.
The task I ran out of time to complete was a paper I’m delivering at a symposium tomorrow. To be fair, I think I’d be forgiven for running out of time, given I organised the symposium, but I really did want something semi-decent to present.
I’ve basically kicked off conference season myself; after this talk, I have another 2-3 to prepare for late November/early December. But I think I’m being strategic here: with 4ish papers done, I can then work to convert one or two into full articles/chapters next year.