User Profile

Jim Brown

jamesjbrownjr@bookwyrm.social

Joined 2 years, 11 months ago

jamesjbrownjr.net English professor Teaches and studies rhetoric and digital studies Director of the Rutgers-Camden Digital Studies Center (DiSC): digitalstudies.camden.rutgers.edu

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Jim Brown's books

Currently Reading

2024 Reading Goal

20% complete! Jim Brown has read 14 of 70 books.

McCourt, Frank H., Jr., Michael J. Casey: Our Biggest Fight (2024, Crown Publishing Group, The) No rating

Libertarian call for a "re-decentralized" internet

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I don't recommend this book. I read it for research purposes because it's written by Frank McCourt, a billionaire investing in a decentralized protocol called "Project Liberty." The book is invested in giving people "ownership" of their own data through decentralized structures and blockchain technology. The argument is built on the idea that a new internet should be built with the same ethos as the "American Project." It cites Paine's Common Sense throughout, and it has no real self-reflexive moments about what the "American Project" required (land theft and slavery). Their vision is an internet of individual rights in which you control your data and you have ownership of your data. The audience is likely libertarians who are ready for technosolutionism.

It's worth reading only if you want to see how billionaires want to fix the problem of a broken internet, even when those billionaires have (and you have to …

Katie J. Wells, Kafui Attoh, Declan Cullen: Disrupting D. C. (2023, Princeton University Press) No rating

Uber's ability to shift the "common sense"

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This is a quick read and an interesting argument. Uber arrived in D.C. to some initial resistance, but that resistance quickly dissipated. The authors argue that the company was successfully able to shift the "common sense" of D.C. That shift was both in the sense of "plain wisdom" and everyday habits (taking an Uber and not a taxi or a train became the sensible, practical thing to do) and in the sense of a significant shift in the political terrain - Uber was able to shape what people expected from cities and government. Or, better, it was able to radical reduce those expectations, to convince everyone (politicians, citizens, everyone) that cities are bad at providing basic services and we should just "let Uber do it."

One interesting idea that emerges from the authors' analysis is that Uber succeeds in reducing complicated problems to a simple solution that doesn't actually address …

Ottessa Moshfegh: Lapvona (2022, Penguin Publishing Group) 4 stars

A fateful year in the life of a thirteen-year-old shepherd's son living in Lapvona, a …

Did I like this?

No rating

Moshfegh's books are page turners and funny, but they are also horrific and filled with dread. In a conversation with jilliansayre@bookwyrm.social, we were trying to figure out if you could say you "enjoyed" a novel by Moshfegh. It's a complicated question. This book is no different. You likely won't be able to put it down, but you might not be able to figure out why you keep turning pages (and you might ask yourself what that fact says about you).

Olga Ravn, Sophia Hersi Smith & Jennifer Russell: My Work (2023, New Directions Publishing Corporation) No rating

Work and/of Mothering

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This book is a lot of things (poetry, prose, fiction, metafiction), and it is an honest and well-written account of parenting. I haven't experienced motherhood, but I have experienced parenthood and have been adjacent to motherhood. I feel like this book is unflinching and honest.

It also reflects on the difficulties and sometimes impossibilities of parenting and writing (one seems to always get in the way of the other). Perhaps this goes with any work, but it might feel more acute when it comes to writing?

There are tons of passages I'd love to quote, but here's one:

"It was not through housekeeping but through writing that she wished to approach all the objects of the world. Was writing in that case a form of housekeeping? A way of bringing things into order? When Adam names everything in the Garden of Eden, was he in fact doing the work of …

C. Pam Zhang: Land of Milk and Honey (2023, Penguin Publishing Group, Riverhead Books) 4 stars

The award-winning author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold returns with a rapturous …

Food and Climate Change

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This book features an interesting mix of writing about food, sex, and climate catastrophe. A near future where the climate crisis (unsurprisingly) has the ultra-rich seeking out ways to escape and build a new world.

@sophist_monster Definitely. It's short and engaging. Some of it can be skimmed if you're not interested in Wark defending her approach (these sections are written for Marxist theorists who are resistant to the idea that we might be entering/have entered something other than capitalism). Those sections were not as interesting to me as the sections describing a new class antagonism and class reallignments.

McKenzie Wark: Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse? (Hardcover, 2019, Verso) 5 stars

A new class antagonism: Vectoralist Class vs. Hacker Class

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This book dares to ask whether we've moved beyond capital (and capitalism) into something else. It spends a good bit of time defending its approach. Those portions of the book seem to be mostly for Marxist theorists who are resistant to thinking about whether what we are now experience is capitalism with a new modifier (disaster-, etc.). But if you are just interested in the experiment that Wark is engaging in, there's plenty for you here.

She argues that the new class antagonism is between the hacker class (those tasked with creating new information) and the vectoralist class (those with the power to operationalize that information). There's a fundamental asymmetry, thus the antagonism. The hacker class receives "free" things (set up a social network) and exchanges information for those things. If the hacker class attempts to get the 10,000-foot view that the Vectoralists get, they will almost always fail.

This …

Norman Rush: Subtle bodies (2013) No rating

When Douglas, the ringleader of a clique of self-styled wits of "superior sensibility" dies suddenly, …

Funny and Bleak

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Rush is a very funny writer, and he does a great job of portraying a group of Hudson Valley elites in the shadow of George W. Bush's march to war. The ending is disheartening but feels true...maybe too true.