Insinewating Ties

Election coverage this week has shifted from the blaze town hall draw to the
cascading economic slide (i.e., a crash dragged out for a few days) to the
McCain campaign’s great efforts to weave strong ties between Obama and
Bill
Ayers
. Am I riled up about any of this? Not really. I had the
debate on in the background as I did other work, I have watched the modest
paltry TIAA-CREF nest egg I micro-accumulated over seven years at Park U. suffer
disfigurations akin to Humpty Dumpty, and I don’t for a second accept that Obama
is terrorist-like for the company he kept with Ayers.

So what, then?

I have been interested in the way the campaigns try to establish ties and
linkages. Palin and other McCain surrogates have tried mightily to forge a
strong tie between Obama and Ayers. If they succeed, if they get people to
believe that such a tie is strong, that, in effect, Ayers of old and Obama of
late think alike, then they will have sprung from thin air a damaging blow:
probable guilt by the company one keeps. Yet, nodes perform ethos. Obama
can simply say, "No tie," or "weak tie," and the burden of establishing a
linkage falls on the accusers.

There are other interesting questions here about temporality and, perhaps,
about how the ties suggested by associative technologies (e.g., Facebook) will
function as evidence of strong ties in the future. Serving on a board
together, dinner at one’s house: these are time-constrained connections.
They do not live on in quite the same way as some more recent developments.
Maybe we’ll see more of it in the weeks ahead, but so far this election cycle
has seemed to me to dwell on whose network is more presidential, more executive
in its constitution: McCain’s? (a network of houses, a claim to be a Senate
boundary-spanner, a hand in the Keating Five heist) or Obama’s? (a recklessly
outspoken
pastor in Wright, a radical former colleague in Ayers, generous
friends in F. May and F. Mack). Campaign: another name for the high stakes
practice of network building at breakneck pace–a rhetorical production of ties and associations
that will trip one candidate into second place and vault the other into the
White House.

***

Somewhat related (via). Warning: Cover their ears or the innocents will pick up a cuss at the end:

Relation and Association

Aha! I catch myself being loose with these terms (and two or three
others). What is the difference between relation and association? Are they
equivalent? Synonymous?

These are connective devices, right? They indicate a tie that can be
expressed, though perhaps this is not always so for association. They do
not seem to me equal in this job they do of indicating ties. Relation, as in
relation-ship, is describable, identifiable, and perhaps even compulsory (cannot
opt out; the evidentiary ground is too firm). Association, as I think of
it, tends to be breezier and more speculative. Association meanders;
relation takes the shortest available route. Association nods in assent;
relation points its index finger. Association is spherical, maybe even
elliptical, curvy; relation linear by comparison. Association is possible
and sometimes roundabout; relation is direct and existent, meaning it plots a
different ontology. Relation is verifiable; association is a degree
removed, hazy and faint (not equally observable; therefore, refutable,
enigmatic). The two terms begin to have a pact something like connotation and
denotation.

Could all of this be flipped around? Reversed? Well, maybe (try it and
you will see whether anything happens). Yet association has become much more
theoretically important for me in the past year. With Latour’s Reassembling
it is the activation (and verbing) of the social that manifests in networks, and
so association gives off sparks, emits a different energy than it once did
(first in algebra, with the associative property). Every encounter with "social"
is interrupted with this: associative how? The "social turn" is, when
matched with network studies, an "associative turn," which, in effect, is an
expansive turn outward. What are "social networks" if we take association for
granted or treat it as a given?

This does not quite make the point I thought it might make when I first typed
"Relation and Association." The point: these two have diverged (I hedge,
hesitate; I am also asking). I should add that I have been thinking lately about
vocabulary, about "speaking the same language" in the sense that Raymond
Williams mentions it early in his introduction to Keywords:

"When we come to say ‘we just don’t speak the same language’ we mean
something more general: that we have different immediate values or different
kinds of valuation, or that we are aware, often intangibly, of different
formations and distributions of energy and interest" (11).

Transparency for Library Recalls

Another one of the books I have out from the library was recalled the other
day. It’s due to be returned tomorrow. I’ve been holding onto it until the
last possible moment because I wanted to eek out what
notes I could
about the one chapter that interested me (whether any of it finds a place in the
diss is undecided…one of many undecideds). The library has
recalled maybe six or eight books from me in the three years I’ve been at
Syracuse. Often the book has been on my shelf for longer than its initial
check-out period. Our libraries at SU make it very easy to renew online:
bad for patrons who are put off by the "checked out" designation; good for my
temporary collections.

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