The Politics of Homework

I watched this documentary on Derrida the other night. An interviewer asks him a question about his knowledge of Seinfeld as deconstruction. Derrida doesn’t understand the question. He doesn’t know Kramer from Jerry, I’m sure, but it doesn’t matter. He says something like “A sitcom is not, can not be, deconstruction, and to anyone who thinks it is, I’d say, ‘Do your homework. Read about deconstruction.'”

I’m recalling this in response to the question “Why are you saying what you’re saying and what conversation is you engaged in that I have dropped in on too late?”

What I wrote about the preface to Questioning Technology, is merely a weak form of literary criticism limited to impression. I haven’t done my homework. I’ve yet to read Habermas or Marcuse or Heidegger. And so, writing about the preface, I can only describe my feeling of showing late, or unprepared, to this conversation. (There’s a Star trek episode where Picard is unable to communicate with aliens because they speak in metaphors. A place or person’s name refers to a historical situation unknown to Picard.) Marcuse’s name has an entire body of work, I’ve never read, attached to it. I ask the question of the preface, in ignorance, but the interest is real. I have gone on to read through to Part II. The second introductory chapter reassures me that the ideas attached to the names in the preface will be more fully explored as I read on.

Again I’m reading on. I’m looking forward to the philosophy. I’ve read Postman’s Technopoly and Roszak’s The Cult of Information and that’s about it as far as anything focused on technology. Both these authors were interested in making technology visible. They also write for school teachers. Questioning Technology is written for academics, or at least followers of a certain philosophical thread. It’s possible that after reading Questioning Technology, I will pick up that thread.

“We fight all the time about our conflicting theoretical views” This line from the email might lead to an idea of an ongoing conversation, a conversation that is somehow shaping my understanding of the preface. Maybe, it’s possible my reaction to the idea of a unifying theme comes out of that conversation. The word in the email was “fight.”

And it has to be a fight. (does it?) Any theoretical view that sees unity in its foundation can’t be reconciled with a view that sees the exact opposite, more an active opposition to unity, not just no foundation, but constant movement.


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