On Nick Srnicek

This week I’m writing a PhD chapter on Aum Shinrikyo and the Accelerationist aesthetic and political philosophy. Accelerationism extrapolates the intensification of neoliberal capitalism as a pathway to a possible post-capitalist utopia. It has its Right (Nick Land) and Left (Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek) variants which are usually examined in terms of conceptual theory-building and teleology. But it’s also possible to examine Accelerationism through other lenses.

One of these lenses is the career trajectory of a university-based Early Career Researcher: usually the first five to seven years after PhD conferral or the initial period of being an independent researcher. Dr Nick Srnicek of Kings College London illustrates some successful ECR strategies. He built an initial track record of academic publications in aesthetic theory and the philosophy of historical materialism. He has had successful collaborations with Alex Williams (on Accelerationism) and Helen Hester (on social reproduction and the crisis of work). He engaged with debates and controversies about his research – such as on Accelerationism – whilst maintaining a broader context in his research program. He has had good relationships with publishers including Verso (Inventing The Future coauthored with Alex Williams) and Polity (Platform Capitalism).

Dr Srnicek’s use of successful ECR strategies is demonstrated by an upward trajectory of Google Scholar citations and impacts. His current research is situated at the nexus of international political economy and digital economy and some recent collaborative work with Helen Hester on anti-work. This is a broader and deeper positioning of his research program than an Accelerationist description and it should create greater longevity.

Patreon Planning

One of my post-PhD projects is to launch a Patreon account that will cover aspects of my research program and news commentary. I’m following here in the footsteps of people like Disinformation alumni Jason Louv and writers I follow like Richard Seymour.

One motivation is that since 2007 when I left the Smart Internet Technology CRC my research has been self-funded. I have not had access to university-based research funds nor Early Career Researcher grants. Like most researchers I don’t earn income from refereed journal articles. Consequently, I’m looking at new ways to fund my research program and to engage with a broader audience (having been inspired by some recent experiences with translational research at The University of Queensland).

What have your Patreon experiences been like? What would you like me to write about? Drop me a note (alexburnsdisinformation at gmail.com) and let me know.

PhD Pre-Submission Seminar / Final Review Documentation

My PhD Pre-Submission Seminar / Final Review documentation can be accessed here. My thanks to the Monash University committee in the School of Political and Social Inquiry: Associate Professor Steven Roberts, Associate Professor Ben MacQueen, and Dr Bill Flanik, and to my PhD Supervisors, Dr Luke Howie and Dr Zareh Ghazarian. This PhD milestone was passed on 14th November 2018.

New Years Resolutions

Here are my New Years resolutions for my academic research:

  1. PhD Completion. 22nd July 2019 is my deadline for PhD submission. I have 27,500 words to write, editing, and references to sort out. I’m adding a new chapter on theory-building insights about strategic subcultures and Aum Shinrikyo. I’m also combing through over 250,000 words of working notes for relevant material.
  2. Use the Bullet Journal system. I’ll be experimenting with Ryder Carroll’s self and time management system (book) for PhD and other projects.
  3. Work on my next solo authored academic publication. I last published in 2014 – I’ve been focused on PhD research since then. I have several academic publications planned. I will be revisiting Wendy Laura Belcher’s system (book) for deveoping academic journal articles.
  4. Review for academic journals. I am getting regular invitations to review for leading academic journals including Contemporary Security Policy. I hope to continue this review work in 2019.

PhD Original Contributions to Field of Study

This weekend I’m preparing my Pre-Submission Seminar / Final Review slides for Monash University. I will give a presentation on 14th November to an academic panel. I’ve also started an ARC DECRA application for future submission. Below are some thoughts on my PhD’s original contributions to my field of study (counter-terrorism):

  • ‘Fourth Generation’ Strategic Culture: My PhD dissertation has conceptualised a fourth generation of strategic culture theory-building that is closely linked to national security concerns, occurs in a multipolar world, and considers a broader range of instruments beyond military force such as economic statecraft.
  • Strategic Subcultures in Terrorist Organisations: My PhD dissertation has developed and tested a new conceptual theory on strategic subcultures in terrorist organisations. I have developed empirical tests for an expanded case universe.
  • TheoryBuilding and Theory-Testing: My pre-doctoral research used theory-building and theory-testing to critically evaluate a range of theories in journalism, media studies, and internet sociology. In particular, I have recently paid attention to the evolution of ideas and ideologies into mobilised political and religious violence.
  • Methodological Advancement in Qualitative, Causal Analysis: My PhD research and recent scholarship combines theory-building and theory-testing forms of process tracing with counterfactuals and event studies. I am presently exploring the Bayesian and set-theoretic roots of process tracing and other causal inference methodologies.
  • Event Studies: Over my pre-doctoral, and doctoral research career, I have authored and co-authored a range of qualitative event studies, notably on the journalism, media, and grand strategy impacts of the September 11 terrorist attacks on Australia and the United States, and the social media network Twitter’s role in Iran’s 2009 election crisis.

I will submit my PhD to Monash University on 22nd July 2019 for review.

What I’m Reading

Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them edited by Joseph E. Uscinski (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018). My PhD case study Aum Shinrikyo was deeply influenced by anti-Semitic and power elite conspiracy theories, some from far right and evangelical Christian sources. Uscinski’s collection is a useful guide to the current political and sociological debates about conspiracy theories and their priming effects for extremist worldviews that may lead to political violence.

The Unrules: Man, Machines, and the Quest to Master Markets by Igor Tulchinsky (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018). In the eighties and nineties, Russian mathematicians and physicists came to Wall Street. Tulchinsky was one of them. His asset management firm WorldQuant adopted many aspects of neoliberal capitalism, from competitive tournaments to traders as independent contractors. This memoir is a quant’s view of how to deal with contemporary information.

The Pac-Man Principle: A User’s Guide to Capitalism by Alex Wade (Zero Books, 2018). Here’s my interpretation of Pac-Man ludology and neoliberal capitalism: (i) the maze represents the situational environment; (ii) the Pac-Man character engages in consumption (or, capital accumulation); (iii) the power pills represent momentary escalation dominance over the four ghosts; and (iv) the maze exits represent the fetish of false escapes. Other video-games may lead to different interpretations of neoliberal capitalism’s political economy.