Editors’ Choice: Our Take On Disruption

Disruption, as a term and theory, has been the subject of much discussion in both mainstream and social media – a level of interest that has only increased as a result of Jill Lepore’s June 2014 article for The New Yorker, ‘The Disruption Machine’. In this article Lepore debunks some of the myths surrounding Clayton M. Christensen’s concept of disruptive technology, which he uses to develop his influential theory of the innovator’s dilemma. As a way of intervening in this debate, we, as the Centre for Disruptive Media, would like to articulate our own particular take on disruption. The text underneath is an extract from our forthcoming book, Open Media: A Study in Disruption. Written by Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Gary Hall, Ted Byfield, Shaun Hides and Simon Worthington both as a creative experiment with processual modes of writing, and as part of a collaboration between the Centre and Mute Publishing, this book is due to appear from Rowman and Littefield International later in 2014.

Why, as researchers working in media and cultural studies, philosophy, critical theory, media arts, digital culture and politics, are we making such prominent use of a concept – disruption – that, for all its origins in the ideas of Marx, is far more readily associated with business, management and the market? We are doing so at Coventry, firstly, because it is impossible to escape the market entirely today – and this is especially true of those of us who work in the university. And, secondly, because escaping the market would not necessarily be desirable anyway. As Jacques Derrida contends, a distinction needs to be made between ‘a certain commercialist determination of the market’, with its emphasis on ‘immediate monetaristic profitability’, and a sense of the market as a ‘public space’, which is actually a ‘condition of what is called democracy, the condition of the free expression of any and everyone about anything or anyone in the public space’.[2] Accordingly, the approach we are adopting in relation to disruption involves drawing on theorists such as Marx, Derrida, Foucault, Badiou and Stiegler to develop a critical and creative approach to management, business and the market – and, with them, to the becoming business of the contemporary university.

Source: Our Take On Disruption

This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Angela Zhou, Calin Murgu, Matthew Lincoln, Becky Halat, Claire Kovacs, Daniel Petry, Maria Jose Afanador, Amanda Asmus, Amy Rubens, and Erica Ellingson Baumle