Ethnography workshop by Dr. Anne Galloway

by stronged

Dr. Anne Galloway conducted a workshop the other day for the digital ethnography lab. Here are some notes:

  • An anomaly that occurs when ethnographers and anthropologists conduct prolonged field work involves having to recreate your own identity after losing all social markers. This both terrifies, excites and intrigues me.
  • The first exercise Galloway got us to do was to choose a power or quality of any animal or object that we would like to have. The second part of the exercise asking the question whether that quality would make us more or less human? As you could imagine, there was a range of interesting responses and discussions. One of which was Christians McCrae‘s answer: a sea cucumber. Apparently an off-shoot of the species that completes its full growth in roughly twenty-four hours and spends the rest of it’s hundred-odd year lifespan seated on the floor of the ocean watching the traffic go by. Christian seemed attracted to the meditative state the organism subsists at. This quality directed the class conversation into whether meditation makes you more or less of a human. We concluded that it makes you less of a human. This thought occurred to me first when I sat in a week of dharma teachings a little South of McLeod Ganj held by Tenzin Palmo. The act of meditation is a disconnect from our primal urges (lust, desire) in the hope of reaching a spiritual consciousness of mind. Through meditation we passively observe the rushing tirade of emotions course through our senses, withstanding the urge to be caught up within them.
  • Another member of the class expressed the desire to acquire the quality of clayness. Similar to the quality of water that can be sculpted into a myriad of forms.
  • By making things we make ourselves. This idea of a productive research practice further confirms my understanding that we must continually make things in order to progress with our understanding of the world. She also mentioned that we “Only find the being out of the doing.” – Galloway
  • “Designing is the antidote to founding, colonizing, establishing, or breaking with the past. It is an antidote to hubris and to the search for absolute certainty, absolute beginnings and radical departures.” – Bruno Latour
  • Latour also wrote that “To design is always to redesign.” We merely reconfigure elements in our project design. Draws on the idea that there is no true originality. Or perhaps it is better to redefine originality as a re-imagining of things.
  • “All good design is a story, not a plot.” – Galloway. I really like this quote for it relates to nonlinear storytelling and assemblage theory. That for any one thing there exists a story world or universe. Sure, it matters how you read these elements, in what order, but the spatial understanding of the thing is brought about by the layered elements of the story world.
  • “Fiction is true, it’s just not actual.” – Galloway. Reminded me of Ruby‘s investigation into finding a definition for “truth.” Claims that truth is inescapably subjective. Just read Ruby’s last blog entry that goes something like this: Sometimes what ‘makes sense’, whether it be linear or rational or provable, isn’t necessarily ‘most true’. I like this statement. I wonder what the distinction is between a rational understanding and a truthful one.
  • “there is no “New Materialism,” just a re-membering of Materialism.” – Galloway
  • “Design and literature don’t talk together much, but design has more to offer literature at the moment than literature can offer design.” – Bruce Sterling. I feel this somehow relates to the form over content debate. What is most important? This year, for me, it is clearly form; The process of assemblage that Korsakow and idocs offer.
  • In the second half of the workshop Galloway spoke about her ethnographic projects related to her main topic: merino sheep. She approached her research in a holistic sense, understanding that one merino sheep is in fact an assemblage of many different things (i.e. the farmer, wood and wire for the fencing, cross-breeding, feed, sheep dogs, etc.) and therefore situated in a constant state of flux. If one element drops out of the assemblage it may have dire consequences to the sheep itself, altering its very identity and place in existence.
  • Christian brought up another interesting piece of information, how Druidic practices of old draw on the natural rhythms of the world to formulate a spatial understanding of their environment. The rituals therefore create a fabula that establishes a harmony between man and his natural eco-system.
  • There was a brief discussion about the differences between ANT (Actor Network Theory) and OOO (Object Orientated Ontology) whereby the latter was rejected. The former, on the other hand, was believed to be the better match to assemblage theory as the action required for an actor to exist enables relations between each actor (or unit). The formation of a system is created by the active engagement of each unit within it, which also creates a hierarchical order. Flat Ontology is contrary to this theory of active or soft assemblage.
  • One of the projects Galloway created was titled “Grow your own lamb.” For a small fee a consumer can opt-in to monitor the whereabouts and growth of the food that will subsequently end up on their plate. I love this idea, drawing focus to the vital things that we take for granted every day.
  • Another project involved making the strange (vitro meat) familiar (appearing as cuts of meat) by making replica toys of that meat. I can remember Danielle explaining to us in Media and Comms Futures last semester how good research makes the familiar strange and the strange familiar. Communicating a sense of empathy for the viewer or reader to step in the shoes of the subject; the minority.
  • Galloway highlighted an important distinction between research and professional practice: as a research student you are not out to solve a problem, but to learn something. I have been trying to rewire my brain into this mode of thinking for the past several months without much luck. I cannot let go of emphasising content over form…
  • “T-shaped people” came up in conversation again. Basically, this term describes trans-disciplinary professionals who can act as both specialists and generalists in their chosen industry.