honoured

Keeping track of a lofty man enamoured with life

Category: Quotes

Reflecting on the Honours experience

Dear Ed,

From the beginning of Honours this year you were driven to create a product that would benefit others. Something that would unite communities and promote the education and compassion of others.

With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world. – Dalai Lama

By working upon your own skills and knowledge as a filmmaker you hoped to contribute to society in some shape or form. At first you thought that by setting yourself the goal to learn about new media and pedagogical practices you would be able to go about mending the divide between elders and younger Indigenous Australians. A colossal ambition for a one-year Honours program, which obviously had to be rethought and revised to compensate for the limited timeframe and resources available.

Being immersed within this ambition and concept blinded you from the reality of the situation Ed. It was only when you presented this research question to your coordinator that you were shot down from the clouds. Having your goals and aspirations stripped from you was no easy thing to accept, yet was important in the overall process of your research. It would prove to be a reoccurring challenge for you as every new research question or concept you endeavoured to tackle was torn apart or shown to be wrong in some way or another by your supervisor. You soon learned to hold your ambitions lightly, so each time they would be brushed aside you would not be brushed aside with them.

So began a tumultuous relationship with your supervisor, Adrian. It was clear you did not see eye to eye on how the supervisor-student relationship should transpire, as Adrian’s use of his position of superiority to manipulate you into performing to your full capacity pushed and pulled your emotions and research practice rather than encouraged it. The anxiety caused by feeling inadequate and misunderstood every time you would leave a meeting with Adrian proved to be the most challenging aspect in your Honours experience. You could not help thinking how having a supervisor who gave you the time and respect to communicate your interests would have made the experience all the more rewarding and enjoyable. However, you kept reminding yourself to see the benefits in your relationship with Adrian, to endeavour to take the positives from it.

However, at times the anxiety and pressure you felt from Adrian and the tight deadlines within Honours rippled there way into the research process to cause problems. Feeling anxious and rushed in trying to get your research approved by the Design and Social Context College Human Ethics Advisory Network (CHEAN) so that you would be able to achieve your research task in time proved to slow the process down further. Rushing through reading the criteria you presumed too much and therefore did not adequately fill out the templates supplied by the CHEAN. Drafting the Participant Information and Consent Forms with Adrian proved to be a futile effort as the CHEAN preferred abiding by their own template. This small hiccup proved to be a major inconvenience as your production timetable had to be pushed further into the second semester calendar. Letting the production slide meant letting the writing of the exegesis slide, which meant an intense last few weeks of semester to pull the exegesis and documentaries together in time for submission. You now understand how you were the one at fault in this situation, yet still feel as though the system let you down as you were not guided by Adrian through the process nor found any of the CHEAN approachable to help with the application process. It was not until the final hour that Neal came through as an invaluable advisor in amending the application and additional documents.

This experience has taught you to seek help from other sources as well as to establish contingency plans from the beginning, as nothing is certain when dealing with institutional processes. It is difficult to generate more time for yourself yet is crucial when working towards tight turnaround times. Speaking with other lecturers (Linda Daley, Lucinda Strahan, Neal Haslem) and fellow students (Jason Tseng, Josh Nettheim, Simon Wood and Steve Rhall) has proved to be invaluable in your journey through Honours. The support and encouragement from these incredibly generous people has proved to be the precise element you required to motivate you in completing your Honours year.

The recommended reading from your peers also helped in providing a context and understanding of approaching project-lead research. Being in the World (2010), a documentary recommended by Jason, offered an introduction to continental philosophy that helped you find direction in your research and grapple post-structuralist views. Similarly, the ingenuity evident in the creative writing publications Ruby lent you also proved to inspire and enthuse your interest in project work.

Engaging in academic discourse through reading past exegeses and theses, as well as attending conferences and lectures proved to be important in adapting to tackling complex theories and project work. Hannah Brasier’s exegesis on ‘Noticing’ was particularly helpful in understanding how Korsakow works and how to marry complex theories to project-lead research. The ASPERA conference, talks on research strategies, ethnography and design all were highlights of your Honours journey, providing case examples of how useful project-lead research can be and how to translate acquired skills into the professional world.

By attending such events you soon learned how much of a small fish you were in a big pond. You could not shake the feeling of always being behind the eight-ball, as it seemed to be part and parcel of the research process. The anxiety it caused, propelling you to achieve greater and more extensive goals was not producing the results that you received in your undergraduate or advanced diploma programs. Instead, the pressure you placed upon yourself caused you to over-extend yourself and be continually unsatisfied with the work you were doing and thus manifest an unproductive and unhealthy lifestyle. Your aim was to cover all the bases and provide the most thoroughly researched works, yet all you came away with was a tip-toe approach across a wide range of loosely connected theories and topics. Adrian explained that you must research deeply as opposed to broadly; discuss the topics throughly, explaining how they relate to one another as opposed to jumping fleetingly from one to the next without context or justification. It became incredibly hard to reverse this habit of spending all of your time reading and finding yourself with little time to pull together a piece of quality writing.

This is what made project-lead research appeal to you the most. The chance to step away from the literature and create something. You knew that your approach to creativity needed to be worked on. Instead of taking everything so intensely seriously, you took your cue from Charlie Chaplin in the Unknown Chaplin (1983), approaching creativity with an element of fun and spontaneity in order to produce a result that you would be happy with. The project work became the antidote to the theory, allowing you a chance to engage your intuition in order to produce something that would resonate with you.

You began to understand that no matter what approach you took to research (whether project-lead or by reading and writing to concepts) it seemed to be about applying your own individual capabilities to understand something. The proactive engagement with a theoretical discourse or mode of expression opened up new associations between your own personal practice and the wider community, and in so doing broadened and deepened your knowledge and skills–base to benefit further practice and your overall approach to life.

Aside from learning more about interactive documentaries, what post-graduate research entails, and useful tools to manage your research practice, you now feel confident in your ability to learn and adapt to new experiences and accomplish a large project in a short period of time.

The 2013 Media and Communication Honours experience has been incredibly challenging and enriching due to the people who have helped shape it for you and the information and skills you have acquired from it. Now you are more the wiser to approach a career that you feel will contribute to the wider community.

 

Regards,

 

An Observer.

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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

– TS Eliot, Little Gidding

This brief poem encapsulates what it will be like to experience my K-Film about BOI. Through exploring the online interactive documentary the user will assemble a unique impression of the Bend from its singular elements, finishing up with a holistic perspective of the place.

‘SEEING WITH NEW EYES’: PHENOMENOLOGY, HEALING, AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM by Daivd Seamon

Bold text is my emphasis.

This article by Seamon hits the nail on the head of my understanding of what phenomenology is all about. At least, how I am choosing to utilise it for my research project. Particularly this question: ‘in other words, if the thing could speak, what would it say? How would it describe itself?’ By constructing a K-Film in a manner that allows for a nonlinear assemblage of the BOI, I hope to allow this place to breathe; to communicate back to us (the user) to prompt rumination and contemplation of each singular element as well as the entirety of the environment as whole.

WIthout further ado, here’s the article:

This article was originally published in Voices on the Threshold of Tomorrow, Georg Feuerstein and Trisha Lamb Feurstein, eds., Wheaton, Illinois: Quest, pp. 84-87. The article was reprinted in The Scientific and Medical Network Newsletter53 (December 1993): 11-13.

SEEING WITH NEW EYES:

PHENOMENOLOGY, HEALING, AND THE NEW MILLENNIUM

by David Seamon

The important thing
Is to pull yourself up by your own hair
To turn yourself inside out,
And see the whole world with new eyes.
                                               –Peter Weiss, Marat-Sade

 “We are too late for the gods and too early for Being,” wrote the German phenomenological philosopher Martin Heidegger, by which he meant that we can no longer believe divine word, yet we are unable to see the world as it is. Here lies a central dilemma for the new millennium: How, without unquestioned belief, can we know? How, without blind faith, can we be certain that what we see or understand is really so?

The twentieth century’s hope for resolving these questions lay largely in positivist science, which sought to determine exact logical truths through cause-and-effect relationships identified materially and measured quantitatively. The results of positivist science, particularly in regard to technology, were beneficial in that they provided a freedom from time, space and environment that earlier generations could never have imagined. At the same time, however, positivist science helped to create many unintended but difficult problems‑-for example, nuclear weapons, the ecological crisis, and a global capitalistic system that regularly values economic and institutional requirements over the needs of particular people and places. If the world is to become more just and humane, we have come to realize that the knowledge provided by positivist science is not enough.

Where, then, might the new millenium turn for guidance? One bright hope is the many new ways of knowing that have begun to appear in the last few decades. These possibilities‑-some radically new, some innovative versions of earlier traditions‑-seek to see and to understand in a receptive, kindly way. The aim is a thoughtful empathy that provides an opening where knower and known meet and know that they both belong.

Nominally, these new ways of knowing may seem far apart but, in fact, they are neighbors. For example:

  • the existential phenomenology of Heidegger and philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty;
  • The Pattern Language of architect Christopher Alexander;
  • The deep ecology of philosophers Arne Naess, Bill Devall, George Sessions, and Warwick Fox;
  • The phenomenologies of place and environmental experience provided by scholars like Edward Relph, Yi-Fu Tuan, and Belden Lane;
  • The phenomenological science of Goethe and his present-day followers like Theodore Schwenk, Wolfgang Schad, John Wilkes, Henri Bortoft, Mark Riegner, and Craig Holdrege;
  • The sacred geometries and architectures of Keith Critchlow, Robert Lawlor, and Robert Meurant;
  • The somatic therapies of Ida Rolf, F. M. Alexander, and Stanley Keleman;
  • The efforts of Gurdjieffian philosopher John G. Bennett to use the qualitative and symbolic significance of number to understand wholes.

Though different in their topical emphases, these works are kin in that they all seek ways to allow being to break forth and to heal the wholes that have long since been fractured into parts.  And if we can find ways to allow things to be what they are and to place themselves where they belong, then they will more likely give us allowance and kindness in turn. Where there were parts, there might be wholes. Where there was separation, there might be neighborhood and relationship. We each find ourselves but find ourselves together. Diversity and commonality become one.

With what word to identify this hopeful possibility? Perhaps the best label is phenomenology. There are many versions of phenomenology, but the heart of the phenomenological style that I emphasize here is kindly seeing‑-in other words, if the thing could speak, what would it say? How would it describe itself? Phenomenology, explains John Harvey is “an imaginative sympathy that is receptive without ceasing to be critical.” Phenomenology, says Edward Relph, is “an attempt to understand from the inside‑-and not to dismiss from the outside‑-the whole spectrum of experience which we generally call `reality’.”

If the first step in phenomenology is to describe the thing in a fair but thoughtful way, the next step is to use that description to identify commonalities that underlie the specific descriptions and relate them to some larger pattern or whole. In this regard, Relph explains that phenomenology is “the gathering together of what already belongs together even while apart.” For example, there is a growing body of studies that explore the phenomenology of place. This work asks why places are crucial in human life and what happens in a society like ours where placelessness, geographical mobility, and environmental destruction regularly overwhelm community, rootedness, and ecological responsibility grounded in local care and concern?

One way to answer these questions phenomenologically is, first, to have many different people of different backgrounds describe a place important in their lives. These descriptions then provide a base for identifying more general qualities that characterize many of these places in an accurate but broader way. A striking effort to explore place phenomenologically is Relph’s masterful Place and Placelessness, which demonstrates that places are “fusions of human and natural order and the significant centers of our immediate experience of the world.” The essence of place experience, says Relph, is the degree to which a person feels inside place: “To be inside a place is to belong to it and to identify with it, and the more profoundly inside you are, the stronger is the identity with the place.”

From one perspective, the growing malaise, societal disintegration, and environmental deterioration in our postmodern Western world relates to the erosion of place and the resulting loss of communal and ecological responsibility that place otherwise insures automatically. My larger point is that the new ways of knowing indicated above all seek, in various ways, to explore their subject matter in the style of phenomenology, whether implicitly or directly. Taken-for-granted aspects of human experience, like place, are given attention; the tacit and unnoticed are asked to speak. The result may be that we see “with new eyes.” This style of vision and the understandings it evokes may offer one of the few viable ways to avert, on one hand, global ecological collapse and, on the other hand, escalating social and economic inequities and divisions.

REFERENCES

Alexander, Christopher (1977).  A Pattern Language.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Alexander, Christopher (1979).  The Timeless Way of Building.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Alexander, F. Mattias (1969). The Resurrection of the Body. New York: Dell.

Bennett, John G. (1956-1966).  The Dramatic Universe, 4 vols. Lon­don:  Hodder & Stoughton; Charles Town, West Virginia: Claymont Communications.

Bennett, John G. (1993). Elementary Systematics: A Tool for Understanding Wholes. Santa Fe: Bennett Books.

Bortoft, Henri (l985).  “Counterfeit and Authentic Wholes:  Finding a Way to Dwell in Nature,” in David Seamon and Robert Mugerauer (eds.).  Dwelling, Place and Environment(pp. 281‑302).  New York: Columbia University Press.

Fox, Warwick (1990). Toward a Transpersonal Ecology. Boston: Shambhala.

Heidegger, Martin (1962).  Being and Time.  New York:  Harper and Row.

Heidegger, Martin (1971).  Poetry, Language, Thought.  New York:  Harper and Row.

Keleman, Stanley (1985). Emotional Anatomy. Berkeley, California: Center Press.

Lane, Belden (1988). Landscapes of the Sacred. New York: Paulist Press.

Lawlor, Robert (1982).  Sacred Geometry.  New York:  Crossroad.

Merleau‑Ponty, Maurice (1962).  The Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Humanities Press.

Meurant, Robert (l989).  The Aesthetics of the Sacred. Whangamat,New Zealand: The Institute of Traditional Studies.

Relph, Edward (1976).  Place and Placelessness.  London:  Pion.

Riegner, Mark, and Wilkes, John (1989).  Art in the Service of Nature: The Story of Flowforms. Orion Nature Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 50-57.

Rolf, Ida (1977). Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures. New York: Harper and Row.

Schad, Wolfgang (l977).  Man and Mammals:  Towards a Biology of Form.  Garden City, New York:  Waldorf Press.

Schwenk, Theodore (l976).  Sensitive Chaos.  New York:  Schocken.

Seamon, David (1993). Dwelling, Seeing, and Designing: Toward an Ecological Ecology. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Seamon, David and Zajonc, Arthur (1998). Geothe’s Way of Science: A Phenomenology of Nature. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Tuan, Yi-Fu (1974). Topophilia. New York: Columbia UniversityPress.

Spatial Justice

This is a great talk by Doreen Massey, introducing the concept of spatial justice/politics. Not particularly a point I will be driving home in my exegesis, but interesting nonetheless. It adds some further context and supporting evidence for how place can be seen as constantly in flux.

Interestingly, Massey believes that “space is as concrete as place” (25.20) rather than simply an empty container to house our thoughts and experiences. She believes that “space is the dimension of multiplicity. If time is the dimension of sequence, things coming after each other, then space is the dimension of contemporaneous existence…The dimension of radical simultaneity.”

She introduces a new word to my vocabulary – coeval – to describe this “radical simultaneity.” A useful term that signifies the simultaneous occurrence of two or more things at the same juncture of time. This helps describe what Massey and Lippard believe place is – an intersection of varying flows and routes of material and immaterial things that create the one event or place.

 

Day Three

As Adrian cautioned us in first semester Research Strategies, I am concerned about the ethical issues that may manifest as I employ a theoretical framework over my research topic. It is unfair to the subject matter if I only look at it through the lens of a particular theory/ist. For example, to only view the Bend of Islands (BOI) through a feminist framework will miss out on many important aspects of what makes the Bend the Bend. It is doing the Bend a disservice as it is not examined in its entirety.

Now that I am neck deep in the Bend, house-sitting my brothers place, I am finding my day-to-day activities inevitably expose me to the surrounding environment. By simply being here I am but another cog in the wheel of the BOI. I feel this relates to Seamon’s place-ballet schema, where the habitual routines I do every day places me in a position whereby I am interacting/dancing with the space I inhabit. This dance establishes a personal, biographical relationship between myself and the place I inhabit.

My morning routine of jogging through the Bend has started this process of interacting with the BOI. The first morning I jogged the length of Gongflers Drive, the middle section of Catani, and up and down Ironbark Road. This morning I jogged up to the fire shed, then to the end of Henley Extension and back.

Although I am changing the destination of my morning jogs, I am still setting off at the same time, pace and duration. I arm myself with my iphone – just in case I see something I need to capture – and stick to the unsealed roads with a keen awareness of my surrounds. Placing an emphasis on my spatial awareness whilst I jog is quite a different experience than jogging in the city where I feel much more insular. I feel a pull into the wilderness around me as I jog past this unique piece of the world. The only trouble is that when I find opportunities to video I stop my jogging and start to get cold. Often these moments feature some of the incredible fauna of this region. There is no chance for me to capture these animals with my iphone as the lens is too wide and quality too low. The limitations of vining my footage makes it impossible to capture the wildlife of the BOI – an important aspect of making this space a place.

Here’s a poor attempt of capturing some kangaroos this morning:

I digress.

Yesterday I made the trek into RMIT to pick up some audio equipment. I decided to opt for the old sound recording kit (Marantz solid state, shotgun mic, dynamic mic, wired lapel mic, a spare XLR and pistol grip) as I am able to loan it for a longer period of time. It annoys me that RMIT are unable to loan out their Zoom H4n’s for an extended period of time due to the Music Industries program owning the gear.

I timed my equipment pick-up with a guest-talk about interactive digital media. The speaker was Janet Marles, who is currently working in Brunei on an interactive installation piece to promote the natural environment and multi-layered history of that region. She mainly spoke about her PhD interactive documentary that she made with the panoramic software Live Stage Pro (designed for realestate companies to exhibit properties as a kiosk format). The project was triggered when she found an old shoebox full of pictures and letters from her mothers past. Sensing a story was in the making, she set out to research each document and provide a context for her mothers tumultuous life story.

The project was perfect for the interactive digital media platform, allowing Marles to present the fragmented information in a nonlinear manner. She coined the term “memoratic narrative” as the platform allowed users to piece together a timeline of memories that transformed a fragmented database into a conventional, linear documentary.

Having a glimpse of the project in the talk, I found the mixture of a male narrator providing the voice over narration for some clips whilst her mother narrated the others confused the focus of the project. I can see how it would work in the linear work, but I found it jarring and often confusing in the nonlinear.

I found the panoramic approach to nonlinear storytelling inspiring though. The user has the ability to shuffle/pan around a 360 degrees panorama of sections of the town her mother grew up in. Using the mouse cursor, the user can select different sections of the panorama to open up a new video clip window that tells a story about that section of the landscape/place. Would love to give it a go.

She brought up this desire to search for information that I feel is the common thread through all documentaries. Nichols describes it as “epistephilia”, a “desire to know.” With the advent of interactive digital media, the conventional documentary form can transform into a more proactive process of information seeking. The audience are no longer passive voyeurs, but now a part of the investigatory process of piece the puzzle of information together.

I’ll need to get back into writing over the next couple of days to try to pull these disparate ideas of placemaking together into some kind of coherent thought related to my doco. I’ve organised an interview with one of the most recent additions to the BOI this afternoon, and hope to squeeze in two more interviews this week before both households depart from the Bend (one for good, having sold their house; the other for a couple of months abroad).

 

Day Two

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 9.37.18 AM

Yesterday I interviewed the community liaison officer who has signed permission to release his name to the public – Rudi. It was a slow build, but turned out to be an appropriate starting interview for the project. He was minding his younger son Ned who was a delight to interact with. After some brief niceties we sat down to have a cuppa.

Unfortunately I had to rely on my iphone as my primary recording device. As we sipped on our cuppas Rudi would occassionally name bird songs he could identify. I was impressed by his knowledge and fatherly skills as Ned crawled over him like a playground apparatus.

Rudi and his partner have lived in the BOI for 12 years. When they originally bought into the Bend the house was quite a strange combination of different elements, the most impressive of which was a metal geodome as the second storey. Rudi and his partner have since renovated the house to suit their own aesthetics and functionality. There are some features that are still left over from the last structure though; notably an old ship beam that runs vertically up between the spiral staircase.

Rudi found it hard to articulate what the BOI’s is for him. He seemed to stress over finding the one story from his experiences that would sum this place up. I reassured him that he doesn’t need to encapsulate his thoughts and feelings about the BOI in one story – fragments are fine. Anecdotes, descriptions, sensations.

It was quite awkward to video him at the end of the interview. He was incredibly happy for me to film him any which way I wanted to – even allowing me to get up close and personal with my macro lens. In hindsight, I feel I should have instructed him more in regards to how to react in front of the camera.

He has given me the BICA calendar and I’m borrowing his copy of the BICA Land Management Plan to help me get my head around identifying the flora and fauna of the region.

Rudi and his family are heading off for several weeks on Friday so I will have to do without his friendly advice and expertise.

Leaving Rudi’s I noticed I was running late for my next interview with Mick Woiwod. I quickly had a bite for lunch before jumping in the car headed for Eltham.

Mick lived in the Bend from 1979 – 2007. He was an active member during that time, researching, writing and championing the ongoing protection of the Yarra Valley region. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, he had to move from the Bend to Eltham to be cared for by his daughter. I was impressed with how switched-on he is for an 84-year-old. We ended up chatting for roughly three hours where he delineated upon the BOI and provided a geological and socio-historical context. He has written extensively upon the BOI and the greater Yarra Valley region. I am now working my way through his The Christmas Hills Story: Once Around the Sugarloaf II and his Birrarung Database that is also digitised.

Every sentence he uttered seemed to be riddled with gems of useful information. It was great to hear about the Indigenous history of the place; how the BOI came into being geologically (the Shire of Nillumbik – that originally was called the Parish of Sutton – is an Indigenous name meaning “bad” (“Nillum”) “earth” (“bik”) to describe the poor quality of soil due to geological fault lines pushing the BOI’s region up into rocky clay ridges. BOI can be contrasted to Kangaroo Ground (KG), that offers farmers rich volcanic soil to produce exceptional crops. The Indigenous term for KG was Moorrul, which means “Dark Red Earth.” I like how the uniqueness of BOI has come from it being an underdog, abandoned by pastoral ambitions.); the first squatters of the region; the flora and fauna; how particular places received their names; and the more recent conservationist history from the 1970’s cohort (Tim Healy, Neil Douglas, John McCallum, etc.).

Despite hearing about the tragic circumstances of colonisation (which involved the genocide-like deaths of 90% of the indigenous population over 16years of settlement), Mick encouraged me to look at the present day BOI’s to understand how strong, unique, and sustainable a community it really is. It has taken us this long to understand our effect on the environment, but at least we now do!

I find myself in quite a bind, as I need to focus on writing my draft exegesis for submission on Friday but feel like I will be looking a gift-horse in the mouth due to having the Bend on my doorstep over these two weeks. Feeling very torn.

 

 

Assemblage = Complexity

I found a quote that illustrates the blind trust I must have that my research project will somehow miraculously work out as I stumble my way into understanding how place is assembled out of 1) our experience of it, and 2) what society classifies it as.

‘…[Assemblage theory] opens the researcher up to risk, embraces uncertainty, expresses something of the fragility of composition, and strives to listen to what Deleuze and Guattari term “the sound of a contagious future, the murmur (rumeur) of new assemblages of desire, of machines, and of statements, that insert themselves into the old assemblages and break with them” (1986, 83)’ (Anderson & McFarlane, 126).

The changeable nature of assemblages makes them a tricky concept to define and capture in a research project. Any one assemblage does not stay in the same state forever; assemblages are constantly changing and reforming. Much like our cognitive understanding of most things. The more we learn about something the more it changes in form. Every new piece of information we learn rewrites what was before it or is simply added to the stockpile of an already functioning system of knowledge. The addition, however, alters this system into a new type of system.

This explains why we feel utterly shellshocked when a new piece of information shakes up our previously held firm convictions of a topic or thing. We’re kidding ourselves if we believe our impression of a particular scenario or thing is fixed. Stability is illusory. The only stability we achieve is a fleeting realisation or impression that Tuan calls “Pause” (more on this later). Every new experience opens up the possibility to change previously held experiences. These building blocks of information can be seen to assemble into particular schema’s of knowledge that we access when retrieving our impression of a topic or thing.

Assemblage theory heralds the notion that everything is impermanent. Everything is in a constant state of flux whereby whole worlds of information are continuously forming and reforming. The multifaceted nature of experiencing things instigates this process of continual change. Every new experience of a particular thing creates a new impression of it, or more commonly shows us a new dimension of what that thing is. Over a period of time, this thing becomes more and more multifaceted in nature as we are exposed to the many different “faces” it has.

You may be asking yourself, how many “faces” does a light bulb have? Or a dinner plate? Think of the most mundane, simple object around and it still has countless faces to its existence. The previously mentioned objects for example certainly function in a multiplicity of ways in our phenomenological impression of them. One face of the light bulb in my experience was when I clicked it into its socket without realising the power was on and temporarily blinded myself. Another light bulb face was when I was riding past a group of drunken adolescents late at night. One of the adolescents hurled a light bulb into the street where it shattered into a million fragments.

Faces are exposed to us through engaging with these objects. This may not necessarily be physical interaction, like the examples above, for the faces of objects are often engaged over conversation or merely trivial thought. If I was thinking about how to alter the mood of an interior environment by lighting, I may decide that painting a light bulb would realise the effect I am desiring. Thinking about a light bulb may alter our impression of it by broadening our understanding of the apparatus and it’s capacity to be utilised in different scenarios, thus modifying our assemblage of it.

In summary, assemblages in geographical terms can be seen as the way we order and reorder the increasing “faces” of a place. The more we engage with a place the more multifaceted it becomes, and therefore the more denser the assemblage becomes. Assemblages are in a constant state of becoming whereby our experience (either materially or immaterially) of the independent objects of a place expand and contract depending on our impression of them.

Using Deleuze and Guattari as a basis for a geographical understanding of assemblage, Anderson and McFarlane explain how assemblages can be divided into two axes; ‘a machinic assemblage of desire and a collective assemblage of enunciation (Deleuze and Guattari 1986, 81)’ (125). The former is a collection of heterogenous elements, the latter a collection and system of words and meanings. These two axes are not mutually exclusive however, for with every vocabulary there must be a networked system of elements, and vice versa.

Taking a functionalist approach one would attribute names only by first observing what that particular element does within the system. From the opposite perspective, a system can only be identified as a system by attributing names to the individual elements. Both approaches feed off one another in order to sustain a meaningful assemblage.

I like the use of the term “murmur (rumeur)” to describe this notion of assemblage. With every new assemblage we come across we feel a murmur of the one before and ahead of it. An echo or temporal shadow. We understand that this assemblage has not come from nothing, but is a re-appropriation of other qualities that constitutes it whole. Similarly, we know that this assemblage will fall apart and be reconstituted into a new assemblage in the near future. These murmurs are not audible, not tangible in a sensory manner, but more of an intuition that has been finely tuned through experience.

assemblage-vs-taz

Toombs

I have recently read Toombs’ paper “the lived experience of disability” as Massey mentioned it in her discussion “Talking of Space-Time.” Toombs recounts her experience as a person with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis and how this disability has affected her sense of space and time in many different ways. Namely, she explains loss of mobility changes one’s experience of ‘surrounding space, alters one’s take-for-granted awareness of (and interaction with) objects, disrupts corporeal identity, affects one’s relations with others, and causes a change n the character of temporal experience’ (20).

I highly recommend this paper a read for anyone interested in understanding what the world is like for a person with a disability. How one’s sense of their surroundings and themselves changes dramatically.

Toombs speaks of the body as not a device separate from our consciousness or sense of self, but a entity inextricably tied to how we experience the world. In her own words, ‘I am embodied not in the sense that I have a body – as I have an automobile, a house, or a pet – but in the sense that I exist or live my body (Toombs, 1992)’ (10). She goes on to say that the “lived body” is ‘the center of one’s system of coordinates’ (10). She believes that the lived body is the locus of our intentions (11), whereby our body reacts to concrete situations. There is a goal for every interaction, our body responding to an object or an object responding to our body to produce an outcome. ‘From my center outwards the world around me arranges itself in terms of near and far goals’ (11), getting a glass of water can be seen as an immediate goal but not if the tap is two kilometres away.

I particularly liked Toombs’ observations of Merleau-Ponty’s bodily space. She explains how through habitual tasks (much like Seamon’s body-ballets) we incorporate objects into our bodily space. Her example of a woman who wears a long feather in her hat or a 6’7″ man (like myself) who both automatically compensate for their new dimension when traversing a space expertly highlights this theory of expanding and contracting bodily space. Toombs briefly touches upon the phenomenon of “phantom limb”, a remarkable situation where a person feels the presence of an amputated limb despite consciously knowing it has been severed. “Phantom limb” is experienced when tasks that previously featured the limb in a pivotal role are experienced again with the same intentionality. Altering one’s intentions can flip this habitual mindset, re-configuring our body-ballet with the environment around us to compensate with our new bodily space.

project AS research

Have stumbled across an article written by Adrian explaining what an exegesis is. He mentions some good pointers in it:

  • There is no set-in-stone definition of what form an exegesis may take
  • The project’s outcomes offer evidence for the claims you are making in your research
  • The project IS the research in an exegetical framework. The exegesis discusses how the project explores the problem or topic at hand.
  • Start with a lit review style chapter to frame the topic, introducing key terms and theories, before introducing the project in chapter two
  • Iceberg approach, whereby a reflective practice (project journal) illuminates what is not apparent in the finished product (my K-film)
  • ‘As a rule of thumb the more you can indicate a change in the sophistication of your understanding from where you started to where you arrived, then the easier it is to write your exegesis…’

granddayout04

ANT (work in progress #3)

As Bogost notes, ontography employs associative principles that are not dissimilar to Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). The seemingly random list of objects that the ontographic process produces implies various connections between material and cultural “actants.”

According to ANT, actants are any ‘agent, collective or individual that can associate or disassociate with other agents’ (Ritzer, 2). Actants can be human or non-human things. The context that derives from being assembled into a network with other actants engages their agency and thus establishes their identity and intention.

Actants are therefore indeterminate, only assuming a specification when understood within a system of other actants. This reminds me of the functionalist approach Bordwell discusses in his article “Neo-Structuralist Narratology,” putting forward the notion that ‘film operates as a whole, its individual parts playing determinate roles in a larger pattern’ (209).

We only understand the nature of a thing when we place it within a context of existence. What is it’s role within that context? Why is it situated within this particular context?

An actants functionality may completely change depending on what it is networked to. This differs from my previous train of thought that posed the idea that pieces of information are accessed by how they are originally classified. Classification involves categorisation (i.e. Grouping information that features similar (if not the same) characteristics) that does not apply to ANT.

‘The focus [of ANT] is always on the connections among disparate things rather than on the similarities or regularities that may appear to be grouping actors together’ (Warf, 1).

The connections between each actant is what ANT is interested in. That is what transforms an actant into a meaningful thing: a spanner, window, house, thimble, etc. However, this assumed identity is not fixed. There is still a sense of agency within the thing, dependent upon what it is networked to. As Lippard says about placemaking:

‘It is about connections, what surrounds it, what formed it, what happened there, what will happen there’ (Lippard 1997, 7).

It is the connections that provide the context. An actant surrenders to the overall network, performing different functions associated with actants from other networks. The way in which an actant can reform/adapt itself depending on what it is networked to makes it difficult to pin it down to a fixed definition.

I feel a significant part of determining an actants role within a network is our subjective interpretation of it and the network itself. The personal nature of our subjective viewpoint expands the potential form of an actant further, as my impression of a particular actant may differ from yours. The particular experiences I have had of an actant dictates the role I feel it plays within a network. Hence, this means my personal interpretation determines the identity of an actant.

My impression of an actant changes with every new encounter, each instant prompts a new series of connections the actant may have with other actants, therefore an actant I first thought was a pen is now a pointer in a presentation or weapon in a prison yard.

The fact that every new experience involves the formation of new connections between actants means two things: One; that actants are multifaceted entities, and two; that connections are constantly being made and unmade within a constant state of flux.