Monday, December 29, 2008

A naked kiwi and making things public

Just musing on making things public.

The Johari window identifies 4 quadrants regarding self disclosure.
1. Whats known to me and known to others (obviously no new knowledge here).
2. Whats known (about me)to others but not known by me (my supervisor seems to think I write well...if he keeps saying it, i may come to believe it, but it may also be that affirmations make it so or at least increase the confidence with which I write, saying the opposite could always make it worse...).
3. Whats known to me and not to others (the data analysis and combinations of learning that are unique to me, and also some things that are better kept in the box!)
4. Whats not known by others or myself (the area of new knowledge, to be discovered...the phd)
But the Johari window was really only related to knowing oneself better. What of 'other things'?

There are some things that maybe shouldnt be public (for further ref see Susan Leigh Star who talks of such risks in terms of social justice).
And there are some things that need to be told (sensitive research via Renzetti and Lee)

Latour writes of whats hidden. Behind every initiative there are masses of other things holding in place, tugging, pulling. Some of the actors pushing, pulling are human, some are otherwise. In this pulling and shoving there is also no beginning, we are always in the middle of things.
In citing Samual Butler, Latour also reminds us/me that remaining silent is also political, for silence seen as a virtue may also be because it renders us agreeable to some of our fellows...
What remains said/unsaid....what is performed & not...

He also performed whats usually hidden in an art gallery exhibition looking at making things public. This brought together three modes of representation usually kept apart: How to represent people? Politics.
How to represent objects? Science.
How to represent their collective gathering? Art.
(I find, again, justification for performing a thesis in ways beyond the written text).

Latour provides direction for considering how things aggragate, what hold such shapes...provides imetus for considering disputed 'things' also.
To this end, there is reason to consider not only what pulls things together but what also pulls or tugs or attempts to unravel...or to hold fast, to resist...and that such things too may be human and otherwise. To tell the technsocial story/stories, the ontological politics, that are both shaped and shaping. And what to of whats not included but pushed away, or 'othered'?

I spent one of Auckland's glorious days inside the Auckland museum and its exhibition of secrets. I also revisited this exhibit this very wet day online.
The exhibition provides a different reality to that usually experienced in the museum. This performance was of the inner workings revealed an exhibition in its own right of the behind the scenes work.

I have chosen to describe the performance of secrets at the museum alongside actor-network theory and make use of reassembling the social for providing some structure to this.
The first scene is of crating and uncrating, and thinking outside the box. This involves appreciating that which is unknown. The opening on arrival is described as always a revelation. Long-hidden objects emerge, reviving memory and involing if not asking silent questions such as What am I? Where do I come from? How did I get here? Why have I been hidden for so long? What stories can I tell? The objects on display in a museum represent but a fraction of the total collection and invites viwers to therefore consider what is seen as the iceberg, not the tip.
The second scene is called registration, but its really of accounting, whats in and whats out, reminding me of Latours first source of uncertainty where groups and their makeup are disputed. Every object that passes through the doors – coming or going – must be accounted for. A political act of what fits and what doesn't..."Does it fit our collection policy? Does it need special conservation work? Are there any legal or copyright issues about displaying it? And when the museum decides that something is past its use-by date – known as “de-accession” – the whole process has to happen in reverse..."
The third scene extnds on this, What's grouped together? Who decides? Whats the structure of the performance in other words, how are things to be taken/othertaken? As a source of Latourian uncertainty, this reflects how things might be influenced as well as distributed.
The fourth scene is of the way things were. The museum isn’t 'just a big display case' it’s also a working space. Many objects are old (stating the obvious) and fragile or damaged when they arrive. "The job to preserve them, sometimes even improve them, so they can be exhibited, studied, interpreted and enjoyed isn’t always easy. Some exhibits are simply beyond repair. Others have been mistreated or neglected. And some are so unusual or rare that knowing how to treat them is a challenge in itself. And then there’s the question of whether to repair something at all – perhaps the damage or the missing parts tell their own story, every bit as important as an object in “perfect” condition. The museum conservator’s role is to balance all these considerations and stay true to the purpose of the collection or exhibition."
In this there is a marked similarity with ANT research, whats uncovered involves work, how this is then treated to let actors speak for themselves, as well as consideration for what's altered in the telling.
The fifth scene considers storage, "Not just any old storage, of course, because everything has its own special needs. There are very large objects, very old and delicate objects, very precious objects – and living objects too. The temperature and humidity of our storage systems has to be strictly controlled and monitored. Just as important is that we can find and access an object when it is required for research or display."
In this thesis the treatment of whats stored is practical as well as ethical and political and philosophical. How is content to be treated, what damage might display do, what might enhance, whats in, out, here or there...
The sixth scene is of artefacts in terms of books and papers. The exhibition details 2 kilomentres of manuscripts and archives, thousands of maps, words and pictures, ideas and knowledge and inspiration. Books are described as not sitting on shelves in isolation; they interconnect with the real world. I am reminded of much that i write being stored, of the mindmaps made and connected to, and of those not and of the millions of words written and the small percentage of these that are given life within a thesis. In the exhibit is the story of a golden frogs (supposedly) stolen...and recovered...or not. The story told is that the display stolen was never the real thing. My mind wonders if anything is as it seems.
And there's a sense of de ja vu for this web based cybertrip, trips on itself in act seven and repeats the 5th scene. Whats available through a different search onsite are stories of the naked and the dead. No-one knows how the kiwi, or at least this particular one, lost its feathers. As the kiwi itself says, plucked if I know... whether on school based travels, or moths or insects, or whether it should be kept to show deletrious effects or of positive aspects...providing opportunity to an audience to make meaning out of what is shared. Here is a sense of Latour's third source of uncertainty for actors too have agency, the links seem to twist on themselves, whats intended and what occurs differ, there are intended and unintended effects, unanticipated as well as unknown effects. In reviewing this, where might this story lead, what will the reader make of it?
A very Latourian moment ocurrs as the exhibition comes 'fullcircle". The fourth source of uncertainty is an awareness of 'things' being matters of concern rather than matters of fact, and the knowledge that things could also be assembled differently. And in ending is the fith source of uncertainty as there are risks inherent in writing down meanings, as if there were but one...

I am again indebted to Artichoke for bringing to my attention the museums display, great place for taking guests if your in New Zealand, its a free exhibit, and well worth repeat visits.


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  2. It's 2.30am in the Netherlands and probably too late to be reading, so I had a quick glance for the moment and I must say that this looks to be one of the most sincere descriptions of the author I have come across in various research/PhD blogs. Perhaps it's the Kiwi approach?.. But I'll come back for a more thorough read! Good luck with the PhD research!