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Thinking with Things (FYS) CSPL 140F
"This course explores the ways in which we think and act in relation to things. At times provocations for thought, at times emotional companions or functional collaborators, things are not only symbolic carriers of the values and meanings that we assign, but are also actors with agency and subjectivity. We critically consider the implications of this and the role of things in a variety of contexts from the historical to the emotional to the sociocultural to the sacred. The course considers how we make, use, and consume things and how, in turn, things make, use, and consume us. Transdisciplinary in its orientation, this course draws insight from anthropology, cultural studies, philosophy, material studies, art, and design. We will examine a number of projects dealing with objects and these will serve as inspirational, theoretical, and methodological models for the projects students will develop over the course of the semester."



"Major Readings: Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore
Readings include a variety of articles and excerpts including, but not limited to:
Sarah Ahmed, ORIENTATIONS: TOWARD A QUEER PHENOMENOLOGY
Hannah Arendt, THE HUMAN CONDITION
Jane Bennett, VIBRANT MATTER
Levi Bryant, THE DEMOCRACY OF OBJECTS
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, WHY WE NEED THINGS
Emile Durkheim, GENESIS OF THE NOTION OF THE TOTEMIC PRINCIPLE OR MANA
Martin Heidegger, THE THING
Georges Perec, THINGS: A STORY OF THE SIXTIES
Elaine Scarry, THE BODY IN PAIN: THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF THE WORLD
Sherry Turkle, EVOCATIVE OBJECTS
Langdon Winner, DO ARTIFACTS HAVE A POLITICS?"

[See also:
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/channels
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/speculative-design-1519962911
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/misc-design-1519956499
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/sensory-ethnography
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/ethnographic-design-films
https://www.are.na/barbara-adams/design-methods-1519961030

http://www.wesleyan.edu/academics/faculty/baadams/profile.html
http://newsletter.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2017/10/23/taylor-07-teaches-design-thinking-workshop-at-wesleyan/
http://wesleyanargus.com/2018/02/02/fellow-barbara-adams-talks-design-ideas-minor/
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/faculty.html
http://www.wesleyan.edu/ideas/index.html
http://www.gidest.org/barbara-adams/
https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/design-as-future-making-9780857858399/
https://nssr.academia.edu/BarbaraAdams ]
wesleyan  barbaraadams  things  design  designthinking  2018  sarahahmed  hannaharendt  janebennett  levibryant  mihalycsikszentmihalyi  emiledurkheim  heidegger  georgesperec  elainescarry  sherryturkle  langdonwinner  transdisciplinary  classes 
may 2018 by robertogreco
On how to grow an idea – The Creative Independent
"In the 1970s, a Japanese farmer discovered a better way to do something—by not doing it. In the introduction to Masasobu Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution, Frances Moore Lappé describes the farmer’s moment of inspiration:
The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to the ground… Once he has seen to it that conditions have been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.


Fukuoka’s practice, which he perfected over many years, eventually became known as “do nothing farming.” Not that it was easy: the do-nothing farmer needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the land and seasons than a regular farmer. After all, Fukuoka’s ingenious method was hard-won after decades of his own close observations of weather patterns, insects, birds, trees, soil, and the interrelationships among all of these.

In One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka is rightly proud of what he has perfected. Do-nothing farming not only required less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer—it also enriched the soil year by year, while most farms depleted their soil. Despite the skepticism of others, Fukuoka’s farm yielded a harvest equal to or greater than that of other farms. “It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain,” he wrote. “The proof is ripening right before your eyes.”

One of Fukuoka’s insights was that there is a natural intelligence at work in existing ecosystems, and therefore the most intelligent way to farm was to interfere as little as possible. This obviously requires a reworking not only of what we consider farming, but maybe even what we consider progress.

“The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.”

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka

✶✶

In my view, Fukuoka was an inventor. Typically we associate invention and progress with the addition or development of new technology. So what happens when moving forward actually means taking something away, or moving in a direction that appears (to us) to be backward? Fukuoka wrote: “This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window.”

This practice of fitting oneself into the greater ecological scheme of things is almost comically opposite to the stories in John McPhee’s Control of Nature. There, we find near-Shakespearean tales of folly in which man tries and fails to master the sublime powers of his environment (e.g. the decades-long attempt to keep the Mississippi river from changing course).

Any artist or writer might find this contrast familiar. Why is it that when we sit down and try to force an idea, nothing comes—or, if we succeed in forcing it, it feels stale and contrived? Why do the best ideas appear uninvited and at the strangest times, darting out at us like an impish squirrel from a shrub?

The key, in my opinion, has to do with what you think it is that’s doing the producing, and where. It’s easy for me to say that “I” produce ideas. But when I’ve finished something, it’s often hard for me to say how it happened—where it started, what route it took, and why it ended where it did. Something similar is happening on a do-nothing farm, where transitive verbs seem inadequate. It doesn’t sound quite right to say that Fukuoka “farmed the land”—it’s more like he collaborated with the land, and through his collaboration, created the conditions for certain types of growth.

“A great number, if not the majority, of these things have been described, inventoried, photographed, talked about, or registered. My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by George Perec

✶✶

I’ve known for my entire adult that going for a walk is how I can think most easily. Walking is not simply moving your thinking mind (some imagined insular thing) outside. The process of walking is thinking. In fact, in his book Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, David Abram proposes that it is not we who are thinking, but rather the environment that is thinking through us. Intelligence and thought are things to be found both in and around the self. “Each place is a unique state of mind,” Abram writes. “And the many owners that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and the tree frogs no less than the human—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.”

This is not as hand-wavy as it sounds. Studies in cognitive science have suggested that we do not encounter the environment as a static thing, nor are we static ourselves. As Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch put it in The Embodied Mind (a study of cognitive science alongside Buddhist principles): “Cognition is not the representation of a pre-given world by a pre-given mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind… “ (emphasis mine). Throughout the book, the authors build a model of cognition in which mind and environment are not separate, but rather co-produced from the very point at which they meet.

[image]

“The Telegarden is an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”

✶✶

Ideas are not products, as much as corporations would like them to be. Ideas are intersections between ourselves and something else, whether that’s a book, a conversation with a friend, or the subtle suggestion of a tree. Ideas can literally arise out of clouds (if we are looking at them). That is to say: ideas, like consciousness itself, are emergent properties, and thinking might be more participation than it is production. If we can accept this view of the mind with humility and awe, we might be amazed at what will grow there.


breathing [animation]

✶✶

To accompany this essay, I’ve created a channel on Are.na called “How to grow an idea.” There you’ll find some seeds for thought, scattered amongst other growths: slime molds, twining vines, internet gardens, and starling murmurations. The interview with John Cage, where he sits by an open window and rejoices in unwritten music, might remind you a bit of Fukuoka, as might Scott Polach’s piece in which an audience applauds the sunset. The channel starts with a reminder to breathe, and ends with an invitation to take a nap. Hopefully, somewhere in between, you might encounter something new."
intelligence  methodology  ideas  jennyodell  2018  are.na  masasobufukuoka  francesmoorelappé  farming  slow  nothing  idleness  nature  time  patience  productivity  interdependence  multispecies  morethanhuman  do-nothingfarming  labor  work  sustainability  ecosystems  progress  invention  technology  knowledge  johnmcphee  collaboration  land  growth  georgesperec  walking  thinking  slowthinking  perception  language  davidabram  cognitivescience  franciscovarela  evanthompson  eleanorrosch  buddhism  cognition  johncage  agriculture 
april 2018 by robertogreco
UbuWeb Papers: Georges Perec - The Infra-Ordinary (1973)
"What speaks to us, seemingly, is always the big event, the untoward, the extra-ordinary: the front-page splash, the banner headlines. Railway trains only begin to exist when they are derailed, and the more passengers that are killed, the more the trains exist. Aeroplanes achieve existence only when they are hijacked. The one and only destiny of motor-cars is to drive into plane trees. Fifty-two weekends a year, fifty- two casualty lists: so many dead and all the better for the news media if the figures keep going up! Behind the event there is a scandal, a fissure, a danger, as if life reveals itself only by way of the spectacular, as if what speaks, what is significant, is always abnormal: natural cataclysms or social upheavals, social unrest, political scandals.

In our haste to measure the historic, significant and revelatory, let’s not leave aside the essential: the truly intolerable, the truly inadmissible. What is scandalous isn’t the pit explosion, it’s working in coalmines. ‘Social problems’ aren’t ‘a matter of concern’ when there’s a strike, they are intolerable twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, tower blocks that collapse, forest fires, tunnels that cave in, the Drugstore de Champs-Elysées burns down. Awful! Terrible! Monstrous! Scandalous! But where’s the scandal? The true scandal? Has the newspaper told us everything except: not to worry, as you can see life exists, with its ups and downs, things happen, as you can see.

The daily newspapers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me , they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.

What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?

How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.

What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic anymore, but the endotic.

To question what seems so much a matter of course that we’ve forgotten its origins. To rediscover something of the astonishment that Jules Verne or his readers may have felt faced with an apparatus capable of reproducing and transporting sounds. For the astonishment existed, along with thousands of others, and it’s they which have moulded us.

What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Why? Where? When? Why?

Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.

Make an inventory of you pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out.

Question your tea spoons.

What is there under your wallpaper?

How many movements does it take to dial a phone number? Why don’t you find cigarettes in grocery stores? Why not?

It matters little to me that these questions should be fragmentary, barely indicative of a method, at most of a project. It matters a lot to me that they should seem trivial and futile: that’s exactly what makes them just as essential, if not more so, as all the other questions by which we’ve tried in vain to lay hold on our truth."
everyday  georgesperec  1973  ordinary  questioning  askingquestions  questionasking 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: Against boredom
"There is a meme routinely shared on social media of passengers aboard a train, each absorbed in their own personal information and entertainment device. The caption reads ‘All this technology is making us antisocial’. The joke is that it is a very old photograph; what the passengers are holding are newspapers. It is generally posted without comment, as an ironic reminder of the cyclical nature of debates about dominant forms of communication, and about our social and personal habits.

Here is a typical, timeless complaint: nowadays we have lost the capacity to enjoy moments of calm or to engage in quiet contemplation. Bertrand Russell once wrote that children should be spared excessive trips to the theatre. Later it became comic books or pulp fiction. Then cinema and television. Then the internet. Now it is smartphones and the iPad. Every epoch has its technologies of distraction, and each time a new one comes around, we are told that younger generations are losing what the parents once enjoyed in abundance: boredom. Cue a steady, incessant stream of think pieces of varying length in defence or praise of this maligned emotion.

As in the case of the picture of the train passengers, it is not very clear what the ideal baseline level of societal boredom should be. The pattern of the complaint is that the each new technology shifts the boundary. Thus television – the passive diversion that once banished useful boredom from our lives – is said to have been usurped by newer technologies. But added on is a layer of nostalgia: commentators will recall with fondness the time they spent watching bad television in their childhood.

Evil nowadays resides in portable networked devices, which in the current crop of think pieces are often granted worrying levels of agency. ‘Our phones hurt us by killing our ability to listen to boredom,’ writes Mónica Guzmán in GeekWire. ‘The iPhone killed my creativity,’ intones Brian Hall in another defence of boredom for ReadWrite. This alarmist language masks an impoverished notion of what boredom is and how it affects different people.

The idea that creative thinking requires letting one’s mind wonder in repose has deep roots in the literature and may deserve some credit – all the more since the study of neuroscience is beginning to validate the philosophers’ theories. But what is being systematically elided here – in the process of granting supernatural levels of agency to our screens – are the material and historical dimensions of the question.

The closest common ancestor to most of these think pieces is Joseph Brodsky’s 1989 commencement address at Dartmouth College, entitled ‘Listening to Boredom’. It’s a worthy if maddening read, culminating in the Kierkegaardian insight that boredom is ‘a window on time’s infinity’ that ‘teaches you the most valuable lesson of your life: the lesson of your utter insignificance.’ And a lesson worth heeding it may be. However, consider how this message might sound if it had been delivered to an audience of fast-food workers or office clerks, rather than to the assembled freshmen of an Ivy League university.

The pursuit of creativity, with the attendant need to cultivate spaces for contemplation and reflection, is not available to everyone equally. And for the vast majority of people, boredom has a very different inflection.

I grew up between two worlds: the big city where my parents lived and where I went to school, and the rural village where my grandparents lived and where I spent every second weekend and part of the summer holidays. It is to the latter that I owe my strongest recollections of childhood boredom: interminable days spent idling or searching vainly for something – anything – to do.

Having grown into a literate adult, I may be tempted to romanticise this experience, and credit it with granting me a heightened sensibility for the quotidian and for what the French master Georges Perec called ‘the infra-ordinary’. But in that village without libraries or theatres, without social or cultural clubs, in that stolidly anti-intellectual place, I saw boredom turn directly into violence. I remember how a friend with whom I had laboured to while away those summer afternoons drove a motorcycle at speed into an iron gate as soon as he was old enough to do so.

My mother escaped the village and its lethal boredom through books: the fiction and school texts she consumed as a child gave her a literal way out – first to a neighbouring town with a high school, then to a city with a university and a different kind of life. She never romanticised those beginnings, and loathed any talk of the ‘good old days’. She became an intermediate school teacher and always blamed misbehaviour among her students as her own failure to awaken their interest.

If we must talk about boredom, we should start by talking about the cultural and social opportunities that might enable us to view it as a positive value worthy of recapturing, and – if we want to bring technology into it – of its role in foreclosing or opening up such opportunities. This would be a conversation worth having."
giovannitiso  2016  boredom  technology  creativity  culture  attention  history  georgesperec  violence 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Small, Moving, Intelligent Parts – Words in Space
"Abstract: The great expositions and World’s Fairs of the 19th and 20th centuries were known for celebrating new technological developments. The world of index cards, fiches, and data management hardly seems germane to the avant-garde, one of the central concerns of this special issue – yet the fairs made clear that information management systems were themselves designed, and were critical components of more obviously revolutionary design practices and political movements. Cards and files became familiar attractions at expos throughout the long-20th century. But those standardized supplies came to embody different ideologies, different fantasies, as the cultural and political contexts surrounding them evolved – from the Unispheric “global village” modeled in 1964; to 1939’s scientifically managed World of Tomorrow; and, finally, to the age of internationalist aspirations that led up to World War I. We examine how the small, moving parts of information have indexed not only data, but also their own historical and cultural milieux."

[See also this thread,
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/748180579426930688

that points to
https://twitter.com/npseaver/status/735140727806648320
http://savageminds.org/2014/05/21/structuralism-thinking-with-computers/
https://takingnotenow.blogspot.com/2007/12/luhmanns-zettelkasten.html ]
shannonmattern  2016  information  history  postits  hypercard  indexcards  cards  paperslips  1964  1939  data  archives  fiches  microfiche  datamanagement  officesupplies  ottoneurath  patrickgeddes  jamerhunt  evenote  writersduet  scrivener  notecards  obliquestrategycards  brianeno  peterschmidt  marshallmcluhan  julesverne  milydickinson  walterbenjamin  wittgenstein  claudelévi-strauss  rolandbarthes  niklasluhmann  georgesperec  raymondcarver  stanleybrouwn  marklombardi  corneliavismann  eames  fragments  flow  streams  johnwilkins  knoradgessner  williamcroswellcharlescoffinjewett  vannevarbush  timberners-lee  remingtonrand  melvildewey  deweydecimalsystem  srg  paulotlet  henrilafontaine  sperrycorporation  burroughscorporation  technology  kardexsystems  sperryrand  hermanhollerith  frederickwinslotaylor  worldoftomorrow  charleseames  ibm  orithlpern  johnharwood  thomasfarrell  wallaceharrison  gordonbunschaft  edwarddurrellstone  henrydreyfuss  emilpraeger  robertmoses  janejacobs  post-its 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Frances Stonor Saunders · Where on Earth are you? · LRB 3 March 2016
"The one border we all cross, so often and with such well-rehearsed reflexes that we barely notice it, is the threshold of our own home. We open the front door, we close the front door: it’s the most basic geographical habit, and yet one lifetime is not enough to recount all our comings and goings across this boundary. What threshold rites do you perform before you leave home? Do you appease household deities, or leave a lamp burning in your tabernacle? Do you quickly pat down pockets or bag to check you have the necessary equipment for the journey? Or take a final check in the hall mirror, ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’?

You don’t have a slave to guard your door, as the ancients did, so you set the alarm (or you set the dog, cave canem). Keys? Yes, they’re in your hand. You have ‘the power of the keys’, the right of possession that connects you to thousands of years of legal history, to the rights of sovereigns and states, to the gates of salvation and damnation. You open the door, step through, and turn to close it – through its diminishing arc, the details of your life inside recede. ‘On one side, me and my place,’ Georges Perec wrote:
The private, the domestic (a space overfilled with my possessions: my bed, my carpet, my table, my typewriter, my books, my odd copies of the Nouvelle Revue française); on the other side, other people, the world, the public, politics. You can’t simply let yourself slide from one into the other, can’t pass from one to the other, neither in one direction nor in the other. You have to have the password, have to cross the threshold, have to show your credentials, have to communicate … with the world outside.

You lock the door. You’ve crossed the border. You’ve ignored Pascal’s warning that all humanity’s misery derives from not being able to sit alone in a quiet room. When the Savoyard aristocrat Xavier De Maistre was sentenced to six weeks’ house arrest for duelling in 1790, he turned his detention into a grand imaginary voyage. ‘My room is situated on the 45th degree of latitude,’ he records in A Journey around my Room. ‘It stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, 36 paces in perimeter if you hug the wall.’ And so he sets off, charting a course from his desk towards a painting hung in a corner, and from there he continues obliquely towards the door, but is waylaid by his armchair, which he sits in for a while, poking the fire, daydreaming. Then he bestirs himself again, presses north towards his bed, the place where ‘for one half of our life’ we forget ‘the sorrows of the other half’. And so on, ‘from the expedition of the Argonauts to the Assembly of Notables, from the lowest depths of hell to the last fixed star beyond the Milky Way, to the confines of the universe, to the gates of chaos’. ‘This,’ he declares, ‘is the vast terrain which I wander across in every direction at leisure.’

Whether around your room in forty days, or around the world in eighty days, or around the Circle Line in eighty minutes, whether still or still moving, the self is an act of cartography, and every life a study of borders. The moment of conception is a barrier surpassed, birth a boundary crossed. Günter Grass’s Oskar, the mettlesome hero of The Tin Drum, narrates, in real time, his troubling passage through the birth canal and his desire, once delivered into the world, to reverse the process. The room is cold. A moth beats against the naked light bulb. But it’s too late to turn back, the midwife has cut the cord.

Despite this uncommon ability to report live on his own birth, even Oskar’s power of self-agency is subject to the one inalienable rule: there is only one way into this life, and one way out of it. Everything that happens in between – all the thresholds we cross and recross, all the ‘decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse’ – is bordered by this unbiddable truth. What we hope for is safe passage between these two fixed boundaries, to be able to make something of the experience of being alive before we are required to stop being alive. There’s no negotiating birth or death. What we have is the journey.

On the evening of 3 October 2013, a boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis foundered just off the tiny island of Lampedusa. In the darkness, locals mistook their desperate cries for the sound of seagulls. The boat sank within minutes, but survivors were in the water for five hours, some of them clinging to the bodies of their dead companions as floats. Many of the 368 people who drowned never made it off the capsizing boat. Among the 108 people trapped inside the bow was an Eritrean woman, thought to be about twenty years old, who had given birth as she drowned. Her waters had broken in the water. Rescue divers found the dead infant, still attached by the umbilical cord, in her leggings. The longest journey is also the shortest journey.

Already, in the womb, our brains are laying down neural pathways that will determine how we perceive the world and our place in it. Cognitive mapping is the way we mobilise a definition of who we are, and borders are the way we protect this definition. All borders – the lines and symbols on a map, the fretwork of walls and fences on the ground, and the often complex enmeshments by which we organise our lives – are explanations of identity. We construct borders, literally and figuratively, to fortify our sense of who we are; and we cross them in search of who we might become. They are philosophies of space, credibility contests, latitudes of neurosis, signatures to the social contract, soothing containments, scars.

They’re also death zones, portals to the underworld, where explanations of identity are foreclosed. The boat that sank half a mile from Lampedusa had entered Italian territorial waters, crossing the imaginary line drawn in the sea – the impossible line, if you think about it. It had gained the common European border, only to encounter its own vanishing point, the point at which its human cargo simply dropped off the map. Ne plus ultra, nothing lies beyond.

I have no theory, no grand narrative to explain why so many people are clambering into their own hearses before they are actually dead. I don’t understand the mechanisms by which globalisation, with all its hype of mobility and the collapse of distance and terrain, has instead delivered a world of barricades and partition, in which entire populations seem to be living – and dying – in a different history from mine. All I know is that a woman who believed in the future drowned while giving birth, and we have no idea who she was. And it’s this, her lack of known identity, which places us, who are fat with it, in direct if hopelessly unequal relationship to her.

Everyone reading this has a verified self, an identity, formed through and confirmed by identification, that is attested to be ‘true’. You can’t function in the world without it: you can’t open a bank account, get a credit card or national insurance number, or a driving licence, or access to your email and social media accounts, or a passport or visa, or points on your reward card. You can’t have your tonsils removed without it. You can’t die without it. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, whether you like it or not, the verified self is the governing calculus of your life, the spectrum on which you, as an individual, are plotted from cradle to grave. As Pierre-Joseph Proudhon explained, you must be ‘noted, registered, enumerated, accounted for, stamped, measured, classified, audited, patented, licensed, authorised, endorsed, reprimanded, prevented, reformed, rectified and corrected, in every operation, every transaction, every movement.’"



"All migrants know that the reply to the question ‘Who on earth are you?’ is another question: ‘Where on earth are you?’ And so they want what we’ve got, a verified self that will transport them to our side of history. Thus, the migrant identity becomes a burden to be unloaded. Migrants often make the journey without identity documents, and I mentioned one reason for this, namely that the attempt to obtain them in their country of origin can be very dangerous. Others lose them at the outset when they’re robbed by police or border guards, or by people traffickers en route. Many destroy them deliberately because they fear, not without reason, that our system of verification will be a mechanism for sending them back. In Algeria, they’re called harraga, Arabic for ‘those who burn’. And they don’t only burn their documents: many burn their fingertips on hobs or with lighters or acid, or mutilate them with razors, to avoid biometric capture and the prospect of expulsion. These are the weapons of the weak.

The boat carrying more than five hundred Eritreans and Somalis sank off Lampedusa in October 2013, barely three months after the pope’s visit. Whether they had lost their identity papers, or destroyed them, when facing death the people on board wanted to be known. As the boat listed and took on water, and with most of the women and children stuck below deck, those who knew they wouldn’t make it called out their names and the names of their villages, so that survivors might carry ashore news of their deaths.​5 There isn’t really any other way: there’s no formal identification procedure for those who drown. In Lampedusa’s cemetery, the many plaques that read ‘unidentified migrant’ merely tell us that people have been dying in the Mediterranean for at least 25 years – more than twenty thousand of them, according to current estimates.

Everyone must be counted, but only if they count. Dead migrants don’t count. The woman who drowned while giving birth was not a biometric subject, she was a biodegradable one. I don’t want to reconstitute her as a sentimental artefact, an object to be smuggled into the already crowded room of my bad conscience. But … [more]
borders  identity  cartography  francesstonorsaunders  georgesperec  lampedusa  güntergrass  refugees  identification  personhood  geopolitics  legibility  mobility  passports  pierre-josephproudhon  globalization  thresholds  homes  milankundera  socialmedia  digitalexhaust  rfid  data  privacy  smartphones  verification  biometrics  biometricdata  migration  immigration  popefrancis  facialidentification  visas  paulfussell  stefanzweig  xenophobia  naomimitchison  nobility  surveillance  intentionality  gilbertharding  whauden  lronhubbard  paulekman 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Book Of A Lifetime: Life: A User's Manual, By Georges Perec | Reviews | Culture | The Independent
"The index of 'Life: A User's Manual' ('Life', for short) is enough to hook me again. How many novels have an index? And 58 pages long! I dip in at random to the letter D and find:

"DEMOCRITUS, Greek philosopher, 460-370 BC, 14.

Dempledorf (Nebraska), 499.

DEMPSEY (William Harrison, called Jack), American boxer, 83, 175

De natura renum, by Blancard, 478

DENIKIN (Anton Ivanovich), Russian general 1872-1947, 151."

A little further on, Dundee gets a mention. Georges Perec makes it sound exotic. Everything becomes more curious seen through this French writer's eyes. The opening quotation is from Jules Verne: "Look with all your eyes, look." I think that is what the novel gave me. There is Dundee, and there is 'Dundee'.

I discovered 'Life' by chance in a bookshop on Market Street in St Andrews as an undergraduate. It was 1989. It was just a punt; the day was grey and the cover was red and blue. It was published in French in 1978. An English translation by the excellent David Bellos appeared in 1987. Perec himself died from too many cigarettes in 1982, aged 45.

He was a member of Oulipo, an experimental writing group that included Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino (the Italian I count as a big influence on my own writing). Oulipo toyed with writing constraints. Perec wrote a novel without using the letter e and another where e was the only vowel. Life is also subject to lists, arrangements of chapters according to Graeco-Latin squares (don't ask), even crossword puzzles.

It doesn't matter if you never notice these strictures (I didn't). What matters is the storytelling. It is just before eight in the evening on 23 June 1975 in 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, a fictitious apartment building in the XVIIth arrondissment in Paris. Perec stops time. An old, blind English millionaire, Bartlebooth, is just about to die at his desk. He holds in his hand a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

In the quiet, like a surveying ghost, Perec moves through every room in the building and spins out stories on the characters stopped there. The effect is ever-changing. The stories cover several genres: romance, mystery, thriller, essay and comedy.

Throughout the knowledgeis arcane, brilliant and mischievous. In the internet age Perec may have fallen through the trapdoors of hyperlinks. Here, the scholarship feels substantial. In my first reading, 'Life' seemed celebratory and playful. As I went on, as a political and war correspondent, the world here and there cut to the bone, the book felt darker. People die alone, schemes fail. I thought this was Perec the orphan speaking, the desolate boy whose mother was killed in a Nazi death camp.

Now I prefer a more positive feeling. Perec is showing that life is precious – time, people, even objects – and is precious because they cannot last."
jmdegard  books  georgesperec  life  oulipou  raymondqueneau  italocalvino 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Peter Buwert Research » Georges Perec – Questioning the habitual
“The daily papers talk of everything except the daily. The papers annoy me, they teach me nothing. What they recount doesn’t concern me, doesn’t ask me questions and doesn’t answer the questions I ask or would like to ask.

What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?

To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated by it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, is if it carried with it neither questions nor answers, as if it  weren’t the bearer of any information. This is no longer even conditioning, its anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep, but where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?

How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what are.

What’s needed perhaps is finally to found our own anthropology, one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what for so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic any more, but the endotic.

To question what seems so much a matter of course that we’ve forgotten its origins. To rediscover something of the astonishment that Jules Verne or his readers may have felt faced with an apparatus capable of reproducing and transporting sounds. For that astonishment existed, along with thousands of others, and its they which have moulded us.

What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, our utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we open doors, we go down staircases, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why?

Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare.

Make an inventory of your pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out.

Question your teaspoons.

What is there under your wallpaper?

How many movements does it take to dial a phone number? Why?”

Georeges Perec in Everyday Life Reader. p.177-178

[See also:
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/8520-what-we-need-to-question-is-bricks-concrete-glass-our
via http://o.izziezahorian.com/post/3130120776/what-we-need-to-question-is-bricks-concrete ]
anthropology  banality  defamiliarization  everyday  familiar  georgesperec  habitual  research  tools  comparison  thewhy  criticaldesign  observation  noticing  reevaluation  unschooling  deschooling  why 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Wakefield Press
"Wakefield Press is an independent American publisher devoted to the translation of overlooked gems and literary oddities in small, affordable, yet elegant paperback editions. Our publications include the Wakefield Handbooks series (the guidebook as imagined through literature) and the Imagining Science series (science as imagined through literature), as well as forays into classic experimental fiction (literature as imagined through literature). Authors range from literary giants to those underrepresented (or unknown) in English."
publishers  books  wakefieldpress  georgesperec  benjaminpéret  pierrelouÿs  balzac  marcelschwob  charlesfourier  paulscheerbart  renédaumal  jean-pierremartinet 
february 2013 by robertogreco
On Performance « SB129
"Performance has always played an important role in design… The communication of a project – be it in front of a client, a peer group, conference audience or general public, requires a level of performance. How the story behind a project is constructed and told makes an enormous difference to its reception. I’ve always encouraged my students to embrace the performative nature of project crits and presentations. If you design, direct, practice and perform your presentations you’ll go far…

If we abstract the ‘script’ from the object and focus purely on the social interaction, we have something close to the work of Tino Sehgal…

This is where performance comes into it’s own, it acts like a mirror to the actions, relationships and events that make up our daily lives. It gives us the necessary distance to examine, reflect and understand what we do and why… surely a useful activity for design and designers."
relationships  infa-ordinary  georgesperec  tommarriot  larissaseilern  socialchange  performing  movement  martinturner  matthouse  practice  teaching  education  art  theseassociations  objects  madelineakrich  performingtoknow  reflection  crits  sharing  performativeturns  constructedsituations  context  storytelling  communication  presentations  tinosehgal  design  performance  2012  mattward 
september 2012 by robertogreco

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