Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reflections on art & design at UIUC

So I'm back in Ottawa after a couple of very good days in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois - which, as our little Saab 340 landed, I learned is smack in the middle of a bunch of huge corn fields! On Sunday night I had the pleasure of meeting, eating and drinking with some of the fine people involved in the Critical Spatial Practice reading group at UIUC and other equally bright and engaging folks. You may recall last year's Walking as Knowing as Making symposium, and if you're not familiar with the Critical Spatial Practice blog and its associated del.icio.us links, they're wonderful resources for all things spatial, cultural and critical.

I believe that my presentation on Monday went well - I certainly enjoyed myself at least. There was a good turnout, and I was particularly impressed by the quality of questions that students came up with, as well as their willingness to further complicate things rather than trying to reduce and simplify them. I presented a jumble of ideas in an attempt to explore the messiness, contradictions and mutability I believe to be inherent in social and material relations, and it was good to be reminded that some people genuinely desire purity, certainty and absolute positionality rather than the kinds of indeterminacy and contingency I favour.

I managed to rub some people the wrong way with my unexplained use of the word "we" and a weak critique of the current hipster craft and user-generated content movement - and no one seemed particularly interested in the historical experiences of anthropology and the politics and ethics of collecting culture, which kind of surprised me - but I did manage to get people taking about the nature of critique. Of course it's almost impossible to explain all the theoretical and methodological matters at hand in such a short time, and people unfamiliar with my work - or the range of social and cultural critiques in general - could very well be at a loss during some of my presentations because I tend to skip those bits. I'll definitely pay more attention to this in the future.

I also need to find a better way to post my presentations online because I don't use speaking notes and my slides usually comprise pictures, quotes or very short points that trigger my memory. This, of course, makes them almost useless to others. But I'll see what I can do.

Special thanks to David Weightman for the invitation, and to Kevin Hamilton for his consistently brilliant and witty insights during our many hours of walking and waiting. (And especially for showing me the gorgeous old stock pavilion and agreeing that it would be a great place to hold classes. There's just something so grounded and appealing about debating theoretical perspectives with the smell of manure in the air!) I'd also like to thank my post-lecture dinner companions for making me laugh so hard - I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone I met.

1 Comments:

Anonymous soychicka said...

Class in the stock pavilion? Maybe... but only if
Betsy
isn't around. The scent of partially-digested, partially-fermented vegetation isn't wholly conducive to a learning environment.

But if it's the scent of manure you're looking for, just wait for the wind to change direction... then just about anywhere on campus should suit your purpose. :)

On a serious note, however, I've been thoroughly enjoying your blog... somehow you seem to touch on my interests in cultural/lingusitic anthropology, user interaction/UI design, political ethnography, impact of technology on cultural evolution, etc., etc. ... as well as my obsession with knitting.

Thank you.

22:24  

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