Must do better

I have decided while walking the dog to take my own school report seriously. I’m sitting here, coffee at hand, dog at feet with Clandinin and Connelly, Anne Carson, Ivan Illich, all assembled and am going to rewrite yesterday’s blog more seriously.

Here goes.

I keep crafting the metaphor blog in my mind and then not getting round to writing it. Meanwhile I spend quite a bit of time whitening my tennis shoes to avoid
a. the metaphor blog
b. writing 7,000 words on knowledge work

(In the interests of true honesty I should add that this re-write is a tsw (tennis-shoe-whitening) activity to avoid me
a. doing yoga and
b. sorting out the recording kit to take to Geneva tomorrow)

Luckily tennis-shoe-whitening has got me through four loads of washing and a lot of kitchen cupboards. Which reminds me of a man who extolled the virtues of uncompleted tax returns. As long as they hang over you, you must feverishly undertake apparently useful displacement activity to avoid the horror of the looming thing.

At least, courtesy of Ivan Illich and his gorgeous early ’70’s rants, I know that the metaphor blog is called ‘poets and clowns’. So I’m creeping towards it.

‘Poets and clowns have always risen up against the oppression of creative thought by dogma. They expose literalmindedness with metaphor. They demonstrate the follies of seriousness in a framework of humour. Their intimate wonder dissolves certainties, banishes fear, and undoes paralysis. The prophet can denounce creeds and expose supersittions and mobilize people to use their lights and wits. Poetry, intution and theory can offer intimations of the advance of dogma against wit that may lead to a revolution in awareness.’

(I’m also finding his attacks on the professionalisation of knowledge quite heartening for my enquiry to to what the hell knowledge workers are.)

And meanwhile, to show I’ve not forgotten my self-imposed task of wregular writing, here’s a little amuse gueule from the father of Louisa M Alcott which I picked up from the Guardian Weekend magazine:

‘more routine, less living.’

So perhaps the blog can wait awhile.

Of course Anne Carson is quite pointy in ‘Decreation’ about self-serving purpose of quotes, caesared from full texts and cut loose from their context.

‘What is a quote? A quote (cognate with quota) is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. you suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away. Part of what you enjoy in a documentary technique is a sense of banditry. To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view, which is called “objective” because you can make anything into an object by treating it this way, is exciting and dangerous.’

Objects and subjects, subjects and objects. The subject of objects is accumulating a kind of magnetic interest.

Ana Antonio Gill wrote to tell me that she is currently working with a group who were victims of violence, mainly racial abuse. They are using workshops with objects as prompts and digital photography. The final exhibition will be of the photographs, the objects themselves and a sketch/story book which the participants will then keep in order to recollect their experiences and help them find forms of expression.

This leads me on to my dereliction of duty as a narrative inquirer which I was hoping to avoid but must confess to at least in part. Clandinin and Connelly’s book has dauntingly useful passages on field texts, how to construct and use them:

‘Field texts aid the enquirer to move back and forth between full involvement with participants and distance from them….When narrative enquirers are in the field, they are never there as disembodied recorders of someone else’s experience. They too are having an experience, the experience of the enquiry that entails the experience they set out to explore.’

‘To illustrate the various kinds of field texts the narrative enquirer can use, we look at a variety of field texts employed and interwoven by one researcher. We explore the use of teacher stories; autobiographical writing; journal writing; field notes; letters; converseation; research interviews; family stories; documents; photographs; memory boxes, and other personal-family-social artifacts; and life experience. All of which can make valuable field texts.’

And I so don’t. No poetry. No two-columned observations – facts in one column, emotions in another. (Marginalia). No photos. No scraps and fragments of experience, observation, lists and literature. My narrative notes are in torn out bits of newspaper, random sheets of paper, half-baked diagrams scrawled on the back of envelopes, scrunched up and put in a back jean pocket and forgotten about until after they’ve ruined the next wash, moleskin books intended at outset to be orderly, dated, well documented, neat, but instead scrawled and circled and incomprehensible, hijacked for other projects when that project notebook was not to hand.

But at least this has got us thinking, in our work which is about to kick off for the Museums, Libraries and Archives London partnership, about how we want to create collaborative field texts which articulate our journals and observations as enquirers as well as assemble desk research, interviews, photos and other things. To some extent I suppose you could regard it as formalising the marginalia so that they cease to be marginal and make their own life – an attempt to document the evolving internal world of the enquirer, suitably distanced from the offerings of those who are enquired of, so that there is not contamination but the voices of both can be heard distinctly.

I know that in this respect I’m going to be indebted to Bev Traynor (who accidentally pushed me into setting up this blog) and her tremendous thinking about the documenting implications of new media – take a look at this co-authored wiki space:
Remembering and forgetting: a Review of Narrative and Technologies from a Communities of Practice Perspective

And sometimes it’s the smallest things. In km4dev skype conversations with Bev and others she has used the the chat space to make a log of what the conversation covers – a kind of unmeeting note.
Obviously. So very obviously. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Must do better.


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