An event organised by myself and Thom van Dooren from the University of New South Wales. To be held at the
Environmental Humanities Laboratory
Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
2-4 December 2014
While the fear of capricious immortals living high atop Mount Olympus may have waned, the current age of the Anthropocene appears to have brought with it insistent demands for us mere mortals to engage with unpredictable and dangerous beings that wield power over life itself. Plastics, radioactive waste, fossil fuels and species extinctions have interpellated us into unfathomably vast futures and deep pasts, with their effects promising to circulate through air, water, rock and flesh for untold millions of years. Human time, geological time and a host of other temporal frames and possibilities confront each other in new ways, with little understanding on our part of how to find calibrations that might allow a reconciliation between them (Hatley; Chakrabarty; Bastian; Metcalf and van Dooren).
One consequence is that relationships between life and death, creation and decay have become uncanny; no longer entailing what was once taken for granted. The unravelling of inter-generational and inter-species relationships in the current mass extinction event shifts death from being a partner to life toward the ‘double death’ that amplifies mortality until it overruns life altogether (Rose). While at the same time, the finitude of acts of creation, evoked so clearly in Shelley’s Ozymandias, is no longer as certain as it might once have been. Instead, in specific, but crucial contexts, it is not the dissipation and silencing of our creative and technical works that is feared, but the threat that they might circulate endlessly (Masco; Morton).
The aim of this symposium, then, is to explore the shifting relationships between time, mortality and finitude in the context of the Anthropocene. Find out more and submit an abstract.
One of the aims of the Temporal Belongings project is to respond to the lack of research available on the interconnection between time and community. As part of this, our AHRC project from 2012 included funding to develop an interview series that would provide new materials for this research area. After a fair few delays I'm now happy to announce that we have started publishing our interviews on the Temporal Belongings website. Our most recent (the third in the series) is available online from today. I speak with Alison Gilchrist, an independent consultant and author of The Well-Connected Community, which explores a networking/systems theory model of community development.
You can read this and previous interviews in the series here.
A new post about the More-than-human Participatory Research project is now up on the AHRC Connected Communities blog:
Having to put on a protective suit to meet up with potential new research partners doesn’t seem to bode at all well, but it was what myself and a team of other researchers found ourselves doing in May last year, as part of a Connected Communities project that focused on co-designed research. This particular workshop explored the possibility of doing participatory action research with bees, but over the course of the year we pretended to be dogs and underwent clicker training, we went wild swimming and also talked to trees. Our aim was to test out a variety of co-design methods to see what happened when you tried to extend them to include non- humans.
Back in 2011 the AHRC's Connected Communities programme funded a number of research reviews and scoping studies which looked at the question of community from a variety of angles.
During my PhD I had found it quite difficult to find material that looked specifically at the relationship between concepts of time and concepts of community and so was keen to scope out what might be available across the wider multi-disciplinary literature. So it was really exciting to get some funding to focus on this and even more exciting to see the results now published with Time and Society.
You can find out more about the project, including links to the full bibliography developed as part of the study on the Temporal Belongings website.
The film from our final workshop of the more-than-human participatory research project is now available. Our water workshop took place on the 1-2 of October at/on/in the River Torridge. We worked with artist Antony Lyons and members from the North Devon Biosphere Reserve and the Devon Wildlife Trust to explore whether the recent Connected Communities-funded Ethical Guidelines for Community-Based Participatory Research might be extended to working with non-humans, specifically water. Thanks to our film-maker Marietta Galazka.
A new post about my recent attendance at the Slow University II Seminar at the University of Durham:
The Slow Movement often comes up when I talk to people about the Sustaining Time project. It’s a nice clear way of explaining why you might want to think about time as part of developing more sustainable forms of economics. Slow Food, for example, suggests that a sustainable food system would need to use a very different time to the one guiding industrial agriculture. And of course the slow movement hasn’t stopped there but has been moving into a whole range of different areas, including into research with ‘slow science’ and ‘slow scholarship’ gaining more attention.
Keep reading over at the Sustaining Time blog
With various projects that were due around the new year now being finished up, I've had time to return to my work on the Sustaining Time project. I'll be blogging there about a range of issues that came up in the case study research from last year. Here's an extract from a recent post that looked back at the inspiration for the project:
All around us, the dominant stories of how people interact with each other and the kinds of incentives and rewards they respond to are shifting. Instead of competitive self-interested units, we are more generous, more co-operative and more complex than main-stream economists give us credit for. The structure and characteristics of the web woven between the human and non-human, between the biological, the mineral and the elemental are being questioned and described in new ways. Gift-based economies, the new commons, cooperation, abundance instead of scarcity and distributed networks are just a few examples.
Keep reading over at the Sustaining Time blog
Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in quite a few different funded projects. I’ve been exploring clocks, local food, more-than-human participation, transition towns and more. Now that most of these have come to an end, I’ve got more time to focus on writing up the results of these projects and sharing them more widely. I had been looking forward to this part of the research process, but as soon as it arrived the familiar anxieties around writing came flooding back.
So just before Christmas I thought it might be worth reviewing my writing process to see whether I could incorporate any new methods. I’d done a lot of this while I was writing up my Ph.D. (two of my favourites here and here) and this had helped me get a lot more writing done. But I still thought of writing as a painful process where every word was written in blood.
When I came across Robert Boice’s claim in Professors as Writers that writing could be painless, and even enjoyable, it seemed like a dream. But recently I put some of his ideas into practice and was astonished to find myself writing a 5,000 word paper over three days, while also doing a course from 9-5 each day. Most of the time the writing was pretty painless and as I went along I even started to enjoy it. So I thought I’d share some of what I tried and why it seems to make such a difference.
What stood out for me in Boice’s guide is the way he brings spontaneous writing together with the outlining and structuring process. He suggests that when starting a piece of writing, first spend between ten minutes and an hour writing about your topic. Don't worry about structure or getting anything perfect. Just write. The main aim is to get your ideas down on paper. Once you’ve done this, review what you’ve written and make a note of the key points, clustering them around a few main themes. You can then sort out these clusters into a logical structure that will then serve as an initial outline for your next draft. Repeat this process for each of the sections you’ve highlighted in your outline until you have your first full rough draft.
Usually when write I sit staring at the same few sentences, trying to work out the right way to begin. Often I furiously delete them when I realise that they won’t flow into what I need to write next. But using spontaneous writing I could set aside all those anxieties about getting things in the right order and just write everything down. I trusted that I would go back through it all later and sort it out them. It felt lovely to be able to delegate that task to my future self and just get on with getting my ideas out on paper.
This spontaneous writing tended to be quite conversational at first. I wrote about how I was feeling and what other things I was worrying about, before getting down to the specific topic at hand. This meant that I wrote a lot more than I needed. For example, I wrote 1200 words for an introductory paragraph that ended up being 300. But even with this ‘wastage’ I still wrote the whole thing more quickly and easily than I ever had before. I wondered whether this self talk was a necessary part of getting into the swing of things. Perhaps a bit like the way people usually spend some time chatting before getting to the main reason for their meeting. Maybe I need to observe these social niceties even with myself.
Going onto the next stage of outlining was pretty much a revelation. I hadn't ever used an outline in the past, apart from when I was forced to in high school. It didn’t make sense to me to outline when I needed to write to figure out what I wanted to say. But using Boice’s method (and my new favourite programme Scapple) I ended up with a nice clear outline for the whole paper and a good sense of where each section was headed. I was surprised at how complicated the outline was. The implication was that in every previous piece of writing, I’d been doing this hard work of figuring out the structure of my paper at the same time as writing the first draft. No wonder I had always found writing so painful.
During my Ph.D. I got much more used to the idea that writing was a craft, rather than an innate ability bestowed on the few. I believed I could learn to be more disciplined or have better technical skills. But what this process showed me was that I hadn’t extended the idea of writing-as-craft to the possibility that you could also learn to write in a way that was enjoyable and relatively anxiety-free. I'm not there yet, but a least now it seems a little less like a dream and more like something I might come to learn.