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An Experiment

Abby Sarah's picture

This is an experiment. It may fail, and if it does, it does. Call it a road-map of ideas with some semblance of direction. As I was finishing up The Hungry Tide, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of connections, both within itself and to other authors we’ve read. In struggling to narrow my focus or even create a thesis, I decided to try a (hopefully) more ecological approach and work with more associative thought as oppose to directive, and begin to map out these connections. So here is a rather unconventional means to present my ideas (and those of Ghosh, Morton and Haraway), as an a collection of ideas imbedded in a Prezi:


Anne Dalke's picture

Last month, you designed a rather over-ambitious course on interdisciplinary pedagogy; this month, you tried something else somewhat astonishing. Ever since I’ve begun teaching environmental studies, I’ve been asking my students to consider the limitations of the conventional academic paper, of the way in which its linear structure insistently refuses the ecological thought that “everything is connected to everything else.” And here, finally! I’m seeing an experiment that tries to visualize what an “ecological” paper might actually look like…

I was particularly surprised to see this experiment, because you were pushing back, online and in class a few weeks ago, on Haraway’s claim that “things are complicated and connected,” by observing that “we demonstrate selective attention on a day-to-day basis for a reason,” ignoring “pieces of the constant influx of information” in order ““to get through the day.” And yet here you are trying out what might happen if you do NOT ignore what arises, the associative and non-linear things that emerge as we trace a path, think through a thought….

And now you’ve got me wondering if the Prezi format really provides the associative format that someone seeking to represent the ecological thought might use. I happened to read your project first on my I-Phone, and it’s laid out in an entirely linear format--which made me realize that Prezis actually are linear, with lots of flashy motion to simulate non-linearity.

Stopping the motion and stepping back, though, does reveal a visual that is quite loopy—

I think that the mode we may be seeking is actually that of some form of “loopiness”—a kind of repetition that is both reverberates and is recursive (see both Gertrude Stein and Paul Grobstein on this; many of my own classroom experiments are similarly “loopy”…)

Slowing down the Prezi also brings me to a few moments I’d enjoy thinking through w/ you more fully. I can trace understand the movement from slide #7 (“in these moments of clarity, we begin to see the dichotomies Ghosh has highlighted”) through #17 (“revisit dichotomies as more fluid than they first appear”), to #14 (“Ghosh makes fluid any understanding of the narrative on a whole”) and “ #21 (“an ecological picture defies a single definition or dichotomy”). I’m less clear about the distinctions you lay out @ #9: “there is reality, there is translation, and then there is the ‘translator’s bluff,’ or embellishment.” I’m curious to understand more fully the “poetry and prose methodologies” you reference on slide #15. And I’m not understanding (yet) the connections you draw @ #13 and #14 between the strange stranger (those with uncertain identities) and the cyborg (those with confused boundaries). You say that “both envision the other, those who stand outside boundaries,” but it seems to me that the concept of the “strange stranger” insists on our profound differences from one another (and even our profound differences from—our inability to understand—ourselves), while the cyborg refuses those differences, collapses the boundaries between human and animal, natural and artificial.

Much to discuss!

Tosin and Abby— give a look @ (and comment on?!) one another’s very different projects—Tosin seeking directness and clarity, Abby giving up on it, and letting the associations flow!