Archives for posts with tag: thoughts

My ephemeral year spent in Sheffield has been on my mind of late. My recollections leaving me with the taste of uncoiled thoughts and feelings still in my memory buffer patiently waiting to be let loose into my wider sensorium. If only there was an easy way for that to happen.


I wrote this draft nearly a year ago (2009-11-28) and just unearthed it. So, I’m going to post it without edits. And add some new thoughts below.

For nearly a decade now I have wanted a PhD. I know this sounds strange, I mean wanting a PhD like I crave a favorite food dish or a particularly lovely new piece of technology. The point is however, that I thought the PhD was really important, it meant that I could reach a particular point in my intellectual travels. The PhD had specific conntations of who I wanted to be and where I would be. Now I don’t think the same way. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to study and receive a PhD, but it does mean that I have changed how and where I place importance in my work/research. Let me Explain.

I saw a film recently, it was called Tum Mile, it was a bollywood piece and it wasn’t too briliant. The film did however feature at least one interesting line and it was spoken by the male protagonist, a self confessed artist: “I make my art for the common person”. Now, while I hate the words ‘common person’, I can see what the character means, in his context he is speaking of making art that isn’t for fellow artists, art critics of gallery people, who think of art as a business or as ‘high’ culture, he wants his art to speak to everybody else. In this way I am the same, I want to transform and change myself and others, which also feature in magic, but we’re not going there, yet. I have moved from caring about the needs and interests of academia, which is loosely thought of as the lecturers, professors and students in a high tower separated from the rest of the world, only talking to each other about how their work changes the world but never actually getting involved in changing the world, or trying to live in it. These reasons also seem to be why academia hasn’t been badly effected by any economic downturns but we can get into that later, and in another piece.

Now, where was I? I place meaning, and direct my research to something academia calls the ‘public’ outside  the tower .

The Philosopher, A C Graying has said numerous times that philosophers have to communicate their ideas and views to a wider public if they are to ave any importance. He even takes it further, he thinks that it is the philosopher’s role to communicate, share and educate everybody they can, breaking the barriers of academia and not, which only disadvantage all concerned.

I am currently finishing my MPhil, and do not want to pursue a PHD right now. In the year since I’ve written the above, my thoughts on life have changed, resulting in the fact that most of what I want to do now is not myopically limited by the PhD. I want to venture into other things, and other realms without thinking that my life and career don’t start until I have a PhD. Maybe in the future I will find something I really want to dedicate to a PhD. We’ll see. For now though, look forward to me annoucing and doing other things.

I’d like to say the Future’s bright…

All in one digital capture systems like DevonThink are a hoarder’s wet dream. They allow the user to capture, tag and organise any scrap of potential information they think may one day be important, hence hoarding. The problem however, is that even if a user is good at organising their information, there needs to be a path, even a potential one, to follow, and allow meaning to arise.

The age we currently inhabit is called the ‘Information’ Age, which reflects the importance we now all put on ‘information’. I should clarify that by ‘ we all’ I mean people inhabiting a ‘western’ tradition. Information is not meaning, or so the saying goes. And no I’m not commenting on whether it’s true or not, not yet anyway.

ground up knowledge sharing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how knowledge is created and shared, in fact my current thesis is about how this happens within archaeology, and I hope to take it further. I am currently investigating a ‘disunified’ approach to knowledge production and meaning, an approach which is heavily influenced by the ‘disunity of science thesis’ and it is from this work that I will draw an example.

The ‘Monte Carlod Method’ stemmed from the research into the creation of the Thermonuclear bomb in America, specifically the use of computer simulation in the research. What quickly became apparent during the research was that not everybody was using the simulators in the same way or for the same thing. The researchers did all however, use the computer simulators. The way the researchers used the computers it really was a version of virtual reality, the aim being to reconstruct real world conditions that weren’t possible or safe to at the time. Which leads into how the Monte Carlo research is an example of ‘disunified’ science.

The striking feature of inter-disciplinary research is the hybridisation of skill sets and knowledge which lead to a synthesis of new knowledge and new skill sets that straddle two or more disciplinary fields. Trading zones do not require such hybridisation. It is the phenomena and how to study it that locates a new trading zone, or research group. Therefore researchers may only focus on one facet of work within one methodology. This ability can lead to multi-vocality – an integral constituent of a trading zone. It was not necessary for everybody involved in the Monte Carlo experiments to have the same skills. This meant that some researchers could focus on the game-theory aspect, or convergence problems, while others focused on particular problems or methods, and other researchers yet exploited basic results (Galison 1996: 153).

This then means that not everybody has to share the same thoughts, and feelings about a specific study, discipline or discourse. People may disagree on a word to describe a set of phenomena, but they don’t disagree about the phenomena itself, or its importance, although it is entirely possible that they’ll disagree about the actual, specific importance. What usually happens is that a ‘pidgin’ language will grow up around the researchers, which is intrinsically linked to their group, and often meaningless to anyone outside it.

Book Mentioned: Galison, Peter. Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics

Credit(s)/Acknowledgment(s): I’ve posted this after talking to Matt Webb about some of these ideas which got me thinking, and made me spray my thoughts out here.

This post is a little late, namely due to my forgetting it was in this notebook. I realise that this actually makes sense in relation to how i treat notebooks. Something I go into further below.

(Originally written 09/04/02009)

For the last nine months or so I have carried around and scribbled in a black, hardback, slightly larger than A5 size notebook. Instead of keeping separate notebooks for separate projects, writing in pads which i could detach the individual pages and keep all related pieces together, I kept this one notebook so that I didn’t have the chance of losing or destroying bits of paper as I have often done in the past.

Now of course If had lost or destroyed this notebook I was using I would have lost everything, but luckily I didn’t, I filled each page and now it is full and time to move onto scribbling ink into in to a new, different notebook.

I started my new book, a week ago, and as the now filled notebook had all my project(s) notes in it I kept it on me along with my new notebook so that I could flick through it and find pieces that I need to back to and consult.

Today I only took my new notebook as the plan was to only scribble down what had been dancing around my thoughts since i woke up this morning.

However, as it always goes, as I was in the cafe I had need to consult my, now filled, old notebook, and go over a few sections I had scribbled down mainly in the recent past. The problem of course was that it really was the past I couldn’t remember anything I had written on the subject beyond the general theme. So, alas, I realised perhaps for the first time, that my notebook was not simply a place that I scribbled down thoughts, to ‘exorcise’ them from me, but, instead, the notebook acted as some sort of external record for what I have been working on for the last nine months, a much more faithful residue than my memories perhaps.

– Now the point of this piece, I have become very attached to my notebooks and rely on them more than I realised. I wouldn’t function or research in the same way if I didn’t carry one around with me. And, as I have shown it is not simply the carrying of a notebook that is important, but the collection of notes and observations that goes along with carrying one.

– Now I just need to honour my notebook properly by going through it and ‘excavating’ and ‘rescuing’ the pieces that I have fully forgotten about. I did this recently with an even older notebook and found pieces I had no recollection of ever writing. Finding such pieces brought back ideas of the time and places I had written the pieces, and in some cases the people I had been writing with.

Dan Hill, writer of the blog City of Sound, has a recent piece up on his site about Sheffield. The piece is interesting, especially the bits that dwell on the music that has come out of the city, concentrating on pulp who I have never really known much about. As I now call this city one of homes, the piece is a good way for me to interact with the city on multiple levels. The first is that I can gleam a little history of the city, both in terms of architecture and in music. I also get some insights of someone who grew up within Sheffield, and how Hill now feels returning, if even for a brief trip.

Much of what Hill sys is interesting and new. I am not sure that I agree with his characterisation of the the Sheffield and the north as monotomous and bleak, and rather uninteresting, but that is something I will address another time when I have the words (and images).

Part the way into the piece Hill says:

Now an almost hollow city, cruelly mined of the manufacturing, trade and resources industries that were its raison d’etre, urban regeneration is pretty much the only strategy in town, leaving a centre defined by cafe bars, galleries and retail, and its edges pitted with vacant development sites next to sheds containing Matalan and Wickes.

It is exactly this city I see when i roam around it, however, it is in this way that I see a sheffield that is becoming and is in many ways a post-industrial sprawl. The city isn’t planned, or organised, neither does all the projects and constant building and converting appear to be.

I even see construction workers, and council maitenance people at work at weekends, and most days before 8am. This, for someone from London, is astonishing, especially if it wakes you up in the morning.However, it the appearance of change and investment of time and money. A city that is not hanging it head to a death bell ringing in its ears. The city is stead moving forward.

One of the things that grabs me as I move about the city is that is feels like itis changing and moving forward, there may be no destination in plain view but that doesn’t matter so much to me.

The ful article is: CITYOFSOUND: Sheffield and the North

Below is an extract from a guardian article discussing and illustrating the darker side of Dubai. It makes very interesting reading, considering that many of the items discussed have been in the minor news, for several years already.

Now, says McNabb, ‘you drive your western car to your western office. At the weekends you go to the western hotels and have your western buffets and western-style beach club, and it’s quite easy to ignore the fact that you’re abroad.’

He’s right. It is easy. It’s four days before I hear any actual Arabic. Most remarkably of all the remarkable things about Dubai is that it’s occupied almost entirely by foreigners: native Emiratis make up barely 20 per cent of the population. They’re a minority in their own country.

When I meet Sultan Al-Qassemi, a businessman and journalist, he points out that the Emiratis are handling this rather better than the British would. ‘Can you imagine? It’s the equivalent of there being 55m foreigners in Britain, and just 5m of you. It’s a unique case, and I think we deserve extra credit for the way we are handling it. The country is completely open. It is a utopia! Anyone can come here! We are one of the most tolerant countries in the world. And all this has happened in a single generation. Thirty years ago, it was desert.’

The rest of the article is here

Below is an extract from my BA dissertation in which I attempted to explain human being to a non philosphical audience. It may have some relevence to the post below

” Dasein: “We are ourselves the entities to be analysed…the essence of Dasein lies in its existence” (Heidegger 1962: 67). Therefore Dasein is equated with being human. The structures to be investigated are those of human beings.

Present-at-hand and Ready-to-hand: “ The things Dasein encounters are usable, employable in the pursuit of its purposes: in Heidegger’s terms, they are not just present-to-hand, the object of theoretical contemplation, but handy or ready-to-hand. That is the way in which Dasein encounters them when it looks after something or makes use of it, accomplishes something or leaves something undone” (Mulhall 2005: 41).

Being-in-the-world: The state in which human beings exist, Dasein itself literally means ‘being-there’ (Mulhall 2005: 40). Dasein’s Being-in-the-world is a unitary and holistic experience (Heidegger 1962: 78, Mulhall 2005: 36) therefore its everyday experience, is not an inner mental state and then an outer world. Being in should not be confused with Being-in, that is humans are not ‘in’ the world like water is in a glass (Heidegger 1962: 79). “


Heidegger, m. 1962 Being and Time Oxford: Blackwell

Mulhall, S. 2005 Heidegger and Being and Time: Second edition London: Routledge

1. People are beginning to ask a lot, what is I am doing, and what I am.

2. Now I am embarking on my own work, it’s time to really think about what it is I want, my longer term plans etc.

3. I don’t particularly need a one word descriptor, but people I talk to seem to need it. So lets see if I can combine the above two points and make some sense.

The one word descriptor is that I am an anthropologist. An Encarta definition gives me:

The study of humankind in all its aspects, especially human culture or human development. It differs from sociology in taking a more historical and comparative approach.

Apart from the ‘human development’ and the ‘comparative’ phrases, I would largely agree with this definition. I would however have to extend it to add an emphasis on studying human being, and in particular human being in the world ( I realise that I should also explain my specific use of ‘being’, but will do so when i am not so foggy and full of flu). Similar words have been spoken recently by Tim Ingold in his ‘Anthropology is not Ethnography‘ talk at the British academy. I would also have to add the idea that anthropology studies the past, present and future (if that wasn’t already understood to be the case). Therefore, it matters little how I am defined other than this, many people would want to say that I am ‘multi-disciplinary’ or ‘genre blurring’ in my work. My own comments on how wrong this is can wait for another time, and I hope to an extent the reasons are made manifest in this post.

So, my aim and long term goals are to teach and write about people, in the myriad ways that are possible, even the fictional, and I don’t just want the talking and/or writing to be to other ‘in the know’ academics.

This is becoming a manifesto as well, isn’t it?

After all that it seems that I have distanced myself from the one word descriptor, as my definition of anthropology is different to what people usually think, and I would have to rehearse the contents of this post to people, and usually don’t have the time, or people aren’t interested, or I don’t want to do it because I sound pretend-tious (like now).

Right now I am officially doing an MPhil in Archaeology, but if the above is understood then what I am doing is not simply digging a hole.

Why cannot people ask what I do, and want more than a one word descriptor, really is it so hard for people to be interested in other people?

Transitioning to Sheffield is complete, but has left me without a computer unless I get to the library or computer suite (my mac dies during the summer). So blogging will recomense.

What is it with cities and street signs, I swear trying to follow directions or find buildings on streets is horrendous. Most streets seem to have done away with signs, except the residential areas. So it’s easy to navigate around areas i don’t really go and a nightmare to get around the city centre. Luckily most of the uni buildings are signposted pretty well. All this for a city that has a city planning department in the university.