woensdag 13 september 2017

Next Walking Seminar on September 22nd

The topic of our next walking seminar will be "Questions to do with doing". As present day researchers, we tend to not just want to learn about people’s opinions (beliefs, feelings), we also seek to know what they do. Classically, this is where participant observation comes in. This allows for the observations of doings. However, sometimes such observation is not so easy to accomplish. The doings are too intimate or too rare or too dangerous and so on. 
Which leaves us with interviews. How to do interviews that teach you about doings? Which questions to ask? How to get through too self-evident, or non-verbal and/or contentious aspects of practices? 
And then, at a later stage (for if you have gathered all your materials this walking seminar is still for you!) – how to write about practices – on which/whose terms? How may we best navigate in our writing between academic language(s) and field/interview words?
Be welcome to join our walk-talk on september 22nd. 

maandag 3 april 2017

Last Friday's Walking Seminar

On the last day of March we had another Walking Seminar edition, this time on the topic When is good good enough? Although the weather was not as perfect as expected it was good enough to facilitate a good walk-talk. We walked through the beautiful dunes of Overveen. Rain and wind made this walk into a four-hour exercise of academic exchange, methodological thinking-along and body-mind stamina.

We talked about finished texts, enough work and different goods we encounter when writing; throwing out good pieces in order to better the text in general, focusing on one topic and (for now) letting go of other interesting ones and how to decide when we have done enough (fieldwork or writing). Sometimes we also talked about different goods that emerge in our field or different goods as a strategy to look at our field.


This was the topic that triggered are talks:
When is good good enough? One of the many enemies of a researcher/author is perfectionism. Obviously, we want to give good presentations, write good texts, make good films and otherwise be and do good. However, at some point striving after doing better, better and better still, turns itself against us. It may block the fluid writing of an outline and/or a first rough draft – as what comes out of your hands isn’t, you feel, good enough. It may lead to endlessly postponing the moment you invite others in to comment – as what there is to comment on is not yet good enough. It may fuel insecurity, give stress, what have you.
In secondary school you mostly got assignments with questions and these all had a right answer. You may have learned to like to feel intellectually in command. However, in doing research and engaging in original writing feeling in command is a rare event (and neither quite necessary nor even particularly desirable). How to work well without it?



maandag 20 februari 2017

When is good good enough? Come to our next walking seminar on March 31st

The next walking seminar will be on Friday March 31st from 12.15 until early evening. This walking seminar will be devoted to the question "when is good good enough".

One of the many enemies of a researcher/author is perfectionism. Obviously, we want to give good presentations, write good texts, make good films and otherwise be and do good. However, at some point striving after doing better, better and better still, turns itself against us. It may block the fluid writing of an outline and/or a first rough draft – as what comes out of your hands isn’t, you feel, good enough. It may lead to endlessly postponing the moment you invite others in to comment – as what there is to comment on is not yet good enough. It may fuel insecurity, give stress, what have you.

In secondary school you mostly got assignments with questions and these all had a right answer. You may have learned to like to feel intellectually in command. However, in doing research and engaging in original writing feeling in command is a rare event (and neither quite necessary nor even particularly desirable). How to work well without it?

In this walking seminar we will encourage each other to recognise when in our working lives the perfect is the enemy of the good and share strategies for letting go, accepting irreducible difficulties, facing our limits, for laughing, flowing and breathing. And, of course, for staying rigorous and persevering – for it is as well to also avoid falling for that other enemy – self-satisfaction.

If you would like to join us on this edition then please send an email to Ulrike at u.scholtes@uva.nl. Ulrike will make a list of walkers and provide those on the list with further information on the route.

dinsdag 25 oktober 2016

Walking Seminar on Translations in our research


On the most beautiful day of the week and in stunning autumn weather, we took a walk in Weesp last Friday, 21 October, for the Walking Seminar.

The theme was how to think about translations in our research? [1]

We started off with the following questions: 

Doing research involves translating. Or, put differently, many activities that we engage in as ethnographic researchers may be glossed as translating. Events in the field you translate into (mould into? cook up as?) field notes. Notes you translate into (mobilise in the telling of? digest so that they become?) stories. Stories you juxtapose – contrast, compare, link – in a process called analysis (and what is translated there into what?). In the process, sounds become words, tastes dissolve in sentences, questions into assertions or vice versa. Here is the question: what is involved in these translations; what in attending to them as translations (rather than using other metaphors/models such as moulding or cooking); what is gained in translation; what is lost; what transformed in felicitous ways; infelicitous ways; and what to do with the pleasures of ‘getting it right’ and the sense of failure when hitting up against untranslatables?

Everybody translated these questions freely into their 'care rounds', in which two people take care of one person's project first, before turning to care for the other person's project. 

Translations, we found, are everywhere - and they can be challenging, and they can be frustrating. But sometimes they bring forth richer writing, and reflecting upon them can make us better ethnographers. Mostly, we all got eager to translate this finding back into our writing.

Thanks to all those who joined us and made this a wonderful and inspiring afternoon. With luck, we will have another walking seminar this calendar year. I will keep you posted. Annelieke

[1]  The theme originated from a reflection on translations in research that I wrote for the 'ethnographic writing workshop' with Julie Livingston and Robert Desjarlais that took place at the University of Amsterdam in May 2016. At the end of the workshop week the participants all did an 'ethnography slam', which, 'translated' into blog posts, appeared on the Allegra Laboratory website.






dinsdag 18 oktober 2016

Report from Art and Humanities in Environmental Crisis: a Walking Workshop

Guest blog post by Anna Kaijser and Martin Hultman, Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University


On  October 3-4, a group of eleven artists and researchers within the humanities or social sciences gathered at Vårdnäs, a village south of Linköping, Sweden. Each participant had brought a question, incited by their own work and related to understanding, acting upon and living with environmental crisis. These questions, we brought with us on a hike through the countryside, intended to accentuate embodiment and movement and evoke a sense of the own body’s place in nature. In pairs, we walked through forests and meadows, and along the Stora Rängen Lake. The sun was shining and the landscape sparkled with magnificent autumn colours. Most of us had never met before, and thus were introduced to each other’s work through the questions. Every 40 minutes we stopped to change conversation partners. This is slow intellectual speed dating, somebody joked.


At  the end of the walk, the entire group gathered to share insights and reflections. Overall, the accounts were very positive. The participants commented that their talks had turned out quite differently than they would have in a seminar room or office. Several reflected upon the role played by the particular places that we passed trough, and by the non-human actors that were present, in the conversations. Someone said that they longed to do the same exercise during a longer and more demanding hike, curious to see how the physical challenge would affect their thinking. Quite a few said that they did not talk that much about their question, but that this did not matter. Some felt that they had to repeat their question too many times.
In the afternoon we had time to immerse even more in the surroundings. Some of us had a very close contact with the lake close by and the sauna made it feel pleasant even though the water was cold. The discussions centred around how having these types of experiences together makes a difference.  
The following day was grey. We spent the morning inside doing collective writing inspired by the walks. Many found this exercise very inspiring. We layered in our own text with others and realised the possibility of actually writing a text together that makes sense from the beginning. The resulting texts were put together in a shared document, for us all to use in our work. In the afternoon we split up in pairs again for another walk, wrapping up the experiences of the workshop and discussing future collaborations. As we came back to the house, it started to rain.
As  presented here the elements around us made big impressions on how we discussed and acted. How does it influence us to most of the time sit inside compartmentalised seminar rooms to discuss the world? On the other hand, what kind of knowledge do we create when we are more focused on the surroundings than on our computer screens? 
The Walking Workshop was intended as an opportunity for networking and collaborative reflection, and an experiment in walking as a method for conversations. With inspiration from this successful experience, we will continue to organize walking seminars with colleagues and students at our department and beyond.



dinsdag 4 oktober 2016

Come to our next edition of the walking seminar, with the theme Translations


The next walking seminar will be on Friday October 21st from 13:00 o’clock until early evening. This walking seminar will be devoted to the question how to think about translations in our research.




Doing research involves translating. Or, put differently, many activities that we engage in as ethnographic researchers may be glossed as translating. Events in the field you translate into (mould into? cook up as?) field notes. Notes you translate into (mobilise in the telling of? digest so that they become?) stories. Stories you juxtapose – contrast, compare, link – in a process called analysis (and what is translated there into what?). In the process, sounds become words, tastes dissolve in sentences, questions into assertions or vice versa. Here is the question: what is involved in these translations; what in attending to them as translations (rather than using other metaphors/models such as moulding or cooking); what is gained in translation; what is lost; what transformed in felicitous ways; infelicitous ways; and what to do with the pleasures of ‘getting it right’ and the sense of failure when hitting up against untranslatables? 


vrijdag 17 juni 2016

Next walking seminar: 22 July



Come to our next edition of the walking seminar, with the theme 'Negative appraisals'

The next walking seminar will be on Friday July 22nd from 12:00 o’clock (Note: this is an hour earlier than ususal – we are hoping to take a long walk through the dunes) until early evening.

This walking seminar will be devoted to the question how to handle our own negative appraisals of situations we encounter in the field.

You may think that some people in your field of research find themselves in dire situations. There are structural problems. You may also think that some people in your field research mean well but do things that are bad (ill considered, nasty, counterproductive, what have you). You may think that some people in your field of research are abusive in one way or another. You encounter practices that, in one way or another, you consider to be/go wrong. What to do? Articulate criticism; suggest improvements; file complaints? Step back and refrain from judgements? Seek others within the field, who voice your negative appraisals for you?

And where to do these things, for which audiences?

And how does this ‘being negative’ in your writings relate to the effort that the people in the field may have put into your research; to the welcome they offered you; to the relations you established with them? 

If you would like to join us on this edition then please sign up before July 15th by sending an email to Annelieke at a.e.driessen@uva.nlAnnelieke will make a list of walkers and provide those on the list with further information on the route.