donderdag 4 april 2019

Walking Seminar March 2019

One of the first beautiful spring days brought us to the coast where we walked an around 14km walk from Overveen through the dunes, to the beach and over the beach to Zandvoort aan Zee. Our topic this time was “Big Words”: They tend to be called concepts. They can be helpful as when they give you some focus while you assemble materials. They can be helpful in writing as they link what you write to what others have written using the same concepts. But then again. Big words may also stand between you and surprising things in your field that you cannot smell out as the concepts cover them up. Or you may be using them in a different way than others using the ‘same’ concepts. You may try to present this as inventive and creative on your part, but it may as well increase confusion all round.

Concepts come from somewhere. They have heavy histories – often a few – in this or that discipline – they resonate fights from diverse pasts. How to not get caught up in that? Not so easy. You cannot, after all, re-invent language from scratch overnight. How then to deal with it otherwise?

And then your informants. They talk, too. They may be talking in the same big words that are in use in the literature. They attach similar or different meanings to them. They know what you are talking about already – ah, no, they don’t. But how to talk about something else, or in a new way? How to not just represent your field, but add to it?

Coining concepts may seem attractive as big words often get to travel between texts – and you would like your insights to travel. But then again. Terms often get stifled along the way. Or simplified. Or amputated. What about making stories travel instead, how to do that?

dinsdag 12 februari 2019

Our walking seminar on February 8th

Expected rain choreographed the circumstances in which this walking seminar took place: a small group of waterproofed and well prepared walkers started off Baarn, to then walk over mostly tree covered firm sand paths. Our conversations were productive and engaging. So much so that we even got lost a little bit 
towards the end of the route (for the first time as long as I remember the walking seminars). More kilometers to walk, more time to talk. When we arrived at our end destination Hollandsche Rading - tired and intellectually well nourished - it was already dark outside. 

This walking seminar we did not have one topic, but we had participants think about and then discuss their "most pressing problem". The blurb for this walking seminar was: 

Your Present Problem

Rather than presenting you in this blurb with a problem to share, we suggest, this time round, that we jointly tackle every person’s most pressing present problem. Workwise, that is. What in your research do you hit up against these days? What about your field-working, analysing, writing, presenting, dealing with comments, rewriting and rewriting again, are you fed up with, insecure about, exhausted by or otherwise struggling with? Don’t think you have to struggle alone! In talk-walking with others you will discover that they wrestle with, or have been wrestling with, similar problems, or rather interestingly different ones. Added to that, they may come up with inspiring ways of living with, or handling, or, who knows, even solving this, that or the other problem. And you, in your turn, will find yourself capable of supporting them. Yes, you will. Good luck!

maandag 29 oktober 2018

Our Walking Seminar on Questions on October 26th

Despite the rain we gathered with a group of 10 humans and one dog for an autumn walk from Baarn to Hollandse Rading. 

The question of this walking seminar was about “QUESTIONS”. 
In writing down ethnographic findings or in rendering interviews it is possible to work with the format of the description (‘There was a table in the middle of the room.’). But then again, it is also possible to go with the format of answering questions (‘What was in the room? A table!’ ‘Where did the inhabitants eat: on the couch or at the table?’). This is not just a matter of dropping rhetorical questions but affects the writing throughout. In which ways? What does it do to a text to go with one of these formats of the other? And how might questions be hidden within a description? (‘The inhabitants ate seated at a large table.’) 

Put in this way, the issues of questions seems to be a matter of style only. But it isn’t. Method is at stake as well. For which kind of questions to ask – small or large; pre-designed ones or question that emerge from the field; your own questions, those of your grant givers, or supervisors, or informants; or of others yet again? Simple questions? 

And then theory comes in: do you ask why questions or how questions? And which questions? Why? How?

More questions about questions came up during our (approximately) 13 km walk. The rain was absolutely bearable thanks to colorful autumn landscapes and interesting talks with lots of new and a few ‘old’ walk-talkers. 

maandag 23 juli 2018

Friday July 20th 2018

The topic of this walking seminar was “the issues at hand: whatever it is you are currently concerned with and/or facing in working on your research project”. With a smaller group than usual - due to conferences, vacations and possibly the hot weather we where no more than 10 people - we walked the dune paths of Overveen towards Sandpoort Noord, this being a route through the dunes that is slightly more covered by trees to at least keep away some sun from our hard thinking and talking heads. A Northern breeze caused some refreshments now and then which kept us from overheating and afforded for a productive afternoon. With enough issues at hand we once more had fruitful exchanges and talks: from practicing conference talks to discussing strategies of how to best manage academic life. The Walking Seminar being one of them. 

Walking Seminar May 2018 on collaborations

This walking seminar we focused on collaborating across differences. Disciplinary differences; differences between the inside and the outside of academia; differences in professional/work orientation (e.g. policy maker, nurse, activist, engineer, infrastructure-user and so on); or in political sensitivities; differences of socio-cultural etc. context (what is what in the US; in NL; in Ghana and so on); which differences have you; and how to not live them as problems to solve, or gaps to fill (or deny), but as creative tensions? How to handle the way relevant differences are handled by those you want to, or have to, collaborate with? What to do with/about words that mean different things at two sides of the dividing line? And what to do about ways of doing that have a different salience; different backgrounds; different effects?

We walked through the famous Dutch “polders”, which does not just make the walk productive in terms of exchanging about the topic at hand. Having Annemarie as our knowledgeable guide, we also learned about Dutch history infrastructure and the country's landscapes, water treatment and inhabitants. 

dinsdag 24 april 2018

Thursday april 19th

Our last walking seminar took place on the warmest spring day we had so far and even the warmest april day the Dutch dunes have seen in a long time. 

Walking a common body of 17 people through 28 degrees warm air required quite some attunement work. The absence of wind hardened one on one conversations and required talking couples to walk in some distance of their nearby walk-talking colleagues and the presence of 28 degrees warm air might have made some of the thinking processes les fluid sometimes. However, we managed to have a constructive and beautiful afternoon in the dunes and at the beach, thinking over the impact and ambivalences of the terms we use. From the terms we use in our methodology (Auto-praxiography? Auto-ethnography?) to the words we choose to make theoretical interventions (pros and cons of “chit” versus “excretion”). 

The theme  of this walking seminar was “Your terms”: What might be good terms to use in outlining where, how, who you study: field, fieldwork, informants, participants, people, practices, things, techniques, processes, technologies, emotions, feelings, excretion, violence, anger, fear, inequality, politics, etc. etc. - which terms are relevant to, and help to direct, YOUR research? What difference does it make to use this, that or the other possible term as you ask questions? What when you write? How do the terms you hesitate between help to represent differently; what do they help to perform; which audiences do they help to target; which theoretical tensions emerge along the way? When/where do you have space to invent terms; or introduce terms used (used?) by the people (people?) in your field (field?)?

maandag 5 maart 2018

Friday 23 February

February surprised us with what one might call an ideal winter day: cold but as sunny as can be. We started our walk at Overveen. Walking and talking we discussed a topic that was not directly at hand, but is in every scholars life: literature. Although we did not read, also not in preparation for this seminar, we dedicated our time to the topic “how to relate to the literature”? 

Our question was not which literatures to relate to, but how it is variously possible to do so. It is possible to read hunting for facts. Eagerly; hungrily. Or it is possible to seek to be surprised by a text. Amused; seduced. Sometimes our reading is critical; it may also be generous, curious, rebellious. What more? When; what do these various modes of reading offer? How to maybe read friends critically; or enemies generously? How to relate to old literatures (what to learn about their ‘context’)? How to read new literatures (and not get too impressed by their hotness)? How to find literatures, that is your literatures? How to talk about them? How to talk about relating to them?

Protected by the dunes from the crispy cool eastern wind, we continued our walk along the beach, equipped with inspiration, motivation, each others insights and a fresh mind to start a new workweek of reading and relating to what we read.