Thursday, May 26, 2011

Researching with my bare hands

Hand harvesting wine grapes in Sicily. By Fabio Ingrosso

Yesterday, I was speed reading and making summary of the 4th (of 6) chapters in Bowers' book:False Promises of Constructivist Learning. Powerful points in a poorly edited book IMO.

The 4th chapter is on how constructivism destroys knowledge commons - where commons is holistically understood to include inter generational, cultural, embodied, felt... using examples of how specific indigenous and non western communities (in South America) come to know things. The farmers in these examples, know the health of the soil by touch and smell, rather than by chemical analysis. Or can forecast the coming seasons by observing the number of eggs a certain bird lays in its nest. Constructivist ideals are being introduced to these communities, along with schools, foreign teachers, and other instruments, that carry with them a Western way of knowing. That way of knowing is, as it always has, disrupting - even destroying the knowledge commons developed over centuries.

This has deposited an idea in me, still forming, up for shutting down.. what if as researchers, we too limited our tools to our bodily senses, in a deliberate attempt to simplify, make more accessible, pass on and spread, and most importantly - embody rather than disembody our knowledge?

What information does statistics really give us, and could it be possible to come to know that information by means other than separation, codification and re-presentation as graphs?

I'm fully conscious of the romanticism in this idea, but it touches on our shared ideal of openness, where not only are our outputs, methods, and processes made accessible, but our tools are as well. Accessible by way of simplicity, bare basic, so easy even a child can make use of them. Tools for Conviviality, for a post industrial western society.

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