Week 2: 1/31
To better understand the very nature of observation each participant will focus on a single object to ground an investigation. We will use the coming two weeks to identify these. To really see an object, argues Ben Highmore (2011) in his book “Ordinary lives: Studies in the everyday”, we need not only to take the time to notice it, but also realize that objects extend far beyond us humans. They are not simply their use value, the conceptual categories we fit them into, or feelings and memories we project onto them. We need to train our senses to listen to something beyond ourselves, namely, “the thingly world”:

“I start out by noticing a chair that most of the time (and especially when I am sitting in it) I fail to notice. The thingly world, I argue, is neither most usefully explained through the optic of cultural symbolism (what the chair stands for, what cultural values it embodies) nor through the sense that an ‘owner’ makes objects significant by investing them (and infesting them) with their own meanings … Symbolism and investment will be part of the story but I hope too that my chair, from its own thingly perspective, will get something of a look in”. (Highmore, 2011, p. 59)

Case Study Exchange
Deconstruction of Student’s Past Practice (30 min)
(1) Methodology of observation.

(2) Translation into visual: what does it look like and why?

(3) Instruct somebody else to do the same in less than 5 lines.
Observation exchange pairs: Test Another’s practice

Intro to History of Observation in Science and Popular Media
Crary: Modernity and the Problem of the Observer.
Daston & Galison: The Image of Objectivity.
Movements of Air Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) Photographer of Fluids
Machine Learning & Observation:
The Chair Project, Philipp Schmitt
My Artificial Muse, Mario Klingemann
Adversarially Evolved Hallucination, Trevor Paglen

In-class Workshop
Identifying your working objects. What will you observe this semester?

Prepare For Next Week:

(3 objects/ 1 method) Choose three possible “objects” of study (concrete thing to be observed/ manifestation of your research interest). Spend 30 minutes observing each of these. Visually record what you observed—in a single visual or a series. Use these visuals to begin your observation archive: how will you label things, how will you collect them digitally and how will you circulate them on paper (as an Atlas of your observations) at the end of the class? These visuals will be shared in class next week.

Reading For Next Week:

Highmore, B. “Familiar Things” in Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday, Routledge, 2011 pp. 59-85

(You will find the readings in our shared google drive)

Featured Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash