Podcast on teaching Ngarrindjeri language

Been having a couple of conversations about representation of indigenous languages and land acknowledgements in UK natural history institutions, so this is really cool to find: https://www.nativetitlesa.org/ngarrindjeri-language-and-culture-in-riverland-school/.

It is worth noting the issue about the lack of (current!) knowledge and confidence of the local language, Erawirung. That’s often how accidental privileging can start and it resonates. There’s a lot of discussion about Igbo literacy – both in Nigeria and amongst the diaspora – and I was rather reminded about some of the sometimes tense discussions between Igbos and other south eastern Nigerian nations of which (for all that in the Nigerian political context Igbos can be considered as marginalised), the Igbo nation is the largest and has wielded what localised privilege it can wrt linguistic/cultural dominance.

Theorising place and potential transgression in the museum space

Currently preparing for another seminar towards the end of the month which I’m looking forward to, which will hopefully be a more practical session on measuring impact of transmedia narratives within a space using play.

Looking up Indigenous/diasporic researchers of place and found this article, ‘Place in the African American Intellectual Tradition‘ (with some exciting references!) which had an interesting bit:

We begin with the Columbian Exposition and the extraordinary range of figures who converged in the “White City,” and then move to the Great Migration, drawing on work by Davarian Baldwin, Wallace Best, Marcia Chatelain, and Jacqueline Stewart to make sense of the ways in which the African American community was formed in Bronzeville. Moving to the postwar era, students read excerpts of Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake’s Black Metropolis (1945) to reconstruct class divisions and color lines, before turning to the ways in which urban renewal policies and public housing transformed the South Side. By the time the students come to Harold Washington’s mayoral tenure in the 1980s, they have become well acquainted with the geography of the South Side, its main thoroughfares and borders, as well as the many ethical and empirical challenges that emerge when attempting to create a narrative about African American communities.

Celeste Day Moore

that not only brought Du Bois’ data visualisations to mind but instantly made me re-frame him as a scholar of place, making me wonder about the connection between the ‘double consciousness’ and performativities of oft-excluded/forgotten audiences to museums/galleries, performances which the museologist Helen Leahy,

 historicises… describing it as knowing how to look while also knowing that looking in a museum incorporates ‘knowing how and where to stand, where and how fast to walk, what to say and what not to say, and what not to touch’.

Adrian R Bailey, Liminal spaces and the shaping of family museum visits: a spatial ethnography of a major international art museum

whilst

…also remind[ing] us that different museums and artworks have produced different normative behaviours, different audience performances, and have occasionally generated audience transgression and resistance.

Adrian R Bailey, Liminal spaces and the shaping of family museum visits: a spatial ethnography of a major international art museum

Not really sure where I’m going with this, although there’s possibly a connection with constructivist theories of meaning making by museum audiences and the potential of encouraging mutual/shared transgression of [expectations of] the space and narratives by providing the ingredients by which visitors from marginalised groups can create their meaning, instead of specific content/experiences.

“It is also useful to remember that there will always be casualties, and mysteries, and to remember the dying cry of the lost Jekyll (for in the end, he was both) to have mercy—and to know that breaking through a door does not necessarily mean that a mystery is solved.”

One of the most affecting displays in the BRAINS exhibition (at what was formerly called MoSI) was a dissected brain of an asylum inmate showing the cerebral malformation caused by advanced stages of syphilis. It’s the sad and disturbing thought of the internal suffering being evidenced only after death, and receiving mostly judgement during of life, I guess.

Then there’s the gendered/othered aspect – the sex workers condemned for surviving a depraved society riddled with violent prejudices and bigotries; the respectable wives condemned for believing the falsehood of Victorian chivalry… all easy enough to lock away in asylums.

Anyway.

‘Extraordinarily arduous and fraught with danger’: syphilis, Salvarsan, and general paresis of the insane is a fascinating (and very short) article on the development of diagnosis and treatment of syphilis which does make me think about how even medical cures can become as effective disguises for the social malady as the prison.

Reinvigoratations and whatnot

Recently I’ve found myself constantly trapped between a really frustrating restlessness (where you can’t even settle to do anything) and rage so have been just… vibing with friends and loved ones a fair bit.

It’s been wonderful, a much needed balm, going from watching Rose of Versailles to discussing natural history displays in Oxford to investigating a washed up crate on the bank of the Thames.

I have only two more days of holiday but will spend tomorrow writing as much as I can.

Gender in diaspora: thoughts on the casting of Liet Kynes

Poster featuring Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes in the 2021 Dune movie

In advance of Dune’s UK release I have been spending far too much time watching Youtube videos and reading wikis about Frank Herbert’s epic series, Dune. Despite having never got round to actually reading the books (will have to get onto that) it seems through immersion in online geek culture, I’ve managed to absorb by osmosis the meta about futuristic space Islam, the speculation about the lost world that was Jodorowsky’s Dune and the in-jokes about re-cutting sandworms erupting through the desert to Benny Hill soundtracks.

But that is typical to be honest. Before giving up at the end of season 4, all I had read of Game of Thrones was the first novel and let wikis and reddit fill the rest. I think the only property I have ever ‘read’ or consumed ‘correctly’ was Harry Potter and I was deep into deathtocapslock territory by the time the fifth book came out…

Anyway, through one of the channels I’ve been spending the most time on, I learned that there’s a bit of brouhaha over the casting of Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes.

Described in the books as a ‘tall, thin man with long, sandy hair, a sparse but mussed mustache and beard and under heavy brows‘ man, the change of gender (as Duncan-Brewster is not portraying a trans man or a masc non-binary person) and appearance (to say race might not make strict sense but I can’t help but wonder how much of that is also a part of it, especially given comments on videos about yet another capitulation to ‘wokeness’) is disconcerting to those who see such changes as disrespectful to the source material. Having said that, there are some to their credit, who are equally if not more focussed on how the essence of a characters might be portrayed and consider such gender related changes to be more piquing than enraging.

Over here in my own corner, however, I think what I find interesting is that if there was any character (other than the hero Paul Atreides) for whom such a change made immediate sense, it would be Liet Kynes.

As a Fremen born of a mixed marriage, the ambiguity rendered in the, shall we say, Form of Liet Kynes by having a woman cinematically depict what was written as a man is in some ways a very obvious reflection of Liet Kynes’ ambiguous position within Fremen and Imperial society. Probably entirely unrelated, but there’s also something quite just in an almost reparative sense, given that Liet’s Fremen mother is unnamed(?) in the books (or at least, in the wikis) which rather puts her in the old genre trope of native woman who falls for the eponymous hero and serves only to legitimise whatever relationship the usually colonial figure decides to impose on the indigenous society.

But there’s another aspect to it as well which is very specific to gender as a phenomenon.

Perhaps this particularly struck me as someone from a diaspora who growing up, regularly enjoyed the tensions that come with the way various social logics – from class/caste to whatever mechanics of racialisation that the society employs – spit out whatever Frankenstein’s monster of a gender it chooses to create.

Now I have to be clear that I am reading Liet Kynes through the lens of diaspora, rather than the experience of mixed ethnic/cultural heritage, but there are some of the same dynamics that form the experience of both. In my own case, the social stereotypes or rather, aspirations of the Igbo girlchild were at definite odds with lower middle class English expectations, and my existence as a daughter of diaspora further complicated my gender on the occasion we would travel back to Nigeria. I would find myself party to discussions which certainly wouldn’t have been a social possibility if I was truly ‘the girl next door’ and similarly, my younger sisters would be taught ‘mens’ handshakes by eternally ironic uncles, and there were a host of other gender shifting experiences which would not have happened if we had not been born an ocean away.

Then more broadly there is the famous masculinisation of the successful woman, something which is common across many patriarchal cultures. “You think/are like a man!” they say as a sign of respect for some noteworthy achievement, particularly, it seems, those which have also earned the celebration of the non-Igbo. Even if only in an assembly or elders, or a family gathering, perhaps even if only for the moment of the vigorous handshake and the back clap, you – the usually gendered ‘woman’ – have truly become a ‘man’. Even an ironic clapback will not be taken as a rebuke of simplistic notions of gender, but further evidence of ones masculine positionality.

In all this, what it shows is that borders, (whether cultural, national, religious or other), serve to trouble gender in ways that range from the bemusing to the dangerous but also that that shouldn’t be a surprise because gender in itself is an output of what could be described as a differential multi-variable function.

This means that gender is but one expression of what it means to be part of a community. It is a complex manifold that communicates the kind of labour and physical space, the kind of legal and religious technology, the kind of etiquette etc. one is entitled to or must perform with. The grandchildren raised in the city can be permitted certain laxities of gender expression when they return to the home village, thus embodying a branch of the ur-gender, in the same way as (i.e. not in contradiction or necessarily antagonism towards) those born to the parents who remained. Liet Kynes, born to one who was at first an enemy, then prophet to the Fremen, and a Fremen birth-parent would be nothing but trouble from the gendered perspective! His depiction as a woman rather lends itself to this reality.

Thus, is it right to think there is anything inherently unusual or bizarre that Liet Kynes might be seen as a woman by one who had read the books, especially a reader like Denis Villeneuve (although obviously that is not to say it was a striking Black woman who probably came to mind when he first read the books as a teenager)? Even if not initially intended as such, what I think it demonstrates is the way a medium (in this case, film) can reify narrative cognition, bringing out layers of truth that might otherwise have remained blended.

As mentioned before in the twittersphere, I’m enjoying ‘Parts Unknown’, albeit in a generally sad sort of way – sometimes more deeply if it’s a city I know has since been under fire, or extremists have recently tipped the balance in another direction.

Anyway. I think it’s the episode that starts in Dakar where it really struck me the interestingness of understanding how people see themselves but also the underlying forces.

Because everyone is friendly, everyone is family centred, community centred, proud but not arrogant. And yet, these narrative reflections are never enough to account for the political instability, or lurking violence; the eruption of repressive dynamics and so on.

They both explain, and do not explain. Reveal and veil. The question as always, is always… ‘what?’

The episode in Argentina made me darkly laugh though. Whilst it was fun seeing Mallmann again (his is one of my favourite episodes on ‘Chefs Table’), hearing him retell a very whitewashed account of the origins of tango reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Ytasha Womack where she told me about the cursed nature of the dance – and indeed, perhaps even the whole culture now I think on it – and it’s origins amongst enslaved peoples, essentially slaughtered by a series of governmental policies post-abolition.

On discovering that Buenos Aires has the highest population of psychiatrists and therapists per capita, Bourdain asks why and I couldn’t help but blurt out, “because they slaughtered all their Black people of course”

Notes on ‘Invading ethnography: A queer of color reflexive practice’

Source: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1466138117741502

There is a somewhat naive approach towards research within a lot of mainstream HCI/user centred design practice. Whether rooted in gatekeeping or rigour, there can be a bias towards the ‘harder’ aspects – the more theoretically grounded, the more analytical methods applied. However, what sometimes happens is an avoidance or simply an unknowing about the problematics within the methods we often look up to. This is just one of the reasons critical perspectives in sociological sciences are so important to keep up with and why I was particularly intrigued by this paper, shared by Dr Adjepong. It’s freely accessible and would of course recommend you read it!

Continue reading “Notes on ‘Invading ethnography: A queer of color reflexive practice’”

Victor Patricio Landaluze

Today I learned about the work of the costumbrista Victor Patricio Landaluze, courtesy of Jonathan Square’s amazing page, Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom. According to the post, ‘…his prolific oeuvre is the most detailed visual documentation of daily life of Afro-Cubans in the nineteenth century.’

Here are some examples of his work I’m particularly taken by:

Links round up

Just a bunch of things I’ve been reading/rediscovering this week. Trying to do this more often to help me document my practice. Two weekends in a row isn’t bad at all! 😀

UX reading

7 Principal Psychological Phenomena in UX Design – good for those ‘oh yeah I haven’t forgotten how to be an experience designer’ moments.

Describing Personas

The Language of Domination: Oppressive Meeting Dynamics

Design

Shout out to monkik for saving a life! Had to do a bunch of prototyping and their range of icons were perfect

Abbotsford Convent website – Initially I was really taken by the cursor effect, then realised this was just a home page thing (and justifiably so given potential issues with reading content on rest of the site). I like the cut out details on the images, but second time looking at it reminds me how we need truly fluid frameworks for websites to become more genuinely mobile first (which to my mind, means adopting more patterns from mobile apps, especially with respect to differentiating between ‘architectural’ and ‘key action’ navigation).

Trying to clean up my drafts and came across this article on Kirokaze’s work. Funnily enough I think I’ve seen their stuff more recently on youtube as background art for any of the 101 ambient cyberpunk I listen to whilst working. Their portfolio is still pretty cool though.

Programming

Simple Statistics – a Javascript library

Museums ‘n’ tings

Some cool links courtesy of the recent Museums and AI talk…

What the Machine Saw

Living with Machines

You know, I’d love to do an experiment with AI powered chatbot interfaces for engaging with content but that’s for further down the line.

Research

As is always the case, I have a couple more summatives to write up of some of the research I’ve done at the Natural History Museum. One of these will be focussed on the zine making workshops I ran at a couple of Lates, to inform future research using zines as method. This article, Creativity-based Research: The Process of Co-Designing with Users, is a handy little primer with links to some other references.

ORID — strategic questioning that gets you to a decision

Navigating Comics: An Empirical and Theoretical Approach to Strategies of Reading Comic Page Layouts – another one with some good pointers for upcoming research activities on impact of content design/layout and comprehension

Digital tools for participation: Where to start?

Social Studies of Outer Space blog just seems quite cool for speculative research approaches to community.

Zipf, Power-laws, and Pareto – a ranking tutorial

Differential Dynamic Systems – what? I realised I had to do some serious math revision and this guy’s pretty good.

Algorithmic Humanitarianism – keeping this here as a reference for tech social justice-y research. There’s so many great manifestos and frameworks, would be a shame not to make use of them!

Books to read (if anyone wants to get me a present)

digitalSTS, A field guide for Science and Technology Studies

Random

Interview with Tee Corinne