Posted by: Linnea and Tom | October 6, 2010

Session 1: Birds, Technology and the EnCultured Landscape

Session 1 summary

Friday, October 1, 2010, 10:00 am EST

Presenter:     Jennifer Griggs, “Co-here-nces: Nature Writing, Avian Architects, and Technology?” (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)

Moderator:      Linnéa Rowlatt (University of Toronto, but in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

Participants:  Rosemary Collard (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), Will Knight, (Carleton University, Ottawa Ontario, Canada), Julia Lane (Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada), Rebecca Rahey (University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada), Colin Tyner (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA, but in Kanagawa, Japan), Lauren Wheeler (University of Alberta, Edmonton Alberta, Canada), Daniel Zizzamia (Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA)

We opened with a round of introductions, concluding with Jenn and her introduction of her paper (when she wrote it, where it fits in her program of studies, what she hopes to do with it).   General comments were invited; all were positive and appreciative of the paper, including special appreciation for the ‘Aural architecture’ section, the first person perspective (which contextualized all the elements of the paper), and the richness of the content.

Themes from the paper, which had been agreed upon by the author and the moderator beforehand, were introduced during the conversation.  The focus of the discussion wove and dove among the following, in no particular order:

  • The assertion that there is a ‘new nature’ resulting from the dynamic inter-relationship of birds / bodies, the built environment / technology, and knowledge / cultural views of landscape (comments included a challenge to the notion of ‘new’-ness – Haraway was cited as suggesting this notion of a new relationship with nature is dangerous, as we have always been entangled with nature despite our view of ourselves as separate (ie:  reality vs. cultural interpretation))
  • The notion of co-here-ences, and how it worked in the paper (comments included the observation that it created a fluid and web-like connection through the paper, also connecting present and future in the ‘now’; a comment was made that the description of the author’s journey through the North Diversion Channel, North Pino Pond and Arroyo felt like the paper was centered ‘here’)
  • The intuitive, poetic and associative style of the paper (strengths, weaknesses, suggestions for improvement) (comments included appreciation for the inspiring, lively style; the paper was remarked upon several times as being rich, full of material for rumination and further writing; suggestions were made for possible ways of organizing the material (ie:  more theory in the footnotes, more first person description toward the front, etc).
  • The usefulness of Griggs’s sources, both nature writers and birders, to move her piece forward (comments included appreciation of her source material and the way she handled it by juxtaposing certain quotations and / or authors)
  • The accompanying images  (comments included observations of how arresting the images were, causing shocks of awareness, grounding the text very materially)
  • Post-humanism as a theoretical orientation; what it means, how Griggs used it (comments included several admissions of confusion with respect to this theoretical framework, and the suggestion that Griggs articulate her understanding of it in more detail.
  • The personal impact of the paper, as well as how it is situated in current environmental history research and practice (comments included contributions from a few people about their own ethnical challenges, particularly with respect to the insect world, and conflicts between the urge to protect one’s own agenda and to protect the agenda of the natural world, in whatever shape it appears)

The conversation was lively and stimulating; some participants continued with the author after the hour was concluded.


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