December 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
“The model of activism that ACT UP innovated is a model that they called inside-outside,” France says. “They had these armies of bodies that could show up at the drop of a phone call and stand outside these institutions that needed to be addressed, and they could do that with enough numbers, force, and clever timing that it forced somebody inside those institutions to pay attention. They also had an inside group of people who trained themselves in the science of AIDS and AIDS research. Once their comrades got those doors open, they moved through.” The group was never that big—France says its largest demonstrations drew around 3,000 people. “But they were tireless, those 3,000 people,” he says.
There’s a way in which activists like Danzig have been preparing their whole lives for this moment. “That’s what a lifetime activist is,” she says. “You see the struggle coming—maybe it’s a little struggle, maybe it’s an existential crisis—and you work with it. And this is what we are doing.” She believes a new movement will rise to the challenge. “I look forward to not being crushed by fascism,” she says. “I look forward to crushing fascism.”
December 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
December 21, 2016 § Leave a comment
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Monday issued a circular to all 19,000 affiliated schools under it asking that a section ‘Caste Conflict and Dress Change’ be omitted from the curriculum with effect from 2017. No questions were to be asked from the same in any exam.
The relevant section deals with the Upper Cloth revolt popularly known as the Channar Revolt that took place in early 19th century Travancore. In May 1822, the subordinate caste Shanar women (later known as the Nadars) revolted against the common practice of lower caste women leaving their upper torso uncovered.
Local custom allowed only upper caste women to do so in those days. The Shanar women chose to defy the same inspired by Christian missionaries. From 1822- 1859, a long struggle ensued that subjected them to assault by Nairs in public places on many occasions.
The government was hence forced to intervene in the matter, and in October 1859, issued an order permitting the Shanar women to wear a jacket or cover their upper bodies in any manner but unlike that of their upper caste counterparts. (http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/cbse-says-nadar-women-s-historic-struggle-cover-their-breasts-objectionable-54555)
Previously considered degraded, Nadars met with economic success in the 19th century and adopted the practices of the higher castes. In donning the sacred thread, transgressing multiple other caste regulations and confronting higher-castes with violence, the Nadars demonstrated the possibility of social mobility and signalled that hierarchy was susceptible to social mobilization. The accelerated growth of urban areas more generally reflects this desire for change. (http://www.india-seminar.com/2012/633/633_hugo_gorringe.htm)
December 20, 2016 § Leave a comment
Predictably, the Conservatives are calling for more legal restrictions on strike action. Theresa May accused strikers of “contempt for ordinary people”. And – as always – the neck veins of TV reporters are bulging as they express outrage on behalf of those affected.
Yet, try as they might, the politicians and journalists have failed to stir up mob hatred against the strikers, some of whom – such as the Southern Rail drivers and guards – have been taking industrial action for weeks. And the reasons for this are obvious: they are ordinary people.
While the miners and steelworkers of the 1980s worked in relatively insular steel and mining towns, everybody knows a BA cabin steward, a train guard, a baggage handler or a Post Office counter worker. What’s more, because so much of our work has become modular, low-paid and deskilled, many people know, or can guess, exactly what they are going through.
December 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
December 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
For the designers who have welcomed me into their studio and their practice, ‘testing’ acts as a veil behind which lie a series of fascinating and unique designer-led research methods. When you ask designers to unpack what research means to them, designers describe something that mixes abductive thinking practices and ethnographic methods. They talk about the way in which they learn to ‘perform’ or embody the role of the user in their work to meet budget limitations. They complain about how they have to learn to recreate what they saw and felt during fieldwork in the studio for repeated analysis by team members. And when asked to describe their own approach, they share how they prioritize fieldwork as a collaborative and interventionist form of ‘making’ over observation and interpretation.
These three approaches, while not entirely antithetical to a contemporary understanding of ethnographic practice, present a challenge to those of us who hold the core tenets of observation, culture and interpretive analysis close to our hearts. If researchers are willing to abandon the spatial boundaries of the field, the temporal boundaries of data collection, and the physical boundaries of participation, then what the hell are they doing in there? Should we still call it ethnography, or does the cloak of ‘testing’ best cover what goes on behind closed doors?
It is easy to say that designer-ethnographers ‘aren’t doing it right’. And it is easy to reduce designer-led research to disaster checks and client appeasement. But I believe that the role of the designer also is to show us the adjacent possible—to connect diverse and disparate ideas and practices together in order to advance our understandings of what could be. If designers, as many have suggested, have stopped building what we think world requires, and have started forecasting those requirements instead, then I believe they are doing the same thing with the boundaries of ethnography itself. And that shift has the potential to inform and expand the boundaries of our methods as well.
When we talk about designers using design ethnography as a form of abductive thinking within their practice, we are talking about a form of problem solving, of logic, of forging connections between unlikely companion thoughts. But the designer too is abductive in this process—a kidnapper of images and ideas stolen from the field and transported back to the studio. Perhaps this is the true role of design ethnography: not just observation, interpretation and analysis but gathering, reconnecting and combining participant’s points of view as active agents in the design process.
Is the designer really an ethnographer? Can one wear a pith helmet and a beret at the same time? Or, with the adapted and hybrid approach to ‘the research’ that designers are nurturing and developing in their studios and agencies, are design-ethnographers in fact something else—something new? I believe that there is much to be shared between my two worlds, and that if we as ethnographers and designers are willing to look critically and closely at what creative workers are really doing in there, we might find that ‘testing’ can be adapted to our practice too.