Sunday, April 25, 2010

Circulating Reference; More on LaTour

In this week's reading, we followed Bruno LaTour into the Amazon, near a place where the savanah and the rainforrest meet. The goal of the scientists there was to determine whether or not the rain forrest was encroaching on the savannah, or vice versa.

During the course of his observations of the scientists and their methods, a few key concepts are revealed.

First, on page 27, LaTour makes reference to a concept which is now familiar to us in the class, where he says that "soil cannot avoid degradation; if the laws of pedology do not make this clear, then the laws of thermodynamics should." --In this sentence, we reaffirm that what we "know" is constructed from things which have occurred "upstream" from our current position as critics. He goes on to expand and reiterate this idea on page 29 in more depth, calling out the "age old disciplines" of trigonometry, cartography, geography--AND the mediating technology which "shows us" what we can't physically see with our own eyes; rocket ships, orbiting sattelites, data banks, draftspeople, engravers, printers--which leads us to the idea that circulating reference occurs when we must make use of these recorded repositories of information in order to solidify claims which exist in the real world.

Here, we establish the idea which we discussed in class as the necessity to move from "WORD" to "WORLD", and back again, in order to continually clarify and push knowledge in directions moving closer and closer to ease of both transport and example, such that others might refer to it, and thus strenghthen its credibility --as they may not have the impetus to do such tiring research themselves.

Circulating reference is concerned with the ability of researchers to catalogue and "come back to" the very proof of the claims they make.

Another interesting concept which was also discussed in class, is brought to the forefront on page 38, where LaTour says that "A second advantage, just as important, is that once classified, specimens from different locations and times become contemporaries of one another on the flat table, all visible under the same unifying gaze."

From this, in class, we discussed this concept in metaphor to the musical "Mash-up", where different types of musical samples may be overlaid in an either complimentary, or non-complimentary style--the point being, that the observer is able to see each peice from a new perspective, and can superimpose different ideas, all while maintaining a "bigger picture" perspective as the synthesist.

LaTour notes that we are then "able to discern emerging patterns that no predecessor could see."

I am able to give plenty of credence to this notion, being an electronic musician, and having worked on a few mashups myself. This makes sense.

Finally, another topic: Translation.

LaTour supposes that through the process of moving from the "world" to "words" which is the very definition of translation, things necessarily become lost in translation (to use the common saying). As we record information about our world, we use language, which is shaped by our own experiences and culture, which leads us to talk about our percieved reality in certain ways---ways in which are subjective, and not always equally understood by all. --but what we lose in translation, can be gained again via referece--and further definition of the referent of a thing.

(*insert sound of head exploding!)


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