Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TRANSLATING OURSELVES - Tina Basi

Last night's trip to the Seattle Public Library demonstrated how elegance and beauty can be produced through an urban, industrial, modern setting in a globalized era. It was evident from strolling around the library that people from all walks of life looked at the space as more than just a place to learn and this was reflected by the music area with it's practice rooms and the wonderfully titled 'Mixing Room'.



Although I felt a little overwhelmed by the size and grandiosity of the place (not to mention all the aluminum and steel!), spaces such as the meeting level, also known as the heart of the library due to it's red walls and floors, created a sense of intimacy and warmth.



What was most interesting to me was the installation at the Fourth Ave. check-out desk. The floor, designed by Ann Hamilton, features opening lines from famous books in [I can't remember how] many languages! All of the text is actually written backwards and reversed, as though it were a mirror reflection, evoking a sense of how difficult it is to learn another language.



It was this thought that lodged itself in my brain as I decided to do a little 'participant observation' at dinner and ask how people found the first day of EPIC. The most repeated comment was that there simply wasn't enough time for Q & A as most of the participants felt that many people's individual research experiences would have been valuable starting points for debate and discussion of the theory papers. Secondly, a few of the delegates suggested that it might have been useful for people to identify themselves as having particular interests or links to certain disciplines. I believe the exact phrase was 'we want to meet more people like us'. This made me think long and hard about who this 'us' actually was and if there is an 'us' surely there must be a 'them'...? I have to admit I felt slightly defeated that the optimistic vibe of EPIC had been permeated by this dichotomous 'Othering'. The floor in the library demonstrated to me how difficult and isolating it is to translate one's self or be illiterate (in any language) and one of the hopes I had for EPIC was to become 'industrially' literate. I'm not sure that can happen if the people I want to hang out with don't want to hang out with me....

However, I have high hopes for today as I did for yesterday. I think theory is the only way to kick off a conference and I think that the methods sections today will allow us to think reflexively about some the problematic epistemic concepts and concerns that we were raised by yesterday's papers.

Try and see the slideshow online if you couldn't make it to the library!!

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