Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Humanities Methodology class has me thinking

This post may become part of a probe for a class in the near future.  Probes are reading responses.

When I am feeling my worst about modern life, I often think how easy it would be to just be my 18thC persona for a couple of days.  Being in the 18thC is so easy for me, I take her clothes out of the crate and put them on.  I am tied to a constrained idea of fashion, and morals, even the foods we eat and how we go about our daily tasks are to a pretty strict guideline.  But even this society has changed over the years that I have been involved. 

As I begin this probe, I have just finished the readings on Actor-Network Theory and Controversy Cartography.
Law, John. "Notes on the Theory of the Actor Network: Ordering, Strategy and Heterogeneity." Lancaster: The Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University. 1999, revised 2003.

Venturini, Tommaso. "Diving in Magma: How to Explore Controversies with Actor-Network Theory." Public Understanding of science 19.3 (2010): 258-273

They may be clouding my interpretation of the readings for the week that I am probing, but that 'spector' is there, leading me to these thoughts. They build on last week's readings on Infrastructure and more on Cartography.  Last week I was thinking about my studio space, and how it works and doesn't work in its current state, in this house.  This week, I am thinking about why I am studying the thing that I am studying (18thC clothing) and how it relates to my hobby as a historical animator.  And then how that hobby has changed through the technology and infrastructure of facebook and the network and actors involved in the larger hobby.

The readings for this probe are all about the media and how it relates to cultural studies.

Kramwer, Sybille, and Horst Bredekamp. "Culture, Technology, Cultural Techniques - Moving Beyond Text." Theory, Culture and Society 30.6 (November 2013): 20-29

Siegert, Bernard. "Cultural Techniques: Of the End of the Intellectual Postwar Era in German Media Theory." Theory, Culture and Society 30.6 (November 2013): 48-65

Sterne, Jonathan. "Bourdieu, Technique and Technology." Cultural Studies 17.3/4 (2003): 367-89

So, when I began in the hobby of reenacting, clothing of reenactors suffered greatly from the old-timey look made popular through TV shows like "Little House on the Prarie".  The men's military uniforms were fairly well researched and they made a strong attempt to get things right.  The civilian population though, wore what ever they liked, really.  There wasn't much concern for historical accuracy, they were just an add-on to the military show.  Things began to change though, as more and more researchers of historical clothing joined the hobby and wanted to get things right.  At the time though, the internet wasn't a widely known thing, and researchers were working in large part, in isolation.  When the email list serve became a thing, accuracy in civilian dress really took off, because our community became larger, encompassing more and more units and organizations across North America.

The Infrastructure of our hobby changed from small groups of folks figuring things out in their living rooms on Monday evenings, to having a continental conversation of like minded folks.  Without leaving my own living room, I met a community of people I may not have otherwise met.  We discussed things and inspired each other to push our standards of accuracy in dress, but also life.  Now, with facebook, there are any number of communities that one can join and become part of the conversation.

I make this point because our hobby has changed because of the media infrastructure.  Before, we would meet at the events held almost every weekend during the summer months.  Smaller groups may get together during the winter months on a regular basis.  Smaller numbers still, may travel to meet other reenactors in other places, to learn and share information.  Our hobby has changed because now, there is no real separation between modern life and our hobby life.  We are able to immerse ourselves in conversations about the 18thC all day, every day if we so choose.  We share research, photographs of events, ideas.  To me, the hobby has become more inclusive because of the technology.  I can stay abreast of new research even if I may not make it to a single event in the season.  My community is also much larger than I had ever dreamed it could be.

I find it interesting as a side note, that because of this media network, fashion trends emerge.  Yes, fashion trends...Not what you would expect from a hobby that is supposed to be historically accurate to the month and year.  You wouldn't think a modern idea such as the fashion trend would have an effect.  But it does.  When new research is published, either through social media or in paper form (relating to the week's readings) people rush to make copies for themselves.  Be it silk bonnets, or a newly found cut of gown, or whether a particular fabric was used, trends emerge in the fashions that you will see at events.  We have to be very mindful of how our research will be perceived by the population of our hobby.  What kind of name fame do we hold, and how will that effect how our research is transmitted, copied.  If we have found an anomaly in our research, will it become "fashionable" and give the wrong message to the public (that our anomaly was worn by everyone).

How has the technology and media we use effected the hobby we participate in?  For a hobby that allows us to live for even a short period of time "tech" free, the technology that we use in our daily lives has become inextricably intertwined.  It pushes our research, and builds our community.  And yes, creates fashion trends we sometimes don't expect, and may don't even want.

Ok, so this is a first draft of my thoughts on the readings so far...