CODE Media, Games & Art Conference draft abstract

The very ‘drafty’ abstract starts after the paragraph below. First paragraph locates this draft abstract in a much larger research project. Comments, critique, feedback, etc welcome.

The research paper I am currently working on is titled ‘Towards an archaeology of know how’. Derived in part from my PhD research, I am shifting the focus from enthusiasm to the forms of tacit experience-based knowledge produced by enthusiasts and how this ‘know how’ circulates. The ‘Towards…’ paper is for publication in a special issue of the Cultural Studies Review due out next year. It will serve as a draft version of the first chapter in a book on ‘An Archaeology of Know How’. I am currently carrying out research in three or four other ‘chapter oriented’ areas of research interest. One is researching the early colonial era of Australian history to produce an account of colonial economies of knowledge. This is an experiment in rethinking questions of national identity organised around the creative capacity to produce knowledge and has so far proved very interesting. At least two or three other chapters shall explore know how, popular culture and enthusiast media from the early 20th century until the advent of ‘social media’. One will focus on the massification in the circulation of ‘know how’ in the early 20th century, another the emergence of popular cultures of enthusiast-based economies of ‘know how’ in the mid-20th, and lastly the transition from print-based media forms — largely magazines — to web-based mechanisms for the distribution of ‘know how’. I am thinking this last area would serve as a good topic for the upcoming CODE conference at Swinburne. Below is the beginning of a draft abstract:

I lived through this transition in the car scene of Australia from magazines to email lists to discussion forums to blogs/websites/entire specialist social media platforms. A genealogy of ‘know how’ requires a process of teasing out the multiple layers of socio-technical systems that have complex and overlapping durations. This is a baroque architecture of experiences that are contracted into habit and system design. The creation of ‘know how’ means that design becomes a condition of actual — rather than possible — experience. ‘Know how’ is concerned with the ad hoc performative knowledges that are born of experience and which gain teleological currency as part of a material aesthetics and semiotics of functionality.

De Certeau famously suggested that ‘know how’ was a form of knowledge that could not be represented in discourse. To the extent the knowledge itself cannot be represented, De Certeau is correct. ‘Know how’ can be distributed through media, however, by implicating potential subjects of ‘know how’ in the events of experience through which they will develop the embodied dimensions of the knowledge. The media representation is of the conditions of actual experience (most commonly systems that belong to mass-produced commodities) that can serve as the necessarily elements to catalyse such experiences that result in the development of ‘know how’. ‘Development’ in the sense a photo print is developed.

The classic example of this is the ‘How to’ article that leads potential subjects of ‘know how’ through the processual steps of engaging with a socio-technical system. The ‘How to’ article has a weird temporality as it is captures future experiences by providing the conditions of past experience(s) that are nevertheless repeated in different ways. What is represented is ‘this’ practice of engaging with ‘that’ technical system, but what circulates is the ‘how’ of the knowledge developed through the experience of doing ‘this’ to ‘that’.

The print-based magazine has been the dominant mode of distributing know for that last 70 years. Examples. The online web-based mechanisms for the distribution of ‘know how’ have largely replaced the print-based enthusiast magazine. Examples. How to think about this transition? Print-based magazine as abstract machine with different functions. The abstract machine of the enthusiast magazine has been separated and distributed across multiple platforms in different ways. Examples, something.

There has been an explosion in the ways media-based designers think about their task as producing ‘experiences’ rather than negotiating through different design-based modes of representation and correlative concepts such as ideology, identity, and so on. A semiotics of functionality is required to grasp the conditions of experience. Examples, something. The question of agency is paramount here as it seems most popular acounts of experience-based design (‘UX’) are actually oriented around obfuscating the teleology of experience, so the ‘know how’ is of a functionality that the subject does not necessarily want, but what the designer has been paid to produce. Something.

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