2017/11/29 Tim Ingold | “The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research Conference (web video)

Doing science should be wayfinding (pathfinding), says #TimIngold , gaining grounding in the art of paying attention, towards research as the pursuit of truth. Truth is more than objective facts, where science and art are embraced with materials, so that we can see the quality inside the natural world as it forms, rather than as the artifacts after it’s dead.

Tim Ingold, The Art of Research Conference, 2017/11/29

[42:00] So this it is the fundamental problem with science, that it is founded on a dilemma, that it tells us that we are parts of the world, and yet it can only have the knowledge it has by saying that as scientists, we stand outside the world.

[42:23] So we need to be able to show how knowledge can grow from the inside of being, from the crucible of our participatory and observational of involvement with the world around us, that is, within the give-and-take of life.

[42:37] And of course that takes us right back to the issue of data, from which I began. And it takes us also to the idea of research which is a central topic for this conference.

[42:53] Research again is one of those words that has become used and abused to the point that no one any longer knows exactly what it means.

[43:01] Or, it’s lost its grounding. And I want to insist that research is, and must be, the pursuit of truth. If we live …. If we lose that — if we say “oh truth, that’s too hot to handle, I don’t know what truth is” — then we we lose any grounding for research as a legitimate and ethical activity.

[43:23] Now, of course, there are all sorts of ways of defining truth, but here is mine: Truth, I argue, is the unison of imagination and experience in a world to which we are alive and that is alive to us.

[43:45] That means that truth depends on our full and unqualified participation in the world, from which it follows to, that truth is absolutely not the same as objectivity These are very different things.

[44:01] And I think at the moment we are in grave danger of conflating truth and objectivity because of the current panic about post-truth. Nobody wants post truth but most of the people, most of the commentators, who are warning us of the dangers of a post truth era, in which sort of anything goes, in which using the data one can invent any kind of story, is that they’re assuming that truth means pure and simple objective fact.

[44:37] it was a pure and simple objective fact that there were more people at Obama’s inauguration than a Trump’s. Okay. And it was post truth to pretend otherwise but if that is all we mean by truth — how many people were at the inauguration, was it this number or that number — then that is a very very reduced a very impoverished sense of what truth is. And I think it’s a real challenge — and this is a challenge for art as much as anything — to insist upon what truth means, beyond the mere facts of objectivity. […]

[45:14] At the end of the 19th century, the chemist Friedrich August Kekulé …

[45:48] … He said to the to the aspiring scientist: Note every footprint, every bent twig, every fallen leaf, and there you will see where next to place your feet. So. An then he called this way of doing science — and, so, you’re going walking very delicately through through the woods, and noting every twig, every every fallen leaf, and then deciding, yes, that’s the next place to put your feet — he called that pathfinding. And he thought of science as a pathfinding — or I would call it wayfaring. And the thing is, that the path finder corresponds with things in their formation rather than being informed by what is already precipitated out.

[46:34] The pathfinder doesn’t just collect, but accepts, what the world has to offer because he is paying acute attention to everything. And I think it’s here rather than [rather than] in arrogating to itself the authority to represent a given reality, it is here that science can join with art as a way of knowing in being. That is that in practice the hands and minds of scientists, just like the hands and minds of artists, absorb into their ways of working a perceptual acuity attuned to the materials that have captured their attention.

[47:18] And so as these materials vary, so does experience. And what that suggests is that in practice scientists are differentiated by their actual experience of working with stuff. That a glaciologist, really having spent so much time with ice, really appreciates — and in a tactile haptic way — the qualities of ice. It’s almost looking at ice with icy eyes and … and a botanist, or a mycologist, as my dad was, would … look at fungi with … eyes that already have a sort of fungal quality inside them. And that was the science that I grew up with as the son of a mycologist.

[48:02] In my childhood, in which we were — I and like my peers were — felt a sort of wonder in the beauty of the natural world. It was a it was a science founded in care, in attentiveness, and in gratitude, for what we owe the world, for our existence

[48:27] What concerns me now is that science, as it is presented to schoolchildren today, has turned Wonder and gratitude into commodities. They no longer guide its practices. They no longer guide the practices of science. but are used … to advertise its results, so that more and more science has listed art in order to promote its hard sell. To offer images that beautify its results, that soften its impact, and mask often its collusions with corporations whose only interest in research is that it should drive innovation. Because in a neoliberal economy of knowledge, only what is new, sells.

Source: Tim Ingold, “”The Art of Paying Attention” | The Art of Research VI Conference: Catalyses, Interventions, Transformations | November 29, 2017, Espoo, Finland at http://artofresearch2017.aalto.fi/programme.html . Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mytf4ZSqQs


David Ing blogs at coevolving.com , photoblogs at daviding.com , and microblogs at http://ingbrief.wordpress.com . A profile appears at , and an independent description is on .

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