Workshopping videos (6/6): Dwellings

written by Anna Harris

Maastricht-In this workshop, the final in our series filmed by Paul Craddock from our July 2018 event Learning Materials, the anthropologist Rachel Harkness takes inspiration from a series of works called ‘Dwellings’ by U.S. artist Charles Simonds. Ephemeral and modest, in gutters, on windowsills, in the cracks and crevices of walls of brick and stone, Simonds’ Dwellings are built from clay for an imaginary and migratory civilisation of ‘Little People’. Participants were invited to site and construct their own miniature dwellings, their construction serving as a springboard for our own creative explorations of the materials (both literal and metaphorical) that we humans build with and the traces we leave in our wake.

We are thrilled to share the first of six videos documenting the six practical workshops that happened during this event. In this workshop Kristen Haring, in her words, led a “material investigation of folding, quite separate from Deleuze’s philosophical investigation of folding”. Participants folded napkins, many, many napkins. Conversations addressed repeatability, routinized labor, embodied learning, and how to bring hands-on exercises to bear on intellectual questions.

Stay tuned for more videos in the coming weeks!

The gathered group was incredibly accomplished and creative. There were talks and workshops by Manon Parry, Marieke Hendriksen, Paul Craddock, Caro Verbeek, Anne van Veen, Kaisu Koski, Jur Koksma and Valentijn Byvanck, many of which are collaborators with the Making Clinical Sense project. Roger and Dusia Kneebone delivered the public lecture. You can find details of my workshop and photos of what participants made below.

Also, see this video link for an incredible film made by artist-researchers Anne van Veen and Kaisu Koski, which resulted from my workshop. With their instructional films and objects Anne and Kaisu explore various cruelty-free materials and performativity in surgical education. The collaboration merges their interest in surgical skills, ASMR and arts-based methods in clinical education.

From Critical Thinking to Critical Making: Craft and Everyday Design in Medical Education

The intense effort in instructional design in medical education has the potential to overlook the more mundane and yet incredibly rich practices of everyday design. Everyday design in medical schools is tinkering work involving adaption or making in creative acts of repurpose. Hardly a new practice in medicine – tinkerers and makers have often radically transformed the field with their inventions, take the stethoscope for example – these are skills however which can be lost as medical education strives for efficiency, standardisation and objectivity. In this practical workshop we will joyfully celebrate small acts of everyday design and the craftsmanship of training healthcare professionals. The workshop draws empirically from an ongoing anthropological and historical study of the role of technologies in training doctors’ sensory skills of diagnosis. This study is one of the first collaborative and comparative social studies of medical training, with fieldwork already conducted by a team of anthropologists, science and technology studies scholars and historians in medical schools in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and West Africa. In these medical schools we have found, and been inspired by, everyday acts of making. In the workshop I will begin by sharing sensory images of, and stories about, teachers’ materials and innovations. I will put these examples into a broader narrative about design and critical making, areas of scholarship and practice I suggest offer fresh new perspectives on how to approach medical teaching. I sill suggest that attending to everyday design is not only a creative and enlightening practice, but a necessary one, in order to train adaptive, creative healthcare professionals of the future. Then we will make, attending closely to materials that could be or are used (for the medical educators in the room) in teaching. It will be a workshop in further training our imaginations, to share and consider new creative possibilities for how to teach doctors sensory diagnostic skills for examining patients. We will use materials that I will bring in (though feel free to bring your own materials), your own bodies, pens, paper or anything else we come up with on the spot and that you feel comfortable and inspired to use.

Reconsidering a Place for Anthropology in Medical Education

In medical education, the term qualitative research is often discussed without discrimination. The social sciences are consolidated, yet the lineages and approaches of each discipline within the social sciences are quite diverse. In this talk I wish to focus on the contribution of one field in particular, anthropology, as a distinctive qualitative research approach. Ethnography, the methodology used by anthropologists, is not unfamiliar to medical education. Yet an anthropological perspective can add so much more to medical education than this method. In this talk I will discuss four areas of contribution in particular: 1) theory, through inductive fieldwork; 2) methodology, through apprenticeship techniques; 3) pedagogy, through training observation; and 4) writing, through attention to stories. Empirically, I will include examples from my research team’s project, funded by the European Research Council, Making Clinical Sense. This is a historical-anthropological project looking at the role of technologies in teaching sensory diagnostic skills in medical schools in Eastern and Western Europe and West Africa.

Writing by making: experiments in how to write a book on learning sensory knowledge

By the time I visit Montreal I will hopefully have completed a manuscript for my new book project called A Sensory Education. This book takes a close look at how sensory awareness is learned and taught in expert and everyday settings around the world. My ethnographic examples vary from the medical schools where I spend a lot of time in, studying how doctors train their sensory skills of diagnosis, to cookbooks and IKEA instructions. The central message of the book is that sensing is not innate or acquired, but evolves through learning that is shaped through social and material relations. In particular the book looks at the work that goes into sensory education, including vocabularies, lesson-set ups, the design of instructions and the role of industry.

Much of this will not be new to many in the audience. What I would like to explore in this talk is the process of writing the book – a process that involved not only studying instruction but also making and designing educational materials too. As I want the reader to not only read about but also work through sensory instructions, the book has elements of a “how-to” format, which meant I needed to experiment a lot with the instructions myself. For example, as I wrote about the teaching tools in Maastricht, the Netherlands, I knitted a uterus. I made a 19th century instrument to measure the blueness of the sky when writing about learning sensory vocabulary, then tried to make a YouTube instructional video of the process. I included instructions on how to make these materials in the book and want to explore in the talk the possibilities and limitations of this kind of material thinking, another challenging aspect of what it means to write sensorially.

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How to Make an Omelette

by Andrea Wojcik
January 15, 2020

Workshopping videos (6/6): Dwellings

by Anna Harris
December 18, 2019

Workshopping videos (5/6): Visualising the workshop

by Anna Harris
December 11, 2019