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Workshopping, the video essay

07/07/20

Some research topics are really tricky to put into words – especially those like bodily experience, sensing and inhabiting places, some of the topics of our MCS project. Traditional academic articles don’t cut it. So Paul Craddock and Anna Harris experimented with a video essay instead, and we love the results. It is open access and peer-reviewed. Our topic was in fact very academic – the academic workshop – but our treatment of it tries to attend to how it could be considered more closely to a craftsperson’s workshop, where tools, place and skills are paramount. You can read the full abstract below.

Workshopping: Exploring the Entanglement of Sites, Tools, and Bodily Possibilities in an Academic Gathering

Still from video article

The craftsperson’s workshop, the academic workshop – how comparable are they? Historically, craft workshops have been sites of sustained cooperation, imbued with elaborate social rituals and hierarchies, and are considered places of experimentation. Through close engagement with materials, tools, places, and other bodies, the body itself is acknowledged as a ‘learning’ and ‘knowing’ entity (Sennett 2008). Academic workshops, similarly, have rituals and hierarchies, and aspire to be experimental venues. Framed as cerebral affairs, however, their embodied dimension is far subtler and easier to overlook. This video essay focuses on an academic workshop that took place in Maastricht, in the Netherlands, in July 2018. The workshop focused on teaching and learning, particularly attending to how learning is related to the environment in which we learn, how materials and sensorality influences the development of embodied skills, and how technologies and global contexts shape learning. Over four days, 40 participants – all academics or practitioners – ran or participated in panel discussions, movement and object exercises, practical workshops, and a public event which delved into this topic, exploring how it related to their academic work. The main venue choice was very specific – a hotel school completely staffed by hospitality students. We learned alongside them. It was, in some sense, a skillshare workshop. We took seriously the assertion that making and performing are also acts of thinking, and that meaning is created and expressed in multiple modes (Kress 2010, Brown and Banks 2014, Kullman 2014); the workshop was inherently interactive, often using experiments and exercises to structure dialogue in creative ways, and involved contributions from makers and other practitioners. This video essay uses closely-observed insights which emerged from the video of the event, to consider what this workshop on learning and embodiment offers to thinking about the nature of the academic workshop more broadly, and its potential relationship to the kinds of craft workshops Sennett describes. It speaks in conversation with literature which recognises a relationship between bodies, environments, and materials in knowing about the world (eg. Pink 2017, Lave 2019, Ingold 2013) also drawing on literature which explores the nature of how we gather (Parker 2019). It adds new insights through exploring three themes from the small group workshops that aren’t always prominent in the literature – that are perhaps difficult to explicate in words – framing the workshop as a place of learning and apprenticeship: fumbling, traces of places, and the tactile-digital. Through reference to these themes, the videos link academic experimentation and embodied learning. And while these themes all emerge in the literature above, the video component reveals the extent to which we found them to be entangled – bodies with places, with materials, with digital landscapes. This palimpsest of interactions, and how they are inter-related, is difficult to recognise in a written treatment.

How to Cite: Craddock, P., & Harris, A. (2020). Workshopping: Exploring the Entanglement of Sites, Tools, and Bodily Possibilities in an Academic Gathering. Journal of Embodied Research, 3(1), 2 (16:17). DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/jer.30
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