Tim Ingold's "That's Enough About Ethnography"--The Seminar is Underway

Officially, the seminar begins on Monday. But here, to get things started are our first assignments. 

(1) Several of us are already acquainted. Others may be meeting us for the first time. Please add a few words about yourself. For example,

I am, yes, an old white man, 70 years old, a U.S. citizen of Scots-Irish-German-Alsatian descent who has lived and worked in Japan since 1980. I have been married to the same woman, who is also my best friend and business partner, for 45 years. We have one highly accomplished daughter and two grandkids, a boy and a girl. I am an independent scholar who has neither a career nor a livelihood at stake in our debates. 
(2) Then, to get things started, the following exercise.

Early in this article, Ingold tells us that he "will not refrain from polemic." Then, as those writing polemics often do, he contrasts a nightmare with a vision of better things.

He describes the nightmare as follows,

How many research proposals have we read, coming from such fields as sociology, social policy, social psychology and education, in which the applicant explains that he or she will conduct “ethnographic interviews” with a sample of randomly selected informants, the data from which will then be processed by means of a recommended software package in order to yield “results”? 

He then describes his vision, 

Proper, rigorous anthropological inquiry—including long-term and open-ended commitment, generous attentiveness, relational depth, and sensitivity to context.

Please tell us what this nightmare and vision evoke for you. Describe any feelings, images, or thoughts that come to mind as you read these descriptions. Be as concrete as possible.

Remember, at this point, we are not evaluating these descriptions. We want to discover how they are interpreted by each of us here, and where what they evoke for each of us may overlap or conversely be very different.

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"All human interactions are skewed."

Of course they are. All primate interactions are skewed. No reason except for utopian dreams to think otherwise. The question is how far should they be skewed and to what ends. 
The creative directors I study are all team leaders. They all have the authority to make decisions when deadlines loom. They vary enormously in how they achieve and employ their authority. The Commanders use authority to impose their will. They are usually obeyed because other team members have careers and livelihoods at stake. The best Coaches seem to embody the Daoist maxim, attributed to Laozi, that governing a kingdom should be like frying a small fish. It requires a delicate touch. They will cheerfully play the clown to lighten the atmosphere until the ideas they need (the ones that build on the client's brief and add value to it) appear. Then, they can be tough as nails when it comes to execution, insisting that "good enough" is never good enough and pushing for improvement in every detail. 
To understand how this process works, it is vital to know that every creative project involves three distinct phases: brainstorming, where ideas are proposed and sifted; presentation to the client, who will or won't buy a proposal; and, then, if the client buys an idea, the production phase in which the idea is executed. There is no contradiction between having fun during the brainstorming phase and being totally professional during production. Which leads me to a question about how to run a seminar on OAC or any other online forum?
Are we in the brainstorming phase or in the production phase? 
Most online discussions are confined to the pre-brainstorming, what I will rudely call "bullshitting" phase. They are like bar conversation. The atmosphere soon becomes stale. All but the dead enders leave the bar for other venues. My proposal, which I experimented with in this seminar, is to find ways to get beyond bullshitting to brainstorming. If someone discovers an idea in these conversations, writes a grant proposal, and goes off to do serious research, more power to them. But imposing standards appropriate for formal presentation or systematic research when a heterogeneous group of people with overlapping but different interests are tossing ideas around is a recipe for failure.
I could be wrong about that, but I require a demonstration. So, Kristian, the ball in in your court. You believe  that transparent, concrete seminar guidelines will be a good thing. So, it appears do Keith and Erin. That's a good start.  But now it is time for some science. Conduct your own experiment.  Start a seminar. Impose some guidelines. See how it works. I for one will promise to participate and follow whatever guidelines you decide on. I hope that others will join us.
In the meantime, I do hope that Lee will act on my suggestion and lead a seminar on David Graeber's take on Shilluk Divine Kingship. Pretty please, with sugar on top.



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