Ingold, I beweave you have a few problems

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Easton_3.3.09

My head is still swimming a little so forgive me if I begin to drown during this. As we have already discussed in this class, our current academic situation in the West is heavily dependent on a Cartesian divide between mind and body which Ingold shows us has far reaching implications in dichotomies of mind vs nature, substance vs form, interior vs exterior, ration vs emotion, etc. The problem, Ingold argues, is that these are false dichotomies which are obscuring our true involvement as dwellers in the world. We live in a world where thought is active and action is passive (2000:416). Instead we need to view the world as a place of active engagement and relational performance.

Although I am fascinated by Ingold’s argument, I cannot resist playing devil’s advocate. My first point of contention comes from his use of the parallel between novice and “as if” actor (2000:416). At first, I thought this a brilliant argument for the importance of performance and practice but as I thought of my own experience, I found myself doubting. In college, I was a diver and placed 3rd in the Division III national finals twice. During my diving, there were many times when I found a particular dive difficult and no matter how many times I “performed” it, it never seemed to come together correctly. When this happened, my instructor would take me away from the boards to a classroom where I would sit in the dark and visualize the dive, sometimes for hours. When I returned to the boards, most of the time I corrected my errors and threw a much better dive. This seems to run counterintuitive to Ingold’s emphasis on practice.

As a second challenge to this, what about the savant? What I mean to say is that there seems to be an inherent talent and/or skill level in some people (or the opposite in many cases). On my team in college, there was a young man who arrived early to every practice and stayed late. He visualized, watched video, and did dry-land throws. Despite all of his effort, he couldn’t through a decent dive the entire 3 years I was on the team. Why, if practice is the crucial aspect of skillful performance, did this young man have so much difficulty? Doesn’t this indicate that there is an extremely salient “intellectual” component that affects technical skill?

Thirdly, Ingold makes an argument that writing removes the performance, dwelt-in aspect of language (2000:412). At the same time, writing is itself a performance, a “playing of the cello” if you will. I am not sure then that writing is a removal of practice, but a re-practice that incorporates all of Ingold’s emphasis on imagination, skill, and performance. Does this, in turn, strengthen his argument or weaken it? What of aesthetic writing, calligraphy, or Braille?

Fourthly, in a world in which programming is reaching incredibly complex levels and artificial intelligence is becoming less and less artificial and more intelligent, where does the future of Ingold’s arguments lie? Does his argument against the efficaciousness of programmed actions (2000:414) hold in a world in which robotics can be programmed to do actions faster, stronger, and more efficient?

Fifth, Ingold states that we should view making as weaving and thereby privilege the process (2000:346). Does this apply to societies in which the process is removed from the consumer? We may think of this as a relatively modern phenomenon but consider the specialty craftsmen in ancient cultures. In addition, what of objects whose sole purpose was symbolic? Or who were produced by God’s? In these cases isn’t the process unimportant?

I suppose that’s a good start and his rock article was already well-critiqued. I hope I kept my nose above the waves.

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