One of the best things about coming back to Amsterdam was the prospect of meeting the summerschool students. Andrea Scharnhorst and I had a great working session with the ‘wayfinder’ group on 22 August. The energy, intelligence and experience that these students bring to these sessions is really exceptional. They are in Amsterdam for a few short weeks and are pursuing and adapting their research, giving it all they’ve got. It’s very exciting to witness, and it really reminds me what a privilege it is to teach. Now, it’s over, and like last year, I miss them!
In the session, we started out with a discussion of a multitude of maps of Amsterdam that Andrea and I had been collecting. The aim was to raise issues around knowledge(s), and to serve as an introduction to mini-lectures that Andrea and I gave later on about our approaches to the study of knowledge and to a discussion about the knowledge the group was generating about ‘wayfinding’.
This exercise served to open up a discussion of the conditions of production and implications of various kinds and representations of knowledge–classic themes in Science and Technology Studies and topics of interest to the Wayfinders. Maps are a good talking object for this kind of exercise, because they are artefacts that we tend to see as ‘transparent’ and instrumental (as tools for a purpose). By trying to order or evaluate these maps according to various criteria, we started to deconstruct both the artefacts and the criteria! Maps were also of great interest to the student-researchers, since they had had their subjects generate maps in the course of their research. (I’ll write some more about the issue of ‘subjects’ in a later post). Then Andrea spoke about modelling and simulation and I talked about ethnography. The afternoon ended with a discussion of the particular methodological challenges of the group and about their research experiences.
We also had the pleasure of hearing more about the Wayfinders’ research in the course of the conference in which the summerschool students and a group of media students from the University of Amsterdam presented their research. Paul Wouters, Andrea, Charles van den Heuvel, Jan Kok and Sally Wyatt were there from the VKS.