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2017, April 21: Jill Didur talk on "Beyond Anti Conquest"
April 21: Talk by Jill Didur
"Beyond Anti-Conquest: Unearthing the Botanical Archive with Locative Archive" (Concordia University, Canada)
LM = locative media
- colonial travel accounts are contradictory, as traveller asserts European hegemony at the same time they assert their nature-based innocence
- encompassing critical affordances of locative media apps and goals of app, Didur looks at how LM platforms can challenge the nostalgia of botanic gardens that prompts visitors to grapple with impact of imperialism and gardening on the environment
Botanic Gardens and Critical Discourse
- botanic gardens as perfect place to see how contemporary gardens affect how we think of the environment
- Alpine Gardens: rather than attempt to sustain South and Central Asian plants in greenhouses in places with cold climates, European and North American gardeners sometimes took pride in sustaining alpine and rock-based gardens, as these will thrive year-round
- W. Robinson comments on "naturalizing the natives of countries" through creating miniature mountain landscapes
- new garden aesthetic that was concurrent with rise in idea of the garden as a nature-preserve in scientific discourse
- questioning anthropocentralization focused on concerning the environment in areas under North American control, thinking of issues of conservationism
Experiences of other botanic gardens
- Didur considered how her research affected her experience of botanic gardens she visited, such as Royal Horticultural Society Garden in Surrey
- she saw no reference to how colonialism has shaped the design of such gardens
- Garden Explorers program encourages visitors (esp kids) to approach the garden through a perspective of anti-conquest
- Didur is interested in how many spaces of colonial history have risen in self-reflection, but botanic gardens are still relatively devoid of reference to this history
Alpine Garden Misguide Research Questions
refers to Alpine Garden in the Montréal Botanical Gardens
design came out of questions: how can LM resettle rather than reinforce archaic space of botanic gardens, a space that otherwise encourages tries to make it appear as if everything is growing in nature (they have a resistance to buildings, meant to look like a naturalized landscape)
how is research/writing about environment transformed when compared to these gardens, esp through LM?
how can LM be used to disrupt habitual ways of seeing/thinking about space?
on the surface, this is what museum guides (data/info linked to space)
this idea that didactic info is all LM can do; app moves away from transparent knowledge and towards embodied quality of the user's perception
Alpine Garden Misguide experience: embodiment & reading
signs invite visitors to explore the space through app,
app re-directs visitors to think about the power relations and cultural attitudes that shape rock and alpine garden design, details of the work that goes into maintaining the Alpine garden
- several layers to the content of the app
app is structured to leverage productive tension in reading and experience
content of app can be collected, offering users' review of material out of garden to extend their experience beyond the immediate visit
reading can still rely heavily on the idea of being transported to distant worlds
- app capitalizes on this, (Brian Greenspan:) mobilizing users' knowledge of printed literatures in a spatial way, interferring with the performance of place
on Andrew Piper's Book was Here: while the book is always somewhere and nowhere, but digital texts are always somewhere and elsewhere
AP: digital reading can feel like it's happening in many places at once
LM counters decontextualized experience of reading online, creating corporeal connections between what we've seen and where we've seen it
- becomes electronic palimpsest intent on transitive reading
- people are always moving back and forth between garden and screen, partly bc garden is so beautiful
- no worry that screen will dominate user's experience of space
- LF Q: how to reconcile this potential struggle when the space is mundane or the non-spectacular or the quotidian?
Q & A
Q (Didur's former colleague, U de M): Alpine Garden presented as an anachronistic space, intent on hiding the grooming, the maintainence, the fantasy
A: definitely in management of and popular culture associated with gardens, the reasons many people go to public gardens are for pleasure
- but have also been spaces of scientific exploration
- now gardens need a new agenda to make them relevant: emphasis on conservation
- having met with and spoken to management at Montréal Botanical Gardens, Didur saw that they had had an app in mind, though her app is very specific
- she sees suppression of narrative of ppl's relationship to garden; they want to think of it as benign
Q (Cecily, Lang and Lit, McGill): First, pre-colonial narratives? Does the app consider Indigeneous communities and the arrival of colonial powers? Could this create a plurality of voices? Second, idea of media ecologies and how a platform could operate as an ecology in itself that diversifies the space? Third, web responsiveness--how does app operate across platforms? Fourth, issues of accessibility?
A: as a non-DH scholar approaching this, Didur interested in research-creation methodology of exploring media and the digital, in intersection with her own work
- aiming for a plurality of voices to begin with
- thinking of Indigenous communities, inspired by Eric Mueggler's The Paper Road for its historical botanical archive
- the value of the archive (and its authorship and ownership) is not accurately defined as a collaborative work between the East and West
- explorers reflected on their reliance upon local communities to help them find and press the plants; important for Didur to decenter the "heroic" travellers and their voice in this sense, especially when they are often celebrated in these botanical gardens
- pushback of the non-human: the plants like "adapt your environment to me if you want me to thrive"
- currently interested in urban wilds bc they are caught between ideas of the uncultivated, wild landscapes, with a focus on Indigenous plants, but what we think about in terms of the Indigenous of these spaces stops at the human
- she wants to push into the thinking of these spaces--and part of it is the Indigeneity of the plants
- make them think: how has this space been shaped by toxicity, industrialization, settler communities, how have they shaped the space botanically, culturally, politically?
- what would it mean to think about the space as Indigenous territory?
- valuing women's labour in garden spaces, Didur was interested in this pre-colonial history
- as well as the anthropocene: how "deep time" has been reappropriated in anthropocene discourse
Q (same person): re: media ecologies, with goal of deepening time, how does this operate in this ecological system?
- abandoned spaces as blank spaces that are quite lively, and awareness of these spaces could be better developed in spaces such as the Champ des Possibles
- environmental footprint of mobile media explored by Jason Farman and Adriana de Souza e Silva
- how could we integrate this into the experience of the app?
Q (Michael Eberle-Sinatra): potential gamification aspect as one way to challenge what a botanical garden app is, a mixture of museum studies? A living component to gardens versus museums.
- LF: Well, I still think that both are still curated.
A: we're still thinking through this, especially how to do it politically responsibly
- mobile media designs could be pushed further
- potentially geocaching
- interactivity is more important than gamifying, in order to get people more engaged
Q (Cecily): GPS or Google satellite images over a ten-year period? Might be a way to bring historical value of the space that is already digital
- some locations will be indicated on a map, some sounds will be hidden