Research Thesis

The Research Interest: 

How landscape informs knowledge production and the development of tools, technology towards sustaining a living in Valentia Island.

Methodology: Auto-ethnographic

A Work in Progress:

There is interest in the longer term development of action and/or research that informed the development of this thesis. The short ethnographic study completed for the MA was therefore a first action to explore potential avenues for a more robust body of work and so can be considered a work in progress.

In Practice: 

This year (2018) this institution (University College Cork) launched its first Civic and Community Engagement Plan.  Building on the work of Campus Engage, this publication outlines the policy context and literature review summarizing the need for the university to redefine itself which ‘involves creating and distributing socially relevant knowledge…and adopting a proactive committed role in the transformation of societies.’[cite]

Among other things, it highlights the civic dimension of this University’s work that expands across the breadth of the institution and includes Community Based Learning and Research, Learning Neighbourhoods, and collaborations with several rural ‘hub’ spaces. These hubs in effect constitute an emergent digitally enabled regional learning and knowledge production infrastructure that is embedded in local community contexts. They have a distinctly digital focus: underpinned and motivated by narratives that promote the opportunity presented by digital learning environments, the attractiveness of digital skills towards increased employment and digital infrastructure to enable local digitally dependent businesses in rural areas.

How does the academy collaborate and co-create such spaces and hubs to critically engage and nurture, creative, reflexive and socially and environmentally ethical learning and practice?

To begin appreciating the value of the models these types of hubs can offer, we must start with an understanding of the people and places where these spaces are located.

As Tilley highlights, ‘landscapes are untidy and messy, tensioned, always in the making.’

What are the other knowledge systems, networks, initiatives or communities of practice that are engaged in the making of the local landscape of ‘sustaining a living’ and how are these related and engaged with?

In Theory:

That it is a work in progress is also by way of pointing to the explicit objective, in particular its digital repository, to be experimental, transient. It aligns to an epistemological stance which Gary Hall describes as ‘The Inhumanities’ and is interested in Hall’s concept of ‘performative interventions’.  It could be considered the beginning of a performative ‘mapping’, a point of departure for further dialogue within the eco-system of knowledge production and communities of practice in the local landscape.

Dunn suggests that the spatiality of the internet has not been problematised as much as it could or should be (Dunn, 2017) and fears that we are at risk of creating a dystopia of way finding. Posner critiques the wide adoption of Google Maps and Open Street Map by the DH community, without being cognisant of the colonial cartesian world view it represents (Posner, 2015). Nowviskie is ‘interested in the rhetorical, technological, aesthetic, and deeply personal, sometimes even sentimental, struggles brought into focus by the Anthropocene—and how they prompt us to position the work of the digital humanities in time’ (Nowviskie, 2014), with a focus on extinctions that seems to resonate with Solnit’s investigation into loss. (Solnit, 2005)

The broader epistemological concern then is an enquiry that asks, as we go about embedding digital technologies in our local landscapes of learning and sustaining a living, are we bringing enough attention to its materiality – the phenomenological, emotional, epistemological and ontological orientations of our work to the landscape, to the wilderness?

You can view the digital repository here and download a pdf of the written submission here.