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Jayne Blog 2: Everything Has a Voice

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Through the Ongoingness project concepts of dialogicality have been extremely useful and they feel relevant, albeit for a different reason/context, in our hiCraft project. The ideas of dialogicality come from lliterary theorist Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin’s work – a great book in my experience being Morson, G.S. and Emerson, C., 1990. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a prosaics. Stanford University Press.

The voice is a key theme in dialogicality where all things (people, other living things, inanimate objects, materials…) have a voice – in the widest sense. This can be verbal, but equally it can be non-verbal, things like gestures, gazes, growth cycles, characteristics of materials, lifespan etc can all be considered as part of the voice that something has. Crucially, voices always position themselves in relation to others – they are never alone or individual, instead they are always in some kind of dialogue with other voices, causing a constant flow of new associations and meanings.

This dividuality is interesting to me – the idea that all things (as voices) are constantly forming connections with each other – they are intensely social and always on the move, forming clusters of meanings/dialogues then breaking apart to form new ones. The notion of dividuality is something I’ve been thinking through for a long time – in terms of the self it relates strongly to philosophies of Personhood in dementia care (see Kitwood, T. Dementia reconsidered: The person comes first. Open University Press, 1997. Or Kitwood, T. and Bredin, K. Towards a theory of dementia care: Personhood and well-being. Ageing and Society. 12 (1992), 269–287. (I’ve written elsewhere on this too see  here) and it also completely speaks to Continuing Bonds theory in bereavement (see Klass, D.E., Silverman, P.R. and Nickman, S.L., 1996. Continuing bonds: New understandings of grief.) In both Personhood and Continuing Bonds we are all seen as social beings – self does not merely reside in our bodies or cognition it is partly constructed, nurtured and maintained outside of our bodies in our relationships with people around us. So rather than being individual we can say that we are dividual – which, to me, is extremely exciting. It gives us all agency to support and nourish one another – and in design or research more widely it frames a space for supporting sense of self for people and these dividual, social interactions of voices that continually happen.

I’m just back from a couple of days in Norwich – Justin, Phil and I visited Nicola’s studio and got to focus on the hiCraft project solidly for a couple of days. One consequence is that Nicola and I have decided to collaborate on a piece of work for hiCraft over the next couple of months. I’ve been wanting to work with Nicola since we first met at a conference (Challenging Craft, which was held in Aberdeen in 2004 I think) – her work and the way she thinks has always given me things to consider from new angles and, for me, it was by far the richest thing at that conference and it was just so good to get to talk at length with her this last week, in person and find our way into this project some more. We’d both been stitching some embroidery pieces, which is the usual medium for neither of us. So there was a funny, in a good way, sharing of this to begin with.

Her thinking recently about notions of care led us into discussions around this topic and where digital things are usually placed in this ‘care’ context – most commonly as quantified-self kinds of devices or monitoring of someone by another person. One of the points she was making were how gadgets are constantly sending you notifications and don’t care whether you’re in the mood to receive these voices or not – and this made me think of the voicedness of digital gadgets in the care context and how far from ‘caring’ they are. Justin noted that they tend to be driven by the fact that they are in economy motivated platforms, making noise in an effort to get you to consume. Nicola had been stitching an embroidery piece in relation to her fitbit data and this led us to thinking about a collaboration where we both share our fitbit data and consider where care resides within this – how we perceive the other’s data – what we notice – how we interpret this into a form of making.

Matching Fitbits bought we made a plan to download data at fixed points and send this to one another for the collaboration to start. We have connected our accounts on the app and can see some basic information about each other’s activity – it feels strange, but good, actually, to be connected up like this. Nic is doing a lot more walking each day than I am since coming back from Norwich as I’ve mainly been catching up on desk work so I’m wondering what she’s been up to and hoping it’s lots of time on her allotment. Looking forward to seeing where this takes us…