Workshop 1 - Homo Experimentalis - Discussion

Discussion following the first panel of the workshop (Homo experimentalis) was oriented around five main themes.

Firstly, the questions of repetitions and patterns were considered, taking into account the difficulty of drawing distinction between innovation and tradition. Debate was initially probing the notion of ‘re-invention of tradition’ gradually moving towards the importance of recognition that one can always find reinvention in tradition (as a function of what it is to be human).

Secondly, referring directly to Robin Skeates’s argument about sensescapes, Laura Watts raised questions about how the quality of landscape might encourage certain forms of experimentation. The discussion explored the characteristics of experimenting with landscapes, as opposed to experimentation in a domestic context. Further, questions were raised about whether there were greater freedoms to innovate outside the domestic landscape.

Thirdly, debate turned to the relationship between experimentation and innovation. Here, the following ideas were examined:

  • innovation as trial and error
  • innovation as an experiment
  • innovation as something that archaeologies observe, over long time-scales, without a guiding intelligence
  • experimentation as an intentional process
  • innovation as a reproduction of the same (Lyotard)
  • innovation in terms of Derrida's discussion of invention

Fourthly, Christina Toren’s presentation urged a discussion about ethnography’s distinction from culture. It has been considered that ethnography is an impossible experiment by looking at the sciences and posing the question whether the research is actually manageable. Further, the questions were raised relating to how science manages to control and domesticate contingencies that are always there, both in the experiments and in the knowledge it produces.

These arguments were followed by a debate considering the agency of the person conducting research and crucial changes to the agency in time. Concluding, concerns were raised as to whether experimentality is an appropriate mode for thinking about these historical and culturally specific changes, and if not, what might be.