Meg Wiessner Annotations

Habits, Neuroses, Talents (

Monday, August 10, 2020 - 11:34pm

1. Do you have more trouble articulating your frame (social theoretical questions) or object?

Oh, definitely object!  

2. Do you tend to project-hop or to stick to a project, and what explains this?

I tend to project hop, but not project drop; I often have a lot of small side projects and hypothetical projects going on. Some of them  go on the back burner almost indefinitely, but sometimes, unexpectedly, the chance emerges to quickly wrap them up. 

I feel like this happens because I might hit a theoretical problem, or something about my own framing just doesn’t sit right with me. In these cases, I’m uncomfortable moving forward, and might gravitate towards a new project where some of the issues that arose are easier to work through, maybe so I can eventually return to the previous one. I feel this was a habit I adopted almost of necessity from working as an artist and freelancing. 

3. Do you tend to be more interested in internal dynamics, or external determinations? In the terms laid out by Keller, do you tend to focus so intently on the object of your concern that context falls away (i.e. are you obsessive compulsive, rather than paranoid)? Is your desire to name, specify and control your object? Is your desire is for figure, its ground your annoyance? Or are you paranoid, context being your focus and obsession? All is signal. Only begrudgingly will you admit that something is noise, outside the scope of your project? Figure is hard to come by. Its ground has captured your attention.

I identified with aspects of both tendencies as described by Keller, but in a scholarly context, I identify more with the paranoid, and with the interest in external determinations. I often feel like I need to know every possible “take” on a topic, to exhaustively map context and possible connections, and to do exhaustive research in 3-4 disciplines before I can make halfway decent observations or claims. (I definitely associate this mindset with the grad school seminar reality, but also with the performative aspects of social media.)

4. What do you do with unusual or counter examples? Are you drawn to “the deviant,” or rather repulsed by it?

I feel the need to reconcile it, “bring it in” somehow, or at least rearrange the framework I’m using so that it finds a “symmetrical” or harmonious place within the framework. Maybe instead of comparing two, I need to compare three, or instead of focusing on one axis of opposition, I need to focus on another. I recognize that these are always somewhat artificial, but they do help organize thought.

5. Do you tend to over-impose logics on the world, or to resist the construction of coherent narratives?

I’m very attracted to overarching theories, especially those that have some element of contradiction or internal openness to them. At the same time, I’m wary of them, so in practice my outputs tend to resist coherent narratives. 

6. Do you tend to over-generalize, or to hold back from overarching argument?

To hold back. Same as above. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more willing to go out on a limb, make a strong claim, and stand behind it. But I’m much more comfortable with ambiguity and complexity. 

7. Do you like to read interpretations different than your own, or do you tend to feel scooped or intimidated by them?

Both? I like to read them in that it gives me a sense of knowing my environment, “reading a room” so to speak, and can be reassuring and stabilizing. But of course I can be intimidated when I come across something compelling that seems to offer a challenge to something I hold dear. 

8. Do you tend to change an argument as you flesh it out, or do you tend to make the argument work, no matter what?

I tend to change it as I flesh it out. 

9. Do you tend to think in terms of “this is kind of like” (metaphorically)? Do you hold to examples that “say it all,” leveraging metonymic thinking?

Metonymic. I usually think of these as examples that “crystalize” a concept, but I like the idea of thinking of them as metonymy.  

10. Do you like gaming understanding in this way? Does it frustrate you that your answers often don’t fit easily on either side of the binaries set up by the questions? (Jakobson suggests that over attachment to a simple binary scheme is a “continuity disorder.”)

Having a hard time following this question.  I think “understanding” always seems like a temporary thing, an achieved synchronization between a way of framing and an analysis, but which is obviously always partial and never entirely holistic. So I enjoy the game, and the symmetry of a good analysis, but I think some humility is always in order about knowledge claims. 


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