I think we definitely study objects more often for stories about humans who used them rather than studying objects as autonomous things. Studying them for insight about humans asks and answers more questions. It seems that dissecting an item as an independant thing answers the question of how it was used, while dissecting that same item to determine the human motive behind it can answer who made it, who used it, how they used it, and why it was used.
Lepawsky and Mather present an interesting idea, one that Deetz touched on in his book. Late in the article by Lepawsky and Mather they comment on the effort to recycle the defunct CRTs that may be completed in the year two-thousand fifty, if that is what is meant by the “waste stream”. That means if all CRTs will be used for renewable materials, then our history will be wiped of any physical evidence of them. It is hypothetical because it may be impossible to get a hold of every one of the monitors ever invented. Of course there are methods to identify these things, like pictures in Lepawsky’s and Mather’s article, and the methods Deetz describes, but if the history of objects made by humans ties into human’s own history there may be a disjoint in the narrative establishing a relationship that encompasses all the nuances in the objects.
After I read the article and prompt I started thinking about why it is that we place ourselves as the subjects in discourses under the social science umbrella and how it relates to the readings we’ve done so far. It only seems logical that we import ourselves over the objects because they are our creations. We can’t take claim for the sun and moon or processes in the brain or natural formations on the earth – did we create mathematics or just explain it? But we do have ownership over objects made by us. When we reclaim objects we have lost a story of how our ancestors reacted to the world can be discovered.
If we destroy a class of objects we are destroying the tangible story that accompanied those items. Lets say that someday the CRTs no longer exist, we can study the pictures, diagram the dimensions, read the literature, but that doesn’t seem, in my mind, to grasps the whole story. I remember watching Tyra Banks wear a padded suit in participation of a social experiment about the treatment of overweight people. She wore the suit for an afternoon going about her daily business in New York or Los Angeles, and nobody knew who she was. Attached to her suit were cameras to capture the expressions on people’s faces as they walked by or interacted with her. She ended the experiment by making remarks that she felt everyone judging her and so on. The experiment was good for social awareness, but the whole time I was watching I couldn’t help but smack my teeth about Tyra’s revelations: she will never truly know what it is like to be the weight she portrayed. It reminds me of an Oscar winning period piece about the Victorian Era, although those involved have done due diligence, I just don’t buy totally replicating that era.
I say this because there are real subtle nuances to the objects we reclaim. Yes, there are very thorough papers and accounts and books about the histories of objects but we can never capture a true understanding of what the world was like from where those objects came. So, if we recycle every last CRT (or any other item) we can lose a piece to better understanding a time we are not from and mindset we do not have. I guess that is why we have museums.
2 thoughts on “Blog Post #4 Detached Understanding”
My thoughts exactly in regards to the reason we study object. In your post you pointed out we study object ” more often for stories about humans who used them”. Great point, humans place importance and significant on object, and stories is told and memories are told due to connection with object to humans. I also like the contrast you make when you point out that the real story behind object is not always captured, but as you pointed out museums do a good job at trying to convey the history. I think you did a good job at making the connection.
As you state at the beginning of your post, it is probably impossible to study objects as “autonomous things” without explaining their relationship with the people who produced and used them. That is why the focus is always on the human side of the story, and that is the reason why the story of things become human narrative. If you notice, even Lepawsky and Mather’s article, which is an attempt to focus mainly on the origins and development of a specific object, cannot avoid to discuss its meaning and influence on human life. It first mentions its creator(s), the people who contributed to its development, the people who first used it for recreational purposes, and finally the people who are taking care of its “burial” or “recycling.” After reading the second paragraph of your essay, I stopped for a moment to think about the implications of what you claim. I am not sure what you mean by “disjoint in the narrative establishing a relationship that encompasses all the nuances in the objects.” However, if it is true that the existence of CRTs might be wiped out in less than forty years, we’re definitely going to lose a piece of human history. Traces of these objects will be found only in books. It is sad to think that this might be the same destiny awaiting objects that we use nowadays, like laptops or new-generation cellphones; and it is sad because we associate ourselves to this kind of artifacts more than we can possibly imagine, letting them function as mirrors of our personalities.