Accepted paper:

From documentation to dialogue: Resolving complex processes of making through digital imaging


Julie Botticello (Royal Museums Greenwich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers the capturing of embodied knowledge and the human-machine interface in industrial lace making. It argues that digital images document the researcher’s own of burgeoning understanding of process and facilitate the accurate transmission of knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

Embodied knowledge and its capture are often reliant on multimedia forms of recording. This paper shows how the making of digital images becomes more than documentation, in which image creation acts as mediator in information transfer. It is based on ethnographic research undertaken at the last remaining Leaver's Lace factory in England, where a handful of workers retain tactic knowledge and processual techniques essential to producing this traditional form of machine made lace. While some written and diagrammatic documentation exists in the industry, none of these adequately convey the interconnected nature of the process, which is both mechanical and manual; nor are these easily able to be grasped by those from outside the industry. In the research methodology, photography was initially employed as a means of capturing and recording process. However, due to the complexity of the processes and the intricacy of the human-machine connection, the creation of images became vehicles for communication and dialogue, for the informants to ensure that the researcher was "seeing" and understanding correctly what the lace makers were doing. Thus, while the camera remained in the hand of the researcher, its point of focus was facilitated and directed by informant-teachers, thus rendering the act of taking photos a tool for instruction and verification of understanding. With the informants guiding the way, the photographs and their chronological sequence chart the learning curve and dawn of understanding of the researcher as much as they document the processes of machine lace making.

panel P03
Relational resolutions: The role of digital images in ethnographic fieldwork