The ‘more-than-digital’ scrapmap: exploring the generative possibilities of digital data (from nature entanglement via digital abstraction to material artefact).

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Abstract

This poster presents data arising from my doctoral research into forest school; a qualitative enquiry exploring the unique nature of forest school through a posthumanist/post-anthropocentric lens. The poster is based (literally and figuratively) around a map of the forest school site. The small central map is constructed from assembled/embroidered fabric: a material exploration of the practice of researcher wayfaring (Ingold, 2016) in a qualitative research context (forest school) over the course of seven separate visits to the site. The tactile piece is positioned in the centre of the poster with instructions to ‘please touch’.

Forest school is a practice “which enables children to visit natural sites and engage with nature on a regular basis within the school timetable” (Harris, 2021), and as such is a rich and complex site of qualitative data engagement. Post-human scholars (Barad, 2007; Braidotti, 2013) have, by repositioning/decentring the human subject, refocused what qualitative researchers ‘do’ with data away from anthropocentric/representationalist methods of enquiry. This onto-epistemological standpoint demands our engagement with critical issues relating to data construction and data analysis. Ellingson and Sotirin (2020) summarise contemporary distrust of data, sympathising with, but ultimately rejecting notions that negate the concept (or usefulness) of data entirely. Instead they propose the concept of data engagement. In this model data are made (not found), assembled (not collected), dynamic (not complete/static). Drawing on this notion, the present study playfully materializes the idea that data transforms itself into a myriad of potentiality from the moment we engage with it. This process was an affirmative one, generating new ways to view the forest school experience (and the researcher’s own embodiment in the process). The initial data generation drew upon Ingold’s (2016) distinction between travelling and wayfaring. Wayfaring as a concept can be applied to the activities of the researcher enmeshed in the forest school space as they follow the children’s activity. Over seven separate visits to the forest school site I tracked my wayfaring around the site using GPS technology. Abstracting the raw data from the GPS watch, the digital lines of travel (representing my muddy, entangled, visceral traipsing through the undergrowth) generated only a clean, linear/synchronic topography of the event. I exported the maps, printed, traced, and embroidered each individual wayfaring route onto a piece of found fabric that now hosted the newly transfigured data. Each route was layered on top of another on the scrap fabric like a digital ‘sampler’. Thus was created the more-than-digital scrapmap. The scrapmap presents the transmutation of qualitative researcher engagement with a site from forest path to tactile data, via digital .gpx file, pen, tracing paper and found fabric; becoming an embroidered (re)assemblage. This more-than-digital map shows one way in which human-material entanglements may become material-human artefacts. The scrapmap shows both the lines and negative space temporally and spatially occupied during the research activity. The poster and map communicate new insights about researcher embodiment in nature and the possibilities afforded by playful data engagement to shed light on researcher positionality and the nature of qualitative data in outdoor contexts.

Conference

Conference6th European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityPortsmouth
Period11/01/2313/01/23
Internet address

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