Advisory Board #1

The POP team met with our Advisory Board (AB) for our first big project review in November. Large projects often have an advisory board made up of experts in their field/s. In our case this is STS, feminist/ gender studies, design, queer history, and material, inventive and creative methods. This group provides critical feedback and advice at pivotal points in the development of research. Our first AB was due to be held over summer, but was re-sheduled towards the end of the year – so, we had even more than expected to show and tell.

The POP AB is made up of 5 members:

Dist Prof Larissa Hjorth – artist, digital ethnographer and Director of the Design and Creative Practice Platform at RMIT, Australia
Dr Laura Watts – writer, poet, ethnographer of futures and Interdisciplinary Senior Lecturer in Energy & Society, in the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Dr Justin Bengry – director of the Centre for Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London where he convenes the world’s first MA in Queer History
Dr Åsa Ståhl  – senior lecturer in design at Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden
Dr Kristina Lindström – senior lecturer in design at the School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University, Sweden

Fortunately we were able to re-schedule the AB on zoom to accommodate everyone’s inability to travel.

Unfortunately, this meant that the meeting had to be a more contained 3 hour session, instead of a more leisurely 1-2 day event (including walks, chats, presentations and a workshop – hopefully next time!). Also, a range of timezones meant that not everyone could attend. We managed to include – Orkney, London, Rome and Malmo but sadly, this did not work this time for Australian participation. We were very fortunate however to have Claudia Di Gianfrancesco join us to contribute her experiences working on the project as an RA.

The aim of this first AB was to review two initial Work Packages and explain how they fit with the larger interrelated mixed methods approach. To start we presented our inventive approach to the study of invention.

We focused on the first two work packages (WP). The first WP1 – Map Across Time used quantitative analysis to generate topic areas from which the emerging themes derive. WP2 – Map Across Theme uses qualitative and visual analysis to generate key themes for further investigation in and beyond the archive (WP2).

These are some of the key questions we are asking:

To best use an intense 3 hour zoom meeting we decided to send advance materials in the form of 12 x 3min Power Point videos (basically talking over shifting screens). We also sent short scripts (2 pages). Each referred to an emerging theme in the research that we wanted to showcase and discuss. Each required productive translation work which further informed the questions asked and ideas mapped.

Our emerging themes include:

SURVIVING CITIZENS – This is probably the most relevant to 2020. This theme looks beyond the conventionally loud and triumphant heroic norms to more mundane examples of survival. Rather than always winning, we look at people just trying to do their best in challenging circumstances. We ask: how have ordinary people survived extra-ordinary events?

SECRET CITIZENS – This theme explores how citizens resist ubiquitous surveillance.  We ask: Is the desire for concealment and secrecy an act of resistance against constant surveillance and tyranny of transparency? And, how and in what ways do our clothes keep secrets for us?

PISSING CITIZENS – What impact does the ability to urinate outside the home have on people’s freedom of movement? Rights? Access to public sphere? Ability to participate in urban life? How and in what ways have citizens’ urinary needs been addressed by clothing inventors? Turns out a LOT of inventors have ranted about this for over a century – and they came up with many ways for people to relieve themselves and dwell in public space for longer, with more control and dignity.

UNRULY/LEAKING CITIZENS – How and in what ways have some bodies been problematized – as leaky, changeable, unruly, uncontainable, exposed? How have they been “fixed”, hidden or exposed? Can we reframe the “problems” of different/marginalised bodies as multiple; alternative; different; offering new potentialities and practices; enabling the un-doing of categories and stronger, more flexible, adaptable, and open to change as a result?

IN/VISIBLE CITIZENS – How and in what ways are mobile citizens made in/visible in public? And what effect does this have on their ability to claim space and participate in public? This theme explores how different modal citizens (especially those outside motor vehicles – such as cyclists and pedestrians) have been clothed over time in discourses of safety and responsibility.

EXPANDING CITIZENS – Who gets to take up space? Who doesn’t? Who is made smaller, concealed and compressed in clothes (and, more broadly, in society)? Who is given capacity, possibility to expand? This theme highlights other ways that women and marginalised people have sought to be space makers, takers and claimers through unusual and inventive forms of clothing.

ACTIVE CITIZENS – Who gets to be sporty and active in public? What kinds of activities and sports are encouraged or considered acceptable and by whom? How have inventors worked around restrictive social conventions of the time? Can we examine radical active wear as experimental sites for new practices, expanded expressions and citizenship claims?

DEFENDING CITIZENS – How have people been clothed to protect and defend themselves?  Against what kinds of threats and how have these dangers changed over time? Are these kinds of inventions empowering or do they reproduce ideas of vulnerability and victimhood?

HAPPY CITIZEN – Who gets to be a happy citizen? How do clothing inventions manage – enable, constrain and organize – happiness? What moments of radical inclusion, happiness, joy and intimacy do patents encourage? How might these feelings be considered a site of resistance?

MASKING CITIZENS – Who gets to cover what part of the face and why? How have different bodies claimed space/rights/a presence via the covering of the face?What is the relationship between the citizen and the open face? How is this related to ideas about transparency and belonging? Who is made un/welcome in public space because of masks (wearing or not wearing one)?

MULTI-SPECIES CITIZEN – How is the connection between humans and nature (specifically animals) mediated/shaped through clothing inventions? How has this changed over time? Can we see a growing intimacy and closeness with nature? Or are we moving ever further apart?

SEXUAL CITIZEN – How are different sexual identities enacted in clothing patents? Do the patents broaden the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity? Or do they reinforce dominant hegemonic norms and expectations?

WORKING CITIZENS – Who gets clothed for work? What kinds of work get special “uniforms”. Who gets equipped to do one thing well and who has to do a multiplicity of things? What does this say about recognition/legitimacy of different kinds of work? And what can we learn about more ambiguous/informal/ liminal spaces in which women’s work operates and how it is valued?

The meeting was intense and rich and very productive. We found the opportunity to pull all of these ideas together valuable in addition to the suggestions and ideas that emerged on the day.

The POP team extends enormous thanks to the AB who invested time and energy into helping us at this stage of the project.

We look forward to the next one in 2021.

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