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Teaching a stone to talk

Well, I think I expected too much of my ‘data walk’ on Dartmoor; but also being laden with body sensors, camera and sound recording equipment didn’t help. So dry and desolate up there (drought conditions not far away) with last years growth crunching under your feet. And I am still searching for a way of handling this data: in science, in order to collect data you have to know what you want, what you are looking for, and then design and refine the setup until you are pretty sure you are looking in the right place. But what I am after is something different, something more akin to observation; of using data to observe, and that cannot be predetermined. So I sat close to the source of the River Torridge and watched the riverbed. And all these thought reminded me of  Annie Dillard’s short story, ‘Teaching a Stone to Talk’, in which she focusses on the need to observe, to watch, or in her terms, to witness. It is about the muteness of the world in the face of our need to ascribe meaning to it, and isn’t data just the latest way of trying to get the world to talk to us. On the tranquility map I posted earlier, where I was sitting is marked in dark green – ‘most tranquil’.

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