Notes for a Walk in Madrid

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El Ranchito // Matadero // Madrid

10 January 2011

The Purpose: The first planned collective activity for Critical Practice and El Ranchito this week is a walk through Madrid facilitated by Scott and Metod. There are several purposes of this walk, some are already clear and others still need to be established by the group. The group anticipated to go on the walk includes members of El Ranchito and from Critical Practice: Marsha, Neil, Metod and Scott.

Importantly, the walk endeavours to support the objectives set out by the El Ranchito project: It is an opportunity to facilitate dialogue among the artists / members of the two groups and others; utilise processes of the city of Madrid while experimenting with collective, collaborative and participatory methodologies; and to create links between various institutions. Before these objectives can be tackled, however, the first objective of the day must be the opportunity for participants to get to know each other in order to facilitate collaboration. Only then can we collectively get to know the contemporary environment, culture and art in the context of the project. For example, together we can question: What’s there and what’s not there that might be? By sharing our ideas, insights and revelations as individuals from at least two groups, El Ranchito and Critical Practice, that mainly work in two countries, Spain and the UK, we will create new insights that will hopefully help to further develop the project, Critical Practice and El Ranchito in the context of Matadero.

The Name: There are issues that not decided before the walk. It may be good to come up with a name or theme for the walk, before during or afterwards. So far the walks is described as an emergent walk on the wiki called Consensus Walk. Other potential names are Contemporary Environment, Art, and Culture Walk or A Walk in Madrid. There is also an opportunity to create a bridge between the Walk and the rest of the week, and in particular to the Futurizing, planned for Friday. The walk could culminate in a project or presentation by groups of ‘Madrid now’ and the Futurizing could then tell the story of how we got to 2068 looking backwards to the Walk in 2011.

The Assignment: In order to create something during the walk we need to think about the objectives and come up with a “project,” which for ourselves we have used the word "assignment." Ideally, each project, which might be the same or different, would be tackled by a pair or group with participants from different groups. If the larger group were to split into smaller groups for the walk, it could be a good chance for people to create a dialogue across the two groups, which could occur if each group had at least one member from Critical Practice and one member from El Ranchito and one member from any other group/institution that may be present. By creating pairs or small groups we would have an opportunity to get to know each other, share our knowledge gained with Critical Practice with the knowledge of Madrid and the context of the project El Ranchito has (Collaboration creates new knowledge – see comment 1) If smaller groups were formed before or during the walk, these might be fluid with people moving from one to another.

When we propose a project we need to make sure we have the tools to support those involved. Three possible projects to come out of the Walk are a map, a photo collage or a presentation. Maps would be practical for those who don’t know the area and also enable us to record our route as well as to mark any point(s) of interest on the Walk of for discussion later. People could also write on the map anything seen, discussed or ideas as they arose. Additionally or alternatively, we could record images of this with digital photographs (authoring with multi media tools has been shown to allow people to express themselves beyond the realms of words – see comment 2) that could be quickly and easily used after the walk. If each person or group takes along a camera we could capture what they saw of interest. These could be compiled afterwards. How would this be done though? One possibility would be for people to form small groups before the walk and then after the walk choose from the group’s photographs which to represent the points they wanted to present to the larger group. If we posted the images on a wall after the walk besides these there could be post its.

The Walk: Some of the places to see on the walk might include Art Universities, galleries and museums, studios and non-institutional culture and art centres and locations, public spaces, and governmental sites. It would be may be useful for the group(s) to decide before and/or during the walk what to see and to explain why in terms of the context of others seeing it who are involved in the project. It would be good to have a walk inside and around the projects spaces themselves as well as Madrid’s centre and relevant points of interest.

Before the walk: Before the Walk Metod and Scott could present some initial ideas, maps and part the context of the walk from their perspective as part Critical Practice. The idea of dividing into smaller mixed groups could be suggested and maps could be handed out. There could be pre-planned or emergent stops in the walk. All could move from one location to the next, or it could be without stops, which might be discussed ahead by the group. It could also be discussed before the walk in the subgroups what route(s) to take. This could be mapped on a larger ‘map’ on the wall collectively with each group marking their own maps before (or after) the walk. This map could be drawn, or drawn through the streets on an existing city map. At the same time it could be discussed before the walk what the aim would be for the groups after the walk, such as selecting photos of culture or inspiration to share with the whole group and / or those in (or involved later in) the project not present for the Walk.

During the walk: In addition to the Walk having a name, which might be a working title that changed during the Walk, it may be good for the individual groups to come up with a name or few key words during the Walk. Also, it could be good if the individual groups were to share with the larger group any other information or ideas that arose in the Walk.

After the walk: If images were captured with digital still photographs after the Walk these could be projected or compiled as a photomontage or printed for posting later. They could be presented, collated and disseminated to the wider public on the El Ranchito and Critical Practice wikis. The Walk could also be a starting point for a parallel wiki page for the project on El Ranchito and CPs wiki site. Also, if groups or individuals are interested, further walks could be planned for other points in the week to visit particular locations that were identified en route but not planned in the first walk. Or locations noted in the walk could be used in the future for meetings if such locations seem conducive to a particular idea or meeting, such as if an idea emerges or is fuelled there.

Comments 1 and 2, Footnotes elaborated:
1. Groups work in real activities, in outcomes authored collaboratively such as making a collage or map to create mediated authored narratives (Imas 2004). This enhances contextual knowledge. The process enables the group to explore new pathways and ideas that were not available to the individual but emerge in the group exchange (Schwager, 2010), instead of being told a story, which is too prescriptive, the group authors its own story.
2. Extended language is the dyadic relationship of rich language added to restrictive language. Restricted language means spoken or written words as well as text that describe things or what can be done. It is linear, textual, linear, and one-dimensional. Spoken, written and thought language that uses words, is restricted because words are created and defined through a limited, shared set of meanings. The cultural and grammatical rules that enable words to be understandable by everyone who speaks a language also limit their meanings and thereby can exclude potential courses of action. Rich language on the other hand has multiple dimensions. It uses audio visual materials to communicate “what could be” rather than dictate “what should be” (Humphreys and Brezillon 2002). Therefore, “audio-visual composition and communication in multimedia can provide a rich language through which collective and distributed agency can be explored contemporaneously as well as diachronically” (Humphreys, Lorac et al. 2001: 11). However, because rich language is open and unrestricted, it is difficult for people to arrive at shared understandings or interpretations, which strips rich language at times of the ability to communicate knowledge and ideas. By combining rich and restricted language, extended language allows for both creativity and rational analysis. Rich language multimedia stories, which allow for innovation, are combined with restricted language, which allows for evaluation and sharing. “Story-composing in rich, audio-visual language, provides innovative knowledge, for content-generation and structuring in restricted language” and takes on the form of a spiral between rich and restricted language (Humphreys and Brezillon 2002: 7).

1. Process Design
The process design dictates the actual walk and activities on the day. For the Madrid walk there are several items that need to be elaborated: 1)Name of walk, 2)route of walk (everyone together, possible attractions, etc), 3)possible assignment for participants, 4)make-up of groups/pairs, 5)outcome (=assignments?)
2. Craft Tools
Craft tools include the frame sets that enable problem solving, process design understanding, project management, analysis, visual representation and other functionally specific technical tools (Humphreys and Jones 2006). Craft Tools for the walk include technological support equipment for capturing such as still photograph cameras, laptops and good old-fashioned maps.
3. Feedback System
Feedback subsystems include knowledge bases as well as media-bases, digital asset management and powerful multiple search algorithms to provide platforms for dynamic authoring (Humphreys and Jones 2006). Real time documentation is constantly being fed back into the system (Wiki).
4. Programme Architecture
The programme architecture describes how to build the programme as discussed in pre-production and lays the framework for the day.
5. Knowledge
Expertise on content is taken into account. This means knowledge from Critical Practice about working together, knowledge of the El Ranchito project, knowledge of Madrid, participants and specialists need to be used to create new knowledge.
6. Language
A ‘language’ exists within Critical Practice and El Ranchito that first needs to be taught to each other and conveyed to participants. Language subsystems refer to the rich language underpinning audiovisual authoring, designs of models and other information visualisation skills. Included are tools that provide easy access to these subsystems enabling rapid editing and production in multimedia, without the steep learning curve that often has been the entry barrier to provision of support using these tools.

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