Ideas and Effects

Recently, I’ve been closely following the discussion on several blogs about whether or not ideas count as things, objects, etc.  See Adam’s two-part post (here and here) for an excellent summary of what’s been said so far.  After thinking a bit about it, I feel as though I can weigh in with some hopefully useful thoughts.  I’m approaching this not as a philosopher – because I am not, and I’m not familiar enough with the different strands of philosophy that have come up to make a significant contribution there – but as an anthropologist.  So to begin, I’ll talk about why this discussion matters to me, and then I’ll provide my own sense of how we can approach it.

Why does it matter?

As an anthropologist, I need theories that are useful in my research.  If I encounter a philosophical discussion that I can’t see bearing on the work that I do, then I usually ignore it and let the philosophers duke it out until someone shows me how/why it is relevant to me.  In this case, I am convinced that it’s relevant, but I think the philosophy side-steps the important issue a bit.  I’ll explain why in the next section, but first let me explain why I think it’s a relevant question.

I have talked a lot on this blog about “work” (which for me is synonymous with the “struggle” in the blog’s title), and work is clearly a key concept for me.  I would go so far as to say that it is central to any analysis that I do or would do.  I want an approach to work that encompasses all of the different kinds of work that is done by all of the different kinds of beings that exist in the world – humans, plants, animals, objects, etc. (I usually include ideas in this list, but I’ll hold off for now).  Too often researchers and theorists take work as either a physical activity that alters material conditions or as an (embodied) knowledge producing activity.  In both cases, certain types of work are foregrounded or even privileged over others, and certain types of effects are ignored or underrepresented.  This is why I am interested in an ontological approach that accepts the reality of both materials and ideas (which both Michael and Adam, I think, do, though in different ways).  As a result, I can look at work as the (always collaborative) process of reality production, and ask “What kind of reality is being produced through the work that these people (and others) are doing?”  I can look at all of the different kinds of effects of their work, from knowledge production to material change.  I can see it all as different forms of “relationship building” such that new realities are constituted and maintained or destroyed with each moment.  And I can talk about the work that is done by a logger or a coal miner in the same way that I would talk about the work that is done by a stock broker or even by myself.  And finally, I can ask what kind of work can be done to produce a different reality?  What ideas can we produce, what infrastructural changes can be made, what relationships can be built? And how can these things be done? By what methods or means?

Thus, the discussion over whether or not ideas count as objects is relevant, but I’m not sure that it’s hitting the right mark.  Let me explain.

Are Ideas Objects?

Because I’m an anthropologist and not a philosopher, and I therefore need concepts that are useful, I take the pragmatic approach to philosophical discussion.  In other words, I ask myself “Does it make a difference to me and my work?”  For me, the pragmatic difference lies in whether or not we see ideas as real – this is the approach I need to be able to do my work.  Generally, ideas are treated as fantasies or merely epiphenomena.  They are not real, they are just the way we understand the world and only have effects as the secondary cause of our physical actions in response to them.  This is the distinction I reject.  I follow Bryant’s Ontic Principle in claiming that a being is real to the extent that it makes a difference (this is also the criterion used by Latour).  That is beings are real if they can have an effect upon and be affected by others.  To me, ideas do make a difference.  It’s true, they are the products of our relationships with other beings (as all beings are the products of relationships between other beings), but also produce effects in excess of those relationships.  They have a kind of agency.

Now, I don’t think that Michael is arguing that ideas are merely epiphenomena, but that they are emergent from the relations between different material beings.  I can see in this formulation that ideas could still be counted as real by the definition given above.  And I think it’s obvious that Adam agrees that ideas are real based on his classifying them as objects.  As a result, the pragmatic difference is not necessarily in whether or not ideas are “objects” but in whether or not ideas are recognized to have effects.  I can see how, in both accounts, ideas could have effects, and, to the extent that this is true, I think that there is no pragmatic difference between ideas as “objects” and ideas as emergent phenomena.  However, I think that the ideas as emergent phenomena approach rests on a very fuzzy boundary between accepting and rejecting the reality of ideas as defined here.  Given Michael’s professed materialism, and the various discussions we’ve had in the past on the topic, I’m not entirely clear on where he stands on that boundary.  The question I suppose I would ask is if he agrees that ideas can have effects?

William James’s Object-Oriented Ontology?

Excerpts from A Pluralistic Universe:

“Pragmatically interpreted, pluralism or the doctrine that [the universe] is many means only that the sundry parts of reality may be externally related.  Everything you can think of, however vast or inclusive, has on the pluralistic view a genuinely “external” environment of some sort or amount.  Things are “with” one another in many ways, but nothing includes everything, or dominates over everything.  The word “and” trails along after every sentence.  Something always escapes.  “Ever not quite” has to be said of the best attempts made anywhere in the universe at attaining all-inclusiveness.  The pluralistic world is thus more likea fedral repulic than an empire or kingdom.  However much may be collected, however much may report itself as present at any effective centre of consciousness or action, something else is self-governed and absent and unreduced to unity.

“Monism on the other hand, insists that when you come down to reality as such, to the reality of realities, everything is present to everything else in one vast instantaneous co-implicated completeness – nothing can in any sense, functional or substantial, be really absent from anything else, all things interpenetrate and telescope together in the great total conflux.

“The difference I try to describe amounts, you see, to nothing more than the difference between… the each-form and the all-form of reality.  Pluralism lets things really exist in the each-form or distributively.  Monism thinks that the all-form or collective-unit form is the only form that is rational.  The all-form allows no taking up and dropping of connexions, for in the all the parts are essentially and eternally co-implicated by intermediary things, with a thing with which it has no immediate or essential connexion.  It is thus at all times in many possible connexions which are not necessarily actualized at the moment.

“If the each-form be the eternal form of reality no less than it is the form of temporal appearance, we still have a coherent world, and not an incarnate incoherence, as is charged by so many absolutists.  Our “multiverse” still makes a “universe”; for every part, tho it may not be in actual or immediate connexion, is nevertheless in some possible or mediated connexion, with every other part however remote, through the fact that each part hangs together with its very next neighbors in inextricable interfusion.  The type of union, it is true, is different here from the monistic type of alleinheit. It is not a universal co-implication, or integration of all things durcheinander.  It is what I call the strung-along type, the type of continuity, contiguity, or concatenation.  If you prefer Greek words, you may call it the synechistic type.  At all events, you see that it forms a definitely conceivable alternative to the through-and-through unity of all things at once, which is the type opposed by monism. … The recognition of this fact of coalescence of next with next in concrete experience, so that all the insulating cuts we make there are artificial products of the conceptualizing faculty, is what distinguishes the empiricism which I call “radical,” from the bugaboo empiricism of the traditional rationalist critics, which (rightly or wrongly) is accused of chopping up experience into atomistic sensations, incapable of union with one another until a purely intellectual principle has swooped down upon them from on high and folded them in its own conjunctive categories.”

I realize this is not exactly OOO, but upon reading it I heard some familiar tones with the debates of OOO versus Process-Relational Ontologies (PROs) – in particular, regarding overmining and undermining, lava lamp ontologies, and the idea of withdrawal.  Also, understand that I am not advocating OOO in this instance, just pointing to some literature that seems to agree with it.  I’m posting more out of interest and addition to discussion than out of any particular agenda.

Who do your politicians work for?

I wanted to expand a bit on my post from yesterday.  In that post, I discussed electoral politics, specifically the Presidential election, as a meta-ritual through which revolutionary energy is redirected (and expropriated?) into the selection of an essentially harmless bureaucrat.  Now I would like to look at the political party system and the way it affects electoral politics.

A few years ago – when I was at a community college in Connecticut – I had the opportunity to participate in an internship at the Connecticut General Assembly (CGA).  It ended up being a fairly mundane internship, and I spent a good deal of time building a contact database that was more or less worthless.  When I was there, I told the Representative I was working for that I would be pursuing a degree in anthropology.  Being one of the few people to actually know what I meant by that, he suggested that I do an ethnography of the CGA.  I thought it was a great idea, and I briefly entertained the idea of writing a short paper for him on the topic as an extra project.  I never did, but I’ve continued to think about that possibility ever since.  An ethnography of the U.S. Legislature would be fascinating, I would think.

In any case, I did gain some ethnographic insights during my time at the CGA, and it has largely soured me to mainstream politics ever since.  In fact, it’s probably a good thing that I never wrote that paper for the Representative because it would not have cast a very favorable light on the Assembly or its members.  The key insight that I had while I was there was that, although the dominant narrative says that the legislators work for the people, in fact, they work for their party.  We tend to think of the Legislature as the organization in which it’s members move and seek promotion or end up with demotion.  However, I would argue that these movements are merely epiphenomena resulting from movement within the political party – the real organization that these individuals serve.

With this in mind, it is not the public who legislators serve, but the Party.  Depending on an individual’s position within the party and their constituency, elections may or may not matter.  Some cannot hope to move ahead in the Party without winning elections.  Others don’t have to worry about elections at all. The representative I worked for, for example, had no need to concern himself with re-election.  As the only Democrat running in his district, he would always be re-elected.  Instead, what he worried about was pleasing the Party leadership so that he could get access to key committee positions and further promotion within the Party.  On the other hand, there was another Representative who consistently won his elections, but was ostracized within the party for disagreeing with one of its leaders.  As a result, this Representative was given no committee positions, and was kept out of the decision-making process.  In other words, he could please his constituency, but was largely ineffective and second-class and thus ineffectual within the Party.

What does this mean for us?  It means that our Legislators will tend to serve the Party interest above the interests of their constituency.  It means that they will struggle to propose and pass ineffective legislation in order to please the Party leaders.  These gestures are largely symbolic – making the public think that the party is doing something about the problems we face while not really doing much at all.  For example, the big piece of legislation that was going through while I was there – a bill that the Representative I worked for proposed and was working to get passed – was a bill banning “unhealthy” foods from schools.  The bill was mainly targeting soft drinks and sports drinks, but included packaged pastries and other “junk food” sold in vending machines and at the school cafeteria.  The bill went through a number of committees, and was ultimately passed (with the Democrats, including my boss, bending the rules to get it to the floor).  However, the legislation that resulted ended up being so watered down by debate and controversy that it really didn’t do much to eliminate unhealthy food from schools.  But it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that the public thought that something had been done about the issue, and points had been gained by the Democratic party.  The individuals  who supported the legislation and worked to pass it – even in its watered-down state – also won points within the Party such that they would be considered for coveted committee memberships and other benefits.

Of course not all politics and legislation is ineffective.  Sometimes it is very effective, and sometimes it has completely different effects than what were intended. And some legislators will attempt to work for the people and not the Party.  To the extent that their policies match those of the Party, they will do fine.  However, if working for the public does not align with the Party’s policies, then those individuals will run into trouble in the long run.  In the end, what’s important is following the Party line and pleasing the Party’s leaders.  As a result, I believe that political parties are generally a bad idea.

The Rituals of Electoral Politics

Those who have followed this blog for a while, and those who know me well are aware that I have a general distaste for traditional electoral politics in this country (see here, and here).  Perhaps that’s not so surprising since most people share that distaste.  I see the Presidential election cycle as a meta-ritual encompassing a number of smaller rituals (primaries, conventions, debates, stump speeches, etc.).  There is no inherent reason why these elections should be so dramatic and symbolic when they are, practically speaking, only about selecting a high level bureaucrat.  I think the real purpose behind the grandeur and drama of the Presidential election cycle is to, over the course of the ritual, symbolically deconstruct and subsequently reconstruct (starting on election night and going towards the inauguration) our image of the nation.  In doing so, I think there is a kind of sleight-of-hand at work – reminiscent of the sleight-of-hand that David Graeber describes in Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value.  According to Graeber, the value that is created by the mundane work and interactions of ordinary individuals is abstracted and expropriated through the ritualized exchange of money.  In the election ritual, the energies, inspirations, and values of the people are abstracted (and – depending on your point of view, perhaps – expropriated) through the selection of this high level bureaucrat.  In these rituals, we symbolically place our hopes and values upon the body of this individual, and, when this person is elected, those hopes and values are dissipated into a space where they can make little, if any actual difference.  I don’t think that anyone designed it this way, I just think that that’s what it has become without our really realizing it.

It’s not that the President has no power – that is clearly not the case.  It’s that the President’s power is contingent and subject to feedback such that any changes s/he makes will not have to total, systemic effect that we seek.  We saw this in the sudden emergence of the Tea Party.  Certainly there were special interests behind it, egging it along, but there are also a lot of people who genuinely feel that Obama is ruining the country.  This effect severely hampered any attempts by Obama to make significant changes.  There were some partial successes, for sure, but the vast sweeping Change that we sought in his campaign was muffled and muted by the strong reaction from the Right.

What we crave by putting our values upon this person and this office is systemic change – the revolutionary transformation of the nation into the embodiment of our vision.  The problem is that the President is only one piece of a much larger machine.  Changing who occupies the position has noticeable effects for the working of the machine, but these effects are never revolutionary or systemic in the way that the election rituals make us believe.  As a result, the hopes that we place in whoever we select as President are dissipated within the workings of the machine.  The best thing that a President could do is to use his/her symbolic position as the embodiment of a certain set of values to encourage the people to continue to work, to continue to struggle for what they believe in.  I think Obama tried to do this in some ways – especially towards the beginning of his term – but with little success, and he was very quickly overwhelmed with other issues and concerns of the office.

Systemic change is possible. I have said before that it isn’t, but I misspoke.  What I meant to say was that systemic change takes work.  And it takes a lot of work by a lot of different people (and let’s not forget non-humans as well) over a large expanse of space and time.  It can’t be done simply by one person in one office for one brief period.  Think about all of the energy, time, and money that’s put into the election ritual.  All of that just to elect a simple bureaucrat.  Imagine if all of that were channeled into creating a better health care system, or fighting poverty, or improving the environment.  But instead it’s channeled into its own ritualized dissipation.  I’m not saying that we need to get rid of the electoral process or even its ritualization.  What I’m trying to convey is that the work – the struggle – cannot end with the election, and that, in some cases, there are better ways to use your energy and enthusiasm than on working to get a particular individual elected President.  After the election has been won, and the balloons have been dropped, and the parties have been thrown – this is only the beginning.  A new world awaits, but only as long as we continue to work to bring it into existence.

Work and Friction

In addition to The Mangle of Practice, I’ve also begun reading Anna Tsing’s Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection.  I’ve only made it through the introduction and part of the first chapter, but so far it is an engaging and thought-provoking work.  Tsing’s main concept that drives the ethnographic study (of Indonesian forestry) is the idea of “friction.”  For Tsing, friction is defined as “the awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative qualities of interconnection across difference.”  The idea derives from the idea – popular in economics and political thought – that we can and should create a world “without friction” – one that allows for the unimpeded flow of goods, money, ideas, and people around the world.  But, Tsing argues, this is not how movement works.  Friction is an essential part of movement.  Think of a tire on the road – without friction, the tire would be unable to grip the road’s surface and would not move.  However, for Tsing, friction is about much more than simple mechanics. 

Speaking of friction is a reminder of the importance of interaction in defining movement, cultural form, and agency.  Friction is not just about slowing things down.  Friction is required to keep global power in motion.  It shows us (as one advertising jingle puts it) where the rubber meets the road.  Roads are a good image for conceptualizing how friction works: Roads create pathways for making motion easier and more efficient, but in doing so they limit where we go.  The ease of travel they facilitate is also a structure of confinement.  Friction inflects historical trajectories, enabling, excluding, and particularizing.”

I find friction has much in common with a Latourian approach to science and technology studies.  It’s not by reference to a universal “Nature” that we can understand how scientific knowledge moves – it can only be done by tracing the pathways of those movements as they cross from the lab to law to bureaucracies to the public.  And in these movements, knowledges, practices, and beings are mangled by the frictions they encounter. 

I think what’s missing from this idea of friction is an active principle.  Friction seems passive to me – it happens to things in those encounters rather than being something that beings do.  I like “mangle” because it can be both passive and active.  A person can be mangled, and a person can mangle others.  The problem I have with “mangle” is that it has a negative connotation.  Being mangled and mangling others are generally not good things.  It brings to my mind visions of bodies beaten and torn, or of a man at a workbench attempting to fix a toaster or other machine and progressively making the problem worse until the toaster lies in pieces on the table.  In both cases, the objects are not simply different from what they were before, but actually destroyed.

I think what is needed is a complementary concept that actively pushes forward in spite of friction.  Think of the wheel example.  It certainly would not be possible for a wheel to move without the friction between it and the surface, but friction is not enough – it needs an engine, some kind of force applied in order to use that friction, push through it, and get going.  In physics, and in my own approach, this is called “work.” 

Friction – the presence of difference – makes work necessary.  But without work, there would be no movement across difference.  The two concepts complement one another. Work is what makes encounters possible. It’s the force that utilizes, pushes through, or avoids friction in order to generate change. Without work, friction doesn’t exist. Things would merely collide randomly and settle into equilibrium and homogeneity. On the other hand, without friction, there would be no need for work. Work pushes things together, makes friction matter, and in the process creates new things. It couldn’t happen without friction, as Tsing points out, but friction is not enough to make it happen.

Tsing uses the example of rubber to describe friction:

Coerced out of indigenous Americans, rubber was stolen and planted around the world by peasants and plantations, mimicked and displaced by chemists, and fashioned with or without unions into tires and, eventually, marketed for the latest craze in sports utility vehicles. Industrial rubber is made possible by the savagery of European conquest, the competitive passions of colonial botany, the resistance strategies of peasants, the confusion of war and technoscience, the struggle over industrial goals and hierarchies, and much more that would not be evident from a teleology of industrial progress.”

For me, friction was apparent in these differences – between indigenous Americans and Southeast Asian peasant farmers, between plant-based rubbers and synthetic rubber, between Europe and its colonies, between raw rubber and tires. Movement across these differences would always involve translation and transformation through interaction, but these interactions are not themselves inevitable. But it takes work to make those interactions happen, to push through the difference, in order to make the world of cars, rubber tires, roads, colonialism, exploitation, and negotiation in which we live today. It could always have been done differently, and, with work, it can be remade into something new.

I think work is a central concept for me and my ethnographic practice. I’m glad to now have friction as a complement to it – I think the two combined provide a substantial theoretical and methodological approach to understanding the world we live in and how to make it better.

SfAA CFP: Anthropologists Online

This coming March, the annual Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) conference will be held in Denver, CO.  I’m planning to attend, and would like to organize a session on the work that many anthropologists do online, and the importance of recognizing and rewarding that work within our institutions.  It was during the SfAA conference last year that a major discussion was going on online and in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) about this very topic.  I realized that the SfAA would also benefit from having such a discussion, and so I decided then to form a panel if one wasn’t already in the works.  Here’s an abstract for the session:

Over the last year, there has been a lot of attention paid to the work that anthropologists do to promote the discipline, collaborate, and share information online (e.g. blogging, social media, open access journals, etc.).  Unfortunately, much of this work goes unrecognized and unrewarded by traditional institutional structures, both academic and applied.  The papers on this panel will explore the roles of anthropologists in online communities, the ways that anthropologists have used online media to further their own interests, and the different mechanisms for calling attention to online work within our institutions.

Please contact me at jmtrombley (at) gmail if you’re interested in participating in this session or if you have any questions or suggestions.  Hopefully we’ll get a good panel together, and have a nice lively discussion.

Struggle Forever!

Struggle

Because the task of building utopia is never easy – it takes work.  Nothing is given and no end is inevitable. The only future is the future that we make.  But we need not – must not – struggle alone.  We share the world with one another – our fellow human beings.  We share the world with others as well – plants, animals, objects, ideas.  It is only by struggling with these others – humans and non-humans – that we will be able to craft a better world for all. Utopia for one is fascism for all.

Forever

Because the work never stops.  There are always an infinite number of directions the future can take from any given set of conditions – including a backward slide into darkness, fascism, and fear.  When the revolution is over, when the election has been won, when power is put in its place – the struggle has only just begun.  Existence stops for no-one – the world is forever changing, and we must change forever with it.  Fascism has a way of creeping in, and we must always be on guard against it – struggling to hold it back. Only by struggling forever together can we hope to “crab sideways towards the good.”

The Mangle of Work

Today it seems appropriate to write about work, and, on the advice of my friend and frequent commentor, dmf, I’ve been reading The Mangle of Practice by Andrew Pickering. I find in his theory of “the mangle” a lot of resemblance to my own theory of work.  I’ll write more detail on it later, but suffice to say that it is the theory of how people and things are altered and affected by one another in a continuous and collaborative process of world building.  Here I just want to talk about my own practice, and how I see it through this lens of work and the mangle.

As an academic and a student, a lot of my work is writing – papers, blog posts, articles, exams, etc.  Generally, the first phase of writing involves coming up with a topic, a possible title, and a few key points that I want to make.  I sit down at my desk, and open the word processing software on my computer.  Already I am engaged with other beings – the chair, the desk, the computer – as they work upon me. Right now I sit with my legs crossed and my knee resting on the edge of the desk.  The desk is small and there are a lot of cords under it, so it’s not always comfortable to keep my feet there – and now my dog is also there trying to hide from some commotion in the living room.  I lean back in my solid wood chair, my butt is slightly sore and my arms have to extend fully to reach the keyboard.  I’m not uncomfortable, but right on the edge of comfort – this helps me think.  The computer strains my eyes.  I can see and read fine, and have never needed glasses, but the light background overwhelms them, and spending too much time looking at it becomes painful. My fingers jump across the keyboard in bursts as new ideas come or old ideas are discarded.

I start working by putting a little text on the page.  I write whatever comes to mind, just trying to get the thoughts recorded before they slip from my short memory.  The keyboard frustrates me – sometimes the “Backspace” button doesn’t work, so I have to use the “Delete” button instead, and this makes fixing errors a slightly more laborious process.  The ideas pour onto the page.  Often two or more ideas collide, and I have to think through the implications.  How do they fit together?  Maybe they can be reconciled, but in a modified form.  Maybe one cannot survive – maybe neither can.  I usually sit back, and slump down in the chair when this happens.  I’m thinking.  My mind works to fit the ideas together.  Sometimes the result is revolutionary and my whole concept of self and purpose is changed as when I encountered “Struggle Forever!”  Most times it’s mundane, and only a small change takes place. In this first phase, I don’t worry so much about the cohesiveness of the ideas unless something important strikes me.

The next phase usually involves leaving the computer.  I have worked to record my thoughts, and now I can work to assemble them in a reasonable order and think about how I want to phrase them.  For this I move to the couch – sometimes I shower and let my mind go over the thoughts as the water washes over my body.  Through this process I am working with the words that express my thoughts, testing out different patterns, and seeing how they feel.  Sometimes it helps to read an article or book on the topic to come up with new ideas or different phrasings or to find a quote that highlights something I want to say.  Often new ideas will come and I will have to figure out how they fit with the existing ideas, or set them aside for a later piece. Gradually, the essay begins to take shape, and I can get back to the actual work of writing.

I sit back at the desk, and work once again to record my thoughts on the page.  This time I pay more attention to the order the thoughts are taking and the way the thoughts are phrased.  These are influenced by the earlier process of assembling phrases and order, but often times when I see the words on the page it becomes apparent that a certain phrasing or order doesn’t work or a new possibility emerges.  The words, the ideas, the computer screen, the process of typing things out – all of these things work upon one another and also upon me.  A lot of times, the particular phrasing that I had come up with falls from my memory and I have to come up with another – usually I get the sense that it’s never quite as good as the original.  Oh well, maybe it will come back to me eventually… It never does.

My work alternates between phases of writing and phases of stepping away from the computer to think things through (not to mention taking breaks from the work altogether to watch TV, read, do other work, or go somewhere).  It’s somewhat haphazard – I don’t have a set plan for writing – but it does follow this general pattern.  If a particular piece is really challenging, I sometimes take out a notebook and paper and write by hand instead of on the computer.  There is a substantial difference working with a pen versus a computer, and I feel that my thoughts are able to come together better as I work with the pen rather than the computer.  Also, sometimes the limits of the computer screen don’t allow me to see the whole work – this is especially true of longer pieces. I find this very frustrating, and I often have to print a copy out so I can read it and mark it up by hand.

Through this process, all of the different beings I’ve mentioned – computers, ideas, couch, shower, pen, paper, desk, chair, dog, body/mind – play a substantive role.  They work upon others and allow themselves to be worked upon.  Some play larger roles, some smaller, but from this work something new emerges – a material-semiotic being: the text.  I could continue to work on it indefinitely, but at some point I decide to stop.  Sometimes this has to do with a deadline, other times it’s simply an arbitrary choice that no more work will add anything to it.  Now the text ventures out into the world, furthered by the work I do to share or promote it.  Depending on who reads it, how it is presented, the context of the reading, and a variety of other factors, it will have different – generally unpredictable – effects upon others.  I certainly have hopes for those effects, but recognize that it is largely beyond my control.  Later, if need be, I can work further to explain, rephrase, or alter some ideas if the effect of the text is radically different from what I intend.  Most of the time, I allow the text to stand on its own and I work through other texts to shape ideas further.

There is a lot of other work that I do – teaching, field work, networking, etc. – but those will have to wait for another day to explore.  However, in every case, and in the work I see being done by other beings around me, the importance of recognizing the collaborative nature of work comes to the fore.  Never am I alone in my work.  Never do I construct something completely on my own.  The process is always interactive, and I am always transformed by it as much as the other beings involved.