#Rhizo15, week six: If an antelope is a document, then anything can be an artifact…

Every librarian-student gets exposed to the Library Luminary Suzanne Briet and her assessment regarding antelopes and documents: “An antelope running wild on the plains of Africa should not be considered a document, she rules. But if it were to be captured, taken to a zoo and made an object of study, it has been made into a document. It has become physical evidence being used by those who study it. Indeed, scholarly articles written about the antelope are secondary documents, since the antelope itself is the primary document.”

So what does this have to do with the end of #Rhizo15?

In our final weekly assignment, we are looking at/for artifacts that provide a handy guide to rhizomatic learning. Hell, we might as well be looking for a needle in a haystack, in a sense. Potential artifacts are like antelopes running wild on the African plains (and I say that as a certified Africanist with years of experience on the African continent and a graduate degree from SOAS…Suzanne Briet also spent some time in the “wilds of Africa.”). Briet’s statement is viewed as one of the early expressions of actor-network theory.

Aha! Here the plot doth thicken:

From Wikipedia: “As the term implies, the actor-network is the central concept in ANT. The term “network” is somewhat problematic in that it, as Latour notes, has a number of unwanted connotations. Firstly, it implies that what is described takes the shape of a network, which is not necessarily the case. Secondly, it implies “transportation without deformation,” which, in ANT, is not possible since any actor-network involves a vast number of translations. Latour, however, still contends that network is a fitting term to use, because “it has no a priori order relation; it is not tied to the axiological myth of a top and of a bottom of society; it makes absolutely no assumption whether a specific locus is macro- or micro- and does not modify the tools to study the element ‘a’ or the element ‘b’.” This use of the term “network” is very similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes …”

And again from Wikipedia: “Deleuze and Guattari introduce A Thousand Plateaus by outlining the concept of the rhizome (quoted from A Thousand Plateaus):

  • 1 and 2: Principles of connection and heterogeneity: “…any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be,”
  • 3. Principle of multiplicity: only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, “multiplicity” that it ceases to have any relation to the One
  • 4. Principle of asignifying rupture: a rhizome may be broken, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines
  • 5 and 6: Principle of cartography and decalcomania: a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model; it is a “map and not a tracing” “

Again, a needle in a haystack.  I rest my case / my document / my artifact / my antelope…

7 thoughts on “#Rhizo15, week six: If an antelope is a document, then anything can be an artifact…

  1. Lovely reflection. I’ve resonated with many of your reflections throughout this Rhizo, and I appreciate the opportunity to connect. Something about your antelope riff makes me think of the old bumper sticker, A WOMAN NEEDS A MAN LIKE A FISH NEEDS A BICYCLE…

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  2. As a quadruple animal ( i am not good at q-words!) I feel bad about wild antelopes in a library or a Zoo for that matter. I like running antelopes as living artifact. Maybe processes like learning and certainly rhizomatic learning do not translate well into artifacts?

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    • I suppose DNA tracking is like running antelopes and living artifacts. Funny, though, how we track DNA into the past, but never into the future…


  3. Love the antelope-as-document idea. I have difficulty with the proposition that it’s less of a document running wild than captured. Suppose one could go all theoretical on this – if no one observes the antelope being eaten by a lion, is the lion still hungry? – If no one can find it, does the document or artifact still tell its story?
    But much more interesting is the bridge you build to Rhizo artifacts.
    While there are probably many negative examples, I don’t think artifacts can be collected (not even the supposed complete collection) into THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE to learning rhizomatically, let alone to teaching rhizomatically. I’m not sure that document could ever exist except as a contradiction. (Never mind the antelope. If a pushmi-pullyu doesn’t exist, is Hugh Lofting still entertaining?) I found it hilarious when http://www.portent.com/tools/title-maker spit out the Headline “Doing Rhizomatic Learning the Right Way”.
    Our needles do exist in all those haystacks. Even if we try to create a “how to” artifact, they really broadcast “this is me doing rhizo” whether or not anyone is listening. They might not even exist very long ( “disposable learning objects” idea from Dave Cormier’s hangout-on-air with Jesse Stommel https://youtu.be/5067DBZV8uI?t=31m12s) One would hope those needles might prick someone’s intrigue, broaden a finder’s concept of the meaning, and the elusiveness, of THE rhizome.

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