“Transmission in metaphors” – Gido Broers
In their lecture performance, Jon McKenzie and Aneta Stonjic introduced thought-action figures to explain how our thinking and acting are structured in certain figures. The form in which the idea of thought-action figures was presented – a lecture performance – was also an attempt to explore new ways of transferring knowledge, that differ from the traditional, academic style of lectures and narrative essays.
The day before this lecture performance, we – a group of RMA-students – followed a masterclass by McKenzie in which we worked with methods to transmediate a certain topic or issue into any other medium suitable for knowledge transmission to a specific audience. This method is part of what McKenzie calls the ‘StudioLab pedagogy’:
StudioLab is a critical design pedagogy that seeks to democratize emerging forms and processes of digitality by supplementing seminar-based critical thinking with studio-based design thinking and lab-based tactical mediamaking. In StudioLab, students roleplay as critical design teams to research and create conceptually-rich projects that address contemporary social challenges through a variety of media forms and events. (McKenzie, 279)
Unfortunately we did not have enough time during that masterclass to do a full StudioLab-session, but it was an interesting alternative to the academic way of knowledge production, as I mentioned above. The lecture-performance had the same aim, and was besides that an interesting attempt to make the audience aware of their passive spectatorship. However, because of the focus on the form of this performance, the content of their performance was less convincing. It was hard to understand what they exactly consider as thought-action figures. The way I understood it, those figures represent some aspects of how we think and, as a result of that, those figures also shape the way we think. After this lecture-performance, I could not tell the difference between thought-action figures and metaphors. That the way we think is shaped by metaphors and concepts has already been described by linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By (1980): “We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature” (3). Therefore, I would argue that the idea of thought-action figures is not something new, but rather a renaming of metaphor theory.
- Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.
- McKenzie, Jon. “Performance and democratizing digitality: Studiolab as critical design pedagogy”. In Performing the Digital: Performativity and Performance Studies in Digital Cultures, edited by Martina Leeker, Imanuel Schippers and Timon Beyes, 279 – 296. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2017.