Week 5: Representation: Re-presenting a Lexicon?

After only a little bit of time with the metadata of the materials, but with more time actually handling the materials while in Critical Methodologies last year, I find that it has become easier to provide tags to pieces of the material due to their correlation. With more experience with the materials and more reading of the materials I know the story of Watts in order to better see the connections between the pieces which then build or tell a more coherent narrative of the events of and leading up to 1965. With this in mind I know that reading the Gerald Horne text, along with viewing things like the documentary of Watts helped in my being better able to approach the material confidently. Last year when creating the metadata for an object, it was daunting to attempt to claim a voice or a stance to speak from for the materials, the people who wrote them, or the people who participated in the events. But with a broader (not deeper) knowledge of the events I thought more as a historian being able to weave the pieces together to create a more cohesive narrative, one that even if I was not a part of, I knew well enough to show the highlights of details. 

I believe it was this history that then allowed a better approach to creating the different naming/tagging schema, because I then knew how a historian such as Gerald Horne approached or used a subject term, versus how I as an Literature academic would use a term, versus how a layman or other academically minded person would speak or seek for these terms. I would then recommend that for this project to continue the lexicon continues to build, but only when the people who provide additional terms knows the history/context of those terms, and can then wisely and ethically feel appropriate to tag and utilize them. The same then applies to all of us currently creating this lexicon; we read and were introduced to many of the historical, socio-economic, and political occurrences and problems which lead to Watts ’65, but should continue to pull our terms from the documents and our own research with and understanding of the context of the use. 

As for presenting/representing materials accurately, I do believe it is possible, but only with the utmost research, skill and knowledge of these histories, contexts, and realities of the people who created the documents and artifacts. Until that person is brought forth to this project, I may not be as comfortable, ethically and academically, to release these to the public as “fact”. I therefore ask myself this question. The theory of Roland Barthes allows for your personal understanding of items to come to bear upon that item in order to interpret the item, or in his words, to possibly re-present them. This term, to re-present, means precisely the idea that a thing is presented again, always in a different light than in which it was founded, for it is re-presented in one’s interpretation. Are we re-presenting material from the Watts ’65 riot with all of our interpretations, or allowing the objects to represent themselves?  After all of our class readings, discussions, and personal musings on the issue, I believe we have all stepped forward cautiously and with the intent to allow the self-representation, letting the materials speak for themselves, and setting our interpretations of them to the side in order to better understand the context and history in which these pieces were produced. This then allowed an unbiased and open minded approach to all the terminology of the materials, from which we have then built an ethical and critically minded lexicon, with which I am becoming more and more comfortable with every interaction with an object that tells me its story.  


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