Pulling out the yarn from the ball of threads and knots: A 360DegreesOfConnection activity


I have this family of entities, these imploded objects: chip, gene, cyborg, fetus, brain, bomb, ecosystem, race. I think of these as balls of yarn, as gravity wells, as points of intense implosion, or as knots. They lead out into worlds, you can explode them, you can untangle them, you can somehow loosen them up. They are densities that can be loosened, that can be pulled out, that can be exploded, and they lead to whole worlds, to universes without stopping points, without ends. Out of the chip you can in fact untangle the entire planet, on which the subjects and objects are sedimented (from Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs, Coyotes, and Dogs: A Kinship of Feminist Figurations” and ”There are Always More Things Going on than You Thought! Methodologies as Thinking Technologies”)

Segment of 1987 video on Reading National Geographic on primates

Nov. 2012 email exchange:
Peter: What, in your experience, helps people be more curious and follow out the threads into diverse entanglements of naturocultural politics?
Donna: love and rage! neediness for connection; a sense of humor; a lust to somehow stay with the trouble without despair; joy; just plain curiosity

Peter: Who, other than yourself, provide good examples of such curiosity?…

360DegreesOfConnection Activity

Instead of pointing readers to the people Haraway mentioned in answer to the last question (in any case the list was very short), let us try to help each other be more curious and follow out the threads into diverse entanglements of naturocultural politics. This activity does that and opens up the possibility that we then discipline the material, draw cross-connections among the threads, and identify points at which to engage with the entanglements.
This is a draft that will be revised and refined as experience is gained in running the activity.

Preparation:  Activity leader creates an educator’s account on diigo, which allows web bookmarking, annotating, and tagging, then creates a diigo group for the activity and invites all participants to join that group.  Participants install diigo toolbar or applet on their browser for easy bookmarking.

1. The activity leader uses diigo to bookmark a webpage for a newspaper or journal article related to a topic of a course or workshop. This is the start to a thread Tx, where x is a number that identifies the thread.

2. Add tags and annotation to the bookmark.  The tags should include the person’s initials, the thread identifier Tx, and any other relevant keywords.  The annotation includes key text from the webpage, an explanation of why it interested the person. (See also 3a.)

3. Each participant reads the webpage, identifies an issue, organization, person, and/or concept from the webpage that they want to learn more about, translates that into a google search, and then identifies and uses diigo to bookmark a webpage that interests them.   Then goes back and repeat #2-3.

3a. Except for the very first post by the leader, the annotation should include a line stating the URL of the webpage that was “upstream” of the one they are annotating. Later, they should go back and adding any subsequent downstream URL.

After the allotted time for web searching and bookmarking is over, the tag roll for the diigo group provides an overview of the terrain that has been explored. It also allows access to everyone’s posts on any given tag–Any individual participant’s thread can be viewed by a search on the diigo group for the relevant Tx and initials tags.

The next steps:
4. to discipline the material.  One approach is for the group to conduct a historical scan (**) where the post-it brainstorming draws from the diigo bookmarks.  (Tiki-toki software can be used if this is prepared online.)  As part of this process it will become clearer how to name or characterize the terrain.

(** An historical scan typically considers three levels of layers.  If we think of the terrain as a “project” that we’re thinking about getting involved in, then, as described in Tuecke (2000), the global is the largest view relevant to the project, which may be the world, but may also be the profession. The local is the personal perspective gained in the immediate unit (family, workplace, etc.). The regional is the specific arena in which the project operates, e.g., the management of water resources (in an environmental context) or the state educational system (in the context of improving school outcomes). )

5. to draw meaningful cross-connections between the strands of the historical scan, revising it and adding to it as needed to provide some sense of the causal linkages relevant in this terrain.

6. for each participant to identify points of engagement where they might help to influence the direction of future development. (After all, Haraway’s “culture critic” does not really get to sit outside the knotted ball and pull at threads, but is more like a little knot of its own inside the ball…)


Tuecke, P. (2000). Creating a wall of wonder with the TOP environmental scan. International Association of Facilitators, Toronto, Canada, April 27 – 30;http://www.faculty.umb.edu/pjt/tuecke00.pdf (viewed 6 Jul 2011)


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