Notes, scribbles, lists, inventories

Notes, scribbles, lists, inventories

This week’s blog continues the occasional conversation on WWW blog-pages about the permeable borders of letter-writing and the complex relationships that exist between epistolarity and parallel more  transitory forms which are not letter-writing but nonetheless have some of the characteristics associated with it.

The weekend just gone I was in London visiting with a friend passing through for work reasons, and also en route for Phoenix and Fiji before returning to Australia. On Saturday she was a woman with a mission, which was to buy a molecular biology cooking kit for a restauranteur friend in Fiji. This is very fancy, and uses algar and chemicals to produce food folderols, such as transforming the common olive into something very exotic. Because of information on its website, we started the hunt in Fortnum & Mason. Drawing a blank there, we used its display cabinets and also its café as desk-spaces in trying to track down the item elsewhere. To cut a long story short, such a thing was not available in the vast metropolis, but was eventually tracked down as easily purchasable in Phoenix, close to where my friend would be staying on her arrival there a few days later.

IMG_1025The photograph accompanying this blog is of the record of our hunt as it occurred over an approximately three hour period. It records the trail of emerging enquiries and outcomes, leading from a restaurant to another major department store to cooking emporia to shops to warehouses and so on. It is a ‘document of life’, having been produced as part of the unfolding activities of meeting a good friend and spending pleasant time with her. It is both inconsequential and also very meaningful on a number of levels. What I am interested in considering here is what, in definitional and ontological terms, the document is.

What it is not. It is not a letter, although its production, its content, and its use, were all dialogically produced with another person. Indeed, it was produced for my friend and not for myself, while I actually wrote it, so its letter-like features are quite pronounced. However, it was never sent and nor was it actually given to her, because once recorded its job of work was done. It is not an inventory, for it does not record an itemised set of material things which are counted and described in inventory-form. It is not a list, although this statement has to be advanced more cautiously, for it looks very list-like. But at the same time, its properties are emergent and are concerned with recording successive possibilities, with prior ones being ruled out with comments such as ‘no answer’ or ‘no’ or having a question-mark placed against them or through being crossed out. It is not a scribble in the sense discussed in a recent blog, because it is not a letter-like writing that is addressed to self, but then neither is it clearly a communication intended for someone else, but rather has elements of both. That is, its production was shared, tho’ with me acting as amanuensis.

What it is. It records process, it itemises emergent activities and records their outcomes, their denouements. It is that strange thing, the recording of itemised representations of activities in one small moment in the vast continuing processes of sociogenesis so interestingly discussed and theorised by Norbert Elias!

Last updated: 19 May 2016


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