Weaving communities of practice. Textiles, culture and identity in the Andes: a semiotic and ontological approach.
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Has principal investigator Luciana Martins
Status Closed
Identifier AH/G012180/1
abstract In place of writing, textiles in Andean civilizations were developed over millennia by visually literate populations to document and display complex data. Academic studies worldwide are intrigued by this massive cultural use of information display, yet limited in methods of approach. Drawing on new methodologies combining fieldwork, digital documentation, information visualization and ontology, this project develops a common language for understanding Andean cloth to be shared between Visual, Computer and Museum Studies. \n\nResearch to date has established that textiles bear messages. Some are understood; others are still inaccessible due to the incomplete data sets available for scrutiny, discontinuous time sequences of samples, and limited correlation with comparative materials from the ethnographic and historical record, and commentaries from living weavers. To overcome this, we opt for regional rather than local sampling procedures to give us greater access to materials, while our interdisciplinary approach promotes greater sample contextualization. \n\nThrough data mining and other web-based techniques, this wider sample contextualization will be articulated to a digital structural mapping of cloth. Our hypothesis is that weaving techniques, as conservative organising features, have ontological associations that can be mapped in a working grammar of textile design, and correlated with socio-cultural and historical data. Centred in a weaver's perspective, our approach goes beyond the analysis of surface features of cloth to give precedence to its technical and structural properties. Existing software, adapted to express Andean cloth's 3D nature, will feed into our database design, together with digital photos, video and text data. Our interface design gives priority to content-oriented access, and a graphical concept browser, to express this weaving perspective visually.\n\nDatabase documentation, building on the site at the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies, Birkbeck College London (bbk.ac.uk/cilavs), will systematize visual textile information, permitting academic disciplines an ontology-based exploration of weaving structures that map the social semiotic relations between cultural practices and identities. Workshops with curators of European and Latin American collections will coordinate information collection, methods, and analysis. \n\nThe main project stages of data collection, analysis and organisation, articulated to innovative means of access and analysis, have broad cognitive and curatorial goals. A secondary applied aspect responds to concerns of regional weavers to defend their cultural patrimony from piracy, and introduce local weaving repertories into new educational curricula. Our software and database design will respond to both these needs. \n\nResearch context\nResearch in Bolivia, Peru and Chile, combined with museum research there and in the UK, focuses on 3 regions on the basis of previous ethnographic, archaeological and museological knowledge and contacts, and 3 time horizons: Tiwanaku, the Inka-early colony, and the contemporary.\n\nThis study is urgent. As a result of former educational trends, ignoring regional textile production in favour of an emerging global textile industry, modern forms of literacy, and out-migration from rural communities, younger generations no longer want to weave. Current NGO interventions too are changing regional design repertories, and hence historical continuities and identity questions. At the same time, contemporary politics are generating alternative educational demands that seek new identity-based curricula in a decolonizing context. Our ethnographic research concerns the cultural rescue of endangered weaving practices, while providing new methods to document and link them to emerging industries.\n
Type Project
Label Weaving communities of practice. Textiles, culture and identity in the Andes: a semiotic and ontological approach.
homepage http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk:80/projects?ref=AH%2FG012180%2F1
Title Weaving communities of practice. Textiles, culture and identity in the Andes: a semiotic and ontological approach.

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