learning from Jinan, conversations as knowledge products

rethinking foundation_n group conversation, december 2020

I have never met Jinan nor he me. I know him from a WhatsApp group, that they manage. I did not know of him before that, a year back that is. My only experience of him is through the chats we exchange. I may have in a sense only argued with him. Not because I disagree with him but in some places especially his positions on architecture it comes off as quite misinformed.

The main reason on the group I think we get into arguments is that people understand words differently. What I have gleaned is different professions understand words in context to their domains and this has varying connotations in knowledge creation thereof. for e.g., as a designer, Jinan would have a different understanding of what design is or could be than me as an architect and my understanding of design.

The group, I was under the impression, was a gathering of architects which over time seem like a variety of professionals. Its composition now I am not very sure on who is who. There was no introduction session when I joined, also a number of people come and go. To prevent ease in an understanding of concepts Jinan uses quite loosely and prevent discords over time I suggested making a glossary.

This glossary was a list of words that I gleaned from all of Jinan’s writings on his academia.edu page. I had put in some effort into it but as with all suggestions to Jinan he dumped it saying he was not into methods, and he abhorred any attempts to do so. “A tragedy of methods,” he said.

What I had presented was a structured list of questions. I filed it as a Facebook post and left it at that. Seeing the brief for this essay competition, sparked my interest in revisiting all my rethinking foundation notes of unposted group messages to articulate my learnings and discussions mostly with Jinan for almost a year now.

“We are shaped by what we experience. This is an often heard refrain. But what does it really mean?” — I am not aware of his note-taking practice but over time I think he processed my chat and produced a very Jinan version of it. His experience of my text. Now, this is my calculated inference of how the competition brief took form.

I have read all content on his academia.edu page. Jinan knows that. I have accessed most brochures he sends across of events he conducts. This is thus the first instance, based on my peripheral survey of Jinan’s work, a direct adaption of my proposal. Or so I think it is. My assumption in a way, I could be wrong too.

Every architect, designer is either directly or indirectly influenced by their associations. It is never quantified because of a lack of methodology. Therefore, isn’t the lack of understanding of the shape of our experience a lack of a framework that tracks our influences and subsequent output?

The plagiarism test is a methodology. I quote from the brief, “The submission should be an original work of the entrant and will go through a plagiarism test.”. Now, how can we authenticate experience as original or plagiarised? To clarify certain ideas, have mechanisms to measure their authenticity and some do not. We may not know what shapes our experience unless we track how our influences shape us.

Over a year of engagements, I have tried to map how Jinan repurposes conversations into knowledge products. Thinking through conversations is what I have deduced is his found system of sorts. Speech is the fundamental unit and conversation is the framework that produces knowledge out of sets of these units.

There are two ways, based on the content Jinan shares, he gains access to knowledge. First, he has conversations, dialogs in a way with those who know something about the subject he is interested in. Second, he watches YouTube videos on the subject. Lectures of authors who have written on domain concepts and are doing a public reading of their ideas.

It is worthwhile to know that most non-fiction book authors have their book summaries as YouTube lectures given in some institution or conference where its complete narrative is discussed. If you do not want to read a particular book but still what to know what it is about, there is a video out there that in an hour or a maximum of two covers the whole document. Audiobooks too of select titles are available.

The idea of conversations is to get access to the right people who know about what you want to know and get their attention. Preferable, association with those who will summarise their positions, while aligning them to your thought and practice agendas. Conversations help build audiences and audiences facilitate consumption.

Once a conversation reaches critical mass it is then a narrative of consumable potential. The request for a review of articles in addition to private conversations too is an ingenious tactic of idea validation I gleaned. Once the content Jinan is working on passes through these channels, either a workshop or lecture, or presentation is delivered.

Pushing for no methodology of any kind, the work produced generally, comes across as a ramble of ideas tied together, always within the limits of the presentation medium. There is no editing for consistency or for that matter even proofreading. What you get in the work produced by Jinan is authentic Jinan, unadulterated by western frameworks good and bad work, and in extension good and bad design.

Jinan, as I understand creates an analog social media enterprise around his ideas. He generates knowledge and validation of that knowledge from this community and disseminates processed material back into the network. The design problem Jinan has addressed is building a system of validation. Validation associations for consuming conversations as knowledge products in varying forms and formats.


i think #architecture #urbanism and #curation