From the Lighthouse

WESTERMAN, Julie, BARRES DE ALMEIDA, Ulisses, TEBO, Brad, ADEY, Peter, KLEIMAN, Norman and CLARKE, Jan (2015). From the Lighthouse. In: STRANG, Veronica, EDENSOR, Timothy and WARD, Martin, (eds.) From the Lighthouse : an exploration in interdisciplinarity. Ashgate Presss. (In Press)

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What is a lighthouse? What does it do, and how? What does a lighthouse mean symbolically? And what happens when we examine such questions from different disciplinary perspectives? Can sharing these perspectives through an interdisciplinary conversation ‘enlighten’ our thinking? The contributors to this volume think that it can: we believe that this project demonstrates the capacity of interdisciplinarity to transform the way we think.

The impetus for the proposed volume emerged from an endeavour by Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study to facilitate an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. Each year the IAS provides visiting Fellowships to 20 leading academics from around the world and from across the disciplinary spectrum, enabling them to work together and with Durham researchers on an annual research theme. In 2013-14, this theme was Light. The Institute’s Director, Veronica Strang, proposed an informal experiment in which the IAS Fellows and local scholars got together, with a public audience, to consider what each would bring to a conversation entitled To the Lighthouse.

The lively exchange of ideas at the event generated so much enthusiasm that it was collectively decided to compose a book collating the contributions and soliciting others. In particular, it seemed that this small experiment had the potential to provide not only a comprehensive vision of what different disciplinary approaches would bring to the topic itself, but also to offer some insights into how such exchanges act upon each disciplinary perspective. The text therefore plans to explore not only multiple research perspectives, but also how they connect with and transform each other. So the proposed book is not just about what comes From The Lighthouse, but also an exploration of the potential of interdisciplinary research to offer more than the sum of its parts.

From The Lighthouse will be composed of diverse perspectives from a wide range of scholars, and their comments on how these have been informed by the interdisciplinary exchange. It will also contain numerous visual and poetic images illustrating their ideas. In both text and image, lighthouses will appear in multiple forms: as signals of safety and surveillance; as homologous persons and eyes; as beacons of enlightenment; as phallic assertions of boundaries; as monuments of community identity; as memorials of historical relationships with the sea; as technological advancements.

The conversation also opened up other avenues: human and non-human evolutionary adaptations in the use of light as signal and warning; the importance of regularity and synchronicity in pulses of light; the interpretation of pulsars as the ‘lighthouses’ of outer space; the many related material objects and technologies categorically and metaphorically linked to the lighthouse (ancient watchhouses and beacons; new digital technologies of signal and surveillance; airport control towers to track and guide airborne craft back ‘to port’).

Reflecting the free thinking that underpinned the initial experiment, the volume will adopt an unconventional structural approach. Rather than offering distinct ‘chapters’ the contributors will address the cross-cutting themes in a more interwoven conversational mode, so that each sub-theme has input from a range of perspectives, and can consider how these have affected each other.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Commissioned book
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Julie Westerman
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2015 13:11
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2017 13:31

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