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Conferences & lectures

Writing by making

Experiments in how to write a book on learning sensory knowledge

Thursday, May 23, 2019
3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Anna Harris


This event is free


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room H-1120



In this talk, Anna Harris, assistant professor of Technology and Society Studies at Maastricht University, will explore the process of writing her upcoming book, A Sensory Education. For Harris, the process not only involved studying instruction, but also making and designing educational materials. Because one of the aims of the book is to get readers to work through sensory instructions, it contains elements of a ‘how-to’ format that required Harris to experiment a lot.

For example, as Harris wrote about teaching tools in Maastricht, the Netherlands, she knitted a uterus. She also made a 19th century instrument to measure the blueness of the sky when writing about learning sensory vocabulary, then tried to make a YouTube instructional video of the process. Harris included instructions on how to make these materials in the book.

At this event, she wants to explore the possibilities and limitations of this kind of material thinking, another challenging aspect of what it means to write sensorially.

About A Sensory Education

Harris’ latest book, A Sensory Education, is due for publication in 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing. The book takes a close look at how we learn and teach sensory awareness in expert and everyday settings around the world. Harris’ ethnographic examples vary from medical schools, where she spent time studying how doctors train their sensory skills of diagnosis, to cookbooks and IKEA instructions.

The central message of the book is that sensing is not innate or acquired, but evolves through learning that we shape in social and material relations. The book looks at the work that goes into sensory education, including vocabularies, lesson plans, design instructions and the role of industry.

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