Wednesday, January 19, 2005
The Other Bone Collector
D.'s busy modeling pellet-gogy. You know, pellet-gogy?
Turns out the timeless icon of wise (How many licks does it take to get to
the center of the TRTP?) chows small animals whole...then returns the
too-bony-to-pass bits in a hardened furry ball. She tells me most of the
kids are eager about the put 'em back together project, which involves picking
through the dried gunk, finding resemblances, bringing them to the frame (a
paper outline) and so on.
She's hot-glue-gunning the intricate bones of rodents, piecing
together--femur by rib cage by skull--the outline of a tiny skeletal structure,
all to show the school kids what it might look like, provided the dense
hunk-o'-burped-up by the owl indeed consists of a like specimen. Sure it's
disgusting; after that, however: research methodology. Sorry for crossing
signals; I'm tuning 205 stuff. But what if we thought about
about a metaphor for research that makes use of the pellet topos--reconstituting
once-unacceptable bits into something tangible--restoring robbed coherences?
Posted by Derek Mueller at January 19, 2005 10:00 PM
to Dry Ogre Chalking
I think that is a great idea . . . we should all have our students dissect owl pellets. Just kidding, but I see your point in using a very concrete object that can be parsed and then reassembled in a new form -- albeit a skeletal one -- to discuss the breaking apart and reassembling of information as the jumping off place for writing. It is interesting to begin thinking of research in these terms, especially since I have been trying my darndest to think of it in terms of the web and networks lately. But the owl pellet has clicked for me in ways that the great wide web has not yet . . . its got me thinking.
We've talked about this in person since you commented, Jen, so responses here are redundant. Yet I have a compulsive habit of responding to all comments left here, so that's what my motor makes me do.
The owl pellets bit intrigues me because the owl--if we take it to stand for the locus of knowledge about the natural world (seer of the forest, right?)--is predatory and consumptive, but rather than hunting and eating in ways that leave no trace, the wise owl deposits (rather randomly, I think, but I could be wrong about this...never did pellets in school) these pellets--a discombobulated record of things mostly ransacked by the bird. If they owl (or kingfisher) could digest the bones, it would. But it can't. So we harvest the crusty pellets and set them before the curios researcher who attempts to recreate an order from that which the owl's body (of knowledge) rejected.
My attempt to connect this with webs/networks probably won't be coherent, but what the heck. Collin mentioned Mark Buchanan's book _Nexus_ in class yesterday. It's a book that isn't very helpful relative to language/rhetoric, but it does a nice job, on the other hand and IMHO, of accounting for the science of natural rhythms (among synchronized lightning bugs, for one) and the consequences of disruptions in food webs (the relationship of seal depopulation and cod fishing with other impacted species). I know it's not very refined or nuanced, but the connection between networks/webs, owl pellets and research as consumptive process comes when we begin to think of things like keyword and keyphrase frequencies or bibliographic families in a field's body of knowledge and, as well, what sorts of pellets are being regurgitated from the noetic field owls of rhet/comp. (I know you'll forgive me for this odd stringalong, Jen; perhaps, with any luck, others will miss it altogether!). Oh, and by the way, Buchanan has a chapter on the stuff we talked about yesterday after your class--on natural patterns and river inter-linking (though not on India's project or globalism).
Where did D GET owl pellets?
I guess they're marketed to science teacher in the various catalogues: markers, erasers, overhead projector sheets ;) and owl pellets. So the school orders them. I was thinking they're more likely to come from caged owls, perhaps at the various zoos. I can't imagine anyone rooting around the wilderness looking for such things in large enough number that they could be supplied to elementary schools.