Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Ontology & Definitions

Today in Thesis II we began work on our thesis book ontology. In order to be clear about the specific meaning of the words we are using, we will be constructing definitions of key terms.

I have made a few decisions about word choice so far. I know I want my overall tone to be somewhat academic. There is a seriousness and agency that I want to convey in this work, so I feel a higher reading level is more appropriate. At the same time, I do not want this to be overly technical, and plan to maintain a balance of academic and vibrant language.

The other decision I feel strongly about is my inclusion of humans in the definition of animal. In other contexts, people like to distinguish humans from animals, sometimes even putting them in opposition. Nature is often used in this way as well (i.e. "human v. nature"). But I strongly believe that humans are animals and will often use language like "non-human animals" to indicate this.

Speaking of "nature", this is a decision that I still need to make. In my mid year book, I often used nature in quotation marks. In many cultures there is not a word for nature because everything is considered to be part of it. I need to determine how to manage this term in my writing. I am inclined to try to use more precise language instead of nature, if possible, and perhaps even largely avoid the use of the term.

Below are two lists of words, ones that I can define clearly and ones that I'm still struggling with. Luckily the top list is bigger than the bottom, however many of the most critical terms in my thesis are in that bottom list, including rewilding, visceral, and natural. Rewilding is a difficult term to define because it has so many components and so many definitions. It's not just one thing, more like a collection or typology of actions. Visceral is going to be an important definition to work on in terms of countering it with mechanistic and technical approaches to sustainability. And natural, similar to nature, is a tricky one to define as it involves drawing a border. Is human construction unnatural? Or is it just inconsiderate? Is anything inherently unnatural?

 

environment

biodiversity

depaving

sustainability

thrivability

permaculture

anarchoprimitivism

conservation biology

symbiosis

paleolithic

hunter gatherer

reintroduction of species

megafauna

resource v. family

ecological function

TERMS I CAN DEFINE CLEARY

bioremediation

reciprocity

dirt/soil

wilderness

barefooting

tending / cultivating

tactile

proximity

foraging

commodification of nature

metabolic rift

geomorphology

agroecology

perennial

polyculture

monoculture

 

TERMS I STILL NEED TO DEFINE

rewilding

domestication

feral

ecosystem

civilization v. culture v. society

natural/normal

visceral v. technical v. mechanical

ancestral

primitive

Jenna Witzleben