Notes from the Field

  • From the Editors
  • by Jeffrey Schnapp
  • September 15, 2011

Serial Quickening

Spinners is the first installment of Quickening (An Anthropology of Speed) that Jeffrey Schnapp--our newest Contributing Editor--will be publishing in West 86th in serialized form. From the Forward:

Human existence is defined by a set of “natural” paces and cycles: paces of walking, talking, breathing, and sensory perception, and cycles of wakefulness and sleep, activity and inactivity. Enabled and constrained by the capabilities of the human body, these spatiotemporal, perceptual, and communicational rhythms are embedded, in turn, within those of the natural world: day and night, seasonal flux, growth and decay, birth and death. When the relationship between the two is altered, the human as a category is pressed outward toward its boundaries: those with other orders of creatures, with more than “natural” forms of being and bodily expression, and with alternate modes of cognition, consciousness, or intellection. These boundary lines are themselves movable markers whose location shifts as a function of the everyday rhythms that characterize a given culture, conditioned by social conventions and technological possibilities. When mail coaches, trains, and automobiles first arose, their impact was traumatic and ecstatic; decades later, their velocities had been naturalized and normalized, absorbed within everyday routines. Speed, in turn, sought a home elsewhere: at the speedway, in the sky, between the planets, beyond the solar system, in atomic particles.

Quickening will take us through the impact of motion on our senses and examine the material manifestations of speed that have altered our thought and history. In Spinners, we begin our journey with the wheel. 

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