JULY 2021 - RE-CONNECT
This issue marks the end of the Refresh, Re-evaluate, Re-connect series started in May this year. During this short period, things have evolved considerably. We have shaken off the haziness of the lockdown and refreshed the screens of our lives and work, curious to see what would appear. We have taken a moment to take in this new reality and reviewed the pertinence and value of our working practices against it. Now the time has come to reconnect with the ideas that once marked our path and with the ones that will allow us to move forward.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “reconnect” offers us a beautiful take on the subject. To reconnect is “to put, bring, or come together again”. In a way, this implies the existence of a whole that somehow became separated. Therefore, reconnecting can also be taken as an invitation to look for the commonalities in the scattered parts, a call to join the dots and reveal the hidden picture. This is precisely the intention that permeates Dr Brigitte Ouvry-Vial and Dr Alessio Antonini’s account of the READ-IT project (the Reading Europe Advanced-Data Investigation Tool) in the first article of this issue. Drawing on testimonies left by European readers from the 18th to the 21st century, READ-IT seeks to capture the elusiveness of the act of reading and the range of readers’ responses across time and places. To this end, they have put together a team of specialists in reading and book history, literature, computer sciences, information sciences and digital humanities, and developed a fascinating new research tool that is helping them build a composite description of what they call “the cultural heritage of reading”. In tracking, analysing, and finding connections in “how ordinary readers record, retrace and share their readings”, the project (currently in its third year) may offer a revolutionary insight into the reading experience and into what joins us together by way of the written word.
Following the literary theme, Christine Lehnen’s article highlights that reconnecting is not only about linking the past with the present, it is also about finding ways to bring distant presents together to create a more interconnected and fruitful future. Drawing on her own experience becoming a published author (which she tells with the flair for engaging typical of the fiction writer), she makes the case for moments of “closeness” or “togetherness” with other professionals as invaluable to inspire, nurture, and develop your own creative practice. For Lehnen, the migration of many literary events to online platforms during the pandemic has helped reveal (by comparison) the unfairness and inadequacies of a system that privileges those physically and socially closer to the top of the chain. In this light, the virtual space emerges as a ground rife with opportunities to foster more balanced connections. Accordingly, she calls for the continuation of these online events, or ideally, for a combination of the physical and the virtual, to truly democratise the sharing of knowledge and experiences that these events claim to offer in the first place.
On a different note, the literary thread shared by the two articles in this issue is also a fitting way to pay tribute to the role that books and reading, and by extension the arts and culture, have played in keeping us connected during the pandemic. Whether reaching into the past to bring together experiences or stretching our hands into the future to form new paths for others to follow, every time that we refresh, re-evaluate, and re-connect through creativity something incredibly exciting comes alive. These three issues of Cultural Practices have been our attempt to add to this idea.
Until then, stay connected.
(On behalf of the editorial team)