Walking Backwards, Backwards Walking

I walked around Mackintosh-Corry Hall today, backwards. I walked in the D and E sections of the second floor.

As I walked, I tried to think about perceptional differences and embodied differences in walking backwards.

I relied much more on my periphery vision, I used different muscles (in my eyes and calves) to become backwardly mobile.

As I walked, my cone of vision was also backward when comparing it to forward motion. Instead of moving through the landscapes with the things in front of me falling away to the sides and margins as I moved toward and through them, they came from the periphery to the center. It is as though subjects and objects switched on me. Narrative became a different kind of linear.

Additionally, when moving in a forward, linear motion, our gaze makes our surroundings objects. When I was walking backwards, suddenly I became more noticeable to others in the hallway, I became MORE objectified in someone else’s landscape than perhaps if  had I been walking in a conventional manner.

I’m sure your thinking, well, just because you are walking backward doesn’t mean that you aren’t looking at what is right in front of you. Well, yes and no. What is right in front of you becomes less important in terms of walking “safely.” I relied on my peripheral vision and hearing in order to not injure myself (bodily or emotionally).

I want to take a moment to relate this experience to methodology. Jarring ourselves out the familiar can bring about new and interesting ways of doing things, just as doing a familiar activity in a non-conventional way can (re)invigorate the activity.

At the risk of making the parallel too blatant, I would like to think about methodologies that move from the center outward and those that move from the margins inward.  Is one better than the other? Are both necessary for providing different, not better, understandings of how we engage with our research?


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