Embodiment and the Hand Experiment

Hi all,

Here’s a public re-post of something I wrote in the private group before the semester began. [Re-post inspired by the stimulating readings assigned this week and my growing comfort with public forums].

“The Hand Experiment,” Phil Ford


In doing some prep for this course and for teaching this semester (i.e. challenging my computer’s ability to reload countless tabs on multiple windows every time I open it), I’m constantly drawn to discussions of presence, attention, experience, and multitasking inside (and outside) the class—perhaps because these are ubiquitous topics of debate and discussion in the world of music scholarship.

Despite being a post primarily about the value of the arts and the eternal dichotomy between aesthetic experiences and written accounts of said experiences, this short piece by musicologist/cultural theorist Phil Ford (of Indiana University) intersects nicely with questions pertaining to educational experiences. What is the “something lost” that exists between experience and written, verifiable “knowledge?” How does our privileging of the latter creep into our approaches to education, and what are the negative effects? You can see the parallels. Phil also proposes a simple, experience-based activity that I imagine could be modified in endless ways in the classroom to initiate these kinds of conversations with students, whether related to the discipline at hand (unintended pun), or their educational experience in general.

Phil’s blog—Dial M for Musicology, co-run by another musicologist, Jonathan Bellman of the University of Northern Colorado—is one of my favourites. Phil’s a super creative guy (I once went to one of his talks where audience participation involved glow sticks) and he writes extensively about philosophies of presence and embodiment, if anyone’s interested.