Reading Blog 4

The first article that I want to mention today is the “White and black landscapes in 18-century Virginia”. The compare between black landscape and the great planter’s landscape gives me a great pattern to learn social experience. Different objects have their own specific factors and are also in deep connection among each other. Through the description of the size and quality of the black and white landscapes which is in the combination with historical background, the life of the past is present to us. I think this is a good way to learn objects which are in the same system but have different traits. Like the decoys, some are for practical use, some exist only for collections. And the relationship between them is thought-provoking, especially the meaning of the contradictory factors and same status. What did they represent for people, and how did they work with humans when they almost had the same look but worked in different ways?

What’s the most impressive thing is that the author use the outsider’s image as evidence to illustrate the point, which I think could not only unmask the village metaphor, but also avoid the bias in a good method. As for myself, when I got into deep touch with my decoys, I was often narrow-minded about my own shortness of knowledge and never tried to use outsider’s view to overcome my bias. Even after my visiting to a decoy museum, I was excited about the information that I collected, but ignored people’s opinion about decoys. The outsider’s image is another document for doing a research. For example, the reason why hunters were addicted into waterfowls was not merely using it as food. I saw the evidence from other disciplines and outsider’s views that the feather of waterfowls was popular at that time and in great demand. To break the shortness of our views, one way is to think in another way, like an outsider.

When it comes to “The social life of things—commodities in cultural perspective”, it reminds me the reading last week, “Makers, Buyers, and Users”. They seem like the same pattern, but focus on different parts. The former one tries to explain that people are parts of commodities and the status of human changes in various situation. The exchange value of objects and human also varies when time goes by. Connecting this theory to my research, the value of decoys changed a lot as some laws were set to protect the waterfowls. And at the same time, their own kind of morality changed accordingly. So, thinking in an economic way is quite good to discover new clues.

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