— Cultural Sources of Newness

The value of tasting a source

What better way to launch a book on Moments of Valuation than to introduce future readers to pragmatic inquiry and discourse—over wine? And with two very different kinds of experts in the field: An academic who has written a wonderful chapter in our new book, and a wine-merchant who specializes in small vineyards! We tasted ideas, words, and wines.

Moments of Valuation-- wine tasting, WZB March 25 2015

Moments of Valuation– wine tasting, WZB March 25 2015

Antoine Hennion flew in from the Ecole des Mines in Paris to introduce the concepts in his chapter “Paying attention: What is wine tasting about”, and to participate in the experience. Roland Kretschmer  (of Les Climats in Berlin) presented three Pinot Noirs and explained how experts talk about wines. What the two experts had in common was an emphasis on using our senses and choosing our own words to express what we appreciate or do not like. Such advice may be obvious in some circles, but it is counter-cultural for many academics, whose definition of how knowledge is generated and how value is expressed emphasize objectivity, measurability, and generalizability.

 

Antoine Hennion explains pragmatic inquiry

Antoine Hennion explains pragmatic inquiry

Roland Kretschmer encouraged us to use our sense of smell while he talked, before advancing to the step of sipping the beautiful red liquids. This message was perfect for WZB President Jutta Allmendinger, who had opened the evening by telling us about her new research project on the senses.

Roland Kretschmer introduces three Pinot Noirs

Roland Kretschmer introduces three Pinot Noirs

After we had tasted each wine, Michael Hutter led us into tasting a bit of each chapter in the book. The triad of “taste-test-contest” that he explained filled the remainder of the evening. We spontaneously illustrated that valuation is a social and emphatically material process in practice.

 

Michael Hutter leading a chapter-tasting

Michael Hutter leading a chapter-tasting

It was a joy for me to facilitate this unusual book launch! At moments I felt like I was in the “interspace” of an artistic intervention in the academic world: We suspended the normal rules of dry academic discourse in which experts compete to prove they are right. Instead, the space was filled with curiosity, questions and admissions of uncertainty; animated listening;  aesthetically rich vocabulary. And action, namely tasting.

Multiple conversations

Multiple conversations

And what new will come of our experimental approach for the world of academia? Promises from several guests to read the book and write reviews about it. Hopefully, too, the evening will have awoken in some of our fellow academics from other disciplines the desire to engage in pragmatic inquiry and to enliven their writing practice.

Animated conversations

Animated conversations

A fitting and memorable end to the evening: my copy of the book was baptised by wine someone spilled.

 

 

 

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