WP118 Ariadne’s thread: Literacy, scale and meaning making across space and time

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Ariadne’s thread is a metaphor used by Latour (1987) to illustrate what he calls “networks of practices and instruments, of documents and translations” “that would allow us to pass with continuity from the local to the global”. In Greek mythology the goddess, Ariadne, gave a ball of fleece to Theseus to unwind as he entered into the labyrinth and followed its maze of paths. With this, Theseus was able to kill the minotaur and then follow the thread back to find his way out again. In this paper, I explore the concepts of “networks of practices and instruments, documents and translations”, exploring whether or how it is that that these may “allow us pass from the local to the global”. In Kell (2011) I worked with the idea of the “traffic of texts”, the small-scale to-ing and fro-ing of written text-artefacts in trajectories that cumulatively assemble the structures and processes of people’s daily lives, in many cases contributing to more durable and less reversible forms of meaning making. Whether the Ariadne’s thread metaphor, however, can “allow” for the passing “from the local to the global”, with the vertical jumps and the scale-shifts implied, is the question that is at the heart of this paper. What exactly is scale and if vertical scale-jumps are achieved, exactly how are they achieved” The paper therefore addresses the question of the role of scale in attempts to theorise the relation between the local and the global and the movement between these. The issues of voice and the centrality of texts in this movement are concepts at the heart of this paper.