I’ve just spent a fascinating morning at a workshop on Creative Pathways to Impact, splashing around well out of my depth and comfort zone, in search of further inspiration and possible creative collaborators for some of the ways I want to make use of Thucydides as a genuine ‘possession for all time’, a means of opening up questions about the complexity of the world, politics, power, rhetoric etc in the face of post-truth and post-democracy. One of the activities was the random drawing of cards, giving a research finding, a location and a form respectively, and then discussing as a group how one might enable the first of these of have an impact via the other two. So: Thucydides as a means of understanding the dynamics of power; phone box; street theatre.
The aim of the exercise was not to come up with actual plans, but to practice thinking outside the usual parameters, rather than just assuming that the road to impact is yet another exhibition or schools workshop – the key question always being, why should anyone care about your research? how are you going to get them to engage? Still, like any devotee of Borges and Calvino, I can’t resist the idea of descriptions of imaginary books – and so it’s not a big step to offer an account of some imaginary impact projects, especially ones that have no hope of ever attaining a real existence…
You’re walking past a phone box when it rings (yes, recollections of one of the passages in If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller…). If you answer it, the voice of Thucydides encourages to look at what’s happening outside (an escalating confrontation? staged by actors mingling with regular passers-by) with the historian’s-eye view afforded by the phone box, a good but never complete view on three sides, but with the possibility of analysing the situation. Probably, to ensure that the person stays on the phone until the end, we’ll need to have someone in position with a high-powered sniper’s rifle.
Or: you’re the sort of person who actually rings the numbers on those cards stuck up in phone boxes offering hot s&m action; you call, and a sexy, husky voice reads suitable extracts from the Melian Dialogue about power and domination. The aim of any of these exercises, according to the workshop, is to interrupt the flow (of everyday life, of assumptions, of desire) and to offer a gift at the end; so, people will engage with the number on the card because it seems to offer them what they want, and it will give them what they really need. Possibly.
This one seems technically feasible and relatively cheap to organise – even self-funding, if people have to pay to call the number. There must be online guides to setting up phone sex lines with recorded messages… I’m just not sure how to go about collecting the data to make this into a proper impact case study.
Incidentally, one major outcome of discussion was a strong sense that maybe Thucydides needs rebranding: no wonder that someone with a name that’s so hard to pronounce or remember remains primarily an elite, exclusive cultural possession. Any suggestions? Mr T?