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Masamune’s Blade

A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research


Peter Zuurbier and Frédérik Lesage

Affect is so powerful and represents such ripe territory for study that, in its infancy, conventions of research need to be established that attend to its particular motion and shape. Masamune’s Blade: A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research outlines an original research method for the study of affect known as affect probes, and proposes the establishment of a new knowledge project based in affect. The book begins with a call to discursively reshape research using affect, after which the authors develop a unique conceptualization of affect, one that brings it into the realm of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. The theoretical foundation sets up the affect probe method, which involves giving participants a package of small activities that require fun, easy, and creative participation. The activities are intended both to inspire affects and to mark their presence. Strategies for analysis are outlined and a series of critical interventions are woven throughout the text to situate the ideas.
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Chapter 2. Affect Probes


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“Boredom is always counter-revolutionary. Always.”

—Guy Debord in The Bad Old Days Will End

We realize that what we’ve outlined so far seems largely conceptual. When are you getting to the research? At this point we want to offer a path toward creating an affect probe of your own. But there’s a catch: Each instance of affect probe research is always a new endeavour. No one can ever be replicated, so there is limited value to you in our specific affect probes. We can only tell you so much. Each project requires careful consideration around the unique conditions of the research, necessitating a specific design for the activities in each probe. Though they can be borrowed, copied, and otherwise reused, activities should be chosen that together form a distinct apparatus that is harmonized around whatever is being researched.

Affect probes are packages containing a series of activities that are given to a small group of participants.1 These packages are left with the participants for an extended period of time, they are designed to be comfortable and unimposing, fun and playful. The activities require quick bursts of participation, they don’t demand much attention, and participants should enjoy using them. Participants are given minimal instruction, and are encouraged ← 61 | 62 → to use the probe however they wish, ignoring whatever activities they don’t feel like engaging. The participants play with the activities, and whatever results makes...

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