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Catching the Ch'i: Tai Chi Chuan as embodied documentation
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences.
2017 (English)In: Annual Meeting of the Document Academy (DOCAM): 29-30 september 2017, Indiana University, Bloomington, IA, USA, 2017Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Tai Chi is a form of moving deep meditation practice of Chinese origin. Rooted in Daoism, its earliest history is obscure, with evidence suggesting that it has been practiced in a growing variety of forms since at least the 13th century CE. Today, Tai Chi is gaining popularity all over the world as a form of relaxation practice. When presented popularily it is often attached to, on the one hand, a romanticized eastern discourse on bodily energy flows to be released for increased happiness, and on the other hand, more clinically oriented medical claims that it may cure everything from ordinary backpains to Parkinson’s disease. Tai Chi is, however, also subjected to a more narrow and original discourse, namely that of not only ”releasing” inner energies, but more specifically representing a special kind of energy, the Ch’i. Elusive as it is, Ch’i is the basic energetic principle that lies behind the construct of Yin and Yang, the creative/receiving principles of all life defined in the I Ching. This representational feature which sets Tai Chi (which translates as the ”supreme ultimate”) apart from all other Chinese medical practice begs the question of whether it is possible to study the Tai Chi form as a document in itself, not only representing, but also presenting the basic principles of life.

This presentation addresses Tai Chi practice as performative documentation and the purpose is to try it against some of the basic concepts which have emerged in document studies and information studies over the last couple of decades. The aim is to see how far the concept of a document can be stretched when there is an absence of materiality, both in that what is being represented by the document and in the document itself.

The presentation defines an ”initial document” (the Tai Chi form itself), supplemented by ”derived documentation” as defined by documentation pioneer Suzanne Briet. Derived documentation in Tai Chi is shown as an overview of rhetorical constructs focusing philosophical, medical, pedagogical and martial arts related content. Three basic categories of functionality are identified in the derived documentation; ontological, performative, and legitimizing.

The Tai Chi form as initial document, with support of derived documentation and its functional categories, is treated as a complex of documentation, addressed in relation to current discussions in document studies concerning (1) document representativity as originally laid out by Suzanne Briet in her 1951 treatise ”What is Documentation?”, and (2) complementarity as introduced in document studies by Niels W. Lund in 2004. Conclusions suggests that chosen conceptual constructs may be used in addressing and defining documentary properties and processes beyond our traditional understanding of documents and documentation processes, and that in such a development, Tai Chi may be formulated as a kind of embodied documentation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Complementarity, Document practice, Document theory, Documentation studies, Tai Chi, Tai Chi Chuan, Ch’i, Embodied documentation
National Category
Information Studies
Research subject
Humanities, Library and Information Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-68160OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-68160DiVA: diva2:1146390
Conference
Annual Meeting of the Document Academy (DOCAM), 29-30 september 2017, Indiana University, Bloomington, IA, USA
Available from: 2017-10-02 Created: 2017-10-02 Last updated: 2017-10-04Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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  • text
  • asciidoc
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