>Presented in no particular order or priority.

Opening doors and drawers is not a completely unconscious activity, but it is over-learned and semi-automatic–the logistics of which I believe are controlled by my “silent” cerebellum. Thank you, cerebellum. Some doors close themselves after you let go of them (e.g., refrigerator doors). Many doors and drawers you need to close yourself (e.g., car doors). Creating a diary around the door and drawer knobs I used gave me a different way to organize and view my day. Some important activities get left out (e.g., working on a project on a computer at work). Some mundane ones (e.g., going to the bathroom) get more attention or weight than if I were writing a normal diary. Although I “knew” that opening doors and drawers is a pretty automatic activity, I became very aware of this during the project. Forcing myself to pay attention to opening and closing doors and drawers made the activity seem a little odd, awkward, and “new.” It was easy to believe that I was exploring a basic unexamined aspect of my life (or re-exploring it since childhood). I got the idea for this research project upon awakening on June 3rd, 1999. I immediately decided to do it that day. This project helped me realize that I don’t really look at the knobs and handles I grasp. I am conscious of my overall goal (e.g., go outside, get a t-shirt, take a shower) but it is clear that I don’t pay much conscious or focussed attention to the details. I believe that I normally look or think past the activity as I am engaging in it. Focussing my attention on small, automatic everyday behaviors required some “discipline.” And it wasn’t always easy to keep the photograph-any-door-or-drawer-knob-I-use-today script in mind. I actually missed photographing several door knobs at the time I used them. I made up for this by going back and photographing the knobs/handles as soon as I remembered (these photos have had their time-stamp removed). It wasn’t always clear to me what I should consider a door knob. For example, I did not photograph the elevator button at work. This is one of the things I had an ongoing internal debate about. I decided not to consider an elevator button as being a door knob because it did not require my grasp or leverage. I’m still not sure if this is the best definition (or distinguishing attribute) to use. For example, if I defined door knob as anything that allowed 1. my body to enter another room or compartment or 2. some part of my body (e.g., hand) to enter a normally closed-off space (e.g., a drawer, a refrigerator compartment), then elevator buttons would qualify (but so would automatic doors). I think if I had made myself guess how many door/drawer knobs I used during a typical day, I would have guessed something like “thirty to forty”…not the approximately 83 I touched on this fairly typical day. As is well-known, the act of observing and documenting a behavior or action can inevitably alter that action in various ways. Sometimes I photographed my hand grasping a door knob or handle. To do so, I would hold the camera with my right hand (I am righthanded) and grasp the knob/handle with my left. I believe I almost always use my right hand to open doors and drawers, however. I was surprised to see how many doors and drawers require 2 separate actions (in terms of physical leverage): opening and closing. I believe that typically my conscious mind “bundles” these two steps together and even combines them with the other actions required to achieve the immediate goal (e.g., taking the cats outside, getting in my car, etc.). Sometimes it is not clear whether using a door or drawer should be considered one or two separate actions. For example, walking through a door and then pulling it shut often seemed like one smooth, automatic action. I decided it was often unnecessary, inexpedient, and tedious to photograph and then display both actions…but I did do this at least several times (e.g., with car doors). Initially I photographed the knobs/handles before I grasped them. Then I started thinking it might look more interesting and documentary-like if I photographed myself (my hand) opening/closing the door. Then I started mixing it up. I didn’t really realize it until I began working with the photos, but the door/drawer knobs at home are a lot more interesting looking to me than the door handles of cars, offices, and churches. Doors and doorways sometimes serve as the “borders” or “bookends” of distinct, meaningful activities…and sometimes they do not. Paying attention to my hands opening and closing doors and drawers 1. increased my awareness of that activity, which 2. interrupted my “looking ahead to the next action in the sequence” mentality, which 3. increased my “being” in the “here and now”–at least for the door knob/drawer knob action. Redistributed awareness or expanded awareness?
Although I increased the attention normally devoted to this basic, automatic activity, it is not clear to me whether I simply redistributed my awareness (i.e., trading-off giving extra attention to door knobs for giving less attention to something else) or whether I actually expanded my overall immediate conscious awareness (that would be cool; also see comments by George Free). Conducting the documentary aspects of the project (e.g., operating the camera, carrying on internal debates about the various issues that arose during the project), may have actually decreased the amount of conscious awareness I normally paid to other aspects of my environment…another possible cost/benefit trade-off. What can the viewer gain from all of this? There may be some benefits to the viewer in the vicarious experience of this project. It might temporarily heighten your awareness of door knobs and the roles they play in your life…make you more aware and appreciative of the “little things” that make up the “here and now.” But it’s probably not as good as enacting this project yourself. You might have entirely different experiences and reactions than the ones reported here. Cost/benefit analysis. Was this worth the trouble (for me and for you, the viewer). For me it’s been a lot of work…it started out as a fun, entertaining, Fluxus-ish idea, but trying to make more out of it by adding the “observations” and analysis may have taken it too far. Unfettered fun? Uncharted insights? Doing the project and thinking about it while doing it definitely had its moments of “unfettered fun” for me. Did I gain any “uncharted insights”…well, I’m not so sure. I don’t think I have observed or described anything here that is especially uncharted (either to psychologists of cognition or to other Fluxus folk). Enacting the project did alter my awareness and behavior …and did so in worthwhile, if transitory, ways.

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