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This paper approaches the question of working with multiple and diverse knowledge traditions by looking at problems of biodiversity and databasing.

Hardly a month goes by without the announcement of a new database, some massive assemblage of information. For example, last year a database was proposed for nothing less than the astronomical data of the entire universe. By linking the major telescopes of the world in a 'virtual observatory' it was proposed that science could come of age, move beyond mere empiricism and theorising, and get on with datamining the cosmos.1 Despite the manifest hubris of conceiving a cosmic database when 90% of the matter in the universe is invisible and knowable only through the controversial theoretical construct dark energy2, and that 'the fundamental laws of physics may be nothing more than parochial by-laws in our cosmic patch',3 it seems that the enlightenment panoptic project of assembling all knowledge in one place continues unchecked.

     But, at the same time, we are facing in classic postmodern fashion, a profoundly challenging conjuncture in modernity where the techniques and the knowledge that have produced the massive expansion in population and growth of in goods and services that we now take for granted are the causes of a forthcoming crisis- the sixth extinction- the possible wipe-out of most life on earth including ourselves. This doomsday scenario is familiar to us all and has been getting more and more urgent as we face global warming, climate change, and resource depletion. However, this crisis is not my immediate concern, rather its the hidden contradictions implicit in some of the endeavours to do something about it. The most well known such effort comes under the general heading of biodiversity and the desire to ensure that we preserve or conserve it. One of the major components in that endeavour is to measure the amount of biodiversity and assemble a database of all the biodiversity in the world with the joint expectation that this will enable us to preserve at least some knowledge of the environment and that we will be able to tell whether any of our attempts to prevent the sixth extinction are effective. Indeed assemblage is taken as synonymous with science, rationality and the solution to preserving biodiversity.

'The lack of taxonomic inventories is largely responsible for our failure to preserve biodiversity: you cannot preserve, rationally develop, understand or legally protect species whose existence has not been documented.'4

      With the recognition of the need for a global biodiversity database has come a rather belated acknowledgement that biodiversity does not exist in isolation, biodiversity is inseparably linked to cultural diversity, to indigenous knowledge.5 It is recognised that cultural diversity is, like biodiversity, facing an extinction crisis, languages are disappearing rapidly and in the last 100 years, agricultural diversity, for example, has declined 75%, and 60% of the world's calorie consumption is now derived from only three plants. Thus we are facing the barren desert of monoculture and the possible extinction of much of the life on earth, and we have seen no limit to our drive for assemblage.

      The basic contradiction I want to address is not that out of agricultural simplification grew cultural complexity, but that assemblage of cultural diversity is an oxymoron. To coordinate commensurability, to order according to a common standard or measure, to make uniform, is to deny, suppress, and stifle diversity. It sublimates difference into identity. Assemblage and diversity are in contradiction with one another, so we have little alternative except to find ways of working with incommensurability and contradiction.6 Hence there is an attached conundrum; if we are attempting the assemblage of knowledge of complex, multiplicitous, interactive, phenomena we need a complete rethink of all the components and ontologies involved. We need to rethink the very ideas of assemblage and of diversity, which implies rethinking our understanding of science and knowledge and of the enlightenment project itself.

      To date the efforts to establish a biodiversity database have proved to be very difficult if not impossible.7 The reasons are reasonably well known and have been covered by Bowker and others, so all I want to do here is point to some of the most salient problems and add some general points of my own in order to draw some parallels with the even the more problematic case- cultural diversity.

The first order problem is vastness, taking an inventory of biodiversity does not have quite the order of magnitude of the cosmic database, but its so massive that it may prove impractical.  Estimates of the number of species vary from 5-30 million, and only 1.7m are currently known.8 The baseline problem has been a source of difficulties in reaching uniform, universal, standards for data collection, for example, there is no agreed definition of biodiversity or of species. The inability to agree on a definition for biodiversity reflects the complex nature of the issue

      The (WCMC) World Conservation Monitoring Centre's 1992 report says biodiversity is 'commonly used to describe the number, variety and variability of living organisms'; a definition which has the attraction of gross simplification, taking biodiversity as a synonym for 'all life on Earth'.9  David Harmon, in his very important, but, I believe profoundly flawed, recent book, In Light of Our Differences: How Diversity in Nature and Culture Makes Us Human, defines biodiversity as:

 'All hereditarily based variation at all levels of organization, from the genes within a single local population or species, to the species composing all or part of a local community, and finally to the communities themselves that compose the living parts of the multifarious ecosystems of the world.'

Harmon goes on to point out:
The complexity of biodiversity is expressed, first of all, in how the genetic information flow embodied in animals and plants is distributed across the face of the earth and, secondly, in how these genetic embodiments interact to form ecological communities, which in turn interact among themselves. There are few uniformities to be found when one compares the distributions and interactions. Accordingly biologists and ecologists have created numerous measures of diversity to elaborate on the genes-species-ecosystems hierarchy. Examples include alpha, beta, and gamma diversity, which measure differences within and among habitats at local and regional levels; taxic and functional diversity at macro-scales; systems diversity, characterised by (among other classifications) biomes, biogeographic and oceanic realms, life zones, and ecoregions, karyoptic variations (which refer to chromosome complements) allelic diversity, heterozygosity, and similar measures at the genetic level, and on and on.10

      What I would point to here is that though Harmon mentions the interactions and sources of variability, they get elided in favour of   equating biodiversity with species. The genetic narrative comes to dominate; the cross-scale, spatiotemporal, multiplicity gets backgrounded. The genetic narrative is concerned with the materials of evolutionary change and their mechanisms, primarily genetic mutation. What this suppresses are the causes of diversity. I would argue that if biodiversity is conceived as the totality of life on earth, as all the species, and it is then added to conception of the task as one of preservation or conservation, the whole understanding becomes somewhat skewed towards seeing the current species maximum as the thing that must be maintained, instead of seeing species themselves as being one of the multiplicity of causes of diversity. If the task is reconceived not as preserving species but as ensuring that the processes of diversification are sustained, then the focus spreads to include the interactions of species and environment which include human interactions as well as spatial and temporal and cross scale ones.11

The general point of course is the same as the one underlying the genetics debate. Genes alone mean nothing, its genes in a particular context or environment, its not nature or nature its nature/nurture and natureculture, there are no grand divides; there are only interactions, processes in place, and across space and time. Speciation and diversification occur as a result of changing genes in an historically contingent environment. Species are of course one dimension of the interactions in an ecosystem but they are only that, one dimension in the complex of interactions that Corning calls synergies, i.e. things working together.12 In his recent book that usefully resurrects the much abused and overused term he defines 'synergy' as 'the emergent functional effect of combination between separate parts otherwise called mutualism, cooperativity symbiosis, win-win, emergent effects, critical mass, co-evolution, interaction, threshold effects, non-zero-sumness.' Synergy then is matter and processes coming into contact and producing effects and linkages, so one of its basic dimensions is movement and the other is emergence- the development of new entities or phenomena from complex systems of interactions and connections between relatively simple components.

      Emergence is a characteristic of a new approach to understanding evolution and development called developmental systems theory or niche construction.13 An approach that is based in the work of Richard Lewontin who proposed the dissolution of the boundary between the organism and the environment arguing that ''Organisms do not adapt to their environments, they construct them out of bits and pieces of the external world.'14 Odling-Smee points out that  this 'means that evolutionary theory has not just one major dynamic genetic inheritance, but two, there is also ecological inheritance, this means that the two sources are of diversity  cultural/ecological and biological are equally essential.'15 But it also means that evolution is a coproduction in which interactions between organisms and environments have contingent, emergent effects that not genetically or environmentally determined. Such a contingent synergistic coproductive understanding implies a different conception of what it means to be a causal agent in the world. Peter Taylor suggests 'distributed agency'. Our orthodox understanding of agency is some version of autonomy and spatiotempoaal identity which by separation gives us causal power in the world if we reconceive ourselves or agents as interactive with other agents the tendency especially in the genetic discourse is to revert to thinking that here is an inner core, knowledge plan program design whatever that remains constant while the outer part interacts. If we reconceive agency as interactive and co-constructed then the spatiotemporal understanding and the concept of autonomy changes. When agents become distributed they have extended spatial and temporal boundaries.16

      A classic exemplification of the role of mobility, connectivity and synergy is pollination and its iconic distributed agents/go-betweens”"bees. Without go-betweens, plants have no way of exchanging genes, or ensuring a replacement generation of seedlings.17 Biodiversity is not just about species, but also about linkages and interactions between plants, animals, insects, environments and humans. It is these interactions and knowledge of them, along with forms of mobility, which are frequently embedded and embodied in indigenous knowledge traditions that are central to biodiversity and cultural diversity, as we shall see.18
Bees are profoundly important symbols, as both metaphors and biological agents in the complex, historically contingent, system”" natureculture.19

Bees' adventitious pollination of plants through the activity of searching for food for the hive is an emergent or synergistic effect in a complex system dependent on movement and interaction. This has long been recognised by the Greeks, for example, for whom the bee is the messenger between the underworld and the world above, carrying news of death and life. They symbolize the artist and the stranger, the soul moving between the conscious and unconscious, they are the givers of eloquence and song. They are archetypal go-betweens that enable movement across boundaries and between cultures. Go-betweens are essential to creativity and diversity in the cultural and the biological spheres. They are icons of interaction, mobility, and distributed agency. In the biological world we are facing a pollination crisis because bees are being hit by disease, pesticides, displacement by killer bees, and habitat disruption. Are we facing an analogous decline in cultural go-betweens in the globalisation of the media for example or in the decline of social capital?20

      A database that seeks to preserve biodiversity simply as an inventory of species is based on two misconceptions; one is that conservation should attempt to preserve a maximum number of species in what is a dynamic system where on the macroscale species numbers vary markedly. The previous five major extinction episodes have been followed by massive outbursts of speciation for example. The other misconception is that species are the essence of biodiversity where they are more usefully recognized as a one component in a dynamic system equally dependent on movement and interaction.

Biodiversity is increasingly becoming recognised as inseparably linked to cultural diversity, but along with this recognition comes all too often the easy identification of cultural diversity with language- an identity relationship just as flawed as that which equates biodiversity with species.  The two chief advocates of the 'ecocultural/ecosocial' position, Luisa Maffi and David Harmon, are especially impressed by the apparent match between biological and linguistic diversity.

'The diversity of languages and cultures may share much of the same nature and serve much of the same functions, as the diversity of natural kinds in ensuring the perpetuation of life on earth.'21
Harmon's global mapping of biological and linguistic diversity shows that 'of ten out of 12 of the mega diversity communities 83% also figure among the top 25 countries for endemic languages.22 However, there are some exceptions e.g. New Guinea which has the highest linguistic diversity- 800 languages, but is not a site of mega diversity. This strikes me as a question of great importance since Australia has both and given they were once connected, what happened? It suggests the question that I think is fundamental- what is the nature of diversity? Does PNG have other non-biological, non-linguistic forms of diversity? Practices for example, it was a site at which a complex form of gardening developed. Does it have multiple, diverse different, ecosystems?

What I want to do here is open up the question of cultural diversity and explore the ways in which its linguistic dimensions need to be expanded and augmented.  Harmon and Maffi are also impressed by the Berlin, and Hunn approach to indigenous knowledge, what you might call the 'ethnoscience project', which finds that indigenous plant and animal names map onto western taxonomies, this leads them to a linguistic understanding of knowledge which is reinforced by their anti-relativism in which there cannot, in the end, be any diversity of ontologies, there is just one world divided into natural kinds by universal linguistic categorisation.23

It is taken for granted by many commentators especially in development studies that 'indigenous knowledge and biodiversity are complementary phenomena essential to human development',24 but there are basic unresolved contradictions and problems about conceptualising indigenous knowledge when it comes to databases. In response to the UNESCO call for the recognition of the value of indigenous knowledge and its incorporation of the biodiversity database the International Council of Scientists Unions (ICSU) responded by saying that the problem with indigenous knowledge is that it is not assemblable, that's how it differs from scientific knowledge; indigenous knowledge is local, place based, diverse and hence incommensurable and incapable of being validated by common standards.25

      As Scoones and Thomson point out but with the opposite evaluation of indigenous knowledge, 'there is a profound contradiction in the idea of recording indigenous knowledge in a database since indigenous knowledge is 'manifold, discontinuous and dispersed'.26 Dei and others also take this multiplicity and diversity of indigenous knowledges as a virtue but in a profoundly political and critical sense.  They define indigenous knowledge as:

A body of knowledge associated with the long-term occupancy of a certain place. This knowledge refers to traditional norms and social values, as well as to mental constructs that guide, organize and regulate the people's ways of living and making sense of their world. It is the sum of experience and knowledge of a given social group and forms the basis of decision making in the face of challenges both familiar and unfamiliar.27

      Dei argues this characterisation of indigenous knowledge is anti-colonial not post-colonial: 'indigenous knowledges differ from conventional knowledge because of the absence of colonial and imperial imposition. For Dei:
The notion of 'indigenousness' is central to the power relationships and dynamics embedded in the production, interrogation, validation and dissemination of global knowledge about social development. Indigenous knowledges recognize the multiple and collective origins of knowledge as well its collaborative dimensions. Indigenous knowledges affirm that the interpretation and analysis of social reality is subject to different and sometimes oppositional perspectives.   This perspective he claims 'amounts to a disruption of the prevailing ideas about what constitutes 'knowledge'.   However, I think this position needs some augmentation with recognition of the value of local and traditional knowledge and a clarification of their relationship to indigenous knowledge.

      'Local knowledge is a generic term referring to knowledge generated through observations of the local environment or at a particular site and held by a specific group of people'28, and in that sense all knowledge including science is local.29 Indigenous knowledge is 'local knowledge held by indigenous peoples, or local knowledge unique to a given culture or society'. Traditional knowledge is 'a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, evolving by adaptive process and handed down through generations by cultural transmission'30 that may be held by particular group or profession. So rather than restrict cultural diversity to language or indigenous knowledge, it should embrace the entire range of local knowledges such as the knowledge of gardeners, herbalists, ornithologists and so on.

      This rough classificatory clarification still remains too representationalist and insufficiently performative, in that it presumes that a knowledge tradition can be equated with a body of beliefs or a language.  The anthropologist Paul Richards' 'analysis of knowledge as performance challenges the very idea of practices being grounded in an indigenous knowledge suggesting that the range of skills and strategies employed by farmers extend beyond simple applied knowledge into a set of 'improvisational capacities called forth by the needs of the moment''. 'Each mixture is an historical record of what happened to a specific farmer on a specific piece of land in a specific year. It is not the outcome of a prior body of 'indigenous technical knowledge' in which the farmers are figuring out variations on a local theory of inter-species ecological complementarity.' 31  For me a performative understanding of knowledge is based in the recognition of the centrality of 'movement through space and making connections'. As Adrian Cussins has argued in his conception of 'cognitive trails' a performative 'travelling account of understanding and representation should not opt for an epistemological grounding in thought or experience since much of our 'intelligence in communicating and acting consists in our ability to move between alternative conceptualisations of a problem domain'.32

At this point I want to segue into an example before coming back to the question of the diversity of knowledge.

One the very best examples I know of an interactive understanding of the ecological and the social is so-called Panarchy as described by Holling, Gunderson and Folke.33 They have developed a cross-scale multi-factorial dynamic model for managing ecosystems, which integrates the biological, the geographical, the geological the climatological, and the ecological with the sociocultural in what they call an adaptive renewal cycle based on resilience that incorporates indigenous knowledge as a part of a complex system. I wont go into the detail here but I commend it to you.

      'In contrast to conventional resource management that aims at removing disturbance', this model 'accepts disturbance as part of ecosystem dynamics' and focuses on the practices that serve to mitigate the magnitude and frequency of disturbance.34 What is significant is that the model incorporates the human and the cultural and it focuses on indigenous practices. They argue that these 'practices developed as the result of experience of having to deal with the effects of disturbance in nature, as the result of trial and error process of social-ecological response and adaptation. This experience, based on ecological understanding of the role of disturbance, has been stored in the institutional memory of the group and is reflected in management practices that build resilience.'

      A case study developed by Berkes and Folke is Milpa a Mesoamerican practice of swidden agriculture for raising maize. Swiddening involves clearing, planting, harvesting, and fallowing of successive, small, forest areas over a multiyear cycle. Swiddening is often dismissively described as slash and burn suggesting a non-sustainable, exploitative and primitive agricultural practice. In Berkes and Folke's Panarchic view it's an optimally effective sustainable set of practices that acknowledges that a complex system is inherently variable, and that diverse strategies are required to cope with variability rather than attempting to eliminate it in a drive to maximise productivity.

      The term Milpa means cornfield but it's broader usage is as a spatial 'concept that is also a social and institutional process'- 'a script- an internalised set of routines and practices.' For the Maya the making of Milpa is the most sacred act, one that binds together the family, the community and the universe. It is said of the Maya that 'they don't raise maize to live, they live to raise maize'.

On Berkes and Folke's Panarchic account:

In agro-ecological systems such as shifting cultivation, ecological reorganisation requires institutional memory as well as ecological memory, and the two kinds of memory make a linked system. This is a fundamentally different view from the usual one in conservation biology, in which institutional memory is considered irrelevant or is taken for granted, and biodiversity is thought to be related only to ecological memory and other biological processes. Memory is in the Panarchy. Landscape-level ecological memory is maintained in the system through the presence of different patches in different stages of succession. The use of the patches in turn is governed by social practices such as Milpa rules and rituals. Thus spatial resilience is carried through cultural practice.

      While I think the Panarchic approach is admirable in that it successfully integrates TEK and western scientific understanding in a complex model that has some major advantages in that it recognises that there are varieties of spatial and temporal scale in any such complex system, and in that it takes variability into account. But its dependent on a hidden narrative, that I want to call a narrative of commensurability- that of functionalism. That is to say the seamless integration and assemblage of radically different knowledge traditions and practices as well as biological events and processes in the Panarchy is achieved by rendering these diverse dimensions commensurable through the magical prism of functionalism- they all work together because its conducive to the long-term adaptive cycle of renewal. What I think such a narrative of commensurability serves to conceal is the diversity of Milpa practices.

       Scott Atran provides a much more complex account. In his examination of three different Milpa groups, Atran finds very different attitudes and practices among a Maya community-the Itzaj, a Ladino community, and an immigrant Maya community- the Q'eqchi.35

      Itzay slash and burn but don't cut valuable trees and surround them with firebreaks when they burn the rest. They leave trees to surround Milpa plots, they don't cut or burn hill crowns, plots are not contiguous and the bulk of the forest is left as reserve. They plant 2-3 as many crops as the other two groups.  The Ladinos have bigger plots, are less consistent in protecting hilltops.  Q'eqchi clear-cut, have even bigger contiguous plots, don't protect trees or hilltops and practice Milpa in corporate groups unlike the others.  The Itzaj have well articulated social networks in the forest and expertise is widely spread, as do the Ladinos who incorporate Itzaj knowledge. The Q'eqchi rely on NGOs and Government information, which is not well conveyed amongst them.

      There is a paradox here since the Itzaj have no tradition of institutions to monitor the commons or govern access and no authority to compel preservation yet they act and think in sustainable ways.  When asked how they learn about the forest they respond 'I walk alone', walk also means to observe and behave appropriately.  Atran suggests the answer is an 'easy sharing and feedback of knowledge that allows an individual to have an effective, context-sensitive evaluation of resources and response in an environment in flux'.  He makes a very interesting proposal for rethinking knowledge: the exploration of a kind of distributed belief system that he calls an 'emergent knowledge structure.'

      An emergent knowledge structure is not a set body of knowledge or a tradition that is taught or learned as shared content. Neither is it equally distributed among individual minds in any given culture or systematically distributed among the individual minds of any recognizable subgroup (e.g. experts) to any recognizable extent. The general idea is that one's cultural upbringing primes one to pay attention to certain observable relationships at a given level of complexity. By coaxing rather than determining adaptive behaviour, thus cultural upbringing also allows individual people the leeway to discover for themselves and appreciate the relationships that best fit their life circumstances”
Emergent structures do not determinately specify relationships between entities, nor do they directly imply necessary or probable consequences of actions. Rather such structures implicate (via observable similarities, analogies, thematic or episodic contexts etc) wide-ranging relationships between entities that anticipate a variable and somewhat open-ended range of responses and future consequences of actions.

      In the Itzaj case there are no culturally stipulated, conventionally learned or rigorously formulated laws, standards or methods (although there are often concrete rules of thumb”) There is no principle of reciprocity applied to forest entities, no rules for appropriate conduct in the forest, and no controlled experimental determinations of the fitness of ecological relationships. Yet reciprocity is all-pervasive and fitness is enduring. The emergent knowledge structure of the Itzaj is robustly coherent in its implications and effective in its consequences, much as in weaving and knotting of an Itzaj hammock from the hair-thin fibres of the henequen plant: 'as in spinning a thread we twist the fibre on fibre. And the strength of the thread does not reside in the fact that some fibre runs through its whole length, but in the overlapping of many fibres'. (Wittgenstein Phil Invest)

      Nearly everyplace that Itzaj know and name in Peten is imbued with a sense of time-space, which is quite distinct from a chronological sequence or spatial map. Itzaj do not locate these places only, or even primarily, in terms of a spatial positioning anymore than they describe their own lives in terms of temporally defined sequences of events. Rather Itzaj refer episodes to these cultural loci that connect the different paths of individual life histories. 36

      I find Atran's notion of an emergent knowledge structure very insightful it is redolent of Star's conceptions of boundary objects in which there can be common coordinated purposive research without common agreement on the subject. It also fits well with Berkes and Folke's structuralist/functionalist notions of institutional memory and with a performative/travelling conception of knowledge making. In rethinking knowledge we also have to think through our differing narratives of commensurability e.g. narratives of functionalism, of communication, of reason, of pragmatism, of natural kinds, of measuring etc. We also have to include differing modalities, differing forms of material engagement, different spatialities, different temporalities, different scales, different modes of interaction, different ways of moving through assemblages.

      One of the most beautiful examples of a knowledge tradition that is radically incommensurable with the modalities western science, and which would pose enormous difficulties for a database of indigenous knowledge conceived in the orthodox way, is wonderfully described by Steven Feld. It is comes from his fieldwork with the Kaluli people of Bosavi region in PNG and illustrates my earlier point about there being diverse non-linguistic ways being and knowing in PNG.37

      The Kaluli map the landscape through the sounds of the forest. The calls of some 130 species of birds, sounds of frogs, cicadas, insects, streams, and waterfalls are 'heard indexically as time of day, seasons of the year, vegetation cycles, migratory pattern, heights and many other markers of place, as a fused human locus of time and space.' 'Place, sacred and sensible, is imaginatively coded in a cartography of songs and lamentations.'
Feld is not just adding an aesthetic superstructure to a functionalist understanding of the environment, its through the acoustic structures of meaning and significance that Kaluli know how and where they are, nature and culture are not separate.

Where are we then? Is it possible to work with incommensurability and enable diversity to flourish? Can we imagine a database that does not reduce cultural diversity by submitting differing knowledge traditions to a one size fits all, lowest common denominator regime? The answer is of course that I think its at least theoretically possible but it requires a complete rethink of what a database is and what its for. A conception I want to suggest is a 'theatre of diversity' and what I want to do by way of conclusion is sketch out what I think a theatre of diversity should look like.

      All knowledges whether they are indigenous, scientific or traditional are local in that they are produced/constructed by people in places with specific practices.  That knowledge production process coproduces a knowledge space in which people, practices and places are linked. Such knowledge spaces have messy contingent and only partly acknowledged components: ontologies, systems of trust, technical devices and social strategies for moving and assembling the knowledge, narratives of spatiality and temporality. In addition to being profoundly narratological and spatial they are also performative, they are based in embodied practices, in the movement of human bodies in engagement with each other, with the physical environment, and with their own artifacts, in the movement along cognitive trails through conceptual space in making linkages and connections. In saying this I am producing my own narrative of commensurability in which knowledge spaces have common components that can be compared, shared and joined.38

      Dealing with this apparent contradiction then requires embracing the reflexivity, diversity and tension that is inherent in both the relativism of the constructivist framework and the multiplicity of knowledges, and in the inherent irony of the narratological dimension. All narratives are dependent on the dual recognition of a story telling tradition in which they are embedded and that stories are partial, incomplete and capable of being other. The trickster figure that so readily captures this narrative irony reminds us that diversity emerges from holding differing narratives in tension with one another. Hence in assembling knowledge of biological and cultural diversity, we need a database that includes a physical performance space, an interstitial third space, a trading zone in which differing traditions are narrated and performed together and in which actors can move, make connections, produce new spaces and trails. A theatre of diversity is also a conceptual space in which narratives of commensurability and differing knowledge traditions are held in tension with one another. Such conceptual spaces are sources of creativity as Margaret Boden sees them and which, as Atran recognizes, provide the conditions for the possibility of  emergent knowledge structures within which new knowledge can be woven or knotted together.39  Engestrom describes knotworking as 'the kind of work that is not dependent on a centre of coordination or a network' but which 'requires active construction of constantly changing combinations of people and artefacts over lengthy trajectories of time and is widely distributed in space.' In rethinking diversity and assemblage, in working with incommensurability we need to sustain the conditions for the possibility of diversity by holding differing narratives in tension and for joining things and ideas, bringing things into interaction across space and time. A theatre of diversity is a conceptual/performance space for string and stories, for knotworkers and narrators.

      As an epilogue, I would like to add an open-ended speculation and invitation. It seems to me that such a spatialised, performative approach to databases, biocultural diversity, innovation, design and working with indigenous knowledges opens up the possibility of rethinking the notion of the commons. Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons seemed to spell the demise of the commons, but it, like so much of economic rationalism, is itself tragically flawed by the failure to recognise that we can work with incommensurability. If you declare open access and assume all the participants have only one interest- maximisation of personal gain, then pursuing the notion of the commons will lead to the sixth extinction biological and cultural. But if you create a commons in which communication, commensurability, common wealth, common knowledge and common sense are allowed to emerge through making connections” I invite you to add some threads to this tapestry.

1 Schechter B 2003, Telescopes of the World, Unite! A Cosmic Database Emerges New York Times. New York: D1&4.
2 Battersby S, 2003, "Dark Energy" New Scientist 178 31-3.
3 Martin Rees cited in Brooks M, 2003, "The Results are in.. Now it's Time to Party" New Scientist 178 22-3.
4 Brooks D and D McLennann, 2002, The Nature of Diversity: An Evolutionary Voyage of Discovery (University of Chicago Press, Chicago), 530.
5 Warren, D. (1996). Indigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation, and Development. Sustainable Development in Third World Countries: Applied and Theoretical Perspectives. V. James. Westport, Praeger: 81-8.
6 Priest, Sylvan Sociative Logics
7 Bowker G, 2000, "Mapping Biodiversity" International Journal of GIS 14(8) 739-54.
Bowker G, 2001, "Biodiversity Dataversity" Social Studies of Science 30(5) 643-84.
8 Brooks 528
9 Harmon D, 2002, In Light of Our Differences: How Diversity in Nature and Culture Makes Us Human (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington) 26-7 
10 ibid.
11 Buchmann, S. and G. Nabhan (1996). The Forgotten Pollinators. Washington, Island Press, 31
12 Corning, P. (2003). Nature's Magic: Synergy in Evolution and The Fate of Humankind. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
13 Oyama, Susan, Griffiths, Paul and Gray, Russell, (eds), Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems Theory and Evolution (Boston, MIT, 2001) 117-26
14 Lewontin, Richard, 'Gene, Organism and Environment' in Bendall, D., (ed.), Evolution: From Molecules to Men (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983) 273-85, 280
15 . Odling-Smee, John, Laland, Kevin, et al., Niche Construction: The Neglected Process in Evolution (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2003). 17
16 Taylor, Peter, 'Distributed Agency Within Intersecting Ecological, Social, and Scientific Processes' in Oyama, Susan, Griffiths, Paul and Gray, Russell, (eds), Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems Theory and Evolution (Boston, MIT, 2001) 313-32.
17 Buchmann, S. and G. Nabhan (1996). The Forgotten Pollinators. Washington, Island Press, 8.
18 Nabhan G, 2000, "Native American Management and Conservation of Biodiversity in the Sonoran Desert Bioregion: An Ethnoecological Perspective", in Biodiversity and Native America Eds P Minnis and W Elisens (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman) pp 29-43.
19 Haraway, Donna, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium. FemaleManŠ_Meets_Oncomouse (New York, Routledge, 1997).
Latour, Bruno, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1993).
20 Putnam, Robert, 'Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital' (1995) 6 Journal of Democracy 65-78.
21 Maffi, L. (1999). Linguistic Diversity. Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. D. Posey. London, Intermediate Technology Publications: 21-58, 21.
22 Ibid 28
23 It should be noted that Harmon is concerned that cultural relativism precludes judgement and criticism. I rebut this argument in Masons, Tricksters etc.
24 Warren, D. (1996). Indigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation, and Development. Sustainable Development in Third World Countries: Applied and Theoretical Perspectives. V. James. Westport, Praeger: 81-8, 81.
25 UNESCO Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge, World Conference on Science, Budapest, 1999. Resolution of the 26th General Assembly of ICSU, 2000. Chambers, D.W. and Gillespie, R, Locality in the History of Science:  Colonial Science, Technoscience, and Indigenous Knowledge,Nature and Empire, Osiris, Vol 15, University of Chicago Press, 2000.
26 Ellen, R. and H. Harris (2000). Introduction. Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and its Transformations: Critical Anthropological Perspectives. R. Ellen, P. Parkes and A. Bicker. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam: 1-34, 16 citing Scoones and Thomson, 1994
27 (Dei, G. S., B. Hall, et al., Eds. (2000). Indigenous Knowledges in Global Contexts: Multiple Readings of Our World. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 6)
28 Berkes, F. and C. Folke (2002). Back to the Future: Ecosystem Dynamics and Local Knowledge. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. C. S. Holling and L. Gunderson. Washington, Island Press: 121-46, 122.
29 Turnbull D, 2000, Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers: Comparative Studies in the Sociology of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge (Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam) see discussion in Ingold T, 2000, The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill (Routledge, London)
30 Berkes, F. and C. Folke (2002). Back to the Future: Ecosystem Dynamics and Local Knowledge. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. C. S. Holling and L. Gunderson. Washington, Island Press: 121-46.
31 Ellen, R. and H. Harris (2000). Introduction. Indigenous Environmental Knowledge and its Transformations: Critical Anthropological Perspectives. R. Ellen, P. Parkes and A. Bicker. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam: 1-34, citing Richards P, 1993, "Cultivation: Knowledge or Performance?", in An Anthropological Critique of Development Ed M Hobart (Routledge, London) pp 61-78.
32 Cussins A, 1992, "Content, Embodiment and Objectivity: The Theory of Cognitive Trails" Mind 101 651-88, cited in Turnbull D, 2002, "Performance and Narrative, Bodies and Movement  in the Construction of Places and Objects, Spaces and Knowledges: The Case of The Maltese Megaliths" Theory, Culture and Society 19(5&6) 125-43, 135.33 Berkes, F. and C. Folke (2002). Back to the Future: Ecosystem Dynamics and Local Knowledge. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. C. S. Holling and L. Gunderson. Washington, Island Press: 121.
34 Ibid 132
35 Atran, S. (2001). The Vanishing Landscape of the Petén Maya Lowlands: People, Plants, Animals, Places, Words, and Spirits. On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment. L. Maffi. Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press: 157-74.
36 Ibid 166-8
37 Feld, S. (1996). A Poetics of Place: Ecological and Aesthetic Co-evolution in a Papua New Guinea Rainforest Community. Redefining Nature: Ecology, Culture and Domestication. R. Ellen and K. Fukui. Oxford, Berg: 61-87. Feld S, 1996, "Waterfalls of Song: An Acoustemology of Place Resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea", in Senses of Place Eds S Feld and K Basso (School of American Research Press, Santa Fe) pp 91-135. See also Feld Sound and Sentiment
38 A point brought out by Nil Disco in his forthcoming review of Masons, Tricksters and Cartographers in Social Studies of Science
39 Atran S, 2001, "The Vanishing Landscape of the Petén Maya Lowlands: People, Plants, Animals, Places, Words, and Spirits", in On Biocultural Diversity: Linking Language, Knowledge, and the Environment Ed L Maffi (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington) pp 157-74; Boden M, 1998, "What is Creativity?", in Creativity in Human Evolution and Prehistory Ed S Mithen (Routledge, London) pp 22-58; Engestrom, Y., R. Engestrom, et al. (1999). When the Center Does Not Hold: The Importance of Knotworking. Activity Theory and Social Practice: Cultural-Historical Approaches. S. Chaiklin, M. Hedegaard and J. Jensen. Aarhus, University of Aarhus Press: 345-74.