Before a full week cycles around, I wanted to tack up a few notes about the
Digital and Visual Rhetorics Symposium hosted at SU last Thursday and Friday.
Each of the talks was stimulating/evocative; w/ these notes: I’m going for a patchwork of what was said and what it got me
thinking about (highlights plus commentary). Fair enough?
"Documentary as a Hodos: A Public Counterpedagogy"
Jenny started with an explanation of public non-places, the spaces we pass
through out there that are so common-place as to be routine. As a counter to
these non-places and the "worldless
lessons…built into these walls," J. sought to complicate the widespread
lessons about monolithic, unchanging contexts, which she built up through a
series of examples and called a "pedagogy of delocalization." One
response, or a meta hodos (alt- ways, met-hod): create a
counterpedagogy. The counterpedagogy entertains the none-too-simple
question, "How did we get here?" How did we get here? J. explained
that mobilizing this question–enacting it? acting as if it’s
answerable?–involves something more than reading texts about the conditions
giving rise to globalization, delocalization (although we can imagine the pedagogy
that studies how did we get here while keeping the classroom delocalized,
generic–anyplace-anybodies, yeah?). The counterpedagogy depends on a
non-generic notion of documentary with no clearly fixed territory. Drawing
on Ralph Cintron (Angels’ Town), Marc Auge
(Non-Places), and James Agee (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men), J.
articulated the counterpedagogy of documenting the local–"educating to
attention by amplifying." J.’s model emphasizes the etymology of
document—docere, docent: to teach, and it also employs tools that
confront us with the limits of composition: sound, image, film. Rather
than foregrounding the projects with explicit theorizing about delocalization,
the model emphasizes creative research. For me, it productively blurred
the splits between ethnography and documentary, between research as noticing and
attention/amplification, and the uses of media projects for introducing
rhetorical strategies such as arrangement. Look into: Bill Nichols:
Introduction to Documentary (best book about writing that doesn’t mention
Jeff set out with questions about referentiality–questions worked up from
Mitchell’s What Do Pictures Want? and Burnett’s How Images Think.
To notice, J. explained, is to engage, but somehow noticing isn’t enough.
Noticings can be distant and flat, removed from self-reference: "distant
learning, visual style." Examples: from Seeing and Writing and
self-portrait. A move beyond noticing involves referentiality–a
visual style of invention that works with place (Detroit) and the possibilities
of multiple naming systems for a single place. Folksono(me)–new media
taxonomy–supports multiple localized and individually designated meanings; tags
permit users to rename and redefine. Implications: self-referentiality
beyond detached noticing. Citing Barthes’ RB, J. noted that the
reference can be thin; it "carries me back to somewhere in myself." The
folksonomic categories, therefore, overlap. They reciprocate, name him in
return. After introducing Ulmer’s ideas about remakes and associative
dreamworks (where proof is replaced by the production of imaginary space), J.
brought up McLuhan’s suggestion that new media produce anxiety. How to
respond to such anxieties? Selective entanglements: folksono(me) and
folksono(you) [This isn’t quite the way J. put it…rough spots in my notes!].
With folksonomy, we find room for other reference systems and other
possibilities for a visual style expressed through strategic referentiality.
What do images want? Linkages. Throughout the talk, J. mixed in a
sequence of linkages–his own "multiple local meanings" in Detroit, at Wayne,
down Woodward Ave.
"The sweet, glamorous and deadly pink of screens: some perfections
of an online apparatus"
Anne’s talk began with a pattern in looking at particular web sites: where are
the women? She framed her own research orientations in film studies, art
history and rhetoric. I experienced the talk as a buildup of histories of
seeing, apparatus theory and a variety of perspectival identifications–parts of
which A. aptly characterized as gendered. We might be more fully cognizant of
the structures supporting layout–the mechanisms that project the available ways
of seeing. A. clicked us through a few exemplary sites (a product listing
on Amazon, a Japanese anime site, and a project featuring reborn dolls).
Why aren’t we more inquisitive toward mechanized layouts founded on
efficiency-drive? What kinds of seeing are encouraged (where body-images are
easily replaced)? How might site/interface design bring about more patient
browsing? A. brought in Virilio and Hayles; she reminded us that
photographic representation is crucial on the web, and, ultimately, her talk got
me thinking about the relationship of interfaces to differentiated
reading/browsing. If we don’t pause to consider apparatus theory, we might
miss the otherwise transparent trajectories of interface design and web-viewing
experiences (visual, discrete, full, non-narrativized, isolated individuals, and
hard-surface of the screen) as they re-inscribe unmonitored patterns of
encountering the web.