Databasic Writing

Our program requires that we attend two mini-seminars every semester.
Several different mini-seminars are available, from three-hour sessions on a
single day concerned with the discipline (the
Reese’s PB Cup variety
of rhetoric in my composition and vice versa), world Englishes, WAC, or some
other topic, to sessions broken across a couple of weeks on stuff like teaching
online, service learning, and information literacy. The mini-seminars are
meant to foster professional development. Everyone in the writing
program–besides first-year TAs and full-time staff and graduate faculty (who
oftentimes lead the sessions)–are made to attend.

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X-timing Parataxis

I first thought I would call this entry "Two-timing Parataxis" so I could get
at the different relationships parataxis enjoys–simultaneously!–with
, on the one hand (cheek?), and hypotaxis, on the other.
But as I try to get a better handle on parataxis in anticipation of Thursday’s
defense, I’m starting to think parataxis is more than two-timing. Patsy Cline: "Your
cheating heart will make you weep." Heh, weep. Only I’m the one in
a fix because of parataxis’s scandal and infidelity.

Thus far, I’m finding a couple of more or less common distinctions, one
grammatical, in which parataxis is positioned as a dance partner with
, and one rhetorical, in which parataxis is paired with
. The tabloids will be all over this.

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Naming the Smarter Surrounds

In what few minutes I’ve had today to reduce various folders in Bloglines, I
picked up on a few strands of the "Web 3.0" fracas initiated by yesterday’s NYT

"Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense."
In the article, John
Markoff anticipates what he refers to almost glibly as "Web 3.0", which
proponents contend will usher in "an era when machines will start to do
seemingly intelligent things." There is no shortage of responses and reactions,
ranging from doubt,
charges of idiocy,

dismissal of the name
, and
. While I don’t want to rile more ire, I am intrigued by the
range of reactions, especially from the standpoint of how we account for
transformations of such a complex creature as the web with singular terms. In
some niche vocabularies, Web 2.0 refers to a class of applications; in
others, Web 2.0 describes web-supported co-presence (interaction and
connection). I mean that the label has been highly adaptable, a loose and
generous signifier. I tend to think that it is reasonable to wish for (and even
to tinker with) a better vocabulary for describing the complex and rapidly
evolving nets.

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The Networked Image

I first picked up on
Google’s Image Labeler
two days ago (via).
In a nutshell, Image Labeler addresses a semiotic problem: the indexing of
hundreds of thousands of images based on semantic assignments in the visual
field of each image. Indexing an image depends upon the assignment of
keywords that correspond to the objects represented. Google Image Labeler
makes this process into a game of peer review: in this two person game, a player
win points by registering a descriptor that also appears on the other person’s



links (succumbing,
that is, to the beckoning of a surprising curiosity), I briefly started to follow the life
of this conversation in computer science and art. Most intriguing in this
regard was the talk embedded below, a talk called “Human Computation” given by Luis von Ahn at Carnegie

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Next: Disciplinary Facebook

I’m intrigued by the Facebook’s expansion beyond colleges, as reported

Like any social networking app, the euphoria surrounding it is offset (too often
in extremes) by abuses, missteps, skepticism, and lags in the adaptation of
institutional policies to respond to the activity at the site. Yet recent
shift–ten corporations signing on–gets at the spreading recognition of the
value of social networking apps beyond mere friend-making, beyond
"poking" strangers as a casual gesture of interest. Prepared to engage social
networking as something more than trivial?

I’ll watch with interest as more reactions to the latest expansion crop up.
And those reactions will vary, of course, from
jeering to the more serious.
The announcement brings me all the way back to the earliest
announcements of
the Facebook
in 2004. If they’re expanding to workplaces, maybe it
won’t be long before leadership in the discipline starts weighing the
possibilities of the Facebook for an entire field, such as composition and
rhetoric. Granted, it wouldn’t be perfect, but the way I see it, it’d be a
marked improvement on the existing means for building and locating profiles,
tracing interests through those who’ve written on such things, and so on.
Imagine a use of Facebook with a professional orientation whereby disciplinary
bibliographies, institutional affiliations (and histories), and linked tags for
research and interests. I know it’s a wild, data-based fantasy, and it
would require us to see Facebook as more than forum for delinquency, but here’s
hoping. What, maybe five or ten years from now?

Adventures in Illegal Art

We caught up with a friend last night for dinner followed by Mark Hosler’s
presentation, "Adventures in Illegal Art: Creative Media Resistance and
Negativeland" in SU’s Shemin Auditorium. Hosler’s been involved with
Negativeland for 25 years. The group
self-identifies with media hoaxes; provocative audio-mixed new media films and
shorts; and radical fair use
(i.e., it’s all public domain). They’re well-known for
lifting material from U2, mixing
it into a two-sided vinyl single including profanity and stolen U2 cuts, then
repackaging the album in a jacket with U2 featured prominently so as to dupe
unsuspecting consumers. Lawsuits followed, as you might expect, and Hosler
alluded to a dicey four years, fraught with legal uncertainty. Here’s that album cover:

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Kress – Literacy in the New Media Age (2003) II

In Literacy in the New Media Age, Gunther Kress settles into a gradual
progression from long-held presumptions about alphabetic literacy to an
increasingly hybridized and "multimodal" literacy based on the screen. The
screen’s proclivity for combining images and text has profound consequences,
Kress argues, for the temporal/sequential logics of letter, word and clause as
units of meaning. Kress contends that syntactic complexity is compromised
as the frenetic reading pathways of the screen condition readers and writers to
mixed-mode framings that, in turn, impact how they read and write.
Contrary to my expectations, Kress is none too sour on this trend; in fact, his
movement through dense sociolinguistic explanations of literacy, genre and
punctuation as framing are impressively nuanced. Yet, very little of the
first two-thirds of the book is explicit about the ways in which new writing
technologies are entangled in the shifts he describes, and in this sense, I find
Kress to be frustrating in how patiently he advances his back-analysis on
traditional alphabetic literacy (replicated in formal Western schooling)–while
the matter at hand–screens as a site of particular kinds of changed
writing activity–hovers as a given. This book is far more about
"Literacy" than about "the New Media Age;" it inches toward actual discussions
of interfaces, and finally, near the end of chapter eight, offers a screen-shot
of a web page with eleven (by Kress’s count) "entry-points" for reading.
Kress’s point with the screenshot: "’reading’ is now a distinctively different
activity to what it was in the era of the traditional page" (138).

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Kress – Literacy in the New Media Age (2003)

I’m just eight pages into Gunther Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age.
I’ve read the chunk before the preface (what is this thing, a superpreface, an
antepreface, pre-preface?): "The Futures of Literacy: Modes, Logics and
Affordances." This much is clear: image and text function according to
distinctive logics. With text, word follows word. It’s sequentiality
involves a distinctive commitment, both for writers and readers, to paths
and naming. Text inheres time, whereas image inheres space, Kress tells
us. Image involves a kind of commitment to location, and while Kress hints at
the importance of perceptual paths for readers of images, that point doesn’t get
extended early on. Next, Kress discusses media and affordances; these few
lines are a sample of what he’s got going here:

1. Multimodality is made easy, usual, ‘natural,’ by these technologies. (5)
2. The new technologies have changed unidirectionality into bidirectionality.
(6) (i.e. with the email, you can send and receive)
3. Writing is becoming ‘assembling according to designs’ in ways which are
overt, and much more far-reaching, than they were previously. (6)
4. The affordances and the organisations of the screen are coming to (re)shape
the organisation of the page. (6)
5. It is possible to see writing becoming subordinated to the logic of the
visual in many or all of its uses. (7)

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Manovich – The Language of New Media (2001)

Notes on Lev Manovich’s The
Language of New Media
(2001). In the prologue, Manovich gives us what he
calls a Vertov Dataset–full-passage selections from elsewhere in the book
matched up with frames from Vertov.   It’s a distinctive and memorable
way to open onto the project–self-sampling and re-associating, which emphasizes
(paradoxically?) the relational and modular qualities of new media objects, the
intertwined historical-theoretical trajectories of cinema and computing that now
constitute new media, the logics of selection, association and assemblage
driving new media, and the evolving lexicon of new media, from database, loops
and micronarratives to transcoding, [var]-montage and the tele-
It’s all in the Vertov Dataset, then explained more fully elsewhere. 

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Hansen – New Philosophy for New Media (2004)

The foreword by Tim Lenoir, "Haptic Vision: Computation, Media, and
Embodiment in Mark Hansen’s New Phenomenology," lays out groundwork on the "deterritorialization
of the human subject" in terms of digital media, detachment and problems of
reference.  Lenoir touches on Hayles’ account of post-humanism (also Bill
Joy’s "Why The Future
Doesn’t Need Us"
), Shannon & Weaver’s signal-based model of information, and
Donald McKay’s alternative communication model.  Overall, it’s more than a
worthwhile thumbnail of Hansen’s project in the context of other works only
semi-familiar to me: Kittler’s Gramophone, Deleuze’s Cinema 1 & 2:,
and Henri Bergson on the body as image:

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