The Cuttlefish and Its Ink

From Barthes’ RB:

I am writing this day after day; it takes, it sets: the
cuttlefish produces its ink: I tie up my image-system (in order to protest
myself and at the same time to offer myself).

How will I know that the book is finished? In other words,
as always, it is a matter of elaborating a language. Now, in every
language the signs return, and by dint of returning they end by saturating the
lexicon–the work. Having uttered the substance of these fragments for some
months, what happens to me subsequently is arranged quite spontaneously (without
forcing) under the utterances that have already been made: the structure is
gradually woven, and in creating itself, it increasingly magnetizes: thus it
constructs for itself, without any plan on my part, a repertoire which is both
finite and perpetual, like that of language. At a certain moment, no further
transformation is possible but the one which occurred to the

: I could keep the book a very long time, by gradually changing each
of its fragments. (163-4)

It didn’t spring to mind while I was resting face-up in the MRI
machine yesterday afternoon (tomorrow’s entry?), but I eventually settled on a
title for WRT302, as I noted
in the
following yesterday’s entry expressing my dilemma, a title brought
about by RB’s bit above. So it’ll be WRT302: The Digital and Its Links.
I thought about The Network and Its Links, but opted for the former.
Plus I had a thousand really good suggestions, all of which I’d have done well
to take up. The course proper is still six months out; I wanted something
splashy enough to attract enrollments and also something that makes theoretical
sense to me–something that would motivate me toward working carefully through
the many decisions between now and then. I really like the way RB gets at
the ratio between stabilization and drift, the inter-portions of anchor and
flotation, between a buried bow in the sand and a three-thousand year voyage.
The "image-system" generalizes to digital composition quite effectively, I’d
argue; arrangement and spontaneity, "structure is gradually woven." Could
be true of…. And so it will do. Not to mention, when I decided,
yes, this is it
, I still had the metallic grind and industrial deep-buzz of
the body-part scanner lasting with me into the evening; all the more appeal for
the idea of composition as the increasing magnetization of ongoing attempts.

A Snappier Title

Help! I need a catchy title for the
digital writing
course I’m teaching next fall.  I’ve been racking my brain for a half hour now,
running through titular possibilities and trying to land a phrase with enough
pizzazz to spark interest and compel enrollments.  Here are a few that I’ve
ruled out (fine…so what if a few of these are still in the running, the
running is thin).

  • WRT302: Status 405 Method Not Allowed
  • WRT302: Effectively Banning Virtual Shenanigans
  • WRT302: Writing Teachnologies: Chalk, Dry Erase Markers and Smartboards
  • WRT302: Two-Button Mice and Macs
  • WRT302: Dude, Where’s My Jump Drive?
  • WRT302: The Pop-up Experience: Digidipity and Exasperation
  • WRT302: Three-hole Punchers as Overlooked Writing Technology
  • WRT302: Minimize, Restore Down, Close: The Abundant Adaptabilities of Windows
  • WRT302: BRB: Dearest Cyber…I’ve Missed You
  • WRT302: Investigating the Rising Cost of Grounded Plug Adapters
  • WRT302: Discordant Coloration: From Painting the Screen to Painting the Walls
  • WRT302: Climbing Beneath the Desk to Untangle Wires: A Gordian Approach
  • WRT302: Wired Panaceas: Now Don’t You Feel Better?
  • WRT302: Wifi, Bird-flu and Other Untreatable Stuff in the Air
  • WRT302: Familiar Voltage: My Uncle’s An Electrician
  • WRT302: ASCII, We Hardly Knew Ye

Maybe it will come to me when I slide into the MRI tube later today for a
good going-over of my knee.

Digital Writing

Four days until I have to turn in a course description for the WRT302 course
I’m teaching in the fall. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, keeping as much
as possible with the official
course description

WRT302: Advanced Writing Studio: Digital Writing
With the shift from writing the page to writing the screen we encounter both
expanded possibilities and new responsibilities for assembling images, text, audio and
video.  In WRT302, we will compose new media texts while engaging issues at
the crossroads of writing activity and specific digital technologies.  The
course will balance experimentation and application with conceptual
approaches; in addition to reading about and exploring online tools, students
will propose and develop a series of projects that extend from our
investigations of specific sites and applications, including simple web pages, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, video, and tag-based systems such as Flickr and  Opening lines of inquiry involve the following questions:  What
is gained and lost in the transition from the page to the screen? What are the
practices and techniques we might associate with digital writing? How do
digital texts circulate? How are they read and by whom? How are acts of
digital writing implicated with choices about navigation, links, and code?
This course will also foreground invention, design, usability and
accessibility.  All students are encouraged to enroll. No previous
experience with computers is required; however, some familiarity with basic
uses of technology will be helpful. Email dmueller -at- for more information.

I welcome all critique and insight. I’m hesitant to include the phrase "new
responsibilities" in the first sentence.  The final point about previous
experience is messy, too.  Is it common to be explicit about experience with
technologies going into a course like this one? I haven’t committed to any readings
yet, but I have a few highly-probables, and I’ve ordered a desk copy of

this techxbook
, fresh off the press.  The projects, too, will have to be only
provisionally defined/outlined because I won’t know the ease-with-tech felt by
the students until I meet them.

Archisemiotics, To Critiques of Space

Like Chuck,
I started my FY writing class early this morning with a teaser about the debates
last night:
who watched?  next-day gut-level impressions?  

The first comment in my 8:30 a.m. section: "George Bush came off as
really likable and genuine.  He was angry at times, but he was real, like
somebody you’d meet at a bar.  His vocabulary seemed more everyday. 
He came right out and said ‘You can’t do that.  The president can’t lead
that way.’"

Mm-hmm.  Okay.  The barstool intellectual stumble-de-do is exactly
the thing that worries some folks (although I won’t name specific names).
<loop> It’s a lot of work.  You can’t say wrong war, wrong place,
wrong time.  What message does that send?  It’s a lot of work. 
Six-party talks…if ever we ever needed China, now.

Students had great insights on the debates; they recognized nuance between
the candidates, articulated them with conviction that this election matters to
them.  We shifted our attention after several minutes, even though some
students preferred a sustained conversation about the event over the other plans
for the hour.  The connection, for us, came from the debate’s framed
emphases: foreign policy and homeland security.  Homeland security
is particularly timely in these classes–the two I teach every MWF.  The
courses are organized around questions involving spatial analysis–geographies
of exclusion, socio-spatial critiques of the campus and of hometown spaces, and
arguments about surveillance, privatization of public spaces, neighborhood
watches and localized security poses, perceptions of threat, and so on.  In
fact, the second assignment is called, "Homeland (In)Securities." 
So I wanted to move from the debates–how would we understand homeland
security if we could read the notion through last night’s debates alone?
our current, in-progress projects on hometown spaces, memory work, strangers and
safety, contested zones, etc.–how can we extend the idea of a controlled
surrounds (in the debates, taken to the limits of the globe,
exhaustive) to the material-spatial patterns of policing, security,
"known" threats and deliberate municipal designs aimed at thwarting

I grumbled about Mike Davis’s "Fortress L.A." article (from City
of Quartz
), earlier in the week, but I’m doubling back on those doubts now
that the classes read the chapter.  Davis adopts a term I’m growing ever
more fond of as we move ahead with spatial analysis–archisemiotics
Basically, Davis argues that L.A.’s architectural development implies
unambiguous messages about social homogeneity in the urban center.  If we
accept the latency of meaning in the city-scape (buildings, barriers), reading
spaces becomes a process of seeing significance in spatial design as it
determines who can go where, when, for how long, etc., and imposes a character
on the peopling of the space, its social flows–viscocities.  It makes
structures rhetorically significant, inscribing them to their perimeters with a
sentience–not unlike, according to Davis, the eerie, systematized conscience of
the building in Die Hard

I suppose there’s a whole lot more to it than I can exhaust here and now–or
than I’d even care to considering I have one helluva cold.  I just wanted
to register an few thoughts about teaching at SU this semester–because I
haven’t yet–and, too, comment on last night’s debate.  The cross-over this
morning, even though I’m not teaching courses with an explicit focus on the
election, was striking–even exciting; it was a pleasant reminder that I’ll
never be too busy to savor moments when students are brilliantly conversant with
each other over hard questions.


I’ve racked my brain for two hours now on the finer points of creating a second blog. This whole mess all started with an impulse to supplement the comp course I’m teaching this spring with a blog. Not this blog, but the other one I can’t seem to create. This whole project wasn’t die cast to be a simple, hosted-with-ease blog, but rather a full-fashioned blog of the earth, the sort that is the richest embodiment of the media.

Still, no second blog. Permissions error.

So maybe I need to get up to speed first. Blog for a while. Drive it around the block before tying on the speedometer, kickstand, extra soft banana seat…what’s that? Air in the tires? Oh, yes, I’ll need air on this tour.

I know blogging habits can survive in unimaginatively named spaces. I’ve been scratching, sifting, chewing around the Internet for a few months, perusing blogs, wondering what they’re all about, what compels people to attempt them, abandon them and so on.

Earth wide moth. -GS

So I’m puzzling over challenges of building a second MT-powered blog for a class I start teaching next Tuesday: EN106HOC Writing Purposes and Research. I’m puzzling over the aims and ambitions of this non-teaching blog (autodidactic experiment?). Puzzling over a new web host with funky permissions. Over my son who is puzzling over adding fractions and not asking for help. Challenges.

The dinner bell on the oven says the scalloped potatoes are done.