Keyhole, Threshold, Breach 🗝️

Han’s Hyperculture ends with

The human of the future will most likely not be crossing thresholds, his face contorted in pain. The human of the future will be a tourist, smiling serenely. Should we not welcome that human as homo liber? Or should we rather, following Heidegger or Handke, remain a homo dolores, petrified into a threshold? In his Phantasien der Wiederholung, Handke writes:

When you feel the pain of thresholds, then you are not a tourist; the crossing is possible.

Hyperculture, p. 83

Oh, there in the how-long-from-now human future, these threshold-crossers, their dispositions, their expressions. Are they in pain? Are they joyful? Are they free? Are they sorrowful? Are we them, and they us? Hyperculture, published in German in 2005, then in English in 2022, hints at cultural accelerationism, and I truly have not resolved how I feel about that. Like, it’s going this way, so let us cut out the lollygagging. I admire, and also sympathize with, the sorrowful threshold-crosser more than with the tourist, perhaps because I have known them, or have believed sites harbor something not available in the same ways with the hyper-/siteless. Something elemental.

I suspect I’m not the only one.

And yet. The serenely smiling tourist, being-in-the-whizzing-flatlands-or-whatever, maybe is more carefree-casual than free, per se, liber leaving room for nuances, and maybe the smile, then, is from the prevailing winds at sea combined with flacid risorious muscles. “It looked like a smile.” And, too, smiles have been known from time to time to shield sorrows. I don’t know. I am not looking for trouble. But sitting with the puzzle, Han’s questions, and enjoying the time they take to think through—this puzzlement is its own kind of tourism, I suppose.

With this point about the sorrow known by threshold crossers, Mieville’s The City and Eht Ytic (2009) comes to mind, and especially the contingencies and strangely doubled boundaries of cross-hatched zones (notably not contact zones, despite their co-occupancy and shared coordinates) and the breach, who are able to exist across the dimensions. With cross-hatching and the breach, I am more or less satisfied with these models for a both-and response to Han’s questions: yes, to the tourist smiling serenely, but yes, also, to the sorrowful capacity of the human who still carries a key to a home that is no longer, or whose shoes carry imprints of pebbles underfoot whenever ago. The both-and, liberdolores, the breach, in an indefinitely cross-hatched and continuously redistricted world makes for a more interesting human, and a more openly possible future.

Keywords in Threshold Concepts, #4c15 Poster Presentation

I’m in Tampa this week for the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication–an event I’ve been attending every year (except one) since 1999. This year I proposed (and was accepted to present) a poster, and after several hours of finessing for more white space, shifting elements around, and tinkering in Illustrator, here’s what I’ll be standing next to for 75 minutes this afternoon.

Keywords in Threshold Concepts: Time-Binding and Methodologizing Disciplinary Lexicon by DerekMueller

Thrash Old Concepts

Didn’t have time enough in Indianapolis to attend any of the sessions about threshold concepts, but I did hear about them in hallway and dinner conversations. I’d encountered the phrase before in this article, but at #4c14, it seemed like an awful lot was coming up threshold concepts, seemed like there’s a growing gusto for this sort of thing. Threshold concepts as their own sort of threshold. The oncoming threshold concept turn.

Home-ish now from the convention, tonight I was reading to Is. before bed, near the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a book we’ve been chipping away at for, I don’t know, a month or more, every other bedtime. Harry and Hermione are advancing “Through the Trapdoor” (the 16th chapter’s title), in front of them a dead troll:

“I’m glad we didn’t have to fight that one,” Harry whispered as they stepped carefully over one of its massive legs. “Come on, I can’t breathe.”

He pulled open the next door, both of them hardly daring to look at what came next–but there was nothing very frightening in here, just a table with seven differently shaped bottles standing on it in a line.

“Snape’s,” said Harry. “What do we have to do?”

They stepped over the threshold, and immediately a fire sprang up behind them in the doorway. It wasn’t ordinary fire either; it was purple. At the same instant, black flames shot up in the doorway leading onward. They were trapped. (285)

Is. interrupted here to ask, “What’s a threshold?” And, attempting with a weak shrug to reach across connotations both referring to door trim and limits, I said, “It’s something like an edge, a boundary.”

That thresholds trap, enclose, bound, constrain, pen up, etc. and that they simultaneously, by doing so, protect, focus, and intensify a domain is at least part of their paradox. And I should be clear that I look forward to learning more about this idea emerging in service of disciplinary bona fides. But I’m also wondering where the idea (toward common disciplinary articulations) maps onto or butts up against rhetoric, which seems especially with invention and memory to by constituted by a kind of thresholding–if we can verb TC for a second–the re-articulations that themselves ignite and also extinguish flamewalls like the ones sandwiching poor Harry and Hermione in Rowling’s narrative telos.

Just wondering now which narrative telos “our” threshold concepts will flamewall in and flamewall out. Wondering how (im)permeable and how burning-hot the flamewalls will become and how much will char in their proximity.