Saturday, August 20, 2005

Amphigeography and Doppelspace

Roland Barthes in Roland Barthes on Amphibologies:

[I]n general, the context forces us to choose one of the two meanings and to forget the other.  Each time he encounters one of these double words, R.B., on the contrary insists on keeping both meanings, as if one were winking at the other and as if the word's meaning were in that wink, so that one and the same words, in one and the same sentence, means at one and the same time two different things, and so that one delights, semantically, in the other by the other.  This is why such words are often said to be "preciously ambiguous": not in their lexical essence (for any word in the lexicon has several meanings), but because, by any kind of luck, a kind of favor not of language but of discourse, I can actualize their amphibology, can say 'intelligence' and appear to be referring chiefly to the intellective meaning, but letting the meaning of 'complicity' be understood (72).

There's something to this passage that I can't quite put my finger on.  What if we spin it around from word-sentence semantics to image-space rhetorics?  I love R.B.'s notion of meanings winking.  My mother-in-law is a winker, and so I've come to know the wink-gesture by her sometimes surprising use of it (when the hyper-winking takes off at a family get-together, what does it all mean?).  Take the word-meaning wink and replace it with an image-meaning wink.  What do we have? (With this, I'm asking about more than the problem of a helluva lot of winking.)

I suppose this doesn't make much sense (yet!).  I'm thinking about the doubling of the virtual and the actual/real--the tense play between Google Maps' satellite imagery and the scripted layers (intricately spatialized, discursive).  Something, somehow is winking between the amateur photos (images of finds, things I notice) and the places.  But the wink is elusive, often subtle; the two+ spaces (a park I walk through and a park on my computer screen...and on the news, and in the photo-image) entangled in the documentary activity. It's writing, yes?  This thing--amphigeography--takes on, maybe confronts, the latency of spatial discourse.  Read through the influx of Google Maps hacks, it might be called the event of the summer--a felicitous and widely celebrated image-space wink-fest.

Remaining: to spatialize discursive shards--finds, whats'its, orts--all punctumoniously abuzz and stinging, fiercely kindled by desires split by the obvious, boring and banal-bland and, on the other hand, the unspeakable, self-doubting, wonder-lost (is it nothing?). Rush to gather it together again.  And so we give in to this frenetic always-making of paths-trails-traces (actual, virtual), combinatorially manifest in unceasing possibilities, technological, sensational, spatial.  Turn up-on-to writing technologies and we begin to enjoy the luck of the "precious ambiguities" in image-space rhetorics, begin to actualize amphigeographies.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at August 20, 2005 11:00 PM to Rhetorico-Geography

Hmmm.. poetic epistemology of neural networking.. Are you sure you haven't read Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged or For the New Intellectual or Leonard Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels? The Ayn Rand Lexicon will swirl your synapse...much like what you're doing with the above. I'd love to see this in The Sun.... so when are you going to submit?

Posted by: Sybel at August 21, 2005 8:59 PM

Haven't read 'em, but I'm sure there are synapses. ;)

And I don't have any immediate intentions to turn over any of my precious blog writing; got academic stuff on a shortening schedule, an article submitted by the end of '05? That's the plan, anyhow.

Posted by: Derek at August 21, 2005 9:43 PM

I'm following what you're saying, but right now my comments are on the: hmmmm and ohhhh and ahhhhh level while my neural synapses are busy making meaning of what is, rather than what I believe is.
Perceiving an image- spatial wink is a bit hard --since winks imply irony, what is the irony being played on here? And, could you give me a concrete (real concrete) example of what you mean?

Posted by: joanna at August 22, 2005 11:46 AM

I'd be glad to try, Joanna. Mostly, I'm concerned with the mix of maps, images and the space itself--our routes and passages. The wink happens between one and the other, maybe. So the map (which is not real, right?) and the image wink, in them we have a kind of meaning. The image might ironize (subject to irony?) the map, just as the map might ironize the actual passage (me moving along the path between home and campus). But I don't know if that works in every case. I wonder if there are other winks--winks of harmony or affinity that make little use of irony.

Even more concretely, I would say an example is my photo of the Lilac Grove, mapped to its location in the park, as a photographic choice, it gives us the winks, a kind of spatial meaning sprung from the map, image, passage mixture. I'm still thinking it through, but I'm really interested in what's happening when, with Google API, we see such a flurry of spatially interested writing, map-marking, and so on.

Posted by: Derek at August 22, 2005 4:18 PM

I like this concept of winking, and I wonder if it might be useful to consider it in terms of Barthes's concept of the punctum (in Camera Lucida), which he suggests most directly joins viewer and photograph in some sort of affective experiece. Of course, in true Barthesian fashion, the punctum remains purely in the domain of the viewer: what most strikes you may not even appear to me. As Barthes explains,

"A Latin word exists to designate this wound, ths prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: the word suites me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points. This second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for the punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole--and also a cast of the dice. A photograph's punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)" (26-27)

In my mind, there seem to be connections here between the wink and the sting, speck, etc. And since Barthes describes the puctum as a form of punctuation, I think this may also help you make the move back to writing...

Posted by: Scot at August 24, 2005 10:14 PM

Yes, definitely, Scot, I think it matches up: punctum and wink. Just possibly, an image-space wink--the sort of contention between a map and a photo taken at a particular place--might extend the writing to a kind of geographic or cartographic production. This other association then allows for the sting in the photograph to be spatialized and also to mean something for both the actual and virtual space (the wink between Google Maps and the park I walk through).

Posted by: Derek at August 24, 2005 10:45 PM