Thursday, November 10, 2005


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 writing).

"Detroit Folksono(me)"
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 Rockwell's 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.

Related links: Alex's thoughts and Jeff's note about the visit.

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