Friday, September 30, 2005

Can of Curiosities

S urvival Pak: Your Solid Bulwark for Sustenance of Life (via)

Sort of like "duck and cover" in a pail or for those times when the "survival" decorative font comes crumbling down, here's a 1950s kit via last week's web zen on museums.  Opener not included. Pry at your own risk with a common flat-head screwdriver.

There's more stuff in the American Package Museum, too.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mitchell - Picture Theory (1994)

S ome risk involved in beginning with a leap; Mitchell's Picture Theory splinters through the title's pun--a theory of pictures and theory pictured or picture-able.  In the introduction, Mitchell calls the problem of the 21st C. a problem of the image.  This opens onto difficulties with the relationship between word and image, mapping and organizing fields of representation, and discord between reading proper and spectatorship (3).  Fumble them as we inevitably will, these and other differences might seem less gnarled if we "adopt Michel de Certau's terminology and call the attempt to describe [them] a 'heterology of representation'" (5).

This project--from theory-orientation of the first three chapters to the applications in the remainder of the book--develops out of a concern with agency and attempts to "open onto the image/text problematic" (7).  It also expresses a function related to curriculum and theory (6) in an effort to engage the following three questions: "What are pictures? What is their relationship to language? Why does this matter?" (5).

"The Pictorial Turn"
In this chapter, Mitchell begins with Rorty's idea of "turns" in philosophy; the pictorial turn engages the spectator-scene relation; it involves stances on the mass circulation of images and their relationship to text.  This iconology is complicated by the formalizing of visual arts as a discipline, by resistance to images in text (12), and postmodern upheavals of perspectival theories of representation.  In a nutshell (the picture of a nutshell):

Whatever the pictorial turn is, then, it should be clear that it is not a return to naive mimesis, copy or correspondence theories of representation, or a renewed metaphysics of pictorial "presence": it is rather a postlinguistic, postsemiotic rediscovery of the picture as a course, bodies, and figurality.  It is the realization that spectatorship (the look, the gaze, the glance, the practices of observation, surveillance, and visual pleasure) may be as deep a problem as various forms of reading (decipherment, decoding, interpretation, etc.) and that visual experience or "visual literacy" might not be fully explicable on the model of textuality (16). 

This tangle (tango?) between spectatorship and reading jostles conventional notions of reading as an undifferentiated activity (the common assumption: everyone gets "reading").  The move to complicate or question (interrogate) the spectator stands out from the rest of what Mitchell is doing here.  It springs from the pictorial turn: where are the differentiated models for reading?  Who's running them off?  How are those (faintly) differentiated models re-domesticated under the rubric of literacy (toss in 'critical' if you want)? Finally, Mitchell has a nice set six scenic inquiries along the lines of "what might we notice?" (26).

In this essay "on pictures about pictures," (35) Mitchell works through "an array" (57) of six+ images as a way to tease out the infinite relation between image and text suggested by Foucault in The Order of Things.  Mitchell calls his procedure "ekphrastic," which refers to "words about pictures" (38).  Self-referential images, like Saul Steinberg's The Spiral (1968), call attention to but cannot exhaust the "nested" representational possibilities (42).  In a section on "Dialectical Images," Mitchell works on the problem of "multistability" (43)--the blinking of an image that seemingly toggles back and forth (without dimming).  Can it be both?  The model here is the Rabbit-Duck that so concerned Wittgenstein. Its "what am I?" is perpetually unresolved.  Wittgenstein would give the Rabbit-Duck the possibility of both expressions at once, thus "restoring the 'wildness'" diminished by "psychology and by photographic models of the psyche" (53). 

Mitchell calls Valesquz's "Las Meninas" a meta-metapicture; the famous painting implicates us in the infinite referentiality--an undying parallax.  Is that you in the mirror observing the whole scene?  For Foucault, the importance of the painting is its way of keeping open those possibilities rather than fixing the relationships through naming.

At the end of the chapter, Mitchel considers "Talking Metapictures" (64): This is not a pipe, The two mysteries, and Arcadia Ego.  Such images suggest different effects; it's worth noting the primacy of text in pictures of reading.  Even in "This is not a pipe," the text tends to come define the picture of the pipe rather than the other way around--"discourse has the final say" (66).

"Beyond Comparison: Picture, Text and Method"
A method of imagetext must not become trapped in conventional comparisons.  Mitchell proposes imagetext not as kind of reduction or collapsing of image into text or text into image, but rather as a way to "pry them open" (100, 106).  Furthermore, a method of imagetext understands the varied disciplinary expectancies: these ideas might unsurprising to art historians who have long listened to images or literary scholars for whom imagery is passe (99).  Mitchell asks us to move beyond comparison--"the ideal trope for figuring 'action at a distance' between different systems" (85).  Why?

If the relation of the visible and the readable is (as Foucault thought) an infinite one, that is, if 'word and image' is simply the unsatisfactory name for an unstable dialectic that constantly shifts its location in representational practices, breaking both pictorial and discursive frames and undermining the assumptions that underwrite the separation of the verbal and visual disciplines, then theoretical pictures may be mainly useful as de-disciplinary exercises (83).

Terms: iconology (24), multistability (45), hypericon (28), ekphastic procedure (38), gestalt (42), nesting (48), assemblages (49), figure and dead metaphor (66), textual repetition and defacing (69), bands of readability (71), apotropaic image (78), attributed masteries (63), calligram (77)

Effects (not to be confused with theme or topoi) (74): Pipe Effect (74), Vortex Effect (75), Medusa Effect (78)

Figures: McLuhan (15), Panofsky (16), Foucault (5, 18, 60), Jonathan Crary (19), Althusser (29), Wittgenstein (60), de Certau (5, 71), Deleuze (70)

"Is iconology, in contrast to its 'disintegrative' methodological cousin, philology, incapable of registering 'faults' in culture, the fractures in representation, and the resistance of spectators?" (23).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Qualms and Counter-qualms

Q ualms

1. of equals nothing. When I ordered my books for fall semester from all the way back on August 5, I never would have believed that one still would not be delivered as of today.

I've ordered more than 50 books from, and all of them (except the malodorous copy of Comp in Four Keys) arrived as promised, in great shape.  Until I ordered Sidewalk.  And then waited.  And sent an email to the seller.  And waited.  And sent an email to customer service.  And another email to the seller.  Finally! a reply from the seller.  "I'll check its shipping status when I get to work."  That was two weeks ago.  The seller is in NY.  Did you make it to work?  Or do you work for customer service?, because I haven't heard anything from anybody.  See, I'm supposed to be reading the appendix for next week (what's left for the week after that), and I still don't have a copy of the book, which means that I have to go to the bookstore and buy another.

2. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow for unbearably sharp jabs of pain on the left side of my neck.  They're sporadic and come mostly late in the day...after days of reading and computing and writing.  Everything I know about pain hints at a pinched nerve (exacerbated by sitting poorly for hours on end). First appt. since we've been in town, and I'm hoping for a chiropractic referral (long torso+ hereditary back pain+ abominable posture...accumulates to painful crooks).  But I need a proper metaphor for the doc.  I've tentatively decided to go with " I was speared by a throwing star."  But I'm open to better suggestions. 

And now, counter-qualms:

1. You can keep up with Ph.'s soccer results on the schedule I posted a few weeks ago.  They're faring well this season, and I've been updating the schedule with Ws and Ls.  Yesterday they played a surprise match at home (not on the schedule until the day before).  I've attended most of the matches this fall, but I had projects to read and grade and a few other things to do at home, so I skipped.  When he got back, I asked him how it went (a 1-0 win...closer than other matches this season), then ribbed him with, "You got the goal?"  Sure enough.  Figures I'd miss the one game when....  And today--a day off from practice--after I picked Ph. up from school, he told me he's thinking more seriously than ever about starting a weblog.  The concept is fuzzy (the time to really learn how everything works, including the design, even more ethereal), but we settled on a snappy domain name (, and it's pointing here temporarily. on soccer-related stuff.  Can't go wrong with that.

2. Even if you're not a Washington Wizards fan--or maybe especially because you're not a Washington Wizards fan, check out Etan Thomas's talk last weekend (via).  Fine with me if you skimp on reading the comments at True Hoop, but then you wouldn't know what's in them. 

3. Lost in exactly one hour (2.1) and exactly two hours (2.2). Even if I have to rest my neck on couch pillows to make it through two hours of television.

My next entry at EWM had better be reading notes on Mitchell's Picture Theory or else(!) I'm slacking.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Zip Script, Burnt Meat

Z ip code picture.  Click on the map; see your zip code's picture.  It's really that simple.  The project is only slightly more complicated when you consider that a zip code, according to the note at the site, "is not a geographical area but a route which may not be definable as a polygon."  So a zip code could be a broken pathway, in a sense; a route that doesn't close onto itself--a delivery loop (mail'll come again tomorrow...and the next day, polygon or no polygon).  Here's the picture of my zip code.  I see it as the back of an owl who was stung with a blow dart.  Or an awl. 

The latest copy of NCTE Inbox showed up today, and one of the links pointed to this article from the Hartford Courant declaring, "The Handwriting Is On The Wane."  Curious title, I thought, so I followed the link and found a series of delightfully old-fashioned observations from teachers who share concerns about gradual demise of handwriting. 

Relying more and more on e-mail, blogs, websites, instant messaging and other electronic forms of communication, students at all levels are forgetting the fine art of handwriting, educators say. Cursive script, the graceful looping style that connects one letter to another, might be going the way of the inkwell and the fountain pen.

While I was reading up on the handwriting endisms, bemusing how unbearable my day would have been had I attempted to handwrite the near-2,500 words of endnotes responding to a partial set of 307 projects, I decided I'd prove once and for all that my handwriting skills have withstood a reliance on "e-mail, blogs, websites, instant messaging, and other electronic forms of communication."  And so I filled out my dad's birthday card, slowly and in my best script, resplendent with swishy, swooping smoothness.  Took it to the office, where the envelope waited, and where I would check it against D.'s eye for such things. "Decent handwriting, yeah?" I said, almost proud of my finest Denelian.  She: "It's connected print.  Do you know the difference?"  Um. No. I. Don't.  All the same. When Dad gets it, the's a special blend of connected print and disconnected handwriting.

This link--last of the three I wanted to share--will send you to the hottest (well, smokiest, sauciest) weblog in the Midwest: Gremlin Grill--Kansas City Barbecue.  Burnt meat.  Recipes and foodstuff.  BBQ contests and beer-capades. A cool flaming-car logo.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Curiosity Rebellion

N ational anti-drug campaigns shouldn't be taken lightly, and this vintage film strip (w/o audio, unfortunately) alleges that neither should they be sniffed or otherwise ingested (via).

The film pre-dates my young school days, but these messages are timeless, right?  Even without a stern, guilt-and-fear inducing voice-over, the frames are worth a quick skim--whether for kicks serious analysis and reflection on the war on drugs or for a refresher that it's a baaad bad idea to amp up on "truck drivers" to stay awake all night studying and playing the saxophone.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Made For TV

Dull Sunday

Saturday, September 24, 2005


F our-four


  • Wrapped up Bazerman and Prior's What Writing Does and How It Does It (which if you say it aloud must be sung to to R.E.M.'s "How The West Was Won and Where It Got Us") and put down a solid two pages to frame Wednesday morning's methodologies seminar.
  • Parsed and coded yet another issue of CCC for CCC Online.
  • Lessoned Ph. on hurricane naming (re: How'd it skip from Katrina to Rita?) and the reason USA Today doesn't carry local obituaries (for some kind of wacky English assignment).
  • Looked up from reading long enough to catch the climactic ending to Northwestern and Penn State (PSU, 34-29), after which JoePa mumbled incoherently to the sportscaster about playing a redshirt freshman QB. Went something like this: "What am supposed to do?  My wife can't get out there and play."  Um, okay. Good luck with your team there, Coach.


  • Crack Mitchell's Picture Theory.
  • Flesh out the prompt for project II.
  • Do more than rearrange a few sentences in the conference talk creeping up, early October.
  • Leave the apartment.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Taylor and Saarinen - Imagologies (1994)

I n Imagologies, Mark Taylor and Esa Saarinen weave and warp through a series of new media (vintage 1994) fabrics. I call them fabrics because the book's designer, Marjaana Virta, does: "Mediatext: A collection of fabrics..." (jacket). And if we can call Imagologies a "book"--rich ironies here for all their project does to frazzle the paradigms of print--the visual designs and variations are as striking as any of the stuff we might otherwise classify as content. Perhaps as much as any paper-bound book could hope to, Imagologies pushes and sometimes exceeds the constraints of the bound page.

It's mentioned just once early on, but Taylor's explanation of imagology as a riff on mythology influenced my reading of the rest of the project.  When we begin to think about mapping mythologies, then, how would it change if we instead (or additionally) framed it as mapping imagologies?  How do each of these logics implicate space or spatial qualities?  How does each find a relationship to language?  How do they manifest, move about, spread?

As a project, Imagologies tips a couple of ways. One thread involves Taylor and Saarinen's collaboration over two years on a telecourse called "Imagologies," a course on media philosophy linking Saarinen's class in Finland with Taylor's class in Massachusetts. Their course formalized in the fall of 1992--quite possibly one of the earliest telecourses, coming at a time when many higher ed. institutions, like the one I was at for my undergraduate studies, were scrambling to build TV-studio-classrooms. Another thread is what I would describe as meta-pedagogical. I'm referring here to the documented interchanges only loosely related to the teaching of the course--emails back and forth about cultural and philosophical differences: traditional philosophy's tolerance for new media, the legitimacy of "American philosophy," and so on. And then there's a mess of threadlings--scraps and pieces that fill up the pages with media philosophy maxims and quips. These one- and two-liners are strewn throughout the project, giving Imagologies the feel of a new media almanac, something to be read casually and intermittently, referenced, and so on.

Rather than adopting the convention of continuous pagination, the book is chunked into twenty-five chapters, and each of them uses a reset-to-one page count. The sections: Communicative Practices, Simcult, Styles, Naivete, Media Philosophy, Ending the Academy, Pedagogies, Videovisions, Televangelism, Superficiality, Telewriting, Ad-diction, Interstanding, Netropolis, Electronomics, Telepolitics, Speed, Telerotics, Cyberwar, Virtuality, Body Snatching, Cyborgs, Shifting Subjects, Net Effect, Gaping.

While I have brief notes on each of them, I decided rather than sharing all of it, I'd just focus on five or six of the chapters, comment on my interest in them, firm them up with a shot of blogged-notes preservative.  These are the sections I think I'm most likely to return to later on.

Naivete:  Naivete refers to the stance or attitude of the imagologist..  Such a disposition, according to Taylor and Saarinen, "requires a Kierkegaardian leap of faith in the age of faithlessness" (Naivete 1).  Naivete means accepting the complicated imagetext moires, the ripple of multiple and varied surfaces. 

Media Philosophy: Basically, media philosophy disturbs traditional philosophies that have sought "rational...objective thought" (5). Philosophical language is no longer adequate for entertaining grandiose questions; philosophical ventures must now involve the "energetics of image" (6).

Superficiality: Superficiality qualifies the aleatory as having a redefined relationship to the "burden of meaning" (3) perpetuated by "expert cultures" in the age of the mediatrix.  There's more to it than this, of course, but the idea is that the aleatory need not cause anxiety and inhibition.  Taylor and Saarinen tell us that "naivete should not be confused with superficiality," and "the postmodern condition is inescapably superficial" (5).  This chapter also includes a short take on reading that I definitely want to return to (7).  Ex.: "Professional expert cultures legitimate their non-reading by defining essential reading in a limited textmass in narrowly circumscribed forums of publication" (7).

Telewriting: This works through some implications of the mediatrix for writing.  "Hypertext" is recurrent in this chapter's maxims, and I like the many openings here to writing technologies and telewriting activity.  "Telewriting is imagoscription," for example.  Telewriting gives us the prefix for distance which is, in turn, explained (only in part) by a traversal, a digitized tour, IO goes to Helsinki in .001 seconds.

Netropolis: Key terms from this chapter include circulation (2), spectacle (gone wild) (2), and nomadism (4).  It's a move toward a metaphor of the city for the way space and time have been transformed in the structures of the mediatrix.  Specifically, Taylor and Saarinen call this structuring "electrotecture" (4).  Nice one.  And they liken electrotects to imagologists, imagologists to media philosophers.

Even looser notes: A few terms: polylogue (Ending the Academy 1), conduction (Gaping 8), new structures of awareness (Speed 3), staging (Cyberwar 3), lens louse (Ad-Diction 8), telelogic (Interstanding 4), amplification (Communicative Practices 8), mediatrix (Communicative Practices 5).

A few figures: Hegel, Debord, Baudrillard (Simcult 1), Warhol (Styles 7), Kierkegaard (Naivete), Madonna (Media Philosophy 14), Petra Kelly (Media Philosophy 9), Jameson (Televangelism (7), Benjamin (Telewriting 1), Paul Virilio (Netropolis), Foucault (Virtuality 12).

A few quotations:
"In simcult, the responsible writer must be an imagologist. Since image has displaced print as the primary medium for discourse, the public use of reason can no longer be limited to print culture. To be effective, writing must become imagoscription that is available to everyone" (Communicative Practices 4).
"The only responsible intellectual is one who is wired" (Communicative Practices 13).
"The play of simulacrum creates a lite culture" (Simcult 6).
"Imagology insists that the word is never simply a word but is also an image" (Styles 3).
"The imagologist suffers from the mania for signifying" (Styles 9).
"The imagologist does not seek truth but entertains enigmas. Though in opposite ways, the academy and mass culture worship the altar of clarity and simplicity, which the imagologist shatters. Institutions of triviledge abhor enigmas that ought to be cultivated" (Ending the Academy 3).
"Did not teaching change with the invention of writin? Did not teaching change with the creation of print? Must not teaching change with the arrival of the mediatrix?" (Pedagogies 3).
"It remains unclear whether the contribution of a media philosopher is anything other than an outburst of laughter" (Ad-diction 8).
"Telelogic subverts the institutions of triviledge established by expert culture. Analysis divides to conquer. Its 'victory', however, is pyrrhic, for its touch turns everything into a corpse. Telelogic is an electric shock treatment whose jolt revives thought by creating live wires" (Interstanding 4).
"Scientific truth always comes too late" (Naivete 2).
"A laughable project: not to analyze but to explode language in an effort to create tentative syntheses of that-which-cannot-be-synthesized" (Naivete 5).

Thursday, September 22, 2005


J et Blue's mechanical glitch and emergency landing in L.A. close to twenty-four hours ago has re-re-re-played out in both the footage and the passenger accounts.  The flight returned safely despite the sideways-jammed and intractable landing gear; the culmination was a straight, frictional grind to a halt. Thereafter, the angle of many of the news reports has been the visibility of the event as it unfolded on the television monitors inside the plane.  One of Jet Blue's most prized features is a one-per-seat television monitor that can tune to a variety of programs, including live national news broadcasts.  Stunning as it must have been, what resulted was disfiguration of the flash-of-celebrity fan on the Jumbo-tron: "Look, we're on TV."

Just a few minutes ago, when, after reading for much of the day, I was turning through the final few pages of Imagologies, the section called "Body Snatching" synched with yesterday's Jet Blue event.  I didn't watch much of the coverage--just one brief interview with a passenger shortly after the landing who described the televisual experience as post-postmodern (a phrase that, would you believe?, came up again today in Eubanks's essay in Bazerman and Prior's collection on discourse analysis...two post-post refs so close together).  The few bits and pieces I saw today (online or on the tube) echoed the passenger's sense of the hyperreal. 

In "Body Snatching," Taylor and Saarinen pose the question, "is telepresence absence or presence?"  I don't have an answer, but I'd spend both of my nothing-to-fear-in-being-wrong guesses on a two-part response: neither/both.  And maybe this paradox explains what was perceived to be so completely eventful about the perilous landing broadcast to the passengers (LIVE) along with everybody else.  Those on board were caught up in the reality-shredding loop: a question asked from both in here and out there at once--will theywe make it? One more related quotation from the "Body Snatching" chapter:

The simulacrum is a novum that is neither original nor copy, real nor imaginary, signified nor signifier.  The operation of the simulacrum transfigures the body ("Body Snatching" 9).

I've reached the end of insights on this one for now.  While these ideas aren't especially revelatory or bowl-you-over original, some of Taylor and Saarinen's vocabulary--terms shared by others who've worked for some time on questions involving media and the visual--clicked for me.  So I'm giving them a try.  Telepresence...etc.  Good stuff (go on, tell me it's been passe for eight years).  It's pushed me to consider related stuff like (satisfying, disconcerting, voyeuristic) notions of telepresence in weblogs.  If the plan I have for tomorrow holds up, I'll have more to say about Imagologies (but probably disappointingly little to add to the buzz re Jet Blue and hey, that's us!).

Posted by at 10:30 PM | to Media

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I haven't looked very far into this, but I wanted to register this first entry under EWM's newest category: Method.  Method: what a fine category label, eh?  That'll put a Full Nielson on Unsuspecting's attention, was my thought.  Beats Mothoi...Methodoosies...Meth(odd)inks....

What brought this on? Well, I'm studying methodology this semester; it's the only class I'm taking that meets (the way conventional classes convene, I mean).  By and large, we're reading inductively (is it conductive?) for methods and methodologies, extrapolating ways of doing the work from the work itself.  This isn't a hard-cast certainty; it's more of an early observation from the four-fifteenths (.267) moment in the semester.  An I feel a stance coming about.

My plan for this category is to accumulate various bits and ends (wander-methodically: metal detector at the beach-style).  And although we're not spending as much time with meta-method (reading about methods as much as reading enactments of methods, re-enacting them on a small scale), I want to use this category to play through the possible reaches of method.  What are the limits to history, discourse analysis, ethnography and theory (these, our four categories)?  What do these methods (method-orientations) conceal or domesticate? What do they feature? excite? intensify?

This brings me around to the faintly recurrent warnings I've stored up relative to the dissertation.  Common challenges: (-1-) haven't read enough and (-2-) method/ological haziness.  I'm not trying to stockpile dissertation-related anxieties yet, but in light of these thoughts, noting possible methods just might be a productive turn.  Where, in terms of method and rhet/comp, do we meet up with mapping, network analysis, documentary, the computational and the visual (the protocular method)?

Quickly to close: I've had the nagging sense that something is shared between genre and method.  If method, then, is a procedural way...a protocol, then our naming of it (under the roomy rubric of history, let's say) likens it to a genre--genre as social action (C. Miller).  The activity--a manner/attitude/work-pattern--is sufficiently generic that we can hold it up (a suspension) and name it.  That's what I think, anyway.  Our formal study of method is pretty darn close to expanded theorizations of genre (beyond the bucket, the boxy treatment of text-only). 

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


A mong kids playing late today in our shared driveway: "You're not out when I'm out."

Figures, I was in.  Slowly through the open window, their argument (more of an exchange about whose after-school play schedule was more peculiar) quieted to back-and-forth bicycling and shooting hoop.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Baudrillard - Simulacra and Simulation (1981/1994)

B audrillard begins by suggesting the impossibility of Borges's exhaustive map, a precise cartography of the empire.  According to Baudrillard, such a map is no longer possible; the farcical project is rendered impossible because of "the precession of simulacra," which we might take as an onslaught of images without immediate reference or "copies without originals."  If images are referential, simulacra shroud the reference, resulting in what Baudrillard calls the hyperreal as well as conditions giving rise to "the era of simulation [which] is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials" (2).  Hereafter, maps precede territory (1); this applies to the medicalization of the body and anticipations of war-action as the trainings for each are staged through elaborate and artificial simulations.  Also, Baudrillard works this theory on Disneyland, Watergate and God.

In the first chapter, "The Precession of Simulacra," Baudrillard sets up a theoretical imbroglio (17); subsequent chapters function as applications and cases for trying our and further complicating and extrapolating these concepts.  Early on, Baudrillard works through challenging (often surprising) engagements with religion (5), ethnology (7), museumification of "our entire linear and accumulative culture" (10).  He argues that "demuseumification" is just as artificial as the ethnologist's "pure form" project: "Repatriating it is nothing but a supplementary subterfuge, acting as if nothing had happened and indulging in retrospective hallucination" (11).  Baudrillard is clear that we have moved outlived the society of the spectacle, outlasting "the specific kinds of alienation and repression that [the spectacle] implied" (30).  Spectacle, as I read it through Debord, acknowledges an excess of representation, of hypercirculating image-objects, much of which is apprehendable; comparably, simulacra are somehow sly or non-obvious, advancing quietly and without exhibitive splendor paraded in the spectacle.

On images, Baudrillard writes of four "successive phases":

it is the reflection of a profound reality;
it masks and denatures a profound reality;
it masks the absence of a profound reality;
it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum. (6)

Baudrillard is like a hop on a boogie-board: so much to try out (as much as you're up for).  But I'll note just a couple of things, then let the vague referents below serve as cues for a later date (these notes have got to be readable in, next year, anyhow).  First, with simulacra and simulation, Baudrillard suggests a turn from persuasion to deterrence (29) (this, in the section called "End of the panoptic system.") I need to think through this turnabout a bit more--think about what this might mean for rhetoric, what B. calls the "end of perspectival and panoptic space" (30).  One more: in "Clone Story," B. mentions scissiparity (96) ( reproduction by fission). Just interesting, scissiparity.

Two quotations: "The only weapon of power, its only strategy against this defection, is to reinject the real and the referential everywhere, to persuade us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economies and the finalities of production" (22).
"What is essential today is to evaluate this double challenge--the challenge of the masses to meaning and their silence (which is not at all passive resistance)--the challenge to meaning that comes from the media and its fascination" (84).

Simvitees: Eisenstein (33), Loud family (27), McLuhan (30, 82) Rel. Benjamin and aura (99), Neo

Returns: museum (8), repatriation (11), proof in antis (19); network of artificial signs (20), mapping and confinement (29), satellitization (33, 35), information and the destruction of the social (81), soft technologies (101).

With this installment of notes, I'm shifting phases...moving from what we've termed new media/visualization groundwork to what's next: Imagologies (Taylor and Saarinen), Picture Theory (Mitchell), and Visual Display... (Tufte).

Barthes - The Photographic Message (1961)
Barthes - Rhetoric of the Image (1964)
Barthes - The Third Meaning (1970)
Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)
Debord - Society of the Spectacle (1967/1983)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Debord - Society of the Spectacle (1967/1983)

S pectacle, for Debord, refers broadly to the convergence of representation, media, the proliferation of image-objects, and visually gripping mass circulations given to commodity: "a monopoly of appearances" (12).  Debord spearheaded the Situationist International movement which was resolutely actionist, performative, politically motivated, and theoretically sophisticated (expansive of avant-garde, from Dada to surrealism).  In Society of the Spectacle, Debord issues a series of relatively short vignettes--manifesto-like blurbs each attending to the effects of the spectacle, from the separations of workers and their products to widespread isolationism.  Debord was concerned with the implications of the massification of the image, consumerist patterns, and the spread of disillusionment pushed by the complacent and consenting bourgeois profiteers.  Among the multiple definitional turns, Debord writes, "spectacle is the opposite of dialogue" (18).

Elsewhere, Debord identified "a growing multitude of image-objects" as one cause for the rise of spectacle and its many accompanying conditions: lonely crowds (28), commodity fetishism (36), and quantitative triviality (62).  The spectacle is, in yet another sense, the "epic poem of the struggle of every commodity to assert itself everywhere" (66); and thus, the rise in ambivalent consumption is at the heart of any spectaclist trend. 

Debord briefly discusses spectacle in terms of a totalizing world map (without reference to Borges, however), and this resonates with Baudrillard's opening reference in Simulacra and Simulation to a map/territory framework. Debord: "The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map which exactly covers its territory" (31). It seems that the Borges-Debord-Baurdillard segment and the related map-matches-territory concept has ripened in the wake of the many mapping technologies that have sprung forth in recent months (Google Maps and Google Earth w/ API; MSN Virtual Earth, whatever can be said of it, a time-warped territory).  In another spot, Debord (where'd I read, Debord as postmodern before pomo was fashionable?)--on systems and structuralism: he acknowledges the problem of a strict structural view of systems and the "freeze" required to treat the system as a structure (hold still, Shifty!) (201).  I also want to hang onto Debord's stance on the give-take of plagiarhythm: "Ideas improve. The meaning of words participated in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea" (207).

And finally, I've been revisiting Anderson's work on the Long Tail for a talk coming up next month, so I was starting to think about the possibility that the head of the curve (its long ears? calling it the head of the curve seems off somehow) appeases or accommodates spectacle in ways that the long tail does not--not in quite the same way, at least.  So when we apply Pareto's Law to systems of networked writing, let's say, I'd argue that the head--top 20%, if you want a number--is somehow more hospitable to spectacle than the tail.  We could even go so far as to describe the head as spectacle, no? But of course, please, tell me why I'm wrong about this.

Returnables MEc: illusion of encounter (217), tradition and innovation (181), nadir of writing (204), banalization (59), celebrity (60-61), systems (201), falsification of social life (68), illusory community (78), collection of souvenirs (189), concentrated/diffuse spectacle and misery (63)

Spectacle crusher: "To effectively destroy the society of the spectacle, what is needed is men putting a practical force into action" (203).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lost Prepremiere

N o, I don't know what's coming in Wednesday's premiere of Lost, but I confess that I'm distracted by how much I'm looking forward to it. And Steven Johnson's entry yesterday along with ABC's commercials roil my anticipation even more.

The genius of Lost is that its mysteries are fractal: at every scale -- from the macro to the micro -- the series delivers a consistent payload of confusion. There are the biographical riddles: why was the beautiful Kate accompanied by a federal marshal on the flight? There are geographic riddles ("why have the rescue teams missed the island, and why does it appear to have a history of attracting castaways?") and historical ones ("why has that SOS signal been playing for so many years?")

Since last season's finale, I've been imagining what's next: will the back-stories continue as before? how long will the cliffhangers linger (esp. Walt's fiasco)? new characters? new/resolved riddles?  No mystery about what I'll be doing Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST.

Posted by at 8:30 PM | to Lost

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

To Ignoble Use

T oday, a longer-than-normal day on campus: biked up, three hours of 691 kicked off the morning; half of a tuna sandwich while a student from last fall popped in to see how things we going, dashed off to five fifteen-minute conferences with 307 students, hurried up to the second floor of HBC for the first CCR colloquium of the semester--on Examinations--where I finished the tuna sandwich (nervousness re mayo), next mixed in a shower with thick-frosted marble cake and baby-congrats galore, and then a meeting about a hand I'm lending on some tech stuff...biked back home again.

All-in-all, a busy eleven hours, and although much if it is worthy of comment (how do exams work in my program?  what played out in 691? joy: babies and students who return for conversation), I've been thinking a lot today about conferences with students.  I've never quite perfected the conference, nor I have I cemented it into the status of a must practice.  Generally, I find it useful to set compulsory conferences early in the semester, but it's so much more about tone-setting and really talking rather than obliging institutional roles--the expectancies suspended between us early on (even before we meet), a pre-conditioning of formality and institutions. Confer, then, to unravel some of it. And yes, this is much more manageable with lighter teaching loads. But even with heavier loads, it can be handled by replacing class meetings with small group meetings--three or four students for fifteen minutes of face. 

With five consultations today (consultations?  it's professional writing...), I'm just over the halfway point for this week.  No need to say very much about the students (blogging specific details about my students; you kidding?); the point I'm trying to note is less about the specific interactions with specific students than it is about the effect(s) of the conference.  Last spring I didn't hold compulsory conferences, and the entire semester felt different.  That difference might be attributable to any number of things, but my rearview tells me that early-semester meetings might've productively influenced the then-developing dynamics.

Around lunchtime today, we met again in the Noble Room, a spacious lounge area next to People's Place coffee shop in the basement of Hendricks Chapel, center of campus.  Offices can be a bit stuffy, a bit prof-turf, and, accordingly, formal-seeming.  Noble Room: relaxed, out in the open, and relatively quiet.  And then we didn't see it coming.  A free luncheon put on by campus ministries. No signs and without warning (midst of conversation, me and a student), the student group started moving furniture around, laying out two-liters and sandwich trays, and next (um, beg pardon, but we're conferencing here): let us pray.  But, uh, we were mid-sentence and sharing what I thought was a campus lounge (stop talking?).  Wasn't a terribly off-putting thing, turned out.  The one taking the lead finished with his "food's ready" and "many thanks, amen" and then we slinked to the hallway benches where I stayed through the remaining appointments (the entire time rethinking, why not meet in the office?).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Benjamin - The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

T hen came film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-flung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go traveling (236).

The possibility of multiple copies--an indistinguishable hoard of duplicates--is central among concerns covered in Benjamin's time-worn essay on art and mechanical reproduction.  The essay reads almost episodically; it is broken into a preface, fifteen chunks and an epilogue.  I first read this essay ten or twelve years ago, again (if skimmingly) sixteen months ago, and most recently, today.  As explicitly concerned as Benjamin is with shift in mass consciousness with the advent of the camera (for photography or for film), he's also tacitly concerned with the propaganda-subjected mass consciousness that would foment under the conditions of so easily produced and circulated materials.  In this sense, reproducibility qua image/art and photo/film is but one symptom of more general massification (234), spectacle (232), the blend and fade of author/public distinctions (232), changing "modes of participation" (239), the degradation of human aura (presence-force) (229), and distraction's weakening of concentration on the art object (240). 

But are we yet in an age of mechanical reproduction?  How have digital productions--the internet's hearty copycopia--slanted and refigured Benjamin's predictive insights?

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction...

Benjamin makes a few claims dependent on the distinction between cult value and exhibition value.  As I re-read today, the cult value persistently struck a chord with me as the art object's situatedness in a kind of local, inertial aesthetic--originality, tradition, religiosity and the magical.  In the cult value (223), a "ritual function."  But in the age of mechanical reproduction, the art object is freed from these constraints; it enjoys a release to multiplicity (twenty-four screens; Technorati, etc.). Bust out of the museum case, Art; go out and play (although everyone's not comfortable with this). 

Finally, returnables (5cME):
(-1-) This notion of aura (presence) (229) tends toward essentialism?
(-2-) Atget's photos of the barren Paris streets in 1900 (226); the photo as evidence; people, no people?  Barthes (where, in RB?) says that people must be present for him to feel the sting...yes?
(-3-) On the "pioneering" Dadaists (237): How far-reaching or well established is Benjamin's contempt for them?

The Stark Reorientation

A fter dropping D. off at work this morning (so I could keep the car, pick up groceries, and catch Ph.'s soccer match later this afternoon), I headed over to the local grocery store.  No need to name it.  It's the closest mainstream grocer; even if you don't know it specifically, you know it generally.  It's everystore.  Its spaces, lighting, layout, products all commonplace, with only minor idiosyncrasies such as kidney beans shelved in three different places (really, what's going on with that?). I parked, grabbed a buggy, made my way down each aisle, total-coverage style, the way I always do.

I'm trying to shift habit into the checker-less checkout, so I tapped on the computer monitor and shoveled the products--barcodes exposed--through the infrared reader and into the bags (I did bag groceries for a while before the promotion to night stock crew).  It was relatively early for grocery shopping; I was the only one in the self-check area and the clerk monitoring my activity was hawkish, scrutinizing (buying a few cups of yogurt warrants a furrowed brow? Ease up...they're not friendly with the scanner).

Point: the stark reorientation.  In the parking lot--the most ordinary of spaces: I returned to the car, hoisted the hatch and shuttled the goods...

Two cars away, a woman alone in the passenger side of an older SUV, windows down (we're 93F in Syracuse today, +20 on the usual mark for Sept. 13).  She's singing, in a gravelly, drunken voice, a song I don't know (not this rendition, anyway).  Nothing against public singing; sounded happy for the most part.  Next, she opened the door, struggled to her feet (meanwhile I parked the cart in the corral, other side of her vehicle).  As I passed back by, eye contact, and she gives the message: "Excuse me, world, but I've got to pay the water bill."  What, maybe a half of a second before I come to terms with what she means; my first thought, a perhaps-ironic hitch, was that the grocery store houses a bill-pay station for Niagara-Mohawk, the CNY region's natural gas and electricity monopoly. You can't pay the water bill here, I thought. Me with my reasoning: too slow. Indeed she went about paying the water bill right there in the parking lot.

I don't need to say much more about this, but I was thinking about peopled spaces and activity--the possibility for interaction to transform the ordinary space.  Space remade, if temporarily (always temporarily).  The look of surprise, abhorrence, disgust from the only other person in the parking lot, the one walking from the other direction--a different perspective.  Often the start reorientation is more extreme than this; other times, less so.  A gross example?  I only wanted to note it as an example of spatial refiguring, of the chance encounter that disturbs spatial constancy in the most ordinary locations.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Barthes - The Third Meaning (1970)

B arthes's essay, "The Third Meaning: Research notes on some Eisenstein Stills," approaches a third order of meaning, an inarticulable beyond, extant to the first-order obvious and the second-order symbolic but not wholly divorced from them.  The third meaning takes its shape from a "theoretical individuality" (55) (close associate to the punctum/sting, no doubt).  And it is, of course, difficult to name because, as Barthes puts it, the third meaning or obtuse meaning "is a signifier without a signified" (61).  Barthes's essay-notes proceed through a kind of awkward profundity; piling through an array of near-descriptors, as near as one can get without reducing the third meaning into something it is not. 

To attempt these notes (on notes on a thing indescribable), I have simply assembled marginalia and annotations, crunched them together here, as if in a build-up of please make sense, so that I can comb through, piecemeal style.

Early distinctions: obvious (55) and obtuse (56).  The obvious meaning is evident; it "comes to seek me out" (54)--emphatic and important.  The obtuse meaning or third meaning ("the one 'too many'"...yes!) "extend[s] outside culture, knowledge, information; analytically, it has something derisory about it: opening out into the infinity of language, it can come through as limited in the eyes of analytic reason; it belongs to the family of pun, buffoonery, useless expenditure.  Indifferent to moral or aesthetic categories (the trivial, the futile, the false, the pastiche), it is on the side of carnival" (55). 

Here, third meaning for Barthes

Third meaning gravitates to the curiously disguised.  "The characteristic of this third meaning is indeed-at least in SME[isenstein]-to blur the limit separating expression from disguise, but also to allow that oscillation succinct demonstration--an elliptic emphasis, if one can put it like that, a complex and extremely artful disposition (for it involves a temporality of signification), perfectly described by Eisenstein himself when he jubilantly quotes the golden rule of the old K.S. Gillette: 'just short of the cutting edge'" (58).  And so it seems to close in on the touching, sensitive and emotional without precisely locating such conditions. Next: "Caught up in the disguise, such emotion is never sticky, it is an emotion which simply designates what one loves, what one wants to defend: an emotion-value, an evaluation" (59).

Here, third meaning is dissolved.

"If the obtuse meaning cannot be described, that is because, in contrast to the obvious meaning, it does not copy anything--how do you describe something that doesn't represent anything? The pictorial 'rendering' of words is here impossible, with the consequence that if, in front of these images, we remain, you and I, at the level of articulated language--at the level, that is, of my own text--the obtuse meaning will not succeed in existing, in entering the critic's metalanguage.  Which means that the obtuse meaning is outside (articulated) language while nevertheless within interlocution.  For if you look at the images I am discussing, you can see this meaning, we can agree on it 'over the shoulder' or 'on the back' of articulated language" (61).  Paradoxically, third meaning can be understood (right?) and also steer clear of the "critic's metalanguage." Third meaning, in this sense, "outplays meaning" (63), it takes the side exit on "literacy's depletion."

"In short, what the obtuse meaning disturbs, sterilizes, is metalanguage (criticism). Reasons: 1. discontinuous (61) 2. depletion (not filled out) (62) 3. accent (the form of an emergence, a fold) (62).

Just a few more observations, quotations and one or two questions: Barthes develops this notion--third meaning--around stills (frames from films).  He argues that third meaning "makes the filmic possible" because it "structures the film differently without--at least in SME--subverting the story" (64).  The possibility of an excessive meaning (in this out-there stratum) that doesn't destroy narrative seems important here. "The filmic, then, lies precisely here, in that region where articulated language is no longer more than approximative and where another language begins (whose science, therefore, cannot be linguistics, soon discarded like another booster rocket).  The third meaning--theoretically locatable but not describable--can now be seen as the passage from language to signifiance and in the founding act of the filmic itself" (65).  Barthes explains that the filmic is not the same as film (a corollary: novelistic/novel).  Could it be that this explanation of filmic makes it writable; can the filmic be written?  Can writing be filmic?  Is third meaning relegated to the visual?

More on narrativity and subversion:

"The indifference of freedom of position of the supplementary signifier in relation to the narrative allows us to situate with some exactitude the historical, political, theoretical task accomplished by Eisenstein.  In his work, the story (the diegetic, anecdotal representation) is not destroyed--quite the contrary: what finer story than that of Ivan or Potemkin? This importance given to the narrative is necessary in order to be understood in a society which, unable to resolve the contradictions of history without a long political transaction, draws support (provisionally?) from mythical (narrative) solutions.  The contemporary problem is not to destroy the narrative but to subvert it; today's task is to dissociate subversion from destruction: the presence of an obtuse, supplementary, third meaning--if only in a few images, but then as an imperishable signature, as a seal endorsing the whole of the work (and the whole of his work)--radically recasts the theoretical status of the anecdote:  the story (the diegesis) is no longer just a strong system (the millennial system of narrative) but also and contradictorily a simple space, a field of permanences and permutations.  It becomes the configuration, that stage, whose false limits multiply the signifier's permutational play, that vast trace which, by difference, compels what SME himself calls a vertical reading, that false order which permits the turning of the pure series, the aleatory combination (chance is crude, a signifier on the cheap) and the attainment of a structuration which slips away from the inside.  It can thus be said that with SME we have to reverse the cliche according to which the more gratuitous a meaning, the more it will appear as a mere parasite of the story being narrated; on the contrary, it is this story which here finds itself in some parametric to the signifier for which is is now merely the field of displacement, the constitutive negativity, or, again, the fellow-traveler" (64).

Why such a long passage?  Just one megaloparagraph.  But in it we have one of Barthes's two references to Eisenstein's notion of vertical reading (a dilute or thinly-known story-structure?).  And I'm not sure what Eisenstein or Barthes mean--vertical reading.  I'm also interested in the idea of "radically recast[ing] the theoretical status of the anecdote"; I guess this works on the analogy still is to film as anecdote is to narrative. 

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Expected-value Navigation

R esearchers at UMass-Amherst announced this week that they've derived an algorithm useful for explaining the "six degrees" phenomenon in social networks (and related activity systems) (via). 

The social network exploited by Travers and Milgram isn't a straightforward, evenly patterned web. For one thing, network topology is only known locally—individuals starting with the letter did not know the target individual—and the network is decentralized—it didn't use a formal hub such as the post office. If navigating such a network is to succeed—and tasks such as searching peer-to-peer file sharing systems or the navigating the Web by jumping from link to link do just that—there must be parts of the underlying structure that successfully guide the search, argue Jensen and Şimşek.

What guides the search?  The press release briefly touches on issues of homophily and "degree disparity." Previous research has tended to treat these qualities discretely, Jensen and Şimşek's algorithm merges or blends them. Perhaps most noteworthy from the release is the question of how network topologies are known. This hooks into a few of the talks from CCR Community Day '05 and also at least a couple of the motivations behind CCC Online: how is disciplinarity known?

Posted by at 8:00 AM | to Networks

Saturday, September 10, 2005

"We Are Coming" - Logan (1999)

I n 691 (Method~ologies) this week we're considering historical methods and reading for such methods specifically through the Shirley Wilson Logan's work in "We Are Coming": The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women.  In the preface, Logan speaks briefly to her method: "Since rhetorical analysis requires an understanding of the formal features of a text in conjunction with its historical context, I consider pertinent historical details--biographical, social, political and cultural.  Moving from the historical, I address various characteristics of a chosen text in the light of these details.  The selection of characteristics is informed by classical rhetoric and its twentieth-century reconstructions.  My hope is that these discussions might also add to a clearer understanding of nineteenth-century culture and of the ways in which the persuasive discourse of nineteenth-century black women adapted itself to its multiple audiences and multilayered exigencies" (xvi).  As well as any passage I could locate, these few sentences give a fairly complete, succinct overview of the project.

Although the historical span in question runs from 1832-1900, many of the samples of persuasive discourse--often performed speeches--tip toward the tail end of this period, 1880-1900.  Logan's reading is admittedly pastiche-like, working from sometimes-fragmentary sources in search of patterns that, when understood in the context of other histories, might be regarded as evidence of heretofore unhistoricized rhetorical activity concerned with abolition, women's rights, antilynching and racial uplift (which, in c. 7, splits out to roles rel. to home, church and work).  The restorative aspect of this work is compelling and important, but in some places I found it hard to work through the accumulating referential details. For instance, this paragraphs opens into the final section the concluding chapter:

The persuasive discourse on women's racial uplift work and the uplift of women's work in this last section comes out of the Hampton Negro Conferences of 1898 and 1899 and out of a Hampton publication.  The Hampton, Virginia, conferences, first held in 1897, were presided over by Hollis Burke Frissell, principal of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute from 1893 to 1917.  Victoria Earle Matthews's address, "Some of the Dangers Confronting Southern Girls in the North," was delivered at the second summer conference, July 20-22, 1898.  "Colored Women as Wage-Earners," an article by Anna J. Cooper, appeared in the August 1899 Southern Workman and Hampton School Record.  Lucy Laney's speech, "The Burden of the Educated Colored Woman," was delivered at the Third Hampton Conference in July 1899. (172)

It would be off-base for me to suggest that this paragraph is broadly representative of Logan's prose.  I include in these notes because it's especially representative of the referential bog so problematic in some historical projects.  Are all these details relevant?  Possibly.  But this case seems more appropriate to a footnote.  These are the questions writing researchers confront, yes?  Yet the hyper-referential sneaks in periodically, extra-loaded passages so chock full of references that they might be better suited to a database than a paragraph.

It's never explicit why Logan prefers to prop up the speech-events or persuasive acts on these New Rhetorical structures.  A pattern emerges in chapters 2-6 of introducing a figure (Maria Stewart, Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells, etc.) and a sampling of that figure's notable speech-events.  Each historical figure and act/event, however, is accompanied by a kind of rationalization, as in this is rhetorical. Logan points out the correspondences, "informed by classical rhetoric and its twentieth-century reconstruction."  It's clear enough that this is happening, but I continued to wonder why it was necessary.  Sure, these are gestures to well-known figures and tropes, but to what extent are such gestures vital in this kind of historical project?

To illustrate, here (roughly) are the classical/New Rhetorical tactics and figures invoked in each of the chapters:

2. Africa Origins/American Appropriations: Maria Stewart and "Ethiopia Rising"
Tactics/figures attributed: Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's figures of choice, presence and communion (23, 34) and apostrophe/allusion (38)

3. "We Are All Bound Up Together": Frances Harper's Converging Communities of Interest
Tactics/figures attributed: Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's association and dissociation among communities of interest (47)

4. "Out of Their Own Mouths": Ida Wells and the Presence of Lynching
Tactics/figures attributed: Cicero, "ocular demonstration" (intensifying descriptions) and Quintillian, Enaergeia (72); Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca rel. to several other schemes: amplification, onomatopoeia, synonymy, interpretatio, enallage, anaphora (74); analogy (81)

5. "Women of a Common Country, with Common Interests": Fannie Barrier Williams, Anna Julia Cooper, Identification and Arrangement
Tactics/figures attributed: Burke's identification and division (99, 107, 111);  Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's arrangement and order or sequencing (117, 121) and presence (123)

6. "To Embalm Her Memory in Song and Story": Victoria Earle Matthews and Situated Sisterhood
Tactics/figures attributed: Dyson's public intellectual (127); Bitzer and Miller on rhetorical context and exigence (129, 145); public intellectual, Bitzer and Miller (129, 145); Nancy Fraser's counterpublics (150); and Aristotle's forensic and deliberative rhetorics (135, also epideictic on 119 and elsewhere)

I hope that presenting the tactics and figures in this selective way doesn't appear as a slight against Logan's work.  This is admittedly but one strand of marginalia and things not(ic)ed from my reading, and I've traced it for thinking more carefully about the (perhaps false) notion of any method's transparency/ubiquity in a given text.  Maybe I could begin to account for my uneasiness with the gestures to more canonical rhetoric by noting the related terms that seem only subtly present (esp. in comparison to Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca references), e.g. nommo (life seed or life force, rhetoric as organic) (24), "verbal magic" (74), the conditions giving rise to nadir (71), and race literature (135). Ultimately, this set of terms--more than the classical/New Rhetorical references--moves me to consider the significance of this project as something more than recovery work or recuperative history.


I 'm dropping in MT 3.2 today and monkeying with the templates. So if the whole works appears to be coming unglued, it's because EWM's a-morphing.

Later on: Everything seems to be working. It looks like 3.2 allows me to keep my templates from 2.65, which means that the style sheets don't require any urgent doctoring (except, of course, if you're viewing this weblog in IE for Mac, in which case...quit it, it looks terrible). I still have to figure out the Stylecatcher plugin and the "Refresh Template" function. But there it is; took about 40 minutes and the weblog's more or less revamped.

Friday, September 9, 2005

CCC Online

C ollin's entry says more about it than I plan to in this short-minute post, but I wanted to mark the day.  The CCCat's out of the bag, so to speak;  CCC Online is officially live, which means you should visit the site and check out the features. And of course, if you have any impressions one way or another, we'd like to hear about them.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Barthes - Rhetoric of the Image (1964)

I n the advertising image, nice bright colors--a net-sack of Panzani pasta and assorted spaghettimakers including vegetables, fresh and plenty. Though non-linear, many of the signs accord with a variety of "euphoric values," says Barthes: domestic preparation, freshness, an unpacking, the casual market-knowledge of slow foods of a pre-mechanical pace (no need for preservation, refrigeration). Also, in the coordination of colors and types, Barthes suggests second meaning--Italianicity or a gathering of things Italian, much of this "based on a familiarity with certain tourist stereotypes" (34).  Each of these meanings match with distinctive kinds of knowledge.

"Thus we find ourselves immediately at the heart of the most important problem facing the semiology of images: can analogical representation (the 'copy') produce true systems of signs and not merely agglutinations of symbols?" (32)

Onward down a trail of theorizing resembling the semiotic pursuit begun in "The Photographic Image," Barthes names three orders of meaning in the advertising image, three messages: "a linguistic message, a coded iconic message, and a non-coded iconic message" (36). A reading of the image might consider each of these messages (as well as the questions opening the essay: "How does meaning get into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?" (32)).  The meanings are discontinuous; they involve "floating chains of signifiers" (39), and this polysemous quality--a quality shared by all images?--opens onto choice (i.e., those two signifiers, but not this one).  Consequently, "in every society various techniques are developed," Barthes explains, "intended to fix the floating chain of signifieds in such a way as to counter the terror of uncertain signs; the linguistic message is one of these techniques" (39).

The interplay of these signifying orders--the three message-types--concerns Barthes throughout the essay.  In specific cases, the linguistic message might reinforce or "support" the coded iconic message, resulting in what he calls anchorage: "a kind of vice which holds the connoted meanings from proliferating, whether towards excessively individual regions (its limit, that is to say, the projective power of the image) or towards dysphoric values" (39).   Anchorage basically involves "elucidation" and selection. Relay, a term B. partners with anchorage, is less common, he says; as I understand it, relay is the linguistic message that leads (often through a series of images), thereby making the image-set or sequence "lazier."  Relay introduces diegesis; it stories the image and, as a consequence, eases or relieves seeing.

In the final two sections of the essay--"The denoted image" and "Rhetoric of the image"--Barthes addresses a pair of problems: the truth or fact of the image as taken-to-be natural and the rhetorical factors affecting the reading of the image.   The first problem results from from mechanical capture and (re)production--a sort of latent mathesis: "the absence of a code reinforces the myth of photographic 'naturalness': the scene is there, captured mechanically, not humanly (the mechanical here is a guarantee of objectivity)" (44). Myth indeed.  He continues, "What we have is a new space-time category: spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority, the photograph being an illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then. (44) And, "Hence the photograph is not the last (improved) term of the great family of images; it corresponds to a decisive mutation of informational economies" (45). [Strung together quotes; allowable for notes?]

Lastly, in terms of rhetoric and lexicons (lexia?), Barthes works through some of the issues involved, from attitudes and ideology, to knowledge and "surprises of meaning" (47): "The variation in readings is not, however, anarchic; it depends on the different kinds of knowledge--practical, national, cultural, aesthetic--invested in the image and these can be classified, brought into a typology" (46).

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Frosh Sent

T ook in Ph.'s first home soccer match of the fall this evening, and I nabbed this photo (and just a few others) before the batteries gave up.  He's been taking most of the corner kicks early this season, fine-tuning the slight, sustained arch--a pass delivered to drop just so. This one turned into an assist, and the ensuing goal made it 4-0.  For those of you keeping up with his schedule, the match ended up 9-4, sorta high for futbol.

Parabolic Pass

A This-side of Language

O n trauma and image from RB, "The Photographic Message":

These few remarks sketch a kind of differential table of photographic connotations, showing, if nothing else, that connotation extends a long way.  Is this to say that a pure denotation, a this-side of language, is impossible? If such a denotation exists, it is perhaps not at the level of what ordinary language calls the insignificant, the neutral, the objective, but, on the contrary, at the level of absolutely traumatic images.  The trauma can be seized in a process of photographic signification but then precisely they are indicated via a rhetorical code which distances, sublimates and pacifies them.  Truly traumatic photographs are rare, for in photography the trauma is wholly dependent on the certainty that the scene 'really' happened: the photographer had to be there (the mythical definition of denotation).  Assuming this (which, in fact, is already a connotation), the traumatic photograph (fires, shipwrecks, catastrophes, violent deaths, all captured 'from life as lived') is the photograph about which there is nothing to say; the shock-photo is by structure insignificant: no value, no knowledge, at the limit no verbal categorization can have a hold on the process instituting the signification.  One could imagine a kind of law: the more direct the trauma, the more difficult its connotation; or again, the 'mythological' effect of a photograph is inversely proportional to its traumatic effect. (30)

"The more difficult its connotation...," close to what Jeff posted Monday at this Public Address on spectacle, disaster and "signature images."

Posted by at 8:00 AM | to Media

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Barthes - The Photographic Message (1961)

P ress photographs.  Barthes refers to several such photographs in this essay from 1961.  He was concerned with contending orders of connoted and denoted meanings operable in the reading of photographs. The "photographic paradox," as he puts it, involves the double structure of contending linguistic orders (connotative, denotative) and the photograph as analogon, "a message without code" (17).  Paradoxically, the press photograph bears a "continuous message" sustained in the two significant structures (of which "only one is linguistic"...either accompanying text or description). Barthes calls the relationship between the image and the text "contiguous" rather than "homogenous" (16). And so the photograph must be read with some awareness of these variations, which lead to variations in meaning. Barthes: "What can at least be done now is to forecast the main planes of analysis of photographic connotation" (20).

Browder (left) and Tydings (right)The "planes of analysis" or "connotation procedures" read much like a taxonomy, and they come in two groupings: a first set (trick effects, pose, objects) and a second set (photogenia, aestheticism, syntax).  The first set "is produced by a modification of the reality itself" (21).

  1. Trick effects: photo-doctoring--exploits the analogue, the power of denotation.  Ex. Senator Millard Tydings and Communist leader Earl Browder (shown)
    Pose: possibility of double structure (denoted::connoted) in the posed (ex. Kennedy praying).  How much is positioned?
    Objects--placed for connotative effect; a meaning, but not a power (from a "stock of stereotypes")
  2. Photogenia--an inventory of effects; embellishments, aesthetic qualities of technique-production ("lighting, exposure, printing") (23)
    Aestheticisim--remediation; a photograph of a painting (24)
    Syntax--multiple images, supra-segmental and concatenations (24)

Text and image (25-27)
In this section of the essay, Barthes works on the impact of accompanying text on photograph.  Text can contribute (-1-) as a parasitic quickening (this is a historical reversal of the photo as merely illustrative of the text).  The text (a caption, perhaps) can be (-2-) "innocented" by the denotation of the photograph (26).  But it's not possible, according to Barthes, for the words to duplicate the image; text can, however, "amplify" the image, "retroactively project" onto the image, or even "contradict" the image.

And finally, on "Photographic Insignificance" Barthes works up a set of contending connotations in the photograph--a set we need "to elucidate fully the mechanisms of reading" (28): cognitive (28), perceptive (29), ideological or ethical (29) and political (30). 

Connoted code: "The code of the connoted system is very likely constituted either by a universal symbolic order or by a period rhetoric, in short by a stock of stereotypes (schemes, colours, graphisms, gestures, expressions, arrangements of elements)" (18).

On description: "To describe consists precisely in joining to the denoted message a relay or second-order message derived from a code which is that of language and constituting in relation to the photographic analogue, however much care one takes to be exact, a connotation: to describe is thus not simply to be imprecise or incomplete, it is to change structures, to signify something different to what is shown" (18-19).

Note: This is the first of a series of write-ups/note-strings for an independent study reading list (690: New Media and Visualization).  I can tell now that my future notes will need to be somewhat more succinct.  Before the end of the week: Barthes - "Rhetoric of the Image" and "The Third Meaning" and Benjamin - "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"--all groundwork.  Unfortunately, I'm not very skillful at rendering these notes into entries-for-readers; hope that will improve with practice.


W arning...adjust the brightness or throw on some shades.

A heliographic message? All three of the web sites I had a hand in developing/designing this summer turned out to have suns as favicons.  And--it gets better--in each case, the logo pre-existed my involvement in the project (iow, I didn't decide let's use suns). 


The New School-Syracuse*
Prospect Center
CCC Online (going to have to wait until next week's official roll-out for the link)

Now you should go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before reading this stunning bit of information.

* Well yes, NS does look a lot like EWM, but it was a volunteer gig, and when I said to D., show me a site you like and she said, "EWM," what more could I do?

Monday, September 5, 2005

New London Group, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies"

W e're on with four articles for Wednesday's meeting of 691: Crafting Researchable Questions.  We broke up responsibilities for question-bringing, two or three primary respondents/discussion-framers to each of the articles, but I have brief notes here on each of the articles (something I can carry to class, search later, etc.).  My lead article, however, is a chapter from the New London Group's Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures.  The citation says the book was published in 2000; this chapter--"A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures"--was circulated as early as 1996, I think.  Roughly, the chapter--the opening chapter in the book--sets up the what and how of a pedagogy of multiliteracies (many-literacies, a lifting the lid from monoliteracies...yes?)--the multi- that "allows [learners] to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (9).

Already in the second paragraph, two aims for their work:

First, we want to extend the idea and scope of literacy pedagogy to account for the context of our culturally and linguistically diverse and increasingly globalised societies; to account for the multifarious cultures that interrelate and the plurality of texts that circulate.  Second, we argue that literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies (9).

As I read the chapter, I keyed on the second point because (-1-) I'm interested in "information and multimedia technologies," and (-2-) I had doubts that NLG would come close to post-literacy or Anne Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola in "Blinded by the Letter" or Ulmer's electracy.  Although "designing" figures significantly into NLG's multiliteracy pedagogy, writing technologies and digital apparatuses are all but eclipsed in the rest of the chapter (can't say about the remainder of the book).  Just two more mentions of tech I could find: an off-handed jab at "technocrats" (13) and alarm over the "increasing invasion of private spaces by mass media culture" (16).

What, then, of this pedagogy of multiliteracies remains for us to consider?  Early on, NLG splits the "realms of change" into "our working lives, our public lives (citizenship), and our personal lives (lifeworlds)" (10).  Their proposed pedagogy works through the flattening of hierarchies (check Weaver's "holarchies"), which fits nicely with network studies, "productive diversity," the dissolution of standards in public discourse (14), the structural, historical dimensions of diversity (15), and the "conversationalization" of public language (16).  According to NLG, schools are the obvious site of intervention for teaching and learning that supports adjustments to these realms of change, and consequently, "curriculum now needs to mesh with different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses, and registers, and use these as a resource for learning" (18). To bring such change about, then, the NLG says we need to think in terms of three elements: "Available Designs, Designing, and The Redesigned" (20).  Each of these phases (para.: inertial, activity and systems-based, and re-made or hybridized) accords to one of the design elements: linguistic, audio, visual, gestural and spatial (no temporal?), and in NLG's explanation of the elements, linguistic gets a good deal of attention; the others, much less. 

I have a few other questions (i.e., the absence of "rhetoric," NLG's take on nominalisation (29)), but I'm just as interested in the idea that the International Multiliteracies project would adopt a metalanguage for "analysing the Design of meaning with respect to 'orders of discourse,'" ultimately moving from genre and discourse to specific questions such as "what's the game?" and "what's the angle?" (24).   What about it?  It's their notion of "game" that set me to digging around for Giddens' stuff on structuration from the course this summer.  In "Problems of Action and Structure," after explaining that "game analogies can be highly misleading," (117) Giddens writes:

Rules can only be grasped in the context of the historical development of social totalities, as recursively implicated in practices.  This point is important in a twofold sense. (a) There is not a singular relation between 'an activity' and 'a rule,' as is sometimes suggested or implied by appeal to statements like 'the rule governing the Queen's move' in chess.  Activities or practices are brought into being in the context of overlapping and connected sets of rules, given coherence by their involvement in the constitution of social systems in the movement of time. (b) Rules cannot be exhaustively described or analysed in terms of their own content, as prescriptions, prohibitions, etc.: precisely because, apart from those circumstances where a relevant lexicon exists, rules and practices exist only in conjunction with one another. (118)

Is Giddens right?  If so, what are the limits to framing discourse/genre activity in terms of games (as well as corresponding rules)?  And what's left lying (neglected, overlooked) in a game/rules theory of design elements (applied to language first, then second-order elements)? 

Key terms: multiliteracy, literacy pedagogy, productive diversity (13), "assimilatory function of school" (18), genre (21), designing (22), redesigning (hybridisation) (23), game (24), genre and intertextuality (25), pattern recognition (31), critical understanding (activity) (32), situated practice (33), reflective practice (35)

Other notes for 691:

Judith Butler's "Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transexuality" from Undoing Gender
Butler works through the quandary of a case-study methodology and a notion of "doing justice." She approaches the constitution of gender (a core gender, an essential gender), from sociocultural forces to the bodily and biological/hormonal variables involved.  In a sense, Butler presents a reading of the case of David Reimer and, in the process, suggests a compelling bundle of factors, which, taken together, challenge dimorphism with something like chromosomic multisexes (a phrase I heard about when VV ref'ed Butler's book at the Cortland Conf. last October).  

Gordon Brent Ingram's "Returning to the Scene of the Crime," GLQ 10:1
Ingram's methodology involves historiography, geography and analysis of space-based legal discourse--specifically the legal dossiers of court cases involving what he terms "sexual minorities."  Basically, Ingram historicizes urban sexuality in British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria); he urges us to generalize this historically and geographically specific work by "examining the local forms of homoerotic networks, repression, resistance, and agency and comparing them with those of other regions" (79).  He names networks frequently in this article, but his object-places seem to toggle between urban/rural and public/private rather than scaling along a differentiated third term--the sort of complexity-blend between urban/rural and public/private that network vocabularies make available. And why doesn't Igram make use of maps?  Inasmuch as his project articulates the tension between institutions of law and homosexual networks before and after the decriminalization of sodomy and associated acts, I would have been interested in seeing an attempt to map the "sex crimes."  The argument for reading urban space (and its histories) in light of the networks suggested by legal dossiers is something I hadn't considered.  Ingram's methodology comes at historical work by drawing together urban development/formation, sexual (and otherwise socially networked) geographies, and legal rhetoric. 

There's a fourth article on doing diversity work, but it's unbloggable: can't cite it outside of class.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Dome Game

S U's offensive sagnificence in Sunday's 15-7 home loss to Big East rival West Virginia was inversely proportional to the solid performance by the defensive unit.  SU on offense: naught for 15 on third downs and a grand total of 103 yards. SU on defense: five takeaways.  SU on offense: six points for, eight points allowed (interception for TD and a safety). 


Not sure whether it's a sentiment shared by any of the other 45,417 fans at the Carrier Dome watching the game today, but considering that it was Greg Robinson's first game as the head coach and considering that SU couldn't have played much worse on the offensive side, the Orange contingent should feel okay about keeping the margin within reach until the very end.  The game seemed like it could easily have tipped our way had we been able to come up with any sequence of positive yardage (even attempting a 10-yard gain now and then would have been something, but it happened just a few times). Well, yeah, and one more touchdown. But the unfortunate combination of errant passes, drops and simple-seeming schemes...; brighter days ahead, I think.  That's what I really want to say. Word around campus is that Robinson is well-liked by the players, and I think he's savvy to shoulder some of the blame for the loss.  The turnout and game atmosphere was new-season festive (down to The Hyper-Bellowing Clapper one row behind us and the Toxic Perfume-Cloud Mountaineer Fan one row excess of cheering and flower-scent).  Plus, I hadn't attended a college football game in person since C. Mich v. Ball State all the way back in 1991 (when the score was a whopping 10-3), so it was all around fun just to take it in.  We'll have better results, I think, when the Orange host Buffalo next weekend.

Added: Read Collin's take on today's game.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Off Perch

F ly-bye discomfitures.


Thursday, September 1, 2005

JV Soccer

H ere's Ph.'s soccer schedule for the fall.  I suppose I might be read as a doting fan-father, the type who hyper-celebrates all things to do with sport at the expense other stuff (such as reading, the arts...).  Yeah, whatever.  Ph.'s been playing soccer since he was four; I am a fan.  The first scrimmage was this afternoon.  Afterward we grabbed a quick-cook dinner from Price Chopper, hurried home to put it together, then picked up D. from class so we could all attend the two-hour family orientation at NHS.  Only this time I was thoroughly impressed with the staff, the student tour-guides, the presence and involvement of teachers, administrators and the principal.  High Came on fast.

CBA Scrim.
New Hartford
Perry JHS
B Ludden
Posted by at 10:40 PM | to Sport