Saturday, June 21, 2008


B efore touring the old Santa Ana Pueblo a week ago on Thursday morning, again and again we were reminded that no photography was allowed. Also, no sketches, no recording of sounds. The rationale for this goes directly to simulacrum and the sacred: the ground itself and all activities upon it remain contained, singular, rare. When reproduction and representation are banned, the site does not suffer from diffusion but instead remains intact. On the tour to the Zia Pueblo a few years ago, there was a similar admonition. There, a sign was posted in front of the church. Something like, "Any recording or reproduction at this site is punishable by a fine of $3,500."

While on the walking tour, I wondered whether Old Santa Ana can be seen from above in Google Maps. It's not far from Albuquerque, after all. At what resolution has satellite imagery in effect leached the site's sanctity? Later, when I checked, I found that indeed the spot is plainly visible from above; aerial topography, it turns out, has not honored the on-ground policies.

At breakfast the next day, however, I was surprised to find another replica, this one, a scale-diorama of sorts, in a display case near one of the restaurants in the Hyatt Tamaya--a resort on the edge of Santa Ana No. 2 (what is called New Santa Ana, as I understand it). Strangely enough, in this instance, nothing is posted about copies (or sketches) of the copy:

Scale Model

After the Camp

T ech Camp 2008 ended on Thursday after three days of entirely worthwhile, invigorating stuff tied to imagework, web writing, and video.

I was asked to open the morning's discussion on day three, and I did so by writing a short list of openings and provocations on the marker board at the front of the room. I felt most uncertain about the first item because I'm not sure I've considered it from enough angles. I was thinking about the rock and the hard place for new media in rhetoric and composition: critique, on the one hand, and technology grand narratives, on the other. Critique, as I think of it, rears its head where the focus is on reading and analyzing new media objects. Visual rhetorics often gravitate in this direction, too, toward a consciousness-raising hermeneutics of thorough noticing performed on images and objects made by others. Critique includes conversations about access to technology, which are relevant and important, but do not serve well as ends in and of themselves. Access-based critiques of technology cannot be not easily singled out from that same predicament--is it an inevitability?--for literacy and orality, nor have enough of them gone beyond commentary (even moralizing) into action--grant writing, creative workarounds, and putting computers on desks.

If critique (i.e., the rock) is loose and inclusive, sweeping narratives (i.e., the hard place) are even more capacious and also sticky (a Great Katamari; look out!). Woes of technological imminence prevail here: it makes us stupid, it is anti-intellectual, it atrophies muscles, etc., often in unfortunately broad strokes.

If I sound dismissive of these two responses to technology, I don't mean to. I am simply trying to characterize two counterweights that deliver a great deal of inertia to the scene of composing in new media--writing, producing, making, experimenting, sampling, mixing, selecting, and so on. They expunge it. They halt it in its tracks. I am not arguing that these gestures are empty or that it is anything short of imperative for new media producers to be familiar with them, even in those occasional cases where they are misguided or unsubstantiated. Yet they stand out because they are inertial, because they risk turning production on its ear.

That's what I meant to bring up, anyway.