Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bolter, "Theory and Practice of New Media Studies"

Bolter, Jay David. "Theory and Practice of New Media Studies." Eds. Gunnar Liestøl,, Andrew Morrison and Terje Rasmussen. Digital Media Revisited: Theoretical and Conceptual Innovations in Digital Domains. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. 15-34.

Bolter considers the place of "new media studies" in the humanities with specific attention to the existing theoretical terrain and the divide between theory and practice. He explains the limitations of early "formal media" theory (Ong and McLuhan) with its ties to poststructuralism (Derrida and De Man) and also looks at ideological critique as a theoretical orientation common in the humanities. The long standing tension between theory and practice isn't easily resolved, but new media studies mixes them in an encouraging complementarity. New media studies has found solid footing in the most practice-oriented fields because people in those disciplines were some of the earliest to experiment with emerging technologies. It's not clear, however, that new media studies (and its affront to the print paradigm) will warm to conservative views toward online publishing of scholarship and the appropriateness of such publications venues for tenure. Bolter ends by calling for refashioning a "new media critic" whose methodology is "a hybrid, a fusion of the critical stance of cultural theory with the constructive attitude of the visual designer" (30).

Key Terms: postindustrial engineering (17), formal media theory (18), technological determinism (18), hypertext critics (18), broadcast model (22), rhetoric of resistance (25), shift from consumption to production (27), new media critic (30).

"The poststructuralists were media theorists who confined themselves mainly to verbal media" (18).

"This linking of hypertext to poststructuralist theory, however, did not have the impact on the critical community that some had anticipated. It did not lead to widespread engagement with or acceptance of hypertext in humanities departments" (19).

"The dominant critical strategies in the humanities today are the many varieties of postmodernism, feminism, and cultural studies, all of which reject the formalist tendencies of poststructuralism" (21).

"When cultural studies critics now approach digital media they often assume that these new media must follow the same pattern [as mass media] of hegemonic production and resistant reception" (22).

"Computer technology has improved the status of teachers of writing and rhetoric, who were in fact among the first faculty members in the humanities to embrace the new technology" (26).

"The success of teachers in defining new forms of writing suggests that cultural theorists may have been premature in lumping electronic media together with mass, audiovisual media such as television and film" (26).

"Popular mass media forms have therefore been suspect on two counts: as promoters of both capitalist ideology and visual representation" (27).

"Will they be willing to redefine scholarship to include the multilinear structures of hypertext or (what may be even more radical) the multiplicity of representational modes afforded by digital multimedia?" (29).

Related sources:
Jay, Martin. Downcast Eyes. Berkeley: U Cal Press, 1993.
Noble, David. "Digital Diploma Mills. Part 1: The Automation of Higher Education." October (Fall 1998): 107-117.
Noble, David. "Digital Diploma Mills. Part 2: The Coming Battle over Online Instruction." October (Fall 1998): 118-129.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wysocki, "Impossibly Distinct"

Wysocki, Anne. "Impossibly Distinct: On Form/Content and Word/Image in Two Pieces of Computer-based Interactive Media." Computers and Composition 18 (2001) 137-162.

"Impossibly Distinct" counters the commonplaces of the form/content, information/design, and word/image dichotomies. By reading (phenomenologically, rather than closely) two CD-ROMs on Matisse, Wysocki suggests that we have a "need for exploring new concepts and terms for the thick rich mix of visual potentials on screen" (161). Ultimately, this formulation pushes us to think about how visual elements or aspects of texts make those texts work in particular ways. Wysocki eventually articulates a clear preference for the Maeght CD (self-conscious) over the Barnes CD (hierarchical). Because the two pieces are visually distinctive, she works through an analysis of how assertions are differently designed into each piece across discursive and non-discursive aspects. That is, the assertions can't be reduced to words without sacrificing the evocative dimensions of the experience.

Wysocki's call for "new concepts and terms" is left open at the end. How has this been resolved? Or, rather, are form/content, information/design, and word/image dichotomies still largely uninterrogated?

Key Terms: phenomenological approach (140), new categories (138), push and pull (142), spatial-visual structure (147), temporal structure (147), hierarcy (156), designing multimedia (156), words as conceptual lexical units (159).

"I want to begin to indicate what our teachings about the visual elements of texts (what our teaching about composition in general) perhaps should expand to include" (138).

"That is, I will be arguing in the next pages, if we hold to the notion of content suggested by the citations which I opened my writing--if we understand content as words and understand visual presentation as theme or emotion or useful only as pointers to our supporting information--then we remain unable to see or explain what is asserted in the visual compositions I am about to consider" (140).

"The differences between the visual presentations of these CDs are not then simply of form or theme or emotion or assistance to memory (the possible functions of the visual named or implied by the texts I quoted on my first page); the differences between the visual presentations of these CDs are differences of assertion and thought" (152).

"To conceptualize the Maeght CD, I have to move through it, to figure our what those little buttons do and to construct my own sense of the piece's structure" (156). ^Schematics.

"This indicates to me that our teaching about the visual aspects of texts shouldn't be just about teaching people in our classes how to use the visual as theme or as first impression or as a guide to information; we need also, I believe, to be teaching how the visual structures of a text are, in addition to being assertions about artists and art collectors (for example), also assertions about what kind of readers we should be" (159).

"I do not have terms to offer here, but I do not think the split between information and design gets at how strategies of visual composition contribute to the relationship we develop with what we offer each other on screen. Finally, the relationship among the kinds of visual elements and arrangements I listed above are not ones where the visual needs support by the words: not only are the words of these CDs (as of any Web page or paper page) always visual elements, but the assertions of these CDs cannot even be found primarily in 'words'" (160).

Related sources:
Aarseth, Espen. Cybertext. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1997.
Elkins, James. The Domain of Images. Ithaca: Cornell, 1999.
Leppert, Richard. Art and the Committed Eye. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Kittler, Discourse Networks

Kittler, Friedrich. Discourse Networks, 1800/1900. Trans. Michael Metteer. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford UP, 1990.

First of all, there is no reading Kittler quickly. Discourse Networks 1800/1900 is like a technology-focused sequel to Foucault's The Order of Things. Kittler notes that Foucault ended his archaeology of discourse around 1850, just before things got going with the second industrial revolution and the expansion of media technologies--typewriter, gramophone, and film (each contributing to a medial turn Foucault does not address). The German title Aufschreibesysteme arguably translates more accurately as "notation systems" or "inscription systems"; provided that Kittler does relatively little with the idea of "network", "inscription systems" seems like a better fit with what's here.

What's here? Two epistemes and periods, each corresponding to a century mark. The discourse network of 1800 is set against the discourse network of 1900. The first is characterized by hermeneutics, alphabetization, and (original, solitary, Romantic) poetry (its emblematic figure, Goethe's Faust); the second is characterized by technological media, inscription, and exhaustive data storage and transmission (its emblematic figure, Nietzsche). In David Wellbery's foreword, he calls Discourse Networks a "genealogy of hermeneutics." (xi). After brief chapters explaining how the figures of Faust and Nietzsche prime the epoch under consideration, each section consists of three chapters.

Discourse Network of 1800 (Romantic/hermeneutic)
The Mother's Mouth (25): mother and state as producers/encoders of discourse; normalization of speech (36) via alphabet and primers; consumption and production model; Poet-Author ascendant.
Language Channels (70): language as mere channel (for love); writing from nature (inscription systems naturalized); aims of discourse are love and poetry.
The Toast (124): Literary philosophy driven by interpretation; philosophy joins poetry in the hermeneutic trap; complementarity of genders.

Discourse Network of 1900 (Modern/medially inscribed)
The Great Lalula (206; psychophysics, technological media): materiality!; discourse analytics such as counting words (190); mathematical linguistics (222); memory experiments free from hermeneutics (208); language standards and dehumanization (223); data storage; film and gramophone; typographic spatiality (257).
Rebus (265; psychoanalysis, literature): translation is impossible; transposition is possible only in untranslatability [does this anticipate digitality?] (265-273); Freud transposes dream-images into symbolic relations and written records (274); limited inscription systems determine psychoanalytic subjects; technological media destroy the monopoly of writing.
Queen's Sacrifice (347; gender): antagonism of genders.

Wellbery suggests that Kittler "establishes a positive research program for posthuman criticism" (xii) and that he does so, in part, by analyzing at the level of machines rather than the signifier. In this respect, Discourse Networks has something in common with Fuller's Media Ecologies. Kittler's explanation of technological media suggest that they are capable of subsuming human corporeality, subjugating the subject to data such that agency dissolves and Man and soul no longer apply (258) [Fuller uses this point to distinguish Kittler from McLuhan who suggests a more cooperative dynamic between humans and their extensions].

With the medial turn in the discourse network of 1900, the flight of ideas commences. Language loses its inwardness (243), and individuals learn the autonomy of linguistic expression (239). Kittler identifies one defining locus for the transition between the two epistemes, oddly enough, in talking dolls (232), which he explains shift from repeating parental phrases (dolls of 1800) to the self-relation of children's recorded voices talking or singing to children (Edison). This self relation displaces both the mother and the state--primary encoders in the discourse network of 1800.

Key terms: monopoly of writing (370), genealogy of hermeneutics (xi), presupposition of exteriority (xiii), presupposition of mediality (xiii), presupposition of corporeality (xiv), cybernetic sociology (xviii), Lacanian register (symbolic, imaginary, real) (xxxi), Republic of Scholars (4), free writing (14), free translation (19), hermeneutics (21), cloud of meaning (21), nature's production of discourses (25), mother as primary instructor (26), alphabetization (27), coercive act of alphabetizing (30), purification of speech (37), true programming (49), circuit of legitimation (61, 153), bureaucratic baptism of knowledge (61), inscription (64), silent reading (65), love and poetry (73), translation of the unspeakable (77), fantasia of the library (91, 99), poetry, author, work (109), fixed idea (110), authorial function (111), serial storage of serial data (116), reading mania (144), anthology (147), new humanists (150), deixis (168), German essay (180), genres (183), maker of words (185), free essays (185, 329), typewriter's chaos and intervals (192), mnemotechnics (196), flight of ideas (205), random generators (206), Morgenstern's The Great Lalula (212), catch phrase (222), written verbigeration (228), rebus (274), red marks on essays (330), writer as medium (331).

"Whatever the historical field we are dealing with, in Kittler's view, we are dealing with media as determined by the technological possibilities of the epoch in question. Mediality is the general condition within which, under specific circumstances, something like 'poetry' or 'literature' can take shape. Post-hermeneutic literary history (or criticism), therefore, becomes a sub-branch of media studies" (xiii).

"Words have no effect because they are skipped over; reading issues only in writing' authors' names detract from the phenomenon of the book. In retrospect the discourse network of 1800 is a single machine designed to neutralize discursive effects and establish 'our absurd world of educators'--'to the "able servant of the state" this promises a regulating schema'--founded on the ruin of words" (179).

"The discourse network of 1900 could not build on the three functions of production, distribution, and consumption" (186).

"Not every discursive configuration rests on an originary production of signs. Circa 1900 several blindnesses--of the writer, of writing, of script--come together to guarantee an elementary blindness: the blind spot of the writing act. Instead of the play between Man the sign-setter and the writing surface, the philosopher as stylus and the tablet of Nature, there is the play between type and its Other, completely removed from subjects. Its name is inscription" (195).

"Writing ceased to wait, quiet and dead, on patient paper for its consumer; writing ceased to be sweetened by pastry baking and mothers' whispering--it now assaulted with the power of shock" (223).

"Standards have nothing to do with Man. They are the criteria of media and psychophysics, which they abruptly link together. Writing, disconnected from all discursive technologies, is no longer based on an individual capable of imbuing it with coherence through connecting curves and the expressive pressure of the pen; it swells in an apparatus that cuts up individuals into test material" (223).

"The ordinary, purposeful use of language--so-called communication with others--is excluded. Syllabic hodgepodge and automatic writing, the language of children and the insane--none of it is meant for understanding eyes or ears; all of it takes the quickest path from experimental conditions to data storage" (229).

"As technological media, the gramophone and film store acoustical and optical data serially with superhuman precision. Invented at the same time by the same engineers, they launched a two-pronged attack on a monopoly that had not been granted to the book until the time of universal alphabetization: a monopoly on the storage of serial data" (245).

"One needs the whole power of one's vision to glimpse the overlooked visibility of texts. The black and white of texts seems so timeless that is never occurs to reader to think of the architects of that space" (256).

"After the destruction of the monopoly of writing, it becomes possible to draw up an account of its functioning" (370).

More passages to keep: x, xiii, xxvi, xxx, 9, 10, 13, 16, 20, 21, 24, 29, 32, 33, 41, 51, 53, 74, 82, 95, 97, 100, 101, 108, 109, 111, 116, 117, 119, 130, 140, 177, 178, 179, 183, 186, 190, 193, 195, 212, 215, 223, 227, 228, 229, 237, 238, 243, 245, 256, 257, 264, 267, 270, 271, 274, 275, 283, 284, 298, 299, 303, 319, 326, 344, 352, 369, 370.

Wait!: epigraphs are mathematical formulas; Wellbery: DN is like Benjamin's Work of Art essay; first half is frustratingly Germanic, referential; dithyramb (181), on counting words (190), Bildung (223), tachistoscope (260), norn (266). Also, read Goethe, Nietzsche and Freud to get the big picture in certain sections.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Mitchell, W.J.T., What Do Pictures Want?

Mitchell, W.J.T.. What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2005.

What Do Pictures Want? is divided into three sections, each devoted to one of Mitchell's key concepts for explaining pictures: image, object, and medium. The book achieves a certain coherence, but because several chapters were published separately as articles, there is some repetition of central ideas.

Mitchell pursues a broadened concept of pictures (xviii), first by working through a thought experiment that accepts their aliveness. He suggests the animism and vitalism of images through the ideas of cloning and destruction, idolatry and iconoclasm, Dolly the Sheep and the World Trade Center. Rather than fitting neatly with the polarized responses to images, however, Mitchell wants us to get beyond the mystical/skeptical dyad (they're alive; they're dangerous, defeat them), to a kind of criticism that makes images resonate without smashing them. Acknowledging the peculiarity of the move to presume that images have a life-force, Mitchell asks us to entertain the fiction so that our encounters with pictures might be enlivened (ultimately, his arguments jibe with posthumanism).

In the second chapter, Mitchell answers the title's question in a variety of ways, eventually, however, proposing that a possible answer is "nothing" (50). The emphasis here is not on a method for reading images but on a richer understanding of their relationality in a complex skein of desires; rather than locating desire in consumption or production, we should locate it in the images themselves. This attribution of desire to images seems like a kind of agentic shift, although I suspect Mitchell would complicate this. His criteria for the living is that it can die. In a Q&A with readers of his manuscript, Mitchell explains that images have a verbal and visual life (55).

In the other chapters on image, Mitchell explores the idea of desire through the double entendre of "drawing" and in connection with Freud's categories of desire (72-74). He also uses idolatry, fetishism, and totemism to classify object-relations. With totemism, we might revalue the image relative to its hypervaluation in the idol and the fetish. Totemism affirms the life of the image and also introduces the idea of scale as it comes between idolatry (large) and fetish (small) [to connect this with networks, see p. 92]. Mitchell discusses each of the terms--idolatry, fetishism, and totemism--more carefully in chapter 9 (188).

In the final one-third of the book, Mitchell addresses media (c. 10.), explaining that image and picture are distinguished by medium. He pushes beyond a strictly materialist reading of media, however, instead preferring to define it as "material social practice" (203). In chapter 10, he introduces and explains ten theses on media (211):

  1. Media are a modern invention that has been around since the beginning.
  2. The shock of new media is as old as the hills.
  3. A medium is both a system and an environment.
  4. There is always something outside a medium.
  5. All media are mixed media.
  6. Minds are media, and vice versa.
  7. Images are the principal currency of media.
  8. Images reside within media the way organisms reside in a habitat.
  9. The media have no address and cannot be addressed.
  10. We address and are addressed by images of media.

Mitchell argues that images, not language, are the principal currency of media (215). I need to spend more time with the chapters in this section.

Other returns: C. 9 discussion of terms; ^Perceian triad of symbol, icon, and index (73); ^Consider Butler's Excitable Speech, speech act, and image (135); ^Networked image (92, 105, and totem, 191).

Key terms: poetics of pictures (xv), pictorial turn (5), metapictures (6, 10), magical attittudes (8), studium and punctum (9), double consciousness (10), visual trope (10), living images (14), animated icons (14), biotechnology (15), global capitalism (15), living symbols (15), iconoclasm (20), creative destruction (21), Benjamin's dialectical image (25), modern attitude (26), personhood of things (30), Medusa effect (36), violence of male "lookism" (45), visual culture (47, 337), dead metaphor (life of tropes) (53), drawing desire (59), magnetism (60), ascesis (63), scopic drive (72), symbolic, imaginary, and real (73), totemism (75), image's surplus value (76), image science (77), materialist hype (77), criticism (81), picture versus image (85), species and specular (86), dead media (90), images at the center of social crisis (94), image as immaterial (97), idolatry, fetishism, and totemism (97), found objects (113), picturesque (114), totem (122), offending images (125), objectionable objects (125), paleontology of the present (124), speech act (135), Foucault's Order of Things (155), object relations (188), totems of the mind (190), medium theory (198), medium as material social practice (203), medium and boundary (204), mystical empiricism (208), new media (212), visual studies (337), showing seeing (355), vernacular visuality (356), interdiscipline (356).

"The book as a whole, then, is about pictures, understood as complex assemblages of virtual, material, and symbolic elements" (xiii).

"A picture, then, is a very peculiar and paradoxical creature, both concrete and abstract, both a specific individual thing and a symbolic form that embraces a totality" (xvii).

"The philosophical argument of this book is simple in its outlines: images are like living organisms; living organisms are best described as things that have desires (for example, appetites, needs, demands, drives); therefore, the question of what pictures want is inevitable" (11).

"Now we see that it is not merely a case of some images that seem to come alive, but that living things themselves were always already images in one form or another" (13).

"Computers, as we know, are nothing but calculating machines. They are also (as we know equally well) mysterious new organisms, maddeningly complex life-forms that come complete with parasites, viruses, and a social network of their own. New media have made communication seem more transparent, immediate, and rational than ever before, at the same time that they have enmeshed us in labyrinths of new images, objects, tribal identities, and ritual practices" (26).

"In short, we are stuck with our magical, premodern attitudes toward objects, especially pictures, and our task is not to overcome these attitudes but to understand them, to work through their symptomology" (30).

"What is the moral for pictures? If one could interview all the pictures one encounters in a year, what answers would they give?" (35).

"The question of what pictures want certainly does not eliminate the interpretation of signs. All it accomplishes is a subtle dislocation of the target of interpretation, a slight modification in the picture we have of pictures (and perhaps signs) themselves. The keys to this modification/dislocation are (1) assent to the constitutive fiction of pictures as 'animated' beings, quasi-agents, mock persons; and (2) the construal of pictures not as sovereign subjects or disembodied spirits but as subalterns whose bodies are marked with the stigmata of difference, and who function both as 'go-betweens' and scapegoats in the social field of human visuality" (46)

"What pictures want from us, what we have failed to give them, is an idea of virtuality adequate to their ontology" (47).

"Pictures want equal rights with language, not to be turned into language" (47).

"What pictures want in the last instance, then, is simply to be asked what they want, with the understanding that the answer may well be, nothing at all" (48).

"There is simply no getting around the dialectics of life and death, desire and aggression, in the fundamental ontology of the image" (68).

"Images are also, in common parlance, mental things, residing in the psychological media of dreams, memory, and fantasy; or they are linguistic expressions ('verbal images') that name concrete objects that may or may not be metaphoric or allegorical" (84).

"Images are 'kinds of pictures,' classifications of pictures. Images are, then, like species, and pictures are like organisms whose kinds are given by the species" (85).

"We live in the age of cyborgs, cloning, and biogenetic engineering, when the ancient dream of creating a 'living image' is becoming a commonplace" (96).

"Totemism, in fact, is the historical successor to idolatry and fetishism as a way of naming the hypervalued image of the Other. It also names a revaluation of the fetish and idol. If the idol is or represents a god, and the fetish is a 'made thing' with a spirit or a demon in it, the totem is 'a relative of mine,' its literal meaning in the Ojibway language" (98).

"My main point is simply to suggest that the question of images and value cannot be settled by arriving at a set of values and then proceeding to the evaluation of images. Images are active players in the game of establishing and changing values" (105).

"Totemism allows the image to assume a social, conversational, and dialectical relationship with the beholder, the way a doll or a stuffed animal does with children" (106)

"For another key to the found object is its tendency, once found, to hang around, gathering value and meaning like a sort of semantic flypaper or photosensitive surface" (118).

"If images are life-forms, and objects are the bodies they animate, then media are the habitats or ecosystems in which pictures come alive" (198).

"The difference between an image and a picture, for instance, is precisely a question of the medium. An image only appears in some medium or other--in paint, stone, words, or numbers. But what about media? How do they appear, make themselves manifest and understandable? It is tempting to settle on a rigorously materialist answer to this question, and to identify the medium as simply the material support in or on which the image appears" (203). [A medium is more: "material social practice"]

"Media can fit on both sides of the system/environment divide: they are a system for transmitting messages through a material vehicle to a receiver; or they are a space in which forms can thrive[...]" (208).

Related sources:
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. 1912. Trans. Karen Fields. New York: Free Press, 1995.
Jay, Martin. Downcast Eyes. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1993.
Latour, Bruno, and Peter Weibel, eds. Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Elkins, Visual Studies

Elkins, James. Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Elkins presents a "skeptical introduction" to the field of visual studies, an emerging discipline he estimates to be ten years old (c. 1992). In addition to presenting visual studies in the context of visual culture, cultural studies, and art history, Elkins issues a call to make visual studies more difficult. Making it harder, he contends, will also make it more interesting. Elkins attributes the label "visual studies" to W.J.T. Mitchell, whose Picture Theory explained a "pictorial turn." Pushing his argument for rigor and risk as needed changes for visual studies, Elkins also argues for six competencies (c. 4). Visual studies, in Elkins' view, takes root in the humanities and tends to be interdisciplinary, but it can do much more to include sciences and non-art images (173). The "conceptual disarray" and programmatic confusion in visual studies is cause for concern, no matter how well we understand its multiple causes. The kind of visual studies that Elkins favors for standalone academic programs assumes a vested interest in methods (in addition to history) and moves beyond the common dichotomy in visual culture between photography and avante-garde art.

Elkins explains that the high and low designations well-known in studies of art present problems for visual studies (solutions: 45-62). The most common figures for the field are Barthes, Benjamin, Foucault, and Lacan (33). In his list of conundrums (or precepts for making visual studies more rigorous), he lists casual citation as a concern (33, 101). In his discussion of visual literacy (c. 4), he says that writing and pictures must be kept separate, as names for different and that visual literacy involves a "reflective sense" (128).

Elkins also makes the cogent point that methods in the humanities tend to seek out complexity or, that is, prefer complexity and hybridity in research (112).

Ten conundrums (program notes for making visual studies more difficult, interesting):

  1. The Case of the Calvin Klein Suit: In What Sense is Visual Culture Marxist? (66)
    Marx; problem of unveiling as a desirable end.
  2. The Case of the Poor Schoolteacher: When Visual Studies Is Self-Evident (71)
    Adorno's "hidden meanings," "how hidden are the hidden meanings scholarship uncovers?" (73).
  3. The Case of the Ill-Conceived Essay on 9/11: When Visual Studies Is Not Helpful (76)
    Limits of visual studies; Elkins didn't write an essay on 9-11 after much consideration (77).
  4. The Case of the Neglected Crystal: Visual Culture and Non-Art Images (83)
  5. The Case of the Ghost of C.P. Snow: Taking Science Seriously (87)
  6. The Case of the Benjamin Footnote: Issues Involved in Citing Benjamin, Foucault, and Warburg (94)
  7. The Case of the Unclaimed Inheritance: Seeing Deeper History of the Discipline (102)
  8. The Case of the Mexican Soap Opera: Visual and Nonvisual in Film and Media Studies (106)
  9. The Case of the New Guinea Bird-watcher: Can Visual Studies Be Truly Multicultural? (110)
  10. The Case of the Writing Itself: The Challenges of Writing Ambitiously (120)

Six competencies:

  1. Art History as a Kind of Visual Literacy (140)
  2. Non-Western Visual Competencies (147)
  3. Unrecoverable Visual Literacies (152)
  4. Visual Literacies that Involves Making Images (157)
  5. Visual Literacies in the Sciences (159)
  6. Special Effects and Digital Images (177)

Key terms: visual studies, visual culture, cultural studies (1), Mitchell's pictorial turn (5), image studies (7), non-art images (12), art history (21), transdisciplinary (28), core competencies (30 and c. 4), canon of visual culture (34), methodology (37), gaze (38), media (42), collapse and single visuality (43), informational images (45), aestheticism danger (48), high art's project of negation (50), commercial culture (50), high-low problem (45-62), wild writing and wild theory (65), VS is too easy (65), program notes (66), Adorno's "hidden meaning" (71), stupefaction (73), graphic design and ideographic writing (84), unconsciousness (92), Foucault's "bureaucratic eye" (99), hybridity (113), visual literacy (125), flaneur (129), postocular theory (133), Hirsch's cultural literacy as asterisked knowledge (138), Fourier transform (161), tags (172), graphics (180), Euclidean geometry and logic (192), studium and punctum (193), uncertainty (200).

"It is exactly that apparently unconstricted, unanthropological interest in vision that I think needs to be risked if the field [of visual studies] is to move beyond its niche in the humanities" (7).

"Visual studies growing from mathematized theories of communication is very different from visual studies in North America, where visual communications tends to be a more varied and less semiotically informed practice that includes design studies and graphic design" (10).

"In my experience, visual studies grows wild in studio art departments and art schools, where it is a standard accompaniment of studies in postmodernism" (14).

"Visual studies emerges from these books as a set of overlapping concerns united by a lack of interest in several subjects--older cultures, formalism, and canonical works of art" (17).

"Or to put it more soberly, from an art-historical standpoint, visual culture can appear lacking in historical awareness, transfixed by a simplified notion of visuality, careless about the differences between media, insouciant about questions of value, and sloppy in its eclectic choice of objects and methods" (23).

"What matters here is that the decision to emphasize a general methodological approach has two practical consequences, neither of them very desirable: it means that visual culture looks increasingly like an ordinary discipline, specializing in television, advertising, and other popular imagery; and it means that visual culture courses attract students who are interested mainly in popular art of the last fifty years" (42).

"When I propose that visual studies needs to become more difficult, part of what I have in mind is a balance; the texts would have more lasting interest, for example, if the innovative subject matter were balanced by theoretical or ideological innovation" (63).

"Sometimes the images are there just because the writers are invested in them, not because images are needed to make the arguments work" (83).

"The further you go into the fascinating hinterland of image practices--and it is a direction I love to go in, and that I wish more scholars would take--the less there is to say about social construction, commodification, and the making of the viewing subject, and the less hope there is of also being able to talk about political history, patronage, contemporary literature, or the host of subjects that can make art history and visual culture so absorbing" (85).

"If there is an analytical limit to these interests, it is the assumption that the demonstration of what I am calling hybridity is itself sufficient; the idea is to work upward from known states and dichotomies that are taken to be relatively pure toward an interesting and complex impure state" (113).

"Departments such as the one I teach in offer many opportunities to discuss the meaning of digital images, cyberspace, and the Internet, but they do not require competence in any particular programs or assume that knowledge in their teaching" (179).

"My emphasis in this book has been on the reactive side for two reasons. First, in universities--my principal concern in this book--the confluence of disciplines includes only a minority of critical practices that are intended to affect the state of affairs outside of academic discourse. Second, an overconfident activism based on an underinterrogated discourse is a recipe for uninteresting work. What matters is uncertainty in 'what history, whose history, history to what purpose,' and for me that uncertainty is deepest in the theoretical ground on which the field is built" (200).

Related sources:
Crary, Jonathan. Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.
Drucker, Johanna. "Who's Afraid of Visual Culture?" Art Journal 58:4 (1999): 36-47.
Stafford, Barbara. Good Looking: Essays on the Virtue of Images. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.
Wolff, Janet. Feminine Sentences: Essays on Women and Culture. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990. (Feminist critique of flaneur)

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Wysocki, "Awaywithwords"

Wysocki, Anne F. "Awaywithwords: On the Possibilities in Unavailable Designs." Computers and Composition 22 (2005) 55-62.

In this brief article, Wysocki complicates the dichotomy between image and word, a division reinforced in the work of Kress, who partitions words and their "temporal and sequential logic" from "image-presentations" and their "spatial and simultaneous logic" (56). Because alphabetic text is arranged, it calls "visual attention to itself" (58) and because visually designed objects are constituted with temporal strategies, we must recognize the material constraints that bear on any composition. That is, we should always try to recognize that which is taken to be natural, while detailing the social and historical constraints involved in any design. Finally, rather than asking what is lost, Wysocki focuses on a more constructive angle: what is possible?

^Vocabulary persists as a problem here. Likening image and word is useful from a design perspective, but how can we qualify our use of those terms without reinscribing the dichotomy?

Key terms: embodied worlds (57), spatial memory (57), naturalized, unquestioned practice (57), Kress' image-representations (57), image and logics of space (58), real affordances (60), perceived affordances (60), NLG's unavailable designs (60).

"The lesson is that things can be put to many uses, often neither just nor humane" (55).

"I have learned in the process of developing communications that it is always worth asking how our materials have acquired the constraints they have and hence why, often, certain materials and designs are not considered available for certain uses" (56).

"Did you read my title as "a way with words" or "away with words"?" (56).

"That is why, then, I wish to question what becomes unavailable when we think of word and image as Kress has suggested we do, as bound logically and respectively with time and with space" (56).

"If we are to help people in our classes learn how to compose texts that function as they hope, they need consider how they use the spaces and not just one time that can be shaped on pages" (57).

"Instead, we should acknowledge that when we work with what is on pages or other surfaces, alphabetic text is always part of what must be visually arranged and can be designed to call more or less visual attention to itself (with the current academic and literary convention to be that of calling less attention to itself)" (58).

"And so to use image to name some class of objects that function in opposition to word is thus either to make an arbitrary cut into the world of designed visual objects or to try to encompass a class so large the encompassing term loses function. To say that all these objects rely on a logic of space is to miss their widely varying compositional potentials" (59).

"By focusing on the human shaping of material, and on the ties of material to human practices, we might be in better positions to ask after the consequences not only of how we use water but also of how we use paper, ink, and pixels to shape--for better or worse--the actions of others" (59).

Related sources:
Drucker, Joanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909--1923. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Mitchell, W. J. T. Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Norman, Donald A. "Affordances and design." <>.

Wysocki and Jasken, "What Should Be An Unforgettable Face"

Wysocki, Anne, and Julia I. Jasken. "What Should Be An Unforgettable Face...." Computers and Composition 21 (2004) 29-48.

Wysocki and Jaskin argue for an expanded, generous recognition of interfaces as situated and reflexive.  Computer interfaces are rhetorical, they contend.  In the first half of the essay, they survey Computers and Composition in the 80s and 90s to identify a range of arguments that discuss various aspects of interfaces, while leaving other aspects unaddressed.  Collectively, Wysocki and Jaskin want to call our attention to the partial treatments of interface, while showing that much C&C scholarship addresses the rhetorical nature of the interface and has been forgotten.

In the second half of the essay, they examine handbooks to show the emphasis on technical knowledge and functional ease at the expense of rhetoric.  These arhetorical stances are read across 14 books, suggesting the dangers of ultra-constrained treatments of interfaces--emphasis on the technical encourages us to forget about the other stuff, and only the barest advice about web design prevails (often treating web design like designing for paper).

So that we don't forget the interface's rhetorical nature and so that we see broadly beyond the technical (or recognize the rhetorical entangled with the technical), Wysocki and Jaskin recommend the work of redesign and cognizance of the presence of interfaces in both print and online materials.

Key terms: graphical user interface (30), seeing and visibility (31), interface (32), HCI and screen (32), interface as rhetorical (33), interface as complexly socially situated (33), PC vs. Mac interfaces (35), role of software (35), expectations of teachers (36), writing handbooks (37), technical as arhetorical (39), functional ease (40), form and content (43), redesign (45).

"We are concerned here precisely with how sight-and hence the metaphors for knowledge-building and comprehension that are linguistically tied to sight-is always just as much about what we don't see as about what we do, always about where attentions are not directed as much as about where they are" (31).

"What do interfaces--and our teachings about how we and people in our classes should both shape and read them--encourage or allow us to see, and then, just as often, to forget to see?" (31).

"Taylor's (1992) words ask to imagine an individual who perhaps recognizes, but perhaps not, that as she sits at a computer using software she is being seen by the software--by the software's makers as they are embodied in their design decisions--as being dull and uninventive; the software therefore only allows her the actions that a dull and uninventive person can be expected to take, and hence--if she approaches the software without abilities or background or desire or encouragement to distance herself from it--she must be that dull and uninventive person, at least for the minutes or hours she uses the software" (34).

"All these writers argued that we have to see interfaces as not just what is on screen but also what is beyond and around the screen if we want to understand how interfaces fit into and sup port the varied and entwined sets of practices that shape us" (36).

"In these varied words from writing teachers and researchers, then, we hope you can see how

we miss--we are able to forget--how complexly and how strongly interfaces take part in the wide ranging, and certainly not always positive, effects that computers have in our practices, lives, and relations with others" (37).

"We have examined handbooks and guides that many writing teachers use, books that so frequently now include sections for helping students design web pages, and--instead of instruction that helps students attain a broad and mindful view of interfaces--we see instruction that often constructs the technical as neutrally arhetorical; emphasizes getting work done--the values of efficiency, ease of use, and transparency--over other possible human activities and relations; and separates content from form, as though form contributes nothing to how others respond to and are shaped by the texts we make for each other" (38).

"If we do not discuss with students how what is present on screen is dependent on the attitudes and backgrounds of those who design what we see and not just on apparently neutral function or technical requirement, then we risk what those earlier writers saw: how audiences can be restricted or silenced or reduced in complexity by what we produce" (45).

"Is it possible to design--is it worth pursuing the design of--reflexive interfaces, interfaces that themselves encourage the wider kinds of seeing we have discussed here, interfaces that encourage their audiences to question how the interfaces construct and shape those who engage with them?" (46).

Monday, November 6, 2006

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David and Brian Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, N.J.: Earlbaum, 1996.

Interested in the "betterment of rhetoric" (305), Kaufer and Butler spell out an involved model for a modularized verbal rhetoric. They seek to distinguish (and recuperate) rhetoric understood as a design art from more pejorative designations (i.e., rhetoric of antirhetoric and rhetoric as a practical art (23), menial, or simple). In arguing for this particular understanding of rhetoric, Kaufer and Butler frame written argument as an original design art. Given an explicit focus on verbal rhetoric (words alone (9)--grounded in Austin and speech acts), it's not clear where they stand on materiality (^things are designed in language). Rhetoric, for them, involves the design of abstractions (9), and the "design art" reorientation opens rhetoric to a complexity beyond handbooks and procedurally reductive how-tos.

Goals in Rhetorical Design

While the structure of their model seems rigidly executed at times, holding apart, for example, the rhetor from the environment (58), Kaufer and Butler emphasize its suggestive quality rather than pitching it as a prescriptive serum to perfect all rhetorical encounters. They describe the model as diagnostic at one point (305; diagnostic because of modularity), but it is equally useful as a set of heuristics which can be deployed to stabilize public, civic discourse (the application throughout Rhet/Arts of Design is the Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates). In pursuit of coherence, Kaufer and Butler characterize the model as asituational (i.e., portable, generalizable).

The second half of the book, chapters 5-9, is devoted to explaining and applying each of the modules: 5. Goals, 6. Structure, 7. Plans, 8. Tactics, and 9. Events. Goals and Structure are higher order modules, while Plans, Tactics, and Events manifest in the design space. Tactics tend to be opponent-directed and combative; Events are audience-directed and cooperative (67). Further, each of the modules is coordinated with other modules (including the Strategic module (268) and Presentation module (273)). The modules are, in effect, alive; they are rather like Latour's hybrids to a degree. Kaufer and Butler explain that they partially anthropomorphic (dynamic, agentic conditions). Also called "experts," the modules are entangled in a symbiotic orchestration.

^materiality, role of genre, rationalism.

Rhetoric: "Let us define rhetoric as the control of events for an audience. To be more specific, let's say that rhetoric is the strategic organization and communication of a speaker's version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making" (12).

Design arts: "Design arts highlight a distinction between an agent's naked intention, the goals outside of and motivating the design, and the goals of the designer, that reside in the design. The goals of the design (e.g., fame, wealth, glory, power) and the goals in the design (e.g., balance, symmetry, restraint) coevolve. The defining conditions of a design art are that (1) the goals of the design are perceptually distinct from the goals in it; (2) the artifact produced by the design depends on the coevolution and convergence of these systems of goals; and as an unavoidable consequence, (3) the actor requires considerable effort and skill to bring about this evolution and convergence (29).

Key terms: probability (xv), antirhetoric (2), novelty (3), absence (3), archivability (3), boundedness (4), speed (4), axiomatic science (7), design knowledge (7), verbal rhetoric (8), audience and opponent (10), event and situation (12), canonical event-telling (14), noncanonical event-telling (16), rhetorical situation (19), ancillary events (20), practical arts (23), dialectical argument as contrasted with rhetoric (26), material and symbolic artifacts (33), quasi-real (33), module (37, 39), topics/topoi (49), goals (59), structure (61), knowledge representation (61), public space (64), predictiveness and adaptiveness (76-77), public (95, 124), entity classes (109), modeling a public (129), experts (267), strategic module (268), presentational module (273), media (296).

"The cultural stereotype for rocket science applies, in more muted and modest shades, to the arts in the family of arts we associate with design--engineering, architecture, graphics, musical composition. The principal argument of this book is that rhetoric belongs in this family of arts as well" (xiii).

"As rhetoric has tried to prove itself in the modern academy, it has had to reshape itself to look more like an organized body of analytical knowledge and less like a form of productive knowledge, the latter considered more craft-like and heuristical than principled and lawfully regular. Yet as rhetoric has 'succeeded' in remaking itself to fit the modern standard, it has lost its bearing as an art of production" (xvi).

"Through these three material properties [archivability, boundedness, speed], print made it possible to foreground novelty as a new paradigm for the cultural dissemination of ideas" (4).

"Work in the rhetoric of inquiry and writing in the specialized disciplines tries to show, in sum, how rhetoric, assumed to be a loosely knit and relatively unstructured bundle of practices, finds its way into disciplines considered too highly structured to need rhetoric" (6).

"We argue that rhetoric has remained institutionally unstable as an indigenous knowledge because the academy has failed to place it where it deserves to be placed--in the family of the design arts" (7).

"Design knowledge is the knowledge associated with the architect, engineer, and computer specialist. It is standardly described as (a) modular, able to be broken down into parts; (b) cohesive, allowing the parts to be related back into a working whole; and (c) problem-focused, allowing persons with the knowledge to apply it to do so for pragmatic ends. Our thesis is that rhetorical knowledge, whether practiced in civic communities or by schooled professionals, is a type of design knowledge" (7).

"Within a construction of consciousness, the past, present, and future are integrated as overlapping horizons of time that unite intention, action, and reflection. This gives each event in a noncanonical presentation the look, not of a semantic island, but of a dispersed mass spread across sentences and paragraphs with no clear boundaries" (18).

"It has been difficult to reconcile the dignified universals of the humanities with the interestedness, practicality, and localness of rhetoric" (21).

"Given the local, tactical, and applied nature of rhetorical knowledge, it was and has remained impossible to defend rhetoric against the earliest charges made by philosophy that rhetoric has no intrinsic interest in the universals of truth and morality" (22).

"An ethical consideration more intrinsic to rhetoric is whether the audience is empowered to see the design behind the events constructed" (30).

"To summarize, for an adequate conceptualization of rhetoric, we contend that it is necessary to leave behind the practical arts and associate rhetoric with the arts of design" (35).

"A central contention of this book is that rhetorical design exists as an entity much larger and more encompassing than the textual implementation of rhetorical discourse" (45).

"The Tactics module presupposes a viewpoint different from Plans. Although Plans only knows about truth and falsehood in the social world, Tactics knows only about a world of gaming between a speaker and live opponents in a specific rhetorical situation. Plans knows nothing about the particulars of rhetorical situations. Plans stays somewhat aloof from the actual details of any specific situation of rhetoric. Tactics and Events are the modules that actually 'forage' rhetorical situations, modules that directly manipulate situational inputs that can change with design structure" (65).

"[The Events module] forms the basis of language we call rhetorical performatives, like adaptations, nondeclaratives, indirection, emotives, and reflexives like wit, humor, and irony" (67).

"We acknowledge a partial anthropomorphizing, that is, anthropomorphizing within a module. Within a module, we have relied on an anthropomorphic intelligence to provide the mechanism by which a specific module, within the limits of its own knowledge and action potential, 'decides' or 'does' something" (263).

"Plans, Tactics, and Events operate concurrently, as independent 'experts' that look for opportunities to change a design as the state of the design changes" (267).

"Conservatively, training in the studio arts is anywhere from 5 to 20 times more expensive per student than training in the humanities. To avoid the expense, it is easy to keep rhetoric the lowly practical skill of the humanities, taught to freshman as a rite to passage to the college curriculum. But that is to reduce rhetoric to freshman composition and to miss rhetoric's potential as a member in good standing with the arts of design" (298).

"We have argued that the complexity of rhetoric evinced by these debates shows rhetoric to be much more than a practical art, an art comprehended or captured by a handbook tradition. It is rather a modular art of design, fulfilling all the essential definitions of such an art" (305).

Related sources:
Simon, Herbert. The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

George, "From Analysis to Design"

George, Diana. "From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing." CCC 54.1 (2002): 11-39.

In this oft-cited essay, Diana George accounts for the vexed relationship between composition studies and visuality or visual studies. Only in rare cases does one find imaginative curricula that engage with visuality as a serious aspect of composition. George works through many of the default presumptions about visuality, its history as something most often aligned with technical communication (charts, diagrams, and graphs). Her central argument calls for a renewed legitimacy of the visual in composition studies.

Two catalysts for this argument are W.J.T. Mitchell's Picture Theory, in which he describes a "pictorial turn," and the New London Group's 1996 manifesto on multiliteracies. Following the New London Group's emphasis on design, George argues for visuality as productive practice rather than consumptive, analytical, or critical (i.e., non-productive) practice. George is after a more sophisticated account of visuality, and she pursues this by historicizing the question (visuality?) in popular composition textbooks like McCrimmon's Writing with a Purpose and Bartholomae and Petrosky's inclusion of John Berger in Ways of Reading. George wants to present and also depart from a (media-anxious) tradition in composition studies throughout which "visual studies has been perceived as a threat to language and literacy instruction" (15).

To conclude, George calls attention to her own pedagogy and her work with what she calls "visual argument." Still, design is a generative (core) term in the renewal of visuality in composition studies (she locates the minimal attention to visuality in layout standards for research papers--a sort of anti-design). Also, George mentions multimodal design (18); perhaps this is the first appearance of the term in CCC.

Key terms: Mitchell's pictorial turn (13), NLG's multiliteracies (13), producers (13), technical writing (14), visual studies as threat (15), curricular context (15), reading pictures (15), media revolution (16), new literacy (17), mass media and anxiety (17), design (18, 25), mutimodal! design (18), visual appearance and dumbing down (19), visual analysis (21), Berger in Ways of Reading (23), academic decorum (25), research paper and page design (25), desktop publishing (26), comics (27), visual argument (28), art work (28).

"Or, even more to the point--our students have a much richer imagination for what we might accomplish with the visual than our journals have yet to address" (12).

"In place of a resolution, then, I am after a clearer understanding of what can happen when the visual is very consciously brought into the composition classroom as a form of communication worth both examining and producing" (14).

"In the end, I argue that the terms of debate typical in our discussions of visual literacy and the teaching of writing have limited the kinds of assignments we might imagine for composition" (15).

"Only rarely do we encounter a suggestion that students might become producers as well as receivers or victims of mass media, especially visual media" (18).

"Yet, without a concept like the notion of design, these older media assignments seem to be stuck in a kind of literacy civil war--one that pits poetics against the popular and words against pictures" (19).

"Running through much of the composition literature of the period, assignments linked to images carried with them a call for relevance, the need to make this dull, required class more interesting, and the suggestion that less verbal students would perhaps succeed with pictures where they could not with words" (21).

"Instead, the push in the eighties was to continue to explore what visuals could teach students about their written compositions" (23).

"To talk of literacy instruction in terms of design means to ask writers to draw on available knowledge and, at the same time, transform that knowledge/those forms as we redesign" (26).

"What such a question [asked by Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola in "Blinded by the Letter"], and others like it, does lead to, however, is a new configuration of verbal/visual relationships, one that does allow for more than image analysis, image-as-prompt, or image as dumbed-down language" (32).

Related sources:
Faigley, Lester. "Material Literacy and Visual Design." Rhetorical Bodies: Toward a Material Rhetoric. Ed. Jack Selzer and Sharon Crowley. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1999. 171--201.
Trimbur, John. The Call to Write. New York: Longman, 1999.

Wysocki, Anne Frances. "Monitoring Order: Visual Desire, the Organization of Web Pages, and Teaching the Rules of Design." Kairos 3.2 (Fall 1998). 12 Jun. 2002 <>.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Fuller, Media Ecologies

Fuller, Matthew. Media Ecologies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

That the twenty-three quotations listed below are just the tip of the iceberg should serve to remind me to return for a more careful reading of Fuller. Every damn sentence in this book is like a compressed coil; in combination, they make for an exciting if exasperating string of pithy insights into methods and sites/objects of media ecology.

Two themes open the book (which is a "media ecology made of bits of paper"): 1.) media systems interact by interacting and so the method is radically situated; such interactions must be lived out rather than observed in a control sample, and 2) media systems should be understood as materialist in their constitution (which does not lead inevitably to instrumentalism or positivism) (1).

In the introduction, Fuller accounts for three connotations to "media ecology": 1.) concerns the "allocation of informational roles in organizations and in computer-supported collaborative work" (3); 2.) a kind of answer to tech determinism that emphasizes systemic balance--media environment equilibrium (Postman, McLuhan, Mumford, Innis, Ong, and Ellul); and 3.) concerns "discursive storage, calculation, and transmission systems" (4) (Hayles, Kittler, and Tabbi). Chapter summaries appear on pages 5-12.

Fuller's method is best described as the "indexing of multiplicities" (52) among "conjunctive media." Inventories and lists (15, 44) play a significant part in this approach to understanding more fully the situated interrelations of media and standard objects. Fuller makes use of D&G's machinic phylum--"materiality, natural or artificial, and both simultaneously; it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a conveyor of singularities and traits of expression" (17)--to comb through the amalgamation of media involved with pirate radio. In chapter two, he also involves Gibson's theory of affordances (44-47), noting that it is especially adept for the study of media ecology because it hinges on "potential or activated relations" (45). Finally, in studying these live systems, Fuller notes that layerings (up and down scales) are neither visible nor reciprocal (176).

Hylomorphism (18): a model of the genesis of form as external to matter, as imposed from the outside like a command on material which is thought inert or dead
Feedback defined (25): the property of being able to adjust future conduct by past performance

^What would a machinic phylum of composition look like? Rel. p. 23, machinic phylum of radio.
Note of critique for Nardi and O'Day's Information Ecologies because its scope is "insufficient to challenge standardizations of either [technologies or people]" (179).

Key terms: fabrication (2), ecology (2), media ecology (3), information ecology (3), scale and dimensionality (10, 132), reflexive (12), zone of experimental combination (13), lists and "infinite patchwork" (14), hegemonic manyness (15), the aesthetic of multiplicity (15), disequilibrium (16), permutational fields (16), technical standards (16), machinic phylum (17), tacit knowledge (18), hylomorphism (18), hyle (20), Markov chain (29), dub (30), crooning (33), peritextual apparatus (35), hype, redundancy and information (36), earlid (38), translation (42), visible speech (42), affordances (45), conjunctive media (47), clots of association (51), indexing of multiplicities (52), technical ensembles (61), standard object (93), relations of dimensionality (131), fleck of identity (148).

"Parts no longer exist simply as discrete bits that stay separate; they set in play a process of mutual stimulation that exceeds what they are as a set" (1).

"Crucial to such an approach is an understanding that an attention to materiality is most fruitful where it is often deemed irrelevant, in the 'immaterial' domain of electronic media" (2).

"How can words, concepts, quotations, footnotes, the mechanics of a book, and the writings and accounts that evade them themselves be nailed down or glued to a page in a way that makes them reverberate?" (11).

"Children make their way around the world by responding with a ceaseless 'why' to every explanation or grunt offered them. This chapter [4] perhaps betrays the effect of the main methodological influences in my life at the moment, but I hope it benefits from the rather childish insistence on being able to take every path in a labyrinth simultaneously" (11).

"The accretion of minute elements of signification into crowds, arrays, and clusters allows a reverberation of these cultural particles between them and together, the connotations of one into flying off the lick of another" (14).

"Parataxis (a sequence of this and that, 'ands') always involves a virtuality that is hypotactic (concepts and things, nested, meshed, and writhing). It puts into play a virtual syntax" (15). ^Networked image?

"Multiplicity is induced by two processes: the instantiation of particular compositional elements and the establishment of transversal relations between them. The media ecology is synthesized by the broke-up combination of parts" (16).

"Pirates operate without such prescriptive demands, working instead with their inverse: at what level of cheapness will things still run?" (16).

"Phyla are replaced or added to by other systems of reference, such as clades, analytical tools produced by emergent tools and discourses, such as genetic databases, which provide access to dimensions and interpretations of evolution other than those simply available to the interpretive eye" (17).

"Electricity scratches the vitalist itch precisely because it involves the operation of matter on itself" (19).

"The machinic phylum of the radio in this sense is that of the creation of flow among dense population, an expanded form of phyla that at once multiplies the domains in which it is traced by it also produced in the attempted or actualized imposition of hylomorphic patterning--law, the state, or the technologies of capture employed by it" (20).

"Speech and its reception becomes Law, each syntagmatic accretion another node solidifying along the alveoli of power" (26).

"We need now to pay close attention to the particular material qualities of these technologies as a means to accessing such layers. If we are to take the elements of these lists as being at one scale a whole, an object--perceptual effects, which will be discussed throughout the following chapters--we can also begin to take them apart. While such an element might provide, as for Whitman's poet detained in love, a door to a new universe of relationality in which we can lose ourselves, each component provides a chance to get smaller, to get molecular, to get material, while at the same time getting more massive. Details count here" (45).

"The advantage of [Gibson's] work is that it takes up the possibility of detailed exploration of the material qualities of things-in-arrangement, rather than of their essence" (45). ^Strong discussion of Gibson, affordances, and relationality here and on 46.

"Taking up from where he suggests Foucault leaves off--according to Kittler, Foucault's work, being primarily concerned with textual material, largely cuts out at the point where modern electronic media emerge, between 1860 and 1870--his procedure for organizing the recognition of discursive practices makes a substantial and profoundly useful expansion of what is understood to be constitutive of discourse" (61).

"Each of these first lists also provides a route into a specific approach to the combination of media systems: memetics, a set of theories in which cultural elements and processes are proposed as being recognizably 'evolutionary'; seamlessness, the condition of an uncomplicated confluence of media systems; and surveillance, the medial drive to spot, name, and control" (110).

"At this point, it is useful to make clear the conjunction of the two terms meme and fleck of identity. Under the rubric of monitorability demanded by meme theory as an epistemology--that it requires an identifiable isolate, the meme--we can say that the processes of constituting control make a similar demand. They require identifiers, tags. Within the society of control, the meme is transduced as a fleck of identity" (149).

"All standard objects contain with them drives, propensities, and affordances that are 'repressed' by their standard uses, by the grammar of operations within which they are fit. (This 'repression' should not necessarily be construed negatively. It is likely itself to arise as the result of a previous or immanent recombination, disassembly, or adaptation)" (168).

"Discourse and language arise as both tabulatory, isolatable object, the maker of lists, and as visceral reality-forming means of escape from the grid" (170).

"To the side of every line of text is a nonrecorded chaos of life, of deleted words, gibberish, a health improper to record among the thin lines of carefully non-nonsensical findings and leavings" (171).

"The machinic phylum is also produced in the dynamic and nonlinear combination of drives and capacities that, stimulating each other to new realms of potential, produce something that is in virulent excess of the sum of its parts. Indeed such parts can no longer be disassembled; they produce an ecology. Not a whole, but a live torrent in time of variegated and combinatorial energy and matter" (171).

"A media ecology is a cascade of parasites" (174).

"The book has adopted a method that works on the basis of a relatively detailed grounding in specific media elements in order to draw out what is, one hopes, a more accurate and hence useful account" (175).

Johnson-Eilola, "The Database and the Essay"

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. "The Database and the Essay: Understanding Composition as Articulation." Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Wysocki et. al., eds. Logan: Utah State Univ. Press, 2004. 199-226.

Johnson-Eilola both suggests and, to a degree, enacts a fragmentary, contingent sort of postmodern textuality in "The Database and the Essay." He applies articulation theory and symbolic-analytic work, as he does in Datacloud, to make sense of what he calls fragmentary texts--the small pieces joined by links and other connective systems built upon discursive networks. The essay begins with questions about where texts come from. Drawing on Porter's intertextuality, in the first half of the essay Johnson-Eilola explains the implications of intellectual property law (as well as the limits of copyright) (203). Intellectual property law, he says, is catching up with postmodern textuality, leaving us with two contending poles: private, owned, and controlled versus shared, fragmentary, free, and contingent. Related are two trajectories: the decline of the unified subject and texts that circulate free of economic bearing (academic) and the rise of fragmentation with recognition of the value of such texts (private and proprietary) (212).

Ultimately, this adds up to two considerations for writing teachers:

  1. Because we can't detach writing from economic forces, expanded notions of writing outside the classroom justify our work with writing in a "broader sphere...rather than a narrower one" (212).
  2. Collection is social and political; the "new notion of writing" values connection (stringing the contingent and fragmentary together) (212).

Toward examples of the postmodern textuality he sets out to explain with articulation theory and symbolic-analytic work, Johnson-Eilola describes for emerging forms of writing in the second half of the essay: blogs (213), databases and search engines (perhaps two separate forms here) (218), nonlinear media editing (223), and web architectures (225).

Key terms: Robert Reich's symbolic-analytic work (201), Hall's articulation theory (201). originality (206), Hall on contingent meanings (207), deep linking (210), linking policies (211), narrowcasting (211), Web Logs (213), postmodern textuality (215), search engines (220).

"'All texts are interdependent: We understand a text only as far as we understand its ancestors' ("Intertextuality" 34). But this interdependence of texts is not without its own rifts, ruptures, and politics. In a bizarre way, the very interconnected nature of texts holds them apart" (200). ^Work through this "bizarre way" and holding apart in connection. A database paradox?

"Symbolic-analytic work focuses on the manipulation of information and suggests connections to a new form of writing or a new way of conceiving of writing in response to the breakdown of textuality" (201).

"Articulation involves the idea that ideology functions like a language, being constructed contingently across groups of people over time and from context to context" (201).

"Following this brief set of analyses, I'll attempt to play this breakdown in IP through the lenses of articulation theory and symbolic-analytic work to describe some emerging forms of writing. These new forms of writing are interesting because they take the generally debilitating trends of IP law (the fragmentation of content, the commoditization of text, the loss of context) and make something useful. In a recuperative move, the new forms of writing use fragmentation, loss of context, and circulation as methods for creating new structures" (204).

"The bulk of this chapter deals with the separation we--I mean 'we' as rhet/comp academics, but also, in this particular case, 'we' as the general public--have constructed between 'writing' and 'compilation'. In questioning this division, I'm trying to get at an understanding of writing more properly suited to the role writing plays in our culture" (205).

"For better or worse--or, in fact, for better and worse--texts no longer function as discrete objects, but as contingent, fragmented objects in circulation, as elements within constantly configured and shifting networks" (208).

"In an important sense, understanding the search engine as itself a form of writing helps us understand the relationship between composition and programming: a search engine works by automatic, contingent rhetorics" (220). ^Work through "automatic, contingent rhetorics."

"Indeed, search engines make concrete and visible many of the things that hypertext theorists have long argued for: contingent, networked texts, composed with large and shifting social spaces out of literally millions of voices" (221).

"Important to my overall project here are the ways that articulation theory and symbolic-analytic work moves through fragmentation. They don't deny the force of postmodernism or postmodern capitalism. Instead, articulation theory requires a responsible stance toward contingency and fragmentation. From an articulation theory stance, writers--or designers, more accurately--actively map fragments back into contexts recursively" (226).

Wysocki, "Opening New Media to Writing"

Wysocki, Anne. "Opening New Media to Writing: Openings and Justifications." Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Wysocki et. al., eds. Logan: Utah State Univ. Press, 2004. 1-23.

To set up Writing New Media, Wysocki invokes a metaphor of the rug-pulled-out in relation to transformations underway between the purportedly stable forms of texts (i.e., generic books) and new media: "writing is changing" (2). Wysocki organizes the chapter around five openings:

  1. The need, in writing about new media in general, for the material thinking of people who teach writing
  2. A need to focus on the specific materiality of the texts we give each other
  3. A need to define "new media texts" in terms of their materialities
  4. A need for production of new media texts in writing classrooms
  5. A need for strategies of generous reading (3)

More generally, what Wysocki offers is an approach to new media that focuses on writing's materiality and that places production above analysis. Materiality, explained through Horner, comes with two caveats: no list is exhaustive, and "agency and structure are interdependent" (4). Wysocki briefly calls for more critical work like that done by Romano, Takayoshi, and Selfe and Selfe on GUIs. Rather than seeing new media work as the analysis of specific pieces of media or the characterizations of broader macrostructures, however, Wysocki maintains that writing teachers are especially well positioned to "open new media to writing" through the foregrounding of materiality in situated compositional practices. That is, writing teachers can make choices about writing with a wide range of writing technologies, which are relevant to exploring the relationship between objects and identity. Wysocki importantly establishes a definitional framework for new media (19) that includes pointing out that new media "do not have to be digital" (15). In contrast with Kress and van Leeuwen, who argue for a distinction between media and mode so that mode accounts for transparencies that have no bearing on meaning, Wysocki holds contends that "digitality gives us a position for questioning what had earlier seemed like a natural silence of media" (14). All material aspects of texts, in other words, bear on meaning, even when we have little choice among materials.

Key terms: materiality of writing (3, 7, 19), new media (5, 19), writing technologies (11), medium theorist (11), social forms (13), modes (13), interactivity (17), Manovich on new media (18), information communication system (18), system-contingent design (21), expressive design (21), aesthetic investment (21).

Citation: Bolter (1), Kress (1), Horner (3), Selfe (8), Takayoshi (8), Romano (8), Haas (11), Manovich (17), Hayles (7), Hall (20), Feenberg (20-21).

"What we offer are some openings--some ranges of active possibilities--we each see in this particular time of change, openings that allow and encourage us to shift what we do in our thinking and classes so that we do not forget, so that we make actively present in our practices, how writing is continually changing material activity that shapes just who we can be and what we can do" (3).

"Instead, I want to argue that new media needs to be opened to writing. I want to argue that writing about new media needs to be informed by what writing teachers know, precisely because writing teachers focus specifically on texts and how situated people (learn how to) use them to make things happen" (5).

"This, then, is why it matters for writing teachers to be doing more with new media: writing teachers are already practiced with helping others understand how writing--as a print-based practice--is embedded among the relations of agency and extensive material practices and structures that are our lives" (7).

"I want to argue that these results of digitality ought to encourage us to consider not only the potentialities of material choices for digital texts but for any text we make, and that we ought to use the range of choices digital technologies seem to give us to consider the range of choices that printing-press technologies (apparently) haven't" (10).

"I think we should call 'new media texts' those that have been made by composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who then highlight the materiality: such composers design texts that help readers/consumers/viewers stay alert to how any text--like its composers and readers--doesn't function independently of how it is made and in what contexts. Such composers design texts that make as overtly as possible the values they embody" (15).

"My reason for defining new media texts in terms of materiality instead of digitality is to help us hold present what is at stake: to look at texts only through their technological origin is to deflect our attention from what we might achieve mindful that textual practices are always broader than technological" (19).

"And I argue that--because in acknowledging the broad material conditions of writing instruction we then also acknowledge the contingent and necessarily limited structures of writing and writing instruction--people in our classes ought to be producing texts using a wide and alertly chosen range of materials--if they are to see their selves as positioned, as building positions in what they produce" (20).

"And so I write here that, if we do want to understand compositions as allowing us to see our positions, then it would be useful to think about--and teach--composition of page and screen as a material craft under the terms I've just described" (22).

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Sirc, "Box-Logic"

Sirc, Geoffrey. "Box-Logic."Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan: Utah State UP, 2004.

Sirc emphasizes logics of annotation and collection as he develops a new media pedagogy drawing on the variations of the box as it figures into the work of Joseph Cornell, Walter Benjamin, and George Maciunas. Moving away from essayist prose, Sirc deflects the related notions of "articulate coherence, conventional organization, and extensive development" (115) and instead considers the the "formal and material concerns [that] guide a newly-mediated pedagogical practice" (114). The pedagogy involves association, intensities, desire, and lack--"student as passionate designer" (115) and writer as "dissatisfied collector, one impatiently seeking pleasure" (117). Further emphases include open-endedness, "the raw, then, not the cooked" (120), element(s) of play (121), a "loose, unthematized collection; the parts not necessarily inflecting each other as in the traditional essay" (120), and caesura.

"It's the idea of the prose catalogue. Text as a collection of interesting, powerful statements" (112).

"The personally associational becomes key criteria" (116).

"The materially interesting, then, is what should guide acquisition" (116).

"It wasn't a question of cutting edge technology" (119). ^Implication: bricolage and prioritizing composition over newest! technologies.

"Involved here is an aesthetic of the found object, of interesting, quirky, small-t truths one stumbles upon" (118).

"Arrangement of materials and notational jottings is a desperately important compositional skill" (123).

Charles Simic on Cornell's boxes: "Somewhere in the city [...] there are four or five still-unknown objects that belong together" (125).

"The refusal to allow text as open-ended, un-screwed-down box, rushing instead to impose on it the mild boredom of order, is a concern I have with much computers and writing scholarship today" (120).

Terms: wunderkabinette (116), "composition as craving" (117), caesura (123), "blips of unfinished text" (124), textual possibilities (125), curio cabinet (125), survival kit (124), pulsion and evaluation (124).

Related sources
Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. London: Verso, 1997.
Duchamp, Marcel. Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp. Ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson. New York: Oxford UP, 1973.
Simic, Charles. Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1992.