Eloquent Images I

Bolter – "Critical Theory and the Challenge of New Media," 20-36
In this brief article, the first in Hocks and Kendrick’s Eloquent Images,
Jay Bolter begins with a historical overview of the image-word problem. 
He traces a larger outline of new media by propping up a series of artificial
dichotomies: visual-verbal, theory-practice, critique-production,
ideological-formal (34); the project of new media is to collapse these terms. 
Bolter explains that unlike film and television, which few cultural critics
conceived of as full-scale replacements for print, the web and its hyper-blended
forms of discourse introduce a different kind of contest between old and new media
forms. Yet it would be a mistake to view new media forms and print as strict
teleological trajectories, each edging out the other, competing for a mediative
lead.  This matters differently if you’re the CEO of a Weyerhaeuser, I
suppose, and maybe there’s something to the race track metaphor (one car to
each, one driver, one big-dollar sponsor) that admits or allows for the capital
backing of media forms.  That’s not really Bolter’s point here. He
explains, "It is not that there is some inadequacy in printed media forms that
digital forms can remedy: New digital media obviously have no claim to inherent
superiority" (24). 

Early in the essay, Bolter suggests that writing studies scholars are doing
some of the most important work in new media because they merge practical and
theoretical dispositions. In writing studies, scholars can work with a practical
understanding of the increasing presence of digital writing technologies and
also put them to use, activating the new media in compositional practices
and pedagogy.  And, according to Bolter, it’s not necessary to eschew
political orientations, disregard cultural studies or neglect critical theory along the way (25). New
media productively unsettles what writing studies does.  Elsewhere in the
article, Bolter points out the irony of so much new media scholarship reverting
to print forms for circulation; he refers specifically to Postmodern Culture as
an exception among academic journals and notes that many articles on new media
hold to the conventions of print even when they are published online.  He
also highlights some of the exciting work in new media among his colleagues in
Ga. Tech’s School of Literature, Communication and Culture (formerly, the
English Dept.), which houses the new media studies program. 

Quotations: "To approach new media as practice is to appreciate the cultural
significance of images and sounds as well as written words" (27).
"Although publishing a linear essay on the Web is not suspect, creating a
hypermedia artifact may be, precisely because it involves media forms that
cultural theorists have come to associate with corporate software and
entertainment giants" (25).

Terms: distinction between repurposing and remediation (29)

I’ll have a few more entries on articles from EI (2003/2005) later
today and in the days ahead.  I want to note, too, how impressed I am with
Hocks and Kendrick’s introductory frame for the book.  Beyond the brief
overview of each article (a commonplace for introductions of collections), I
found it especially interesting in "From Word/Image Binaries to the Recognition
of Hybrids" (3), which makes use of Latour’s theorization of hybrids to
articulate the fluctuation between word and image, between print culture and
visual culture. How can I fit Latour into my reading this semester?


  1. For starters I could quit clinging to the TV on Sunday afternoons for updates on the Lions. But because that’s not likely to happen, I think I have devised a way to bring in Latour in the 691 project (something concerned with SNA and ethnography).

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