After the Camp

Tech 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

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.

1 Comment

  1. Hey Derek, I think I know where you’re coming from, and I think I appreciate the rhetorical situation. There are academic audiences where I need to paste to my head a page of boilerplate caveats and exceptions to anything that I might say.

    I try to avoid “oughts,” but I figure we ought to develop ways to use new media networks to pursue ethical, political, communal goals, just as we figured out how to use print technologies. Or don’t and stick with your time capsule technologies. Open a monastery and start copying illuminated manuscripts. Sounds like fun (not really).

    You’re right on about composition/production. This is why novelists and poets pay not attention to literary critics. Literary criticism rarely offers anything useful to the writer. So why bother with cultural critiques? It’s not your job to solve their problems.

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