Eloquent Images III

Barta-Smith and DiMarco – "Same Difference: Evolving Conclusions about
Textuality and New Media," 159-178
In "Same Difference," Barta-Smith and DiMarco argue for an evolutionary view of
new media (precedent rich) rather than a revolutionary view (precedent creating
or precedent exploding).  Beginning with "what is a visual
revolution?" and concerns about discussions of new media that "suppress
continuity" (161), they apply a sophisticated reading of Maurice Merlau-Ponty as
a way to "celebrate imitation as combination and succession" (163).  An
evolutionary frame tacks new media to certain historical trajectories (there’s
been visuality ever since the first eyeball!).  The article rings solidly
with a developmental view (in fact, it reminded me of Emig’s "The Origins of
Rhetoric: A Developmental View," speaking of evolution) and there are frequent
references to perspectives from cognitive science.  Visual evolution is
distinct from imitation (which emphasizes the causality connecting visual
assimilation to sensorimotor activity) in that it recombines and leads to
"structural integration" (173) and reorganizes existing cognitive patterns. 
Theirs is a nuanced argument, and it’s interesting to me because I haven’t read
much about on new media and cognitive science. 

Continue reading →

On Channel Two

Until I read
Andy Cline’s
at Rhetorica.net, I didn’t even know it was TV Turn-Off week. 
I’ve already soaked up a few minutes of TV today, so I guess I blew that one. 
Next year, next year.  Plus, with the NBA playoffs, forget it. 
Anyway, I’m much less inspired by a week for this and a week for that than I am
by the grad school mantra: "Get yourself right for next week."  Or
something like that.

I read Steve Johnson’s article–"Watching TV Makes You Smarter"–yesterday.  And I’ve read a few of the entries made
by folks (here

) from the blogroll who’ve written on the subject.  Should be clear
from the outset that I’m not sure I’ve got anything much to add.  But I’ll

Johnson’s article suggests to me the importance of more complicated
understandings of cognition–of thought activity.  What happens in the
encounter with a particular interface–paper or screen?  What’s the
mentation?  The mind in action?  And how are mediating tools (Werstch,
Bruner, others) implicated in the complex neural patterns inside one’s head, the
firing of pulse-driven networks, the image vectors figuring some animated
correspondence to word, sound, intelligible object.  Sure, depending on
which examples of television programming we want to invoke as an example, we can
argue that the tube affords us activations more complex than we might’ve known
otherwise.  But loopy, fractured narrative structures?  Not unique to
television nor to any medium.

I agree with Jeff in his contention that
Johnson’s article is a solid articulation of the cultural shift instigated by
new media; a media mind–yup. And yet it’s not just the media part of the
phrase that seems to be misunderstood, obscured in the school-as-institution’s
cling to literacy.  Mind, too, has been shrugged aside either as a
mystical, speculative science or, in no more hopeful terms, as a universalizing
monolith misappropriated to the narrow path of biological determinism (I
oversimplify, but some version close to this one seems familiar).  Three
pounds of generic (c’mon, whose is it?) grey matter and a dissection pan. 
Since I’ve been reading some brain science books this semester, I’ve been
wondering–week in, week out–about how much bearing it has on the work we do in
composition, especially when we hinge pedagogies on new media.  How much do
we assume, for example, about how minds work, about how meaning is differently
apprehended, differently made?  The givens in comprehension? Whether
attendant to the teacher-penned comments at the margin of the page or in the
complexly spun plots of a television program. Recently and specifically, it’s
been Faucconier and Turner on conceptual blends and Antonio Damasio on mind and
affect in The Feeling of What Happens.

I expect this discussion will continue to stir throughout the week–as people
find time to read Johnson’s article at this frenzied moment late in the
semester (two weeks to go at SU).  Its coincidence with
TV Turn-Off
week sets up an interesting counterbalance, no doubt.  As just one last
thought, it also got me thinking about the

episodes ABC has so thoughtfully edited this week (endless efforts
to put H.Dumpty back together again).  Last night they aired a re-cycle of
Desperate Housewives; Wednesday the same thing’s going on with only
must-see show of the season in my world, Lost.  And so even as
Johnson makes the case that television programming potentially stimulates us to
more complex ways of thinking about story sequences and about inferential
dialogue-gaps that require us to fill in through projection and anticipation,
ABC has turned out full, hour-long episodes dedicated entirely to catch-up, as
if everyone wasn’t watching every episode.  Continues the questions, how
will we be conditioned?  What leaks into habits of mind?  And so on.

Added: Dana Stevens of Slate comments on Johnson’s article.