Unitization Reports

On a break from writing end-of-semester papers for CCR651
and GEO781, I thought I’d shock each of them into a list of noun and noun
phrases by applying the same methods we’ve strung together for CCC
Online. Et voila! The lists aren’t meaningful in quite the way a
sentence-long summary would be.  Yet that’s the point.  They’re
differently meaningful, suggestive.  Maybe even generative if I can trace
through some of the terminal knots tomorrow.

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Chairs Enough

Write Room

Strangely enough, I’ve been writing in the Florida room lately.
I’d never heard of a Fla. room until my brother and his family threw down a
mortgage on a place in East Detroit ten years ago. The house had a glass-enclosed
room on the south end of the house. High sun exposure. A soft urban
breeze. They called it a Florida room. And that was that. I
stayed in that room when I visited on the weekends away from Saginaw.

Now, in the place we’ve called home since November, we have a
comparable room. Lately it has been warm enough to set up a makeshift
workspace in t/here, and over the last few days, it’s been
not-too-hard-not-too-soft writing environ of goodly inspiration. I’ve
never before been conscious of an oversensitivity to writing spaces.
Thought I was above it, immune, able to write here, there, anywhere, in other
words, no matter the circumstances. But whereas the official office and
living room (both adequate for working, with decent furniture, lighting, etc.)
have been fine for reading lately, they’re traps for writing. Snares! I don’t
want to overemphasize the consequences of space for what I perceived to be a
brief and now-passing writing rut–a moment of dread at the immanence of
semester’s end. Might’ve been the full moon for all I know. But a
change of scene has done something; I’ve vacated the stifling writing sites,
replacing them with this one: an over-sunshined porch with a card table and
enough folding chairs to host a small party. Headphones leveled up with
entrancing techno loops from
AfterhoursDJs.org
. I hope not to jinx myself by saying it, but I’ve been
pleasantly surprised by the difference brought on by simply changing scenes.

Diversity Writing

Marzluf, Phillip P. "Diversity Writing: Natural Languages, Authentic Voices."
CCC 57.3 (2006): 503-522.

Later today our grad group (CCRGC) is
engaging Marzluf’s
recent
CCC
essay
in conversation for an hour. We developed the grad group at
the beginning of the semester as a supplement to what’s already a solid lineup
of colloquia. Why? Primarily so we could invite faculty for focused
discussions and devise our own brief sessions around common concerns (CV
workshops, conference proposal collaboration, practicing talking about our work,
reading stuff outside of coursework, etc.).

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Adventures in Illegal Art

We caught up with a friend last night for dinner followed by Mark Hosler’s
presentation, "Adventures in Illegal Art: Creative Media Resistance and
Negativeland" in SU’s Shemin Auditorium. Hosler’s been involved with
Negativeland for 25 years. The group
self-identifies with media hoaxes; provocative audio-mixed new media films and
shorts; and radical fair use
politics
(i.e., it’s all public domain). They’re well-known for
lifting material from U2, mixing
it into a two-sided vinyl single including profanity and stolen U2 cuts, then
repackaging the album in a jacket with U2 featured prominently so as to dupe
unsuspecting consumers. Lawsuits followed, as you might expect, and Hosler
alluded to a dicey four years, fraught with legal uncertainty. Here’s that album cover:

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Scent of Maps

Again and again we’ve read articles by D.R. Fraser Taylor this semester on
the coming revolution of cybercartography (even if that rev. arrived a year ago
with Google Maps and its API). Taylor takes credit for coining "cybercartography"
in his 1997 keynote address, "Maps and Mapping in the Information Era" at the
ICC conference in Sweden. Conceptually, cybercartography relaxes
cartography from the constraints of paper; the map-maker and the map-user blend
together; their products–often dynamic and unconventional–play a range from
physical maps to imaginaries and abstraction (idio-data), often at the computer
interface. The "false objectivity" of physical maps is loosened to the
enigmas and wonder. Consequently we have a disturbance of traditional
cartography (i.e. the map-maker, his instruments, and ink).

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Phonographies

But that’s not what I went to the bookstore for. I stopped down there
to purchase a copy of Weheliye’s

Phonographies
(a late arrival, absent from the shelves when the semester
started). It’s assigned for Afrofuturism in two weeks, and as I’ve
been trying to maximize break for getting a jump on the end-o-sem workpile, I
read through the library’s copy of the book, finishing it last night. But
it’s good enough to own. In fact, if the "DJing is writing, writing is
DJing" plug in Miller’s Rhythm Science resonated for you, Weheliye has an
entire chapter on the mix (c. 3). His opening chapters (the Intro and c.
1) also have a few good pieces on the record’s function as an inscribed sonic
medium. There’s much here to elaborate up the uncanny ties between writing
and phonography, to extend them, etc. The second chapter, "I am, I be,"
links sound to identity, working across issues of opacity and "sonic conjuring"
to categories and constellations of the subject (also echoes W.’s article on
black subjectivity, the optic/phonic and posthumanism in Social Text).
The third chapter: DuBois and the mix. c. 4: sound’s construction of space, read
through Ellison’s "Living with Music," and Darnell Martin’s I Like It Like
That
. And c. 5 reads the circulation of the diasporic motif in songs
by The Fugees, Advanced Chemistry, and Tricky and Martina. The "Outro" has
a bit to say about about his methods and also, drawing on Massumi briefly, makes
a case for affirmative methods: "’techniques which embrace their own
inventiveness and are not afraid to own up to the fact that they add (if so
meagerly) to reality’" (208). Chapters 4 and 5 stand out from the others
as places where Weheliye gives readings; his approach in those chapters
is somewhat less theoretical than in the others, aligning with more literary
studies or cultural studies re-presentations of sources. And yet, I expect
to return to c. 4 for his arguments about "sounding space/spacing sound" and the
issues of space remade by music, noise. For a more careful review, read

this
.

The Cuttlefish and Its Ink

From Barthes’ RB:

I am writing this day after day; it takes, it sets: the
cuttlefish produces its ink: I tie up my image-system (in order to protest
myself and at the same time to offer myself).

How will I know that the book is finished? In other words,
as always, it is a matter of elaborating a language. Now, in every
language the signs return, and by dint of returning they end by saturating the
lexicon–the work. Having uttered the substance of these fragments for some
months, what happens to me subsequently is arranged quite spontaneously (without
forcing) under the utterances that have already been made: the structure is
gradually woven, and in creating itself, it increasingly magnetizes: thus it
constructs for itself, without any plan on my part, a repertoire which is both
finite and perpetual, like that of language. At a certain moment, no further
transformation is possible but the one which occurred to the
ship


Argo
: I could keep the book a very long time, by gradually changing each
of its fragments. (163-4)

It didn’t spring to mind while I was resting face-up in the MRI
machine yesterday afternoon (tomorrow’s entry?), but I eventually settled on a
title for WRT302, as I noted
in the
comments
following yesterday’s entry expressing my dilemma, a title brought
about by RB’s bit above. So it’ll be WRT302: The Digital and Its Links.
I thought about The Network and Its Links, but opted for the former.
Plus I had a thousand really good suggestions, all of which I’d have done well
to take up. The course proper is still six months out; I wanted something
splashy enough to attract enrollments and also something that makes theoretical
sense to me–something that would motivate me toward working carefully through
the many decisions between now and then. I really like the way RB gets at
the ratio between stabilization and drift, the inter-portions of anchor and
flotation, between a buried bow in the sand and a three-thousand year voyage.
The "image-system" generalizes to digital composition quite effectively, I’d
argue; arrangement and spontaneity, "structure is gradually woven." Could
be true of…. And so it will do. Not to mention, when I decided,
yes, this is it
, I still had the metallic grind and industrial deep-buzz of
the body-part scanner lasting with me into the evening; all the more appeal for
the idea of composition as the increasing magnetization of ongoing attempts.

A Snappier Title

Help! I need a catchy title for the
digital writing
course I’m teaching next fall.  I’ve been racking my brain for a half hour now,
running through titular possibilities and trying to land a phrase with enough
pizzazz to spark interest and compel enrollments.  Here are a few that I’ve
ruled out (fine…so what if a few of these are still in the running, the
running is thin).

  • WRT302: Status 405 Method Not Allowed
  • WRT302: Effectively Banning Virtual Shenanigans
  • WRT302: Writing Teachnologies: Chalk, Dry Erase Markers and Smartboards
  • WRT302: Two-Button Mice and Macs
  • WRT302: Dude, Where’s My Jump Drive?
  • WRT302: The Pop-up Experience: Digidipity and Exasperation
  • WRT302: Three-hole Punchers as Overlooked Writing Technology
  • WRT302: Minimize, Restore Down, Close: The Abundant Adaptabilities of Windows
  • WRT302: BRB: Dearest Cyber…I’ve Missed You
  • WRT302: Investigating the Rising Cost of Grounded Plug Adapters
  • WRT302: Discordant Coloration: From Painting the Screen to Painting the Walls
  • WRT302: Climbing Beneath the Desk to Untangle Wires: A Gordian Approach
  • WRT302: Wired Panaceas: Now Don’t You Feel Better?
  • WRT302: Wifi, Bird-flu and Other Untreatable Stuff in the Air
  • WRT302: Familiar Voltage: My Uncle’s An Electrician
  • WRT302: ASCII, We Hardly Knew Ye

Maybe it will come to me when I slide into the MRI tube later today for a
good going-over of my knee.

Digital Writing

Four days until I have to turn in a course description for the WRT302 course
I’m teaching in the fall. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, keeping as much
as possible with the official
course description
.

WRT302: Advanced Writing Studio: Digital Writing
With the shift from writing the page to writing the screen we encounter both
expanded possibilities and new responsibilities for assembling images, text, audio and
video.  In WRT302, we will compose new media texts while engaging issues at
the crossroads of writing activity and specific digital technologies.  The
course will balance experimentation and application with conceptual
approaches; in addition to reading about and exploring online tools, students
will propose and develop a series of projects that extend from our
investigations of specific sites and applications, including simple web pages, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, video, and tag-based systems such as Flickr and
del.icio.us.  Opening lines of inquiry involve the following questions:  What
is gained and lost in the transition from the page to the screen? What are the
practices and techniques we might associate with digital writing? How do
digital texts circulate? How are they read and by whom? How are acts of
digital writing implicated with choices about navigation, links, and code?
This course will also foreground invention, design, usability and
accessibility.  All students are encouraged to enroll. No previous
experience with computers is required; however, some familiarity with basic
uses of technology will be helpful. Email dmueller -at- syr.edu for more information.

I welcome all critique and insight. I’m hesitant to include the phrase "new
responsibilities" in the first sentence.  The final point about previous
experience is messy, too.  Is it common to be explicit about experience with
technologies going into a course like this one? I haven’t committed to any readings
yet, but I have a few highly-probables, and I’ve ordered a desk copy of

this techxbook
, fresh off the press.  The projects, too, will have to be only
provisionally defined/outlined because I won’t know the ease-with-tech felt by
the students until I meet them.

In Search Of

We capped our discussions of Smit’s The End of Composition Studies
(2004) and
Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s In Search of Eloquence (2004) in 712 this afternoon.
Smit opens for us with six chapters leading down the skeptic’s
infinite regress into complandia’s hopeless abyss before turning to his
recommendations for reform. His plans for a refurbished curriculum aren’t
as despairing as his account of the impossibility of teaching writing. No
screeching demons, no ravenous hellhounds. In fact, the curriculum pretty well matches with
Writing Across the Curriculum efforts. Smit turns out to be a proponent
of a first-year course called "Introduction to Writing as a Social Practice"
(185). Upper division instructors would share responsibility for teaching the
course; "They must," Smit contends, "be part of a broad university-wide program
that introduces all novice writers ‘slowly but steadily and systematically’ to
new genres and social contexts, a program that encourages students to develop
their ‘structural, rhetorical, stylistic facility’ over time (Rose 112)" (188).
The second tier of Smit’s curriculum involves discipline-specific courses
emphasizing writing, and the third tier involves "writing outside the classroom"
(190). I’m sure I’ll sound glib in characterizing it so flatly, but much
of it sounds, well, familiar enough. A more radical turn, however, comes
in Smit’s proposal for graduate training:

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