Monday, October 31, 2005

Bolter and Grusin - Remediation (1999) I

The remediation project depends on a double-logic.  Tangled around and around one another, bread-tie like, hypermediacy (opacity) and immediacy (transparency) stand as the two poles between which all remediation oscillates (again, oscillations, as from Lanham).  Hypermediacy is the "frenetic design" that comes with exciting and blending mediaforms into one another.  Immediacy refers to the dreamwish of closing the gap between the real and the mediaform.  Hypermediacy invites others to enjoy the interplay (explicit); immediacy strives for the perfect mimesis, a match with reality so convincing that the real/virtual distinctions wash together, ripple-free (tacit).  Remediation, relative to these poles, synthesizes, collects them together again, keeps order, shepherds inventive deviations and garbled others back in step: web 'pages' inhere newspaper layout, television inheres film, blogs, just like diaries. 

After first describing the project as a genealogy (attr. Foucault, a la TOOT), Bolter and Grusin frame chapters one, two and three as theoretical: c. 1 "Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation," c. 2 "Mediation and Remediation," and c. 3 "Networks of Remediation."  The introduction on double-logic and C. 1 set out definitional parameters, present theoretical bases for the twist of immediacy and hypermediacy into remediation, and lay the groundwork for the running together of media.  There are a couple of interesting hooks here; stuff I'll return to: actual immediacy and the discourse of immediacy (30), windows and scaling (33), and (un)acknowledged repurposing (44-45). In c. 2, B&G write that remediation encompasses mediation and all that's involved, including language (57).  This extends definitions of hypermediacy and immediacy in terms of the mimetic aims and the hybrid qualities (58).  The definitions in this chapter run the risk of totalization--ballooning remediation to a vast scale.  Its end?  Exceptions?  What escapes/exceeds/eludes remediation?  In c. 3, B&G suggest the relationships among media; the theater lobby filled up with movie posters and cardboard cutoutprops remediating the film is exemplary, and the film reciprocates, remediates the lobby in return. 

Also in chapter three, B&G write, "Remediation is not replication or mechanical reproduction" (73).  But I wonder if we could agree that remediation is devoutly historical; it prefers antecedent trajectories to notions of innovation, revolution or break.  In this sense, remediation describes media (all expression?) first as inertial and indebted, rather than as accelerative, disruptive or eccentric.  In this, I think, I can account for one of my apprehensions about remediation: as a descriptive term, it licenses the dismissive turn--the ambivalent shrug-it-off of time owns all.  Paradoxically, perhaps, and widely applicable as it may very well be, it too easily atrophies new media (as in "weblogs are merely...").

I also want to think more about hypermediacy (as well as other prefix-mediacy).  Just how hyper- is it? And is its counterpart, tamediacy, in some way plain or banal or ob(li)vious? As in, aw, nothing; I'm just watching reruns of Friends.  It's barely televisual, but it's not immediate and I can see it as media.  I'm less settled on this point ( can tell?).  Without coming off as smug, I want to ask whether hypermediacy, given its opacity and given its "frenetic style," accounts for all self-conscious mediaforms.  Same question as the earlier one: what evades it, dodges it--or proves the hyper- prefix sedate

I'll try another few notes on the middle and ending chapters in a day or two.

Terms: virtual reality (22), linearity (24), erasure (24), beyond medium (24), automaticity (24), photorealism (28), monocular (28), immediacy (30), windowed style (31), hypermedia (31), phenakistoscope (37), photomontage (39), replacement (44), remediation (45), mediatized (56), hybrids (57), remederi (restore to health) (59), medium (65), abandonment (71), immediacy (epistemological/psychological) (70)

Figures: Latour (24, 57), Foucault (21), Rheinghold (24), Strange Days (24), Jameson (56), Cavell (58), Philip Fisher (58-59), McLuhan and R. Williams (76), Benjamin (73)


"Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally, it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them" (5).

"We will argue that these new media are doing exactly what their predecessors have done: presenting themselves as refashioned and improved versions of other media" (15).

"With photography, the automatic process is mechanical and chemical" (27).

"Again, we call the representation of one medium in another remediation, and we will argue that remediation is a defining characteristic  of the new digital media" (45).

"The rhetoric of remediation favors immediacy and transparency, even though as the medium matures it offers new opportunities for hypermediacy" (60).

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Within the Hour

In the hour of DST slippage (an hour earlier than it was yesterday at this time), we walked to Barry Park, met a neighbor on the sidewalk and chatted about so many smallfriendly things.  Sunny and 60 in Winter'sacomingacuse.  I took five pictures, this one among them.

Garage Door 2.0

In what's left of the day (roughly and with naps):
1. grading 307 projects
2. tuning final 307 project prompt/guide
3. Denny's PBA Tour NFL
4. notes and response to first chunk of Remediation
5. put down a few organizing notions for the 691 project (but this can wait a week or more, too).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Lanham - The Electronic Word (1993)

Technology, democracy (explicit in the subtitle), rhetoric education and curricular reform recur as themes in Lanham's The Electronic Word.  The book sets out with an overarching consideration of the material, instrumental and ideological transitions in the interfacial revolution from book to screen.  The screen has rattled the "reign of textual truth" (x), opened up the meaning of "text," and, consequently, challenged traditional-humanist rationale for moralistic training via literary works (lots on the Great Books debate here) . EW is set up for reading as a continuous book and also as discrete chapters, according to Lanham; the chapters make frequent intratextual reference (i.e., "In chapter 7, I...").  He gives readings of rhetorical/philosophical traditions and more recent -phobe and -phile orientations toward microcomputers and related computing activities--activities he regards as deeply rhetorical and thoroughly transformative for commonplaces about text, decorum, higher ed, and the humanities.  EW is probably one of the earlier takes on a digital rhetorics, even if he frames a compelling range of precursors (xi)--"a new and radical convertibility" of "word image and sound" (xi) staged in Cage's experimental art and music, Duchamp's readymades and even K. Burke's poetry.

Key ideas:

AT/THROUGH (43):  At-through is one of several bi-stable qualities for engagement/encounter (?); it primarily concerns visual experience (correct?), and it suggests a perceptual oscillation:  The at disposition is alerted to surfaces; it is highly self-conscious of play and design; through, on the other hand, is un-self-conscious and unaware of any fashioned aesthetic.  Lanham writes, "Print wants the gaze to remain THROUGH and unselfconscious all the time" (43). 

bi-stable decorum (oscillation) (14):  Lanham introduces this model as a way to complicate what he calls the "classical notion of decorum": Clarity, Brevity and Sincerity (34).  Bi-stability introduces a dynamic quality to otherwise static, absolute orientations.

  Unselfconscious Selfconscious
Object Transparent<--- --->Opaque
Viewer Through<--- --->At
Reality Biogrammar<--- --->Drama
Motive Hierarchy<--- --->Play

scale (41-42): Through much of chapter two, Lanham deals with concepts of scale; he says "scaling change is one of the truly enzymatic powers of electronic text" (41); these powers, he says, line up with distinctive textual aesthetics such as collage.  His discussion in this section put me onto a few questions I need to work through a bit more about the virtual and the limits of scalability.  It makes sense that zooming enables interactivity; it democratizes the epic, according to Lanham, but to what end?  Google Earth? Relative to foreclosed notions of text-as-art, sure, "all of this yields a body of work active not passive, a canon not frozen in perfection but volatile with contending human motive" (51).  Good stuff, but what of limits (in relation, perhaps, to more recent developments)?

the "Q" question (c. 7):  The Quintilian question: is a good orator also a good person?  Lanham broadens the question to the humanities curriculum and a divide between philosophy and rhetoric: how do we justify the humanities?  Do the "humanities humanize" (181)? Starting with Peter Ramus's split of rhetoric into philosophy (invention, argument and arrangement) and true rhetoric (style and delivery).  It's hard to sum up, but it seems to reduce to inertial/accelerative tensions in the curriculum.  Lanham observes protectionist/preservationist stances which cling desperately to canonical traditions but that can no better prove the moral effects of humanities education than those who are more adaptive.  He advocates an integrative/oscillatory stance--a sprezzatura (161)--that is at once forward-looking and dynamic, welcoming movement between the rhetorical and the philosophical.  This is what he calls a "Strong Defense" which accepts that rhetoric is essentially creative (156).  In contrast, a "Weak Defense" of a rhetoric-based humanities curriculum argues the good rhetoric/bad rhetoric split, which, in turn, allows for a moral stance disaffiliated from those unsavory definitions of rhetoric as coercive or merely ornamental.

Keywords: pastists (x), proleptic aesthetic (xi), device of dramaticality (6), chameleon text (7), motival structure (14), ekphrasis (34), chreia (40), calligram (34), architectonic (56), expressive technologies (73), experimental humanism (110), remediation (130), ethnographic map (141), bricolage (144), useful miracles (151), curricular compass (152),  mindless hypertext (218), technophobic jeremiads and political stinkfights (226), noosphere (235), phatic communion (240).

Figures: McLuhan, Marinetti (31), Burke (35), Cristo (48-49), Charles Jencks (62), Robert Venturi (63), Susan Langer (77), Richard McKeon (165), Bolter, Landow, Ulmer (c. 8), Postman (c. 9)

I have quite a few additional notes, but I'll keep the rest scribbled on paper for now.  Lanham's mention of quoting images (what of that?, 46) started me thinking.  As much as anything else, I was also struck by the applicability of the "Q" question to the ongoing (de)merits-of-academic-blogging debate.  Arching over the Tribble column, sharp responses, and concerns about blogging related to scholarly activity and T&P: the "Q" question.  That blogs (potentially...oftentimes?) humanize is, perhaps, what renders them--in light of the "Q" question--so deeply inappropriate for dutiful academics (or so the argument roughly goes).  The "Q" question might also help us sort through the discordant views on Web 2.0, especially the notions of "amorality" suggested by Nicolas Carr (via, via). Although the web doesn't fall strictly in humanities territory, it does force difficult questions on academic definitions of the humanities and related justifications.  I don't want to be too quick to dismiss Carr's total argument (destructive as it is to push in the break and mash the accelerator, unless separated in time), but I am suggesting that it was instructive for me to read Carr's entry with the "Q" question in mind.


"Digitized communication is forcing a radical realignment of the alphabetic and graphic components of ordinary textual communication (3).

"The personal computer has proved already to be a device of intrinsic dramaticality" (6).

"The themes we are discussing--judgments about scale, a new icon/alphabet ration in textual communication, nonlinear collage and juxtapositional reasoning, that is to say bottom-up rather than top-down planning, coaxing change so as to favor the prepared mind--all these constitute a new theory of management" (47).

"Does the center of liberal education lie in methods or texts? If methods, intuitive or empirical? If texts, ancient or modern?" (101).

"If you separate the discipline of discourse into essence and ornament, into philosophy and rhetoric, and make each a separate discipline, it makes them easier to think about" (159).

"If you are trying to revolutionize a bureaucracy, even an educational one, you cannot afford to write like a bureaucrat" (217).

"Intelligenda longa, vita brevis should be the motto of the information age--life is short, but long indeed the list of things to be known in it" (227).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Narrow v. Broad

I could have missed Paul Ford's guest entry at 43 Folders, long as it is, because, well, I'm hard pressed to engage very closely with long-ish entries that aggregate into my Bloglines account these days, no matter how brilliant and insightful those long-ish entries might be.  I've been finding myself broad-distracted lately, but just this once, I cast caution to the wind and, instead of picking up Lanham for chapter seven, I returned to Ford's guest entry, wondering why did I flag it the other day--kept as new?

For one thing, it's smart. Ford, a technophile and writer, builds two models for distraction: narrow and broad.  Broad distractions commandeer attention structures, overwhelming them. Narrow distractions, on the other hand, afford wide sampling and imagination.  They excite, spark, energize.  For Ford, who defines his ambitions simply as "I want to be a good writer, and I want to have a full command of web technologies," narrow distraction helps him mind-skip at a relatively general level.  He can bounce from one thing to another to another, and this method is crucial to his weekly review for Haper's Magazine.  But it's not always so easy to keep the distraction models from blurring. The struggle he writes about is familiar enough, comparable, perhaps, to quandaries of specializing and generalizing in an academic program:

I struggle, though, because my PC can play a DVD of Red Dawn while I check my email and work on an essay. This sort of computing power is fine for strong-willed people, but for the weak-willed like myself it's a hopeless situation. My work requires me to patiently work through things and come up with fresh ideas. And I can honestly say that since broadband Internet came to my home a year and a half ago my stock of new, fresh, fun ideas has grown very thin. It's just too much. My mind can't wander, because, with anything that interests me, I can look it up on Wikipedia to gain some context. Before I know it I've got thirty tabs open at once in Firefox.

I have just ten tabs open in Firefox at this very moment, but I'm sure I went as high as fifteen earlier today.  Maybe twenty.  I'm not interested in turning this entry into an entry about the demands of grad school (I'll's hard). But what's hard about it, at least through the coursework phase, is keeping the narrow from ballooning into the broad.  How can I sustain just enough narrow distraction--a stream of percolating ideas and possibilities--without those habits and practices broadening, jamming up, freezing?  Fortunately the program I'm in makes room for figuring such things out.  I'd say that a big part of coursework is learning to differentiate narrow from broad distraction and then channeling the narrow into productive, inventive thinking and work habits. 

And because two of the tabs I have open in Firefox show descriptions for the courses I'm taking in the spring (my last semester of coursework), I should just share the links here and eliminate two tabs.  One class is called Afrofuturism, and the other is Mapping the Future: Theory and Practice of "Writing" the Discipline.  Both will be good classes; I'm looking forward to them.  The third and final course of my program of study will be an elective.  Exactly what that course will be remains unresolved, but I have a few encouraging prospects. I'll tell it here once it's decided.

Monday, October 24, 2005


I went ahead and lifted the Brain Map idea from here and created one of my own.  I'm not sure how much brain-mapping diffusion proves it as a full-fledged meme, but I do recommend it. 


Saturday, October 22, 2005

For Kicks

Thursday Ph. finished his freshman soccer season without a single loss.  Well yeah, he had a coach and teammates who were pretty good, too.

At alma mater, E. & Co. are ranked 7th nationally with one regular season contest remaining--today against the fourth-ranked team.  The national tournament this year is at Daytona Beach in late November.  How far is DB from Syracuse?  Too far, I'm afraid.

Friday, October 21, 2005

GREater Than

Next October ETS is rolling out a new and improved GRE (via).  Allow me to break it down for you.

The press release tells us this: Old GRE < New GRE

The soon-to-be-former GRE ran 2.5 hours split out like so:
Verbal 30 minutes
Quantitative 45 minutes
Writing 75 minutes
(These are approximations pieced together from what few clues I could gather.)

The new and improved GRE will run just about 4 hours split out this way:
Verbal 80 minutes (2x40)
Quantitative 80 minutes (2x40)
Writing 60 minutes (2x30)

The new test will move completely online; it will be offered just 29 times per year with fresh content, nothing duplicated from previous tests, and so on.  Thursday's press release credits David Payne, ETS's Director of the GRE Program, with this: "The new test will emphasize complex reasoning skills that are closely aligned to graduate work."  How should we read the justificatory filling of the release against the redistributed minutes-on-task?  And how will the 70+ doctorate-granting programs in rhetoric and composition respond?  Will the GRE continue to play its time-honored role in admission to any of these programs?  What other questions?

Notably, the 30-minute analytical "essays" will now be visible to the graduate admissions side.  How will these writing samples be understood/interpreted/used by various programs?  And when will the writing opportunity come up in the 4 hour examination? 

I'm not trying to begrudge the GRE its overhaul, but I am interested in the way these changes--changes explained as "a more accurate gauge"--imply unaddressed shifts in what is being assessed.  The first time I took the GRE in 1996, writing wasn't a part of the test.  Instead there was a logic and analytical reasoning section and I fared pretty well on that section--better, in fact, than on any other section of the exam.  When I took the GRE again in 2004, ETS was using the analytical writing section, but the scores were irregular, according to the results, because the sample of test-takers was yet too insignificant to normalize the scale.  Whether my score was relatively normal or not, the writing section was memorably challenging.  It capped the exam; after more than an hour of verbal and quantitative items: fizzle.  And now, to think of writing a pair of 30-minute analytical mini-essays after nearly three hours of verbal and quantitative problems.  Is this the part most "closely aligned to graduate work"?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why blog?

Earlier this afternoon, I stepped up front for a brief talk about why I blog (framed as "Blogging as a Graduate Student").  The session was part of SU's featured Gateway Focus on Teaching Luncheon Series; the broader theme for the event: "Technology to Support Student Motivation." I decided that it makes sense to share a few small details about the talk, including my list of five motives/motifs on grad student blogging.  It's testimonial for the most part, and perhaps it's well-worn terrain for you who have been keeping a weblog, but it's also useful for me to flesh out my talking notes and to write through some of the fuzz, the un- or under-answered questions, and the relative merits--from my perspective--of keeping a weblog throughout a graduate program of study.  I should also be clear that these are conversation starters and supple categories for organizing such conversations rather than some rigid and deterministic boxes.

Here are the five motives/motifs I used to ground the talk:

1.  Personal knowledge management: I need a customized information ecology.  The weblog is but one piece among a coordinated effort to take command of infoglut.
2.  Network immersion/emersion:  Blogging enables surprising social connections--collegial and familial, differently distributed in space and time.  Worldview: connectivism.
3.  Writing habit: Whatever else blogging is, it's writing.  And it involves a particular rhythm/cadence and a small pieces way of writing, rough-edged as such pieces may be.
4.  Research opportunitiesTechnorati's latest State of the Blogosphere report (10/17) tells us that between 700,000 and 1.3 million entries are posted each day.  There are 70,000 new weblogs each day, and many of them are self-regulating (with a few assigned, a few sp&mblogs, etc.).  Research possibilities? Mm, a couple.
5.  Technology learning:  I knew a little bit of HTML before I started a blog, and I could size images, but my own aptitude for technology has sprung up from a willingness to experiment with this weblog.  Among the things I've learned or looked into because of blogging: CSS, aggregation, XML, template futzing and alternative uses for blogware (this list could go longer, of course).  Much of what I understand about technology is due to blogging (well, yes, and the intro to computers course I took as an undergraduate).

There's a lot more to each of these points, and I want to come back to elaborate and explain (another day, perhaps an entry to each).  What else can we do with a list like this?  What good is it?  Well, plenty of people are hearing about blogging for the first time.  I wouldn't define myself as an early adopter, but I think it's easy for early adopters to continue to cycle new technologies into practice without periodically relaying recent digital happenings. This is potentially complicated (whether technophiles ought to repeat themselves once in a while, retrace trails of activation for the benefit of others), but I'm keeping it simple by saying almost-confidently that yes, it's important to revisit, repeat, and echo such things.  The counter-stance makes some sense too: a milder axiom that those who say they want on board with technologies must not dally.

Finally, back to my other question, what else can we do with a list like this one?  We could flip it around to see what happens.  Play it backwards. Ooh...looks like I forgot to mention that a sixth motive/motif is pleasure, enjoyment and fun. Blaspheme and outlandishness, I know (and damned if I shouldn't be doing something more serious right now), but let's see how it looks:

5. gninrael ygolonhceT: Forget technology. Luddites not ludics. It's all just too exasperating. Plus, who cares?  Isn't Dr. Phil on?
4. seitinutroppo hcraeseR: Museumification, paper-based research authorized only.  Blogs are trivial time-wasters.
3. tibah gnitirW: Event-modeled, constrained comp.  Caffeine-assisted activity spikes, panic, deadline anxiety.
2. noisreme\noisremmi krowteN: Isolation and insularity.  Hermitage.  Disconnectionism.  Strict individuality and closedness.
1. tnemeganam egdelwonk lanosreP:  Knowledge mayhem, chaoforgetfulness and debilitating noetic loss.  Where are my notes?   

No, this isn't the only thing we can do with such a list. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Have I got a problem from you.

A father is now 24 years older than his son.  In 8 years, the father will be twice as old as his son will be then.  Find their present ages.

We could just ask them, but they're made up.  No trouble finding the answers, however:  the fictive kid is 16 and the fictive father is 40.  So what's the problem?  Showing work.  We have to lay down the operations every step of the way.  Ph. and I have tried it a couple of ways, but the equations both wind up coming out to 40.  And it's about process, not outcome, you see. 

Whatever comes of it, I will take algebra over the -ar verb conjugations in odd contexts from last night's Spanish homework and the chemistry of life test prep from Monday night (heavy on vocab...ionic and covalent bonds, solute, solvent, suspension, adhesion, cohesion, polar molecules). 

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

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. 

Briefly, there is one small thing about this article that didn't work for me.  Merlau-Ponty's critique of Piaget is accepted but never really opened up.  Where does Piaget get it wrong exactly (tertiary circular reactions?)?  It's difficult to say, and the article doesn't refer directly to Piaget, only to MP.  I don't know whether the standard applies, but I was surprised to find Piaget invoked without really being explored first-hand in the imitation and perception discussion.  Oh...I should go read Merlau-Ponty?  Right. That would only be fair.

So if we accept visual evolution over visual revolution, what does it mean?  Barta-Smith and DiMarco write that we need to: "Accept the continuity among oral, print and visual media and search for it," and "Create and user-test new forms of writing in real contexts" (175).  I wonder, though, if the contested frame (evolution v. revolution) substantively impacts how we practice new media. 

"Meaning presents itself even without words.  To this way of thinking, the best innovations in writing and new media will value existing forms, coordinating them into new arrangements rather than celebrating their demise" (176).
"Likewise, we may find that the most revolutionary ideas about writing and new media emerge as mixtures of existing text, voice, and image, that is, as evolving combinations rather than definitive conclusions about textuality and new media" (175).   

Keywords: imitation (167), visual, new media, evolution, revolution
Figures: Ong, Piaget, Merlau-Ponty, Tebeaux, Ann Russon

Wiley - "Cognitive and Educational Implications of Visually Rich Media: Images and Imagination," 201-215
Coming from an educational psychology perspective, Wiley undertakes what we might call a cost and benefit analysis of images in text.  Do images help or hinder learning?  According to Wiley, cognitive science research on this issue is conflicted, demonstrating that images may either help understanding in some instances and hinder it in other situations. The chapter's purpose: "examine the educational implications of visual adjuncts and how they may affect the processing of conceptual information and therefore, the transmittal of knowledge within particular subject matter areas" (201-202).  On the upside, images may be more efficient (quicker to scan for meaning) and memorable (visualizations as mnemonic devices), and they can serve conceptual modeling (204).  On the downside, they can minimize reading engagement, substituting "intimacy and intensity" with superficiality (207), and they can act as "seductive details" (206) that recruit attention away from substantive meaning and "actually prevent readers from developing understanding" (208).   Notably, one of the anti-images sources is S. Jay Samuels, dated 1970. 

"Hence, figures, graphs, or flowcharts that may enable the reader to think about abstract concepts through images may allow for the creation of more complete situation models and as a consequence may in fact improve comprehension of text, as the studies of Darrell Butler (1993) and William Winn (1988) have demonstrated" (205).
"Visual adjuncts can serve an important role in clarifying and providing vivid examples of evidence and in exciting the reader about a topic, perhaps even in providing an aesthetic or persuasive experience, but the images and animations themselves can hardly stand along in terms of subject matter learning" (212). 

Keywords: seductive details (206), emotionally interesting adjuncts (210), joy of discovery (212)

This is my last entry on Eloquent Images for a while (sorry...I know you wanted me to take the series even higher, but the trifecta has got to be good enough for now).  For the independent study, I'm moving on to Lanham followed by Bolter and Grusin.  In method~ologies, Durst's Collision Course tomorrow (students as reflective pragmatists, give 'em what they want) 307, c. 5 in The Cluetrain Manifesto, and Thursday, I'm stepping to the mic for a lunchtime talk about Why Blog.  It starts, "Blog because...."  Gonna be great. 

Monday, October 17, 2005

Eloquent Images II

Wysocki - "Seriously Visible," 37-59
First, hypertexts, in their affordances of choice, are inherently engaging, and these engaging properties (engagementalities?) extend to civic and democratic practices (freedom, liberty, etc.).  Second, predominantly visual documents are unserious; they are the stuff of children's books--lite, silly and non-rigorous. Wysocki opens with these old feints, and offers "responsive counterexamples" elaborated through analyses of Scrutiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at the Sun, two visualmedia pieces.  Before introducing the counterexamples, Wysocki thickens the air with surveys of the critical tensions invested in the opening positions.  To set up the idea of hypertext reader as civic agent, she cites Lanham, Bolter, Edward Barrett (cognitive science), Woodland, Nielsen, then extends to Mill, Habermas and Virilio to explain the correlation between hypertext as choice and the dependence of public sphere on divergent opinions.  Importantly, Wysocki includes a section in the essay (40-41) to acknowledge the "quickness of [her] preceding arguments" before imparting a second survey of positions suggesting that the visual is elementary, again from Habermas and Virilio.  Included here are a series of scholars who have called for renewed attention to the complexity and dimension of images (42-43).  Before shifting into the analysis of the visualmedia pieces, Wysocki explains,

The assumption behind the critique of the visual is that we take in what we see, automatically and immediately, in the exact same way as everyone else, so that the visual requires no interpretation and in fact functions as though we have no power before it[...]; the assumption behind the celebrations of hypertext is that any text that presents us with choice of movement through it necessarily requires interpretation (43).

The analyses of Scrutiny in the Great Round and Throwing Apples at the Sun are nuanced and insightful; this got me thinking that I probably ought to spend some time interacting with one of the pieces first-hand.  The analyses are also successful in that the attention to detail and difference effectively demonstrates Wysocki's response to the opening bits, arguing, in effect, that "visual texts can be as pleasurably challenging as some word-full texts" (56).  A few other brief quotations--copied here--round out the essay, which closes with pedagogical assertions:

"But we can compose in new ways only if we acknowledge that the visual and hypertextual aspects of our texts are not monolithic.  Even to say 'the visual' or 'the hypertextual' is to imply that anything that fits under one of those signifiers points to the same signified; the pieces of multimedia I have analyzed show this not to be the case" (57).

"If we want there to be more complex texts in the world and more complex and active readers and citizens, then let's work with people in our classes to make such texts and to develop together the abilities and concerns to help us be the latter" (57).

Kirschenbaum - "The Word as Image in an Age of Digital Reproduction," 137-156
Many people presume that "the boundaries between word and image have never been more permeable than they are now" (136), but images and text are very different data-structures and those differences figure significantly in projects designed to digitize illuminated texts such as William Blake's poetry (141).  Furthermore, image and word are defined by their technical structures; anyone with a dial-up modem understands that image files are larger and slower to load, Kirschenbaum explains.  These distinctive constitutions limit the kinds of "electronic moves" (142)  we can make with words and images.  For tagging and retrieval, this means that images must, in effect, be partnered with a descriptive lexicon; Kirschenbaum shares an example of the "characteristic components" used to identify Blake's "The Shepherd": shepherd, male, young, short, crook, tights, standing, contrapposto, and looking (146).

There are two other examples of text and image complicated by visualization (as in, is it image or is it word?): the Language Visualization and Research group at Cornell (148) and Kirshenbaum's own project using VRML in Lucid Mapping and Codex Transformation in the Z-Buffer (150).  Once the text surrenders into image--as is the case with the 3D narrative project--writing activity slides to second chair, outdone by "the kaleidoscopic visual effects" (153).  With this description of his project, Kischenbaum includes the question, "Can one speak of 'links' in a 3-D writing space, or does the addition of a third dimension foreground the extent to which linking is a 'flatland technology'?" (150).  Hmm.  Flatland technology. About the Lucid Mapping project, Kirshenbaum writes, "I meant to suggest a sentient and directed narrative experience, assembled 'on the fly' in response to changing visual and spatial conditions within a graphical environment: a mapping that then in turn alters the topography of the environment itself, and so on, thus sustaining the classic cybernetic feedback loop" (152).  There is a whole lot more to say about the split between image-text as conceptual blend (or even "aesthetic conceit") and image-text as technically constituted, and I want to look again at this article with more thought about the archival material (how different are the humanities computing initiatives from our own efforts to remake the image-bound archives of CCC Online?).  In as summative of a statement as I could locate, Kirschenbaum ends the article with, "My point is that there are significant ontological continuities with analog media that are not adequately accounted for by casual assertions about the blurred boundaries between word and image" (153).

"The point I want to illustrate through the above discussion is that one cannot talk about words as images and images as words without taking into account the technologies of representation upon which both forms depend" (141).
The notion that digital texts and images are infinitely fluid and malleable is an aesthetic conceit divorced from technical practice, a consensual hallucination in the same way that William Gibson's neuromantic 'lines of light' delineate an imaginative ideal rather than any actual cyberspaces" (154).

Terms: jaggies (142), imageforms (145), image-vector-text and scalability (152), lucid mapping (152)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

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?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Those Who Anyone Who

Last April I captured and posted a conference talk, but I think of this entry today as the first podcast at EWM--the first of a more general kind of jabbering that I might like to attempt once in a while. Of course, I can't make any promises about the mp3 file. I've listened to a few podcasts in recent months, and my reviews are very mixed. Still, I've been wanting to experiment with podcasting so that I can think more about how something like this might be used. Along with this entry, I'm at a messy stage of tinkering with an enclosure tag in the RSS template because I want to see if I can make the podcast available for subscription with iTunes.  This just means that if anything seems haywire it probably is. And it's probably my fault. And I can't guarantee when I'll restore order.

Added: I've found small success in that iTunes was able to use my general RSS2.0 feed to find the mp3 file and automatically download it (this is double cool because I can listen to myself over and over again in the headphones). So the MT-enclosure plugin works. But here's what I still don't know: should I make a second XML file exclusively for audio content? I'm not sure about this, but I don't want the audio content to muck up non-audio aggregation nor non-audio content to muck up audio aggregation. I also have to watch what this does to my server account's transfer limits. I mean, if hundreds of eager listeners download this podcast to their iPods...deep trouble for you know who.

Another thing: My commentary on the CTRL-Z problem reflects that I tend to use a PC. If you're on a Mac, the one to watch is AppleKey-Z--the equivalent high-risk combination.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tufte - Visual Display/Quantitative Information (1983)

Excellent graphics are simple, clear pictures of numbers, Tufte argues in this "landmark" book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.  Basic graphical designs--"box plots, bar charts, historograms, and scatterplots" (124)--have in common principles of functional simplicity and clarity. Note the review comment attributed to the Boston Globe: "A visual Strunk and White." I read the first edition, and it's currently out in a second edition, so these notes should be so-understood.  They reflect the 1983 edition--the version that later needed an update for one reason or other. 

Tufte's book is filled with examples, and because the examples are illustrative--literally graphical--TVDOQI is good for browsing and for casual returns or future reference.  The principles guiding Tufte's project are fairly straightforward: "Graphics reveal data" (13).  Just how they reveal data best along with anti-examples or failures of statistical graphics to reveal data simply and clearly--these are the concerns guiding the book.  The pages are filled with successes and failures rel. to lie factors (57) and chart junk (107).  Tufte also looks at data-ink ratios; he argues that effective statistical graphics should make comparison easy to see.  They should tell the story of the data with design variables matching exactly to data variables and with minimal interference from decorative schemes and editorializing (59).  TVDOQI advocates tailoring tidy relationships between data and graphical representations of data.  Representation and reading, however, are not depicted as complicated, flexible or interpretive; they're strict activities understood as rigid (timeless, acontextual) universals and rigid psychological models of comprehension and visual experience.

Tufte's project is explicitly focused on quantitative data; he is quite direct about the primacy of clarity as the ultimate aim of the statistical graphics he's concerned with.  Because his project is bracketed in this way, it raises, for me, questions about a broader representative arena.  Why not The Visual Display of Qualitative Information(like city blocks with photographs at the beginning of  Sidewalk) or The Visual Display of Imaginative Information (mind-mapping and conceptual graphing)?  They're not quite the same type of scientistic data-sets Tufte looks at in TVDOQI, but his project is still useful for thinking about these other areas.

Tufte rationalizes several claims on a scarcity model of (re)presentational space (i.e. front pages of news papers or the confines of scientific journals); one of his formulas--the data-ink ratio (93)--falls right in line with a related theme: design efficiencies that presume normal, undifferentiated reading of statistical graphs.  Lasting and insightful as some of these codes might be, the critiques of moire effects (patterned shading) and pencil strokes for the drafting artist apply more roundly to the historical moment--how many turns of the straight-edge should a rug plot (135) require...and so on.

I had a few thoughts about small multiples (170)--one of the varieties of statistical graphics I hadn't thought much about before.  And I should return to the few pages near the end where Tufte articulates an integrative view of words, numbers and pictures (181).  Bits from the brief section on the integrative view seem to conflict with the consistent lines of data-as-truth and graphs-as-clear.  The example of a page from Leonardo's notebook is interesting, too. But all in all, Tufte, widely associated as he is with data visualization, tips heavily into constraint and reduction with TVDOQI

"The design of statistical graphics is a universal matter--like mathematics--and is not tied to the unique features of a particular language." (2)
"Graphics reveal data" (13).
"The distinguished graphic successfully organizes a large collection of numbers, makes comparisons between different parts of the data, and tells a story" (30).
"But no information, no sense of discovery, no wonder, no substance is generated by chartjunk" (121).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

CFP: VR@RL '06

A few minutes ago I circulated this call to the short set of listservs where I lurk, but it makes sense to officialize it here, too, since I'm helping Alex Reid organize the event. Early indications suggest to me that it's going to be an outstanding event all around.

Below's a teaser; visit the conference site at to read the full call and description.

VR@RL (Virtual Reality in Real Life)
February 24-26, 2006
State University of New York, College at Cortland

Call for participation
200 word proposals
Deadline: November 15, 2005

VR@RL seeks participants interested in investigating the intersection of rhetoric and new media. The conference seeks to provide a forum for scholars working in this emerging area of inquiry, to address common problems in research and teaching, and to uncover fruitful points of connection. Fundamentally, the conference will address new media as it exists now and as it is emerging as an embodied, material concern.

CCC Online as Teleidoscope

Inside Higher Ed is running Collin's piece today about CCC Online called "Mirror, Mirror on the Web."  The column puts a beam on CCC Online and introduces a few of the features of the site, but beyond that--and more importantly, I'd say--it makes explicit some of the ways blog-based thinking influenced the creation of the site.  As the article makes plain, the three of us working on the project are active bloggers;  I think it's safe to say that the practice of blogging made the current iteration of CCC Online conceivable. 

Clearly, CCC Online is not merely your paper copy of the journal.

CCC Online is in many ways still a mirror site, but it's a mirror that can be manipulated in a variety of ways, offering our colleagues different perspectives on the journal's content, perspectives that are impossible to duplicate in print. We've worked to make the site as productive as possible, integrating more efficient management of the journal's content with opportunities for exploration and invention.

Our aim since the earliest conversations about the site was to imagine CCC Online as more than a mirror or, at the very least, as a system of variable mirrorings: What can the online version of the journal do that the print variety cannot?

I don't have much more to say about it right now.  Read Collin's article.  Click around CCC Online and continue to let us know what you think, what you'd like to see. Link to it. Volunteer for writing abstracts (we're approaching 51.1...the end of abstracts and the start of abstract-writing). 

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sidewalk (1999) and Method

Mitchell Duneier's Sidewalk is a multi-year ethnographic study of the informal mercantile and social activity covering a three-block zone in Greenwich Village.  Duneier, now a professor of sociology at Princeton, overhauled his study after his initial project focused too heavily on a singular "public character"--Hakim, a respected book vendor who often acted as a leader, an "old head" who mentored others, who advocated for GED completion, and who eventually co-taught a course at UCSB with Duneier.  Although Sidewalk reads easily as a sociological research project unto itself, we could view it as an update to Jane Jacobs's 1961 project on the complex social, spatial, economic and architectural dynamics of the street in New York City, The Death and the Life of Great American Cities.

Methodologically, Sidewalk is ethnographic; a participant-observer, Duneier spends countless hours on-site, taking notes and recording conversations.  Shots by photographer Ovie Carter are interspersed with Duneier's research account and narratives.  The photos are subtle and quiet; without captions, they comply with Duneier's telling, more often as visual complements than visual disruptions.  In other words, there's little discord between Duneier's writing and the photographs selected for use in the book, and Duneier's prose rarely refers directly to the photos.

Does Duneier enact imitable methods? His practical activities--taking notes, writing, deciding among figures and arrangements--are obscured, and instead, Duneier reflects on the ethics of naming and anonymity in human-subjects research, complications involving trust and racial and economic difference, and the camera and tape recorder as an intrusive technologies.  Most useful to me among Duneier's strategies in presenting the research (the writing that's not method?) are his honesty about difficulties (his humility and candor fill Sidewalk with an appealing manner; nice to see thread of modesty throughout), the resemblance of this ethnography to networks and systems (I'd call this a systems view of the sidewalk), and the sleight of reference grounding each of the chapters to persistent themes and scholarship.

Terms, topics: public characters (6), Rolodex (21, 320), informal social controls, strategic tensions, differential association (143), Broken Windows (157, 288, 315-16), holding money (160), test informal controls (171), gotta go (175), normalization of deviance (221), Streetwatch (128), business improvement districts, "scholar knows best" (327), Conversation Analysis (196).

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Hyperbolic, Paraboloid, Transitional Floater Zone

Seems Pistons head coach Flip Saunders is gazing at Detroit's upcoming season through Darko-colored glasses (via, via).  One can only hope Milicic begins to assert some kind of court presence this year. 

Those who watched his struggles the last two seasons can say he looks like a different player, much more self-assured and assertive.
"I can only judge what I have seen," Saunders said, "and based on that, I wouldn't say he lacks any confidence.
"He's got guys banging him and he's calling for the ball and making some moves in there. He had a couple of great moves today.
"The thing he's done really well is defensive-rebound. He's a big-bodied guy, a real quick jumper and he's long."

I have mixed feelings about the NBA in general, and it's much too soon to tell how Detroit's frontline will shape up. Nonetheless, like Henry Abbot says in his title, this is a rare piece of praise for Milicic, perhaps even a first.  Interesting for that alone.  The notes from the Detroit News also give the name of Saunders's defensive scheme: hyperbolic, paraboloid, transitional floater zone.  That's got to be a better name than the defensive system used by Miami or Indiana or San Antonio. I'm sure it's more intricate than anything I ever tried, but the name reminds me of some our scramble/chaos schemes in college--those keep it wild and unpredictable models of three-quarters-court defense.  Or attitude.  Or research methodology. 

Just for kicks and because I don't really have anything to say about these finds beyond "cool," here are a couple of links: Google Maps Transparency and Memry, the classic memory game now involving Flickr.  Go deserve a ten-minute break from whatever you're doing.

Acknowledged: The Sport categoricon is seasonal.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Into the Long Tail

Considering that this entry ends my longest blogging drought since early July, you might have wondered what's been happening lately.  I've gone and followed up a personal-best thirty-one entries in the month of September with a three-day lull in blogging.  To be completely honest, I devoted a lot of time and energy this week to developing and fine-tuning a paper I shared late this morning at the Contesting Public Memories Conference here in Syracuse.  The cross-disciplinary conference continues tomorrow, bringing together folks from a variety of specializations, a variety of places.  In the paper, "Networked Writing as Micro-Monument: The Long Tail's Nested Memoria," I was going for a three-part argument about the persistence of social/shared memories in the niches of blogspace.  To attempt the triple leap, I discussed John Lovas's weblog, micro-monument in relation to Chris Anderson's articulation of the long tail, and ways in which memorable personal intensities punctuate the long tail by applying Barthes's studium/punctum.  That's where my mind has been--stuck in the long tail for three days or so.

On a related note, I'm thinking through a few of the lessons I've learned related to this project and this week:

  • Mid-semester conferences are difficult when they include writing significant pieces of the paper and the paper doesn't match with other coursework and teaching demands.
  • The power law and long tail are immensely useful concepts for network studies, but they're difficult to introduce with any crispness to people who haven't heard of Anderson's project.  I suspect that this problem isn't unique to the long tail.  A similar bind comes up when we try to generalize a complex idea in application to a subject people are hearing about or thinking about for the first time.  I should be clear that this isn't a direct response to anything that came up today.  It's more like a sense I have that I didn't do enough to develop the long tail's relevance as a model for social memory.
  • I have a new self-improvement project: write more small pieces that, with some revision and tuning, can gel into usable material for future conferences.  I haven't decided that everything should be published to the weblog, but it's clear enough that I need to work on two things:  (-1-) periodically aerate the ultra-condensed grad-student style and (-2-) start thinking about blog entries as mini-series or concatenations of developable projects.

That's probably enough for now, although it doesn't exhaust the dim sense of ought-to's.  For the remainder of the weekend, I'm on with reading I've neglected--the rest of Tufte on data visualizations and Dunnier's Sidewalk.  Also, in 307 on Monday we're starting The ClueTrain Manifesto and attempting our own collaborative Writer's Cluetrain. Going to shine some attention on that as well.

Monday, October 3, 2005



Saturday, October 1, 2005

Banal Features Analysis

Alt. title: "Dull Feature Analysis."  Today I'm working on a small-time application of discourse analysis for Method~ologies.  We're looking at a corpus of eight student essays.  Initially, I considered how I would graph Bazerman's concept of "intertextual reach," which he defines as "how far a text travels for its intertextual relations" (89).  How far is that?  How do we account for the span of these traces--meters, leagues, years, decibels, lumens?  Maybe referential density could draw on network studies.  How?  We could establish a near intertextual reach as reference-gestures that share another source.  This would involve a triangulation of citations: Bazerman--let's say--cites Porter and Prior.  But Porter also cites Prior.  Porter is intertextually nearer than Prior (who does not cite any other source in common with Bazerman).  I'm making this up.  The far reach would describe the solitary reference--the singular text-trace that is not shared by any other source cited in the primary text (the text whose traces and reaches we are surveying).  But I wanted to think about intertextual reach as a quality that could be determined by triangulating citations.  Applied to a batch of student essays where works-to-cite are predefined, intertextual reach seems wobbly--a stretch, as in...look at how they reach alike.

I'll need something else. 

Banal Feature Analysis

And so I got out all of my fingers and toes and went about counting commonplace features--dull features.  In her work on awk sentences and evidentials, Barton applies a method of linguistic analysis she refers to as rich feature analysis.  Rich feature analysis can lead to inductive (data-first) or deductive (theory-first) claim-making.

Rich features have both linguistic integrity (i.e., they are structural features of language, so they can be defined in linguistic terms and then categorized, coded, counted, and otherwise analyzed empirically) and contextual value (i.e., they can be conventionally connected to matters of function, meaning, interpretation, and significance).  The connection between a feature and its contextual value is a convention of language use.  In this method, then, the connection between structure and function is the primary focus of analysis. (66)

That's where I'm at for now--thinking through this stuff.  I'm tempted to complement the terms Barton emphasizes, but I'm just as inclined to make the case that dull features also have linguistic integrity and contextual value.  One distinction, perhaps, is that banal/dull features don't connect to "matters of function, meaning, interpretation and significance" in quite the same way as rich features.  Banal features are, perhaps, second-class features, in this sense; in conventionalized reading-for-meaning, they are there and yet not there--these features.  Yes, of course...I'm going to need a truckload of caveats to clear this up.