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Just Roll with the New Media Concepts_Reading Notes for September 8th

All right, round two with New Media: The Key Concepts!

Image hosted on Giphy.

Image hosted on Giphy.

As a refresher, the book takes six concepts as key components to studying New Media and its threads:

-Network

-Information

-Interface

-Archive

-Interactivity

-Simulation

The chapter on Network was very familiar to me as I had taken a course in the spring that focused on different aspects and theoretical frameworks that revolved around networks (ecological, neural, computer, social, etc). Networks are essential to New Media as computers become ever more integrated into both our working and daily lives. The connections between computers and other such devices, interfaces establishing links between users and users as well as users and information, change not just our means of communication but also how we view our society and one another. One way I visualize this is when I think about people and their relationships with their cell phones. Staying in touch with other people is a big aspect of our current culture, but we use our phones for more than just that. We capture moments (sometimes staged, other times spontaneously) in time through selfies, videos, and pictures, but we also share those moments through social media, emails, text messages, personal websites, blogs, YouTube, and so on. We become creators of content as well as consumers, extending ourselves through the networks.

So many connected. Image hosted on Technoexpress.com.

Sherry Turkle, take it away!

Interactivity interlinks with the networking web of computers, users, and data. According to Gane and Beer, “[Interactivity] is often invoked as a benchmark for differentiating ‘new’ digital media from ‘older’ analogue forms, and for this reason it is not unusual to find new media referred to as interactive media. But herein lies a problem: in spite of the almost ubiquitous presence of this concept in commentaries on new media it is not always clear what makes media interactive or what is meant exactly by the term interactivity” (87). To counter claims that the term “interactivity” has lost some of its power in describing New Media since it has been overused, the authors pull together commentary from various scholars like Lev Manovich and Stephen Graham, “who together give an idea of what the term interactivity might mean in different disciplinary settings, and how it might be put to work as a concept” so long as “it is deployed with precision” (87).  The definition that caught my attention was by Tanjev Schultz: “New media interactivity is, for a start, instantaneous, and tends to work in ‘real-time’. It also, in theory, offers the promise of being more democratic: ‘the formal characteristics of fully interactive communication usually imply more equality of the participants and a greater symmetry of communicative power than one-way communication’” (qtd. in Gane and Beer 95). I found this intriguing because it reminds me of the work being done in my own classes. As my program is a hybrid of on-campus and distance students, collaboration in digital spaces is key. This idea of working in “real-time” (which reminds me of Final Fantasy) makes me think of working as a group in Google docs and seeing everyone moving through the space and entering in their input in view of everyone and at the same time.

As someone who is trouncing into Video Game Studies though the lens of English Studies and wishes to someday work in the industry, interactivity is a very relevant term. Yes, video games are interactive in the sense that players can pick up a controller or put their hands on a keyboard and play within a virtual environment that responds to them in some way, with the experience varying depending on the intuitiveness of the software. But advances in the game engines and the evolution of how developers design game experiences is stepping up that sense of interactivity, often through dialogue wheels that are a more sophisticated form of dialogue trees.

RPGs comparison. Image hosted on a Giant Bomb forum.

RPGs comparison. Image hosted on a Giant Bomb forum.

However, video games are not just about interacting with the software. Networking plays a huge role in video games like massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, and Guild Wars as well as games played on consoles (Playstation and XBox) like Call of Duty and Borderlands. Here, players from around the world come together, exploring virtual environments, battling and raiding in groups, and sharing in-game expertise between players of varying skill levels. The game space is just as social as it is competitive, building relationships among players through interfaces rather than face-to-face interactions. The hardware and software, though, are not just tools, but participants in the network of gaming experience, nodding to Latour and his Actor Network Theory. I will not go further into that train of thought as I already have longer, more elaborate posts devoted to this topic. On a final note, while reading this book, I found it particularly useful for my ventures into Video Game Studies because video games encompass all of these concepts, working to enhance each aspect so as to be more attractive to players.

Link doing it right. Image hosted on Giphy.

Link doing it right. Image hosted on Giphy.

Citation

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008. Kindle.

Dancing through the Reading


Mind Map: Class Meeting 1/28/14

The archive as a theoretical concept is one that I first encountered in my doctoral studies. It was introduced to me first in New Media (ideas like private versus public archives and archives and collective memory), but has also been present in other courses I have taken like Dr. Roh's ENGL891, which focused on issues of copyright (complicated by questions of gathering copyrighted materials into archives). I have found it compelling as it relates to my ongoing research and scholarship goals discussed at several points in this blog.

Therefore, when Foucault discusses archives in his book Archaeology of Knowledge, I was curious to examine how his discussion of the concept connected to the previous scholarship I have read and to the other themes from the course work thus far.

In the Mind Map (new additions are orange this week), the first node I added connected to a node from Foucault last week that networks allow for the study of connections and relations. I found this idea to be also well-embedded in the discussion of archives, and how these collections of content are less about creating passive repositories and more about how they allow for the analysis of "difference" (131), of "systems of functioning" (129), of the "formation and transformation of statements" (130). This node represents archives as a form of network, which is connected to books, which seems to me to be similar in description to how Foucault sees books - nodes that are meaningful based on their connections.

I also saw this as connecting to Vatz's emphasis on the rhetor's role in editing and selecting information for discourse. The archivist fulfills a similar role by selecting the information that is stored in the network. If meaning (or rhetoric) is constructed in the analysis of an archive (or discourse), and the archivist (or rhetorician) is essential in the selection process, than the archivist (like Vatz's rhetor) is elevated to an important position as a mediator of meaning-making.

I also added nodes explaining how archives exist between the space of language and corpus - the rules that govern language creation and the static collection of created language. I feel this explanation helps me justify the archive I have been working on - as a tool for analysis and not just another website that "collects the dust of statements that have become inert once more" (129).

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.


Suzanne's Mind Map

  

Finishing Foucault: Week 2 Reading Notes

Courtesy of quickmeme.com

Courtesy of quickmeme.com

Brief Summary

In the last sections of Archaeology, Foucault situates his methodology for historical analysis as archaeology by outlining a process for describing discourse. Foucault is careful to distinguish his method as different from a history of ideas (an approach which it closely resembles) by characterizing its distinct factors–primarily its reliance on description rather than a tracing of origins, intent, or meaning.

Describing discourse, Foucault posits, begins with describing statements, which are the most basic units of discourse. The concept of a statement as Foucault uses it is difficult to understand because of our previous associations of statements as sentences, linguistic constructions, or acts of speech (perhaps examples of the unities he persuades us to let go of in the first two sections of the book). Foucault’s statements, however, refer to something less concrete, something that is simultaneously visible and invisible–they serve as functions rather than as things. As such, they have no unifying rules, rather their rules of construction are constituted by the institutions, subjects, and fields (enunciated functions) by which they are formed.

The relations between statements, then, allow for discursive formations. Foucault is clear (or as clear as he can be) that his approach to historical (really, discourse in this situation) analysis is descriptive. This description is more concerned with statements’ conditions of existence, perseverance, and disappearance than it is with their signified meanings and subject intent (SparkNotes, p. 47).

Key Points with Discussion

In this section, I bring forward several of Foucault’s claims to support one discussion/example that helped me understand the approach a little better.

1. Foucault is insistent that we consider the subject not on an individual level but on a level with discourse (which, as we know, is the system of statements within an associated field). As such, the subject’s authority is based not on his/her own expertise, rather it is based on the expertise of his/her role in the field.

2. Foucault points to the importance of rarity for the archaeological approach. Rather than considering statements as frequent, common events, Foucault emphasizes recognizing the rarity of circumstances surrounding each statement. While the opportunities for statements are endless, each condition of emergence is unique.

3.  The principle of repeatable materiality explains that a set of signs can be repeated if its identity is based on non-material factors (such as grammar) but cannot be repeated if its identity is gained through material factors (such as institutions).

Something of a synthesis: These claims together help me understand how a concept can be both visible and invisible at the same time–how they serve as functions in discourse rather than as signifiers of meaning. For example, if we take the statement “mistakes were made” in two different scenarios, we’ll see how they maintain identity through the linguistic structure but not through the materiality of construction.

  • Scenario 1: Politicians frequently use the phrase “mistakes were made.” While my first inclination is to resort to why (the subject’s intent), Foucault’s approach asks us to describe the conditions in which the statement emerged. Why this statement and not another? How does it function in the situation? How does it differ temporally from one politician’s use of it to another’s?
  • Scenario 2: In order to teach passive voice to her ENG 101 students, an instructor uses the statement “mistakes were made.” Although I’ve already introduced intent (because it’s so hard not to!), asking the same questions above will produce different answers, thereby revealing a different set of conditions of emergence for the statement.

Key Terms:

I’m still having a difficult time articulating the terms, so I’ve pulled definitions from Foucault, SparkNotes, and a Michel Foucault website. Links to SparkNotes and the website are provided in the References Section.

Archaeology: “Archaeology is about examining the discursive traces and orders left by the past in order to write a ‘history of the present’. In other words archaeology is about looking at history as a way of understanding the processes that have led to what we are today” (O’Farrell).

Archive: “A particular level: that of a practice that causes a multiplicity of statements to emerge as so many regular events, as so many things to be dealt with and manipulated. [. . .] It is the general system of the formation and transformation of statements” (Foucault, p. 130).

“Designates the collection of all material traces left behind by a particular historical period and culture. In examining these traces one can deduce the historical a priori of the period and then if one is looking at science, one can deduce the episteme of the period. None of these concepts has predictive value – they are all descriptions of limited historical orders” (O’Farrell).

Discontinuity: “challenges notions of cause, effect, progress, destiny, tradition and influence in history” (O’Farrell)

Discourse: “constituted by a group of sequences of signs, in so far as they are statements, that is, in so far as they can be assigned particular modalities of existence” (Foucault, p. 107)

“at the most basic level he uses the term to refer to the material verbal traces left by history. He also uses it to describe ‘a certain “way of speaking” (O’Farrell)

discourse is not just a set of articulated propositions, nor is it the trace of an otherwise hidden psychology, spirit, or encompassing historical idea; it is the set of relations within which all of these other factors gain their sense (their conditions of possibility). This argument is responsible both for the immense success of Foucault’s method and for the most persistent criticisms of it. The idea that discourse can be described in and of itself, not as a sign of what is known but as a precondition for knowledge, opens up limitless possibilities for showing that what we think we know is actually contingent on how we talk about it. (Sparknotes)

Discursive Formation: “A discursive formation [. . .] presents the principle of articulation between a series of discursive events and other series of events, transformations, mutations, and processes” (Foucault, p. 74).

“The discursive formation is roughly equivalent to a scientific discipline” (O’Farrell).

Discursive Practice: “This term refers to a historically and culturally specific set of rules for organizing and producing different forms of knowledge. It is not a matter of external determinations being imposed on people’s thought, rather it is a matter of rules which, a bit like the grammar of a language, allow certain statements to be made” (Michel-foucault.com).

Enunciation: “The discursive conditions under which (a statement) could be said, rather than the grammatical, propositional, or strictly material conditions under which it could be formulated. Thus, an enunciation always involves aposition from which something is said; this position is not defined by a psychology, but by its place within (and its effect on) a field of discourse in all its complexity” (Sparknotes, p. 13).

Enunciative Function:”Designates that aspect of language by which statements relate to other statements” (Sparknotes, p. 13).

Episteme: “Refers to the orderly ‘unconscious’ structures underlying the production of scientific knowledge in a particular time and place. It is the ‘epistemological field’ which forms the conditions of possibility for knowledge in a given time and place” (O’Farrell).

Historical a Priori: “This is the order underlying any given culture at any given period of history. Foucault also uses the phrase the ‘positive unconscious of knowledge’ to refer to the same idea. The episteme which describes scientific forms of knowledge is a subset of this” (O’Farrell).

Material Repeatability: “A defining characteristic of the statement. It is also a kind of paradox: if we identify a single statement solely on the basis of its specific material existence, that statement will never be truly repeatable (it will be a different statement with each new articulation); but if we identify a statement solely on the basis of what it ’means’ (i.e., its propositional content), that statement can be repeated ad infinitum, without regard to the differences in its material, time-space coordinates” (Sparknotes, p. 14).

Non-discursive Practices: “including ‘institutions, political events, economic practices and processes’ (p.162). He also argues that discourse does not underlie all cultural forms. Forms such as art and music are not discursive. He also notes: ‘there is nothing to be gained from describing this autonomous layer of discourses unless one can relate it to other layers, practices, institutions, social relations, political relations, and so on. It is that relationship which has always intrigued me’” (O’Farrell).

Statement: The most basic unit of discourse which does not, however, contains not basic unit. Rather than a thing, we can thing of a statement as a “unique method for the analysis of sets of signs” (Sparknotes, p. 45).

Subject: “The subject is an entity which is self-aware and capable of choosing how to act. Foucault was consistently opposed to nineteenth century and phenomenological notions of a universal and timeless subject which was at the source of how one made sense of the world, and which was the foundation of all thought and action. The problem with this conception of the subject according to Foucault and other thinkers in the 1960s, was that it fixed the status quo and attached people to specific identities that could never be changed” (O’Farrell).

Additional Resources

Outline of Archaeology of Knowledge: If you’re a person of linear thought like me, you’ll appreciate this detailed outline of the entire book. I appreciate that it breaks each section down into the primary concepts.

Summary by Section: This is an easy-to-understand summary by section.

Detailed Summary: This more detailed summary by SparkNotes also offers analysis for each chapter. Additionally, you can find explanations of key terms and concepts.

Network Archaeology: I don’t know if we’re ready to make these kinds of jumps, yet, but this could be an interesting site for us to look through. There may be resources for those working on digital networks.

References

Foucault, M. Archaeology of knowledge.

O’Farrell, C. (2013). Key concepts. Michel-foucault.com. Retrieved from http://www.michel-foucault.com/concepts/index.html

SparkNotes. (2002). Archaeology of knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/arch/


Reading Notes: Class Meeting 1/28/14

Michel Foucault: Archaeology of Knowledge, Part III - V


But first...


Last week, I started the blog post with a reflection on Foucault's reoccurring presence in my academic career. Then as if to play a cosmic game of synchronicity, I find myself this week with assigned readings of Foucault's work in both of the courses I am taking this semester.

Good one, universe. Good one.

Image of book cover for Jung's Synchronicity
from 
Amazon

Jung argued that synchronicity is that feeling we get sometimes that two or more experiences are connected even when there is no scientific explanation for their relation. Some might say coincidence, but Jung argued that synchronicity is an opportunity from which one can draw unusual insights otherwise unseen. Now, there may be a rational explanation for my experience - namely that Foucault's work is influential in many fields and his body of scholarship is large enough and diverse enough to be relevant across disciplines at different times and from different theories. However, I find the confluence of these reading assignments to be an opportunity for me to find a new way to understand both selections from Foucault and the course content in each course.

In English 891: Seminar in Literature, we are studying the concept of home, what it means to have a home or be homeless, and what it means to dwell, which is complicated by the work of Heidegger. This week our assigned theorist was Foucault with his work "Of Other Spaces".

Naturally, the use of the word space in the title immediately brought to mind the idea of space that he brings to the table in Archaeology of Knowledge - "space in which discursive events are deployed" (29).  He also is concerned with "fields" and "dispersion" in space. It is within space that objects exist, where connections can be seen, and relationships explored. We need space onto which a network can grow, move, advance, withdraw, and live dimensionally and not just linearly or causally.

Therefore, it's worthwhile to consider how Foucault discusses space in this article. He writes, “The site [space] is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids…space takes for us the form of relations among sites (23). Rather than space being understood by what exists within its borders, Foucault argues for an understanding of a particular space based on examining it as it relates to other objects. It is not what something is, but rather how it connects to everything else, that matters. 

For our study of networks, this underlines the importance of studying connections and relationships as opposed to merely objects. Foucault rebels against a Structuralist view that meaning exists in the confines of the text; he argues that the field must be set free to study the implications of texts as nodes in a network. Examine its position in the field - in space - for its relevance. Look beyond the boundaries of the text. 

The synchronicity this week allows me to consider the nature of a home - a home-space - to be about the relations and not the building. I can consider networks about the connections and the space within which we can make relationships and not the technology that facilitates connectivity. Foucault wants us to think about more than the object. He wants us to find what meaning there is from the object as it exists in a particular space with particular proximity to other objects and particular relations. 

We are not isolated entities. We exist in space. And we are connected by way of being in the same space. 

So thanks Foucault. That makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside.


From the book...


I've been interested in archives since New Media I. My research has been primarily about the rediscovery of periodicals published in the late 1960s and early 70s and attempting to preserve them through digital archiving. Naturally, I was drawn to the chapter "The Statement and the Archive", and I think I am still recovering from the claims therein.

Let me start with a quote:
"The archive is not that which...safeguards the event of the statement and preserves [it] for future memories...Nor is the archive that which collects the dust of statements that have become inert once more, and which may make possible the miracle of their resurrection" (129).
Like a dagger through the heart, Foucault. He lays waste to the theoretical underpinnings of my work. I have championed the digital archive as a repository, a tool of preservation, and a worthwhile endeavor exactly so that these important texts can be resurrected for contemporary and future readers. Here Foucault argues that my work thus far equates to that of a dust collector. I am a scholarly janitor.

But if an archive is not a preserved collection, than what is it?

Foucault seems glad I ask. He writes that archives are not the collection of statements, but the "system of [their] functioning" (129). Again, there is the idea that the meaning is not in the object itself - not in the pile of papers in an archive - but in what that pile of papers can tell us about how they came into being, about the system(s) that facilitated their creation. He writes that an archive "reveals the rules of a practice that enables statements both to survive and to undergo regular modification. It is the general system of the formation and transformation of statements" (130).

In my work with the Underground Press then, my archive should not seek simply to collect documents, but to consider how this collection informs my understanding of systems of publication in this time, systems that produced subaltern voices, systems of information sharing or information restriction, systems of oppression, systems of self-expression. I should consider the archive as a space onto which objects can be placed and understood in proximity and relation to other objects.

Like a refrain - not the object, but the object's connections. The network.

This chapter has provided me with both a challenge and some renewed energy. I have this avenue to explore now where my interest in archiving and in scholarly-making has this new sense of purpose and possibility. The archive I make will not just have relevance for the preservation or the rediscovery, but for the expansive field it builds. This archival space-field allows for the study of the governing systems working at that time that created the conditions from which the Underground Press exploded - the catalysts. I hear Foucault screaming in my head - don't just study the papers. Study the systems that converged and birthed them. 

I will try to listen.

One last point...


Foucault is intimidating; it's not a secret. He's abstract and conceptual and erudite and thinking on planes of the brain I have never discovered nor probably ever will. It takes a concerted effort to read and reread and summarize, which is a good and welcome endeavor. But it is intimidating. It brings forth the self-doubt and the impostor syndrome full-force.

So it is rather comforting to see Foucault grapple with his own self-doubt, and arm himself (and us) with the attitude we need to undertake daunting tasks of the mind. Of his own thoughts he explains that they are "slowly taking shape in a discourse that I still feel to be so precarious and so unsure" (17). Precarious and unsure? But you're Foucault!

He describes writing "with a rather shaky hand" and his work as "a labyrinth into which I can venture" (17). Shaky? A maze of possibilities where you can lose yourself and are unsure of the direct path through? But that insecurity about one's writing and one's thoughts, well, that sounds like all the rest of us? 

Yet, Foucault does not let these feelings prevent him from digging into the work. He pushes onward, undeterred. He would even reprimand any would be critics who would demand greater conviction on the part of the writer, exclaiming, "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same; leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write" (17). Do not force me into the box of these thoughts! I am experimenting and thinking and don't have all the answers! I reserve the right to change my thoughts in the future! And the fact that I might change does not invalidate this work nor does it negate my right to have the ideas!

And to that I say, yes! Be brave! Be unsure! But think anyway. Think big and be unafraid to fall short or to make amendments. It's heartening to see in someone so revered in the discipline, to see our own struggles in the realm of the mind reflected back from such a great mind.

He writes, "[O]ne is forced to advance beyond familiar territory, far from the certainties to which one is accustomed, towards an as yet uncharted land and unforeseeable conclusion" (39). It reminds me of the old sea maps with ominous phrases like "Here there be monsters" scrawled across swaths of ocean with frightening creatures peeking up through waves. Yet the mariners were undeterred. They provisioned their ships and assembled their crews. They set forth for the unknown despite the danger. 

The human spirit is intrepid and undeterred, and I will try to remember these lessons when I too find myself with a shaky hand.

Carta Marina map circa 1539
Wikipedia Commons
  

Works Cited:


"Carl Jung - Synchronicity." Carl Jung Resources for Home Study and Practice. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.

Foucault, Michel. "Of Other Spaces." Diacritics. 16.1 (Spring 1986): 22-27. Print.

Individual Research: 4/9

Individual Research Project:

I have been working steadily on my website and have started calling it a community archive. In the proposal, we were asked to connect our project to two of the theorists' work that we've read in class so far. I think that the concept "archive" has been the critical driving force behind my work. Arjun Appadurai's work with archives and collective memory, briefly discussed in Beer and Gane, is especially helpful in theoretically underpinning my research. He explains that interactive archives create a space in which collective memory can be stored. My community archive is not only a research tool, which I have seen and used, but it is an active. living organism of connection and collectivity. That is what excites me about the work most.

Plan:

After initially creating the site, which was a tremendous learning process in terms of navigating the transition from free blog to a registered and hosted domain, I got stuck about what to do next. I added plug-ins and tweaked the theme to be a social network using BuddyPress, and I added group functionality and worked to spread awareness through Facebook and Twitter marketing. When Professor Rodrigo gave me the advice to focus on functionality, things began to fall into place.

I made a mind map to show what I have done and intend to do: