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Reading Notes: 3/26

Assignment #1: A Look at a Canonical Wiki

The Medium is the Massage

In the introduction to the page, the wiki authors write:

In McLuhan’s view, the media used to communicate a message is more significant than the message itself. The media profoundly shape how we perceive the message, how we think about and structure the world, how we function as a society, and how we operate as a culture. Next to this influence, the message itself is irrelevant.
The power of this assertion struck me hard. Is the way our communications received truly more important that the information contained within? I find this frightening in some way. It seems borne out by the way we privilege certain content because of the medium through which it is communicated. For example, Delagrange argues that the word is privileged over the image, regardless of the knowledge constructed by either. I see it in my students who have trouble reading and staying focused without some visual or better yet an interactive element.

I can't help but wonder: What are the implications for our future if we care not for content?

Assignment #2: New Books Project
  • Delagrange, Susan H., Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan, UT: Utah State UP/Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2011. Web.
I have begun reading an ebook titled Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World by Susan H. Delagrange. Before I explore the content of the first two chapters, I want to take a moment to comment on the form in which I am reading this text.

The book is accessible through a website where the table of contents can be opened and links to pdf files of the chapters is available. I can save the chapters to my desktop as well, or I can read them online. Both options allow for the text to be copied and pasted into a Word document, which saves a lot of time in the addition of quotes to the blog. That's a great bonus for this kind of scholarly reading. As a result, I am trying a new approach. I am going all digital - taking notes in a Word doc, saving quotes there, and blogging. Adding notes to the pdf is only an option if Adobe is purchased.

So far, I like the ebook. I can read it easily (although sometimes the scroll jumps to the next page when I don't want it to), and I don't have the problem of holding a book open while my hand cramps. I don't like that I can't just tuck the book in my purse and pull it out while waiting in the doctor's office or steal a few minutes with it between classes, but I could print the pdf pages if I really wanted to. It would just require a little pre-planning and would revert me back to print. I could probably download the pdf files to my Kindle Fire and read them on the go... Something to look into for sure, but I'd lose the copy and paste function.

One thing I really like is the multi-modal approach. The book is much more interactive with embedded videos and images. Like reading a website, the ebook allows for a new form of discourse that equally privileges the text and the visual/audio rhetorics. Here is a screen shot from the text, showing a link to a video:

Overall, my initial reaction has been positive.

Some Thoughts:
Chapter One: Reading Pictures, Seeing Words


Delagrange is a highly readable, concise, and articulate writer. Her promise to incorporate feminist thinking into her exploration of media studies is highly intriguing.

This chapter discusses the implications of moving from traditional print scholarship to digital forms and the questions that this raises.
"Yet this seemingly irreversible movement from print toward digital, and from words toward interactive multimedia, is accompanied by important questions, some old and some new: old questions about visual representation and argument and about the social and cultural effects of technology; new questions about production and publishing and evaluation of unfamiliar scholarly performances, and about the effects of this shift toward the digital on social justice, equity, and access. How do we strike a balance, continuing to value and maintain the quality and craftsmanship of print scholarship, while making room for new and vibrant methods of scholarly invention and production?" (1)
One aspect of Delagrange's argument I find compelling is her view of new media as a "canvas for new forms of rhetorical production that value process over product, and wonder-induced inquiry over proof" (1). I love the idea that traditional written products produce traditional linear thought while new media provides a space for a new kind of scholarship where the process - however messy (my Individual Tutorial project for example - can be emphasized over a finished piece of scholarship. We can be led through the scholarship by wonder - the true research question that derives from curiosity over conformity. Brilliant!

Delagrange observes a reluctance to work toward this kind of research. She writes, "Nevertheless, while important new media scholarship is already being produced by researchers and students in rhetoric and composition, there is still significant reluctance in English Studies to move beyond the historical privileging of the Word" (2). She calls on us to change these stereotypes that keep new media scholarship and production as a sub-standard mode of discourse.

Here, the author sees a place where a feminist perspective can be useful. As a point of view that has experience discussing the privileging of certain contributions over others, there are many parallels between feminism and new media studies' place in the discipline.
"My perspective is feminist, not because I claim that women in particular are differentially affected by digital technologies, but because feminist optics, feminist ways of seeing that focus on social justice and equity, seem well suited to identify points at which any underrepresented group or individual might be disadvantaged, or left out entirely, by technological change, and to formulate principles and practices of digital media use that are more inclusive and fair." (3)

Technological Anxiety:
I loved this section of the chapter. I exclaimed "Yes!" so many times that I lost track. Delagrange eloquently expresses ideas that have seemed almost taboo for me to speak about, but have so often felt and experienced in my own professional work in this field. She is addressing head on the reasons for having such an anxiety about participating in the field as a woman. She writes,

"Technology is one area that creates anxiety not only among feminists...but also among humanities scholars in general, who are usually most comfortable using words as their tools" (4).

One reason for this is that the language surrounding technology is inherently masculine. The narrative surrounding technology's expansion is filled with terms like "a new frontier," with leaders often labelled "heroes" who use "tools" of technology to solve great social problems. It then becomes easy for the field to "disproportionately empower members of the already dominant discourse community—which in technological fields in the U.S. consists primarily of white males" (5).


I was excited to see here how Delagrange builds on the arguments in Remediation, which I explored as part of the wiki projects we did in class - the language is the same, and I am grateful to my collegaues in class for explaining it as it has enhanced my understanding of the text. She sees remediation as a potentially liberating discipline and one in which diversity can blossom.
"Furthermore, re-mediating traditional print-based academic performances—moving them into new (electronic) writing spaces and experimenting with innovative verbal and visual forms—might literally open our eyes to diversity and difference, making inequities visible and therefore available for ethical rhetorical intervention." (7)
Later she revisits this claim, writing, "[through] images and sound,multilinear associative arrangement...we can steer toward new, potentially emancipatory performances made possible in new media" (10).

This is an empowering view - that I can help emancipate scholarly performances is thoroughly exciting. 

Seeing Argument:
In this section, the author focuses on the visual nature of many new media applications and the presentation of most forms of information surrounding us today. She explains, "Places, events, objects, and related beliefs and values are represented by images more often than by words. It also raises the question of the relationship between images and words as sources and means of academic authority, and it focuses attention on the “visuality” of all texts, even those composed entirely of words" (8).
Yet, Delagrange asserts that in scholarship, these visual representations are not as respected in scholarship. She observes, "The demonstrations of knowledge that “count” in the academy are overwhelmingly books and articles in refereed print-based journals that develop linear arguments and rely primarily on logos-based evidence. Images, if any, are simply illustrations: pictures or tables or graphs that merely show what the words have already told. Using images as a substantive component of an argument is suspect" (9). In other words, we tend to only accept images as an appendix to the word, not a replacement or even a corollary.
And if we do choose to present a more visual product, we run the risk of losing authority and legitimacy. She explains that there is a visual reticence.
"Unadorned text, written in plain style and organized in a way that can readily be outlined, has long been the paradigm for scholarly performances, and it has been presumed to fit all “legitimate” academic scholarship. Legitimacy, however, is a conservative, hereditary principle that protects the interests of those who claim it." (10)
How do we move new media into legitimacy? I suppose through the production of new media projects and explorations, submission to the discipline with confidence, and continuing to explore the theoretical underpinnings of new media studies.

She addresses the CRAP guidelines we used in class and categorizes them as an effort to force visual rhetoric into a more legitimate form by imitating the page.
"The mistrust of images, and the emphasis elsewhere on alphabetic text as the most legitimate form of scholarly production, is evident in the ubiquity of the design principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity for web pages (Williams and Tollett, 2005). While these principles provide an initial framework for the novice designer of new media, they are in effect design’s version of the five-paragraph essay. Contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity construct an artificial efficiency and unity of text and image that are a function of form, but not necessarily content, and that make complex visual invention and argument impossible. Like the print conventions of academic journals and monographs, these design principles also assert a claim for a 'culture of no culture.'" (11)
She concludes that in order for "English Studies, which still privileges the Word as its preferred mode of performance, and linear argument as its preferred change, more scholars must move beyond critical verbal analysis of visual texts and become active architects of intellectually engaged (and engaging) multimediated visual rhetoric. Until we and our students see ourselves as producers rather than just consumers of visual rhetoric, we are ceding the authority to speak and intervene in an increasingly multimediated world" (11).

It makes being enrolled in this class, with the kind of fearlessness I've been talking about in my other posts, all the more critically important.

Feminist Epistemology:

I took from this section that we need to more actively advocate for and include elements of visual rhetoric in the classroom.
"Writing instructors can—and should—take advantage of new forms of digital media for creating texts, and assign web pages and other demonstrations of multimodal argument, thus encouraging a rich, diverse rhetoric that responds to contemporary multimediated contexts and incorporates ethical ap­proaches to invention, arrangement, and style. Creating such assignments, producing our own multimodal pedagogical performances, and scaffolding them theoretically are essential if the shift from page to screen, and from alphabetic linear print to multimodal, multi-perspectival images and text, is to be understood and rewarded by our tenure-granting departments." (12)

Chapter Two: (Re)Vision & Remediation


Delagrange argues that a new emphasis on visual rhetoric necessitates a newly developed set of criteria on which it can be evaluated, different from the the traditional, linear, print criteria. She also contends that there is the possibility to create modes of scholarly inquiry that have no equivalent in print, but that are no less significant than the print. 


In this section, the author explores the idea of remediation - the recycling of previous forms into new ones. She uses visual images heavily here - supporting her own argument for the validity of such a presentation - to show examples of remediation from painting to photography, stage to film, and internet and television. She echoes her call for strategies for consuming visual media and for English studies to stop fearing the power of the visual.

For next time:

Academic  Representation & Digital Media:
The Persistance of Vision:
Visual Pleasure:
Seeing Bodies:
Seeing Bodies in Space:
Embodied Arrangement: