Link to Popplet mindmap: http://popplet.com/app/#/2277361
First soundtrack for Spring:
For this final mindmap update, I created nodes for Louis Althusser’s State Apparatuses (ideological and repressive) and Stuart Hall’s principles for “Encoding/Decoding,” under the heading Cultural Studies. I decided on naming this collection Cultural Studies I had previously read these two essays in a Cultural Studies course and they deal with how the populace is (in a manner) indoctrinated by the dominant class to stay subsurvient as cheap labor within the cycle of means of production, or how the masses are actually receiving messages and meanings through media outlets and changing those meanings in response. I linked out this heading to Rhetorical Theories, CHAT, Social Network Theory, and Foucault because I feel like what is going on within each of these, what is moving within those networks has to do with how and what people are processing.
For Althusser, I made a node that lists his examples of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) as well as a smaller list of his examples of his Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs). The last node I made for Althusser was his discussions about ISAs being around us from birth onwards and how school is the most influential of these because students are obligated to attend an institution that is constantly having them operate within ideology (especially ideology that promotes ideas of freedom and liberty equated with education, though the reality is often quite different).
For Hall, I made nodes that included two quotes about the circuit of production, and an image of the two-way communication between producers and consumers of media. I linked the node with the heading Encoding/Decoding with a quote from Foucault about “Enunciative levels of formation” because I feel like, for many of us, the discursive moments Foucault is talking about requires a constant taking in and releasing back out of messages and meanings as we come across them, as we produce our own responses, and as our responses reach other people, with the cycle moving on with or without further input from us.
Must Not Forget the Music:
Last week’s concept groupings focused on theories; this week’s focuses on theorists (although, to be honest, I’ve not been adding individual theorists for the last few theories). I also added and linked in Social Network, Ideological Determinism, and Ambience as the final three theories we’ve addressed in the class. I wanted to have the full picture of all theories/theorists before I finished concept groupings. And here are the results!
End of Semester Conclusions
At long last, mapping is complete. What appears above is the final mindmap of theorists and theories as they exist in my head. Coming to the end of the experience, I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned about networks and network theories through this map.
Hierarchy vs. Rhizome: While a chronological mapping of theorists’ ideas might suggest primacy among certain theorists’ ideas — earlier theories are more influential than later theories, meaning later theories are built on the hierarchical foundation of earlier theories — the map reflects a far more rhizomatic relationship among theories. I’ve been as likely to connect theories based on chronological influence as conceptual influence, regardless of chronology. Foucault reflects certain ideas from Ambience as easily as Ambience reflects certain ideas from Foucault. The relationship among theories is conceptual, and concepts are eternal, always already existing (according to ambience theory).
Ambience, a Ring to Rule them All: Ambience is a fantastic closing theory because it sums up the direction theorists have taken throughout the semester. While ambience sometimes seems to present a certain level of mysticism, its focus a post-network ecological relationship among rhetors and rhetoric, audience and affect, environment and ideas acts as a contemporary summing up of all that we’ve read and reflected on all semester. And it also suggests an openness to what will come in network theory, a willingness to concede that we can’t possibly know, or even imagine, that which is withdrawn and hidden at this moment when it comes to network theories and understandings. I connected Ambience to every other theory in my mindmap.
RhetComp Got it Going On: We may be fractious and divided, but we rhetoric and composition teachers and scholars propose some cutting-edge theory (as English studies theories go, anyway). While we’ve not proposed string theory or chaos theory, we’ve willingly addressed the consequences and contributions of advanced scientific theories on rhetoric and composition. I drew as many lines to my Composition/Rhetoric node as to my other concepts; those lines represent theories that either directly or indirectly addressed rhetoric and/or composition, or theories that emerged from a rhetoric and composition background. We really do study all the things — and we like it that way!
The Order of Things: My minds races from idea to idea, drawing connections whenever possible. My internal dialog often seeks to organize the chaos. This has been reflected in my desire to tie things together in the mindmap in concrete shapes, especially columns and diamonds. Popplet affords such preferences when “snap to grid” is enabled — however, because I intended meaning to exist among placements in the map, I never opted to allow Popplet to put content in columns. I did that myself in several places. I struggled to keep the mindmap manageable; this last week, I struggled on my 24” monitor to see everything in the map in order to connect items on the outskirts. It’s time to let the mindmap rest.
Reflections: The Order of Things (above) is really about on-the-fly reflection and my unwillingness to allow ideas to remain chaotically (maybe rhizomatically) related for long. As a writer, I’m an editor on the fly. As a scholar, I’m a reflector in the fly. I seek to place concepts in relationship to one another as soon as possible. The danger, of course, is that by so quickly (and very un-ANT-like) categorizing theories, I overlook potential connections that I missed the first time around. This brings me to the value of the mindmap, sometimes hated though it was. A mindmap enables both node-level focus and network-level attention. I never quite escape the big picture. While I remain locally-focused when adding nodes, connecting nodes forces the shift to global view. This helps me tame the organizer in me.
A Final Thought: Like Dumbledore’s pensieve, the mindmap encourages objective reflection, a moment of god-like oversight. Truth be told, after our readings this semester, I’m beginning to believe that objectivity is false. In fact, I’m beginning to believe the subject/object binary is false and limiting. Which suggests that the mindmap might simply be my response to the already-always-existing relationships between already-always-existing theories. And my place is neither objective nor subjective, but ambient, connected to the mindmap and its ideas in an ecology of meaningful relations. I, too, have a place in the mindmap.
I enjoy visualizing things. I really do. One thing I definitely do more of after taking this course is visualizing in new ways. When I visualized in the past, it tended to be with paper and pencil, and an attempt to draw things in that visceral way. In the heat of an excited epiphany, I still tend to reach for paper/pencil, either to jot or to draw. Old habits die hard, and, well, these tools are ubiquitous, cheap, and don’t require batteries or cords.
But I find my life and learning transitioning ever more to the digital realm. I also am doing more natively digital, vs. using a paper-based process and then transliterating it to the digital. Google Drive is now a regular part of my thought process, and I see benefits to parking my thinking in Popplets as well. Being forced to continue in a visual media, and to revamp and revisualize thinking over time using Popplet has forced me to think about how ALL the things might fit together, rather than as a series of blog posts or reading notes. Being forced to reconceptualize it in a non-linear way, too, is a good exercise for extending critical thinking and making connections. I had already done that a few weeks before we were assigned to do so, as that method began to make more sense to me in terms of finding places of consonance and dissonance. Thus, my last few MindMap posts and updates have been on this new format, organized around the questions we were using with our Case Studies, modified slightly to create some über-nodes, Castells-style.
It is also nice to have a record of my developing thought processes over the course of the semester. I see how at first I was using the tool as a kind of note-taking place, adding quotes surrounded by the particular authors. This makes sense as a start since I didn’t have a lot to connect the ideas to. This approach quickly became unwieldy, both due to the size of Popplet boxes and it kept me within each text, even though I could draw lines between authors. What frustrated me a bit was that I couldn’t demonstrate the TYPE of connection with the lines. I enjoyed the Theory Tree better because we could have some basis of describing influence: citations, publication dates. That made me think that a network and a visualization have this in common: both need a basis and protocols to define the parameters for what is being connected, why, and how. There must be an “according to” that regulates what gets included and how it is placed. Otherwise, it can resemble stream-of-consciousness or a scatter-plot that doesn’t converge. I felt my original mind-map was becoming that way: mere boxes and lines without a structure. Although I recognize this now as a more organic or rhizomatic growth structure, it was not conducive for constructing meaning (beyond the meaning that connections could be made anywhere).
I am struck by the notions that several of our authors made (help me out here: Foucault, Biesecker, Latour, D&G, I believe), that one MUST construct meaning, one must impose subjectivity, one must recognize the imperfectness of any map or graph or use of language to describe or capture or “see” or “mean”, but one must use these tools nonetheless. Otherwise, we have no individual agency or means to construct, resist, narrate, make sense, or in a Cartesian sense, to exist. Earlier in the semester I was playing with Cogito Ergo Sum and variants earlier in the semester. Loquor ergo sum (I speak, therefore I am) might be useful for rhetorical theory, the idea that the act of discourse is not only epistemological and ontological, but also existential. Scribo ergo sum (I write, therefore I am) is useful in terms of rhet/comp and genres. The creation of text, of artifacts, of boundary objects and actants, creates and constructs reality. Bazerman, Miller, Hall, Popham, Johnson-Eilola, Joyce, Spinuzzi, and possibly (I have not decided yet) Rickert would agree. But the one I was really thinking about for the 21st century information society is Intersum ergo sum, I am involved/participate, therefore I am. It seems to me that nothing is made, understood, or exists except in relation to another (which has been a theme in our reading all semester). I am my own network. We are the network. The network is us. Reticulum est nobis. A mesh. A weave. We are the weavers and the wearers. We are we.
This week’s Mindmap gets double duty because I neglected to map Castells the previous week. I have colored Castells red in the same way as I colored Post-Modernism/Foucault. I see Castells as theorizing the same kind 0f global über-theory as Foucault, even if they aren’t saying the same things. Both are attempting to theorize “the way things are” and how we, as societies and individuals making them up, think, do, and interact.
In adding Castells, I was able to see how his system of networks within networks, and all networks not being made equally, could jive with ecosystems theory of systems within systems, and constraints due to access and protocol. I was also able to see the tension between an idealistic flattened hierarchy and the hierarchies of power that exist — not all nodes or networks are created equal. Furthermore, these constantly change, depending on needs, which can be based on capital: financial or human.
I added Social Media theory (Rainie, Wellman, Scott) as an orange set, the same color as CHAT and activity theory. I grouped them together as both are setting up and mapping traces and what users actually DO in a system. I see connections between Spinnuzi’s user modifications and movement away from designer-as-hero, and the activity by users of social media and how they determine by their actions the shape of the network. The users themselves create the design through their activity system. Every piece of content on the web is an “action potential” (another connection I made to neurobiology in looking at the Popplet) that is actualized through user activity. It is then inscribed and becomes the preferred neuro-pathway via repetition, sharing, and being valued.
I put D&G as the same color as ecosystems, since their rhizome concept is organic and based on interconnectedness.
I am discovering that some of the questions around which I based this Popplet Redux (which are the questions for the Case Studies) are really related to each other and causing me to converge on some similar answers. So I plan to reorganize the map to consolidate or at least bring those similar nodes into closer contact with each other. That’s for next week!
I actually got confused and thought we were supposed to start revising our Mindmaps last week. So, I started re-envisioning it based on the Theory Tree my group did–thinking about the connections chronologically and by topic. It wasn’t going well. My Mindmap was big and hard to see/follow. There were too many nodes! Then I looked at the schedule again, realized I was wrong, and gave up.
This week, however, I had a little more energy and vision in my remapping. One of the stand-out moments in class for me was when Shelley explained that most new media scholars prefer Actor Network Theory because it allows for non-human objects to serve as actors or mediators. So, I decided to begin my remapped Mindmap by dividing the theories according to those that account only for human agency and those that account for non-human agency.
Off to the side in blue are the nodes that I need to revisit and add back in. Some I didn’t understand well enough to think about agency (Foucault) and some I just don’t remember as well. I plan to add them back in next week and start to think about other concepts that will be important to my OoS as well, such as boundaries, hierarchies, and complexity.
This week is the first of two focused on grouping theorists and/or theories by concepts. I identified five concept groups to which I’ve connected theories: Agency, Flow, Meaning, Boundaries, and Composition/Rhetoric. I’ve included a screenshot of the area I’ve set aside for concept grouping, along with a full-map version.
I described the concept groups as follows:
- Agency: Individual nodes (as opposed to groups of nodes) are given partial or full agency in the network.
- Flow: There is movement of some material through or in the network.
- Meaning: That which flows through the network has intrinsic meaning; it is not simply material.
- Boundaries: The theory offers some recognition of boundaries of the network, either as affordances or as constraints to the operation or definition of the network.
- Composition/Rhetoric: Theory offers direct or indirect reference to rhet/comp, or originates in rhet/comp.
I chose these concepts in part because several have been part of our inquiry throughout the semester and in part because these are aspects of networks that interest me most. I am becoming especially interested in boundaries in networks, whether the result of framework or infrastructure constraints or the result of relatively arbitrary efforts to circumscribe networks for study or description.
Geopolitical boundaries fascinate me, the result of growing up in Israel. I experienced early in my adolescence the arbitrary nature and origin of current Middle Eastern boundaries initiated through global political interests and will after World War I and, to a lesser extent, World War II. With an Israeli visa stamp in my passport, I remain a victim of those arbitrary borders — with few exceptions, I can’t cross the border into most Arab states using that passport. I can visit Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, and UAE, but I’m unable to visit Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, smaller Persian Gulf states or North African Arab states (Israeli Passport, 2014).
I would argue that the root of many socio-political conflicts in the Middle East stem from global influence on local boundaries. For example, the current Syrian civil war pits the minority Alawite ruling authority against the Sunni majority, the result of poorly-planned and articulated boundaries among various people groups with historic enmity toward one another. Not that individual nation-states or regions for specific people groups is the answer — reference ongoing enmity between Pakistan and India — but borders drawn in collaboration with, rather than enforced upon, local groups would surely have addressed, even mitigated, some of the pent-up enmity that has recently exploded in violence in Syria and surrounding nations. Boundaries are deeply decisive in the Middle East as borders, but they are also deeply decisive as concepts and socio-political realities. The result of divisiveness (differentiation) is discourse, and the rhetoric of boundaries, whether in reference to tricksters or Middle Eastern borders or networks, fascinates me.
At any rate, this week I limited connections to the theories rather than the theorists. I’ve maintained a running list of theories in the upper-left corner of my mindmap, each of which I’ve connected as Theorized and/or Operationalized. I’ve used that list of theories for connections. Next week, in addition to adding a concept or two, I’ll connect individual theorists to the concept groupings. This will weave a remarkably tangled web. It might even be ambient.
Israeli passport. (2014, March 27). Wikipedia. Retrieved 19 April 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_passport
Last week’s mindmap took into account most of what we’ve read from Castells, so I did not add any more to the Castells nodes. Preparing for end-of-term assignments, however, I started thinking about the network ecology I’ve created in the mindmap in order to identify some trends. So I pulled out what appear to be the most connected nodes in the mindmap network — Foucault, Ecology, and Network Society — and started thinking about characteristics that describe these most-connected nodes (aside, of course, from being the most connected).
My three characteristics that help explain why these nodes are so well connected are influential, applicable, and contemporary.
Influential: Throughout the semester, we’ve seen Foucault’s ideas about the ephemeral character of discourse reiterated by various theorists and theories. From Biesecker’s (1989) différance to Prior et al.’s (2007) CHAT to Latour’s (2005) ANT, and in several other theories in between, we’ve see Foucault’s influence. Several of us were chatting yesterday evening in Facebook about the theory tree assignment, and the phrase “Foucault is everywhere” kept repeating itself. I’ve drawn these connections in terms of the moment of discursive formation in a couple of my own blog posts, and others have focused on trace, on the archive, and on the monument in other blog posts. Foucault is clearly deeply influential on many of the theorists we’ve encountered this semester. In addition, we’ve seen ecological ideas appear relatively frequently, although less so that Foucault’s ideas. Where Foucault addresses the behavior of the individual rhetor in discourse, ecological perspectives address rhetors or actors as groups of like organisms working within a larger system. Both of these ideas are influential and, given our timeline of original publication, both Foucault and Bateson published in the same year (1972). They’ve had time to become influential.
Applicable: Here I’m focusing on the operationalizability (how’s that for a made-up word?) of the theory in real-world applications. Foucault remains entirely theoretical; on the other hand, ecology and network society find real-world applications as ways to specifically and concretely understand network activity occurring in lived experience. Ecology offers us specific ways to understand and affect the impact of actions on environment, to recognize the effects of ecological change on the biosphere, and to speculate on ways specific activities can improve ecological function. Network society offers us specific ways to understand social activity in the informational global economy, and it provides a rubric for recognizing how networks include and exclude populations. While other theories (like ANT and genre theory) also provide operationalized examples (especially Spinuzzi’s  genre tracing), I did see that characteristic on its own resulting in high levels of connectedness among other theorists.
Contemporary: I should probably term this “post-modern” to be more accurate, but I’ve chosen “contemporary” to more specifically reflect how these theorists/theories can relate to twenty-first-century lived experience. Foucault, ecology, and network society all provide broad perspectives for understanding the fragmentary, simultaneous, ephemeral experience of living in a networked age. Each in its own way resists pre-categorizing lived experiences: Foucault in terms of rhetoric, ecology in terms of biological determinism, and network society in terms of socio-econo-political realities. Each proposes to carefully study “all the things” within its domain before considering any type of categorical placement. I recognize that other theories also offer such tools for understanding; however, they did not result in the same level of connectedness in my mindmap.
And that’s the question to be addressed: What is it about these three theories that makes them more highly connected than others in my mindmap? I propose that one differentiator is the combination of these three characteristics. While other theories might demonstrate one of these characteristics, I think the combined characteristics help explain the level of connectivity. That said, I immediately recognize the need to problematize these categories as potentially hegemonic or biased toward utility. But in order to close this post, I won’t move past this point!
Bateson, G. (1987/1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.
Biesecker, B. A. (1989). Rethinking the rhetorical situation from within the thematic of “différance.” Philosophy & Rhetoric, 22(2), 110-130.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies
Prior, P., Solberg, J., Berry, P., Bellwoar, H., Chewning, B., Lunsford, K. J., Rohan, L., Roozen, K., Sheridan-Rabideau, M. P., Shipka, J., Van Ittersum, D., & Walker, J. R. (2007). Re-situating and re-mediating the Canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity [Multimodal composition]. Kairos, 11(3). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/11.3/binder.html?topoi/prior-et-al/index.html
Spinuzzi, C. (2003). Tracing genres through organizations: a sociocultural approach to information design. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.