In my mind map this week, I added a primary node of Ecology with smaller nodes linking out to Spellman and Syverston (since my book didn’t come until Tuesday, I only read summaries and, thus, I need to read him before I try to add him). As a result of our discussions in class this week, I created a connecting contrast node between Spellman and Latour. I actually had a date with a biologist on Saturday who studies freshwater streams and lakes, so this was a topic of our conversation. It was interesting for me to try to explain my perception (based on our readings and discussions) that ecology focuses on groups and classification. He didn’t see it until I explained how Latour’s theory of tracing all of the messy connections to an individual helps to define that individual’s network–the result of which would not be generalizable to other individuals. For instance, a species of fish serves a role in an ecosystem–its niche–and the role could be filled by any other of the fish in that species. However, while human individuals also serve a role in their network, all of an individual’s roles within his or her own specialized network cannot be fulfilled by another individual, because we have such a high level of agency and the importance we place on social systems.
I also added a primary node for Syverston and connected her concept of emergence to Bazerman, as I see a direct connection with the concept of speech acts and genres. This is a connection I plan to explore more as part of my own research.
JJ Gibson’s “Theory of Affordances” set off waves of thought for me in terms of my object of study, Live-Action Role-Playing games. In 1977, Gibson revolutionized the field of evolutionary psychology and systems theory by making up the word “affordance” to explain what something (an object, an environment) offers to an individual. (127). It is a theory that situates itself not in the physical properties of an object, but in the perception of it. Affordances are measured in relationship to the subject doing the perception. The more complex the object and the subject, the more complex the set of affordances, which, Gibson notes, are perceived primarily through optical and sensory information (128). Gibson further defines a niche as a set of such affordances, and he problematizes the subjective-objective dichotomy of thought prevalent in the social sciences vs. the sciences. Affordances, he states, cut across this constructed border and demonstrate its limitations. Affordances exist in the relationship between the object and the user doing the perceiving.
This then relates to Bateson, whose theory is about the reality of perception, and how what one perceives becomes what is true, real, possible. This, in turn, leads to Norman, who states that Gibson’s affordance really is a “perceived affordance”; if a user perceives something is possible, then it is possible, if s/he perceives it is not possible, then it is not possible. This is regardless to whether it actually is possible with the object at hand. An affordance isn’t an affordance unless it is perceived by the would-be user.
When reading Gibson, I had some ideas about the dangers of perceiving objects solely in terms of WIIFM, “what can be done with it, what it is good for, its utility” (129). This narrow perception can lead to a Benthamite fetishization of utility, and a late-capitalist concern about commodification.
Bateson says that what we perceive is difference (differance?), patterns and ways one thing is not like another. To me that means that our perception creates discourse; discourse is created as a result of perceived difference, of some sort of chasm to cross or something to bridge via language. Perception then, creates the exigence for the rhetorical situation. A rhetor perceives, and interprets, and as Bateson notes, his perception is real and personal, and not absolute. As Gibson notes, what the rhetor perceives are affordances, ways to obtain something from the object or situation, which speaks to Bitzer’s goal-oriented communication, and even to Bazerman’s genres. This perception of “Certain facts” distilled from an object (Bateson 459) is what Bateson calls the extrapolation of information. A rhetorical situation then, affords information. What information is extrapolated and acted upon, then depends on what the rhetor perceives. The discourse that is created then travels along pathways and is “energized at every step by the metabolic energy latent in the protoplasm which receives the difference, recreates or transforms it, and passes it on” (Bateson 459). This relates to the rhetorical situation in that we are measuring the effect on the audience. Furthermore, the perceiver/rhetor, in Bateson’s analogy, adds energy to the object and recreates it into the map of it, into something other than its physical properties. In this way, it resembles the idea of a mediator (rather than an intermediary) from Actor Network Theory.
Bateson quotes Jung, who says that “as a difference is transformed and propagated along its pathway, the embodiment of the difference before the step is a “territory” of which the embodiment after the step is a “map.” The map-territory relation obtains at every step” (461). To me, this is demonstrating the iterative nature of the interpretation; as the information is mediated along the pathway from physical object to perceived object, it ceases to be the object itself, but a representation of it, colored by the available information and perceived affordances of the person doing the perceiving. Remembering the object then is an image of the represented image, and further removed from the original object. Any “phenomena” is “appearance”, Bateson says. In other words, all of the world is rhetorically constructed by the seer, who perceives it.
Bateson’s comments about “immanence and transcendence” (467) are making me think about whether they can be used to express the dual consciousness of the player-character during a role-playing game. The player is, simultaneously, him/herself, and the character. The player is the immanence, physically in the world with the other players and symbolic objects, but the player becomes transcendence by being more than
themselves, by entering the imaginative space of the game. If I am Thor, I am myself playing Thor, the character Thor, all Thors before me – representations that are both there and not there, here and beyond, all working together to recreate, remediate and present “Thor.” When Bateson discusses the “false reifications of the ‘self’ and separations between the ‘self’ and experience’ I am transported to the notion that live-action role-playing is unmediated space; that the self and the experience are one. The play exists in a co-created imaginative space that is experienced through the body; the mind/body split is reconstituted as player.
“it is the attempt to separate intellect from emotion that is monstrous, and I suggest that it is equally monstrous – and dangerous—to attempt to separate the external mind from the internal. Or to separate the mind from body” (470).
This fetishization of “pure mind” is the idealistic focus of Enlightenment thinking and cybernetic theory, commonly embodied in the person of a digital avatar. Yet in larp, which is face-to-face interaction unmediated by technology, people are liberated by the concept of imagination – of the alibi of portraying a character — that lets them have emotional and embodied experiences in interaction with others in a shared relational ecosystem. There is not difference in perception between character and player in these scenarios. If it is happening to the character, it is happening to the player, whose body is at risk, and whose bodily reactions perceive no intellectual distance between the constructed character and the player portraying. We constitute the reality of the game by “information processing, i.e. by thought” (Bateson 471). As Gibson says, what we perceive is an “ambient optic array” that “at any fixed point of observation some parts of the environment are revealed and the remaining parts are concealed” (136). A larp is only constructed by the person playing it, and one person’s diegesis will be unlike another’s. No one, not even the Game Master or Story Teller ever has all of the information; thus all reality is based on what the player perceives and interprets. Information may exist, a secret may lie latent, but it does not “mean” or “matter” or “exist” in the sense of being perceived as something that can be acted upon until it is seen or heard, and thus brought into the mind of the player and the diegesis of the game.
Gibson’s use of the biological term proprioception is fruitful in looking at larp. The notion that “to perceive the world is to coperceive oneself” is a theory of how interactive role play and world building happens, dynamically in the larp. The character is iteratively constructed in relation to his/her environment and to other characters. Gibson goes on to say something that I think can be very useful in studying larps: “Only when a child perceives the values of things for others as well as for herself does she begin to be socialized” (139). This seems to refer to a kind of shared empathy, that is fundamental to the kind of collaborative interactive play that is a larp. Call it the “empathy bump” or “alteric escalation”, if you will. When you realize, as a player, that your experience will be all the richer if you play in such a way as to enrich the experiences of others, then you have a social realm. A network is created by this sort of social contract that recognizes (perceives) the self in relation to others and the affordances of the game as being collaborative and shared. The game exists as a set of affordances in the relationship of the players to the environment and the information. A kind of discursive community, a rhetorical triangle (player – environment – information) is created, and through the act of speaking, the reality is created and perceived.
I’m also tossing around this idea that the more divergent the thinking of the perceiver, the greater the number of affordances will be perceived. Thus, the boundaries of possibility – in short, the reality – of something who thinks divergently is much richer than that of someone who thinks convergently. This has implications for the discourse produced. In the case of larps, this affects the outcome of the game, which is only confined to what the player believes is possible for his character within the constraints of the game world and its mechanics.
Bateson, Gregory. “Form, Substance, and Difference” Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. 454-471. Print.
Gibson, James J. “A Theory of Affordances. An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1979. 127-139. Print.
Avengers 2 Thor. http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20111215055347/marvelmovies/images/b/b2/Thor_Avengers2.png
Classic Cartoon Thor. http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11111/111111405/3008667-classic_thor_by_lostonwallace-d4xn712%5B1%5D.jpg
Female Thor. http://hqwallpapersplus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Thor-Wallpapers-13.jpg
Little Thor. http://0.tqn.com/d/paranormal/1/0/q/I/2/little-thor.jpg
My additions with CHAT this week were fairly simple–I made sure to include Prior et al.’s justification for remapping rhetorical activity (traditional canons neglect the full scope and complexity of the activity) and the basics of their remapping (literate activity, functional systems, and laminated chronotopes).
As I began mapping them, I thought about how the remapped levels of activity in CHAT connect to Spinuzzi’s three levels of activity: macroscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic. Although not identical (Spinuzzi’s is more focused on levels of consciousness within a system), a common theme between them and Foucault is the idea of tracing the historical and ideological contexts of the systems. All three theories seem to operate on the belief that there is an underlying abstract basis for networks.
Together the different theories are beginning to illuminate a more holistic understanding of human activity as a network. While they are, for the most part, focusing on communication and discourse, they individually focus on different aspects of it. Bitzer, Vatz, Biesecker, and Prior et al. all focus on the rhetorical nature and implications of interactivity. Miller, Bazerman, Popham, and Spinuzzi and their focus on genres illuminate how rhetorical activity is signified. Foucault helps us understand the complexity of the conditions necessary for the creation of signifiers.
Still having problems with the embed function, so here is a jpeg of my mindmap:
In creating my rubric, I tried to think what I as an instructor would be wanting a student to demonstrate. So, I ended up with three sections: Explanation, Application, and Reflection.
I applied my rubric to Suzanne’s application of genre theory to the Underground Press Syndicate. Overall, Suzanne did a great job in the explanation and application sections. She gave an overview of the theory, justified its application to the UPS, and thoroughly explained the UPS in terms of genres. If I were providing her with feedback with this rubric, I would encourage her to further develop the reflection section.
Surprisingly, the rubric worked really well with Suzanne’s application. Because we had used different questions to write the case study specifically in terms of networks, I actually expected the rubric to be much more problematic. The success of it, however, makes me realize how much both the structure of a theoretical application and rubrics themselves are genres. I know a couple of people in the class collaborated on a rubric and shared it with the rest of us–when I looked at theirs (in Maury’s subfolder in shared class Google Drive folder), I was again surprised to see how similar the rubrics were. This is telling of our expectations. Even though they only grouped their criteria into two sections, the components were the same–they just combined what I considered reflection with the application. Suzanne’s analysis so closely fit both mine and the collaborative rubric that its clear we all have the same conception of what was expected in applying a theory.
Additionally, the format of the rubric was similar. A table on the left hand side with room for comments on the right hand side. As teachers and students of writing, we all clearly value a place for discussion more than we value a checklist through which a writer accumulates points.
I know that my discussion is supposed to focus on what I would change about my rubric, but I like my rubric and its now made me realize what I didn’t do in my own case study. Of course, to do everything my rubric requires in 1000 words might too difficult, so I guess if I were to tailor it to fit this assignment more closely, I’d try to decide which elements are most important for the student to demonstrate. Since we are summarizing and discussing the theories in other places in the course, I think I would place more value on the application and reflection for the sake of space in this assignment.
(Additions this week are in black again since we have worked through each of the colors.)
The CHAT authors are interested in remapping the traditional canonical understanding of composition and rhetoric. From this discussion, I was struck most by the rethinking of delivery as a significant canon. I agree that the role of delivery was significantly diminished after English Studies developed as a written discipline as opposed to the oratorical goals of classical rhetoric. This may have resonated with me as I am working with a delivery system for my object of study, but it seems to build on a thread I have been working with. Last week, I added nodes to civic web sites to show the link between the evaluative criterion of usability and Spinuzzi's declaration of communication and information design becoming ever-more inextricable linked. I added the claim from CHAT authors to that set of nodes that spoke to the same overlap in English and the digital world.
To that growth, I added a node for "delivery" as the CHAT authors describe as being made up of "mediation" and "distribution", or choices we make about form and choices we make for getting that form to the audience respectively. I see a connection between mediation and the cluster of nodes dealing with how English Studies is linked to information technology. The growing use of digital media for rhetorical products requires mediation, choice of form, probably more than the traditional printed essay due to the highly variable environment that does not have a prescribed set of style guidelines like MLA. I thought about where else we have seen mediation as an important element. I thought of genre and Vatz's argument about the role of the rhetor. Genre mediates content by restricting it to a particular form. The rhetor chooses and edits content thus mediating the information an audience receives. I connected these nodes to the mediation node.
I added a node to genre to show the connection between it and what the CHAT authors call "affordances." I wrote about this in my reading notes and feel there may be some further exploration on that point - namely an idea I am kicking around about where action comes from. It seems genre theorists argue that actions stem from genres, but I think the CHAT authors are saying that actions collect into certain affordances that then make objects' use easier or more difficult. Are they coming at action from different angles? One with action as an effect of genre, the other with genre (affordances) as an effect of action?
Lastly, I added a node for "memory networks", the burgeoning archivist I like to see myself as. I connected this to Foucault's archives that I already suggested are a type of network. I connected a node for Solberg and Rohan, both CHAT authors dealing with memory, to that. Solberg suggests strong memories can impact the emotional environment in a positive way and Rohan argues that collective memory is built upon the reuse and repurposing of memory artifacts. I see both of these views as bearing on my object of study as effects of the seeing UPS as a memory network. I also connected that UPS node to "distribution" from the previous paragraph.
This is making me thinking about the relationship between memory and delivery. The classical canon suggests that to deliver a speech, we must have committed it to memory. The UPS is both a memory network, like Rohan's grates collecting thoughts and building a group memory, and a distributive system. I think this will be an interesting place to explore - and I'm glad the mind map was there to suggest it. I'm not sure I would have thought about it otherwise.
If the embed feature works, you will also see the current map here:
Adding Spinuzzi this week, I began to see overlaps rather than contradictions. Even though last week was one of the Mind Maps to drop for me, I also added in a node for Bazerman as I saw a connection between his the felicity conditions he described and Foucault’s historical a priori that I didn’t want to forget.
Although not exactly the same, I do think there are similarities between Spinuzzi’s genre ecology (system of genres) and Foucault’s concepts of archive (“the general system of the formation and transformation of statements”) and tree of enunciative derivation (“at its base are statements that put into operation rules of formation in their most extended form; at the summit, and after a number of branchings, are the statements that put into operation at the same regularity, but one more delicately articulated, more clearly delimited and localized in its extension”). While genre ecology and archive seem to both encompass the system as a whole, the tree seems to correlate with Spinuzzi’s three levels of activity within the system just as the tree describes levels within the archive.
Additionally, Foucault’s methodology of tracing seems closely related to Spinuzzi’s, although Spinuzzi identifies a more systematic approach. Both emphasize the importance of understanding the historical and cultural/disciplinary roots of discourse/genre (which also relates to Popham’s boundary objects).
Finally, I noted a connection between Foucault’s concept of discontinuity and Spinuzzi’s destablization. Again, both identify these as places of interruption–places that indicate the importance of understanding the various levels at play.
The embedded function doesn’t seem to be working for me tonight, so here is a link to the updated version: Popplet Mind Map
For her case study, Chvonne applied mostly Bitzer’s theory of the rhetorical situation to Snapchat, focusing on how an event serves as the exigence for the Snapchat and how meaning is created primarily by the author of the Snapchat (interpretation of the event).
In her case study, Summer applied Bazerman’s theory of genres to World of Warcraft (WoW), focusing players’s conformity to guild social rules and norms as “social facts” and interactions as speech acts.
Considering these two analyses together makes me think about how meaning is created in different theories of networks. From Chvonne’s example of Snapchat and Bitzer’s theory, meaning seems to be created by the individual (I’d argue that it’s both the author of the Snapchat AND the audience-turned-author in response who create meaning in this application). Meaning is manipulated by individuals as they respond to the exigence. In contrast, Summer’s application of genre theory situates meaning as culturally-negotiated as party of the social system. Members of the network create the rhetorical situation and, thereby, the standards and norms of the network. Bazerman’s concepts of locutionary and illocutionary acts and perlocutionary effects account for the negotiations between the individuals that Bitzer’s theory neglects.
Summer’s application of genre theory stirred me to think about the next case study and how I might begin to apply Bazerman’s concepts to my own Object of Study. If we consider the field of writing centers as a (global) social system in which individual writing centers create their own (local) social systems, we can begin to consider how the social facts of the global system not only dictate the speech acts of but are also transformed by the local systems.
Genre Theory is a body of discourse that overlaps in many ways with the key concepts involved with networks, particularly nodes and connectivity. One way to understand the relationship between genre and network is through the lens of Charles Bazerman’s systems of human activity in which he has situated genre as discussed in “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems” (311). He argues that all human activity is comprised of hierarchical, embedded categories. Like a set of Russian nesting dolls, human activity can be opened to reveal genre systems, which are in turn made up of genre sets. These sets contain within them what we understand as genres. Genres contain speech acts, and speech acts hold within them the smallest, indivisible category, social facts.
|Wikipedia Commons image of nesting dolls|
The relationship between these categories functions much in the same way as do the various elements in networks. We can understand Bazerman’s “systems of human activity” to be a network. It consists of nodes, or categories, that relate and connect to one another, allowing the network to function. However, because each category itself can consist of many examples, it is also possible to think of each category as a kind of sub-network with its own nodes.
This understanding of genre-as-network can be applied to an object of study to reveal its previously unexamined aspects and provide new avenues of scholarship. In this case, the object of study is the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS), the free content-sharing network of underground press publications operating between 1966 and 1973.
Genre theory would define the UPS network as a genre system. Consider the diagram below. (Click here for link)
|Google Drawing depicting Bazerman's Hierarchy of Human Activity as a Network applied to the UPS|
Situated thus, the news-sharing network of the UPS is understood as a genre system. However, genre theory also revolves around the idea of discourse being classifiable according to “conventional forms”. We understand that these forms take their recognizable shapes because they “arise in situations with similar structures and elements and because rhetors respond in similar ways, having learned from precedent what is appropriate and what effects their actions are likely to have on other people” (Miller 152, "Genre as Social").
|Ron Cobb's cartoons collected in this book. Cobb's submissions were reprinted widely through UPS.|
|Like creative commons images, boundary objects can be used by many users for many purposes. The UPS members submitted work for free use by others also like creative commons images.|
Image from us.creativecommons.org
Examining the diagram based on Bazerman’s work, the relationship between the node moves unilaterally toward human activity; however, it could be argued that the activity produced at the culmination of the network would then bring about new social facts. In that regard, the direction could be understood as cyclical.
|Publication notifying and encouraging social action - a translation of genre (newspaper) into action (protest)|
Image from personal collection
|Telegraph equipment rendered obsolete in the communication network. Now housed in a museum.|
Image by Porthcurno Telegraph Museum
McMillian, John. Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
Sink, Suzanne. “Inquisition - Charlotte, NC”. Southern Underground Press. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
Spinuzzi, Clay. Tracing Genres Through Organizations: A Sociocultural Approach to Information Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. Print.