Archive | Reading Notes RSS feed for this section

Lighting Up Classical Rhet_Reading notes for November 10th

Welcome to the Sunday edition of Monday homework.

Oh Saturday homework binge, you heartless fiend. Image hosted on Thought Catalog.

Oh Sunday homework binge, you heartless fiend. Image hosted on Thought Catalog.

 It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

It’s…Cultural Cool?

Is this a representation of the mysterious Cultural Cool? Image hosted on the site Your Wild World.

Is this a representation of the mysterious Cultural Cool? Image hosted on the site Your Wild World.

So, yes, this digital text discusses cultural cool, which is a bit of a new concept for me, though the author mentions”some scholars have argued that sensibilities resembling cool appeared in Africa as early as 3000 B.C.E” (Peppers). But what is this cultural cool? Peppers turns to the work of Dick Pountain and David Robins (this is a link to the first chapter of their book on the New York Times website) to hash out this phrase: “one of their key aspects of cool—its mutability. ‘Cool is not something that inheres in artefacts themselves, but rather in people’s attitude to them’ (p. 18). Therefore, the what of cool will keep changing across geographic, generational, and cultural boundaries, which makes the task of categorizing cool incredibly tricky. Exactly what styles, music, books, movies, etc. are cool necessarily have to change over time since cool is ‘a permanent state of private rebellion’ (p. 19). There is obviously no rebellion in adopting behaviors or artefacts that previous generations elevated to cool status (unless enough time has passed or if it’s done ironically).” The breaking of trends from one generation to the next is interesting because it is a conscious break, seeking to find a different path that those who came before may have rejected or not imagined, but these countercultures are often absorbed by the mainstream culture they had been pushing back. This creates a cycle as the next generation feels the need to break away from the generation before, with the older generation’s rebellion becoming part of the overarching cultural narrative.

Mainstream absorption of counter culture. Image hosted on Izismile.

Mainstream absorption of counter culture. Image hosted on Izismile.

Before leading his readers through a “historical tour of cool” (which ranges from “West Africa” to “The Lost Generation” to “James Dean” to “Hip Hop” to “Bill Clinton”), Peppers discusses two other characteristics of cool, permanent and private, as those who strive for cool are doing so to fit in with a group through rebellion, but also the act of rebellion is done by the individual rather than the collective who is being defiant. Peppers acknowledges that there are contradictions in this since the person is rebelling in order to impress a peer group where members are (most likely) also rebelling, but “cool” remains an individual expression. Makes total sense, no? Just take a deep breath and remember that it’s all cool. Peppers also draws attention to personality traits associated with cool: “Pountain and Robbins (2000) were at their most specific (and uncool) when they identified the three personality traits required for coolness: narcissism, ironic detachment, and hedonism (p. 26). They argue that these traits remain constant throughout generations even if the specific cool artefacts and behaviors change.” One of the best examples Peppers gives of narcissism was that of Bill Clinton’s public image overwhelming the presidency, such as his saxophone playing publicity and ironic detachment as Clinton’s ability to shrug off the backlash for his less than savory behaviors. For hedonism, besides thinking of the Picture of Dorian Gray, I think of hippies and free love, with overtones of anarchic peace and love and sunshine (nothing against hippies, except they kind of scare me).

But what does cool have to do with the New Media course? Cool rhetoric would be the  answer to that. Peppers looks to two scholars discussing cool rhetoric in the digital era: Jeff Rice and Alan Liu. Peppers highlights Rice’s three strategies for cool rhetoric, which do not include narcissism or hedonism, as appropriation, juxtaposition, and non-linearity.

Appropriation –> “the borrowing of pre-existing items for incorporation into a new assemblage of meaning. A more complex take would also suggest that specific subcultures, generational nostalgia, and contextual signifiers can also be borrowed and, in a cool fashion, brought into a new time and space of meaning”

Juxtaposition –> “takes potential meanings of individual signifiers and forces us to fashion new meanings from viewing them in close proximity”

Non-linearity –> “The non-linearity of digital texts highlights that they have no true entry or exit point…They are almost always works-in-progress that will morph and change often through the intentions of multiple authors” <– this strategy rather reminds me of Wikipedia, where readers can start with any page and work their way through the hyperlinks for the information that interests them rather than an origin point, and the pages are never fully complete as anyone can go in and expand upon the content.

Liu’s article has a different focus than Rice as he explores “the status of ‘knowledge work‘ in a society now focused on the production and transfer of information. Liu was also on a quest—to save the future of the Humanities when that area’s focus of interest and study (art, literature, aesthetics) seemingly have nothing to offer the profit motivated, homogenous output of knowledge work in a world of hyper-capitalism” (Peppers). Once Peppers stops looking at Liu’s work through Rice’s observations, Liu’s exploration of “cool” rhetoric makes more sense. By looking at the rhetorical strategy of ethos beyond writing from authority to (re)seeing it as “a habitual gathering place,” Peppers shows how virtual spaces on the interwebs can take on the role of habitual gathering spaces, especially with the example of Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr: “Teenagers and adults alike have especially demonstrated a penchant to gather and form communities across the web—a fact easily demonstrated by the quick rise (and fall and replacement) of social networks sites like Friendster, Xanga, Myspace, and Facebook over the past decade. The success of newer additions like Tumblr and Pinterest suggest a continued demand for digital gathering places where the sharing of information is, at their core, their raison d’être.” I do think Peppers has a point (one I had never considered) that social media sites are rhetorical spaces, but he drops the train of thought just as quickly as he brings it up.

Knowledge workers, unite with your code! Image hosted on the site Eccentex.

Knowledge workers, unite with your code! Image hosted on the site Eccentex.

Leaping into a different train of thought with Peppers, we finally see a definition for his section on cool ethos as the focus turns to Alan Liu’s “ethos of information,” which is defined as “the moment of tricky reversal when we see that interfaces are always two-sided . . . the user throws his or her point of view ventriloquially outward into the realm of information and from there peers inward back through the interface at his or her own awareness of the information (p. 184)” (qtd. in Peppers). This is a rather curious idea (and one that reminds me far too much of Nietzsche’s “abyss peering back” to be comfortable). The idea that we find ourselves consumed by the information playing out on our screens and being “gratified” by what we are looking at in our browsers often rings true, but there are days when crawling through the internet is more distressing and exhausting than gratifying (especially when doing research on a niche topic). The other side of Liu’s ethos of cool is “ethos against information”: “Liu (2004) defined cool as an ethos against information where the ‘schema of useful versus useless [information] is inadequate, for it is the uselessness of useful information upon which cool rings the changes’ (p. 186)” (qtd. in Peppers). This “ethos against information” includes “ironic detachment” (remember that lovely phrase?), “useless usefulness,” “the ‘wow’ factor,” but, thankfully, “ironic detachment” finds a stronger example with The Onion as a “cool” news outlet where satire reveals truth sometimes better than other news sources.

**Couldn’t resist posting the video below.

While Pepper’s text was enlightening, it also drove me crazy by how fast he blipped through the material. With every section, I grew more frustrated with Peppers’ text as I felt like I knew less and less what “cool” was, and I started out not knowing the phrase at all. I admit that “cool” rhetoric in someone else’s exploration would be fascinating in its own right (though I never want to hear the word “cool” again), but what I liked best about the site was the way it displays information. The historical tour was my favorite part because I could click on the “more” button and, instead of directing me to a different page and interrupting my navigation through the information flow, a description box for each represented time period popped up and was as easily dismissed. I think the article/thesis would have been much more effective if the author had tried making a more comprehensive text than making it super “cool” to look at.

 Some extra vocabulary

topoi – Aristotle’s term for what “establish common meanings, ideas, and assumptions that allow a rhetor to structure his or her argument in familiar (and therefore assessable) ways” (Peppers)

**As a side note, I found this while doing some external research: is a pretty nifty research project with “more than 200 researchers from diverse disciplines investigate how space and knowledge were formed and transformed in ancient civilizations.”

chora – Rice “adopts chora (originally from Plato) to update the topoi for a digital age where ‘choral writing organizes any manner of information by means of the writer’s specific position in the time and space of culture’ (Ulmer, 1994, p. 33)” (Peppers). Chora (which is spelled Khôra) “has been used in philosophy by Plato to designate a receptacle, a space, or an interval in the Timaeus,” which is is one of Plato’s dialogues that “puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings” (Wikipedia).


Pepper, Mark D. “Classical Rhetoric up in Smoke: Cool Persuasion, Digital Ethos, and Online Advocacy.” Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy 18.2 (2014). Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

New Music for Every Post of the Week

Reading Notes_delayed from October 27th

Part 2 of Manovich’s Software Takes Command reading notes, with part one hashing out the categories of cultural software.

Lev Manovich divides his book into three parts: 1)Inventing media software,” 2) “Hybridization and evolution,” and 3) “Software in action.”

Because my New Text Report will be centered on Manovich’s text, I am going to focus primarily on the “Inventing media software” section since that will not feature as much in my report. So let’s start with what Manovich sees as the “secret history of software” and look briefly at the major movers-and-shakers of the software/hardware world:

Creator of the Universal Turing Machine, Image hosted on the blog for the UK-based 27 Stars.

Creator of the Universal Turing Machine, Image hosted on the blog for the UK-based 27 Stars.

Though Manovich does not spend a lot of time discussing Alan Turing and the Universal Turing Machine, he does make it clear that Turing is one of the key foundational people who made today’s computers and World Wide Web possible. Manovich states that Turing’s work “theoretically defined a computer as a machine that can simulate a very large class of other machines, and it is this simulation ability that is largely responsible for the proliferation of computers in modern society” (Kindle Locations 1286-1288). To supplement Manovich’s scattered comments about Turing, I turned to other sources: 27Stars’ blog entry on Turing, biographical website on Turing by Andrew Hodges, and the BBC section on the mathematicianOne article I found absolutely fascinating on the UK’s Daily Mail website is the work still being done with the film about Turing, “Imitation Game,” by academics.

**Side note: He was definitely not the most humanely treated man on the planet, as he was subjected to chemical castration for being a gay man and has only recently received posthumous pardon from the Queen of England.

Manovich also highlights over the work of Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson, who were integral to hyperlinking that we use all the time (I know I do!).

Douglas Engelbart_creator of the mouse and all around computer-New-Media badass. Image hosted on the site Telepresence Options.

Douglas Engelbart_creator of the mouse and all around computer-New-Media badass. Image hosted on the site Telepresence Options.

Ted Nelson_hyperlink pioneer. Image hosted on

Ted Nelson_hyperlink pioneer. Image hosted on

These two men are probably the coolest computer techies I have read about in Manovich’s text as they helped shape the kind of culture we have on the interwebs. While Engelbart is famous for inventing the computer mouse along with Bill English, he is also known for his team’s development of “the ability for multiple users to collaborate on the same document” (Kindle Locations 1309-1310). The collaborative nature of the second development is something we use heavily in the New Media course as we work together on Google Docs (along with other software available through the Google Drive) and sites like Wikipedia (and the horde of smaller wikis that are cropping up, like this one on New Media). Manovich also explores Ted Nelson’s (paralleled with Engelbart’s) designing of a way to link documents together in what is now known as hyperlinking, though Manovich points out that the hyperlinks we use today are just one of the options Nelson pointed out in his theoretical works.

Despite Turing, Engelbart, and Nelson being super stars in the computer world, Manovich spends much of his time centered on Alan Kay and his “universal media machine” (with the name being a play off of the Univeral Turing Machine): “Kay wanted to turn computers into a ‘personal dynamic media’ which could be used for learning, discovery, and artistic creation. His group achieved this by systematically simulating most existing media within a computer while simultaneously adding many new properties to these media” (Kindle Locations 1196-1198). In essence, Kay and his Learning Research Group at Xerox Parc set about to simulate existing media (such as print, film, and sound) within a single machine (rather than watching a movie on your TV, using a typewriter, or turning on a radio, and so on) while also adding new dimensions of what could be done with each of these mediums, for “while visually, computational media may closely mimic other media, these media now function inf different ways” (Kindle Locations 1206-1207). But what does this mean? How can existing media now have different functions than before they were accessible on a computer?

Alan Kay, one of the masterminds who worked towards creating what Manovich terms “personal dynamic media” (Kindle Location 1202). Image hosted on Cyborg Anthropology.

Alan Kay, one of the masterminds who worked towards creating what Manovich terms “personal dynamic media”
(Kindle Location 1202). Image hosted on Cyborg Anthropology.

Let’s work through an example Manovich brings up: word processor. Because my computer is such a prevalent part of my life and my work (especially as a grad student), I take using Microsoft Word for granted. The software will never do ALL of the things I want it to, but it functions and I know how to use most of its features. So why is a word processor on a computer something to take notice of? Well, think about your relationship with your writing when you write with a pen/pencil and paper compared to when you compose on a computer screen. Both have limitations and affordances that the other may share, but not always. Personally, writing by hand is my preference because I can move the papers every which way I want without being constrained by screen size and I have as many pages as I want scattered about me without needing one to overlap another. On the other side, though, composing on a computer allows me to copy and paste without extra effort on my part (clicking a few buttons vs. rewriting entire sections). And then there comes issues with distribution. Yes, I could physically hand over a copy of my handwritten work to a professor or colleague or whoever else would see my work, but a computer that has access to the interwebs allows me to email work, upload documents to learning sites, share work through this blog, and so on instantaneously (in most cases, though not always). Composing on the computer also feels less permanent in the way that pushing delete a few times will erase what I had previously written without leaving a visible mark (we’ll leave that thought here because that would be one hell of a rabbit hole to fall through), but there is also a deeper sense of permanency because what going into the interwebs and now the Cloud is archived so long as there is an archive.

Whew, that was quite a tangent, and that was only looking at a few aspects of word processing software that many of us use but don’t always take the time to thoroughly consider. And this is exactly Manovich’s point in this first section of the book. Much of our Web culture is founded on software that is invisible to us so long as it is functioning. Once something breaks down–such as a site not working, a blog entry not saving, a browser freezing up, a digital game glitching — we start to take notice of the software running our work, hobbies, shopping experiences, and information gathering.

Collaborative writing is another space where the developments in this “secret history of software” makes looking at the current Web’s affordances interesting. Manovich talks about collaborative writing/editing spaces on the Web (spaces that include pictures, video, sound files, and text), which have altered approaches to information: “By harvesting the small amounts of labor and expertise contributed by a large number of volunteers , social software projects— most famously, Wikipedia— created vast and dynamically updatable pools of knowledge which would be impossible to create in traditional ways . (In a less visible way, every time we do a search on the Web and then click on some of the results, we also contribute to a knowledge-set used by everybody else. In deciding in which sequence to present the results of a particular search, Google’s algorithms take into account which among the results of previous searches for the same words people found most useful)” (Kindle Locations 1317-1321). These sites (or search engines) are not static texts waiting for the next edition. They are constantly being updated, reviewed, changed, expanded, and deleted as people access them as readers, writers, and editors. And anyone who has access to the Interwebs can potentially access these sites and become writers/editors (though there are practices in place where the sites’ moderators attempt to review information for accuracy). We are consumers and producers in the information age.

Here’s a terrible example of collaboration, but an example nonetheless. Do love watching Stephen Colbert, though, that crazy man.

Is the Web a truly democratic space? Yes and no. Manovich states that, “at least in Kay’s and Nelson’s vision, the task of defining new information structures and media manipulation techniques— and, in fact, new media as a whole —was given to the user, rather than being the sole province of the designers. This decision had far-reaching consequences for shaping contemporary culture. Once computers and programming were democratized enough, many creative people started to focus on creating these new structures and techniques rather than using the existing ones to make ‘content'” (Kindle Locations 1484-1488). There may have been some democratization of computers and programming, but there are still obstacles to learning the binary code underlying software: financial ability to purchase the hardware, time to learn to code, access to any external resources (guide books, forums, wikis), mental capability/interest, and (at times) familial/societal/cultural expectations on whether such a thing is a worthy pursuit (or waste of time). There is a definite learning curve in regards to attempts with programming. If you are like me, all of the zeroes and ones make my brain swirly and I scurry back to the comfort of letters.

An attempt at democratizing computers. Image hosted on Amazon.

An attempt at democratizing computers. Image hosted on Amazon.


Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Shipping the Arrow and His IT Lady Love

Software Takes Command_Reading Notes_delayed from October 20th

“The time for ‘software studies’ has arrived”  

(Manovich, Kindle Location 413). 

These are part one of my reading notes for Lev Manovich‘s Software Takes Command, with part two to be posted soon.

So who is our main writing star for this entry?

Lev Manovich. Image hosted on CUNY Academic Commons.

Lev Manovich, a professor at the Graduate Center at CUNY. Image hosted on CUNY Academic Commons.

This text by Manovich can be considered a kind of sequel to his The Language of New Media, published in 2001, and he discusses the changes that have happened to the Web as “the developments of the 1990s have been disseminated to the hundreds of millions of people who are writing blogs, uploading videos to media sharing sites, and use free media authoring and editing software tools that ten years earlier would have cost tens of thousands of dollars” (Kindle Locations 139-141). He also points out that companies like Google and Facebook are updating their codes on a regular basis (sometimes daily), from which emerges a “world of permanent change— the world that is now defined not by heavy industrial machines that change infrequently, but by software that is always in flux” (Kindle Locations 145-146). What I found the most interesting of his opening statements what when he showed just how important software has become to our work as individuals and as scholars (for Humanists as much as for everyone else): “Software has become our interface to the world, to others, to our memory and our imagination— a universal language through which the world speaks, and a universal engine on which the world runs” (Kindle Locations 155-156). As someone who is maintaining a blog devoted to academic writings and assignments, who does research through online databases more often than physically combing the library for a book, and who accesses others in the field and in my own program, I can see why Manovich would claim that software is our interface to the world and to others. So much of what we do is now online, accessible almost anywhere.

Virtually touch all of the things. Image hosted on the site Les idées des IESAViens.

Virtually touch all of the things. Image hosted on the site Les idées des IESAViens.

His interest for this book is looking at consumer products to see the daily uses of software as a tool instead of looking at programmers and the work they do. His interest is in the ways software adds a new dimension to our culture (Kindle Locations 626-627), something I will discuss further below. Manovich goes on to explain that the prevalence of new media in our culture masks the software that makes it all possible and declares that since “software development is gradually getting more democratized. It is, therefore, the right moment to start thinking theoretically about how software is shaping our culture, and how it is shaped by culture in its turn” (Kindle Locations 411-413). His aim in this book is to engage in software studies, especially with an emphasis on cultural software, maintaining that there seven categories of media application (Kindle Locations 452-469):

1) Media software - The creation of cultural artifacts (like music videos or memes) and interactive services (apps and websites) that “contain representations, ideas, beliefs, and aesthetic values” –> With the nod to music videos, this reminds me of Beyonce and her music videos, but it is also Microsoft Word, Dreamweaver, paint, and other “media authoring/editing” software.

2) “Accessing, appending, sharing, and remixing such artifacts” – Manovich mentions YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, and Tumblr, but, for me, Flickr’s pages on Creative Commons and the attributions users can allow and are required to follow offer a good example of people coming into contact with cultural software and having to engage with the affordances and limitations that the software’s creators and other users’ creators are placing on those who explore and use the site. Manovich mentions that this category overlaps with Media Software as sites that allow access to artifacts also allow for the editing and authoring, even going so far as to say that communication sites like Google are for publishing as well as creating content.

Manovich makes an interesting comment under this category, mention that, “Alternatively, we can define ‘content’ by listing genres, for instance, web pages, tweets, Facebook updates, casual games, multiplayer online games, user-generated video, search engine results, URLs, map locations, shared bookmarks, etc. Digital culture tends to modularize content, i.e., enabling users to create, distribute, and re-use discrete content elements— looping animations to be used as backgrounds for videos, 3D objects to be used in creating complex 3D animations, pieces of code to be used in websites and blogs, etc. (This modularity parallels the fundamental principle of modern software engineering to design computer programs from small reusable parts called functions or procedures.) All such parts also qualify as ‘content'” (Kindle Locations 495-501).

Image hosted on the site Dealer-Communications.

Image hosted on the site Dealer-Communications.

3) “Creating and sharing information online” – Manovich lists Wikipedia and Google Earth as sites for users to engage in the creation and sharing of information, but even this blog would be an example as I am sharing with visitors knowledge of Manovich’s work.

4) Communication technologies –> Gmail, Yahoo!, Facebook, Snapchat, FaceTime <– What’s interesting with this one is how often we create a culture around our communication technologies (such as iPhone vs. Android vs. Windows Phone) where certain service providers start to become more prevalent to our activities because of what they allow us to access and do (think of how often Facebook and Gmail are a way to log in to a website instead of filling out forms).

5) “Engaging in interactive cultural experiences” –> Manovich lists video games, but that could also extend out to apps like Zombies, Run!

6) “Participating in the online information ecology by preferences and adding metadata” –> data mining on sites like Amazon seem appropriate here, especially as they filter into spaces like Facebook and YouTube as advertisements based on your searches

Just keep buying and it will be ALL the data on your preferences. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Just keep buying and it will be ALL the data on your preferences. Image hosted on Tumblr.

7) “Developing software tools and services that support all of these activities [above]” –> Think of the people who designed YouTube or WordPress as larger examples of this, but Manovich also looks at smaller creations like a single theme being created for WordPress

Manovich mentions another category that has appeared in the wake of sharing apps, stating that “we should also include software tools for personal information management such as project managers, database applications, and simple text editors or note-taking apps that are included with every computer device being sold” (Kindle Locations 544-546). This would include software like Zotero that helps collect and store research source, as well as Drop Box and Evernote that can be synced across devices so long as there is internet connection and the app is downloaded. This information does not always have to be shared (unless the user prefers it that way) and can be maintained away from the public sphere, though even private files are not as safe as we believe them to be.

But, how much of our lives do we keep private? Manovich explores the social nature of current software and its uses: “However, since at the end of the 2000s, numerous software apps and services started to include email, post, and chat functions (often via a dedicated ‘Share’ menu), to an extent, all software became social software” (Kindle Locations 542-543). We do this all the time with articles we read on websites, we upload pictures we take to Flickr or Instagram, and we share statuses and tweets we like. I am constantly driving my best friends to distraction by sharing my favorite YouTube videos (as I do with every blog post), news articles, funny gifs, and and animal stories. We create a networked identity through what we choose to share from the sites we choose to explore and the communities we choose to share with. Manovich further explore the sociability of software and how culture shifts with software and software shifts with the culture:

“These and all other categories of software shift over time. For instance, during the 2000s the boundary between ‘personal information’ and ‘public information’ has been reconfigured as people started to routinely place their media on media sharing sites, and also communicate with others on social networks. In fact , the whole reason behind the existence of social media and social networking services and hosting websites is to erase this boundary as much as possible. By encouraging users to conduct larger parts of their social and cultural lives on their sites, these services can both sell more ads to more people and ensure the continuous growth of their user base. With more of your friends using a particular service and offering more information, media, and discussions there, you are more likely to also join that service”  (Kindle Locations 546-553).

Erasing the boundary should always look something like this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Erasing the boundary should always look something like this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Think of how often people go on Facebook or Twitter to post pictures of themselves, friends, pets, family. How often do people write statuses detailing not major moments in their lives, but small, day-to-day occurrences? For me, social media is kind of like a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) in that it is not the software that draws people in, but other people being active in that community. In no one played World of Warcraft, the game would collapse and fade into the memories of gamers and the archives of the internet. If people stopped posting on Facebook and turned off their accounts, the site would lose its advertisers and the site would most likely be shut down. People’s activities are at the core of social media, hence the title social. Businesses take advantage of these social spaces, collecting data from our searches on sites like Google, Amazon, and YouTube to strategically place advertisements, but in a way that can be more personalized than ads on television. These businesses rely on the belief that people will follow the trends of their loved ones and friends, and then these businesses loop their own sites back to the social media as a way to draw in more customers. One example would be Netflix and its option for users to share on Facebook what they have been watching on Netflix, potentially drawing in those who may not have Netflix or who may only have streaming versus getting the physical DVDs. Those who share their preferences with friends are doing the advertising work for Netflix, as is Facebook by allowing Netflix ads to appear in their interface. It becomes a social space, even though it is a private account.

Go on, take a peek at what your friends are watching. And then add to the cycle by displaying your favorites. It's all in the social, darling. Image hosted on a blog on the New York Times website.

Go on, take a peek at what your friends are watching. And then add to the cycle by displaying your favorites. It’s all in the social, darling. Image hosted on a blog on the New York Times website.

Following up on his list of cultural software categories, Manovich adds two more: programming environments and media interfaces. He includes programming environments because they are part of the process of making software, “Since creation of interactive media often involves writing some original computer code” (Kindle Locations 563-564). With media interfaces, Manovich reminds me of Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory as he lists the kinds of interfaces and how these interfaces are the connection between people and the software they use: “icons, folders , sounds, animations, vibrating surfaces, and touch screens— are also cultural software, since these interfaces mediate people’s interactions with media and other people” (Kindle Locations 565-566).

Manovich also sets up a dichotomy to explore:

“media/ content” versus “data/ information/ knowledge”

The example for media/content was that of a film, while an excel spreadsheet was listed for data/information/knowledge. However, Manovich mentions that, oftentimes, the dichotomy is blurred, with an object being both media and data. This intersection is really interesting as Manovich has projects where he makes visualizations of data, letting these two categories blend together. My favorite project of his is called Phototrails as it looks at photographs posted on Instagram from 13 cities around the world. In the case of Phototrails, the pictures become the data and the visualization becomes the content. However, there is another way in which these two categories blend and it is familiar to all of us who use the computer: “Of course, since media software operations (as well as any other computer processing of media for research, commercial or artistic purposes) are only possible because the computer represents media as data (discrete elements such as pixels, or equations defining vector graphics in vector files such as EPS), the development of media software and its adoption as the key media technology (discussed in this book) is an important contributor to the gradual coming together of media and data” (Kindle Locations 595-598). Video games do this as well when they take the binary codes underlying the gameplay and produce images, music, videos, and actions to take for the users. What we are seeing as media is made possible through the data and we interact with that data to engage with the media.

 New Vocabulary

* Metamedium – “was coined in 1977 by researchers at computer Americans Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg to refer to the ability of computers to influence other media (the media , the singular medium ) and to simulate the features, or to transform into other media in function of the software executed by the computer itself (obviously in the presence of appropriate hardware and peripherals)” (Google translated from an Italian page on “metamedia” on Wikipedia).

*Cultural Software – It is “cultural in a sense that it is directly used by hundreds of millions of people and that it carries ‘atoms’ of culture —is only the visible part of a much larger software universe” (Manovich, Kindle Locations 231-232). When Manovich uses the phrase cultural software, he is talking about the software that underlie “actions we normally associate with ‘culture,'” such as YouTube, Facebook, cell phone apps, and Adobe Photoshop.

* Software Studies “has to investigate the role of software in contemporary culture, and the cultural and social forces that are shaping the development of software itself” (Manovich, Kindle Locations 287-288).

Manovich develops this further by discussing topics software studies underlie: “I think of software as a layer that permeates all areas of contemporary societies. Therefore, if we want to understand contemporary techniques of control, communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision-making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, our analysis cannot be complete until we consider this software layer. Which means that all disciplines which deal with contemporary society and culture— architecture, design, art criticism, sociology, political science, art history, media studies, science and technology studies, and all others— need to account for the role of software and its effects in whatever subjects they investigate” (Kindle Locations 369-373).

*Media Software – “programs that are used to create and interact with media objects and environments” and “a subset of the larger category of ‘application software’— the term which is itself in the process of changing its meaning as desktop applications (applications which run on a computer) are supplemented by mobile apps (applications running on mobile devices) and web applications (applications which consist of a web client and the software running on a server)”  (Kindle Location 517 and 517-520) –> This kind of software “enables creation, publishing, accessing, sharing, and remixing different types of media (such as image sequences, 3D shapes, characters, and spaces, text, maps, interactive elements), as well as various projects and services which use these elements” (Kindle Location 520-522)

Let's all bound for joy together. Image hosted on the site Love This Pic.

Let’s all bound for joy together. Image hosted on the site Love This Pic.


Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Kindle Edition.

Moving Forward Towards Another Project

Until the End of the Illusion, We Will Baudrillard Forward_Reading Notes October 6th

Okay, so this is part two from last week’s reading notes on Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. This time, though, much of these notes will be focused on Baudrillard’s The Illusion of the End (such an uplifting title, no?), with the hopes that I will have enough time (and attention span) to return to talking about Simulacra and Simulation. Both of these texts are going to be part of my bigger Canonical Text Presentation, which is due next week (crap, that due date is coming up far too quickly).

Nothing starts a post off better than Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn. Image hosted on Deviant Art.

Nothing starts a post off better than Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn. Image hosted on Deviant Art.

Whew, Baudrillard isn’t the most accessible scholar (though he doesn’t quite rank with Foucault on whose work can be the most difficult to muddle through), but I definitely chuckled (probably shouldn’t have) through this book. The moment where I had to put the book down and just laugh for a few minutes was when I first started reading the section “The ascent of the vacuum towards the periphery” where Baudrillard introduces a group who had called themselves the “Stealth Agency,” which he said “could equally well be called: ANATHEMATIC ILLIMITED/TRANSFATAL EXPRESS/VIRAL INCORPORATED/INTERNATIONAL EPIDEMICS (14). I know the group was probably very serious about their work in which they “gather[ed] news of unreal events in order to disinform the public of them” while the group “remained…unreal” (14), but I couldn’t stop humming Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man.” (Hell yeah, James Bond!)

Must as well have a visual. Image hosted on the website Gaming-Asylum.

Must as well have a visual. Image hosted on the website Gaming-Asylum.

Okay, straight face and back to being a serious scholar. As I was settling into reading his first section (chapter?) titled “Pataphysics of the year 2000,” I was a little taken aback by just how affected Baudrillard’s work seems to be in regards to people’s reactions (and potentially his own) to the Y2K terror that internationally swept through countries dependent on computers and the Internet. There were moments in the text where I had to stop and think about the culture in which Baudrillard was writing about the year 2000: “All thoughts are going underground in cautious anticipation of the year 2000. They can already scent the terror of the year 2000. They are instinctively adopting the solution of those cryogenized individuals plunged into liquid nitrogen until the means can be found to enable them to survive” (9). Looking back from 2014 to 1999, it seems a little strange to think about what would have been so terrifying (I was eleven at the time, so I wasn’t aware of a whole lot beyond childhood worries). Were we really so sure that our world would be torn asunder because our computer programmers might not have taken into consideration that we would be using their software after 1999? (It is in this moment that I think of the 1995 film Strange Days and the 2014 film A Walk Among the Tombstones as one film anticipates the mania and one film looks back with a semi-sober eye).

A little Y2K mania, anyone? Image hosted on Time Magazine's website.

A little Y2K mania, anyone? Image hosted on Time Magazine’s website.

Having the capability of looking back retrospectively on the Y2K mania displayed above, I can see where Baudrillard is coming from when he hashes out his three hypotheses concerning the end of history. Yes, take a moment (I need to) and digest the idea that Baudrillard is telling us there is no more history. Okay, moment is up. Let’s rock our way through this.

First up, a definition of the word patapysics, which is defined as “the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions” (Hugill). Now we see that the title for Baudrillard’s first section deals with the imaginary solutions for the year 2000, which would explain the three hypotheses that he offers. So what are our three options?

  • “one might suppose that the acceleration of modernity, of technology, events and media, of all exchanges– economic, political and sexual — has propelled us to ‘escape velocity,’ with the result that we have flown free of the referential sphere of the real and of history,” with history seen as “the kind of crystallization or significant crystallization of events” and reality as “the kind of coherent unfolding of causes and effects” (1). To flesh this out, Baudrillard draws on more physics concepts: “through the impulse for total dissemination and circulation, every event is granted its own liberation; every fact becomes atomic, nuclear, and pursues its trajectory into the void” with it having “to be fragmented like a particle” (2).
  • This hypothesis deals with a slowing down, rather than reaching an escape velocity, as it has to do with “the slowing down of history when it rubs up against the astral body of the ‘silent majorities’. Our societies are dominated by this mass process, not just in the demographic and sociological sense, but in the sense of a ‘critical mass’, of passing beyond a point of no-return” (3). — Absorption is a key mental image here, as “Events follow one upon another, cancelling each other out in a state of indifference” (3)
  • Baudrillard approaches the third hypothesis with an analogy about music and our cultural obsession with “high fidelity” to the point where the music is no longer music (think auto-tune, as it leaves the singer’s voice perfectly flawless, though no one’s voice has such a quality). For history, “by dint of the sophistication of events and information, history ceases to exist as such. Immediate high-powered broadcasting, special effects, secondary effects, fading and that famous feedback effect which is produced in acoustics by a source and a receiver being too close together and in history by an event and its dissemination being too close together and thus interfering disastrously — a short-circuit between cause and effect like that between the object and the experimenting subject in microphysics” (6).
So Baudrillard and Nietzsche walk into a bar, and Kahn is their brain child. Image hosted on Tumblr.

So Baudrillard and Nietzsche walk into a bar, and Kahn is their resulting brain child. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Each of these three hypotheses (from what I could pull out of the mire, anyway) makes sense in terms of our current culture and international relationships. I would be curious to see what Baudrillard would have to say if he had come into contact with the changes that Cloud computing is offering to us in terms of archiving. Anyways, onwards through the escape velocity needed to pass from the real and history, the vanishing point of history within absorption and indifference, and the high fidelity/idealization of history. It took me quite a while to break down and process what Baudrillard was saying about history. As someone who loves to read books, watch documentaries, and listen to lectures on historical events, I struggled to understand how history could have ended, vanished beyond the horizon point. What was this man talking about?

And then I started to think through his example with CNN (in the “Immortality” section) and how “History in real time is CNN, instant news, which is the exact opposite of history” (90). I remember not too long ago watching the constant newsfeed surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The broadcasters droned on and on for days (weeks?) about this flight being lost and searchers continuing to scour the ocean to find out what had happened. They were presenting the news as history in the making, creating this “historical moment” in the real time that Baudrillard was talking about, rather than looking back at the disappearance retrospectively. As Baudrillard declares, “nothing takes place in real time. Not even history” (90). To think of this another way to help me out, I think about how World War I is presented versus the Vietnam War. In the midst of World War I, the “bigger picture” of the war was not readily available. The soldiers, the politicians, and the civilians did not know they were in what would become known as a world war, and even the reasons for the war emerged after the war had ended. No one was sitting in the middle of a battlefield thinking, Ooooh, so this is what global conflict is like. They were going through the motions of what they had considered a traditional war (men fighting and dying with honor) until they came face-to-face with how advancements in weapons technology would require a rethinking of tactics. How the  Vietnam War was presented was very different as it was the first televised war. Here, people back home could see the harrowing situations soldiers on both sides were facing, as well as those civilians who were caught in the crossfires. When talking about the Vietnam War, my mom (who was a little girl at the time while my grandfather was in the military and overseas) said that being able to see what was going on during the war from the family’s living room was like watching history in the making. While something is happening, though, is not history so much as it is being. History (for me, anyway) is what is created when we look back and see a pattern of events emerge from the actions we have taken (individually as well as collectively).

One of the most fascinating points that Baudrillard makes within his third hypothesis about the vanishing point of history was how we are always looking to an end point of history, which is tied to his idea that “history itself has always, deep down, been an immsense simulation model. Not in the sense that it could be said only to have existed in the narrative made of it or the interpretation given to it, but with regard to the time in which it unfolds — that linear time which is at once the time of an ending and of the unlimited suspending of the end” (7). The questions that Baudrillard follows up with in regards to the end point we are obsessed with as a society were thought-provoking: “Where does this suspense come from? Where do we get the idea that what must be accomplished (Last Judgement, salvation or catastrophe) must come at the end of time and match up with some incalculable appointed term or other?” (7) and “The same denial is found in apparently opposite behavior [from immediate enjoyment of the event]– recording, filing and memorizing everything of our own past and the past of all cultures. Its this not a symptom of a collective presentiment of the end, a sign that events and the living time of history have had their day and that we have to arm ourselves with the whole battery of artificial memory, all the signs of the past, to face up to the absence of a future and the glacial times which await us?” (9).

No matter how many times I read this section, I always return to our current societal fascination with zombies and post-apocalyptic survival. Even though zombie apocalypse stories (books/comics/movies/podcasts) are centered on the survivors (for the most part, since we do have narratives from the undead side, nodding to the film Warm Bodies), we see the zombie invasion/infestation as the end of human civilization, the end of our history. Survivors are shown to turn towards anarchic and nomadic living, cannibalism, might-makes-right, the-strong-survive, which appears brutal (and yet enthralling) to those of us who are living on this side of the end. Why would history and civilization end if there would be people who still remember what those two were to our society? Why must there be only one way to thrive? Is life after a zombie apocalypse what Baudrillard would consider existence after the end point of history? When looking at the place for zombie narratives in our culture, it seems as if we are projecting the Y2K fears that Baudrillard had been commenting on into a new (yet not new) form, but this is something we have been doing for centuries. Humans are drawn in and repulsed by something that will put an end to us all (angry gods from the pantheon, alien invasions, giant asteroid hitting the Earth, global contagions, or nuclear fallout). It’s a little weird to think about, but, then again, I do love my science-fiction films.

Side note before I end since I have the need to turn everything towards video games: While I was reading, one of the things that really caught my attention was a moment in Baudrillard’s section “Maleficent Ecology” in which he discusses how we as humans are turning ourselves into waste-products along with the entire planet: “What is worst is not that we are submerged by the waste-products of industrial and urban concentration, but that we ourselves are transformed into residues. Nature– the natural world –is becoming residual, insignificant, an encumbrance, and we do not know how to dispose of it. By producing highly centralized structures, highly developed urban, industrial and technical systems, by remorselessly condensing down programmes, functions and models, we are transforming all the rest into waste, residues, useless relics. By putting the higher functions into orbit, we are transforming the planet itself into a waste-product, a marginal territory, a peripheral space” (78). This is not a new idea, but Baudrillard’s comments reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite childhood video games, Final Fantasy VII, in which the planet and all life on that planet were threatened because of humankind’s desire for more and more energy. The clip below is from a scene in which a scientist/professor explains how life on the planet is part of an intricately connected lifestream and the man-made energy was disrupting that lifestream to a critical level. While the developers at Square-Enix tend to pack the games in the Final Fantasy series with messages that show the consequences of war, promote strong bonds (especially between different groups of people/races/species), and encourage going against the norm to save others, one of their main messages is to preserve a balance between nature and human activities (destructive tendencies?). In Final Fantasy VII, the main characters come to the realization (like Baudrillard) that the planet is being turned into a waste-product in order for humans to advance their civilizations.

All right, readers (imagined or otherwise), so ends my reading notes for this week. Next week: Canonical Text Project! (*hear the sounds of a slow brain meltdown*).

Only nearing the halfway point of the semester. So much left to do. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Only nearing the halfway point of the semester. So much left to do. Image hosted on Tumblr.


Baudrillard, Jean. The Illusion of the End. Trans. Chris Turner. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994. Print.

Hugill, Andrew. “Pataphysics: A Useless Guide.” The MIT Press Online. MIT, 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.

Illusion On, Reader

Update on two peers’ posts.

The first person whose post I commented on was Sarah Carter on the second half of Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs and Women. Her break down of the text was very straightforward, but I am curious as to the broader implications of the concepts, especially in terms of Sarah’s own research interests and her interests in horror films. How can the lens of the post modern human and bio politics change our perspectives regarding characters in horror films? This question led me to wonder how this lens would also affect video game scholarship? Most games reinforce stereotypes of gender while also pushing against such boundaries (strong female heroes who eventually succumb and must be rescued by the male protagonists), but then there are exceptions are video games like the Mass Effect trilogy that subvert the gender norms they are attempting to reinforce. Haraway’s concepts are very promising and are something I may look into with future research.

The second person who post I commented on

It’s a Little Simulacra, A Little Simulation, and All Baudrillard_Reading Notes for September 29th

Oh Baudrillard, Sweet Nihilist Baudrillard

Desert of the Real

Welcome to “The desert of the real itself” (1). Image hosted on the website English Scholar.

Ah, week 6 reading notes, how is it already this far into the semester? So these reading notes are going to be a little different in the sense that each of my classmates and I are doing different texts that will lead up to our Canonical Text Presentations. I am in charge of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation and The Illusion of the Endbut for this particular post, I am going to be dealing with Simulacra and Simulation. Where is our leading man?

Jean Baudrillard looking particularly ready to share with us all he knows. Image hosted on Student Pulse: The International Student Journal.

Jean Baudrillard looking particularly ready to share with us all he knows. Image hosted on Student Pulse: The International Student Journal.

What do you think of when you see the word simulation? For me, I always return to virtual reality and the promise that lies at the heart of advancements in video games. But, simulation is more than what designers can create with software and hardware; it is something that individual people can do, or people can do collectively. Ah, that was vague, but it helps me get closer to how I am trying to define simulation, and, in turn, simulacra. So let us back up a moment and see how Baudrillard distinguishes between the infinitives “to dissimulate” and “to simulate“:

“To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what one has” (3)

Dissimulate reminds me of Sakura early in the anime Naruto as she would repress emotions, which were then revealed only to the viewers through the appearance of an inner Sakura.

Dissimulation reminds me of Sakura early in the anime Naruto as she would repress emotions that were then revealed only to the viewers through the appearance of an inner Sakura. Image hosted on Photobucket.

“To simulate is to feign to have what one doesn’t have” (3)

King of Simulation. Image hosted on the blog Casa de Queenie.

King of Simulation. Image hosted on the blog Casa de Queenie.

Dissimulation is not the only concept that simulation is contrasted with, as Baudrillard also sets up the difference between simulation and representation:Representation stems from the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real (even if this equivalence is utopian, it is a fundamental axiom). Simulation, on the other hand, stems from the utopia of the principle of equivalence, from the radical negation  of the sign as value, from the sign as the reversion and death sentence of every reference. Whereas the representation attempts to absorb simulation by interpreting it as a false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation itself as a simulacrum (6).

Before we go any further, let us stop and define the word simulacrum. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), simulacrum is “A material image, made as a representation of some deity, person, or thing.” We see these all the time in our society and in societies that have long since past, even though we may not notice. Okay, now forward, comrades, to more definitions before we start to hash out this fun book.

To develop the conversation about representation versus simulation further, Baudrillard lists the “successive phases of the image” (the example he develops is that of religion and simulacrum of the divinity) (6):

-“it is the reflection of a profound reality” –> “good appearance — representation is of the sacramental order”

-“it masks and denatures a profound reality” –> “evil appearance –it is of the order of maleficence”

-“it masks the absence of a profound reality” –> “plays at being an appearance — it is of the order of sorcery”

-“it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum” –> “it is no longer of the order of appearances, but of simulation” (6)

 In his section on “Simulacra and Science Fiction,” Baudrillard extends this further by discussing “three orders of simulacra“:

-“simulacra that are natural, naturalist, founded on the image, on imitation and counterfeit, that are harmonious, optimistic, and that aim for the restitution or the ideal institution of nature made in God’s image” – “imaginary of the utopia

-“simulacra that are productive, productivist, founded on energy, force, its materialization by the machine and in the whole system of production — a Promethean aim of a continuous globalization and expansion, of an indefinite liberation of energy (desire belongs to the utopias related to this order of simulacra);” – “science fiction”

-“simulacra of simulation, founded on information, the model, the cybernetic game — total operationality, hyperreality, aim of total control” (121)

Before we go any further, we need one more definition before we start to sort this all out: hyperreality, which is “exaggerated in comparison to reality” (Oxford Dictionaries).

Image hosted on Buzzfeed article.

Image hosted on a Buzzfeed article.

But, what does any of this mean? 

If you feel a little steam coming out of your ears, rest assured that you are not alone. While I love his ideas and find them to be absolutely fascinating in terms of video games, he makes me feel a little cross-eyed. However, if you are familiar with Disneyland or Disney World (a theme park that Baudrillard himself talks about in this book), then you have already come into contact with the concepts seen above.

Hyperreality, thy name is Magic Kingdom. Image hosted on the website Goista.

Hyperreality, thy name is Magic Kingdom. Image hosted on the website Goista.

When examining Disneyland, he sees the theme park as a “simulation of the third order” – “simulacra of simulation, founded on information, the model, the cybernetic game — total operationality, hyperreality, aim of total control” (12; 121). Just think about Disneyland and Disney World for a moment. It is not just a theme park where people can visit, nor it is just a animation studio that produces entertaining films. Disney is a brand, and Disneyland becomes a space in which visitors can come and be immersed in a park that is and is not founded on the real society from which they believe they are stepping away. It is exalted as a place where dreams can come true, but it is also a place where real money is spent (a lot of it, usually). Consumerism, you have found your place in the midst of fantasy. Baudrillard goes on to explain how Disneyland, in light of an ideological analysis, is a “digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values, idealized transposition of a contradictory reality. Certainly. But this masks something else and this ‘ideological’ blanket functions as a cover for a simulation of the third order: Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the ‘real’ country, all of ‘real’ America that is Disneyland” (12). For Baudrillard, Disneyland is presented as a fantasy in order to make the rest of society seem real.

Now pause. Let that sink in. If you’re like me, it’s okay to take a moment away from this screen to process the implications of that statement.

Okay, are we back? Moving deeper into that thought!

For Baudrillard, the idea that society is real is false and that “It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus saving the reality principle. The imaginary of Disneyland is neither true nor false, it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate the fiction of the real in the opposite camp” (12-13). He goes on to explain that it is Los Angeles, by having amusement parks like Disneyland within its boundaries, that is a “city of incredible proportions but without space, without dimension” (13). Disneyland, by having boundaries (it is clear where the amusement park physically ends), can (in a very strange way) fill in the gaps that remain in the “real” city of Los Angeles. It is more real than what should be considered real, even though we are aware that everything within that city is not real. It is a performance in which we all engage, willingly so whatever the reason.

This argument about there being no real reminds me of Plato and his idea about copies of things. For a very basic rundown (it’s been more than a few years since I last had to deal directly with his work), Plato believed that the items around us, the items we build, such as a chair, are merely copies of the ideal. Let’s just roll with the chair example since that is the one I was taught. The chair I am sitting on is, according to Plato, a copy of a chair that is ideal but also unobtainable. I will never sit in that special, ideal chair. If I were to draw a chair (at least once that was recognizable as a chair), then my drawing would be a copy of a copy of that ideal chair. I don’t know where Plato or Baudrillard got their ideas that there is no real (I am deeply grounded in the practical, so theoretical works make my brain rather twisty). For me, if I can touch and sit on a chair, then it’s real to me; not just a copy that was delivered from the Twilight Zone. In much the same way, thinking that Los Angeles is not real is also harder to grasp, so I think of it in two ways. Yes, there is the real, physical space of a city called Los Angeles. If I ever travel there, I would be able to walk along its streets, shop in its stores, greet its inhabitants, and visit the hyperreality of Disneyland. However, I can also see where Baudrillard is coming from. The concept of Los Angeles is less concrete, less real. As a city that has sprawled out and consumed neighboring spaces, Los Angeles is a behemoth of a metropolitan area, and not all of it can be considered Los Angeles. Society is run on a set of ideas that are not truths; they are social and cultural beliefs that we have collectively agreed on and continue to keep in existence by voluntarily agreeing on them.

Ah, but I digress. For anyone who is reading this post, I will be expanding upon my notes for this book in another entry (one that will also deal with The Illusion of the End) in order to explore how the ideas expressed by Baudrillard fit into New Media and the digital era. My goal is to start fleshing (always makes me think of zombies) out how video games can be understood within the concepts of simulation and simulacra (not if video games can be understood with these two lovely concepts, but how they can be understood).

To help give me a concrete vision of how simulacra and simulation are used and played upon today, I turned to YouTube.

And, for your viewing pleasure, I give you a taste of Baudrillard in his own right.

Whew, we made it to the end. Do we care what the neighbors think as my pups and I blast “Defying Gravity” to end this blog entry?

It's the little things in life we need to celebrate. Like making it to the end of another set of reading notes. Image hosted on the blog Heroine of Time.

It’s the little things in life we need to celebrate. Like making it to the end of another set of reading notes. Image hosted on the blog Heroine of Time.

Ah yes, feel the bliss of having seen this image. Image hosted on Harry Potter Buzzfeed article.

Ah yes, feel the bliss of having seen this image. Image hosted on Harry Potter Buzzfeed article.


Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006. Print.

Time to Defy Gravity 


For this week, I commented on Ramona’s post as she was discussing Tornatzky and Klein’s concept of Innovation, and  Bolter and Grusin’s  Immediacy, Hypermedia, and Remediation. Ramona’s notes were very clear in presenting how each concept was defined by the respective author(s) and then using images and popular culture references to give a fuller understanding of the concept. The concepts of immediacy, hypermedia, and remediation are very useful in video game studies, as they are the goals and processes through which video games work. Ramona’s post made me think about how each of these terms works (and sometimes fails) in the video games I play and study. One interesting thing is how video games work towards immediacy as they want their players to be immersed in the worlds they are providing, dropping into lush environments, being surrounded by gripping music, and having a character to follow around in the gamespace. However, because there is a barrier between the gamer and the gamespace (computer screen, television screen, or gaming device screen), the games fail in having complete immediacy. Then enters hypermediation as video games integrate text in the forms of dialogue (captions at the bottom) and written narration (not every game draws on this, but many do). The use of written narration was very popular before video games could integrate voice actors into their games, with some of my favorites (Final Fantasy 8) drawing upon such tactics in their opening scenes. Remediation also makes an appearance as video games, especially role playing games, using cinematics for opening and closing scenes but also for moments known as CGI (clips in-game where control is taken away from the gamer, placing them in the role of viewer for a short time) to help progress the story. Video games do resemble animated movies, but the bulk of the experience is in playing them; however, with CGI moments, video games take on characteristics of movies, attempting to absorb that medium as part of the experience.

While reading Ramona’s notes, I thought a lot about the game, especially the opening, of Final Fantasy 8.

Next, I read Cynthia‘s post on McLuhan’s The Media is the Massage and her notes on Tornatzky and Klein’s Innovation. Cynthia’s notes on the concept of innovation were really interesting because she tied them to apps that people use all the time on their cell phones; she even linked out to a TED Talk on NPR that discusses how free apps are not quite as free as they are believed to be or advertised. I thought this was a nice way to present the material because it provided a foundation and context through which her readers could connect the concept to their own lives and technology uses. The main part of Cynthia’s post, though, was concerning her Canonical text, which was the McLuhan piece. I liked that she linked out to essays that embodied some of McLuhan’s points (shall we say, fears?) regarding advancements in technologies and their cultural and societal impacts, which also gave her readers context and a way to apply McLuhan’s discourse to their own lives. The context she provides was especially helpful since I am getting a sense of McLuhan’s work through her post alone (unless I get off my lazy scholarly butt and order the book to read…over winter break?) and would not have full access to his ideas and how they would apply beyond his work.

We’re Going To Lingua Fracta All Over This Post_Reading Notes September 22nd

Okay! Time for a new set of reading notes for a new book, Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. (I have to admit that the title made me giggle a bit).

Image hosted on Giphy.

Image hosted on Giphy.

So, this week’s post is actually in regards to the whole book rather than divided into the two halves of the book since I missed posting last week’s reading notes. >.< I’m going to combine what I had previously in a draft, along with my new understandings. Anyways, let’s begin.

Collin Gifford Brooke, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Syracuse University.  Image hosted on his website.

Collin Gifford Brooke, Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Syracuse University. Image hosted on his website.

One of the first things I want to sort out for myself in terms of this book is Brooke’s re-envisioning of the rhetorical canons (the classical ones are invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) through ecologies – “ecology of code,” “ecology of practice,” and “ecologies of culture.” These three ecologies definitely threw me a bit when I first read them, and continued to do so until we worked through a few examples in class. **There has been another attempt through CHAT to remap the rhetorical canons, which were a part of my reading notes for the spring semester’s Networks course.

“Ecology of code” – “is [Brooke's] designation for the varied communicative and expressive resources we draw on when we produce discourse, regardless of the medium. In other words, both the rules and objects of grammar are located within this ecology, but language is one among many media whose elements participate in it” (48). In a sense, these are the underlying tools upon which ecology of practice is grounded, not just as binary codes, but can also be language components for speech or the digital tools used to create video games. Brooke elaborates on this when he clarifies that, “I suggest that an ecology of code is comprised not only of grammar, but also of all of those resources for the production of interfaces more broadly construed, including visual, aural, spatial, and textual elements, as well as programming codes” (48).

It can be thought of as this:

Binary code as an example of "Ecology of code." Image hosted on the website Inspiration Feed.

Binary code as an example of “Ecology of code.” Image hosted on the website Inspiration Feed.

But, it can also be this:

The tools of video game design.

The tools of video game design. Image hosted on the blog, Game On Podcast.

“Ecology of practice” – “Practice implies conscious, directed activity, the explicit combination of elements from the ecology of code to produce a particular discursive effect” (49).  *this ecology gave me the most trouble, especially when we were asked to choose images of what each of the ecologies would look like (I may have blanched a bit in-class).

 As an early example in chapter 2, Brooke uses the ideas of a “Revitalized understanding of canons” as an insight into his idea of “ecology of practice” since the “canons supply a framework for approaching new media that focuses on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of interface” (28).

“Ecologies of culture” – “it is this category that operates at the broadest range of scales, from interpersonal relationships and local discourse communities to regional, national, and even global cultures. Any act of discourse is going to be constrained in various ways by cultural assumptions; similarly, such acts intervene simultaneously at several levels” (49).

So why attempt to revamp rhetoric into ecologies? What is wrong with the traditional canon? Brooke says that he is presenting these ecologies as a way to help “evolve” rhetoric and the aims of rhetorical scholars because “The elaborate dance of competition, cooperation, juxtaposition, and remediation that characterizes our contemporary information and communication technologies has rendered obsolete some of our most venerable models for understanding today’s rhetorical practices” (28). By drawing upon the canons, Brooke seeks to build a new vision of how they work within the digital world and within new media, rather than simply recasting the same terms. The metaphor of the ecology is also very interesting because an ecology is not static; it is organic and adaptive, something rhetorical canons need if they are to stay relevant to the needs of present day rhetoricians and their audiences.

One really interesting point made in the section regarding rhetorical canons was when Brooke alludes to Sven Birkerts and his prediction of the “flattening of historical perspectives” in the sense that “we will cease to exercise history because we will rely on that which is stored in databases” (31). In his response to this death-of-memory prediction, I think Brooke does a nice job of pointing out that digital databases enhance our cultural memory rather than merely threatening to wipe out our interest in historical perspectives.

Death of memory in favor of database archives? Image hosted on the website Baen.

Death of memory in favor of database archives? Image hosted on the website Baen.

So how does Brooke remap the rhetorical canons?

To grant the classical rhetorical canons (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) more relevance in a digital world, Brooke’s modified canons look like this:

Invention —> Proairesis

Arrangement —> Pattern

Style —> Perspective

Memory —> Persistence

Delivery —> Performance

 Okay, so one at a time:

Invention as Proairesis

Brooke’s re-conceptualization of invention as proairesis makes a space for digital technology as part of the reading/writing/creation/distribution process, giving readers of digital content as it does to those who write the content. Much of his analysis deals the “difference between seeing media such as those listed [in the chapter] as spaces that enable peer-to-peer interaction and conversation and seeing them as media that transform the nature of conversation or even participate in it” (82), but more on that after some vocabulary words.

hermeneutic model of invention – “relies on the relative sturdiness of a final object and the negotiation of meanings within it….When the final products of our invention are judged, in part, by their solidity or sturdiness, it makes perfect sense that we theorize invention to arrive at such goals” (68). It “operates through the establishment of an enigma, void, or mystery– an absence — that will be filled eventually, but is held in suspense… [and] marks the goal(s) towards which the reader (and the plot and characters) are headed” (75). Hermeneutics can be seen as “resolution or actualization,” and, when placed on the level of theory, “simply assumes systematic enigmas, such as the establishment of genre or the demonstration of a theoretical insight” (76).

proairetic model of invention – this term is used by Barthes “to indicate actions or events,” “empirics” (75). Seems to deal with possibilities, rather than resolutions. This term makes the most sense when Brooke brings up the example of a Google search: “One way we might treat Google proairetically is simply to resist the closure implied in search ‘results’ and to treat that page as a point of departure, even and especially when the results are mixed. The results of a given search provide users with pages and pages of links, of departure points, that bring potentially distant topics and ideas into proximity both with each other and the user” (83). He broadens this out to discuss social bookmarking websites that allow users to create bookmarks, but then also follow the threads upon threads of bookmarks created by ALL users on the site: “The addition of each bookmark changes the site, reinforcing certain connections, adding new ones, and expanding the network in small but important ways. It enables a process of associational research and exploration that resists closure” (85).

Brooke’s final definition of this term: “a focus on the generation of possibilities, rather than their elimination until all but one are gone and closure is achieved. Closure is no less important than it has ever been, but with the advent of new media and interfaces that resist closure, proairesis provides an important corrective to the hermeneutically oriented inventional theory that has prevailed in our theory to date” (86). It’s fascinating that the emphasis is on the inclusion of possibilities rather than slowly weeding them out.

No longer require the Highlander slogan. Image hosted on We Know Memes website.

No longer requires the Highlander slogan. Image hosted on We Know Memes website.

**As a side note, I would not Google this word. I made that mistake since Brooke does not offer a concrete definition for this word (he focuses more on hermeneutic), and found that proairesis is not considered a Scrabble word, though it is worth 12 points in Scrabble and 13 points in Words with Friends.

kaironomia – “an inventional practice that locates itself not within repetition (the demonstration of topoi) or difference (the myth of the ordinary genius), but in the dynamic of the two,” which represents a “contradictory injunction” (77)

virtualization – Levy’s term for “the opposite of reading in the sense that produces, from an initial text, a textual reserve and instruments of composition with which a navigator can project a multitude of other texts” (qtd. in Brooke 80) <— Brooke notes that, “It is the human-machine interaction that makes for virtualization” (81)

Brooke works to decouple the vision of invention that scholars like Sven Birkert put forth an illusion that acts “of reading or writing can be fully divorced from [their] context” (73). Birkerts’ concept of the relationship between reader and writer with the text in the middle– “We might reach a more inclusive understanding of reading (and writing) if we think in terms of a continuum. At one end, the writer — the flesh-and-blood individual; at the other end, the flesh-and-blood reader. In the center, the words, the turning pages, the decoding intelligence” (qtd. in Brooke 72)– might look like this:

The start(?) of the invention continuum: the writer. Image hosted on Teen Life Blog.

The start(?) of the invention continuum: the writer. Image hosted on Teen Life Blog.

At the end(?) of the continuum: the reader. Image hosted on the blog Writing and Rambling.

At the end(?) of the continuum: the reader. Image hosted on the blog Writing and Rambling.

Such a model doesn’t quite hold up, even when viewed with print as the medium. In the age of hyperlinks and greater collaboration that comes with digital communications, Birkert’s model feels heavily lopsided, something that Brooke addresses by drawing, again, upon LeFevre: “invention is not simply the process by which a writer creates a text whose meaning is received by a reader. The ecology of invention includes the practices of writing and reading, but the relationships among those practices are not closed, idealized, and privatized transactions” (74). There is no bubble in which writers and readers exist, especially as the internet connecNetowts us all outwards to information and other people.

This graphic seems more appropriate. Image was created by Collin Gifford Brooke and hosted on his website.

This graphic seems more appropriate. Image was created by Collin Gifford Brooke and hosted on his website.

This site did a nice job with their video discussing Karen Burke LeFevre’s “invention as a social act”:

Arrangement as Pattern 

Brooke starts off the chapter devoted to Pattern by focusing on the claims by earlier scholars that the rhetorical canon of arrangement fell to the wayside during the advent of hypertext culture as hyperlinks did not privilege one path over another and the viewer’s decisions rendered any intentions by the author as useless. Brooke, though, counters this statement: “The links that allegedly demonstrate the irrelevance of rhetoric are rhetorical practices of arrangement, attempts to communicate affinities, connections, and relationships” (91). One of his aims is to move away from the “traditional understanding of arrangement as sequence” towards a conceptualization of “arrangement as pattern”  and to reveal that “the issue is not whether arrangement predates our textual encounters, but rather what practices we might develop with new media to make sense of them” (92).

For arrangement to be understood in regards to New Media, the division between spatial and temporal must be understood “that every technology gives us not only a different space, but a different time as well” (93). So let’s break this down a bit further.

An expectation, according to Darsie Bowden, that we have for print texts is “containerism, a set of metaphors that posit the discursive space of writing as a container into which we pour content (from the containers that are our minds),” which houses “an in/out distinction that corresponds to our notions of subjectivity and identity and, as such, appears quite natural to us,” though the text is considered “generic until it is filled with content and achieves some sort of meaning” (93-94). However, containerism fixes the concept of arrangement, seeing spatial elements in a print text to be linear and sequentially instead of seeing the space for possibilities of other arrangements (though we are not bound to read everything sequentially since we can skip around in a book: read the conclusion first, a middle chapter before a beginning chapter, and so on).

Containerism - asking us to let ourselves be contained by the text lest the text fails and we become disoriented (Brooke 94). Image hosted on the blog De la Course des Nuages.

Containerism – conditioning us to be contained by the text lest the text fails and we become disoriented (Brooke 94). Image hosted on the blog De la Course des Nuages.

In order to explore how New Media and digital spaces help us to re -conceptualize the spatial, Brooke draws upon David Weinberger and the idea that the meat-space is a container from which web-space is then filled, though I think this relationship goes two ways now with the meat-space being transformed, in a sense, by the digital space.

In terms of arrangement, though, Weinberger describes the digital space with a “sense of place that creates its own space,” with it being active rather than passive (qtd. in Brooke 95). This reminds me of an example mentioned earlier regarding social bookmarking. For every bookmark created, the threads of the site expand outward as there is more content within the site. The same for this blog. For every post I write and publish, the “space” of my blog gets bigger as the posts create an extending line of content. The posts do not have to be read sequentially, especially since many of the posts are about different texts and only truly operate under an overarching theme (usually networks). And this is where the move from arrangements to patterns comes in. Brooke brings in David Kolb and his suggestion about “a number of intermediate forms (cycles, counterpoints, mirror words, tangles, sieves, montages, neighborhoods, split/joins, missing links, and feints), patterns that demonstrate a wide variety of rhetorical effects that are possible if we think beyond the container model” (96). For Brooke, to understand how the rhetorical canon of arrangement can blossom in New Media and the digital era, we have to not limit our perceptions within boundaries, even if it seems the most convenient; instead, he turns towards Manovich’s database as an “infinite flat surface” (97).

So how do databases play into arrangement as patterns?

Brooke looks at how Manovich compares narrative and databases, with the example being Amazon. The online shopping site’s way of showing consumers items that had been purchased by others who had also bought the same initial item, the browsing/purchasing history of the consumer, and similar items that are available for purchase are part of a database for the site, but can also be threaded together to make simple narratives. What is interesting is the description of databases that follows soon after: “Although databases may contain no predetermined order, they are useful to us the degree that they provide some sort of order when they are acted on by users” (101). With this in mind, Brooke expands on the Amazon example: “It would be hard to extend a user’s encounters with Amazon into something resembling a full-fledged narrative, but at the same time, the site is designed to respond accurately and meaningfully to such encounters — a response that is not accounted for in descriptions of database that stress its utter randomness” (101). Because the website services thousands and thousands of people, creating patterns out of their purchasing and browsing histories, much like an underlying web of code that sorts through the data.

My brain hurts just thinking about this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

My brain hurts just thinking about this. Image hosted on Tumblr.

How does arrangement fit as patterns? It is through associations: “The patterns that emerge are sets of associations among texts that the site reinforces through visibility, potentiality becoming less contingent or temporary as future visitors act on the recommendations generated at site” (103). As each person uses the Amazon site, more connections are made through the data being collected, building associations that return back to the site through algorithms to increase its effectiveness. These associations, though, also create relevancy, allowing a hierarchy of those patterns being chosen over ones that are being excluded  through users’ choices. Exclusion is just as important as inclusion. To bridge the gap between narrative and database, Brooke uses the word collection as it is the “individual assembly of a large group of whatever items we might choose to collect” (109). These collections gain meaning for individuals but start to lose their context outside of that individual’s relationship to the collection, rendering that particular narrative insubstantial or altered to another individual: “The more intimately we are involved in the assembly of a collection, the more likely we are to perceive it incrementally and narratively, while different patterns may emerge in a casual encounter of someone else’s collection” (110). For instance, my anime collection has a history of which I know, with certain titles being picked up at different points in my life. To those who know me best, my anime collection means something beyond VHS and DVDs on shelves, but for those who know little to nothing about me, all they would see are a random collection of Japanese “cartoons.” The same can go for my research or my Amazon purchasing history. The patterns that appear, whether directly or subtly, are Brooke’s new form of the rhetorical canon of arrangement, but this remapping allows code and algorithms into the process, making it not just a human endeavor but a human-machine endeavor.

Style as Perspective

Whew, on to the third remapped rhetorical canon: style as perspective. This seems to be one of the more popular canons for New Media as Brooke declares that, “to speak of media is to speak of forms of expression, the traditional province of the canon of style,” emphasizing the relationship of the visual and verbal, especially in regards to how this relationship changes when “consider[ing] what style might look like when we consider it in terms of interfaces rather than static texts” (113). To be honest, the first thing that pops into my head when reading the start of this chapter look like this:

A very scholarly way to imagine initially the relationship between the visual and the verbal, no? Image hosted on Giphy.

A very scholarly way to imagine initially the relationship between the visual and the verbal, no? Image hosted on Giphy.

Yes, yes I did just include that in my reading notes. And yes, it is time to move further into style as perspective. Now Brooke seems to have chosen the word “perspective” because it offers two means, which he quotes from Keither Moxey as being “either one point of view among many, or the point which organizes and arranges all others” (qtd. in Brooke 114). This is interesting because when we think of the style of a book, something that can be seen as a static text, and we see the style, whether linear in a traditional sense or multi-layered (like the book First Person) or  even in a more random-seeming style (House of Leaves), there is a sense of permanency to the style of the text. Within a digital space, there is the feel of possibilities, though the more I work within digital spaces, the more I feel the constraints of the spaces within which I am working (a nod to WordPress and the limitations of the text box). Brooke calls for the readers to change the concept of “visual rhetoric” to “visual grammar,” and he “draw[s] on Friedrich Nietzsche to suggest that we restore style to its place in our ecology of practice, rescuing it from its classical banishment to the ecology of code” (114).

Mary Hocks, in her work “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments,” lists three features for visual rhetoric in the digital media:

-Audience stance



Brooke takes a step back to understand how we talk about style now, especially in terms of teaching students to write: “Our contemporary understanding of style treats it as sentence-level syntax, catalogs of tropes and figures, and commonplace injunctions (e.g., avoid the passive voice; use specific, concrete language), reducing it to a series of localized, conscious choices” (116). After much meandering through Aristotle and his influence on the reduction of style, Brooke returns to perspective, stating that it is “a method for displaying three-dimensional objects and/or scenes on a two-dimensional space. Much like the technology of writing exteriorizes the reader, perspective presumes a viewer whose physical position mirrors the vanishing point” (120). This gears style, in the digital era, towards transparency. To develop this further, Brooke links to Don Idhe’s “description of the physical, perceptual process of reading…distinguish[ing] between microperceptions, which are and/or sensual, and macroperceptions, which are hermeneutic and/or cultural. The structuring (or disciplining) of perception marks a transition from microperception to macroperception; in other words, the transparency of the printed word renders our physical perceptions of the text, as we are reading at least, minimal to the point of nonexistence” (121).

This is what comes to mind every time I read the word transparency in relation to reading. Creepy, though. Image hosted on the website

This is what comes to mind every time I read the word transparency in relation to reading. Creepy, though. Image hosted on the website Frank Minnaert.

Moving from the transparency of writing, Brooke explains that, drawing upon Lanham, “Language on the computer screen, in contrast, is subject to many different kinds of transformation by the user (size, font, color, layout, etc.) that Lanham argues we are often encouraged to consider the textual form as expressive. With electronic text, he explains, we often toggle between looking through text and looking at it” (132). Transparency is no longer an issue, with the language being part of the experience instead of the backdrop. It was interesting (and quite within the scope of my research) that Brooke brings in an example of World of Warcraft and the interface the players’ interact with during gameplay, especially when players can customize the interface themselves, allowing them greater immersion into the experience if they so choose (there are options to render the game to basic elements, stripping the visuals down to necessities).

Memory as Persistence

And so memory moves to persistence. In this chapter, Brooke moves beyond seeing memory in the digital era as merely storage on our computers, as well as physical texts as extensions of our memories. Instead, he turns to Jacques Derrida (a.k.a. philosophical rock star) to help discuss archives: “[he] writes of the effects that changes in archival technology have on both what is being (and can be) archived, as well as on the people doing the archiving” (144).

Mixing of archives and human minds, plus a dash of Sherlock Holmes for the ride. Image hosted on Tumblr.

Mixing of archives and human minds, plus a dash of Sherlock Holmes for the ride. Image hosted on Tumblr.

To start his remapping, Brooke discusses Plato’s resistance to writing, believing that reliance on written texts would break down the strength of people’s memories because they could then use writing as a kind of crutch (as compared to orality when they would remember longer speeches and poems), while also raising the question “of whether knowledge is located inside or outside of the knower” (145). Within this framework, a presence/absence dichotomy arose. Plato’s belief still lingers, but we have moved far beyond oral culture, with our collective memory finding its place across various forms of media (written, visual, audio, film, and now into the digital spaces like the Cloud). One of the most fascinating points in this chapter is in regards to what we archive: “The binary of presence/absence reduces memory to a question of storage, with little thought given to the effects that various media might have on what is being remembered” (147).

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

Brooke explains a shift away from only using the presence/absence binary by N. Katherine Hayles in her book How We Became Posthuman: “Hayles suggests a ‘semiotics of virtuality’ that maps phenomena along two different axes: absence/presence and pattern/randomness” since presence/absence cannot capture the essence of online activity for both the user and his or her avatar(148). To develop this further, Brooke brings two Greek words, Chronos and Kairos, to understand why his drawing upon Hayles’ patterning and randomness:

Chronos “is the artificial patterning of time, its divisions into equal, measurable segments — the time by which we set our clocks and watches, conduct our classes, and organize our history…[and] represents our triumph over time as a cultural achievement” (149)

Kairos “is the time sense at the other end of the spectrum [from chronos], the opportunities that emerge to be seized in a particular situation, unrepeatable and unsystematizable…It is the unwillingness of the kairotic moment to submit itself to our control that has led to its ‘neglected’ status in rhetorical theory” (149)

 With pattern and randomness, there can be randomness (kairos) until a pattern begins to emerge (chronos). However, the reverse is also possible, with moments of chaos occurring in the midst of a pattern. These two happenings alter the perceptions of the the events, the data, the images, and so on. When a pattern emerges out of chaos, it is hard to return to see the chaos again, but the same can be true for when a pattern is disrupted.

When I think of patterns emerging, I think of these pictures where the viewer has to locate the hidden faces. Image hosted on Psychlinks Self-Help & Mental Health Support Forum.

When I think of patterns emerging, I think of these pictures where the viewer has to locate the hidden faces. Image hosted on Psychlinks Self-Help & Mental Health Support Forum.

Brooke looks at the canon of memory as pattern to build the conclusion that pattern is an ecology of practice, granting it a new space in the digital era beyond merely being relegated to storage. It here where Brooke justifies his reason for transforming memory into persistence with the “construction (and dissolution) of patterns over time” (151). This persistence becomes increasingly important when users are faced with the overload of data that is presented by others and constructed by them on the internet, especially with the Cloud becoming an integral part of how people handle and store data. In the final section of the chapter, Brooke discusses how websites deal with this issue through feed readers or aggregators, which “check weblogs and keep track of whether a particular user has accessed the most recent content. They check our blogs so that we do not have to, in the same way that most mail programs can be set to inform a user when there is a new mail in the inbox” (158).

So how do aggregators feature into memory as persistence? Brooke identifies two types of aggregators that he personally uses: Google Reader (GR) and the memory practice of persistence of cognition.  For him, Google Reader provides a “centralized portal” that “distributes [his] memory, freeing [him] from the need to remember each site individually” as well as tracking basic information trends in his viewing/reading (160). Persistence of cognition is his phrase for a reading and memory practice that springs out of the connection between smaller pieces (such as keywords): “Skimming requires a reader to be able to piece together information in ways that are good enough to gauge a text, perhaps without arriving at a full representation of it” but also “names the presence of particular pieces — certain themes persist across a set of texts” (156; 157). My favorite quote from this chapter, though, comes at the end when he describes our relationship to memory and information: “We take in information, sometimes without being aware of it, and only notice when the information connects with other data to form a pattern worth investigating…Our minds are not simply sites of storage; they perceive connections and patterns that may only become present to us in the later stages of their construction” (166).

Delivery as Performance 

Woot! Woot! Last rhetorical canon to be remapped: delivery as performance. Brooke lists two ways in which delivery is defined that are relevant to rhetoric: 1) as a transitive process, and 2) as a performance (170). With this remapping, Brooke brings up terms like DeVoss and Porter’s “economies of writing” and Trimbur’s “circulation of commodities” with regards to delivery of content and how aggressively some companies/organizations will try to restrict the distribution of their content (172-173): “It is difficult to imagine that corporate producers are particularly worried about audience production of content, for example, when we consider the heavily embedded technological, cultural, economic, and medial advantages that the various culture industries possess. If reflect on how heavily these corporations are invested in distributive control, both directly and through the management of consumer attention, it is difficult to see their aggression in prosecuting ‘bad users’ as anything other than an overreaction” (172). This makes me think of people who create fan-made anime music videos (AMVs) on YouTube (much like the one I have linked at the bottom of this post) and how their videos are sometimes (not always in a majority of the cases) removed despite the creators attributing ownership of both the songs and the clips/artwork to the rightful owners. The creators of the AMVs are not receiving compensation for their work, nor are they claiming ownership of the original content. Their videos are purely for entertainment and are a large part of fan culture’s tributes to a series, a character, a couple, and so on, yet some companies see them as violations of copyright.

Now that I am done with my tangent, rewind back to the discussion about circulation and distribution as part of delivery. Brooke links this discussion to Timbur again with Timbur’s comment on “how the act of translation necessarily participates in and shapes the circulation of biomedical discourse in ways that go beyond simple information transfer” (qtd. in Brooke 174). It is here where Brooke pulls in “delivery as medium” to stop the perception of circulation to be aligned with the perception of simple transmission (rhetoric should not, in this view, remain static between media) (174).

Information being circulated among media should go beyond the simple transmission of information. Image hosted on the site for Newcastle Libraries Online.

Information being circulated among media should go beyond the simple transmission of information. Image hosted on the site for Newcastle Libraries Online.

But that is delivery in the terms of a transitive process, so let us take a look at delivery as performance. What does this mean in a digital era? Brooke turns towards the concept of ethos (character, or credibility) in regards to a person’s work (for example, a student like me who is trying to create content online in a public space not just for my teacher and peers, but also for anyone who visits the blog and lingers long enough to read this far). There is the understanding that information from the interwebs must be evaluated deeply to be sure that the information is accurate, the source is credible, and the author is not some hack (and there are plenty of sites where such concerns seem to the lowest priority). However, Brooke pushes forward a little further with his comment about technology’s role in the process: “The underlying assumption of these evaluation checklists, however, is something that we should find more problematic. Put simply, much of the advice for evaluating Web-based information posits credibility or ethos as a quality that is decontextualized from the technology, an attitude toward delivery that sees it simply as transmission” (184). Brooke notes that the credibility of websites is based on their connections to the “real world” (or meat space), which is what I am doing here by citing from a physical book being held in my arms as I type this sentence; anyone could pick up a copy of Brooke’s book and check the passages that I am citing.

To push back against this notion of credibility as tied to how we have evaluated books, Brooke uses Wikipedia as example as it is open to users to edit and add content, even if those users are not certified experts in their fields. The content being added is evaluated for its content and actions taken against users who prove to add false information or prove less than credible as sources, but the openness of the adding/editing process is changing how we perceive and understand encyclopedias, even though Wikipedia is not free of criticism (188).

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. Image hosted on the blog Southern Lifestyle.

Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. Image hosted on the blog Southern Lifestyle.

While Wikipedia is not to be seen as a site for pure credibility, Brooke looks to it as a site of discourse for issues of authorship and credibility. The site offers what a place where credibility becomes a performance, a practice, messy as that can be at times “represent[ing] the kind of opportunity that traditional encyclopedias can never dream of providing — an ethos that is interactive, democratic, public, and, at times, contentious” (191). It is interesting to think of credibility as a performance, but his example about the credibility of Wikipedia as burgeoning with its members really strengthens my understanding of the concept.

And so ends this round of reading notes. Fare thee well, Brooke and your remapped rhetorical canons for the digital era.

Fist bump for making it through this mad tangle of notes. Image hosted on Rebloggy.

Fist bump for making it through this mad tangle of notes. Image hosted on Rebloggy.

Nothing to see here, folks. Image hosted on Giphy.

Nothing to see here, folks. Image hosted on Giphy.


Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media (New Dimensions in Computers and Composition). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press,  2009. Print. 

Skipping Along through New Media


Update: As part of our reading notes assignment, my classmates and I are to make comments on two peers’ posts every week. So, here are mine:

Chvonne’s post

Chvonne’s post did a really nice job of dealing with the second half of Brooke’s text, especially the way she brings him to task for not fully delving into the messiness that comes with the ecologies of culture. I think Chvonne raises a good question (one that made me stop and think for awhile) about whether or not there are practical ways to apply Brooke’s remapping of the rhetorical canons. The conclusion that I finally came to was that for the generation of students who are now entering college, it may benefit them to use their foundational knowledge of computers (since this is a technology they have grown up with) as a way to understand rhetoric, rather than to approach them first with rhetoric to understand how the digital era is changing our perspectives. These students are growing up with connections through Facebook, seeing first hand how social spaces like Twitter are sites of social activism as well as sites of public shaming, and approaching archives not as physical spaces but as data that can be accessed anywhere at any time with the advent of Cloud computing. For them, rhetoric of Socrates and Plato is an archaic past compared with how rhetoric is now being reshaped to fit the needs of a digital era (just as it had changed for television and film).


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:







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

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.


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

Dancing through the Reading

1st Reading Notes for a New Semester_New Media

Welcome Back to the Wonderful World of Summer’s Reading Notes!

To begin the Fall 2014 semester, we are reading Nicholas Gane and David Beer‘s book, New Media: The Key Concepts, which focuses its exploration of the discipline of New Media by looking at six core concepts (though there are others) that “facilitate theoretical and critical analysis of the new media age”:







These six concepts originally fell under material forms (networks, interfaces, archives, and information) and processes (simulation and interactivity), but “have taken on a particular conceptual or metaphorical significance in recent social and media theory” (1-2). So how do we begin to sort through these concepts and begin to understand why they are the foundation to critically analyzing the discipline of New Media?

Well, for this, Ganes and Beer weed their way towards the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, discussing their three types of “conceptual work:

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on  website for Mike Hoolboom.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on website for Mike Hoolboom.

-“Universal concepts” – “encyclopaedic definitions that seek to give concepts a fixed, universal meaning”

-“Marketable concepts” – “concepts geared to the production of ideas that are valued purely for their economic worth” – “commodification of knowledge”

—> part of this are “concept-driven brands, which draw their value less from the physical aspects of commodities than from the concepts that underpin and justify their design.” This makes me think of fashion ads in which it is the “lifestyle” represented by the clothes that is being sold more so than the clothes themselves.


Chanel Ad. Image hosted on The Stylist Fashion Blog

-“Pedagogy of the concept” – “experimental in nature and uses concepts in a flexible, open-ended way to address research problems as and when they arrive” – “Junction of problems”

One of my favorite quotes from this first chapter was Ganes and Beer quoting Deleuze and Guttari’s comment that, “All concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning…” (5). Too often, it feels like a lot of the concepts being taught in theory exist just because, so it was nice to see the idea grounded that our theoretical concepts emerge out of issues and questions that are being raised in practical settings and need to beapplied as well as discussed. From this idea of concepts needing connections to real world problems, Ganes and Beer declare that concepts are essentiallyintensities that “condense around problems,” which “prompt and stimulate conceptual work and with this give it its value” (5). Problems are at the core of conceptual work.

But, what does this have to do with New Media?

Taking a step back, what does the term New Media cover?

What makes something New Media as opposed to Old Media?

Ganes and Beer turn to Lev Manovich‘s explanation that, while there are similarities between Old Media (which ranges from print media like books to cinema media) and New Media is that New Media operates “through the production and processing of numerical (predominately binary) code,” and that “the representation of cultural forms (including art, music, text) in numerical codes enables them to be reproduced, manipulated, and transmitted with unprecedented ease” (6).

Key Traits of Digital Media, as Laid out by Tony Feldman

-“Information is increasingly manipulable, networkable, dense, compressible, and impartial”

When we think of how advancements in technology are reshaping our relationship with knowledge, it’s crazy to compare where we are right now with twenty or thirty years ago. Our devices are getting smaller, but their processing powers and memory storage outstrip devices from even five years ago. We are now a society where information is easily exchanged, portable and yet intangible. Take this course as an example. When buying my books, I was given the option of buying a physical or digital copy of the first textbook. It was in the restrictions I had on time and the prospect of a lengthy wait time for my book to arrive that I chose to go with the digital copy. While reading a book digitally isn’t my favorite method (I have to constantly keep myself from getting distracted by the other activities that are also available when I am on the computer or on my phone), the digital copy is more easily accessible and far more portable. With Amazon’s new whispersync software, I can alternate between reading the book on my laptop or on my phone, sharing highlights between the two devices and keeping both updated on what page I have read to. I can also share these books with others (like my sister-in-law who lives states away) without needing something physical to send to them.

Digital Media is both more ephemeral (mostly because I know how easy it is to lose digital data, as I have been reminded a few times with this software when forgetting to save the page before attempting to import media) and permanent (archives on the internet sometimes keep what a person may wish to be lost, which becomes a major issue with things like the leaked nude photos of celebrities hacked from the Cloud).

Interesting Scholars and Concepts Introduced

Bruno Latour – “recalcitrant objects” – “concepts that make thought possible but at the same time are hard to pin down and analyze”

Nigel Thrift – “knowing capitalism”

Donna Haraway – “thinking technologies”


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

Kicking off the Semester

Tech Comm Luminaries: Dobrin, Connors, and Katz

A provocateur, a historian,  a rhetorician, and a pragmatist walk into a bar. Who breaks Godwin’s Law first?

Readings for this week look at how one defines Technical Writing/Communication and how the field of Technical Communication has been derived and constructed.

The Historian

Connors, R. J. (1982). The rise of technical writing instruction in America. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 12(4), 329–52.
Connors lays out a history of Technical Communications as a discipline, beginning in 1895. As editor Gerald Nelms notes, Connors wrote this piece in a historical time of its own, and it reflects the values and even the conception of history constitutive of the period it first appeared in the early 1980s. Connors conceived of history as a “grand narrative” to be discovered and told, and Nelms points out that there are counter-narratives and other histories that are left out here. But the article is still an excellent overview of the field’s development, and its parallel construction with the field of composition studies beginning immediately following the Civil War with the rise in land grant and agricultural and mechanical schools as a result of the 1862 Morrill Act and the second Morrill Act of 1877 and continuing as a result of the Gilded Age’s rampant rise in technology through the Industrial Revolution. He chronicles the development of an engineering curricula and the early mismatch between expected writing skills for engineers and their abilities. He also traces the contentious relationship between humanists and humanities-based education and skills-based learning, as well as the exploitation of labor in the academy for those teaching and researching in the technical writing area. Since neither the engineering departments nor the English departments claimed the faculty or valued them, the courses were assigned to graduate students, NTT, and generally seen as “professional suicide” (10). Interestingly, Connors notes that composition teachers were seen as emasculated: feminized or deemed homosexuals: “it was said in the thirties that many English teachers ‘appear to their critics as not of a sufficiently masculine type or of enough experience in the world outside their books to command the respect of engineering students’ and they were called ‘effeminate’ … one student was quoted in 1938 as calling his teacher ‘a budding pinko’ (10)
Connors details key dates in the field such as the founding of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education  in 1894, and IEEE in . He also lays out a history of seminal textbooks published in the field, studies conducted, and figures within it. Early centers of technical writing included Tufts, University of Cincinnati, Princeton, MIT, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and University of Kansas. The first notable textbook of technical writing was T.A. Rickard’s A Guide to Technical Writing (1908), though Connors calls it a precursor to a true pedagogical book — more of a usage guide for practitioners. The first true textbook intended for college courses, according to Connors, was The Theory and Practice of Technical Writing (1911) by the “Father of Technical Writing Instruction”, Samuel Chandler Earle of Tufts College (6). This text used the “modes of discourse” (current-traditional composition) perspective, which has since fallen out of favor, Connors claims (though remains the predominant way FYC is taught in many cases, especially two-year schools). Connors claims the first “modern technical writing textbook” was in 1923 with Sada A. Harbarger’s (S.A. Harbarger, so her status as a woman was not revealed) English for Engineers, which was the first to be organized around “technical forms” or genres used by technical writers in the field, still the predominate method of organization for technical writing textbooks today. By 1938, Connors claims, corroborated by a comprehensive study by Alvin M. Fountain, that technical writing was a thriving industry.
By far the biggest rise in Technical Communication occurred in the years following WWII, and is again predicated on a rise in both technology, automation, an increase in the number of students attending college, and educational reforms to address both the apparent skills gaps they possessed and, in this case, a debate in education between a Dewey-inspired platform of social relationships and a practical techniques or occupations or industries approach (11). The Hammond Reports of 1940 and 1944 were instrumental in making reforms that lead to greater rise in technical communication. Connors notes that in 1954, with the publication of Gordon Mills and John Walter’s Technical Writing, the discipline began to take a rhetorical approach rather than a “types of reports” approach, and the ethos of “does it work” as the only good criterion for technical writing became established. Connors calls this the beginning of a user-based, “writer-reader relationship” approach to the field (13).
I definitely would like to have a visualization of this article so that I could see the timeline of events laid out next to each other and interact with them. Wish there was such a web interface. I tried searching for one, and found some unhelpful Rose Diagrams, as well as articles about the USE of visualizations in technical and scientific communication, but not a visualization of the field itself.

The Provocateur

Dobrin, D. N. (1983). What’s technical about technical writing? In P. V. Anderson, R. J. Brockman, & C. R. Miller (Eds.), New Essays in Technical and Scientific Communication: Theory and Practice (pp. 227–250). Farmingdale, NY: Baywood Publishing.

The Rhetorician

Katz, S. B. (1993). Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Hitler’s Program, and the Ideological Problem of Praxis, Power, and Professional Discourse. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 7(1), 37–62. doi:10.1177/1050651993007001003

The Pragmatists

Longo, B., & Fountain, K. (2013). What can history teach us about technical communication? In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (Eds.), Solving Problems in Technical Communication. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.

Ambience and Rhetoric Go Walking Hand-in-Hand

Thomas Rickert, a Professor of English at Purdue University. Image hosetd on website for Purdue University.

Thomas Rickert, a Professor of English at Purdue University. Image hosted on website for Purdue University.

Welcome to the final section of reading notes for the Spring 2014 semester. The focus in on Thomas Rickert‘s book, Ambient Rhetoric.

So what exactly is ambient rhetoric? How is this different from classical rhetoric? Or the remapping of rhetoric done by the creators of CHAT? What does attunement have to do with theories of networks and networks of theories? Why does Rickert unleash this new theory about a very old subject? What does this have to do with the bandwagon of other theories trailing like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs in the Forest of Theories?

How my brain feels when looking back on all the theories my classmates and I have dipped our academic toes in. Image hosted on the website Mashable.

How my brain feels when looking back on all the theories my classmates and I have dipped our academic toes in. Image of Hansel and Gretel hosted on the website Mashable.

According to Rickert, “Computer and telecommunications technologies are not only converging but also permeating the carpentry of the world, doing so in networks and technological infrastructures, houses, and buildings, manufactured goods, various sorts of content, and more. Information is not just externalized; it vitalizes our built environs and the objects therein, making them ‘smart,’ capable of action…We are entering an age of ambience, one in which boundaries between subject and object, human and nonhuman, and information and matter dissolve” (1). If the communications technologies are reshaping the “carpentry of the world,” it seems only right that our understanding of and perspective on rhetoric change also. We even get to include strains of Actor-Network-Theory, Ecology, and Castells’ Social Network Theory as we move through it and as the boundaries begin to blur actors together.

But what is ambience? Isn’t that just a type of music? Or readying the room to create the mood for a date? Well, yes but also more than that. Much more, actually. Ambience “refers to what is lying around, surrounding, encircling, encompassing, or environing. Labeling an environment ambient, then, at the very least picks out its surrounding, encompassing characteristics…ambience can mean the arrangement of accessories to support the primary effect of a work…It begins to convey more elusive qualities about a work, practice, or place. Often these are keyed to mood or some other form of affect” (Rickert 6). The example Rickert gives is the cave paintings of Lascaux and how the locations of the paintings within the cave had auditory purposes as well as visual. I found it fascinating when Rickert talks about how the paintings had been discovered quite a long time ago, but the understanding of what the paintings were for and what they meant happened more recently. It makes me wonder what changed in the flows of human knowledge that we can now better understand the purposes of paintings created thousands of years ago instead of simply seeing them as just paintings.


So if ambience deals with the environment and affordances of

[all the stuff]

[and more here too]

A conversation with the author himself, just to add more insight.

And so ends Theories of Networks reading notes.

Slow clap from Joffrey Baratheon. Image hosted on tumblr Game of Thrones Gifs.

Clapping from Joffrey Baratheon. Image hosted on tumblr Game of Thrones Gifs.


Rickert, Thomas. Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. Print.

It Has Been a Long Semester, So I Leave My Final Reading Notes with This:

Reading Notes: Week 16

Connections to Quotes

Rickert claims that the focus on a rhetor’s intent as a key component of rhetorical theory allows “No leeway for accidental persuasion of for persuasion at odds with or in spite of intent or event the artistry of rhetorical work” (loc. 1125). This claim made me think of how often we unwittingly engage in accidental persuasion (especially when we aren’t fully attuned to the ambient space of the situation). For instance, I was unaware that my boss had told one of our consultants that work he had been doing for a project counted as his hours for the week (who ended up not working his typical shift). So, when I jokingly (passive-aggressively?) asked him if he was going to work his shift the following week, I expected him to laugh and say “yeah…” However, he freaked out and was persuaded that he had misunderstood my boss’s message rather than assuming it was a miscommunication between my boss and me. As Rickert explains, this reaction was the result of the ambient rhetoric rather than a rhetorical intent.

Additionally, this quote made me think of this episode of Kids in the Hall:

Another quote: “the realization that place and making are conjoined” (loc. 1303). It seems we’re seeing more and more evidence of this as there is a recent focus on designing spaces that encourage creativity and innovation (Google offices, educational spaces, etc.). Increasingly, “makerspaces” are popping up, further evidence that people are recognizing how space contributes to making. The prevalence of these spaces is obvious by looking at the Directory of Makerspace Locations.

Additional Resources

Interview with Thomas Rickert:

Transcript of another interview (the environment is intentional, but I prefer to read the transcript than watch them chat in a bar for an hour and twenty minutes):

Overview of embodied cognition:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s definition and history of embodied cognition:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s overview of Heidegger’s “being in the world”:


Rickert, T. (2013). Ambient rhetoric: The attunements of rhetorical being. Pittsburgh, PA: U of Pittsburgh Press. Kindle.

Reading Notes: Class Meeting 4/29/14

Rickert - Ambient Rhetoric:


Rickert argues that ambience as it relates to rhetoric is a term to describe the congruence of people, objects, and environments to create an intangible quality that imbues every connection therein with an energy greater than the sum of its parts. This goes beyond Bitzer's situation and Bazerman's social facts; these concepts require the subject to perceive a situation or fact before discourse is created in response. Ambience does not require perception; it is contributing to a mood that permeates the creation whether the subject is aware of it or not.