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Mind Map: Class Meeting 1/21/14

The additions to the Mind Map this week are inspired by our assigned reading in Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge. 

I am primarily interested in two ideas from the text: books as networks and the possibility of freeing scholarly fields by studying connections, which I discuss in more detail here.

The thought that literary objects exist in a network challenges the ideas I was playing with last week about the loss of connectivity and being isolated from a  network. Those ideas assume that the only understanding of a network is one that requires technology in the digital sense of the word. It was the idea that without an internet connection for example, that the network could not be accessed. While this may be true for some networks, the idea Foucault raises suggests that not all networks operate in the same way. Books, for example, are connected in a far more abstract way that exists and is built over eras, not in the more tangible immediacy of the internet where I can connect to a virtual classroom in real time and engage with others in the network. One author may never meet - or even read - another's work, but the texts produced may be inextricably linked and connected through theme or character or from both having experienced the work of yet another author from the network. It raises a challenge - forces an expansion - of what can be considered the platform on which a network can be created; it can be digital but does not need to be.

As I type it, it seems obvious - families are networks, forest root systems are networks, the Underground Railroad was a network. Yet, perhaps the influence of existing in the Digital Age makes the thinking of networks as exclusively belonging to the realm of computers a repeating obstacle needing to be mentally overcome. 

Foucault's idea that scholarship should be freed from chronological or linear analytical tendencies to instead "analyse the interplay of [objects of study's] appearances and dispersion" (35). Like the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe, the idea expressed here has the same expansive and originating effect. I hear Foucault saying don't look at the object itself - look at the connections it has to other objects. Don't be restricted by the boundaries of the object, look at the field onto which it has been placed. Meaning is not in the object. It is in the relations it has to the world. Pretty cool stuff. I'm getting shades of Turkle's Alone Together here - that we need connection for substance, but perhaps that's another node for another day.

An interesting connection was to the Bitzer's idea that rhetoric requires an audience. For books to be understood as a network, it does seem to suggest that an audience needs to be there to perceive the connections. There are some connections that would exist without an audience - the author being influenced by another text for example - but there would be a literary network that only exists in the minds of the audience, who brings to the table their own set of nodes and knowledge.

You can also click here to find the map: Suzanne Sink's Mind Map