Archive | January, 2014

Finishing Foucault: Week 2 Reading Notes

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Brief Summary

In the last sections of Archaeology, Foucault situates his methodology for historical analysis as archaeology by outlining a process for describing discourse. Foucault is careful to distinguish his method as different from a history of ideas (an approach which it closely resembles) by characterizing its distinct factors–primarily its reliance on description rather than a tracing of origins, intent, or meaning.

Describing discourse, Foucault posits, begins with describing statements, which are the most basic units of discourse. The concept of a statement as Foucault uses it is difficult to understand because of our previous associations of statements as sentences, linguistic constructions, or acts of speech (perhaps examples of the unities he persuades us to let go of in the first two sections of the book). Foucault’s statements, however, refer to something less concrete, something that is simultaneously visible and invisible–they serve as functions rather than as things. As such, they have no unifying rules, rather their rules of construction are constituted by the institutions, subjects, and fields (enunciated functions) by which they are formed.

The relations between statements, then, allow for discursive formations. Foucault is clear (or as clear as he can be) that his approach to historical (really, discourse in this situation) analysis is descriptive. This description is more concerned with statements’ conditions of existence, perseverance, and disappearance than it is with their signified meanings and subject intent (SparkNotes, p. 47).

Key Points with Discussion

In this section, I bring forward several of Foucault’s claims to support one discussion/example that helped me understand the approach a little better.

1. Foucault is insistent that we consider the subject not on an individual level but on a level with discourse (which, as we know, is the system of statements within an associated field). As such, the subject’s authority is based not on his/her own expertise, rather it is based on the expertise of his/her role in the field.

2. Foucault points to the importance of rarity for the archaeological approach. Rather than considering statements as frequent, common events, Foucault emphasizes recognizing the rarity of circumstances surrounding each statement. While the opportunities for statements are endless, each condition of emergence is unique.

3.  The principle of repeatable materiality explains that a set of signs can be repeated if its identity is based on non-material factors (such as grammar) but cannot be repeated if its identity is gained through material factors (such as institutions).

Something of a synthesis: These claims together help me understand how a concept can be both visible and invisible at the same time–how they serve as functions in discourse rather than as signifiers of meaning. For example, if we take the statement “mistakes were made” in two different scenarios, we’ll see how they maintain identity through the linguistic structure but not through the materiality of construction.

  • Scenario 1: Politicians frequently use the phrase “mistakes were made.” While my first inclination is to resort to why (the subject’s intent), Foucault’s approach asks us to describe the conditions in which the statement emerged. Why this statement and not another? How does it function in the situation? How does it differ temporally from one politician’s use of it to another’s?
  • Scenario 2: In order to teach passive voice to her ENG 101 students, an instructor uses the statement “mistakes were made.” Although I’ve already introduced intent (because it’s so hard not to!), asking the same questions above will produce different answers, thereby revealing a different set of conditions of emergence for the statement.

Key Terms:

I’m still having a difficult time articulating the terms, so I’ve pulled definitions from Foucault, SparkNotes, and a Michel Foucault website. Links to SparkNotes and the website are provided in the References Section.

Archaeology: “Archaeology is about examining the discursive traces and orders left by the past in order to write a ‘history of the present’. In other words archaeology is about looking at history as a way of understanding the processes that have led to what we are today” (O’Farrell).

Archive: “A particular level: that of a practice that causes a multiplicity of statements to emerge as so many regular events, as so many things to be dealt with and manipulated. [. . .] It is the general system of the formation and transformation of statements” (Foucault, p. 130).

“Designates the collection of all material traces left behind by a particular historical period and culture. In examining these traces one can deduce the historical a priori of the period and then if one is looking at science, one can deduce the episteme of the period. None of these concepts has predictive value – they are all descriptions of limited historical orders” (O’Farrell).

Discontinuity: “challenges notions of cause, effect, progress, destiny, tradition and influence in history” (O’Farrell)

Discourse: “constituted by a group of sequences of signs, in so far as they are statements, that is, in so far as they can be assigned particular modalities of existence” (Foucault, p. 107)

“at the most basic level he uses the term to refer to the material verbal traces left by history. He also uses it to describe ‘a certain “way of speaking” (O’Farrell)

discourse is not just a set of articulated propositions, nor is it the trace of an otherwise hidden psychology, spirit, or encompassing historical idea; it is the set of relations within which all of these other factors gain their sense (their conditions of possibility). This argument is responsible both for the immense success of Foucault’s method and for the most persistent criticisms of it. The idea that discourse can be described in and of itself, not as a sign of what is known but as a precondition for knowledge, opens up limitless possibilities for showing that what we think we know is actually contingent on how we talk about it. (Sparknotes)

Discursive Formation: “A discursive formation [. . .] presents the principle of articulation between a series of discursive events and other series of events, transformations, mutations, and processes” (Foucault, p. 74).

“The discursive formation is roughly equivalent to a scientific discipline” (O’Farrell).

Discursive Practice: “This term refers to a historically and culturally specific set of rules for organizing and producing different forms of knowledge. It is not a matter of external determinations being imposed on people’s thought, rather it is a matter of rules which, a bit like the grammar of a language, allow certain statements to be made” (

Enunciation: “The discursive conditions under which (a statement) could be said, rather than the grammatical, propositional, or strictly material conditions under which it could be formulated. Thus, an enunciation always involves aposition from which something is said; this position is not defined by a psychology, but by its place within (and its effect on) a field of discourse in all its complexity” (Sparknotes, p. 13).

Enunciative Function:”Designates that aspect of language by which statements relate to other statements” (Sparknotes, p. 13).

Episteme: “Refers to the orderly ‘unconscious’ structures underlying the production of scientific knowledge in a particular time and place. It is the ‘epistemological field’ which forms the conditions of possibility for knowledge in a given time and place” (O’Farrell).

Historical a Priori: “This is the order underlying any given culture at any given period of history. Foucault also uses the phrase the ‘positive unconscious of knowledge’ to refer to the same idea. The episteme which describes scientific forms of knowledge is a subset of this” (O’Farrell).

Material Repeatability: “A defining characteristic of the statement. It is also a kind of paradox: if we identify a single statement solely on the basis of its specific material existence, that statement will never be truly repeatable (it will be a different statement with each new articulation); but if we identify a statement solely on the basis of what it ’means’ (i.e., its propositional content), that statement can be repeated ad infinitum, without regard to the differences in its material, time-space coordinates” (Sparknotes, p. 14).

Non-discursive Practices: “including ‘institutions, political events, economic practices and processes’ (p.162). He also argues that discourse does not underlie all cultural forms. Forms such as art and music are not discursive. He also notes: ‘there is nothing to be gained from describing this autonomous layer of discourses unless one can relate it to other layers, practices, institutions, social relations, political relations, and so on. It is that relationship which has always intrigued me’” (O’Farrell).

Statement: The most basic unit of discourse which does not, however, contains not basic unit. Rather than a thing, we can thing of a statement as a “unique method for the analysis of sets of signs” (Sparknotes, p. 45).

Subject: “The subject is an entity which is self-aware and capable of choosing how to act. Foucault was consistently opposed to nineteenth century and phenomenological notions of a universal and timeless subject which was at the source of how one made sense of the world, and which was the foundation of all thought and action. The problem with this conception of the subject according to Foucault and other thinkers in the 1960s, was that it fixed the status quo and attached people to specific identities that could never be changed” (O’Farrell).

Additional Resources

Outline of Archaeology of Knowledge: If you’re a person of linear thought like me, you’ll appreciate this detailed outline of the entire book. I appreciate that it breaks each section down into the primary concepts.

Summary by Section: This is an easy-to-understand summary by section.

Detailed Summary: This more detailed summary by SparkNotes also offers analysis for each chapter. Additionally, you can find explanations of key terms and concepts.

Network Archaeology: I don’t know if we’re ready to make these kinds of jumps, yet, but this could be an interesting site for us to look through. There may be resources for those working on digital networks.


Foucault, M. Archaeology of knowledge.

O’Farrell, C. (2013). Key concepts. Retrieved from

SparkNotes. (2002). Archaeology of knowledge. Retrieved from

Mindmap #2: Rhetorically Situated Foucault?

For MindMap #2, I added a few nodes about Foucualt. The nodes and connections were less developed this time because I realized that I was very wordy on the first mindmap.  I decided to start the mindmap by focusing on the key terms from Foucault. I specifically focused on trying to expand or understand “discursive formations.” I noticed through this that I had a better understanding of “discursive formations” than I thought. I like the idea of examining systems of dispersion, so I used this to guide the other nodes in the map. I have not made the connections between rhetorical situation and Foucault. I am not sure if this lack of connection is mental or emotional. What I mean by that is that I dislike mindmaps. I realize each time I look at the mindmap that I hate it. No matter how many connections I make, it still seems disorganized and chaotic. I like nice neat lines. A mind outline would work wonders for me at this point. I can’t tell if its a lack of understanding or lack of visualization ability.

Mind Map:

Reading Notes #1: Foucault Parts I and II

The first two parts of Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge reminded me why I have always avoided literature and philosophy. Reading Foucault was like trying to run through mud. I spent much of my time flipping back and forth between different chapters, dictionaries, and Google in order to make heads or tails (or any other part) of Foucault. There were too many words that I could not define or pronounce. So, I have come to the conclusion that in about 15 years, I will read Foucault and it will make sense. For now, I will keep running through the mud and fake it till I make it.

Part 1: History and the Historian

Part 1 served as a reminder of how much Foucault I have managed to avoid. He refers to previous works several times, which required me to take several quick trips to Wikipedia. The two terms that stood out in the introduction were history and document. History is defined as “one way in which a society recognizes and develops a mass of documentation with with it is inextricably linked” (7). History transform documents into monuments. There is a change in what constitutes history. The most significant change is the document. The relation between history and the document has changed. History is no longer linear.

history has altered its position in relation to the document: it has taken as its primary task, not the interpretation of the document, nor the attempt to decide whether it is telling the truth or what it is it expressive value, but to work on it from within and to develop it; history now organizes the document, divides it up, distributes it, orders it, arranges it in levels, establishes series, distinguishes between what is relevant and what is not, discovers elements, defines, unities, and describes relations” (6-7).

This visualization helped me to understand the change or shift from progressive, linear history that has unity to the more expansive, complex history (dispersion).


Part 2: T.G.F.B (Thank God For Books)

I started Part 2 of Foucault in quite a funk. I was still trying to wrap my head around all the terminology from Part 1. I was also pushing my self to understand and make connections. My ray of hope came on page 23:

The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network.

This passage was my light-bulb-moment. My first thought was: yes, of course. Books/texts enter into conversation with one another all the time. That is what academic writing is all about. Then Foucault hit me with this next part:

And this network of references is not the same in the case of a mathematical treatise, a textual commentary, a historical account, and an episode in a novel cycle; the unity of the book, even in the sense of a group of relations, cannot be regarded as identical in each case. The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands; and it cannot remain within the little parallelepiped that contains it; its unity is variable and relative. As soon as one questions that unity, it loses its self-evidence; it indicates itself, constructs itself, only on the basis of a complex field of discourse.

This section helped me to make connections to a concept that I already understand: intertextuality.  With intertextuality, the reader brings knowledge and experiences of reading other texts to the reading of the new text. This section of Foucault’s work reminded me of discussions I’ve had in other classes about one book’s dialogue with another. This of course lead me to Kristeva and Bakhtin. Kristeva goes beyond the idea that texts are in conversation or a network of references, presenting that the text, itself, is made up of utterances taken from other texts. Kristeva’s work is influenced by Bakhtin’s definition of the novel as a combination of diverse languages and voices organized in an artistic manner.

The connection to books helped me to visualize and ground Foucualt’s work. Hopefully, I will have another light-bulb moment in Parts 3-5.

Key Terms

  • Discontinuity-is a break with unity, challenges cause, effect, and tradition
  • Discourse-this was a complex term in Foucualt’s work. I think he uses it to refer to the verbal/written parts of history
  • discursive formation: I’m still debating and fleshing this out.
  • archaeology: Foucault’s approach to examining discourse of the past in order to understand the present; what led to now?

Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. Print.

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage, 2010. Print.

Kristeva, Julia.  Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Ed. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Print.

Reading Notes: Class Meeting 1/28/14

Michel Foucault: Archaeology of Knowledge, Part III - V

But first...

Last week, I started the blog post with a reflection on Foucault's reoccurring presence in my academic career. Then as if to play a cosmic game of synchronicity, I find myself this week with assigned readings of Foucault's work in both of the courses I am taking this semester.

Good one, universe. Good one.

Image of book cover for Jung's Synchronicity

Jung argued that synchronicity is that feeling we get sometimes that two or more experiences are connected even when there is no scientific explanation for their relation. Some might say coincidence, but Jung argued that synchronicity is an opportunity from which one can draw unusual insights otherwise unseen. Now, there may be a rational explanation for my experience - namely that Foucault's work is influential in many fields and his body of scholarship is large enough and diverse enough to be relevant across disciplines at different times and from different theories. However, I find the confluence of these reading assignments to be an opportunity for me to find a new way to understand both selections from Foucault and the course content in each course.

In English 891: Seminar in Literature, we are studying the concept of home, what it means to have a home or be homeless, and what it means to dwell, which is complicated by the work of Heidegger. This week our assigned theorist was Foucault with his work "Of Other Spaces".

Naturally, the use of the word space in the title immediately brought to mind the idea of space that he brings to the table in Archaeology of Knowledge - "space in which discursive events are deployed" (29).  He also is concerned with "fields" and "dispersion" in space. It is within space that objects exist, where connections can be seen, and relationships explored. We need space onto which a network can grow, move, advance, withdraw, and live dimensionally and not just linearly or causally.

Therefore, it's worthwhile to consider how Foucault discusses space in this article. He writes, “The site [space] is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids…space takes for us the form of relations among sites (23). Rather than space being understood by what exists within its borders, Foucault argues for an understanding of a particular space based on examining it as it relates to other objects. It is not what something is, but rather how it connects to everything else, that matters. 

For our study of networks, this underlines the importance of studying connections and relationships as opposed to merely objects. Foucault rebels against a Structuralist view that meaning exists in the confines of the text; he argues that the field must be set free to study the implications of texts as nodes in a network. Examine its position in the field - in space - for its relevance. Look beyond the boundaries of the text. 

The synchronicity this week allows me to consider the nature of a home - a home-space - to be about the relations and not the building. I can consider networks about the connections and the space within which we can make relationships and not the technology that facilitates connectivity. Foucault wants us to think about more than the object. He wants us to find what meaning there is from the object as it exists in a particular space with particular proximity to other objects and particular relations. 

We are not isolated entities. We exist in space. And we are connected by way of being in the same space. 

So thanks Foucault. That makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside.

From the book...

I've been interested in archives since New Media I. My research has been primarily about the rediscovery of periodicals published in the late 1960s and early 70s and attempting to preserve them through digital archiving. Naturally, I was drawn to the chapter "The Statement and the Archive", and I think I am still recovering from the claims therein.

Let me start with a quote:
"The archive is not that which...safeguards the event of the statement and preserves [it] for future memories...Nor is the archive that which collects the dust of statements that have become inert once more, and which may make possible the miracle of their resurrection" (129).
Like a dagger through the heart, Foucault. He lays waste to the theoretical underpinnings of my work. I have championed the digital archive as a repository, a tool of preservation, and a worthwhile endeavor exactly so that these important texts can be resurrected for contemporary and future readers. Here Foucault argues that my work thus far equates to that of a dust collector. I am a scholarly janitor.

But if an archive is not a preserved collection, than what is it?

Foucault seems glad I ask. He writes that archives are not the collection of statements, but the "system of [their] functioning" (129). Again, there is the idea that the meaning is not in the object itself - not in the pile of papers in an archive - but in what that pile of papers can tell us about how they came into being, about the system(s) that facilitated their creation. He writes that an archive "reveals the rules of a practice that enables statements both to survive and to undergo regular modification. It is the general system of the formation and transformation of statements" (130).

In my work with the Underground Press then, my archive should not seek simply to collect documents, but to consider how this collection informs my understanding of systems of publication in this time, systems that produced subaltern voices, systems of information sharing or information restriction, systems of oppression, systems of self-expression. I should consider the archive as a space onto which objects can be placed and understood in proximity and relation to other objects.

Like a refrain - not the object, but the object's connections. The network.

This chapter has provided me with both a challenge and some renewed energy. I have this avenue to explore now where my interest in archiving and in scholarly-making has this new sense of purpose and possibility. The archive I make will not just have relevance for the preservation or the rediscovery, but for the expansive field it builds. This archival space-field allows for the study of the governing systems working at that time that created the conditions from which the Underground Press exploded - the catalysts. I hear Foucault screaming in my head - don't just study the papers. Study the systems that converged and birthed them. 

I will try to listen.

One last point...

Foucault is intimidating; it's not a secret. He's abstract and conceptual and erudite and thinking on planes of the brain I have never discovered nor probably ever will. It takes a concerted effort to read and reread and summarize, which is a good and welcome endeavor. But it is intimidating. It brings forth the self-doubt and the impostor syndrome full-force.

So it is rather comforting to see Foucault grapple with his own self-doubt, and arm himself (and us) with the attitude we need to undertake daunting tasks of the mind. Of his own thoughts he explains that they are "slowly taking shape in a discourse that I still feel to be so precarious and so unsure" (17). Precarious and unsure? But you're Foucault!

He describes writing "with a rather shaky hand" and his work as "a labyrinth into which I can venture" (17). Shaky? A maze of possibilities where you can lose yourself and are unsure of the direct path through? But that insecurity about one's writing and one's thoughts, well, that sounds like all the rest of us? 

Yet, Foucault does not let these feelings prevent him from digging into the work. He pushes onward, undeterred. He would even reprimand any would be critics who would demand greater conviction on the part of the writer, exclaiming, "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same; leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write" (17). Do not force me into the box of these thoughts! I am experimenting and thinking and don't have all the answers! I reserve the right to change my thoughts in the future! And the fact that I might change does not invalidate this work nor does it negate my right to have the ideas!

And to that I say, yes! Be brave! Be unsure! But think anyway. Think big and be unafraid to fall short or to make amendments. It's heartening to see in someone so revered in the discipline, to see our own struggles in the realm of the mind reflected back from such a great mind.

He writes, "[O]ne is forced to advance beyond familiar territory, far from the certainties to which one is accustomed, towards an as yet uncharted land and unforeseeable conclusion" (39). It reminds me of the old sea maps with ominous phrases like "Here there be monsters" scrawled across swaths of ocean with frightening creatures peeking up through waves. Yet the mariners were undeterred. They provisioned their ships and assembled their crews. They set forth for the unknown despite the danger. 

The human spirit is intrepid and undeterred, and I will try to remember these lessons when I too find myself with a shaky hand.

Carta Marina map circa 1539
Wikipedia Commons

Works Cited:

"Carl Jung - Synchronicity." Carl Jung Resources for Home Study and Practice. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Foucault, Michel. Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. Print.

Foucault, Michel. "Of Other Spaces." Diacritics. 16.1 (Spring 1986): 22-27. Print.

Suzanne’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Memory


This activity confirms my fear/dislike of the Cloud. I pretty much write down or print out everything. I refuse to allow others to have ownership of things that I need or create. I just cannot allow it to happen. To avoid this, I try to maintain control over “all the things.”

The majority of my files are on my Mac hard drives (I have two MacBooks) and on two back up drives. I have several giant binders filled with articles that I have read in classes, used as sources in papers, or plan to read for future research projects. I do not like any of the clouds. I even download and convert my ebooks to pdf, so I can have them saved on my computer and back up drives.

I think I may have trust issues.

Daniel How Stuff Works? Activity: Social Networks

Social Networks Popplet

This activity was an eye opener. I was surprised that I wasn’t a part of more social networks. I use Facebook (not as much as I used to) mostly because it keeps me connected to ODU friends and classmates. I remember joining Facebook in 2004. It was excellent back then. I don’t like it so much right now. I love Instagram. I use SnapChat a lot. I only use Twitter to follow trends and when watching shows that have a fan base that utilizes Twitter (Scandal, Walking Dead, Banshee). I also like to use Twitter when watching award shows (Grammy’s, MTV Video Music Awards, BET HIp Hop Awards).

I hardly ever use my academic social networks. They are not interesting to me at all. I probably should think about that more and explore why those networks aren’t utilized. I should be using those for building social and professional capital.

Maury’s How Stuff Works? Activity: IFTTT and Networking

Google Doc Response

Question #1: What did you think of IFTTT as a user? What about as a supra-network to “talk” and “do” things among your networks? How was writing your own protocol using their GUI (Graphic User Interface)?

Chvonne: I have had an account with IFTTT for about 2 years now. I have still not used it. Lifehacker recommended it as a way to increase productivity. Once I created an account and gained a better understanding of how it all works, I realized that I loved the idea, but have no idea what I would use it for. I think it is so cool. I wish I had more of a need for it. I often do not see the need to link things, so I was hesitant to allow access and to link to different networks to one another. I am not a big fan of making connections (mental connections but not many others). I finally decided on linking Facebook recipes shared with me to a Google Doc. I liked the idea of creating a recipe, so I let that guide me. Writing the protocol was straight forward. I think the software is very user friendly.

Jenny’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Types of Networks

This activity was interesting because the network at my home isn’t very complex. My brother and I are the only ones who access the network at home. We use the same types of devices (laptop, cell phones, eReaders, and game systems. I noticed how complex my classmates’ networks were compared to mine (and Summer’s network). I can’t imagine that many people accessing the network. I don’t even know we have enough kbps to handle more than the two of us. I did find it interesting that some of these devices also communicate or connect one another. For example, I can access the media files on my laptop through the playstation. I can also access my nook and my brother’s kindle through my smartphone. Overall, I learned that things are more “networked” than I realized.

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity: Welcome to the Cloud

Completing Summer’s How Stuff Works? Activity helped me to visualize how many connections I make to others through different cloud services. I also realized that I need to remove myself from the cloud a bit. I dislike not having ownership of things. That is a big part of why I refuse to put my music into a Cloud. I imagine one day that I’ll have to pay for space or access to the cloud. I refuse to allow a corporation/organization to control my access to music. I still buy CDs because of this fear. Its a bit crazy, but this activity helped me to see how much of my writing, files, etc are in the cloud. I didn’t have to add many technologies to the mind map because I could connect to the technologies already established.

Mind Map: Week 2

Adding Foucault, Parts I and II

ENG  894 Mind Map

At first as I read the first two sections of Foucault, I thought he was going to make an argument similar to Biesecker’s use of Derrida’s logic of differance. Foucault’s initial focus on discontinuity, limits, and thresholds, however, sets up what ends up being something of a contrast to Biesecker. While they might agree that discourse is an articulation, Foucault does not agree that it’s an articulation of differences, rather it might be said that he posits discourse as the resulting articulation of a complex set of relations between objects, modes of statements, concepts, and themes: the discursive formation.

In my Popplet, then, I tried to show where their ideas contradicted each other. So, the black nodes in my Popplet indicate the connectors–agreements and contrasts between the scholars.

I also connected Foucault with Bitzer to indicate another contradiction–the idea that events serve as the exigency for discourse. Foucault’s assertion that discourse is not the result of a “secret origin” and based on an “already said” may not be a direct contradiction to Bitzer because Bitzer does not discuss the concept of origination (meaning he doesn’t trace one event or discursive formation back to its origin as Foucault is doing).

For the Foucault section of the network, I again tried to include the most basic elements (as best as I could identify them) to keep the mind map simple. I realized that there’s a lot of terminology in Foucault–and probably more to come with other theorists–so I thought it would be helpful to start identifying some key terms. The terms may become their own nodes later on if they seem to be of importance in making connections with other theorists. For now, though, they have to share a node.

Leslie’s How Stuf Works? Activity: Buses

When I first read that Leslie had Buses, I was very confused. I immediately thought of an actual bus that transports people from one area to another. After reading her post, I realized that I know even less about computers than I thought. I knew that transfer data in a computer was a complex process, but I did not realize how complex. I took the quiz first, thinking that I knew enough about computers to make it through. After reading the blog post, I realized that I know nothing. Anyway, the most interesting part of this process for me was that Buses allow users to personalize their computers by adding peripherals. I am a big fan of Plug and Play devices. They are user friendly and allow me to make my computer fit my needs. Now I know that buses make this possible; buses make my computer adaptable.

Assignment: How Stuff Works Part 2 – Asynchronous Activities

Summer's Activity on Cloud Computing:
Maury's Activity of Networking:
Amy's Activity on Wifi:
Leslie's Activity on Buses:
Daniel's Activity on Social Networking:
  • Visual Map of Social Networks

    This was interesting for a few reasons. First, I had not previously considered the idea or ramifications of using one network to connect to another network. It connects spheres of my life in ways I superficially assumed were disparate entities. Second, Google controls my life. Everything stems from how I connect to the networks, which is through my Google browser. I assume this is why Facebook shows me ads from shopping sites I have recently been to. And these are not just ads, but pictures of the actual items I looked at. This kind of connectivity can leave me with a creepy feeling, a Big Brother-knows-all kind of feeling. Lastly, I have managed to completely segregate my guilty pleasure - Twitter. I have no followers from real life. I post and read about all my favorite celebrities and gossip and fashion and entertainment news. I am sharply satirical in ways I would not be in any other space. I don't want to share this space with anyone either. It's for me to revel in the guiltiest and basest of my escapes. I get to it from my phone and never connect through any other means than directly from the app on my phone. Maybe it's a delusion, and there really is someway for Google or Facebook to know who I am on twitter and make that public for all to know, but hopefully no one will shatter my belief in a little network privacy.

    Jenny's  Activity on Networking:
    Chvonne's Activity on WiFi:
    • Cell Phone Quiz: 4/10 (Well, I know how to work a cell phone even if I don't know how a cell phone works!)
      My Activity on Memory:

      I thought that creating a Venn Diagram would be a helpful way to show where there is overlap in our memory and storage systems. Unfortunately, the process was difficult for me to do digitally. I tried Google Drawings and some online Venn Diagram makers. None of these options were very easy to use because of the number of spheres I needed - work computer, laptop, Google Drive, work's provided network space for the writing center (S Drive), work's provided network space for personal use (M Drive), three flash drives (the sailboat shaped one, the Gaston College one from the HR fair, and the red one that flips open but that I have to jiggle just right to get the computer to recognize it), a portable hard drive from when the old laptop crashed, there's stuff saved on my phone like photos, and other photos are on a memory card in a digital camera, some photos are on CDs from before around 2011,and then my Outlook email, Yahoo email, and Gmail email where I might have sent stuff by attachment to myself...

      And if you want to count the stuff that isn't stored digitally, well there are some bookshelves. And boxes in a storage unit...

      Basically, a Venn Diagram can't contain this madness. I have stuff saved everywhere. I save willy-nilly. Helter-skelter. A devil-may-care attitude, if you will. My memory network makes grown men weep.

      I need help. Lots of help. Some sort of personal trainer to come in and shout at me through a bullhorn. Organize, collate, back-up, create some sort of regimen.

      Perhaps I am doomed to exist in a chaotic network of nodes and connections? Perhaps it will be one of those summer break projects that always seem to get completed before the rush of Fall semester, right?

      Sigh. Que sera, sera.

      NO! I'm going to do something. Be pro-active! Make a list of what gets saved where! Make folders! Move and copy files and delete...

      But wait... that phrase from before reminded me of something.

      Yeah... I'm going to get right on that project, but first I should check out that video...

      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

      HowStuffWorks: Connectivity

      This entry on connectivity has a starting point here for your handy reference.

      Connectivity is at its core a discussion of how the actual connections between devices happen, in other words how does data get from A to B, C, D, E and back again? The groups of articles including some connections to things like High Speed Dial-up and the like, but this discussion will focus either on technologies that are present or are possible waves of the future.
      Current Technologies


      Photo Credit: BryanAlexander via Compfight cc

      Photo Credit: BryanAlexander via Compfight cc

      Ah, modems, without which you cannot connect to the internet unless you are somewhere that has a hardline (T1, T3) infrastructure.  Modem is actually a contraction of the word “modulator-demodulator.”  As you likely know, it sends data over phone, fiber optic, or cable lines.  The modulator end of things codes the data into a signal that works with whatever line you are utilizing. The demodulator turns the signal back into data. Wireless signals do this in the form of radio signals. Early modems used gradual degradation to test phone lines and ratchet their speeds back a notice if the line couldn’t handle the faster speeds. ADSL (or asymmetric digital subscriber lines) became popular in 1999 and were asymmetric because they sent data faster in one direction, taking advantage of dedicated copper wires used by the phone company. Current modem technology used by our ISPs (internet service providers) send packets of information between you and your ISP using PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol).

      Cable Modems

      Perhaps the most oft used in the U.S. for broadband connectivity, the cable modem is available over your coaxial cable that brings you hundreds of channels with nothing to watch. The coaxial cable is capable of carrying far more megahertz of signals than your cable provider currently uses for providing you with television programing. Thus, the extra signal space can be used to transfer data packets. Often the wiring prior to your household wiring is fiber optic, increasing the amount of carrying capacity available (depending upon where you live or it might be coaxial all the way down). The signal being send (downstream if into your home device) and received (upstream send from your device) require a cable modem on your end and a  Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS) on the ISP end. Much like the old school dial up modems, cable modems have modulators and demodulators internally to handle encoding and decoding duties. They also include a turner which splits tv signal from data signal; a MAC which handles the interface with hardware and software bits of the internet protocols for handling the signals, the MAC is often connected with or integrated with a Central  Processing Unit (CPU) because the coding processes are relatively complex because of all of the splitting up of data, and finally there is the connection into the device (router or pc). How well your cable connection can provide data may depend upon how close you are to being the first user to connect through a particular assigned cable channel. Therefore, speeds may not be as advertised.

      Fiber Optics are lovely,

      Photo Credit: kainet via Compfight cc

      Photo Credit: kainet via Compfight cc

      optically pure glass that we talk about when we discuss cable or updated phone based connectivity. They are about a hair-width and are bundled by the hundreds or thousands. They have 3 basic parts – the core through which the light carrying the signal runs, the cladding which is an “outer optical (or mirror-like) material that reflects light back to the core, ” and a protective buffer coating.The fibers must be pure so that as the light bounces along between the core and the cladding, minimal degradation occurs. Fiber optic transmission systems include the transmitter (producer and sender of signals) the fiber itself, an optical regenerator (used to boost signals) and and optical receiver (which receives and decodes).  Advantages of this system are lower cost, smaller size, higher carrying capacity and less signal degradation than wire, lower power needs,  non-flammable, lightweight, and flexibility.

      Satellite Internet

      An option for those who live in rural areas who aren’t connected or have less than optimal connections to traditional communication infrastructures. It functions through a dish-to-dish broadcast. It is slower than either cable or fiberoptic connections. The satellite system sometimes requires you to have a modem to handle the coding work and like all satellite systems is susceptible to issues with signal loss due to poor weather conditions, improper placement, and interference from blocking structures.  A more full description and history can be found here.


      Powerline Based Broadband or BPL

      This has a fascinating potential to reach far more people than fiber optic lines or cable lines because power lines are already a near-ubiquitous infrastructure already in place. Essentially using the same technologies power companies already use to monitor power grid function via radio frequencies, this technology would use similar frequencies to connect users to the internet. The frequencies would need to be shielded (as cable and fiberoptic lines are) because the fluctuating power current would cause disruptions. Developers claim that this has been dealt with. They have also created specialized silicon modems to separate out the data from the power current. Currently the technology is being vetted by the FCC, but both FEMA and ham radio operators have series questions about how this technology will be implemented. FEMA is working on a compromise with the FCC, but the ARRL (ham radio folks) believe that ham and shortwave radio will be greatly interfered with. So the technology is currently in bureaucratic limbo.

      Also fascinating reading is the link on How an Interplanetary Internet might work. Check it out. It could be our future.

      Why is this all so interesting? 

      The above forms of physical hardware are the stuff of the interwebs. Without them data cannot be packaged, sent, and processed by our laptops, desktops, tablets, or phones. Understanding some of the basics also helps us ask questions about access. For example, the old 56.K baud modems that operated over phone lines were slow, granted, but as infrastructure they were significantly cheaper. Did they perpetuate greater access than expensive cable modems because they relied upon infrastructure that the U.S. Government helped put into place and backed decades ago?  What are the possibilities of internet satellite? People who argue against net neutrality point to them as ways of creating greater access but the subscription price per month is higher than cable, which is costly, and the reliability is questioned by some.

      The choices we are able to make about modems, connection types, purchase/renting of hardware will affect our abilities to connect to the network.


      Brain, Marshall. “How Modems Work.” <> 21 Jan 2014.

      Franklin, Curt. “How Cable Modems Work.” <> 20 Jan 2014.

      Freundenrich, Craig. “How Fiber Optics Work.” How Stuff <> 21 Jan 2014

      “How does satellite Internet operate?.” <> 20 Jan 2014.

      Valdes, Robert. “How Broadband Over Powerlines Works.” <> 21 Jan 2014

      Assignment: How Stuff Works Part 1 – Memory

      How Stuff Works: Memory

      Image by

      Some Basics:

      Memory refers simply to any form of electronic data storage; however, it typically means storage that is quickly accessible and temporary. Anytime you operate your computer, it uses memory to run faster. Since information stored on the hard drive can take a long time for the computer to access, the computer places information in temporary storage that is more readily accessible so the processor works more quickly. 

      RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is the most common type of temporary storage used by a computer. The way it works is when the computer user starts the computer and runs applications, the information needed to do those tasks is placed in RAM to make it more easily accessible. Instead of going to the hard drive to get that information, the processor can just go into the RAM and get it faster (Tyson, "How Computer"). 

      But RAM alone is not enough memory for all the applications a computer-user typically wants to run. Other types of memory need to be used to keep operations open and running. This is where cache memory - or caching - can help. A cache will help your computer run faster by keeping the most frequently used information in a special separate storage area on the chip of the processor, or CPU (Provost). This special area can be accessed more quickly than RAM. Several caches can be put in place to speed processing overall.

      Once you no longer need that information or data - say from an application like an internet browser - the RAM will purge that information to make room for something else. If the user wants to access the information at a later date, the data must be saved in long-term, permanent memory - like a hard disk.

      Hard Disk

      Hard disks uses magnetic recording techniques - much like a cassette tape - that can easily write and rewrite data onto the disk. It lives inside the computer attached to the motherboard, usually housed in an aluminum case like the one pictured above. So unlike RAM, the information on a hard disk will not be purged until the user removes it (Brain).

      Taking Memory with Us:

      Sometimes, we want to take our data with us. That is where removable storage - or portable memory - can help.  Portable memory takes the form of different media - a floppy disk, flash drive, digital memory cards, or CD are common media forms of portable memory. They work when the user inserts or connects the media to the computer and selects data from the computer to be stored on it. Disks use magnetic recording like hard drives while CDs use lasers to write, erase, and rewrite data (Tyson, "How Removable"). Flash storage and memory cards are completely electronic with no moving parts like disks. Instead, they use transistors and an electrical charge to excite electrons to "write" data on an embedded chip (Tyson, "How Flash").

      Memory as Technology Changes:

      I think in my desk drawer right now I still have some old 3.5 inch floppy disks with undergraduate papers and an old Power Point or two on them. What treasures of my past would they reveal if only I had the technology still needed to access them? 

      The nature of memory is that as technology changes and improves, we can fine ever smaller, ever more powerful storage tools to hold our data. If we aren't vigilant, then it is possible that our stored information will become lost in the heap of out-dated technology - right along side my floppies, which are next to my cassettes, next to someone's laser disc, and someone else's eight-tracks.

      So what does the future of memory look like? Some indicate that like printers, the future of memory is 3D, specifically 3D holographic memory. Like CDs, holographic memory is a type of optical memory, using laser light to write data onto the recording medium. however, where CDs can only store data on the surface, holographic memory would be able to record bits throughout the volume of the device. This would allow for greater storage and faster speeds when calling forth data. By some estimates, a holographic device would be able to store 1 terabyte of data in a one centimeter cube (Bonser). A terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes. The potential for speed and space is significant.

      Pyramid depicting relationship between various types of memory.
      Image by How Stuff Works

      Implications for Network Theory:

      If you're anything like me, you have a laptop at home, a desk top computer in your office, a smart phone, and a tablet. You have files saved on your lap top, some at that work computer, others attached to emails or stashed in email folders, content may live on Blackboard or another website, there are photos on an SD card in a digital camera, perhaps some saved in a Google Drive, while others live in the network drive assigned to you from ODU or your job, and then there are the countless others saved on a drawer-full of flash drives and memory sticks. It's harder and harder to remember where we put our memory!

      If we think about memory and our ability to store information as a network, we can see how these different spaces act as nodes. There is certainly connections between them as most of us have the same - or similar versions - saved in multiple spaces. Perhaps we have some loose guidelines about what we save where - course work in a Google Drive but files for work on the laptop - but what is it like to try to function within this memory network?

      And as the previous section suggests, sometimes these nodes of memory become outdated - thus disconnected from the network altogether, information lost and forgotten or frustratingly unreachable.

      Technology brings with it many conveniences, but we also rely on its memory. Do you know the phone numbers of your loved ones, or do you have to look it up in your phone? If your laptop crashed, would you lose important files that exist nowhere else?

      To participate in all areas of our lives - home lives, work lives, school lives - we rely of stored data, on memory, but when nodes and connections break down and cut us off from that memory we are unable to participate. Ever have that frustrating experience of being at work but needing that file from your laptop? Or be logged into a computer in the classroom and have access to the shared network, but have the file you need saved on your desk top back in the office?

      Fluid participation in life requires fluid movement through the network of memory that we have all created in our many spaces.



      1. Take a few minutes to brainstorm/freewrite a list of all the places where you have data stored in memory - all the types of memory you use and access. 
      2. Think about the different types of data you store in these various places. Are there clear distinctions between the locations, or do you store files in whatever memory system is most readily available? Do you save in multiple locations as back-up or for convenience? Are you ever frustrated by the breadth of your memory?
      3. Using Google Drawings (or draw by hand) to create a Venn Diagram showing the network of your memory systems. Label the spheres with the different places where you have stored data - lap top, work computer, Google Drive, flash drive, etc. Overlap the  spheres where we have stored the same data. Write the type of data (lesson plan, essay, photos) on the overlapping area of the sphere to show what you keep where.
      4. Post to your blog (embed or scan and upload) with the tag "Memory Network" and maybe write a comment or two about anything interesting you learned.

      Works Cited:

      Bonser, Kevin. "How HolographicMemory Will Work." How Stuff Works. 08 Nov. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Brain, Marshall. "How Hard DisksWork." How Stuff Works. 01 Apr. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Provost, Guy. "How Caching Works.How Stuff Works. 01 Apr. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      Tyson, Jeff.  "HowComputer Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 23 Aug. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      ---. "How Flash Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 30 Aug. 2000.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.

      ---. "How Removable Memory Works." How Stuff Works. 28 May 2001.  How Stuff Works, Inc.. Web. 20 January 2014.