Archive | April, 2014

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1974 B.Z.M. B.Z.M. N. P. N. P. (CG) N.T. (Bud) N.T. R.M. A.R. A.R.

Kia “this or that”  who?



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Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network

Scaffolding Synthesis: The Cypher as Network Rhetorical Situation Theory, Genre Theory, and CHAT Theories Which 2 – 4 theories are you choosing and why? For the Synthesis project, my object of study is the hip hop cypher. This project will address the question “Why is studying my OoS useful to English Studies?” To do this, […]

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.

MindMap: Week 15


For my final mindmap, I had to abandon Popplet. I enlarged all of my nodes, printed the Popplet, and began color coding the lines. I think my biggest frustration was that I wanted color coded lines so that the connections were easier to trace (I also wanted to be able to multicolor the different nodes, but my mind cringed at the unsightly mess that would ensue).

Because last week I began organizing by distinguishing between human and nonhuman agency, that’s what I began with in revising my mindmap again. I removed the nodes that identified agency, though, so I didn’t really feel like I had a starting place, and so I just began drawing arbitrary lines between the many nodes that allowed for human or nonhuman agency.

The challenge of where to begin also plagued me as it came to my next two categories. By groupings and individuals, I meant “does the theory analyze based on groups or individuals”? I realized that the majority of the theories we’ve read this semester break analysis down according to groups rather than individuals. As Latour demonstrated, this is probably due to the challenges of trying to make any sort of statement based on one individual.

I also wanted to account for the theories that considered the potential multiple levels of networks (e.g. CHAT, Spinuzz), which I differentiate from theories that consider the multitude of aspects that form networks (e.g. Latour, Rickerts).

Next, I identified which theories considered systems as hierarchical and which considered them rhizomatic. I did identify starting places for these connections, namely with Deleuze and Guattari as the starting place for rhizomal structures and Althusser as the starting place for hierarchical structures. This is due to their explicit focus on these structures rather than their chronological appearance in either the class or the scholarship.

Finally, I drew connections between the approach used to analyze the networks: whether we begin externally and branch outwards or externally and dig in. I saw this as more than analyzing and individual or a group–instead, I saw the distinctions as a focus on analyzing activities or behaviors  vs. cultures and/or ideologies.

Basically, my revised mindmap is a collection of binaries, but the binaries are not necessarily consistent. There are parallels and oppositions for almost all of these theories. Revising the mindmap and seeing these connections and distinctions definitely helps me think through my Frankentheory a little more and how the ones I’ve chosen help fill in each other’s gaps.

Reading Notes: Week 15

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.

As I was reading Rickert’s discussion of kairos and the problem posed by the traditional rhetorical understanding of kairos, that it is concerned with time and decorum, rather than place, it occurred to me that I have seen this attention to time/decorum and place in discussions of the role of the lactation room in a university. Rickert says, “I am trying to embed kairos more concretely in place, to see what happens when we attend to kairos’s material emplacement and unfolding and not just timeliness or decorum. I argue that without a more materialist understanding of emplacement, kairos is an empty concept” (76). In “legally Public but Privately Practiced: Segregating the Lactating Body,” by LM Rose, explores the way in which the location of the lactation room on the campus of Ohio University frames the lactating body as other. I would argue that the action of the university of establishing a lactation room was as rhetorical as it was practical (if not more so). Rose’ article explores the othering that results from placing the only single occupant lactation room on the university campus in a remote area far away from faculty offices. Of course, one could argue that the establishment of a lactation room at all is a positive sign of the normalization of breastfeeding, but is it enough that it exists? What about where it exists within the context? Who has access to it? Certainly the decision to establish a lactation room was timely and considered to be appropriate, but it seems likely that those involved in the establishment of the room did not consider the implications of the location of the room. The establishment of the room itself seem progressive and a woman and mother-centered act, but when we examine the place of the room, we see that it plays a large role in the queering of the breastfeeding body. (See the above video for example of lactation rooms being placed in remote locations on campuses.) I can’t at this moment think of a more effective example of the role that place plays in rhetoric. Depending on the place of the act of breastfeeding, it may be considered a purely nurturing act, or it may be considered an act of defiance (such as at a nurse-in).



Quote Response: “Particularly illustrative of such embedding is the mother-child relationship. Choric interaction is the cradle of their relationship, since symbolic communication must grow out of this more originary, presymbolic bond” (57).

As I read about chora and the way in which it transfoems our understanding of beginnings and creation, particularly when I read this quote, I started to think about what it means to have this kind of presymbolic relationship. The mother’s voice and touch create a ambient environment that provides a nurturing, safe comforting space for the baby. Real comfort is being provided, and real needs are being met; at the same time, the baby is coming to associate mother, her voice and touch  with safety and comfort. This relationship is a begging, a “a matrix of all becoming” (55), as it is within this environment that the begins to safely learning and associate things with each other.

When I read this passage, I immediately thought of a quote by a child psychologist that is included in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of LLLI’s bible, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:

It has been determined that children who do not have the benefit of a single, sustained contact with a loving mother or mother-figure for at least the first three years of their lives, will—depending upon the degree of deprivation—manifest a diminished capacity to love others, impaired intellectual powers, and an ability to control their impulses, particularly in the area of aggression. (179)


This quote suggests that without the ambient environment provided by a mother’s touch and voice, the child never integrates successfully in environment. The presymbolic bond was not as firmly established as it might have been, and therefore the baby is never as successful at creating a symbolic understanding of the worlds as she or he might have been.


Quote Response: “The thing matters to rhetoric insofar as rhetoric not only attends to things but now acknowledges that things are part of rhetoric’s condition of possibility (208).


Once again I see breastfeeding and the rhetoric that surrounds it as a perfect opportunity to discuss the Rickert’s theory. This time, I felt that the discussion of materiality provides an excellent way to explore the way in which things (the bottle and the breast pump) have had an absolutely vital role in the rhetoric of breastfeeding, while their role in creating is always fully acknowledged. The quote above makes it clear that things play a significant role in making rhetoric possible, and this is certainly the case for LLLI’s rhetoric surrounding breastfeeding and the attachment parenting. In fact, we could argue that technological innovations (formula, the bottle, the pump), necessitated LLLI’s argument, since these innovations made it possible for non-mothers to feed an infant. (Certainly manual expression and wet nurses also made this possible, but it became incredibly easy with these innovations.) LLLI was formed at a time (1956) when formula was preferable to breast milk because it was believed that formula could improve upon breast milk, and the scientist studying breast milk were  often applying what they learned about breast milk to the improvement of formula. The properties and value of breast milk was being examined in a disembodied way. They were effectively divorcing the ambient environment of infant feeding from the act of feeding, and it was in part this loss of the non-food properties of the breastfeeding relationship that caused the seven founders of LLLI to come together to share their experiences and understandings of breastfeeding.

The core philosophy LLLI is contained within ten statements that emphasize the benefits of breastfeeding:

Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.

  • Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.
  • In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
  • Breast milk is the superior infant food.
  • For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.
  • Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.
  • Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.
  • Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby’s father. A father’s unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.
  • Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.
  • From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.

Several of these statements reflect the idea that breastfeeding is relational, that it is an ambient environment in which the mother nurtures the child.

Innovations in objects related to infant feeding (bottles, breast pumps, and formula) as well as innovations in food storage made it possible to view infant feeding as purely nutritive rather than also nurturing. Much of LLLI’s rhetoric centers around countering the affordances that infant-feeding related objects provide. LLLI’s rhetoric is not solely crafted to convince mother’s that breast milk is superior to formula, but also that the mother-child relationship created through the bond of breastfeeding is as important as the nutritive value of breast milk. Formula necessitated attention to the components of breast milk and the nutritive value; breast pumps, which allow women to work outside the home and leave their babies, underscore the idea that breast milk is disembodied. This necessitated LLLI’s argument for attachment parenting and the need of the child for the mother. The bottle necessitated the “back to the breast” rhetoric that explains that bottles result in nipple confusion.

Image of a breast pump and bottles.

Avent Isis breast pump and bottles kit. Objects necessitating (or making possible) LLLI’s attachment parenting rhetoric. the

For my Feminist Rhetoric class this semester I did a rhetorical analysis of changes between the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th editions of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and I found that in earlier editions LLLI seemed reluctant to address the use of those objects (bottles, pumps, formula supplements) that make it’s rhetoric necessary. In fact, the 5th edition encouraged mothers to have babysitters give a few bottles as possible so that the baby would want to nurse from the mother’s breast when she returned home from work. Late editions dropped this advice. Later editions, particularly the 8th, gave advice for using a bottle and pumping milk. I think that this was important for LLLI because by ignoring the objects that necessitated their rhetoric in the first place, the rhetoric of LLLI created an either/or dichotomy: either you feed your child our way, or you don’t. By discussing how to use the objects in support of a mother-child relationship that, as closely is possible for the particular mother and child, resembles the one espoused by LLLI, the organization provides a middle way for mothers who must work.


Toi Kairoi — Attuned to Ambience (as long as it’s not Bob Seger)

Reading Notes: Ambient Rhetoric

Ambient Rhetoric rocked my world. It opened new paths of exploration and generally knocked me out of my growing comfort with network as a metaphor for rhetoric.

One idea in particular rocked me to my theoretical core, while a (what I thought to be) tenuous connection to trickster turned into some remarkable parallels between Rickert’s (2013) theory of rhetoric and what I’ll refer to as Hyde’s (1998/2010) trickster theory.

In chapter three, Rickert augments Mark C. Taylor’s description of the writer “caught in a network of complex, coadaptive threads that disrupt any sense of autonomy or boundary” with this mind-blowing claim: “a subject (rhetor, author, speaker, etc.) emerges as a node because of the network; the nodes do not exist prior to the network” (p. 104).

“The nodes do not exist prior to the network.”

Throughout the semester, I’ve thought of a collection of nodes constituting, initiating, pre-existing their network. I’ve thought of nodes collecting connections to create the network. But I’ve been plagued by questions of origin. If nodes precede the network, how do connections get made?

router cables - photo

Network. CC licensed image from Flickr user ken fager.

When I envision a network model, I think of an intranet or LAN. I think of the wires, the infrastructure, the framework that has to precede the connections. But I couldn’t figure out the relationship of the framework — the wireframe of switches and cables, of routers and hotspots — to the connections. I knew the connections initiated the network, but in the system I imagined, in which nodes preceded network, I couldn’t figure out what the framework represented. Rickert responded to my problem with this statement: “We might reflect back from networks the insight that ‘actuality’ was already networked, and the ‘new’ logistics of complexity we are learning are not so much new as disclosed differently to us. Inhabitancy, or dwelling, has always been networked…” (p. 102).

Without the framework, connections can’t be made. Without the framework, nodes can’t exist. Nodes can only exist once the framework is in place. “The nodes do not exist prior to the network.” The framework is the network, and the nodes exist only in relationship to the network. Applying this statement to my object of study, Google Analytics, suggests that the user, visit, and session dimensions I measure with metrics via the Google Analytics data model through the activities of collection, collation, processing, and report are already always networked and existing, and that, further, aspects of these measurements are withdrawn from human understanding for future discovery as already existing network qualities. In short, Google Analytics as a network is simply the best understanding we have of user relationship with websites. We will push the boundaries, embrace the chaos of discovery, and learn more about these network qualities as time passes.

Blows my mind.

And then there’s the trickster. Hyde (1998/2010) uses coyote trickster as a model of trickster behavior and suggests trickster follows a “no way” way — without specific instinctive habits, trickster coyote learns all its “ways” of being through trial and error and mimicry (pp. 42-3). I found in Ambient Rhetoric an analogous recognition of a “third way” that helps break rhetoric out of constricting binaries. For example, Rickert (2013) writes that new media writing, or Ulmer’s electracy, “is choric in that it too is a third kind, following but neither process from nor a hybrid of orality and literacy” (p. 68, emphasis added). Later, Rickert describes Latour’s actants as hybrid entities, influenced by Heiddegar and Harman, “the jointure of the two [that] creates a new relationship and in so doing transforms person and gun into a singular actant with new capabilities, a ‘hybrid actor,’ and these capabilities in turn affect relations to others” (p. 205). The concept of a third way that is “neither process from nor a hybrid of” a binary opposition parallels Hyde’s (1998/2010) statements about coyote’s “no way”: “Whoever has no way but is a successful imitator will have, in the end, a repertoire of ways” and “Perhaps having no way also means that a creature can adapt itself to a changing world” (p. 43) and “Having no way, trickster can have many ways” (p. 45). Rickert frames ambient rhetoric like Hyde frames coyote trickster: as a way to escape restrictive binaries and forge a new way in the world.

As I read Hyde and understand trickster, Rickert’s ambient theory parallels trickster theory in its desire to reveal (and revel in) complexity. Trickster “disrupts the mundane and the conventional to reveal no higher law, no hidden truth, but rather the plenitude and complexity of this world” (Hyde, 1998/2010, p. 289). Ambient rhetoric seeks to move beyond the complexity of the network metaphor, to “proceed via ecological relations of tension, balance, and flow” (Rickert, 2010, p. 129) and make a “further addition, a complexification, centered on ambience” (p. 128) to the network metaphor. Both of these statement point not toward adding complexity, but to revealing existing complexity in the world.

And this connection, between trickster theory and network theory, I could never have imagined. It, too, is revealed by attunement to ambience.


Hyde, L. (2010). Trickster makes this world: Mischief, myth, and art. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Original work published 1998)

Rickert, T. (2013). Ambient rhetoric: The attunements of rhetorical being. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

[ Feature image: Management of Complexity: Visualization. CC licensed image from Flickr user Michael Heiss ]

Final Reading Notes: Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric, Hip Hop

I have had several discussions about ambience over the years. The reason being that before I came to English Studies, music was my life. We often discussed ambience in regards to which space would produce the best sound. It is easy for a violin to be drowned out without the right atmosphere. We used to […]

Lord of the Rings Online and Magic Always Finds a Way

This is a pretty interesting topic for my gameplay experience with Lord of the Rings Online because I chose to play as an elf, but not one who is a magic user.

My character for LOTRO

My character for LOTRO

So what does magic have to do with her? As I moved within the gamespace, I tried to think of moments in which magic occurs, when it weaves itself into the environment, and what would seem like magic to species within the fictional world. The from the first moment of contact my avatar had with Lord Elrond, I learned that my home city was under siege so that the evil dwarf king could steal ancient relics that had the power to grant him immortality. It seemed strange and yet understandable that the elves would be in possession of such an item. With their natural longevity, which makes them seem like magic incarnate to other species with shorter lifespans, elves have time aplenty to safeguard magical items that have the potential to extend the lives of creatures they deem unworthy and as enemies (though grudgingly, not as horrible as orcs). What else would have been a magical moment? Would it have been when my avatar’s guardian and teacher decided to end the siege and save the elves of Lorien by using his magic to demolish the building with the evil dwarf king and him inside? And what about the moments when elven spellcasters sent spells towards their enemies, pixelated bursts of color?

For my gameplay experience, magic was always an indirect experience for my avatar. She was an observer, waiting for action to occur in front of her so she would swing steel upon her enemies. Healing was done by someone else, as was reading from magical tomes and interpreting dreams. Six hundred years may have passed between the siege of her home city and her first exploration into the downfall of the mad king, but those six hundred years were part of her natural lifespan. The ability to not be worn down by the passage of centuries may seem like magic to humans and dwarves and hobbits, but that ability is something few elves think about. They are immortal; why would time concern those who have never truly had to feel it sink teeth into the body, make the joints ache, and slowly drag one towards death? Though elves are immortal, they are not invincible. Best for them to watch for their enemies’ magic, sword, and arrow, lest they litter the ground as corpses. But I digress. In LOTRO, magic is there as something to be cast, used for attacking, defending, or healing, but it depends on the role the player selects for the character. Wizards are not playable, but minstrels are, and in this world, a mistrel wields magic. As can lore-masters and rune-keepers, but I had chosen the path of a champion, blade in hand. Magic is to be cast around me or upon me (for good or ill), but it would not be mine to wield, even if it meant watching my teacher sacrifice himself to guard ancient secrets.

End of Semester, Anyone?


State Apparatuses + Message and Meaning Encoding/Decoding_Final Mindmap Update


Mindmap update_April 27th

Mindmap update_April 27th

For this final mindmap update, I created nodes for Louis Althusser’s State Apparatuses (ideological and repressive) and Stuart Hall’s principles for “Encoding/Decoding,” under the heading Cultural Studies. I decided on naming this collection Cultural Studies I had previously read these two essays in a Cultural Studies course and they deal with how the populace is (in a manner) indoctrinated by the dominant class to stay subsurvient as cheap labor within the cycle of means of production, or how the masses are actually receiving messages and meanings through media outlets and changing those meanings in response. I linked out this heading to Rhetorical Theories, CHAT, Social Network Theory, and Foucault because I feel like what is going on within each of these, what is moving within those networks has to do with how and what people are processing.

For Althusser, I made a node that lists his examples of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) as well as a smaller list of his examples of his Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs). The last node I made for Althusser was his discussions about ISAs being around us from birth onwards and how school is the most influential of these because students are obligated to attend an institution that is constantly having them operate within ideology (especially ideology that promotes ideas of freedom and liberty equated with education, though the reality is often quite different).

For Hall, I made nodes that included two quotes about the circuit of production, and an image of the two-way communication between producers and consumers of media. I linked the node with the heading Encoding/Decoding with a quote from Foucault about “Enunciative levels of formation” because I feel like, for many of us, the discursive moments Foucault is talking about requires a constant taking in and releasing back out of messages and meanings as we come across them, as we produce our own responses, and as our responses reach other people, with the cycle moving on with or without further input from us.

Must Not Forget the Music:

Mind Map: Class Meeting 4/22/14

Suzanne's Mind Map

I have continued my consideration of networks and heterogeneity and networks and constraints. I have come to think of diversity as essential to survival and constraints as shaping forces. I feel that constraints can sometimes be hard, impenetrable boundaries that prevent a network from taking a particular shape or move in a certain direction. For example, a limit of technology functionality would fit into this category. The network grows as the technology allows.  However, the more interesting kind of constraint is the more abstract cultural or social constraint that perhaps even unconsciously shapes the network makers' minds, allowing or disallowing certain possibilities by set precedents - the proverbial box out of which we are always trying to think.

This week I added two nodes to the heterogeneity node: ISAs and  labor. Althusser argues that there are multiple, distinct, and relatively autonomous ISAs at work in a society. This diversity allows the State to maintain power even if revolutions disrupt several of the ISA structures. Labor skills must also be diverse in order to produce and reproduce in service of the market. This is part based on the idea that there is more than just the raw materials that make up an object; there are also all the goods and services required to produce those raw materials. Diversity is required to produce even the simplest goods. My daughter sits on my lap as I type. She is wearing a diaper. While the materials include cotton, elastic, and velcro, there are whole industries producing each item. Then there are the boxes that the diapers are sold in, the machines that make the diapers, and the trucks that ship them. Then there are the people and tools that service the machinery that produces the diapers. Then the machines and people that produce the tools that fix the diaper-making machines. It is a diverse and intertwined chain of production. The labor node is connected to the Ecology node arguing that diversity is necessary for survival.

Networks function with the same need for diverse inputs to both reproduce and maintain themselves (like labor) and to withstand area damage (like ISAs). However, ISAs are also linked in the map to constraints. ISAs are the kind of cultural and social constraints described above. They are the institutions that set precedents and shape our thinking about what is what and wrong, possible or impossible, useful or unnecessary. The State is then a constraint, made up of ISAs, with education being particularly effective at shaping thinking. ISAs are also connected to Gestalt because they are about setting patterns that shape thinking.

How can we recognize the constraints at work in shaping our own minds? Can we become self-aware of the forces shaping how and what we think. or is that kind of metacognition not possible? I suppose that my natural reaction to a boundary is to find ways to break it, to assume that the limitations it imposes are somehow negatively restrictive. I want to understand the network constraints and find ways to subvert them.

Coda: Rickert’s Wonderful World of Oz Meets Pocahontas

First, an aside: I couldn’t stop myself from thinking of this scene from The Wizard of Oz in an entirely new way. While it’s clearly made with the human worldview of home in mind, I began to think of the … Continue reading