Archive | September, 2014

1st Daily Challenge_September 29_A Piraty Kind of Exercise

For my New Media class, one of our assignments is to complete Daily Create challenges (for five days in a row starting whenever we start). I meant to do the one from yesterday, which looked like a lot of fun as it was making a picture out of string, but alas, I started today. The challenge for today was to write about something unexpected that was stolen by pirates (let’s just say I couldn’t resist the topic). Hopefully, tomorrow’s challenge isn’t mind-boggling.

Prompt for September 29, 2014: What did the pirates take – remember, it was an unexpected item!

My response: http://tdc.ds106.us/writings/a-pebble-for-the-lies/

It was another blistering day along the coast, with the winds out to sea and into a roiling storm in the east. We should not have been there, spying as we were from behind the sea grapes, but rumors of pirates spreads fast in our village and we were never ones to turn down a chance for adventure. But what we saw, it made no sense. Yes, the pirates were there, with the ship moored in deeper waters and rowboats aplenty lining the shore. They should have been an impressive sight, clothed as they were in the most expensive finery we had ever seen as if they had come ashore to celebrate, but instead they scrabbled about the sand, cursing and picking at pebbles. Their captain was red faced and shouting at a brute of a man, who was hunched as if the words assaulted more than his ears, more than his pride. They had come thinking our sands were golden with treasure, the captain shouted, lured by the words of a sea witch whose lies had reached his first mate. If they could not gather treasure, they would gather pebbles instead and bury the sea witch in depths so dark that even the sharks would not be able to descend upon her to feed. We watched until sundown, in confusion, in amusement, and in fear. We watched until sundown as all the shore’s pebbles were rowed back to the ship and sailed away into the night.

Even Small Tasks Should Have Music


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

Oh Baudrillard, Sweet Nihilist Baudrillard

Desert of the Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image hosted on Buzzfeed article.

Image hosted on a Buzzfeed article.

But, what does any of this mean? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citations

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

Time to Defy Gravity 

Update:

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

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

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


Slack, Miller & Doak: Technical Communicator as Author

Slack, J. D., Miller, J. M., and Doak, J. (1993). The technical communicator as author: Meaning, power, authority. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 7(1), 12-36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1050651993007001002

While this article could feel dated (it was published over 20 years ago), its message is as relevant and meaningful today as it was when it was released. And I can only imagine the ripples this article likely started throughout the technical and professional communications community when it was released in 1993.

Summary. Technical communicators need to rethink their role as authors by advocating and adhering to an articulation view of their work, in which meaning is articulated and re-articulated across and through the entire context of the movement of meaning from and among sender and receiver. The goals is to the recognize the ethical responsibilities that technical communicators have and, in doing so, to equip them to make decisions about articulated meanings in ways that recognize, understand, and respond appropriately to the power structures and differentials working in all communications.

In short, this article assigns to technical communicators authority as authors and ethical responsibilities as articulators of meaning among senders, receivers, and stakeholders in communications. More importantly, the article defines meaning as inherently connected to power and power differentials. Technical communicators are tasked with continually (for the job is never complete) articulating meaning in ethical ways to reveal and respond to power politics and differentials that inevitably emerge as meaning is generated and communicated.

My favorite quote from the article:

“In a sense, technical communicators need to be shaken from the somnambulistic faith that their work is linguistically neutral” (p. 33).

Today I lived the ideas from this article. As a web writer, I write quite a lot of unattributed content. Recently we launched a new graduate degree program, and I was tasked with composing copy for web and print to introduce this new program. This morning, I received a note from my dean asking me to “re-read” and “revise accordingly” the pages for this new graduate degree program in light of a particularly limited way an acquaintance, who also happened to be the president of a local institution of higher education, interpreted the audience of this program based on our website description.

I immediately understood the power politics of the message: a dean and a college president had conversed, and the result was that those who answer to the dean must make right an issue whether we believe the issue is, in fact, valid. Responding that the copy was fine and clear as written was simply not an option, even if it were true.

As it turns out, it was possible to read the copy as the college president indicated. There was not a real problem with the language, but we had implied what should have been explicit. We discussed the copy in our weekly team meeting and developed a quick fix to address the issue.

We articulated meaning between two powerful people. That others had not noticed any problem with the copy — that the program chair had approved the copy and the target audience implied by the language — was no longer part of the articulation of meaning because of the power differential. I am a manager, my boss is a director, but the dean and a college president were involved. There was no question about our response; it was simply a matter of whether a quick fix or a lengthy repair was required.

Abundantly clear in this experience is that the copy I wrote was in no way “linguistically neutral.” No less than a president of a local college found the language linguistically exclusionary, and my dean appeared to tacitly agree with that conclusion. Their language, in turn, left little choice to me as author. I wrote the copy and was implicitly to blame for the misunderstanding; my boss and the program chair approved the copy, so they, too, were complicit in the misunderstanding. When we collaborated to implement a quick fix to the language, we were not perceived as authors, but as workers simply applying a patch to an imperfect product that we had created. The power differential drove home that perspective of authorship as simply a transmission function.

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

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

Image hosted on Giphy.

Image hosted on Giphy.

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

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

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

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

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

It can be thought of as this:

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

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

But, it can also be this:

The tools of video game design.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does Brooke remap the rhetorical canons?

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

Invention —> Proairesis

Arrangement —> Pattern

Style —> Perspective

Memory —> Persistence

Delivery —> Performance

 Okay, so one at a time:

Invention as Proairesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This site did a nice job with their video discussing Karen Burke LeFevre’s “invention as a social act”: http://ccdigitalpress.org/nwc/chapters/garrett-et-al/a1s3.html

Arrangement as Pattern 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do databases play into arrangement as patterns?

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

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

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

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

Style as Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

-Audience stance

-Transparency

-Hybridity

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

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

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

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

Memory as Persistence

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

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

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

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

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

Digital archive. Image hosted on the website Electronic Portfolios.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivery as Performance 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

Encyclopædia Britannica. Image hosted on Wikipedia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citation

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

Skipping Along through New Media

 

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

Chvonne’s post

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

 


Barton & Barton: Ideology and the Map

Barton B. F., & Barton, M. S. (2004). Ideology and the map: Toward a postmodern visual design practice. In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 232-252). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Textbook cover

Central Works in Technical Communications. Published by Oxford University Press

Summary: Maps have ideology. This is hardly news at this point. However, the authors’ focus in different ways that inclusion and exclusion reinforce and reify hegemonic power positions is illuminating and remains powerfully valid in today’s info graphic-loving culture. Visualizations have a responsibility to reveal and make explicit their ideological inclusions and exclusions, and to seek new visual representations that reflect lived experience’s complexity and apparent chaos.

Response: Our recent Theory of Networks class took to heart parts of this article’s position. One of those positions is the effort to establish and develop visual representations that reflect the complexity and chaotic organicism of lived experience. As we sought to visualize connections among the various theorists and theories we encountered, the complexity of our visualizations grew and grew. Complexity is part of our lived experience, and our maps should represent that complexity in meaningful ways.

That maps have embedded in them ideological decisions is refreshing, as is the call to make explicit the ideological inclusions and exclusions. I’m reminded of contested mappings of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. And even these terms, much less their mappings, are contested. The West Bank is an indigenous, Palestinian term taken from a Jordanian perspective: to Jordanians, the area west of the Jordan River is, in fact, the West Bank of the Jordan. To Israelis, the area represents the east, not the west; it’s east of Israel proper. Harkening to historical biblical roots, the “Territories” (as they were called when I lived in Israel) are called Judea and Samaria — thus representing, when combined with Israel, the complete territory of the Jewish state. The Gaza Strip has been a less contested term.

Mapping Judea and Samaria/the West Bank/Palestine (as it is unofficially officially known today — more contested names) is hotly contested. Does the “Wall” that Israel has erected along much of the border with Palestine represent the political and territorial border of a future Palestinian state? Does the 1967 armistice line represent the historically accurate borders of the two states, assuming two states eventually emerge? As for Gaza, to what extent is it connected, if at all, to Egypt or to the West Bank Palestinian borders? How does one represent, visually, the political connection between the two Palestinian land masses, separated by Israel?

One interesting outcome of the agonizingly slow birth of the Palestinian state is the decision to call the emerging state “Palestine.” Doing so creates an interesting vacuum among some Palestinians, who have often called what I call the state of Israel “Palestine.” The result is that Israel receives an unofficial official recognition as the name of the country between Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of whether it’s been accepted as a Jewish state or homeland.

Maps contain ideology, and one simply can’t map this area of the Middle East without taking sides in the ideological struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews, and between foreign policies of UN Security Council member nations. Taking sides — and even revealing this level of the ideological background of mapping the region — can be professionally dangerous. There are no objective choices; if nothing else, the ideological struggle of mapping the Middle East demonstrates the lack of objectivity in postmodernism. All mapping is subjective and ideological. Accepting this fact makes mapping much easier and reveals — and revels in — the complexity of lived experience.

Barton & Barton: Ideology and the Map

Barton B. F., & Barton, M. S. (2004). Ideology and the map: Toward a postmodern visual design practice. In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 232-252). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Textbook cover

Central Works in Technical Communications. Published by Oxford University Press

Summary: Maps have ideology. This is hardly news at this point. However, the authors’ focus in different ways that inclusion and exclusion reinforce and reify hegemonic power positions is illuminating and remains powerfully valid in today’s info graphic-loving culture. Visualizations have a responsibility to reveal and make explicit their ideological inclusions and exclusions, and to seek new visual representations that reflect lived experience’s complexity and apparent chaos.

Response: Our recent Theory of Networks class took to heart parts of this article’s position. One of those positions is the effort to establish and develop visual representations that reflect the complexity and chaotic organicism of lived experience. As we sought to visualize connections among the various theorists and theories we encountered, the complexity of our visualizations grew and grew. Complexity is part of our lived experience, and our maps should represent that complexity in meaningful ways.

That maps have embedded in them ideological decisions is refreshing, as is the call to make explicit the ideological inclusions and exclusions. I’m reminded of contested mappings of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. And even these terms, much less their mappings, are contested. The West Bank is an indigenous, Palestinian term taken from a Jordanian perspective: to Jordanians, the area west of the Jordan River is, in fact, the West Bank of the Jordan. To Israelis, the area represents the east, not the west; it’s east of Israel proper. Harkening to historical biblical roots, the “Territories” (as they were called when I lived in Israel) are called Judea and Samaria — thus representing, when combined with Israel, the complete territory of the Jewish state. The Gaza Strip has been a less contested term.

Mapping Judea and Samaria/the West Bank/Palestine (as it is unofficially officially known today — more contested names) is hotly contested. Does the “Wall” that Israel has erected along much of the border with Palestine represent the political and territorial border of a future Palestinian state? Does the 1967 armistice line represent the historically accurate borders of the two states, assuming two states eventually emerge? As for Gaza, to what extent is it connected, if at all, to Egypt or to the West Bank Palestinian borders? How does one represent, visually, the political connection between the two Palestinian land masses, separated by Israel?

One interesting outcome of the agonizingly slow birth of the Palestinian state is the decision to call the emerging state “Palestine.” Doing so creates an interesting vacuum among some Palestinians, who have often called what I call the state of Israel “Palestine.” The result is that Israel receives an unofficial official recognition as the name of the country between Palestine and the Mediterranean Sea, regardless of whether it’s been accepted as a Jewish state or homeland.

Maps contain ideology, and one simply can’t map this area of the Middle East without taking sides in the ideological struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews, and between foreign policies of UN Security Council member nations. Taking sides — and even revealing this level of the ideological background of mapping the region — can be professionally dangerous. There are no objective choices; if nothing else, the ideological struggle of mapping the Middle East demonstrates the lack of objectivity in postmodernism. All mapping is subjective and ideological. Accepting this fact makes mapping much easier and reveals — and revels in — the complexity of lived experience.

Just Roll with the New Media Concepts_Reading Notes for September 8th

All right, round two with New Media: The Key Concepts!

Image hosted on Giphy.

Image hosted on Giphy.

As a refresher, the book takes six concepts as key components to studying New Media and its threads:

-Network

-Information

-Interface

-Archive

-Interactivity

-Simulation

The chapter on Network was very familiar to me as I had taken a course in the spring that focused on different aspects and theoretical frameworks that revolved around networks (ecological, neural, computer, social, etc). Networks are essential to New Media as computers become ever more integrated into both our working and daily lives. The connections between computers and other such devices, interfaces establishing links between users and users as well as users and information, change not just our means of communication but also how we view our society and one another. One way I visualize this is when I think about people and their relationships with their cell phones. Staying in touch with other people is a big aspect of our current culture, but we use our phones for more than just that. We capture moments (sometimes staged, other times spontaneously) in time through selfies, videos, and pictures, but we also share those moments through social media, emails, text messages, personal websites, blogs, YouTube, and so on. We become creators of content as well as consumers, extending ourselves through the networks.

So many connected. Image hosted on Technoexpress.com.

Sherry Turkle, take it away!

Interactivity interlinks with the networking web of computers, users, and data. According to Gane and Beer, “[Interactivity] is often invoked as a benchmark for differentiating ‘new’ digital media from ‘older’ analogue forms, and for this reason it is not unusual to find new media referred to as interactive media. But herein lies a problem: in spite of the almost ubiquitous presence of this concept in commentaries on new media it is not always clear what makes media interactive or what is meant exactly by the term interactivity” (87). To counter claims that the term “interactivity” has lost some of its power in describing New Media since it has been overused, the authors pull together commentary from various scholars like Lev Manovich and Stephen Graham, “who together give an idea of what the term interactivity might mean in different disciplinary settings, and how it might be put to work as a concept” so long as “it is deployed with precision” (87).  The definition that caught my attention was by Tanjev Schultz: “New media interactivity is, for a start, instantaneous, and tends to work in ‘real-time’. It also, in theory, offers the promise of being more democratic: ‘the formal characteristics of fully interactive communication usually imply more equality of the participants and a greater symmetry of communicative power than one-way communication’” (qtd. in Gane and Beer 95). I found this intriguing because it reminds me of the work being done in my own classes. As my program is a hybrid of on-campus and distance students, collaboration in digital spaces is key. This idea of working in “real-time” (which reminds me of Final Fantasy) makes me think of working as a group in Google docs and seeing everyone moving through the space and entering in their input in view of everyone and at the same time.

As someone who is trouncing into Video Game Studies though the lens of English Studies and wishes to someday work in the industry, interactivity is a very relevant term. Yes, video games are interactive in the sense that players can pick up a controller or put their hands on a keyboard and play within a virtual environment that responds to them in some way, with the experience varying depending on the intuitiveness of the software. But advances in the game engines and the evolution of how developers design game experiences is stepping up that sense of interactivity, often through dialogue wheels that are a more sophisticated form of dialogue trees.

RPGs comparison. Image hosted on a Giant Bomb forum.

RPGs comparison. Image hosted on a Giant Bomb forum.

However, video games are not just about interacting with the software. Networking plays a huge role in video games like massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, and Guild Wars as well as games played on consoles (Playstation and XBox) like Call of Duty and Borderlands. Here, players from around the world come together, exploring virtual environments, battling and raiding in groups, and sharing in-game expertise between players of varying skill levels. The game space is just as social as it is competitive, building relationships among players through interfaces rather than face-to-face interactions. The hardware and software, though, are not just tools, but participants in the network of gaming experience, nodding to Latour and his Actor Network Theory. I will not go further into that train of thought as I already have longer, more elaborate posts devoted to this topic. On a final note, while reading this book, I found it particularly useful for my ventures into Video Game Studies because video games encompass all of these concepts, working to enhance each aspect so as to be more attractive to players.

Link doing it right. Image hosted on Giphy.

Link doing it right. Image hosted on Giphy.

Citation

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

Dancing through the Reading


1st Reading Notes for a New Semester_New Media

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

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

-Network

-Information

-Interface

-Archive

-Interactivity

-Simulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chanel Ad. Image hosted on The Stylist Fashion Blog

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

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

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

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

What makes something New Media as opposed to Old Media?

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting Scholars and Concepts Introduced

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

Nigel Thrift – “knowing capitalism”

Donna Haraway – “thinking technologies”

Citation

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

Kicking off the Semester


Dobrin: What’s Technical about Technical Writing

Cover image

Central Works in Technical Communication — Oxford University Press, 2004.

Dobrin, D. N. (2004). What’s technical about technical writing. In J. Johnson-Eilola & S. A. Selber (eds.), Central works in technical communication (pp. 107-123). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Dobrin offers this brief definition of technical writing:

“technical writing is writing that accommodates technology to the user” (p. 118).

He offers this “new” definition in response to previous definitions that focused too directly on some level of “objectivity,” either formal or epistemological, that simply is not possible given the “fecundity of language” (p. 114). Dobrin connects the battle against considering language “fungible” or “fecund” with a universalist view of language, a view that considers writing pure and directly communicative, rather than mediated, creative, and infinitely interpretable. Universalist perspectives “suspect the experience and language of man” (p. 114) and seek a level of purity that can only be achieved by separating language and communication from the subjectivity of human experience. Instead, Dobrin advocates a monadist perspective on language that recognizes reality not outside human experience but within the lived experience (including communications) of human actors with language. As he puts it,

“Since there is no way of knowing without language—a human construct—there can be no privileged access to the world” (p. 115).

The monadist perspective embraces alternity, a way of conceiving of the vitality of language. Technical writing as currently (at the time of writing) conceived ignores alternity by focusing exclusively on an instrumentalist view of language. This affects descriptions (and presumable histories, too) of technical writing in these three ways, according to Dobrin:

  • Ignores modes of group cohesion, which in turn means that interpreting one group to another results in miscommunication and misunderstanding;
  • Fails to invest technical writing with creativity;
  • Fails to address slackness of technical writing due to writing for a limited future.

Dobrin encourages play in language

“as a way of becoming in the world, to exercise our human will” (p. 117).

Specifically, he appears to encourage play in technical writing, something generally frowned up and unaccepted because of the instrumentalist perspective of language in technical writing circles. The point, however, is that technical writing, like any other kind of writing, focuses on social understandings and experiences. Dobrin’s new definition focuses not on the instrumentality of language, but on the mediated nature of communication between user and writer and between technology and user.

“At every point, the technology must be accommodated to the user or the user must be accommodated to the technology” (p. 121).

In short, the connection of the user and the technology is of vital importance, not the objectivity of the writer or the technology experience.

Several portions of this chapter caught my attention. First, I found in Dobrin’s description of the universalist perspective of language unsettling connections to the Christian, or at least the Church’s, moralist perspective on language: that somehow language as used is distrusted because it reflects the fallen nature of humanity. I push against this conception of language, for I find little in language to consider instrumental or universalist or objective. On the contrary, like Dobrin I find language to be fecund and fungible, capable of constructing experience and understanding. The Church has fought against human language, as if the Gospel of John’s “Word” represented some epistemological or formal objectivity that human “word” cannot achieve. On the contrary, I subscribe to a monadist view of language that embraces alternity and the fecundity and creativity of language. This puts me out of sync, I think, with Church doctrine and dogma. That sobers me.

Second, I found Dobrin’s focus on play in words, language, and communication intriguing and attractive. I love wordplay, because wordplay recognizes the elastic nature of meaning and the fact that our lived experience in social systems assigns meanings to words. Technical writing can be dry, but it needn’t necessarily be so. There is nothing objective or external that requires technical writing to represent instrumentalist perspectives. On the contrary, technical writing, because it’s embedded in socially constructed relations among and between individuals and groups, manufacturers and users, user groups, and other social systems, is playful. Any attempt to dictate otherwise is to deny the fecundity of the language, a denial that withers in the face of any punster or unabridged dictionary.

Third, I found this statement limiting:

“People come into technical writing from two directions: either they are technicians who are asked to write or writers asked to gain technical skills” (p. 122).

I found this statement limiting because I believe myself to be a technical writer, or perhaps more specifically a technical writing teacher, because I work to accommodate my students as users to technologies of composing, from network-computer mediated to pencil-and-paper mediated to speech mediated communications. Maury Brown (2014) noted that, as composition teachers, we work to provide students the tools to use technologies of many kinds in different ways to compose in language:

“Writing is accommodating language to users” (personal SMS communication, 2014, September 8).

As a technical writing, I “fell” into technical writing from neither writing nor technician roots. I “fell” into technical writing from roots in composing pedagogy and constructive/constructed language use. I think there are ways to enter into technical writing that are represented neither by technicians nor writers.

Tech Comm Luminaries: Dobrin, Connors, and Katz

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

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

The Historian

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

The Provocateur

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

The Rhetorician

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

The Pragmatists

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

REALLY Preliminary Work: Word Clouds of Google TOS

Word Map #1: Google Apps for Education Terms of Service

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Word Map #2: Google Terms of Service

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REALLY Preliminary Work: Word Clouds of Google TOS

Word Map #1: Google Apps for Education Terms of Service

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 11.38.37 PM

Word Map #2: Google Terms of Service

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 11.38.54 PM

Samuel’s Words Never Fell to the Ground

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” I Samuel 3:19

I teach Sunday School at a Baptist church. Let me be a little more accurate: I alternate discussing Biblical principles with high school seniors and young adults ages 18-22 or so. These classroom sessions occur on Sunday mornings.

I don’t do much “teaching” in the sense of lecturing on Biblical truths or some kind of exegetical analysis of scripture. I  facilitate discussions on ways to apply the words from scripture in our daily lives, within the lived experience of the students in the class. I spend my time preparing to ask question that will encourage students to think about their own faiths and propose ways of reacting to scriptures. And we spend most of our time building community and building each other up, because that’s how I think about applying my understanding of scripture to myself and others.

This morning I brought up the story of Samuel to illustrate the concept of vocation, or calling. We talked about callings, about their origins and results, about how we know we’ve received a call. One of the interesting points made was that callings are about relationships: in order to be called, someone must be doing the calling. That places our vocations within the embrace of our relationship with the one calling us. We talked about God’s calling, and we also discussed whether others can call us. We didn’t answer most of our questions; my goal as a teacher is never to try to answer the questions, but to create a community in which the questions can be raised and explored in a safe and encouraging environment.

This post, however, is not about the class. It’s about a verse I encountered, the one written at the top of the post. What caught my attention was the phrase “and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” I figured there must be something strange in the translation, so I looked up the original Hebrew. Here’s what it says:

וַיִּגְדַּ֖ל שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל וַֽיהוָה֙ הָיָ֣ה עִמֹּ֔ו וְלֹֽא־הִפִּ֥יל מִכָּל־דְּבָרָ֖יו אָֽרְצָה׃

For those who don’t read Hebrew, I’ll transliterate to the best of my ability. I’m not a Hebrew scholar; I’m a once almost-fluent Hebrew speaker who learned the modern language while living in Israel.

“And Samuel grew and Adonai was with him and never have fallen [any] from all his sayings to the ground.”

God kept Samuel’s sayings — not just his words, but his communications, the things he said — from falling to the ground.

As a student of rhetoric and composition, this is a remarkable idea. That God can be engaged in protecting one’s sayings, one’s communications, is a remarkable thing. I assume this phrase is idiomatic in ancient Hebrew; I’ve not done the research, but I think I will. Or if you know, post a comment and let me know.

But here’s what I took away from the verse: it’s possible for one’s communication, one’s sayings, to be protected from destruction or being ignored.

I would like very much if one could say about my own sayings that they never fell to the ground. That would be a remarkable legacy.