In Sessions on January 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm

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  • Readings & Responses Review
  • Digital Mapping
  • Q & A with Jeff Rice

Digital Mapping Assignment Example:

Readings for Next Week:

Assignments (as assigned):

  • Write a 300-500 word response to the above readings and bring  a hard copy with you to class, or
  • Prepare an informal presentation on a classroom unit/assignment involving working with geo-locational technological/digital maps
  • Make a short (under 10 minute) IMV for a lesson you usually teach/have taught/will teach in the classroom; here’s the example to beat:

  1. Jeff Rice’s Digital Detroit was an interesting read, pushing together the concepts of urban rhetoric, mapping and networks. As a longtime resident of the metro-Detroit area, and as an employee working in the city, I was drawn into Rice’s claim that “Detroit has a spacial story.” That connection, however, made it difficult for me to gain the distance necessary to catch the implications Rice drew from the city to network theory.
    It took me a few beats to form a working understanding of how Detroit was in fact, a network. What I came away with was that the city is one insofar as a network is “types of meanings, connected,” or layers of history (built meanings, virtual existences) as well as present spacial realities, all existing in the streets, buildings and physical spaces of the city. The idea that, for example, the Maccabees building contains, “physical objects as well as concepts…” of not only offices, desks and hallways, but also education-politics, histories, tensions, “secrets” is one that vibrates for me with the merest hint of string theory. These concepts form connections “without the burden of representation,” and thus, create a network of multiple meanings layered in a single place/building. This idea is borne out in Rice’s assertion that, “the key in network production, is to not treat the building like a space that merely holds meanings for temporary periods of time and then fades into neglect. The key is to engage the meanings for their rhetorical potential…”
    In another sense, though, the Maccabees functions, Rice claims, as an interface, connecting users and information, functioning according to patterns that “improve habitability.” I am with Rice so far, as long as I can have confidence in his provided definition of “Digital Literacy”: the assumption that meaning making and the interfaces we engage with to make meaning change in digital environments. If I can, then the Maccabees building’s meaning can change as I interact with it in the varying modalities of “real life” (actually working in my office in the building, walking past it, viewing it, etc.) and “digital environments” (reading about it on my ipad, viewing photographs if it online, etc.).

  2. Before I came here, I had similar ideas about Detroit as many others did. From Youtube, I found many video clips showing ruined Detroit areas. Wanting to know more about this area, I watched the movie 8 Mile again and I was terrified to come here. To relieve my stress, I started to look for other clips which described the beautiful and safe Wayne State University campus. My results about Detroit at that time were just two: on-campus areas would be safe but outside the university would be not. I fell for the two exactly separated thoughts which Jeff Rice points out. My real life now in Detroit is not like that.

    Rice suggests the term “folksonomy,” in lieu of “taxonomy,” which is “a method of categorizing information according to desire, taste, personal interest, communal knowledge, imagination, and so on” (87), arguing for people not to limit their ideas and thoughts. This leads me to think about how to structure a specific class with diversity in materials and thoughts, avoiding making students perform in one fixed way. Since Detroit public school system, as well as many others, fails in following lineal, categorized, and standardized ways of education (94), blending separated categories would be a good idea (100). We will still use specific textbooks but we can also use other dynamic ideas from digital spaces. But as Rice points out, “we notice challenges for how we teach information organization in networks, how we allow categories to shift both in the composing we do as well as in the way we label and tag such composing. Our challenge is to build folksonomic linkages that are communal, personal, affective, and broad” (100). I think how to make this happen in the classroom is the key question.

    I do not expect that I could find the answer right away and as I mentioned in the last response, this is up to the individual who has his/her own authority to be successful in the era of distributed work. But for the classroom, I think there should be a minimum standard if we want to build folksonomic linkages in the right way. It might become another fixed taxonomy but I believe some specific ground should be existed because I still worry about getting lost in too much information.

  3. Our discussion on Wikis, followed this past week with reading Digital Detroit, has begun to paint a picture for me on how digital technologies impact individual lives, entire urban (or other) spaces, and finally, the classroom. One aspect of the Rice book which I found to be particularly interesting was Chapter Three, the chapter on our very own Macabees building. A native “Detroiter,” I was unaware of the building’s unique history and how it was technology which has helped the building evolve and grow to fit new purposes. The dilemma (as I saw it) of this chapter (and also of the following chapter on the MCS) seemed to be how technologies do or do not change with us, or vice versa and how we imagine spaces differently because of technology. In the case of the Macabees building, the structure itself managed to successfully be retrofit to suit the needs of the current tenants. Aside from the ghostly reminder of the DPS system having lived there and the WXYZ tower above the building which seems to anchor the building and is a focal point on the Detroit skyline, someone housed in the English Department today would have little to remind them that a variety of popular radio and television shows once emanated from that place. The structure of the building has essentially remained the same, but the impression of the building has changed. The WXYZ call letters were replaced by the DPS which has now been replaced with Wayne State University. The meaning of the building has changed drastically over the years from one generation to another and these are the layers of meaning Rice wishes to point out throughout the entire book.
    It is possible to use the framework set up by Rice to consider the writing classroom. How do the individual experiences and personalities of each student impact the way we teach? A student-centered pedagogy is nothing new and scholars for decades have been arguing for the importance of evaluating students on an individual basis (it is for this reason I am not a huge fan of the grading rubric). What has changed is how we deliver the information to our students and in what medium we choose to teach them writing skills. I am perhaps more like the MCS than the Macabees as an instructor. When I was “built” during my orientation to the MA program where I taught freshman composition cold turkey, I was not built to accommodate the emerging technology. My own experience with technology was extremely limited (I still don’t know how to track changes on MSWord) and it was difficult for me to keep up with the things that interested my students most. So, unlike the Macabees which has been able to adapt and thrive, I have most often seen myself more like the haunting MCS: awkward and faced with many challenges in this digital era. What Rice’s work, our class discussion, and the talk with Rice has shown me, is that there are many ways to approach the classroom as a network which can be beneficial and would foster a learning environment in which the students were engaged and excited about writing. In fact, I have come up with a couple potentially interesting writing assignments that I would like to consider for future classes just from this text. But I’m not telling. 😛

  4. Incoherent Incommensurability
    At the same time (in the same book) Rice posits the ideas of the Platonic Lloyd Bitzer and the post-structuralist Roland Barthes. In the same breath (in the same sentence) theorists are lauded and disagreed with. Without irony Rice propagates a pedantic classicism in a work theoretically driven by post-modern conditions.
    Given my own experience with many of the theorists Rice cites in order to build his collage/montage of Detroit’s fictional-future it seems that – to Rice – words have no consequences. Nor do ideas. Richard Weaver, apparently, is one scholar he has chosen not to abuse. Take Bitzer, for one very limited example of what in this book is endemic. Bitzer writes in 1967 about the Rhetorical Situation. Rhetoricians who make their homes in departments of communication or speech are aware that – in practice – Bitzer is only used for two reasons. 1.) To introduce undergraduates to foundational concepts in rhetoric, Or, 2.) To teach graduate students the intellectual history of contemporary rhetorical theory. That is, no one cites Bitzer. This is not because Bitzer has nothing to contribute, but because in the long-term debate Vatz was seen as the winner. Today Biesicker’s (1989) response Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from Within the Thematic of Differance is the go-to theoretical foundation for the practice of critical rhetoric. The point here is simple. Bitzer is cited to support the notion of a rhetorical situation. The rhetorical situation is then (mis)applied to Michigan Central Station. The rhetorical situation is then discarded as not being appropriate for the “expansion of Detroit towards MCS” situation. Really!? What, then, was the purpose behind citing Bitzer? Why even bother with theory if each theorist is tweaked to fit whatever (overly)extended narrative-example Rice uses to paint his fictional city? Holding fast to the Canon while spitting PoMo seems to me to be problematic. Pedantic classification of taxonomies (even folksono(me)s – but I will address the “me” in just a moment) follows Aristotle and his near-contemporaries (see The Rhetoric, Institution Oratio, On Christian Doctrine, or nearly any other rhetorical treatise published before 1984). Derrida is uniquely opposed to taxonomies. The “play of the trace” is precisely the thing which works between all discourse to – in an ontotheological process – reveal the arbitrariness of all divisions between signifier/signified. To construct a folksonome is to re-name a taxonomy based on the process of creation and the location of knowledge. The radical historical project that Deleuze and Barthes and Derrida were involved in was and is directed towards destroying the binary. Rice ignores this. (At least he distances himself from Foucualt!)
    Such a thing – that thing being a folksonome – is barely rhetorical. The database of the 21st century is (literally) a system of binaries. This is mechanical. It is not organic. By speaking of interface without accounting for the human decisions impacting and creating each database Rice opens himself to the critique of either intentionally avoiding (as he does with Derrida and Foucault) or just plain missing that the thing he is studying is nothing more than a 21st century reiteration of the classicism which reigned in the middle ages. If this is what we are going to study then perhaps we ought to write our next book on online videos using a framework of rhetorical elocution.
    However, theoretical faux-pas aside, Rice does do something extraordinary in the second chapter. If we read Rice as extending Foucault’s idea of regimes of discourse (which I think he obviously does but without attribution, since using a scholar who deals in the use of power would compromise his project) then the operationalized truth in the present and the future Web 2.0 (popular) culture is the folksono(me). The conception that evidence is being replaced today by affective experience, that metadata supplants the place of knowledge, that what I think and feel defines reality – this is radical and empowering and liberating. Of course, it is only so if Rice is read here as providing a metaphoric approach to philosophy. Then it is a question of power. Who gets to do the classification? All predetermined locations of knowledge are replaced by the ever-shifting and crowd-sourced tags (metadata). Nothing is discrete. Everything is networked. Wow.
    But Rice says this is not a genealogy.
    Then what is it?
    And why do we have three more chapters on Detroit with nothing else provocative or radical?
    In sum, it seems that even amongst this autobiographical abuse of post-structuralism we can find one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen. With the concept of the network as explained by the operation of evidence as continually (re)created by folksono(me) we have a prophecy of the future of meaning for an increasingly technologized society. Rice has not painted a picture for a bright new future as much as he has elucidated the operation of our (future) fantasies which will liberate us from outdated and outmoded mythologies. Rice distinguishes between mythology (bad) and fantasy (good), but I ask: What is the differance?

  5. I am posting THIS week’s response in LAST week’s post because there is a solid (50/50) chance I will not attend, and I am hoping to contribute to the conversation in any event.

    – VM

    One line, perhaps more so than any other, jumps out at me from the pages of Lingua Fracta: on page 43, Brooke discusses an intention to work “with classical terminology” considered “in light of contemporary technology.” This gave me a bit of a Eureka moment, as should be evident from the project I presented last week (The Rhetoriki project, examining long-established rhetorical history by means of a wiki).

    Citing Marilyn Cooper earlier in that same section, we are cautioned not to simply say “Ecological” in place of “Contextual,” and this immediately reminded me of Nietzschean Genealogy as described by Foucault, but to be more straightforward: within an ecology of rhetoric, I feel we are implored to understand its historical grounding as we move forward in reconceptualizing rhetoric in the larger ecology of digital humanities – points go to Brooke here since we seem to be on the same page, and he got here first.

    Early on, Brooke mentions the practice / theory conflict in discussing the 5 rhetorical canons, effectively declaring them neither fish nor fowl. I suggest that this leads the way for a discussion of the canons (and, since Brooke is lumping them together, the Trivium) as TECHNE, what I will define for the sake of expediency as more than the intersection or limbo (Brooke again) between practice and theory, but the actual embodiment of the art: theory is its soul, practice is what it does, but techne is what it is (lest anyone think I’m all that clever, I am cribbing heavily from James Crosswhite and Janet Atwill).

    In mentioning Techne, I come to two points: firstly, and most radical in departure informed partially by Brooke’s introduction of the Trivium. To wit: when we are discussing digital humanities by way of online communication, can we readily and easily distinguish dialectic from rhetoric? Is there a use in doing so? Has interactivity (evidenced by Brooke via Trackbacks in chapter 2, Hypertext in 3, Interface in chapter 5, etc.) inseparably intertwined rhetoric and dialectic such that we ought now to drop the ‘rhetoric’ sobriquet altogether?

    Second, If we are to maintain rhetoric’s integrity and individuality, and as the above question is only a question, not a prescription, then we absolutely must evolve traditional techne into (insert 21st century digital buzzword soup here), as Brooke suggests. To this end, the Pruchnic/Lacey article begins a difficult investigation into what memory means (storage, in computer parlance, though the interaction between storage and memory is worth a discussion).

    Our memory is now tied to an electronic network which, so long as we keep it fed with new hardware and watered with power, will retain essentially perfect artifact records, forever – but our flesh-and-blood memory remains as fleet as ever, more akin to the constantly cycled RAM of a computer than to disk or cloud storage, and so in a Brookesian way, we must evolve our understanding of how memory works and is utilized in the two Canons with which up until this point I feel digital humanities have focused in depth: delivery and style.

    In a closing comment (because I’m out of time and space, and unlikely to magically add more focus to this writing), I am excited by Brooke’s approach, specifically the invocation of ecology, because it suggests and mirrors evolution, which I think is the optimal guiding light for engaging in a transition to digital rhetoric. Discussions of digital composition as “revolutionary” I believe miss the mark, putting, as I have suggested, the cart before the horse in assuming that the world has somehow embraced collectivism (shared consciousness, collaborative authorship, etc.) when in fact this represents only a small portion of the ongoing human experience.

  6. According to Jeff Rice, in Digital Detroit, we are stuck in the grand narrative of urban decay and renewal when it comes to thinking about the city of Detroit. He suggests that, despite this narrative, each of us has a concept of the city that is much more than that, that is connected to our personal experiences with the city. In focusing on the networked relationship of these experiences, Rice asks, how does this allow us to think differently (and perhaps more productively) about Detroit?

    While Rice concentrates on specific spaces (Woodward Avenue, The Maccabbes, Detroit, etc…), it seems like his construction of a networked invention process could potentially be useful with reified concepts as well. In other words, would thinking from a networked perspective help us to think beyond other grand narratives? Here, I am thinking about a common grand narrative in my field, one that revolves around the freshman student. According to this narrative, as a newcomer to the university, the typical freshman finds himself continually asked to write with authority on subjects with which he has little knowledge. This problem– how to teach students to write with authority upon subjects with which they have little expertise–is one that has plagued composition instructors for decades. What I’m wondering, then, is how (or if) our pedagogy would change if we saw students as networked?

    To me, this would entail looking into the types of writing our students have done for school in the past as well as the types of writing they do (and have done) socially. Perhaps we would also take into account their affective responses to these various experience (i.e., has writing been positive, negative, a little of both?). It would also lead us to question what their concepts of writing are as well as what they see, right or wrong, as the goals of FYC. I honestly don’t know if these are the types of things Rice had in mind when he put forth his concept of networks. But, it seems to me that having a better understanding of the wide variety of experiences, emotions, and responses our students bring to the writing classroom could potentially provide us with productive ways of rethinking some of the conceptual ruts that composition pedagogy tends to fall into.

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