inferentialkid

Languages

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm

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Agenda:

  • Readings & Responses Review
  • Digital Mapping

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
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  1. Collin Gifford Brooke, in Lingua Fracta, works to position New Media studies as central rather than peripheral to the field of Rhetoric and Composition. According to him, we should not simply see new technology as providing us with new spaces for rhetorical interest, but as providing us with an opportunity to reconceive the field. The way to do so, he suggests, is to reframe the canons of classical rhetoric as ecologies rather than a linear process. While his general approach is useful, his bias toward the productivity of these revised canons leads him to neglect their double-edged nature.
    Brooke argues that “the traditional understanding of arrangement as sequence is more productively conceptualized as arrangement as pattern” (92). As one example he discusses data mining and the usefulness of databases such as the one he created for CCC. This database not only links users to similar articles but will link users to articles that have cited the one the user is currently reading. As Brooke points out, this is clearly a more efficient way to do research. What he does not account for, however, is that it also tends to circumscribe research by funneling users toward the same set of resources. These databases, in essence, lead people toward the most used resources and lead them away from the less used. If part of our concern is with invention, as Brooke indicates it, in fact, is, this is a problem as it keeps people focused on the same resources thereby inhibiting radical diversions in thought.
    Even Google, with its ever increasing search efficiency makes it increasingly likely that when searching any given topic, we all end up on the same handful of sites. Presenting the most frequented sites first (after the paid ones, of course), essentially gears us toward visiting those few sites. This, in turn, only serves to make those sites even more popular. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle whereby the most popular sites become exponentially more popular while the less popular ones become deeper and deeper buried in the twenty plus pages of results. In other words, it becomes more difficult to access less common, less frequented sources. The same can be said of Tagclouds. They make it very easy to “see” the main issues, but they also subtly encourage us to click on the biggest (i.e., most important) words. I don’t mean to suggest these referential databases aren’t helpful—they are. I do, however, think it is important to be aware that they also tend to make it a little more difficult to think outside the proverbial box.

  2. Collin Gifford Brooke wants rhetors to shift their focus from texts to interfaces in order to find a new “language” for talking about new media, one that represents the inherently technical aspect of rhetoric. By “thinking…more in terms of (medial) ecologies” the result will be “the difference between studying the finished products of others and preparing to generate our own” (22-23). In his exploration of interfaces, he deliberately moves beyond the definition of “the interface as the boundary or contact point between people and machines,” yet that is the one thing I keep coming back to in the text. When I think of “interface,” I think of “user interface.” The language of the text itself (oh, the irony in that statement) leaves room for me to put the user back into the equation in order to think not just about the ways new media reframe our understanding of the classical rhetorical canon, but about the ways new media reframe our understanding of ourselves.
    One example of where I see this is in the “Proairesis” chapter. Brooke talks about “social bookmarking services” that allow users to “find all the other users who have marked the page and peruse their bookmark collections” from one bookmark. He demonstrates the vast and ever-changing “associational network” that results from such an interface. Users are introduced to other keywords, other users, other collections, and other articles and books in an “’endlessly proliferating’” fashion that lacks any overall design scheme (83). For Brooke this is an example of invention which does not lead to a particular product; rather, it opens up limitless possibilities of generation without closure. Part of what I see being generated and invented in this interface is the user. The identity of the user, how he/she sees him/herself, must change as a result of this interaction. I am not saying the user is aware of this change, or that it is immediate and quantifiable, but there is, nevertheless, an effect. The user is situated in relation to an unpredictable set of keywords, people, and texts that may or may not represent how the user would normally situate him/herself. This opens up new ways of seeing/imagining the self in ways that only new media makes possible. While I appreciate that this is not Brooke’s argument or purpose in this text, I cannot help but think about the relationship between interface and identity.
    There are two key principles in Brooke’s text that help me imagine this relationship. First, Brooke’s use of ecology as a framework/approach to new media establishes a complex and dynamic connection between “users, machines, programmers, cultures, and institutions” (42). In ecological systems each interaction has an effect on the entire system. The effect may be large or small, immediate or deferred, but there is no stasis. It is easy to see how using new media and other technologies have changed behaviors, but what about other changes? How have these media changed our conceptions of ourselves? The other principle is stated most clearly at the end of the book where Brooke writes, “Perhaps the single most important goal that I hold for this book is the one that I lay out in the introduction; this book seeks to stage a mutually transformative encounter between rhetoric and technology” (197). If rhetoric and technology, which are both a part of the ecology of new media, are each capable of transforming the other, then they are both capable of transforming the user as well. I would be interested in learning more about how that has been studied and theorized about by new media scholars.

  3. 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 to Brooke, we seem to be on the same page.

    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?

    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 obsessed over: 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.

  4. Very early in the book, Brooke briefly discusses hyperlinks and their effect on the interface of individual websites as well as the web in general. What I usually refer to as the YouTube Effect – you start out watching a ‘How To’ video on something completely legit and then five hours later you are watching bears painting or something equally strange – is the phenomenon of hyperlinking. Until reading Brooke’s various discussions on the hyperlink (I believe he mentions it in at least three of his chapters) it had never occurred to me, but like he points out, the linking on webpages guarantees a different internet experience for every person every time the use the web. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Choose Your Own Adventure books from my childhood. Websites then, may be the logical and technological extension of these stories. There are even circumstances where one might come across a ‘dead’ link and have to start over or go back to the last page they were on. It is the internet’s ability to become individually tailored to a person’s needs and desires which allows it to become an effective teaching tool. As instructors, we are well aware of the fact that not all students learn the same. For that reason we are required to teach in a variety of ways, using several different methods of instruction. The internet is not only a tool and a resource, but it is also a viable learning platform for some students.
    A second point which comes up more than once (but is not really focused on until the end of the book) is the reliability and authenticity of Wikipedia. Brooke provides the results of studies comparing Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica and shows that it is, in general, not any more or less ‘correct’ than a print based source. He is right to point out that educators are terrified of Wikipedia. Even though every single teacher or college level instructor I know uses the site on a regular basis, they still prohibit the site from their students. In my own classrooms, I have tried to teach the students how to ‘effectively’ use Wikipedia buy tracing back information to source pages or books. At the University of Toledo, we had a handout called the C.R.A.P test for students to use to evaluate web sources. I can’t remember what every letter stood for, but I know that it was important to see that a site was current and had some sort of an author who could be defined as credible. I now believe that I have been too harsh on Wikipedia and would like to find ways to teach students how to integrate the site into their research (much in the same way that I do as a graduate student). One possible way that I believe this would be possible would be to have students investigate and write up a short report on the history of a particular entry’s page. Pages 190-191 mention the variety of ‘behind the scenes’ source information available on Wikipedia which could make an assignment like this possible, interesting, and informative. Like Hemingway once said, “the best way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them.” Likewise, the best way to know if we can trust Wikipedia is to trust it.

  5. When it comes to the contents of webpages such as weblogs, blogs, Wikipedia, etc., it is true that credibility is always at issue. To broaden the range that how to assess credibility on the web topoi other than connecting them to the real world and verifying their reliability, Collin Gifford Brooke introduces “distributed credibility” (185). His example is convincing: “By maintaining their pseudonyms consistently in the comments on countless other blogs and by maintaining their own weblogs, they had invested in their personae no less energy than we all do in our ‘real’ names” (186). It would take some time but he/she will surely get good credit in this way.

    Still, I think this cannot be applied to academic writings. For instance, I get lots of information related to my study from many “academic” blogs but I have never quoted their arguments in my writings. Similarly, quoting claims from webs which are provided by personal sites will not be acknowledged as credible sources however good their claims are. Wikipedia is not different from this. Many people, including me, get a great amount of information from Wikipedia and its information is quite good and credible (actually I observe it gets better and better). However, teachers would not permit their students to use Wikipedia as a reliable source in writing classes. I think this is a matter that which sources we are going to use where. As Brooks points out, we do not find serious movie critics when we go to see a movie. But in academia, this is not the case because, of course, credibility is thought to be more important than other areas. Academics always need highly credible sources when they write scholarly articles.

    It seems that a number of academic blogs and their quality articles are increasing. They are and might be valuable sources that we could use for our studies. So to us, thinking about how to assess the credibility of those writings in countless webpages and use them more meaningfully would be the next project we should consider.

  6. DIRECTIONS: Use as you would any other hand soap.

    First I will go meta.
    Then I will go critical.
    Then I will go ancient.

    First, Conquergood writes in 2002 (“Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research) that a commitment to textualism is a colonizing act which perpetuates Western imperialism (147). Conquergood calls this scriptocentrism; the way out of this class-based arrogance is through not reading “everything” as a text. The move against scriptocentrism is one which embraces “experiential, participatory epistemology” (149). Simply, a hermeneutics of experience and co-presence which replaces textual objectivity with proximity. Brooke has highlighted in his book Lingua Fracta a “new” scriptocentrism, one which replaces old texts with new (hyper)texts. But what can a Composition and Rhetoric scholar do? Or do I misread Brooke’s text on hypertextuality? Does Brooke, in fact, reject text while advocating for (new) texts?

    Moving on from meta – there is no clash nor possible response offered by the text of Brooke to Conquergood’s critique – we move to Foucault. What brings to mind this frenchman is Brooke’s discussion in Chapter 1 of the rush of the post structuralists to mash-up hypertexts with the groundlessness of empty signifiers and the question of authorialism in his discussion of invention. Aren’t the post-stucturalists (i.e., Foucault) correct in writing, in his 1969 essay “What is an Author?” the following:

    We would no longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest sell did he express in his discourse? Instead, there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking?
    Brooke’s seminal example of the Kairos essay begs to be brought into the discussion of authorialism. Brooke’s claim that authorialism is now virtual. But what is an author? He has not died, as Barthes tells us in 1967, s/he has “expanded” and we have merely “decreased space between the reader and the author.” Is this a step backwards – to 1966 perhaps? Has the (virtual) author been resurrected? If so, as cyborg or as zombie? Has the power of the reader to circulate texts been changed by Brooke’s shifting definitions of the canon?

    But, what difference does it make?

    Now, on his cursory introduction to memory as it relates to trackbacks, I channel Solomon:

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the son.
    Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
    It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
    No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
    will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

    Or, put another way, what about Topoi? Brad McAdon writes that Topoi are places from which enthymemes are made. For Brooke this is evidence (perhaps) of equivocation. The Network is always-already present in the Being of any subject – even a subject living in the first century. Such a thing is the place from which invention springs. By replacing memory with the database the grounding of invention is stolen from under it. What, then, happens to invention? Any why is Brooke re-inventing that which already was? It seems that an ecology of the canons makes each of them recursive. Each canon (2.0) becomes en abyme of it’s former (classical) self.

    In sum, each (new) canon operates as a fragment of a text that reproduces in miniature the structure of the text in its entirety. The text in question here is that which is the Canon of classical rhetorical theory. (See Craig Owens’ “Photography en abyme,” 1978 and Barthe’s “Rhetoric of the Image.”)

    Epilogue
    I am still looking for an answer (perhaps Rice answers this in his book on the The Rhetoric of Cool) to the question of why the DH feels compelled to “keep up” with the Jones’s. Brooke fears his discipline is in danger of becoming “out of step with our students, our institutions, and the broader culture of which we are a part.” I hold that this fear is unfounded. The academy is not an institution (wrought broadly) which follows culture nor which caters to consumers (students). The academy is in the business of investigating questions of Being; of breaking through boundaries of knowledge. To follow the steps of the students and the whims of the culture is to sacrifice intellectual discovery. The attitude of Microsoft’s new CEO who recently said, wisely, that “if you don’t have a stake in what’s next your chance of survival living off of what is old is low” (rough paraphrase) is correct. If the DH is going to uphold the legacy of the academy then it ought to be doing things on the frontier, not trying to bring Twitter to the classroom. Brooke’s attitude, it seems, is the latter where it ought to be the former.

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