digital rhetoric

Writing Technocultures

This is how I’m thinking about my book project. At its core, the book addresses the effects new media has upon rhetorical philosophy–which extends from theories to writing to theories of subjectivity/consciousness and institutional discursive practices/ideologies. Introduction Describes the institutional challenges, disciplinary problems, philosophical questions, and aesthetic/rhetorical projects raised by new media. Essentially, I am answering the question why new media is important to study and why it is an issue of concern for non-specialists in the humanities and social sciences (though I am focusing on English Studies in particular)

History There are five parts to the history section. The premise is that we must recognize that technological development is conditioned by historical-cultural contexts. I begin by talking about what happens when we compare the invention of new media with the invention of writing (as one often sees done). I then move through a series of histories, which in a way is a review of the current literature in this area. I discuss the history of writing technologies (a la Bolter), the history of cybernetics/computing (a la Hayles), and the history of media (a la Kittler and Manovich). I end this section by discussing the historiography of new media. Historiography is the study of how history is written; it is a subject that has interested rhetoricians, particularly in relation to the history of the discipline. I am going to suggest that new media alters the way we conceive of history, which, of course, has been mediated by the linear literacy of print.

Theory The meditation on historiographic issues provides a segue into my discussion of theory. I begin with Landow’s early (i.e. 1990s) observations about the connections between post-structural theory and hypertext. Faigley’s book did similar work for composition. This section then has three subjects. The first is writing theory. Here I focus primarily on Derrida and connect new media with his ideas on pluridimensional mythograms in Of Grammatology. This will connect with my earlier discussion of the inventionof writing. Part two addresses theories of machines. This time I am focusing on Deleuze and Guattari. The idea is that I am moving to thinking about writing as a machinic process. I will connect this back to my discussion of cybernetics. Part three concerns theories of subjectivity/consciousness. This will be an amalgem of post-Marxist, cyborg, and new media theory with the idea of conceiving of the new media subject as evolving from the writing subject with new agencies, new communities, new ideological commitments, but also new ethical questions, new political struggles, and new global challenges–ideological, ecological, and economic (though I’m just pointing to those).

Pedagogy The final section brings us back to the institutional and disciplinary concerns of the introduction. Having taken this voyage through new media history and theory it is now possible to return to the pedagogic questions and address them anew. Beginning with where I ended in the theory section. I discuss how this mutation of the subject calls for a new concept of pedagogy and learning community. While many have articulated the ideological function of education, we can now see that ideology functioning in a new way that calls for new critical responses. One of these is thinking about new concepts of community (including the community of agents that construct “individual” subjects). The second part focuses in specifically on new media writing pedagogy, and here I discuss Ulmer’s concept of electracy as it melds with my discussion in this book. Ulmer notes that the school as we understand it was constructed to deliver print literacy. I use this point to catapult into the final part of this section where I explore the reconstruction of learning spaces.

Epilogue Poses questions for department, discipline and institution. Of course it is possible, at least in the short term, to reconcile new media with the existing structures of higher education. And any change that does eventually come will be a recursive process of remediation (Grusin/Bolter) or seriation (Hayles). The major concern of most academics is that new media will become a tool for the “corporatizing” of higher ed. (as if that hasn’t already happened). So I pose this challenge. Our institution IS changing and new media will be a significant catalyst and agent of that change. The corporate model also looms before us, BUT perhaps because corporations have been quicker to adapt to new media than we have; they have used this advantage to set the tone for what new media communities and insitutions will look like. We need to get on our horses here and start developing alternative practices of subjectivity and community. Perhaps we begin by asking: what happens when capitalist motives are vacated from the corporate model of new media community? Is there something there we can adopt, use as a bridge toward a new sensibility? Anyway, that’s the book right now. I’m going to bring in my proposal and see what David and Vicki think.

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