My strategy has been to 'show' this method in this chapter rather than explain it away with a series of easily replicable instructions. In this way, I am attempting to provoke a certain degree of misunderstanding, with the hope that readers might produce their own monstrous versions of hypericonomy. This is a strategy that, in Ulmer's terms, is designed to trigger a relay. (E-Crit 2006: 67)
There is no entry for 'relay' in the index of E-Crit, so we can treat it as something un-thought by the author, and fair game for reinterpretation if not punnery. So let our shared misunderstanding be the desire to take his statement literally, and solder together a circuit. Imagine a first view that is akin to a title page or book cover showing a zoomed-in piece of something that will later be displayed in a larger context, which could be anything, it may seem like nonsense at first, whether in (as part of) a painting, or illuminated manuscript, or blueprint, or electronic circuit schematic, alphabetic character labeled image, or computer program.
(image saying “you know that this symbol represents ground” and hyperlink everything)
This 'mystory' begins with a magico-mysterious picture of an electrical ground symbol, a single hyperlink that will in subsequent iterations via hyperlinks zoom out to reveal an example of a relay driver circuit from an electronics textbook, and then its position within a much larger system, finally reaching the “real world” example of myself as a youth playing a pinball game. Encapsulated in this diachrony-within-synchrony is a lesson in basic electronics, going from the concept of resistance to the theory of the transistor. I say electronics rather than electricity precisely because the transistor epitomizes a design science leveraging the one-way flow of electrons (holes, really, but this is a divergent hyperlink to be added later) to effect solid state switches, that is, the equivalent of a transition from infinite to zero resistance without any moving parts. So as not to remain entirely in the domain of technology - O'Gorman warns against this polarization, 'to be in technolgy, but not of technology' (113), as does Michael Heim when he describes the condition of 'technostress' in Electric Language - allow the links to trail off into a discourse on the amazing quality of these resistor symbols to refer to any resistance, from asymptotically approaching zero, through one Ohm, 200, to asymptotically approaching infinity.
(image of ground and wire symbol connecting it to the rest of the circuit running out of the view)
Next the image zooms out slightly to trace the zero-Ohm wires attaching to this grounding symbol. This literal electracy, playing with Ulmer's term, if my pictures are progressively conveying the tracing of electronic circuits, is followed next with a picture of a relay (solenoid) driver circuit hyperlinking each electronic symbol component to an explanation of its function in the circuit as well as the general theory behind it.
The two subsequent steps or iterations of the expanding view reveal this relay driver circuit to be, first, part of a larger circuit board assembly, the voltage regulator/solenoid driver assembly labeled 'A3', which, second, is just one major component in the electronic schematic of a Flash Gordon pinball machine manufactured by the Bally Corporation that I played at an arcade on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, when I was a child.
(image of voltage regulator/solenoid driver board schematic)
(image of pinball machine functional components)
It was a life-changing experience because my childhood friends with whom we were vacationing and I played this game all day long, since it had 80 credits on it. The synthesized voices such as “Flash! Emperor Ming awaits!” combined with a child's fascination with electronic devices led me to structure my entire masters work around the pinball machine, developing a reverse engineering methodology based on Socrates' method of binary division for analysis of any phenomenon in Plato's Phaedrus. This conjoining of schematic and lived reality instantiates what O'Gorman calls
[t]he deferred understanding, or 'artificial stupidity,' might be considered as a form of Nachtraglichkeit, a psychoanalytic concept championed by Freud and Lacan. .. The point of recognition, then, can only take the form of a deferred understanding, an understanding-too-late, arrived at by means of a detour through the realm of nonsense (puns, anagrams, macaronics, etc.). .. When a hypericonomy such as 1\0 is finished, we are left with a veritable impression of its creator's unconscious (whether it be political, optical, or psychic). (89)
The sample O'Gorman gives of his 1\0 project and the 4Fold schema crossing the educational surface of his 'choral square', race relations, is here replaced by a lesson in electronics that forms the foundation, or ground (the puncept of this mystory) of a study that eventually involves computer programming and closed-loop, discrete process control systems.
What is not really captured in this response essay, even with the pictures, is the transformation of the classroom experience wrought by starting from the ground symbol and traversing introductory electronics through feedback from the participants via a question and answer poll conducted over an adhoc wireless network with their iPhones and notebook computers. O'Gorman writes,
Admittedly, the computer is the most far-reaching new media tool in education, but it is not the only electronic tool that influences learning. Television, video games, even cell phones - marginal electronic media from a scholarly point of view - all play a part in education, even though they may not be an integral element of the classroom experience. Whereas Katherine Hayles rightly calls for an increased emphasis on material-specific critique, I am calling for an increase in material-specific pedagogy, starting with the materiality for the Web. (82)
Thus, we both start with 'the materiality of the Web', coming at it in this case from the basic building blocks of electronic design all the way through complex digital computer systems that include TCP/IPv4 networking. I feel the control system metaphor is superior to Ulmer's 'tuning knobs', or rheostats, for these are passive devices hearkening from electrical, rather than electronic, technology. I want to do a little better than train students in what O'Gormans describes as “the art of 'well-informed dilettantism'” (94), following Heim's recommendation in “Heidegger and McLuhan: The Computer as Component” that scholarship requires a 'cybersage'. This is more in line with the degree of commitment to actually learning aspects of the technologies for techno-bureaucratic university administrators to sign off on a program in which, for example, “the Department of Electrical Engineering might offer a class in microcontroller programming that would involve students from both engineering and liberal arts in the creation of electronic devices suitable, for example, for a critical/digital art installation” (111).
If humanities scholarship ever reaches into software design, then the notion of 'writing with' takes truly useful material possibilities, such as joining in the work of an free, open source software (FOSS) project or remediating obsolete technologies such as the electronic pinball machine by PMREK (a FOSS project hosted on Sourceforge.net that teaches digital electronics by building hardware and “source code for a Linux 2.6 kernel module and a user program to control Bally pinball machines manufactured between 1977 and 1985 via memory-mapped I/O”). If the chapter begins with an icon, the ground symbol, for grounding the study of electronic media with a study of electronics itself, then zooming reveals a relay driver circuit. O'Gorman's rhetoric enticing you to repeat his experiment of 'hypericonomy' succeeds as the impulse at the base of the transistor crossing the threshold to initiate current flow between the collector and emitter, in turn energizing the solenoid relay, which turns out to be a pop bumper momentarily energized during a game on the Flash Gordon pinball machine. As the ball drains and the game ends, its mechanical voice chimes out, "Try again, Earthling!"