Monday, November 16, 2009

From Codework to Working Code: A Programmer's Approach to Digital Literacy

~Proposal Submitted for Digital Humanities 2010 Conference~ (website)

What does it mean to be digitally literate? Obviously it entails a basic familiarity with commonly used technologies, so that one may navigate the technological life world that has permeated nearly every aspect of the human one. One aspect of this knowledge is the recognition of computer languages, syntactic forms, and passages of program code, even when they have been taken out of their operational context for use as literary and rhetorical devices. In addition to the infiltration of the abbreviated language of email and text messaging into mainstream print media, it is now also commonplace to encounter programming keywords, symbols, operators, indentation, and pagination entwined with natural, non-technical, mother tongue expressions. Codework is the term associated with the literary and rhetorical practice of mixing human and computer languages (Hayles; Raley; Cramer). Types of codework span from intentionally arranged constructions intended for human consumption that do not execute on any real computer system, to valid expressions in bona fide programming languages that are meaningful to both human and machine readers. Examples of the former include the work of Mez (Mary-Anne Breeze) and Talon Memmott, of the latter, the work of John Cayley and Grahan Harwood (Raley; Fuller). Rita Raley notes, however, that of the popular electronic literature of 2002, there is “less code per se than the language of code.” In addition to its infusion for literary effect, program source code may be cited in scholarly texts like conventional citations to explain a point in an argument. Although it is more common to encounter screen shots of user interfaces, examples of working source code appear on occasion in humanities scholarship. This study will briefly consider why working code has been shunned in most academic discourse, then identify the types and uses of bone fide code that do appear in humanities scholarship. Its goal is to suggest ways in which working code – understood both as code that works, and as the practice of working code – plays a crucial role in facilitating digital literacy among social critics and humanities scholars, and demonstrate through a number of examples how this effect may be achieved.

The first argument in favor of studying computer code in the context of humanities scholarship can be drawn from N. Katherine Hayles' methodological tool of Media-Specific Analysis (MSA). Probing the differences between electronic and print media when considering the same term, such as hypertext, requires comprehension of the precise vocabulary of the electronic technologies involved. A second, more obvious argument comes from the growing disciplines of Software Studies and Critical Code Studies. If critical analysis of software systems is to reveal implicit social and cultural features, reading and writing program code must be a basic requirement of the discipline (Fuller; Mateas; Wardrip-Fruin). A third argument, which is the focus of this study, is reached by considering the phenomenon of technological concretization within computer systems and individual software applications. According to Andrew Feenberg, this term, articulated by Gilbert Simondon, describes the way “technology evolves through such elegant condensations aimed at achieving functional compatibilities” by designing products so that each part serves multiple purposes simultaneously (217). The problem is that, from the perspective of a mature technology, every design decision appears to have been made from neutral principles of efficiency and optimization, whereas historical studies reveal the interests and aspirations of multiple groups of actors intersecting in design decisions, so that the evolution of a product appears much more contingent and influenced by vested interests. The long history of such concretizations can be viewed like the variegated sedimentation in geological formations, so that, with careful study, the outline of a technological unconscious can be recovered. The hope is that, through discovering these concealed features of technological design, the the unequal distribution of power among social groups can be remedied. Feenberg's project of democratic rationalization responds to the implicit oppression of excluded groups and values in technological systems by mobilizing workers, consumers, and volunteers to make small inroads into the bureaucratic, industrial, corporate decision making.

For computer technology in particular, digital literacy is the critical skill for connecting humanities studies as an input to democratic rationalizations as an output. Working code replaces the psychoanalytic session for probing the technological unconscious. Many theorists have already identified the free, open source software (FOSS) community as an active site for both in depth software studies and for rich examples of democratic rationalizations (Fuller; Yuill; Jesiek). Simon Yuill in particular elaborates the importance of revision control software for capturing and cataloging the history of changes in software projects. As as corollary to this point, it can be argued that concealed within these iterations of source code are the concretizations that make up the current, polished version of the program that is distributed for consumption by the end users, and from which the technological unconscious may be interpreted. However, even when they are freely available to peruse in public, web-accessible repositories, these histories are only visible to those who can understand the programming languages in which they are written. Therefore, it is imperative that humanities scholars who wish to critically examine computer technology for its social and cultural underpinnings include working code - as practicing programming - in their digital literacy curricula.


Cramer, Florian. “Language.” Software Studies: A Lexicon. Ed. Matthew Fuller. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.

Fuller, Matthew. Introduction to Software Studies: A Lexicon. Ed. Matthew Fuller. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “Print is Flat, Code is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis.” Poetics Today, Volume 25:1 (Spring 2004): 67-90. Print.

Jesiek, Brent K. “Democratizing Software: Open Source, the Hacker Ethic, and Beyond.” First Monday, Volume 8:10 (October 2003). n. page. Web. 5 Oct. 2008.

Mateas, Michael. “Procedural Literacy: Educating the New Media Practitioner.” On The Horizon. Special Issue. Future of Games, Simulations and Interactive Media in Learning Contexts 13.1 (2005): n. pag. Web. 21 Oct. 2009.

Raley, Rita. “Interferences: [Net.Writing] and the Practice of Codework.” Electronic Book Review 8 Sept. 2002. n. pag. Web. 17 Oct. 2009.

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah. Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2009. Print.

Yuill, Simon. “Concurrent Version System.” Software Studies: A Lexicon. Ed. Matthew Fuller. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2008. Print.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Theorizing the Rhetoric of Digital Literacy

So I got the basic HTML created via PHP to list the text representations of the machine output log files from the pmrek host system. Things just have to get relayed from the pmrek system and further computed on the faster, more powerful, newer non-ISA Ubuntu GNU/Linux webserver. Then they have to be computed by the PHP script that analyzes the game output. That which has not been used or modified in a long time is not working. Can we skip over the versions during the period or do we have to consider them? What lessons are concretized and concealed in the skipping over to newer versions? This is a question asked in the study of texts and technology.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Notes on Jeff Rice The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media

Notes on Jeff Rice The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media

Rice focuses (conceives) nonlinear, multiple theme (theory) compositions as visual phenomena, whether static, printed, alphabetic book form or its successors (see page 134). Carry his methodology into the high fidelity audio production and reproduction technologies past and present. From the conversion of low level audio input wire pairs to Ogg Vorbis and database driven playlists a suite of projects for ENC 2411C (or whatever its course label) is conceivable so that, from instance to instance of the teaching of the course, a growing body of work emerges that can be studied while continuing to perform the intended goal of educating students in digital literacy. The problem with narratives is the large number - take for instance the possible stories involving the push button device - of instances that would have to be traversed (read) in order to judge the validity or soundness of the system as a whole. Placing multiple narratives on the same or inferior level as system integrations takes us beyond logocentrism although perhaps not beyond reliance upon determinism to support our thoughts in cyberspace. (Note the corruption this new version of OpenOffice Writer performs upon the HTML file document by changing the name of the image to its own sub language expression. This is how cyberspace breaks down.) Something in Rice I do not appreciate: the distinction between URI and URL as highly relevant to his argument. Fall into Rice notes around page 122 where the URI versus URL is explained. Arrive at a conclusion similar to his praise of contrasted to the failure of HP's Cooltown. The projects will live by a similar logic as the writers engaging in the works hosted on the site. Projects for the digital literacy course under the heading “science and technology of cyberspace” can include interfacing blogs (Blogger and possibly Wordpress) and delicious (a social bookmarking service) via their APIs, either as new work or part of existing FOSS projects. Over time a portfolio of software projects related to digital literacy will be formed, much like the end-user creations typically associated with literary production.

Juxtapose a box labeled “Electronics Junk” with two of its items, one remediating the terrorist appropriation of electronic devices formerly neutral and irrelevant to the differentiation between evil and positive uses, and the other a more complex interconnection between the old but still in use RCA audio stereo phono jacks and category 5 twisted pair (used for IEE 802.3 Ethernet).

Foreword: Elementary Cool

Gregory L. Ulmer

(XI) The research (and teaching) challenge for the language and literature disciplines today is not to follow in the footsteps of Plato and Aristotle but to seek what they sought. . . . One may learn all the tricks of Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, CSS/DHTML and still be anelectrate. The Rhetoric of Cool is an invitation to Composition Studies to take up this paradigmatic project: the invention of electracy.

(XI-XII) Heuretics (the term is related to “eureka” and “heuristics”) uses theory for the generation of new kinds of works, as distinct from hermeneutics, which applies theory to the interpretation of existing texts. . . . The poetic generator producing these innovations may be described with an acronym: CATTt, standing for Contrast, Analogy, Theory, Target and tale.

(XIII) Analogy in this case is filled with an array of the creative practices that Rice summarizes in the term cool, defined, as he notes, chorally (that is, using every meaning of the term). . . . At one level the approach reminds us of one of the peculiarities of our discipline, which is that we study about our inventors but rarely consider learning anything from them with respect to our own practices.


(3) Why composition studies has not integrated these meanings into its curriculum and why composition studies has not felt cool to be an important rhetoric are questions that motivate the development of what I call the rhetoric of cool.

(6) I am attempting to write against that status quo by arguing the cool writer as not cool for her identity (or how she has adopted the popular cool identity) but rather how she is cool for the ways she uses specific rhetorical practices to make meaning in electronic environments.

(8) With cool, I find that chora, appropriation, juxtaposition, commutation, nonlinearity, and imagery are the rhetorical moves that comprise a specific new media writing I am inventing.

1 The Story of Composition Studies and Cool

(11) My story is about how cool and composition studies maintain overlapping narratives that commence in 1963.

(13) Marshall McLuhan employed “cool” to describe the high-participatory nature of certain media forms (TV, the telephone, comic books) as opposed to the low-participatory characteristic of other forms he called “hot” (film, radio, print). At the same time, in Blues People, Amiri Baraka used “cool” to describe the African-American reaction to a white, oppressive authority as calm, noninvolved, detached. Meanwhile, Robert Farris Thompson, working in West Africa and later recording his observations in Flash of the Spirit, discovered that African-American terms like cool have their origins in indigenous, African societies such as the Yoruba, who use it as a form of visual writing in order to express in art and aesthetics a lifestyle characteristic of appeasement, conciliation, and calmness. Together, these writers discover cool as something beyond its immediate and established connotations of popularity or personality. . . . Yet why have these moments found themselves excluded from composition studies' historical narrative?

The Grand Narrative

(14) What Havelock calls “the oral problem” (the importance of orality and its history to literacy and meaning making), I call the digital problem, the understanding that rhetorics of digital culture have been circulating and discussed since the field's rebirth even if composition studies has not paid attention to these rhetorics in a significant way.

(16) I'm not critiquing North when I problematize the grand narrative; I am critiquing how that narrative remains unchallenged and accepted as de facto history, how its recitation continues to be sounded out in our conferences, journals, and work, how it has become, in Foucault's language, the permanence of a theme.


(18) What I pose, then, is one alternative, one re-presentation, one sub/version meant to draw us out of a dominant re-presentation in circulation today.

(21) The practice I call the rhetoric of cool will not be instrumental . . . . Instead, this book will define a rhetorical practice conducive and generalizable to digital culture.

Rhetoric and Writing

(22) Academic figures like Weaver, Booth, and Corbett searched for ways to change the apparatus. They chose, though, to reinstate an old form in place of the emerging new.

(23) Basing their studies on the concept of the student as variable, these texts [Research in Written Composition and Themes, Theories, and Therapy], which have become two of the most influential 1963 theoretical works on composition pedagogy, attempt to transfer composition pedagogy from a hodgepodge collection of anecdotes and teaching stories to the clear and coherent reasoning of how classroom practice can best succeed. They keyword in this kind of research is control, control over who and what are being studied, and control over how these studies are employed to maintain some degree of standardized practice.

(25) I am curious as to how those individuals writing in 1963 could have missed the technological, visual, or cultural influences occurring around them as they made their claims.

(27) The unification of theory and practice is a widely circulated trope seldom acted upon in the manner I am attempting: to write both a textbook and a theoretical book on the same subject.

(28-29) Like Lev Manovich in his influential text The Language of New Media, I want to draw attention to specific rhetorical features conducive to new media what Manovich calls the “general tendencies of a culture undergoing computerization” (27). In place of Manovich's interests in databases, variability, transcoding, and other applications, I discuss these six rhetorical principles I have found conducive to cool. . . . To produce knowledge in what McLuhan names “The Gutenberg Galaxy,” we are obligated to learn the rhetoric of a newly emerging electronic apparatus centered in acts of appropriation, sampling, hacking, and other related moves.

2 Chora

(33) The topoi have served print-based writing instruction by allowing students (and often instructors) the ability to work from a common repository of ideas. . . . But, as I will show, the danger might be more with our dependence on the topoi in the age of new media.

(33-34) Cool as cultural studies, cool as technology, and cool as visual writing all individually operate from different topos-based positions. My usage of all these positions at once is associative, not categorical or permanent, as the Aristotelean method demands. Gregory Ulmer names this strategy I employ chora, a hyper-rhetoric practice that updates the topoi for new media. . . . Ulmer names this electronic writing practice “chorography” and offers a set of instructions for how to be a chorographer: “do not choose between the different meanings of key terms, but compose by using all the meanings” (Heuretics 48).

(35) Cool media operate by a choral logic: Users of a given term's various meanings must actively engage with those meanings in rhetorical ways, discovering unfamiliar and unexpected juxtapositions of these meanings as they compose. Readers, too, respond to chora in a participatory manner unlike typical definitions of meaning or analytical understandings.

(35-36) The link is indicative of a new media push to reorganize space in terms of meaning construction. Through new media applications, like the hyperlink, chora displaces how a given topos represents one idea for one situation. . . . Th performative nature of the rhetoric of cool demands that I, too, enact some portion of that activity throughout my own theorization.

A Choral Introduction to Cool

(36) Reading Eric Havelock's description of 1963 as an important moment in writing instruction, I found myself focusing on his comment that “startled recognitions of a host of related facts” can be located within any given moment deemed consequential for one reason or another.

(38) Like American Graffiti, these types of songs construct the feeling of cool through writing; they are compositions.

(39) This initial recognition, that cool can be situated in 1963 in a manner unlike the tough guy or stereotypical African-American (or even white) male image, prompted me to identify its rhetorical potential as chora. . . . The larger implication of this discovery is the awareness of how an idea crosses several genres (film, music, popular beliefs) while maintaining its overall meaning structure.

(40) To create a chorography of cool, I realize, is in many ways to create a modified keywords for new media. It is to write a word through its connections and meanings, and not necessarily to only write about that word.


(41) Baraka's identification, however, does not do that but instead contextualizes Brown's writing in terms of political and social response, thus evoking the project of cultural studies at the same time the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies was establishing itself in Birmingham, England, as a site of cultural analysis and pedagogical practice. . . . The relationship between media and society is prominent in Baraka's definition of cool. Cool, Baraka writes, includes the specific kind of early 1960s African-American inability to control political and cultural oppression. . . . Baraka's description of cool as nonparticipatory contrasts McLuhan's notion of cool as a highly participatory media form. . . . The conflicts in meaning regarding participation are not obstacles but rather potential moments for invention.

(42) Cool, or ituti, indicates a form of visual writing employed in order to express in art and aesthetics a lifestyle characteristic of appeasement, conciliation, and calmness. Yoruban culture articulated cool as a visual aesthetic in sculpture, weaving, and dance. . . . Any kind of computer-oriented rhetoric must account for the iconic display of information. . . . My visualization of cool, which I start to map out in this chapter, opens up a new arrangement for me to compose with, one that is chora-based and not topos-based.

Ironically, his map is all made of words.

The Handbook

(43-44) Too concerned with the division and arrangement of separate and distinct categories to study (which we can today recognize as modes, process, punctuation, or types of grammatical error), the Ramist tradition hinders the handbook's potential to voice inventive rhetorical moves and gestures. . . . Both McLuhan and Burroughs situate the handbook as a new media collection whose role is to demonstrate and teach rhetorical production.

What did Foucault say about the specificity of Greek hypomnemata?

(44) The focus of these assignments is the exploration of a given term (which is up to the student's discretion) relevant to the student's area of study (Nursing, Education, Accounting, Biology, etc.).

(45) Placed on the Web, students can further explore the choral moves they discover through hyperlinks and image placement. . . . While it is “open” in the sense that it encourages readers to contribute to its development, Wikipedia's entries, layout, and organization do not convey multiple meanings and choral possibilities.

Clearly an API to Wikipedia could render fascinating new organizations and layout of entries.

(45-46) Each chapter signifies a rhetorical dimension of cool but also stands for another choral move I make. In other words, The Rhetoric of Cool is itself a handbook. The significance, therefore, is twofold: to demonstrate the rhetoric of cool (and thus evoke the performative nature or writing) and to pose a model that can be appropriated for other kinds of hyper-rhetorical work (the writing itself).

3 Appropriation

(48) there exists a different type of rhetorical stance I am seeking to create, one dependent not on balance but on how terms or ideas are appropriated (cool as appropriated from media, from music, from Yoruban visuality).

Cool Cities

(51) Because both Detroit and Netscape appropriate cool to perform these tasks, I will use this chapter to include appropriation within the rhetoric of cool. The overlap of my work on cool, my own move to Metro Detroit, and the initiation of Detroit's urban renewal plan mark a focal point for thinking about how the rhetoric of cool functions through the city's appropriation of the word.

The Cool City

(54) Detroit is a cool city not because of anything specific it has done (or not done) but rather because of how one individual appropriates imagery and ideas in order to construct a new place of meaning. I'm particularly interested in how Granholm's appropriation of cool marks an extension of what Amiri Baraka critiqued in 1963 as the consequence of white cultural appropriation. . . . I want to situate Baraka's identification of appropriation as cool within a rhetorical strategy suitable for electronic writing.



(59) These kinds of discrepancies regarding appropriation in popular culture are detailed by Thomas Frank in The Conquest of Cool, Malcom Gladwell in “The Coolhunt,” and Douglas Rushkoff in his PBS documentary Merchants of Cool. These writers note how the rhetoric of cool is often transformed into a complacent discursive strategy when coherence is the ultimate goal.

The same docile bodies as those conditioned by traditional rhetoric (calmed down by selecting thesis statement and clearly arguing through it from introduction to conclusion).

The How-To

(63) In digital culture, the cut-up is best exemplified in practices ranging from Web site construction (appropriating images and HTML code from other sites to create new sites) to Weblogs (cutting and pasting links) to hip-hop and DJ culture (appropriating sounds and music, remixing them, and generating new compositions).

It is also exemplified in the IT integrators mash up of operating systems, and programmers remixing source code modules.

The Sampler

The DJ

The Mix

(72) Using appropriation within the rhetoric of cool allows writers to write outside of the limitations of student writing and, therefore, to fully enjoy other forms of writing that occupy their media lives; in other words, writers juxtapose these other forms to their lives.

Making useful, durable digital media objects from assignments projects the student's interest beyond the limited scope of throw away homework assignments principally tutorial and not necessarily practical or even sound taken at face value.

4 Juxtaposition

(73) In this 1963 essay “A Conceptual Framework for Augmenting Man's Intellect,” Douglas Engelbart proposed that juxtaposition be the focal point of writing with computers.

(79) The ideology of the thesis - that writing (and thus research) depends on a single statement or idea - has led the initial CCCC call to not be fully answered. Indeed, the call for debate regarding composition pedagogy (generalized in the research paper issue) never has extended to include how writers juxtapose, or how writers organize ideas spatially, as Lev Manovich argues in The Language of New Media. Spatial composing, Manovich's term for multilayered new media composition, reflects how new media artifacts contain a “hierarchy of levels” (xxv). . . . Spatial composing is a process - the ability to navigate and display disparate elements on encounters - as well as compositional - the writing one does. McCrimmon's pedagogy of the thesis, however, is not spatial; it directs writers to see each step of writing as a separate, distinct moment (first the facts, then the conclusion, then the organization).


(81) The cool writings of actualizes much, though not all, of Nelson's initial concept of hypertext as a writing space outside of what Nelson calls “the paperdigm.”

The DJ (Remixed)

(91) writers must perform juxtapositions, not just offer critical analysis of juxtapositions' effects on a given readership.

Hip-Hop Pedagogy

5 Commutation

(93) Commutation is the exchange of signifiers without concern for referentiality. In the 1964 English translation of Elements of Semiology, Roland Barthes defines commutation as an important writing strategy writers employ to make specific choices regarding meaning construction.

(96) Cool discourse, as Baudrillard defines it, challenges writing instruction to reimagine the notion of a permanent writing space based on a fixed (and real) experience.

All meaning exchangeable like memory in a computer. The importance of the dynamically redrawn video screen supplanting the teletype and static, printed page.


Scorpio Rising/Flaming Creatures

The Mix

6 Nonlinearity

(113) “The structure of ideas are not sequential. They tie together every which way. And when we write, we are always trying to tie things together in non-sequential ways” (Dream Machine 29, emphasis Nelson's).

Compare to computer systems structure as appearing to try to tie together the overall sense of the system including worlds beyond the system input and output interfaces: supervisory control models may be among what we try to tie together in non-sequential ways. The point is that they do exhibit virtual sequences depending on how they are interpreted.

(115) Nonlinearity asks, as Manovich might argue, that writers identify complex sets of data and form multiple texts out of the data.

(116) what matters is the various overlapping, nonsequential strands that one does not choose among but composes with simultaneously. In other words, even though I tell a narrative about composition studies and cool, I do so from multiple strands (technology, cultural studies, and writing), rather than one strand of causality or narrative progression, or, as traditional hypertext studies emphasizes, individual, alternative routes. I see these multiple strands not as something that hypertext or any other new media form brings to writing but rather as the very relations among ideas that comprise new media itself - that is, the multiplicity is the rhetoric.

(116-117) “Data banks are the Encyclopedia of tomorrow,” Lyotard writes. . . . Among choices and alternatives, among differing threads of data, then, hypertext opens up the possibility of writing. The search engine embodies one possibility, but there is the potential for other possible writing formations as well. . . . Google might serve as one example of this database logic, as Johnson-Eilola notes, but nonlinear writing in general can perform this work as well.

(118) Burroughs's media environment is a database too large to call itself anything other than an “intersection,” at content and sentence structure levels. A writer following Burroughs's logic presens strands of thought and ideas compiled to a given audience, noting where they intersect instead of where they tell a story.

(11) Taking McLuhan's usage of nonlinearity, then, I want to concentrate on how it rhetorically functions in cool, and how it suggests alternative narrative forms. . . . In general, nonlinearity challenges our understanding of how we order information in the digital. It also poses complex methods of information construction and distribution beyond what current writing instruction allows. . . . Janangelo's response to the everything-can-be-included nature of nonlinear hypertexts is to ask what kinds of models composition studies might learn from in order to teach this open-ending writing.

The Kerouac Model

(120) Jack Kerouac represents a specific 1963 literary moment when writing adopts nonlinearity for rhetorical purposes.

(122) The formation of associative, nonlinear thoughts is itself a composing process reflective of digital media. To bring together these experiences at once, Big Sur instructs, write them as nonlinear points.

(122-123) Berners-Lee's concept of URIs (Universal Resource Identifiers, transitive addresses that tell browsers where to find information) as opposed to the currently used URLs (Uniform Resource Locators, the version in place today on the Web that is more static than URIs) relies on a semantic system of writing (like Ulmer's chorography or Kerouac's associative linking) at the level of cool.

(123) In an interview with Technology Review, Berners-Lee . . . we'll be able to write programs that will actually help because they'll be able to understand the data out there rather than just presenting it to us on the screen. (Frauenfelder)

(123) At the technological level, the “relationship” tag, rel=”,” is introduced so that the tag that links pages and ideas, , becomes . At the content level, the connections writers generate come from how the data is associated to other data and how writers actualize those associations in their rhetorical choices. . . . In these systems, markup tags (meta information attributes attached to a word or image) function as semantic exchange. . . . The emphasis, in choral fashion, is not causal effect but meaning relationship, however arbitrary such meanings may, at first, appear.

(124), in particular, changes the very hierarchical structuring bookmarking initially relied upon (as early browsers followed the logic of print culture) by allowing writers to “name” their own identifiers for the places they visit on the Web. . . . Writers who compose via construct nonlinear organizational systems for other writers to read or (knowingly or not) contribute to.

You completely miss out on challenging “hierarchical structuring” if you do not try something like Rice describing those who “compose via” Likewise, I am suggesting that these projects creating IT systems that continue beyond your time in the course enacts multiple narratives, lessons and critiques. The question is whether to let the rigorous development of a particular thesis disappear.

(125) Currently, we find the most widely applied semantic moves in Web sites that track user usage or purchasing habits. . . . Rather than ask how we can avoid the traps such writing poses for our consumer habits, we should ask how can we use such media for a composition-oriented cool writing.

The 'oracle' inside Google: important to know about scientific and technical [limits/possibilities (striked out)] to envision possibilities.


(125-126) In this mix of education and corporate investment, semantic writing is further related to cool in Hewlett Packard's conflation of a futuristic society that combines pedagogy and technology into an environment called Cooltown. . . . Cooltown promises to construct a society of nonlinear connections through the existing apparatus of the World Wide Web by promoting a specific commercial vision. Business meetings, catching the bus, ordering coffee, and other activities all become an interconnected experience driven by global satellite positioning systems and Web sites.

(126-127) Cooltown transforms the physical environment and the rhetorical strategies we associate with permanence and physicality into nonlinear spatial positionings. In Cooltown, writers compose on the fly, to a variety of places at once, from a variety of positions at once. . . . [“Cooltown: The Ecosystem Explained”] Once bookmarked, URLs can be sent to remote web locations, or beamed directly to a variety of web appliances using a beaming technology we call “e-squirt.” . . . “Squirting” URIs in (sic) a assortment of directions at once from a multitude of locations could force levels of McLuhan's interactivity we haven't yet digitally experienced and could encourage writers to seek out connections in their writings that neither narrative nor traditional argumentation can account for. It could generate a new media pedagogical vision, as Hewlett Packard claims it will do.

(128) To return to McLuhan's point regarding education and marketing, with cooltown@school, Hewlett Packard seems content with building a system that only reestablishes the logic of print (thus excluding how marketing can shape technology) and does not structure a nonlinear writing world.

(129) Cooltown@school is based not on a database model nor on a nonlinear system of communication and writing, as it seems to claim, but on already familiar pedagogical methods that are superimposed onto the idea of a massive, all inclusive “Web portal.”

(129) Cooltown@school resembles many of the course management systems already in circulation in a variety of colleges and universities.

Notice Rice allows a capitalized Cooltown and the previous lowercase cooltown@school (and one with a .com suffix) to coexist without questioning whether they point to the same thing.

(130) and WebCT signify the construction of a pedagogical apparatus that does not reflect the practices it proposes teaching. . . . As “connected” as these sites may claim to be, the computer languages that structure such connections - either hyperlinks or more complex markup systems like XML and XHTML - are never taught. . . . In other words, how “lifelong” is this experience that is restricted to one kind of licensed platform? . . . the norm favors restriction in place of openness. Instead of basing their systems on the rhetoric of cool, these operations continue the nonmedia compositional tradition I have situated in 1963.

Nonlinear Writing

(131-132) Picture the student engaging with these lines of thoughts not as prompts to be developed into single standing essays but as the structure of the essay itself, interwoven threads of discursive relationships. . . . provides an electronic version of Burroughs's passage; each thread expands and shrinks on the amount of writers engaged with the site and the compositional decisions they make.

(132) Nonlinearity and restricted theses do not work in conjunction with one another; the choice for the thesis is a choice against nonlinearity. The compositional image of writing has thus been restricted.

7 Imagery

(134) The absence of visuality in composition studies' rebirth narrative and its consequent delay in reaching our disciplinary vocabulary can be associated with a long-standing tradition in rhetoric and writing of favoring the word over the image, what Jacques Derrida terms logocentrism.

(135) In much of today's pedagogy, the preference is for writing about images, not with images. The preference is still for the word.


(137) Ivan Sutherland's 1963 invention of Sketchpad (and related doctoral dissertation Sketchpad: A Man-Machine Graphical Communication System) equated writing with visual expression.

(138) Sketchpad refigured the writing space from paper to the visual screen. Sutherland introduced his dissertation accordingly: . . . Heretofore, most interaction between men and computers has been slowed down by the need to reduce all communication to written statements that can be typed; in the past, we have been writing letters to rather than conferring with our computers. (Sutherland 1) . . . Photosho's ability to manipulate, copy, distort, fabricate, and erase visual displays at will ties into McLuhan's understanding of the visual as cool. Through these visual moves, writers extend a variety of ideas and feelings in way sprint does not allow for; writers create new kinds of discursive worlds that go beyond the flatness of the page.

(138-139) Sketchpad began the process of demonstrating the rhetorical potential of the visual to all writers (and not just painters and artists). A writer is asked to use Sketchpad, not to analyze its merits or compositional potential.

(142) “The typewriter,” McLuhan writes, “fuses composition and publication, causing an entirely new attitude to the written and printed word” (Understanding Media 228). . . . The ability to produce new knowledge via the mechanics of the typewriter - be it typographic or visual - leads to the kinds of visual knowleddge computing can allow for via its manipulation of programmed language into alternative kinds of representations. . . . The computer display, McLuhan contends, allows writers to become involved in a visual composing process in ways movable type (which is performed elsewhere, and not by the writer) did not allow.

(143-144) The Research in Written Composition claim is that the tool is either not applicable or it must be studied in depth empirically before it can be evaluated for pedagogical usage. Its usage must be controlled for its value to be determined. Meanwhile, generations grow up using these tools daily, generations learn their application without controlled study, and, in turn, generations grow up internalizing new kinds of thought processes (the visual functioning by a different logic than the typographic) that affect communicative practices outside of a given classroom situation. The mass proliferation of Weblogs and related applications reflects this point. . . . What television was for McLuhan - “With TV, the viewer is the screen” - the Weblog or social software variant is partly for current electronic discourse (Understanding Media 272). And this has all occurred without “further study.”


(145) The record cover identifies the gap between 1963 writing instruction and 1963 writing with images.

Blue Note Records

(146) Blue Note's cover designs commutated the symbols of both urban and pop culture into a cool aesthetic.

(147-148) it is that question of selfhood that is most important to writing with images. Blue Notes shapes selfhood; in particular, its images expand temporal interest in equality, African-American identity, and economics.

(149) the pedagogical decision to not teach students how to work with imagery reflects not only an anti-visual ideological position but also a desire to use print in order to de-emphasize the existence of nonconventional or disruptive subject matter along with perceived nonconventional forms of writing (like images).

(150) The Blue Note rhetoric is not a replication of traditional syllogistic argumentation. Its mix of iconic display and juxtaposition propose a more complex construction of ideas.

A Pedagogy of the Image

(151) Today, forty years after Winzeler, it can feel just as futile to push the visual in a field that still obsesses not over printed words as much as it does over print logic. In a typical contemporary classroom, Power Point's slide show of bullet points and static clipart replaces Winzeler's overhead projector because it is the technology that most closely duplicates print logic.

(152) “Write an essay” is the prescriptive. Find the errors in the image you are examining (why the ad does or does not work). Construct your response within the logic of print (the essay).

(152) To compose the Blue Note way, writers assemble iconic imagery into a space like a Web site (though a Photoshop composite, Flash site, or even animated gif would suffice) in order to construct an argument, present a position, express an idea, or perform any other rhetorical act.

The Cool Writer

(153) Liu's mistake, like composition studies' general error in reducing technology to only the tools of technology, is in ignoring a rich rhetorical tradition associated with cool and digital culture that does not depend on personality.

(154) The fault is in the ways the discipline itself - as a whole - images writing and writers. If the classroom writer, like the cliché cool figure, is the only kind of writer we imagine, then our perception of writing will remain narrow in scope.

(154-155) In his textbook Internet Invention, Gregory Ulmer contextualizes the cool writer as a participant in electracy. . . . Cool writing signifies more than sucking or being good; it stands for an electronic rhetoric.

(155) The cool writer encompasses what Burroughs calls a “media being,” an individual who mixes and is mixed, who composes with media by commutating, appropriating, visualizing, and chorally structuring knowledge.

How does Rice's cool writer compare to Heim's cybersage?

(156) And here lies composition studies' greatest dilemma regarding media. Are media a counterinfluence, or are they, in fact, influences? . . . to make the claim for broad influence, we have to expand the types of writing students do so that they better reflect the kinds of writing media generate.

(157) As I have tried to show, one particular moment, 1963, was in fact like no other moment, but what made it unique has gone unnoticed until now. Our task today is to reimagine our status quos, to reconceptualize writing so that it includes, among other things, the notion of cool.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Question of Programming Languages

Why is C the most popular programming language? Is this a question in the study of texts and technology?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Notes for Manovich The Language of New Media

Notes for Lev Manovich The Language of New Media

(74) Text is unique among media types. It plays a privileged role in computer culture. On the one hand, it is one media type among others. But, on the other hand, it is a metalanguage of computer media, a code in which all other media are represented.

Now that we are getting away from logocentrism, this kind of consideration is possible.

(74) If computers use text as their metalanguage, cultural interfaces in their turn inherit the principles of text organization developed by human civilization throughout its existence. One of these principles is a page - a rectangular surface containing a limited amount of information, designed to be accessed in some order, and having a particular relationship to other pages.

This implies the linearity or sequentiality or simply the logic and rules by which the computer operates, the famous “fetch and execute” concept from early computer scientists like von Neumann and Turing.

(158) By establishing a logic that controls the changes and the correlation on values on these dimensions, digital filmmakers can create what I will call spatial montage.

(159) Compositing, achieve in Tango through optical printing, allows the filmmaker to superimpose a number of elements, or whole words, within a single space. . . . Works such as Tango and Steps develop what I will call an ontological montage: the coexistence of ontologically incompatible elements within the same time and space.

(159) While previously, filmmakers usually worked with a single format throughout the whole film, the accelerated replacement of different analog and digital formats since the 1970s made the coexistence of stylistically diverse elements a norm rather than the exception for new media objects. Compositing can be used to hide this diversity - or it can be used to foreground it, creating it artificially if necessary. For instance, the film Forest Gump emphasizes stylistic differences between various shots; this simulation of different film and video artifacts is an important aspect of its narrative system.

Just when you thought it could not get any deeper, style comes after ontology. Manovich runs his theory through “montage” like an operator in a computer program that is itself supposed to be a metaphor for how the human lifeworld works.

(160) the shots in his films that combine live-action footage with graphic elements position all elements on parallel planes; the elements move parallel to the screen. . . . this subordination of live action to animation is the logic of digital cinema in general.

Style controls (informs) ontology; subordination of live action is representation's hegemony (and hysteresis).

Representation versus Communication

(161) Still, no new media objects are being generated when the user follows a hyperlink to another Web site, or uses telepresence to observe or act in a remote location, or communicates in real time with other users using Internet chat, or just makes a plain old-fashioned telephone call. In short, once we begin dealing with verbs and nouns which begin with tele-, we are no longer dealing with the traditional cultural domain of representation. Instead, we enter a new conceptual space, which this book has not explored so far - telecommunication.

This is what I mean by Manovich delaying discussion of what he calls 'telecommunication'. Importance of no new media objects (sic) are being generated divides the book in half at page 161 by instantiating tele-operator conceived as a computer program running a real time communications system, from TCP/IP to POTS.

(162) Clearly, we are more impressed (or at least, we were until the arrival of the Internet) with modern media's ability to record aspects of reality and then use these recordings to simulate it for our senses than with its real-time communication aspect. . . . the new recording technologies led to the development of new arts in a way that real-time communication did not.

Link with history of writing. Recording over RTC (real time communication, real time control) as technologies noticed and manipulated/controlled artistically controlled/manipulated (representation over RTC).

(162-163) modern media technologies have developed along two distinct trajectories. The first is representational technologies . . . second is real-time communication technologies. . . . Such new twentieth-century cultural forms as radio and, later, television emerge at the intersection of these two trajectories. . . . the majority of programming came to be prerecorded.

Imagine real time generation of TV signal dynamically: this is the norm for the Internet. We should seek to understand the Internet, then, for which purpose I argue we should learn to comprehend the likes of Transmission Control Protocol, Internet Protocol, and even Ethernet to a degree. I do not think that Landow appreciates this distinction.

(163) The concept of an aesthetic object is an object, that is, a self-contained structure limited in space and/or time, is fundamental to all modern thinking about aesthetics. . . . Nelson Goodman . . . characteristics assume a finite object in space and/or time - a literary text, a musical or dance performance, a painting, a work of architecture. . . . “From Work to Text” by Roland Barthes . . . notion of a “text” still assumes a reader “reading,” in the most general sense, something previously “written.” In short, while a “text” is interactive, hypertextual, distributed, and dynamic (to translate Barthes's propositions into new media terms), it is still a finite object.

(163-164) By foregrounding telecommunication, both real-time and asynchronous, as a fundamental cultural activity, the Internet asks us to reconsider the very paradigm of an aesthetic object. Is it necessary for the concept of the aesthetic to assume representation? Does are [sic] necessary involve a finite object? . . . if a user accessing information and a user telecommunicating with other(s) are a common in computer culture as a user interacting with a representation, can we expand our aesthetic theories to include these two new situations?

Telepresence: Illusion versus Action

(165) the ability to “teleport” instantly from one server to another, to be able to explore a multitude of documents located on computers around the world, all from one location, is much more important [sic] that being able to perform physical actions in one remote location.

Do we forgive Manovich for these editing mistakes to miss his final proof reading? Or is this the easily found slippage of his thought, on the same axis/pole of Landow missing the foregrounding of TCP/IP more than Ethernet. This carelessness cheapens and causes one to shy away from actually learning how they work. Imagine telepresence of a pinball machine using history of games played on actual playfields (by serial number) to simulate play for the tele-operator (strike out, not through, to ensure the specificity of hyphen is not lost - similar to Rousseau's concern for the cheapening of spoken language by articulation to simplify writing for lack of recording devices). Manovich gives an example of what I am proposing on page 170.

(165) telepresence can be thought of as one example of representational technologies used to enable action, that is, to allow the viewer to manipulate reality through representations. Other examples of these action-enabling technologies are maps, architectural drawings, and x-rays.

These are poor examples to compare to telepresence, which includes a dynamic, computational component that affords telecommunication via TCP/IPv4 inter networked von Neumann stored program concept fetch execute sequential processing electronic computing machinery.

(166) Popular media has downplayed the concept of telepresence in favor of virtual reality.

(166) Telepresence allows the subject to control not just the simulation but reality itself.

(167) A better term would be teleaction. Acting over distance. In real time.

Although the case of the remote controlled pinball machine may be indistinguishable from a virtual reality simulation of a pinball machine. Teleaction: how long is the lever? At what point does the lever become an image-instrument?


(167) French philosopher and sociologist Bruno Latour proposes that certain kinds of images have always functioned as instruments of control and power, power being defined as the ability to mobilize and manipulate resources across space and time.

(168) perspective is more than just a sign system that reflects reality - it makes possible the manipulation of reality through the manipulation of its signs.


(169) The ability to receive visual information about a remote place in real time allows us to manipulate physical reality in this place, also in real-time.

(170) different kinds of teleaction require different temporal and spatial resolutions.

(170) the technology that makes teleaction in real time possible is electronic telecommunication. . . . Coupled with a computer used for real-time control, electronic telecommunication leads to a new and unprecedented relationship between objects and their signs. It makes instantaneous not only the process by which objects are turned into signs but also the reverse process - the manipulation of objects through these signs.

(170) A sign is something which can be used to teleact.

New: instantaneous representation and control. Imagine those required for playing a pinball machine from the late 1970s to early 1980s, the first generation of digital electronic computer controlled pinball machines.

Distance and Aura

(173) The regime of Big Optics inevitably leads to real-time politics, a politics that requires instant reactions to events transmitted with the speed of light, and that, ultimately, can only be efficiently handled by computers responding to each other.

(173) Virilio postulates a historical break between film and telecommunication, between Small Optics and Big Optics.

There is always a delay and there are always constraints. It is much easier to enumerate and talk about those affecting computer to computer communication than any including non-'computer' participants.

(175) In Western thought, vision has always been understood and discussed in opposition to touch, so, inevitably, the denigration of vision (to use Martin Jay's term) leads to the elevation of touch. Thus criticism of vision predictably leads to a new theoretical interest in the idea of the haptic.

(175) The potential aggressiveness of looking turns out to be rather more innocent than the actual aggression of electronically enabled touch.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Notes on Landow Hypertext 3.0

Notes for George P. Landow Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization

Chapter 1


(15) The anchor feature in HTML, which is created by the tag, thus permits authors to link to a specific section of long document.

This mistake in an otherwise educational lexia could be the starting point of a psycho-analysis, but we have chosen to focus on the non-human actants in the network. Is technical education infused (spliced) or woven humanities discourse? Of the eight or nine types of hyperlinks Landow enumerates,

(18) Typed links, our ninth category, take the form of limiting an electronic link to a specific kind of relationship.

These are the closest to the 'phasor' type of hyperlink I have been imagining both in computer software development and philosophical relevance. Could tie in Engelbart's hyperscope, whom Landow mentions, to explain this point.

(52) Electronic linking shifts the boundaries between one text and another as well as between the author and the reader and between the teacher and the student. It also has radical effects on our experience of author, text, and work, redefining each. Its effects are so basic, so radical, that it reveals that many of our most cherished, most commonplace, ideas and attitudes toward literature and literary production turn out to be the result of that particular form of information technology and technology of cultural memory that has provided the setting for them. This technology - that of the printed book and its close relations, which include the typed or printed page - engenders certain notions of authorial property, authorial uniqueness, and a physically isolated text that hypertext makes untenable. The evidence of hypertext, in other words, historicizes many of our most commonplace assumptions, thereby forcing them to descend from the ethereality of abstraction and appear as corollary to a particular technology rooted in specific times and places. In making available these points, hypertext has much in common with some major points of contemporary literary and semiological theory, particularly with Derrida's emphasis on decentering and with Barthe's conception of the readerly versus the writerly text.

What about throwing into question the asymmetry between human and non-human parts of the phenomenon? The determinism to which Landow alludes can be interpreted as challenging even the anthropocentric bias that remains after Derrida released us from logocentrism.