Lingua Fracta (chapters 1-4) and Electric Sheep (chapters 11-15), musings part 3

Nubian Goat

A Nubian Goat, thanks to

In this week’s readings in Electric Sheep, some doubt has been removed, though not entirely. Deckard gets to finally buys a goat. I would have gone with the pair of rabbits myself. I’m thinking, “OK, so his empathy to take in animals and his experience with the empathy box proves he’s not an android.” And then I think, “Or does it?” One pervasive aspect of the story is that we never fully know what anyone is until they are killed (or retired) and the remains can be examined.

The whole idea of programmed memories is interesting. I’ve got a friend who’s read about about how some scientists want to develop technologies that allow our brains to extrapolate information rather than learn it the traditional way. The idea is to attach ourselves to technologies (microchips perhaps) that store the information.

The British science show spoof “Look Around You” demonstrated what such a technology would have looked like in the early 80’s with “the memory helmet” which takes photographs of information you wish to learn and then you’ll know it if you wear the helmet.

The Memory Helmet, thanks to

The Memory Helmet, thanks to

This goes back to a great quote I like from Mark Kennedy: “All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.” Amen to that.

As for Lingua Fracta– So much to say, but not enough time to say it.

I loved Brooke’s logic behind the title Lingua Fracta.

Ecologies, thanks to

Image of an eco system, thanks to

I was confused by the term “ecologies” initially, as I had never encountered it before in an English Studies context, but I think Brooke does a good job at explaining it, and for the most part, I can buy it as it feels very rhizomic:

    “Ecologies are vast, hybrid systems of intertwined elements systems where small changes can have unforeseen consequences that ripple far beyond their immediate implications” (Brooke 28).

    “Ecology examines the web of relations between interdependent organisms and their surroundings” (Brooke 40).

So to consider invention as taking place within vast, intertwined sets of ecologies rather than within a closed, linear process is to acknowledge there is a more organic, unpredictable and intertextual quality to it.

I know in a recent blog entry I mentioned that so much academic scholarship is filled with pages of defending or refuting terminology rather than just picking a term and a definition for the purposes of their arguments and move on, but I’d like to clarify something as it pertains to Lingua Fracta: Brooke makes the distinction that textual references mean traditional written texts. OK, so he made his choice of definition, but my question is “Why? Why can “text” only mean traditional written text?” Perhaps since I’ve been in the New Media track for so long, I’ve accepted pretty much anything as a “text.” I know my fellow students have as well.

One colleague was studying quilts as texts to analyze. Before I was ever in the program, the then director of the program, Dr. Jeffrey Richards defined the term “text” as “any communicative event.” I accepted this definition instantly and never let go. So I thought that idea was more pervasive in modern English Studies than Brooke would imply.

Although I have seen how higher education privileges traditional written scholarship over new media scholarship where the argumentation of the scholarship is done in part through its format. Having already taken New Media II, I was able to experiment with arguing in a new media format and I definitely believe it has its merits.

Here is my example of new media argumentation:
Layering, Legibility and “Arbitrary” Composition by Diane Cooke

Yet, I understand fully the concern over accessibility not only for those who are impaired in some way from experiencing the fullness of a scholarly argument, but also in even being able to access the scholarship in its current format in the future when other technologies make the support of our current formats obsolete. Also the concern of a stable, common experience is lost with a lot of branching new media: “Criticism depends on the shared experience of a text, something that the standardization of print allows us to take for granted” (Brooke 11).

So I’m not convinced traditional written scholarship is going to go away even thought Brooke suggests on pg 23: “Our disciplinary insistence on the printed page, if it persists unchecked, will slowly bring us out of step with our students, our institution, and the broader culture of which we are a part.”

I realize there are accessibility risks with traditional writing as well; a fire can wipe out traditional written texts, but lack-of-support can wipe out texts in the future—which I think is more tragic.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen New Media professors moved to other universities because of differences in opinion concerning their views of what is true, academic scholarship, and the views of their institutions. The stakes are high as reputation and tenure ride on the publishing of scholarly work. I believe there is no simple answer to make everyone happy. As probably all of us who have had a computer for longer than 15 years can attest, the concerns are too compelling since we probably all have lost access to content we’ve created because we no longer have a computer that has that working application on it any more.

I found a good boiled-down definition of hermeneutic vs proairetic here:

Works Cited

Brooke, C.G. (2009). Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.

Cooke, D. (2010). Layering, Legibility and “Arbitrary” Composition: Images vs. Sound.

Dick, P. K. (1968). Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Ray Trade Books.


Mark Kennedy quote:

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3 Responses to Lingua Fracta (chapters 1-4) and Electric Sheep (chapters 11-15), musings part 3

  1. I came to your post to read your take on the first part of _Lingua Fracta_, and I was not disappointed! Now where to begin with all that struck me about what you wrote??

    I appreciated your comment about how you had not studied the idea of ecology in English Studies — I had not either prior to this past summer when Dr. Phelps had us read James J. Gibson’s “The Theory of Affordances,” in Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing, 67-79 (and also “ecological psychology” entry in Wikipedia). Like you, once I encountered this term in ES, it seems to make clear sense in the concept of invention — how it is a tangle of many influences . I have wondered at times if I am missing something, as people seem to really need to explain this use of ecology. So, I was glad to read your take on it and know that it matched mine!

    I also joined this program specifically for the issue of what is considered truly academic that you explore. As a high school teacher, I work with students heading in many directions and know that their futures of composition in their careers are so much wider than traditional written text. From my vantage point though the concept of text is not as wide as you feel it is — I see much more in my life people (colleagues, my students, undergraduate professors) considering text as written. I am heartened that you see the start of a sea change in this, and I hope to find that as well in my studies. College professors are the some of the ones who need to change first, and that is the pulse you have your finger on. If they start privileging wider definitions of text, then high school curricula will follow. I am fortunate to teach in an independent school, so I can push my curriculum this direction without the mass of the state pushing back at me. Students will not be served by the dominance of the written academic essay.

  2. James says:

    Interesting takeaway from Ecology. I’m not sure if I got the right thing from it or not when I read it, but it made me thing of the rhizome as it would relate to contextual growth of a concept. Seeing as how so many different things can be hyperlinked together from all over, and that through that hyperlinking, the original thought/concept can reach out to other concepts ion creating a greater, singular meaning, meaning is then drawn from the entire environment as the hyperlinks branch out and pull in additional meaning, like a rhizome feeding itself. A little abstract, I know, but then so is the concept of ecology in terms of new media.

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