The Discursive Return

Word CountThe version I had of the book Imagologies (Taylor & Saarinen) depicts on the cover a black circle enclosing the phrase "if you read books, justify it." It speaks to the concerns pitched at digital practitioners as literacies shift away from print. The phrase is an inversion of the question: How do you justify your use of technology? The inversion asks us to recognize that books themselves are technology, not natural, and equally in need of justification. This seems old hat now, but at the time the gesture shed light on a critical blind spot. The moment was one of moving away from the printcentricity of the physical book. We can recognize this movement in the shifting expectations and boundaries presented by Imagologies. Highly designed and ecclectic in its collection of snippets, it suggested an alternative mode for articulating and encountering scholarship. But it still was a book.

I'd like to juxtapose that early '90s climate with our current moment. In the '90s we found enthusiasm for communication and technical convergences (Bolter, Landow, Lanham). We find parallels with the current optimism and energy the of digital humanities. And we find a preponderance of knowledge articulated in prose and in books. Most books on the digital now include disclaimers recognizing the irony, but the question remains as to how much that recognition prevents print modes from becoming the central concern of any book. And if, some twenty years later, our blind spot persists, we have to consider the possibility that print modes are persistent at levels beyond any that might be captured in their instantiation as bound pages (or lit screen). The book may be the problem, but only part of the problem. (I'm asking that you grant me that materials other than words deserve attention and that an unacknolwedged kiltering toward words may be bound up with blind-spot ideas about what counts as knowledge.)

Word CountWe might next turn our attention to prose itself. Fish's initial blog posting totals 2,200 words. And it serves as a gateway to more and more prose. The piece links to (among a few other items) six books and a HASTAC forum with postings totalling nearly 9,000 words. No doubt we're working with light and the logic of the link, but it's also clear that the text evokes a daunting prose network. We might chalk this up with curmudgeounly adjectives and nostalgia. Perhaps Fish is just stuck in the printcentric past.

Waves (Response to a Blog Post) was composed after the recognition that the responses (in their prose materiality) varied little from the initial posting. In fact, while participating in interesting networks of circulation and recasting roles and levels of authority, the messages carried echoes of our bookcentric past. It was with pleasure, then, that I encountered Bruno Latour's "Some Experiments in Art and Poetics" a few months later. Latour discusses alternatives for viewing the cosmos, for using art to articulate and enact constructions of space. Latour evokes a nuanced metaphysics and invites a material engagement with it through the figure of composing, but the discursive figure doubles back on itself and erases the possibilities of multimodality articulated with anything other than words. I enjoyed the irony.
The Posthuman Prince Succumbs to the Discursive Turn This video combines some screen recording of interactions with Latour's piece with an audio file produced in an introduction to literature class. The video itself is a three take recording: for the first take, I filmed the highlighting of some passages from the Latour article. For the second take, I added a spotlight effect to further emphasize elements of the article. For the third take, I added a stylus layer where I wrote out the title of the video. I mashed the third take video up with the audio file, itself based on a richly layered composing.