Archive Page 2


Cope and Kalantzis’ Multiliteracies

Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, eds.
Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From John Trimbur’s Review

•    One way to measure the last thirty years in the study and teaching of writing is to start with the Dartmouth Seminar in 1966 and then fast-forward to 1994 when a group of ten literacy educators formed the New London Group (NLG)
•    For the NLG, the notion of multiliteracies is both an analytical tool to understand changes that are taking place in the means and channels of communication and an organizing principle for a literacy curriculum that enables students to participate fully in public, community, and economic life.
•    Multiliteracies is, first of all, a way to come to grips with the fact that post-Fordist, globalized societies such as the US, the UK, and Australia are increasingly fragmented culturally and linguistically, at the same time new text forms associated with multimedia, information technologies, and a knowledge economy are altering people’s personal, public, and working lives
•    “We also witness another, somewhat contradictory development-the increasing invasion of private spaces by mass media culture, global commodity culture, and communication and information networks” (16).
•    In other words, the notion of multiliteracies offers a powerful integrative term to join together-and to see the relationships among-historical changes in the workplace, in everyday life, and in the public sphere that are often kept separate.
•    Second, the notion of multiliteracies provides a way for literacy educators to take into account these changing realities-and the “increasing complexity and interrelationship of different modes of meaning” (25)
•    The provocation is in part that Design challenges the residual hold of organic metaphors and personal growth from the Dartmouth Seminar days by proposing a unifying metaphor of sign-making that calls attention to the mechanics of signifying practice.
•    Design, for the NLG, is both a noun and a verb: drawing on “Available Designs” (e.g. discourses, styles, genres, dialects, voices), meaning-makers transform historically received patterns of meaning through the work of “Designing” so that the end product is neither a “simple reproduction (as the myth of standards and transmission pedagogy would have us believe), nor is it simply creative (as the myths of individual originality and personal voice would have us believe)” (23).
o    The result instead is “The Redesigned:” an outcome based on the “play of cultural re- sources and uniquely positioned subjectivity” (23) through which sign-makers not only make new meanings but in the process remake themselves.
o    Design, on the other hand, “is the essential textual principle and pedagogic/political goal for periods characterised by intense and far-reaching change,” periods such as the present when social arrangements and the new means of textual production are unsettled and in flux.
•    To achieve the future, the NLG says, “we need to engage in a critical dialogue with the core concepts of fast capitalism, of emerging pluralistic forms of citizenship, and of different lifeworlds” (19).
From Michael Newman’s Review
•    Discuss the ML aim of building pluralistic societies and how that goal relates to various aspects of the new economy and globalization.
•    The arguments vary, though all relate to how traditional models of education – be they homogenizing, critical, or multicultural – are not sufficient to provide all students with equitable opportunities.
•    A useful definition of literacy as “socially made forms of representing and communicating” (157).
•    They lay out the four-part ML pedagogy:
o    (1) Situated Practice, a form of immersion in practice;
o    (2) Overt Instruction, encouraging conscious reflection;
o    (3) Critical Framing, interpreting of social and cultural contexts of practice;
o    (4) Transformed Practice, a shifting of contexts of use.


Koselleck’s Futures Past

Reinhart Koselleck

Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies


·      What is historical time?

·      Seek out the linguistic organization of temporal experience wherever this surfaces in past reality

Xvi: “More generally, there is much common ground between Gadamer’s T&M and the basic, interpretative framework within which Koselleck moves.  Shared by T&M and these essays is the construction of a hermeneutic procedure that places understanding as a historical and experimental act in relation to entities which themselves possess historical force, as well as a point of departure in the experience of the work of art and the constitution of an aesthetics.  Gadamer elaborates aesthetic experience by examining the development of the concept Erlebnis, or experience in the sense of lived encounter.  This term was developed in response to Enlightenment rationalism and is characteristic of an aesthetics centered upon the manifestation of the ‘truth’ of a work of art through the experience of the subject.  Gadamer then asks: what kind of knowledge is produced in this way?  There is a discontinuity between modern philosophy and the classical tradition: the development of a historical consciousness in the 19th century made philosophy aware of its own historical formation, creating a break in the Western tradition of an incremental path to knowledge that had hitherto shaped philosophical discussion.  Koselleck takes up this problem and presents it as a historical, rather than philosophical, question: What kind of experience is opened up by the emergence of modernity?”

1: “The sources of the past do inform us about thoughts and deeds, plans and events, but they provide no direct indication of historical time.”

3:  “All testimony answers to the problem of how, in a concrete situation, experiences come to terms with the past; how expectations, hopes, or prognoses that are projected into the future become articulated into language.  These essays will constantly ask: how, in a given present, are the temporal dimensions of past and future related?”

4: “Methodologically, these studies direct themselves to the semantics of central concepts in which historical experience of time is implicated.  Here, the collective concept ‘History,’ coined in the 18th century, has preeminent meaning.”


Stone’s The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age

Allucquère Rosanne Stone

The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age

Area: Digital Media

·      Root v. Floating identity

·      In the absence of a prosthetic, Hawking’s intellect becomes a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear it

·      The machine can only respond to an on-off situation (i.e. mouse click)

·      Interaction: mutual and simultaneous activity on the part of both participants, usually working toward the same goal (Lippman)

·      Five corollaries of interaction

o       Mutual interuptibility: each participant must be able to interrupt each other mutually and simultaneously

o       Graceful degradation: unanswerable question must be handled in a way that doesn’t halt the conversation

o       Limited look-ahead: Limit to how much the shape of the conversation can be anticipated by either party

o       No-default: no preplanned path—must develop fully in the interaction

o       Impression of an infinite database: an immersive interactional world should give the illusion of not being much more limiting in the choices it offers than an actual world would be

2: “That’s well and good, but still more people take some primary subject position for granted.  When pressed, they may give lip service to the idea that perhaps even their current ‘root’ persona is also a mask, but nobody really believes it. For all intents and purposes, your ‘root’ persona is you.  Take that one away, and there’s nobody home.”

7: “Further, what was being sent bask and forth over the wires wasn’t just information, it was bodies.  The majority of people assume that erotics implies bodies; a body is part of the idea of erotic interaction and its concomitants, and the erotic sensibilities are mobilized and organized around the idea of a physical body which is the seat of the whole thing.  The sex workers’ descriptions were invariably and quite directly about physical bodies and what they were doing or what was being done to them”


Burgin’s In/Different Spaces

Victor Burgin

In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

·   To return is not necessarily to repeat, provided we approach the place we know by a different road

11: “Louis Althusser’s influential definition of ideology as ‘a system of representations’ had undermined the traditional Marxist theory of ideology.  No longer a ‘false consciousness’ (a dependent epiphenomenon of the political economy), ideology was theorized as a ‘relatively autonomous’ sphere of political struggle.  ‘In truth,’ Althusser wrote, ‘ideology has very little to do with ‘consciousness’ … It is profoundly unconsciousness


Gross’ Rhetoric of Science

Alan Gross
The Rhetoric of Science
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From Randy Harris’ Review

•    Compounding the presumption of that article, the book is surprisingly neglectful of other work in the field. There is barely a glance in the text at Bazerman or Myers. Simons, Lyne, Miller, Zappen, and several other influential rhetoricians of science are nowhere to be seen.
•    The book begins with much talk about “a neo- Aristotelian rhetoric of science” (6), outlining rhetorical genres and sketching stasis theory, but all that fades rather quickly away.
o    When Gross gets down to looking at scientific texts and processes, Habermas and Turner are more direct influences than Aristotle or Cicero. Nor, despite the emphasis on knowledge-making, do Scott or Leff or any others from the rhetoric-as-epistemic tradition make an appearance. The Sophists are invoked early but never employed.
•    Durant in the Times Literary Supplement dismissed his arguments to that end as (savour the irony) “mere sophistry,” and Ravetz complained in Nature that his work reduced science to “‘just words.”
o    Mere and just are familiar sticks for beating uppity rhetoricians, of course, and we shouldn’t lose any sleep over scientists worried that exposing their traffic in suasion might lower their status or jeopardize their grants
•    “The creation of knowledge is a task beginning with self-persuasion,” he tells us on the first page, “and ending with the persuasion of others” (3).
•    Suasion seems overlaid on science in these analyses, not constitutive of them, and Gross talks frequently as if rhetoric and scientific argumentation are two distinct entities (“rhetorical and scientific reasoning differ not in kind but only in degree”-12), rather than the latter being a subset of the former.
•    Plato, who says that first you find the truth, then you sell it. Plato’s model, not coincidentally, is the one that most scientists would offer.
o    Truth is ‘out there.’ Scientists find it. They phrase it in the most compelling terms, and others recognize it.
•    And a rhetoric that sells, instead of builds, is far too static for science.
•    This picture, of course, is a stick drawing of scientific disputes (ignoring, for instance, problems and solutions that arise only in the crucible of debate-E churning up data only for its ability to perforate U;
o    U inventing goals only because they are antithetical to E’s; each latching onto methods only for their corrosive effect on the other). But even this skimpy outline is fuller than Gross’s picture.
•    In short, there is not enough in The Rhetoric of Science about how knowledge gets built-via negotiation-in science.
•    But, through public disagreements (and public alliances), they display their arguments before their consumers-the workaday scientists who have to decide how they are going to spend the next few years of their time and energy, allocate their grant money, deploy their students.
o    More generally, scientific programs are like any consumer product-if fins work for this year for Ford, Chevy will have them next year-and theories are constantly infecting one another with attractive properties, constantly swapping suasions.
•    And, in the most unfortunate case of opportunity lost (perhaps because
Habermas leads him astray), Gross has a close look at the peer review process-as ripe a grove for epistemic rhetoric as any in science-and finds it a certification exercise. Knowledge is approved, not made, in Gross’ picture of peer review.
From Trevor Melia’s Review
•    In proposing to treat science “sub specie rhetoricae,” Alan Gross exemplifies both the problems and the potencies of the sophistic tradition in rhetoric.
o    Gross understands that the hegemony of rhetoric is threatened by plausible claims to knowledge of a reality beyond language.
o    He also recognizes that “science” poses the greatest threat in this respect
•    The result is that the rhetoric of science is in danger of being assimilated to a historically sensitive sociology of science.
o    Gross seeks to avoid that problem by explicitly mobilizing canonical works in classical rhetoric, especially those of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintillian, and supplementing them with contributions from such moderns as Chaim Perelman, Kenneth Burke, Vladimir Propp, Jiirgen Habermas, and Roland Barthes.
o    Chapters devoted to analogy in science, taxonomic language, style in biological prose, and the arrangement of the scientific paper are redolent of the categories, if not the concerns, of classical rhetoric.
•    More philosophically provocative is the attempt, by invoking the doctrine of stasis (an sit, quid sit, quale sit), to replace “scientific discovery” with “rhetorical invention.”
•    This latter feat is accomplished by a perhaps too facile bifurcation between the “brute facts of nature” and “science itself.”
•    On Gross’s rendition the rhetoric of science does not deny the brute facts of nature but does aver that they are neither science nor knowledge.
o    Thus for Gross, since science is by definition invented, anything discovered is by implication brute fact.
•    Both Gross and Prelli profit from that combination of semiotic insight and modern Continental philosophy that, treating language as not merely instrumental but constitutive of reality, renders everything as “text.”


Sobchack’s Carnal Thoughts

Vivian Sobchack

Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture

Area: Digital Media


·                  Embodied existence ‘in the flesh’ lays the concrete foundations for a materialist – rather than idealist – understanding of aesthetics and ethics

·                  The body and consciousness is an irreducible ensemble

1: “The major theme of Carnal Thoughts is the embodiment and radically material nature of human existence and thus the lived body’s essential implication in making ‘meaning’ out of bodily ‘sense.”

2: “The focus here is on what it is to live one’s body, not merely look at bodies—although vision, visuality, and visibility are as central to the subjective dimensions of embodied existence as they are to its objective dimensions.  In sum, the essays in CT foreground embodiment—that is, the lived body as, at once, both an objective subject and a subjective object: a sentient, sensual, and sensible ensemble of materialized capacities and agency that literally and figurally makes sense of, and to, both ourselves and others.”

2:  “Don Idhe characterizes existential phenomenology as “a philosophical style that emphasizes a certain interpretation of human experience and that, in particular, concerns perception and bodily activity.”

3: “Contemporary scholars tend to ‘study the body and its transformations while still taking embodiment for granted,’ but ‘this distinction between the body as either an empirical thing or analytical theme, and embodiment as the existential ground of culture and self is critical.’ Hence the need to turn our attention from the body to embodiment.”

Chapter 5: Susie Scribbles: On Technology, Techne, and Writing

·                  Today we write with technologies we differently incorporate into our bodies and our experience of writing

·                  Five key features that inform activity and production of writing

à           Directness: suspension in time and directness in space

à           Uniformity: whether letters are shaped by hand or pre-formed

à           Speed: potential speed of transcription relative to other tools

à           Linearity: the extent to which the tool allows the user to jump around in a text

à           Boundedness: limits on the frame size of a particular writing and reading surface

·           Pen and ink are more thoughtful—the marking is a permanent commitment

à           Not so much technologically challenged as temporally challenged

110: “Which is to say that writing is as much about mattering as it is about meaning.  Making things matter, however, requires both a technology and a technique.”

111:  “These five features all ‘relate to the handling of space and time both by the tool and by the writer, and, since, as phenomenologists argue, such relationships are fundamental to our structuring of experience, it is hardly surprising that they may be experienced as transforming influences.”

132:  “Heidegger reminds us, technology consists not merely of objective tools, nor is technique merely their objective application.  ‘Technology is…no mere means,’ he tells us.  ‘Technology is a way of revealing.’ Thus, he returns us to the Greek notion of techne: ‘the name not only for the activities and the skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts.  Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic.  Furthermore, techne is a way and manner of knowing.  Making, bringing forth, and revealing are integral not only the existence of matter but also to why and how some ‘thing’ is known and understood as ‘mattering.’”


Levy’s Becoming Virtual

Pierre Levy

Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age

Area: Digital Media


·        Virtuality is the process of humanity’s ‘becoming other’—it is heterogenesis

à      Analyze the process of transformation from one more of being to another

Chapter One: The Nature of Virtualization

·        Reality: “I’ve got it”

·        Virtuality: “You’ll get it”

·        Possible v. Virtual

à      Possible: Already fully constituted, but exists in limbo

·        Virtualization is the movement of actualization in reverse

28: “However, the fact of not being associated with any ‘there,’ of clinging to an unassignable space (the one in which telephone conversations take place?), of occurring only between things that are clearly situated, or of not being only ‘there’ (like any thinking being)—none of this prevents us from existing.”

Chapter Three: The Virtualization of the Text

·        Relationship between writing (intellectual technology) and memory (cognitive function)

à      Memory—virtualization: the partial detachment of a living body, sharing, heterogenesis

·        Writing desynchronizes and delocalizes

·        When reading on a screen, the extensive presence that precedes the act of reading has disappeared

à      Digital media doesn’t contain text that can be read by a human being

·        Digital Storage = potentialization

·        Display =  realization

·        The computer is a means for potentializing information

50: “Yet, having enabled us to conceive of memory as a kind of record, it has transformed the face of Mnemosyne.  The semi-objectivation of memory in the text has helped promote the development of a critical tradition.  In effect, writing creates distance between knowledge and its subject.  It is most likely because I am no longer that which I know that I am able to question my knowledge.”

Chapter Four: The Virtualization of the Economy

·        Knowledge has an increasingly shorter lifespan

·        Why is the consumption of information not destructive, and why is the possession of information not exclusive?

75: “Actualization is not an act of destruction but, on the contrary, an inventive act of production, and act of creation. When I use information, when I interpret it, connect it with other information to create meaning or help make a decision, I actualize it.  In doing so I accomplish a creative act, a productive act.  Knowledge is the product of apprenticeship, the result of a virtualization of immediate experience.”

78: “There are two possible methods of increasing the efficiency of labor: (1) reification of labor power through automation; or (2) virtualization of skills using means that augment collective intelligence.”

April 2018
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