Tag Archives: visual rhetorics

Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology (1967

 

Notes from Spivak’s preface to Of Grammatology:

 

In the preface to Derrida’s Of Grammatology, Spivak offers us a way to understand the conversations that OG responds to, the dense, shifting and unstable concepts that Derrida introduces in OG, a clarification of and supplement to Derrida’s key arguments, and an overview of the text’s structure.  Spivak reminds us that Derrida is working against commonly accepted conceptions of language and processes of knowing, especially the assumptions that knowledge leads to truth and that language is a vehicle for arriving at a stable truth.  Derrida advocates language-play, according to Spivak, which recognizes that conclusions are always provisional, origins are always unoriginal, and that the world of infinite signs is always open to interpretation. For Derrida, Spivak explains, all signs are structures of difference, which are marked by traces of an absent but always present other and which give rise to multiple possible meanings rather than closure.  In pointing to the play of language, Derrida wants us to realize that “language bears within itself the necessity of it own critique” (qtd on xviii) and that “knowledge is not a systematic tracking down of a truth that is hidden but may be found.  It is rather the field of ‘freeplay’, that is to say, a field of infinite substitutions in the closure of a finite ensemble” (qtd. on xix).  We must, in Derrida’s eyes, give up our incessant desire to unify, order, and stabilize meaning, and instead embrace methods that allow an “opening” of meaning.  For as Nietzsche asserts, this will to truth, to which interpretation always belongs, is really a will to power because “the so-called drive for knowledge can be traced back to a drive to appropriate and conquer” (qtd. on xxii).  The supreme will of power, according to Nietzsche, is “to impose upon becoming a character of being” (xxxv).  Thus, in Derrida’s eyes, to ask “what is” undermines the act of becoming and is simply a reflection of one’s will to power.  We must recognize that “one is shaped by difference…that the ‘self’ is constituted by its never- fully-to-be-recognized-ness”; we are the play of chance and necessity (xliv).  We must also embrace the will to ignorance—“ a matter of attitude, a realization that one’s choice of ‘evidence’ is provisional, a self-distrust, a distrust of one’s own power, the control of one’s vocabulary” (lxxiv). 

 

Derrida explains that writing is always a structure of signs under erasure, “always already inhabited by the trace of another sign which never appears as such” (Spivak xxxix).  As Spivak explains in paraphrasing Derrida, writing effaces the presence of a thing while simultaneously keeping it legible (xli).  In recognizing this attribute of language and textuality, meaning of a text can never be closed.  Structuralism then, as the objective attempt to identify and isolate general structures of language, is problematic; for it is impossible to engage in objective description to identify what the structure of the sign is because the structure is always under erasure; it is constituted by both difference and deferment.  Also, as Spivak explains, “the description of the object is as contaminated by the patterns of the subject’s desire as is the subject constituted by that never-fulfilled desire” (lix).  These patterns in Western intellectual traditions are plagued with binary, hierarchized oppositions, which grammatologists always put under question.  

 

Writing in Derrida’s eyes is more than the narrow sense of graphic inscription; it is also the investigation into the structure of differance, which is always constituted by “absence of  ‘author’ and of ‘subject matter,’ interpretability, deployment of space and time that is not ‘its own’”  (lxix).   Grammatology reminds of the always-present difference of language.  This is not to say that Derrida does not make use of the sign, however.  It is just that the “structure of the gramme is the sign under erasure—both conserving and effacing the sign” (Spivak lviii). And also, “ the signifier and the signified are interchangeable; one is the difference of the other; the concept of the sign itself is not more than a legible yet effaced, unavoidable tool.  Repetition leads to a simulacrum, not to the ‘same’” (Spivak lxv).

 

Deconstruction is Derrida’s method of finding those moments in a text in which the text seems to “transgress its own system of values” (Spivak xlix) and where the binary oppositions seem to function harmlessly as ordered yet in reality threaten the collapse of the text’s system of unified meaning (lxvv).  Deconstruction’s aim is not to prevent a text from having meaning, but to open up possibility for meaning.  Derrida models deconstruction by deconstructing Levi-Strauss’ claims that some communities were without writing and that phonetic writing is practice of civil rather than savage and barbaric society.  Derrida also deconstructs Rousseau’s arguments that claim speech is pure and original form of language—a belief linked to phonocentrism and logocentrism. In addition, Derrida identifies the blind spot of Rousseau’s use of the concept of the supplement, which Rousseau positions as exteriority, pure addition or pure absence (167). 

Derrida ultimately argues that speech is constituted of writing. Derrida rejects the notion that writing is exterior to speech, speech to thought, and signifier to signified (82). 

 

Method of deconstruction, if there can be one, is reversal and displacement.  Stage 1:  identify and overthrow hierarchy.  Stage 2:  displace by putting winning term under erasure to make room for new concept.

 

Key Quotes:

 

Humankind’s common desire is for a stable center, and for the assurance of mastery—through knowing or possessing -xi.

 

“…all texts are at least double, containing within themselves the seeds of their own destruction” (liii-liv). 

 

it is this longing for a center, an authorizing pressure, that spawns heirarchized oppositions.  The superior term belongs to a presence and the logos; the inferior serves to define its status and mark a fall.  The oppositions between intelligible and sensible, soul and body seem to have lasted out ‘the history of Western philosophy,’ bequeathing the burden to modern linguistics’ opposition between meaning and word.  The opposition between writing and speech takes its place within this pattern” (lxix).

 

“deconstruction in a nutshell:  to locate the promising marginal text, to disclose the undecidable moment, to pry it loose with the positive lever of the signifier; to reverse the resident hierarchy, only to displace it; to dismantle the order to reconstruct what is always already inscribed” (lxxvii). 

 

“The outside, ‘spatial’ and ‘objective’ exteriority which we believe we know as the most familiar thing in the world, as familiarity itself, would not appear without the gramme, without difference as temporalization, without the nonpresence of the other inscribed within the sense of the present, without the relationship with death as the concrete structure of the living present.  Metaphor would be forbidden.  The presence-absence of the trace, which one should not even call its ambiguity but rather its play…, carries in itself the problems of the letter and the spirit, of body and soul, and of all the problems whose primary affinity I have recalled” (71). 

 

The traditional concept of time, an entire organization of the world and of language, was bound up with it [linearity].  Writing in the narrow sense-and phonetic writing above all-is rooted in a past of nonlinear writing…..A war was declared, and a suppression of all that resisted linearization was installed….The word history has no doubt always been associated with a linear scheme of the unfolding presence according to the straight line or the circle (85). 

 

This unnamable movement of difference-itself, that I have strategically nicknamed trace, reserve, or differance, could be called writing only within the historical closure, that is to say within the limits of science and philosophy—93.

 

Thought for me a perfectly neutral name, the blank part of the text, the necessarily indeterminate index of a future epoch of difference.  In a certain sense, “thougth” means nothing. Like all openings, this index belongs within a post epoch by the face that is pen to view.  This thought has no weight.  It is, in the play of the system, that very thing which never has weight.  Thinking is what we already know we have not yet begun; measured against the shape of writing, it is broached only in the episteme (93). 

 

If all writing is no longer understood in the narrow sense of linear and phonetic notation, it should be possible to say that all societies capable of producing, that is to say of obliterating, their proper names, and of bringing classificatory difference into play, practice writing in general.  No reality or concept would therefore correspond to the expression oneirism, upon the vulgar, that is to say ethnocentric, misconception of writing (109).

 

By one and the same gesture, (alphabetic) writing, servile instrument of a speech dreaming of its plenitude and its self-presence, is scorned and the dignity of writing is refused to nonalphabetic signs (110). 

 

If it is true, as I in fact believe, that writing cannot be thought outside of the horizon of intersubjective violence, is there anything, even science that radically escapes it? -127

 

If writing is to be related to violence, writing appears well before writing in the narrow sense; already in the difference or the arche-writing that opens speech itself – 128

 

That what opens up meaning and language is writing as the disappearance of natural presence – 159.

 

Writing is inscribe in a determined textual system – 160

 

We must begin wherever we are and the thought of the trace, which cannot take the scent into account, has already taught us that it was impossible to justify a point of departure absolutely.  Wherever we are:  in a text where we already believe ourselves to be (162).

 

The concept of the origin or nature is nothing but the myth of addition, of supplementarity annulled by being purely additive.  It is the myth of the effacement of the trace, that is to say of an originary difference that is neither absence nor presence, neither negative nor positive – 166.  Origin is simply a “point situated within the system of supplementarity” (243).    Is the concept of the origin, or of the fundamental signified, anything but a function, indispensable but situated, inscribed, within the system of signification inaugurated by the interdict? -266

 

Philosophy is invention of prose – 287

 

The supplement is always the supplement of a supplement.  One wishes to go back from the supplement to the source:  one must recognize that there is a supplement at the source – 304

 

Writing represents (in every sense of the word) enjoyment.  It plays enjoyment, renders it present and absent – 312

 

Writing carries death…

 

Key Terms:

 

Differance == structure of sign which is always constituted of difference and deferring.  Never to be fully recognized element of language.  Active forgetfulness in which even as we know language can never assert truth, we make claims anyway…”invites us to undo need for balanced equations, to see if each term in an opposition is not after all an accomplice of itself” (lix)

 

Grammatology –“concerned with the place of ‘truth’ in discourse and the place of signifier in general” (lxiii).  Attempts to undermine logocentrism and phonocentrism. 

 

Trace—that which does not let itself be summed up in the simplicity of the present –66  doesn’t really exist; trace is simulacrum??  Haunting?

 

Language—“is a structure—a system of oppositions of places and values—and an oriented structure.  Let us rather say, only half in jest, that its orientation is disorientation. One will be able to call it a polarization -216

 

Writing– Writing in Derrida’s eyes is more than the narrow sense of graphic inscription; it is also the investigation into the structure of differance, which is always constituted by “absence of  ‘author’ and of ‘subject matter,’ interpretability, deployment of space and time that is not ‘its own’”  (lxix). Writing occurs before and within speech.

 

 

 

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McLuhan, Marshall — Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

In the first 70 pages of Understanding Media, McLuhan theorizes about the cultural implications of the turn toward electronic technology in a growing globalized arena.  He advocates for a kind of education that trains perception; afterall, in our global village, we should have a “heightened awareness of responsiblity” about the effects of media on culture (5).   McLuhan emphasizes that the medium is the message; not only because the “content of any medium is another medium” (8) but also because any “medium shapes and controls the scale and form of human action” (9).  McLuhan also reminds us that “no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media” (26).  In our time, we are concerned not with meaning of media but effect (26). 

 

McLuhan perceives media to be an extension of ourselves; he claims that we embrace these extensions or accept them into our personal systems, which leads to new relationships with these extensions (45-6).  We both modify and are modified by technology (48).  McLuhan calls these extensions “make happen agents” (48), which “depend on us for their interplay and evolution” (49).  Westerners, especially, must come to terms with this interdependence (50).  McLulan uses the electric light as an extreme example of how all media reshape society.  He also points to the phenomenon of media interacting amongst themselves, which results in an extension of our senses (54-5) as well as our “habits of life and patterns of thought and valuation” (63).  For instance, where as linear thinking and analysis were main thought patterns of mechanical age (also, rational thought = uniform, continuos, and sequential), structuring and configuring reign now in electronic age (26), ie. centering to decentering.

 

In the electronic age in which media stores experience, McLuhan claims that media translates and transforms experience. Translation, he explains, is a “’spelling out’ of forms of knowing (56).  He claims that in an electronic age, “we see ourselves being translated more and more into forms of information, moving toward technological extensions of consciousness” (57).  In doing so, we “translate ourselves into the other forms of expression that exceed ourselves” (57).   These forms become an “external conscience, which is now as necessary as private consciousness” (58).  In this way, “all media are extensions of ourselves to provide new transforming vision and awareness” (60).

 

Interestingly, McLuhan claims that artists have an uncanny potential to tap into the awareness of electronic technology’s impact on culture, even before the impact occurs; artists, capable of integral awareness, are prophetic in that they produce art that is “precise advance knowledge of how to cope with psychic and social consequences of …[a] new technology” (66).  Unlike other citizens of a culture, artists have “power for encountering the present actuality” (70).  McLuhan encourages the rest of us to harness our will power to make sure we are well informed and aware.  For “as long as we adopt the Narcissus attitude of regarding the extensions of our own bodies [media] as out there, and really independent of us, we will meet all technological challenges with the same sort of banana-skin piroutte and collapse” (68).

 

See Written Notes for More: 

 

Key Questions Addressed:

Why is it important to understand the rhetorical of visual, cultural objects?  Why is it important for rhetorical education to train our students perceptions?  How is the turn toward electronic technology reshaping the way we perceive and behave in the world?

 

 

Key Concepts

 

Translation—‘spelling out’ of forms of knowing (56)

Mechanization—translation of nature, and of our own natures, into amplified and specialized forms -56

Break boundary—point at which system of any medium or structures suddently changes into another or passes some point of no return in its dynamic processes—common cause is cross-fertilization with another system (38)

 

Key Quotes: 

 

“every culture and every age has its favorite model of perception and knowledge that it is inclined to prescribe for everybody and everything—mark of time is its revulsion agains t imposed patterns” (5)

 

“the message of any medium or technology is change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces to human affairs” (8). 

 

“development of writing and visual organization of life made possible discovery of individualism, introspection, and so on” (45)

 

“in the history of human culture, there is no example of a conscious adjustment of the various factors of personal and social life to new extensions except in the puny and peripheral efforts of artists” (64).

 

“artists is indispensable in the shaping and analysis and understanding of the life of forms and structures created by electronic technology” (65)

 

quoting Wyndam Lewis—“the artists is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present” (65). 

 

“The hybrid or the meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revaluation from which a new form is born—that  moment of the meeting of media is a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance and numbness imposed by them on our senses” (55)

 

“We wear mankind as our skin” (48).  “Age of anxiety and electronic media is also the age of unconscious and of apathy.  But it is also the age of consciousness of the unconscious”—social consciousness (48).

 

“When we fail to translate some natural event or experience into conscious art, we repress it” (59)  —Freud

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Taylor, Mark C. — Hiding

 

moves between theology, literature, literary criticism, art, architecture, biochemistry, neurophysiology, fashion, and technology

 

Synopisis taken from University of Chicago Press presssite: 

 

The age of information, media, and virtuality is transforming every aspect of human experience. Questions that have long haunted the philosophical imagination are becoming urgent practical concerns: Where does the natural end and the artificial begin? Is there a difference between the material and the immaterial? In his new work, Mark C. Taylor extends his ongoing investigation of postmodern worlds by critically examining a wide range of contemporary cultural practices.

 

Nothing defines postmodernism so well as its refusal of depth, its emphasis on appearance and spectacle, its tendency to collapse a three-dimensional world in which image and reality are distinct into a two-dimensional world in which they merge. The postmodern world, Taylor argues, is a world of surfaces, and the postmodern condition is one of profound superficiality.

 

For many cultural commentators, postmodernism’s inescapable play of surfaces is cause for despair. Taylor, on the other hand, shows that the disappearance of depth in postmodern culture is actually a liberation repleat with creative possibilities. Taylor introduces readers to a popular culture in which detectives—the postmodern heroes of Paul Auster and Dennis Potter—lift surfaces only to find more surfaces, and in which fashion advertising plays transparency against hiding. Taylor looks at the contemporary preoccupation with body piercing and tattooing, and asks whether these practices actually reveal or conceal. Phrenology and skin diseases, the “religious” architecture of Las Vegas, the limitless spread of computer networks—all are brought within the scope of Taylor’s brilliant analysis. Postmodernism, he shows, has given us a new sense of the superficial, one in which the issue is not the absence of meaning but its uncontrollable, ecstatic proliferation.

 

Key Quotes:

 

Ultimate reality can never be known; all we can be is ourselves; we cannot be other than what we are or make anything that will not bear mark of our own making (theoretical assumption to Taylor’s philosophy and worldview) (5). 

 

He is against totalization of post structural thinking; in favor on nontotalizing structures such as in a web. 

 

“By repeatedly seeking what hides, we tend to forget how to read the surfaces on and between which life is lived” – 25

Analysis is interminable – 35

 

All things mean something.  The puzzle is not the lack of meaning but its excess – 38

 

Language always duplicitous 54

 

Lacan—word is death of a thing

 

Identity  of sign is function of its relations to and associations with other signs – 54

 

When everything is essence, nothing is essential and when nothing is essential, the center can never be located and the circumferance never drawn – 56

 

The skin (surface) is site of research who superficiatlity is its strength rather than weakness – 77

 

Progress to be artistic, philosophical or cultureal is marked by the movement from the material to the immateirial or from the sensorous to the conceptual (105); progress is move from sensuality to reason – 176

 

Transparency is not merely an artisitic or architectural effect but a modernist ideal that assumes the force of an psychological, social, or cultural imperative – 187; the utter transparency of inner and outer betrays the superficiality of depth and the profundity of surface -188

 

To think virtually is to think reality differently – 267

 

Little is to be gained by ceaselessly repeating gestures of resistance that have lost their historical necessity oand have become utterly familiar and predictable.  It is no longer sufficient to expose repressive character of social and cultural stystems. The question that is now pressing is whether the polarity of system—structure/difference—other can be reconceived in a way that is intellectually effective, culturally creative, and socially productive….in far too many cases, philosophy of difference has issued a politics of identity that is iindistinguishable from the divisive foundationalism and fundamentalism it is supposed to subvert.  Social and cultural survival depends upon our ability to conceive and realize complex strurctures than can function holistically but not totalistically.  Poststructuralists cannot conceieve of a structure that does not totalize and is not repressive.  I will attempt to think what poststructuralism leaves unthought by showing howing nontotalizing structures, which nonetheless acts as a whole, are beginning to emerge in the tangled networks and webs through which reality is virtualized and virtuality is realized.  -272

 

The most pressing question of our era is how personal, social, political, and religious fragmentation can be overcome and oppositions joined in a sustainable unity that does not repress differences (286).

 

When the virtualization of the real presupposes the philosophical and aesthetic tendencies we have been considering, it is no less important to acknowledge the indispensable role played by specific social and technological developments – 292

 

We need to consider the complex relays between the ways we shape experience and process information and knowledge and the technologies of production and reproduction that characterize different societies and historical periods – 293

 

The overlay of electronic networks transforms the very conditions of the possibility of experience and knowledge in ways that analysists have yet carefully considered – 293

 

If the ways in which we constitute experience and process information are bound to changing technologies of production and reproduction, then newly emergent networks not only alter how we experience and think but also transform the very structures of self and world – 301

 

Life can be understood as patterns and communication of information  308

 

The interface…

 

The interrelation of body and mind or nature and clture does not involve the interaction of two qualitatively different substances but entails the endless interplay of information that knows no depth….The brain is something like a virtual machine, which, paradoxically, has always already been produced by the virtual worlds it has produced -314

 

The brain is structured like a network or web.  More precisely, the brain is a network of networks or web of webs whose “global” operations mirror and are mirrored by the circuits of the worldwide webs that now circle the globe  -314  neurotransmitters facilitate whatever communication occurs while at the same time communicating a certain lack of communication -319

 

Donna Haraway—the body is a coded text, organized as an engineered communications system, ordered by a fluid and dispersed command-an-control-intelligence network – 320

 

The notion of distributed intelligence redraws the boundaries with the body, between mind and body, and between self and world.  Haraway—body is a “network-body” – 323

 

Virtualized reality refigures distinctions and oppositions in a way that makes it possible to overcome the critical impasse in which we are currently mired. 

 

Nontotalizing and nonrepressive structure is the web,  matrix in which all subjects and objects are formed, deformed, and reformed….Networks are milieu in which everything arises and passes away.  -325

 

 

Rules that define contours of web:

 

  1. Rule of association:  non-fixed, ever-shifting interaction of local nets and webs—patterns of relation that fall between externality of mechanisms and internality of organisms
  2. Rule of distribution:  no bottoms up or tops down; never centralized, parallel distribution in decentered and nonheirchical networks.  Lateral organization.
  3. Rule of allelomimesis:  critical distance in networks allos presence and absence, as well as positivity and negativity, mingle without becoming one
  4. Rule of nonlinearity:  forever incomplete, non-linear networks do not exhibit a circularity that is self-reflexive or self-referential
  5. Rule of emergency:  in state of constant emergency; no part of network in control, networks always open, flexible without being indeterminate.
  6. Rule of the aleatory:  always gaps present; control always insecure and knowledge uncertain.
  7. Rule of volatility:  always unstable; complexity breed volatility
  8. Rule of vulnerability:  more connected networks are, more vulnerable they are to disruption; recoginiation that networks run wild leads to surveillance, administrtion, and management; awareness of fragility creates prospect for subversive or terrosist activity
  9. Rule of contestation:  networks are sites of contestation; violence is often result, not unity and harmony; networks are constant state of renogotiation…
  10. Rule of interfacing:  nothing exists in itself and no one exists by her or himself; every face in web or network is interface

 

Webs/networks operating under such rules are allemorphs—mark site of interaction between biological and informational…nature and culture always interacting on interface that creates new forms under constant state of mutation….morphing..constant transformation…. 331

 

This interfacing refigures binaries….allows us to see that symbolic order and reality are different inscriptions of distributed information.  As a result of this interfacing of the immaterial and the material, images and symbols have concrete effects in the “real” world.  Conversely, biological, technological, and sociopolitical reality transform symbolic order.  ..-332

 

 When everything is caught in webs and networks that comprise subjects as well as objects, the political is aesthetic and art is inescapably political – 333

 

Virtual reality trope for postmodern condition.  Everything always mediated

 

To err amidst shifty interfaces that know no end is to live an irreducible enigma:  nothing is hiding….337

 

 

 

 

 

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Margaret Dikovitskaya — Visual Culture: The Study of the Visual after the Cultural Turn

 

As the first line of this text states,   Visual Culture:  The Study of the Visual after the Cultural Turn explores the history, theoretical frameworks, methodology, and pedagogy of visual culture in the United States” (1).  Visual culture studies operates from the belief that the meaning is made in particular cultural contexts largely though visual images (1).  Using interviews, oral histories, and written questionnaires, Dikovitskaya analyzes the ongoing debates about the agenda of visual culture studies and its relation to art history.  Her goal is to “present a historiographic account of visual studies entwined in a current polemic of its possible directions” (4).  She reminds us that any academic discipline is defined by its object of study, the underlying assumptions about appropriate methods used to study its object, and the history of the discipline itself  (4).  As such in this text, she in the first Chapter, she presents a historical oveview of the discipline, discusses the object(s) of study, the field’s methodological assumptions, and evaluates the field’s current status (5).  She hope her work will help clarify the work to be done in Visual Culture Programs in the 21st century. 

 

Some varying perspectives on what visual culture studies entails:

 

  • VCS pays close attention to image but draws on thories and methods from humanities and social sciences to address complex ways in which meanings are produced and circulated in specific social contexts (53).
  • VCS considers all objects has having aesthetic and ideological complexity and thus worthy of study (53)
  • VCS studies internal visualization that appeals to imagination, memory, and fantasy, ie., psychological notions of vision
  • VCS studies how visual experience is culturally constructed in everyday life, as well as in media, representations, and visual arts (57)
  • VCS  explores social construction of visual and the visual construction of the social (58). 
  • VCS is critical study of genealogy and condition of global culture of visuality (59)
  • VCS studies processes of seeing across epochs

 

Essentially, “objects of visual studies are not only visual objects but also modes of viewing and the conditions of the spectatorship and circulation of objects” (64). 

 

Much new research in VCS concerns “stakes in production, circulation, and consumption of images in the globalized commercialized world” (120). 

 

Key Concepts:

 

Mitchell’s definition of culture:  structure of symbols, images, and mediations that make a society possible (57)

 

Cutlural Studies:  explores how people are constructed and manipulated by cultural forms in everyday life.  Analyzes conduct, modes and sites of belonging and agency, and forms of political mobility and stability (67)

 

Mitchell’s course on introduction to visual culture:  study of the way people see the world, how they mediate the world through various forms of representation, and how images come into being, how they circulate (87).   Study of how the way in which humans look at and represent the world changes over time due to technological advances and social metamorphoses (88); course revolves around questions:  what is vision?  What is an image?  What does vision do?  What are visual media?  What are differences among visual media?  Does vision have a history?

 

Mitchell definition of visual appreciation:  defamiliarizes the process of looking at the world as well as visual representations of the world, and elicits sense of wonder at the visual process (242). 

 

Mirzoeff’s definition of visuality:  overlap between representation and cultural power (227)

 

 

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Latour, Bruno

Latour, Bruno   Reassembling the Social:  An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory

 

In his introduction to Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Latour calls for a new approach to sociology—one, which rather than uses the social to explain a state of affairs and to solve current controversies, traces associations and relations between controversies in order to describe how society is assembled by various actors (both human and non-human).  This shift from what Latour calls “sociology of the social” to “sociology of associations” is a method of study that embraces uncertainties about the nature of the universe and relies on the actors’ own theories, contexts, metaphysics, and ontologies to assemble the social.  Thus, rather than use scholarship to critique how the social forces assemble society, Latour advocates for a return to empiricism, in which scholars’ main task is to “deploy actors as networks of mediations,” and to describe how these multiple, complex associations of actors create a collective.

 

Key Concepts and Quotes:

 

Intermediators—transport meaning or force without transformation; reflections of things beyond them; conduit; reflect society; writer is reflection of social forces

 

Mediators—transform, translate, distort, and modify meaning or elements they are supposed to carry (39); shape society; tends to be geniuses and artists; social histories of rhetoric consider local, ordinary people as mediators

 

Actors—deliberate use of this term indicates that it is never clear who and what is acting when we act since actor on stage is never alone in acting (46).  We have to resist the idea that there exists somewhere a dictionary where all the variegated words of the actors can be translated into the few words of the social vocabulary (48).  We have to resist pretending that actors have only a language while the analyst possesses the meta-language in which the first is embedded (49). 

 

Infra-language—language used by analysts to help them become more attentive to the actors’ own fully developed metalanguage, a reflexive account of what they are saying (49). 

 

Social—type of momentary association which is characterized by the way it gathers together in new shapes (66).  Designates two different phenomena:  it’s at once a substance, a kind of stuff, and also a movement between non-social elements (160).

 

Society—designates assembly of already gathered entities; consequence of associations and not their cause (238); movement of associations (238).   Collective—designates the project of assembling new entities not yet gathered together (75)

 

Translation—relation that does not transport causally but induces two mediators into coexisting (108).  ***There is no aim society, no social realm, and no social ties, but there exists translations between mediators that may generate traceable associations (108).   Translation is an encounter between two mediators which are both changed and which transport transformation…

 

Network—an expression to check how much energy, movement, and specificity our own reports are able to capture….a concept…a tool to help describe…what readies the text to take the relay of actors as mediators…a trace left behind by some moving agent  (131-2). 

 

Risky account—description…that can easily fail—it does fail most of the time—since it can put aside neither the complete artificiality of the enterprise nor its claim to accuracy and truthfulness (133).  It is always part of an artificial experiment to replicate and emphasize the traces generated by trials in which actors become mediators or mediators turned into faithful intermediators (136). 

 

Politicsprogressive composition of the common world (250)

 

How does Latour ask us to redefine politics?

 

Using a slogan from ANT, you ‘have to follow the actors themselves,’ that is try to catch up with their often wild innovations in order to learn from them what the collective existence has become in their hands, which methods they have elaborated to make it fit together, which accounts could best define the new associations that they have been forced to establish. (12)  Follow the actors in their weaving through things they have added to social skills so as to render more durable the constantly shifting interactions’ (68). 

 

I want to break the habit of linking the notions of ‘society,’ ‘social factor,’ and ‘social explanation’ with a sudden acceleration in the description.  When sociologists of the social pronounce the words ‘society,’ ‘power,’ ‘structure,’ and ‘context,’ they often jump straight ahead to connect vast arrays of life and history, to mobilize gigantic forces, to detect dramatic patterns emerging out of confusing interactions, to see everywhere in the cases at hand yet more examples of well-known types, to reveal behind the scenes some dark powers pulling the strings (22).

 

It is precisely because it’s so difficult to maintain asymmetries, to durably entrench power relations, to enforce inequalities, that so much work is being constantly devoted in shifting the weak and fast-decaying ties to other types of links (66). 

 

The solution to relativism is always more relativity (122).

 

Writing about is x is part of x…..writing is a performance of the social (138).

 

Five Uncertainties we need to learn from as sociologists:

  1. There is no stable, relevant group that make up social aggregates from which we can begin any study; there are only traces of how actors attempt to form or stabilize and dismantle groups (29).
    1. Controversies about group formation should be mapped by identifying spokesperson for group, anti-groups with which they contrast themselves, ways in which groups attempt to be re-defined, recognition of ways scholars keep group in existence.
  2. Actions are never done in full control of consciousness; complex, diverse, and heterogenous actions are entangled web of surprising sets of agencies that need to be slowly disentangled (44).  Our task is to describe what is acting and how even though this is difficult since action is dislocal—does not pertain to any specific site; it is distributed, variegated, multiple, dislocated, and remains a puzzle for the analysists as well as for the actors (60).
  3. Objects have agency and play a role in the collective—quickly shift, however, from mediators to immediators and thus become no longer visibly linked to social ties very quickly (80).  Visibility of objects is enhanced when:  we study innovations, maintain distance in time, space, and skills, study accidents, breakdowns, and strikes, use archives, museums, etc, to bring them back into light  (80-81).  
  4. There are no matters of facts, only matters of concerns.  We have to free matters of fact from their reduction by ‘Nature’ exactly as much as we should liberate objects and things from their ‘explanation’ by society (109).  In attending to matters of concern, we are allowing a thing itself to be deployed as multiple and thus allow[ing] it to be grasped through different viewpoints, before being possibly unified in some later stage depending on the abilities of the collective to unify them.  There are multiple agencies in a pluniverse (116). 
  5. Textual accounts—text for which the question of its accuracy and truthfulness has not been put aside—are risky (126).  Too often sociologists of the social are simply to trying to ‘fix world on paper’…(128).  We need to ask how can we extend the exploration of the social connections a little bit further? (128).  A good ANT account is a narrative or a description or a proposition where all the actors do something and don’t just sit there (128).  A good account will perform the social in the precise sense that some of the participants in the action—through the controversial agency of the author—will be assembled in such a way that they can be collected together.  In a bad text only a handful of actors will be designated sa the causes of all the others, which will have no other function than to serve as a backdrop or relay for the flows of casual efficacy (130). 

 

Key Questions Addressed about duties of ANT:

 

How to deploy the many controversies about associations without restricting in advance the social to a specific domain?  To deploy simply means that through the report concluding the enquiry the number of actors might be increased; the range of agencies making the actors act might be expanded; the number of objects active in stabilizing groups and agencies might be multiplied; and the controversies about matters of concern might be mapped (138).  

 

How to render fully traceable the means allowing the actors to stabilize those controversies?

 

Through which procedures is it possible to reassemble the social not in a society but in a collective? (16)

 

Kaironomia:  White—middle voice = overtaken….

 

Description acts as explanation….Good description is self-explanatory….

Analysis vs. description….Whole is effect of different associations.  Analysis undoes the affect…takes the whole; focus is on parts to explain the whole.  Description acts as analysis. 

 

Keeping the Social Flat:

 

Rather than research and focus only on the trace of other places, other times, and other agencies that have led up to and event or interaction, we need to instead trace where political action proceeds forward (166).  We need to move away from only researching or always researching context and structure…we need to consider at once the actor and the network in which it is embedded (169).  We need to keep the social flat—first relocate the global to avoid always going to context, second redistribute the local so as to understand why interaction is such an abstraction, three connect the sites revealed by the former two moves, highlighting the various vehicles that make up the…association (172).

 

Context in the abstract as pre-determination of an event or interaction, structure are consequences of activity.  We take context and structure are the real.  What we want to believe is that local is the hidden rather than as local production of stuff. 

 

How to keep Social Flat:

 

1.  Localize the Global:

 

We need to render visible the long chain of actors linking sites to one another without missing a single step (173).  Invent a series of clamps to hold landscape firmly flat and to force, so to speak, any candidate with a more ‘global’ role to sit beside the ‘local’ site it claims to explain, rather than watch it jump on top of it or behind it (174). 

 

Useful clamps: 

Infra-language that maps how connections between actors are often side by side. 

Create continuous map with no gaps, breaks, leaps, shortcuts, accelerations, etc.  Scale becomes flat like star.  Follow connections between conduits on the starlike map.  Realize body politic is made of movements, which are woven together by the constant circulation of documents, stories, accounts, goods, and passions (179).  Trace concrete, visible, delocalized actors—trace the indirect connections.  Think oligoptican.

 

Panorama—get a totalizing view of multiplicity of sites in network;

 

Big picture as effect not as cause.  Big picture is generated out of the social rather than predetermines the social. 

 

2.  Redistribute the Local:

 

Research the many local places where the global, the structural, and the total were being assembled and where they expand outward via conduits and cables (191).  Focus on the connectors.  Follow paths where ingredients come together into interactions.  Find traceabilites between sites of production of local interactions (193).  Locate articulators  or localizers, which transport presence of places.  Use negation as methodology—realize interactions are not isotopic, synchronic, synoptic, homogenous, or isobaric. 

 

No place dominates enough to be global and no place is self-contained enough to be local (204).  We need to see what is being transported: information, traces, goods, plans, formats, templates, linkages, and so on (205).  Those things make an actor act. 

 

3.  Connecting Sites

 

Research connections, vehicles, and attachments which transport agency…locate forms, which allows something else to be transported from one site to another (223).  Research collecting statements (“Islamic fundamentalism”) as traces of new connections….Detect circulating entities—follow the actors themselves or rather that which makes them act, namely the circulating entities (237).   Dare to be empirical.  Research the Plasma—that which is not yet formatted, not yet measured, not yet socialized, not yet engaged in metrological chains, and not yet covered, surveyed, mobilized, or subjectified (244).  Look for what in unknown, not hidden, in between, not behind (245).  The laws of the social world…are not behind the scene, above our heads, and before the action, but after the action, below the participants, and smack in the foreground (246).

 

Conclusion:

 

Today we have to restudy what we are made of and extend the repertoire of ties and the number of associations way beyond the repertoire proposed by social explanations (248).   We don’t study, for instance, if language is really socially constructed in the classroom.  We rely too heavily on abstracts. 

 

The task of tracing connections has to be resumed and redirected toward all those objects they had thought reasonable to leave aside (248).

 

In nutshell, here is what we must do: deployments, stabilization, composition

 

  1. deploy controversies to locate new participants in associations of future assemblages
  2. follow how actors themselves stabilize uncertainties by building formats, standards, and metrologies
  3. see how the gathered assemblages can renew sense of collective (249)

 

Positivism wrong because it reduces matters of concern into matters of fact too fast without due process (256).

 

 

Questions:

 

How does Latour redefine politics?  What it means to be political in the academy?

What does Latour mean by relocating the global and redistributing the local? And why are these moves important in our field?

 

Representation in our field is not result of social forces at work. 

 

 

What is the role of articulators or localizers?

 

What constitutes valuable sites of Plasma in our field?  Is move to cultural rhetorics a move toward researching Plasma in our field? 

 

What is metrology?  The study of measurement.  Looking at local everywhere.  So local is global.  Measurements are result of social and natural activity.

 

What do we have to learn about the value of empiricism in our field from Latour?  We have a deepseated fear of quantative studies.   Facts are socially constructed in our field. 

 

Latour asks us to reclaim “And.” 

 

To do rhetorical analysis needs to move away from just identifying rhetorical strategies at work in a given text or site, but also to analyze social effects.  Tracing how the strategies are responding to various associations and how the site/text is circulating.  How do texts/sites/genres function as social action?  What is the effect?  It is not just artifact to be understood.  It is artifact as effect and potential effect.  Move away from “this is rhetorical because” to “this is rhetorical how and to what effect.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Have Never Been Modern

 

In We Have Never Been Modern, Latour claims that modernity itself, as well as its symptoms postmodernism and antimodernism, as it has been manifested in modern critique is a dead end road that has diverted Western academic critique from generating a more productive understanding of the collectives in which we constitute ourselves. Latour argues that the Modern Constitution needs to be replaced by a nonmodern Constitution in order to more clearly and accurately understand the collectives which humans and non-humans comprise.  A nonmodern Constitution does not completely abandon  modern, premodern, or postmodern Constitutions; it rejects what is unuseful and retains what is productive.  The nonmodern Consititution that Latour advocates would be comprised of four actions:  realize the nonseparability between humans and nonhumans which produce both society and nature; conceive of Nature and Society as continuous entities rather than distinctions; sort through hybrids which don’t depend on homogenous flow and create polarization between archaism and modernization, the local and global, cultural and universal and natural and social; and slowly investigate the production of hybrids achieved through exploration of networks in which they exist. 

 

 

Key Points:

 

The modern Constitution is not defined by the rise of humanism, the emergence of sciences, the secularization of society, or with the mechanization of the world (34).  Instead, it is defined by the simultaneous polarization of Nature and Society (purification), the creation of multiple hybrids of nature and culture (translation), and the tossing of God to the sidelines of critical thought about Nature and Society—all of which cause contradictions that have lead to anti and post modern thought.

 

Postmodernism is a symptom, not a fresh solution.  It lives under the modern Constitution, but it no longer believes in the guarantees the Constitution offers (47). 

 

Latour rejects the abrupt break between time and culture that moderns claim exists to differentiate themselves from pre-moderns.  Seen as networks, …the modern world, like revolutions, permits accelerations in the circulation of knowledge, a tiny extension of societies, minuscule increases in the number of actors, small modifications of old beliefs (48). 

 

Three strategies of modern criticism are:  separation of Nature and Society, automization of language (as social construction) and deconstruction of Western metaphysics (67). Modern critique draws on four resources yet keeps them distinct and deems them incompatible:  naturalization, sociologization, discurvization, and forgetting of Being (67).  Latour wants us to show their continuous connections….(89).  After all, language by itself does not govern society and hold meaning of life; nature is not alienated from society and nor is all dominating and unknowable; our collectives are not constituted by humans all alone; and to understand our collectives and ourselves we don’t have to choose either God or the sciences, politics, or language (90).  Real as Nature, narrated as Discourse, collective as Society, existential as Being:  such are the quasi-objects that the moderns have caused to proliferate.  As such it behooves us to pursue them, while we simply becomes once more what we have never ceased to be: amoderns (90). 

 

The asymmetry between nature and culture [is] an asymmetry between past and future (71).

 

We can now drop entirely the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ dichotomoy, and even the distinction between moderns and premoderns.  We have both always built communities of natures and societies (102).

 

Each artifact has a history.  Each artifact is an actant that possesses a unique signature in the space deployed in this way.  In order to trace them, we do not have to form any hypothesis about the essence of Nature or the essence of Society….Each actant is an event.

 

The very notion of culture is an artifact created by bracketing Nature off.  Cultures—different or universal—do not exist, any more than Nature does.  There are only nature-cultures…(104).  All nature-cultures are similar in that they simultaneously construct humans, divinities, and nonhumans (106). 

 

All collectives are different from one another in the way they divide up beings, in the properties they attribute to them, in the moblization they consider acceptable ( 107).

 

The paradox of the moderns (and the antimoderns) is that from the outset they have accepted massive cognitive or psychological explanations in order to explain equally massive effects, whereas in all other scientific domains they seek small causes for large effects (116). 

 

Postmodernism—nothing has value; everything is a reflection; a simulacrum, a floating sign –131

 

The moderns’ greatness stems from their proliferation of hybrids, their lengthening of a certain type of network, their acceleration of the production of traces, their multiplicaton of delegates, their groping production of relative universals….[Yet] we cannot retain the illusion that moderns have about themselves and want to generalize everyone…as different from other communities, cut off from a past that is maintained in a state of artificial survival due only to historicism, separated from a nature on which subjects or society would arbitrarily impose categories, denouncers always at war with themselves, prisoners of an absolute dichotomy between things and signs, facts and values (133). 

 

In the same way, we can appreciate premoderns non-seperatability of things and signs; multiplication of nonhumans; sense of temporality; noncondradictory conception of transcendence yet we must reject their obligation always to link the social and natural orders; their ethnocentricism; obsession with territoriality; limits on scale (135).

 

And with postmoderns, we want to retain their multiple times, constructivism, reflexivity, and denaturalization yet reject their belief in modernism, critical deconstruction to a meaningless state of reality, ironic reflexivity, and anachronism based in belief of truly surpassed past (134-135). 

 

We must become amodern and understand continous nature of collectivities comprised by humans and nonhumans and determined by both nature, society, language and belief in some form of God (my take).  

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Kress, Gunther and Theo Van Leeuwen — Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design

 

In this text, K and L inventorize established compositional structures or conventions of  various visual semiotic resources and analyze how these common patterns are used to produce meaning in Western cultures.   Making this inventory possible is the assumption that a dominant visual language exists and is controlled by the global cultural/technological  empires of mass media (4).  K and L’s purpose, then,  is to identify the contemporary Western grammar of visual design and to explore the “broad historical, social, and cultural conditions that make and remake the visual ‘language’” (5). 

 

Their work is theoretically grounded in social semiotics; as such they see representation as s socially and culturally situated process of making signs to express meaning, guided by the sign makers own interests (6).  Thus they see signs as motivated “conjunctions of meaning (signified) and form (signifier) in which sign makers choose the most apt semiotic modes to express their desired meaning (6).  These choices always arise out of the “interest of social groups who interact with within the structures of power that define social life” (159).  Part of the work then of those studying visual communiction is to understand the values and interests which inform and benefit or do not benefit from signs in use in any given context.

 

K and L have attempted to provide a descriptive framework that can serve as a useful tool in visual analysis.  The see this framework as a language in which we can speak about the forms and meanings of visual commiunication.  According to K and L, visual communication has two functions based on Halliday’s own theoretical terms:  ideational function of representing world around and inside us and interpersonal function of enacting social interactions as social relations (13).  Also, in their eyes, all semiotic systems have a textual function; by that, they all have capacity to form and function as texts (41).  Thus not only can we identify patterns of representation but also social interaction or ways in which the grammar of visual design make possible the various things we do and the relations produced between sign makers and viewers (13). 

 

K and L see writing as a visual form of communication, but they also think that the visual components of a text is an “independently organized and structured message”; therefore, verbal and visual components are connected but not dependent on each other.  They interact to create form and meaning.  K and L also see visual communication as having grown into a major form of communication alongside verbal language.  They emphasize the visual communication is always coded and these codes need to be learned by students in order to survive in the new “semiotic landscape” that has arisen in the contemporary Western landscape.

 

Their theory in a nutshell:

  1. human societies use a variety of modes of representation
  2. each mode has unique potential for meaning-making
  3. each mode has unique value in context
  4. different potentials indicate different potential for subjectivity formation
  5. individual use variety of modes and thus have various ways to make meaning and form subjectivities
  6. these modes are in a state of constant interaction
  7. these modes affect communicative behavior
  8. each mode evolves throughout history and affect new meanings and subjectivities
  9. “as modes of representation are made and remade, they contribute to the making and remaking of human societies and the subjectivities of their members” (40).

 

In the various chapters, K and L identify the ways in which semiotic play interacts within narrative and conceptual representations and the ways in which these representations interact with their audience and establish relations between the two.  K and L also explore modality markers used to establish some kind of truth or version of reality as well as elements of composition, which contribute to interpersonal and ideational functions of visual designs.  In the second to last chapter, K and L explore inscription, which “comprises interrelated semiotic resources of surface, substance and tools of inscription,”  and each of which has its own semiotic effects and produce complex meanings (241).  In final chapter, K and L attempt to show how the grammar of visual design may be applied to three dimensional artifacts but that discourse needs more work.

 

Key Concepts:

 

Grammar:  inventory of elements and rules underlying cultural-specific verbal communication

 

Grammar of visual design:  inventory of elements and rules underlying a cultural-specific form of visual communication; not universal;

 

Semiotic Landscape:  context in which visual communication in a given society is produced and range of forms or modes that constitute public communication in that society as well as its uses and values (33).  Product of social action and has a social history of people interacting on nature (34)

 

Semiotic modes:  shaped by both intrinsic characteristics of medium and history and values of society

 

Texts:  complexes of signs which cohere both internally and with the context in and for which they were produced (41); “material objects which result from a variety of representational practices that make use of a variety of signifying systems, each of which contributes to the meaning of the text in its own particular way” (231)

 

Key Quotes:

 

K and L seek to interpret pictures that employ verbal and visual texts as an integrated text.  “Our insistence on drawing comparisons between language and visual communication stems from this objective.  We seek to break down the disciplinary boundaries between the study of language and the study of images, and we seek, as much as possible, to use compatible language, and compatible terminology in speaking about both, for in actual communication the two and indeed many others come together to form integrated texts” (183). 

 

Texts, whether linguistic or visual or both, deploy a multiplicity of signifying systems, and semiotic theory should allow us to focus on the way each is used in the text, and on the configurations in which the text brings them together (241).

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Ihde, Don

Ihde, Don   Technology and the Lifeworld

 

Written at the heart of the intellectual push toward multiculturalism in the early 1990s, in Technology and the Lifeworld, Don Ihde offers a philosophy of technology that demythologizes pervasive modern assumptions, which skew our contemporary understanding of the role of technology in the 21st century:  modern societies are essentially and drastically distinct from past societies; Nature and Society are distinct and contrasting; and technologies are neutral. By investigating the ways in which technology transforms the environment from both a phenomenological and hermenuetic perspective, Ihde illustrates how all cultures across time and location have been technologically embedded.   Technology, according to Ihde, mediates perception about time and space.   Interestingly, in the first part of the book, Ihde distinguishes between different human-technology relations; in cases in which technology is embodied (eyeglasses), technology is perceptually transparent (I-technology) > World; in hermeneutic interpretations, we are aware of techonological mediation and technology and our relation to it becomes focus of perception I > (technology-world); in alterior relations, technology is perceived as quasi-other that we relate to I > technology – (world); in background relations, technology shapes lifeworld but from the invisible side.   No matter the relation, Ihde ends Part I by making clear that technology transforms the human lifeworld; therefore, technologies are non-neutral.  In Part II, Ihde shifts focus and investigates the ways in which cultures embed technologies.  As he illustrates, cultures are transformed by technology in various ways depending on the ways and rates in which different cultures use and adapt to technologies.  Consequently, technologies are multistable.  Ihde moves toward conclusion with an explanation of the curvatures of the contemporary technological lifeworld created in a large part due to proliferation of image-technologies: pluriculturality; burden of conscious decision, which creates prolieferation of choice, rise in undecidability, concern with reversibility, no sense of closure; a materialization of conceptuality through mathematics and computers, which leads back to a percievability, and  what Ihde calls oscillatory phenomenon.  Ihde ends by recommending ways in which modern sciences can be restructured to preserve this earth we have inherited.

 

Key Concepts:

 

Technologies:  artifacts of material culture that we use in various ways within our environment (1); a technological object becomes what it “is” through its uses (70);  technologies do form intentionalities and inclinations within which use-patterns take dominant shape (141); technologies are multistable because different cultures can pick up and use technologies in different ways (164);

 

Technics:  human action employing artifacts to attain some result within the environment (12)

 

Technofact:  object in which the very materials themselves have undergone levels of transformation (70);

 

Technology transfer:  change in use as technology changes context

 

Phenomenology:  philosophy based on perception and bodily activity; analysis of human experience; study of relation between self and environment (21); provides microperception; phenomenology of human-technology relations attempts to discover structural features of those ambiguous relations (72). 

 

Hermenuetics:  philosophy based on textual interpretation (21); provides macroperception, which informs and/or orients microperception

 

Lifeworld:  perception based on senses and based in relations between actional humans and the concrete material world of bodily things and beings, which is available to everyone (37).  Also based on cultural acquisitions of knowledge. 

 

Pluriculturality:  lifeform arising out of the use of image-technologies catching up to cultures in various ways (164) ; a proliferation in ways of seeing due to relations with technology and ways in which technologies are embedded (174). 

 

Key Quotes:

 

What is needed is much is a much more radically demythologized story of the structures and limits of human-technology and of the non-technological possibilities of relation to an environment or “world” (17).

 

Heidigger’s Being in Time was an account of human spatiality within the World, of human temporality within the World, and of the various structures and dimensions of human-world relations (23). 

 

Our actions are embedded in the multiple ways we interact with and presuppose our technologies, yet this multiplicity remains perceptually and praxically ambiguous (68). 

 

Postphenomenology:  Essays in the Postmodern Context

 

Writing in response to the contemporary trend to conceive of everything as a text and as socially constructed, in Postphenomenology, Ihde focuses on the intimate connection between technology and culture and what he calls a “perceptual-bodily referentiality” (6).  Drawing on a method of variation theory, postphenomenology can be considered a nonfoundational and notranscendental phenomenology that investigates our lifeworld and how technologies act as non-neutral “cultural instruments’ embedded in daily life praxis (13).  In Part 1 of this book, the collected essays investigate the various perspectives that have taken shape  in modernity and postmodernity.  Looking to the Renaissance at the conceived birth of modernity, Ihde investigates the work of Leonardi da Vinci, who Ihde claims is responsible for stimulating a new way of technological seeing, which is evident in his imagined technologies and guided by his technological spirit—“imagined world as giant machine set in motion by spirtual forces and controlled in its perfect mechanisms by a superior intelligence that has arranged everything according to mathematical laws” (17).  Da Vinci, according to Ihde, was responsible for his visual art, manifested by his visual imaginiation which transformed and reformulated perception itself toward the notion of objectivity (18).  Ihde also credits da Vinci with the invention of the observer (19). 

 

Ihde also turns back to Christopher Columbus’ contributions and credits Columbus for stimulating a bird’s eye view from above that contrasted with other cultures’ embodied ways of seeing and reflects “the European assumption…that instruments must mediate controlled interactions with nature” (24).  Today, Ihde argues we have a type of seeing he calls the “compound eye,” which is series of multi and alternative way of seeing the world or can be thought of most simply as  “multiple vision” or a “bricolage of the pluricultural” (29-30). 

 

Ihde also argues that there is no unitary Technology; rather there “is a multistable and diverse and ambiguous set of multiple directions whose ends are probably not predictable any more than any historical-cultural development can be adequately predicted” (34).  Our job is to begin to conceive of technologies as an ensemble, a culture, whose dimensions are not only economic and productive but also cultural and existential. 

 

Image technologies, according to Ihde, reflect a perceptual dimension of contemporary life that has the advantages of immediacy, pattern recognition, and gestalt quality (43)  as well as in its capacity to fragment, deconstruct, only to reconstruct in a series of often juxtaposed, nonlinear imagery, reinforces the bricolage quality of what is shown” (53).

 

Ihde also argues that although modern science can be marked by the development of experimental method, it is also marked by the essential embodiment of instrumentalation, ie. technologies (57). 

 

In Part II, Ihde investigates how a “variationally centered practice of phenomenology” operates (71).  He begins by demonstrating that culture is perceived through an interrelation of micro and macroperceptual dimensions.  In the post-modern, Western context, Ihde shows that perception is now both embodied and situated and that a hermeneutic perspective allows us to transpose between the two positions (87).  This perspective orders our current lifeworld. 

 

Ihde credits Heidigger for showing us that technology is “a way of seeing, of revealing a world” (113). 

 

Questions Addressed: 

 

How do technologies shape perspective and how does perspective shape culture?  How and how does technology and culture interact to order our world?  How has Eurocentric views about perception and technology influenced our understanding of modernity?  How would we categorize the postmodern perspective and how does this new perspective shape the way we understand and order the world?  What should our goals be in investigationg the interaction between technology and culture?  What methodologies can be used in this investigation?

 

 

 

Key concepts:

Postmodernism—proliferating pluralism, loss of centers and foundationalism; obsessions with text,  hyperawareness of “invention”—social constructed world;

 

Technoscience—reveals a perceptually identified microworld and macroworld experienced through mediation of instruments; technoscience has always been cross-cultural

 

Quincentennial—rereading of an event that is neceassarily situated in both nostalgia and ambiguity (21)

 

Postmodern pluriculture—for every contact the Euro-American technologized culture makes with the Other, there returns a countercurrent of the culture connected (28);

technologically mediated pluriculture has these characteristics: multiplicity of imagery; fragmentation into bits; fluidity in oand out of presence; and bricolage character (64)

 

Key Quotes:

 

It was Leonardo da Vinci who helped to make that “technological” way of seeng into a gestalt which could be refined and extended, even to the current and still perspectival respresentations that today capture our fascination” (19). 

 

What is needed is a deeper insight into the ways in which the ensemble of technologies related to cultural gestalts, particularly those of perspective adopted and of an implicit view of nature (26). 

 

Technologies must be understood phenomenologically, i.e., as belonging in different ways to our experience and use of technologies, as a human technology relation, rather than abstractly conceiving of them as mere objects (34). 

 

The dimensions of technology transfers are never simply economic or productive, but multidimensional and involve basic cultural and existential interchange (34). 

 

Technologies in ensemble are probably more like cultures than like tools (42)

 

In the modern world,…the network is what is beginning to make us aware of the displacement of our chauvinistic Eurocentrism…(114)

 

What is needed is not a rejection of the deep and essentially phenomenological insights into technology as a culturally embedded phenomenon wit its different gestalt features, but a deepening and more complex appreciation of all the facets of our technologically textured mode of life.  And that must include the explicit recognition of both the politics of our artifacts, and the demythologization of nostalgia and romantic views of previous times (114).

 

All histories are not revealing histories but concealing histories …(toward end)

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