While the examples Johnson-Eilola uses in Nostalgic Angels to discuss hypertext are dated (e.g., the 1990s program HyperCard), his arguments seem to b...moreWhile the examples Johnson-Eilola uses in Nostalgic Angels to discuss hypertext are dated (e.g., the 1990s program HyperCard), his arguments seem to be just as salient today. Throughout the book, Johnson-Eilola complicates notions of hypertext, especial those claims that hypertext are utopian postmodern texts that decenter authorship, liberate readers, and create open democratic spaces.
J-E takes an ecological prospect, arguing that hypertext, like all computer technologies, "are ambivalent technologies, objects or concepts that can be used in various ways depending in part on the social conditions in which they are constructed and reconstructed in use" (23). He urges against viewing technologies as solely tools, as the tool perspective can lead users, teachers, and scholars "to forget the always-present technological forces" and to assume that tools simply help achieve predetermined goals (19). Another important aspect of J-E's argument is that, following Terry Eagleton, if cultures admits its inadequacies (such as the inadequacies of print by allowing computer technologies to take hold), it might "tighten rather than loosen its grip" (23, qting. Eagleton).
Chapter 3 of Nostalgic Angels takes as its focus those "functional" hypertexts that many ignore when they make utopian claims about hypertext. Functional documents and technologies (like technical documents, how-to texts) are hard to analyze and critique for their politics because through their functionality, they obscure their context and politics (52). J-E shows how functional hypertexts often emulate print texts, focusing on efficiency (53, 63); valuing clarity to avoid "misinterpretations or misreadings"—a transmission model of communication (61, 66); and offering more choices than print but still and more powerfully restricting freedom (63). He concludes, "Hypertext, ten, integrates most successfully into the workplace not as a transformative (let alone disruptive) technology, but as a conservative process, a way of making progress in the drive toward increased technical efficiency," noting as well that hypertexts fit well into post-Fordist logics, allowing for less time for reflection (79).
Chapter 4 explores how texts, intertextual relations, and information become spaces. According to J-E, "spatial articulations can take one of (at least) two forms—the commodity and the construction" (95). In this chapter, J-E discusses functional hypertexts, like databases, for how they are articulated as commodities and construct readers as consumers (103). While "text as information has long seemed spatial, [. . .:] hyperspace appears to expand and transform that space" (106), becoming a market where information "can be entered, browsed, and purchased" (107). J-E spends much of the chapter promoting a critical literacy, as opposed to a simple functional literacy, of hyperspaces, so that users can critique the ways in which information is presented, organized, mapped, and navigated (129). Central to his concerns are how information has become more commodified, in part because we articulate it as a space (like land, that can be bought and sold), and in part because of post-Fordist capitalist logics that privatize space (thus, less public support for hypertextual spaces and more privatization) (130-134).
Chapter 5 explores the articulation of hypertextual space as a construction, particularly the postmodern conception that hypertexts are liberating, fragmented, subversive, deconstruction, and so forth. He is concerned that "hypertext potentially engenders post-political activity" by naturalizing hypertext as inevitable and the way things should have been (or always have been) (171). He shows how hypertexts, though they might engender deconstruction, do not naturally create deconstruction, and often undercut deconstruction's goals (160). Nor do they naturally decenter the author or put readers and authors on the same plane.
The last chapter turns to nostalgia, the desire in this case to want an image of the past, wherein "Hypertext here is, among other things, a code word for the innocence we sometimes assume marked human existence prior to print, an impossible Eden of pure knowledge and perfect communication unmarked by the 'complications' of technology" (176). While most of his book has been critical of hypertext and articulations of hypertext, J-E turns to rearticulating hypertext "for increasing access to information for both our students and ourselves, for rethinking boundaries between discourses" (186).
I wish I had read this book a few years ago—when Lisa Ede first suggested it to me my first term at Oregon State. I was very interested in hypertext at the time—in fact, in many ways, my vague interest in that time led to a more focused interest in blogs for my master's thesis. This book could have been helpful in understanding articulations of the Internet as liberatory. But I'm glad I've read this now.(less)
This was one of the best fiction books I've read in a long time. Then again, I don't read fiction often. A marvelous tale told from an amazing perspec...moreThis was one of the best fiction books I've read in a long time. Then again, I don't read fiction often. A marvelous tale told from an amazing perspective!(less)
In "Screening (In)Formation: Bodies and Writing in Network Culture," Jennifer L. Bay argues that the body and the computer should be understood togeth...moreIn "Screening (In)Formation: Bodies and Writing in Network Culture," Jennifer L. Bay argues that the body and the computer should be understood together as forming a complex, co-adaptive system (26). Bay sees the body as both a filter and a surface, as both a permeable membrane and a display (27). Rhetoric is networked through the screening device of the body (30).
In "The Political Economy of Computers and Composition: 'Democracy Hope' in the Era of Globalization," M.J. Braun places technology adaptation in composition within a critique of capital, arguing that we need to understand our technology adaptation within a globalized capitalist network, and that we should be antagonistic to the corporate ethics of efficiency.
In "Grrrl Zine Networks: Re-Composing Spaces of Authority, Gender, and Culture," Michelle Comstock sees grrrl zine networks as creating a new sense of authorship that re-envisions feminism and girlhood (166). The act of authorship is "an act of critical editorship" (173). She shows that with the development of grrrl networks online, it's becoming difficult to determine who sponsors critical literacy practices online, and it becomes difficult to create separate spaces (177).(less)
In No Future (2004), Lee Edelman argues that the dominant political discourse is one of "reproductive futurism," which takes the child and heteronorma...moreIn No Future (2004), Lee Edelman argues that the dominant political discourse is one of "reproductive futurism," which takes the child and heteronormativity as its commonplaces. Queerness figures outside this political regime, "the place of . . . abjection expressed in the stigma" (3). The social is defined and limited by "the image of the Child" (not real, living children) by structuring our political discourse (11). Threats to the reproductive order are seen as threats to the social order (11). He argues that "queerness attains its ethical value precisely insofar as it accedes to that place, excepting its figural status as resistance to the viability of the social while insisting on the inextricability of such resistance from every social structure" (3). He makes an ethical claim about what queers should do: queers should be inimical to the social by rejecting the current social order and proclaiming violently, "fuck the whole network of Symbolic relations and the future that it serves to prop" (29). He claims that it is only by renouncing anti-sociality that queers can be accepted into the social order (47), and asks why we don't just idenfity with what we're blamed for (49).(less)
Warnick's Rhetoric Online is a helpful contribution to the study of persuasion in political discourse online. Warnick argues persuasively that scholar...moreWarnick's Rhetoric Online is a helpful contribution to the study of persuasion in political discourse online. Warnick argues persuasively that scholars of rhetoric need to focus on online communication as rhetoric and that the medium affects how one should approach communication online.
Chapter 1 argues that there is much vibrant political communication online, and despite (and in part because of, I'd say) current "crises" in the public sphere (drawing on Habermas), the Internet has become a site activism, resistance, and political campaigns. Warnick also notes that there are challenges to rhetorical critics because rhetoric online causes us to reconsider some assumptions about rhetoric based in print and oral texts (22-23).
Chapter 2 argues for a "medium theory approach" to rhetoric online. Warnick discusses "five elements of the communication process—reception, source, message, time, and space" (27). Drawing on the work of Roland Barthes, she argues that texts online are intertextual and non-linear, always in formulation, and that rhetorical critics need to focus more on readers' responses to online material (28-30). The credibility of online material is also understood differently than rhetoric has traditionally understood ethos: instead of grounded in the source of the material, ethos is instead understood through visuals and other signs (33-36; this is discussed more in Chapter 3). Another important aspect of online discourse is that the message of online material is often fragmented or modular, and the "author" no longer has control of the message's content (36-37). Time and space also function differently in online environments because online "users do not constitute a mass audience" (37) producing "dispersed, disaggregated media audiences" (44).
Chapter 3 explores how credibility (ethos) is determined online. Noting that ethos has changed through history, from Aristotle's understanding that "notions of ethos were embedded in the cultural and social mores of host societies" (47) to the modern conception that ethos was "connected to an author's credentials and known reputation" (48), Warnick explains that it's understandable that notions of ethos would change again. Drawing on Stephen Toulmin's work, Warnick argues that credibility should be based in the specific field and context of the communication (49). She discusses how credibility is understood on Indymedia's Website to help show how credibility is determined on that site.
Chapter 4 addresses interactivity online, discussing MoveOn's Website and George W. Bush's 2004 campaign Website as two sites of interactivity. Warnick uses Sally J. McMillan's taxonomy of interactivity (three forms: "user-to-system, user-to-user, and user-to-document" [75:]) as well as her contribution of "text-based interactivity," or "the presence of various stylistic devices, such as use of first person and active voice versus passive voice; additional visual cues such as photographs of the candidate or supporters interacting with other people; and additional textual content of the site" (73), to show how interactivity works on these two Websites.
Chapter 5 traces the history of the term "intertextuality" and addresses how it works on a few online videos from Jibjab.com and on Adbusters' Website.
Her conclusion offers a concise review of the book. Overall, I found this book helpful in understanding how rhetorical criticism might need to revisit some of its assumptions about rhetoric in online environments. In a concise, accessible overview, Warnick offers some helpful insights about online rhetoric, particularly about credibility online and fragmented or dispersed audiences. I think this book could have done more (by which I guess I mean, I wanted more), but for the goals set out for the book, it's pretty successful.(less)
I largely picked up Leo Bersani's Homos because it is well known in queer theory for the formulation of the anti-social thesis, which posits that ther...moreI largely picked up Leo Bersani's Homos because it is well known in queer theory for the formulation of the anti-social thesis, which posits that there is something inherently anti-social about homo-ness. Some extensive notes:
Bersani's prologue begins by discussing a danger he sees in much queer theory: the critique of the supposed naturalness of straight, gay, and lesbian identities is much needed, but "they are not necessarily liberating" (4) because they often erase sex ("desexualizing discourses") and because "the dominant heterosexual society doesn't need our belief in its own naturalness in order to continue exercising and enjoying the privileges of dominance" (5). Bersani's approach, then, is in part a continued critique of the naturalness of sexuality, but also an attempt to find something liberating about non-heterosexuality, as well as continuing to privilege the sexuality of homosexuality.
He posits his anti-social thesis of queer theory: "Perhaps inherent in gay desire is a revolutionary inaptitude for heteroized sociality. THis of course means sociality as we know it, and the most politically disruptive aspect of the homo-ness I will be exploring in gay desire is a redefinition of sociality so radical that it may appear to require a provisional withdrawal from relationality itself" (7).
Chapter 1 explores homophobia, noting that "homophobic America itself appears to have an insatiable appetite for our presence" (11). While acceptance of queers has grown, so has anti-queer activism and homophobia. Bersani believes that part of acceptance is also related to the expectation that queers will all die of AIDS (this was published in 1995): "In fact, no one can stop looking. But we might wonder if AIDS, in addition to transforming gay men into infinitely fascinating taboos, has also made it less dangerous to look. For, our projects and our energies notwithstanding, others may think of themselves as watching us disappear" (21). Homophobia is also a unique type of hatred: racism depends upon the existence of non-whites, but homophobia does not depend on the existence of homosexuals. It is, instead, "entirely a response to an internal possibility" of being homosexual oneself (27). Of course, homosexuality cannot be eradicated, and thus, homophobia, "itself the sign of the ineradicability of homosexuality, [. . .:] must remain" (29).
Chapter 2 involves detailed engagements with Wittig, Butler, Halperin, and Warner, whom Bersani charges, among other things, for desexualizing discourse about queers. Bersani then argues that "unless we define how the sexual specificity of being queer (a specificity perhaps common to the myriad ways of being queer and the myriad conditions in which one is queer) gives queers a special aptitude for making that challenge [to institutions:], we are likely to come up with a remarkably familiar, and merely liberal, version of it [that challenge:]" (72-73). Bersani pushes these theorists for not being radical enough. For Bersani, "There is a more radical possibility: homo-ness itself necessitates a massive redefining of relationality. More fundamental than a resistance to the normalizing methodologies is a potentially revolutionary inaptitude—perhaps inherent in gay desire—for sociality as it is known" (76).
Chapter 3 is a strong critique of discourses about sadomasochism, many of which argue that there is something liberating about S/M because of the ways in which partners switch roles and play with power. But Bersani is more skeptical: "Sometimes it seems that if anything in society is being challenged, it is not the networks of power and authority, but the exclusion of gays from those networks" (85). Bersani argues that S/M doesn't challenge privilege—it leaves privilege in tact and extends privilege (temporarily), making S/M "profoundly conservative in that its imagination of pleasure is almost entirely defined by the dominant culture to which it thinks of itself as giving 'a stinging slap in the face'" (87). Sure, S/M plays with power, but it doesn't critique privilege and authority.
Chapter 4 is where Bersani really outlines his anti-social theory, asking "Should a homosexual be a good citizen?" (113). Through his readings of Gide, Proust, and Genet, Bersani shows how homo-ness can constitute "a political threat [. . .:] because of the energies it releases, energies made available for the unprecedented projects of human organization" (123). Homo-ness, which involves a "self-shattering" (101), and thus a loss of the self and thus a loss of citizenship (125). Bersani proposes that Gide helps to reimagine relationality in ways that do not involve property, but in order to do this, we need to "imagine a new erotics" (128). Proust, according to Bersani, "point[s:] us in the direction of a community in which relations would no longer be held hostage to demands of intimate knowledge of the other" (151). Even more so, Genet helps us to disentangle erotics from intimacy (165). Ultimately, Bersani's reading becomes an exhort for revolt that rejects relationally: "without such a rejection, social revolt is doomed to repeat the oppressive conditions the provoked the revolt" (172) because "Revolt allows for new agents to fill the slots of master and slave, but it does not necessarily involve a new imagining of how to structure human relations. Structures of oppression outlive agents of oppression" (174). As Bersani understands oppression, "In a society where oppression is structural, constitutive of sociality itself, only what society throws off—its mistakes or its pariahs—can serve the future" (180).(less)
The stories in this were good, but I was expecting more after reading American Born Chinese, which was excellent. The stories here seemed to rely too...moreThe stories in this were good, but I was expecting more after reading American Born Chinese, which was excellent. The stories here seemed to rely too much on deus ex machina and were too moralistic for my tastes. The third story was pretty good, because of its quirkiness and interesting character, but the first two didn't live up to expectations.(less)
In Trust in Texts (2008), Susan Miller writes a history of rhetoric, understanding "persuasion as a result of situated emotional investments in the de...moreIn Trust in Texts (2008), Susan Miller writes a history of rhetoric, understanding "persuasion as a result of situated emotional investments in the desires aroused by crafted, and expected, language" (x). She defines rhetoric as "multiple metadiscourses derived from ritual, imaginative, and affiliative discursive practices that we trust for their well-supported and reasoned statements, but also because they participate in infrastructures of trustworthiness we are schooled to recognize, sometimes by lessons and habits we cannot name" (2). Miller questions the notion that there is only one rhetorical tradition, because persuasion is "a matter of trust that precedes any form of its expression and . . . worthiness for that trust will be verified against multiple discursive conventions" (8).
Toward the end of her book, while discussing publishing, Miller argues that we trust media: "we trust the media of publication itself, a contemporary charismatic pull, without reference to a specific result from the attraction" (142). Rhetorical history, according to Miller, has washed out the emotional, the spiritual, and "a specific belief in things unseen" (147).(less)
Enjoyed his older stuff more —when he was more explicitly Marxist. This one dragged on too long, imho....moreEnjoyed his older stuff more — when he was more explicitly Marxist. This one dragged on too long, imho.(less)
In Angels' Town (1997), Ralph Cintron offers an ethnographic study of the language and rhetoric use in a Latino suburb of Chicago. He understands his...moreIn Angels' Town (1997), Ralph Cintron offers an ethnographic study of the language and rhetoric use in a Latino suburb of Chicago. He understands his project as "the rhetorics of public culture or the rhetorics of everyday life" (xi), blending rhetoric and sociocultural anthropology. some notes:
Cintron writes in the introduction that he’s interested in “how humans ‘make’ an order. In order to explore this idea, I compare rather glibly the ‘ordering’ of a text and the ‘ordering’ of society” (x). Part of this is perhaps driving by his consideration of research as a teknhe, an art as skill not product, “a reasoned habit of mind in making something” (xii).
Cintron’s attention to “discourse of measurement” (17). He writes later that “Any discourse of measurement faces enormous problems in gathering reliable information in communities that are scrambling to maintain themselves economically” (23). He later writes that all writing is a discourse of measurement, and that crises are products of discourses of measurement and “its failed expectations” (226).
“school historically has trained students into a fill-in-the-blanks conception of reading and then complained when students have thoroughly absorbed that training” (101).
A good question: “How expansive can any participatory democracy be when, lying at the farthest limits of its embrace, there exists criminality that is, at least, partially determined by the same socioeconomic and power differences that give rise to subaltern counterpublics?” (186).
“American urban sites have increasingly attempted to tame public life by corralling it into domestic spaces” (219). “Electricity, emerging after industrialization was well underway, not only transformed the means of production but also, in time, helped to create private, domestic space. [. . .:] One result may be a kind of insidious reengineering of the relationship between public and private life. The possibility of experiencing private life either alone or through an insular family has expanded, and, consequently, public life can be experienced less directly” (220). (less)
In The Economics of Attention (2006), Richard Lanham argues that information is not scarce in our current economy, attention is. Thus, he argues we sh...moreIn The Economics of Attention (2006), Richard Lanham argues that information is not scarce in our current economy, attention is. Thus, he argues we should understand our economy as one of attention, and he understands rhetoric as "the economics of attention" (xii). He argues that style (and design) are what attracts our attention.(less)
Great overview of African American rhetoric and the use of the jeremiad in black rights and black liberation movements/rhetoric. Good introduction to...moreGreat overview of African American rhetoric and the use of the jeremiad in black rights and black liberation movements/rhetoric. Good introduction to history and the rhetoric of DuBois, King, Douglass, Washington, Wells, and others. History book, so not as much focus on rhetoric or specific texts/scenes as I would have liked, and I think the discussion of gender could be developed more, but overall, good read.(less)
In Rhetoric Retold (1997), Cheryl Glenn argues that women have been made invisible and silent in the rhetorical tradition because of the value placed...moreIn Rhetoric Retold (1997), Cheryl Glenn argues that women have been made invisible and silent in the rhetorical tradition because of the value placed on the "good man speaking well" in public. She offers to "regender" the history of rhetoric by not only recovering women in the rhetorical tradition, but also calling into question notions of what rhetoric is. She draws on historiography, feminism, and gender studies in order to ask questions about "Whose history? Whose rhetoric? Which rhetoric," and questioning the notion that there is a single "truth" found through empiricism and positivism (5). She is committed to "reading it crookedly and telling it slant" (8). (less)