Revolution Lullabye

March 29, 2009

Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want

Mitchell, W.J.T. What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2005.

In this book, Mitchell draws from many modern cultural, artistic, and scientific phenomenons to show how pictures, images, objects, and media create life instead of merely reflecting an outside world. The picture makes, not mirrors, the world. By treating images as living entities, Mitchell asks what they are doing, what they are articulating, and how they might want us to respond. Mitchell argues that people need to have a sense of visual literacy, a way to understand that images introduce new values and ideas in the world instead of responding to the values and ideas of individual human beings. In the third section of the book (sections focus on the image, the object, and media), Mitchell articulates his medium theory, which sees media as material social practices, entire ecosystems.

Quotable Quotes

Pictues are living organisms: “They change the way we think and see and dream. They refunction our memories and imaginations, bringing new criteria and new desires into the world. When God created Adam as the first ‘living image,’ he knows that he is producing a creature who will be capable of the further creation of new images” (92).

“Images are active players in the game of establishing and changing values. They are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones. For better and for worse, human beings establish their collective, historical identity by creating around them a second nature composed of images which do not merely reflect the values consciously intended by their makers, but radiate new forms of value formed in the collective, political unconscious of their beholders. As objects of surplus value, of simultaneous over-and underestimation, these stand at the interface of the most fundamental social conflicts” (105).

“A medium is more than the materials of which it is composed…[Instead it is] a material social practice, a set of skills, habits, techniques, tools, codes, and conventions” (203).

A medium is an “ever-elastic middle” that does not have boundaries. “The medium does not lie between sender and receiver; it includes and constitutes them” (204).

Notable Notes

Images form “a social collective that has a parallel existence to the social life of their human hosts, and to a world of objects that they represent” (93) – creating worlds through design

idol, fetishes, totems – controversy and “bad” objects: “They are the objects of ambivalence and anxiety that can be associated with fascination as easily as with aversion” (158).

people love, hate, want to destroy images because of their power.

problem with the pictoral turn because the image is simulaneously everything and nothing

digital new media is nothing new – the reason to study visual literacies is because human communication is multimodal, not just because of the internet

contraversial images as “condensed world pictures” and “sites of struggle over stories and territories” (195)

10 theses on media (theory) on page 211


March 25, 2009

Cope and Kalantzis, Introduction: Multiliteracies

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis. “Introduction: Multiliteracies: The Beginning of an Idea.” In Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 1-8.

In their introduction, Cope and Kalantzis, both founding members of the New London Group, explain how the New London Group began, what the New London Group’s two basic arguments are, and the purposes of the book, an edited collection. The New London Group, a working group of American, Australian, British, and South African scholars interested in literacy, language, and education, first met together in 1994 and began to work on an article (the first chapter of the collection) that articulated their two major claims centered around the concepts of multiliteracies and design. Their first argument is that the rapidly changing communications venues of the 21st century make teaching one literacy (mostly print-based) outdated and irrelevant. Their second argument is that the rapidly globalizing world make teaching one standard English langauge also outdated and irrelevant. They advocate that educators need to teach multimodal composition that ask students how to communicate, design, and act in shifting linguistic and cultural settings. The book lays out some of their theoretical understandings of the effects of social context on literacy pedagogy and explains how they have translated their ideas into classroom curricula.

Quotable Quotes

“We are both inheritors of patterns and conventions of meaning while at the same time active designers of meaning. And, as designers of meaning, we are designers of social futures.” (7).

Want to create “learners and students who can be active designers – makers – of social futures.” (7)

“The focus was on the big picture; the changing world and the new demands being placed upon people as makers of meaning in changing workplaces, as citizens in changing public spaces and in the changing dimensions of our community lives – our lifeworlds” (4).

“New communications media are reshaping the way we use language. When technologies of meaning are changing so rapidly, there cannot be one set of standards or skills that constitutes the ends of literacy learning, however taught.” (6).

“Effective citizenship and productive work now require that we interact effectively using multiple languages, multiple Englishes, and communication patterns that more frequently cross cultural, community, and national boundaries.” (6).

Notable Notes

There is no one stable literacy or language

literacies are always being remade by their users (5)

how would Latour speak to their use of the social? what would Wysocki say about multimodal?

six design elements in the meaning-making process: linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, spatial, multimodal (the connections between the two)

four kinds of practice for these elements: situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing, and transformed practice

Big words – design and multiliteracies

February 23, 2009

Porter et al, Institutional Critique

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey T. Grabill, and Libby Miles. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” CCC 51.4 (June 2000) 610-642.

Composition and rhetoric scholars need to begin seeing the institution itself, as a rhetorical and spatial entity, as the place where they might critique and enact change. Working with the situated institution prevents composition and rhetoric’s critiques and calls for change from being to global and idealistic or being so local (classroom-level) that it does not effect the institution as a whole. Institutions range from the university to the school, legal, and political system. Institutional critique as a methodolgy draws on postmodern mapping and critical theory, particularily investigating the rhetorical and spatial construction of institutions, the power dynamics at the boundaries, and the multiple historical and social perspectives of those in the institution. This kind of methodology begins to push the gap between research and service and might be one way of validating and rewarding the rich intellectual work that compositionists and rhetoricians do that is all but thrown away with the label of “service.” Rhetoric and composition as a field is uniquely equip to practice institutional critique.

Quotable Quotes

“Our basic claim is this: Though institutions are certainly powerful, they are not monoliths; they are rhetorically constructed human designs (whose power is reinforced by buildings, laws, traditions, and knowledge-making practices) and so are changeable” (611).

“We focus, then, on institutions as rhetorical systems of decision making that exercise power through the design of space (both material and discursive)” (621).

“Institutional critique is, fundamentally, a pragmatic effort to use rhetorical means to improve institutional systems” (625).

Notable Notes

projects like where a writing center is physically situated on campus; how and when during the publishing process a handbook is open for revision & the various stakes that go into such a production; Ellen Cushman’s work with Quarytown in The Struggle and the Tools.

advocacy – action to enact change. Can’t stop at critique. It fills in the gap between macro-level ideals and mirco-level classroom practices

equating the discipline with the institution ignores the material constraints the discipline has to work in (619)

design relationship – between rhetoric and space

David Sibley Geographies of Exclusion, postmodern geography

February 1, 2009

Miller, Expertise and Agency

Miller, Carolyn R. “‘Expertise and Agency’: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction.” In The Ethos of Rhetoric. Ed. Michael J. Hyde, U of South Carolina P, 2004. 197-218.
Miller explores the two complementary modes of human-computer interaction in the post-Cold War era: expert systems and intelligent agents. Using a grounding in twentieth century US history and an understanding in the computer systems and programs developed from the 1950s onward, Miller shows how the ethos in the human-computer interaction changes from an ethos interested in rational reliability (phronesis) to one concerned with interaction with the user (eunoia.) Ethos is not just a normative function; it is descriptive as well and can shed light on the kind of rhetorical community participants belong to. The shift from a rhetoric of domain-specific expert systems to one of intelligent agents happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when public trust in institutions and authority figures took a nose dive (Vietnam, Watergate) and when rapidly evolving technologies allowed for the development of a more complex, more diverse (in markets and knowledge), and more distributed world. Intelligent agents, as opposed to expert systems that are concerned with the accumulation of one domain of knowledge, are semi-autonomous, have choices, and interact with the environment. Their “expertise” and knowledge is collected in a distributed fashion. Miller argues that the ethos of rational reliability and that of sympathy are on two ends of a pendulum and must be balanced with virtues and moral reasoning (arete.)
Quotable Quotes
“A discourse…delinieates a rhetorical community and consequently an ethos – a sensus communis and a locus communis – a place where interlocutors abide, about which they contest, and from which they draw appeals. Those who dwell within a rhetorical community acquire their character as rhetorical participants from it, as it educates and socializes them. The community does this in part by supplying the Aristotelian components of ethos – the judgment (phronesis), values (arete), and feelings (eonoia) that make a rhetor persuasive to other members of the community” (198)
This is important because it’s about how the discourse that we create in turns creates the community – the hive. The writing that happens in blogs, del.ic.ious, GoogleDocs, tagging, etc. – imparts both a community and a shared ethos that is carried out in different projects.
Looking at ethos “can help us determine aspects of our community and our communal character” (198)
Notable Notes
Distrust in authority is historically and culturally grounded, leads to these bottom-up, more user-need sensitive human-computer interaction systems. People aren’t (usually) crazy domain experts. Their expertise is distributed and can be documented and used most efficiently in more of an intelligent agent system.
Ethos is normative and descriptive.

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