Friday, April 21, 2006

What does McLuhan add to composition studies?

A real awareness of the environment children emerge from, and the effects that environment has on schooling. I guess we have some of that in comp studies, but I love his description of how children love to find things. He isn't a theorist in the way that Derrida, perhaps Foucault, others are theorists. He didn't very often start with an argument about a text--he started with an observation about the world. He started with where his students were at--compositionists should find a kindred spirit, a generous pedagoical spirit in his work.

A comprehensive vocabulary. I am not sure that anybody else in the field has offered such a comprehensive vocabulary. I am pretty consistently able to draw on his extensive vocabularly to understand a technology or genre and why it works, why it presents challenges, why it needs to be understood in the context of a media ecology. Blogging: hot genre, largely visual space (which means textual), the potential for acousitic blogging is hard to reach (where's the conversation), time consuming, better social networking software available, return on investment low for all except the writers, not likely to draw in and enage the non-writers, except those who see its social / therapeutic dimensions rather than writerly dimension. Blogging a figure on the educational / media radar for a while, now receeding into ground, getting used in ways that aren't about "blogging." Just getting used as a tool.

The medium is the massage. I can't believe how the "cutting edge" of new media studies is currently "discovering" the materiality of new media, and never discovering it through McLuhan, never pushing it past where he was at in 1964. All they are discovering is media ecology, sort of, and that the medium is in fact the message. Wow! So how do I make this point without just loosing my cool? I gotta go back and figure out what he really adds beyond what these contemporary scholars are saying. focus on KH and AFW? Others?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cicero, McLuhan, Kairos

Thinking about the Kairos call for webtexts on the relevance of classical rhetoric to new media composition. Reading McLuhan on Cicero, the notion of encyclopedic eloquence, the training of citizens / princes, McLuhan's reading of Machievalli and Ramus as a narrowing and instrumentalizing of that tradition, in contrast to Cicero, Erasmus, and Nashe. McLuhan cites Joyce, Eliot, and Pound as the great rhetoricians / poets in the 20th century, so where does that leave us in the 21st century? David Byrne, Hillman Curtis, Laurie Anderson? I just went to Laurie Anderson's site for the first time and found out that she was NASA's first "artist in residence" in 2005, and that her newest work comes out of that experience. Without knowing any more than that, i know that there is a McLuhanesque article on the "two worlds," on Anderson translating the scientific experience, on tuning the public to the scientific endeavor that increasingly seems dangerous and perhaps pointless rather than exciting, brave, new.

For Kairos: as Sirc has shown us, we need to expand out understanding of composition beyond our narrow and specialized conversations or we risk losing the range and variety of human expression. I worry about offering up Byrne and Anderson because I worry about the "genius" status, but I don't think either would accept that label, but they both exhibit 21st century encyclopedic eloquence, an eloquence that is not high brow although not always accessible. To the extent that they can teach us and our students anything, Byrne's PPT has clearly shown us that the medium is the massage--students just don't massage in the same ways. Anderson is perhaps less accessible; i'll have to revisit her work. What does it mean that at 37 I am re-learning all that I new at 17? Look at the roadblocks my education and myself put up.

Students in the sciences, engineering, even business exhibit the same kinds of passion, curiosity, and amateurism as students in the humanities, who are equally susceptible to specialization, narrow-minded ness, and fragmention.

Anthony has been talking about the canons of skills, derived from Scholes canon of methods. Scholes is probably working in the Ciceronian tradition; collaboration with Ulmer on TextBook, I believe.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

McLuhan and ulmer again

Ulmer, in his very first book, immediately distanced himself from McLuhan because he felt like McLuhan was privileging / encouraging a return to orality. The point you are making about Ulmer distancing himself from Ong is pointing out the same kind of positioning move--Ong was McLuhan's student, and both Ong and McLuhan are more conservative than Ulmer, and part of that conservatism is manifest in a certain nostalgia for oral cultures. Ong and McLuhan have more faith in the immediacy of the oral word (to bring Bolter and Grusin in) than does Ulmer, and Ulmer does not want to see the "literacy" of the 21st century return to an easy acceptance of immediacy and transparency.

That paragraph might have more background information than you need. What's relevant for our unit and our course, however, is understanding that Ulmer is trying to help us think about a new kind of literacy that is not fundamentally "oral." The MyStory, as you hint, shouldn't just be a "familiar telling of a tale," it shouldn't be just another story about the clear and easy coherence of your identify. Instead, it should be a story of the ways in which you perhaps have to force or yoke "discourses" (career, family, entertainment, community) together to find a coherence that you probably will acknowledge is accidental, social, and fragile, rather than natural, unique, and solid.