Monday, January 30, 2012

Reading, Thinking, & Reflecting Notes - January 30, 2012

This week, I began reading Lingua Fracta.  Though Chapters 1-4 were assigned, I began with the Preface, and I am glad I did.  The preface helped me prepare for what was to come by introducing a couple of important concepts that are essential for comprehending this text.
The first important term I encountered in Lingua Fracta was "hypertext." So, I found a short video tutorial that provides a definition of "hypertext" and how it is used.

Next, it was necessary to familiarize myself with Aristotle's Five Canons of Rhetoric.  I am basically unfamiliar with the theories of rhetoric, so I had to give myself a crash course... I found Rhetorica: Canons of Rhetoric to be a helpful resource in getting a quick overview.

Lingua Fracta takes the canons of classical rhetoric and assigns new meanings to provide a framework for the rhetorical analysis of new media.  Chapter 1 of the text introduces the concept of using the interface (as opposed to the text) as the unit of analysis. The chapter refers to an electronic essay that was published in the online journal Kairos in the late 90's called Hypertext is Dead. Brooke notes that the essay is "a distinctive example of scholarship in the field of rhetoric and composition, partly for the multiple layers of mediation it passed through to arrive in its published form." Brooke also refers frequently to hypertext criticism in this chapter. Finally, in Chapter 4, I began to understand why traditional rhetoricians might not like the idea of the hypertext, because it does not lend well to traditional methods of analysis for pattern or arrangement in a text.  The analogy of collecting building materials for a home without concern for structure really helped me to visualize what this might mean...
Is this what rhetoricians imagine when they think of hypertexts? 
Just a bunch of "building materials" with no structure or order?
(Source: AgentInsure

Sometimes I wonder - are we wrapping our mind around technology?
Or is technology wrapping its "mind" around us?
(Source: my vedana)

The main focus of Chapter 1 was on the interface. The author argues that "new media challenges us to reconceive our basic unit of analysis; the mutability of new media means that we should be shifting our focus from textual objects to medial interfaces." (p. 6) Traditionally, criticism and analysis of "isolated individual texts" were conducted based on a set of values determined within the discipline, but due to the fluid nature of new media platforms, "closed reading" is often not possible.  Therefore, one must analyze characteristics of the interface itself.

"...the excess of media becomes an authentic experience..." (p. 16)
"...the content of any medium is another medium..." (p. 16)
(Source: Smashing Magazine)

Another important concept introduced in Chapter 1 was that of remediation.  Remediation is a defining characteristic of new media - essential, an "old" technology is manifested into a "new" technology.

The author best illustrated this point for me when discussing the essay by Brooks, Nichols, and Priebe (1994) called "Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs."  In this study, they argue that three print genres (personal journals, academic notebooks, and note cards) have been remediated by weblogs.

The author offered a second example of remediation, which was that of a teacher using StorySpace for a research assignment in the classroom.  It seemed that this assignment did not go so well, and it sort of reminded me about times when I have "used technology for the sake of using technology," which can sometimes get in the way of reaching the desired learning objectives.  Students can sometimes become resentful of new technology when it is used improperly - sometimes they have acheived a high level of familiarity and comfort with "old media" technologies, so their motivation to use "new media" can be low, especially for those who are not so tech-savvy.  When I use "new" technology in the ESL classroom, I try to provide a rationale for its use, and I really try to "sell" the idea. I've found this is especially important when using technololgy or media that has a steep learning curve - especially since sometimes there is a language barrier in addition to that.
"Media Ecology" - Chapter 2 draws from work in this interdisciplinary field.
(Source: Bloggity, Blog, Blog, Blog)
Chapter 2 explains the rationale behind essentially rethinking the canons in terms of non-print technology, which will "allow us to both understand and produce interfaces." (p. 27)  The author describes how as an "ecology of practice, the canons supply a framework for approaching new media that focuses on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of interface." (p. 28)  Personally, having a background in biology, I feel quite comfortable with the approach of conceptualizing new media in an ecological sense - I can wrap my mind around the idea that new media should be seen as a "system" that is in a state of constant flux, with varying levels of stability.

Another term I was unfamiliar with was trivium.  So, after doing a quick google search, I found that "Trivium" is actually a death metal band...

(Source: Trivium -
After modifying my search terms, I found that trivium also refers to three of the Seven Liberal Arts - grammar, rhetoric, and logic.  The author lays out his own "contemporary version of the trivium - which [he has labeled as] ecologies of code, practice, and culture." (p. 47)
The Seven Liberal Arts - Quadrivium and Trivium
(Source: Tufts Magazine)
The author used "trackbacks" to describe an illustrate an "ecology of practice."  I had never heard of the "trackback" feature on blogs before... and I'm still not quite sure how they work, exactly.

Chapter 3 dealt with the first canon - invention.  Essentially, an invention is anything that creates something from nothing.  The author went into great detail about the differences between hermeneutic and proairetic invention. 

Chapter 4 discussed the second canon - arrangement.  The author focused on the concept that with new media, it is better to consider arrangement in terms of pattern as opposed to sequence.  My favorite quote from this chapter was from Weinberger (2002).

"Real-world space is a preexisting container in which the things of the world exist...
Web space is created by the things in it."
~David Weinberger, 2002 (p. 95)
(Image Source: New World Notes)


Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta. Creeskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc., 2009. Print.

Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey, 1968. Print.

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