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Perspective and Style

In Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media author Collin Gifford Brooke invites readers to rethink the traditional canons.  He explains that the canons are not static and that they should be rethought in light of new technologies.  I was particularly interested in Brooke’s discussion of perspective and the canon style and how they influence our understanding of new media and literacy.

Brooke states that “style has probably been the most productive canon for explorations of new media” (p. 113).  He explains the important relationship between media and style and states that “scholarship has focused on the inextricable combination of visual and verbal elements within new media” (p. 113). Brooke asks us to “consider what style might look like when we consider it in terms of interfaces rather than static texts” (p. 114).  He explains that new media interfaces use the canon style to change our perspective on the text.  They “help us move from the abstracted, single perspective of the reader of a static text or the viewer of a painting to the multiple and partial perspectives necessary for many forms of new media” (p. 114).  Brooke suggests that we “restore style to its place in our ecology of practice” (p. 114).  He suggests that we “move style away from its place in an Aristotelian ecology of code” (p. 126).

He points us to “the desktop metaphor in most graphical user interfaces” as an example (p. 133). Brooke asks the question of whether “the desktop is something that we look at or through” and concludes that the answer depends on “where we look from” and our “level of comfort with the various metaphors operating there” (p.134).  Another example he uses is the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, World of Warcraft.  Brooke explains that the interface in this game changes depending on the level of the player and the function they are trying to perform.

Brooke offers readers some background on the understanding of rhetoric and perspective.  He does this to provide a “backdrop against which we might begin to explore what art historian James Elkins describes as the practice of perspective” (p.123).  This practice he describes as having been “subsumed by mathematical perspective and one that will prove important for reconceiving style for the interface” (p. 123).

Brooke goes on to invite us to look at metaphor.  He prefers Aristotle’s use of the word and states that using metaphor in that way “reveals some interesting connections- connections suggested both in the transmedial development of perspective and in more recent attempts to gather media under the umbrella of polymorphic or multiliteracies” (p. 125). Aristotle defined metaphor as a “movement (epiphora) or displacement, from one term to another” (p. 125).

Brooke goes on to talk about the other canons and how they should be revisited with new media in mind.  He ends the book on a humorous note with a list of questions that he attempts to answer about the book’s purpose and what research is still needed in this area among other things.

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