Posts Tagged ‘Lingua Fracta’

Perspective and Style

October 10th, 2009 No comments

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.

With regards to ecology

October 5th, 2009 2 comments

Collin Brooke takes an interesting look at the canons of rhetoric in Lingua Fracta, but what interested me most was his insistence on the ecological perspective because it was so encompassing and relative. Relative to what? All facets of text, hypertext, how and why we produce. Brooke considers it a more accurate term than context. It is indeed metaphorical, almost poetic, to call this system of canons and texts an ecosystem, but it is more accurate. He states his case on page 42:

The appeal of ecology as a conceptual metaphor is its ability to focus our attention on a temporarily finite set of practices, ideas, and interactions without fixing them in place or investing too much critical energy in their stability.

Brooke says later, on page 44, “When we have paid particular attention to one or more canons, it has often been to render it more static.” While he presses us to treat the canons “at the level of generalized activity” (44), the very ecological model he is defining requires us to temporarily reduce a canon or two down to a certain practice or series of practices. When finished applying the canon appropriately we can release it back to its almost theoretical status.

He discusses briefly the ecologies of practice but admits that “distinguishing them from the ecologies of code and culture can only ever only ever be a temporary, conceptual maneuver – one that does not translate into actual practice.” (52) Brooke says that this means there is no “pure zone” in which the ecologies of practice reside. I understood this to mean that the ecologies of practice exist, but only in theory, and any attempt to distinguish them from culture and code is futile.

Prior to this, back on page 44, he explains with a little detail how the ecological approach can be applied to invention and quotes Karen LeFevre from 1987 as defining the ecology of invention to be “the ways ideas arise and are nurtured or hindered by social context and cultures.” This is nearly identical to the concept of intertextuality. The conference that Brooke said to have attended is a form of discourse community. I don’t make these associations throughout Brooke’s text as a way to boil down his ideas to irreducible regurgitations of overused arguments, but rather as a habit of learning by attribution and extension.

That’s what I felt Brooke was emphasizing – an extension of our definitions and theories as a form of adaptation.

Rethinking the Canons

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media by Collin Brooke inspires us to look at text and rhetoric especially the canons in the light of new media.  The rhetorical canons; invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, Brooke describes as being “more like a disciplinary heirloom then they are part of our core intellectual inheritance” (29).  This is because while those involved in rhetoric and composition view the canons, invention and style as crucial they may not place as much emphasis on memory and delivery.  The canons memory and delivery while once of great concern have evolved into less importance.  The canon arrangement “falls somewhere in between, embodying the necessity of discursive forms, but occasionally lapsing into formulae like the notorious five paragraph theme” (29) The canons are an inherent part of our understanding of rhetoric so much so that much of the time they go unacknowledged.

With the advent of digital media our understanding of the cannons needs to evolve.  Brooke points us to “Hypertext is Dead” as a prime example.  “Hypertext is Dead” was published by the electronic journal Kairos and is an “electronic essay containing the positions and ideas of some of the leading figures in the specialty of computers and writing and focusing specifically (as the title indicates) on the vitality of hypertext” (1).  “Hypertext is Dead” passed though three layers the town hall conversation format, the online component, and the worthiness of academic publication and while it is not the only work of this type one thing that does make it “distinctive is the fact that all three of these layers are made explicit on the front page of the essay: Its emulation of the “ideal conference session” supplies the motive behind its preservation” (3). Brooke explains that the notions of “Hypertext is Dead” are “symptomatic of broader changes in the range of informational, communicative, and expressive potentials embodied in new media” (5).

Brooke explains that we need to “locate the canons more centrally” within our understanding of rhetoric and composition (35).  Previously we have used then as a guide to composing written text.  However Brooke suggests that we should rethink the canons as an ecology and that in this understanding the canons would supply a set of categories that are somehow not static or limited, delineations that preserve the dynamic flexibility of an ecological model while providing us with some ability to distinguish one practice from another” (42). In addition to the canons Brooke offers the “classic trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic” (42).

Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media is a call to action, among other things, for education to change and adapt to the introduction of new media.  Brooke urges universities specifically English departments to emphasis this understanding in faculty and the knowledge they provide to students.