Reflection on Ching-In Chen’s The Heart’s Traffic

As other secondgeneration immigrant writers, Chin-In Chen addresses the American experience from a position of both belonging and not-belonging, which is clearly evident in her collection The Heart’s Traffic. The collection crosses embodies boundary-crossing beyond the typical use of plot (though that is present as well), and results in a comingled impression of life from the perspective of an immigrant and her family. As with many poetry collections, the evidence of the collection’s conceptual identity (in this case, border-crossing and existing in multiple realities concurrently) presents initially with the cover of the book. However, the reader will notice quickly that Chen’s collection follows through with these concepts in nearly every poem. Continue reading “Reflection on Ching-In Chen’s The Heart’s Traffic”

Investigating Technology’s Influence on Composition, the Long View

Hartley, James, Michael Howe, Wilbert McKeachie.  “Writing through Time: Longitudinal Studies of the Effects of New Technology on Writing.”  British Journal of Educational Technology 32.2 (2001): 141-151.  Academic Search Complete.  Web.  15 October 2010.
            Hartley et al address the question in this paper as to whether the changes in writing and thinking through changing technology usage merely “a cosmetic one…or are the changes more fundamental than this” (141).  The authors review literature produced in the final decade of the 20th century, and find the debate centers around the “three possibilities [Hartley (1993)] outlined” (142).  In order to discover which of the three were more probable, the authors took to a method to describe “pieces written by the same authors over lengthy periods using different technologies” (144).  The method of research involved a statement of writing methods, a selection of samples from a broad time period, and a quantitative analysis of these samples from each of the authors of the paper (144-45).  It should be noted that each of the authors is a university professor, that the authors are evaluating their own works, and finally that the selected writing samples were chosen from times after the authors attained university degrees.   

These faults may or may not influence their findings, but I am leaning toward the concern that each author had already set his writing style before the selected samples were written.

            In the results tables of the quantitative analysis, each author displays remarkable consistency over the course of the decades.  These findings are displayed in tables with variables including: average number of sentences, number of words per sentence, percentage of passive sentences, the Flesch Index score, and the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level score (146-48).  The authors find that although there are fluctuations within each individual sample (148), “the only measure that is perhaps time-related is the use of passive [constructions]” (149).  The authors continue, however, to attribute that change to the fourth edition of APA’s Publication Manual (1994), which encourages the use of active rather than passive verb constructions (149).
            Although the authors conclude that the changes they have made in technology usage in composition has not significantly influenced their writing styles (149), I again point to the issue with the methods used in this study.  These authors had significantly defined their writing styles prior to when the samples selected were composed, and I believe this is a significant shortcoming.  By evaluating developing writers, as well as writers who are constantly attempting to define themselves (i.e. – poets), I hope to show that there are significant differences between analogue and digital technologies in drafting.

Hints Toward the Effects of Computers on Composition

Longo, Bernadette, Donna Reiss, Cynthia L. Selfe, Art Young.  “The Poetics of Computers: Composing Relationships with Technology.”  Computers and Composition 20 (2003): 97-118.  Science Direct.  Web.  20 October 2010.
            Longo et al describe a graduate course design which they taught at Clemson University in 2001.  They designed the course to expose students to “a range of nonfiction and fiction literary works that deal with complex technology issues,” as well as solicit “a variety of humanistic responses to these works” (97-8).  The ultimate goal of the course was to imbue a conscientiousness in the students with regard to the power relationship between people and digital means, and to provide a basis of theory from which to manipulate that relationship (98, 99).  The goals and approaches for the course seem to line up closely with Old Dominion University’s English 662 course.  
In place of the cyborg as a central metaphor, however, Longo et al decided to use robots.  The authors state that the choice assisted in “identifying a central set of questions… What does it mean to be human, what does it mean to be a machine, and what can machines tell us about being human” (99).  Again, these questions are mirrored by ODU’s course design.  The similarities continue in some of the responses students provided to a questionnaire sent several years later, claiming insight into the relationship between digital technologies and people, as well as the interconnected power relationships generated through interaction with technology.
            The creative responses solicited by the authors, however, begin to display differentiation to ODU’s course offering.  Students were asked to “construct and compose poems and other texts in response to visual images” and vice-versa (102-103).  These figures were produced in class by the students with relatively low-tech provisions, and the annotations were constructed on the spot during the same time.  It is these “brief reflections on the cyberselves they had constructed” (104) which most interests me, as they display a rough analogue (non-digital) process which I hope to find in my own research.  The authors point particularly to “Robyn’s gangly dancer (see Figure 2)” (104), which she annotated with a brief poem, as a response to the interplay between the human and the digital.  I am interested in this student’s response because she displays some of the qualities which I expect to find in the drafting process in the analogue area as far as attention to rhyme, rhythm, and word choice.
            The graduate students were also asked to “[take] several weeks to write an original poem” as well as construct a visual complement (105-06), and the authors spend several pages evaluating these constructions (106-110).  This section is also extremely relevant to the literature review of my study, however, because the students produced finely-honed examples, it may not be possible to relate these directly to the initial drafting process I am investigating.  This section may prove relevant in further investigations of the integration between the digital and the poetic realms.

Digital Delivery and Rhetoric

Porter, James E.  “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric.”  Computers and Composition 26 (2009): 207-224.  ScienceDirect.  Web.  01 October 2010.
            James Porter’s article reexamining rhetorical delivery in terms of today’s internetworked possibilities begins with an overview of the history of the practices and theories of delivery up to the “English elocutionary movement of the 18th century… where the art of delivery became degraded” (210).  In connecting the ancient Greek philosophies of rhetoric to our current deemphasized concept of delivery, Porter points to the need to create “a theoretical framework for digital delivery” because “technical knowledge is integral to the art of rhetoric and the canon of rhetorical delivery in the digital age” (208).  Porter divides his article in two, offering first the discussed overview and argument for relevance, and second, his proposed theory, which he does not propose to “provide a comprehensive theory of digital delivery,” but to “aggregate[e] and coordinat[e] a well-established body of research” (211-12).

            Porter breaks his “rubric of “digital delivery”” (212) into five components consisting of “Body/Identity” (212-13), “Distribution/Circulation” (214-15), “Access/Accessibility” (215-16), “Interaction” (216-17), and finally, “Economics” (218-20).  For my research interests in poetry publishing in the digital era, each of these topics provides some insight, though the more interesting aspects come under the headings of “Body/Identity” and “Economics.” 
            In the first section, Porter describes how digital means do not force the body to “disappear in virtual space,” but rather, agrees with Nayar’s text by writing that “it is there in all its non-virtual manifestations: gender, race, sexual preference…etc.” (212).  Porter gestures (a formerly literal term in the rhetoric of delivery which he investigates in the paragraph above by referencing emoticons and avatars) toward the scholarship of bodies in digital realms (212), and notes that imagery embedded in websites often serves a rhetorical delivery purpose; by indicating websites run by Victoria’s Secret, Lawrence Lessig, and Donna Haraway, Porter is able to describe the rhetorical stances taken by the writers in terms of delivery.  Porter continues with the idea that “it is not only the visual body that is recovered in virtual spaces [, but also] the speaking body” (213).  He references the ability to integrate multimedia elements in the forms of not only static pictures or text, but also audio/visual elements which re-appropriate the importance of the “oral performance” (213).  Because of these movements toward an integrated multimedia presentation, Porter argues, “we need a robust rhetoric of digital delivery to understand how to be an effective rhetorical participant within these environments” (213).
            Porter’s article sheds much light on the role and need to re-appropriate rhetorical delivery as a subject of research, and I would recommend the article strongly.  In my particular case, I see interesting questions developing regarding how poets choose to represent themselves on the Internet; whether rhetorical decisions are made consciously or instinctually; how they choose to digitally publish their poetry (or not, and why).

Mechanization and Implications for Power

The United States Department of Defense is one of the primary driving forces behind advancing applied technology, as is seen in the video above.  Boston Dynamics is a robotic research firm which develops applications for DARPA and other DoD agencies.  In this case, Boston Dynamics has developed a cyber-age pack mule.  The particular video above displays “BigDog,” a “rough-terrain robot that walks, runs, climbs, and carries heavy loads” (Boston Dynamics).  According to Boston Dynamics, BigDog is capable of carrying loads as heavy as 340 pounds, which in personal experience, is equivalent to the logistical and tactical load of a fire-team of Marines in the field.1

Memory in Cyberculture…

The following addresses an article from Culture & Psychology by Jens Brockmeier:

Brockmeier, Jens.  “After the Archive: Remapping Memory.”  Culture & Psychology 16.5 (2010): 5-35.  EBSCOHost.  Web.  10 September 2010.
Nayar, Pramod.  An Introduction to New Media and Cybercultures.  West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.  Print.

            Brockmeier examines four “fields of memory studies” (11) which serve to “open up to different cultural landscapes of knowledge and learning.  One of his precepts is that “memory” as an ontological concept and epistemological study is a relatively recent cultural development, and he points to earlier human cultures, such as the Cree Native Americans, who did not have a word specifically referring to memory the same way western cultures have (6-8).  The author continues in the introductory section to evaluate the cultural and scientific viewpoints of memory, introducing cultural, personal, biological, and psychological understandings.  He goes on to write that “each memory system operates according to the model of storage [the archive],” and that with regards to current research in each of the four fields, societies are witnessing a “dismantlement of the traditional notion of memory” (9).

            The four fields of understanding memory which Brockmeier suggests include the socio-cultural, the technological, the literary-artistic, and the bio-cognitive (11).  These four areas offer through their labels alone a specific link to the concept of digital culture and the concepts Nayar introduces in his text.  Brockmeier defines the socio-cultural field as guided “by interests in the social and cultural constitution and organization of memory…including history” (11), and further points out through specific examples of atrocity-driven “re-appropriation” (12) of cultural memory as constituted in former Soviet Republics, African and South American “Truth and Reconciliation Commissions,” and investigations into East German and Franco-era Spanish offences (11-12).  The author continues beyond just this point however to include the idea that “sites of memory” (for example, Ground Zero), necessarily become “sites of second-order memory,” an idea he quotes from Winter (12).  He further goes on to state, drawing on Derrida, Foucault, and Bakhtin, that “memories…are meaning constructions and thus are in principle unstable” (13).  In the technological field, Brockmeier points to the same sort of instability in not just memories themselves, but also in the concept of memory.  As Nayar implies, the digital culture is constantly in flux, and Brockmeier reinforces Nayar’s concept that the digital re-impacts the real world and ultimately “on the cognitive functions and cultural practices of remembering of their users” (Brockmeier, 14).  He goes on to write that in the literary-artistic field that “the contemporary narrative exploration of memory and self has taken a critical stance towards the idea that experiences can be stored and preserved over time and finally recalled” (18).  In other words, writers and artists are questioning the idea that “memory” is the same as “truth.”  In examining his bio-cognitive field of memory studies, Brockmeier further questions the ontological concept of memory, examining recent studies in neurocognitive psychology (physical substance of the mind, and “diseases like Alzheimer’s” (19)), and psychotherapy (examining the False Memory Syndrome).  These issues point toward a further, physical unlinking in the structure of the mind from our traditional concept of memory.
            What links all of these fields together for me is the idea that Nayar propounds in his text that physical and digital culture is becoming inextricably intertwined, that “cyborg bodies” can live in all these “fields of memory” at the same moment through the use of personal communications technologies and body-intervention.  I think for that reason, this article is well-worth reading.