Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Week 9: Focus on Essay

Question re last week's feminism lecture: look at the language Irigaray uses; how does she refer to male and female genetalia? Does she use slang or colloquial terms for both or just the male?

*** Now to course-work ***

"There is no single best way to begin a writing project. What's best is what gets you going and builds momentum for the journey ahead. You may want to start right in on a draft or do some preplanning."

Essay brings a focus to the module. We'll talk about what we're expecting and how you might go about it.

Key: to apply the ideas we've been talking about as a way of making sense of digital culture.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the ideas and of course you ability to research.

DEADLINE: 30 Jan. 2007 (but this remains to be confirmed!!)

LENGTH: 2000-3000 words (but double-check your module handbook)

STYLE: Whatever style you use, MLA, APA, HARVARD, just use it consistently

ESSAY: we're expecting the centre of the essay to be an argument. There are two main ways of doing an essay: discuss or compare/contrast.

FRAME your essay as a QUESTION. "How" questions lead to deterministic arguments, "WHY" difficult, "what" questions are useful, "who" leads more to biographical and perhaps journalistic interpretation so try to avoid this one, and "when" has potential. The way you frame the question influences how the argument is played out.

Remember, don't be too general or too focused. An example of something extremely focussed see Philip Tagg on semiotics of film.

A potential "who" question: collaborative authorship, reliability of information, the nature of people who write it (but how you would determine this info.) Alan Liu is a good resource here (info on filtering the knowledge and how you measure the reliability).

Paul: how to understand spaces, holography, architecture, a 2d object to be appreciated in a 3d space. If digital life is a chaos of information, you're being constantly advertised to, and there are lots of kinds of info. coming at you at the same time.

Think of Creativity Conversation at the IOCT last week: "Creating Spaces: Virtual and Real" with Martin Richardson (Holographer) and Martin Michel (Product and Spatial Design). Talked about new way of reading cathedrals...have a ready of The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Steven Raymond.

Check out "photosynth" by microsoft: photos arranged into a 3d cloud.

See TechCrunch's take on photosynth here and another interesting post here at Stink Digital.

Essay Idea: we don't need to think about the future anymore because it's already here...the future is not so impossible. Why?

Think of Institute for the Future

See also Map of Future Forces Affecting Education

TASK: for next week come to the session with your essay question ready!!

It might help to decided whether you want to do a quantitative or qualitative essay.


Moving to linguistics
think of the word television - half greek half latin

what is "the digital?"

What is linguistics?

Linguistics is the study of language – not just particular languages, but the system of human communication. Some of the basic issues of this field are?

* What is language? How is it organized?
* How is it analyzed? How are its units discovered and tested?
* Where is language stored and processed in the brain? How is it learned?
* What do all languages—including nonvocal systems of communication (e.g. writing and sign languages)—have in common? What do these properties show us about human cognition?
* How did language originate? What does it have in common with animal communication? How is it different?
* How many distinct families or stocks of languages are there in the 6000 or so known languages today? What original languages did they come from? How have they changed over time?
* What does dialectal and social variation show us about the use of language? How has this diversity affected issues of social, political, and educational policy?
* What is the relationship between language and culture? Language and thought?

Excellent source from Wake Forest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lecture 8: Feminism and Cyberfeminism

Rosi Braidotti Nomadic Subjects
Luce Irigaray This Sex Which is Not One
Rosi Braidotti Cyberfeminism with a Difference


Paul: Irigaray seemed almost entirely about "dicks" and "vaginas."

Jess: it's about "bodies."

Andy: First chapter of Irigaray (on Alice) "skirts" the issue.

"Irigaray questions the assumption that female sexuality is dependent upon male sexuality. She asks and attempts to answer, such questions as, Where is female sexuality located if it always refers back to the penis? Where does female pleasure reside? What is female desire and what does it look like, if it looks like anything at all? And why does Freud insist that the penis is the only true sex organ?"

Homosexuality for Irigaray is not sexual but economic.

"Irigaray says that in this phallogocentric model, the kind of sexuality that gets privileged is one based on looking because the one sexual organ, the penis, is visible. So the Freudian model of sexuality, which privileges the penis, is based on the visual; it is scopophilic.

They (girls) notice the penis of a brother or playmate, strikingly visible and of large proportions, at once recognize it as the superior counterpart of their own small and inconspicuous organ, and from that time forward fall a victim to envy for the penis. (Sexuality and the Psychology of Love, "Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes", pg.177.)

Male sexuality is based on having a penis, which is privileged because it can be seen; it is visible (and larger); therefore, it is superior. In contrast, a woman's sexual organ(s) cannot be seen; therefore it is inferior and becomes equated with having nothing. In other words, male sexuality is based on having a penis, female sexuality is based on having nothing. This system sets up the simple binary opposition of penis/nothing.

According to Freud, since women have nothing, women are always trying to get a penis for themselves in order to fill the lack: " A little girl . . . makes her judgment and her decision in a flash. She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it" (Ibid, pg. 177). Freud theorizes that women do one or a combination of the following three things in order to fulfill the desire to have a penis:

1. She will try to acquire the penis for herself by having a baby, especially a male baby.

But now the girl's libido slips into a new position by means - there is no other way of putting it - of the equation "penis=child." She gives up her wish for a penis and puts in place of it a wish for a child (Ibid, p. 180-81).

This desire has its roots in the Oedipus Complex, when the female child yearns to have a baby by her father to make up for her lack of a penis. This "wish" is repressed and redirected to having a baby with a man other than her father.

2. She will find or attempt to find a husband who is like her father, whom she believes is capable of giving it (the penis) to her. In fact, Freud believes that in certain cases newly married women "wish to castrate the young husband and keep his penis" (Ibid, p.72).

3. She will try to procure the masculine rights and privileges that the penis represents:

The hope of someday obtaining a penis in spite of everything and so of becoming like a man may persist to an incredibly late age and may become a motive for the strangest and otherwise unaccountable actions. Or again, a process may set in which might be described as a "denial," ....Thus a girl may refuse to accept the fact of being castrated, may harden herself in the conviction that she does possess a penis and may subsequently be compelled to behave as though she were a man. (Ibid, pg. 178)

According to Freud, if a woman acts like a man, i.e., rational, logic, etc, she is in essence denying the `fact of her castration' and is neurotic.

Therefore, according to Irigaray's reading of Freud, in the Freudian paradigm, female desire is always the desire for a penis to fill the lack or nothingness. Male desire, on the other hand, is to get back to the mother's body, to have sexual relations with his mother as is evidenced in the Oedipus complex. The result is that male and female desire look different; the female attempts to fill her desire by getting a penis, and the male attempts to fill his desire by having sex with a female other than his mother.


Nomadic Subjectivity:

Andy: it is not a migrant but a nomadic as the fact you are constantly going.

how about in a feminist framework:

Andy: you are doing something rather than trying to become an outward goal that we get there, it is an evolving thing.

"The practice of "as-if", for Braidotti, is a "technique of strategic re-location in order to rescue what we need of the past in order to trace paths of transformation of our lives here and now."(p.6) Braidotti also understands "as-if" as "the affirmation of fluid boundaries, a practice of the intervals, of the interfaces, and the interstices." While grounded in postmodernist theory of repetition, parody, pastiche, etc., Braidotti is insistent that for "as-if" to be useful, it must be grounded in deliberate agency and lived experience. Postmodern subversions and parody "can be politically empowering on the condition of being sustained by a critical consciousness that aims at engendering transformations and changes." (p.7)

What makes a pastiche useful?

Andy: changes contexts. And, that context is lived experience.

Paul: but we shouldn't just do something different but something better...

But, there are no value-judgements in pomo...

What's wrong with "identity?:

Paul - it's static
Andy - identity is defined by whats round you while nomadism is defined by what you are

""desire to leave behind the linear mode of intellectual thinking, the teleologically ordained style of argumentation that most of us have been trained to respect and emulate" (29)

Braidotti - Cyberfeminism

Paul: Braidotti is saying that the visual is purely a masculine preserve and the female way to interact with things is a more sensory/audio/feel/touch language rather than looking at things. Because looking at things objectifies things.

Andy: Science fiction is good as it allows for alternative perspectives

Paul: see ikon gallery's set up on the future using *trashy* sci-fi (planets of the apes future). For Braidotti it's a way of imagining other ways of looking at things

Andy: alternative views openes it up to alternative organisations and societies etc...

Andy: in sci-fi you get entirely female societies

Jess: Is a single gender society better then?

Paul: are there roles in society better performed by women?

Jess: argghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Paul: but there are lots of ways of being "male"

Andy: it comes down to being a person, not a gender.

Jess: what about "being"....how about "becoming."

"The central point remains: there is a credibility gap between the promises of Virtual Reality and cyberspace and the quality of what it delivers. It consequently seems to me that, in the short range, this new technological frontier will intensify the gender-gap and increase the polarisation between the sexes. We are back to the war metaphor, but its location is the real world, not the hyperspace of abstract masculinity. And its protagonists are no computer images, but the real social agents of postin dustrial urban landscapes.
The most effective strategy remains for women to use technology in order to disengage our collective imagination from the phallus and its accessory values: money, exclusion and domination, nationalism, iconic femininity and systematic violence."

Web 2.0 and Feminism

The web is platform.
Paul: people can change their identities etc... online, nothing is static.
Paul: there isn't a sense that the "now" has any sense of permanence.

Paul: is there an ideological stance in feminism today? Or is it universal?

Andy: a difference acknowledged today between everyone is the same and everyone is different.

Jess: Context is crucial.

Feminist Manifesto:

Paul: defining it as feminism is limiting

Jess: by why is it important today that we think about gender?

(from blog post) "A "male" writer could be interpreted as "female" and vice versa. Writing without signifiers becomes androgynous. If all writing is androgynous and all users are reduced to text, then all users are androgynous. With a lack of signifiers, things other than gender can also be disregarded (age, race, etc)."

Andy: but gender isn't one or the other, so why don't we disregard it?

Andy: we exist on a gender spectrum.

Paul: "there is no gender spectrum."

Jess: but that implies there is a beginning and an end

Jess: read Judith Butler Gender Butler

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lecture 7: Barthes, Derrida, Manovich - Part Trois

S/Z - structuralist analysis of "Sarrassine" by Honore de Balzac

Paul: The antithesis is the battle between two plenitudes (page 27) - in the structural analysis of Sarrasine Balzac is setting up things that are diametrically opposed (binary oppositions)

Beauty cannot assert itself in the form of a citation...it is referred to in an infinity of codes, so it is a construct, it is always signified (page 33)

Paul: Sarrasine is an impersonal network on symbols combined under the proper name of Sarrasine...we are searching for a transitory site of the text... (page 94)

What is "readerly" and what is "writerly."

Andy: Alice and Wonderland: "it means what I want it to mean"

Paul: interesting reading a structural analysis of language knowing it has been translated, there is no translation for masculine and feminine (think of Derrida's comment on the french word for "lie" meaning "beastly" but actual usage is far more subtle)

"What is most often called 'relevant'? Well, whatever feels right, whatever seems pertinent, apropos, welcome, appropriate, opportune, justified, well-suited or adjusted, coming right at the moment when you expect it--or corresponding as is necessary to the object to which the so-called relevant action relates: the relevant discourse, the relevant proposition, the relevant decision, the relevant translation. A relevant translation would therefore be, quite simply, a 'good' translation, a translation that does what one expects of it, in short, a version that performs its mission, honors its debt and does its job or its duty while inscribing in the receiving language the most relevant equivalent for an original, the language that is the most right, appropriate, pertinent, adequate, opportune, pointed, univocal, idiomatic, and so on."

Andrew: "pattern". Used to give presentation to artists, designers, computer programmers etc...and the use of the word "pattern" highlighted problem with translations. For scientists pattern = nobel prize, for maths you can de pattern, in art if one makes patterns implies no originality (mere pattern-making). You realise there is a whole subtext of meanings for one word. Thus, semantic and approach differences is what makes this Masters' course so different and challenging.

"knowing what you're not is just as valuable as knowing what you are" (Andrew)

How many humanities scholars have patents? Just goes to show you the different kinds of goals between sciences and humanities and raises questions and challenges for translations between ideas/schools of thought.

Read: Zazie in the Metro (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
by Raymond Queneau - about colloquial French language

Also look at his Exercises de style, 1947

"English writers write spoken English and American writers write spoken American. And the most striking thing of all is that their scientists, their scholars and their historians write an English that is the English of the man in the street, whereas in France, when it comes to science or history, we are still obliged to write in formal language. I want to write in a living language--in the language of the ordinary man. The language you want to write in is your so-called maternal language."


Derrida and Language

The moment of maximum freedom is reached by translation with Jacques Derrida's translation deconstructionist theory. That, even if Derrida's theory of translation states that it is enemy of the pursuing of freedom. Derrida's translation is free because it doesn't aim even to be free, because it overlooks any and all duty, be it philological or liberal, and revolts at any intention to communicate the prototext's content, to "imprecisely transmit an unessential content". In Des tours de Babel, of 1985, he enunciates the four principles of translation:

1. The translator's task is not revealed by any reception.

2. Translation has not as essential aim to communicate.

3. Translation is neither an image nor a copy.

4. Translation has no obligation to transport contents, yet must evidence the affinity between languages, must exhibit its potential (1985: 386-395).

Derrida's is a primordial translation allowed by the subjective interpretant sign, that has no aim to produce a text apt for being understood, that has no aim to communicate to the outside. A "free" translator is an exhibitionist who enjoys in flaunting his ability to translate his way. The Derridian translator is a narcissist, because he doesn't care about text except as a mirror of his bravura; he is interested in himself as capable translator.


Student Task from last week: Structuralist Critique

Paul's move from analogue to digital:

Andy's shift from digital to analogue (which for the purpose here must be re-translated to digital)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lecture 6: Review

Going back to the beginning

The critical thing about this course is the reading which follows the train of thought of the module. Going back to the name of the module (digital cultures) what happens when you put the two words together. What is culture - how might one define it?

Andy: Accumulated knowledge but not necessary everything that gets accumulated in history, because not everything makes it into being culture.

Andrew: Whose knowledge?

Andy: collective knowledge...

Andrew: Where is this knowledge and how do you access it?

Andy: books, a collective subconscious of things remembered

Andrew: so the surrounding culture shapes our identity, some kind of context for everything. This was one of the major conclusions from our first lecture, that everything has a context: people and artifacts.

The other word is digital?

Andy: A bland definition as compared to analogue, whereby digital works by a binary signal, on or off, 1 or 0.

Andrew: So a system of encoding? How do the 1s and 0s operate?

Task: get a simple definition of digital

Whereas culture is all about context, digital numbers don't really have a context.

FlatLand by Edwin Abbot a short novel.

Critical Reading Must: Pierre Menard by Borges and Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Lev Manovich's The Language of New Media and try also Tractatus Logico Philosophicus by Wittgenstein. Here Wittgenstein is trying to describe the universe in words but decides that words just aren't adequate for some things (like God) so we can't talk about it. A very *pure* attempt to do the impossible.

Wittgenstein: Believed in scientific fact but is there such a thing as scientific fact? (Andy's question). See Richard Feynman.

"We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?"
Volume I, 8-2

Think syllogism: "a deductive scheme of a formal argument consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion (as in every virtue is laudable; kindness is a virtue; therefore kindness is laudable."

Read Beckett's Murphy as there is a lot about the Modernist outlook. As Joyce said, Finnegan's Wake is not about something it is the something" - overall aim of the Modernist Project. Inspiration for musicians (John Cage, Barry Truax his riverrun, Roger Marsh).

Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara all in Zurich in 1917.

"ACCORDING TO ROLAND BARTHES, all narratives share structural features that each narrative weaves together in different ways. Despite the differences between individual narratives, any narrative employs a limited number of organizational structures (specifically, five of them) that affect our reading of texts. Rather than see this situation as limiting, however, Barthes argues that we should take this plurality of codes as an invitation to read a text in such a way as to bring out its multiple meanings and connotations. Rather than read a text for its linear plot (this happens, then this, then this), rather than be constrained by either genre or even temporal progression, Barthes argues for what he terms a "writerly" rather than a "readerly" approach to texts. According to Barthes, "the writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world (the world as function) is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages" (5). This closing of the text happens as you read, as you make decisions about a work's genre and its ideological beliefs; however, when you analyze any one sentence of a work closely, it is possible to illustrate just how impacted with meaning (and possibility) any one sentence really is."

What is a myth? An anonymous story that attempts to explain a world view.

Derrida: does the author have any importance to a story?
"'there is no outside-the-text' signifies that one never accedes to a text without some relation to its contextual opening and that a context is not made up only of what is so trivially called a text, that is, the words of a book or the more or less biodegradable paper document in a library. If one does not understand this initial transformation of the concepts of text ...[and] ... context, one understands nothing about nothing of .... deconstruction ..."

"all those boundaries that form the running border of what used to be called a text, of what we once thought this word could identify, i.e. the supposed end and beginning of a work, the unity of a corpus, the title, the margins, the signatures, the referential realm outside the frame, and so forth. What has happened ... is a sort of overrun that spoils all these boundaries and divisions and forces us to extend the accredited concept, the dominant notion of a 'text' ... that is no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces."

TASK: Read!

Question: What is the culture of Wikipedia?

For interest: Read Alice in Wonderland and/or The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition ed. Martin Gardner. For more on Alice see here. In a way, Alice is a story that has achieved that *mythical* status - it has woven together mathematical principles, cultural ideas etc..."