Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DIGITAL LITERACIES Post FIVE (A Blog & His Prezi; from October 15, 2014)

Lots of writing during this week!
First, there was my awesome (if I say so myself) PREZI (click away!)

Then, after the break, is my blog post for this week:

Box in Your Head Attachment
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My Cornell Box
Above is the Sort-Of Cornell Box I have up in my “office” at home.
It’s a magnetic board, and the images used to switch around more often, but inertia—and a level of fondness and familiarity with the pictures already there have essentially locked them in place. Basically, I like it, and that’s how it’s staying for now.
As a former collagist (that is to say, former scissors-and-glue hobbyist working with a blank sheet of paper; several examples of my work are scattered about), I’ve always appreciated Joseph Cornell’s ideas and concepts (so lovingly explicated in Sirc’s essay), even when I have not liked a specific box itself.

The specter of the Cornell Box hovered all three of this week’s readings (and all three of our essayists seemed really fired up about their messages), intertwined with the ideas and attitudes of Postmodernism. 
Using the story of David John Damon, Selfe introduces her definition of Postmodernism (borrowed from Manuel Castells) during the recitation of the “Lessons” learned from Damon’s experience: “postmodernism—the disturbing disappearance of familiar anchoring institutions such as nation states…the explosive growth of alienating forces…the undermining of authoritative systems that insist on a single version of Truth.” (p51-52)
Selfe specifically notes that “individuals may feel alienated, fragmented, confronted with a disturbing loss of traditional authorities or conventional certainties.” (p53)
It is important to note that Castells says this is a result of “the rise of computer networks and the formulation of a networked society,” (p52) because while Damon is quite computer literate, he is disenfranchised is other ways.
The lessons Selfe refers to regarding Damon demonstrate the “inequitable patterns of literacy education in this country”—which could be argued is the power structure using “a networked society” to maintain this status quo.
Lesson One:
--New forms of literacy are alive—and compete with each other; some thrive, some die out—
But there will be times when you are expected to know them all (whether simultaneously or in different parts of your life).
However, the training, the “cultural ecology” is not uniform.
Lesson Two:
--It’s a Postmodern world where “identity anchors power” (p53)
New media literacies are used to create online identities—“Identity Formation”—makes them feel less powerless in our crazy “Prefigurative Society.” [Note how Castells writes about the “disappearance of familiar anchoring institutions” (my itals)—nature abhors a vacuum, and if there are no anchors, students will make them.]
Lesson Three:
We, as educators, must step up to the plate: we need to expand our own ideas about composition beyond the snooze city of “officially sanctioned literacy in our contemporary society.”
We are responsible for our students and ourselves to understand a full range of literacies and composition techniques—and while the tools we need are “unevenly distributed…”, we must at least pay attention to how the students are communicating.

Selfe’s activities are a detailed template to aid the start of any literacy or composition class (and with a smidgen of tweaking, could be applied to all classrooms at the start of the school year).
[By the way, I love the quote on page 57 about illiteracy—it really sums up this section for me—how can we keep “labeling individuals as illiterate when they are perfectly capable of communicating, making meaning, and exchanging information with various systems and contexts”? This is what struck me while teaching summer school this year: these kids were not stupid—their interests were just not in alignment with what the system wanted; they had skills and talents, but they were just not being graded on those particular ones. So not only are the tools “unevenly distributed…”, but so are the standards? Probably.]
On the other hand, Sirc does not mention Postmodernism by name, but from his layout to the namechecking of Duchamp, Cornell and Benjamin; to his quoting of Maciunas’ “an art attitude to everyday phenomena” (p117), his writing utterly glows with the “disappearance of familiar anchoring institutions” (at least in the typography).
But Sirc does introduce the wonderfully creative process of Box Logic, inspired in part by Joseph Cornell. Cornell is quoted as saying, “I call myself a designer” (p115), and it reminded me of the New London Group: “The notion of design connects powerfully to the sort of creative intelligence the best practitioners need in order to be able, continually, to redesign their activities in the very act of practice” (p73, “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies”).
I believe this is a direct connection with what Sirc writes on p117: “A primary goal now in my writing classes: to show my students how their compositional future is assured if they can take an art stance to the everyday, suffusing the materiality of daily life with an aesthetic.”
When Sirc goes on to discuss the Text as Box: “capture that memory-laden thrill for the viewer…” or the Primary Goal being “lived texts of desire” (both p117), the circuit to the New London Group continues: I hear echoes of Available Design/Designing/The Redesigned, where invoked memory is being reinterpreted (redesigned) for a continuously changing “now.” (I also see some of Hocks, especially Audience Stance and Hybridity, but I’m not sure where Transparency fits in during a solo event—unless being honest with yourself fits under that umbrella.)
For me, Available Design/Designing/The Redesigned is reinforced by the comment, “It wasn’t a question of focusing on cutting-edge technology” (p119)—which I take to mean as “Use what you have!”—as well as the “arrangement of materials and notational jottings is as desperately important as compositional skills” (p123)—there are no “little” details.
Sirc almost gets metaphysical when discussing the dusty tomes of “the academy”: “A box-logical genre…displaces such texts from the writing class, substituting a basic awareness of how to use language and information, a cool project, and a sense of poetry. This is, after all, a highly respectable curatorial mission: ‘to reinvest art with a new humanism, using…symbolism, allegory, figuration and language.’” (p142)
In this way, Box Logic might help ground the students living in this prefigurative society—Sirc’s Box Logic can assist “identity formation” (or at least identify “identity formation”) to fight against the alienation and fragmentation. It could also be used to create personal mythologies, solidifying identities further.
Tying it all together is Johnson-Eilola’s description of texts—sounding suspiciously like a sort of mobile Cornell Box: “In our postmodernist or social constructionist cultures, though, we… understand ideas as forming in contexts, in social situations” (p203) where “texts no longer function as discrete objects, but as contingent, fragmented objects in circulation, as elements with constantly configured and shifting networks. The point is not that all texts are completely fragmented and resist connection. Instead, texts are broken down in order to reconnect them, over and over again.” (p208)
Of course, what is more perfect for a box than “marketable chunks” (p209)?
But Johnson-Eilola shares Selfe and Sirc’s grief: “Despite the realization that our culture increasingly values texts that are broken down, rearranged, recombined, we rarely teach forms of writing that support such production.” (p209)
Where Sirc seems to revel somewhat in the creative and fertile fields of artistic Postmodernism, Johnson-Eilola essentially sides with Selfe, and regards Postmodernism with a bit of distrust. He indicates that “the loss of original context” that postmodernism is tied to has allowed “textual content… [to] become commodified… in the capitalist system, forced to earn its keep by moving incessantly.” (p203)
And Finally:The Empire Strikes Back—Uncut (2014; multiple filmmakers)
Tons of fun/all the styles of filmmaking presented could certainly provide “a pedagogy of the curio cabinet” (p125): every technique of cinema/video production was in evidence, from mondo-cheapo home-vidcam-shot-in-the-garage, to elaborate animations, to a lovingly constructed silent movie tribute.
The Empire Strikes Back—Uncut borders on Dadaism; I really want to know what someone who has not seen the Star Warsflicks would think about this?
I’d be fascinated to hear what they have to say; because this film can be sensory overload—and without knowing the “history” of Empire (being unaware of the first film), the confusion must increase—but that would also make it even more Postmodern: seeing the sequel of a film you know nothing about!
(Even better: making a movie that is a sequel—to a film that was never made!)
That said, let’s get even more Postmodernism in, with this mash-up/remix of Kafka and Schulz (for no other reason than for fun)…

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