Becoming Beside Our Disorientations

This week’s post is in direct response to our conversation of last week regarding the possibilities of future projects, etc., in terms of a rewriting of Aristotle to account for the way we react to things in a more technological age. we’ve discussed Stiegler’s project in relative depth in past meetings when we discussed A New Critique…, and Disorientation didn’t necessarily cause a drastic change in my perception of the project overall. However, what I found interesting was a further discussion of tertiary memory outside of A New Critique‘s political/economic focus (proletarianization) and within Husserlian phenomenology. I found this perspective very interesting in thinking through our discussion of a need to revamp and update the “Rhetoric.” In a quick glance through Aristotle before writing this post, a distinct focus on primary and secondary memory (in terms of initial experience of phenomena and the subsequent memorization), but there is also a strong reliance on the tertiary (technologically exteriorized) memory in the topoi and types of argument (enthymeme, example, etc.)–in the formulae for arrangement of arguments that Aristotle puts forward–thus providing evidence for my earlier claim of the Rhetoric being an initial technologizing of the “art.” However, with networked technologies and the ever-present access to the Internet, the idea of topics and types of argument are expanded exponentially and it is seemingly harder to think through fitting the sheer magnitude of what is available into specific categories (not too get too Ulmerian, but more chora and less topoi?).

There is also a distinct sense of a logical progression of one step to the next (sort of “if/then” statements), that is attached to, as Rotman argues, the linearity perpetuated by the alphabet. And this linear system of progression does seem lacking in our contemporary experience of multiple-windowed, multi-tasked, data-clouded milieu. If, again as Rotman argues, we are indeed realizing ourselves as more parallel and less linear, thus initiating a break away from the alphabetic regime and into something different, the Aristotelian model of “if an appropriate enthymeme cannot be found, then move to an appropriate example” is in need of a little more “parallel-ness” itself (a para-rhetoric?).

Not to be too technologically determinant about it (or to cry foul and damn technology as we discussed last week), there is something to be said for the sheer magnitude of the Internet and the way we access it as having an impact on how we interact, access information, communicate, and think of ourselves as beings. If the linearity of the alphabet had the power to (perhaps hyperbolically) make monotheism possible (although I do find Rotman’s argument compelling), then the magnitude of the cloud and its ever-present accessibility (and its function as a repository for tertiary memory) has got to have some power to change our current paradigm–something that the relatively cut and dry system of the Rhetoric can’t necessarily account for, although it does still provide a solid foundation for us to rethink what would be a more sensible current structure (or lack thereof).

If we, as beings, have a finite capability for retention and therefore must rely on (and always already have relied on) external, technological sources for memory, and if we do not function in the linear fashion that the alphabet prescribes, then the current linear/systematic approach to rhetoric that Aristotle puts forward in in need of a revamp as well.

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