Archive for March, 2011


Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2011 by iamgreatness

What I found most interesting in Donald’s text, aside from the interesting theory of the development of language in and of itself, is his idea of the External Memory Field (EXMF) and External Symbolic Storage (ESS). These concepts mirror Stiegler’s discussion(s) of tertiary memory and proletarianization (did he cite Donald? I don’t remember him doing so), and his connection of these things to Greek culture, I think, lend credibility to the ideas we have been discussing in terms of relating current network culture to ancient Greek culture, and the necessary updates, etc. Donald’s almost oracle-like prescience in his discussion of the EXMF and the ESS within computer networks in 1991 is astounding, thinking about the Internet as it is now as the ultimate ESS. Equally as fascinating is his discussion of the importance of Greek culture in the third transition (from the development of the Greek alphabet to the codification of the ESS in the written word in the Trivium) and how that has not only changed the way our brains work in terms of the development of language, but also set the stage for pedagogy for the next two millenia.

This raises the question of change, then, as well as a possible further effect. Donald touches on the power of networks and their importance in the development of the ESS from the perspective of 1991, at the very beginning of Internet culture, but couldn’t foresee how the over the next two decades (god, 1991 was two decades ago). My question is this: In Donald’s theory of the development of human language (and the brain), certain events, such as the invention of the alphabet are crucial turning points in how language developed as well as how people think (with the exteriorization of language into written language governed by the rules of rhetoric and grammar) … is it possible, then, that the explosion of the Internet and the resulting changes in culture signals another one of these irreversible, crucial turning points? Are we at a fourth transition in human thought and brain development? If we look at the effect the Internet has had on culture writ large, could we compare it to the massive changes that occurred when the alphabet and writing took over in Greece? (Think about Socrates’ distrust with this newfangled technology.) Kittler would say that this began with the gramophone, film, and typewriter, but it could be argued that these developments were akin to the Phoenician alphabet–that is setting the stage for the development of the explosive nature of the Greek alphabet.

With this in mind, looking at Aristotle’s Rhetoric as the codification of the rules of discourse and language in this new paradigm, if we are at the cusp of a new paradigm (transition), which would necessitate new rules, what do these rules look like? Based on our earlier discussions, I think this could be approached in either the more pedagogical sense (how do we teach this) or from the perspective of the common/commons (as in the Internet as a manifestation of the commons and how do we react/function within this new set of rules).

Isocrates and the History of Emotions

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2011 by iamgreatness

Perhaps a bit difficult to really relate these two texts this week as they seem to be relatively opposed in terms of the “conservative” Isocrates matched up with a re-reading that establishes a heavy line of emotion in the work of Aristotle. So I think a discussion of each in turn, with perhaps a smattering of juxtaposition, would be more in order. For Isocrates, I was struck by two things: 1.) his use of philosophia in a much more political/civic sense than Plato, and the complexity of argument/prose that comes from his focus on the written word rather than oration. As far as our possible project discussion goes, I think that Isocrates might play an interesting foil against which to juxtapose Aristotle’s Rhetoric for a rereading. For as much as the Rhetoric is studied and as much as we claim to follow and Aristotelian model (and of course, we *do* in many ways), a lot of what we teach in a composition course strikes me as pretty Isocratean. This sort of pragmatic approach to create change specifically in a civic/political environment, and in the emphasis on the written word intended for circulation rather than the preparation for speaking seems to be more in line with a class like 1020. So maybe the secret history is really a history of subversive Isocratean though than Aristotelian. So maybe the argument is that we’re missing some of the depth and detail of what Aristotle’s Rhetoric has to offer by reducing rhetoric specifically applying the available means of persuasion to a written argument (Thinking specifically in terms of something like Gross’ project to reincorporate what’s in Book II as far as emotions, etc., are concerned). In other words, what is left out (perhaps) of our use of the Rhetoric becomes something more Isocratean than Aristotelian.

Which gets us to Gross, who I will treat in terms of methodology (which is why we read him, I think?). Aside from not finding his argument very compelling, I do think that his approach to rereading the history of emotion can be a fruitful one to perhaps incorporate as a methodology. His focus on very specific texts in very specific time periods allowed to cover a lot of ground without too many, seemingly, major gaps, but the use of literature to read against in the fourth chapter (and a relatively obscure piece of literature I am guessing) seemed to weaken his argument a bit in terms of having to dig a little too deep, perhaps, to find the secret history he’s looking for. I think that if looking at an undiscussed or hidden thread of thought in the history of some discipline, it would be better to stick to more texts that are of a more common use in that discipline–admittedly, I am not necessarily as well read as I could and/or should be, but I have not come across a lot of reference to Hobbes, Hume, and Fielding in most rhetorical theory. It seems to me that if a rewriting of a history is the goal, then more “high profile” texts should perhaps be incorporated as well as some of the more obscure. However, I do think the focus on specific texts in specific time periods is an interesting approach to a historiographical project.