Archive for the hypertext Category

porn, property, punditry

Posted in Galloway, html, hypertext, MM, signification, Tech, theory on April 7, 2008 by untimelymediations

Does anyone else have a hard time reading protocological without misreading it as proctological?  I know some people think we academics have our heads up our asses, but that’s not quite the same thing.


Moving on.


I’d like to trouble some of Galloway’s claims about DNS.  Galloway argues that DNS is “the most heroic of human projects; it is the actual construction of a single, exhaustive index for all things.  It is the encyclopedia of mankind, a map that has a one-to-one relationship with its territory” (50).    DNS, Galloway claims, compels order in place of arbitrariness:  “DNS is like many other protocols in that, in its mad dash toward universality, it produces sameness or consistency where originally there existed arbitrariness”.


In fact, DNS does the opposite, I think: it encourages the proliferation of meaning and the destabilization of signification through its use of top-level domains (see p. 49).  A single signifier can be used across different top-level domains, thus severing the (already tenuous link) between the signifier and signified.  Consider, for example, the signifier “White House.”  As a domain name, it connects to at least three differing sites depending with which top-level domain it is associated:


  • infamously, this site was once a pornographic website, but it has since served both a forum for political discussion and as the online presence of a real estate developer’s firm.
  • this site parodies the current presidential administration and its policies.
  • this is the official website of the office of the United States presidency and the executive agencies it oversees.


Thus, where “White House” might be an otherwise moderately stable signifier, its incorporation into DNS destabilizes its meaning and proliferates signification across domains.  Indexicality is therefore not the measure of DNS but its antithesis; the “sign” represented by a domain name and its corresponding website is sundered into a bewildering multiplicity of signifieds tied to a single signifier.  This is complicated further still in the case of, whose content has changed over the years as different owners have possessed the domain.  The signified itself—i.e., the website content—becomes an unstable site of unpredictable and indeterminate value.  Will it be punditry, property, or porn today?  Who can say?

Radial Raheem

Posted in Aristophanes, hypertext, Jaeger, Leroi-Gourhan, MM, paideia, Plato, rhetoric, Tech on March 17, 2008 by untimelymediations

Couldn’t decide what picture to use, so you get both.  First, invertebrate porn:

Starfish porn!

Second, Radial Raheem:

Radial Raheem

Yes, I know it’s “Radio Raheem,” but give a guy break, eh?  Onto the post:

I’m stealing a page from Lacey’s playbook and offering two minicomments rather than a single sustained response. I’m also using the “research fatigue” card since I spent my break getting little sleep and typing up 80 pages of notes and 10 pages of introduction for the M.A. only to find that, in fact, I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to write about. This isn’t an excuse, per se, so much as a warning for possible incoherence in what follows.

I) Intellectuals vs. Technicians.

We’ve spilled a lot of ink . . . pixels . . .whatever . . . this semester trying to pin down what constitutes “sophistic rhetoric” and how critics have reacted to, adapted, co-opted, condemned, or otherwise responded to its promises of threats (depending, of course, on who we’re reading). Of course, the only we keep coming back to as the source of all this angst is Plato, who condemns sophistry on a number of counts. At times, it’s been easy to demonize Plato for just “not getting it,” and for insisting on an idealized ontology that appears to have little guidance for how to actually conduct one’s self and manage social problems.

However, I think Leroi-Gourhan helps to counteract this urge to demonization. As ALe-G writes, “in all historical periods and in all nations, even when their activities are closely integrated in the religious system, artisans were relegated to the back of the stage” (172). ALe-G argues that this is a typically “human” move, to denigrate those that work at the material level while valorizing those whose social function is dependent on intellectual or knowledge work. “Society’s discrimination in favor if the ‘intellectual’ as against the ‘technician,’ which still persists today,” ALe-G explains, “reflects an anthropoid scale of values on which technical activity comes lower down than language, and working with the most tangible elements of reality lower down than working with symbols”.

Yet much of what we’ve seen and read about sophistic Greece would seem to challenge ALe-G’s comments here. While they seem an apt description of Plato (whose Ideal Forms removed the intellect further still from the body), the notion of Jaeger’s paideia—the shaping of the Greek culture as reflected in the training of the Greek citizen—seems entirely bound up with rhetoric and rhetorical training. Is ALe-G off his chump here? Or does the age of the sophists represent an anomaly? Perhaps the artisan-intellectual shift is more periodic than constant: if we take Aristophanes’s The Clouds to be a reactionary response to sophistry, perhaps we can then see Isocrates’s work as a shift back to rhetoric-friendly times?

II) Radial vs. Linear Thought

I’m intrigued by ALe-G’s comments about the radial trajectory of archaic thought. As ALe-G describes it, “the thinking of pre-alphabetic antiquity was radial, like the body of the sea urchin or the starfish” (211). Radial thought provokes him to cosmological metaphor: “It was a time when the vault of heaven and the earth were joined together within a network of unlimited connections, a golden age of pre-scientific knowledge to which our memory still seems to hark back nostalgically today”.

It’s not difficult to prompt the comparison between the “network of unlimited connection” that ALe-G writes of and the networked Web we know and love today. What might be valuable to think through, though, is the way ALe-G ties the archaic network to “pre-scientific” thought. If scientific thought is thought dependent on the scientific method (as I understand it to be here), then we might point to a certain linear teleology implied in the method: whatever the result, the scientific method is still designed to move from hypothesis to conclusion. Perhaps this also implies a linear mode of expression as well? On the other hand, science also invites reiteration as means of testing one’s conclusions; in this sense, science is less bound to linearity than it is to recursive thought.

I’m not exactly sure I have a point to make here, but I’ve always found the contrast between radial and linear textuality interesting, so I want to make something of this passage but I’m not clear what. Maybe there’s something to be said for the body as a cue for material, radial textuality; ALe-G seems to be suggesting that as intellectual came to be more and more divested from material experience, writing, contemporaneously, became more and more linear. So what might a bodily-derived writing experience be like had it evolved without science’s linearizing influence? Might we point to something like Rotman’s gesturo-haptic writing?