[-empyre-] An "other" view of writing, performance

Helen Thorington newradio at turbulence.org
Sat Oct 10 04:41:34 EST 2009

To all: sorry to have been out of it for part of this week.  The below  
is my response to the first of Patrick's interesting comments.

On Oct 5, 2009, at 9:59 AM, Lichty, Patrick wrote:

> I have been quiet in the conversation (and on many of the lists in  
> the last year or two) in order to listen more and talk less.
> It's very strange; some of the points that have been offered in the  
> last week seem to be larger and smaller ones.
> In regards to the idea of "other" histories, I am a classical Libra  
> personality on this.  The Networked book does create a salient  
> metaphor by framing discourse within a medium and setting its  
> processes upon it.  In so doing, the project acts as a multi-tiered  
> probe into technoculture, and sets up an alternate methodoilogy that  
> suits the authors quite well.  In regards to other voices; I might  
> say that most of us are "regulars" to the New Media scene, and  
> therein lies the conundrum, but unless someone wants to run with  
> that, I will probably say that the 'otherness' of our discourse in  
> the book is with approach and methodology.
  I haven't been very talkative (yet), Patrick, but I am an "other" --  
in that I may read posts but seldom write them. This has a great deal  
to do with my educational background. I am not an academic; I am not a  
phd.  My education -- in Biblical History (BA) and English Literature  
(graduate studies) -- a long time ago.

But I accept the possibility that "otherness" in this  discourse is in  
approach and methodology.

> I also agree with Johannes that there are differing expectations  
> amongst the creators of the project.  Johannes rightly states that  
> in the age where information is rising at an exponential rate, how  
> does one validate the necessity for reflection on any text or  
> another, or to digest the Networked Book and reply to it in the  
> space of a month?  This is parallel to what I am getting at in my  
> essay, that in an age of information overload, artists and writers  
> are forced to read index tags and use trending algorithms or that  
> texts must be legible at the seventh-grade level, given the average  
> literacy in the US (but I am being polemic).

  I do think you underestimate a not insignificant part of the reading  
public. I'm not talking mass, just educated people with an interest in  
media. The problem  may afterall be on both sides, with the difficulty  
of the writing, the absence of explanations (which when you talk to  
one another you don't need); etc.

> What I am also interested in regarding some of the ideas regarding  
> performance and media.  We can go back to the death of the author  
> (barthes) and the text as performance, and the performance of  
> completion in reading (Foucault), but I might be more interested in  
> a performance of situation of discourse or habitus.  The Networked  
> Book responds to a culture, and tries to reflect upon it in a  
> McLuhanesque marriage of medium and message.  Perhaps the  
> performative elements are the call to response, as well as the  
> presentation of the propositional form of the book.
> Lastly, regarding history, I had a great talk witht he people at the  
> Long Now Foundation regarding the Rosetta project, which is an  
> archive of 15,000 texts of different languages etched into a metal  
> disc.  We live in a time where languages are being lost by the  
> month, and as more media is being archived digitally (an inherently  
> media ecologically unsustainable practice), I agree with the Long  
> Now that we will enter a "Digital Dark Age", in which digital  
> archives will either degrade, crash, or simply not migrate over  
> decades. Therefore, i am very grateful, and appreciative that the  
> book will be published after a year, as atoms trump bits every time.

JRe history: we've been losing languages since humans first started  
speaking to one another. According to Walter Ong there have probably  
been tens of thousands of languages spoken during the course of human  
history -- only 106 were committed to writing to a degree sufficient  
to produce a literature. Most have never been written at all.   That  
apart, the current rush to "archive" everything is either sad or  
laughable, hard to know which way to go. But as we each determine what  
is important to us to remember/to be remembered, it's impossible (or  
should be) for any one person to say: "Keep this"  or  "Throw that  
away".  We all know how unremembered events/people from the past --  
such as women artists -- are given significance at a later time.

BTW,  In an earlier empyre (June '09) there was a brief discussion of  
our rush to make the present past for the future, which I found pretty  

> In regards to this, another family member (a tenured historian) was  
> talking to me this weekend about her difficulty in writing a history  
> of artists that were not dead yet, and that their context keeps  
> changing over time.  The traditional baseline for historians versus  
> theorists is that one writes about those who are dead/long inactive,  
> and the other not. While I replied that one merely has to localize  
> their discourse (set a very tight context), her problem compared to  
> the discussion here seems as if we are trying to write histories  
> concurrent with the events,  which is problematic to say the least.   
> It is the greates exercise in control - desiring to control one's  
> own historical context before the other historians get to you. But  
> them one can look to computational culture and Engelbart's idea of  
> the "bootstrap", or pulling together a project from the grass  
> roots... I see what we are doing here as an important experiment to  
> which any proclamations, or declamations about its rel
> ative worth will only be borne out in time.
  ... about writing histories concurrent with the events, do check the  
June empyre.

> To refer to Johannes, who has time?  Well, while I think there were  
> expectations for the book to be a viral sensation, I am much more  
> concerned with it being an importane experiment and good solid book  
> on the subject, a tome that will sit on the shelf with proper  
> gravitas, in a period early enough in the history of new media that  
> it will demand attention.
> In my opinion, all one can do is to present a proposition that  
> others will see, and hopefully that will resonate with others.   
> Throw a log on the fire, and hope it burns.

I'm with you.
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