Remnant Considerations

Sorry to cut in on the McLuhan discussion (and thank you, Nicholas, for getting a conversation started so early), so take this as an optional diversion.

In sorting through the notes from our last class I came across a couple of questions that I thought worth pulling along with us as we move from MEDIUM FORM through ECOLOGY (and toward AUDIENCE).

The first relates to VISUALITY. It begins with Benjamin’s conception of “OPTICAL UNCONSCIOUS”. Recall that his claim was that photography exposed movements and dimensions of reality hitherto unknown (that is, not acknowledged by perception). This (purportedly) has the effect of overlooking aspects of reality (or perhaps restricting those aspects to the realm of the unconscious). If this is true, thinking about our image-saturated society of today, do you think this idea still holds? Are there aspects of “reality” that often go undetected; that are not retained or perhaps not processed by the person engaging with the medium?

A second point about VISUALITY is inspired by Ong. As you know, his writing focuses our attention on cultures that are predicated on and evolve consistent with ORALITY or LITERACY. The question is what about VISUALITY? Similar to the oral and written, does IMAGE have (any or the same sort of profound) influence on:

  • consciousness
  • communication
  • interaction
  • social organization
  • action

In this way, might we talk about a “CULTURE OF VISUALITY” the way that we discuss a CULTURE OF ORALITY and CULTURE OF WRITING?

Finally, and part of this latter discussion, if PRIMARY ORALITY fosters personality structures that in certain ways are more communal, externalized and less introspective than those common among literates–in short, if oral communication unites people in groups–and if writing and reading are solitary activities that throw the psyche back on itself–what does VISUALITY do? Is it simply a variation on SECONDARY ORALITY, or is it something else entirely? If the latter, does it pose (psychological, social, structural, behavioral, phenomenological, moral) issues that require a different sort of social theorization than Ong forwarded?

Just a few extra possibilities for you to reason through together.

Photography and Border Crossings

Apropos of two discussion points tonight, this photo-essay centers on life along the U.S.-Mexican border 80 years ago.

Given our discussion about capturing and reproducing reality, what are your thoughts? Keeping the Hindenburg discussion in mind (where reality was both captured, but also partially obscured), what do you think might be missing in these images? is there any way to “know” or would it all be speculation? More, to what degree do you think selectivity or framing come into play (i.e. that which is “in-frame” and also that which has been omitted/left “out-of-frame”)? And how, after 80 years, would we be able to know (one way or the other)?

The essay’s accompanying text asserts:

Lange’s images, while uniquely of their time, capture both the recognizable signs of bureaucracy and the timelessness of life on the periphery.

This harks to Carolina’s question about author’s intent. Do you find this (above) interpretation of the photographs persuasive? Or, reflective of our discussion of the recipient’s interpretive power, do you see other messages/ideas present in the photograph’s content.

Finally, do the photographs work as a unity to convey a meaning that departs from any one, in isolation. In short, like a syntagm, do the (photograph-) signs operate collectively as a system of meaning, independent of the individual (photo-) unit present within the paradigm (set)?

About the ‘Dicta’ page

This category (page) is the “free” space; the one where students with initiative or simply time to kill hanker to post something related to Media/Theory that may or may not have been on our primary radar. Dicta is not quite dross, but it also may not be on the mainline. It can be a follow-up to a reading, something mentioned in class that (you believe) warrants greater airing, an application one sees between the reading/lecture material and the world outside.

This is basically one of the “organic” aspects mentioned in the syllabus: a tool that contributes to on-going knowledge generation, shaping and growth.

For students looking to improve their grades, here’s one outlet. Your opportunity outside of class time to offer opinions, analysis, post links, make connections, ask questions, provide assistance to those who are uncertain about the material, offer one another encouragement and, otherwise, keep our intellectual community energized and focused on the course themes. If you have ambition and energy, here is where you can make a major impact.

In a word: if you are up for it, go for it!