Hawk – Curating Ecologies, Circulating Musics

Hawk, Byron.  “Curating Ecologies, Circulating Musics.” in Ecology, Writing Theory, and New Media.  Ed. Sid Dobrin.  New York: Routledge.  2012.

  • H. begins by ribbing Warner for claiming that a “public” can’t emerge in digital environments because circulation is too fast and continuous.  Turning to folks like Tiziana Terranova, Eli Pariser, and others, he argues that the development of individuated niche spheres is possible when content is filtered through the bubbles of interfaces like google and facebook.  H. eventually notes that he’ll argue that Warner’s notion of counterpublics – much akin to Terranova’s networked archipelagos, operate through a different sense of time and thus require a different sense of publics to show how counterpublic development occurs in the age of contemporary media (161).
  • Hawk notes that music subcultures on the internet are important to writing researchers because they offer the following questions: “How do digital writers invoke complex rhetorical ecologies; imagine and negotiate multiple audiences and purposes; enact the circulation and effects of their digital texts – in short, how do these writing practices co-produce publics?”  (161).  He goes on to highlight the role of curation in ensuring the continued circulation and distribution of digital media ecologies and the development of shared digital publics.
  • Method:  To make his claims, Hawk studies an undergraduate at South Carolina.  He “inventories” the digital ecologies that Ned develops over the course of the year to discuss the kinds of connections and intersections these ecologies create.  He uses Matthew Fuller’s Media Ecologies and Collin Brooke’s Lingua Fracta as methodological bases.
  •  Hawk notes that the publics that develop out of shared digital media ecologies like music tend to operate with a different sense of time and punctuality.  He notes that they appear different from Warner’s publics & counterpublics and are more akin to Bruno Latour’s “discussions of networks and spheres, which he develops through Peter Sloterdijk” (161).  He notes that this moves the discussion away from “public spheres” to “sphere publics” (161).
  • H. draws on Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind to frame his articulation of ecology.  Bateson contends that three levels of scale (mental, social, environmental) coalesce to create “immanent mind” or the networked pathways and complex relationships that disrupt the “traditional notion of self and individual purpose or agency and places mind outside of the skin and into distributed systems” (162).
  • From Fuller, Hawk draws on the practice of “describing an inventory of parts in the medial ecologies in question” (162).  By focusing on “parts” of an ecology, Fuller’s method isn’t a step toward complexity or systems theory.  Rather, he explores parts as an exercise in anticipating differing forms of “medial interconnection” or an exercise in exploring parataxis (a sequence of this and that, ands).  This approach, contends Hawk, is important because it functions as an inventional device that anticipates different medial connections – it can’t map the entire system but can promote “engagement with the ecological nature of media” (163).
  • Hawk draws on Brooke’s articulation of scale (culture – broad level that includes discourse community, interpersonal relations, cultural assumptions and regional/global/national logics, practice – the middle level of human interaction that focuses on what we bring to media and what media brings/shapes us,  code – an ecology of and around code – all the resources for the production of interfaces including visual, aural, spatial, and textual elements) to explore Fuller’s object inventory.  He notes, “I want to suggest that the kinds of inventories that Fuller engages in combined with the more specific discussions of scale and interface as practice that Brooke develops can begin to show how publics or social ecologies might be formed through digital ecologies and their layered interrelationships with physical ecologies” (164-5).
  • Look into Fexis Guattari’s “The Three Ecologies” to find out more about the distinction made between the individual and subjectivity that i created from curation of personal and social ecologies (ecologies working from Bateson’s levels of scale –  mental, social, environmental) (165 – page 131 in “The Three Ecologies”).
  • It’s Hawk’s contention that “digital media allow musicians to curate their own ecologies of practice in order to open pathways for the production of social ecologies around and through music” (165).  An interesting idea, for sure, that extends discussions of ecology (however, oddly/broadly defined) into an iterative, coproduction of social/media ecologies.
  • Hawk’s findings:  Ned’s digital practice allows him to connect multiple publics and create social ecologies (166).  Second, connections that are facilitated via the ReverbNation site fold back over onto physical ecologies and gathered publics in the form of the shows and concerts attended by folks who are involved in Ned’s digital practice.
  • Hawk turns back to Warner’s notion of publics/counterpublics to argue that his sense of time is flawed.  In essence, Hawk argues that new media functions at a social level to organize publics in ways that print-based media cannot because print is “punctuated” by the reading public (and therefore deemed important enough to be circulated and, hence, call publics into being).  Hawk argues that changes in the web have allowed us to revise Warner by: 1) abandoning circulation for newer terms and models; 2) reconceptualized the notion of time and punctuality; and 3) acknowledge a newer form of publics beyond counterpublics (170).
  • Path 1:  Abandon notions of print circulation, instead recognizing that newer digital technologies and practices move circulation toward a networked model of distribution.  Hawk references his claim of “the distributed album” from “The Shape of Rhetoric to Come” as an example of how distribution has transformed traditional music publishing, creating new forms of circulation of multiple albums parts through networked pathways and multiple spheres of activity.
  • Path 2:  Abandon notions of duration rooted in spatial terms of networked grids and replace with time rooted in deixis or the “timeless present tense” (172).  H. notes that understanding the coalescing of publics around deixis allows us to understand how digital circulations and digital media ecologies constantly call individuals into being as social fan publics in the timeless present (173).
  • H. notes that the kinds of publics he describes can’t be brought into Warner’s definitions of publics or counterpublics (though they are closely allied to the discursive publics that Warner describes).  He instead claims that, “I think that a different sense f publics that articulate themselves more regularly through contemporary digital ecologies is warranted and that Latour’s recent work on the relationship between networks and spheres provides a good beginning point for such an articulation” (174).
  • Latour claims that spheres are “complex ecosystems in which forms of life define their immunity by devising protective walls and inviting elaborate systems of air conditioning” or, as Hawk notes, “Spheres, then, are good at describing local, fragile, complex conditions that network theories can’t account for” (175).  The world is made up of these spheres and the fragile “envelopes” that functions as walls of connection.  I’m thinking cellular structure here – not networks.  As Latour notes, “One does not reside in a network but rather moves to other points through the edges” – The network is “all edges” (176).


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