Lingua Fracta:  Towards a Rhetoric of New Media

Collin Gifford Brooke

Chapter One:  Interface

Wow.  A lot of stuff in this chapter.  I’ll be brief, but I don’t want to miss much!

  • Brooke begins by sketching how an electronic essay entitled “Hypertext is Dead,” published in Kairos acted as not only a single text object, but also as something more – a new media text.
  • A main claim of Brooke’s work:  “I believe that, as teachers and students of writing, scholars in composition and rhetoric are indeed uniquely positioned to contribute to discussions and debates about new media.  Such contributions, however, depend on our ability to rethink some of our own cherished and unexamined assumptions about writing:  new media will transform our understandings of rhetoric as thoroughly as our training and expertise in rhetoric can effect a similar impact in discussions of new media” (5).
  • Using Wysocki’s assertion that scholarship either takes the form of “writing about isolated texts and writing about the broad contexts and functioning of media structures in general” Brooke then considers the history of criticism in English departments to highlight a key point:  both New Criticism and Continental theory are two sides of the same coin. . . here’s how:  a close reading of a particular object depends on some prior “theoretical commitment” by the critic; at the same time the usefulness of a theoretical perspective depends on its applicability to an individual text and the individual critic’s act of hermeneutic interpretation (10).
  • To bridge this divide, Brooke advocates the interface as a new way to discuss the things that happen in between the individual textual object and the broad, generalized structures often characterized as abstractedly impractical.
  • We have become accustomed to practicing this sort of New New Criticism (the simultaneous practice of New Criticism and Continental Theory) because of the static nature of the standardized print publication.  So, what to do when New Media begins to erode this shared sense of criticism based on static content?
  • Because New Media disrupts this static conception of the text approached from New Critical and Continental perspectives, the development of a rhetoric of new media must avoid “examining the choices that have already been made by writers” and instead concentrate on preparing writers to “make our own choices” (15).
  • Brooke also considers Jay David Bolter’s theorization of remediation in this chapter to demonstrate that while partially valuable and valid, Bolter’s articulation of new media falls pretty to the same issue that the New New Criticism encounters:  the transportation of an old medium’s rhetoric onto a new medium’s rhetoric.  In other words, remediation defers the question of new media back to older media by choosing to understand new media in old media formats.
  • According to Brooke, instead of being reactionary, theories of new media rhetoric should be actionairy in that they should “prepare us for sorting through the strategies, practices, and tactics available to us and even for inventing new ones.  It is the difference between studying the finished products of others and preparing to generate our own” (22).
  • Adopting the interface as the “ever-elastic middle” that includes, “incorporates, and indeed constitutes” the outside, Brooke sees the interface as a space of elasticity and reconfiguration that shapes static products like books, articles, and essays, but is ever ongoing in the in-between level (25).

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