Rice, Jeff. “Urban Mappings: A Rhetoric of the Network.” RSQ: Rhetoric Society Quarterly 38 2 (2008): 198-218. Print.

  • Rice begins with the contention that websites such as Google Maps and MapQuest are really sites of invention where new media is used for inventive practices of informational arrangements
  • The “spaces” being mapped on the net are not only spatial. . . they are often ephemeral and personal.  The “territories” where all this mapping occurs are databases.  For Rice, the database is a place “that store and assemble vast amounts of information hosted by their own and related services” (199).  As such, the database is, according to Rice, the place where space is mapped at the site of rhetoric.
  • According to Rice, his articulation that databases are “emerging rhetoric” speaks to traditional rhetorical concerns regarding “arrangement, delivery, and space” (200).  To demonstrate this, he notes how the database “gathers spaces of information (streets, routes, places), arranges information (brings them together in an interface), and delivers that information to a specific audience for a specific situation (the end user) (200).
  • The database is a site for arrangement; however, it’s distinctly anti-Ramist because it allows for multiple hierarchies/structures/outlines that are determined by user content.  In Rice’s words, the database remains “open to how information might be navigated or finally arranged by not dictating the exact structure of the arrangement” (202).
  • This conception of the database is similar to Carolyn Miller’s notion of “novelty” in topos-bound invention.”  According to Miller, the topos of degree – or of ways and means – “suggests a conceptual shape or realm where one may find – or create – a detail, a connection, a pattern that was not anticipated deductively by the topos itself.  The topos is a conceptual space without fully specified or specifiable contents; it is a region of productive uncertainty” (Miller 141).  When thought about this way, the database acts as a “novelty” of topoisic invention because of the ability to “search” or find your way through spaces to useful data.
  • What Rice is calling database rhetoric “is not only what may allow a speaker, writer, or rhetoric to change or evoke different notions of self through various arrangements; it is also a way for a  composition to be “stylized” in a “myriad” number of ways as well”.  In other words, the user and the database construct the space for each individual interaction between the two.  As such, arrangement isn’t replaced by invention in this process; rather, rice contends, they interacting – or networked.
  • The economy of presence – or the ability via new media to see more than one set of data at one time – allows for multiple intersecting presences at the place where interactions intersect (205).
  • Using Lyotard’s proscriptions as a framework, Rice argues that databases can be used to imaginatively connect information across boundaries  –  boundaries disciplinary, ideological, compositional, etc.  The grand narrative is the opposite of Lyotards database – a place where “rhetorical turns, memory associations, spatial searches or travel metaphors” aren’t allowed presence.
  • On 208 we get a specific reference to ANT when defining the network.  Rice notes, “Networks. . . are bodies of relationships that shift as new bodies are introduced or subtracted.  Networks are found in personal relationships, textual readings, political issues, the Web, and elsewhere” (208-9).  As Bruno Latour notes, “Network is a concept, not a thing out there”
  • Again relying on Latour, Rice contends that the “Network is a tool to help describe something, not what is being described” (209).  Working from this definition of network – and the Latourian contention that the network is always changing to accommodate new kinds of informational relationships – Rice then travels through the “various network spaces” that compose Detroit.
  • Rice uses the memory, imagination, history, space and other features of his brain – of his process of knowing Detroit to describe his “database” of the personal.  The complex interaction of all of these features are what – for Rice – compose the space or the “informational scheme” he knows as Detroit.
  • After reflecting on his own “database” of richly layered features, Rice reflects on the basically unchanged narratives of “renewal and rejuvenation” that tend to map city spaces in decline (213-4).  Again using Latour’s notion of the ever-shifting network, Rice relies on his network to assemble Detroit.  In this assembly process, Rice notes how database driven new media like Google Maps is not “wrong” but that it isn’t complete because it can’t take into account “personalized data.”  As a generalization tool, it’s super useful; however, it’s important to note that it’s not “codified” or complete.
  • All this personal databasing eventually leads to the moment of complexity a la Mark Taylor. Rice hopes that more full articulations of personal databases and their integration into networked systems can produce new ways of thinking about urban renewal, and the “rhetorical mapping of that urbanism” (217).

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