August 22, 2007

Spatial Trajectories

Filed under: detroit,networks — jrice @ 6:50 pm

Schooling: Land grant research university. Small town. Lovely campus. Red brick and limestone (two different schools). Lots of foot traffic. Lively. A green space. Places to walk to.

First academic job: Urban university. Not so lovely campus. Far from the city center, so an atmosphere of being isolated. A solemn atmosphere as if the campus felt obligated to always pray. No places to eat. No places to shop. No bookstores nearby. Small liberal arts institution. Almost no foot traffic. At times, I wondered if anyone really worked or studied there. A brown space influenced by economics (a school always in the red) and religion (Jesuit Catholicism).

Second academic job: Urban university. Urban campus. In the city center, so an atmosphere of cars, foot traffic, places to eat, one independent (though not great) bookstore. A research university spread out over several blocks. It was never hard to tell that a school (in spirit and physicality) was there. Lively at times – when hip hop blared from setup speakers or when P-Diddy came to rock the vote. Quiet at other times – Sunday morning when parking is free, the city is in church, and no one needs to come to campus.

Third academic job: Land grant research university. Small town. Lovely campus. Red brick and limestone (two different schools). Lots of foot traffic. Lively. A green space. Places to walk to.

July 30, 2007

Latour and Independence

Filed under: detroit,networks,writing — jrice @ 2:52 pm

Cross-posted from the sleeping Digital Detroit site:
From Latour, Pandora’s Hope:

When a phenomenon “definitely” exists this does not mean that it exists forever, or independently of all practice and discipline, but that it has been entrenched in a costly and massive institution which has to be monitored and protected with great care. (155-156)

Latour, speaking of science and Pasteur, could also be speaking about Detroit. The “phenomenon” of Detroit, particularly as it is conceived in rhetorical terms, is one that is asked to exist in an entrenched institution. That institution, the one we communally refer to as “ruins” or “1967″ or some other circulated tag, has become institutionalized within a collective vocabulary in very specific – and often, inflexible – ways. The agents who monitor and care for this institutionalization vary, but we can identify some as “public” agents. Examples include: the generic news, popular expression, gossip, academic discussion (most of which centers on at least two parts of the the triad of race, class, and gender; gender not getting much attention regarding Detroit). These agents guard against other readings and usages of the thing we might name “Detroit.” Any discussion of Detroit, for instance, that fails to mention the issue of race is deemed faulty even though the discussion of race is already well circulated and known (it is monitored and cared for). When we rush to point out the very real racial inequalities the city experiences, we do not add to a discussion or create a new kind of discussion; we enforce an already existing one.

Thus, Digital Detroit is a move towards Latour’s rejection of so-called independence.  The thing I – or anyone – names Detroit is not independent of a variety of forces, actions, things, people, and so on that interact and generate a number of spaces we have given this particular name (and then there are the spaces within the spaces). Latour is an excellent teacher for this project. Two notable examples – “research” in Aramis and Pasteur in Pandora’s Hope – explore how many (without ever reaching a specific number) forces are at play in any given moment, text, position, idea, etc. The idea is not to label all of these forces, but rather to work towards a more complex understanding of any kind of rhetorical moment of situation (an understanding that is not fulfilled, but nevertheless useful).
The project I have been writing so far, then, is meant as a more complex attempt at what I tried to for composition studies in The Rhetoric of Cool.  Whereas cool has always been circulated in a number of limited ways – mostly personality or status – The Rhetoric of Cool tried to demonstrate a non-independent cool whose multiple meanings could be put into relationship with one another in order to show a new media position composition studies ignored in 1963 (as it monitored and cared for a specific institution called “writing”).  What I didn’t know then, however, was Latour or network studies; I worked with Ulmer’s chora instead. Digital Detroit is meant to introduce networks into a discussion of a space seldom thought of as a network, Detroit.

February 22, 2007

Detroit Blogging

Filed under: detroit,writing — jrice @ 9:45 am

Jeff Colby is the kind of blogger or Internet writer you might not read about. Known in Detroit as “itsjeff” on the Detroit Yes Message Board, Colby died last week. Based on the amount of posts I can find attributed to “itsjeff” on the Detroit Yes board, and based on the kind of memorializing I see after his passing, and based on my interests in technology, the city, and writing, I, too, should know who Jeff Colby was. But I don’t.

I heard about his passing this morning while listening to NPR on my way to Madison Heights. During the show’s eulogy, I listened to other bloggers and local Detroiters discuss the kind of person he was, the ways he cared for the urban space he lived in, and his contributions to a larger understanding of how space can be altered, affected, changed, or shaped by technology and writing.

It might appear crass to think of a person’s passing as exigence. And I might feel the same way if I were to read another person writing in such a manner. Yet, when I heard this story of the Detroit blogger, I was reminded of the various ways we, in academia, often think about space: the spaces we work in, the spaces we live in, the spaces we write to, the spaces we occupy regarding identity (and even this category gets broken down further: personal, disciplinary, institutional, and so on), the spaces we make ourselves heard within.

Almost two years ago, I began in earnest to think about Detroit and the Web (or the network) in such ways. The exigence for that thinking was the dissatisfaction that accompanies the two dominant narratives of Detroit: city in ruins/city on the verge of rebirth. Neither, of course, are true. The city, like any space, is a mix of various identities and formations, various expressions, various successes, various failures. None are independent entities. All play a role in a larger network of influence.

The vision of Detroit that I imagined utilized an understanding of mark-up (the tag) motivated by new media (folksonomy) not dependent on the very instrumental thinking that produces the two narratives and that I wanted to avoid (i.e., if you propose what I propose, one has to have access to a computer, actually engage in “tagging in a physical way,” be in Detroit, etc). This usage of mark-up would not be based on logos (“prove its benefits”) but on something else (another way new media leads to…..). It’s a conceptual idea, not an instrumental idea.

The story of Jeff Colby, as I heard it this morning, highlights in another way the effects of new media writing on space. One doesn’t need proof that his blogging or participation on the message board or interest in writing about the city in an online forum “did” anything. One only needs to see how writers attempt to engage with space via technology to begin to think more about this kind of composition.

And so begins another thought process….

January 11, 2007

In Today’s News

Filed under: detroit — jrice @ 11:02 am

Headline from this week’s Woodward Talk:

“Arrested driver had vomit on shirt.”

December 18, 2006

A little post

Filed under: detroit,writing — jrice @ 4:04 pm

Nothing big. Just a little post.

We (wife, father and brother in laws) went down to Heidelberg this morning. Except for a guy yelling off in the distance at someone, the street was empty. Gutyon’s mad faces are all over the place: the sidewalk, on plywood, in other representations. I love the way he creates those faces. Teeth gritting. Lots of giant stuffed animals as well, including a bunch stuffed into a car and the rest nailed to a tree (the memorial, no doubt). The OJ house. The dot house. Guyton is best at city writing. Making an entire street a space for composing. At one point, a guy walked through the open field where much of the art can be found. Walking through a composition. I liked that.

October 12, 2006

Here We Go Again

Filed under: detroit — jrice @ 8:46 am

It’s snowing.

It’s October.

And it’s snowing.

September 7, 2006

News From the D

Filed under: detroit — jrice @ 8:16 am

DEARBORN, Mich. — A Detroit Lions assistant coach was arrested twice in the past two weeks — once while police say he was driving nude and a week later on suspicion of drunken driving.

August 28, 2006

Locative Space

Filed under: detroit,networks,writing — jrice @ 9:08 am

On the day Jenny heads back to State College, cross-posted notes.

Via Future of the Book, a fairly old (it looks like) post on locative space. “Locative media refers to a mobile media movement in which location and time are considered essential to the work.” A good deal of this kind of work – merging space, noting connections among location flows, and understanding technology’s role in all of this activity – takes up a couple of strands:

  • Play. Pyschogeography and work learned from the Situationists (I see a lot of this kind of discussion on the IDC listserv)
  • Critique of Capital. Fear of re-instating some variation of a hegemony, controlled situation, economic dominance by a few (a traditional Marxist view, amended by various movements in English like cultural studies or elements of rhetoric and composition).

In other words, or you treat new media and space as an extension of subversive play, or you succumb to the X industry (cultural or economic being favorite terms). Or you resist or you are a tool of capitalism (or some other force). It’s an odd binary for work which, one would assume, is moving outside of binaries and into the study of how relationships form in complex ways in complex situations. The MILK example Locative Space provides offers a glimpse into such relationships. Though it does not extend beyond economic routes and bicyclists.

Towards the end of the Locative Space piece, the writer quotes Latour as saying, “The entanglements of things and politics engage activists, artists, politicians, and intellectuals. To assemble this parliament, rhetoric is not enough and nor is eloquence; it requires the use of all the technologies — especially information technology — and the possibility for the arts to re-present anew what are the common stakes.”

Following McLuhan, a focus on the arts would make sense. The arts predict future usages of technology. On the other hand, approaching the question of space and technology from the viewpoint of writing, such an approach might be problematic left as is. We cannot leave the production of space only in the hands of artists (or architects). Rhetoric is not enough by itself, but it is a needed force towards understanding spatial relationships.

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