September 16, 2006

The Practice of Re-Reading

Filed under: networks,reading,writing — jrice @ 8:44 am

Teaching always involves re-reading.

Going into the first week of this semester I’ve re-read a book, four articles, and part of another book for two courses, one undergraduate, one graduate.


Yes, and, indeed. I came across a blog this fine about-to-become-football-frenzy Saturday morning and skimmed a brief passage on the teaching of reading (as opposed, I suppose to only writing) in order to make students better readers (i.e. more careful readers). No harm, no foul here. Who doesn’t want students to be better readers (or better everything, for that matter). At the same time, however, that we dish out such encouragements, we also must remind ourselves of our own reading practices. We should also return sometimes to our own re-reading practices.

A few weeks ago, Paul had a nice post about reading, mostly written as advice to students. The ability to internalize and to work with internalized readings is a difficult one, and it is one that comes with time and experience. At some point, you feel the database inside you, you mentally assemble positions, you see connections and patterns without consulting texts, you put together conversations based on your own private database. I am completely dependent on my internal database. But when I go back and re-read, I am always pleased by the forgotten detail, the missed strand, the unexpected or neglected phrasing, the chance juxtaposition as what I re-read (for the X amount of time) meets up with what I have since read. I was re-minded this week, for example, of Joe Harris’ choice of the word “network” to describe the “process” of writerly exchanges that occur in intellectual work. A small moment? Maybe. Or maybe not. But this moment will be introduced into a current project in progress as well as a more recently invited project. And here is the great lesson from Linked regarding the concept of growth (also a key word in Harris’ A Teaching Subject). Our own intellectual networks – which reading is a part of – must grow. That growth includes adding new texts and ideas to the database which shapes the network. But it also involves going back to the database and re-reading its contents.

July 19, 2006

Excerpts from Notes From Lanham’s Economics of Attention

Filed under: detroit,pedagogy,profession,reading,writing — jrice @ 10:11 am

“We have been thinking about human communication in an incomplete and inadequate way, a way based on stuff, not attention” (132)

“Words are like things and ideally should be things” (137)

“What happens when the economy is not based on stuff but on information and the attention that makes sense of it? And what happens when we move from the fixity of print to the volatility of digital expression?” (138)

“Our failure to use digital expression in a fruitful and efficient way comes from a theoretical misunderstanding. We are thinking about it using an incomplete set of templates for thought. Just when our expressive horizons have been expanded, we want to narrow them We have been thinking about electronic text as the wrong type of revolution. We have confused an extension of the Gutenberg revolution in replication and distribution with a revolution in expressive logic” (144)

“Information can be moved from one sensory modality to another while still being driven by the same data” (143)

My attention, however, drifts. What is my economy of attention when, despite Lanham’s appeal, I feel as if I’ve heard it all before: the question of text, the rise of electronic writing, the heritage of electronic writing, and so on. I don’t feel that I’m moving through this text, but rather, I’m moving around it. I’m moving around the familiar positions. My attention falters.

My reading attention, indeed, has been drifting: through blogs and websites, through current events, through ideas for dinner, through reading: through Lanham, Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis, through Wood’s The Power of Maps, through Clark’s Natural Born Cyborgs, and now even through a novel, Perdido Street Station. I move in and out of these places with ease (hmmmm….interesting) and with difficulty (am I obligated to finish this book??). I move through the texts.

Which is how I am imagining my new project on Detroit – a movement through spaces. Which also could stand for a type of writing model akin to the MediaCommons idea (or within such an idea); a need for something other (not in place of) stand alone writings among academics (i.e. uploaded papers). I’m not attracted to the idea of another clearing house of papers put online – or put online faster than a print publication would allow for. I’d like a space to drift within, adding, reading, thinking about, commenting on as I move through the writings, as I read some and not others, as I sample and frament my way along. “We have been thinking about human communication in an incomplete and inadequate way,” Lanham writes. The question is not that we should replicate already existing apparatuses, but invent (or try to invent) new structures based on new logics.

Oh. I guess Lanham does have my attention after all. In a drifting sort of way.

June 22, 2006

From the Walter Benjamin Department of Books

Filed under: books,reading — jrice @ 1:24 pm

9 Mile used book purchases today:

  • Memoirs Found in a Bathtub – Stanislaw Lem. I was reading this in Gainesville four years ago prior to my move to Detroit. Then I had to return it to the UF library before I really had the chance to get what was going on. Not that “getting it” is easy in a Lem book. Ask me what I remember about the other Lem books I’ve read. “Uh…there was…uh…that is…well…it was pretty freaky…” Yup. That about sums it up.
  • A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick. I always venture down the sci-fi section of the used book store I visit regularly even though I know so little about sci-fi, and what I do know revolves around a few “name” authors. I almost bought an Octavia Buttler book today, but chickened out when I saw this Dick novel. For some reason, I haven’t read A Scanner Darkly yet. Dick, however, is always a good bet when I am looking for something odd and weird. Jeff Noon, too, usually satisfies that quest.
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie. Yet another fiction writer I know nothing about. But the blurb on the back won me over: “In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading…..” Enchanting? Magic? Reading? That’s me! And it takes place in China? Sure. Why not. I have to sit in an airport. This might be just the thing to take my mind of the, as Augé  writes, non-place of travel. Someone should read an essay about reading in the non-place; the distractions, bad food, noise, germs, more tempting popular magazines, and overhead announcements that accompany every word and page. Non-reading.
  • Natural-Born Cyborgs – Andy Clark. I’ve been interested in this book since reading about it on Steve’s blog. Technologies. The body. Citations of Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. Dang. That sounds good to me! Since summer brings on academic funk (not the thang of the James Brown funk but the dreariness of being in a funk), this might re-spark my intellectual drive; it might push me into a new space where I can – outside of or in addition to my project on Detroit – offer a vision of the media-being – as opposed to any of the other “student” images projected into and from composition studies: Shor’s liberated student, Berlin’s aware student, Graff’s conflict-oriented and engaged student, and so on).

Hey! That was a damn good aside. Where’s my pen? I need to write that down….

April 15, 2006


Filed under: reading,saturday — jrice @ 2:59 pm

Spent the last few days:

  • Loving Decatur, Georgia. Before the holiday settled in, we had some beers at The Brick Store, my favorite place to stop in Atlanta. A couple of nice Belgians with fish and chips. Also spotted an Indian tapas place we must check out next time.
  • Having Passover. The girl’s first real sit down event (though, in my family, that might not be saying much – unless we count “yelling” as part of the traditional Seder).
  • Almost done with the Crowley book. There are interesting points regarding fundamentalism and American culture – but I think there are also a lot of broad generalizations. The ideology section is solid. I think the text drift’s away from its strong points about connectivity. More to come in the carnival.
  • Thinking about summer….
  • April 9, 2006

    On the Shelf

    Filed under: reading — jrice @ 6:54 am

    Bought. Unwrapped. Waiting to be read. Come on, summer!
    1. Everywhere: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitious Computing – Adam Greenfield (the premise sucked me in…computing is everywhere).

    2. Writing at the End of the World – Richard Miller (Miller’s As if Learning Mattered is one of the better critiques of academic reform).

    3. Toward a Civil Discourse – Sharon Crowley (briefly started it and already want to argue a bit against/with one of my favorite critics of composition studies..I’ll save it for the carnival).

    4. Homo Zapiens – Victor Pelevin (started – bought on advice of colleagues Jonathan and Steve. What do Soviet translators of literature do when the empire falls? Go into advertising).

    5. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach (bought months ago at the John K. King used bookstore in Ferndale. Remember the Six Feet Under episode where Lisa’s niece gives Nate a copy to give to David? After seeing this in the store, I had to buy it. That purchase is somewhat tied to the process of celebritacy).

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