Michael Foucault, Networks, Institutions, Watcher and Watchee

To start out, I’d like to say that I wasn’t sure if this writing is due for today or not, but it was on my mind so I may as well post it anyways.

I began reading the Landow article and immediately took it to heart that he mentioned Michael Foucault in his very first sentence. Having read and heavily analyzed Foucault’s Discipline and Punish in recent months, various connections began to flash in my brain. Reading is as much an institution as the prison, the hopsital, or the family though the consequences of this relationship seem to be less threatening, immediate, or dire. When reading a book, certain things are expected. There is a kind of economy. The reader is supposed to invest a certain amount of time and energy in the hopes that they will get something back… assuming that the the publisher, the editor, everyone on “the other side” (refferred to here as the author) has done their jobs properly. As such, the author can assume that anyone who has devoted the proper amount of time and attention has ascertained certain bits of information, that every one of these people has had a similar experience. Consistency seems to be a huge part of the success of books, as well as business and other larger institutions.The whole idea reeks of capitalism.

This  idea is troubling if one thinks of literature as art. Sure, we can all read the same piece from different perspectives and have different things to say, but we all turned the same pages and followed the same characters and all shared the same passive role. How enriching is that? Hyper text comes along and changes everything by throwing a little bit of chaos into this oppressive economy. First, the creator has more freedom. No longer confined to pages and ink, the creator can… create! Colors, images, sounds (all sufficiently vague terms, on purpose I assure you) can now play a role, expanding the capacities and abilities of the medium. On the other hand, the creator must give something up: power. In hyper text, the creator is not responsible for the journey the reader takes. From Landow on page 6:

“…according to Bakhtin,” in the novel itself, nonparticipating
‘third persons’ are not represented in anyway. There is no place for them,
compositionally or in the larger meaning of the work” (18). In terms of hypertextuality
this points to an important quality of this information medium:
complete read-write hypertext (exemplified by blogs and Intermedia) does
not permit a tyrannicai, univocal voice. Rather, the voice is always that distilled
from the combined experience of the momentary focus, the lexia one
presently reads, and the continually forming narrative of one’s reading path.”

The creator gives up some responsibility for the reader’s experience and gives it to the reader. This means greater freedom for the reader, but this is a dangerous (and thrilling!) exchange that presents us with many problems. It dashes the author’s (and reader’s) ability to predict or expect what the reader (and other readers) has (have) experienced. Re read the last sentence. If every person walks away with a different experience, it becomes nearly impossible for any two individuals to relate to one another over the material. How do we have a constructive discussion about it, especially in the classroom? This is not a criticism of the text or work, but rather an interesting problem for professors and students to tackle. Typical lectures and discussions become ineffective and ineffecient in the scenario when a room full of 20 people has read 20 different pieces… And so we have this class and our various meta-hypertexts.

Over time, it seems to be a fair assumption to say that the scenario will only grow exponentially in complexity. That’s where technology plays a vital role in the progression of the field and the way we come to understand what’s happening around us. Twitter is one example of a valuble tool. So is  Xanadu. the tools exist and are constantly being re worked and re created. new ideas and executuions are being invented every day. The real problem is saturation and resistance. How can we get everyone involved? If hypertext is to be a meaningful part of our culture, how do we put a leash on that which is, by its very definition, unleashable? Is verbal speech now obsolete because we can’t insert links or explain every reference and syllable? This is going to be interesting…

Michael Landow’s Hypertext 3.0 Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization

Michael Foucault’s Discipline and Punish


~ by scootielou on February 15, 2010.

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