Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'm still trying to work out the ideas I posted to TechRhet earlier this month. In trying to distill the ideas I posted ot the list on Oct. 5, I've written the following for my own notes:

When we talk about the oral, chirographic/manuscript, print, electric, digital spectrums, I think we can talk about each as four distinct things:

1) the medium (oral, chirographic, print, electronic, digital),
2) the practice or genre (oral poem, epistolary novel, blogging as a practice, abstract, white paper, etc.),
3) the techno-cultural matrix (oral culture, print culture, etc.), and
4) the type/materiality (codex, letter, email, blogging software, video tape)

All too often, I think, we are not careful enough in dealing with these categories, which leads to such problems as discussing email as a genre when, really, an email's genre will depend upon its rhetorical purpose (personal letter, memo, etc.), or the confusion over blog/blogging as software and blog/blogging as a specific practice (which is genre).

Closely related to or part of this is the problem of mistaking surface characteristics for deeper structures such as when we identify digital media's multimodality as what makes it something different from non digital media, when in actuality non digital media can be multimodal as well (film, pop-up books, opera, etc).

While multimodality isn't unique to digital texts, the underlying structures that provide digital texts their potential for being multimodal *is* different from the underlying structures that make a pop-up book or a film multimodal, and that's why digital texts are different from non digital texts.

The above is drawing from a whole host of sources, of course such as Manovich, Ong, Kress and Van Leeuwen, recent discussions of oral poetics (especially but not limited to Foley), textual studies, and other things as well. However, I haven't seen anyone discuss these 4 categories together, nor discuss them across the whole medium spectrum.

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