Second Point on Crowley's Text

I am re-slogging through the invention section of the book, and I'm trying to locate the moments where Dr. Crowley locates important moments of habitus formation. I like the way she tries to construct a coherence between written, spoken, performed, and lived expression (the two-part definition of Hall's articulation--utterances and connectivity [like an articulated bus]--creates a nice unity). Reading an article on eco-fashion in Wired magazine brings up some of the difficult layering that contemporary rhetoric has a hard time addressing (I think because of our continued emphasis on the one-at-a-time-ness of linear argumentation). To wit:
We had a hard time explaining why people bought hybrids," Kurani says. If consumers calculated the cost of the car and how much gas money a newfangled engine would save, the numbers wouldn't add up. But few actually did the math - and those who did didn't care. "We have yet to find anyone for whom saving money was the most important factor."

Instead, as Kurani (an engineer) and his partners (an anthropologist and a PhD student) interviewed hybrid owners, they discovered that the cars were "symbols of identity." Buying a Prius or Honda Civic hybrid was less about careful economic reasoning than about self-expression and self-understanding. "People construct their identities as a narrative. The project of our lives is to tell a more interesting story about ourselves," says Kurani. "In large part that's what we see happening with hybrids."
* end snip*

*disclosure*Sport and I own a Honda Civic Hybrid*/disclosure*. The first premise is that "few actually did the math - and those who did, didn't care," may well be true for those interviewed (we did the math, and we definitely cared), but the contrarian or disinterested (read: liberal) stance that the writer (and presumably the researchers) take(s) towards hybrid owners reveals an interestedness in finding an archetypical or mythologic behavior in the objectified "other" of what the sub-head describes as "today's eco-radicals." There is a distinct separation of "self-expression" and "economic reasoning" in the second paragraph. This "self-expression and self-understanding" then gets comfortably elided with "identities as narrative." So far, not a huge problem from one of the ostensible objects (that is, me). Later on, though, the division becomes an unbridgable chasm--as in, "Limousine Liberals." Funny thing happens in these paragraphs that happens in nearly every narrative. The othering erases the relational quality to language (Derrida's observations in action). So, the fact that I actually ended up paying less for the car has been effectively erased (the "ojective economic" analysis measures cars for only about 80,000 miles [a ridiculously short lifespan for a Honda] and elides the differences between the conspicuously alternate Prius and the almost-identical Civic Hybrid).

While there are some generalizable propositions to this article ("people tell stories about their identity"; "cars are incredibly expressive"), these qualities are particularized to specific groups for the purpose of creating the very moral heirarchy the article accuses its objects of creating ("silly liberal elites"). Lest the reader think I am defending the straw liberal elites, this parallel argument is being used to bring down potential Presidential candidate George Allen ("did you know he drove around in a car with a Confederate Flag???" kinds of blog entries, stories, etc.). These careless (or, more accurately, carefully unfair) textual, visual, audio, and multi-medic elisions are what drive readers. Create a tension (the world is too complicated) and appear to resolve it ("save us from terrorists and liberals" and "Christian fundies are crazy").

These moves that end up re-creating (and reinforcing) particular habitus heirarchies and arrays travel through texts, through environments, and even through neurochemical and neuroelectrical fields. I can see the heirarchizing and erasure on the page, and I understand the sorts of terministic screens that people use to construct, select, and deflect particular aspects of their perception (and Dr. Crowley covers this nicely). Still, I am looking for more theories of ritual to help explain some of the habitus that still seems murky, submerged, and unparticular.


Joining the Carnival

Guess, I'm going to have to catch up with some of the others.

First Impressions:

1. ) Looks like Sharon Crowley is taking up the gauntlet thrown down by Stanley Fish. I know this book was likely a long time in the making, so I don't attribute it to any particular cause but her curiosity (and I say this as one of the guys who helped her situate her innumerable books and computer accessories during her brief tenure at Penn State). Still, I welcome this foray into a field ripe for study.
2.) I don't detect the anger towards fundamentalists that some of the other bloggers detect. She is alarmed by the very real efforts of apocalyptic fundamentalists to change the very grounds of civic argumentation and political deliberation. She states her affinity for liberal democratic traditions, so I don't translate her critique of fundamentalism as hatred, or even extreme distaste, as much as a sober realization that it threatens something dear. That she is offering "Civil Discourse" as the third way, seems measured and even haltingly gracious.
3.) I wanted to see much more work on her sense of how different civic arenas work (p. 18). I have worked for years to supplement Aristotle's dismissal of the epideictic to the private sphere with other types of rhetoric (Augustine, etc.). Crowley's mention of Hall's articulation theory seems fruitful, but it could have used a lot more detail (especially in genre or in situ ethnography). As a former leader of a Bible study, and a sometimes-participant in things like "Magic Chef" and "Tupperware" parties (and avoider of "Landmark" and "Amway" events), I think that exploration of the fora and genres of the living room, the bible study, etc. is key to understanding how different kinds of articulations survive and grow. I agree with Jeff Rice when he writes "to turn the argument back on the fundamentalists (”if you are against murder, how can you be for capital punishment”) feels weak." Finding instances to lodge resistance and to inscribe civil discourse into the repetitive fabric of the oikos is key.

More later. Gotta go teach.


Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Carnival

Bought the book. Amazon insists it will arrive "any day now." I'll post when it is recieved and read. No university in Ohio has this book, and I haven't had the time to get to a big enough city to get a copy from a meatspace bookstore.

I will post shortly. I promise.


New Orleans Design Contest

If you know any students in Architecture or Urban design, Global Green is sponsoring a contest "to put forward a creative yet practical vision for New Orleans neighborhoods. Participants will be asked to put forth designs using green principles for the reconstruction of several New Orleans neighborhoods including a multi-use community center, single family home and multi-family housing."

Don't laugh. The Vietnam Memorial was a project that Ohioan Maya Lin whipped up as an undergraduate at Yale.

Oh, and save the "Bradgelina" snark for your own sassy blog.


Wikipedia Politics

Amusing short piece on Wikipedia politics (it is actually a good meditation on rhetoric in general and the speed of online rhetorics in particular). My favorite part:

For some reason people who spend 40 years learning everything they can about, say, the Peloponnesian War -- and indeed, advancing the body of human knowledge -- get all pissy when their contributions are edited away by Randy in Boise who heard somewhere that sword-wielding skeletons were involved. And they get downright irate when asked politely to engage in discourse with Randy until the sword-skeleton theory can be incorporated into the article without passing judgment.


Methodological Question

What kind of theoretical/research stance enables one to accurately perceive the connections between private/home/leisure and private/workplace/work without having to create the kind of binary that I just used to describe it?

Cultural Studies has some interesting tools (i.e. the cultural circuit), but seems to constitute a mostly critical stance.

Marketing sees the personal/home/leisure site as critical, but does not seem to have a well-developed discourse for locating and differentiating activities that "produce," wherever they occur. Preserves the consumption/production binary that occludes the important work that "consumers" do in a distributed economy.

Blogging from the WIDE conference

Jim Porter just posted the thesis of the W(riting)I(n)D(igital)E(nvironments) conference.

knowledge work=digital writing/communication

Perhaps not revolutionary, but we'll see how this is teased out during the day.



I had Florida in my Final Four bracket AND I'm a Gators fan, but....

I didn't know THIS guy

was THIS guy's son.

I used to play tennis. I even used to get up early in the morning to watch the French Open Tournaments that Yannick was in. I guess Joakim is good enough to make me forget.

Best moment of the tournament. Joakim doing the Gator chomp at halftime on the way to the locker room. He looked like a big kid that NOBODY could touch. Joakim had a cool intensity that I haven't seen in a college center since Tim Duncan. And this guy is a freshman sophomore (please add the word *bandwagon* to the abovementioned "fan." I will drink two quarts of gatorade when I do my long run this weekend). Amazing.


Vexing Wormholes

I know that several of you are currently working on book and dissertation projects (you all know who you are). I am trying to get my book to make some sense, but part of the problem is that the subject I'm talking about (posthuman persuasion) seems to get in the way of the very act of writing an extended analysis.

A little context might be in order. On Thursday, I went to see the President of Adobe (he is a graduate of Bowling Green State U.) discuss how his company is trying to implement Web 2.0 application strategies. I was pretty happy with his acknowledgment that much of what is happening with Web 2.0 is an attempt to correct much of the top-down perspectives imposed by early iterations of the Net and its protocols. I was also happy to hear him acknowledge that there is too much "push content" pulling at user attention to make the Net, well...useful. This distributed cognition and cynical focus on visual stimulus has not only left us a bit wired, it has also fundamentally changed our embodied experience.

So...while I still have a ton of hacks and workarounds for mitigating and steering this bowl of visual pop rocks (with Code Red poured over it, of course--or maybe not), I find it difficult to maintain a specfic focus or frame for analysis. I can toggle quickly, but I find it tough to believe in the pre-posthuman stance I need to maintain to fulfill the textual requirements of a codex book.

Weird, huh?


Running Outside

Six miles. To the DOW Chemical plant and back (past EAT, past the George House coffeeshop, past the Crazy Church, and past the asylum).

Nice, stretchy run.