For English 548 at WSU Pullman, WA.
Lingua Fracta by Collin Gifford Brooke, 2009
Brooke writes about, uh, um…he writes…oh right! Memory.
Or more appropriately, persistence. Both memory and persistence are a bit haggard for me about now in the semester. But none the less, I shall attempt to engage in a meaningful way.
Memory as one of the original rhetorical canons is definitely different from when Aristotle was first writing about it. However, we still give speeches from memory, though rare and he did, after all, write it down. In Chapter Six Brooke talks about memory in presence and absence referring all the way back to chapter two in which he refers all the way back to Plato and his criticisms of writing and the effect on memory. In the PBS documentary Digital Nation they also address this criticism as it mirrors criticism of what current technologies is doing (some argue, degrading) to human intelligence and skills. We lost memory capacity, to be sure, but don’t we gain in over all knowledge? (also a point of Brooke’s from chapter two).
So what does this all mean or get to? Brooke is “bringing back” memory as a still useful rhetorical canon. But, in order to still be useful, “what memory looks like” has changed. Or rather, what we think of when we think of (remember?) memory has or needs to change. This seems inevitably problematic to me – how are earth are you supposed to get everyone to agree and be on the same page for this? How necessary is it, really, that we fully use the original five rhetorical canons? Are we really even using the original five if we change their meaning beyond recognition to suit our purposes? Brooke does not feel that his view is changing it beyond recognition and Yancey has been cited, I dare say effectively in that it does have use.
Tag clouds is one example Brooke uses. And indeed I can see it – what have I searched in the last month? Oh yeah, now I remember after looking at this tag cloud. It’s not linear, it doesn’t include dates, but it contains keywords that jar my memory to the keywords I searched. What about that favorite blog of mine – what are all the topics it covers? Oh yeah, tag cloud, there it is (and in this case it goes beyond just jogging the memory to being able to just click to the topic).
What memory looks like evolves and is inaccurate anyway – the more I tell the story about the last time all the siblings were single and piled into the van with Mom and Dad heading to Grandma’s house (for example) the less accurate it become, the more I embellish details and renew and remake memory. A tag cloud is potentially more objective but also potentially more directive. With everything being documented now it will both inform our memories in ways that might be more accurate and might be more biased or with a specific rhetorical agenda – because of course, pattern and delivery are very much a part of this too.
It seems interesting that the more we learn to critically question the more possibility we have to critically question the ways that we critically question and the biases that occur. I think Brooke has done at least an okay job of acknowledging some biases or uncertain areas but still written with purpose and confidence. It seems either a brilliant or stupid move when studying elements that people can’t even agree on the definition of (New Media!) but if we don’t start somewhere, we’ll never start at all. And if we don’t start critically engaging in New Media then perhaps it never utilizing its full potential to aid in communicating, inquiring, and finding new knowledge.