Notes: Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander, “Introduction.” In Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self

Rhodes, Jacqueline, and Jonathan Alexander. “Introduction.” In Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2015. Web.

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Summary:

Rhodes and  Alexander a series of queer moves in understanding the dispersal of subjects within digital networks, arguing that through mediated technologies subjects are recursively composed and embodied.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Multimodality, Technology, New Media

Sources:

Lynch, Paul. “Composition’s New Thing: Bruno Latour and the Apocalyptic Turn.” College English 74.5 (2012): 458–76.

Shipka, Jody. Toward a Composition Made Whole. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2011.

Sullivan, Patricia Suzanne. Experimental Writing in Composition: Aesthetics and Pedagogies. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2012.

Quotations:

“We live in a world of constant measurement and data gathering, of dense networks in which the flows of information around us are mobilized to construct our identities as commodities for marketing, profiteering, and surveillance. Those flows carry their own orienting forces—currents we can become aware of and potentially redirect” (1).PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT (2)

“This techne has two broad parameters (1) the acknowledgment and even embrace of the idea of spectacle, the alienating distance between bodily self and representation as a productive space for critique; and (2) the importance of lived experiences to the formation of an ethical stance. The life of the body is not to be ignored” (5).

“That is, we attempt here both to map out and to provoke visceral awareness of the interimbrication of bodies and technologies, orienting and reorienting one another” (8).

“[W]e desire to become better attuned to the orientations enacted through our technologized networks—orientations that lurk behind, below, or beyond how we might already be more self-consciously “working with or against the agency of things.” … Second, that phenomenological turn also underscores our commitment to using such awareness—to the value of human awareness as potential for personal and political action” (9).

“If we take a queer turn here, we do it in order to flesh out how much bodies and objects construct and mediate the flow of desires. Indeed, those bodies and objects come into being and perception as desires, as desirable, as desiring. Many of them demand to be desired. Tracing out the ways they and we create and orient trajectories of desire—caressing attention into being, cajoling feeling into belief and action—continues the work of ideological critique while also opening up potential for disrupting flow, disorienting attentions, and redirecting desires in more pleasurable and sustaining ways” (10).

PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT (3)

“Our orientations themselves function as a particular symbolic order, a language of (im)possible directions. At the thetic moment, any subjectivity projects into the future, imagining a self, however provisional, that asks both to be sustained and to be subject to the possibilities—and the productive damage—of change, of growth. If growth is under erasure here, it is only because we recognize within any imagination of the future both the potential and the peril of embracing a trajectory. This is the work of mimesis, even digital mimesis—the potential revolution (or “revolving”) of dis/orientation that inheres in poetic language” (14).

“Such “composing” consists of a complex mix of affect and negotiation. On the one hand, queer composing is a demand born out of anger, resentment, pain…. This is a right we take in the full ugly face of how our lives have often been composed in ways that we not only do not recognize but that harm us…. We work and rework those dominant forms, both to counter and to assert, to say no to the damage done to us but also to use that damage to make livable lives” (15).

Questions, Reflections, Response:

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Reading the introduction of Techne, I was reminded of an art show of someone I went to school with during my undergrad at ECU, Paul Nissenbaum‘s collection, A Portrait of the Artist as a Gay Man. The pieces show a collection of self portraits that layer photography, printmaking, and painting mediating and remediating the subject’s performance of identity; the tools of this composition composing the subject as the artist composes the art. I see A Portrait of the Artist as a Gay Man as a work of Techne that embraces spectacle, understanding the “alienating distance between bodily self and representation” and is playfully engaged in the intimate entanglement of lived experience and its production technologies. I don’t intend to go to much into art criticism or aesthetics here, but I mention this collection of pieces as a visual play of the recurisive embodiment of mediating and networked technologies—the play with multiple art forms (and the playful allusion to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) that Nissenbaum produced resonated markedly for me in the ways that Rhodes and Alexander discuss the play with orienting forces they wrestled with personally and professionally in the work of Techne and its exploration of technologies and subjects.

As the field of composition increasingly integrates networks and ecologies into its theoretical wheelhouse, Techne‘s queer turn to the conversation may be an important one: a turn that notes the movement in the proliferation of subjects. If Queer Phenomenology (2006) asks the orientation of phenomenology, then Techne offers an attention to the orientation of subjects writing in networked environments. Techne takes up Ahmed’s discussion of the subject embracing and rejecting trajectories and her attentiveness to the shifts in trajectory—when a subject refuses to travel along a trajectory or refuses to reproduce or travel along lines that it is directed toward.

I wonder about digital mimesis and how much of the work of Techne and its attention to the body and experimental writing (which seems here to call one’s attention to the interimbrication of subject and composing technology) can be a response to the conversations of multimodality and new media in composition. Are we attentive to the ways that modalities are directive, orienting device? Do we talk about the trajectories and deviations with modalities we experience or embrace in composing? Do we talk enough about multimodality and new media enough to recognize the limitations and affordances other modalities allow beyond the mimetic? Is our engagement as a field oriented toward productivity and are there ways to create relationships to composing technologies that are sustainable and pleasurable?

I remember this passed semester having some of these conversations with my students. I was surprised with the level of friction and anxiety my students felt toward more experimental forms of composing. We were able to discuss their discomfort and their disorientation with composing out of words-in-a-row forms and had several generative conversations about their compositions from this.

I wonder about composing from a state of generative restlessness, from a space playful with pasts and futures. The “I” as subject-in-process. Do we compose conscious of the author(ed) self as transient, shifting, moving in, through, and with the technologies we deploy? What does that mean to embody a pedagogical stance that is aware of that shifting and author(ed) self, (co)created with mediating technologies? What does that mean for research methods and data collection if we methodologically understand subjects as transitory and recursively embodied through the mediating technologies?

I think about the always already and the way that I inhabit as self in spaces in time (Doo-weee-oooo!). Often, I find myself confronted with the trajectories and the orienting force of objects around me. As a queer person, I come into contact with the directive force of heteronormativity: the repetition of ‘coming out’ (coming out as becoming), the homonormative turns in gay communities (Grindr culture that reads “Masc 4 masc”, “No fats, no femmes, no Asians”), and the constant need to articulate the relevance of queer rhetorics to a field that has taken social justice and cultural work as its mantle for at least 20 years. I feel the technologies composing me in networks that seek to identify me (you should seriously look at what changes on Facebook if you tell it you’re a gay man—all the underwear ads; HIV treatment ads), and yet composing myself in these spaces and performing my queer identity as a space to effect change, conversation, visibility, being, and becoming. I am as a subject in these moments generated and negated. I embrace a history, a future, I compose an identity for myself, but in so doing, forsake, abandon, and deviate from other trajectories.

As someone with depression and PTSD, this confrontation is ever more apparent. What triggers me? When? Where? Am I present where I’m triggered and am I when I am present when I am triggered? It’s in those moments that time folds, frictive moments in time, when I am not just reminded of my attack, but I am my self, the same 20 year old, three years ago, today. That subjectivity movement that refuses to move straight but shifts back in history/present and refuses a sort of “progress” linearity is a sort of queer temporality. That folding of the line in on itself could be an excess of present/presence afforded in dense networked spaces that have orienting, flowing force.

One thought on “Notes: Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander, “Introduction.” In Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self

  1. Pingback: Notes: Jacqueline Rhodes & Jonathan Alexander, “Orientations.” In Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self | Thomas Passwater

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