Rubber bands

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There’s little more frustrating than starting a rubber band ball. The folding, twisting, wrapping—snap! Time to start over again. I tried again, folding the first rubber band in half and in half again and then started to wrap the second around it and the slightest move of my finger made the first lose its shape—time to start over.

And of course, above all else, a rubber band ball takes time—and rubber bands I suppose—hundreds if not thousands of straps of rubber go in to making just a single ball. And perhaps the best part is, you don’t know necessarily what you’re making until you’ve made it and you know it’s never done until you’re satisfied with it.

But what does it communicate to you that signifies “done”ness or completeness? Is it the weight? The feel of the uneven grippy texture of the bands gripping against my palm with the satisfying mass that tells me of the hours of dedication bound up in this ball? Is it the constraint of time or materials? That I simply can’t make more mass because of material limitation?

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I’m sitting at this kitchen table making a rubber band ball across from a maker space inspired project book. One of the series of projects is a rubber band ball of the planets. How to create Jupiter, Saturn, etc. out of rubber bands binding the meaning of the planets in with the colors and patterns that visually signify the corresponding planet: a complete-able project goal with clearly articulated materials needed to make this.

But what I’m struck by as I’m sitting at this table, feeling the tension and release as each band flexes and wraps around the others is the indeterminate, the undefined. My band ball looking more like a germinating potato. There’s a satisfaction that comes with the addition of another band that also comes with an uncertainty. Has this one band altered the ball? Will it? Could it? If I had angled the band differently, how would that change? Would the patterns and textures created give a different feel? A different completeness?

At any moment a rubber band ball could be complete, after all. And if it were one on its own, it’s still a complete object that means. The rubber band. The snap against your wrist as that annoying kid who made fun of you at recess pulls back and releases a band in class—the time you tripped down the stairs in the office building holding a stack of newly printed documents bound together in one band that then scattered across the floor—that wooden gun your uncle bought you on your tenth birthday that you spent hours shooting the beige circlets at the oak trees out back—when you were nineteen and sitting at a desk and you realized that, yes, centuries of musicians and mathematicians weren’t lying when you produced a note an octave higher than the first—your senior year in high school when you handed in your final portfolio that you’d lived out the whole year in a sort of anticlimax all tethered together by the single and unimpressive band

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I think too about time in this ball. The way it is bound and complete, but becomes newly complete and incompleted anew with the addition of a new band. The ball that bounces across the table seems unstable: that it could continue to grow, or shrink and be at once enacting its history and futures all together. The ball’s ball-ness is iterative and only seems to be a completed ball when it is named a completed ball—a fixed point in ball-ness; I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

But it’s all caught up in that tension. That felt tension when your fingers press against the edges of the bands, or you pull and that release. It retains its shape, or encompasses another within it.

Voice and phone

Car rides, commutes, rushing from the main campus to the college of business—there’s something about movement that facilitates thinking for me, <sigh> but it’s an inconvenient facilitation. With my attention being split and the time-crunch of being in transit, there’s not time or focus for deep, sustained consideration. But the fleeting, blinkering considerations are often so worth grasping. Looking over the captured thoughts, I often see my projects taking shape.

That’s me: the driver, the fast walker, phone pressed to their lips as they mutter incoherently racing and driving.

<laughter>

I, uh <cleared throat> find myself wandering when I talk into my phone. There’s a trust there, too. It’s a deeply personal space that I enter into when I find myself composing in the form of my phone’s voice recorder. Um, it’s just quick notes, right? Where I don’t—I can’t sustain too much thought on any one topic: there’s an upcoming turn in the road, a driver cuts me off <audible breath> and my thoughts turn or are interrupted.

There’s an impulsiveness to my speech that I haven’t quite grasped. It’s uneven and comes in spurts. Yet, I <tongue clicks> fill the silence, yea? I don’t seem to want it to end as my voice dies down in the silence of the car—maybe as I turn or lose my train of thought—I immediately try and resume. I’m not sure why, but the silence feels uncomfortable and I feel free to enter and leave this enclosed composing space that it makes this kind of wandering possible.

My phone is almost weightless in my hand: it’s almost absent. I feel the warmth of my arm bent toward my chest, the bend in my wrist to angle the object—and it almost feels reminiscent of evenings curled on the couch reading or watching TV—a comfortable position—but the phone blinkers out of my thought.

What fills my awareness is the movement of my lips and the gliding of my tongue. S’s and T’s fill my ears with sibilant and staccato sounds. I hold my breath in moments where my attention is being pulled and there is a tightness in my chest. I notice my limited range in volume: a consideration of the limitations of my platform. Volume impacts the quality of my recording. As casual and quick-capture as this feels, I know it has purpose: I will be sitting down with these recordings later to figure out whatever it was I was thinking <laughter> and so, I, uh, need to be able to hear it.

All that is to say, though, that what I feel myself attentive to is this composing with my body. The way my tongue slides across the roof of my mouth to make that hissing s that I hang onto for just too long, the dryness in my throat after 15 minutes past the last drop of my morning coffee, the way my diaphragm seems disengaged from this talking, the way the vibrations from my voice carry down my tie to the side of my thigh <sigh>.

Laptop and a desk

There’s an urgency to typing, a certain frenetic momentum to it. The immediacy of words appearing on the screen as I rapidly clack across the keyboard seems to add pressure of time-responsiveness. There are clear rhythms to my typing, sudden starts, sudden stops, accelerandos, rests—I’m barely aware of the smooth plastic pieces depressed by the staccato stabs of my fingers as the press and release of each feels so sudden that I only feel a slight tingling across the tips of my fingers as I come to a close of each frenzy of taps.

My breathing seems to be “in time” with my typing: my breaths deep and further between during the quickened moments and evens back out as my typing slows. Though, this seems tied to the need for immediacy as I type.

I wonder why the pressure of this immediacy exists. As most things, what comes to mind is multivalent: informed by early typing training in schools where time was part of the evaluation of the activity, by my conditioned writing in social media spaces in which someone “sees” as someone is typing and that knowledge implies a need to send the message quickly, and the seeming tie between the speed of thinking and writing.

It feels like my typing rhythms are tied to what I’m writing. This rhythm feels like a blogging rhythm with the frantic energy typing in one direction: a quick draft, a thought form, a grasping. And it feels like the feeling of the day: It’s paced, measured, perhaps a bit dry, it feels like September 28th. But, even as I’m feeling the rhythms of my typing, it doesn’t feel separate from the other rhythms of my typing I’ve felt—the all nighters from my first semester of my MA program, or the visceral pain I felt as I was typing my blog post the day after the Pulse shooting this June.

Those were different rhythms, different days, different graspings, different typings, but they are in my fingers even as I type this reflection.

I’m thinking too of my piano experience, which may explain my reliance on musical terms to describe this experience, as well as the percussive sounds that permeate the space as I type. I’m thinking about the way that my hands “know.” In an a way that isn’t conscious, they know, they move, they generate, they invent, they position into productive forms that allow for reach with ease. It is a knowing tied to a doing; it is a doing through/on/with the body. But it is a knowing, too, that only comes through the encounter: it is only when my fingers come in contact with the notches on the “f” and “j” keys my fingers come to knowing—or when they come in contact with smoothness of keys on my piano.

Legos and a table

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Click.

Very little is soft about Legos. A series of hard lines with sharp edges that press into my hand as I hold each piece, with a series of rhythmic circles that contour the polished walls of the toys. There are bright, bold colors with a hundred different shapes—and still there are patterns, uniformity, and rigidity.

It’s hard to feel the hard edges and boundaries of the piece without also thinking about the ways these pieces leave impressions on my skin and reminding me of the pain of stepping on a Lego that was left on the floor. These pieces seem incredibly mobile, sliding with their smooth edges across surfaces. How much friction could be generated from these smooth sides?

And yet, digging my hand in a large group of these Legos recalls memories of childish happiness. All their hardness seems soaked up in the collective and my hands sink without issue or pain into the mix. I remember reaching into large tubs of Legos with my friends that were nearly as large as I was and shoveling out fists full of the tiny colorful objects.

Almost similarly, as these toys spilled onto the table, I felt my eyes flickering over the mass of these rapidly, trying to find associative logics. I felt these pieces belonged together, but found myself getting frustrated, not seeing how. It was fitful starts, click, snapping pieces together, click, and pulling them apart, click; haphazard groupings and regroupings by shape, color, my intent. There were so many visible potential positions for each that would entirely guide my next moves, and then the next, and the next.

Click. I couldn’t help but smile at the satisfying snap of two pieces being joined, the object seeming to no longer belong to my hand but to the other nested piece. The tension as I struggled to pull two pieces apart was familiar and frustrating. The amount of force taking more than I expected and felt my arms engaged in the act more than I thought was necessary.

So many childhood memories were inseparable from this composing. Holding one piece in my hand, I remembered imagined worlds I’d built with my friends. How I used the different pieces sparked other constructions and compositions to come to mind. If I encountered a limitation, I remembered encountering it before.

Click.

Notes: Jacqueline Rhodes and Jonathan Alexander, “Mobilities” in Techne: Queer Meditations on

Rhodes, Jacqueline, and Jonathan Alexander. “Genealogies.” 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 discuss techne in terms of an queer embodied self and the rhetorical canons of memory and delivery.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Multimodality, Technology, New Media, Ecology, Embodiment

Sources:

Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta: Toward a Rhetoric of New Media. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2009. Print.

McCorkle, Ben. Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. Print.

Porter, James E. “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric.” Computers and Composition 26.4 (2009): 207–24. Print.

Quotations:

“Porter’s theoretical framework for digital delivery consists of five components: body/identity, distribution/circulation, access/accessibility, interaction, and economics… Such synergistic tension opens up spaces to act, write, and perform embodied rhetorical action” (mob2).

“[H]e notes that our modern, commonsense understanding of “delivery” sees it as a transitive process, something that always happens with a delivered, discrete object (“delivering a pizza,” for example); he argues that “we need to think in terms of an intransitive, constitutive performance, rather than transitive or transactional delivery, when it comes to new media” (170–71)” (mob3).

“In this chapter, we juxtapose—mash up and remix—delivery and memory with orientation in the service of productive play. Such play lets us develop and explore a critical consciousness that becomes aware of the orientations that shape memory and subjectivity as well as the potentiality to reorient them, even if through disorientation. As a techne, our call for such dis/orientation emerges from and extends a long line of queer aesthetic practice” (mob4a).

“What draws us queerly to such work is its often embodied delivery (and memory), its working through the body—wandering, following instincts, tracing desires, reacting in the flesh, coupling strangely and unexpectedly and even grotesquely—as well as its questioning of normative modes of production (wander!) and its orientation to potentialities as opposed to (heteronormative) reproduction” (mob4a).

“What we have been proposing through this work is a reorientation of memory and delivery that serves as a multimodal techne of self. Such a technerelies on the constant re/negotiation of memory and ecologies of delivery, of allowing for but also stumbling upon embodied encounters with what we think we know and what’s coming at us” (mob5b).

“Graffiti is often itself an act of dis/orientation. Some of it just tags the environment, designed to mark a space as owned in a subterranean geography. But much of it disrupts the nearly seamless flow of corporate colonization of public spaces. We think, for instance, of Banksy or Keith Haring, whose work posed material interruptions of spatial narratives that otherwise kept us moving along—nothing to see here, get back to work, go shopping. “Live Here, Work Here, Play Here.” Graffiti can dis/orient the spatial spectacles of our everyday lives, tactically turning attention to cracks in the narrative, contradictions and incommensurabilities in the paved-over stories we otherwise tell ourselves to get through the day” (mob6).

“Graffiti offers an ephemerality of consequence. It is a public techne of reorientation. It is the trace of others’ engagement with the world, with an attempt to leave a mark, to make an impression, to divert, to disrupt, to affect, to make our collective landscapes affective, to tell another story. It reminds us that someone or some people were here. It is memory and delivery. And, in its often unknown authorship, it performs a rhizomatic scattering of the self, an ecology of subjectivity that narrates otherwise, that draws attention to its difference from everything else around it” (mob6a).

Notes: Jacqueline Rhodes & Jonathan Alexander, “Orientations.” 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.

Two dancers in Picasso's costumes: the costumes are an abstract mix of formal wear, pipes, and capital/industrialist landscape.

Summary:

In this chapter, Rhodes and Alexander explore phenomenology’s attentiveness to the subject and subjectivity as sites of inquiry into how technologies (re)orient and (re)mediate the subject.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Technology, Multimodality, New Media, Phenomenology, Actor-Network Theory (ANT)

Sources:

Dourish, Paul. Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2001. Print.

Kaptelinin, Victor, and Bonnie A. Nardi. Acting with Technology: Activity Theory and Interaction Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2009. Print.

Law, John. “Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics.” The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory. Ed. Byron S. Turner. Chichester, UK: Blackwell, 2009. 141–58. Print.

Quotations:

“As we touch our technology, we are increasingly reminded of how it touches us back, sometimes through the agency of others reaching out to us” (1).

“We surely want our composing technologies to help us move, to allow us to “follow something other than the lines” already laid down. But to do so, we need to know how those objects already orient us along particular trajectoriesand why” (4).

“The creation of such distance speaks to the fundamental power of the relationship, acknowledging the influence of the object on our subjectivities—in producing our subjectivities—in our felt need at times to curtail it, to introduce and make room for other influences and pressures. Perhaps what needs to be taught now is less the danger of devices than better ways of relating to them. What would studying the experience of working with machines as a set of embodied and situated relations (not just extractable acts, but live relations) tell us about our (post)humanity?” (5).

“In my embodied “coupling” with my technologies, to use Dourish’s term, mean-ing, be-ing, and other Big Concepts are constantly mediated and remediated, a dynamic process in which my technologies and I reach for (and beyond) each other. These acts of (re)mediation are embedded, or grounded quite specifically in the material, social, cultural, and historical settings in which they arise; a key part of that embedding is “a concern with the mundane aspects of social life, the taken-for-granted background of everyday action” (Dourish 96). The idea of “everyday experience” is key here. Dourish’s phenomenological framework takes as its center the purposeful, active subject, mediating his or her experience through technologies. At their simplest level, technologies such as Mood Map, Verbalucce, Lumo Lift, and Pavlok offer us a reductionist stimulus–response view of behavior and cognition. Pushing against that simple view, we can see such technologies (and, importantly, our purposeful use of them) as ecologies of orientation, or complex systems that push us to act in culturally “appropriate” ways. Stand tall. Be positive. Don’t waste time on Facebook. Get up earlier. Be efficient” (6).

“Bodies move to attract and capture attention, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Such bodies, sometimes encased in rigid costumes representing concrete and steel, have become orienting objects, while also continuing to draw our attention to their difference—from each other and from their interaction with non-bodily objects, specifically the materials of industrial capitalism. Long before Latour,Parade enacts a dissolution of the subject/object binary to meditate on the interimbrication of not just self and other but the collapsing of subject into object, there and back again” (9)

“[T]here are key differences between actor-network theory and phenomenological approaches such as Dourish’s and Ahmed’s. As Victor Kaptelinin and Bonnie Nardi point out, phenomenology retains a commitment to subjectivity, and its interest in technological mediation is one of context, a way of reaching a deeper understanding of the individual subject (205). And, we might add, actor-network theory seems to presume a sort of intentional innocence among its nodes and has been “forcibly reminded of its non-innocence by Donna Haraway in her own much more explicitly political material semiotics. . . . We make realities, she said. They only question is: what kind of difference do we want to make?” (Law 154). We might add to that question another: How do we recognize in these webs possibilities for making difference, for making a difference? And how do we do so purposefully?” (10).

Questions, Reflection, Response:

Rhodes and Alexander touch on many of the conversations that rapidly circulate, bemoaning technology’s influence particularly in communication practices. I was reminded of the video above as I most often hear these discussions related to millennials. While this video captures a snapshot—an edited original post with a response—of the discussion of millennials, it touches on our generation’s relationship to technology in multiple spots In its medium, comments about the use of Facebook, and perhaps most interestingly in the flurry of updates from various social media platforms received at the end (a visual move that seemed vaguely reminiscent of a common drag move to layer sound clips and increase aural friction and end with a deathdrop) seems to address Rhodes’s discussion of desiring updates and the orienting force that engagement with these kinds of updates can have on subjects. Rhodes and Alexander discuss looking at the relationship between subjectivities and objects through moments of disruption, dissonance, and disorientation as these moments are times when we come in contact with the orienting force of those objects. Their queer phenomenological turn is one that meets technology, composition, and affect.

In their discussion of Mood Map, Verbalucce, Lumo Lift, and Pavlok and their orienting force—”Stand tall. Be positive. Don’t waste time on Facebook. Get up earlier. Be efficient” (6)—I’m reminded of my felt sense of being on Facebook and the ways in which people compose their presence on various social media platforms to highlight a positive (even wishful) best self and the tacit ways of being that these platforms promote toward cultural ideals of happiness and productivity, as well as the isolating/disorienting force these platforms are capable of for those that do not experience that, experience it differently, deviate from such ideals, etc. Even how these platforms police such orientations. I think about the community of creative writers I follow on twitter and #AmWriting and #WriterLife and the prevalence of martyr-complex, writers do x (stay up all night/every night, write don’t talk, are always stressed).

What I also hear in this conversation on orientations goes back to the introduction, in which Rhodes and Alexander ask of inquiry into technology and desire for an “opening up potential for disrupting flow, disorienting attentions, and redirecting desires in more pleasurable and sustaining ways” (10). A perhaps Ahmed-esque (2014) desire for willfulness; a refusal to reproduce the orientation of (re)productivity, of compulsory happiness.

I think there’s a great work with ANT provided here that I would like to see methodologically explored more; the presumed innocence between nodes that ANT may presuppose. I think about the directive flow of objects and the ways I am composed along them as I compose myself through them; Ahmed (2006) and Said (1978) remind us that direction is not neutral—the language we use to describe language, the spatial relationships we compose through cartography, all make proximate and more readily available objects with ease while making others othered. A queer noticing of how bodies move through nodes, are acted upon by nodes, that calls attention to the force (sometimes violent force) with which subjects are directed in these directions, along trajectories. This noticing requires a queer phenomenology. As subjectivities are projected/directed/sustained along/within/through networked environments they are composed upon.

In my reflections on the introduction to this book, I talked about some of the ways I have experienced or come in contact with the directive force of mediating technologies and the movement of my subjectivity in some of these networked environments. I’m still grappling with some of this in this chapter (as I imagine I will be throughout this book). I’m starting to think a lot about Khôra in terms of networks, technologies, subjectivities, and my lived experiences of being triggered. I might repeat the questions stated by Rhodes and Alexander “How do we recognize in these webs possibilities for making difference, for making a difference? And how do we do so purposefully?” (10).

Notes: Jason Palmeri, “Creative Translations: Reimagining the Process Movement (1971-84)” in Remixing Composition: A History of Multimodal Writing Pedagogy”

Palmeri, Jason. (2012). Creative translations: Reimagining the process movement (1971-84). Remixing composition: A history of multimodal composition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 23-50.

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Summary:

In this chapter, Palmeri takes his remix history through the process movement in composition studies, focusing on the works of Flower and Hayse, Berthoff, and Emig and how these theorists articulated process as a multimodal, cognitive activity. In this, he identifies three key concepts for multimodal writing: that alphabetic writing is multimodal, we should recognize the limitations and affordances of modalities, and composition has much to gain from interdisciplinary work with other arts.

Keywords: composition, disciplinary history, interdisciplinarity, multimodality, pedagogy, process, technology

Sources:

Henze, Brett, Jack Selzer, and Wendy Sharer. (2008). 1977: A cultural moment in composition. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor.

Shipka, Jody. (2005). A multimodal task-based framework for composing. College Composition and Communication, 57(2), 277-306.

Quotations:

“In an environment where distinctions between alphabetic writing, art, design, and music are breaking down (Manovich, New London Group), it is important that we help students gain a global understanding of creative processes that is not tied to any specific modality–an understanding that they can use to help guide their composing with diverse alphabetic, audio, and visual materials” (p. 28).

“Rather than seeing translation as a reductive process of moving from multimodal mind to alphabetic page, we can instead reimagine translation as a dynamic process of moving between internal multimodal representations of knowing (in the mind) and external multimodal representations (on the computer or the page)” (p. 33-34).

“Rather than requiring that students pursue the act of translation with the ultimate goal of producing an alphabetic text, we could teach students to engage in multimodal translation with the ultimate goal of being able to make an informed rhetorical choice about which modalities best enable them to persuasively present their thoughts to a specific audience” (p. 37-38).

“[W]e might begin to reimagine writing-across-the-curriculum programs as composing-across-the-curriculum programs–exploring, for example, ways that students might better learn scientific concepts if they both wrote about them and made videos about them” (p. 43).

“If we limit students to only alphabetic means of invention and revision, we may unnecessarily constrain their ability to think intensively and complexly about their work. As a result, I suggest that composition teachers consider including one informal, multimodal composing activity as a part of every major unit or sequence in their course” (p. 44).

Questions, Reflections, and Response:

(Re)Framing the process movement in terms of multimodal composition is interesting and provides compelling insights into ways that composition is taught and how it might build from drawing on this multimodal history. Palmeri draws on this large body of scholarship from some of the most well-known scholars in the field’s past, remixing it with digital pedagogy and multimodal composition. When Palmeri discusses the interdisciplinary work that can be made through studying other arts, especially in an age where those disciplinary boundaries are blurred, I find particularly interesting; I do wonder about the creation of a shared vocabulary and the idea of this allowing for transfer across modalities if there is a way to understand the modalities as separate and different and to draw on their vocabularies as a rhetorical decision–a part of the encounter with the affordances and limitations of that modality in the discursive communities that surround that mode.