The purview of theory (exploring the elephant graveyards)

Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.

But what about that shadowy place? There was apparently some dust up this week after Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s The Prison-House of Data hit the interwebs.

So instead of focusing on my current projects (or, perhaps approaching them obliquely) I got to thinking about what is and is not theory, what is justifiably the purview of theory,and the concept of the digital humanities as such.

What then will have been the digital humanities? The Infinite Archive? Twitter Theory? Digilogocentrism and the reinsertion of telepresence?

What isn’t digital humanities? Is it merely a case of certain aspects of the humanities and the academy refusing to live in the future? A via quest to remain in the false security of the linear world of print and old classics?

Digital Archiving, data management, and hypertext-an-sich were first out of the gate when enterprising humanists found computers and computer networks. But that they should remain the defining and imprisoning elements of the “digital humanities” is absurd and one of the significant limitations of the academy, especially one that seeks to maintain artificial distinctions between the disciplines.

The elephant graveyard might have been a necessary plot point for Lion King but the academy and specifically the humanities should recognize no such limitations. That grants maintain these artificial distinction when doling out money to artists and scientists is a depressing consequence of this semantic shortsightedness that does indeed need to be rectified. One of so many similar problems about a higher education system based on churning out employees and making the world safe for conformity and capitalism.

For now I will continue to just call myself a theorist and leave the appending of qualifiers to those afraid to think outside of clearly delineated categories.

I also write poems.

What, then, will have been writing? an introductory note on text, technology, media

From the arche-writing, the glyph, the trace of the letter graven in mud, in clay, in gold, to the papyrus, the scroll, the codex, the printed word: broadsides and folios, books, magazines, newsprint, sheet music, recorded music and speech, film, moving pictures, code, blogs, links, wikis, digital realms…

What, then, will have been writing?

Is it the sending, the recieving? A certain permanence? The flux of absence and presence? The always already inside/outside aporia?

The storyteller gathers the children around the cookfires, evening meal long past, adults gone about their business as the day crumbles into the deep blueblack, for it is the children who must remember, the children who do not yet feel too old to learn, to old for stories, too old. The storyteller speaks with a voice haunted by decades of firesmoke, the shaman’s remedies, but undaunted, undiminished. The storyteller speaks to those who would listen, to all who would listen. The storyteller will not seek to save the lost, those that would come, will come. Even now some of the adults find places just inside the ring of shadows, standing silently, equally full of anticipation.

It is, as is often the case, a question of semantics. Is a story narrative? Must it be? Is the oral not writing? But with a different means and medium? But what then is writing? Arche-writing? The “mere” transfer of information from a sender to a receiver plus attendant noise? Or do we confine ourselves to binaries? The written is the written. The spoken is other. A meal cannot be a text. “Can analysis be worthwhile? Is the theater really dead?”

But what then of the terms? Is it wrong to open them up to such generality? A text is anything composed. A technology that which is used to compose it. A medium that which is composed upon. Writing: the act of composition. Generalization is only a problem if one believes that the issues do not translate – that analysis of a print novel is not relevant to analysis of a remixed digital film. This is not to say that there is nothing unique to individual media (a poem is not a souffle is not an installation piece) but rather a question of disciplines, disciplinarity.

Anyone else wondering what the storyteller said?

Fœtid controversy; or, thinking outside the bounds of academic theory

This forum is not the easiest for the presentation of academic work. I haven’t gotten the hang of simple endnotes yet. And the ease of composing and posting, the inherent graphomania of the medium lends itself to quick bursts of insight or doggerel rather than detailed and composed research. Not to say that it is impossible to be theoretical but the medium massages you the other way, the releases of which are often unsightly.

Hypertext theorists argued for years that the linked environment was the future of scholarship. Though they tended to focus on self-enclosed hypertext environments that existed prior to the ubiquitous Internet and their predictions haven’t so much come to pass with whatever version of the web it is we are using now (2.023). I argued in Master’s thesis that blogs were emblematic of a new form of writing and authorship, both collaborative and mutable. Unlike Plato’s book and 大庭葉蔵 it is able to “answer back”. Of a kind. Presupposing a community. A blog, a twitter feed, the Internet at large even, are mediums of information exchange. But the exchange demands a reader/viewer/recipient otherwise the signal is indistinguishable from the noise.

To be focused on in the future: the necessity of noise. Until then … here’s more wandering bytes.

This (therefore) will not have been a blog.

And so I will slide. Slip between the interstices between aesthetics, philosophy, theory, and politics. Wallow in pop culture and the vulgar materialism of books and food, the visceral reality of a man who spends his entire day with an almost three year old currently running around the apt being chased by a dragon. Everything’s connected. But not easily or simply in some Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. The fragments are always more or less than the whole, missing and extra pieces that never make just one puzzle. That’s why ramen leads to Marx, to the flâneur, to Taylorism, to Orientalism, to Brittany Murphy, to Batman.

And so I will wander. And so I will walk.

I wasn’t born here; or, commentary on Wrecking Ball (part I – the album)

8 tracks out of 11. Not bad. Or, considering the two iTunes bonus tracks, 10 of 13. (.76923)

Wrecking Ball, the newest album by the Boss, is a political, patriotic, and often spiritual cry of defiance as can be expected of Springsteen and the Band. It is left leaning, populist, occasionally sneering and ironic, but heartfelt and, in the end, hopeful. But you can read those reviews elsewhere. From people paid to review music the way people want to read music reviews. &c.

I began the morning by listening to the album streaming off Paste off Twitter. Made it hard to RT anything, but it was early and I hadn’t gotten to the business of reading about Hitler and McLuhan yet. Still watching animal videos with the kid and the coffee. I then, the wife being a die-hard fan for life (a rare bit of pop culture she inherited from her mother who has been attending shows up in the Tri-State area since the early 70s), purchased the album off of iTunes and was quite pleased to find the two additional tracks (among my favorites). Knowing that we have tickets for the Tampa show coming up in a couple weeks, I then put together my set list (primarily featuring the new tracks I liked – all 10 – coming to a total of 27 tracks, roughly 2 hours).

And then, while listening, and considering the music, I got to thinking. As a media theorist is wont to do when culture hits you over the head in such an overt manner.

Briefly: this is one of the political albums. Like Nebraska, like Joad, like The Rising. And, given the climate, its time has come. It is noted throughout the reviews that this was written and recorded before Occupy made its stand. But it speaks to the same impulse. And, unfortunately, it speaks in a language that the majority can understand (whether or not they are willing to listen) and it comes from a man that will not be accused of being a unwashed, rapist, hippie camping out on the public dole. The veracity of such claims is irrelevant.

Of course, as is also oft noted, this is a populist, leftist call from a man who has an estimated net worth of ~$200 mil. That puts him into the 1%. Which, then, for all those folk who might like a clear and concise class war creates either confusion or cognitive dissonance. Because if he is of the hated minority, then what could he do for the rest of us but give back the money and destabilize the system? Of course that is a facile reading of the divide. The issue is not, in fact, over money. The issue is about the system. He has benefited from one side of the system (the side that lets the exploitation be carried out by iTunes (Apple) and Columbia (Sony) and the rest of the apparatus of the music industry) while critiquing it from the other. This is the essential Benjamin v. Adorno grudge match.

Can Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and their music give rise to a legitimate leftist, populist political uprising? or are we just jitterbugging to really awesome music?

It’s not really a question that I can answer. It doesn’t have one answer. Will the music be used for political ends? Almost certainly. Will it make people engage with the system in a positive fashion? With hope. Will it overthrow the system? Highly unlikely. Is it appreciated unironically by conservatives who have such a limited grasp of the English language that they can love music that calls them out as heathens and hypocrites? Yes. You can’t win ’em all.

Ideal list for the Tampa show of the Wrecking Ball Tour:
Easy Money
American Land
Shackled and Drawn
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Atlantic City
My Hometown
Death to My Hometown
Radio Nowhere
O Mary Don’t You Weep
Adam Raised A Cain
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Wrecking Ball
Highway Patrolman
We Take Care of Our Own
This Depression
Lost In The Flood
Swallowed Up (In the Belly of the Whale)
Mary Queen Of Arkansas
Jack of All Trades
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
We Are Alive
The Rising
We Shall Overcome
Born In The U.S.A.

On Ramen: hors d’œuvre, excurse,

2/29/12 Orlando. Lunch.


a man in dreads asks for directions to the outlets (Orlando Premium – the shirt I was wearing was purchased there). Rare that someone at a stoplight gets your attention to roll down the window. Must have been the smooth jazz pouring out of the left of the dial.



You have to wonder how a dish like ramen, one of the tent poles of Japanese cuisine, is regarded, in the majority of America, solely as a prepackaged food for starving students. Makes an interesting case for cultural imperialism (Japanese food is sushi and teriyaki plus cup noodles on the back end). Commodity fetishism (there are several cookbooks available on Amazon full of recipes for how to make instant noodles into fancyish food) and yet almost none that actually deal with the “original” (an issue that can be explored at length). Could be the same fear of lye water that keeps most homemade soft pretzels from shining.


This is the opening salvo in an multifaceted critique, analysis, appreciation, and evangelism for ramen. Academic, artistic. Borrowed. Vanguard. Ramen: fresh or packaged. The idea of food, of the food economy, & oriental(ism) flavor.

It was delicious. And Finn behaved himself the whole meal.