Jagoda — Netwrok Ambivalence

“Ambivalence, then, is a process of slowing down and learning to inhabit a compromised environment with the discomfort, contradiction, and misalignment it entails” (114).

“Instead of an ‘either-or,’ network aesthetics more often yield a ‘both-and’ and a ‘what else?'” (114).

“[N]etwork aesthetics multiply the possible forms that thought itself might take. Thought need not be put in the service of perpetuating progress through innovation or yielding negation through critique. It can also be a state of experiencing, negotiating, affecting, inhabiting, and playing with the mixed feelings inherent in ambivalence” (116.)

Jagoda first works through the near ubiquity of networks as an analytic in present moment (“a dominant episteme and ubiquitous form of our time” (109). Jagoda moves quickly to Galloway who suggests that to explore beyond network models one might take an avant-garde approach or a “whatever” approach (in the simplest sense, opting-out). Jagoda argues for a third way through the framework of ambivalence.

I’m drawn to the moments in Jagoda’s excerpt that are captured in the epigraphic quotes above, and I’ll return to those in a moment. But first, I was drawn to re-reading this article because it implied a problem I had not considered: what happens when all we see is networks? I could list a series of questions here, but all evoke the commonplace sense of “when [x] is everything, [x] is nothing.” It looses meaning or force in it’s overuse or over-application.

The move toward ambivalence, then, is quite appealing to me intellectually and pedagogically. It does not seem to want to explain networks or argue for networks in what I think could be considered epistemological moves. Rather, a stance of ambivalence seems to me to seek a more ontological orientation, a stance Jagoda seems to capture by way of dwelling, but dwelling in networked spaces that are simultaneously in flux. I’ve been considering what it might mean to be rhetorically ambivalent, or put another way to dwell ambivalently in a rhetorical theory, moment, or space.

Pedagogically, I’m drawn to ambivalence as well. I begin to wonder at how a project or curriculum might be shaped through an attention to a stance of ambivalence. What kinds of activities might emerge from a pedagogical attention to ambivalence? How would a pedagogy shaped through ambivalence treat arguments and thesis statements? How could a stance of ambivalence contribute to writing processes, research writing, or to reflection? I sense those areas as most ripe for an attention to a stance of ambivalence.

Jagoda, Patrick. “Network Ambivalence.” Contemporaneity. 4.1 (2015): 108-118.


Networks, ambivalence, aesthetics


Artists: Sharon Molloy, Emma McNally, Tomás Saraceno, Chiharu Shiota

Lauren Berlant, “Thinking About Feeling Historical,” Emotion, Space and Society (2008)

Lutz P. Koepnick, On Slowness: Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (2014)

Ramsay & Rockwell: “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities.”

Ramsay, Stephen and Geoffrey Rockwell. “Developing Things: Notes toward an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words

Ramsay and Rockwell examine what counts as scholarship in the realm of the digital. They briefly survey attempts to capture, define, and evaluate digital projects in the humanities. Ramsay and Rockwell further discuss whether or not a digital artifact needs written discourse to count as scholarship. They discuss the making/building of tools as forms of scholarship, along with the complications such projects would entail. They distinguish between textual accounts of how tools act as theory and the unaccompanied tool itself an argument and manifestation of theory. Prototypes, in particular, hold significant promise as potential thing theories; built things that function, in and of themselves, to make a theoretical argument. Prototypes become more appealing than tools-in-use for such tools work best when their theoretical underpinnings are (usefully) opaque to users, whereas prototypes, with their bugginess, uniqueness, and idiosyncrasies, surface their theoretical potential in a more transparent way. All this is to discuss how scholars should get credit for the work they do building the digital humanities.

Key Quotes
“If [Davis] Baird is right, then ‘building’ may represent an opportunity to correct the discursive and linguistic bias of the humanities. According to this view, we should be open to communicating scholarship through artifacts, whether digital or not. It implies that print is, indeed, ill equipped to deal with entire classes of knowledge that are presumably germane to humanistic inquiry.”

“To ask whether coding is a scholarly act is like asking whether writing is a scholarly act. Writing is the technology—or better, the methodology—that lies between model and result in humanistic discourse.”

“If highly theorized and self-reflective visions of tools as theories fail to be sufficiently tool-like, one might say that so-called thing theories of the instrumental sort outlined here err in the opposite direction by being insufficiently open about their theoretical underpinnings. A well-tuned instrument might be used to understand something, but that doesn’t mean that you, as the user, understand how the tool works.”

“To ask whether coding is a scholarly act is like asking whether writing is a scholarly act. Writing is the technology—or better, the methodology—that lies between model and result in humanistic discourse. … We do not mean to propose that the act of putting words on a page is scholarship. We seek, instead, to capture metonymically the quality of the intervention that has occurred as a result of the writing. Scholars conceive the world and represent it in some altered form. That writing stands as the technical method by which this transformation is made is almost beside the point.”

“If the quality of the interventions that occur as a result of building are as interesting as those that are typically established through writing, then that activity is, for all intents and purposes, scholarship.”

Further Reading
Baird, Davis. Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific Instruments. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Galey, Alan, Stan Ruecker, and the INKE team. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25, no. 4 (2010): 405–24.

Turing, Alan. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Mind: A Quarterly Review of Psychology and Philosophy 59, no. 236 (1950): 433–60.

Drucker: “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.”

Drucker, Johanna. “Humanistic Theory and Digital Scholarship.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words
Data visualization

The tools from which the Digital Humanities draw inspiration, methodology, and scholarship are produced by fields which are still moored in positivistic, mechanistic, quantitative, and reductionist frameworks. Drucker asks if humanists can “design … digital environments that embody specific theoretical principles drawn from the humanities, [and] not merely work within platforms and protocols created by disciplines whose methodological premises are often at odds with—even hostile to—humanistic values and thought?” Drucker sees the tools and processes of data visualization to be hostile to the values and goals of the humanities.

Drucker calls for a DH shift away from reading technology and toward making technology. The DH should emphasize readings as interpretive in nature, readings as constructing their own discourse [cf. Barthes S/Z]. Drucker sees the work of data visualization as in its infancy in the humanities, revolving around the processes of quantifying and sorting at present (dealing with what is already known), as opposed to the more complex processes of statistical analyses performed in other disciplines and fields (“Statisticians are concerned with probabilities, not certainties.”). Drucker looks at mapping in particular, and the representational complexities associated with any projection of geography, including (especially) the photographic images presented by such entities as Google Maps. Drucker posits situatednes (primarily framed through individual experience) and enunciation (primarily framed through cultural systems that assemble social selves) as principles which would help shape the DH into a true humanistic enterprise.

Key Quotes
“While it may seem like an extreme statement, I think the ideology of almost all current information visualization is anathema to humanistic thought, antipathetic to its aims and values. The persuasive and seductive rhetorical force of visualization performs such a powerful reification of information that graphics such as Google Maps are taken to be simply a presentation of ‘what is,’ as if all critical thought had been precipitously and completely jettisoned. Therefore, this is a critical moment to identify core theoretical issues in the humanities and develop digital platforms that arise from these principles.”

“I think we can fairly say that the intellectual traditions of aesthetics, hermeneutics, and interpretative practices (critical editing, textual studies, historical research) are core to the humanities.”

“The challenge is to shift humanistic study from attention to the effects of technology (from readings of social media, games, narrative, personae, digital texts, images, environments), to a humanistically informed theory of the making of technology (a humanistic computing at the level of design, modeling of information architecture, data types, interface, and protocols).”

“Statisticians are concerned with probabilities, not certainties. They do not count things; they model conditions and possible outcomes. Data mining in the humanities has largely depended on counting, sorting, ordering techniques—in essence, some automated calculations. Statistical modeling has factored less, at least to date, in the analytic tool kit of critical digital work with texts. Stylometrics, attribution studies, natural language processing, and other higher level analyses have long made use of these sophisticated modeling techniques, but graphing ambiguous and partial knowledge is still in its early stages.”

“The theoretical underpinnings of humanistic interpretation are fundamentally at odds with the empirical approaches on which certain conventions of temporal and spatial modeling are based. All maps are constructions, and the history of cartography, like the histories of other graphical forms of knowledge, is filled with productive debates about the ideological and rhetorical force of mapping techniques.”

“The primary strategy for undoing the force of reification is to introduce parallax and difference, thus taking apart any possible claim to the self-evident or self-identical presentation of knowledge and replacing this with a recognition of the made-ness and constructedness that inhere in any representation of knowledge.”

“Humanistic conventions for the graphical production of spatial knowledge and interpretation would spring from the premises of situatedness and enunciation. “

“The question is not, Does digital humanities need theory? but rather, How will digital scholarship be humanistic without it?”

Further Reading

Moretti, Franco. “Conjectures on World Literature.” 2000.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. 2008.

McGann, Jerome J. Radiant Textuality. 2001.

Bianco: “This Digital Humanities Which Is Not One.”

Bianco, Jamie “Skye.” “This Digital Humanities Which Is Not One.” Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. Web.

Key Words
Creative construction

Bianco troubles the notion of the Digital Humanities as methodological in nature. The DH tendency away from critical discourse leads to a dearth within which a conspicuous lack of gaze is settled upon the social, political, or cultural. While sympathetic to the Latourian notion that critique has run out of steam, Bianco nonetheless calls for an ethical turn in the DH explicitly, and a critical turn less explicitly, especially insofar as a critical turn would focus on the politics of methodology, digital tools, code and other DH phenomena as “socially neutral or benevolent, and theoretically and politically transparent.” Bianco is wary of a return to kind of retro-humanism that preceded the critical, ethical, and methodical diversity and expansion ushered in by cultural studies and critical theory. Bianco turns to Latour and Sedgwick to build a case for creative construction and turn away from creative destruction as practiced by critical theory. In particular, Bianco examines the difference between frameworks of veils/veiling/unveiling and frameworks of digital/codified/networked layers that may be more pressing as objects of study in a world in which “we live exposed.” Bianco finishes with a call to move away from “the practices and logic of unifying standards and instrumentality, as well as rationalizing and consolidating genres—for genres, like academic disciplines, are not immanent.”

Key Quotes
“Does the digital humanities need an ethology or an ethical turn? Simply put, yes.”

“It’s been a long time since I’ve quoted a feminist like a sledgehammer, but something about the new, posttheoretical humanities, the digital humanities, smells a bit like its self- (and other-) enlightened, progress-driven, classifying, rationalizing, and disciplining (grand)father.”

“New methods, tools, technics, and approaches—Moretti’s “distant reading,” for example—have been welcome evolutions with provocative expository and critical value, but these additions to the humanities need not mean distant ethics and a severing off of critique and cultural studies. … This is not a moment to abdicate the political, social, cultural, and philosophical, but rather one for an open discussion of their inclusion in the ethology and methods of the digital humanities.”

“We live exposed. Might we begin to experiment with ways to shift or move out of the utopian ideal of unveiling the already unveiled, executed through acts of destructive creation, to take up the troubling of affective disjuncture between what is felt and what is real and to move from interrogative readings to interactive, critical ‘reuse’ compositions through what Latour terms a ‘progressivism’ that is predicated on immanence and upon what I would argue are nontrivially changed material conditions?”

Further Reading
Latour, “An Attempt at a ‘Compositionist Manifesto.’” 2010
Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. 2002
Ranciere, The Politics of Aesthetics. 2004

Eyman: “Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice”

Eyman, Douglas. “Defining and Locating Digital Rhetoric.” Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. Digital Culture Books, University of Michigan. Web. 2015.

Digital rhetoric
New media
Digital literacy

Further Reading
Losh 2009
Bogost 2007
Kinney 2007
Davis and Shadle 2007
Manovich 2001
de Beaugrande and Dressler 1981
Kress 2003

Comprehensive review of literature surrounding the terminology and historical emergence of digital rhetoric.

Eyman begins by surveying definitions of digital rhetoric to turn toward a discussion of how the term is used and practiced as more generative than mere definition. He concedes (via Bissell and Herzberg) that a multiplicity of definitions may be useful to trace how historical usage shapes contemporary usage and practice. Aristotle begins this lineage with the five canons and an emphasis on persuasion followed by political and ethical conceptualizations of rhetoric through Augustine and Ramus in the Middle Ages, a rebirth in the renaissance, and renewed interest in the mid-20th century to a resurgence in contemporary disciplines. Eyman sees rhetoric as both analytic and productive, though the digital in “digital” rhetoric affords productivity particularly. Eyman weaves through a number of contemporary definitions and theories to argue that the “digital” in digital rhetoric performs three important functions, affords a revival of inquiry in realms such as memory and delivery, and provides its study with a broad range of interdisciplinary fields from which to draw.

Eyman works through definitions of “digital” (new media) and “text” (a “communication event” or discourse) after his discussion of “rhetoric” to to arrive at a discussion of “digital rhetoric.” That discussion begins with early theorizations of the digital through hypertextual studies, and subsequently critical code, visual rhetoric, new media, computational rhetoric, digital literacy, intertextuality (Bogost), procedural rhetoric, and more.

Key Quotes:
“While many rhetorical theorists focus primarily on the analytic capacity of rhetoric, it is the value for production that I see as a key resource for the formulation of digital rhetoric.”

“What distinguishes ‘digital rhetoric’ from the larger expression of ‘rhetoric’ more generally? I would argue that we need to articulate a specific formulation for digital rhetoric for three reasons: at the level of theory, it allows for the use of and alliance with other fields not typically associated with printed text or speech; it prompts a critical view of current rhetorical theories and methods and opens up the question of whether new theories and new methods can or should be developed; and it provides the boundary condition necessary for the emergence of a new field of study.”

“Texts have rhetorical features, originate in and propel social action, and are designed material objects; these qualities provide the primary means of relationship between text and rhetoric-as-use.”

“In Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes (2009) … Losh presents the most detailed and comprehensive definition of digital rhetoric within current literature, and her study should be considered a foundational text for the field.”

Kirschenbaum: “What Is Digital humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?”

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. “What Is Digital humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” ADE Bulletin. Web. 2010.

Key Terms
Digital humanities
Humanities computing

This article attempts to answer “What is (or are) the “digital humanities”? In response to this question, Kirschenbaum kneads through definitions, institutional and scholarly structures (departments, journals, conferences, organizations), academic networks. Kirschenbaum sees the publication of Blackwell’s **Companion to Digital Humanities**, the formation of the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, and the NEH sponsored Digital Humanities Initiative as germinal moments in the accretion of a wider conceptualization of the digital humanities. The 2009 MLA conference stands out as an important moment for the digital humanities vis-à-vis English, with Kirschenbaum pointing to the backchannels of session conversation afforded by Twitter. In more direct answer, Kirschenbaum point to the textual nature of English Departments, a nature which meshes well analytical, text-processing operations abundant in the methods of the DH; a long relationship between computers and composition [no mention of C&W?], editorial theory, hypertext and electronic literature projects; cultural studies in English Departments.

Key Quotes
“In the space of a little more than five years digital humanities had gone from being a term of convenience used by a group of researchers who had already been working together for years to something like a movement.”

“Whatever else it might be then, the digital humanities today is about a scholarship (and a pedagogy) that is publicly visible in ways to which we are generally unaccus- tomed, a scholarship and pedagogy that are bound up with infrastructure in ways that are deeper and more explicit than we are generally accustomed to, a scholarship and pedagogy that are collaborative and depend on networks of people and that live an active 24/7 life online.”

Further Reading
Brian Croxall “The Absent Presence: Today’s Faculty”
Cynthia Self “Computers in English Departments: The Rhetoric of Technopower.”

Pruchnic: “A Natural History of Networks”

Pruchnic, Jeff. “A Natural History of Networks.” Inferential Kid. Tumbler. Web. 20 Aug 2013.

Key Terms

Pruchnic argues, through a “natural history,” for three broadly defined technological eras in western, Euro-centric societies, a pantometric (universalized measurements: time, weight, perspective, etc.), a prognometric (ushered in by calculus, focus on predicting), and a parametric (term from computer science, focus on individualizing and rapidly responding to consumer demand: Fordism + individualized). Pruchnic argues the pantometric helped foster and further a divide between the humanities (concerned with qualities) and the ascendant sciences (concerned with quantities). The prognometric era is (partially) characterized by actuarial tables, stock exchanges, and even baroque architecture. The parametric era affords algorithmic thinking and ways of “connecting time and space” in order to more quickly and intensely respond to niche spaces and demands. Proteinic traces the parametric through medicine (genome project), finance (arbitrage and algorithmic stock trading), education (process movement in het-comp and individualized learning more broadly), and media (focus on predicting by mass media, niche-marketing/distribution/circulation of content). Proteinic concludes by suggesting the future of the (digital) humanities exists in hybrid discourse with the natural and social sciences, and that there is likely “value in such projects as attempting, for instance, a “natural history” of networks.”

Key Quotes
“Indeed, the unparalleled ability for audiences to search and access media created by individuals with which they already share political dispositions, as well as for aggregative technologies and media portals to “push” such media based on data collected about their users, has instead likely resulted in a decline in an individual’s exposure to opposing viewpoints and of “rational-­‐‑critical” communicative interaction between individuals with partisan divisions. Indeed, the realm of contemporary niche-­‐‑media looks much less like a global village or universal agora, and much more like an ever more intense balkanization of our political or ideological landscape.”

“Technologies like counting boards and public clocks are notable for the ways in which the serve as both forms of representation as well as technologies for establishing relationships between individuals and items, functions through which they blurred the distinction between acts of (ostensibly immaterial) communication and material, physical functions of these devices in ways far more extreme than those of oral and visual discourse and earlier print technologies. For their part, even more recognizably static signifying media such as uniform musical notation and reliable cartographic projections were emblematic of an increasingly “executable” form of representational media, one in which its representational capacity was only useful insofar as it was operational for its users.”

However, more notable, at least in regards to our primary topic here, is the ways in which the emergence of pantometrics as cultural dominant, and the moment of cultural confusion caused by the blending of technics and media in pantometric forms and devices described above, impacted the evolution of the sciences and humanities as formal disciplines.

Further reading
Alfred Crosby (1997)
Alexander Galloway (2004)
Gordon Pask (1960)