Reading Machines

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for an algorithm to produce knowledge. I’m also thinking about how an algorithm and a lens (in the literary criticism sense) seem to coincide with one another and operate on similar levels. When I use a lens to understand a text I’m inherently using a theoretically informed algorithm that produces certain types of readings that are afforded by the lens or theory that I have decided to focus on. Which then makes me wonder whether or not it is possible to feed an algorithm the information it needs to conduct lets say, a Marxist reading of a text. And whether or not it is possible for a program of some sort to produce a reading that would inspire or wow some of it’s readers. But then I wonder whether or not an algorithm or a lens is all you need for interpretation… I guess what I’m getting at here is that technology is making me feel like we’re missing something about us that is non computational nor programmable. I just can’t put my finger on it.

I found this text to be really fascinating especially the chapter on “Potential Readings” the entropic poem does some really fascinating work in terms of producing a text that compiles word frequency and whatnot. It’s fascinating in the sense that it really made me think about my own understanding of reading. I looked at the words at first and was kind of like, yeah cool whatever. But then I started to think of the word frequency as data—data that wasn’t trying to make an argument. I became much less skeptical when I started to think of algorithms and technologically mediated and re-produced or deformed texts not as arguments but as new objects of study that provide us ways of producing new lenses, because in the end I think the thing I have been trying to get at here is that perspectives are non programmable. We can all look at the entropic poem and deduce something different and something about that feels good? Ramsay had one line that really sold me on this text and method “Our fear of breaking faith with the text may also need to give way to a renewed faith in the capacity of subjective engagement for liberating the potentialities of meaning” (57). I like this whole algorithm thing, so long as it continues to function as a lens to produce new readings.


There are two quotes that have really stuck with me after reading the Elika Ortega piece. First and foremost it’s Ortega’s comment on Carrion’s reflection on a book’s existence”For him, a book needed to be created and read as a spatio-temporal entity in which language was complementary to the object, a part of a structure, in the process of creating meaning and, crucially, specific reading conditions.” This made me think a lot about Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of books in Thousand Plateaus where they say “A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their
relations” (3)

In his moment I finally had a way of understanding Deleuze and Guattari’s concept in a way that was only possible with Carrion’s concepts—which oddly enough makes me realize that the materiality of a book becomes easier to comprehend through layered meaning making, where books are understood only through other books even though they’ve never been in conversation with one another—materiality is inherently a spatio-temporal phenomenon, discursively and culturally produced, understood most clearly in the relations we build with those texts. Language just so happens to be one of the ways we understand the concepts of a text, there is a possibility then that texts could be understood in different ways… Which brings me to the second quote from Ortega:

“Multimateriality should be understood as the bringing together of different media and/or interfaces that guide specific reading conditions, and which cannot be broken down into its individual components without crippling the textual configuration of the work.”

If a book is formed by various matters—it is multimaterial—and it should be understood as a spatio-temporal object—then there might be ways in which we understand books as a set of relations and that new analyses which try and understand those relations becomes a new form of literary criticism? What does it mean to unpack and understand the materiality of the spatio-temporal traces of a book? I have no idea….But I think there’s something there, I’m just not sure what.

Reading Writing Interfaces

One thing I’ve been thinking about is the rhetoric that revolves around interfaces and technological devices as Emerson points out. There’s one section where she cites Mark Weiser claiming “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it” (10). This concept alongside of devices needing to be “thin” “beautiful” “elegant” emphasizes the importance of devices needing to become more and more invisible. Even aesthetically speaking devices should not promote themselves nor should stand out as being electronic devices, it’s almost like they transform into aesthetic statements.

These concepts of invisibility are even more interesting when it comes to a devices software and hardware. Especially in the context of Natural Interfaces, interfaces should become invisible to users their propensity to remind the user that they are interacting with something unnatural should become eliminated (whatever that means). I find this exceptionally fascinating in context with the Emerson’s comment on play and creativity “We no longer have access to digital tools for making we have predetermined choices” (3). It”s fascinating then that ideologies of elegance, beauty, invisibility, and seamless appearance places us in a position where we have less creative agency with the technologies that we use.

I find this to be especially fascinating when we compare something like an Apple laptop or ipad and all of it’s features with people who use their devices for play. People who use computers for play or for making completely reject this notion of invisibility and their technological set ups continue to expand in order to increase the phenomenon of play and creativity. I’m thinking of music producers like Deadmau5 who has an entire space that is purely dedicated to producing electronic music even in analog ways which is super fascinating, but the materiality of his set up is not seamless, invisible, or elegant. His space is a giant mess of technology and people who are fascinated with creativity and play admire his space and technology.

Gamers are another group of people who love play and creativity and ironically enough technological devices that are aimed towards this demographic are the antithesis of invisibility and elegance. My Alienware Aurora R6 desktop tower is prided on and marketed on the ability to access its internals easily and to play with the hardware of the device, expanding and customizing the device even further. As a PC gamer the materiality of my work/play/creative space is the opposite of elegant. Image attached. I find it fascinating that companies like Razer and Alienware market their products on the ability to play and utilize visibility as a marketing strategy, making things that you want on your desk and providing interfaces to customize the lighting and performance of those devices. In fact I added a neat key on my keyboard the instantly opens our WordPress website for this class–but that key can be customized to access a multitude of things.

Ironically this interface is making it difficult to add a photo I have no idea how to do it haha.



Plowing the Dark and Temporality

I’ve always been exceptionally fascinated with the first person experience of time. How time can function as an overall framing for the condition of our experience and how duration (Bergsonian Duree) tells us so much about our relationality in spacetime mattering (Barad). The section that stood out to me the most was on page 229 “Every ten minute chunk of May makes an eternity. But once the weeks are finally dead, you feel the month pass in memory in half a heartbeart. Time uses you; it lays you out. It advances glacially, gouging by inches your scarred inner continents. Then it vanishes, leaving behind no single landmark but white” This is basically how I feel about winter in Michigan lol.

But seriously—this section just taught me so much about time and our relationship towards time, the idea of time using you is so fascinating, the idea that our lives are structured according to a certain time frame, the fact that there are right times when our bodies should engage in certain activities and so on. In fact as I write this I look at the time and realize it’s almost 5 o’clock.

This section really exemplifies how time and experience are inherently tied to one another and I never thought of time as a domineering factor in that experiential matrix.


So this is just a guess… I feel like Hookway and Galloway’s definitions of the interface are not necessarily similar or different but instead, they are consubstantial of one another—we need them both to understand the interface.

I justify this in two moments in the text:

Hookway “If the surface may be seen as the culmination, expression, or concealment of a thing, and so in varying ways the means by which a thing may be made available for theorization or some form of reading, then the interface may likewise be seen as the culmination, expression, or concealment of an active relation between things”(14).

Galloway: “Ending in this way we might return to our mantra, that the interface is a medium that does not mediate. It is unworkable. The difficulty, however, lies not in this dilemma but in the fact that the interface never admits it. It is true that it is false” (53-4).

It feels like as you read Hookway this emphasis on mediation feels like the interface has a lot of agency in terms of constructing the possibilities of interactions. I feel like before reading Galloway I gave the interface too much power and inscribed it with a sense of determinism in terms of human action. However, the ambiguity inherent within Hookway’s quote gives the reader the sense that the interface is making things possible–however his wording in the statement “active relation between things” makes me feel like there can be relations prior to an itnerfaces ability to construct the possibilities of that interaction—in fact, Galloway makes me feel that sometimes the interface may get in the way of an active relation and make it messy, but convince us that it’s making things easier, until we realize that our active relations will only be possible if we squeeze them within the constraints of the interface—whatever that is.

Paper Knowledge

On page 87 Gitelman in a section where she talks about the Pentagon Papers she refers to the affect that papers had: “It was as if the papers, instead of having an author or authors, had sprung from a giant five-sided filing cabinet. And the filing function, unlike the author functions, organizes documents rather than classifies discourse.” I find it really interesting that the anonymity of these papers alongside of their content created a material object which exceeded the importance of having an author. Whereas, with most printed materials that we read we generally have an appreciation for who wrote it, where is the author from, what is their story and how does it intertwine with the content of the piece we’re reading. Instead documents like the Pentagon Papers seem to establish their own sense of autonomy because of their importance—the person who wrote it isn’t important, the stuff inside is the important part. I found myself realizing that I too had treated similar documents the same way. I’m thinking specifically of Wikileaks. Especially when “her emails” were posted on to wikileaks’ website. I didn’t care about the source of these documents, how they came into being, I just knew that “her emails” were available online and that I had to read them to see if all the fuss about “her emails” was really justifiable (which they weren’t).


This made me begin to wonder about the ethics involved with the publishing of materials when the author cannot necessarily be held accountable for retrieving the information in those documents whose autonomy requires no author.

The Intuitionist

I couldn’t help but continuously come back to this idea that there sort of normative epistemologies that we’ve been taught to follow—while simultaneously being told to “go with your gut” during the stressful moments of decision fatigue. The Empiricists/Intuitionist Dichotomy that’s developed through this text and the ways in which the Inutitionists are framed, like on page 20 “Been too many changes in the guild over the last few years—just look at the messy rise of Intuitionism, or the growing numbers of women and colored people in the Guild…” (20) has me my stomach churning a little bit. Western culture has spent so much time making sure that the lines of rationality and empiricism exist in contradistinction with intuition and imagination or even spirituality. This book made me think more about how epistemologies can be “othered” like the fact that we would potentially cringe at the idea of a Native American woman who claims that her “blood memory” provides her with untraceable embodied knowledge. Or the fact that some Far Eastern cultures could make the claim that our panpsychic universe has ways of meaning-making. Or that when my mother in the Middle East reads the coffee grounds at the bottom of her friend’s cup, her intuition in conjunction with the material world is a form of Theory and praxis.


This book has me lamenting dearly that there is so much knowledge and many ways of “knowing” that we have ignored for many years. Even the idea of intuitively knowing the malfunctions of an elevator is a sort of inter-material discursive interaction between human and nonhuman subjects. At this point I’m just kinda sad that empiricism and rationality feels like erasure.

Inter-relationality Draft 2

This project will attempt to produce a Harrawayen (sp?) string figure analysis of the subjectivities produced through the production of interfaces. This will be a New Materialist analysis which will highlight the different relationalities in embedded in the materiality of digital devices. As interfaces produce our subjectivities as users of digital resources, they also build the subjectivities of the individuals who work to assemble these devices. The purpose of this paper is to connect our own subjectivities with the subjects who are interwoven in our devices: child labor, conflict minerals, and ecological catastrophes. My hope is to raise awareness of our response/ability (Barad) to the faces behind our interfaces. And to further the project of thinking about speculative ethics (Maria Puig Le Bellacasa) in our more than human worlds.

Think-Tape and thought

I just wanna start off by mentioning that the field I’m a part of (Composition and Rhetoric) got a mention in this book and that made me happy because as a field no one really cares about us lol.


Regardless. The think-tape section of the book is something I found exceptionally fascinating for a couple of reasons. In composition studies it’s a pretty much agreed upon reality that writing is an epistemic act—that in the composing process  a writer is simultaneously creating knowledge and becoming more knowledgeable, ideas transform in the writing process and sometimes it takes the actual act of writing for an idea to enter fruition. I find this fascinating to think about in terms of the relationships secretaries had with, say, business executives who may have had the habit of dictating information to a secretary and her goal was to trans,are that information—I have a feeling that the secretary is doing the epistemic work in that moment—which becomes even more emphasized with the construction of the think tape technologies.

Not only do secretaries have to engage in the burden of recording information for other people but I this situation they also have to engage in the learning of a new technology. Which ironically enough was anticipated to replace secretaries—computers being replaced by computers. But secretaries having to engage in an all new epistemic economy and network in word processing really made the, some of the most important people in the knowledge production of an organization that required word processing in order to be successful. This new technologies and their application would not have been possible without the epistemic agility of the secretary and their ability to learn and utilize such a complicated new way of word processing. Which ultimately makes me feel, that they were doing the real thinking of an organization that required word processing. Especially if they engaged in revising things themselves.