Reading Machines, Penumbra, Saussure

One part of Reading Machines I found most fascinating was the section about Saussure and the discovery of anagrams within poems. Up until then, and I’m not sure how I feel now, I was not sold on Ramsay’s ideas about algorithmic criticism. It was interesting to hear about the linguistics founder treating signs, typically associated with meaning, treating them as data, like the way that Ramsay described. It’s interesting, but not really sure what it accomplishes and how it moves literature and criticism forward. By analyzes poems, in this algorithmic manner, Saussure found some anagrams, but does that change or create new meaning in the text? I feel like I’m missing something about his argument, or maybe its because I have never had the desire to crack open a text in this manner. It too closely resembles the scene in Penumbra where they focus so heavily on breaking into this text by hundreds of thousands of algorithms and then come up with: nothing. It shows that the material of a book can mean something, but perhaps it just means something different than cracking it through turning the text into data. Though Ramsay’s way of criticism the algorithm is just a tool to be used for literary analysis, so, in theory, Google must have come with something when cracking the Codex, obviously Sloane is not going to go into that though. This new way of criticism rubs me the wrong way, but maybe it’s supposed to.

Between Page and Screen, Interface

I remember Kathleen saying to try to pay attention to the actual words of Between Page and Screen….and I tried. But I could honestly not tell you much about the actual content besides that fact that I think it was a love story? and I think the characters of P and S were supposed to represent page and screen, but I have no textual evidence to back it up because the words are lost in the interface. Before I actually began reading I found myself just messing around with the cool effect–and it is cool. The actual reading of the book was difficult and I had trouble with keeping the words on the screen long enough to read and think about the text. It seems like an impossible text to close read without setting up some sort of way to hold the QR codes up to the camera, which is more work than a reader (me) would want to do. As an experience, Between Page and Screen was fascinating, and it was fascinating to truly interact with an interface. I think this book showed me how simple the interface of the book is, how it leads to us getting lost in the book, in the words, and forgetting about the material of the book while reading BPaS I was constantly thinking aobut the materiality, and the interface I was interacting with.

Reading Writing on my Interfaces

Parts of this book scared me, or at least that part of that tries to be “anti-” technology. I continually find myself on the side of the technology that wants to take a step back from it. I found the parts of the book that focused on digital literacy particularly terrifying because they illuminated my own ignorance, my own digital illiteracy. I have knowledge of so many things but when it comes to the 2015 MacBook Pro I am typing on, I have no idea what I am talking about, but I interact with it every day of my life. Frankly, I bought the computer so that I would not have to think about technology. I wanted it to “just work” and have fallen straight into ignorance.

Reading Writing Interfaces has gotten me to think about how little I think about the interface I write on. I write screenplays and about seven months ago I switched from writing in FinalDraft to Highland 2. FinalDraft is one of the worst programs I have interacted with and it makes sense once you learn it runs on 90s legacy code, but that’s beside the point. Highland 2 bypasses the annoyance of it by having the user write in Fountain, which is essentially code, that then is formatted in script format without my having to think about it. And I love it. I have recently started writing papers on it as well. But now I need to stop and think: how does this interface affect my writing? does it amplify my creative process in a way that while writing in FinalDraft I was constantly thinking about the “thingness” of the program?

Plowing the Dark and Love

While Plowing the Dark is clearly focus on many, many other things, there are a bunch of different love stories told. The love triangle between Adie, Stevie, and Ted; Gwen and Tai (I think that’s his name?); Karl Ebsen and Gail; O’Reilly and Maura; Jackdaw and Elise (am I missing any?). That’s at least six, all complicated and unique love stories wrapped into a novel that is about art, technology, and the horrors of imprisonment. I wonder how they weave throughout? From the beginning, I thought there was going to be a love story happening between Adie and Stevie and was puzzled until the long, in-depth part of the book that goes into their college years with Ted, but the book satisfied by expectation eventually. However, that love that I felt Stevie had for Adie was the sort-of inciting incident of this novel. Without Adie you do not get the specifics of each room, the painters imitated etc. Alright, that’s one down. But what about the many others? Gwen plays a big part in Tai’s story as his time captive allowing him to reflect on massive amounts of time in their relationship until his lead to the realization that he was the controlling asshole all along which led to a nice moment right at the end between them. Any other romantics out there want to dissect the romantic relationships in the novel? How do they tie into art and technology? Is there a relationship between how love functions and how an interface? Two people coming together searching for the “thing” that is in between them?

The Interface

I think that both Hookway and Galloway define the interface in similar ways, but take different lines of thought to get there.

Hookways says, “the interface is that form of relationship which is defined by the simultaneity and inseparability of its processes of separation and augmentation…with its own characteristics and behaviors that cannot be reduced to those of its constituent elements,” (4).

Galloway says, “It [the interface] describes itself as a door or a window or some other sort of threshold across which we must simply step treceiveve the bounty beyond. But a thing and its opposite are never joint by the interface in such a neat and tidy manner,” (53).

I apologize for the large block quotes, but both seem to roughly define Hookway and Galloway’s preliminary definitions of the interface based on their first chapters. Both definitions have similarities in they both agree that interface does something and that it creates a subject and a certain relationship to that subject. They also agree there is a part of the interface that is unknowable, that cannot be “reduced” and that the relationship is not “neat and tidy.” There is some aspect of the interface that we cannot quite grasp. This feels like the part of the interface that needs to be and is, being interpreted. The muddy, unclear relationship that the “door” that is the interface creates. Both seem to struggle and I struggle while reading that the interface is both this and that and not this nor that. It is an in-between and not the clear in-between that a door is; it has become something greater through technology in the digital age and nevertheless creates a subject. But how is that subject created? seems to be the question at hand.




Paper Knowledge and Xerography

“Xerography was an ‘addiction’, according to one contemporary account, and Ellsberg came close to proving this point,” (92).

I found the entire chapter on Ellsberg and xerography to be the most fascinating book, and really loved this quote in particular. Like many, I am familiar with the story of Ellsberg photocopying what came to be termed the “Pentagon Papers,” but I never thought of his photocopying as addictive. After reading that chapter and thinking about it again it really was quite an addiction, even with the desire to reveal government secrets there must have been some sort of satisfaction from copying the document itself. It strikes me in a similar way that Gitelman talks about workers photocopying documents to have an edge on their employer. Ellsberg does a similar thing, putting almost literally, government documents into the hands of the people through the New York Times, of course, but documents that no one was ever supposed to see, he began to copy and say one replica and another and another be printed out, looking nearly the same as the original. And the addiction comes from the re-copying of his copies. To ensure that these pages exist in so more than one, two, and so on copies. Contrast this to the PDF where there will always exist (unless deleted off the computer) a copy somewhere, ready to be printed. After reading this book, I find something mysterious in that in a way I can’t quite explain yet.

The Intuitionist and Religious Language

At times, the Intuitionist principles feel very much like that of a religion, especially Fulton’s writings which Lila Mae certainly worships as gospel. “To prepare them for the second elevation,” (255).  That is what Lila Mae is tasked to do while writing Theoretical Elevators Volume III. The second coming of sorts. While I find the comparison of elevators to the second coming and the ability to be able to feel them through some sort of spiritual aether comical and fascinating to read, I wonder what it provides the “racial allegory” aspects of the novel. It to indicate something more than a slow change, but rather something larger–like Elevator Number 11 falling, for example. Lila Mae finds meaning in large scales events that occur moving history forward like the birth and resurrection of Jesus in the Bible, an event larger than life, like a revolution of sorts. Lila Mae wants to a part of this revolution and second coming, sprinkling the ideas before the perfect elevator and the second elevation so everyone knows a complete disruption of how we think is coming. I’d love to hear any other religious language that is deployed throughout.

Project Proposal Draft Two

After reading various papers that connects Pynchon and the paranoia of the postmodern, I want to avoid that, rather drawing on them and viewing Crying through the paranoid lens of technology and music. For example, examining the connections made between entropy and information theory, and how Oedpia functions as an interface between the two. Her paranoia seems to be spawned from information overload. There is so much going on that all she can do is try to decipher and connect all of these things in a world that continually becoming more technologically advanced.

I want to parallel this thought in the book to that of Radiohead’s 1997 album OK Computer that thirty years later is grappling with similar ideas on paranoia and information overload in the technological age. I think OK and Crying are connected thematically and formally. Drawing from my first draft post on the ideas of schizophrenic and paranoid analyses, I believe this album parallels the thought of Crying. Trying to analyze Radiohead’s lyrics is about as absurd as analyzing Pynchon. It either means everything or nothing. I also think that Radiohead extends some of the ideas on technology. While they do use a lot of live instrumentation, they fuse it with electronic music. They become a sort of synthesis of paranoia and technology. This where I think drawing on musical analogies in Crying would be beneficial.

I’m debating whether another novel, theory etc. would be useful. Let me know what you think, thanks!

Track Changes

I found the first half of Track Changes, the first 170 pages or so. It felt like, to me at least, that the first half was full of energy, vivid anecdotes from the writers like Steven King and Isaac Asimov and their relationship to the word processor and how it affected their writing filled that first half, plus some interesting history and fears that the technology brought. I was oddly fascinated with the book. And then the fascination escaped me, I began to feel that the book repeated itself over and over talking about the Wang, the IBM, and WordPerfect in the same aspects that were already mentioned early on in the book. Although, the chapter on the IBM self-writing typewriter was very interesting and made me wonder how Flusser would describe that machine. Is it the digital codes that he fears most, or the automation of writing? The IBM typewriter would be an interesting thing to explore through his lens because although it uses magnetic tape to store words, the user (probably female) can add and revise as the automotive process is going. It feels more like a melding of human and machine to make the process of writing more efficient than the destruction and misuse of the alphabet, and it avoids the pixalization, the changing of words into images of the word processors that would come later.