“digital rhetoric and the digital arts”

“digital rhetoric and the digital arts”

Lanham argues that digital texts fulfill the expressive agenda of postmodernism and classical rhetoric better than print. Namely, that electronic texts make the expressive surface opaque, refashioning the word into an icon/word interaction (read: verbal and visual interaction) indicative of oral culture.

  • Computers are logic machines

o   “This oscillation between use and ornament, between purpose and play, pops out everywhere you look in the history of computers, and especially of private desktop ones. Play continually animates the operant purpose, indeed often becomes it.”

o   A tech industry attending to the home recognizes that impulse to play. In other words, play, scaling in “a toiling, rich mixture of play, game, and purpose” is located in everyday rhetorics and the arts – the desktop publisher and not the database (see: Rice): “This motivational struggle is dramatized in the long-running struggle between the IBM world and the Apple world. The Apple world, born in personal computers not mainframes, has from the beginning been dominated by the play impulse. It colored motive, style, mood, personality type. Apple’s graphics-based computers were built upon, assumed, a transformed alphabet/icon ratio. IBM-serious, indeed humorless-still cannot understand the revolution of electronic text or what it means to their business.”

  • Digital text is unfixed and interactive as opposed to the book which is static, linear, and sluggish
  • Like Dada, like Greek vase paintings, the written surfaces of electronic texts are opaque and conscious – as opposed to the transparent and unselfconscious surfaces of print texts: surfaces that default to typographical simplification

o   We look AT the screen rather than THROUGH it, and the materiality/medium of the screen orients viewers to that perspectives

o   Lanham notes that this is so not because print must be unselfconscious. Rather, the opaque surface fell out of fashion.

  • In other words, the words in a digital text are “dynamic speaking pictures” created through “the infinite resources of digital image recall and manipulation.”

o   “Hot type was set. Digital typesetting programs pour or flow it.”

  • Computers provide for a visual trope – changing scale. This, for Lanham, is the fundamental activity that motivates collage and juxtaposition.

“A zooming session leaves the student of rhetoric with a renewed and expanded sense of how much the basic decisions about reading and writing and speaking have to do with scaling arguments, fitting them to time and place. Enlarging and diminishing them is what the basic figure/ground decision that empowers human vision is all about. The scaling powers of electronic text create an extraordinary allegory, almost a continual visual punning, of the stage sets implied by written discourse.”

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