Thursday, April 21, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prezi Project

Trope Diagram

The review last week in class was very helpful in that it led me to diagram the operative slots of my Prezi in relation to Kovitz's project. 

Tenor: utopian social planning 
Vehicle: pig farming 
Trope: evokes the horror concentration camps 
Contaminates the Tenor: The conceit-link between utopian social planning and pig farming renders the former grotesque, especially in the instances where the material signifiers of pig farming (eg., barbed wire) correspond with the stuff of concentration camps.

My Case 
Tenor: standardized testing based curriculum 
Vehicle: the Jacquard Loom (first machine reader) 
Trope: evoke a sense of Derrida's theories of writing and his critique of metaphysical hierarchies 
Contaminates the Tenor: The metalepsis of the tenor and vehicle should emphasizes the ontological import of technics (ie., machinic reading) on the conception of knowledge in contemporary K-12 education policy. 

In pataphysical terms, I'd like my Prezi to--if nothing else--"exhaust the imaginary potential" of standardized testing as a practice for learning via machinic reading. The trope then should at least open a space for considering modes of learning/writing with machinic reading other than the literate metaphysics of standardized testing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Creating Creations

One of the more relevant and provocative ideas presented in Bok's book on Pataphysics comes in the later pages in his chapter about the Oulipo group.  The oulipo writers, says Bok, were trying to make "creating creations" rather than "created creations" -- texts that act as "a catalyst rather than an artifact" (79).  In other words, such a text "is not a message produced by a person" but rather a "program produced by, and for, a device...designed to make its reader become a writer" (77).

Though I'm making no formal attempt to do so in my Prezi, perhaps this notion of the creating creation bears some application on the potential uses of Prezi.  Since Prezi does allow (if you keep your project public) anyone to copy and then manipulate any published Prezi, one could approach a Prezi project less in terms of classical rhetoric and more in terms of procedural rhetoric -- with the aim of creating a Prezi to act as a platform for other people write in network with one another (networked by the fact that they share your initial Prezi as a creating creation with which to generate writing).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing with Utility

In his examination of the four types of games, Caillois indicates the importance of acknowledging non-productive and non-useful forces at work in any event.  Of the four attitudes/games, we saw that game theory based its theory of human behavior exclusively on the competitive, win-at-all-cost drive assumed in games of agon.  In the objections to game theory, we can see that part of its failure to recommend sound strategy in every situation lies in the fact that not all situations/games are based in agon.  Driven by alea, mimicry, or illinx, players will willingly resign themselves to fate, non-rationality, and vertigo.

Relevance to my project: Education reform based in the measure of standardized testing sees the problem-solution entirely in terms of agon.  They point to a lack of motivation -- they say a competitive, performance-based salary will push teachers to "win" the extra money by going the extra mile for their students.  Standardized tests act as the figure of the official/referee and --true to the spirit of agon -- it is regarded with the utmost authority and respect.  The test is also the stadium where students are judged against each other, ranked based on their individual, indisputable (lack of) achievement.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thinking with Prezi: Reformulating the Big Picture

(continuing from the previous post)

Standardized testing, then, establishes a restricted economy of writing, which--in keeping with literate metaphysics--neglects the "accidental" iterability of (arche-)writing and the excess of the signifier. As a utilitarian response the problem/disaster of contemporary American public education, standardized testing adopts the efficiency of machine readers as perceived from the calculating standpoint of instrumental reason. This of course contrasts with genres of electrate writing, which embrace machinic technologies precisely as means to write with the excess of the signifier rather than downplay it.

And so, though I've been saying this whole time that my accident/disaster was the proliferation of standardized testing, I now think it's more accurate and productive to see it as my contrast. That is, standardized testing constitutes the restricted economy's way of dealing with the underlying disaster, which is the somewhat recent failings of the American public education system (as documented in films like Waiting for Superman).

In addition to being utilitarian, standardized testing could also be seen as a profoundly literate response to the emergence of digital/binary technologies, rooted in the same fatal drives evident in the invention of the jacquard loom. As such, and this is perhaps the starting point for a future project, standardized testing as a writing system marks an important point of contrast from electrate writing practices, which in turn speaks to the value of electracy as a theoretical/pedagogical project that is distinguished from the conventional calls for so-called digital literacy, media literacy, information literacy, etc.

Thinking with Prezi: Receiving the Trope

Some thoughts accruing alongside my work/play in the Prezi (but not explicitly referencing what I'm doing in Prezi):

The Jacquard loom initiated machine reading processes into technics at the beginning of the 19th century. The loom was designed to "read" specific patterns programmed into punched cards by textile designs. The loom would produce textile designs based on its interpretation of the presence/absence (binary code) sequence of each punched card.

Humans have a desire to know. Since Plato's academy, schools (along with libraries and museums) have been the institution that societies entrust with the responsibility to generate, disseminate, and archive knowledge. Schools appeal to the desire to know--to learn--via literate metaphysics.

“According to Derrida then, metaphysics involves installing hierarchies and orders of subordination in the various dualisms that it encounters (M 195). Moreover, metaphysical thought prioritises presence and purity at the expense of the contingent and the complicated, which are considered to be merely aberrations that are not important for philosophical analysis. Basically then, metaphysical thought always privileges one side of an opposition, and ignores or marginalises the alternative term of that opposition.” (IEP)

Machines can read/register binary code (presence/absence markers) much faster than human readers. If students write in binary code, then their writing can be read at the most quick and accurate manner possible. When binary writing meets machine reading, learning becomes hyperlearning (the hyperlearning of hyperknowledge?).

When machines read binary writing, the only measure is that of presence/absence. Standardized testing practices map over this measure with their own (i.e., the axis of true-false) and erect a set of referents made to stand in as signifieds for the binary writing. To write in the space of "A" is to mean/signify a pre-established answer, the true-false value of which has already been predetermined by the test-maker-as-foundation/referent. Machine reading processes – at least in the case of standardized testing – reinforce the writing of literate metaphysics.

“Derrida’s more generalised notion of writing, arche-writing, refers to the way in which the written is possible only on account of this ‘originary’ deferral of meaning that ensures that meaning can never be definitively present…He suggests that “writing is not a sign of a sign, except if one says it of all signs, which would be more profoundly true” (OG 43), and this process of infinite referral, of never arriving at meaning itself, is the notion of ‘writing’ that he wants to emphasise…The widespread conviction that the sign literally represents something, which even if not actually present, could be potentially present, is rendered impossible by arche-writing, which insists that signs always refer to yet more signs ad infinitum, and that there is no ultimate referent or foundation.” (IEP)