Blog Post

Technology as our Tool (not necessarily our site of scholarly inquiry)

Today after attending the HASTAC meeting on our campus at the University of Illinois, I’ve finally girded myself sufficiently to blog. I’ve been slow. My first blog for the program should have come at least a month ago, and while I have given it much thought, I haven’t figured out the right way to approach this new requirement associated with my new HASTAC membership.

 Until now.

 As a scholar I sit in a strange but, I think, increasingly familiar space. Digital technology and new media is not my direct site of academic inquiry, yet it is inseparable from nearly every aspect of the work that I do to access and then teach about my scholarly interests. New media offers the wide variety of tools I need to do my work, and as a scholar the more I know about how those tools work, the better suited I am to do my work. Beyond just providing access, technology can become a heuristic. It not only makes it easier, for example, to access the digital archives of nineteenth and early twentieth century music, but it can provide new ways of thinking about those artifacts, new ways to compare and interrogate them, and even new ways to listen.

 Rhetoric as intrinsically technological.

 I just finished a great book by digital rhetorician Collin Brooke called Lingua Fracta. In it, Brooke reminds us that the work technology and rhetoric do for us is very similar. In fact, he goes as far to say that they serve “as barely distinct perspectives on the same phenomenon”:

"find it increasingly irresponsible to study rhetoric and writing without accounting in some way for the various impacts of information and communication technologies. Likewise, I do not think that it is possible to understand these technologies without an appreciation of their rhetorical effects, both qua technology and as players in our discursive ecologies." (197)

Part of the effort of his book is to move us (in English) beyond new media as our locus of our study, or as a disciplinary specialization (i.e. the commonly heard "make sure there's one technology person on faculty!" reality) and toward a place where technologies become intrinsic to the study we do as rhetoricians. It is in this vein that I hope to pursue my own work, and my blogging and activity here on HASTAC will, in part, be used heuristically (ha!) to chart that progress.  



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