CCCC 2006 in Review
Selfe asserted that when we explore the new literacy practices of technology, that we cannot afford the "denial or blindness" to our human relationship to technology. Selfe finds hope in the hybridization of technology and humans ("We are all cyborgs!") and sees the ecological metaphor as useful (though not perfect) to help us understand our interactions with technology towards literacy. For example, "gardners" are those who volunteer their time and efforts to help others with information technology. Next Selfe explored "the ghosts on the periphery" around us in our technological work but made it clear we are learning technology together and used Lewis Ulman's idea that nature is a virtual landscape in our minds. He dramatizes this point using google earth while pointing out his bike ride route to work along a man-made marsh. The session was set up as a "clash" of metaphors. Selfe's, in this reviewer's opinion, was the strongest thinking offered, though all participants did a great job of keeping the audience on our toes despite the fact that this was our last session.
Salvo challenged the idea of ecology and asserted that information architecture should not eliminate each other but that we can learn from pitting the two metaphors of technological life against each other. He used Donna Harraway's advice against romanticizing nature. Salvo used comedy with the "Scene One" part of his presentation titled "Dinner with Lance" and colorfully explained why he wasn't able to swallow Ong and Postman's "media ecology" metaphor. He does acknowledge that media ecology can describe skill sets but cites genotype sequencing as a man-made way to revise the code of life and as an example of how information architecture works . "For good or ill, it's a power we have" said Salvo.
"Scene Two" was based on Richard Power's Plowing the Dark which is about the creation of a new "technosphere." Powers reminds us that the power of visual representation is interaction with our own "wetware." In other words, we are living in constructs and codes designed by humans for humans.
Scene Three was simply titled "technography" and played with international variations such as "technographie." Salvo made fun of an art exhibition called "Defendex-Espgx" because their use of the term, "technography" seemed to be a "cool" add on for an installation creating "retro-nostalgia" for cold war technology, though he was clearly intrigued by the installation as well. Salvo concluded with a quote from Winston Churchill: "... we shape our buildings and after all, our buildings shape us ...".
Patricia Sullivan original title "Narrating Technology: Metaphors for Application, Use and Integration" became "Trying on a Metaphoric Gaze: Information Ecology and Information Architecture." She was supportive and critical of both metaphors and offered the Aristotelian definition that "metaphor consists in giving a thing a name that belongs to something else" as a lens to revisit her own scholarship. Sullivan said "both have their power, both give me fear." She then used I. A. Richards (From Philosophy of Rhetoric ) because he shifts emphasis on subject and referent in metaphor. Sullivan also used Walter Ong (Presence of the Word) to emphasize that with metaphor, "force is operating." Then she used Ortony who argues that metaphors offer both static and dynamic comparisons, and that you can tell how strong a metaphor by how long it takes to break down. Sullivan studied the history of texts on technical writing to exemplify how both metaphors allow her to understand the body of work.
Marilyn Cooper, the respondent said she didn't think either of the metaphors work and asserted that problems with human agency and technology cannot be solved with metaphor. She criticized the romantic notion of ecology as "saving the wilderness" and the anxiety of agency and control of information architecture. Cooper prefers "self- organizing systems." As a poet I had a hard time with Cooper's point. I believe in the power of metaphor to use language effectively. Cooper is right to see limits of metaphor and language, but her criticism of the presenter's thinking was not valid in my opinion. As a poet, I stand firmly on the belief that metaphor is one of the key ways that the technology of language can powerfully interface with human feelings and ideas.
— Will Hochman
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.