Monday, April 4, 2011

Forecasting the Seminar Paper

TITLE: "(Dis)Locating Thought: The Graphic Ontology of World Browsers"

The first part of title names a quintessential experience of the media in question, much like the title of a short essay by Jenny Edbauer Rice -- "Overhearing: The Intimate Life of Cell Phones."  Furthermore, like Edbauer Rice's "Overhearing," "(Dis)Locating Thought" serves as a theoretical departure point: the work of the essay is to unpack the rhetorical or grammatological implications of the phrase.  In my case, the phrase suggests from the outset that, by making it possible to "geotag" thoughts (or, more precisely, writing) to specific GPS-enabled locations, the emergent genre of smartphone apps known as world browsers actually disrupt the conventional, literate experience of thought.  While I do not mean to claim that everyone experiences thought in exactly the same manner, we clearly share the notion that thinking is typically a silent meditation or dialogue with one's self, located in the brain.  An icon of philosophy and the act of thinking, Auguste Rodin's 1902 sculpture The Thinker -- a highly regarded masterpiece of Western art -- depicts precisely this image of thought (as do each of its appropriations):

A powerful twenty-first century appropriation of The Thinker would be to place a smartphone into the figure's bottom hand.  As smartphones rapidly gain popularity, they seem ever increasingly to enter into the scenes of thought in everyday life.  Indeed, industry experts predict that in five years people will turn to smartphones for internet access more often than desktops or laptops.  Given this turn toward "small tech," it makes sense to examine internet applications, like world browsers, that are designed around the specific affordances of mobile hardware, such as augmented reality, GPS, and QR coding.

World browsers exemplify a new way of moving through information.  My essay, however, will not just move from one example app to the next; my aim is to emphasize the significance of this emerging genre in terms of the history and theory of writing.  To that end, the structure of my essay is guided by another observation about world browsers: world browsers bring together an array of different hardware and software, thus creating a unique constellation among media that, until now, have been developed and used apart from one another.  

STRUCTURE: After a 3-4 page introduction, the rest of the essay will be broken into six sections, which will each be about 2-3 pages.  Each of these sections will focus on a prior media that world browsers mobilize (pun intended); I will reference concepts advanced by scholars writing about that media before the advent of world browsers, using (and reworking) those concepts as a means to theorize the rhetorical/grammatological implications of world browsing.  At this point, I'm pretty settled on the following six sections:

1. Cell Phones
2. Web Browsers & Search Engines
3. Web 2.0 Platforms
4. Locative Media Art
5. Augmented Reality
6. Iconic Photojournalism

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