Monday, December 11, 2006

Or, as he says, OT and IT

I was looking around on the web for stuff by my colleague John Miles Foley. He's in charge of so many things that he has a whole suite of offices in another building on campus--hence, I don't see him terribly often. But one of the things he's in charge of is the Center for E-Research, which sponsors faculty-student research fellowships and also brings speakers to campus.

He's also working on the "Pathways Project," which brings together (as the title of this entry suggests) OT (oral tradition) and IT (the internet). As the webpage for this project explains,

The main subject of the Pathways Project is to illustrate and explain the fundamental similarities between humankind's oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the internet. Despite superficial differences, both technologies are radically alike in depending not on static products but rather on continuous processes, not on "What?" but on "How do I get there?" In contrast to the spatial organization of the page and book, the technologies of oral tradition and the internet mime the way we think - by processing along pathways within a network. In both cases it's pathways - not things - that matter.

And, as I was looking around for more stuff he's done, I came across John Walter's blog entry from September, in which he talks about browsing Oral Tradition (the journal JMF edits) alongside Daniel Anderson's blog one day. He offers a nice oral-tradition-inflected reading of Dan's QuickTime movie called "Where I'm At," ending with this:
My point, however, is that once again I’m struck by how oral tradition studies and new media studies can speak to one another just as long as we’re willing to listen.

Almost as a meta comment to my own post, I want to point out that I decided to use the phrase “experience Dan’s performance” rather than using “watch” or “listen” to it. While we go to “see” plays and movies and while we “watch” television, for most of us, we’re listening as well as viewing the performance. We don’t have a term that includes both. People like Ong, working within the phenomenological tradition, have been dealing with issues like this for decades (see, for instance, “’I See What You Say’: Sense Analogues for Intellect.” Human Inquiries 10.1-3 (1970): 22-42; Rpt. in Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1977. 122-44), and yet we still don’t pay enough attention to these issues. Materiality and performance studies, while growing, are still largely niche specialties within both literary studies and rhetoric and composition. I’d love to seem more interaction and cross-disciplinary work taking place.

All of which makes me think: John (Walter, I mean)--maybe we should arrange some sort of symposium on just this thing while you're still in St. Louis. What do you say?


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John Walter said...

Sure. I've got a few things to say about materiality and performance. :) I've already decided to organize a session on the topic for MLA 2007, but these topics need more discussion and exposure.

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