Posted by: soniahs | July 6, 2010

Exam reading: “E-crit”

This post is a summary of E-Crit: Digital media, critical theory, and the humanities by Marcel O’Gorman. I’ve read this book before and used some of the concepts in a paper- I thought I would read something that was a bit review after the last book I read… After reading Opening Spaces, it was interesting to see how this book really focuses on postmodern methods without taking ethical considerations into account (though political considerations are part of it). The intersection of these two texts makes me think of a series of blog posts on which look at the intersection of feminist criticism and postmodern evaluations of art (pretty thought-provoking). Anyway, one of the comments to a post there said that exposure to feminist interpretation ruins all art, because you can no longer look at art without thinking about the material and social conditions under which that art was made. (Not entirely sure what the connection is here, but O’Gorman does a lot of postmodern art analysis as part of his argument.) So if you’re an art lover, maybe better not to follow that link…

Summary: O’Gorman is trying to lay out a shift in academic methods that will revitalize humanities work by taking advantage of possibilities inherent in digital media.  For him, academic disciplines are fragmented, hierarchical and print-centered, which leads to interpretation (hermeneutics) and repetition rather than creativity (heuritics).  He foregrounds three types of “remainder”/“others” of academic discourse: puns/nonlinear transitions, digital media, and imagery.  He introduces “hypereconomy”- the use of “hypericons” to connect a network of discourses and lead to intuitive exploratory linkages between them. One big emphasis is on picture theory: images are subjective (non-transparent) and in a struggle with text (think LOLcats-text and image can be contradictory and create new meanings).  He contrasts the educational strategies of Ramus (classifying & compartmentalizing knowledge without reference to random mnemonic devices) to the work of Wm. Blake (image/text contradictions, opposition to creating conformist students).  He calls hypereconomy a “technoromantic” method of expression- using subjective, affect-based interpretations of print and images to create a bricolage of sorts.  These constructs incorporate four primary images: personal, historical, disciplinary, and pop-culture (he adds in a written interpretive component when assigning them in his classes).  Part of what they do is promote shifts in the figure/ground relationships in images (via subjective interpretations, “nonsense” connections, and hyperlinking).  O’Gorman speculates that constant exposure to visual stimuli is leading to increased abstract & spatial reasoning.  He concludes by laying out a plan to rejuvenate humanities departments by incorporating digital media studies and criticism: this would add technological “rigor” but still let departments teach criticism of the changing social/technological environment.

Comments: O’Gorman’s main focus seems to be the hypereconomy method as a tool for invention, and the call to incorporate digital media into humanities departments as a way to subvert “technobureaucratic” management of universities seems a bit tacked-on.  Some of the visual theory he builds his argument upon (e.g., Gombrich’s “mental set” of interpretations) isn’t empirically supported (as I recall).  His concepts about non-transparent visuals & language have been the most useful things for me.  I probably fall into the traditional linear-enlightenment camp & am not convinced that hyperconomy projects can actually lead to useful critiques of institutions (a bit too materialist, I guess).  When I first read this book, I had a much stronger reaction to the anti-Enlightenment thread that runs through it- I’m either becoming inured to such a position or starting to reconcile the cognitive dissonances from my previous training…

Links to: Bolter (remediation, transparency)



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