Monthly Archives: January 2014

Ancillary Discoveries

Following our most recent class meeting, in which we took a stab at applying Foucault to our objects of studies, I found that my rhetorical antennae were tuned up enough to capture a few interesting extensions of our work.

Digital Writing Spaces

Digital Writing Spaces

For example, thanks to a discovery by Daniel about blogging as scholarly work (published in Inside Higher Education),  I wanted to explore some of the recent publications in Composition Studies on the accepted place of blogging as scholarly work. I know there are a number of articles “out there” on how we as composition instructors can use blogs in the classroom (such as this article by Moxley), but I also wanted to see how our field is or isn’t moving to accept digital-media based scholarly publications as professionalization cred. (I’m sure that will impact my OoS on Composition MOOCs as one of the network hubs involved.)

In my search, I found an interesting online publication that blends multimedia with text: The New Work of the Book in Composition Studies.  I’ve only begun to read through it, but I’m already intrigued by the possible applications to our course work, and the theorizing of a MOOC classroom — especially since one of covermy early ideas for my OoS was on the subject of textbooks. I was especially excited (antennae pinging) when I read this passage from “Re-Inventing Invention: A Performance in Three Acts”...

Along with incorporating associative, remixed composing into our pedagogy, it’s also important that composition and rhetoric specialists (at least sometimes) compose scholarly texts that resist linear print models–that we compose texts which show rather than tell (Ball 2004) about the ways in which associative juxtaposition can provoke new insight.

The authors of this chapter (or “theme”) — Bre Garrett, Denise Landrum-Geyer, and Jason Palmeri — seemed to me to be echoing the Foucault concepts of resisting the linear, or texts grounded in models of received history, as well as the concept of archive.

lego pieces

Lego pieces

Then there was Lego building — “Build with Chrome” — an online building space for creating multiple variations. Yet, it begins with a controlled practice session, in which the number of potential constructions are pre-designed, seemingly much like the author’s way of indoctrinating the new member / user into the discourse of the digital building space. Set user protocols or rules, and all that (thanks Foucault). To simply begin building, there seems to be more options, but thinking about the “trace” of what is not seen, I wondered about the ways users / builders are limited by the technology space itself – the inner code. I couldn’t help but think of some of the wild shapes produced by my kids when they were younger, faced with a mountain of assorted Lego pieces. Sure, they could follow the “guide” on the box to get that cool-looking Star Wars ship, but just as often, one of them would go off solo (not Solo) and attach pieces in ways that made no “visible” sense. Granted, these would often be forever stuck together, but it was still a choice. How much does the online system of Build with Chrome offer the user such creative license? And how much of an expert in code must one be to subvert that order?

In sum, I’m amazed how much depth the theories of Foucault, Hardware, and Rhetorical Situation have already added to my typical internet browsing / thinking. Transformational.

Foucault, part deux

Foucault, Michel. “The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language.” New York: Vintage Books, 1972. Print.

Parts 3-5:

writing my masters words

From Alighieri, Dante: “La Vita Nuova (The New Life)” (1910)

The second half of Archaeology proved both daunting and illuminating. However, I must confess that I would probably have to read the book one or two times more to feel as though I am in a position to interrogate any of Foucault’s methods or conclusions. Instead, I found it helpful to isolate small threads  from his overall argument and see how they might be woven into the overall theme of our course. So I selected key quotations that really seemed to have direct connections to our course objectives, our recent HTW activities, and our other three authors (Biesecker, Bitzer, and Vatz).

First, a quick summary of the second section: a key principle seems to be that Foucault is pushing back against schools of theory and history that depend heavily on the established and immovable structures of dominant historical and cultural analytical practices. In this final half of the book, he pits the traditional “history of ideas” against his own definition of archaeology as a means of analyzing discourses and their functions.

He seems to assert that the disadvantage of applying uniformity-creating models of interpretation is that they create a structure that does not allow for difference or alternatives … variations that may allow for alternative cultural discourses. He frequently refers to these alternatives as, “discontinuities, ruptures, gaps” (169). Because the “history of ideas” theoretical model relies on analyzing discourses via linear, succession-based order systems, thereby creating a set of absolutes, Foucault considers it  “untrustworthy” (166). Like Biesecker, Foucault considers the “difference” a viable and more productive locus of study because it allows us to consider discourses as “a space of multiple dissensions; a set of different oppositions whose levels and roles” can be “described” as a means of understanding knowledge (Foucault 155). His theory / not-theory of Archaeology allows for the inclusion of the unexpected and deviations in order to consider what I will call “the big picture” or potential network of possible connections — Foucault, after all, is concerned more with the way Archaeology reveals “relationships” (162) rather than static objects of time and place (the nodes themselves).

Mind the gap in London underground, Victoria Station

Mind the gap in London underground, Victoria Station (Wikimedia Commons)

Minding The Gap: 

“A discursive formation is not … an ideal…It is rather a space of multiple dissensions; a set of different oppositions whose levels and roles must be described.” (Foucault 155).

This focus on difference and relationships allows Foucault to point his analytical efforts toward the more productive areas of relationships, and as we explore networks, I find that the inter-connections are often where the action is.  He writes, “Archaeology also reveals relations between discursive formations and non-discursive domains (institutions, political events, economic practices and processes)” (162). The purpose? In his words, to “map, in a particular discursive practice, the point at which [these multiple dissensions] are constituted, to define the form they assume, the relations that they have with each other” (155). In other words, what might a close examination of these networks reveal about “the way it works”?

system bus vs. pci bus diagram

Image from “How PCI Works” 2001

Thinking back to the activity on buses, I’m reminded of all of those data packets traversing back and forth between nodes — or objects secured in “history.” Foucault seems to be resisting traditional means of theorizing subject matter (and thus, knowledge) as overly restrictive and limited precisely because the “ideas” become monolithic places along a timeline. As a result, such linear focus may cause us to miss a “gap” — and while that may not result in the sort of unfortunate accident suffered by a subway rider, the loss to knowledge and understanding is of serious concern to Foucault.

In sum, the “take-away” lesson I see here — the one that I find connects to our other readings and our exploration of networks — is Foucault’s emphasis on the importance of the “gaps” and discursive functions to our understanding of and analysis of discourse. If we continue to trod the beaten path (a history of ideas), we are more likely to simply ignore the anomalies and exceptions, the new and untried — such a path might (especially in English Studies and Composition Theories) create a narrow focus that limits what we teach and how we teach. For example, looking

Digital Writing Spaces

Digital Writing Spaces

at the recent history of Composition, digital spaces were not (and some might say are still not) considered worthy of academic writing or inquiry. Yet many scholars have posited that they open avenues for student expression and critical thinking that expand upon traditional “history of ideas” or writing theories — I would argue — to the benefit of 21st century student writers.

To close, the following quotation from Foucault stands out to me as encapsulating the potentiality of what we are studying this term: exploring and mapping networks and potential connections, opening new spaces for active exploration and study.

“By deriving in this way the contradiction between two theses from a certain domain of objects, from its delimitations and divisions, one does not discover a point of conciliation…. One defines the locus in which it takes place; it reveals the place where the two branches of the alternative join; it localizes the divergence and the place where the two discourses are juxtaposed. The theory of structure is not a common postulate…. By taking contradictions as objects to be described, archaeological analysis…tries to determine the extent and form of the gap that separates them. In relation to a history of ideas that attempts to melt contradictions in the…unity of an overall figure…. Archaeology describes the different spaces of dissension” (153).

My closing question will be this: How will networks and network theory transform our approach to knowledge-building or knowledge-making this semester, given Foucault’s charge to pay attention to or define the objects of our analysis (nodes vs. relationships)?


Summary of HTW Activity Posts: A Reading Overview & Mindmap Commentary

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

In a few separate blog entries, I’ve commented on the thinking prompted by classmates’ HTW Activities  (Leslie’s, Daniel’s, and Suzanne’s). As I put these in the mix with my own reading response on WiFi and Mobile,  my mind wandered to some odd places as I attempted to fit all of these into a coherent set of connections — rhizomes again. What popped into my head was the famous phrase from “The Wizard of Oz,”

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my!

Why? Great question. I think it’s because so many of us might be considered Millennials in our embrace of technologies and networking (even if not in age range), and as such, we often use that technology without “seeing” deeply into its structure. These activities and readings bring those areas to the surface, and activities like those mentioned above — involving reflective assessments of who and what we are within that structure / network — brought that home to me.

For example, Summer‘s collaborative Popplet activity invited all of us to visualize how we are part of a cloud — a cyborg. The connections made by others, overlapping nodes, first reinforces the concept of cloud networking — supporting the argument that we are not operating in isolation, but are simply part of a transparent network of links and shared spaces. While I can appreciate that assertion on its face, when I think of how we as humans are still flesh-and-blood nodes (the organic) who are deeply entrenched in physical-based f2f communities, I wonder if this explanation isn’t a bit facile given so much of our field’s scholarship on the need to create pedagogy and learning spaces that embed f2f awareness and practices. As a composition instructor, reflective awareness of how I create lessons that embed technology (see Kairos publication review as an example of this focus).

Maury and Jenny both tackled Networking. Maury’s focus on network nesting really resonated with me, given this week’s Foucault readings and our work with mind maps and Google drawing. Visualizing the networking of our individual lives, and thinking about the hardware side of it all in my own HTW assignment (partnering with Chvonne) really exposed the 3- and 4-dimensionality of this space we’re exploring. Experimenting with the node-connection possibilities of IFTTT, and reading over classmates’ experiences with it, brought to mind the idea of mechanical vs. organic once again, but it seems the potential for complete creative independence is limited for the user. Here’s a repeat of my post onto Maury’s Google document to illustrate what I mean:

I lingered in the start gate on this one because I first had to ask myself what connections would be most useful to me. I’m not heavily embedded in FB, and I am fairly conservative when it comes to sharing or moving any photos (so no, I don’t Instagram). As I mentioned in my comment on Daniel’s post, this “meaning-making” or “meaning-making facilitative” program seems to add that organic back into the mechanical of networks, allowing us to become part of the “packet switching” function, I think. So, after I concluded what type of connection I’d find useful, the process was quite intuitive. But it did make me see the constructedness of the choices as boundaries. For example, I combined the NY Times with an email (I know, how unimaginative), but the predesigned options for “this” allowed no creativity on my part in terms of what I might value about the NY Times. So as a system or network node creation activity, this is still rather controlled.

Finally, when looking at Jenny’s Popplet of personal networks,  it’s interesting to note the variations among us. In our home, we do not own any SmartPhones and no game systems (unless our grown kids are visiting), so my network diagram is pretty simplistic. It’s a lot of hardware based hubs, which I chose to diagram through basic coloring.

So, here is how my current mindmap reflects all of these encounters (as well as my continuing journey through Foucault:

mindmap update 26 Jan.

26 January Mindmap Update


All in all,  my concept of the structural and conceptual scaffolding of networks, while certainly expanded through technology into both visible and transparent hubs as well as connections, seems much deeper now than when I started this class. Yet I’m also aware that sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem, and the very same boundaries and rule systems of meaning-making as exist in f2f discourse communities have the potential to infuse the way we use technologies.

HTW Activity Response 2: Daniel’s Social Network Nodes

I may be an oddity, because I only use one social networking site: Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but never use it. I know Google Hangout exists, but I haven’t used it either. So, I thought I’d subdivide the ways I use FB through some of its built-in naming or organizational tools that are designed to create network nodes: family, friends (with some overlap through work), and membership in groups. I completed this activity shortly after completing Leslie’s activity on Buses, and so when I began to draw connecting lines between groups, I began to think of how a single line can represent a means of transferring data … which I think this illustration implies. What this image could have included as well are unseen / untracked dispersion patterns. Facebook allows sharing, which often leads to data moving iSocial Network_ HTW Activity (Daniel)n unexpected, sometimes unintended ways. For example, I see a lot of interesting material posted on my ODU groups, which I then Share with either Friends or Work acquaintances because I see relevant applications / appreciations there. So does that mean I serve as a sort of CPU, or is that the Facebook space? And these connecting lines I’ve drawn — I’ve represented them as “serial buses,” but would it have been more accurate to represent them as “parallel buses”?

Interesting cross references here!

HTW Activity Response: Suzanne (Memory)

First, I’d like to thank Suzanne for making me realize that there is more to Google than I realized. Who knew I could make Venn diagrams on Google? (Apparently, not me before today.)

memory network

Amy’s Redundancy System

While I was making my brainstorming list, it occurred to me how stark the redundancy is in my “system” of keeping track of documents, creations, activities, and photos. I also realized that while I used to see mechanical means of storing / backing up memory items as a secondary go-to for my traditional paper trail (sticky notes on the wall, my desk, my computer screen, my fridge, and more), I’ve found myself thinking of my electronic spaces as “fail safes” — my banking system for my ideas and documents / items. Yet, when I think about the myth of stability of the Cloud and hard drives, I must admit I panic a bit. Thinking about all the digital photos I keep of family and events, especially. With a background in photography, I still have actual film negatives and prints around my house. With the advent of digital photography, I moved toward that media, amazed at how much more I can store; but how ephemeral is such media? I shudder to think what might be my reaction if ALL of my rabbit trails of memory housed in electronic or web-based devices suddenly went belly-up. So I have resolved to have paper / print backups of everything.

Redundant systems: it’s an engineering concept (and, if you watch too many movies like Dr. Strangelove, nuclear or apocalyptic applications as well), but I think it has a place in network applications / theories as well. Reminds me of some of what Foucault has been saying, with regard to a statement existing in multiple ways / multiple places — more existential than my examples based on fears of losing something, granted. But the Venn diagram also made me see that I think of each storage location a little differently – thus the labels. An interesting exercise indeed (although I’m still a bit unnerved about the continued nature of my storage systems’ seemingly transparent existence — out of sight, out of mind).

Dr. Strangelove, imdb

Dr. Strangelove, imdb

Proposal: Object of Study — MOOCs in Composition

Over the years, higher education has experienced a variety of shifts, some qualifying as seismic (such as admitting women), others deserving more modest descriptors (for example, electronic textbooks). Add to the seismic column the distance learning classroom. Yet even that arena of growth has seen variations that now may seem tame; for example, distance learning programs have a surprisingly long history, as this graphic from the website Straighterline illustrates.

day of the MOOC gif

Creative Commons image; author M. Branson Smith

In my own lifetime as a composition instructor, I have witnessed the growing demand for online course offerings – and with that growth tensions between pedagogy and university business models. However, the field of English Studies appears to be progressively engaging this trend, if publication records are any indication. (See this link for the CCCC annotated bibliography on online writing practices.) A thread in this conversation appears to invite intense scrutiny, and is my chosen Object of Study for this course: MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

What Is A MOOC?

“What Is A MOOC?” EdTechReview. Image and video. 15 March 2013.

MOOCs, simply defined, are typically tuition- and credit-free classes offered online to any and all interested students, using a variety of methods which include recorded short lectures, discussion boards, and asynchronous activities, depending on the subject matter. Specifically, I plan to examine Composition MOOCs, as writing courses – especially freshman writing – are problematic areas of study given the established theories of best practices that have evolved in concert with our field’s evolution into digital spaces. The subject matter seems especially useful as an object of study given that many discussions of the online or digital classroom in our field often reflect tensions associated with the history of our field’s quest for professionalization. Given the nature of MOOC-based learning systems, questions of best practices and integrity of degree programs are likely to be part of any network.

The demand for online higher education course offerings comes from a variety of sources and stakeholders. The unique characteristics of MOOCs, however, offer additional challenges, many of which mirror common discussions within our field: assessment, access, instructor training / qualifications, questions of labor, plagiarism, student engagement, retention, and pedagogy. Given recent attention paid to the trend of MOOCs by higher education publications (see resources list below), it would appear that this is an area of debate and activity that may promise productive research. For example, MOOC-based composition courses, such as that described in a paper being presented by Sherry Jones’ and Daniel singer at the 2014 CCCC on incorporating gaming in the classroom, also open up new potential for digital pedagogy.

Given the inherent structural nature of MOOCs, it seems self-evident to approach this Object of Study as a network. However, I believe the network (the rhetorical situation of this study) must incorporate more than the rather obvious element of online connectivity among students and teacher. There is the “incorporeal discourse” of which Foucault writes (24) – and what Biesecker might link to Derrida’s concept of “différance” in discussions of rhetorical situation — which might be explored through consideration of the structural / mechanical, economic / business, as well as pedagogical discourses. In short, the network concept offers a way to connect stakeholder discourses with those of the technical and the pedagogical. As I am largely unfamiliar with MOOCs, opportunities for discovery and exploration are rich, and I anticipate unexpected nodes and layers emerging as I progress.

“What is a MOOC?” A Video Explanation.


Preliminary List of Resources:

1.  NY Times article Nov. 2012:

2.  Educause resource list:

3.  Businessweek article Jan. 2014:

4.  Duke Univ. Coursera Comp I course page:

5.  Blog written by a participant in the above:

6.  Georgia Institute of Tech Comp MOOC course page:

7.  Academe blog: “The Gates Foundation and Three Composition Blogs”:

8.  The Chronicle of Higher Education – “What You Need to Know About MOOCs.” Frequently updated hub of articles:

9.  CCCC 2014 – “Composition on a New Scale: Game Studies and Massive Open Online Composition” by Sherry Jones and Daniel Singer

10.  “What Is A MOOC?” EdTechReview.  Image and video. 15 March 2013.


Presentation Notes: “How Stuff Works: WiFi & Mobile”


Wifi! By Florian Boyd/flickr. Creative Commons license.

The range of selected articles (articles 1, 3, 5, 9, and 11) chosen as the subject of this blog entry come from the site “How Stuff Works?”

First, let’s see what we already know about the “behind the scenes” considerations of WiFi and Mobile technology. Start by taking these two quizzes:

Quiz 1: WiFi –

Quiz 2: Routers –




All of these articles make me think of the structural requirements inherent to any network. There must be some system or series of structural conduits through which the connections are made, whether mechanical or organic. The exercise this week emphasizes the reality that we must face when discussing networks – to really analyze or discuss the nature of the network and all of its constituent parts and processes, we must have a fundamental working knowledge of the structure…the “how it works.” Could this be related to what Foucault says about the need to examine discourse by first “freeing them of all the groupings that purport to be … universal unities” in order to reveal or foreground those that are “invisible” (29)? This passage on p. 29 where he describes his reasoning reminded me of an astronomical phenomenon called a “black hole,” the existence of which can only be substantiated by examining relationships, their “reciprocal determination” with regard to other visible spatial bodies, in order to best understand the functioning of said cosmos. Those areas of “difference” (Biesecker) are prime “nodes” for analysis and examination because the action there disrupts the status quo of the established means of interpretation (what we might call a rhetorical canon of practice, perhaps). As WiFi and mobile communication technologies are overtly characterized as network-based means of connectivity, these examples of practical applications of such connections offer us “objects of study” to which we might begin applying our emerging theories.

Here, then, is a brief summary of the articles’ contents, including key terms and definitions drawn from the sources, along with brief observations making connections to our other readings / discussions.

1.  “How Are Point-of-Sale Systems Going Mobile?”  barcode

A point-of-sale system is, quite simply, that mechanism by which payment is transferred between consumer and sales representative. The article points to the evolution of such systems, from cash transactions to barcodes to  SmartPhone apps. The author outlines ways that mobile technology “is altering the way we shop.” Advancements in wireless technology developed in the 1990s allowed data to be transferred even more rapidly, and via mobile devices. Proposed benefits of this technology — factors mentioned in all of these articles — include increased productivity and lower operational costs. Restaurants are the primary node in this development; from mobile card readers to iPhone apps the clients can use to place orders and transfer funds (see the preceding link to a Wall Street Journal article). But questions of security are key.  Another device is called “contactless payment,” from computer chips embedded in cards to phone apps, all designed to ultimately speed check out. A white paper published in 2010 highlights this “vanishing checkout lane” phenomenon.

3.  “How In-Flight Mobile Phone Services Work.”

Given the recent news stories about banning in-flight cell use, this more recent article (2008) of the set seems particularly interesting. The history of this dates back to 1980s (“the Airfone service…based on radio technology”). The provided explanation begins with a comparison to how cell phones work on the ground, equating cell phone technology to, at most basic, “a two-way radio,” switching frequencies to allow simultaneous back and forth communication. (But it doesn’t go much deeper than that.) However, when airborne, the system relies on different technology: “The service provider, OnAir, uses special equipment to route calls and messages through a satellite network, which patches it into the ground-based network. The airplane crew controls the system and can limit or disable its use.” This again demonstrates a network comprised of several layers of structural networks to allow multiple methods of use.

The article points out safety concerns, especially when the ground-based technology is used when airborne (article refers to this as “traditional ‘terrestrial’ cell phones”). The trouble is based on radio signals, raising the concern that the overlap with airplane navigation signals can cause dangerous disruptions, a concern that seems to be justified given British research reports cited by the Telegraph. But the article also points to a Mythbusters’ episode that challenges this conclusion.

Here’s the technical explanation: “The FCC bans the use of cell phones using the common 800 megahertz frequency, as well as other wireless devices, because of potential interference with the wireless network on the ground. This interference happens as the planes, traveling several hundred miles per hour, leave one “cell” of mobile phone towers and enter a new one quickly.”

5.  “How Mobile Broadband Services Work.”

The article begins with an overview of the ravenous appetite we have brought to bear on the internet industry, driving the development of faster & more. Especially significant is the demand for mobile access. A succinct definition of the technology: “Mobile broadband is powered by the same technology that makes cell phones work. It’s all about radio waves and frequencies. Cell phones and cell-phone radio towers send packets of digital information back and forth to each other via radio waves.”

The article describes the two cell network technologies: GSM & CDMA (more common to the US) – “both GSM and CDMA use different algorithms that allow multiple cell phone users to share the same radio frequency without interfering with each other.”  MOBILE broadband = labeled as 3G and now 4G (g=generation). CDMA creates separate transmission channels, one for voice, one for data. Access depends on the type of integrated technology owned. GSM uses a network allows for both types, making it more efficient by giving higher priority to download data. Again, special hardware is required to use this type of system, as well as be in range of a signal tower…so there are physical ties to ground-based network mechanics that must be observed.

Here’s a fascinating difference between the time of this article and today: “Cellular providers generally package their mobile broadband services for cell phone users.” With the growth of SmartPhones, this has been reversed (see this 2012 WSJ article ).

9.  “How the Airborne Internet Will Work.”

The date for this is particularly problematic, as it now reads like past history, but a search of the internet did reveal more current resources:

The author refers to “broadband” or a larger bandwidth for transferring as a “new” means to transmit the heavy loads of data Internet users have come to expect, as a means of replacing the lowly mechanical network hub, the modem, including cable modems, DSL (digital subscriber lines), and now, new options that are airborne. How it works: aircraft-mediated hubs (“High Altitude Long Operation” or HALO) flying in set patterns to accommodate (primarily) business needs for fast transmissions. Other options: blimps or NASA “sub-space” plane (unmanned). Built on the premise that land connections are limited by physics – mechanical restrictions of cables, etc. — the airborne will accelerate transmission time because it isn’t limited by physics of structurality or by physics of space (distance adds time of response).

Here’s where “networks” come into play: the airplanes will exist in numbers, but don’t replace satellites or land lines – rather they are designed to work as part of a system. The “airborne-network hub” that is the airplane itself is designed “to relay data signals from ground stations to your workplace and home computer.”

11. “How Unified Communications Works.”

Defined as tech that allows “messages and data to be rerouted to reach the recipient as quickly as possible,” UC began first with messaging (email, and “other text-based message systems”). UC relies on various “products and tools” that can be made to work together to funnel messages to users when they are away from their computer stations, or, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes” [source: Unified Communications Strategies].”

airborne-internet-halo-overview Businesses rely on UC to reduce costs, increase productivity, and streamline usage. The tech keeps messages from sitting idle on a server somewhere. But there are problems and complications. Some VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services don’t translate seamlessly to consumer’s expectations (based on their experiences with land lines). Another type of communications platform technology used for UC is the SmartPhone. But then there’s the line blurring between the personal and the business uses, including security of data. Still another arena in UC is the cloud – data management. The primary example of successful UC is social media, still “blur[ring] the line[s] between our personal and professional contacts.” This medium advances even more the network potential of UC.

13.  “How WiFi Works.”

There’s an interesting lapse in the publication date revealed in the opening paragraph, which refers to an enthusiastic prediction that “in the near future, wireless networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at any time, without using wires.” Given the WiFi hotspots signs that appear everywhere from Starbucks, to McDonalds, to some gas stations, the dated nature of the article seems almost comical.

From article at

From article at

The article describes WiFi as “technology that allows information to travel over the air” using radio waves, comparable in function to “two-way radio communication.” I find it interesting that the article refers to a computer’s capability to “translate” data, akin to the mental processes we take to sift incoming information and produce a version suitable to the purpose and audience (how’s that for rhetorical?).

The router = the node, but not just a center of organization; that node actually “decodes” the input (the language / “signal”), then passes on that info through a physical means (from air to wire). This type of interpretation depends on the mechanical; think of p. 24 Foucault, when he writes that unities of discourse – the accepted methods or systems that comprise a tradition or historical context – are “the result of an operation…[which] is interpretive (since it deciphers, in the text, the transcription of something that it both conceals and manifests” (24).

The reference to “frequencies” makes me wonder if there is a connection to discourses (thinking of Foucault’s comments in Chapter 2). The higher the frequency, the higher the capacity for data. The frequency is described according to “standards” – or accepted nodes – that are described in terms of “coding technique.” It’s all about how much data can be carried. Description of “hotspot” as public nodes of access – seems this terminology may have the potential to be metaphorically useful moving forward in our discussions. (Is that what theory is? A metaphoric framework whereby we take an existing accepted structural system and treat it as an analogy-based means of translating knowledge or data?)

Connections within a network depend on adaptors, computer gear like internal transmitters, and capability to tap into the “standard” transmission lines/radio waves. The computer itself “informs you that [a]…network exists” and requires we exercise intentionality (“ask whether you want to connect to it”). Accessibility depends on identifying / knowledge of the network identification (SSID) – naming that community – access points or channel used by a router, and security (public vs. private) – privileged vs. subversive? One of the authors adds a post script to the article, in which she acknowledges the changes made recently. Of considerable interest are the following comments: “I remember the days when most mere mortals didn’t have modems and couldn’t get on the net, even if they had computers. Perhaps I’m projecting my experiences onto everyone else, but when I was a kid, our computer was this tool we used in isolation.”

Works Cited:

Bonsor, Kevin.  “How the Airborne Internet Will Work.”  30 April 2001. <>  18 January 2014.

Brain, Marshall, Tracy V. Wilson, and Bernadette Johnson.  “How WiFi Works.”  30 April 2001. <>  18 January 2014.

Crosby, Tim.  “How In-flight Mobile Phone Services Work.”  3 March 2008. <>  18 January 2014.

Kelly, John.  “How are point-of-sale systems going mobile?”  8 March 2010. <>  17 January 2014.

LaPine, Cherise.  “How Unified Communications Works.”  9 March 2010. <>  17 January 2014.

Roos, Dave.  “How Mobile Broadband Services Work.”  2 April 2008. <>  18 January 2014.


First Connections: From Readings to Mind Maps

This initial attempt to make visual connections — a digital/visual synthesis — of our materials this term first proved daunting. Although, I must admit, over time I have become more of a visual learner/thinker than I ever thought possible. For a time, I was all about the text, the linearity. However, perhaps because of my experiences with digital media and freshman composition, the broader canvas offered by visual media seemed to allow me more freedoms. On a meta level, this network as a framing device is allowing me to “ping” on connections in ways I might have taken longer to make. I must say, this is an exciting way to begin. I fear, however, that without Popplet, my walls would be covered in sticky notes before too many weeks would pass!

My choices reflect the primary readings from week one, which — in my mind — established a useful groundwork of terms and concepts with which to frame my thinking. Combined with Foucault’s approach to discourse by examining the networks and “negative spaces,” the discussion of ‘rhetorical situation’ by Vatz, Bitzer, and Biesecker — for me, anyway — helped to ground the more philosophical Foucault into the realm of the practical, into potential application. My assigned “How It Works” readings on WiFi / Mobile fit neatly into this emerging web of connections because they all focused on the characteristics or qualities of the objects — the technological media that facilitates the connections. For me, this layering of materials suggests a need for a 3-D rendering, which isn’t possible with Popplet as far as I can tell. But it would be an interesting project.

ENGL894 Knowledge Mindmap

Initial Connections: Creating the Network Nodes

ENGL 894: Readings & Planning

Foucault, Michel. “The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language.” New York: Vintage Books, 1972. Print.

Part I & II: Clearly, Foucault is challenging to read (an understatement), yet as I progress into his text, thanks to the overarching theme of our course, I am able to see his concepts through one of the operational questions of our class: what is a network and how does it impact our thinking?  Thankfully, Foucault himself uses network language to articulate his reasoning. His approach is highly rhetorical, beginning by setting us within a large context — history — as a framework for this discussion, then moving into more defined examples of discourse communities within that history. Yet the “take away” possibilities are not limited to these examples of community discourse; as I was reading the early passages, I found myself recalling a recent class (English Debates) in which discussions focused on the subject of disciplinary in the field of English Studies. In particular, I thought of how many practitioners operate in isolation, without regard to how other disciplines can offer the field of English new systems, or networks, of interpretation or operation.

black hole

From “Nature Communications” website

Clearly, Foucault’s theories are wide reaching in terms of potential for application.  So much so, that I found myself making a comparison to the way black holes function and his description on page 29 of how looking at absences or gaps (disruptions and displacements, the difference) actually help define what we see.

So, some key points from these early chapters, condensed from the pages of notes I have taken thus far:

  • This work is concerned with exploring unities of discourse as a means of examining them.
  • He rejects a universalist approach to analyzing discourses, in part because such an approach ignores the “exceptions.”
  • He emphasizes the need to reject our preexisting “habits of synthesis” (25) in order to see our way more clearly.
  • Instead, he is interested in examining these discourses through relationships, connections – NETWORKS – to allow a more productive exploration, including the areas of disruptions.
  • P. 44:  “a discursive formation is defined if one can establish such a group; if one can show how any particular object of this course finds in it it’s place and lot of emergence.”
  • Relationships “are not present in the object. … they do not define its internal constitution.” (43) “Discursive relations are not… internal to discourse” (46)
  • Page 48: “I would like to show that discourses… are not… a mere intersection of things and words: an obscure web of things,… colored chain of words” (48). This appears to be another move against a structuralist tradition that is often bound up in linguistics, a move I see woven into other passages.
  • Page 49: “in analyzing discourses themselves,” we should look for “the emergence of a group of rules proper to discursive practice” in order to see them as “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (49). His use of the term “rules” troubles me somewhat, and I wonder — as I progress through the reading — if that will continue. He does take great pains to preconceptualize the use of this term by distinguishing his use of the term from a more structuralist approach.
  • In chapter 4 he talks about the laws of operations: (1) directs us to look at author or speaker;  (2) also look at the site or location of the delivery (51); as well as look at the situation in terms of relationships to other groups (52). This is so rhetorical.
  • He refers to his theory about such “laws” as a “network of sites” (55), and as “a succession of conceptual systems” (56).

And so, at this point, Foucault has my attention. His description of rhetorical habits of systematizing discursive interchanges as “object vs. relationships” is intriguing, to say the very least. His treatment of text and even “the book” early in these chapters reminded me of work by Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola on the culture of the book, which refers to our use of book-based literacy as a metaphor for much of what we do in our field of Composition (and English) Studies. Thus far, Foucault’s use of a network theory, when juxtaposed to our first set of readings on the Rhetorical Situation, is creating a definitive lens through which I anticipate re-seeing some of my early training in rhetoric.