Friday, December 28, 2012

Object Oriented Philosophy: Reflections on Style and Method

Graham Harman 
A banana Peel

I have been tracking informally the development of Object Oriented       Philosophy/Ontology/Onticology/Speculative Realism for the past couple years, as not only several books, but also blogs have been committed to its development. Over the break, in preparation for my course in New Materialisms/Ontologies that I will be auditing, I have read roughly the first half of the semester's readings: Grahman Harman's Guerilla Metaphysics, Levi Bryant's Democracy of Objects, Ian Bogost's Alien Phenomenology (actually read over the summer), Latour's We have Never Been Modern, and the majority of Harman's book on Latour, Prince of Networks. I think I can firmly say that I have a grasp on the work, but I'm not sure how useful I find it, except perhaps to inspire me to compose a bit more naively and with a bit more confidence and wonder. Not because I find these texts "bad," but because I found them interesting, refreshing, and yet at the same time I wonder where they can really lead me.  Harman was most interesting of the bunch partially because he contextualizes his philosophy in the phenomenological tradition I am most familiar with in Guerilla Metaphysics (among other traditions). Harman is distinctly aware of the positions he is refuting, even if he does not do much with the texts of Spinoza, Kant, Leibniz, Hume, Locke, etc.

 Its interesting to me that he claims in Prince of Networks that a "minor author" or character (taking 'minor' as someone who has little impact, I guess, as opposed to D&G's notion of a 'minor' science and other such uses of 'minor') is one who is "reducible to content. The more a person, object, or idea can be summarized in a list of univocal assertions, the less substantial they are" (140). Given this definition, one could argue that Object Oriented Philosophy/Ontology as a whole deals in such propositions and content, so that reading one book by Harman or Bryant is enough, and differences between them are mostly reducible to comparing relatively clear positions. Certainly my friend Tim ( would argue that this is precisely the problem; actually, "argue" is not how he would put it. Philosophy, for some, does not consist of arguments. 

And yet, this would be a bit unfair to Harman, who does so much more than reiterate his positions and modify other thinkers. Harman is a dramatic philosopher, who  understands the meaning of "speculative" realism in sense that we can see him as writing Science Fiction philosophy or Theory as science fiction, to paraphrase Steven Shaviro in his book, Connected. Harman is truly interested in making philosophy more interesting because he thinks it has become boring. His targets are the analytic philosophers rather than continental, although his disdain for Derrida's style of writing (and his whole mode of thought, which he sees as indicative of "postmodernism," a movement abhorred by Latour)  is clear in Guerilla Metaphysics. But he admires Levinas, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Alphonso Lingis, even if these thinkers maintain an ontological privileging of the human. For Harman, the world is a "carnival of things" and as others have pointed out (such as Levi Bryant) his philosophy is populated with concrete objects, animals, and imaginary characters. For example, in Prince of Networks, he imagines a philosophical dialogue between Socrates and Latour in pitch perfect parody (and yet with sincerity) of Plato's style. Also, in order to illustrate how difficult it is to create enough allies to open a black box, imagines a scene in which Karl Rove has to transform himself into a philosopher so as to defeat Kant's Copernican Revolution, after trying to discredit his morality and even the sincerity of his thought (What if there was evidence that Kant wrote his whole philosophy as a joke? Harman muses). These are the moments where Harman shines as a stylist and as a rhetor that takes his audience into account as he is writing. 

Finally, he uses an endless series of objects for his examples, sometimes annoyingly so. Ian Bogost points this out in Alien Phenomenology and repeats this stylistic gesture. Bogost argues that these series of objects (Latourist Litanies) are a remedy to the philosophies of becoming, philosophies of which Harman and Latour take issue. Harman writes, “for the real novelty in philosophy no longer belongs to the tired old limerick of shifting fluxions and becomings, but to utterly concrete and utterly disconnected entities that cry aloud for mediators to bridge them” (105). 

I'm not against talking about more mundane objects and I am also drawn to the argument  that talk of flux, flow, becoming, is becoming a boring metaphorical description of interactions. However, sometimes these lists of objects don't really contribute to the argument and seem to simply function as a rhetorical ploy to make readers believe that this philosophy more than any other (especially the postmodernists/poststructualists) is concerned with the real, mundane, every day world of objects and other nonhumans. It is not the populations of objects that succeed the most in Harman's work, but rather his extended metaphors or imagined scenarios and thought experiments that truly do work to connect these objects. If Harman, Bryant, and Latour are correct that alliances among objects require work, when these authors list objects out of any sort of context or relation, we may bring these objects before our imagination, but they are disconnected. I usually skip these lists, as I can witness the wonder of the world by simply lifting my eyes from my post, noticing the lights on the windows or the chip in my coffee cup. 

Perhaps Harman is merely trying to illustrate his point that some objects do not affect one another and some metaphors do not work. One of the issues I want to take up in more detail in another post is Harman's reading of Derrida and his claims about the nature of metaphor (particularly Harman's claim that some metaphors 'don't work' -- that is, metaphors either work or not, in a binary fashion). 

But to end on an interesting note, I want to point out an explicit methodical instruction from Harman's Prince of Networks. Instead of critical thinking, Harman recommends hyperbolic thinking. Harman argues that the books that impact us the most are not the ones that are error-free, but "those that throw the most light on unknown portions of the map" (121). Hyperbolic thinking can be broken into steps: 

1.) Choose a particular provocative theorist, thinker, or philosopher 
2.)  Imagine that this thinker at maximum strength; that is, imagine that this thinker has dominated the intellectual world in the future: what would that world look like?
3.) Think about what would be missing from this world.  (121-122). 

In the text, Harman imagines a Latour intellectual domination in 2050: Here is a kind of science-fictional paradigm for thought: creating a narrative of an intellectual future and trying to figure out what one would like to see being taken account in that future. We do a similar thing when we read Science Fiction; As critics, we assume that this representation is not a blueprint, map, or prediction of the future, but rather think the underside of this representation. This comparison shines a light on OOO and OOP just as much as it illuminates a kind of Science Fiction method; That is, OOO  and OOP are, in some sense, representational philosophies. Writing serves to create vivid scenes and helpful narratives to explain and argue for positions. This is not necessarily a criticism, but it might explain why some hardcore Derrideans or Deleuzians might scoff at movement as moving backwards from these philosophies. 

I don't want to sit here and criticize this philosophy, especially since this "critique of critique" is integral to the mission and attitude of OOP. Harman has written compelling books that are readable without sacrificing argumentative rigor or compelling and vivid prose. Its going to be interesting to see how I might apply these insights to my own work as the semester develops. We can also look forward to an object-oriented view of language, writing, and or rhetoric. These well-worn themes of our discipline are not going away in favor of talking about objects, but rather could be rethought in terms of this new metaphysics. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Memory, Technology, and Biology in M.T. Anderson's Feed

"Look at us! You don't have the feed! You are the feed! You're feed! You're being eaten! You're raised for food! Look at what you've made yourselves! -- Feed, pg 202

M.T. Anderson wrote his novel Feed in 2001 and published in 2002, but it was recently republished in a 2012 edition. I initially thought it was just recently written and even after reading the text I thought "How relevant!" This might not be the first science fiction novel to explore the idea that the internet is in our brains, but it does so with an awareness of how that might affect our biological being in a very visceral, fleshy way that I don't remember even Delaney's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand exploring (despite the fact that the book explores the problem of desire).

Anderson writes in his postscript to the 2012 edition that he didn't set out to "predict future tech" but to think "about the cultural conditions as they already were then." He was less concerned about the technologies themselves than how they were used by commercial forces, who of course will be the ones to control these technologies. Perhaps more importantly, he notes that we are less and less sure of how the technologies got to where they are (and thus who controls them): " As time goes on, it becomes harder and harder for any of us to keep track of how things were made and how they got to us. Yet at the same time, whenever we buy something, we're also putting a 'yea' vote for the system that put it together. We're responsible for a world we don't understand."

Personal Advertising

Indeed, our advertisements, even though they are not implanted within our skull, structure, predict, and form our desires in a FEEDback loop of information. Instead of watching TV on a separate device, TV can be viewed post-air time on sites like HULU that will give you a "choice" of which Ad you would like to view (usually for the same product) as well as containing a button in the upper right hand corner that asks "Is this ad relevant to you?" Based on our purchases (and moreover even our VIEWS!) on and other sites, the site will then recommend other things for you to buy, personalizing the range of your purchases.
The same thing happens in Feed to a more extreme degree because the person guiding  purchases is in your head and can track what you look at in a physical mall or what you order through your feed in your head. The narrator describes the power of the Feed in the following passage:
It knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard. Everything we think and feel is taken in by the corporations, mainly by data ones like Feedlink and OnFeed and American Feedware, and they make a special profile, one that's keyed just to you, and then they give it to their branch companies, or other companies buy them, and they can get to know what it is we need, so all you have to do is want something and there is a chance it will be yours. (48)
I can't help but recall the Prilosec OTC commercial with America's favorite dumbass. Larry the Cable Guy:  "Cuz this is America. We don't make just things you want. We make things you didn't even KNOW you wanted!"

The Feed is literally an organ, an integral part of your body: "Before that, computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe" (47). Electric media, in this sense, are less an extension of the body as McCluhan argues, but rather an incorporation, an organ that infiltrates and fuses with the brain. The Feed cannot actually be turned off, only disconnected, because, as Violet, one of the main characters point out, "it's tied in everywhere. They said the limbic system, the motor cortex. . .the hippocampus. They listed all this stuff. If the feed fails too severely, it could interfere with basic processes." (171).

This is the other side, the unthought possibility, of the utopic extropianism of thinkers such as Ray Kurzweil in his article "This is your Brain on Neural Implants." Kurzweil imagines a scenario very close to that of the Feed, shorn of its commercial aspects:
You undergo a procedure to replace a very small part of your brain with a nonbiological unit [. . .] As promised-- the procedure works perfectly--certain of your capabilities have improved. (You have a better memory perhaps). 
Perhaps the procedure does go well, but what about continued tech support? Kurzweil is most concerned to allay people's doubts about whether they are still "them," whether they still have a unified and unique identity; what he doesn't consider, is who controls and monitors this wetware? Kurzweil's use of language gives us a clue as to his ignorance of these potential problems: 
We have already largely outsourced our historical, intellectual, social, and personal memories to our devices and the cloud. The devices we interact with to access these memories will become smaller and smaller, making their way into our bodies. It will be a useful place to put them--we won't lose them that way. And in the coming years, we will continue on the path of gradual replacement and augmentation scenario until ultimately most of our thinking be in the cloud. 
 "Outsourcing" is a term we have heard a lot recently, or at least until our own economic crisis has taken front stage, particularly outsourcing jobs. I think it is worthwhile to give an exact definition of what outsourcing is to show how commercial interests always play a role in our outsourcing of memory: 
Outsourcing is the contracting out of a business process, which an organization may have previously performed internally or has a new need for, to an independent organization from which the process is purchased back as a service. (Wikipedia)
So let's think about this for a minute: Our memories, according to Kurzweil, are now outsourced, in the sense that we allow our memories to be systematically organized and controlled by the cloud interface and purchase them back as a service!  Even free programs like Dropbox only gives you so much memory space until you either pay them or sign up for something else. Even if we don't "pay" them actual money, it has now been made abundantly clear that the companies that produce services that "store" your memories are also using them for their ends. Just recently, Instagram has admitted that their service agreement allows them to use your photographs for advertisements. Although they just as quickly denied it and repealed their change to privacy policy. Still, we all know that Facebook is becoming more and more commercialized with their "promote" function and Facebook uses our information to advertise to us. Indeed, the "newsFEED" is not only loaded with friendly updates, but also notifications (that I have to believe are false) that so an so "likes Budweiser" or whatever company they decide to notify. In other words, Kurzweil's right that we have already outsourced our memories to the internet Cloud, but we still have private memories that are not uploaded, memories attached to sensation and perception that we can sometimes recall or set off with a smell, taste, or touch. These memories are still "ours" and a deep part of our being. 

The Tragedy of Violet

But what if those memories were outsourced, or tied into something that is controlled by a corporation whose sole purpose is profitable investments? This is where the narrative of Feed needs to be introduced. One could say that Feed has one sole narrator, Titus, who is a typical college teen in this near future society, but this would inaccurate. Why? Because the feed punctures the narration with its indirect discourse: snippets of advertisements, presidential speeches, and hacking messages pepper the text. The indirect discourse may be the most powerful and most challenging aspect of Feed for younger readers, but it also illustrates that Titus and his friends are conduits for the feed, full of multiple voices, but ultimately the voice commands them to do only one thing: consume. 

The story begins on the Moon, where bored teens travel to get fucked up either by drinking or by a kind of electrical scrambling of the brains they call "in mal" ("mal" is French for "bad" or "evil," but the novel also connects it to the Mall). Titus meets Violet, who is a bit strange to all of them because she uses strange words, like "suppuration," which the rest of the group have to look up on the Feed. I must note that I myself had to look up "suppuration" on my own "external" feed (google), finding that it meant "the formation or discharge of pus."  While dancing at a club, a "hacker" touches Titus, his friends, and Violet and all of them begin to broadcast the hacker's message: 
We enter a time of calamity. Blood on the tarmac. Fingers in the juicer. Towers of air frozen in the lunar wastes. Models dead on the runways, with their legs facing backward. Children with smiles that can't be undone. Chicken shall rot in the aisles. See the the pillars fall. (39)
They are taken away to the hospital and are told they must have their feed's turned off. We find out later that they were only "disconnected" since they could not be turned off. Everyone misses their feed because they can no longer silent chat to each other nor do they undergo the constant barrage of advertisements. 

Luckily, in this world, testimony is absolutely reliable in legal matters because they can simply subpoena your memories without having to worry about deterioration or distortion (56). Memories can also be "played" for people, not only as a visual, but a haptic experience. You can experience another person's memories as if you were in their position when the memory happened: like a record of an intimate VR experience. 

Most of the novel centers around the relationship between Titus and Violet, as well as Violet's attempt to resist the logic of the Feed. She decides that she will look at many random objects so that the feed cannot pin her down as a particular type of consumer. Violet clearly explains the mission of the Feed: 
Everything we've grown up with--the stories on the feed, the games, all of that--its all streamlining our personalities so we're easier to sell to. I mean they do these demographic studies that divide everyone into a few personality types, and then you get ads based on what you supposedly like. They try to figure out who you are, and to make you conform to one of their types for easy marketing. It's like a spiral: they keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets so used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything simpler. (95)
Instead, Violet decides to make a screwed customer profile so they cannot pin her down: "I'm not going to let them catalog me. I'm going to become invisible" (97). She starts looking at all sorts of things and realizes that once you look at this other stuff, the stuff that is not dictated by the feed, "you realize this obscure stuff isn't obscure at all. Each thing is like a whole world" (102). By introducing variety into her interests and desires (and not actually buying anything) she becomes invisible because she is an unpredictable customer. As we shall see, her life depends on her worthiness as an investment. 

But there is a price to be paid for being invisible. . .

As the novel progresses, we learn that Violet's feed is actually malfunctioning (probably another reason why Anderson chose the word "mal" for his drug-like state) and causing her to lose feeling and control over her bodily functions. Later, she tells Titus that she has lost one year of her memory. Violet begins to depend on Titus and to have fantasies of them doing all of these things that she wants to do; "normal" things that actually correspond to a typical bourgeois lifestyle, like "I want to rent a hotel room with you [Titus]. As Mister and Missus Smith" (230). Or, alternately, "And I want to go into 'the office' everyday, sometimes even on weekends, and be someone's administrative assistant, and complain to you through the feed while I'm at my desk about my bitch of a manager or my pervert boss" 

When she enrolls Titus to do this, he breaks up with her, unable to handle the idea that she will die soon. He even says, harshly, that he cannot sleep with her because it would be like sleeping with a zombie or a corpse!  Violet also sends Titus her memories because she knows that they cannot be preserved within her, but he simply deletes them, and lies to her, telling her that he never received the memories. 

But one memory he does "try on" and the reader finally understands that ones very life depends on feeding the feed. Violet had petitioned for customer support for her Feed from both Feedtech and other corporations, because her family cannot afford to pay for it. The Feed, according to the novel's world, is not covered by health insurance because despite the fact that it essentially merges with your most basic functions it is not medical! (219). Indeed, the feed is commercial through and through. She receives this devastating message from Feedtech: 
FeedTech and other investors reviewed your purchasing history, and we don't feel that you would be a reliable investment at this time. No one could get a 'handle' on your shopping habits. (246-47)
FeedTech has condemned her to death because she is no longer a worthwhile investment for the company. Instead of people investing in stocks, people become the stocks, they are the commodities, and their memories are merely mined for commercial purposes not only on a cultural, but personal, intimate, level. 

The Erasure of Cultural Memory through the Attenuation of Language and Commodification of History

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of Feed is the lack of historical memory and context in the novel. History has been appropriated as fashion or been discarded as useless. The language used by the teens contains little concreteness or any allusive or metaphorical significance. Indeed, one thing that attracts Violet to Titus, as she tells him, "You're the only one who uses metaphor" (62). Language has become purely functional; It's no longer "Yeah, man" or "Yeah, girl" but  "yeah, unit" --specificity is erased. The kids favorite TV show is called What! Oh! A Thing! and the parents speak just as inadequately. No one writes anything down anymore, except Violet, and there don't seem to be any books. 

Furthermore, as the case of Violet's father tells us, programming languages that allow the user to control their hardware and software are obsolete. Fortran and BASIC are now the "dead languages" that no one needs anymore. He makes little money and tries to preserve not only programming languages, but the variety of English as well. As Violet tells Titus, "He says the language is dying. He thinks words are being debased. So he tries to speak entirely in weird words and irony so no one can simplify anything he says" (137). 

There are many allusions that the reader will catch, most importantly, Violet's father's statement that Titus should "hang with the Eloi" (290). When Titus doesn't get it, Violet's father says "Its a reference [. . .] To H.G. Wells' The Time Machine." He just keeps telling Titus to look it up, to read it. He doesn't want the reference to be easily consumed by Titus, as he says, echoing Anderson's statements in the afterword: 
We Americans [. . .] are only interested in the consumption of our products. We have no interest in how they were produced, or what happens to them [. . .] what happens to them once we discard them, once we throw them away. (290)

The members of this society consume everything. Not just products but history and culture. In one of the most disturbing scenes in the book to me, Titus's friends get out of their "upcar," wearing "torn up clothes" and looking like "they'd been burned up and hit with stuff" (158). When asked about it, they respond that this is the new fashion: Riot Gear: "Its retro. It's beat up to look like one of the twentieth century riots" (158). When Violet asks which one is the "Watts" riot, no one can answer her and they think its weird that she would try and understand the historical precedent. The scene surrounding the encounter  consists of Titus and his friends trying to say  good things about Coke to your friends 1000 times so as to get a free six pack. They repeat so many phrases about Coke, it becomes a magic word that sets off their craving. They think that they are cheating the companies, but they describe it so much that they decide they will go buy a six pack. Historical questions of riots are overridden by the mantra of Coca-Cola consumption. Corporate mentality erases collective memory of history. I may explore this further with references to Steigler's Technics and Time 3 in a later post. 

The erasure of history and the dominance of corporate fashion arrives at a point where people froze in their tracks from Nostalgia Feedback:

People were just stopping in their tracks frozen. At first, people thought it was another virus, and they were looking for groups like the Coalition of Pity, but it turned out that it was something called Nostalgia Feedback. People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer and closer to their own time, until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them.
People were just stopping in their tracks frozen. At first, people through it was another virus, and they were looking for groups like the Coalition Party, but it turned out it was due to something called Nostalgia Feedback. People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer to their own time, until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them. (277). 

In a way, what is happening on a larger scale is a less extreme version of Violet's predicament. Violet writes to Titus, "What are we if we don't have a past?" and the irony of this statement is that if you don't have a purchasing history, you are nothing, you aren't a worthwhile investment.

The Nostalgia Feedback is only one negative effect of the Feed on everyone (and not just poor violet, who ends up dying as a result of her malfunctioning feed). The reader suspects that the Feed is also producing lesions on people's bodies as well as causing their hair to fall out. The body is also becoming transparent: "You can see like muscles and tendons and ligaments and stuff through the lesions," one character says of another (199).  The lesions eventually become a fashion statement so that one of Titus' friends actually gets artificial lesions that ooze just like real ones. The Feed has turned disease and detrioration into a fashion statement in order to keep people from realizing what's really happening to their bodies. Violet is the only one who sees the problem: "Shes a monster! A monster covered with cuts! She's a creature!" (202).

In this world, people have become the conduits, no, the servants of the corporations; their memories are only guaranteed by their purchasing histories and while Violet's story is tragic, the novel suggests that the rest of the society is about to collapse as well: "Everything was not always going well, because for most people, our hair fell out and we were bald, and we had less and less skin" (277). Titus even notes that "My mom had lost so much skin you could see her teeth even when her mouth was closed" (283). Truly if the reader pays attention to these little details, the reader might agree with Violet that these people are monsters, monsters created by the corporations that they created. Monsters we are feeding our own flesh to, so they can sell other shit back to us, satisfying our desires that the Feed as already created:

"Soylent Green is People! It's People!" 

Monday, December 17, 2012

End of Semester Reflections on "Digital Humanities"

Alex Reid has posted some really interesting videos on the state of Digital Humanities and "middle state publishing" here:  A couple of these spawned the following reflections. It will take me a bit to get through all the videos and more may be added later.

So Jamie Bianco in the below interview says that the public is doing more interesting things than academics. Not just in the sense of "bells and whistles" but rather in the thought produced.  Is this true? Is academic humanities "behind" in the sense that we need to start producing in other media (See Bogost's elaboration of Harman's concept of "carpentry") and to catch up to the speed at which thought is produced in an online ecology? The rate at which new signifers are produced is somewhat staggering to a point that it is so hard to keep up or at the very least difficult to spend time interpreting and understanding. Levi Bryant, in his interview in the same series, notes that he no longer calls himself an "object oriented ontologist" but a "machine oriented ontologist" -- "I don't believe in objects anymore" he says. Isn't it all just moving too fast and furthermore, what is the proliferation and dissemination of new movements, terms, and fields doing to our understanding? I'm not trying to sound like a conservative reactionary, but everything is speeding up in the radical sense of Paul Virilio. Although I hesitate to use the language of crisis, I truly believe that graduate students in the Humanities (particularly "English departments") are see-sawing between the literary scholarship we (or at least I) was taught and something else. Even my training in continental philosophy was much closer to my previous literature training with emphasis on reading, language, text, and rhetoric then this something else. I'm now thinking about new abstractions (that claim that they are not really abstractions) -- objects, materiality, medium, multimodality, digital humanities, image, etc. Do they not become abstractions through their academization (as they become part of the university discourse -- to refer to Lacan)? That is, the claim is to try and think the world not as language (the linguistic turn) but ironically this turn has produced a staggering amount of new language ABOUT these phenomena.

Levi Bryant says in his interview (posted below) that he's not sure what to call himself anymore. His blog larvalsubjects deals with philosophy, rhetoric, technology, ecology (and the "environmental crisis"), "theory," and so on. As he points out, he is able to talk about many different things. This is great and is generative of so many ideas, but I think Bryant's confusion as to the nature of his "field" is precisely what so many of us in graduate school are struggling with. Partially this is because new "fields" (or the master signifiers that designate a specialization) are created. Despite the fact that Bryant is correct that there is no "master discourse" that can serve as some sort of foundation (Philosophy, Science, etc.), there are still new master discourses formed, picked up, and disseminated. I am very far from arguing that this has not always been the case, but the introduction of the "digital" as an object for study as well as, as Bianco puts it, a "set of methods or practices," means that as graduate students we are struggling to not only learn how to expand theoretical perspectives on scholarship, philosophy, and literature in completely new ways -- not just new interpretations of texts that negotiate previous interpretations. That is, my object of study was pretty clear at one point: literary texts. I could say that my object of study is now "writing," but "writing" is really any moment of inscription; this includes videos, images, objects, bodily movements, DNA, etc.

This is what Sid Dobrin tells us when he says that we should do theory. --But how? Part of this task seems to be to find new "texts," but instead of making the text the focus, the object, and thus the purpose for the interpretation, the interpretation serves as an example in a larger argument. True, this happens in more "traditional" literary scholarship in dissertations and books, but I am still floundering around, trying to figure out what "my" argument could possibly be (in the larger sense). Perhaps this is a regular condition of graduate school.  But the rhetoric of Digital Humanities suggests otherwise.

In some sense, perhaps all I'm saying is that I miss contributing to a tradition rather than a current conversation; But perhaps this is less the fault of the university or graduate education, and more because, as Bianco suggests, publics have caught up with the academics and are doing more interesting things and thinking more interesting things that form relevant and meaningful practices that address our collective situation. Perhaps the speed at which thought is created and disseminated is even more intimidating to a nascent academic than it used to be because of "middle state publishing." No longer am I merely trying to produce some sort of "original" thought or argument in the midst of peer-reviewed journal articles and books accessed on EBSCO Host, but the conversations on the blogs as well.

I feel like more academic books are being published that address interdisciplinary theoretical and practical issues than ever before. I'm not only trying to catch up -- I'm trying to get ahead.