Thomas R. Watson Conference, Louisville 10/16

Presentation title: “Surprise.”—period included. Our panel’s title was “Stop Signs: The Limits of Mobility,” and the speakers each took punctuation marks as metaphors for conceptual processes in writing and rhetoric. Panelists: Donora Hillard, Eric Detweiler, Matthew Osborn.

My part combined theories of platforms, interfaces, and information technology explored in a course I’m teaching this Fall, English 3180: Language and Digital Technologies, with work in my dissertation on the aesthetics of rhetoric. At issue was the relationship of novelty or “the new” as such to information systems whose mechanics are deliberately obfuscated for the sake of user dis/empowerment. I argued it is only unreflective relationships with IT that foster narratives of information control handed down from the Enlightenment. To put it somewhat reductively for the purposes of this blog, such relationships with information attempt in rather quaint and obsolete fashion to eliminate or account for surprise. Instead, a centrifugal relationship with information is not only preferable, but inevitable.

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