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Webs of resistance

University of Florida Institutional Repository
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WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY By SCOTT G. REED A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2003

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Copyright 2003 by Scott G. Reed

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This thesis is dedicated to Sara, my partner in “agonistic discourse.”

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iv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I chiefly thank my parents, for their continued support. Thanks go also to Professors Sidney Dobrin and Terry Harpol d, for taking time out of their summer to attend to my bizarre ravings. Finally, my gratitude goes out to Sid Homan, Phil Wegner, Greg Ulmer, and the rest of the faculty and staff of the UF Department of English, with whom I’ve been privileged to work for the past six years.

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iv ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... vi WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY......................................................................................................................1 “Ground”-ings: Ecology, Resistance, Media................................................................2 Problems in (Cyber)Space............................................................................................9 Cyborg Eco-Subjects..................................................................................................17 Performing Resistance in n -Dimensional Space.........................................................25 Niche@Ideology.Writing.Web...................................................................................35 Notes.......................................................................................................................... .38 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................40 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................43

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vi Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY By Scott G. Reed August 2003 Chair: Dr. Sidney I. Dobrin Major Department: English This thesis is an investigation, linking a trio of strange part icipants within the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and resistance theory. The combination of Ec ocomposition and resistance theory is not terribly hard to swallow; both follow out of disciplinary attempts at situating writers and their writing within social contexts and, in the case of Ecocomposition, extended material and semiological frameworks. What is novel, and certainly deserves bearing out, is the introduction into the fold of a strange conve rsational perspective, that of New Media studies. Throughout the thesis, I frame much of my analysis in terms of “apparatus theory,” the descendant of Derrida’s gramma tology that claims connections between the technology of writing and various so cial and semantic structures. Laying the groundwork of this triple-move the thesis investigates various competing notions of space, particularly not ions of “place” and “cyberspace.” The goal is to account for the disparitie s in the uses of these terms a nd to wrangle over the extent

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vii to which any “cyberspace” can be considered a meaningful “place.” What helps to resolve the issue is the notion of contingenc y: that, while cybers paces are unstable and open to reinterpretation, they can still serve as temporary places-where-I-happen-to-be. The thesis then looks at theories of subj ect formation, and how we can look at various ideas, especially “cyborg theory,” as a way of anticipating the subject of electracy. Again, the notion of contingence helps me to argue that, although fractured and dispersed, critical consciousness is a real pos sibility for students and teachers alike working in this technology. The remainder of the thesis argues for a ne w kind of resistance theory, which I call “quantum resistance.” Quantum resistance is inherently contingent and unstable, based upon the experience of multiple spaces and voice s. While linear reading gets abandoned in cyberspace, I propose a model by which resi stance can continue to function by casting it in the form of a temporary, subjective perf ormance. Like space, and like the subject, performance is contingent, but carries with it the possibility for meaningful resistance to the ideological values of el ectracy, even if the resistan ce takes a new and unexpected form. The thesis concludes by tying “quantum resistance” back into the ecological model of discourse, in order to provide a comprehensive model for considering the dynamic interactions of discourse.

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1 WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY The purpose of this thesis is to strike up a conversation. The achievement of discourse theory over the last quarter of a century has been to demonstrate that all knowledge and understanding proceeds out of c onversations, out of interactions between disparate positions, approaches, and ideas. What I propose here is one such conversation, linking a trio of strange participants within the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and Re sistance Theory. The combination of Ecocomposition and Resistance Theory is not terribly surprising; both follow out of disciplinary attempts at situating writers and their writing within soci al contexts and, in the case of Ecocomposition, extended material and semiotic frameworks. What is novel, and certainly deserves bearing out, is th e introduction into th e fold of a strange conversational perspective, that of New Media studies. Many New Media theorists (prominently Stuart Moulthrop, whom I will be discussing at greater length later on) have already been skeptical of the capacity of New Media technologies to allow for meaningful resistant behavior. What is even more unusual about this conversational match-up is the seeming disparity between th e green, earthy, locally-situated discourse(s) of Ecocomposition and the (stereotypically) sleek, digital, globally-situated discourse(s) of New Media theory. New Media and Ecocomposition share important affinities, despite their important differences, and our understanding of the potential of New Media, particularly towards the ends discussed in Resistance Theory, can be enhanced by

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2 bringing conversations about hypertextuality into contact with the discursive models and methods proposed by the Ecocomposition endeavor. “Ground”-ings: Ecology, Resistance, Media This project starts with the endeavor of Ecocomposition. What Ecocomposition starts me with is a set of ideas and prac tices for launching an i nquiry into New Media studies. This may seem a strange move; as a discipline, Ecocomposition is founded upon an ongoing investigation into the relationships between writers and natural, physical environments. It provides a move that supe rcedes social-constructi vist views of language and discourse by incorporating into the fold the concerns of the physical, material, “natural” world. Ecology, in this sense, is (still) a matter of investigating material environments and the interactions of the matte r there, but it also concerns the semiotic construction of that space. Dobrin and Weisser offer this definition: Ecocomposition is the study of the relations hips between environments (and by that we mean natural, constructed, and even imagined places) and discourse (speaking, writing, and thinking). Ecocomposition draw s primarily from disciplines that study discourse (chiefly composition, but also including literary studies, communications, cultural studies, linguistics, and philosophy) and merges the perspectives of them with work in the disciplines that ex amine environment (these include ecology, environmental studies, sociobiology, and ot her “hard” sciences). As a result, ecocomposition attempts to provide a more holistic, encompassing framework for studies of the relationship between discourse and environment. (6) This move is certainly sensible. Indeed, the wisdom of social-construc tivist views lies in its having situated individual writers within great er social contexts, to situate the role of writing in greater frameworks: of academic discourse, of alternative and home discourses, of the structure of the academy itsel f, of the very ideological structures that inform work in the academy. Hardly limited to the world of “natural environments,” Ecocomposition sets out to investigate the relationships between many discourses (not just environmental discourse) and “ all environments : classroom environments, political

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3 environments, electronic environments, ideological environments, historical environments, economic environments, a nd natural environments” (9, authors’ emphasis). Ecocomposition provides a model th at, at its base, serves as a heuristic for investigating “the diversity of writing and the patterns that emerge across different discursive systems,” and it is just that noti on of diversity across different systems that I hope to investigate further here (Dobrin, “Writing” 23). What Ecocomposition centrally foregrounds is the importance of “place” in the composition endeavor. Every space (and I swit ch terms deliberately here, needing to maintain a distinction between “space” and “place”) is multiply constructed by the force(s) of language and discourse and by the fo rce(s) of its material physical presence. Spatiality, a concept which I will be dealing with later on in more significant depth, is foundational to most of the conversation on th e practices of composition. Writing “takes place” in the class-“room,” in cyber-“sp ace,” in “writing environments” (Dobrin, “Writing” 11). Writing, in its early rhetor ical conception, was described in terms of topoi of topics, of the places where writing “happens.” Crucially, these places/ topoi are not static; to write from topoi is to always be reinscribing those topoi Volumes of theory devote themselves to co nversations about “reproductive” th eories of writing, writing that spawns more writing, that self-propogates. Some writing alters the course of the environment; it challenges and competes with those topoi eventually altering the shape and course of the environment. Some cha nges have been good, some have not, but the observation stands up. The strength of “place”ment in the ecological model of writing is that it offers some sort of concrete foundations : the interactivity of discourse can be seen, studied, measured. An ecological approach to writing understands, for example, the

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4 relationship between racialist discourses and real-life colo nial practices; and it also understands that this relationship has real “place”-ment in the world: In a sense, humans occupy two spaces: a bi osphere, consisting of the earth and its atmosphere, which supports our physical ex istence, and a semiosphere, consisting of discourse, which shapes our existence and allows us to make sense of it. We see these two central spheres of human life – the biosphere and the semiosphere – as mutually dependent upon one another. Where a healthy biosphere is one that supports a variety of symbiotic life forms, a healthy semiosphere is one that enables differences to coexist and to be articulated. (Dobrin and Weisser 13) One only need look as far as the Native Am erican reservations of the Midwest to understand that writing is intrinsically linked to a real political place, the semiosphere is inherently yoked to the biosphere. This is the “nature” of writing. Writing is, in this sense, “natural.” Writing is from a place. Writing is for a place. Writing is of a place. The capacity of Ecocomposition to sust ain a conversation about the dynamic, interlocked nature of discourses and compos ition practices is what, in my opinion, makes it indispensable as a tool for studying the em ergence of a new set of “systems” on the scene. New Media, defined very broadly, re presents the emergence not of a single, new “place,” but of an entirely new ecosystem: a set of multiple interlocking concerns involving the material presence of digital technologies in the physical environment and the ways in which meaning is constructed in those environments. As Dobrin says, “writing takes place.” The digital turn now m eans that there are more “places” than ever before, and the role of any ecologist of wr iting is to study and atte mpt to understand the forms and functions of these new places. “Ecocomposition,” as Dobrin says, “must grow,” and it must grow to include the c oncerns raised by the new places of digital discourse (“Writing” 14). For the purposes of my discussion, I will try as consistently as possible to use Greg Ulmer’s term “electracy” as the label for this emerging bio/semiotic “ecosystem,” using “literacy” as the counter-poi nt term for the appa ratus of print-based

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5 culture and institutions. Apparatus theory provides an interesting frame for the discussion; the term itself defines “an in teractive matrix of technology, institutional practices, and ideological subject formation” (Ulmer, Heuretics 17). “Place” is a natural and necessary facet of the apparatus, existi ng interactively with the technologies of writing. Apparatus theory is ecological, insofar as it is concerned w ith addressing the dynamic relationships between, on one hand, th e material “spaces” in which writing occurs (i.e., the inhabited “biosphere”) and the ideological institutions and subject formations which both sustain and are create d by those “spaces” (i.e., the “semiosphere” of ideological systems). The founding moment for Ecocomposition is in Marilyn Cooper’s “The Ecology of Writing,” where she proposes a model for writin g that seeks to take into account not just the relationship of the individua l writer to his/her social e nvironment, but also the entire range of interactions that exis t to structure, effect, and to be structured by that writer’s work. Her model for writing is the “web”: One can abstractly distinguish different sy stems that operate in writing, just as one can distinguish investment patterns fro m consumer spending patterns from hiring patterns in a nation’s economy. But in th e actual activity of writing—as in the economy—the systems are entirely interw oven in their effects and manner of operation. The systems reflect the various ways writers connect with one another through writing: through systems of id eas, of purposes, of interpersonal interactions, of cultural nor ms, of textual forms…. The metaphor suggested by the ecological model is that of a web, in whic h anything that affects one strand of the web vibrates throughout the whole. (7-9) Cooper’s Web1 is a dynamic system. It does not dogmatically insist on any one single dominating factor that influe nces the ways in which write rs produce writing; webs are constructed of various strands Even more important, though, is the process by which the individual writer comes into contact with the web, the process by which “vibration” occurs. To paraphrase Dobrin, vibration is the force of change; any writer (ideally, as

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6 Cooper is also quick to note) can affect a ny strand of the web, pr oducing discourse that alters cultural norms, or textual forms, or both, or more. The write r enters the web, and the web “shakes,” which hopefully produces some sort of change in the web’s construction, moving a strand or two. Dobrin continues: However, more often than not, as C ooper notes, writers do not create enough motion to vibrate the web. Often, the web doesn’t shake, but it always accepts the new writer into the web. Context seems passi ve at times, a backdrop to the writing. Thinking of context from an ecological poin t of view, we are never separate from context: it reverberates within us and we reverberate in it. There is no way to not affect the environment and be affected by it, though such effects are not always evident. Writers become a part of the web, just as organisms become part of an ecosystem. (“Writing” 21) The ecology of the “web” contains within it the potential for change. In this theory, change is an inherent possi bility in writing, although the metaphor expands easily to include an understandin g of hegemony as a counter-vibratio n. The web is large, loud, and messy. It is the field across which write rs, discourses, and ideals act, transact, and counter-act. Ecocomposition provides a foundati on precisely because of this sense of dynamism rooted in the handy image of the “web”—an image both rich in discursive theory and “grounded” in the very stuff of our human biosphere. The turn to the digital, though, casts so me substantial doubt on the continuing applicability of this model. While Ec ocomposition does provide an inclusive model indeed for thinking about the various operati ons of discourse, the “web” it proposes can seem like a rather empty idea, a mere ideal that does not reflect the material realities of other discourses. This is certainly a valid argument. When Coope r discusses “writing,” she is referring to a very specific kind of writing; her “ecology” is the ecology of literate, written, academic discourse. While Dobrin ha s argued at length for the benefits in pursuing Ecocomposition, he has also addressed the problems that are likely to come up

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7 when trying to address the efficacy of what could be called “alternative” or “hybrid” discourses. Applying Cooper’s Web to the i ssue of alternative and hybrid discourses in the academy, and with the contribution of Th omas Kent’s work in paralogic rhetoric, Dobrin concludes that most fo rms of hybrid discourse interact differently with the web: they don’t shake it so much as they add to it: [A]n academic discourse allows for – in fact, invites (“come sit by me,” said the spider to the fly)—other “parent” language s to enter the web; it will absorb those discourses into what is and can be calle d academic discourse. In doing so, those parent discourses become lost in th e web, no longer identifiable as having originated outside the web; they are mere ly a part of what the web has become. (“Problem” 47) Traditional academic discourse is capable of ge tting to the center of things, of producing shakes, ruptures, change. What this additi on to the Ecocomposition lexicon points out, however, is the manner in which alternative, mixed, hybrid, and all forms of non-official discourse stand to be neutra lized and appropriated by contac t with the apparatus of the academy. Dobrin illustrates, using Hlne Cixous’s ecriture feminine as a model of a truly alternative discourse: “It cannot, that is, exist as an alternative to academic discourse because it cannot be represented in relationship with or to academic discourse, yet at the same time, it serves as an exampl e of a truly alternativ e discourse because it resists and refuses such a rela tionship” (“Problem” 49). This is the ecology of academic discourse, of scholarly work in the university setting. As valorous as the project of hybrid discourse is, in its desi re to bring to the table vari ous unheard voices, its good is ultimately neutralized once it is mainstreamed into the University system, once it is given an official “stamp of approval.” This is the “nature” of written discourse(s) in the academy: official discourse can shake the structure somewhat, but other voices, while accepted, tend to be absorbed and co -opted by the “web” as a whole.

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8 Where does this put the matter of electra cy, and the range of hypertextual and multimedia forms that we call New Media? Viewed from this angle, “hypertext”2 seems to function most often as a hybrid discourse Most forms of online writing, whether a MOO conversation or an HTML page, are based in the grammatical and semantic rules of written language. From this angle, hypertex tuality could be viewed as a mere alteration to the existing rules, or, as Jerome McGann and others suggest, a reaffirmation of the hypertextual quality of print itself.3 The mixing-in of images and icons, the novel methods for distributing textual “lexias,” and the frantic, collabor ative pace of MOO conversations still suggest a pl ace for “electra”-tex tuality that exists somewhere outside of the linear, print based, argumentative, and overwhelmingly verbal character of academic discourse. If, then, we seek to s ituate hypertext within the discursive model provided by Ecocomposition, then we can see ho w the fundamental alterity of this new writing poses some problems for the project of resistance. As an alternative discourse, the incorporation of hypertext into the web is not likely to cause much of a shake; the hegemony of the academic discourse “environmen t” works here as a neutralizing force. To situate the rhetoric of hypertext, to give it some sort of “place” in our conversations about academic discourse, I’ll be providing a more in -depth look at the features of New Media using the methodological outline provided so far, which means a dual emphasis on not only the semiotic and ideological (“semiosphe ric”) conditions of these media, but also a look towards the ma terial (“biospheric”) conditions with which these other considerations must interact. I’ll start with a look toward s the “spatiality” of web discourse, a consideration is usually re legated to the domain of simple semantic rhetoric.. Having considered the spatial “environment” of electrate discourse, I will

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9 move towards a consideration of the “organisms” in play, by which I mean a consideration of subjectivity, and its (re)development in re lation with the emerging New Media apparatus. By dealing with these various facets of the “ecology” of electrate discourse, I will develop a fuller ecological m odel, one that seems to both fracture and grow out of the established, literacy-based models, in the hopes of proposing a means to engage the concerns of all th ese varying discourses (to see the “patterns that emerge across [the] different di scursive systems,” as Dobrin ha s put it). Finally, my discussion will return to the question of resistance, and whether a full-fledged re sistant will come to inhabit the new spaces of electracy. Problems in (Cyber)Space As Ecocomposition helps us see, space is a fundamental element in the composition equation. As important as race, class, and cu lture, the position of th e writer in a specific place has meaningful consequences for the ways in which we consider the production and interpretation of discourse. The spaces of literacy, organized by Marilyn Cooper’s web metaphor, serve as much more than mere contextual backdrop: the spaces of discourse co-exist dynamically with the systems that produce, distribute, maintain, and interpret that discourse. The issue before us now is a matter of redefining and rethinking our notions of space in a hypertextual age. I have maintained so far that “writing takes place.” This is true; but how will the adve nt of a new writing apparatus change the shapes of those spaces? Will the changes in th ose spaces effectively nullify the project of resistant rhetoric? Arlene Plevin argues for the importance of place to the project of resistance; she quotes Freire, saying that the purpose of re sistance is “reflection and action upon the world in order to transf orm it” (Freire 33). Place is the sine qua non of resistance, but without a sense of where the category of “place” exists among the

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10 seemingly-disembodied networks of electrate wr iting, such a project is doomed. To help solve these problems, I point my discussion to wards a consideration of the ways in which scholars and practitioners of hypertextual rhet oric have been (re)c onceiving the idea of spaces and places, both onand off-line. From Jay David Bolter’s breakthro ugh work on hypertextual theory Writing Space (1991) to the present, much of the critical conv ersation in New Media studies has been directed towards considering the new spatiali ties of electrate discour se. The space of the web site, with its combination and distribu tion of textual and visual elements; the conversational, text-based virtual spaces of the MOO; the nodal spaces of networks; even considerations of the flat space of the com puter screen: all are important to our stilldeveloping sense of electrate “space.” What is a great deal more boggy, however, is the question of “place.” Couched in spatiality though it may be the work of Dobrin and others in the Ecocomposition field tend to ar range their discussions not around the rather blank, conceptual domain of “space,” but rather on the more vibrant and robust concept of “place.” Nicholas Burbules is careful to distinguish the two ideas; “place” is a “socially or subjectively meaningful space” ( 78). This definition combines both the “navigational” (it exists at a specific lo cation) and the “semantic” (meaningful, however subjectively). Burbules’s distinction, it s hould be noted, resonates nicely with Dobrin’s “spheric” concept of Ecocomposition: that th e world is composed of both material “biosphere” and discursive “semiosphere.” Ecocomposition bridges this definitional gap by an understanding of the dynamics of space, dynamics rooted in the scientific observations and investigations of ecology. The organisms in any given space shape and define that space to their own purposes; “space” becomes “place” by the operations of

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11 writing itself (Dobrin and Weisser 1-13). Se miospherically, the issue of alternative discourses raises questions about the ecological role of electronic discourse; biospherically, we know that computers, telephones, and othe r technologies are composed of radically different material stuff than the human/embodied/biological subjects of academic discourse. The difference in the material composition of our biosphere resonates necessarily with the construction of the semiosphere. So what happens to place now? The very subjectivity which necessarily st ructures place may fall casualty to the transition to a new writing apparatus. In a very persuasive argument, Pamela Gilbert argues for the abandonment of spatial metaphor all together in discussions of New Media in “Meditations Upon Hypertext: A Rhetorethi cs for Cyborgs.” Identifying space as a “dominant metaphor,” she faults the bootstrapping of electrate discourse in spatial terms, terms reminiscent of “colonial narrative” (258). The problem she sees in Bolter’s notion of “topographic” writing is the way in which that very t opography is (over-)determined by the “global elite,” by the few of us in the world who have access to the technology and are beginning the process of defining the discur sive practices of its space(s), a process of mapping “virgin territory,” to use (in)appropria tely colonial phrasing. “The rhetoric of democracy and access often seems to be more about the future inclusion of Others in a preexisting space already mapped than about the inclusion of Others in a process of creation” (259, my emphasis). Space is polit ical—political insofar as a certain injection (pardon the metaphor) of discourse is require d to make the space into a meaningful “place.” Gilbert’s ultimate move is a move away from the category of space and place altogether, calling for a re-con ception of hypertext where the us er “must assume that s/he

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12 is not moving through a space or across a uni fied topography, but between and through different voices” (263). This point is well and passionate ly argued; but is the postliteracy move, the move into a world of di scourse not bound by the printed page or the institutionalized classroom, really and truly a move beyond space itself? The fear that the apparatus of electracy may recapitulate the phallogocentrism of the literate apparatus is well founded, but Gilbert’s move to disavow spa ce itself seems to trip itself up. Defining the hypertextual self as “both internalized fr om the ‘outside’ social world of voices and narratives… and synthesized ‘within’,” Gilb ert’s subject sounds distinctly like the variously-constructed subject ha iled by Ecocomposition (266). Even her rhetoric cannot ultimately undo the inherent place-ness of discourse; to “move between and through voices” still denotes motion through a kind of sp ace. This problem reveals a need for a redefinition of space, rather than simply disso lve the idea all together. The new machines of the new apparatus means a reconfiguration of ideology, but not the death of ideology all together (Ulmer, “Grammatology” p3). Space, Ecocomposition reminds us, remains part of our material and semiotic existenc e; so long as we are (em)bodied, we are in space. The death of space will no more mean the utter dissolution of space no more than the “death of the author” stopped people fr om writing. What any discursive move like this does is to shake that web, to hail a rec onfiguration of the way in which we consider space. The language of the Internet is already sa turated with the lan guage of placement, and Gilbert’s fears are certai nly well-founded with regard to the emerging dominance of this rhetoric. Internet us ers initiate contact through “homepages,” they “bookmark” spaces, “surf” through web “rings.” Burbules points to these phenomena as the ways in

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13 which users craft “subjectively meaningful” places out of the flat, uninteresting surfaces of the Internet (78). He calls for a rigorous emphasis on mapping and website architecture to create the foundations for a web-rhetoric grounded in place (79-80). While his intentions are admirable, they are significantly bootstrapped by notions of space that prefer depth to surf ace and place to space. Gilber t traces this tendency to its primal source: “the cartological musings of those who would turn hyperspace into a landscape are precisely efforts to create an Edenic ‘garden’ within which reading moves, away from linear narratives of loss toward an oceanic polymorphous perversity” (265). Is this the end of place? G ilbert’s argument adds this valuable contribution to the conversation; the creation of any sort of cyber-“place” and the very language we currently use to define, delimit, and structure those places al l lead, naturally, back to a notion of a source. Burbules ’s hypertextual subjects ar e not constructing their own spaces so much as they are transferring thei r language into a new environment, creating comfortable and familiar cyber-places through an injection of the same old discourse. Welcome to the new place; same as the old pl ace, except with some neat new tricks. The language of mapping leads, almost invariably, to the creation of “ unities and identities across space and time that are meaningful first of all because they are mapped that way ” (Harpold, “Dark” p17, author’s emphasis). The discourses of space that have shaped the dominant popular and scientific models of the “spaces” of the New Media often naively recapitulate the spatial regi mes of the oldest narra tives of person and place. Unity and identity, no matter where craf ted, lead back to Eden. I suggest an alteration to this strate gy of placement, a sort of pedagogical imperative that would move the language of placement away from phallogocentrism to a

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14 vocabulary that embraces the evolving material and semiotic conditions of cyberspace. Rather than attempting to build deep struct ures onto flat discursive spaces, we can “grow” a discourse that accepts the flat ness without disavowing the capacity of the individual to be discursively linked to that space. This is the doctrine of Ecocomposition, that all spaces are variously c onstructed by their material (bio logical, physical) properties but also by the presence of di scursive subjects, who (vario usly) construct those spaces (Dobrin and Weisser 13). A redevelopmen t of our spatial vocabulary based on a “sustained engagement” with the material pr operties of the medium can help us not to simply “place” ourselves in cyberspace, but to, “grow” new places in the gap between the fragmented experience of hypertext and our expe rience of placement in the real world. In cyberspace, “place” is the space of the isolated lexia, of th e place-where-I-happen-to-be. What needs to happen is an evolution of the discourse that brings about change in the phallogocentric discourse of placement by bringing it into contact with the emerging discourse of electracy. After all, a great de al of already-established New Media discourse would love to do without place; theorists like Brenda Laurel a nd Janet Murray have devoted much of their attention to th eorizing the move beyond the “body,” beyond the material constraints of place. The great pha ntasy of digitality is the move beyond the body into the realm of pure si gnification, into the unproblem atic and flawless “holodeck” of simulation. The rhetoric of the all-incl usive, seamless, hypertextual global community “openly acknowledges faults of distribution and access within the current state of the global network, but only as engineering problems—‘bugs’—which will one day be corrected by technical mastery and/or entrepre neurial initiative” (Harpold and Philip p2). Terry Harpold and Kavita Philip, in analyz ing the prevailing popular discourses of

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15 “cyber-cleanliness and cyber-squa lor” see shades in discursi ve practice of what Gilbert glimpses in theory: Within the imaginary of the clean room-as-technologically-perfectcordon sanitaire subjectivity is constructed by occluding a nd repelling barriers, and human agency is confined to a definite idealized spa ce of production, from which every trace of abject materiality—literall y, the unproductive leavings of organic life—is excluded. (p34) The move towards the (essentially Edenic) conception of cyberspace in the popular imaginary is also a move away from the me ssy, biotic “embodiedness” of the subject. My goal is to suggest a process by which our discursive practices can come into a more profitable kind of symbiosis with cyberspace not in an attempt to dominate or assign language to the space itself, but to allow for the growth of practices that acknowledge the material, embodied placement of the subject. The way to do this is to suggest an engagement with the various contingencies of electrate text, to consider an electrate ecology based on the contingent place-wher e-I-happen-to-be. Contingency is not dissolution, but rather an unfamiliar pattern of discursive growth. The critical piece of vocabulary which can help us sustain this move is that of the rhizome. Literally referring to a “creep ing, horizonatally-growi ng underground root,” the rhizome provides an (appropriately ecologica l) model for (re)defining the spatialized movement of hypertextual discourse. Stua rt Moulthrop, working from Deleuze and Guattari, defines the rhizome discursively as a “chaotically distribu ted network” in his essay “Rhizome and Resistance” (301). Far from making a move towards the placeless subject, rhizomatic culture “proceeds not from logos the law of substances, but rather from nomos the designation of places or occasions” (300). The rhizome is centerless and horizontal, more a “grass than a tree,” to use Deleuze and Gua ttari’s notion of the function of the brain. Rather than a ve rtical, tree-like structure (with Edenic,

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16 metanarrativized roots), the rhizome spreads tr opically, a sort of “textual promiscuity,” “creat[ing] linkages not sanc tioned by the culture and discipline—idiosyncratic ‘mystories’” (304). I like Mouthrop’s example here, which invokes Greg Ulmer’s neologistic notion of “mystory,” the pedagogical use of person al websites. What Ulmer’s mystories allow this model to do is to allow the individual co mposing subject to “designate” his/her own “pl aces or occasions,” not through the use of tortuous mapping or architecture, but rather by engagement w ith (and, in Ulmer’s view, “invention of”) the image-oriented and modular materiality of the Internet itself ( Heuretics xii). This is a perhaps-too-subtle designation, but, rather th an engineering online “places” (same as the old places), rhizomatic “mystories” create so mething different by engaging the material structure of electracy: spaces that are flat and contingent, but still “fleshed out” by the constrained subject. We should consider th e “mystory” technique as the first wave of electrate Ecocomposition, a way of getting neophyte electrate s ubjects a chance to consider their own “placement,” not through a critical analysis of other online places (an attempt to build understanding hierarchically through engagement with a “master” text), but through the discursive creation of limite d, bound, but still proliferating rhizomatic spaces. The rhizome works as an appropriate model for describing the “ecology” of electrate discourse, for produc ing a way in which we can engage the new-ness of New Media without abandoning our messy, biological selves at the door. This is a powerful dual move, both rhetorical and ethical in nature While I have suggested an alternative to some of her ideas about space, Pamela Gilber t has already anticipa ted this hybridization, calling for an “electronically literate” (I’ve been saying “electrate”) “rhetorethics” (263).

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17 A rhetorethical stance would, in my analysis, co me to an understanding of the rhetorical necessity of place, while maintaining a “consta nt discursive critique,” which is the very essence of postmodern ethics (Hardin 67). Greg Ulmer proposes the notion of the “relay” as a way of helping students “invent” the practices of electracy as they go, to communicate across the crucial gap between em bodied place and cyber-space. Seeing, as Gilbert and Harpold also do, a connection betw een “the destroyed and dispersed scenario of Internet design and the [c olonial] conditions of the sl ave trade,” Ulmer uses the resulting cultural discourse, cr eole, as a “relay,” not as a re-planting of the hierarchical ideology, but as a way of projec ting its rhetorical results ( Internet 157-8). If colonialism problematizes placement, Ulmer responds not by getting rid of “place,” but by re-creating it through a conscious engagement with previous history, an understanding of its faults and results, through an ethical engagement with place itself. Within the process of an ongoing reflexive critique, we see gaps form in the promises of electracy. Between the ecstatic fantasies of the lossof-body, and the pessimistic re treat-from-space, there is a fissure, an opening where we might create an alternative. To explore cyberspace rhetorethically is to maintain a constant awareness of the gaps across which one must operate, to neither elide the material differe nce of surface-ness nor to be seduced by the horizontal fluidity of the rhizome. Cyborg Eco-Subjects The move towards a new understanding of rh etorical space necessarily calls for a new sort of subject for composition theory. “S ubject formation is as much a part of an apparatus as are technology and institutions,” so it is certainly nece ssary to give some attention to the “rhetorethical” subject be ing hailed by this ecological approach to discourse (Ulmer, Internet 7). The gap in discourse and di scursive formations that seem

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18 to result from our ongoing transition between grammatological apparatuses have been anticipated by scholars in composition studies for quite some time. Lester Faigley’s Fragments of Rationality devotes a good deal of discus sion to the varying ideas of subjectivity advanced by theori sts, and their formative roots in the debate between JeanFrancois Lyotard and Jurgen Habermas. Thei r discussion set the stage for a battle royal of theory over the relationshi p of rhetoric to the indivi dual. While not advocating a return to Enlightenment rationality, Habe rmas favored a discursive model based on “communication… movement towards consensu s.” Lyotard countered by questioning Habermas’s desire for a unified, homogenous discourse (“a grand unified theory of human experience”) that would injure the homogeneity of language games blurring the “multiplicity of differences” (41). This makes sense—Habermas’s “universal consensus in a dialogue of argumentation” seems to endorse academic discourse, the “ideal” discourse of Cooper’s web that would enable all participants to be accepted into and effect their environment. L yotard places his faith in “t he inventor’s parology,” the process of preserving autonomous, heterogenous discourses; in othe r words, creating a range of hybrid, mixed, and alternative disc ourses with the goal of expanding the web rather than creating change through it. Both theories, crucially, are ways of resisting hegemony. Habermas wants to resist postm odernity’s nihilism, which he fears will recapitulate fascism, while Lyotard wants to resist the exclusion that results from the standardization of discourse (Faigley 41). In this gap, situated between rigor and multiplicity, between utopia and parologi a, sits the subject of cyber-ecology. Nearly all the wonderful a nd varied attempts at theorizing what you could call the “electrate subject” deal in the currency of hybridity. Perhaps no theory does this more so

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19 than Donna Haraway’s notion of the cybor g: the political/tec hnological/psychological being “resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and pe rversity [wherein] nature and culture are re-worked; th e one can no longer be the re source for appropriation by the other” (175). The cyborg, whom Gilbert identifi es as the “ideal hypert ext narratee,” is a living anti-hegemonic force, a creature who, in her “ir ony [and] perversity” does not merely embrace the “gaps” between the biologic al and the semiotic; she seeks to actively inhabit them. It is not my intention here to analyze Haraway’s wo rk, nor to provide a summary of the interesting “i nformatics of domination” that accompany the development of a cyber-culture. I will be using the figur e of the cyborg as a jumping off point, looking at it as an attempt to hybridize (and there by neutralize) the disparate positions cited above. My goal in doing this is to produce a re-reading of the cybor g in a way that makes sense for the Ecocomposition project, a read ing based not only around place-ment, but also around the centrally-impor tant gaps figured by the discourse of placement. The cyborg-figure incorporates many of the gestures I would make towards developing the model of what I might call an “eco-subject.” One of the reasons for making these clarifications is that I want this project to maintain a working focus on pedagogy. When we are theorizing about “sub ject positions,” we are talking equally about “student positions,” about the habitats which we see ou r students, well, inhabiting. After all, when we talk a bout “resistance” theory, we ar e talking about a domain of discourse whose object it is to discuss met hodologies for encouragi ng resistance, not in ourselves really, but in others. To understand subject position, then, is to come closer to understanding the full ramifications of the “hab itats” within the ecosystem as a whole; there’s no ecology without accounting so mehow for the organisms inside.

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20 The resistant subjects of Fr eirean discourse achieve resistance (in whatever form) by “discovering themselves as re ality’s re-creators” (51). Pamela Gilbert, writing in a different context, posits the not ion of a “wreader,” a composite reader-writer responsible for a fluid shuffle between heretofore segregat ed textual processes ( 262). Michael Joyce, writing in yet another different context, addr esses the electrate s ubject as a “corporate being… composite or composed” (“Then” 86). What all these perspectives have in common is a notion, a possibility embedded alrea dy in the late age of print but rising into view thanks to the perceptual filter of elect racy, of the subject as variously and multiply constructed. The electrate s ubject, scanned across these various conversations, seems engineered for the purpose of resisting l ogical taxonomy, in the Kantian sense of categorization. The cyborg subject is a consciously ecological subject, existing symbiotically in both the biospheric and semios pheric senses. “Symbiosis,” here, seems to be a less threatening way of describing th e aggressive and ironic transgressions of the cyborg subject. Biospherically, the cyborg originates from Clynes and Kline’s 1960 article, “Cyborgs and Space,” in which a rat wa s fused with a “clumsy device attached to its hindquarters” (Harpold and Philip p11). D onna Haraway hails this moment for its revolutionary potential, and looks to the growth of the biomed ical field as sure proof of the increasing symbiotic relationship bei ng struck between the organic and the cybernetic. While the technologizing of th e body may have questionable ramifications, it is in the complementary field of discourse th at the advent of the cyborg becomes perhaps more apparent. Seizing upon hypertext’s capacity to realize the anti-taxonomical aims of deconstruction (Jay Bolter has been among the many to claim this), both Gilbert and Joyce posit a new sort of subject; no longer relying on stable iden tities, but insisting

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21 rather ethically on “multiplicity” of multiple rhetorical topoi After all, when we point to the poststructural subject as being multiply and variously “composed,” who or what inhabits the active voice? Who or what does the “composing”? Unwilling (though, crucially, not unable) to commit the phallogocentr ic gaffe of returni ng to a central Eden, cyborg subjects construct themse lves (and are constructed) environmentally through a sustained symbiotic conversation with their placement. Without a central place, the cyborg carries out multiple conversations with multiple dispersed spaces, being constructed by those topoi even in the act of re-writing those topoi (Dobrin “Writing” 19). In short, whatever resistance we hope to encourage develops from a conversation with place; cyborg theory, in this sense, s eems to have proceeded out of an understanding of the experience of rhetorical multi-placement.4 To return to the last secti on of my discussion, we have to be careful not to literalize what I call the “multi-placement” of the subject The “places” of cyberspace, after all, are not truly places at all; they inhere only as abstract fields of data. There is a natural sort of terminological sliding that goes on, and I take that to be a natural consequence of using Ecocomposition as a resource. Still, th e multiple places of our discussion right now (the contested and nebulous online spaces of the Internet, MOOspace, television and video, etc.) do have a positive existence, insofar as they exist at the level of the text. The “textmass” (as Michael Joyce refers to it) im ports a dual set of possibilities for reading, which Joyce distinguishes as “slideshow” and “accommodating multiplicity” (“Then” 88). Once again, a familiar semantic gap insinuates itself, a sort of rhetorical diffrance The “slideshow,” while maintaining an awar eness of electracy’s spatial flatness, nonetheless connotes a linear process, of one image build ing on another to create a

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22 systematic narrative thread. “Accomodating multiplicity,” on the other hand, is the Lyotard to the Habermas-slideshow; the idea of the accommodation of difference is central to Lyotard’s desire to “wage war on to tality” (qtd. in Faigley 39). In a crucial move, though, Joyce yokes both read ing strategies together with one clarion call. The importance of this move, to reconceptualize reading and writing (o r is it “wreading”?) strategies, has profound effects on how we can think about approaching the cyborg ecosubject of this discourse. “T he call to post-hypertextual rhetor ic,” Joyce says, “is a call to find purpose in surface” (“Then” 88). Part of my project to this point has been to do just that, to use Ecocomposition as a way of in terrogating the surface-sp aces of electracy, and not just the “deep” places of biological existence (the no tion of “deep” borrowed largely here from Clifford Geertz – see Dobrin “Writing” 18). A crucial move that Joyce makes though, and one central to our understanding of not only electrate textuality itself, but of its im brication in the electrate cyborg-subject, is towards a balanced consideration of different ways of thinking (a bout) the “textmass.” After all, so much of this discussion has b een about pointing to us eful polarities, so it seems odd that a straight-forward sanctioning of one kind of reading would be contrary to the aims of producing a working cyber-eco-rh etoric. The notion of finding “purpose in surface” does not, and should not, do away with the idea of finding purpose in depth. Indeed, the postmodern “textmass” is about both association (parologia) and accumulation (an idea more in line with trad itional, “banking” models of education) (Joyce “Then” 92). The notion of the cybor g as a dis-placed and radically dispersed body/consciousness may simply not inhere. Harp old and Philip find in cyborg rhetoric’s insistence on the transgression of “occluding an d repelling barriers” a mere reversal of

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23 the super-clean fantasies of global informatic s. The desire of the cyborg to become a body of “irony [and] perversity” merely repr esents “cyber-squalor,” a messy spreadingout of the subject (p31-34). Crucially, we are positing a subject who inhabits both spaces, and, therefore, has to engage in both kinds of reading. Elsewhere, Joyce notes that the iterability of New Media5 represents a move “beyond a ttention span,” but not in the Attention-Deficit-Disorder sense heralded by most neo-conserva tive critics. In calling for an emphasis on “expression and constr uction,” Joyce is calling for a new sort of pedagogical focus that addresses the stude nt/subject by rejecting models of “banking” education, although his focus on Peter Elbow-l ike “expressivism” could problematize our attempts at theorizing resistance. Perhaps Greg Ulmer’s notion works better: remaining positioned in a more social arena, his pedagogy seeks to “move students from [being] consumers to practitioners of image discourse” ( Internet 6). In either of these approaches, the difference boils down to rhetor ic; both still posit stra tegies for thinking around the gap between placed subject and increasingly-displaced writing. As we gear up to take on the problematic notion of resistance, it helps to have set up this discussion of how we go about thinki ng of the hypertextual subject. The cyborg is a useful start, at least in sofar as it suggests a kind of pl easure involved in exploring previously abjected realms, such as human/ma chine interface and thinking in the kind of cross-gendered, cross-racialized terms av ailable through New Media. Despite its attempts at thinking in terms of collapse, of transgressions and heterogeneity, cyborg theory does seem prone to a totalizing power of its own, pr oviding a narrative of pure, undiluted anti-hegemonic force, which seems to reinstate and repolarize the very boundaries it speaks against. However, I am keen to point out that this is not a project in

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24 cyborg or posthuman theory; the compromise s uggested in my theoretic al reading here is designed to point to the development of a more fully ecological theory regarding the discourses of electracy. Primarily, I maintain the preservation of the “asignifying gap” that seems to continuously insinuate itself at the heart of electroni c composition, in order that we preserve the possibi lity of movement around it. Our discourse must “grow,” rhizomatically if you will, around the gap: not to colonize it or theorize it out of existence, but rather to define it in greater detail. In doing so, we can come to a better grasp of the nomos of electracy, the one who is “a lways between two points, but [for whom] the in-between has taken on all the c onsistency and enjoys both an autonomy and direction all its own” (Del euze and Guattari 383). The transactions (we must parse “transact ion”—it is always a “trans” movement, a movement “across”) that occur ove r this gap are the transactions we want to be watching, the patterns we see emerging there will define the ecology of electracy. What Killingsworth and Krajicek say about the ethos of environmental literature applies still to the ethos of the nomad: to think ecologically is to is to go “from solitude to society and back again” (54). I see Michae l Joyce picking up this strain of thought: “in this suffusive gap both mind and age, both body and electron, feed each other” ( Othermindedness 70). Like most ecological systems, our study he re can focus on a subject who is neither separate from physical environment, nor fr om discursive environment(s); the nomadic subject lives in symbiosis with both. What is the result? The goal now is to point the way towards the kind of dual, complementary re ading and writing strategies that affirm the sense I have of cyborg eco-subjects. They can find in the fragmented surfaces spaces of electronic text a space fo r reflection back onto the “deep ” world that surrounds them.

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25 They can draw on both the material appara tus of literacy and the somewhat more immaterial domain of hypertext, remaining awar e of the discursive “g aps” that structure the interface between them. Cyberspaces are in flux and contingent, but the multiple-yetliterate cyborg-subject understands that th ey (both themselves and their places) are always-already contingent The coincidence of placement is precisely a co-incidence WITH place(ment). Performing Resistance in n -Dimensional Space To define resistance in the context of el ectracy is to always be embarking on an ecological process. For me, a large part of that process has to be found in reconciling the material spaces of these a pparatuses with the writing pr actices and subjects they construct. What’s left is to come to some ad equate sense of “resistance” itself. As a term marked by political and institutional valences, resistance seems to belong to the classroom, the sine qua non space of the literate apparatus. In Rhetoric and Composition studies, at least, resistance theory is a matter of interroga ting the various discourses of exclusion and oppression coded into the prac tices of literacy—resistance is done from within. Stuart Moulthrop, though, famously decrees that practicing resistance within hypertext is a matter of futilit y. To couch his conclusions in my own terms, practicing resistance would be a matter of closing off the fluid, extended, contingent nature of hypertextual space. After all, th e purpose of resistance in the traditional sense is to resist the kinds of (colonial, racist sexist, etc.) writte n discourses that promote what you could call closure: closing people off from access to wealth and opportunity. Since hypertext exists as a structure of openne ss, resistance becomes impossible: “in this medium, there is no way to resist multiplicity by imposing a univocal and definitive discourse. Hypertext frustrates this resistance because, paradoxically, it offers no resistance to the intrusion”

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26 (Moulthrop and Kaplan 235, authors’ emphasis). This is the inverse of the complaint that Lyotard levels at Habermas—to create a uni fied, rational discourse would have meant invariably a kind of exclusion, against the “heterogeneity of language games” (qtd. in Faigley 41). Why? Because that’s the nature of the apparatus; that’s literacy. This is how resistance theory comes so often under attack—there’s the sense that teaching resistance is simply to be teaching another kind of discourse of mastery; a dogma of nonobedience is still a dogma. Since the material nature of hypertext as seen by Moulthrop is such that it offers no form of definitive “closure,” finding a target for resistance in the traditional sense becomes difficult. What, then, are we hoping to resist? First and foremost, it would still be ideal to use the tools of New Media to think our way back across the ga p that divides literacy and electracy, logos and nomos argument and association. Ni cholas Burbules, despite his aforementioned attempt at injecting “place” in to cyberspace, still desires to use those spaces to encourage a kind of “critical hype rreading” that moves towards “recognizing the interpretive framework of ideology inherent in a literary work” (83). Moulthrop and Kaplan conclude that “our re sistance may come to focus not on prior texts or creative precursors but rather on the literary institutio ns we have inherited… The subject of our resistance may be print culture itself” (236) I’m not sure how th ey plan on divorcing institutions from their textual instantiations, but that’s a qu ibble for another time; either way, the flow of resistant movement seems oddly linear: from elec tracy to literacy. Resistance, in this sense, could also be direct ed against attempts by ot hers to infiltrate the “openness” of cyberspace in the name of clos ure. This is certainly a knotty suggestion, closing off those who would champion closur e, but the pedagogical efficacy of such a

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27 move could open up a sustained conversation on the very idea of closure itself. This move could furnish a space to consider, fo r example, the breakdown of “the classical liberal firewall of word and deed” that occurs in a case like that reported in Dibbel’s “A Rape in Cyberspace” (Cooper “Postmodern” 154). Perhaps a more contemporary possibility would be a discussion of the file sh aring debate in relati on to copyright law. Either way, literacy is bringing its share of baggage into th e digital world, which could keep media students and theorists busy for quite some time. Still, I have not answered the ques tion. Despite suggesting ways of doing resistance in cyberspace, what has remained largely unaddressed thus far is the concept of resistance itself. Resistance, as it is, marks a particular form of textual closure, a way of saying: “I see the ideology you’re trying to foist on me, I know what you’re doing, and I am hereby resisting it.” Theorist John Sch ilb notes: “true literacy means examining one’s society, not simply manipulating surface features of text” (187). If resistance-as-literacy has no real need for surface features, th en what good are the surface spaces of New Media? Perhaps this calls for a revision of a previous formula. Resistance, as I’ve had it, is not so much about a linear movement from electracy to literacy; instead, resistance seems to be like bouncing a ball off a wall. Originating with literacy-minded goals towards a literacy-minded end, using New Media as only a convenient “bouncing-off” point. I could achieve the same overall effect by tossing a ball in the air to myself. It’s the new game; same as the old game. What I would theorize is a different sort of resistance all together; a new kind of game that interrogates the ideology of electracy. Joe Hardin establishes a foundation, worki ng with Eric Miraglia’s definition of resistance: “This concept of resistance is usually taken to signi fy behaviors that contest

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28 the acculturative forces of the academy and that ‘interrogate dominant ideologies with self-aware logic and creativity’” (37). “Self-aware logic and creativity” are the bread and butter of our new media, and I will certainly not be so hamf istedly Utopian as to argue that the coming apparatus will not be without it s share of pernicious ideologies. The very fact that electracy is bound up in what M oulthrop calls “the military-entertainmentinformational culture” should be enough to ra ise some suspicion. However, it does no better to go after all popular entertainment than it does to go after the entire academy; perhaps entertainment’s increasing reliance on ad vertising represents an ideological move ripe for critique, representing as it does the apotheosis of the multinational corporation. (An interesting equation: the multinational Corp oration is to electracy what the secular State is to literacy, or what the Church is to orality.) Perhaps Moulthrop and Kaplan’s move to disavow resistance wa s a tad narrow-minded; the subj ect of our resistance is not the open and varied material construction of electracy itself, but rather the range of associative ideologies that would seek to e xploit it, sap its potential, and, in a sense, “close” off the range of options. Responding to the oft-debated c ondition of “secondary orality” commenced by electronic media, Greg Ulmer’s move is to transform students “from consumers to practitioners of image discourse” ( Internet 6). His move is to “resist” what we increasingly perceive to be the artificial “closures” of media practices. This strategy can at least serve as a gene rative model for teacher /practitioners of New Media writing: resistance in our context can function not as a critical stab at literacy by way of New Media, but rather an openended conversation that proceeds through argument back towards the ideological condi tions of electracy (an inversion of the

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29 previous model). In either formulation, resist ance stays true to a cen tral idea: it’s a way of circling the “gap” betw een literacy and electracy. Marilyn Cooper, writing in a different c ontext, sees the pote ntial of networked writing conversations for resisting the traditio nally univocal structure of the classroom, and, in doing so, she furnishes me with a cr ucial piece of vocabulary that I would like to use to solidify my position on the operations of resistance theory in electracy. Looking at the tradition of networked collaborative convers ations (the subject of much of Lester Faigley’s discussion in Fragments of Rationality ), Cooper posits that the teacher going through this kind of interaction is “is not giving or sharing po wer with students, but rather is performing an action that sets up a range of possibilities for acti ons” (“Postmodern” 146, my emphasis). The more I consider bringi ng the literary practi ce of resistance into contact with the material cons truction of hypertext, the more I find value in what Cooper calls performance. The value of a performan ce lies in its action; it is fixed in space but fluctuates with time. (Consider the brief life spans of many websites; the im-material ecology of the media is that they can be razed and rebuilt without noticeable impact— their comings and goings do not shake the web.) Writing in this manner allows individual subjects (teachers and students) to “take up or refuse” a range of responses; like proliferating spaces, writing-as-performance seems to reproduce by spore: producing yet more writing. I will make more of th is claim by looking at the example Stuart Moulthrop uses to build his case against resistan ce, recasting it in terms of what I call the performative resistant pote ntial of electrate writing. What Moulthrop’s student Karl Crary does in his hypertext critique is to mount a critical taxonomy: he tries to define the bounds of hypertext in an effort to resist the

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30 power of its expansiveness. In a sense, Crary stages a semantic raid: critiquing hypertextuality from inside what he perceives to be a stable rhetor ical “place,” but which is, in my vocabulary, a contingent place-wher e-he-happens-to-be (the eco-based image I used previously as a way of describing the ga p-crossing behavior of writers). In doing so, he falls prey to a “fatal recursion: his taxonomy include s itself within one if its own categories” (“Rhizome” 314). Crary-as-mode rnist-critic performs the discursive equivalent of falling into a black hole; he starts by assuming the ethos (and, indeed, the topos) of the critic, by assuming a kind of placement which falls out from under him in the very act of speaking. Hypertext’s lack of closure represents the event horizon from which Crary’s sure-footed criticism will not escape, despite his straightforward confidence in the place-he-happens-to-be. Mo ulthrop states that Cr ary’s move could be just another “paralogical move”—since no screen ed space is deeper than any other, they ought to maintain the same status. Instead, Mou lthrop sees this event as a “metalepsis, or jump outside the game, which allows us to perceive the constrai nts our writing systems impose on us” (“Rhizome” 315). This is the vantage point from which I would reformulate my idea of resistance. The rhet orical constructs of Ecocomposition return here to remind us to pay attention to the “place” where Crary is writing; given the contingent place-ment of hypertextual writing, it seems to me that Crary is very much doing a kind of resistance, even if his attempt at doing so falls short to a logical pitfall. Resistance takes on value in the form of “metalepsis, the jump outside the game” (“Rhizome” 315). When Crary performs his jump, he demonstrates the limits of hypertext as a writing system; he tests the limits of the ideology of expansiveness that is endemic to New Media theory.

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31 It is a moment of much potential, but M oulthrop and Kaplan dismiss it, seeming to believe that the poor, essaybound Crary could not have known what he was doing. They may be right, but let’s assume that he did: the gesture outside the game becomes a way of pointing to the construction of the apparatu s itself, both for himself and for the person reading his gesture. Let’s assume that he, or another student like hi m, could make such a leaping gesture, but while maintaining a certa in awareness of the contingency of their own move. We could readjust ourselves to see all hypertextu al writing as “metaleptic,” always a matter of jumping around, of m oving rhizomatically across/through/around spaces. This is not necessarily a smooth motion, but a sudden jumping off and a sometimes traumatic crashing down. Crary’s example is limiting here: his “metalepsis” is a leap “outside” the game than it is a ju mping-in-place. He jumps up enough for us to see the contingent placement that underlies his discourse (the delicate topos underlying and undermining his determined ethos ), and lands back in the same supposedly-firm place. Still, I propose a mode l for thinking about hyper-resistance that takes into account first the jumping-across of multiple contingent places, and brings that model into contact with the notion of the apparatus. Resistan ce is a matter of always going back; resistance is always recursive because it, as a discip line, seeks to investig ate place as the placealready-constructed, c onstructed by the previ ous apparatus. We could re-read Freire here—his move towards critical thinking was a move against the pos ition of the subject of oral discourse, a subject dominated by the monolithic state. Freire’s workers brought literacy as a way of re-evaluati ng locality, of placement. It is not readily a pparent in the logocentric spaces of the codex, but resistan ce in this sense still implies a “jumping across” ideological boundaries. In our electronic context, performance is the formula

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32 which allows a “deeper” understanding of one’s “environment” precisely because performance is a matter of understanding surf ace; performance may be to electracy what sustained critique is to literac y. This approach does not nece ssarily translate into direct political action, which becomes here another possibility that the individual may take up or refuse. It does, however, se t up a possibility for new ways of thinking, a possibility for producing that precious Frei rean commodity: “critical consciousness,” an alive, performed awareness of one’s situation with in hegemonic structures (Villaneuva 635). Moulthrop’s insistence that “hypertext leads back into the logocentric matrix” seem to be working under the assumption that hypert ext itself is following a linear trajectory (“Rhizome” 312). The “linearity and multilinearity” that create variable possibilities for reading and interpretation are ideologi cally the same. “Lines are lines, logos and not nomos even when they are embedded in a hypertextual matrix” (310). Linearity itself, remember, is the quality that electrate cyborgs resist, insofar as linea rity is the strict ideological norm of print culture. I retort by saying that practicing electracy is to be performing it, to create it as you go. The idea of an inevitable falling-back-into the age of print is simply the negative side-effect of bootstrapping our unde rstanding of hypertext.6 (Perhaps the problem is that we move too fa st by considering hypertext as simply another form of written text, instead of considering, as Greg Ulmer does, the insistent importance of imaging in this new medium.) We cannot go around assuming that hypertext will inevitably do anything by itself—wouldn’t that be ju st another way of (trying to) throw a fence up around it, a way of trying to enforce an artificial constraint on its placement? The contingent spaces of electracy are not so easily nailed down; indeed, Moulthrop’s entire argument points in this direction, which makes it even stranger to me that he

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33 should try to make such a direct pessimis tic gesture towards the end. Thinking about written poetic texts while seeming to incor porate the “perceptual filter” of post-World Wide Web textuality, Jerome McGann offers some perspectives on how to approach the structures of variability and contingency in (hyper)text without simply giving a relativist, postmodern shrug at it all. As we engage, critique, and resist texts: [Our] objects themselves shapeshift conti nually and the points move, drift, shiver, and even dissolve away. Those transfer s occur because ‘the text’ is always a negotiated text…. Aesthetic space is organi zed like quantum space… the identity of the elements making up the space are perceived to shift and change. (181-3) The alternative to a starkly linear conception of text is this move, a move towards a “quantum space,” a space of contingency. Th e alternative to a ri gorous study of stable textual bodies is to recognize th eir changing-ness, and to make the jump along with them. My proposal, then, is a resistance based on metalepsis, a resistance of contingency structured in unstable, “n-dimensi onal” space: a quantum resistance. Quantum resistance is a matter of staging explorations into Other spaces, a matter of “enjoying” (there’s that interesting-yet-problematic c yborg term) the fluidity of boundaries in order to pass freely among them. Quantum resistance is a performative act, an exploration into other spaces, a proce ss of accumulating awareness of the placewhere-I-happen-to-be, not because it has partic ular meaning in-itself, but because it exists as part of a network. To e ngage in resistance is to be thinking about cyber-ecology. Characterizing the act itself as a series of self-aware metaleptic leaps in n-dimensional space, resistance is resistance only insofar as it is about a leaping over into different spaces and discourses. Gilbert enacts a resistance by using her space to resist definitions of “space;” hers is a series of jumps across the borders of the apparatus. Ulmer’s “Grammatology Hypermedia” enacts a resistan ce by spreading across multiple lexias a

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34 variety of ideas about space itself; his is a series of jumps through multiple speakers and perspectives. Quantum resistance is not about critiquing, but rather performing the language of New Media. If I gain nothing else by performance, then I have used hypermedia as a way of dissolving the hierarch ical structures that tend to bind my placement in the world. Performance runs that risk, of being only about “my” place, and therefore becoming a recursion into solipsism ; but it also connotes the (never guaranteed, because it is never authorized) possibility of re-creating and re-evaluating multiple topoi Making these “quantum” leap s through the “textmass” foments a dual sense of development: both association and accumulation, to return to Joyce’s phrase, which itself presents the possibility for a kind of critical consciousness (“Then” 92). This development transforms the process of resistance from passive (the idea of “learning” to resist), and makes it, much more problematically, a process of active engagement. That active process may beco me a mere jumping up-and-down exercise; still, in our moment, there may be an elemen t of victory in itself of getting students to start thinking in terms beyond their “home” ap paratus, of getting them to consider the “gap” between ideologies and forms of writing.7 The crucial idea of “empowerment” in resistant discourse will fracture and disperse as it attempts to cross the gap into hypertext. It will only be reassembled by traversing th e gap back again. Resistance becomes the quantum of energy released by jumping between energy levels (“Energy”). Resistanceas-performance entails first, a new kind of subject, one emerging into being but threatened by its precarious placement at th e gap between the structured space of the school-as-institution and the open-but-solipsisti c space of entertainment (the institutional formation of electracy).

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35 Moreover, resistance requi res an aware act of deformation ; as McGann points out, “a true critical representation does not accura tely (so to speak) mirror its object, it consciously (so to speak) deforms its object” ( 173). Resistance-as-performance occurs as a socially-situated process (no need to return to a completely process-dominated model of composition) of negotiation : “every document, every moment in every document, reveals an indeterminate set of interfaces that open into alternative spaces and temporal relations” (McGann 181). Negotiation is a ma tter of jumping thr ough socially-situated spaces and not just performing critical acts of reading-and-writing, but also finding spaces to listen. The potential re sults of this strategy are nebulous, and rightly so, but this quantum model provides a sound, ecological pr ospective that will allow us to re-think electronic composition in ways that interrogate its ideologi es without losing ourselves (and our students) in its daunting spaces of postmode rn contingency. Niche@Ideology.Writing.Web I conclude my discussion with a return to the beginning, a return to the ecological “web” that helped spawn (or is it spore?) this discussion on places, subjects, and the weird jumping-around that I propose should go on there. To return to Ecocomposition is to propose an expansion to the way that spac es and places get discussed and analyzed. I have maintained throughout that placement is still crucial to the e ndeavor of New Media studies, although I have proposed a sort of dynami c growth in what was heretofore a solid notion, so that the idea of place may include a consideration of the materiality of electronic and networked writing environments. Despite their seeming incommensurability, Ecocomposition provides a vocabulary for aligning these spaces and for developing discursive models that acc ount for a writer’s place-ment within them.

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36 A notion I have found interesting throughout my research is the difference between what Moulthrop, following Deleuze and Guattari calls “smooth” and “striated” spaces. Striaited spaces are the doma in of “routine, specification, sequence, and causality,” the world of the coordinate grid, and of geomet ry; McLuhan and Ong associate these spaces with conceptual breaks marked by the age of print. Smooth spaces subordinate points to trajectory. They are spaces for “ad hoc poli tical movements,” constituted by “parataxis and bricolage” of images in broadcasting. Smooth space is “mediated by discontinuities… an occasion; Deleuze and Guattari call it a ‘becoming’” (“Rhizome” 303). Despite their explicit differences, though, Deleuze and Guattari insist that these two kinds of spaces exist not in isolation but always in “mixture” (474). Ulmer has nearly the same stance: “it is important to remember, at the same time, that all three dimensions of discourse [orality, literacy, a nd electracy] exist together interactively” (“Grammatology” p4). Cooper al so agrees: “there is no r eason not to oscillate between the various media that operate to structure our transitional society” (“Postmodern” 142). Mixture, hybridity, symbiosis: these are co ntingent properties that point towards the potential efficacy of Ecocomposition for cons truct composite theories and pedagogies; Ecocomposition is the “method that effectivel y constructs” the multip licity of discourse (Deleuze and Guattari 22). The emerging apparatus of new writing pract ices and pedagogies is “regular and reliable even in its vastness and random ness” (Moulthrop, “Rhizome” 310). The only thing we know is that knowledge is always shifting, but that can be the beginning of an effort that I’ve only sketched in this cont ext, attempting to pin down and describe the phenomena that are occurring in these gaps where our current apparatus cannot (and

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37 shouldn’t) take us, because they haven’t been invented yet. Ulmer: “Electracy does not exist as such, but names an apparatus that we are inventing ‘as we speak’” (7). Some New Media theorists take the path of ecstatic optimism about the Utopian dissolution of hierarchy. Some, like Moulthrop, express a he althy skepticism about these claims, saying that hypertext will not produce “liberated autonomous zones” or “pirate utopias” (“Rhizome” 317). This is partially right. Hype rtext can produce such zones, but the very idea of contingent space reminds us that zone s exist only in contact with other zones. Hypertext, and all the emerging writing pr actices of digital culture, may function rhizomatically, like grass, and written discour se may function logocentrically, like a tree. Ecology, however, accounts for all the forma tions within its habitats, including the sizeable and persistent gaps across which our differences can synapse. When we think in terms of gaps, we w ould want to address and offer critical investigations of New Media rh etorics and the often-idealistic “gaps” they create between theory and classroom practice. Another crit ical gap is the materiality of New Media itself, and the extent to which our experien ce of its “new”-ness is mediated by hegemonic notions of progress and change. Part of thinki ng ecologically is to be thinking in terms of growth, change, and evolution; there’s a power ful kind of revisionist history that we can be encouraging at our unique moment of development by offering critical reckoning of how technological rhetoric matches up to th e realities of practice. Another goal necessitated by the notio n of this gap is the development of New Media pedagogies that speak to the constructive processes that occur due to the advent of new writing technologies. Some theory has already heralded the death of hierarchy and the dissolution of racial and gende r norms as we move increas ingly towards a disembodied

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38 conversational space; the contribution is vali d, but we also see new kinds of hegemonies emerging onto the scene, emerging out of the old institutional spaces and colonizing the new ones. While we discuss pedagogy, we n eed to continue disc ussing resistance, how to orient our classroom practices towards a more incisive conversation about the new hegemonies being created by these new medi a. What does quantum resistance pedagogy look like? The continuing challenge for com position theorists and pr actitioners alike will be to consider the specific phenomenon that occur in the movements we and our students make within, among, and around the coexis tent spaces of discourse, and the conversational processes of constructing and be ing-constructed that will continue to go on there. Notes 1. Clarification: Cooper’s “Web” is a label for this discursive model, and is not intended as a reference to the World Wide “Web.” 2. Throughout the text, I will use “hypertext” to refer to the entire range of “electrate,” digitally-bas ed writing systems, including hypertext and other computer-based communication regi mes: HTML, MOOs and MUDs, chat interfaces, etc. 3. McGann advances this argument throughout Radiant Textuality see specifically pp. 167-72, where he notes the “fundamental misconception” that “a digital field is prima facie more complex and powerf ul than a bibliographic one.” Terry Harpold’s “Hypertext” has also addresse d the issue, emphasizing limitations of descriptions of print commonly promoted by enthusiasts of hypertext in support of digital writing's "rev olutionary" innovations. 4. D. Diane Davis provides an interesting fo rmula for this experience in her article “(Non)Fiction(’s) Addiction(s).” Drawi ng on Derrida’s notion of language as an “excentric drug,” she approaches the ne w subject as a “narcological” Being, “under-the-influence-of-language” (273) The influence of language-technology causes “Being [to go] rhizomatic in th e cyburbs” (279). As a drug, electracy causes a certain kind of perceptual “b reakdown” in the “fluidfying border” between flat screens and the spaces of “r eal-life homes and offices” (276). I am hesistant to expand further on her drugbased tropology, but its combination of bioand semio-spheric terminology make s a useful addition to my discussion.

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39 5. Much of Lev Manovich’s discussion in The Language of New Media works towards defining the structures of hy permedia in terms of the modular construction of film. Two of his five “principles of New Me dia” are “modularity” and “variability,” emphasizing the media’ s emphases on discrete objects which can often be repositioned and replay ed at will (pages 30-2, 36-45). 6. From the materialist angle, perhaps the problem is that we move too fast in considering hypertext as only another form of written text, instead of taking into account, as Greg Ulmer proposes we do, the fundamental role of imaging in this new medium. Jerome McGann, Johanna Dr ucker, and other theorists of the spatiality and multilinearity of printed artifacts would also, I suspect, wish for a more forceful emphasis of the visual qualities of the printed mark, page, and codex. 7. This sets up an interesting multivariate sense of “home” discourses. I primarily mean “home” apparatus to refer to the hegemonic force of literacy. Multiple interesting gaps open up, not only when we consider the trans ition to hypertextual forms of writing, but also the “hypertextual ” powers of print itself, and how both factors are exposed to co-optation by the hegemonic force(s) of the academy structure.

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40 LIST OF REFERENCES Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertex t, and the History of Writing Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991. Burbules, Nicholas C. “The Web as a Rhetorical Place,” in Snyder (ed.), Silicon Literacies pp. 75-84. Cooper, Marilyn. “The Ecology of Writing” in Writing as Social Action Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1989. Pp. 1-13. -----. “Postmodern Possibilities in Electronic Conversations” in Gail Hawisher & Cynthia Selfe (eds.), Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English Press, 1999. Pp. 140-60. Davis, D. Diane. “(Non)Fiction(’s) A ddiction(s)” in Cynthia Haynes & Jan Rune Holmevik (eds.), High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998. Pp. 267-85. Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Un iversity of Minnesota Press, 1987. Dobrin, Sidney I. “A Problem with Wr iting (about) ‘Alternative’ Discourse” in Christopher Schroeder, Helen F ox, & Patricia Bizzell (eds), ALT Dis: Alternative Discourses and the Academy Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 2002. Pp. 45-56. -----. “Writing Takes Place” in Ecocomposition pp. 11-25. Dobrin, Sidney I. and Christian Weisser (eds.). Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. Dobrin, Sidney I. and Christian Weisser. Natural Discourse: Toward Ecocomposition Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002. “Energy Levels,” Physics 2000 Accessed 6/26/03. Faigley, Lester. Fragments of Rationality: Po stmodernity and the Subject of Composition Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press,1992. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum, 1997.

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41 Gilbert, Pamela K. “Meditations Upon Hype rtext: A Rhetorethics for Cyborgs” in Greg Olson, Lynn Worsham, & Sidney Dobrin (eds.), The Kinneavy Papers Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000. Pp. 255-75. Greenfield, Adam. “What is the Rhizome?” v-2 Organization 2 November 2002. Accessed 6/26/03. Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature New York: Routledge, 1991. Hardin, Joe Marshall. Opening Spaces: Critical Pedagogy and Resistance Theory in Composition Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001. Harpold, Terry. “Dark Continents: A Cr itique of Internet Metageographies,” Postmodern Culture 9.2 (1999). Accessed 6/12/03. -----. (forthcoming) “Hypertex t” in Julian Wolfreys (ed.) Glossolalia Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003. Harpold, Terry and Kavita Philip. “Of Bugs and Rats: Cyber-Cleanliness, CyberSqualor, and the Fantasy-Spaces of Informational Globalization.” Postmodern Culture 11.1 (2000). Accessed 6/12/03. Hawisher, Gail E. and Susan Hilligloss (eds.). Literacy and Computers: The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology New York: Modern Language Association, 1994. Joyce, Michael. “The Momentary Advantage of Our Awkwardness” in Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995. Pp. 219-226. -----. Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000. -----. “Then Again Who Isn’t?: Post-Hype rtextual Rhetorics” in Snyder (ed.), Silicon Literacies pp. 85-97. Killingsworth, M. Jimmie and John Krajic ek. “Ecology, Alienation, and Literacy: Constraints and Possibilities in Ecocom position” in Dobrin & Weisser (eds.) Ecocomposition pp. 39-56. Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001. McGann, Jerome. “Visible and Invisibl e Books in N-Dimensional Space” in Radiant Textuality: Literature A fter the World Wide Web New York: Palgrave, 2001. Pp. 167-91.

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42 McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962. Mitchell, W.J.T. Picture Theory: Essays on Visual and Verbal Representation Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Moulthrop, Stuart. “Rhizome & Resistan ce: Hypertext and the Dreams of a New Culture” in George Landow (ed.), Hyper/Text/Theory Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Pp. 299-319. Moulthrop, Stuart and Nancy Kaplan. “They Became What They Behe ld: The Futility of Resistance in the Space of Electronic Writi ng” in Gail Hawisher & Susan Hilligloss (eds.), Literacy and Computers pp. 220-37. Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck New York: The Free Press, 1997. Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word London: Metheun, 1982. Plevin, Arlene. “The Liberatory Positioni ng of Place in Ecocomposition: Reconsidering Paulo Friere” in Dobrin & Weisser (eds.), Ecocomposition pp. 147-162. Reynolds, Nedra. “Composition’s Imagined Geographies: The Politics of Space in the Frontier, City, and Cyberspace,” CCC 50 (1998), pp. 12-35. Schilb, John. “Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition” in Patricia Harkin and John Schilb (eds.) Contending With Words: Composition and Rhetoric in a Postmodern Age New York: MLA, 1991. Pp. 173-88. Snyder, Ilana (ed.). Silicon Literacies: Communication, Innovation, and Education in the Electronic Age London: Routledge, 2002. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center “Theory: Quantum Mechanics,” SLAC Virtual Visitors Center Accessed 6/23/03. Ulmer, Gregory. “Grammatology Hypermedia,” Postmodern Culture 1.2 (1991). Accessed 6/12/03. -----. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. -----. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy New York: Longman, 2003. Villanueva, Victor. “Considerations for American Friereistas” in Cross-Talk in Comp Theory Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1997. Pp. 621-39.

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43 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH I was born in Virginia, but lived a somewhat itinerant existence. My childhood years were spent in El Paso, Texas, but I cam e to “maturity” in Jacksonville, Florida. I attended Stanton College Preparatory School, where my interests included theater, Latin, and Monty Python. I came to the University of Florida in 1997, following an ill-formed idea of becoming a scholar/practitioner of dramatic lit erature. Two years later, I found myself outside the theater department, bobbing in the current without much direction. A course in Scottish literature helped me re-negotia te my focus towards the more theory-driven domain of Cultural Studies. Unfortuna tely, I knew nothing of theory, so my undergraduate thesis (a look at professi onal wrestling as postmodern text) was an interestingly fraught project from the start. As a graduate student, I stayed at the Univ ersity of Florida, hoping to continue my Cultural Studies curriculum. A first-year semi nar in theories of writing, however, piqued my interest. I undertook to study the range of Rhetoric and Composition theories on my own, starting with the domain of resistance and discourse theory. With much effort, I parlayed my interests in New Media into th e mix, producing a sustained focus on various areas of composition theory and pedagogy. Af ter completing my master’s thesis, I will be pursuing a PhD at the University of Georgia.


Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0001114/00001

Material Information

Title: Webs of resistance : new media, ecocomposition, and resistance theory
Physical Description: viii, 42 p.
Creator: Reed, Scott G. ( Dissertant )
Dobrin, Sidney I. ( Thesis advisor )
Harpold, Terry ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 2003

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English

Notes

Abstract: This thesis is an investigation, linking a trio of strange participants within the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and resistance theory. The combination of Ecocomposition and resistance theory is not terribly hard to swallow; both follow out of disciplinary attempts at situating writers and their writing within social contexts and, in the case of Ecocomposition, extended material and semiological frameworks. What is novel, and certainly deserves bearing out, is the introduction into the fold of a strange conversational perspective, that of New Media studies. Throughout the thesis, I frame much of my analysis in terms of 'apparatus theory,' the descendant of Derrida's grammatology that claims connections between the technology of writing and various social and semantic structures. Laying the groundwork of this triple-move, the thesis investigates various competing notions of space, particularly notions of 'place' and 'cyberspace.' The goal is to account for the disparities in the uses of these terms and to wrangle over the extent to which any 'cyberspace' can be considered a meaningful 'place.' What helps to resolve the issue is the notion of contingency: that, while cyberspaces are unstable and open to reinterpretation, they can still serve as temporary places-where-I-happen-to-be. The thesis then looks at theories of subject formation, and how we can look at various ideas, especially 'cyborg theory,' as a way of anticipating the subject of electracy. Again, the notion of contingence helps me to argue that, although fractured and dispersed, critical consciousness is a real possibility for students and teachers alike working in this technology. The remainder of the thesis argues for a new kind of resistance theory, which I call 'quantum resistance.' Quantum resistance is inherently contingent and unstable, based upon the experience of multiple spaces and voices. While linear reading gets abandoned in cyberspace, I propose a model by which resistance can continue to function by casting it in the form of a temporary, subjective performance. Like space, and like the subject, performance is contingent, but carries with it the possibility for meaningful resistance to the ideological values of electracy, even if the resistance takes a new and unexpected form. The thesis concludes by tying 'quantum resistance' back into the ecological model of discourse, in order to provide a comprehensive model for considering the dynamic interactions of discourse.
Subject: apparatus, composition, cyborg, ecocomposition, ecology, electracy, hypertext, resistance, rhetoric, theory
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2003.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Additional Physical Form: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0001114:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0001114/00001

Material Information

Title: Webs of resistance : new media, ecocomposition, and resistance theory
Physical Description: viii, 42 p.
Creator: Reed, Scott G. ( Dissertant )
Dobrin, Sidney I. ( Thesis advisor )
Harpold, Terry ( Reviewer )
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 2003

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English thesis, M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- English

Notes

Abstract: This thesis is an investigation, linking a trio of strange participants within the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and resistance theory. The combination of Ecocomposition and resistance theory is not terribly hard to swallow; both follow out of disciplinary attempts at situating writers and their writing within social contexts and, in the case of Ecocomposition, extended material and semiological frameworks. What is novel, and certainly deserves bearing out, is the introduction into the fold of a strange conversational perspective, that of New Media studies. Throughout the thesis, I frame much of my analysis in terms of 'apparatus theory,' the descendant of Derrida's grammatology that claims connections between the technology of writing and various social and semantic structures. Laying the groundwork of this triple-move, the thesis investigates various competing notions of space, particularly notions of 'place' and 'cyberspace.' The goal is to account for the disparities in the uses of these terms and to wrangle over the extent to which any 'cyberspace' can be considered a meaningful 'place.' What helps to resolve the issue is the notion of contingency: that, while cyberspaces are unstable and open to reinterpretation, they can still serve as temporary places-where-I-happen-to-be. The thesis then looks at theories of subject formation, and how we can look at various ideas, especially 'cyborg theory,' as a way of anticipating the subject of electracy. Again, the notion of contingence helps me to argue that, although fractured and dispersed, critical consciousness is a real possibility for students and teachers alike working in this technology. The remainder of the thesis argues for a new kind of resistance theory, which I call 'quantum resistance.' Quantum resistance is inherently contingent and unstable, based upon the experience of multiple spaces and voices. While linear reading gets abandoned in cyberspace, I propose a model by which resistance can continue to function by casting it in the form of a temporary, subjective performance. Like space, and like the subject, performance is contingent, but carries with it the possibility for meaningful resistance to the ideological values of electracy, even if the resistance takes a new and unexpected form. The thesis concludes by tying 'quantum resistance' back into the ecological model of discourse, in order to provide a comprehensive model for considering the dynamic interactions of discourse.
Subject: apparatus, composition, cyborg, ecocomposition, ecology, electracy, hypertext, resistance, rhetoric, theory
General Note: Title from title page of source document.
General Note: Includes vita.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2003.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Additional Physical Form: Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0001114:00001


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WEBS OF RESISTANCE:
NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY















By

SCOTT G. REED


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2003

































Copyright 2003

by

Scott G. Reed

































This thesis is dedicated to Sara, my partner in "agonistic discourse."















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I chiefly thank my parents, for their continued support. Thanks go also to

Professors Sidney Dobrin and Terry Harpold, for taking time out of their summer to

attend to my bizarre ravings. Finally, my gratitude goes out to Sid Homan, Phil Wegner,

Greg Ulmer, and the rest of the faculty and staff of the UF Department of English, with

whom I've been privileged to work for the past six years.
















TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv

ABSTRACT ............... ................... ......... .............. vi

WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE
T H E O R Y ...................................................................................................... 1

"Ground"-ings: Ecology, Resistance, Media......................................................
Problem s in (C yber)Space .................................................. .............................. 9
Cyborg Eco-Subjects ........... .. ..................... .......... ....... ...... ........ 17
Performing Resistance in n-Dimensional Space.............................. ............... 25
N iche@ Ideology.W riting.W eb ...................................... ................ ... ............ ............ 35
N otes ......................................38............................

LIST OF REFEREN CE S ............... ..................................................... .................. .....40

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E TCH ..................................................................... ..................43















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

WEBS OF RESISTANCE:
NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE THEORY

By

Scott G. Reed

August 2003

Chair: Dr. Sidney I. Dobrin
Major Department: English

This thesis is an investigation, linking a trio of strange participants within the

discipline of Rhetoric and Composition studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and

resistance theory. The combination of Ecocomposition and resistance theory is not

terribly hard to swallow; both follow out of disciplinary attempts at situating writers and

their writing within social contexts and, in the case of Ecocomposition, extended material

and semiological frameworks. What is novel, and certainly deserves bearing out, is the

introduction into the fold of a strange conversational perspective, that of New Media

studies. Throughout the thesis, I frame much of my analysis in terms of "apparatus

theory," the descendant of Derrida's grammatology that claims connections between the

technology of writing and various social and semantic structures.

Laying the groundwork of this triple-move, the thesis investigates various

competing notions of space, particularly notions of "place" and "cyberspace." The goal

is to account for the disparities in the uses of these terms and to wrangle over the extent









to which any "cyberspace" can be considered a meaningful "place." What helps to

resolve the issue is the notion of contingency: that, while cyberspace are unstable and

open to reinterpretation, they can still serve as temporary places-where-I-happen-to-be.

The thesis then looks at theories of subject formation, and how we can look at various

ideas, especially "cyborg theory," as a way of anticipating the subject of electracy.

Again, the notion of contingence helps me to argue that, although fractured and

dispersed, critical consciousness is a real possibility for students and teachers alike

working in this technology.

The remainder of the thesis argues for a new kind of resistance theory, which I call

"quantum resistance." Quantum resistance is inherently contingent and unstable, based

upon the experience of multiple spaces and voices. While linear reading gets abandoned

in cyberspace, I propose a model by which resistance can continue to function by casting

it in the form of a temporary, subjective performance. Like space, and like the subject,

performance is contingent, but carries with it the possibility for meaningful resistance to

the ideological values of electracy, even if the resistance takes a new and unexpected

form. The thesis concludes by tying "quantum resistance" back into the ecological model

of discourse, in order to provide a comprehensive model for considering the dynamic

interactions of discourse.















WEBS OF RESISTANCE: NEW MEDIA, ECOCOMPOSITION, AND RESISTANCE
THEORY

The purpose of this thesis is to strike up a conversation. The achievement of

discourse theory over the last quarter of a century has been to demonstrate that all

knowledge and understanding proceeds out of conversations, out of interactions between

disparate positions, approaches, and ideas. What I propose here is one such conversation,

linking a trio of strange participants within the discipline of Rhetoric and Composition

studies: New Media, Ecocomposition, and Resistance Theory. The combination of

Ecocomposition and Resistance Theory is not terribly surprising; both follow out of

disciplinary attempts at situating writers and their writing within social contexts and, in

the case of Ecocomposition, extended material and semiotic frameworks. What is novel,

and certainly deserves bearing out, is the introduction into the fold of a strange

conversational perspective, that of New Media studies. Many New Media theorists

(prominently Stuart Moulthrop, whom I will be discussing at greater length later on) have

already been skeptical of the capacity of New Media technologies to allow for

meaningful resistant behavior. What is even more unusual about this conversational

match-up is the seeming disparity between the green, earthy, locally-situated discourse(s)

of Ecocomposition and the (stereotypically) sleek, digital, globally-situated discourse(s)

of New Media theory. New Media and Ecocomposition share important affinities,

despite their important differences, and our understanding of the potential of New Media,

particularly towards the ends discussed in Resistance Theory, can be enhanced by









bringing conversations about hypertextuality into contact with the discursive models and

methods proposed by the Ecocomposition endeavor.

"Ground"-ings: Ecology, Resistance, Media

This project starts with the endeavor of Ecocomposition. What Ecocomposition

starts me with is a set of ideas and practices for launching an inquiry into New Media

studies. This may seem a strange move; as a discipline, Ecocomposition is founded upon

an ongoing investigation into the relationships between writers and natural, physical

environments. It provides a move that supercedes social-constructivist views of language

and discourse by incorporating into the fold the concerns of the physical, material,

"natural" world. Ecology, in this sense, is (still) a matter of investigating material

environments and the interactions of the matter there, but it also concerns the semiotic

construction of that space. Dobrin and Weisser offer this definition:

Ecocomposition is the study of the relationships between environments (and by that
we mean natural, constructed, and even imagined places) and discourse (speaking,
writing, and thinking). Ecocomposition draws primarily from disciplines that study
discourse (chiefly composition, but also including literary studies, communications,
cultural studies, linguistics, and philosophy) and merges the perspectives of them
with work in the disciplines that examine environment (these include ecology,
environmental studies, sociobiology, and other "hard" sciences). As a result,
ecocomposition attempts to provide a more holistic, encompassing framework for
studies of the relationship between discourse and environment. (6)

This move is certainly sensible. Indeed, the wisdom of social-constructivist views lies in

its having situated individual writers within greater social contexts, to situate the role of

writing in greater frameworks: of academic discourse, of alternative and home

discourses, of the structure of the academy itself, of the very ideological structures that

inform work in the academy. Hardly limited to the world of "natural environments,"

Ecocomposition sets out to investigate the relationships between many discourses (not

just environmental discourse) and "all environments: classroom environments, political









environments, electronic environments, ideological environments, historical

environments, economic environments, and natural environments" (9, authors'

emphasis). Ecocomposition provides a model that, at its base, serves as a heuristic for

investigating "the diversity of writing and the patterns that emerge across different

discursive systems," and it is just that notion of diversity across different systems that I

hope to investigate further here (Dobrin, "Writing" 23).

What Ecocomposition centrally foregrounds is the importance of "place" in the

composition endeavor. Every space (and I switch terms deliberately here, needing to

maintain a distinction between "space" and "place") is multiply constructed by the

forces) of language and discourse and by the forces) of its material physical presence.

Spatiality, a concept which I will be dealing with later on in more significant depth, is

foundational to most of the conversation on the practices of composition. Writing "takes

place" in the class-"room," in cyber-"space," in "writing environments" (Dobrin,

"Writing" 11). Writing, in its early rhetorical conception, was described in terms of

topoi, of topics, of the places where writing "happens." Crucially, these places/topoi are

not static; to write from topoi is to always be reinscribing those topoi. Volumes of theory

devote themselves to conversations about "reproductive" theories of writing, writing that

spawns more writing, that self-propogates. Some writing alters the course of the

environment; it challenges and competes with those topoi, eventually altering the shape

and course of the environment. Some changes have been good, some have not, but the

observation stands up. The strength of"place"-ment in the ecological model of writing is

that it offers some sort of concrete foundations: the interactivity of discourse can be seen,

studied, measured. An ecological approach to writing understands, for example, the









relationship between racialist discourses and real-life colonial practices; and it also

understands that this relationship has real "place"-ment in the world:

In a sense, humans occupy two spaces: a biosphere, consisting of the earth and its
atmosphere, which supports our physical existence, and a semiosphere, consisting
of discourse, which shapes our existence and allows us to make sense of it. We see
these two central spheres of human life the biosphere and the semiosphere as
mutually dependent upon one another. Where a healthy biosphere is one that
supports a variety of symbiotic life forms, a healthy semiosphere is one that enables
differences to coexist and to be articulated. (Dobrin and Weisser 13)

One only need look as far as the Native American reservations of the Midwest to

understand that writing is intrinsically linked to a real political place, the semiosphere is

inherently yoked to the biosphere. This is the "nature" of writing. Writing is, in this

sense, "natural." Writing is from a place. Writing is for a place. Writing is of a place.

The capacity of Ecocomposition to sustain a conversation about the dynamic,

interlocked nature of discourses and composition practices is what, in my opinion, makes

it indispensable as a tool for studying the emergence of a new set of "systems" on the

scene. New Media, defined very broadly, represents the emergence not of a single, new

"place," but of an entirely new ecosystem: a set of multiple interlocking concerns

involving the material presence of digital technologies in the physical environment and

the ways in which meaning is constructed in those environments. As Dobrin says,

"writing takes place." The digital turn now means that there are more "places" than ever

before, and the role of any ecologist of writing is to study and attempt to understand the

forms and functions of these new places. "Ecocomposition," as Dobrin says, "must

grow," and it must grow to include the concerns raised by the new places of digital

discourse ("Writing" 14). For the purposes of my discussion, I will try as consistently as

possible to use Greg Ulmer's term "electracy" as the label for this emerging bio/semiotic

"ecosystem," using "literacy" as the counter-point term for the apparatus of print-based









culture and institutions. Apparatus theory provides an interesting frame for the

discussion; the term itself defines "an interactive matrix of technology, institutional

practices, and ideological subject formation" (Ulmer, Heuretics 17). "Place" is a natural

and necessary facet of the apparatus, existing interactively with the technologies of

writing. Apparatus theory is ecological, insofar as it is concerned with addressing the

dynamic relationships between, on one hand, the material "spaces" in which writing

occurs (i.e., the inhabited "biosphere") and the ideological institutions and subject

formations which both sustain and are created by those "spaces" (i.e., the "semiosphere"

of ideological systems).

The founding moment for Ecocomposition is in Marilyn Cooper's "The Ecology of

Writing," where she proposes a model for writing that seeks to take into account not just

the relationship of the individual writer to his/her social environment, but also the entire

range of interactions that exist to structure, effect, and to be structured by that writer's

work. Her model for writing is the "web":

One can abstractly distinguish different systems that operate in writing, just as one
can distinguish investment patterns from consumer spending patterns from hiring
patterns in a nation's economy. But in the actual activity of writing-as in the
economy-the systems are entirely interwoven in their effects and manner of
operation. The systems reflect the various ways writers connect with one another
through writing: through systems of ideas, of purposes, of interpersonal
interactions, of cultural norms, of textual forms.... The metaphor suggested by the
ecological model is that of a web, in which anything that affects one strand of the
web vibrates throughout the whole. (7-9)

Cooper's Web1 is a dynamic system. It does not dogmatically insist on any one single

dominating factor that influences the ways in which writers produce writing; webs are

constructed of various strands. Even more important, though, is the process by which the

individual writer comes into contact with the web, the process by which "vibration"

occurs. To paraphrase Dobrin, vibration is the force of change; any writer (ideally, as









Cooper is also quick to note) can affect any strand of the web, producing discourse that

alters cultural norms, or textual forms, or both, or more. The writer enters the web, and

the web "shakes," which hopefully produces some sort of change in the web's

construction, moving a strand or two. Dobrin continues:

However, more often than not, as Cooper notes, writers do not create enough
motion to vibrate the web. Often, the web doesn't shake, but it always accepts the
new writer into the web. Context seems passive at times, a backdrop to the writing.
Thinking of context from an ecological point of view, we are never separate from
context: it reverberates within us and we reverberate in it. There is no way to not
affect the environment and be affected by it, though such effects are not always
evident. Writers become a part of the web, just as organisms become part of an
ecosystem. ("Writing" 21)

The ecology of the "web" contains within it the potential for change. In this theory,

change is an inherent possibility in writing, although the metaphor expands easily to

include an understanding of hegemony as a counter-vibration. The web is large, loud,

and messy. It is the field across which writers, discourses, and ideals act, transact, and

counter-act. Ecocomposition provides a foundation precisely because of this sense of

dynamism rooted in the handy image of the "web"-an image both rich in discursive

theory and "grounded" in the very stuff of our human biosphere.

The turn to the digital, though, casts some substantial doubt on the continuing

applicability of this model. While Ecocomposition does provide an inclusive model

indeed for thinking about the various operations of discourse, the "web" it proposes can

seem like a rather empty idea, a mere ideal that does not reflect the material realities of

other discourses. This is certainly a valid argument. When Cooper discusses "writing,"

she is referring to a very specific kind of writing; her "ecology" is the ecology of literate,

written, academic discourse. While Dobrin has argued at length for the benefits in

pursuing Ecocomposition, he has also addressed the problems that are likely to come up









when trying to address the efficacy of what could be called "alternative" or "hybrid"

discourses. Applying Cooper's Web to the issue of alternative and hybrid discourses in

the academy, and with the contribution of Thomas Kent's work in paralogic rhetoric,

Dobrin concludes that most forms of hybrid discourse interact differently with the web:

they don't shake it so much as they add to it:

[A]n academic discourse allows for in fact, invites ("come sit by me," said the
spider to the fly)-other "parent" languages to enter the web; it will absorb those
discourses into what is and can be called academic discourse. In doing so, those
parent discourses become lost in the web, no longer identifiable as having
originated outside the web; they are merely a part of what the web has become.
("Problem" 47)

Traditional academic discourse is capable of getting to the center of things, of producing

shakes, ruptures, change. What this addition to the Ecocomposition lexicon points out,

however, is the manner in which alternative, mixed, hybrid, and all forms of non-official

discourse stand to be neutralized and appropriated by contact with the apparatus of the

academy. Dobrin illustrates, using Helene Cixous's ecriture feminine as a model of a

truly alternative discourse: "It cannot, that is, exist as an alternative to academic

discourse because it cannot be represented in relationship with or to academic discourse,

yet at the same time, it serves as an example of a truly alternative discourse because it

resists and refuses such a relationship" ("Problem" 49). This is the ecology of academic

discourse, of scholarly work in the university setting. As valorous as the project of

hybrid discourse is, in its desire to bring to the table various unheard voices, its good is

ultimately neutralized once it is mainstreamed into the University system, once it is given

an official "stamp of approval." This is the "nature" of written discourse(s) in the

academy: official discourse can shake the structure somewhat, but other voices, while

accepted, tend to be absorbed and co-opted by the "web" as a whole.









Where does this put the matter of electracy, and the range of hypertextual and

multimedia forms that we call New Media? Viewed from this angle, "hypertext"2 seems

to function most often as a hybrid discourse. Most forms of online writing, whether a

MOO conversation or an HTML page, are based in the grammatical and semantic rules of

written language. From this angle, hypertextuality could be viewed as a mere alteration

to the existing rules, or, as Jerome McGann and others suggest, a reaffirmation of the

hypertextual quality of print itself.3 The mixing-in of images and icons, the novel

methods for distributing textual "lexias," and the frantic, collaborative pace of MOO

conversations still suggest a place for "electra"-textuality that exists somewhere outside

of the linear, print based, argumentative, and overwhelmingly verbal character of

academic discourse. If, then, we seek to situate hypertext within the discursive model

provided by Ecocomposition, then we can see how the fundamental alterity of this new

writing poses some problems for the project of resistance. As an alternative discourse,

the incorporation of hypertext into the web is not likely to cause much of a shake; the

hegemony of the academic discourse "environment" works here as a neutralizing force.

To situate the rhetoric of hypertext, to give it some sort of "place" in our

conversations about academic discourse, I'll be providing a more in-depth look at the

features of New Media using the methodological outline provided so far, which means a

dual emphasis on not only the semiotic and ideological ("semiospheric") conditions of

these media, but also a look towards the material ("biospheric") conditions with which

these other considerations must interact. I'll start with a look towards the spatialityy" of

web discourse, a consideration is usually relegated to the domain of simple semantic

rhetoric.. Having considered the spatial "environment" of electorate discourse, I will









move towards a consideration of the "organisms" in play, by which I mean a

consideration of subjectivity, and its redevelopmentt in relation with the emerging New

Media apparatus. By dealing with these various facets of the "ecology" of electorate

discourse, I will develop a fuller ecological model, one that seems to both fracture and

grow out of the established, literacy-based models, in the hopes of proposing a means to

engage the concerns of all these varying discourses (to see the "patterns that emerge

across [the] different discursive systems," as Dobrin has put it). Finally, my discussion

will return to the question of resistance, and whether a full-fledged resistant will come to

inhabit the new spaces of electracy.

Problems in (Cyber)Space

As Ecocomposition helps us see, space is a fundamental element in the composition

equation. As important as race, class, and culture, the position of the writer in a specific

place has meaningful consequences for the ways in which we consider the production and

interpretation of discourse. The spaces of literacy, organized by Marilyn Cooper's web

metaphor, serve as much more than mere contextual backdrop: the spaces of discourse

co-exist dynamically with the systems that produce, distribute, maintain, and interpret

that discourse. The issue before us now is a matter of redefining and rethinking our

notions of space in a hypertextual age. I have maintained so far that "writing takes

place." This is true; but how will the advent of a new writing apparatus change the

shapes of those spaces? Will the changes in those spaces effectively nullify the project of

resistant rhetoric? Arlene Plevin argues for the importance of place to the project of

resistance; she quotes Freire, saying that the purpose of resistance is "reflection and

action upon the world in order to transform it" (Freire 33). Place is the sine qua non of

resistance, but without a sense of where the category of "place" exists among the









seemingly-disembodied networks of electorate writing, such a project is doomed. To help

solve these problems, I point my discussion towards a consideration of the ways in which

scholars and practitioners of hypertextual rhetoric have been (re)conceiving the idea of

spaces and places, both on- and off-line.

From Jay David Bolter's breakthrough work on hypertextual theory Writing Space

(1991) to the present, much of the critical conversation in New Media studies has been

directed towards considering the new spatialities of electorate discourse. The space of the

web site, with its combination and distribution of textual and visual elements; the

conversational, text-based virtual spaces of the MOO; the nodal spaces of networks; even

considerations of the flat space of the computer screen: all are important to our still-

developing sense of electorate "space." What is a great deal more boggy, however, is the

question of "place." Couched in spatiality though it may be, the work of Dobrin and

others in the Ecocomposition field tend to arrange their discussions not around the rather

blank, conceptual domain of "space," but rather on the more vibrant and robust concept

of "place." Nicholas Burbules is careful to distinguish the two ideas; "place" is a

"socially or subjectively meaningful space" (78). This definition combines both the

"navigational" (it exists at a specific location) and the "semantic" (meaningful, however

subjectively). Burbules's distinction, it should be noted, resonates nicely with Dobrin's

sphericc" concept of Ecocomposition: that the world is composed of both material

"biosphere" and discursive "semiosphere." Ecocomposition bridges this definitional gap

by an understanding of the dynamics of space, dynamics rooted in the scientific

observations and investigations of ecology. The organisms in any given space shape and

define that space to their own purposes; "space" becomes "place" by the operations of









writing itself (Dobrin and Weisser 1-13). Semiospherically, the issue of alternative

discourses raises questions about the ecological role of electronic discourse;

biospherically, we know that computers, telephones, and other technologies are

composed of radically different material stuff than the human/embodied/biological

subjects of academic discourse. The difference in the material composition of our

biosphere resonates necessarily with the construction of the semiosphere. So what

happens to place now?

The very subjectivity which necessarily structures place may fall casualty to the

transition to a new writing apparatus. In a very persuasive argument, Pamela Gilbert

argues for the abandonment of spatial metaphor all together in discussions of New Media

in "Meditations Upon Hypertext: A Rhetorethics for Cyborgs." Identifying space as a

"dominant metaphor," she faults the bootstrapping of electorate discourse in spatial terms,

terms reminiscent of "colonial narrative" (258). The problem she sees in Bolter's notion

of "topographic" writing is the way in which that very topography is (over-)determined

by the "global elite," by the few of us in the world who have access to the technology and

are beginning the process of defining the discursive practices of its spacess, a process of

mapping "virgin territory," to use inappropriatelyy colonial phrasing. "The rhetoric of

democracy and access often seems to be more about the future inclusion of Others in a

preexisting space already mapped than about the inclusion of Others in a process of

creation" (259, my emphasis). Space is political-political insofar as a certain injection

(pardon the metaphor) of discourse is required to make the space into a meaningful

"place." Gilbert's ultimate move is a move away from the category of space and place

altogether, calling for a re-conception of hypertext where the user "must assume that s/he









is not moving through a space or across a unified topography, but between and through

different voices" (263). This point is well and passionately argued; but is the post-

literacy move, the move into a world of discourse not bound by the printed page or the

institutionalized classroom, really and truly a move beyond space itself? The fear that the

apparatus of electracy may recapitulate the phallogocentrism of the literate apparatus is

well founded, but Gilbert's move to disavow space itself seems to trip itself up. Defining

the hypertextual self as "both internalized from the 'outside' social world of voices and

narratives... and synthesized 'within'," Gilbert's subject sounds distinctly like the

variously-constructed subject hailed by Ecocomposition (266). Even her rhetoric cannot

ultimately undo the inherent place-ness of discourse; to "move between and through

voices" still denotes motion through a kind of space. This problem reveals a need for a

redefinition of space, rather than simply dissolve the idea all together. The new machines

of the new apparatus means a reconfiguration of ideology, but not the death of ideology

all together (Ulmer, "Grammatology" p3). Space, Ecocomposition reminds us, remains

part of our material and semiotic existence; so long as we are (em)bodied, we are in

space. The death of space will no more mean the utter dissolution of space no more than

the "death of the author" stopped people from writing. What any discursive move like

this does is to shake that web, to hail a reconfiguration of the way in which we consider

space.

The language of the Internet is already saturated with the language of placement,

and Gilbert's fears are certainly well-founded with regard to the emerging dominance of

this rhetoric. Internet users initiate contact through "homepages," they "bookmark"

spaces, "surf" through web "rings." Burbules points to these phenomena as the ways in









which users craft "subjectively meaningful" places out of the flat, uninteresting surfaces

of the Internet (78). He calls for a rigorous emphasis on mapping and website

architecture to create the foundations for a web-rhetoric grounded in place (79-80).

While his intentions are admirable, they are significantly bootstrapped by notions of

space that prefer depth to surface and place to space. Gilbert traces this tendency to its

primal source: "the cartological musings of those who would turn hyperspace into a

landscape are precisely efforts to create an Edenic 'garden' within which reading moves,

away from linear narratives of loss toward an oceanic polymorphous perversity" (265).

Is this the end of place? Gilbert's argument adds this valuable contribution to the

conversation; the creation of any sort of cyber-"place" and the very language we

currently use to define, delimit, and structure those places all lead, naturally, back to a

notion of a source. Burbules's hypertextual subjects are not constructing their own

spaces so much as they are transferring their language into a new environment, creating

comfortable and familiar cyber-places through an injection of the same old discourse.

Welcome to the new place; same as the old place, except with some neat new tricks. The

language of mapping leads, almost invariably, to the creation of "unities and identities

across space and time that are meaningful first of all because they are mapped that i0 a"

(Harpold, "Dark" p17, author's emphasis). The discourses of space that have shaped the

dominant popular and scientific models of the "spaces" of the New Media often naively

recapitulate the spatial regimes of the oldest narratives of person and place. Unity and

identity, no matter where crafted, lead back to Eden.

I suggest an alteration to this strategy of placement, a sort of pedagogical

imperative that would move the language of placement away from phallogocentrism to a









vocabulary that embraces the evolving material and semiotic conditions of cyberspace.

Rather than attempting to build deep structures onto flat discursive spaces, we can

"grow" a discourse that accepts the flatness without disavowing the capacity of the

individual to be discursively linked to that space. This is the doctrine of Ecocomposition,

that all spaces are variously constructed by their material (biological, physical) properties

but also by the presence of discursive subjects, who (variously) construct those spaces

(Dobrin and Weisser 13). A redevelopment of our spatial vocabulary based on a

"sustained engagement" with the material properties of the medium can help us not to

simply "place" ourselves in cyberspace, but to, "grow" new places in the gap between the

fragmented experience of hypertext and our experience of placement in the real world. In

cyberspace, "place" is the space of the isolated lexia, of the place-where-I-happen-to-be.

What needs to happen is an evolution of the discourse that brings about change in the

phallogocentric discourse of placement by bringing it into contact with the emerging

discourse of electracy. After all, a great deal of already-established New Media discourse

would love to do without place; theorists like Brenda Laurel and Janet Murray have

devoted much of their attention to theorizing the move beyond the "body," beyond the

material constraints of place. The great phantasy of digitality is the move beyond the

body into the realm of pure signification, into the unproblematic and flawless "holodeck"

of simulation. The rhetoric of the all-inclusive, seamless, hypertextual global community

"openly acknowledges faults of distribution and access within the current state of the

global network, but only as engineering problems-'bugs'-which will one day be

corrected by technical mastery and/or entrepreneurial initiative" (Harpold and Philip p2).

Terry Harpold and Kavita Philip, in analyzing the prevailing popular discourses of









"cyber-cleanliness and cyber-squalor" see shades in discursive practice of what Gilbert

glimpses in theory:

Within the imaginary of the cleanroom-as-technologically-perfect-cordon sanitaire,
subjectivity is constructed by occluding and repelling barriers, and human agency
is confined to a definite idealized space of production, from which every trace of
abject materiality-literally, the unproductive leavings of organic life-is excluded.
(p34)

The move towards the (essentially Edenic) conception of cyberspace in the popular

imaginary is also a move away from the messy, biotic "embodiedness" of the subject.

My goal is to suggest a process by which our discursive practices can come into a more

profitable kind of symbiosis with cyberspace, not in an attempt to dominate or assign

language to the space itself, but to allow for the growth of practices that acknowledge the

material, embodied placement of the subject. The way to do this is to suggest an

engagement with the various contingencies of electorate text, to consider an electorate

ecology based on the contingent place-where-I-happen-to-be. Contingency is not

dissolution, but rather an unfamiliar pattern of discursive growth.

The critical piece of vocabulary which can help us sustain this move is that of the

rhizome. Literally referring to a "creeping, horizonatally-growing underground root," the

rhizome provides an (appropriately ecological) model for (re)defining the spatialized

movement of hypertextual discourse. Stuart Moulthrop, working from Deleuze and

Guattari, defines the rhizome discursively as a "chaotically distributed network" in his

essay "Rhizome and Resistance" (301). Far from making a move towards the placeless

subject, rhizomatic culture "proceeds not from logos, the law of substances, but rather

from nomos, the designation of places or occasions" (300). The rhizome is centerless and

horizontal, more a "grass than a tree," to use Deleuze and Guattari's notion of the

function of the brain. Rather than a vertical, tree-like structure (with Edenic,









metanarrativized roots), the rhizome spreads tropically, a sort of "textual promiscuity,"

creatingn] linkages not sanctioned by the culture and discipline-idiosyncratic

mysteriess'" (304). I like Mouthrop's example here, which invokes Greg Ulmer's

neologistic notion of"mystory," the pedagogical use of personal websites. What Ulmer's

mysteries allow this model to do is to allow the individual composing subject to

"designate" his/her own "places or occasions," not through the use of tortuous mapping

or architecture, but rather by engagement with (and, in Ulmer's view, "invention of") the

image-oriented and modular materiality of the Internet itself (Heuretics xii). This is a

perhaps-too-subtle designation, but, rather than engineering online "places" (same as the

old places), rhizomatic mysteriess" create something different by engaging the material

structure of electracy: spaces that are flat and contingent, but still "fleshed out" by the

constrained subject. We should consider the "mystory" technique as the first wave of

electorate Ecocomposition, a way of getting neophyte electorate subjects a chance to

consider their own "placement," not through a critical analysis of other online places (an

attempt to build understanding hierarchically through engagement with a "master" text),

but through the discursive creation of limited, bound, but still proliferating rhizomatic

spaces.

The rhizome works as an appropriate model for describing the "ecology" of

electorate discourse, for producing a way in which we can engage the new-ness of New

Media without abandoning our messy, biological selves at the door. This is a powerful

dual move, both rhetorical and ethical in nature. While I have suggested an alternative to

some of her ideas about space, Pamela Gilbert has already anticipated this hybridization,

calling for an "electronically literate" (I've been saying electorate" ) "rhetorethics" (263).









A rhetorethical stance would, in my analysis, come to an understanding of the rhetorical

necessity of place, while maintaining a "constant discursive critique," which is the very

essence of postmodern ethics (Hardin 67). Greg Ulmer proposes the notion of the "relay"

as a way of helping students "invent" the practices of electracy as they go, to

communicate across the crucial gap between embodied place and cyber-space. Seeing, as

Gilbert and Harpold also do, a connection between "the destroyed and dispersed scenario

of Internet design and the [colonial] conditions of the slave trade," Ulmer uses the

resulting cultural discourse, creole, as a "relay," not as a re-planting of the hierarchical

ideology, but as a way of projecting its rhetorical results (Internet 157-8). If colonialism

problematizes placement, Ulmer responds not by getting rid of "place," but by re-creating

it through a conscious engagement with previous history, an understanding of its faults

and results, through an ethical engagement with place itself. Within the process of an

ongoing reflexive critique, we see gaps form in the promises of electracy. Between the

ecstatic fantasies of the loss-of-body, and the pessimistic retreat-from-space, there is a

fissure, an opening where we might create an alternative. To explore cyberspace

rhetorethically is to maintain a constant awareness of the gaps across which one must

operate, to neither elide the material difference of surface-ness nor to be seduced by the

horizontal fluidity of the rhizome.

Cyborg Eco-Subjects

The move towards a new understanding of rhetorical space necessarily calls for a

new sort of subject for composition theory. "Subject formation is as much a part of an

apparatus as are technology and institutions," so it is certainly necessary to give some

attention to the "rhetorethical" subject being hailed by this ecological approach to

discourse (Ulmer, Internet 7). The gap in discourse and discursive formations that seem









to result from our ongoing transition between grammatological apparatuses have been

anticipated by scholars in composition studies for quite some time. Lester Faigley's

Fragments ofRationality devotes a good deal of discussion to the varying ideas of

subjectivity advanced by theorists, and their formative roots in the debate between Jean-

Francois Lyotard and Jurgen Habermas. Their discussion set the stage for a battle royal

of theory over the relationship of rhetoric to the individual. While not advocating a

return to Enlightenment rationality, Habermas favored a discursive model based on

"communication... movement towards consensus." Lyotard countered by questioning

Habermas's desire for a unified, homogenous discourse ("a grand unified theory of

human experience") that would injure the homogeneity of language games blurring the

"multiplicity of differences" (41). This makes sense-Habermas's "universal consensus

in a dialogue of argumentation" seems to endorse academic discourse, the "ideal"

discourse of Cooper's web that would enable all participants to be accepted into and

effect their environment. Lyotard places his faith in "the inventor's parology," the

process of preserving autonomous, heterogenous discourses; in other words, creating a

range of hybrid, mixed, and alternative discourses with the goal of expanding the web

rather than creating change through it. Both theories, crucially, are ways of resisting

hegemony. Habermas wants to resist postmodernity's nihilism, which he fears will

recapitulate fascism, while Lyotard wants to resist the exclusion that results from the

standardization of discourse (Faigley 41). In this gap, situated between rigor and

multiplicity, between utopia and parologia, sits the subject of cyber-ecology.

Nearly all the wonderful and varied attempts at theorizing what you could call the

electoratee subject" deal in the currency of hybridity. Perhaps no theory does this more so









than Donna Haraway's notion of the cyborg: the political/technological/psychological

being "resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity [wherein] nature

and culture are re-worked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation by the

other" (175). The cyborg, whom Gilbert identifies as the "ideal hypertext narratee," is a

living anti-hegemonic force, a creature who, in her "irony [and] perversity" does not

merely embrace the "gaps" between the biological and the semiotic; she seeks to actively

inhabit them. It is not my intention here to analyze Haraway's work, nor to provide a

summary of the interesting "informatics of domination" that accompany the development

of a cyber-culture. I will be using the figure of the cyborg as jumping off point, looking

at it as an attempt to hybridize (and thereby neutralize) the disparate positions cited

above. My goal in doing this is to produce a re-reading of the cyborg in a way that makes

sense for the Ecocomposition project, a reading based not only around place-ment, but

also around the centrally-important gaps figured by the discourse of placement.

The cyborg-figure incorporates many of the gestures I would make towards

developing the model of what I might call an "eco-subject." One of the reasons for

making these clarifications is that I want this project to maintain a working focus on

pedagogy. When we are theorizing about "subject positions," we are talking equally

about "student positions," about the habitats which we see our students, well, inhabiting.

After all, when we talk about "resistance" theory, we are talking about a domain of

discourse whose object it is to discuss methodologies for encouraging resistance, not in

ourselves really, but in others. To understand subject position, then, is to come closer to

understanding the full ramifications of the "habitats" within the ecosystem as a whole;

there's no ecology without accounting somehow for the organisms inside.









The resistant subjects of Freirean discourse achieve resistance (in whatever form)

by "discovering themselves as reality's re-creators" (51). Pamela Gilbert, writing in a

different context, posits the notion of a readerer" a composite reader-writer responsible

for a fluid shuffle between heretofore segregated textual processes (262). Michael Joyce,

writing in yet another different context, addresses the electorate subject as a "corporate

being... composite or composed" ("Then" 86). What all these perspectives have in

common is a notion, a possibility embedded already in the late age of print but rising into

view thanks to the perceptual filter of electracy, of the subject as variously and multiply

constructed. The electorate subject, scanned across these various conversations, seems

engineered for the purpose of resisting logical taxonomy, in the Kantian sense of

categorization. The cyborg subject is a consciously ecological subject, existing

symbiotically in both the biospheric and semiospheric senses. "Symbiosis," here, seems

to be a less threatening way of describing the aggressive and ironic transgressions of the

cyborg subject. Biospherically, the cyborg originates from Clynes and Kline's 1960

article, "Cyborgs and Space," in which a rat was fused with a "clumsy device attached to

its hindquarters" (Harpold and Philip p 1). Donna Haraway hails this moment for its

revolutionary potential, and looks to the growth of the biomedical field as sure proof of

the increasing symbiotic relationship being struck between the organic and the

cybernetic. While the technologizing of the body may have questionable ramifications, it

is in the complementary field of discourse that the advent of the cyborg becomes perhaps

more apparent. Seizing upon hypertext's capacity to realize the anti-taxonomical aims of

deconstruction (Jay Bolter has been among the many to claim this), both Gilbert and

Joyce posit a new sort of subject; no longer relying on stable identities, but insisting









rather ethically on "multiplicity" of multiple rhetorical topoi. After all, when we point to

the poststructural subject as being multiply and variously "composed," who or what

inhabits the active voice? Who or what does the "composing"? Unwilling (though,

crucially, not unable) to commit the phallogocentric gaffe of returning to a central Eden,

cyborg subjects construct themselves (and are constructed) environmentally through a

sustained symbiotic conversation with their placement. Without a central place, the

cyborg carries out multiple conversations with multiple dispersed spaces, being

constructed by those topoi even in the act of re-writing those topoi (Dobrin "Writing"

19). In short, whatever resistance we hope to encourage developsfrom a conversation

with place; cyborg theory, in this sense, seems to have proceeded out of an understanding

of the experience of rhetorical multi-placement.4

To return to the last section of my discussion, we have to be careful not to literalize

what I call the "multi-placement" of the subject. The "places" of cyberspace, after all,

are not truly places at all; they inhere only as abstract fields of data. There is a natural

sort of terminological sliding that goes on, and I take that to be a natural consequence of

using Ecocomposition as a resource. Still, the multiple places of our discussion right now

(the contested and nebulous online spaces of the Internet, MOOspace, television and

video, etc.) do have a positive existence, insofar as they exist at the level of the text. The

"textmass" (as Michael Joyce refers to it) imports a dual set of possibilities for reading,

which Joyce distinguishes as "slideshow" and "accommodating multiplicity" ("Then"

88). Once again, a familiar semantic gap insinuates itself, a sort of rhetorical difference.

The "slideshow," while maintaining an awareness of electracy's spatial flatness,

nonetheless connotes a linear process, of one image building on another to create a









systematic narrative thread. "Accomodating multiplicity," on the other hand, is the

Lyotard to the Habermas-slideshow; the idea of the accommodation of difference is

central to Lyotard's desire to "wage war on totality" (qtd. in Faigley 39). In a crucial

move, though, Joyce yokes both reading strategies together with one clarion call. The

importance of this move, to reconceptualize reading and writing (or is it readingng")

strategies, has profound effects on how we can think about approaching the cyborg eco-

subject of this discourse. "The call to post-hypertextual rhetoric," Joyce says, "is a call to

find purpose in surface" ("Then" 88). Part of my project to this point has been to do just

that, to use Ecocomposition as a way of interrogating the surface-spaces of electracy, and

not just the "deep" places of biological existence (the notion of "deep" borrowed largely

here from Clifford Geertz see Dobrin "Writing" 18).

A crucial move that Joyce makes though, and one central to our understanding of

not only electorate textuality itself, but of its imbrication in the electorate cyborg-subject, is

towards a balanced consideration of different ways of thinking (about) the "textmass."

After all, so much of this discussion has been about pointing to useful polarities, so it

seems odd that a straight-forward sanctioning of one kind of reading would be contrary to

the aims of producing a working cyber-eco-rhetoric. The notion of finding "purpose in

surface" does not, and should not, do away with the idea of finding purpose in depth.

Indeed, the postmodern "textmass" is about both association (parologia) and

accumulation (an idea more in line with traditional, "banking" models of education)

(Joyce "Then" 92). The notion of the cyborg as a dis-placed and radically dispersed

body/consciousness may simply not inhere. Harpold and Philip find in cyborg rhetoric's

insistence on the transgression of occludingg and repelling barriers" a mere reversal of









the super-clean fantasies of global informatics. The desire of the cyborg to become a

body of "irony [and] perversity" merely represents "cyber-squalor," a messy spreading-

out of the subject (p31-34). Crucially, we are positing a subject who inhabits both

spaces, and, therefore, has to engage in both kinds of reading. Elsewhere, Joyce notes

that the iterability of New Media5 represents a move "beyond attention span," but not in

the Attention-Deficit-Disorder sense heralded by most neo-conservative critics. In

calling for an emphasis on "expression and construction," Joyce is calling for a new sort

of pedagogical focus that addresses the student/subject by rejecting models of "banking"

education, although his focus on Peter Elbow-like "expressivism" could problematize our

attempts at theorizing resistance. Perhaps Greg Ulmer's notion works better: remaining

positioned in a more social arena, his pedagogy seeks to "move students from [being]

consumers to practitioners of image discourse" (Internet 6). In either of these

approaches, the difference boils down to rhetoric; both still posit strategies for thinking

around the gap between placed subject and increasingly-displaced writing.

As we gear up to take on the problematic notion of resistance, it helps to have set

up this discussion of how we go about thinking of the hypertextual subject. The cyborg

is a useful start, at least insofar as it suggests a kind of pleasure involved in exploring

previously abjected realms, such as human/machine interface and thinking in the kind of

cross-gendered, cross-racialized terms available through New Media. Despite its

attempts at thinking in terms of collapse, of transgressions and heterogeneity, cyborg

theory does seem prone to a totalizing power of its own, providing a narrative of pure,

undiluted anti-hegemonic force, which seems to reinstate and repolarize the very

boundaries it speaks against. However, I am keen to point out that this is not a project in









cyborg or posthuman theory; the compromise suggested in my theoretical reading here is

designed to point to the development of a more fully ecological theory regarding the

discourses of electracy. Primarily, I maintain the preservation of the "asignifying gap"

that seems to continuously insinuate itself at the heart of electronic composition, in order

that we preserve the possibility of movement around it. Our discourse must "grow,"

rhizomatically if you will, around the gap: not to colonize it or theorize it out of

existence, but rather to define it in greater detail. In doing so, we can come to a better

grasp of the nomos of electracy, the one who is "always between two points, but [for

whom] the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and

direction all its own" (Deleuze and Guattari 383).

The transactions (we must parse "transaction"-it is always a "trans" movement, a

movement "across") that occur over this gap are the transactions we want to be watching,

the patterns we see emerging there will define the ecology of electracy. What

Killingsworth and Krajicek say about the ethos of environmental literature applies still to

the ethos of the nomad: to think ecologically is to is to go "from solitude to society and

back again" (54). I see Michael Joyce picking up this strain of thought: "in this suffusive

gap both mind and age, both body and electron, feed each other" (Othermindedness 70).

Like most ecological systems, our study here can focus on a subject who is neither

separate from physical environment, nor from discursive environmentss; the nomadic

subject lives in symbiosis with both. What is the result? The goal now is to point the

way towards the kind of dual, complementary reading and writing strategies that affirm

the sense I have of cyborg eco-subjects. They can find in the fragmented surfaces spaces

of electronic text a space for reflection back onto the "deep" world that surrounds them.









They can draw on both the material apparatus of literacy and the somewhat more

immaterial domain of hypertext, remaining aware of the discursive "gaps" that structure

the interface between them. Cyberspaces are in flux and contingent, but the multiple-yet-

literate cyborg-subject understands that they (both themselves and their places) are

always-already contingent. The coincidence of placement is precisely a co-incidence

WITH placementt.

Performing Resistance in n-Dimensional Space

To define resistance in the context of electracy is to always be embarking on an

ecological process. For me, a large part of that process has to be found in reconciling the

material spaces of these apparatuses with the writing practices and subjects they

construct. What's left is to come to some adequate sense of "resistance" itself. As a term

marked by political and institutional valences, resistance seems to belong to the

classroom, the sine qua non space of the literate apparatus. In Rhetoric and Composition

studies, at least, resistance theory is a matter of interrogating the various discourses of

exclusion and oppression coded into the practices of literacy-resistance is done from

within. Stuart Moulthrop, though, famously decrees that practicing resistance within

hypertext is a matter of futility. To couch his conclusions in my own terms, practicing

resistance would be a matter of closing off the fluid, extended, contingent nature of

hypertextual space. After all, the purpose of resistance in the traditional sense is to resist

the kinds of (colonial, racist, sexist, etc.) written discourses that promote what you could

call closure: closing people off from access to wealth and opportunity. Since hypertext

exists as a structure of openness, resistance becomes impossible: "in this medium, there is

no way to resist multiplicity by imposing a univocal and definitive discourse. Hypertext

frustrates this resistance because, paradoxically, it offers no resistance to the intrusion"









(Moulthrop and Kaplan 235, authors' emphasis). This is the inverse of the complaint that

Lyotard levels at Habermas-to create a unified, rational discourse would have meant

invariably a kind of exclusion, against the "heterogeneity of language games" (qtd. in

Faigley 41). Why? Because that's the nature of the apparatus; that's literacy. This is

how resistance theory comes so often under attack-there's the sense that teaching

resistance is simply to be teaching another kind of discourse of mastery; a dogma of non-

obedience is still a dogma. Since the material nature of hypertext as seen by Moulthrop

is such that it offers no form of definitive "closure," finding a target for resistance in the

traditional sense becomes difficult.

What, then, are we hoping to resist? First and foremost, it would still be ideal to

use the tools of New Media to think our way back across the gap that divides literacy and

electracy, logos and nomos, argument and association. Nicholas Burbules, despite his

aforementioned attempt at injecting "place" into cyberspace, still desires to use those

spaces to encourage a kind of "critical hyperreading" that moves towards "recognizing

the interpretive framework of ideology inherent in a literary work" (83). Moulthrop and

Kaplan conclude that "our resistance may come to focus not on prior texts or creative

precursors but rather on the literary institutions we have inherited... The subject of our

resistance may be print culture itself' (236). I'm not sure how they plan on divorcing

institutions from their textual instantiations, but that's a quibble for another time; either

way, the flow of resistant movement seems oddly linear: from electracy to literacy.

Resistance, in this sense, could also be directed against attempts by others to infiltrate the

"openness" of cyberspace in the name of closure. This is certainly a knotty suggestion,

closing off those who would champion closure, but the pedagogical efficacy of such a









move could open up a sustained conversation on the very idea of closure itself. This

move could furnish a space to consider, for example, the breakdown of "the classical

liberal firewall of word and deed" that occurs in a case like that reported in Dibbel's "A

Rape in Cyberspace" (Cooper "Postmodern" 154). Perhaps a more contemporary

possibility would be a discussion of the file sharing debate in relation to copyright law.

Either way, literacy is bringing its share of baggage into the digital world, which could

keep media students and theorists busy for quite some time.

Still, I have not answered the question. Despite suggesting ways of doing

resistance in cyberspace, what has remained largely unaddressed thus far is the concept of

resistance itself. Resistance, as it is, marks a particular form of textual closure, a way of

saying: "I see the ideology you're trying to foist on me, I know what you're doing, and I

am hereby resisting it." Theorist John Schilb notes: "true literacy means examining one's

society, not simply manipulating surface features of text" (187). If resistance-as-literacy

has no real need for surface features, then what good are the surface spaces of New

Media? Perhaps this calls for a revision of a previous formula. Resistance, as I've had it,

is not so much about a linear movement from electracy to literacy; instead, resistance

seems to be like bouncing a ball off a wall. Originating with literacy-minded goals

towards a literacy-minded end, using New Media as only a convenient "bouncing-off'

point. I could achieve the same overall effect by tossing a ball in the air to myself. It's

the new game; same as the old game. What I would theorize is a different sort of

resistance all together; a new kind of game that interrogates the ideology of electracy.

Joe Hardin establishes a foundation, working with Eric Miraglia's definition of

resistance: "This concept of resistance is usually taken to signify behaviors that contest









the acculturative forces of the academy and that 'interrogate dominant ideologies with

self-aware logic and creativity"' (37). "Self-aware logic and creativity" are the bread and

butter of our new media, and I will certainly not be so hamfistedly Utopian as to argue

that the coming apparatus will not be without its share of pernicious ideologies. The very

fact that electracy is bound up in what Moulthrop calls "the military-entertainment-

informational culture" should be enough to raise some suspicion. However, it does no

better to go after all popular entertainment than it does to go after the entire academy;

perhaps entertainment's increasing reliance on advertising represents an ideological move

ripe for critique, representing as it does the apotheosis of the multinational corporation.

(An interesting equation: the multinational Corporation is to electracy what the secular

State is to literacy, or what the Church is to orality.) Perhaps Moulthrop and Kaplan's

move to disavow resistance was a tad narrow-minded; the subject of our resistance is not

the open and varied material construction of electracy itself, but rather the range of

associative ideologies that would seek to exploit it, sap its potential, and, in a sense,

"close" off the range of options. Responding to the oft-debated condition of "secondary

orality" commenced by electronic media, Greg Ulmer's move is to transform students

"from consumers to practitioners of image discourse" (Internet 6). His move is to

"resist" what we increasingly perceive to be the artificial "closures" of media practices.

This strategy can at least serve as a generative model for teacher/practitioners of New

Media writing: resistance in our context can function not as a critical stab at literacy by

way ofNew Media, but rather an open-ended conversation that proceeds through

argument back towards the ideological conditions of electracy (an inversion of the









previous model). In either formulation, resistance stays true to a central idea: it's a way

of circling the "gap" between literacy and electracy.

Marilyn Cooper, writing in a different context, sees the potential of networked

writing conversations for resisting the traditionally univocal structure of the classroom,

and, in doing so, she furnishes me with a crucial piece of vocabulary that I would like to

use to solidify my position on the operations of resistance theory in electracy. Looking at

the tradition of networked collaborative conversations (the subject of much of Lester

Faigley's discussion in Fragments ofRationality), Cooper posits that the teacher going

through this kind of interaction is "is not giving or sharing power with students, but rather

is performing an action that sets up a range of possibilities for actions" ("Postmodern"

146, my emphasis). The more I consider bringing the literary practice of resistance into

contact with the material construction of hypertext, the more I find value in what Cooper

calls performance. The value of a performance lies in its action; it is fixed in space but

fluctuates with time. (Consider the brief life spans of many websites; the im-material

ecology of the media is that they can be razed and rebuilt without noticeable impact-

their comings and goings do not shake the web.) Writing in this manner allows

individual subjects (teachers and students) to "take up or refuse" a range of responses;

like proliferating spaces, writing-as-performance seems to reproduce by spore: producing

yet more writing. I will make more of this claim by looking at the example Stuart

Moulthrop uses to build his case against resistance, recasting it in terms of what I call the

performative resistant potential of electorate writing.

What Moulthrop's student Karl Crary does in his hypertext critique is to mount a

critical taxonomy: he tries to define the bounds of hypertext in an effort to resist the









power of its expansiveness. In a sense, Crary stages a semantic raid: critiquing

hypertextuality from inside what he perceives to be a stable rhetorical "place," but which

is, in my vocabulary, a contingent place-where-he-happens-to-be (the eco-based image I

used previously as a way of describing the gap-crossing behavior of writers). In doing

so, he falls prey to a "fatal recursion: his taxonomy includes itself within one if its own

categories" ("Rhizome" 314). Crary-as-modermist-critic performs the discursive

equivalent of falling into a black hole; he starts by assuming the ethos (and, indeed, the

topos) of the critic, by assuming a kind of place-ment which falls out from under him in

the very act of speaking. Hypertext's lack of closure represents the event horizon from

which Crary's sure-footed criticism will not escape, despite his straightforward

confidence in the place-he-happens-to-be. Moulthrop states that Crary's move could be

just another "paralogical move"-since no screened space is deeper than any other, they

ought to maintain the same status. Instead, Moulthrop sees this event as a metalepsiss, or

jump outside the game, which allows us to perceive the constraints our writing systems

impose on us" ("Rhizome" 315). This is the vantage point from which I would

reformulate my idea of resistance. The rhetorical constructs of Ecocomposition return

here to remind us to pay attention to the "place" where Crary is writing; given the

contingent place-ment of hypertextual writing, it seems to me that Crary is very much

doing a kind of resistance, even if his attempt at doing so falls short to a logical pitfall.

Resistance takes on value in the form of metalepsiss, the jump outside the game"

("Rhizome" 315). When Crary performs his jump, he demonstrates the limits of

hypertext as a writing system; he tests the limits of the ideology of expansiveness that is

endemic to New Media theory.









It is a moment of much potential, but Moulthrop and Kaplan dismiss it, seeming to

believe that the poor, essay-bound Crary could not have known what he was doing. They

may be right, but let's assume that he did: the gesture outside the game becomes a way of

pointing to the construction of the apparatus itself, both for himself and for the person

reading his gesture. Let's assume that he, or another student like him, could make such a

leaping gesture, but while maintaining a certain awareness of the contingency of their

own move. We could readjust ourselves to see all hypertextual writing as "metaleptic,"

always a matter of jumping around, of moving rhizomatically across/through/around

spaces. This is not necessarily a smooth motion, but a sudden jumping off and a

sometimes traumatic crashing down. Crary's example is limiting here: his metalepsiss"

is a leap "outside" the game than it is ajumping-in-place. He jumps up enough for us to

see the contingent placement that underlies his discourse (the delicate topos underlying

and undermining his determined ethos), and lands back in the same supposedly-firm

place. Still, I propose a model for thinking about hyper-resistance that takes into account

first the jumping-across of multiple contingent places, and brings that model into contact

with the notion of the apparatus. Resistance is a matter of always going back; resistance

is always recursive because it, as a discipline, seeks to investigate place as the place-

already-constructed, constructed by the previous apparatus. We could re-read Freire

here-his move towards critical thinking was a move against the position of the subject

of oral discourse, a subject dominated by the monolithic state. Freire's workers brought

literacy as a way of re-evaluating locality, of placement. It is not readily apparent in the

logocentric spaces of the codex, but resistance in this sense still implies a "jumping

across" ideological boundaries. In our electronic context, performance is the formula









which allows a "deeper" understanding of one's "environment" precisely because

performance is a matter of understanding surface; performance may be to electracy what

sustained critique is to literacy. This approach does not necessarily translate into direct

political action, which becomes here another possibility that the individual may take up

or refuse. It does, however, set up a possibility for new ways of thinking, a possibility for

producing that precious Freirean commodity: "critical consciousness," an alive,

performed awareness of one's situation within hegemonic structures (Villaneuva 635).

Moulthrop's insistence that "hypertext leads back into the logocentric matrix" seem

to be working under the assumption that hypertext itself is following a linear trajectory

("Rhizome" 312). The "linearity and multilinearity" that create variable possibilities for

reading and interpretation are ideologically the same. "Lines are lines, logos and not

nomos, even when they are embedded in a hypertextual matrix" (310). Linearity itself,

remember, is the quality that electorate cyborgs resist, insofar as linearity is the strict

ideological norm of print culture. I retort by saying that practicing electracy is to be

performing it, to create it as you go. The idea of an inevitable falling-back-into the age of

print is simply the negative side-effect of bootstrapping our understanding of hypertext.6

(Perhaps the problem is that we move too fast by considering hypertext as simply another

form of written text, instead of considering, as Greg Ulmer does, the insistent importance

of imaging in this new medium.) We cannot go around assuming that hypertext will

inevitably do anything by itself-wouldn't that be just another way of (trying to) throw a

fence up around it, a way of trying to enforce an artificial constraint on its placement?

The contingent spaces of electracy are not so easily nailed down; indeed, Moulthrop's

entire argument points in this direction, which makes it even stranger to me that he









should try to make such a direct pessimistic gesture towards the end. Thinking about

written poetic texts while seeming to incorporate the "perceptual filter" of post-World

Wide Web textuality, Jerome McGann offers some perspectives on how to approach the

structures of variability and contingency in (hyper)text without simply giving a relativist,

postmodern shrug at it all. As we engage, critique, and resist texts:

[Our] objects themselves shapeshift continually and the points move, drift, shiver,
and even dissolve away. Those transfers occur because 'the text' is always a
negotiated text.... Aesthetic space is organized like quantum space... the identity
of the elements making up the space are perceived to shift and change. (181-3)

The alternative to a starkly linear conception of text is this move, a move towards a

"quantum space," a space of contingency. The alternative to a rigorous study of stable

textual bodies is to recognize their changing-ness, and to make the jump along with them.

My proposal, then, is a resistance based on metalepsis, a resistance of contingency

structured in unstable, "n-dimensional" space: a quantum resistance.

Quantum resistance is a matter of staging explorations into Other spaces, a matter

of "enjoying" (there's that interesting-yet-problematic cyborg term) the fluidity of

boundaries in order to pass freely among them. Quantum resistance is a performative act,

an exploration into other spaces, a process of accumulating awareness of the place-

where-I-happen-to-be, not because it has particular meaning in-itself, but because it exists

as part of a network. To engage in resistance is to be thinking about cyber-ecology.

Characterizing the act itself as a series of self-aware metaleptic leaps in n-dimensional

space, resistance is resistance only insofar as it is about a leaping over into different

spaces and discourses. Gilbert enacts a resistance by using her space to resist definitions

of "space;" hers is a series of jumps across the borders of the apparatus. Ulmer's

"Grammatology Hypermedia" enacts a resistance by spreading across multiple lexias a









variety of ideas about space itself; his is a series of jumps through multiple speakers and

perspectives. Quantum resistance is not about critiquing, but rather performing the

language of New Media. If I gain nothing else by performance, then I have used

hypermedia as a way of dissolving the hierarchical structures that tend to bind my place-

ment in the world. Performance runs that risk, of being only about "my" place, and

therefore becoming a recursion into solipsism; but it also connotes the (never guaranteed,

because it is never authorized) possibility of re-creating and re-evaluating multiple topoi.

Making these "quantum" leaps through the "textmass" foments a dual sense of

development: both association and accumulation, to return to Joyce's phrase, which itself

presents the possibility for a kind of critical consciousness ("Then" 92).

This development transforms the process of resistance from passive (the idea of

"learning" to resist), and makes it, much more problematically, a process of active

engagement. That active process may become a mere jumping up-and-down exercise;

still, in our moment, there may be an element of victory in itself of getting students to

start thinking in terms beyond their "home" apparatus, of getting them to consider the

"gap" between ideologies and forms of writing.7 The crucial idea of "empowerment" in

resistant discourse will fracture and disperse as it attempts to cross the gap into hypertext.

It will only be reassembled by traversing the gap back again. Resistance becomes the

quantum of energy released by jumping between energy levels ("Energy"). Resistance-

as-performance entails first, a new kind of subject, one emerging into being but

threatened by its precarious placement at the gap between the structured space of the

school-as-institution and the open-but-solipsistic space of entertainment (the institutional

formation of electracy).









Moreover, resistance requires an aware act of deformation; as McGann points out,

"a true critical representation does not accurately (so to speak) mirror its object, it

consciously (so to speak) deforms its object" (173). Resistance-as-performance occurs as

a socially-situated process (no need to return to a completely process-dominated model of

composition) of negotiation: "every document, every moment in every document,

reveals an indeterminate set of interfaces that open into alternative spaces and temporal

relations" (McGann 181). Negotiation is a matter of jumping through socially-situated

spaces and not just performing critical acts of reading-and-writing, but also finding

spaces to listen. The potential results of this strategy are nebulous, and rightly so, but this

quantum model provides a sound, ecological prospective that will allow us to re-think

electronic composition in ways that interrogate its ideologies without losing ourselves

(and our students) in its daunting spaces of postmodern contingency.

Niche@Ideology.Writing.Web

I conclude my discussion with a return to the beginning, a return to the ecological

"web" that helped spawn (or is it spore?) this discussion on places, subjects, and the

weird jumping-around that I propose should go on there. To return to Ecocomposition is

to propose an expansion to the way that spaces and places get discussed and analyzed. I

have maintained throughout that placement is still crucial to the endeavor of New Media

studies, although I have proposed a sort of dynamic growth in what was heretofore a solid

notion, so that the idea of place may include a consideration of the materiality of

electronic and networked writing environments. Despite their seeming

incommensurability, Ecocomposition provides a vocabulary for aligning these spaces and

for developing discursive models that account for a writer's place-ment within them.









A notion I have found interesting throughout my research is the difference between

what Moulthrop, following Deleuze and Guattari, calls "smooth" and "striated" spaces.

Striaited spaces are the domain of "routine, specification, sequence, and causality," the

world of the coordinate grid, and of geometry; McLuhan and Ong associate these spaces

with conceptual breaks marked by the age of print. Smooth spaces subordinate points to

trajectory. They are spaces for "ad hoc political movements," constituted by "parataxis

and bricolage" of images in broadcasting. Smooth space is "mediated by

discontinuities... an occasion; Deleuze and Guattari call it a 'becoming'" ("Rhizome"

303). Despite their explicit differences, though, Deleuze and Guattari insist that these

two kinds of spaces exist not in isolation but always in "mixture" (474). Ulmer has

nearly the same stance: "it is important to remember, at the same time, that all three

dimensions of discourse [orality, literacy, and electracy] exist together interactively"

("Grammatology" p4). Cooper also agrees: "there is no reason not to oscillate between

the various media that operate to structure our transitional society" ("Postmodern" 142).

Mixture, hybridity, symbiosis: these are contingent properties that point towards the

potential efficacy of Ecocomposition for construct composite theories and pedagogies;

Ecocomposition is the "method that effectively constructs" the multiplicity of discourse

(Deleuze and Guattari 22).

The emerging apparatus of new writing practices and pedagogies is "regular and

reliable even in its vastness and randomness" (Moulthrop, "Rhizome" 310). The only

thing we know is that knowledge is always shifting, but that can be the beginning of an

effort that I've only sketched in this context, attempting to pin down and describe the

phenomena that are occurring in these gaps where our current apparatus cannot (and









shouldn't) take us, because they haven't been invented yet. Ulmer: "Electracy does not

exist as such, but names an apparatus that we are inventing 'as we speak"' (7). Some

New Media theorists take the path of ecstatic optimism about the Utopian dissolution of

hierarchy. Some, like Moulthrop, express a healthy skepticism about these claims, saying

that hypertext will not produce "liberated autonomous zones" or "pirate utopias"

("Rhizome" 317). This is partially right. Hypertext can produce such zones, but the very

idea of contingent space reminds us that zones exist only in contact with other zones.

Hypertext, and all the emerging writing practices of digital culture, may function

rhizomatically, like grass, and written discourse may function logocentrically, like a tree.

Ecology, however, accounts for all the formations within its habitats, including the

sizeable and persistent gaps across which our differences can synapse.

When we think in terms of gaps, we would want to address and offer critical

investigations of New Media rhetoric and the often-idealistic "gaps" they create between

theory and classroom practice. Another critical gap is the materiality of New Media

itself, and the extent to which our experience of its "new"-ness is mediated by hegemonic

notions of progress and change. Part of thinking ecologically is to be thinking in terms of

growth, change, and evolution; there's a powerful kind of revisionist history that we can

be encouraging at our unique moment of development by offering critical reckoning of

how technological rhetoric matches up to the realities of practice. Another goal

necessitated by the notion of this gap is the development of New Media pedagogies that

speak to the constructive processes that occur due to the advent of new writing

technologies. Some theory has already heralded the death of hierarchy and the

dissolution of racial and gender norms as we move increasingly towards a disembodied









conversational space; the contribution is valid, but we also see new kinds of hegemonies

emerging onto the scene, emerging out of the old institutional spaces and colonizing the

new ones. While we discuss pedagogy, we need to continue discussing resistance, how

to orient our classroom practices towards a more incisive conversation about the new

hegemonies being created by these new media. What does quantum resistance pedagogy

look like? The continuing challenge for composition theorists and practitioners alike will

be to consider the specific phenomenon that occur in the movements we and our students

make within, among, and around the coexistent spaces of discourse, and the

conversational processes of constructing and being-constructed that will continue to go

on there.

Notes

1. Clarification: Cooper's "Web" is a label for this discursive model, and is not
intended as a reference to the World Wide "Web."

2. Throughout the text, I will use "hypertext" to refer to the entire range of
electorate, digitally-based writing systems, including hypertext and other
computer-based communication regimes: HTML, MOOs and MUDs, chat
interfaces, etc.

3. McGann advances this argument throughout Radiant Textuality, see specifically
pp. 167-72, where he notes the "fundamental misconception" that "a digital field
is prima facie more complex and powerful than a bibliographic one." Terry
Harpold's "Hypertext" has also addressed the issue, emphasizing limitations of
descriptions of print commonly promoted by enthusiasts of hypertext in support
of digital writing's "revolutionary" innovations.

4. D. Diane Davis provides an interesting formula for this experience in her article
"(Non)Fiction('s) Addiction(s)." Drawing on Derrida's notion of language as an
"excentric drug," she approaches the new subject as a "narcological" Being,
"under-the-influence-of-language" (273). The influence of language-technology
causes "Being [to go] rhizomatic in the cyburbs" (279). As a drug, electracy
causes a certain kind of perceptual "breakdown" in the "fluidfying border"
between flat screens and the spaces of "real-life homes and offices" (276). I am
hesistant to expand further on her drug-based tropology, but its combination of
bio- and semio-spheric terminology makes a useful addition to my discussion.









5. Much of Lev Manovich's discussion in The Language of New Media works
towards defining the structures of hypermedia in terms of the modular
construction of film. Two of his five "principles of New Media" are "modularity"
and "variability," emphasizing the media's emphases on discrete objects which
can often be repositioned and replayed at will (pages 30-2, 36-45).

6. From the materialist angle, perhaps the problem is that we move too fast in
considering hypertext as only another form of written text, instead of taking into
account, as Greg Ulmer proposes we do, the fundamental role of imaging in this
new medium. Jerome McGann, Johanna Drucker, and other theorists of the
spatiality and multilinearity of printed artifacts would also, I suspect, wish for a
more forceful emphasis of the visual qualities of the printed mark, page, and
codex.

7. This sets up an interesting multivariate sense of "home" discourses. I primarily
mean "home" apparatus to refer to the hegemonic force of literacy. Multiple
interesting gaps open up, not only when we consider the transition to hypertextual
forms of writing, but also the "hypertextual" powers of print itself, and how both
factors are exposed to co-optation by the hegemonic forces) of the academy
structure.















LIST OF REFERENCES

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Cooper, Marilyn. "The Ecology of Writing" in Writing as Social Action. Portsmouth,
NH: Boynton/Cook, 1989. Pp. 1-13.

----. "Postmodern Possibilities in Electronic Conversations" in Gail Hawisher & Cynthia
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Davis, D. Diane. "(Non)Fiction('s) Addiction(s)" in Cynthia Haynes & Jan Rune
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42


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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

I was born in Virginia, but lived a somewhat itinerant existence. My childhood

years were spent in El Paso, Texas, but I came to "maturity" in Jacksonville, Florida. I

attended Stanton College Preparatory School, where my interests included theater, Latin,

and Monty Python.

I came to the University of Florida in 1997, following an ill-formed idea of

becoming a scholar/practitioner of dramatic literature. Two years later, I found myself

outside the theater department, bobbing in the current without much direction. A course

in Scottish literature helped me re-negotiate my focus towards the more theory-driven

domain of Cultural Studies. Unfortunately, I knew nothing of theory, so my

undergraduate thesis (a look at professional wrestling as postmodern text) was an

interestingly fraught project from the start.

As a graduate student, I stayed at the University of Florida, hoping to continue my

Cultural Studies curriculum. A first-year seminar in theories of writing, however, piqued

my interest. I undertook to study the range of Rhetoric and Composition theories on my

own, starting with the domain of resistance and discourse theory. With much effort, I

parlayed my interests in New Media into the mix, producing a sustained focus on various

areas of composition theory and pedagogy. After completing my master's thesis, I will

be pursuing a PhD at the University of Georgia.