Friday, July 20, 2007

The transformation of Literary and Media Studies

Finally I have a chance to finish my report on Katherine Hayles; I'm sure you must all be relieved, waiting with baited breath as you were. Or weren't you? tsk tsk. Well, I will finish it for my own satisfaction then.

After laying out her argument for human-computer interaction being an example of intermediation, or emergent complexity (or at least having the potential to so be) Hayles then claimed that "consciousness is not the expression of a coherent unified self, but is the narrative that sutures together a fragmented collection of multiple agents working simultaneously." Based on my own fairly extensive research in neuroscience, I can say that this is indeed what is believed, and has been believed for since around 1997 at least. She cites Daniel Dennet.

Some E-lit takes a form that enacts this view: for example Slipping Glimpse by Stephanie Strickland, work by Cynthia Lawson, and by Jaramillo.

Hermeneutics alone can't do the bridgework needed for E-lit (I know of one friend who might disagree...) and this has led to a profound transformation of traditional disciplines under the pressure of electronic media. Here we ran out of time, so unfortunately rather than elaborating on the above examples or explaining further about this transformation, Hayles said only that Literary and Media studies should be part of this conversation, rather than being shunted aside by new fields or by the sciences themselves.

And lastly a plug for the new E-Lit Anthology.

Of course there were a few questions, but the most interesting was from Samuel Weber who asked if meaning had to equal unity--what about the 7 types of ambiguity, for example, and isn't hermeneutics all about interpreting? (refering to here early point that meaning depends on the device doing the interpretation). Hayles answered that there has been a shift in (or an expansion of) "interpretation" from high level cognition to machine interpretation. She then quoted Emo Phillips: "I used to think the brain was the most wonderful organ, but then I thought about who was telling me this."

It was a funny response, but I don't think Weber is so easily answered as all that, and while ultimately I could imagine possibly agreeing with Hayles, I really need to hear or read more about the latter stages of her argument.

Overall this was a good talk in the clarity of explanation and competence of its delivery, but I really wish we had gotten farther than just laying the groundwork because of course it's her last claims about hermeneutics and the transformation of the disciplines that really need to be argued, rather than just explained. Better yet if she had a paper out somewhere that went into more detail. But so far she doesn't, that I could find, and I checked. If anyone knows of one, please tell me!

No comments: