This video was published in 2010 in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. A version of the piece was performed at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in the spring of that year. The piece brings together several performances that capture websites and software. The imagery highlights passages from books as a way of integrating scholarly materials into the video.
Although the audio track with ambient sounds drifts somewhat from familiar forms of scholarship, this video presents materials in a reasonably straightforward way. Scans from books and articles introduce academic concerns. The narrative track moves viewers through the concerns and provides context. The piece also includes clips from Apple's "Get a Mac" advertising campaign that embody intellectual concerns and further the discussion.
00:00 The video opens with a black screen; the rhythm of a shaker marking time is audible. The sound of thunder can be heard. An image of a decaying leaf, in black and white, appears on screen. The sound of bubbles underwater can be heard. On screen, the image zooms out to reveal the leaf image hosted on the Flickr website. The cursor selects a thumbnail icon, and an image of multicolored wires appears. A title appears on screen: "I'm a Map I'm a Green Tree."
00:40 On screen, the term "network" is typed into Flickr's search field. The narrator begins: "I'm here and I'm talking about how people, ideas, and things fit together. How we represent culture with maps or ecologies. How we render something like Flickr: people, gathered in groups, a network of connections."
01:02 On screen, the network image is replaced with the decaying leaf, which is resized to fill the screen. The narrator continues: "Or, we look to the living world for models. Of this image, we're told, 'microbes in the soil consume the leaf's soft tissue and leave only the cellulose and lignin skeleton.' The Flickr image suggests space, the leaf says time, the slow decay paradoxically revealing connections. It's these connections we're about to explore."
01:30 On screen, the window holding the leaf dissolves into a search field containing the phrase "language paradox." The cursor selects a link from the results, and a page from a book appears on screen: page three from The Well Wrought Urn by Cleanth Brooks. The narrator continues: "Let's start . . . with language. I'm here and I'm talking about flow zones, those spaces where transformation happens, the in-betweens where we find the breathing current."
01:47 The sound of electric current can be heard. A passage from The Well Wrought Urn is highlighted: "of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox." The narrator continues: "This is old style, the focus zoomed smack dab to the printed word. 'The truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.' We bring new focus now, but wow, that's some hard commitment to the power of the written, or here the spoken, word."
02:11 The cursor scrolls through the book. The screen zooms into a new page and a passage is highlighted: "[The poet must] work by analogies, metaphors do not lie in the same plane or fit neatly edge to edge. There is a continual tilting of the planes; necessary overlappings, discrepancies, contradictions." The narrator continues: "Metaphors do not lie in the same plane or fit neatly edge to edge. There is a continual tilting . . . necessary overlappings, discrepancies, contradictions."
02:24 The screen zooms in on the passage and a word is highlighted: "contradictions." The sound of thunder cracks. The narrator continues: "The edges of paradox emerge with words arrayed and linked to new ideas. Like how the tenor of the metaphor makes way for its vehicle."
02:39 The Wikipedia entry for "metaphor" fills the screen, and a passage is copied, and then pasted into a text editor: "[metaphor] is in two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the subject whose attributes are borrowed. Other writers employ the general terms ground and figure to denote tenor and the vehicle. Consider the All the world's a stage [monologue from As You Like It.]" The narrator continues: "Words cross the connotational space, where one idea flows into another, where meaning develops. In poetry we call for vehicles, red wheelbarrows from which we borrow attributes, modes of transport that bring the associations of one element into circuit . . . with another."
03:05 The sound of a jet flying past is heard. A web page hosted by Apple.com appears on screen, with the page heading: "Get a Mac—Watch the TV Ads." A video titled "Trust Mac" begins to play. The video shows two figures against a white background. The figure on the right in a blue shirt says, "Hello, I'm a Mac." The figure on the left in a trench coat says, "And I am no one." The video's audio is lowered and the narrator continues: "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC. This commingling of human and machine reveals the back and forth coursing of attributes. Virus. Spyware. Glasses. Cool shirt. The machine and human coinforming each other."
03:35 The volume in the video is turned up and the figure in the trench coat says, "You never saw me." The figure in the blue shirts responds, "Never saw who," and winks. The figure in the trench coat says, "Me, PC."
03:43 A scanner software window slowly loads an image from a book. A callout with citation information appears: "Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social. Oxford University Press, 2005." The scanned page is enlarged and a passage highlighted: "To make it fit our purposes we have to add a fourth feature that, I agree, breaks down the original metaphor somewhat: a network is not made of nylon thread, words or any durable substance but is the trace left behind by some moving agent. It has to be traced anew by the passage of another vehicle, another circulating entity." The narrator continues: "The Mac or PC metaphors show how people, ideas, and things flow together in cultural networks. The currents circulate, back and forth. A network . . . it's the trace left behind by some moving agent. It has to be traced anew by the passage of another vehicle, another circulating entity. The red wheelbarrow depends upon the bicycle and the bus driver being on time."
04:15 On screen, an image hosted on Flickr showing brightly colored pencils is selected and enlarged. As the mouse hovers over the tips of pencils, callouts appear with descriptions: "Fantastic detail," "Wow . . . texture," "amazing use of the focus ;)," "I love this color :D great job!" The narrator continues: "Moving entities, tracing and circulating. 'Fantastic detail,' 'Wow . . . Texture.' 'Amazing focus.' 'My favorite color.' Relationships growing within flowing networks of red, umber, pencil, power cords. Power chords." The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard.
04:40 The sound of a passing jet can be heard. On screen, the Apple commercial titled "Accident" fills the screen. In the video, a figure on the right in a blue shirt says, "Hello, I'm a Mac." A figure on the left in a brown suit seated in a wheelchair and wearing casts on both arms and one leg says, "And I'm a PC." The Mac character says, "I'm afraid to ask." The PC character replies, "Well, I was sitting at my desk. Someone walked by, carelessly tripped over my power cord, yanked me straight down to the ground, bam." The Mac character responds, "Yikes. Macbooks come with this power cord that connects magnetically, so, when it gets pulled it just pops right off. Everything is just kind of thought out, you know like the tiny built in iSight camera, or . . ." The PC character responds, "My life is flashing before my eyes. I see a sunset in a field of beautiful wheat." The Mac character responds, "Isn't that your screensaver?" The PC character responds, "Yeah."
05:12 The screen dissolves into an email thread responding to the query: "If either Mac or PC were setting up a Pandora radio station, what song or artist would they use to get started?" The cursor copies and pastes responses into a text editor, then copies some of the responses into an image editor. Text and icons are manipulated in the image editor. The narrator continues: "What follows is we find ourselves awash amid entities that give and take shape among one another: The Shins, Kelly Clarkson, Mac mail, Mastodon, web mail, copy, paste, copy, paste, power cords, empathy, celebrity, sharing, IP, music, text, text editor, Justin, John, Hannah, Lady Gaga, cheesy, ukulele, sun, dust, rolling thunder, clouds crowding . . . circulating collections of people, ideas, and things."
06:04 On screen, a software window appears, scanning a page from a book. A passage is highlighted: "[Subjects are no more] autochthonous than face-to-face interactions. They, too, depend on a flood of entities to exist. To be an 'actor' is now at last a fully artificial and fully traceable gathering." The narrator continues: "[We] depend on a flood . . . of entities to exist. To be an actor is now at last a fully artificial and fully traceable . . . gathering." The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard.
06:17 A video fills the screen. Against a white background, three figures stand. On the right is a figure in a light blue shirt. On the left is a figure in a brown suit. Behind these is a figure in a dark suit with dark glasses. The figure on the right says, "Hello, I'm a Mac." The figure in the back says, "Mac has issued a salutation, cancel or allow?" The figure in the brown suit responds, "Allow. And I'm a PC." The figure in the back says, "You are returning Mac's salutation, cancel or allow?" The PC character says, "Allow." The Mac character asks, "Okay, what gives?" The figure in the back says, "Mac is asking a question, cancel or allow?" The PC character responds, "Allow. He's part of Vista, my new operating system. PCs have a lot of security problems, so he asks me to authorize pretty much anything I do."
06:36 The audio on the video is lowered. The narrator continues: "The concern is that these networks constrain us, shape us, and tell us who we are."
06:43 The volume on the video is restored and the figure in the back of the video says, "You are coming to a sad realization, cancel or allow?" The PC character says, "Allow."
06:48 On screen, a new video from the "Get a Mac" campaign appears. On the right is a figure in a light blue shirt. On the left is a figure in a brown shirt. As the video plays, a block of text in small font appears at the bottom of the screen, partially obscuring the feet of the two characters. The narrator continues: "The gatherings threaten the human figure by binding us together, surrounding us with ideas and things." The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard.
06:58 On screen, more small text is added, continuing to cover the figures. The Mac character says, "Did your legal copy just grow?" The PC character responds, "Yeah, you see, usually PCs require a lot of regular maintenance, downloading security patches, virus scans. I can't just go out there and say, 'hey, getting started on PC is the easiest thing in the world.'" More small text is added, further covering the figures. The Mac character says, "Whoa. That's a lot of legal copy." The PC character says, "Watch this. PCs are now 100% trouble free." A large block of small text completely covers both characters. The Mac character says, "Look at that." The PC character responds, "That's a lot of legal copy."
07:19 A scanning software window appears, and then a scan from a book is manipulated in an image editor. The narrator continues: "But there is also an organic flow as we gather together in circuit with machines, an entity among entities, conduit for streams of meaning-making and performing action, never powerless, full of awareness of layerings, knowing that categories (like worlds) can still bring us, transformation." On screen, the scanned page from the book is rotated in the image editor. The view zooms into the layers palette of the image editor and the cursor highlights a layer with the label Transformation. The sound of electricity passing through a circuit can be heard.
07:45 On screen, the Pandora website appears, and "shins" is typed into a search field. The narrator continues: "I'm here and I'm talking about fitting in. PC goes to Pandora and types in Shins. The machine responds. The composition is one of mixing, but the zoom is way out. Choosing word over image or sound feels myopic. The composing here is one of entity in flowing network, not type cast, but acting." The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard.
08:10 On screen, the image editor reappears. The cursor manipulates a scanned page from a book. The narrator continues: "I'm talking about performing. The way the network is never hung up to dry, but always in motion, always calling us to be . . . composing. What is a text? What isn't? What is writing? The paintbrush. The poet. The CPU. The lungs. The organic mechanic typing song as worlds unfold in the streaming cast. Fantastic detail. What focus did you use? My favorite color. . . ." In the scanned page from the book, a passage has been highlighted: "Writing describes a subset of rhetoric: those productions whose mode of delivery is written language. In composition-as-rhetoric, a wordless cartoon or a minor-key melody may be an acceptable target discourse. In composition-as-writing, they would not (though an intermingling of word and image in some fuzzy ratio and relationship would)."
08:50 The scanning window reappears, and then a scan from a book is opened in an image editor. A passage is highlighted: "Rather, the circulation of quasi-standards allow[s] anonymous and isolated agencies to slowly become, layer after layer, comparable and commensurable—which is surely a large part of what we mean by being human. This common measurement depends, of course, on the quality of what is transferred. The question is not to fight against categories but rather to ask: 'Is the category subjecting or subjectifying you?' As we saw at the end of the last chapter, freedom is getting out of a bad bondage, not the absence of bonds." The narrator continues: "Through circulation . . . we become, layer after layer, comparable and commensurable . . . human. The question is not to fight against categories but rather to ask: 'Is the category subjecting or subjectifying you . . . freedom is getting out of a bad bondage, not an absence of bonds.' All the world's a studio, and we are but performers and mechanics, transporting meanings through each lignin layer." The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard.
09:25 On screen, the GarageBand audio editor appears. The playhead scrolls over several channels as the background sound track plays. The sound of a shaker and steady bass line can be heard as the playhead moves over their clips in the audio composition. The narrator continues: "I'm here and I'm talking about the connotational flow, the liquid mixings of sound and light, felt-like, felt like the composing of self with . . . words.
09.40 The playhead passes over an audio clip on the timeline. The sound of thunder is heard. The narrator concludes: "I'm a map. I'm a green tree."
09:57 The cursor presses stop on the audio editor. The sound of a shaker and steady bass line stops. The video ends.
The video contains screen captures gathered from the web, including imagery of a decaying leaf, a strand of wires, a network visualization, and colored pencils. Web searches and pages from Google books, Wikipedia, and Pandora are also captured. The video also includes items in an email conversation thread on a public mailing list. Quotations are also captured using images that have been scanned from books or journals.
Materials from Apple's "Get a Mac" advertising campaign provide key aspects of the intellectual argument. The suggestion is that metaphors have become actualized as characters, embodying posthuman blurrings of people and machines. The video also includes original materials by the author. An image editor file is manipulated to deliver text and icons. And a soundtrack has been composed using audio editing software.
Bair, Royce. "Leaf Skeleton Network—Macro Photo—#4 of 4." Flickr, uploaded by IronRodArt [Royce Bair], February 4, 2010, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ironrodart/4330069122/
Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry. New York: Harcourt Books, 1947.
Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. London: Athlone Press, 1989.
Gr, Irene. "The Crack." Flickr, uploaded by Irene Gr (Fog), November 20, 2009, http://www.flickr.com/photos/irenegr/4118878347/
GustavoG. "Mc-50: Flickr's Social Network." Flickr, uploaded by GustavoG, March 15, 2005, http://www.flickr.com/photos/gustavog/6575595/
Hesse, Doug. "Response to Cynthia L. Selfe's 'The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning.'" College Composition and Communication 61, no. 3 (2010): 602–5.
Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Macintosh Computers, Apple Inc. "Accident." 2006 advertisement. Viewed March 2011. http.//movies.apple.com
Macintosh Computers, Apple Inc. "Legal Copy." 2009 advertisement. Viewed March 2011. http.//movies.apple.com.
Macintosh Computers, Apple Inc. "Security." 2007 advertisement. Viewed March 2011. http.//movies.apple.com. 2007
Macintosh Computers, Apple Inc. "Trust Mac." 2006 advertisement. Viewed March 2011. http.//movies.apple.com. 2006
Manning, Erin. Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.
"Metaphor." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikipedia.com. 2010. Accessed March 2011. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense." In Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870s , edited and translated by Daniel Breazeale. San Jose, CA: Humanities Press, 1979.
The Shins. "Young Pilgrim." Written by James Mercer. Chutes Too Narrow, Sub Pop, 2003. Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/album/7J6xfwDSDnF6zljCmoblAQ
In 2006, Apple released its "Get a Mac" advertising campaign. The series features two characters, one somewhat geeky (PC, played by John Hodgman) and the other quite cool (Mac, played by Justin Long). The campaign speaks to intellectual concerns linked with screen composing. The idea that materials and technologies have agency is captured as the two computing platforms are cast as actors. Nietzsche tells us that "the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive" (88). The function of metaphors is to link attributes from one entity to another. Here, the machine and human attributes flow in both directions as the senses we identify with the PC and Mac come together as characters.
I'm a Map uses the screen to explore this human-machine connection. Rendering concepts through metaphor shifts as representation moves from words to audiovisual media. As Gilles Deleuze explains, "cinema cannot say with the poet: 'hands flutter'; it must first show hands being moved about quickly and then leaves fluttering" (155). The characters in I'm a Map, however, embody aspects of computing platforms. Discussing legal copy, power cords, and security protocols, Justin and John, Mac and PC, take shape amid networks, generating and representing attributes linked with their respective machines. Clearly, metaphor has entered a new space.
Exploring these characters through video scholarship creates more exchanges of meaning. In the audio track, bubbles underwater can be heard regularly. This bubbling evokes the flows "through which masses of entities begin to circulate" (196), to use a favorite metaphor of Bruno Latour. When connecting things, what matters are "the vehicles, the movements, the shifts" (196). We know metaphors are vehicles for moving ideas, "circulating through channels most easily materialized by techniques—paper techniques and, more generally, intellectual technologies being as important as gears, levers, and chemical bonds" (196). Latour starts with paper techniques for moving meaning. The sounds of bubbles in water evoke similar circulations through audio channels.
In many ways, the soundtrack is the most unconventional scholarly aspect of I'm a Map. The looped baseline and shaker sounds evoke spoken word expectations. The sounds of thunder and water mix with those of circuitry. Nietzsche says that we seek metaphors "to refashion the world," to make it "colorful, irregular, lacking in results and coherence, charming, and eternally new" (89). Metaphors work to capture concepts, but always become "regular and rigid" until their power slips away. In response (or in circuit), the intellect enchants and rhapsodists act, until fixed concepts are "torn by art" (89) that once again "throws metaphors into confusion and displaces the boundary stones of abstractions" (90). The disruptions remake meaning. For Latour, the renewal comes when the entities "are treated not as intermediaries but as mediators" (128), when they move and shape-shift among one another in the network. I'm a Map creates new circuits using bubbles and electric buzzing.
Erin Manning sees circulation as "movement that foregrounds incipience rather than displacement" (5). Following Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, as well as Alfred North Whitehead, she explains that "events create time and space" (7). This movement is linked with composing through "the pulling out of expression from the durational plane of experience" (7). Manning offers dancing as an art linked with experiences of movement. And she questions digital experiences where "you know in advance what could happen" (65). Instead, we should "foreground the effects of unknowability that are present in every movement" (65). Manning cites Henri Bergson, suggesting "that movement need not be thought [of] . . . as a quantitative displacement from a to b" (6). Instead, focusing on "the immanence of movement moving," on the possibilities of a before the closure of b, "opens up experience to the unknowable" (7).
Technical systems, Manning worries, might limit unknowability. Of technology and dance, she suggests, "the 'emergent' quality of the system depends on how a body moves with the software" (65). Movements should emerge with—rather than be predetermined by—technologies. Video scholarship foregrounds the ways software and composers codetermine experiences through what Manning calls "[moving] toward relational eventfulness." In coemergent fashion, we work with and against the grain of software. "For this to take place, recompositions of potential (movement taking-form through virtual recombinations shape-shifting into displacements) are necessary" (65). These shape-shiftings activate circuits where agency flows both ways as composing plays out.
Deleuze notes that cinema can't mix concepts like "hands flutter" as easily as words can, but adds that cinema can achieve metaphor through "the harmonics of the image" (155). Not only can images have their distinct harmonics, they resonate with both authors and viewers who "integrate thought into the image" (156). This process, Deleuze (following Sergei Eisenstein) notes, creates "a circuit which includes simultaneously the author, the film and the viewer" (156). In this circuit, we find "action-thought," sublime movements that "metaphoric composition expresses" (157). Seeking disruption, Nietzsche calls for "the intellect [to throw] the token of bondage from itself" (90). In writing about the social, Latour builds the network, puts it in motion, then looks for levers and gears. In eventful experiences, Manning offers dancing. So many metaphors deployed to disrupt (or remake) boundaries. In screen composing, PC goes to Pandora and types in Shins.