Thursday, January 26, 2006

sweaters in the news

I heard an NPR story recently and read this Chicago Trib article about Bolivian President Evo Morales and his much-discussed sweater. Evidently President Morales has been wearing this rather unremarkable looking sweater (some claim it is alpaca, others acrylic) to meet with dignitaries all over the world. He’s causing a fashion craze in La Paz, Bolivian radio songs about the sweater, and commentators examining the meaning of the sweater. The Bolivian business man interviewed on NPR suggested that it is a part of Morales’ every-person image.

I think this is interesting on two levels – first the significance of a clothing item as communication. Secondly, it is unusual that a male world leader is discussed for his fashion choices.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

being a technophile

The reading I’ve been doing for my invention/design/mass culture class has me thinking about the way I interact with media and new technologies.  The first thing I realized is that I am a technophile.  But not a cutting-edge kind of technophile, more like a moderately early adapter.  For example, I jumped on the cell phone craze real late in the game (and the digital camera craze, and the text message craze… these things cost money) but once I decide to use a new technology or software or whatever, I develop ways to fit the new thing into my extant lifestyle pretty quickly.  I started using text messages seriously late this fall, and soon became a text message junkie.  I just had to find situations that make it useful.  I found a lot of times where making a phone call was impractical or unnecessary or rude, but sending a text was perfectly subtle and acceptable.  But not only do I adapt to new technologies, I get really enthusiastic about them.  I am not just a text message user, I’m a text junkie.  And the same is true for facebook, blogging, etc.

And, as my readers may notice, the ways people change their habits to adapt to new technologies is really interesting to me, maybe particularly because I do it so enthusiastically.  I suppose the fact that I’m posting these musings to a blog is another good example of this behavior.  Adorno, who I’ve been reading, might be skeptical of my enthusiasm to find uses for these new media.  He probably would see my sending text messages to decode his allusions ironic.  He sees enthusiasm for the “culture industry” as our following a mandatory cultural code that we don’t even enjoy but have to participate in to be a part of society.  And maybe he’s right.  But I wonder if the creative impulse behind new medias – blogs in particular – might change his theory.  Or maybe we are just all enacting and repeating the culture we’ve been absorbing since he wrote.  Regardless, I am going to continue to believe that I actually enjoy posting things on my blog, and using my cell phone, and watching the Gilmore Girls until the rest of the book convinces me otherwise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

epistemological musings

For my Rhetorical Criticism class this week I read, among other things, an article by Dr Bonnie Dow called “Response: Criticism and Authority in the Artistic Mode.” In it, Dow argues that we should conceive Rhetorical Criticism not with the language of Science (discovery, uncovering extant truth) as much as with the language of Art (creating, constructing or suggesting ideas). Her ideas appeal to me, especially as I come to analytic writing primarily from the perspective of a creative writer, not a scientist.

It also reminded me of a conversation I had over Christmas break with Kathryn, who studies both in the Sciences and Creative Writing at Hope College. We came to a realization together that the essential project of most academic writing (in most, perhaps all, disciplines) and in many of the arts is the same. The central message is this: here is something I have noticed about the world, and here is what I think it means. This is what I do when I write poems, this is what I do when I write rhetorical criticism, or blog posts, and even what scientists do, although the idiom of noticing, and verifying observations, and constructing meaning from that changes.

In some sense this comes out sounding rather relativistic – we all are constructing meaning from what we notice. On the other hand, I think it’s also empirical, it’s knowledge we construct based out of what we can experience and observe. Perhaps what I am arguing for, though, is that there is no inherent superiority in one form of expression, although perhaps different forms work better for particular kinds of observations.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Thorubos Revival

I posted a review of the one book I managed to read cover to cover over the break (Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland) over on the Thorubos blog. Matt has a double-review over there as well.