Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baroque literacies?

The picture is supposed to evoke the idea of ponds within ponds (Leibniz) and the following are some of the ideas I'm working on, beginning with the idea that the human subject is embodied and all activity is situated (there is little choice in this, after all, at least from a phenomenological poit of view). And then, as a result there may be little gain in ‘looking up’ to more abstract theory, but a compelling richness in ‘looking down’ into the complexities and interconnections of embodiment and situated activity itself. Rather than moving in the direction of coherence and convergence this suggests a view of literacies informed by the notion of ‘baroque complexity’ (Kwa, 2002) - one that may provide a more nuanced account of how digital texts enter the communication economy of contemporary literacy practices. Drawing generously on the work of Deleuze (1993), Kwa outlines three characteristics of the baroque: 'First the historic baroque insists on a strong phenomenological realness, a 'sensuous materiality'. Second, this materiality is not confined to, or locked within a simple individual but flows out in many directions, blurring the distinction between individual and environment. And third, there is also the baroque inventiveness, the ability to produce lots of novel combinations out of a rather limited set of elements, for instance as in baroque music.’ (Kwa, 2002:26). So Kwa’s version of the baroque encourages us to ‘look down’ at the detail rather than to ‘look up’ for some broader picture (Law, 2002). In practice that may well mean seeing the ways in which the broader patterning of practices such as the global flows of information, shifting power relations and so on are inscribed or become manifest in specific situations. To be continued....

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