Brooke – Lingua Fracta

Brooke, Collin. Lingua Fracta. Creeskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 2009.

Lingua Fracta starts from the premise that there is a technological dimension to rhetoric, but as a discipline we have become fixated on the print context of rhetoric. As a result our understandings and practices of rhetoric are steeped in print media and do not appreciate any other dimensions, least of all new technologies. Instead of technology being the enemy and impending doom of print media and rhetoric, as some have predicted, new communication and information technologies can in fact go beyond offering new sites for rhetorical practice and prompt us to rethink our traditions. At the same time, in moving toward a rhetoric of new media, Brooke urged scholars not to try and reinvent the wheel, but to look to our traditional canon and trivium for the basis of this transformation.

Brooke’s underlying argument is that criticism and critical frameworks are inadequate and unsuitable for the study of new media because it requires a stable and fixed text: “New criticism simply because criticism or “close reading,” a species of analysis that survives to the present day in the form of rhetorical analyses for instance, that urge students to locate instances of ethos, logos, and pathos in particular texts” (9). Brooke stated that new criticism is not intrinsically wrong, but they are not suitable because they render “new media” as objects to be studied and “[n]ew media ‘objects’ lend themselves neither to close reading nor really to demonstrating the broader values represented by the theoretical concepts that Landow deploys” (14). Instead, Brooke asserted that a rhetoric of new media should view new media and texts as interfaces instead of objects:

“A turn toward the interface as our unit of analysis would be an acknowledgement that it is not necessary that these processes culminate in products (which can then be decoupled from the contexts of their production), but rather that what we think of as products (books, articles, essays) are but special, stabilized instances of ongoing process conducted at the level of interface.” (25)

furthermore…

“…we must begin to move from a text-based rhetoric, exemplified by our attachment to the printed page, to a rhetoric that can account for the dynamics of the interface” (26).

Brooke argued that while a rhetoric of new media requires us to rethink our fixation on textual objects, we do not have to invent this rhetoric wholesale. To this end, in chapter 2, he explicated how we can revamp our traditional rhetorical canons in light of an ecological framework, highlights scholars who are beginning to do such work, and lays out his model of rethinking the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic into layered ecologies.

In this ecological approach the trivium can be rethought as:

  • grammar —> ecologies of code
  • rhetoric —> ecologies of practice
  • dialectic/ logic —> ecologies of culture (47)

“One way of describing the relationship among these three ecologies is to see practices as combining various elements of code to produce a statement or action, one of many such that then combine and contend to produce a particular culture” (52).

Brooke also described each of the five rhetorical canons as an ecology: “a complex system of people, sites, practices, and objects” (52) Taken together, Brooke used the canons to form an ecology of practice within which the canons operate.

In chapters 3-7, Brooke refashioned each of the canons as ecologies that work to expand not only our notions of rhetorical possibility for new media, but “traditional” rhetoric as well.

“This framework is particularly useful in the case of interfaces, those imperfectly bounded encounters where users, technologies, and contexts intersect. Instead of describing a process that culminates in the production of a textual object, the trivium and canons help us envision a discursive space that is ongoing – one that is shaped both by the intentions of individual users and contextual constraints.” (200)

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