Journal number six: Fou-coding

So … as evidenced by the conclusion, he does indeed have multiple voices in his head. Considering that Foucault thinks the question of ‘structuralism or not structuralism’ is “now acted out only by mimes and tumblers” (221), and considering also that I am neither actor nor acrobat, I will focus my attentions instead on SY’s question of ‘less controlled or more controlled.’ But this, too, can be interpreted as a question about structure.

The reason I say that is because digital literacy means having access to much information, which begs us to think about organizations, structures. Our thoughts are then oriented in another way, because it is not only a matter of interpreting the information, but now that there is so much information that it gets unwieldy, it is also a matter of organizing the information such that it can be interpreted. A new concern arises, then, if we’re talking about control: the control that comes from the ordering or structuring of the information beforeinterpretation, which is another sort of interpretation itself. This is Foucault, when he says “there is no knowledge without a particular discursive practice; and any discursive practice may be defined by the knowledge that it forms” (201).

I say, while it seems like we are moving toward less controlled information due to the quantity and availability of it (Wikipedia and ECGtext alike), we are simultaneously moving toward more controlled information, because whatever is presented to the public is presented in a particular way that has already been decided. This book contains many examples of the kinds of things that have already been decided, my favorite being Foucault’s discussion of the suppression of contradiction. In particular, the generalization of the “unique circumstances” of the individual, for the sake of continuity, so that the individual represents a whole “type of society, a set of traditions, an imaginary landscape common to a whole culture” (167).

But Foucault’s main example of the controlled representation of information is the “problematic of the origin;” the obsession separating the moment of creation or origination, from that which is “already-said” (158). Foucault’s irritation with this basic assumption of historical analysis seems similar to Mr. Random Cloud’s irritation with the assumption of the recensionist editors: “to seek in the great accumulation of the already-said the text that resembles ‘in advance’ a later text, to ransack history in order to rediscover the play of anticipations or echoes … these are harmless enough amusements for historians who refuse to grow up (160).”

So, let’s grow up and approach Foucault’s idea of multiplicities rather than oneness (Deleuze again! They must have been buddies). Speaking of the control of the editor, which is related to the problematic of the original, how does the concept of the multiplicity undermine the concept of the original? And how does that relate to the digital/social edition and recensionist textual analysis?

If archeological analysis is “always in the plural [and] has its domain where unities are juxtaposed, separated, fix their crests, confront one another, and accentuate the whitespaces between one another” (174), then this type of comparative multiplicity mitigates the power of the editor to create one. The information s/he has edited then becomes only one version among many. Foucault says that this is the power of the archive, to reveal discursive formations (229). So is the Foucauldian method applicable to the digital archive; can we consider “Fou-coding” a legitimate endeavour? I like to think that the subversive capacity of the multiplicity is multiplied in digital humanities resources and projects, but some digital humanities resources decidedly do not hold Foucault’s archeology as a theoretical consideration. One could argue that Juxta, for example, is based solely on textual analysis and not discourse analysis. Is ECGtext, then? It does, in its conception, do the archeologically correct thing: instead of being concerned with the problematic of origin, it displays differences. More importantly though, like the users of the archive, the users of ECGtext have the capacity to “make differences: to constitute them as objects” in an effort to analyze the discursive formation (226).

Like Foucault repeats, his method of discourse analysis is only one method in a series, but a method that identifies the series of discourses as being a series. So in the end, even archeological description of systems of relation and dispersion is a system of control. But maybe, in the words of the infamous Mr. Roboto (oddly suited to this conversation on many levels), “I need control, we all need control.”

This week, I’ll be continuing to try to do something to the site, but I have to admit I am way more interested in the project critique and presentation on Wednesday.