Journal le 6é?- Sparks Notes, Foucault, Neutrality, and Power
Yes, Sparks notes. Online. But they’re helpful, in that they refresh and re-iterate certain concepts. I find that in wading through the difficulty of Foucault’s prose style, I’m often struggling to understand on the sentence-by-sentence or even the word-by-word level, never mind being able to wrap my head around the overall structural unity of the book (or lack thereof). So in this regard, a resource like Sparks is helpful just to remind you of the overall themes of chapters, sections, etc.
Here is how Sparks sums up a section of Part 5: “A science does not become less ideological the more rigorously true it becomes; though gaps in the science’s theoretical structure may point us toward the operation of ideology, this operation must ultimately be examined solely at the level of discursive positivity.”
In that regard, I really like the following quote, which Fazeela posted in response to my journal last week: “[Discourse] appears as an asset — finite, limited, desirable, useful —that has its own rules of appearance, but also its own conditions of appropriation and operation; an asset that consequently, from the moment of its existence (and not only in its ‘practical applications’), poses the question of power; an asset that is, by nature, the object of a struggle, a political struggle” (136).
That quote has come to form a big part of where my major research paper for my master’s will go, since I’m looking more and more at digitization and how it affects our working lives, our personal lives, our mental lives, and even how it affect the rivers we drink from. Also, I’m thinking about who controls what assets, and how, and what that might mean to those who don’t have the control. (Again, Mr. Roboto comes up!)
The digitized realm seems to be a good place to consider a lot of these kinds of questions, since it’s where most of the world works and thinks these days.
I feel the idea of “discursive possibility” is a running theme in Archeology of Knowledge, however, along with discursive negativity: whether or not something can be understood in relation to its surroundings, predecessors, and pressures. In this regard, how do we understand the contest that surrounds digitization?
But if you takes that Sparks’ quote here (“a science does not become less ideological the more rigorously true it becomes”) and replace the word “science” with the word “Internet”, I think it’s possible to see this same idea we’ve been circulating all semester: no knowledge is neutral, no Wikpedia page or Encyclopedia Britanica entry is neutral, no version of Easter Wings of the Proverbs of Alfred is neutral, just like (as Dionne Brand once said) no language is neutral. (And in that regard, I’m typing this whole entry on a French keyboard, partly for practice, partly just to make the point here about the weirdness of how something gets represented– the number 6 here, plus the shift key, gives me a question mark. Where a question mark would typically be for an English speaker or writer, down on the bottom row with the right pinky finger, we get this: É. My thoughts and ideas are being conveyed via a series of linguistic and mechanical and digital systems that someone else thought up, designed, and manufactured. Hein toé, mon ‘sti d’ crissssse! I just swore at you!)
Or, backing up to no language as neutral, we used to say when I played volleyball that practice doesn’t make perfect, it just makes permanent. If you’re practicing something incorrectly, or with a faulty strategy, you’re only reinforcing the error. So how does language do this? How do all our words, even rigorously structured scientific ones, only reinforce what is a flawed strategy at the outset?
On a totally different note, I think part of why I keep mentioning the Digital Divide both in class and on the forums is that I myself am experiencing it this semester. Having an old rickety 2005-ish MacBook G4 means that I am forced to get other people to share their computer time and space with me, or else I have to barter, to use public computers, etc. That’s not a huge deal, certainly not compared to the 20% of the world who have no access at all to digital technology, but it has certainly limited my time and ability to do programming. But I still haven’t given up, and there are two weeks left in which to learn, and while I’m floundering right now, I’m stubborn, and I don’t like to quit. Raawwwwr.
In that regard, I’d be greatly happy if we could return for a few minutes to the Proverbs of Alfred tomorrow in class. And also I’d be happy if people want to meet outside of class for brainstorming.
Good luck everyone! Presentations coming up!!!