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Technologies of Wonder

Digital book image
Image of Digital Book Cover from Computers and Composition Digital Press website 
 Author: Susan H. Delagrange                               Wiki Page Author: Suzanne Sink   
Susan H. Delagrange photo on laptop from her website                                                      delagrangestyle      
 Image of Susan H. Delagrange from her website                                                                  CC Image of Suzanne Sink posted on Flickr

Susan Delagrange is an inspirational scholar and woman. She earned her PhD in 2005 after spending thirty five years as a Writing Center Director and earning her MA in 1971. She embodies the notion that we should never stop learning, and we can always make tremendous contributions no matter what road we take professionally and personally. As many of us who have children can understand, the work/life balance can sometimes cause our educational and professional paths to move more slowly, but Delagrange is proof that reaching the goal with speed is not what is important. Reaching the goal is.
The wonder we experience when we hear Delagrange's story is not only personally edifying, but it is also an important part of her overall thesis in this book (which you can read online for FREE here!). That thesis argues for a renewed appreciation for the role of wonder in spurring our quest for knowledge and for providing a basis for scholarship.

Susan Delagrange argues four main points in her book.
  1. Approaching New Media studies with principles of feminism allows for issues of inclusion, heteroglossia (many voices), and embodiment to be raised, which she argues are integral to moving the discipline forward.
  2. Visual media and visually-driven digital objects should be granted the same privilege as print-based linear work in scholarship. With her background as a Writing Center Director, Delagrange argues that we need to teach and encourage more visual media production in the composition classroom as one way to destabilize the binary opposition between visual and text.
  3. Our sense of wonder should drive New Media scholarship as a point of inquiry, and wonder should allow us to focus more on the process of learning as opposed to a learning product, thus creating a modern day Wunderkammer (wonder-room).
  4. New Media scholars must not only focus on the critique of media objects, but must move toward a greater ability and desire to construct digital media objects. She advocates for more production-as-work and for more research into production theory.
Taking a page from Delagrange whereby visual rhetoric provides an essential link between the mind and body and is capable of conveying that which text cannot, I created the word cloud below from her chapter summaries.
Word Cloud of Chapter Summaries

Connection to Key Concepts:
  • Delagrange argues strongly for New Media students and scholars to engage more readily in the production
    of New Media content. Proairesis relates to the classical modes of composition, or the creation of a text for the end purpose of an oral argument. She argues that creation in New Media still relies heavily on the conventions of text composition, and she even discusses the CRAP guidelines we have used in class. For her, these guidelines aim to form visual rhetoric into something more akin to text. She concludes that in order for "English Studies, which still privileges the Word as its preferred mode of performance, and linear argument as its preferred change, more scholars must move beyond critical verbal analysis of visual texts and become active architects of intellectually engaged (and engaging) multimediated visual rhetoric. Until we and our students see ourselves as producers rather than just consumers of visua
    Screen shot of Kairos article featuring multimedia presentation
    l rhetoric, we are ceding the authority to
    speak and intervene in an increasingly multimediated world" (11).
    • In the screen shot to the right, there is an example of the kind of scholarship Delagrange is calling for to increase the recognition of New Media products as legitimate contributions to scholarship. The Kairos article is presented as a Table of Contents that links to separate pages with brief summaries and links to podcasts. Although, in a nod to the idea that text is still the privileged mode of production in scholarship, the author also includes a transcript.    
                                                                                                                                                        Screen shot taken of Rhetorical Roots and Media Future 

  • The author also argues that the creation of visual products with no textual equivalent must also become part of the composition classroom if we are ever to change the devaluation of non-textual and non-linear scholarship. "Writing instructors can—and should—take advantage of new forms of digital media for creating texts, and assign web pages and other demonstrations of multimodal argument, thus encouraging a rich, diverse rhetoric that responds to contemporary multimediated contexts and incorporates ethical ap­proaches to invention, arrangement, and style. Creating such assignments, producing our own multimodal pedagogical performances, and scaffolding them theoretically are essential if the shift from page to screen, and from alphabetic linear print to multimodal, multi-perspectival images and text, is to be understood and rewarded by our tenure-granting departments." (12)
  • In the chapter titled "(Re)Vision & Remediation," Delagrange writes, "Techné is "making," a productive oscillation between knowledge in the head and knowledge in the hand" (35). The chapter can easily be connected with the idea of proairesis. Technology or "techne" must be understood as not just knowledge of using it (in the head), but also knowledge in the production and creation of it (in the hand). 

  • Interface:
    • In Chapter Three, "Embodiment by Design," Delagrange asks, "What does it mean to be a technological body, to engage physically with digital hardware and software, and to represent our selves through those media" (17)? She argues that interface provides a space where a potential re-embodiment in knowledge acquisition can occur. She points out, for example, that prior to the development of the scientific method and rationality of the Enlightenment, visual elements such as illuminated manuscripts were commonplace. With low literacy rates, people would gather to listen in a physical space like a church or town square - the space itself enhanced by visual elements of architecture, paintings, sculpture and one another. She argues that this kind of physical interaction (the embodiment) allowed for a stronger and deeper connection to the material. However, with the arrival of rational thinking and the scientific method, these bodily connections were considered immaterial and subjective so thus excluded. The result is the kind of business model for scholarship which prizes speed and clarity of a finished marketable product over "reflective inquiry and generative ambiguity" made possible by embodied interactions. She argues that by reintroducing the visual through various digital interface models, we can reincorporate the visual and also the physical.  
    Consider the following visual images. On the left is a photograph of a sterile lab representing the rationality of a non-visual learning environment, safe from the subjectivity of bodily sensory experiences that the scientific method requires. On the right is a photograph of an old church interior, filled with shape, texture, art, and other visual experiences that allow for a physical connection to the space in which information is to be shared. If we think of these spaces as interfaces - portals through which and in which we obtain knowledge - which would inspire wonder in you?
     Sterile tissue culture labOld South Church Interior
    Image posted on Flickr by madnil99                                                                    Image posted on Flickr by Boston Landmarks Commission

    • The discussion above on how visual interface provides a space for greater exploration and connection also suggests the disconnect made by Baudrillard in his explanation of simulation and simulacra. He explains that simulacra are objects so far removed from the organic original version that no authentic understanding can be gleaned from it. Delagrange clearly argues for the superiority of learning through visual rhetoric in the same way that the gathering of people in a visually stimulating environment allowed for authentic human connection through the physical body. The disembodied nature of non-visual, non-physical experiences leads to a mere simulation of actual connectivity and understanding.  

    • Continuing the above argument, Delagrange argues overall in her book that we need to create a shift in our Ecology of Culture surrounding the inclusion of visual elements in scholarship and in the composition classroom. A cultural shift needs to occur in the culture of the discipline - our particular ecological group - that supports digital and visual processes over textual products. In an accepting and supportive ecology, the re-privileging of visual rhetoric will have space to grow. She observes, "The demonstrations of knowledge that “count” in the academy are overwhelmingly books and articles in refereed print-based journals that develop linear arguments and rely primarily on logos-based evidence. Images, if any, are simply illustrations: pictures or tables or graphs that merely show what the words have already told. Using images as a substantive component of an argument is suspect" (9). In other words, we tend to only accept images as an appendix to the word, not a replacement or even a corollary. It is a description of the current cultural ecology that needs to shift by an increased focus on incorporating visual modes of production in both scholarship and composition classrooms.


    Aspire to Inspire: Women in Technology

    • Delagrange proclaims herself to be a feminist and argues for applying a feminist lens to Media Studies. She writes, "My perspective is feminist, not because I claim that women in particular are differentially affected by digital technologies, but because feminist optics, feminist ways of seeing that focus on social justice and equity, seem well suited to identify points at which any underrepresented group or individual might be disadvantaged, or left out entirely, by technological change, and to formulate principles and practices of digital media use that are more inclusive and fair." (3) One reason for this is that the language surrounding technology is inherently masculine. The narrative surrounding technology's expansion is filled with terms like "a new frontier," with leaders often labeled "heroes" who use "tools" of technology to solve great social problems. It then becomes easy for the field to "disproportionately empower members of the already dominant discourse community—which in technological fields in the U.S. consists primarily of white males" (5). The video clip on the right is part of a series of You Tube videos produced by NASA entitled "Aspire to Inspire." Each video features women discussing the work they do in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). The have been created as part of a national initiative to raise the participation of females in these fields where they have been traditionally underrepresented. Here we see corroboration for the idea Delagrange raises in her book about the importance of combining a feminist perspective with our approach to New Media Studies.


    • Chapter Two reveals Delagrange's perspective toward the discipline and provides excellent advice on how to view - or what perspective we must take - New Media. She argues that we approach with wonder. She argues, "Techne is enabled by wonder, an attitude toward the world and our experience of it that both predisposes us to be amazed and prepares us to desire to learn more about the source of our amazement" (40). Delagrange writes eloquently about the role of wonder in our drive to learn about technology. We should not discount those initial moments of amazement when viewing a piece of technology, and we should use that amazement to drive us to ask questions about how it came to be. It's an exciting way to think about approaching knowledge - for the wonder! The poem below by Miriam Louisa explicates the connection between wonder and creativity, which is also an element of proairesis:
    Poem "wonder, creativity and wonderment" by Miriam Louisa


    Pattern and Information: The frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.
    • Delagrange sees pattern as elements of arrangement and arrangement as an inextricable element of information. In Chapter Five, "Media Machines, Devices of Wonder," Delagrange offers insight into a view of arrangement as a highly visual and non-linear space designed to inspire wonder. She heavily relies on the metaphor of the Wunderkammer, a curiosity cabinet or museum room in which oddities were collected and displayed. The exact translation of the German word is "wonder-room." A key element is of course the visual nature of a Wunderkammer, but also the arrangement. The viewer is able to make associations freely between objects as he or she physically occupies the space. These are the three key pattern that Delagrange advocates: visual, multiple subject positions (rather than a linear presentation), and embodied. With these three elements to an arrangement then the information can be conveyed differently, more deeply, and allow the viewer's own wondering/wandering to dictate how and what is understood.

    • Delagrange emphasizes that New Media is a "canvas for new forms of rhetorical production that value process over product, and wonder-induced inquiry over proof" (1). This means that the process of production is as valuable (if not more so) in New Media as the finished product (like a seminar paper) is in traditional scholarship. Performing the work is as valuable as producing a product. We can see this valuing of performance over production in our own Individual Research projects. We are expected to "play with" and "bang around in" our technologies and not think about the finished product as the most important aspect of the work. 

    Not only does Delagrange argue that our New Media performances are as valuable as the products, she also claims that the work allows our performances to be liberated from traditional and static forms. She writes, "[through] images and sound, multilinear associative arrangement...we can steer toward new, potentially emancipatory performances made possible in new media" (10). She discusses how New Media scholarship is unrestrained. It can take many forms. How many of us remember the five-paragraph essay? How many of us still teach that? How restricted do those performances feel? In our own class, I remember remarking to Laura that it felt so strange to not have a seminar paper due at the end of the course. Instead we have a project that emphasizes the process. My performance has been emancipated from a blank form and I can creatively explore and produce in new and exciting ways. In this piece (I find myself struggling for a label - is it an article? presentation?)from Kairos by Daniel Anderson, the form of scholarship has been freed of the constraints of text and allows for a performance limited only by imagination.

     Screen shot showing interactive function of e-book
    • The first way this text connects to the concept of interactivity is through the form of the text itself. This is an e-book, and was originally intended for digital publication as opposed to a print book later converted to a digital form. Delagrange is able to incorporate many interactive elements such as links to photos, articles, or videos as shown in the screen shot to the right. The author links to this video to illustrate how remediation layers new interpretation over previous forms.
                                                                                                                                                                                 Screen shot taken from Technologies of Wonder 
    • Delagrange argues that, "Interactive digital media invite the construction of electronic spaces that value process over product, and that have as their goal inquiry and discovery rather than proof" (19). By allowing the user to have an embodied experience, our sense of wonder is ignited. The free-form association and non-linear organization of the interactive visual media object invites exploration as opposed to receiving a particular message pre-directed by the author. 

    Archive and Network:
    • These terms do not readily apply to Delagrange's work. These concepts center around connectivity with other nodes, machines, or people. Delagrange is primarily concerned with how visual media is represented in the discipline, how individuals produce visual media objects, and how to incorporate more elements of visual rhetoric in the classroom. Discussion of connectivity exists in a limited way as described in the section on Ecology, and the digital data storage elements of Archive are not raised.
    • Again, only a loose connection can be made here to her implied argument that in order to raise the perception of visual media's role in scholarly work, scholars must themselves change and persist in the production and approval of digital scholarship.

    Defining Digital Media:
    • Delagrange has very strong views on what digital media should be understood. A working definition might be that digital media is a highly visual, interactive, and embodied creation driven and furthered by the producer's wonder and curiosity. It is capable of arrangement unlike text that allows for free-association and invites exploration as opposed to a finished product. Digital media is not an appendage to linear text-based scholarship, but it is rather a parallel and deserves equal status in the field. It is also a material product that must be practiced and built by users and scholars of the discipline not just studied theoretically in the abstract. Finally, digital media holds a promising place in the composition classroom in terms of invention and production.

    Key Terms from Text:
    • Wonder - Our innate curiosity and interest that should serve as the driving force behind scholarly pursuits and as the basis for composition pedagogy.
    • Techne - Technology that is produced by the hand, the tangible manifestation of technology understood by the mind. Delagrange argues more scholars need to engage in techne more in order to raise its status in the discipline.
    • Wunderkammer - Literally a "wonder-room," a curiosity cabinet or museum of collected oddities used as an extensive metaphor for how scholarship and composition should be arranged. Like a wonder-room, the consumer should be allowed to freely make associations in a visual and non-linear or overly directed space.
    • Feminism - A lens through which Delagrange argues advances in New Media Studies as a discipline can be achieved as feminism has a vocabulary that includes issues of embodiment, disenfranchisement, and viewing things from multiple perspectives, which are all necessary to consider as the discipline evolves.
    • Embodiment - The ability for experiences, objects, and information to relate to the physical body as opposed to purely existing in the mind. Also the presence or perception of a physical body in relation to an object or experience and the effects that has on it. 

    Reception in the Discipline:
    With this being Delagrange's first book, there are relatively few resources that have reviewed her work.
    • She was the recipient of the 2010 Kairos Best Webtext Award for "Wunderkammer, Joseph Cornell, and the Visual Canon of Arrangement,” which appeared in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy volume 13.2 in 2009. The article is closely related to the content of the published book.
    • There are two blurbs listed under the reviews section of the introduction page to her e-book.
      • "This is a rich, smart text and a delightful read; it will offer much for us to wrestle with, consider, and attempt to enact in the coming years, as the field’s understandings of and approaches to visual rhetoric become ever more nuanced." Danielle DeVoss, Professor of Professional Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University
      • "With references to a classical rhetorical tradition and a wide range of historical examples of visuality, this book offers as much insight to rhetorical theory and history as to contemporary technology studies and computers and writing." Mary Hocks, Associate Professor at University of Illinois specializing in digital rhetoric, composition theory and practice, multimedia composition, and cultural rhetorical studies of women, science and technology.


    Contributions to Scholarship:
    • Delagrange has contributed three important points to the field in this her first book because she calls for change, which is one of the most important roles for a scholar to play.
      • The first change is for the discipline as a whole to reconsider the usefulness of visual rhetoric. The construction of knowledge visually is a powerful and embodied practice with the ability to convey information in ways that text alone cannot - a space in which one can make his or her own connections and guide his or her own learning. This is the idea of the Wunderkammer and something I hope we each keep in mind next time we are faced with making something.
      • The second change is for the tenets of feminism to be applied to the discipline as an established theoretical stance for discussing disenfranchisement of women and other groups from Media Studies, for incorporating multiple subjects' perspectives in the creation and analysis of media projects, and the egalitarianism needed to equate visual with textual forms.
      • The last change is in scholars and critics working in the field of New Media to abandon the solely negative analyses that pick apart a product for its flaws and instead to follow their own senses of wonder in the creation and building of digital products. She calls for a discipline "in which we and our students become active producers rather than passive consumers of visual digital rhetoric...that results in more generous, thoughtful rhetorical action" (19).

    Value to Production:
    • First, the value in Delagrange's work is most readily helpful as an approach to production. The word production itself invites the image of a finished product. However, Delagrange and her wonder-driven inquiry suggests that, much like our Individual Research Projects, the value in production is the working process. The explorations and tutorials and reflections and analyses are all part of that exploration and as important as reaching a finished conclusion. She urges each of us to let the curiosity guide us in the projects we choose, the decisions about what form in which we choose to present our knowledge, and the way in which we experience the scholarship of others.
    • Second, be liberated. Emancipate yourself from the traditional forms you have been taught. Push the envelope on presentation and engage the non-linear, visual nature of the Wunderkammer. Create your own wonder rooms where embodied connections can be made.
    • Third, there is value in this book if you are a teacher of composition and seeking help with how to produce your curriculum. There are specific details about pedagogical strategies that incorporate the visual and digital possibilities such as a photo essay requiring research of both primary and secondary sources. The students were able to make presentations using Power Point or video.

    Works Cited:
    • Delagrange, Susan H., Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan, UT: Utah State UP/Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2011. Web.