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Editable Methodological Header

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on January 10, 2012 at 1:37:30 am

Methodological Header: Growing Wyrd2thewiki by Planting it in a Clay Pot

Trey Conner, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, aka ShareRiff

Richard Doyle, Penn State University, aka mobius

passwyrd is "wyrd"


special edition wyrdzine



"With the smallest residue of superstition within oneself, one would indeed hardly escape the idea of being merely the incarnation, the mouth-piece, the medium of super-human powers. The idea of revelation, in the sense that suddenly with incredible certainty and subtlety, something becomes visible and audible, shaking us and overpowering us in our deepest being: all this is merely a description of facts. One listens, one does not search; one accepts, one does not ask, who is giving; like lightning a thought flashes up, with necessity, without hesitation with regard to its form--I never had a choice" - Friedrich Nietzsche



We are two teachers of rhetoric who have been working with wikis for six and ten years respectively, and we wanted to share the complex admixture of interconnection, solicitation and diaspora we had witnessed in our teaching. We knew, for example, that for teaching contemporary multimedia composition, wikis are fantastic tools for inducing student composition and sharing. Our classes formed communities as never before, they shared and collaborated and improved drastically. Yet narrating this phenomenon, or even just sharing a website is, we have found, insufficient to transmitting the intensely affective charge associated with wikidelic pedagogy, and the narrative tends to flatten out the very between-ness that wiki fosters. In short, for all of our enthusiasm, only those who had intensely wiki'd seemed to understand. A new tactic was in order if we were to bring the experience of wikidelia to the printed page: So, drawing on the history of avant garde composition, which seeks to interrupt readerly attention to ordinary consciousness and heighten the gaps and lacuane of texts (as in Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs method of the cut-up), we began to "cut-up" a wiki in process.


Our method? We took screenshots of our active wiki devoted to the nature of wikis, wyrdtothewiki, and cut them up. Because wikis seem to encourage an understanding of writing as weaving, on one dark and stormy night we then wove together the cut-ups, took images of them, and wove them back into the digital realm of the wiki. In this way we wove our experience of manifesting wiki to paper back into the wiki and out again. This feels like the right way to communicate the joy and dissarray we often feel when interacting with wiki: the cut-ups are intended to form gutters (cf. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics) or "lacunae" that will solicit further interaction with wyrdt2thewiki, our ongoing investigation of wiki ontologies. With the help of one our children - because wiki is about interconnecting at every level - we then fabricated a clay pot within which we stowed our (now paper) text, the first 'zine edition of wyrd2thewiki, in order to make it rhetorically resonate with the lacunaed papyrus texts discovered in clay pots at Nag Hammadi, sacred texts that enthrall as much through their gaps as their remarkable content. We then carefully boxed and mailed this "Nag Hammadi Fortune Cookie" off to our fearless editors, presenting them with a text which, in order to be read, must be broken. We hope you feel the joy, hear the call, and jump right in. Wyrd!


The Great Transduction

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Our next step was to transduce our printed screen shots with a video camera. In this process, we also navigated wyrd and took more "cuts"--this time, with a video camera--from the wiki. Then, we embedded this moving cut-up on the wiki. The transitive verb "to transduce" describes processes that "alter the physical nature or medium of (a signal)" and "convert variations in (a medium) into corresponding variations in another medium" (OED). When pressure or brightness is converted to voltage or position, you have transduction (OED) The Federal Telecommunications Standard 1037CA describes a transducer as a "device for converting energy from one form to another for the purpose of measurement of a physical quantity or for information transfer" With daily wiki practice, we become attuned to this dynamic nature of information. \"At the same time I am caught up in experiencing certain patterns of wyrd, I am creating them" (What is Wyrd?) In this way, transduction becomes the translational mode for weaving wyrds in wiki. Merging with these differential gradients of information transfer, wiki welcomes technologies of writing with sound, image, and text.

Suddenly, technological metaphors and analogies for the act of wyrding--antennae, phonographs, tape heads, and cathode ray tubes--actualize as multimedia practice with sound, image, and text. These are repetition-based practices of rhythm, and the lightning computations they facilitate find their most crystalized form in a "logic of gnosis," through the sacred compressions of mantra, yantra, and mudra. In multimedia composition, writing and learning proceed by transduction, rhetorics for commons-formation.


Because wiki "windows" "bear the mark of the infinite" (Govinda 24), learning to pay attention to how we wyrd in wiki cues wikidelic pedagogy. As teachers, we can begin with a performance. A how-to: how to become a search engine for  rhetorics. Gaian syllabi abound, everywhere: rhythmic traditions of the sacred provide clues as to how we might entrain everyday rhythms. These rhythmic recipes, these sacred scripts, at once both specific and timeless, open our writing to asignification, and enable the navigation of many degrees of asignificatory dynamics. They start with zero and proceed to One, via repetition. Repeatedly transitioning, reduplicating, chorusing, accelerating; but also decelerating, juxtaposing, jump-cutting, splitting, and also, perhaps most importantly, stopping and abiding in the lacunae of timelessness that perforate the dynamic mesh that wyrds weave when we affirm their irrational penumbra. We call this after the Lion King and the Lion's Roar, "Lacuna Mutata."


Mantram, for example, have for millenia provided rhetors with a means for cultivating this capacity for abiding in alternating currents: for opening up consciousness, and for precisely tuning and stabilizing attention. Boethius, forever dancing discursive around the infinite, steering between Providence and Fate, renders his vertigo vertical, into orderly strata. "All that is under Fate is also subject to Providence. But some things which are under Providence are above the course of Fate. For they are those things which, being stably fixed in virtue of their nearness to the first divinity, exceed the order of Fate's mobility\" (cited in Huxley 186). In order to narrate these degrees of difference, Boethius opens a space for us to suggest that sacred technologies for attending to timelessness and infinity differ only by incremental degrees, not in kind, from the repetitious hacking and ordering we perform in the service of time. This principle of repetition does in fact occur throughout our history of using words to rhythmize and entrain different found orders of vibration which "exceed the order of Fate's mobility," and manifests across all technologies for "yoking" body, consciousness, and spirit: yoga. The world's sacred 'scripts, prescribed explicitly for stepping out of time, nevertheless crystalize models for transducing energy and information across different orders of vibration, different bodies, ranging from the grosser skhanda to subtlest mesh of rhythmizomena, the emergent noosphere. Following Boethius, and taking into account his degrees of order rising out of and dissipating back into "Fate's mobility," we seek rhetorics that would not only transduce information up and down, but in all directions on this stigmergic scale.



Lama Govinda's Foundations of Mysticism, organized according to the syllables of the om mani padme hum mantra, elaborates one such model, and in doing so appears as a rhetoric for becoming a transducer. While the book attunes specifically to Buddhist mantric practices (towards the cultivation of prajna by means of bodhisattva practice), the opening chapter, "The Magic of Words and the Power of Speech" necessarily connects numerous (but does not enumerate all) traditions according to the common element of their diverse practices of repetition: the vocalization of variations on the sacred word, and the association of the Sanskrit syllable "Om"("Aum") with the infinite. According to this argument, Om is the mantric point from which diverse traditions, each "expressing the experience of infinity," unfold: both Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism, Vaishnavism and Shaivaism, Jainism, Vedantism, Amen. And texts: The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gospel of John, and Brahmanas. "This," Govinda states, "does not exhaust the different possibilities of expression, nor does it include their combination and mutual penetration" (p. 24). Wiki windows present themselves as an experience of the infinite that elude, like a mobius band, these rhetorics of "penetration" and affirms fenestration and even defenestration. Learning from tradition (sampling from archaic and sacred technologies, and creating and recreating words, as Govinda says, "ever anew") and from experience (testing, translating, and remixing these rhetorics through empirical investigation), we can, in our teaching, facilitate fruitful itineraries in several directions by returning again and again to the creative commons of the Creative Word. Neologistas forever! Govinda's study of the universal mantra is, in the sense of manual or guide, a rhetoric for the visualization, actualization, and navigation of interconnectivity, and it is only one such rhetoric that, in the context of wiki, achieves resonance. Our compressed way of grounding, organizing, rebooting, dissolving, and illuminating a multimedia pedagogy that allows the resonance to do the composing is to connect this understanding to a short refrain or mantric formula. For example, we like to repeat\"in the beginning was the wyrd, and the wyrd was wiki.



Mantras have been understood both as words imbued with deep meaning and as utterly "meaningless" or nonsemantic fields of force. That semantic and asignifying registers interleave on the world wide web is aptly illustrated by emergent spaces composed of metadata by means of social bookmarking. In these "tagging communities", rhetors find new combinations and transformations in the spaces between repetitious tags, presenting writers with ample and ongoing opportunity to articulate and tune statements of presupposition - their approach to the now wiki'd other. When applied to these attention economies, cybernetic formulations of perception and difference echo Aristotle's classic definition of rhetoric, as when Gregory Bateson explains how "...perception operates only upon difference. All receipt of information is necessarily the receipt of news of difference, and all perception of difference is limited by a threshold...knowledge at any given moment will be a function of the thresholds of our available means of perception" ( Mind and Nature 26).


As rhetorical practice expands in the digital commons to include tagging practices, the rhetorical canon of memory must expand to include practices of attention management, such as mantra. For Boethius, wiki would certainly appeal as an "enchanted loom" for converting the stimuli and tempi of tagging networks into words--a resonance technology for facilitating the rhetorical performance of a remix. We also offer The wiki is the medium is the message as a McLuhan-inspired mantra for this capacitor-like capacity of wiki.




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