_New Work of Composing_

As notes for this collection, I’ve decided to include a blog post I wrote for Convergence Culture that discussed one of the contributing pieces in The New Work of Composing. Namely, I make reference to “Re-Inventing Invention: A Performance in Three Acts” by Bre Garrett, Denise Landrum-Geyer, and Jason Palmeria.


In these last couple weeks, there seems to be an interest in the embodied ways we make sense in and of the world. In Baron’s Words Onscreen, for example, she emphasizes the embodied ways in which we encounter devices for reading, but she centers her attention on the somewhat “natural” embodiment that accompanies print media like books; these embodied encounters carry with them what we might call ambient experiences placed in the periphery of our attention: the smell of the book, the weight (both cultural and physical) of the book as an object, the ability to turn the pages and providing a sense of place within the book. Likewise, McCullough frequently claims that the unmediated experiences–such as the embodied act of walking through a city or a park–is a more natural form of sensemaking: situational awareness and (tacit) knowledge. In this way, because of the unmediated, print book’s supposed closer association with embodiment, both Baron and McCullough (but explicitly Baron) seem to privilege the book over e-reading because it may stimulate a closer reading. However, turning to Yancey et al, these authors offer a kind of counter point by claiming that e-reading might entail “a different kind of deep, continuous reading than we see in print, one more oriented to our experiencing the text–and thus what it portrays–in multiple, layered, overlapping ways” (5; emphasis in original). E-reading, then, still appears to constitute a kind of experience no less able to “transport” a reader into that experience, whatever it is.

Garrett, Landrum-Geyer, and Palmeri likewise touch upon the embodiment, specifically in the context of invention in the 21st century. Embodiment is part of the author’s wider theoretical tapestry concerning invention that also includes invention as juxtaposition and invention as social. Here, the intersections of these three concepts are nicely demonstrated in scene two of their “manifesto”:

…invention happens when one sits down at the computer, facing a blank screen, but invention continues as one moves from the computer screen to the kitchen, from typing to washing dishes; the mind doesn’t stand still, compartmentalized, because one’s body moves locations and tasks, but rather, the body travels through fluid boundaries, only compartmentalized by the tendency to enforce linear demarcations between experiences and spaces.
In this way, invention emerges as the body moves (between any number of materials, environments, or people). The body’s encounter across materials (etc.) prompts almost constant juxtaposition. A connection, then, might be drawn to the concept of a device–as opposed to concepts of  technology or material that has gotten a fair amount of play thus far in the term. The choice of device–seemingly a combination of interface, medium, and technology–would also constitute an embodied form of invention: e.g. like the activity in class, by encountering the same text across different devices would create a juxtaposition in experience as our body encounters new technological environments (or physical environments). Along these lines, the new work of composing might have something to do with how content is encountered and the embodied juxtapositions that would emerged between devices. Of course, we would seem to gain a more layered epistemology, but McCullough and Baron seem to give some attention to what is lost: maybe the lack of tacit knowledge, maybe less deep reading. But how convincing is that?



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