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Week 14 April 16, 2020

April 16 Week Fourteen: Vocality as Textuality

Through our feminist and media archaeology approach to nonstandard textuality, we have been building a history of writing that is not exclusionary but rather is inclusionary.  This history has included examination of graphic textiles such as women’s needlework (Karen Kruger), memorial engravings, weavers and circuit builders (Lisa Nakamura), wearable tech (Susan Elizabeth Ryan), and today we turn to two text technologies that are independent of traditional publishing institutions–specifically the podcast series Sounding Out!

Anne Carson “The Gender of SoundGlass, Irony and God. New York: New Directions Books, 1995. 

Roland Barthes “The Grain of the Voice

BONUS EPISODE: PODCASTING, PUBLIC SCHOLARSHIP, AND ACCOUNTABILITY” and read Hannah McGregor’s editorial statement on Scholarly Podcasting Open Peer Review 

Sounding Out! Podcast #40: Linguicide, Indigenous Community and the Search for Lost Sounds or sound out! Podcast #47 on the Navajo singer songwriter Kaibah (Kay Bennett)

Ethical Storytelling in Podcasting (1 hour):

Textual Practice with Bruce

“The Podcast: Textual Remediation and Socio-Cultural Remixing

The art of podcasting depends exclusively upon the voice, that dynamic instrument that informs all language, rhetoric, argument, and storytelling. However, podcasting places primacy not on the speaker but instead on the listener in a Derridean erasure that deconstructs our basic understanding of the nature of mass media, which operates as a speaker-savvy, production-heavy, and listener-light collection of modalities. The podcast as a medium marries the simplicity of everyday talk in a conversational tone with technology that favors portability over fancy production. The readings from this week point to the fact that voice, alone, is both a text and a technology. In “The Grain of the Voice,” Roland Barthes posits that voice exists as a “pheno-text” and a “geno-text” (Barthes, “Grain,” 181). Borrowing from Julie Kristeva, Barthes argues that the geno-text is the “space where significations germinate,” that is, an inside-of-the-body place where the articulations and modulations of the voice emanate to create “expression” and “diction” (Barthes, “Grain,” 182-83). Like a geometrically complementary angle, pheno-text exists as the “tissue of cultural values,” an outside-of-the-body place that represents the “phenomena” that the geno-text describes (Barthes, “Grain,” 182-83). Anne Carson argues that the phenomenology of sound uniquely inhabits the inside/outside space simultaneously: “Every sound we make is a bit of autobiography. It has a totally private interior yet its trajectory is public” (Carson 130). In other words, the Barthian-Kristevian geno-text projects from inside the body to meet the Barthian-Kristevian pheno-text that operates outside of the body. Therefore, podcasting as a genre that exclusively relies on the voice provides the vehicle that brings together literally and metaphorically text and technology as an inside/outside of the body-as-text experience. 

In requiring the most ubiquitous 21st century devices – either a computer or a cellphone equipped with a free app – podcasting is the most democratic mass media ever developed and the most accessible and arguably most successful of the “new” mass media platforms. The practical import of the podcast cannot be denied as anyone with a computer or a cellphone and WiFi access literally can reach the world. From a theoretical perspective, podcasting provides an interesting dive into at least three fundamental queries common to new media applications. First, podcasting buries the author better than Barthes. Barthes argues that the reader takes primacy over the author. Adapting Barthes’ death of authorial intention to the digital download, the podcast places primacy on the listener. For Barthes, text does not consist merely of words; rather, text is a “space of many dimensions” and a “tissue of citations,” arising out of a “thousand sources of culture” (Barthes, “Death,” 4). The podcast reflects the multiplicitous vicissitudes of interconnected citations emanating from the speaker, thus rendering it impossible to specify “the very identity of the body that [speaks]” (Barthes, “Death,” 1). Second, podcasting remediates the concept of text. Text returns to its original Aristotelian “form” as voice, yet in this “new” 21st century form the voice is amplified and broadcast to an audience unimaginable by the Sophists yet in the same vein the podcaster is paid much as the Sophists were – for dispensing a specific brand of learned knowledge. Third, podcasting (re)creates a socio-cultural digital interface that (re)defines the how and why of textual practice. The vision of “interface” that Lori Emerson posits is one of an individual who becomes simultaneously a reader-writer through the process of technological interaction – a physical body-to-text (re)production process that “creates” a dynamic where the resulting “interface is equal parts user and machine” (Emerson 22-23, 47). Podcasting is Emerson’s theory come full circle. The user as speaker produces the body-to-text moment and the user as listener experiences the text-to-body result, thus (re)envisioning the nature of the individualized Emersonian reader-writer user-machine interface as a larger socio-cultural community digitally connected through the power of voice.”