Mattering: Resonating Materialities
This panel takes interest in looking at making beyond a concept of human mastery over materials to instead consider ethical, cultural, material, and ecological matters of concern in making with materials as mindful practice. In this panel, we offer a discussion (de)centered on ethical and critical methods of making emergent from materials. Speaker 1 suggests how a land-based pedagogy is just one practice to reveal the expense of technological transformation on the land, in turn showing how multimedia projects can present alternative histories. Speaker 2 considers techne through instrumentality as a practice in allowing materials to matter in making. Together, these two presentations attune to the resonance of materiality as a mode of composing.
This panel takes interest in looking at making beyond a concept of human mastery over materials to instead consider ethical, cultural, material, and ecological matters of concern in making with materials as mindful practice. With new technologies and new media, humans are distributed as and amongst materials, dissolving the boundary between subject and object. Without critical consideration of this distribution, an ecological mattering of material is overlooked, and the human subject continues to overshadow its material interrelations. Ecologies are inherently composed of materials, and it is the interrelationships between those materials that provides a landscape for making. In this panel, we offer a discussion (de)centered on ethical and critical methods of making emergent from materials. Speaker 1 suggests how a land-based pedagogy is just one practice to reveal the expense of technological transformation on land, in turn showing how multimedia projects can present alternative histories. Speaker 2 considers techne through instrumentality as a practice in allowing materials to matter in making. Together, these two presentations attune to the resonance of materiality as a mode of composing.
Speaker 1: Landscape as More than Setting: (re)Writing Technological Histories through Critical Land-based Inquiry
Though conceptions of ecology have served to understand digital spaces as constellative, relational, and complex, Angela Haas has complicated the ecological metaphor that frames experiences of making. As these metaphors can work to construct narratives of exploration and exploitation that mark these spaces as colonizing, decolonial approaches to technology in composition classrooms are vital.
Land serves not only as a basis for all material, but also provides a landscape that holds deeply embedded histories, relationships, and stories. As physical land provides the very material ground for making, Speaker 1 suggests that land-based inquiry serves as a catalyst for enacting a decolonial approach to digital composing in a first year writing course designated for STEM majors. Speaker 1 reflects on a course project through which students will visit sites on the campus of a land-grant institution, consider their relationships to those environments, and pose questions about the history of that land and the stories embedded richly within it.
Students will then produce a classwide multimedia project that presents an alternative history of computing, technology, and innovation on the campus, showing how the land itself has been used as material for constructing both deterministic and colonizing narratives of technological progress. Through a critical-reflective story about the design, affordances, and limitations of this project, Speaker 1 discusses the need to foster critical, decolonial, and rhetorical making in an age of digital and technological transformation.
Speaker 2: Techne’s Instrumentality: Posthuman Craft
Aristotle’s techne as the ancient combination of art and technology in productive knowledge has been reimagined in historical work in rhetorical studies of craft and material rhetorics as a mode of bringing forth, as a means of inventing new social possibilities in assemblages, networks, and ecologies, and as a state of capacity to make in being. Traditionally it is conceived as a combination of human and object/tool in a relationship of instrumentality. This relationship, however, suggests the primacy of human bodies over materials (and material environments) as something operating through the human in relation to all other bodies (nonhuman—animate and inanimate) in complex contexts. Conceiving rhetoric as post-human challenges this model of instrumentality; once wielded by humans, materials/tools are no longer subordinate to or perhaps even under the control of humans.
Reconceiving techne through redefining instrumentality calls attention to the potential of materials. Techne emerges as something from the interaction in material intermediaries—the qualities of the material are what are emphasized, not the use value with a product/production in mind. This project takes interest in the incorporeal being that can become visible, audible, or otherwise tactile to humans through embodied techne or corporealities in immersive multimedia (augmented reality, haptic feedback systems, touchscreen interfaces, 3D/holographic systems). Instruments become open-ended practices from which meaning can emerge in material reconfigurings of the world (Karen Barad). This potential in materials, or materials as being—experience as incorporeal— shifts the control over instruments to making with instruments. Instrumentality as material intermediary reimagines craft as responsivity; the bounds of the body are extended through material interactions.