how not why why not how

Intellectual Itinerary

Interdisciplinary Work

How did I come to cultivate an interdisciplinary style of work? I was initially interested in language transactions in their graphic and sonorous materializations. Why, with memories of show-and-tell, was I setting out to explore multilingual puns in the work of Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein and from there become engrossed in theoretical concerns? I was intrigued by the kinship of dictation and recitation. For me, recording a verbal utterance and reading a written text aloud remained symmetrical operations. This is perhaps why I would later be able to entertain the idea that an act of reading, be it aloud or silent, is a species of translation. Such was my fascination with symmetry, I could not abandon the notion of notation; it intimately linked translation to recording and performance.

Inclined to abstraction, I could imagine a theatre of reading and writing. Here, in such a space, it is not the case that writing equals encoding and reading, decoding. They are more like song and gesture accompanying each other without co-dependency. The song of reading and the gesture of writing point us to the self-assured products of these acts. The gesture of reading echoes a hesitant finger tracing out symbols like the first foot falls of a child. And the song of writing quakes under the metaphorical weight of all the patient practice and clumsy attempts before leaping into the mastery of stenographic flight. Meanwhile, plodding along, I was thoroughly hooked on puns as sound sites.

Such spirit infused my research centred on sensory biases in media theory. In examining eye-ear dichotomies, I was tackling some terrible twos. I believed sensory dichotomization had a bearing upon how theorists think people appropriate media technologies. I wanted to find out how theorists built their models, how they worked, what habits informed their thinking. I adopted a meta-theory approach. I applied the tools of literary criticism. I combed source texts to discover the reading habits of theorists. I was interested in how these textual materials were constructed into models. I continued to apply the procedures of literary criticism when I assessed how those models came to be canonised. I was intrigued by the horizon of expectations that influences the receptions, both resistive and accommodating, of those media models. Old, dead and dying debates are often filled with the taken-for-granted assumptions that live on. I am curious as to how such assumptions affect the coherency of communication models-in-the-making.

One of those assumptions is the one-on-one basis of acts of communication. Not all communication rests upon the couple, upon the fiction that an author addresses a single reader. Even certain discussions of broadcast situations enshrine the hegemony of the dyad. The dyad is assumed to be the fundamental unit of human interaction if the relation between audience and speaker is fixed without regard to the possibilities of split addressee. A transmission may carry, intentionally or not, several different messages, including reference to its own status as transmission.

The transitive nature of communication (some message passes from A to B) is related in some fashion to its recursive nature (the very passing (or not) of a message is a message).

I am intrigued by the relation between the recursive and the transitive. My interest lies in phenomena that trigger actants in a communication situation to go meta, to discuss their very interaction, especially to negotiate the sensory mix that best suits the history and evolution of the interaction. Going meta is time sensitive.

The temporality of sensory modalities and communication media has been theorised within a framework that reproduces the classical distinction between spatial and temporal arts. This often leads to a conflation of simultaneity with synchronicity. I am particularly interested in the deployment of the spatial-temporal arts division in Lessing's Laocoön. I suspect that sharp unbridgeable divisions between the spatial and temporal arts can be read as marking a concern with issues of predictability.

It is the unpredictable emergence of the recursive that keeps me rereading and transcoding the "who where when" and "what" of the narratives that circulate in my world. By coinicidence, it is the same restitution of chance to necessity that leads me to structure my itinerary to include explorations of the phenomenon of Random Event Generators (REGs). I have a hypothesis to test. I wonder if the human sensorium was not made to generate the utility of surprise, to combine redundancy and novelty.


Copyright © François Lachance 1997
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