Use/Less Writing: What is Postmodern Education Wanting?

Instrumentality: the quality of being instrumental – useful – for some purpose; having utility, usefulness.  Essentially, that which enables the “getting-done of shit.” For Heidegger, technology’s instrumental orientation TO the world transforms the world into “standing reserves.” From this orientation TO the world, nothing in the world is “good” in and of itself, but only “good for” something. What is this orientation good for? Absolutely nothing! What is the opposing orientation good for? Absolutely nothing, really – but more of that in a moment. Given Heidegger’s take on technology’s instrumental (utilitarian) orientation TO the world, humanity is simply “pushing toward nothing but what is revealed in ordering” – TOO simply, and achingly systematically – structuring life according TO the rules and values of this orientation. For Heidegger (and for Freire, whose orientation won’t be explicitly discussed here) the rhetorical positioning of being WITH the world and being IN the world has significant implications for action/inaction: whereas the former positions humans as being thoroughly and critically perceptive about the environmental, social, political, and economic destiny that is literally in their own hands (to begin the struggle is to become beings WITH the world) the latter connotes the being IN the world that lacks scientific understanding of the natural world or the necessary scientific/dialectical understanding of social formation. What is the danger of such orientation – such being IN the world rather than being WITH the world? For Heidegger, an orientation (the “IN the world” orientation) that is overly concerned with the instrumentality of things – technologies’ purposes and utilities – the “good fors” that determine this systemic valuation – is a danger that sets man on a destructive and self-destructive course: “… enframing challenges forth the frenziedness of ordering that blocks every view into the coming-to-pass of revealing and so radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth.” Essentially, this “standing reserve” orientation eschews essence, the poetic, and IN its preoccupation with the frenzied ordering of things, it neglects the opportunity – in fact, denies our response-ability – to (vulnerably) open ourselves to the revealing, the coming-into-being, the giving, granting – the free relationship WITH technology which is essential to the revealing of truth. The danger of enframing technology as having (only) an instrumental purpose TO the world is a danger that sets man on this destructive and self-destructive course, one that radically endangers the relation to the essence of truth. Unsurprisingly, Derrida’s orientation to technology – specifically to writing as technology – is absent; unanchored, un-oriented; lacking a determinate position on the metaphorical compass. Derrida disengages (frees, ruptures, reveals) writing’s original function – utility – as the desire-to-say-what-one-means and cites it as that which can be “put between quotation marks [and] in so doing break[ing] it with every given context, engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable.” Derrida literally shatters Heidegger’s problem (that humanity’s orientation to technology, our “pushing forward nothing but what is revealed in ordering (which is, in effect, the continued concealment of the poetic/truth) by opening the field to a much larger scope; by disengaging, freeing, rupturing, revealing, and rewriting “writing”  – riting writing – as the “meaning or contents of the semantic message (your desire to say what you mean) from its limits, and shattering it so as to enable its message to be communicated by a different means, by more powerful technical mediations over a far greater distance, but still within a medium that remains fundamentally continuous and self-identical, a homogenous element through which the unity and wholeness of meaning would not be affected in its essence.” Can this different means, the more powerful technical mediation which enables communication of a message over a far greater distance (but still within a medium that remains fundamentally continuous and self-identical) parallel with – gasp – the INTERnet? Internet: “a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local and global scope [which has] accelerated new forms of human INTERactions” ( When we ENTER the INTERnet, we (dis-)locate ourSELF between a network of messages that occur within an even more disparate network that remains fundamentally continuous (like this: 0) and self-identical; equal to itself, like this (=). Our engagement WITH the INTERnet is a critical choice exercising a desire to be WITH the world, to position the self (=) WITH the fundamentally continuous (0) for the purposING (not purpose, like “use” but “purposing”) of human interactions. For Ulmer, the internet is Derrida’s “powerful technical mediation which enables communication of a message over a far greater distance.” It is the relation of the individual (=) to the force (source; 0) of value in the narrative world; it is the different means, the more powerful technical mediation, which allows the individual to locate the channel and flow of value through the popcycle (society) like this (=0). Ulmer’s orientation is (dis-)located – disequilibriated (more of this in a moment) – learned – through the mystory, an experiment in which the mystorian “acknowledges how [his/her] intuitions or body is coded or formatted with values of ideologies that one does not necessarily agree with once one becomes an adult.” At this juncture – at this interruption, this rupture, this shattering and subsequent disengagement, freeing, revealing – riting –within my writing, I must explain how Ulmer “purposes” the mystory: “[the mystory] maps the powers sending the values we received (interpellation) [while] the EmerAgency intervenes in this interpellation process like this (0=0=…) When we look at the (menial) artistic representation, we see how “the force of rupture is no less important: by virtue of its essential iterability, a written syntagma can always be detached from the chain (=0=0) in which it is inserted or given without causing it to lose all possibility of functioning, if not all possibility of communicating, precisely.” The mystory, then, is a duplication or duplicity, an “iterability of the mark [that] is neither an accident or an anomaly … engendering an infinity of new contexts in a manner which is absolutely illimitable and a revealing, a coming-into-being, a giving, granting and free relationship WITH technology that is essential to the revealing of truth (Heidegger). Before moving through the uselessness of this postmodern way of seeing, it is important to suggest that Ulmer’s INTERpretation (his apprehension and representation through the means of art; as in the artist’s interpretation of a landscape) of the mystorian’s response-ability to how one’s intuitions or body is coded or formatted with values or ideologies … INTERprets the human body as technology; that which, like a program, is built of codes and formats with values; if the body is technology, and technology is a “connectionist network in the virtual corporate gaze of the fifth estate” then the body is THE means through which meaning is mediated; that which is simultaneously fundamentally continuous and self-identical; essentially iterable, where “no context can entirely enclose it, nor any code, the code here being both the possibility and the impossibility of [technology/writing] of its essential iterability. So what is the use/lessness for a postmodern way of seeing (a way of not seeing)? What is education wanting from a postmodern orientation to technologies? Education is wanting to use/less. Education is wanting to respond WITH the mediating, situating, composing praxis of critical research (Sullivan and Porter) – research and writing whose right is to rite students’ disequilibriating. To explain, let’s consider Santos’ response to his student’s confusion as to the use-full-ness of Ulmer’s “quirky textbook”: “I mentioned my old professor Dr. Zern in class … he used to say that the only time a student is really learning something is when they are uncomfortable (he’s a Freudian, so he used to say “when he is disequilibriated”). In other words, students need to be knocked off balance.” What is this orientation good for? Absolutely nothing. Its usefulness? Useless. It’s not “full” of “use;” therefore it has “less” use; it’s useless. Consider this w[ri(gh)ting]’s reference, 51 lines ago (go on … frenziedly count and order them, if you want TO) to Heidegger’s take on humanity’s orientation to technology: it can be either one TO a world of standing reserves (which is good for absolutely no/thing) or the opposite, an orientation WITH the world, in which the world gives itself to us insofar as it reveals and opens itself to us (also good for no/thing). Our response to this gift has two potential orientations, the truth-seeking orientation being an opportunity to see ourselves as part of the coming-into-being, the revealing, and the “granting” of the world, with the world. Therefore, this orientation is also “good for” absolutely nothing; it’s use-less TO establishing a self- and others- preserving relationship WITH the world. It’s useless FOR a free relationship with technology and therein its uselessness is its aletheia, its revealing, unveiling, giving, showing, granting power. Educating is wanting trauma, the type of “trauma that always accompanies decentering” and the type of trauma that is experienced by the teacher’s disequilibriating; the knocking-down of students’ pre-programmed orientations to frienziedly “following the rules.” Educating is wanting learning through the situating of rhetorical relations and of composing processes; a situating that focuses on ethics as a rhetorical process and on rhetoric as an ethical process of constituting relations given the spatial and material conditions that (traditionally) define power” (Sullivan and Porter). This learning comes into being in the being, in our riddle in the body – the same body WITH which we often limit, code, format, and program our actions. Education wants you to stop USE-ing it – it simply wants you to free your ass; your mind will follow.



About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

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