an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image
Volume 2, September 2005, ISSN 1552-5112
In 1950 Charles Olson published “Projective Verse,” a year before he became the director of Black Mountain College, working with experimental artists like John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and Franz Kline. It marked a significant event in terms of composition: Olson turned towards restructuring the act of composing itself—projective, projectile, percussive, prospective verse—by calling for an open field of composition.
Olson argues that a poem “at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge” (345). Olson calls for kinetic composition that “brings us up, bang, against tenses, in fact against syntax, in fact against grammar generally, that is, as we have inherited it” (349). In a movement that I now read in postmodern terms (point, line, field), Olson decrees that “the law of the line, which projective verse creates, must be hewn to, obeyed, and that the conventions which logic has forced on syntax must be broken open as quietly as must the too set feet of the old line” (350).
Technology, however small the significance might appear in the essay, provides a foreshadowing of my interests here:
It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precisions, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time the poet has the stave and the bar a musician has had. (351)
Olson and other Black Mountain poets and artists began to think of composing being active and alive (happenings) instead of reflective and representational—composing that does not seek description, but promotes enacting. Olson notes a change in apparatus; the tools for composing changed, and in accordance, he sought ways to work with new tools. Within the Discipline, the computer marks a much more complex changing in tools than the typewriter. Like Olson, we do not have any definitive methodologies for writing with digital tools. New media is without a consensus in terms of applicability. The interest here is in developing a theory of working with digital tools, mainly with computers with a “cut and paste” function embedded into their frameworks. Presently, these machines are found in classrooms and the offices of members of the Discipline among other media tools and objects like books, videocassettes, DVDs, monitors, projectors, televisions, etc. Even here though we may demarcate what is distinctive about the computer: all the previous types of media collapse together within a computer.
To discuss these matters, I will theorize about the potentialities that stem from successive avant-garde movements. At this level certain logics, techniques, and poetics arise that equip society and culture to last into the end of the century. The vanguard aesthetic of collage and montage, which will be extracted from Peter Bürger’s Theory of the Avant-Garde, becomes media theorist Lev Manovich’s foundational metaphor and rationale for new media. Manovich marks the import of the avant-garde in terms of new media’s foundational steps; my claim is that the logic of the enthymeme offers a way for continuing innovation. Following a tool like “cut and paste” as it moves through successive avant-garde movements, including the present potential with new media and human-computer interface, a progressive logic is formed that supplements normative approaches to academic writing.
The goal is to establish that specialized and quotidian writing methods are possible with the several logics new media offers: enthymematic decomposition, inference, indirection, and variation. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theories regarding language and writing will be deployed for defining the operating practices, rhetoric, and logic of a person using a digital tool with a “cut and paste” function. In particular, avant-garde terminology like “assemblage” becomes compounded and complicated when juxtaposed with Deleuze and Guattari’s “assemblage.” Deleuze and Guattari provide an existing theory of language that operates with Bakhtin’s dialogical principle, which is to say that we already have a theory of language that is enthymematic. In this way, certain terms may be dramatized, interlaced, and projected. Jean-Luc Nancy echoes an important principle regarding a Deleuzian approach:
“Deleuze’s interest in the cinema is not just appended to his work: it is at the centre, in the projective principle of this thought. It is a cinema-thought, in the sense of having its own order and screen, a singular plane of presentation and construction, of displacements and dramatization of concepts (the word ‘concept’ means this for Deleuze—making cinematic).” (110) As with Olsen, Deleuze and Guattari, my attempt is to find in what ways composing shifts with the open field of new media—how to make the vanguard aesthetic projective in contemporary academic composition.
All of these questions and postulates must be kept within the frame of academic writing; we want to improve on prior methods for composing an argument. We need a modified rhetoric, logic, and poetics that parallels shifts in tools and technologies. Cinema and advertising, the entire breadth of entertainment discourse, writes with the tools and demonstrates their effectiveness. From Eisenstein forward, the cinema becomes a methodology—it possibly has its own language. Advertising systematizes our understanding of images and their inherent arguments through artistic techniques turned into technical methods. Multiple methods for arguing continue to surface and their common structures remain identical for centuries.
Since Aristotle’s codification of argumentation in Rhetoric, Topics, and Prior Analytics, we find all the essential elements of argument: form, content, induction, deduction, enthymeme, example, and syllogism. My interest is not in scientific syllogisms used for analysis, but rhetorical syllogisms used for persuasion. This is our common thread in the Discipline: how to effectively persuade interlocutors of our positions. It is not a matter of describing our data with accuracy, but it is also not the case to disband accuracy in entirety either; unlike the sciences, the humanities must persuasively present the utility and worth of research.
I would like to combine Roland Barthes’ reading of the enthymeme within S/Z and The Semiotic Challenge to exemplify the enthymeme’s use and then extrapolate it as a device. Barthes’ S/Z ordinates how the enthymeme functions in a literary text, Balzac’s Sarrasine, by showing how the enthymeme is an incomplete, deductive, or probable syllogism: “La Zambinella is frightened by a popping cork, thus La Zambinella is timid” (S/Z 148). What Barthes highlights is the movement between the two propositions: how does one deduce the missing major premise through association?
As for the major premise, it derives from the narcissistic zone (woman is adorable), the psychological zone (woman is timid), the aesthetic zone (woman is beautiful); what establishes this major premise is, in conformity with the definition of enthymeme, not a scientific truth, but “common knowledge,” an endoxa. Thus the snares Sarrasine sets for himself are based on the most social discourse. (S/Z 148)
The enthymeme is the rhetorical syllogism of public knowledge par excellence as it operates with endoxal knowledge—existing public knowledge that circulates freely through various zones and social registers. Within The Semiotic Challenge, Barthes spends more time on the enthymeme by tracing its use through Aristotelian and Quintilian formations. For Aristotle and his followers, the enthymeme is a syllogism of probability, not based on the “true and immediate,” which is to say that it moves “from the probable, i.e., starting from what the public thinks” (SC 57). In opposition to scientific abstract reasoning for analysis, the enthymeme is public reasoning, capable of being deployed by anyone. The enthymeme’s origination in the social sphere and correspondence to probability and presentation “affords persuasion, not demonstration; for Aristotle, the enthymeme is sufficiently defined by the probable character of its premises” (SC 58). The example from S/Z demonstrates an adherence to probability of social knowledge; to solve the interval between the two propositions, an outside social knowledge (endoxa) must be called upon to discover the major premise.
The enthymeme carries a pedagogical residue towards what Barthes terms the “journey” of the syllogism: “the enthymeme is not a syllogism truncated by defect or corruption, but because the listener must be granted the pleasure of contributing to the construction of the argument; it is something like completing a given pattern or grid” (SC 60). Rather than dealing with the pleasure of following a direct argument, Barthes locates a pleasure in incomplete reasoning that values a “surplus of thought over language” (SC 60). Barthes’ terminology hints at notions of interactivity, addition, and process. The enthymeme’s journey is a to and fro motion, always a movement forward by juxtaposing propositions or utterances, and then a backward motion of surplus that completes the interval after all of the data is provided. We confront a modified grammar that leaps between points exceeding linear expectations. For instance, the logic permits subtraction of the verb or the suppression of the subject. Conclusions suspend all security towards completion by relying on probability and interaction.
The enthymeme, however, is open to corruption in terms of manipulation; advertising is the most acute model. The inference of the excised premise creates an interval of interpretation, which may be mutated, like Barthes’ example of La Zambinella. As the enthymeme relies on public knowledge, it affords the opportunity to exploit the stereotypes of the social discourse and thereby continue the redundancy. What we are seeking is a method of engaging the enthymeme in an academic discourse where the excised premise is also simultaneously given on the surface.
How do we use the logic of the enthymeme with new media to establish a writing method that simultaneously deploys the logic of the enthymeme—withholding of information and inducing the respondent to create a surplus of knowledge—but that also exposes the excised premise on the surface for its artificiality?
Perhaps we may pose this question in terms of a collage: when composing a collage, we have all the “pieces” available for viewing—the pieces are themselves images (not essentially pictographic)—which causes an interval of interpretation to occur by completing the pattern and grid. In short, we are seeking a theory of the enthymeme that works in conjunction with the methods of collage and montage; the collage simultaneously exposes and withholds, like an ideogram presenting an image without description. The idea moves from how to describe the information to how to present the information. A shift in rhetorical strategies is required as the emphasis switches from how to persuade directly to an indirect method.
If we winnow out the search further, figuring a methodology for incorporating the techniques of collage and montage stem from arguments decades old. Gregory L. Ulmer’s 1983 essay “The Object of Post-Criticism” poses a similar question, with the underpinning of Barthes, by asking our essential question: Will the collage/montage revolution in representation be admitted into the academic essay, into the discourse of knowledge, replacing the “realist” criticism based on the notions of “truth” as correspondence to or correct reproduction of a referent object of study? (86) After two decades, the Discipline is yet to make up its mind. We may situate our thought temporally; like Barthes, Ulmer’s question seems radical at the time due to the current apparatus present in the Discipline, mainly literate tools (Olson’s typewriter and now a word processor). Over twenty years later, the question seems as if it must be addressed since our entire apparatus is undergoing sweeping changes with the introduction of computers; we are now operating with Ulmer’s neologism “electracy.” The question is no longer a radical question, but a mandatory one.
Collage and Montage Aesthetic
The media theorist who develops collage and montage as the foundations of computing is Lev Manovich. Before becoming entrenched in how Manovich aligns the avant-garde aesthetic and new media, we need to explicate the foundations of collage and montage with the avant-garde. Peter Bürger’s Theory of the Avant-garde pays particular attention to the idea that as montage and photomontage develop, cubism parallels but translates the technical device into an artistic device with collage: “A theory of the avant-garde must begin with the concept of montage that is suggested by the early cubist collages. What distinguishes them from the techniques of composition developed since the Renaissance is the insertion of reality fragments into the painting, i.e., the insertion of material that has been left unchanged by the artist.” (Bürger 77) If we follow Bürger’s example of a hermeneutic circle, organic composition is constructed in accordance with the syntagmatic pattern where the parts and whole achieve a dialectical unity. In this classic writing mode, the part and whole may only be understood through one another. In inorganic composition, “The parts ‘emancipate’ themselves from a superordinate whole; they are no longer its essential elements” (Bürger 80). Turning to Breton’s automatic texts as an example, the circular flow is interrupted as there need not be a completed proposition. “In an automatic text that strings images together, some could be missing, yet the text would not be significantly affected…What is decisive are not the events in their distinctiveness but the construction principle that underlies the sequence of events” (Bürger 80). A new principle logic is formed with dyadic consequences; the process of constructing outweighs the final product—a disruption in means-ends rationality—and thought moves to a modality of inference by causing a leap between incongruent pieces.
The avant-garde forces collage into extension and modifies its simplistic attributes. The logic of collage provides a general attitude towards the language function of the piece. To speculate beyond Bürger, collage establishes its own logic of homonymy by incessantly creating puns. To tear the piece and insert it into a new context is to simultaneously establish a pun. When Robert Rauschenberg includes a photograph of John F. Kennedy into a Combine, it should be noted that the image exists in both contexts; the image becomes stratified and layered, which causes several signifieds to be triggered simultaneously. Tearing the piece, even if the avant-gardist attempts to “kill” the material, is not an act of simple transposition or translation; residues and traces of prior meanings may not be eclipsed. This movement of carrying meanings into various contexts, or to move the piece from situation to situation, creates the enigma that inference is called on to solve. This act is not the creation of additional meanings, like adding further associations, but displaces the supposedly fixed meaning the piece is in initially—a thought process of decomposition, disassociation, or diffusion. To compose is to decompose, to effectuate a multiplicity.
The avant-garde becomes marked by a tendency towards decomposition rather than composition. Image and representation become disrupted with the invention of photography and the incorporation of photographs into the work of art. When Kasimir Malevich places a photograph of the Mona Lisa into his collage Composition with Mona, there is an immediate disruption in how imaging functions within the visual arts. As Bürger says, “because the advent of photography makes possible the precise mechanical reproduction of reality, the mimetic function of the fine arts withers” (32). The avant-garde does not divorce the developing technological condition from artistic production, but rather mimes its intrusion into art; technology turns from being an independent variable to a dependent variable. Like Malevich’s title, the avant-garde works with media.
Montage and collage cause an interval to form in interpretation, to leap between social contexts. There is something outside the given, something that must be inferred. We may say that organic composition relies on a certain kind of syllogistic logic, like categorical and conditional syllogisms; composition and reception are linear and direct. But with inorganic composition, we confront a leap in thought as fragments are strewn together. If we remain within syllogistic logic, we may say that the avant-garde moves to a truncated or incomplete syllogism, or the enthymeme (superlinear and indirect). For Bürger, the avant-garde work remains incomplete: “one can see that although they allow one to discover a principle construction, they do not show a synthesis, in the sense of a unity of meaning” (Bürger 79). For example, Duchamp’s Why Not Sneeze Rose Sélavy? assembles marble cubes, a thermometer, and a cuttlebone inside an old rectangular birdcage. While not a montage or photomontage, the assembling of disparate ready-mades simultaneously abides by a montage-logic: “weight (heavy marble), promised sweetness (fake sugar cubes), missing warmth (thermometer), poetry (birdsong), arrested flight (cuttlebone and birdcage) and art (Cubism, and also the use of marble)” accentuates the flippant title of the work; “why not do something like sneezing, that cathartic reaction that grows from a tickle to a climatic explosion leaving only traces behind” (Duchamp 7-8)? More succinctly, classicist composition abides by continuity while avant-garde composition abides by contiguity. Duchamp relies on endoxal knowledge to carry out his argument against art as an essentialized concept by establishing a new congruency with supposedly incongruent found objects.
The avant-garde work of art hinges on the idea of an interval as in allegory, “because it permits one to separate those aspects that relate to production and to aesthetic effect at the analytical level and yet to conceive of them as a unity” (70). The work considers itself in terms of artificiality. If artificial material is incorporated into the work, “it is just that, material.” For the avant-garde, the “activity initially consists in nothing other than in killing the ‘life’ of the material, that is, in tearing it out of its functional context that gives it meaning” (Bürger 70). There is a general understanding of how the materials portray different meanings: Picasso and Braque use any materials to renovate art, the Russian avant-garde sought mass-produced materials to reflect the new political order, and the Dadaists exercise photomontage as a means of protest. Every object always already has a circulating meaning that may be transferred into other contexts—no object is virginal.
Bürger references Walter Benjamin’s theory of allegory in relation to collage. The extraction of this concept assists Bürger’s notion of collage as a break in meanings, an interruption in anticipated intervals, and a cessation of organic forms. If we begin to think of the organic (classicist) composition and inorganic (avant-garde) composition in terms of writing methods, we may posit that the inorganic “style” relies on reconnecting fragments into either an incomplete composition or an overloaded composition where the meanings overlap one another and exceed any organicism. Material for the avant-garde exists as an “empty sign, to which only they can impart significance” by tearing it out of a totality and turning it into a fragment (70).  Bürger’s language is problematic if read as a strategy to nullify meaning instead of as a way to nullify notions of fixed meanings. Meaning is an artificial socially and culturally inscribed function. The sign becomes more like a modular unit with the ability to be removed from one location only to be included in another.
Bürger’s theories regarding the avant-garde highlight how we approach new media. The enthymematic logic alters how we normatively approach Aristotelian logic. When the piece is removed from one context and placed in another, the enthymeme arises from our common endoxal knowledge to re-situate the meanings together. This method of juxtaposition becomes like Barthes’ example in Sarrasine of a popping cork and a timid woman. How we deduce the meaning behind the juxtaposition depends on a level of common social knowledge. Now we must consider how collage and montage function with enthymematic logic in new media.
Aesthetic to Materialization
Manovich assists in addressing how we move from vanguard aesthetics to new media, or rather, how we recognize vanguard techniques in new media. His article “Avant-Garde as Software” allows initial formulations regarding how vanguard aesthetics became the foundations of new media: “The techniques introduced by modernist avant-garde turn out to be sufficiently effective to last for the rest of the century. Mass visual culture only pushes further what was already invented, “intensifying” particular techniques and mixing them together in new combinations.” (“AGS” 1)
This initial difference between the avant-garde and what Manovich terms in relation to new media, the “new media avant-garde,” hinges on the idea of inventing new methods of accessing information; the historical and neo-avant-garde established multifarious techniques suitable to last through the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. To modify and collapse some of Manovich’s terms together, and to avoid terms like “new-neo,” I will refer to the avant-garde in relation to new media as “meta-avant-garde.” 
The same techniques developed by the avant-garde Left at the beginning of the twentieth century—montage, collage, photomontage, “cut and paste,” etc.—do not alter at a foundational level; instead, their uses intensify in degree: “In short, as far as the cultural languages are concerned, new media is still old media” (“AGS” 2). Accordingly, if we view the avant-garde as a movement that made composing a polyblend of available styles, then these styles and techniques are also intensified so as to allow for more combinations. To compose a collage, montage, or assemblage using avant-garde methods of “cut and paste” changes radically with human-computer interface (HCI).
What Manovich assists in relaying with precision is that the avant-garde rationale is carried into new media by integrating a vast amount of varying writing methods into one machine; we may now compose with all artistic dimensions at once, from the Renaissance to the cinema. It is not that the avant-garde intended to invent the foundations of new media, but rather the logic and techniques created by them become the most equipped devices and tools to create an unintentional rhetoric for new media. As Manovich highlights with his cinematic analogy in The Language of New Media, Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera functioned as a significant signpost for future writing systems, from the socially embedded kino-eye to a visualization of not only the foreground of the cinematic process (raw materials, filming-in-process, reception, etc.), but the background (how film anticipates the database with editing, nonlinear editing, and compositing).
Manovich relays directly that what had been the foreground in technical procedures and information processing—the vanguard aesthetic—now becomes meshed with the background of computing on a single surface: “The techniques invented by the 1920s Left artists became embedded in the commands and interface metaphors of computer software. In short, the avant-garde vision became materialized in a computer” (“AGS” 3). The avant-garde’s foreground becomes the background of computing. In terms of institutional practices, this acts as a metaphor for writing conventions; the avant-garde has become the background, their artistic devices turn into technical achievements, and “cut and paste” becomes a normative function for programs like MS Word. We are not seeking methods to improve writing in terms of efficiency, but how an efficient machine permits complex writing.
We are dealing with an inverse relationship that Manovich will assist in addressing and aid in theorizing how to bring the vanguard aesthetic to the surface, how to intensify and translate Bürger’s vanguard aesthetics in terms of new media, and how to allow both the vanguard techniques and rationale to be naturalized in writing. For example, “the avant-garde strategy of collage reemerged as a ‘cut and paste’ command, the most basic operation one can perform on any computer data,” but it is problematic to reduce “cut and paste” to a basic command for composing a classicist’s work. The tools inherent to HCI inaugurate new ways to access and organize any information that includes a change in apparatus and social methodologies. In short, I wish to explicate Manovich’s arguments that the avant-garde’s techniques are materialized in HCI and does not embed the vanguard aesthetic into the background; HCI promotes a radical potential to maintain vanguard aesthetics as a writing methodology and procedural set in the foreground of institutional and academic writing—how to continue the intensification inherent to the avant-garde. If the avant-garde establish the basic commands for computing, then they also continue to command our attention to realize that inventive writing methods may continue to flourish.
The current task, as Manovich says, “is to create an efficient structure and tools for working with arbitrary information, information which is always changing and always grows” (“AGS” 6). The avant-garde task of tearing the piece from its context and thereby denouncing the unity of the particular and universal is advanced through the logic of hyperlinking: “Hyperlinking separates data from its structure. This makes creation and distribution of messages extremely efficient: the same data can be endlessly assembled in new structures; parts of a single document can exist in physically distinct locations (i.e., a document has a distributed representation).” (“AGS” 4) Hyperlinking, as a logic, allows simultaneously disparate manifestations of data establishing a continuous assemblage of decomposition. The instinctive logic behind hyperlinking permits not only variation but also permits varying reception and recycling. One HTML statement, image, java script, media object, etc. may be accessed—its source viewed and copied—without a terminal stopping point, a writing procedure of continuous variation. Hyperlinking accentuates the vanguard interval with a web of intervals; pieces simultaneously transform and relocate.
We now have a single plane that obfuscates any centralization. HCI simultaneously establishes window frames with multiple “pages” and “windows.” Classic writing tools like the “page” maintain their original function, but also add new functions; the page as a discursive spacing allows for multiple windows and various objects to be dealt with on a single surface—a solidifying of background and foreground. Manovich associates these attributes with montage: “In window interface, the two opposites—temporal montage and montage within the shot—finally come together” (“AGS” 5). The progression of the avant-garde into the meta-avant-garde creates this potential of simultaneity; the combining of both montage effects on a single surface exceeds prior methods and creates new writing potentials; prior avant-garde techniques overlay and overlap in ways impossible before HCI. The notion of “new” itself, however, must be placed in suspension. One of Manovich’s most intriguing arguments comes across in a postmodern context. The meta-avant-gardist is similar to previous avant-gardists by not being concerned with “new” in a sense of “original”: “The new avant-garde is no longer concerned with seeing or representing the world in new ways but rather with accessing and using in new ways previously accumulated media. In this respect new media is post-media or meta-media, as it uses old media as its primary material.” (“AGS” 10) The new in this sense acts as a trope for re-accessing and re-developing old media; this is the method for how the avant-garde became embedded in computing. Man Ray’s assemblages and Bruce Conner’s wax sculptures—created to be destroyed so as to allow a new object to take its place—do not need to destroy their objects; the logic of hypermedia solicits a constant reshuffling of information and points of entry into varying data. The meta-avant-garde writing procedures resemble Duchamp’s film Anemic cinéma: endless revolutions of textual rhythms and images circling in successive punning—only the meta-avant-garde is without a terminal stopping point.
Manovich credits the 1920s Left avant-garde for creating the forms to represent and see the world in new ways, but also highlights that meta-avant-gardists are concerned with new ways to rework the codified forms and manipulate information with the techniques of “hypermedia, databases, search engines, data mining, image processing, visualization, simulation” (“AGS” 10). Meta-avant-garde techniques are “media access, generation, manipulation and analysis. Forms remain the same, but how these forms can be used changes radically” (“AGS” 11). For formulations on how the techniques become embedded into software, another of Manovich’s articles is of use. “New Media from Borges to HTML” is straightforward in approaching who the meta-avant-gardists are and what “works” they create. Manovich locates various computer scientists, engineers, and software developers as the greatest artists of the twentieth century (from J.C.R. Licklider to Tim Berners-Lee). The current great avant-garde works are Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro: “The greatest avant-garde film is software such as Final Cut Pro or After Effects which contains the possibilities of combining together thousands of separate tracks into a single movie, as well as setting various relationships between all these different tracks—and it thus it develops the avant-garde idea of a film as an abstract visual score to its logical end, and beyond.” (“NM” 15)
My interest in this statement is what leads Manovich to such a claim. No longer are we concerned with the creation of artworks or manifestos, now the focus turns to development, application, and execution. We find in these thinkers and computicians a full and complex understanding of prior avant-garde methods as techniques. The logic of new media and that of the art world clash; a significant break occurs in terms of how writing is produced and presented. New media installations and net.art projects undercut normative avenues of distribution; art assumes proper channels of distribution, a correct order and authorial control over a one-of-a-kind work of art, and viewed in proper locations like galleries, museums, and auctions (“NM” 14). New media “privileges the existence of potentially numerous copies; infinitely many different states of the same work; author-user symbiosis (the user can change the work through interactivity); the collective; collaborative authorship; and network distribution (which bypasses the art system distribution channels)” (“NM” 14). To correlate this statement with the present status of academic publishing, composing and publishing with new media acts with subversive potential; distribution changes radically along with publishing, but perhaps more importantly, how one composes a piece to be published.
If we begin rethinking at this base level, not only are methods of distribution and composition shifting, but also how writing interacts with the world. The logic of new media presents a significant cultural shift in methods and techniques of representation. Like previous avant-garde movements, we level traditions and engage several cultural practices simultaneously (working with the radically disparate)—alphabetic, phonologic, pictographic, cinematic, hieroglyphic, rebus writing, etc. The metaphor of HCI is only beginning to be translated into cultural logic. The logic of montage, collage, and enthymematic inference becomes naturalized in image-orientated graphical user interfaces. Notions of fixity and concreteness with regard to information and distribution are being unmoored; the personal and social machines act as ongoing assemblages, open-ended and in perpetual interchange.
Manovich relays how these cultural changes occurred. He demonstrates that the late twentieth century went through radical changes like that of the avant-garde at the beginning of the century:“In the last few decades of the twentieth century, modern computing and network technology materialized certain key projects of modern art developed approximately at the same time. In the process of this materialization, the technologies overtook art…As a result these technologies have become the greatest art works of today.” (“NM” 15) These postulations assist in formulating a trajectory in terms of composing; it is not the artistic dimension of the avant-garde that changes our interaction with writing (although, indeed, these are not laid to waste either), but rather it is the logic and techniques that have become the most pervasive and instructional.
The difference between prior avant-garde movements and the meta-avant-garde is, Manovich says, an issue of centralization: “Of course some artists already began to react to the emerging media environment by making collages and photo-montages consisting of newspaper clippings, existing photographs, pieces of posters, and so on; yet these practices of manipulating existing media were not yet central.” (“NM” 22). These techniques become materialized in computing, embedded by meta-avant-gardists. The social dimension of these techniques is currently defining operating procedures for individual and collective knowledge production, communication, and expression. As Duchamp’s Ready-Mades prescribe, I am interested in how to infuse these operations into composing within the institution; how to write collaboratively, collectively, with images and found cultural objects, and within a networked environment that permits an assemblage to continue varying with immense speed.
If it is possible to group Manovich’s various themes into an overarching concept, we must return to his focus upon postmodernism. This notion arises repeatedly by underpinning the logic of new media with re-thinking and re-working past cultural objects, media, and technologies. The postmodern “accumulation of huge media assets and the arrival of new electronic and digital tools which made it very easy to access and re-work these assets” serves as a relay for my current argument (“NM” 23). Even if viewed as a metaphor, I would like to stress notions of how new media acts so as to simultaneously re-think how we interact with past cultural forms and techniques (especially Aristotelian enthymematic arguments), while also proposing vast room for invention of new forms. We have the techniques, technology, and logic to theorize a method for composing “works” that re-situate and intensify past writing techniques; ways to create assemblages that desire variation and inference; and methods for developing writing collaboratively and collectively. These establish the operating practices, rhetoric, and logic for a meta-avant-gardist using a digital machine with an intensified “cut and paste” function. To formalize these methods, Deleuze and Guattari provide a theory of language and writing essential to new media and enthymematic writing.
Turning to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari is a movement to locate an existing theory of language and writing that corresponds to an avant-garde rationale. We may locate theories that not only have the characteristics of language being a collage, but our selves being an inorganic composition that resembles a collage. These theories assist in understanding what it means for a person to write, what this act entails, and what potential results will follow from such an act. We may think of this as a method to unpack Bürger and Manovich by posing a question: how do we continue writing with enthymematic logic and further modify the inherent strategies of probability, suppression, and persuasion?
I would like to take an indirect course and map out an overarching notion of collage. If we begin with Henri Bergson, we find a corpus of thought towards disassociation and decomposition. Bodies begin to be placed in extension: memory is located in matter, which is to say that bodies begin to function through inorganic diffusion. In Matter and Memory we find Deleuze’s inclinations towards bodies without organs and the self-as-collage: “Itself an image, the body cannot store up images, since it forms a part of the images, and this is why it is a chimerical enterprise to seek to localize the past or even present perceptions in the brain: they are not in it; it is the brain that is in them.” (MM 151) Bergson’s thought leads to decentralization, a piecemeal composition where memory and perception become external. In Deleuze’s theory of the cinema we find Bergsonian principles that intensify the collage effect of a body’s inorganic makeup. Deleuze’s statements on experimental cinema in Cinema 2 have an underpinning of collage logic. Deleuze’s cinema requests “give me a body” and “give me a brain,” which is to say that we are dealing with a cinema-body symbiosis: “Body or brain is what the cinema demands to be given to it, what it gives itself, what it invents itself” (204). Bergsonian externalization becomes a Deleuzian cinematic philosophy—the brain is the screen, the camera is the eye.
I say the preceding remarks not to imply that collage is the overarching thread for Deleuze, and thereby reduce his thought to a concept, but only to highlight its existence in a larger scope before focusing narrowly. Like the logic of decomposition being at the base of collage, Deleuze seems to incorporate Bergson’s notions of decomposition and disassociation to a large extent in establishing successive inorganic theories. Even if we turn briefly to Deluze’s second Cinema book, we find notions of decomposition again: “The movement-image does not reproduce a world, but constitutes an autonomous world, made up of breaks and disproportion, deprived of all its centres, addressing itself as such to a viewer who is in himself no longer centre of his own perception. The percipiens and the percipi have lost their points of gravity.” (Cinema 2 36-7)
We should not forget that Deleuze’s Cinema books are a taxonomy of signs, a vast index of how the cinema writes. However, the hybrid body that the cinema creates is due to a symbiosis between the body and the cinema-machine. We find correlating hybrid bodies in terms of literature; Proust & Signs initiates the bodies without organs at the end of the text with a spider-narrator symbioses: “the web and the spider, the web and the body are one and the same machine” (182). What we are interested in are the possibilities of human-computer interface: what writing may be produced with a machine that incorporates the rationale, rhetoric, and logic of collage and montage?
Deleuze provides an example with montage in Cinema 1. The enthymeme operates within the action-image (Action–Situation–Action'). Following the taxonomical approach to the regime of signs for the cinema, Deleuze labels the action-image with Peirce’s index. Peirce’s example of the index acts as a pragmatic example of the enthymeme: “for example, a piece of mold with a bullet-hole in it as a sign for a shot; for without the shot there would have been no hole; but there is a hole there, whether anybody has the sense to attribute it to a shot or not” (“Logic” 10). Deleuze carries the enthymematic index to situate montage-as-indirection: “The situation is thus deduced from the action, by immediate inference, or by relatively complex reasoning. Since the situation is not given for itself, the index here is an index of lack; it implies a gap in the narrative” (Cinema 1 160). Deleuze’s abbreviation for the shot sequence is misleading if the prior passages are not accounted for. It is not that the camera-eye shows us ASA', but instead we move immediately from A to A' without the situation being framed directly.
The importance of the action-image as an example is that Deleuze is already searching for methods to write indirectly. The importance of the cinema, especially the action-image (ASA' montage), is that the situation (S) is a common horizon of social knowledge (endoxa). Deleuze uses the example of the cinematic Western as the great example of the situation as interval (S) when two opposing gazes relay a complete scene of tension and opposition. The cinema begins to argue indirectly, which is to say that we have a logic of suppression. We are approaching what Barthes explains as a type of enthymeme that is Quintilian, made predominant in the Middle Ages. The value of this type of argument is that it is “a perfect syllogism in the mind, but imperfect in expression; in short, it is an accident of language, a deviation” (SC 58). We receive on the screen AA', but we comprehend the perfected syllogism ASA' mentally without forestalling the argument. But it will take combining Manovich, Deleuze and Guattari together to map out how the enthymeme becomes demonstrative in new media.
If we recall that Manovich posits author-user symbiosis as a main logic of new media, then we have an entry point into A Thousand Plateaus:“Even technology makes the mistake of considering tools in isolation: tools exist only in relation to the interminglings they make possible or that make them possible. The stirrup entails a new man-horse symbiosis that at the same time entails new weapons and instruments. Tools are inseparable from symbioses or amalgamations defining a Nature-Society machinic assemblage.” (90) Deleuze and Guattari effectuate a new way to think about “machines” and “assemblages” by providing an abstract theory of language that solicits a type of writing that is relevant to a person using a digital tool with a “cut and paste” function. Like the avant-garde techniques that became embedded in the logic and foundational metaphors of new media, Deleuze and Guattari begin to theorize about a method of composing with a language-machine that escapes fixity and order through a variable state of decomposition.
Deleuze and Guattari view language as a constant assemblage, without fixed limits and solidified zones of signification. In short, because language is an assemblage it goes through all prior flows simultaneously (semiotic, material, and social). Within the plateau “Postulates on Linguistics” a language model is put forth, consisting of the order-word, assemblage, and indirect discourse. How these three interact serve as our rhetoric and logic for a meta-avant-gardist. The order-word replaces a speech act in qualified degrees: the term acts as a pun that plays on all flows simultaneously. The order-word signifies direction in language, orders as commands, and order as a type of organization. Already we are dealing with a language function outside of normative comprehension; order-words are marked by redundancy, not by rules: “Rather, it is a relation of redundancy. The order-word itself is the redundancy of the act and the statement. Newspapers, news, proceed by redundancy, in that they tell us what we ‘must’ think, retain, expect, etc.” (ATP 79).
In an Aristotelian sense, this redundancy regulates the success rate of the enthymeme. How often a certain image, the Mona Lisa for example, circulates corresponds to the effectiveness of the argument. To argue in this way has a two-fold consequence: it is highly effective and this may be exemplified through advertising and film (and the entire commodity-oriented Entertainment discourse). We may associate this to the view of an enthymeme with a diminished logic as in advertising. If we adapt our level of comprehension to the level of the public, common sense, or normative opinion, the success of the argument is not only more likely, but more persuasive (repetition on par with persuasion). But we have the other side of the order-word, so to speak, which allows us to break with redundancy. This is what the avant-garde, through all periods (and what the meta-avant-gardist maintains the potential for), demonstrates with extreme precision; we may disrupt the redundancy and move in the other direction. We may raise the disparate nature to a higher degree and rip the piece from its normative role. We may construct enthymemes that expose the inherent stereotypes of a social body. Duchamp and the Dadaists become our forerunning leaders in this movement: they tear objects from their prescribed social roles and use them as an attack on a knowledge system, Art for example.
The “sentence” is an example of how the order-word, through redundant usage, becomes established. The sentence becomes a pun: to follow a sentence in a linear order, as it orders the reader to do, is a death sentence. The sentence becomes a wounding projectile through redundancy. Avoiding the death sentence of redundancy becomes a main goal, and this becomes the exercises of the avant-garde. To decompose and kill meaning is precisely to reject the structured order of expectations in visual writing. To tear the piece and disassociate acts as methods to reassemble the order-word in different combinations. The key to this method is to cause the direction of language to turn indirect, to force language to change vectors, take off on a “witch’s line,” skewing into unterritorialized zones, to force a displacement and make language bear the weight of what it is not.
As Deleuze and Guattari say, the order-word is dyadic and if we are to write with the logic of the order-word, we must write with both of its functions: “But the order-word is also something else, inseparably connected: it is like a warning cry or a message to flee. It would be oversimplifying to say that flight is a reaction against the order-word; rather, it is included in it, as its other face in a complex assemblage, its other component” (ATP 106). Part of the order-word’s intrinsic makeup is the pass-word, an element within the order-word that allows an element of passage from the given to the non-given: “There are pass-words beneath order-words. Words that pass, words that are components of passage, whereas order-words mark stoppages or organized, stratified compositions. A single thing or word undoubtedly has this two-fold nature: it is necessary to extract one from the other—to transform the compositions of order into components of passage.” (ATP 110)
We may not separate the order-word from the pass-word; their logic promotes a certain homonymy. By always including at least a double-function and a double-articulation within the order-word, there is an underlying stress on indirection, a way to disorganize the order-word and de-limit the stoppages. The task becomes to notice and operate with both meanings, to recognize the disorder of the order-word and to stratify its meanings. Aligning the order-word and the avant-garde piece produces similar logical functions. To remove the piece from a totality allows its pass-word to be exposed and its meaning to escape fixed and delimited zones. The enthymematic persuasive writing we are seeking operates with the pass-word. We may say that this is what the avant-garde demonstrates repeatedly: to recognize the repetition of certain cultural forms, and to place those repetitions against expectations, to suppress the expected, and to make recipients responsible for what they allow to be repeated socially. Discourses like advertising suppress the unexpected so as to induce a standard repertoire of redundant images.
The order-word becomes at all moments a mediated discourse. Like the logic of montage and collage, a situational context always exists, which is to say there is always a type of interference that functions outside of the given in language. To locate this surplus situation and context, Deleuze and Guattari cite Bakhtin:
As Volosinov [Bakhtin] says, as long as linguistics extracts constants, it is incapable of helping us understand how a single word can be a complete enunciation; there must be “an extra something” that “remains outside of the scope of the entire set of linguistic categories and definitions,” even though it is still entirely within the purview of the theory of enunciation or language. The order-word is precisely that variable that makes the word as such an enunciation. The instantaneousness of the order-word, its immediacy, gives it a power of variation in relation to the bodies to which the transformation is attributed. (ATP 82)
To write with the extra something is the opportunity collage and montage provide. Displacing a piece and moving it into another context is to bring the extra something to a new situation—to effectuate a different meaning with the same piece. New media accelerates the circulation of pieces.
If we reference Bakhtin, we may begin to unpack the immensity behind indirect discourse through his dialogical principle. Tzvetan Todorov’s Mikhail Bakhtin highlights that the logic of the dialogical principle is the enthymeme, or as Voloshinov/Bakhtin says, “The quotidian utterance endowed with signification is therefore composed of two parts: (1) a realized or actualized verbal part, and (2) an implied part. That is why an utterance can be compared to an ‘enthymeme’” (41). Underneath the quotidian utterance (order-word), we have an interval of inference among situational contexts. Like the Deleuzian action-image, the situation is the index that deduction must be engaged to solve. This is a modular approach to language. The order-word or piece is an empty sign without any permanence. Transposing the piece into a new context via “cut and paste” is to effectuate and shape a new meaning.
Deleuze’s example of the action-image develops a method to write pragmatically but with vastly different attributes than a classicist direct composition. The action-image can be paralleled to the structure of an enthymeme: Action (premise 1) à a present but not articulated Situation (premise 2) à Action' (conclusion). As Deleuze stated earlier, it is the case that we receive the withheld situation after both action shots (we see the gazes and then deduce the conflict). Grammar and language bend and curve: to proceed forwards, but then backwards to complete the sentence—the means-end rationality of subject and predicate are removed. This results in a sufficient break to the syntactical and grammatical sentence as we have a method to place obligatory demands in variation: “For the question was not how to elude the order-word, but how to elude the death sentence it envelops, how to develop its power of escape, how to prevent escape from veering into the imaginary or falling into a black hole, how to maintain or draw out the revolutionary potentiality of the order-word.” (ATP 110)
To write with the enthymeme is to engage the logic of hypermedia. The sentence and syntax becomes superlinear, by leaving gaps and indexes of information to be retrieved: “This implies superlinearity, in other words, a plane whose elements no longer have a fixed linear order: the rhizome model” (ATP 92). Diagramming a sentence would no longer be like tracing out a crystalline structure, for the hypersentence is more amorphous and mutable. Language is without a grammar; language(s) have grammar(s).
To argue with the enthymeme is to argue with all the previous social and public meanings brought with a particular object. New media facilitates this method with the vastest cultural archive to date: the internet. To compose with a computer is the ability to compose a collage, to effectuate new meanings for already circulating objects. When Duchamp places his Fountain in an art exhibition, he counts on the public to understand and retain their normative meanings towards the objects (urinal and the institution). Duchamp makes both objects take a new responsibility, to show their linkage on the surface, to make both bear the weight of artificiality.
Engaging the enthymeme is to follow the avant-garde in terms of being at the cutting edge of social formations. If we reference Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas of tensors—the cutting edge of the assemblage whose side faces unterritorialized zones—opportunities for variation underscore the enthymeme. It is not a process of association, but of decomposition and disassociation by way of subtracting and tearing a piece from a totality. As Deleuze and Guattari say, the process is a double movement: “Subtract and place in variation, remove and place in variation: a single operation” (ATP 104). Like the enthymeme, this method of variation operates by an equation of (n – 1). To place in variation with tensors is a method of cutting that “assures the variation of the variable by subtracting in each instance the value of the constant (n – 1)” (ATP 99). In comparison with the enthymeme, n acts as the redundant socially inscribed meaning where the interval is initiated by suppression or truncation. We may conclude that the respondent, operating on the level of endoxal knowledge, completes the equation with (n + 1) by supplementing the incomplete logical equation with a shared horizon of social knowledge. Throughout various interlocutions or interactions, n remains a variable without constancy as it slides along the intersections of common social knowledge. The variable n is without fixed and demarcated social registers because each participant stratifies the meaning at a different level. Perhaps more succinctly, the variable n ensures that redundancy never becomes a constant by always positioning the assemblage in constant variation as it continues to carve, continues becoming, even as it attempts to reach a plateau.
Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking corresponds closely to an avant-garde approach to language. They presuppose a complete inversion of normative language models. For example, when the avant-garde tears the piece from its totality, we may speculate that they are placing the piece back into its habitat of indirect discourse. In this way, as Deleuze and Guattari say, it is no longer about opposing constant and variable, but that to make something a constant is a treatment of the variable (ATP 103). To make language constant requires more effort than to make it vary. To make an image redundant is much more difficult than to break its redundancy. The relationship of the pass-word and order-word are noteworthy here. The order, direction, and command of the order-word seem natural only to the extent that their redundancy parallels. What Deleuze and Guattari highlight is that breaking with the order-word’s redundancy is to bring the pass-word out from a dormant status, which also foregrounds a language system based on variation rather than linear constancy.
There is a Bakhtinian principle at work, or as Todorov says, “every utterance is also related to previous utterances, thus creating intertextual (or dialogical) relations” (48). What we find at work, and the potentiality of which is brought to the fore with new media, is the ability to constantly reshuffle and reorganize writing due to the logic of hyperlinking: “they are not only superlinear and ‘suprasegmental’ elements, in contrast to linear segmental elements; their very characteristics give them the power to place all the elements of language in a state of continuous variation” (ATP 103). There is an opportunity to separate data from its structure, to chop the links of redundancy into pieces and re-piece them together. We are approaching a language model and a grammar with variable rules instead of obligatory rules. As Deleuze and Guattari say, it is like a game that has “not invariable and obligatory rules, but optional rules that ceaselessly vary with the variation itself, as in a game in which each move changes the rules” (ATP 100). But to limit the radical inclinations thus far, it is not the goal to remove prior grammatical structures and language functions in a supposition towards proclaiming their ineffectiveness. New media does not concern itself with reducing any language function to degree zero; we are interested in supplementing and adding on new wings to an institutional structure that has reached its occupational limit with current methods.
The method for arguing with the enthymeme is to engage in a social discourse. Aristotle aligned deductive enthymemes with rhetorical syllogisms, and writing with new media offers a chance to continue this method. To tear a piece from its redundant role and paste it into a new context is to force the recipient to complete the logistical movements. The enthymeme may be used in academia on par with the effectiveness of advertising, but with more responsibility. New media allows the collage to be responsible for what it exposes. It allows one to create a hyperlink, to separate the data from its structure and expose its origins; the image can be hyperlinked to pre-established sources. To compose a new media collage would be to have the opportunity to provide links to the redundant contexts the piece came from. For example, a collage may be made using HTML statements, each object taken from an archive like Google.com to coordinate a new superlinear sentence, with all the information on the screen at once. How all the varying images, media objects, etc. combine to form an argument relies on the recipient to turn the incomplete syllogism on the screen into a perfect syllogism in the mind.
We may demarcate essential features of how the enthymeme is used in new media: (1) the approach towards enthymematic persuasive arguments continues the logic initiated by Aristotle to work with social knowledge; (2) the aim for new media is to disrupt the standard repertoire of redundancy circulating with cultural objects, to re-access them; (3) new media performs these tasks by disassociation and decomposing the established fixity of order-words. Rather than institutions like advertising where the manipulation relies on association, new media has the potential to continue the vanguard aesthetic of disassociation by forcing the individuated object bear its pass-word characteristics as a multiplicity.
Collage and montage are slow processes that begin with the accumulation of data that can take exorbitant amounts of time. New media, with inherent algorithms and modularity, are catalysts to these procedures. The amount of material on the internet, all of which carries social and cultural meanings, accelerates the speed and ease of composing an enthymematic argument. The richness of the process lies in its social dimensions. The enthymeme, from Aristotle forwards, marks a way to argue socially. The most acute model for this argumentative practice is within entertainment and political discourses. We find irresponsible arguments that manipulate social knowledge and funnel redundancy into a pseudo-transcendental repetition through “image” circulation (a nationalistic image, or myth-creation). Images become iconic, which is to say that the social and cultural meanings are immediate. By intersecting the avant-garde and new media, we find an opportunity to subtract from redundancy and make the enthymematic argument carry its immense power of persuasion. Even without a current pragmatic consensus towards academic writing, the pedagogical value cannot be dismissed; the enthymeme is a thought process of exposure that alludes to ways of deducing how image repertoires form and become redundant to the point of normalcy.
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 An example enthymeme: “The gun has the defendant’s fingerprints on it. The defendant must be guilty.” The major premising is missing that would link the gun to the crime.
 The controversy surrounding this text is well known. I am not interested in pursuing or following these established arguments that stage their camps among the Frankfurt School and Marxism. I am interested in how, and why, Bürger systematizes the avant-garde movements into a traceable procedural set.
 Burger does not include avant-garde film. Similar approaches may be located in neo-avant-garde filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage and Bruce Conner. Brakhage’s Mothlight includes the “cut and paste” function by taping pieces of moths directly to celluloid film and Conner’s A Movie becomes a database of prior film images organized in an inorganic sequence.
 For example, a collage with too many eyes for one face or too many organs for one organic body.
 This type of empty sign escapes semiotics and hermeneutic circles; the sign becomes more like a poststructuralist unit instead of being bound up as a signifier/signified.
 I am modifying “new media avant-garde” and the media type they utilize, “meta-media,” using “meta-design.”
 The term “human-computer interface” is being dealt with generally without negating the obvious difference between “graphical-user interface” that highlights the integration of the “cutting” and “pasting” of images into one surface (since the introduction of the MacOS in 1984).
 Peter Horvath’s recent work, Tenderly Yours (2005), is a new media “film” using the ability of pop-up windows to create a complex textured montage; we have a new meta-montage that breaches the isolation of a single plane the cinema has been plagued with—Horvath is not deploying multiple screens, but multiple windows on the same screen. (http://turbulence.org/studios/horvath/tenderly/)
 Manovich mentions similarly that “artists such as Bruce Connor, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist similarly give up the idea of creating totally ‘new’ images” (“AGS” 10).
 The influx of interactive journals marks this potential (cf. KAIROS, Kritikos, and Vectors). Vectors becomes especially notable as it seems to be one of the first journals that aims at linking scholars and designers (or “techonologists”) together to form innovative interdisciplinary projects. (http://vectors.iml.annenberg.edu/)
 “Body” and “bodies” becomes a complex metaphorical term for both a physical body and also as in Stoic embodiment: “We may take the word ‘body’ in its broadest sense (there are mental bodies, souls are bodies, etc.)” (ATP 80).
 In particular I am referencing Bergson’s notion of decomposition and disassociation that becomes pervasive in Deleuze: “And we go on also from the whole to the parts, by a process of decomposition…a process which consists in breaking up, for the greater convenience of practical life, the continuity of the real. Association, then, is not the primary fact: dissociation is what we begin with” (MM 165).
 Barthes similarly deploys the index to mark the suppressed premise: “A woman has given birth: this is the sure index (tekmerion) that she had intercourse with a man” (SC 61).
 Establishing Coca-Cola as an image of iconic status far outweighs the time and effort involved in making it a new sign.