A Post-Production Turn: New Media, New Practice, New Ontology

Justin Hodgson

Justin Hodgson is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric in the English Department at Indiana University. He is the founding editor of The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects (now rebranded, TheJUMP+) and the co-coordinator of the Indiana Digital Rhetoric Symposium. Professor Hodgson has published both print and digital scholarship in journals such as Kairos, Enculturation, Composition Studies, EDUCAUSE, and PRE/TEXT, and his book Post-Digital Rhetoric & The New Aesthetic (forthcoming from Ohio State University Press) offers a set of heuretics for knowing, doing, and making in a techno-saturated culture.


A Post-Production Turn: New Media, New Practice, New Ontology

At its core, Ulmer’s flash reason is an image metaphysics, which is increasingly necessary as the contemporary cultural moment is one of becoming-image. That is, not only do we operate at the speed of light (via electronic and computational technologies), but also we are completely saturated with images and our worlds are routinely reduced to image streams (i.e., condensed to pixel-data values). What this suggests is that in addition to exchanging information at levels of compression previously unknown, the primary mode of presentation (and representation, for that matter) is as image, with the bulk of embodied reality and the phenomenological world being flattened into the pixel-values of the screen. In and of itself, this introduces a fundamental shift in the ratios by which we make (and make sense of) our worlds. Not only does it change the very sense ratios that operate in the human condition (as Marshall McLuhan suggested many moons ago), but it also renders reason and representation as being suspect to the conditions of computational and pixel-oriented technical efficacy: which means that flash reason is not only linked to conductive logics and speed-of-light operations, and not only rooted in matters of affect and mood, but is itself susceptible to the inflections and imperfections of the very medial platforms that make electracy available on a larger scale. This is a fairly important detail within Ulmer’s larger framework, for while Ulmer introduces flash reason as way of adding complexity to procedures of electracy, and while he situates electracy as complimentary to literacy (i.e., offering a new instauration), it remains critical (and creatively important) that we recognize the depth and degree to which the digital and non-digital undergirding exposes the operative logics and available practices of electracy (flash reason included) to the materialities and machinations of the apparatus. In this regard, something like glitch functions as not only another form of conductive logic, but also introduces an altogether different orientation toward the aesthetic—inviting a different set of aesthetic judgments that gesture toward a post-digital conditionality.

To this end, this project, “A Post-Production Turn: New Media, New Practice, New Ontology,” grounds itself in a post-critical orientation and situates to make (and to make available) as necessarily a precedent for any conditional to make sense of. What this suggests, on the one hand, is a need to foreground the productive dimensions of working with digital media, as to have digital existence and/or to participate as digital citizen requires one to produce, to make things, and to share them through digital means (not excluding nondigital distributions as well). Further, as Ulmer suggests in “Flash Reason,” we are increasingly working within the realm of readymades—where everything we make, including, I would add, our very own likenesses (i.e., the becoming-image conditionality) becomes suspect to being a readymade as well. Thus, if avant garde artists like Marcel Duchamp employed readymades to call attention to critical art practices (calling into question the very ideologies of art history/art culture), what is occurring in a post-digital moment is that everything is now susceptible to digitization (and digital mishaps) and so exists with the potential to become (perpetually so) part of the never-ending archive of readymade objects and subjects, artifacts and expressions. Consequently, we now have an expansive (and ever expanding) set of available means, and what matters, in terms of any post-digital rhetorical capacity, is not merely one’s ability to access this ever-expanding archive, but one’s ability to manipulate them through post-production techniques and practices.

The critical contribution of any post-digital practitioner, then, comes not from a definitive act of criticism, but rather from an electrate prototyping: i.e., working creatives, who are yet critically attuned, finding ways to leverage a world of readymades and repeating signifiers to create conductive resonances within a multisensory and multi-representational, mediated experience. Here, what gets exposed to an interested, viewing public is not only the representational practices of electracy, but also the dimensions to which the dreamwork logic of flash reason becomes suspect to rhetorical practice (i.e., where post-production operations allow for remaking and reimagining the mediated artifacts of today’s digital-real mixed reality).

This project, then, works extensively with post-production editing to produce a digital video prototype (in Ulmer’s sense). It does not seek to offer a singular point of criticism, but rather invites conductive resonances across visual, oral, and aural registers to suggest something about post-digital practice. In so doing, it demonstrates an engagement with readymades, deploys multiple post-production maneuvers as rhetorical techniques, and attempts to allow forth at least one understanding of the sense ratio shift central to Ulmer’s flash reason. In this regard, this project may be more akin to the image reflected in the puddle below the neon sign, than the words spelled out in the neon itself.



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