2.19.13

I am sitting in bed wearing a winter hat. Out the window is either a white apocalypse or a blizzard or both. I suppose I’ll find out in the morning when I have to go to class. My kittens keep circling me. Over the keyboard, behind the head, tail up, round and round and round. Have to write. Have to write. Blech. Butt in the face.

***

For C&W we looked at a couple of different digital texts. A piece about an avalanche produced (? written? orchestrated? composed?) by the New York Times. We also looked at site about HIV and AIDS in Jamaica. Oh, and a digital poem about opacity. The first two pieces were good. It was actually nice to feel like I was reading something digital that should be digital. Thinking of the avalanche piece in particular–I read Into Thin Air by Krakauer, and I loved it. But as a non-expert-climber (okay, as a only-ever-climbed-like-50-feet-in-a-harness-and-escorted-by-a-guide-paid-by-my-parents-climber), I really had trouble ‘seeing’ the terrain. And, I remember, as I read that I kept having to flip back and forth the pictures of the individual hikers–to keep them in my mind and keep them real. In the digital piece, all those issues were addressed, AND I got the added bonus of hearing voices, seeing the terrain, and even watching a digital recreation of the snow build-up. So, in the end was it more affecting? I don’t know if I would say that. Reading a book is still more intimate–it’s all created in your mind; the characters and places and experiences live there. In the digital piece I didn’t have to do that mental work (and in the end, that might mean I was a bit more distant from the scene), BUT, I have a much better appreciation of the facts–of the actual place, people, and events. It just depends on the purpose of the piece, I suppose.

The AIDS/Jamaica piece was also really well done. Chris and I were talking and he said that it was interesting because the site was ostensibly dedicated to poetry, but it clearly had a social/political agenda, too. I think it worked because it linked to poems, again, to an actual reality. To real people with real voices in a real place. It was journalistic, in a sense (very beautiful journalism). But I was thinking that maybe the reason these two pieces ‘worked’ for me is because I am used to getting news and information via multimodal channels–anytime I watch the news on T.V., I get images, sound, text, and spoken word. The modalities are combined to great effect by the media. I am VERY used to watching and interpreting news through all these channels. So, it wasn’t a problem for me to access these pieces online.

By the same token, I really disliked the poem. I have not been trained to deal with poems in digital spaces. It find the movement of the text, the sounds/music, the often disconcerting combination of image and spoken and written word overwhelming. Poems often use abstract language–literary devices that make meaning something to dig out. Which is great. I love poems. But if I am too focused on the number of clicks that it’s going to take me to move to another image, another word, I can’t give due diligence to the text. And maybe I am not supposed to. Maybe poetry online is supposed to wash over me–or douse me–in sensory experiences.  I don’t like it though. It makes me feel unthinking–without agency in my own understanding.

***

For Language and Gender we read two short studies about the way sexual orientation, femininity, and masculinity are  tagged, phonetically, in speech. I don’t know if I phrased what I said above correctly. Anyhow. The basic idea is that when people listen to other people speak, we make assessments about the speaker’s identities. There have been studies that show that people believe they can ‘hear’ race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, intelligence/competence in speakers’ voices. One of the articles–Munson’s “The Acoustic Correlates of Perceived Masculinity, Perceived Femininity, and Perceived Sexual Orientation,” says, roughly, that, though correlated, masculinity, femininity, and sexual orientation are ‘measured’ by listeners using different “perceptual parameters.” In other words, a person can be perceived as ‘gay’ and ‘masculine’ or ‘gay’ and ‘not masculine’–different phonetic resources are used to (by listeners) to make these identity determinations. Munson seems concerned with debunking the theory that GLB speech styles are ‘globally sex-opposite ways of speaking’ (p. 129). He thinks that if this were the case, gay-perceived speech would align perfectly with ‘feminine speech.’ He proposes that a correlation (but not an exact alignment) suggests “a more-complicated acquisition scenario.” So, is the theory that once GLB individuals recognize their sexual orientation, that they begin an language re-acquisition process so that they unlearn/adjust sex-typical ways of speaking? Okay, is it a problem that Munson seems to have an agenda–something he is determined to show/prove that has social ramifications? He specifically calls out caricatures of gay speech in the media and popular culture; he wants to use the study to shows these stereotypes are . . . uh . . . stereotypes. Then he has this sentence: “The details of acquisition of GLB speech styles would be dependent on the specific ways in which GLB and heterosexual people differ”–bit cryptic, isn’t it? What ‘difference’ is he alluding to here? Does this go to the Natural Kind / Entity debate? I am fairly certain I’ve missed something.

The second article is by Campbell-Kibler: “Intersecting Variables and Perceived Sexual Orientation in Men.”  In it, she presents the concept (pioneered by Arnold, whom I haven’t read) of “sociolinguistic style.”

“The concept of sociolinguistic style (in the sense of Arnold et al. 1993; Campbell-Kibler et al. 2006; Coupland 2007) refers to clusters of linguistic resources that combine to form a recognized whole, belonging to a social context, including extralinguistic resources like clothing, bodily hexis, and so on, as well as times, places, and physical and personal characteristics” (p. 52).

I think this is a super concept. I am thinking about writing about it in my next data paper. And I am thinking about using She’s the Man to do it. Campbell-Kibler, in this study, is interested in showing how the presence of more than one linguistic / phonetic feature can confound listeners perceptions–changing social perception. I think she is particularly interested in the ways in which packages of linguistic resources (styles) are used by people in the act of social interpretation. But, she admits, that often these clusters of resources are ill-defined and only recognizable to ‘some cultural agents.’ And maybe this brings around the larger question, but I wonder, isn’t this a good thing? As soon as these styles are ‘named’,  and culturally reified aren’t they just stereotypes? What is the difference between a style and a stereotype?  From our discussion in class, they seem quite similar–both are tied to social interpretation and perception. Both seem to need multiple sociolinguistic features in order to more more than just a ‘feature.’ Is style an ‘entity’? A way of essentializing? Here’s why I am having trouble: I can’t find any exact place for this, but I get a sense from C-K that speakers have agency to draw on features to invoke certain styles or ways of being. But stereotypes aren’t *usually* about an individual’s identity creation or performance, are they? Stereotypes have much more to do with the interpretation of others based on certain sociolinguistic features.

And what does any of this have to do with what I’d like to think about in my first year exam? Not much. . .

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