Chapter 2: Woodward Avenue
Chapter 2 serves as a space for Rice to develop parallel ideas of movement and taxonomies within rhetorical networks (67). Rice identifies Woodward Avenue as a key thoroughfare in Detroit, one with a rich, and sometimes forgotten, historical tradition of industry. Woodward Avenue thus serves as a potent metaphor for physical and rhetorical movement and its impact on new practices within new media.
First, Rice sets up a theory of motorized space, examining arguments by Paul Virilio and Adam Greenfield that contend the hypermobility of digital space threatens stabilized cultural meanings. Rice seeks to turn this concept of motorization to a productive perspective. While he acknowledges that the speed of information in networks of digital space does change organization and thus experiences and ideas, Rice remains excited about the idea that networks “do things” (70; emphasis in original). This focus on the productive demonstrates Rice’s interest in the creative possibilities of new media; it also reinforces Rice’s disruption of binaries as he presents the realities of destabilization and transformation in digital space.
Rice then moves to the idea of folksonomy, or “a method of categorizing information according to desire, taste, personal interest, communal knowledge, imagination, and so on” (87). Folksonomy, like the network, is based on the relational, thus meanings have multiple meanings, and therefore hierarchies become destabilized as these meanings constantly shift. Rice understands folksonomy to be important to rhetoric because it can teach us new ways to compose and to communicate, and it reinforces the agential possibility of an individual within the network (89). Rice demonstrates this agency via folksonomy by creating imaginative, personal linkages between his memories of Detroit, communal knowledge of Detroit, and his new rhetoric theory, thus emphasizing his position as a meaning-making agent within these interrelated links.
Chapter 3: The Maccabees
The Maccabees is a building with a layered history, including once acting as headquarters for the Detroit Public School system, and now housing the English Department for Wayne State University. Because of this layered history, Rice chooses this landmark as a way to further explore folksonomic linkages and interfaces for navigating these linkages. Rice makes a case for the Maccabees, and buildings in general, to serve as metaphor for computer interfaces. Interfaces, Rice writes, are built on patterns of habits, and they facilitate connections. By situating the Maccabees primarily as a site of educational struggle, Rice is acknowledging the patterns of thought connected to this building, as well as to his own experiences working in this building. However, Rice argues that interfaces, while anticipating and thus perhaps manipulating user’s choices, can also be conceptually redesigned or reutilized so that connections change and new connections are made. In other words, the choices someone accessing an interface makes is a rhetorical act that can change the interface just as the interface can affect a user’s choices.
A critical point of this chapter is when Rice compares the interface of writing to the page, and then he explicates how thought and organization are thus affected by this type of interface. New media challenges the highly structured interface of the page with the many connections made possible through new media composing. Thus, Rice makes the connection between new media and the grand narratives of Detroit that repeat the same story, including the story of education struggle (129-130).