Technologies of Wonder by Susan Delagrange

The Female Wunderkammern Continued...

Delagrange’s ideas here are unabashedly utopian. In our web 3.0, something like this may be possible but it’s a long time in coming. Choosing to focus on the utopian side, Delagrange never really addresses the dystopian side making the argument a little one sided. But she still gives hope to the minorities who might want to utilize the digital medium. The seemingly odd ideas dancing around the pages of Technologies of Wonder all click and grind together when Delagrange unveils her invention in the second to last chapter: the analogy of the wunderkammern. Peppering the pages with images, the book has already been something of a wunderkammern itself. The word means “cabinet of wonder” and was a good choice for Delagrange to close on. The pages and pages of writing that seem to have been confusing up until this point are made clear: digital media (think blogs and the like) are places of wonder—they are an embodiment of a digital space set up for curiosities, she says, meaning they currently hold nothing beyond entertainment value. She is fighting against this view.

The analogy of the wunderkammern, though amazing and greatly clearing up her point, will not be obvious to novices in the field. Delagrange’s entire book is really not geared toward new students of rhetoric and multimodal sources. Instead, she takes aim at experiences scholars or professional researchers already steeped in what they think literacy is and fires an arrow of new and wonderful ideas.
Overall, the idea of feminism that is strung throughout is hard to follow and is left to its own devices. In only some of the chapters is feminism discussed and even then it’s not tied fast to the subject. She also mentions that women don’t “do” technology and that working on a flat, electronic plane online will flatten and smooth out some of the ideas of placing people in their “proper places”. This is the reason she pulls for multimedia, for feminism, and other minorities. It is a place of anonymity.

The research and ideas that Delagrange is putting forth are fascinating ones to say the least. Her use of the wunderkammer and Cornell Box’s is exquisite and draws on the aesthetic kind of visuals she’s talking about. Researches interested in how feminism ties in with media, however, may be a little curious as to how the two tie together. Delagrange speaks a lot on the subject but I was a little lost on how it all tied together. But that may have been the point; we’re left to wonder and add our own bits the cabinet of curiosities that is multimedia.