the force of seeing

Metaphors of sight are overused, but when it comes to visualizing information, sight seems to aptly fit. I’m trying to account for a different sight or seeing that I’ve been thinking about as we read and discuss DH methods, conversations, and concerns that is more mindful of these and the scopes at which they are done. In reading for this week, I realize that this is a bit of an abstraction (and maybe a result of being prompted to talk about my research), but I’m thinking about the methods we have been discussing as means of remembering (and maybe, re-membering in terms of putting broken bodies back together, or even bringing individuals [ideas and people and things] back into sight). It’s odd to me that I haven’t explicitly thought of DH methods as doing memory work; I think I can dismiss it by saying that these methods are to uncover new patterns that weren’t noticed before, so they wouldn’t be how something was experienced. But in doing this work, at least on texts that are still contemporary (and even texts that have been “established” or experienced in a particular way as to have epistemological implications), conceptions of what is/n’t change. There are counterhistories in the field of rhetoric and composition to alter how the field constructs itself—what it occludes and includes (here I have a very flimsy connection between conception and memory that is in want of development). I don’t think that making texts visible is neutral work, void of intent, but making visible seems more passive than reconstructing what was visible. Making visible is positing a new perspective, perhaps different from what existed before, to materials that we have/not encountered (and differently).

I’m still working through these ideas, and to me they seem disjointed, but I’m noting a difference or perhaps a different degree (or nuance) in what is being done to and from seeing materials. I am reminded of James Elkins’ “The Object Stares Back” from his book On the Nature of Seeing; he says “ultimately, seeing alters the thing that is seen and transforms the seer. Seeing is metamorphosis, not mechanism”. He is working to move beyond a concept of sight as “just looking” to one of intent, to one that is not singular, on that multiplies and changes because there is no fixity—looking has force. I’m left with questions on the nature of seeing, constructing, and remembering and the matters of concern they raise in using these methods. What is their force in seeing? Are they too scattered to notice and focus? What is/are the scopes of this work—not in how closely or distantly materials are looked at, but where their gaze is cast? Is there a connection between sight and memory in this work? What comes with and from new ways of seeing?






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