A grateful farewell to IML 500…that also reads as some Burnett-based kvetching

The last four and a half weeks whizzed by. In the process we learned Photoshop, Premier, and (behold!) WordPress. I thank our Professors Holly Willis and Vicki Callahan, my classmates, and the hired guns at Lynda.com. For what it’s worth, I consider Photoshop to be the hardest. I realize many of the terms borrow from photography, but the application of said terms? I’m not so sure. But I’ll not decry the Photoshop! I have too much fun using it to make this blog’s headers. So much so that I worry about future procrastination projects, wherein I toil away at making 770 x 200 images just so when I ought to be writing up on Out the Window, or even transferring and tagging (hurray, tags!) my annotated bibliographies. As Burnett (2005) says, our archives look differently now. The role of the image extends beyond mere illustration. Images are now the central actors in archives, providing “visualizations of thinking, feeling, seeing, and knowing” (77).

I am with Burnett here. I am with him when he characterizes the prevailing distinction between the “real” and the “unreal” as “anachronistic” (58), when he asserts the image’s expanded relevance, and when he identifies the microcultural movement as component to the digital age. Reading chapters 3 and 4, “Foundations of Visual Images” and ” Imagescapes as Ecology,” though, I lost my enthusiasm. On the one hand, my heart sings along with his utopian proclamations. On the other, though, and I grant this signals disciplinary divergence, I regret his lack (or refusal) of empirical evidence. Burnett’s is a knowing unchecked embrace of both the network and its concomitant proliferation of images, as well as the notion of community as a pure and wholesome construct. He even recommends Castells The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume I (1996) should the reader prefer a darker interpretation of the network. Only Castells isn’t the sole scholar to present empirical evidence about the network’s deep ambiguities. Nor is he alone in reminding us that “community,” that precious gem in the sociological jewel box, can be a very ugly thing. While Burnett depicts the digital age’s constitutional microcultural movements as ultimately positive, legion have observed the antagonistic community-making at the local (Sugrue, 2005; Wilson & Taub, 2007) and international (Castells, 1997) levels.

Despite Burnett’s offering up a countervailing opinion, I still regard this section as particularly hermetic. There are at least three perspectives here: Burnett’s, Castells’, and Berger’s (1973). Burnett’s view describes a highly media literate population. Berger, framing the public relations industry as the spectacle writ large, presents a woefully manipulated public. Castells (1998) sees both and describes the great chasm of inequity between the two worlds. My objection to Burnett does not signal my resignation but resolution. We should all live in Burnett’s optimistic world. To do so, we must address the discourse’s shadowier corners his writing unwittingly emphasizes.

****

On an entirely different note, some final thoughts about the creation of this blog, rapid-fire interview-like.

– My initial objective was to create a writing space for my Out the Window essay. That, I figured, would be easy and boring-looking enough. Both proved true. WordPress can handle a whole host of file formats, so long as the files live somewhere on the Internet. All my Out the Window materials do (either in Dropbox or Google Drive), so getting them up was more time-consuming than anything. Also, making that page remotely attractive? I don’t know how possible that is. One picture alongside a list of hyperlinks isn’t exactly Internet sexy.

– The biggest challenge was figuring out what the site would look like. As I said in class, I foolishly frittered away money in search of the aforementioned Internet sexy, only to realize I’d wasted time ignoring IML’s Ethan’s very good advice.

– The second biggest challenge and also the greatest success was figuring out how to organize my annotated bibliographies. I finally remembered Ethan’s categories-can-be-menus cue and went for broke. The tags, people! I’m in nerdy, quals-prepping heaven.

– How will this inform my scholarly work? Well, I have two stated goals for the short-term: write an empirical paper and study for quals. After I do those and archive the Out the Window materials page, I’ll make the site public and use it just as I am now, only with an audience.

WORKS CITED
Berger, J. (1990). Ways of Seeing: Based on the BBC Television Series (1st ed.). New York: Penguin Books.
Burnett, R. (2005). How Images Think. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.
Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume I. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
—-. (1997). The Power of Identity: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume II. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
—-. (1998). End of Millennium: The Information Age: Economy, Society, and Culture, Volume III. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Sugrue, T. (2005).The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton and London: Princeton University Press.
Wilson, W.J. & Taub, R.P. (2007). There Goes the Neighborhood: Racial, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning for America. New York: Vintage Books.
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