October 26, 2012

Discourse Through the Medium.

Sharon Daniel's "Public Secrets" project is a compilation of testimony from prison inmates, theorists, and Daniel herself in order to create a mosaic dialogue. That is to say, through a multimedia context, Daniel combines a variety of viewpoints/voices to create a more collective whole. This concept is easily likened to Bakhtin's concept of "heteroglossia" discussed in "Discourse in the Novel." Heteroglossia refers to the idea that different languages/discourses co-exist within any literary work (a sense of plurality in language). Most importantly, Bakhtin's argument emphasizes the concept that "verbal discourse is a social phenomenon," and not a singular, definable concept. For this reason, Bakhtin praises the novel, a medium that can most aptly provide a variety of dialogue.

In many ways, Daniel's case study, composed of a variety of voices, functions like a novel. Although there isn't a singularly defined narrative voice, the collective picture creates a sense of thematic unity (Daniel's case combines different forms of language: definitions, quotes, audio testimony, etc).

For a concept with such breadth (the incarceration system), Daniel's formatting/medium seems perhaps more effective than a print or text driven presentation. As Bakhtin would agree, the idea/image of the prison system cannot be created or depicted in a vacuum, it is not a "histological specimen," but rather a living issue, comprised of a myriad of voices. Am I the only one who was impressed with the effect of this medium? If the medium is more representative of it's subject matter is the ultimate effect more powerful?

5 comments:

MeganW said...

I did not think to apply the idea of heteroglossia to this case but the more I read your post the more I agree with you. However, I wonder if you compare this case to the Pinepoint case would your conclusion be the same? Both are getting a story across, both are a collection of people that have experienced it first hand, and both are made up of the same formatting. Because in class we could not pick one type of discourse for this case to fall under; now I am wondering if it is because we were looking at the case wrong and should have looked at the ways that it was created and the actually content in the website. But on the other hand have we progressed so much in society that we can now call a website like these two novels?

anaistamayo said...

I also noticed how this medium was like a novel, in terms of heteroglossia. I think the being able to hear the voices of the women also brings it a step further. This is something that can't happen in a novel. So, I do think that this medium is more representative of the subject and therefore more powerful. The effectiveness of it is also in its overall design. It was easy to read and use, there were tons of links to more information. Similar to the Point Place project, the extra information contributed to the sense of authenticity of the project.

Angela M said...

Everything really corresponded to each other in this text. I thought that her use of medium was really brilliant and the idea that your proposing now is interesting too. If we brought this idea back to Miller where mediums aren't genres but they are outlets for genres then she might agree or have something to say. Personally, I think when the medium fits more with the message and subject matter it's more powerful. You could see this in music: reading the lyrics in print versus hearing someone sing them with emotion. The same goes here with Daniels, I don't think her essay would have been as convincing or engaging if it was just written on paper. The message she was trying to send called for the medium she used.

Kyle Vann said...

I also wrote about heteroglossia in this piece and its effect on the case and discourse (but nowhere near to the effectiveness you did)I loved your description of the prison as " a living issue, comprised of a myriad of voices" and I believe that really does add to Bakhtin's definition of heteroglossia being a collection of voices as well.

tyreekminor said...

I completely agree with you Angela M. Mediums used like in Pinepoint and Public Secrets are very much outlets for genres but fall short of being genres themselves. However, that doesn't make them any less effective. These mediums are more effective than many other mediums in that they are so interactive, leave little for the reader to do other than intake and give response, so the audience is able to respond with a much more visceral emotion. In addition, the collective or personal accounts only contributed to the argument and issue at hand. To me, this was heteroglossia at its best.

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