October 25, 2012

Heteroglossia in Public Secrets: a Two-Part Post

Public Secrets definitely puts an interesting spin on Bakhtin's heteroglossia. Bakhtin considered heteroglossia a multitude of voices, particularly those presented in a novel. When this concept is compared to the heteroglossia in the hypertext essay, though, Bakhtin's ideas appear artificial. How he considered the concept was an author orchestrating the presence of multiple languages (in the sense of world views) into one text, resulting in a sort of conversation between the voices. In this way, the voices themselves aren't true identities, though they must exist in some form inside the author.

Contrarily, the heteroglossia in Public Secrets was a literal multitude of voices. They did not all stem from the "author." These were genuine world views wrapped up into tiny blurbs to catch your attention and set into the backdrop of the creator's project. The juxtaposition of particular interview clips with other clips and the graphics is what actually formed meaning, but this meaning was formed through linking all the world views together.  So, in this sense, Public Secrets exhibits the purest form of heteroglossia -- meaning conveyed through the linking of different world views.

But wait a minute -- do these views really consist of different world views? Are they distinct enough? Bakhtin's different world views were usually contrary, a true juxtaposition. "While this is a dialogue that I have constructed between interlocutors whose perspectives originate from very diverse social locations, for me all of their voices emerge out of a shared ethos and converge in critical resistance." (Author's Statement) At once, Daniel sets up the voices as distinct, but then decides they come from the same background. There are no differing sides -- no juxtaposition -- between the points of view. All of the quotes display variants of the same, if not the the same, world view. (Which of course is understandable, as Daniel has composed an essay to argue a point, not a novel to show the juxtaposition of two world views.)

So, in one way, Daniel's text displays the truest form of heteroglossia, a literal interpretation, but at the same time, falls flat in the nuances of Bakhtin's term.


The design of the text was incredibly interesting. The color scheme focused on the dualities Daniel made -- black and white, some nuances of grey, and blue for the section to which you were currently listening. While there was navigation amongst the parts, it wasn't linear in a clear, traditional way. The modular manner in which the blurbs were arranged in the deeper levels of the navigation gave the appearance of cells. "Life Inside" was dominated by black, signaling a dark oppressiveness, while "Life Outside" was dominated by white, signaling a lighter world for the women inside the cells. All of this design provided orientation amongst all of the content, actually forming meaning. I was forced to immerse myself in the stories, inside the darkness, get lost in the faceless voices. Perhaps these faceless voices are the purest form of McCloud's abstraction and yet incredibly distinct. You are them but you are not them. You are there in the prison at the time of the conversation. You feel their emotions, their frustration, and you don't know how to get out, what each link will lead to, what each new person will say -- they are only represented by their blurb and you have to trust that quote to begin a relationship with them, something intimate in nature as you are being connected with them across space and time and social class, past guards and strip searches and gun towers. While listening, you can only watch the moving blue diagonals creep across the square, simulating the ticking of time in prison, as you experience what they have experienced.

And yet, it is a censored experience -- you do not get the full interview, and many interviews seem to cut off abruptly, given by the up-leading inflection in the interviewee's voice. You are getting the selective opinions of faceless witnesses, with their biases and memorial conceptions, selected by a faceless creator who is leading you along with these "breadcrumbs" of content, trying to lead you to an emotional conclusion. You have to trust this text for it to be successful. I don't think the mere content does this -- it is the design which accomplishes the trust. You are feeling what the inmates are feeling while navigating through the essay -- it is dark, twisty, endless, and oppressive. You trust your own feelings and then instead of merely sympathizing with the women interviewed, you are one of them, you feel their pain, you are put in an incredibly more vulnerable position, and Daniel's job of making you empathize with them and support her cause becomes so much easier.


tyreekminor said...

I'm not sure if I'm remembering this correctly but I believe that heteroglossia, by Bahktin's claim, was indeed an interspersion of voices talking to and through one another. Now if this is true, and please correct if i am wrong, then these voices that the author is using can be used to present ideas that the author has his or herself and is accommodating those "world views" through the context of the character and narrative. If this is indeed what Bahktin believes an author accomplishes through heteroglossia, did the conversation from various points have to be necessarily contradictory? Could they just be in conversation with one another much like Daniel's cases were advocating for a common cause? What makes this form of heteroglossia anymore "pure" than another?

gabyjoe21 said...

Daniel's hypertext essay did in fact juxtapose two world views. From the beginning the viewer is presented with the differences of the inside and outside perceptions of the penal system.The incorporation of the different testimonials further supports that because there were inmates that expressed how their own ignorance had been changed since they themselves have entered the prison system. From the very beginning even as Daniel depicts he walk up to the prison and describes the outer appearance its as if she is giving an account of what the general public sees or the "outside" view of the prison before getting to the prisoners experiences or the "inside" view of the prison.

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