Last week I finally got around to reading Jeff Rice’s “The Making of Ka-knowledge: Digital Aurality” (Computers and Composition 23 (2006): 266-279). Jeff’s always worth reading and his work with the OHM thesis, as it’s known around here at SLU,1 is always top-notch. While reading this article, I couldn’t help but relate it to Carruthers’ machina memorialis quote, to John Miles Foley’s concept of immanent art, and T. A. Shippey’s concept of the conflictive principle.2 This article slips easily into my chapter on memory and database composition. Here’s a snippet from the article:

At the meta-level, the concept of knowledge as literacy depends on the very print-oriented concept of topos: a fixed place of meaning. Sometimes that fixed meaning adds a prefix of “techno” or “visual,” but the meaning of how knowledge relates to literacy still remains the same. What I have been trying to uncover here, however, has not been a system of knowledge, but one of ka-knowledge. Because of its dependence on sounding out, ka-knowledge is not topos based. To enact or practice ka-knowledge as digital writing, our narratives of literacy acquisition can no longer be topos based. They must become sounding outs. Sounding out is practical (how I write) as well as institutional (how I define writing) as well as theoretical (the terms that generate this kind of writing). My exploration and discovery of sounding out relfects this process. I sounded out the terms that gave rise to my understanding of this kind of writing (sound, voice, mix) through the mix (rewriting) of multiple moments and events (Ong, textbook instruction, literacy, Elbow, B.I.G., Kid Koala, digital writing). I did not turn to a muscial instrument to do so, nor did I outline a computer-based assignment or series of assignments that embody this kind of writing, as these moves would entail being instrumental.

To think of adapting courses to present trends by exploiting as gadgets the spectacularly evident new media–radio, television, tape recordings, intercom–is to a certain extent to miss the point. These new media are not just new efficient gadgets. They are part of a shift which is inexorably affecting our very notion of what communication itself is (Ong, 1962, p. 227)3.

I began by asking what a digital writing, whose logic stems from aurality, might look like. I have fround an answer by working through the tenets of the object I proposed to study (i.e., I have demonstrated to some extent, ka-knowledge). To enact a theory and pedagogy of the aural (i.e., sounding out), we are also inventing new forms of knowledge acquisition, forms traditional studies of literacy cannot accommodate. Ka-knowledge as digital knowledge is a mixing, a usage of a variety of ideas, events, moments, and texts for the mix and the subsequent identity of “being mixed,” not for the demonstration of expertise (a fixed, topos-bound concept). On the Web, we have begun to see the sounding out principle of ka-knowledge on, among other places, weblogs. Those weblogs that opt not to narrate daily events or soley personal experience (a typical usage of the weblog) and instead juxtapose images, ideas, quotations, anecdotes, hyperlinks, news stories, and other such items are demonstrating the rhetorical effect of sounding out I learned from hip-hop, but which I must make clear is generalizable to digital writing overall. “Webloggers are geek DJs,” Johndan Johnson-Eilola (2005)4 wrote in a brief summary of weblog potential (p. 134). That sense of geek DJing is seen in some of the Web’s more ambitous weblogging, the sites where writers dare to show off (i.e., find) combinations through their interaction with multiple, often conflicting and unrelated, experiences. (276-77)

  1. The OHM thesis, refers to the theories of Ong, Havelock, and McLuhan. The term was coined by Dr. Vincent Casaregola. []
  2. See “Principles of Conversation in Beowulfian Speech.” Techniques of Description: A Festschrift for Malcolm Coulthard. Ed. John M. Sinclair et al. London and New York: Routledge, 1993: 109-26. []
  3. “Wired for Sound: Teaching, Communications, and Technological Culture.” The Barbarian Within: And Other Fugitive Essays and Studies. New York: The MacMillan Company []
  4. Datacloud: Toward a Theory of Online Work. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. []