Exercise 4

Stage III   Assem­blage Tes­ti­mony
Project: “MemeMo­r­ial”

Exer­cise 4

Cog­ni­tive Map­ping — Opti­cal Unconscious


      Due: (TBA)
      500 words (min­i­mum)
      10 points; see gen­eral cri­te­ria.
      Media: include expres­sive media ele­ment (image, video, etc.) to con­vey cog­ni­tive map per­spec­tive
      optional / extra credit: use (cre­ate, edit) orig­i­nal media (e.g. custom/edited image)
      » Addi­tional tips & exam­ples in com­ments below



    » Assign­ment (Elec­tronic Mon­u­ments p.94):

    Extract from the assem­blage a set of instruc­tions for how to trans­pose a life sit­u­a­tion into a sys­tem of mean­ing (cog­ni­tive map). Apply this map to your own situation.”

    • The strat­egy is to alle­go­rize the par­tic­u­lars of the sit­u­a­tion, to pro­mote them to per­son­i­fi­ca­tions of the forces or pow­ers that they embody or represent…”

    • Think about your own life in these terms. Do for your expe­ri­ence what Pier­son did for Woj­tow­icz (locate and fore­ground that nar­rat­able uni­fy­ing thread).”


» Goal:
Ulmer states that it is “impor­tant to find or com­pose the shape of the egent’s sit­u­a­tion in order to move from MEmo­r­ial to tes­tiomy” (94).
This exer­cise uses a story/event from any Pop­cy­cle data­base (see pp. 20–1)
in order to rec­og­nize & under­stand one’s own posi­tion via “cog­ni­tive map­ping”: iden­ti­fy­ing aspects of the sit­u­a­tion (val­ues, ideas, forces, “blind spots”?) pre­vi­ously “unseen” or under-theorized, by means of visible/perceptible details.


» Task:
Present your insights that result from your cog­ni­tive map­ping, about the sit­u­a­tion, through con­crete details and par­tic­u­lar exam­ples.
Rather than describe the process (sequence), use the exam­ples as sup­port­ive illus­tra­tions of your new ideas, pre­sented in Ulmer’s terms and per­spec­tive.
(In other words: limit/avoid sum­mary and descrip­tion of the nar­ra­tive and sit­u­a­tion in favor of analy­sis and con­clu­sions about the “sys­tem of mean­ing” newly under­stood as a result.)



Strate­gies & Other Tips


“A MEmo­r­ial is one way to accom­plish what [Jame­son] calls ‘cog­ni­tive map­ping’, which is needed to help cit­i­zens grasp their posi­tion within a his­tor­i­cal field.” (p.90)

    Jame­son focuses on “the back­ground, set­ting, or place of the drama, and the way the film trans­forms this site into a fig­ure of an oth­er­wise unthink­able trans­for­ma­tion of the world by transna­tional cap­i­tal­ism.” (91)

    “His read­ing of Dog Day After­noon shows where to look for this alle­gor­i­cal col­lec­tive (pop­cy­cle) dimen­sion in an enter­tain­ment nar­ra­tive.” (91)


Guided per­spec­tive: con­sider “the impli­ca­tions for Emer­A­gency con­sult­ing and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of a vir­tual civic sphere of the dis­place­ment from the prob­lems…” (p.93)

» key tech­nique: Ficelle    (focal­iza­tion: Com­mu­nity story, express­ing Value)

    Type of “dis­place­ment”: “In the news story that Frank Pier­son turned into a screen­play, the trans­sex­ual is a ‘ficelle’, a sec­ondary char­ac­ter or sup­port­ing role in a drama about a bank rob­bery. His focus is on recast­ing the event into an enter­tain­ment (fic­tional) nar­ra­tive.” (p.89)

    “The for­mula for the syn­cretic project of elec­tracy is to locate the ide­o­log­i­cal other quilt­ing or sutur­ing (“sutra”) together one’s cul­tural point of view, and then switch the dom­i­nant focal­iza­tion (usu­ally so famil­iar that one does not even experiece it as such) for an unfa­mil­iar one asso­ci­ated with the ficelle.” (Inter­net Inven­tion, p.195)



  1. Exer­cise 4 tips:

      » Task:
      Present your insights that result from your cog­ni­tive map­ping, about the sit­u­a­tion, through con­crete details and par­tic­u­lar exam­ples. Rather than describe the process (sequence), use the exam­ples as sup­port­ive illus­tra­tions of your new ideas, pre­sented in Ulmer’s terms and perspective.


    First, the main objec­tive is to present a straight­for­ward dis­cus­sion (rational/analytic dis­course, “aca­d­e­mic orga­ni­za­tion”) of your insights that result from the cog­ni­tive map­ping strat­egy.
    So, it is the result of your attempt­ing this per­spec­tive, not a descrip­tion of the process or of the sit­u­a­tion.
    On the last point, the spe­cific exam­ples cited should illus­trate your analy­sis — rather than sim­ply iden­ti­fy­ing.
    You will likely have one key idea that you real­ize through the process, which is what you should dis­cuss mostly in the response — with illus­tra­tive examples.

    — the “Pop­cy­cle data­bases” (see pp. 20–1): Auto­bio & Fam­ily; School, Field Dis­ci­pline (major/career); Com­mu­nity (pos­si­bly includ­ing “street” and/or “church”); Enter­tain­ment, Pop Cul­ture, Media
    → for this inven­tion strat­egy (unlike Exer­cise 5), we’re using con­crete details (“mate­r­ial sig­ni­fiers”) from one data­base.
    Also impor­tant to keep in mind (review): each of these has dis­tinct dis­course & logic/mode, inform­ing and medi­at­ing our think­ing the issue (social prob­lem, net­work witness)…

    • » Goal:
      Ulmer states that it is “impor­tant to find or com­pose the shape of the egent’s sit­u­a­tion in order to move from MEmo­r­ial to tes­tiomy” (94). This response uses a story/event (from any Pop­cy­cle dimen­sion) in order to chart one’s own sit­u­a­tion via “cog­ni­tive map­ping” — iden­ti­fy­ing aspects of the sit­u­a­tion (val­ues, ideas, forces, “blind spots”?) pre­vi­ously “unseen” or under-theorized.


    → To this end, you need to select a story (event), from any Pop­cy­cle dimension/database; Ulmer has exam­ples of all three types in chap­ters 3 & 4 (especially).

    The idea is that the story helps you rec­og­nize (“locate and fore­ground”) par­tic­u­lar instances, which are rep­re­sen­ta­tions of abstract ideas — “val­ues, ideas, forces” man­i­fested usu­ally through insti­tu­tions and per­sonal rela­tions.
    The film dis­cussed shows us both types, espe­cially through Jameson’s two key strate­gies of cog­ni­tive map­ping:
    1) look­ing at the background/setting;
    2) “dis­place­ment” of focus from the pri­mary role to exam­in­ing “sec­ondary char­ac­ter” (ficelle).

    We have the ques­tions, “what is going on around me? how can I ‘grasp my posi­tion’ in this sit­u­a­tion of ‘invis­i­ble’ forces and val­ues?”
    We need “vis­i­ble” signs in order to com­pre­hend the “unseen” (under-theorized, unthought, ignored) aspects of the sit­u­a­tion — recall dis­cus­sion (Wed-Fri) about Chp 2.

    All events/stories, seen in films par­tic­u­larly, have “back­ground” char­ac­ters: in the main event these “back­ground” or sec­ondary actions and insti­tu­tions make intel­li­gi­ble the “unthink­able” aspects (val­ues, forces, desires) dif­fi­cult oth­er­wise to process; the lat­ter is often illus­trated (“dra­ma­tized”) in the main character/s.
    We typ­i­cally iden­tify with this main char­ac­ter; but, with assem­blage tes­ti­mony & net­work wit­ness, I am “in the back­ground…“
    (review “con­cetto”: fold­ing of col­lec­tive val­ues into indi­vid­ual experience).

    → In order to sit­u­ate myself within this “matrix” of unseen/unthought forces and val­ues, I need a story/event with vis­i­ble “char­ac­ters” (even if non­fic­tion) and actions.
    This need not be a dis­as­ter, though (the later objec­tive of the final project); more impor­tant at present are the insights such an event yields —
    as in the case of the Titanic dis­as­ter, which illus­trates the 1910s dom­i­nant val­ues in Anglo-American upper-class soci­ety (end of Chp 4).
    On a more imme­di­ate (“local”) level, I need to rec­og­nize what values/beliefs and ideas are cir­cu­lat­ing around me (Popcycle; memesphere) in var­i­ous insti­tu­tions and col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence (behav­iors, ideas, val­ues, atti­tudes) of my sit­u­a­tion.
    A spe­cific story, with its concrete/particular details (“mate­r­ial sig­ni­fiers” sen­sory, ren­der­ing per­cep­ti­ble)
    helps me think this com­plex sit­u­a­tion on a per­sonal level. This is the exer­cise, as thought experiment.

  2. email reply to ques­tion about Exer­cise 4

    — focus­ing on issue, at least ten­ta­tively cho­sen, yes.
    “Cog­ni­tive map” strat­egy is means to per­ceive this dif­fer­ently, to under­stand my posi­tion sit­u­ated in com­plex net­work of col­lec­tive iden­tity with abstract val­ues (not nec­es­sar­ily my own; e.g. I’m part of the Amer­i­can soci­ety that includes Zim­mer­man and Travon — what is my posi­tion or per­spec­tive as bystander-witness?). The exer­cise mainly (just) presents your insights result­ing from the strat­egy, think­ing the col­lec­tive and recognizing/understanding abstract ideas like val­ues, desires, processes, power, iden­tity, etc.
    (Jameson’s exam­ple rec­og­nizes global cap­i­tal­ism and decen­tral­ized power in the fig­ures of the FBI Agent and bank employ­ees in the film. Usu­ally we “iden­tify” with the hero/villain of the story; in this case, I am a bystander — thus think­ing issue by means of “secondary/background characters”).

    A thought exper­i­ment: start with a ten­ta­tive issue; select story from “per­sonal data­base” (school, com­mu­nity, pop cul­ture — not expe­ri­enced but wit­nessed); iden­tify the par­tic­u­lar details, includ­ing char­ac­ters; “zoom out” to general/collective level — see what you rec­og­nize and think newly/differently. Dis­cuss these insights in/as the exer­cise, under­stand­ing your­self as posi­tioned within this “col­lec­tive sys­tem of meaning.”

    reply to ques­tion about source of story/event:

    the story/event could be from any “Pop­cy­cle” data­base — school, com­mu­nity, entertainment/pop cul­ture (likely).
    We’re using these spe­cific details to “map” our posi­tion — “in rela­tion to our topic/issue” as you say — and think the issue newly, con­cern­ing the col­lec­tive (abstract val­ues, like global cap­i­tal­ism in Jameson’s exam­ple using the film characters).

    The exer­cise presents the ideas that result, your new/different under­stand­ing or per­spec­tive (being sit­u­ated within col­lec­tive). Like the quote from Ben­jamin about photo-aura cre­at­ing our “access to his­tory” — think­ing collective/abstract by means of par­tic­u­lar details in story.

    • reply to student’s email about cog. map­ping via chora logic (choragraphy)

      For instance, you men­tion Africa and cog­ni­tive map­ping: how can I think my posi­tion in the global sys­tem that includes chil­dren dying there from insufficient/unhealthy water?
      The snowmelt in our area — snow I can imagine/perceive board­ing, and runoff water I see in town here — pro­vides as one of sev­eral sources water to California’s drink­ing sup­ply (to over­sim­plify, in my lim­ited under­stand­ing).
      The Col­orado River (which I’ve seen nearly dry in Albu­querque) is a more con­crete fig­ure — one that links the Amer­i­can imag­i­nary (or, the iden­tity of Amer­ica), par­tic­u­larly to “Hol­ly­wood”: SoCal (alarm­ing drought) + enter­tain­ment indus­try, our main global export.
      (do African chil­dren watch Hol­ly­wood films before dying of unclean water or thirst? maybe films with car washes, golf course, water­parks, lush green Amer­i­can lawns…? exaggerating/dramatic but you get the idea)
      We could sim­i­larly “map” using a plas­tic dis­pos­able water bot­tle, going from indi­vid­ual ($1 16oz) to link
      source (springs? tap? plus pol­lu­tion to make the plas­tic, includ­ing petro­leum and paraxy­lene)
      and des­ti­na­tion (land­fill? melt­ing sites?) that are both some­place else,
      which we don’t think or worry about indi­vid­u­ally in our moment of thirst quench­ing.…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>