Monday, April 28, 2014

Reading Notes: Class Meeting 4/29/14

Rickert - Ambient Rhetoric:


Rickert argues that ambience as it relates to rhetoric is a term to describe the congruence of people, objects, and environments to create an intangible quality that imbues every connection therein with an energy greater than the sum of its parts. This goes beyond Bitzer's situation and Bazerman's social facts; these concepts require the subject to perceive a situation or fact before discourse is created in response. Ambience does not require perception; it is contributing to a mood that permeates the creation whether the subject is aware of it or not.

The "sound of sound" (8) -  ambience  is when the environment becomes more than neutral like Rickert's example of  the studio space in Led Zeppelin's tune above.

I think this concept is especially applicable to the underground movement as a whole, not just the OoS. It really speaks to that abstract, undefinable quality of the counterculture movement. How does a movement of ideas and values spread throughout a country? How is it recognized in all its various forms? Perhaps the answer is ambience - the near-mystical feeling in the air that resists full-recognition. The underground network relied on ambience to grow: the entanglement of art, music, text, people, events, history, media, and the environment.

Ambience and Constraints:
"The environment is always situating us in arrangements that simultaneously unleash some possibilities and foreclose on others...the ambient environs generate various affordances that invent us in kairotic moments" (96).
There are several interesting ideas embedded in this quote. First, I see a connection to constraints in this unleashing and foreclosing by the environment. I think this speaks to how an environment is able to constrain us; it situates us in a particular arrangement. 

Second, this process of being situated emphasizes that last word, arrangement, which is a loaded term to be certain. In rhetoric, this is one of the classic Aristotelian canons. This suggests that our environment places us into an organization of the ambience such that we are not positioned in a exterior place of creation but within. Creation occurs within the ambient structure to which we belong. I think this challenges rhetoric, especially Vatz, in that the rhetorician is not in a position of total agency, mediating content with autonomy, enacting will on a situation. Rather, like Bateson, the rhetorician is immanently entwined in the environment so creation emerges from the entanglement in co-production.  

Ambience Mall - Gurgaon, India. One of the largest shopping malls in India. How does this mall embody Rickert's concept of ambience? Is the mall not a confluence of people, environment, and objects to create a mood? Image posted by Indian Travels.

Lastly, Rickert folds in affordances to this mix, which I have already discussed as it relates to cultural constraints, further emphasizing the way ambience can mold discourse. However, he extends the term to intangible qualities in the environment as opposed to physical objects. I am interested in how participation is afforded by "ambient environs." An ambience, like the one surrounding the underground movement, can encourage a enthusiastic engagement without being a stable interaction. In other words, people can get carried away by a moment, by the mood and the moment, without having a commitment to the message. It's like a story my mother told me about anti-Vietnam protests on her college campus. People would often join in for fun, to do something other than go to class, because it was "cool" or "cool" people were involved. Because the ambience of the place and time encouraged participation in this loose way. Could ambience help explain why the underground movement eventually unraveled?

Works Cited:

Rickert, Thomas. Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being. Pittsburgh, PA: U of Pittsburgh P, 2013. Print.

1 comment:

  1. Your notes got me thinking about how folks might use the concept of Ambient Rhetoric; can it be used as an excuse? You just don't "get" it? I guess then I'm asking, if we operationalize Ambient Rhetoric, does it automagically undermine the concept/theory (going back to your "mystical" ideas)?