Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Patchwork Girl" and Knowledge

The various components of “Patchwork Girl” bring to mind attempts to graphically represent the structure of human knowledge via mental mapping and in a way to reduce the human mind into a computing machine. “Patchwork Girl” mocks these deterministic, “scientific” attempts by its hectic language and by its self-affirmed insecurity about how one part relates to a visually connected other and about a part’s relation to the whole (the author addresses this at one node). In short, “PG” evokes a hermeneutic problematic that mental maps, file structures, etc. attempt to eliminate. In “PG’s” clear-cut links there is a painful recognition of their arbitrariness in regard to the whole and of their necessity in regard to other nodes. The reader is left to imagine the relationship of parts to whole, a relationship that is not stable or consistent across time or readers. Moreover, there are no clear temporal or causal relationships between nodes. They simply exist in a "no-place of the mind."  

“PG” is consciously reductive and orientalizing—it offers a mere glimpse into possible associations between nodes or “patches." “PG” actively questions and destabilizes what one blogger posits: “It is interesting if not a little disquieting to think that the one-day perfect form of not only hypertext but also all code will be an exact replica of human cognition.” (Our Hideous Progeny…)  

What is accomplished by consulting this patchwork record, in Bush’s terms? It seems that whatever knowledge is attained from reading it is not concrete or earth-bound but is highly abstract and unique to each reader. This record does not signal efficiency, order, or rationally constructed knowledge in the way that Bush and Nelson imagine it; rather, it is a repository that cannot be understood in the scientific sense. It is an assemblage of patches that cannot form an impermeable body. Like the agenda of a logical file system, "PG" maps, breaks down the body, but it has no epistemological telos that Bush and Nelson seem to envision and so offers some insight into the possibility and value of their position.

No comments: