“Imagined Geographies”

In my thesis, I am arguing for the metaphor of viewing the blogosphere as the ideal city, drawing from the work of Iris Marion Young. Lisa suggested I read Reynolds’s article, and I’m really glad I did. Reynolds is concerned with “transparent space,” and argues “that these imaginary spaces for writing and writing instruction have been rendered benign, or anesthetized by the influence of transparent space; that we have neglected the relationship between material spaces and actual practices; and that we need to attend to the effects of time-space compression on composition’s workers” (14).

Her critiques of the spatial metaphors used in Composition around the frontier make a lot of sense to me: that it ignores the material spaces of the actual classroom, that it implies colonialism, that it implies an empty landscape with unlimited access, that it plays into the American myth of constant expansion (21-24).

But her critique of the “Composition as City” metaphor was really thought-provoking. It too “may be glamorizing” and “overlooking some of the material realities.” For example, visitors to cities rarely visit the ghettos (26). “[T]he appeal of the city,” Reynolds writes, “turns on busy visual images, heightened adrenaline movement, and a desire for public space or mutual co-existence with others” (26).

I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, though, to look at the the ideal blogosphere as the ideal city, but I do agree that we need to consider in material reality what happens in cities and in the blogosphere. Where are dominant sexual-social politics reproduced in cities and on the Internet (28)? Reynolds is also concerned that “online participants are removing their actual bodies from physical spaces” (28).

Reynolds claims that “now it is time to think smaller and more locally” and that we should have “more effort to link the material conditions to the activities of particular spaces” (30).

These are all very important ideas to keep in mind and try to synthesize with everything else I’ve written. One important aspect I haven’t noted here is her stress that the myth that as space shrinks, time expands, isn’t true. For example, email is flooding us and consuming our time; time hasn’t expanded just because space (moving instantaneously across the campus/city/country/world) has shrunk. Reynolds concludes her essay, “a spacial politics of writing instruction would resist notions of transparent space that deny the connections to material conditions and would account for the various ways in which time-sace compression affects composition’s workers” (33).

Reynolds, Nedra. “Composition’s Imagined Geographies: The Politics of Space in the Frontier, City, and Cyberspace.” CCC 50.1 (September 1998): 12-35.

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