Since our discussion last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the application of D&G’s theory, particularly about my word striated and smooth spaces. This has helped me start to see that yes, despite some challenges in understanding and applying this material at first, there’s a lot of value here.
First, I’d like to talk about rhetoric. The goal of rhetoric, as I use it in this sense, is to persuade the reader/viewer/audience to conform to a certain way of thinking. That does not necessarily mean that rhetoric always intends to completely overhaul existing thought models; instead, even small degrees of deterritorialization and reterritorialization are often the goal in a rhetorical approach.
A good rhetorician will full consider the audience’s rhetorical situation, and this is where the value of striated and smooth spaces theory shines. It enables the writer (in our cases) to have a better understanding of where the audience stands.
For example, if the information presented to the audience exists in a firmly striated space (such as a video presentation), framing the information in a controlled way is somewhat possible. (A complete control of the situation is impossible, but higher degrees can be attained.) As Johnson-Eilola writes, “Although some hypertexts and hypertext programs allow readers the capability to write their own nodes and links into another’s text, even relatively restrictive hypertexts are experienced differently (in both the mental and the concrete sense) by different readers, depending on which nodes they have chosen to read (and in what order) and which nodes to skip” (382). This incorporation of hypertexts make online documents somewhat unique as the spaces become, in a way, striated spaces existing in a smooth space. The experience of reading the document — the interaction with the assemblage — is undefined because there is an unlimited amount of choices a reader can make in navigating a document with hypertext. However, there does come a limit to the abstract machine of a website; in this way the experience of navigating a single site, as a whole, could be interpreted as viewing a striated space.
Savvy web writers, tech writers, and professionals in an online space are understanding the inherently “smooth” nature of a website (or of a reader’s experience navigating a site’s assemblage) and attempting to reterritorialize readers/users/visitors in a way that guides their actions while still maintaining “smoothness.”
Anyway, it gets really heady and fun really quick. But I thought I would look at a few places where hypertext exists and take a guess as to what type of space they are. Here are some common spaces information is delivered and how striated and smooth space theory would apply.
Wikis are both smooth and striated spaces. Striated because each page has a determined topic and bounds, smooth because the content of those pages is constantly in flux. Each section of the wiki is striated with smooth information. Wikis on a whole are inherently smooth because there is no form for the reader to follow.
Blogs are similar to wikis in that their content can change, move, and shift within a striated space.
Videos or Presentations
Videos are striated spaces. The information contained within them is static. There is no variance or unknowing what is in a video; the presentation is the same every time. The context of the video may be a smooth space, however. Can we control what our audiences think about during our videos? I don’t think so. We also cannot control what they see directly before or after a video.