Ashley Rea spent several years of her youth with Thoreau's voice in her head, and this is her reading and response to Ulmer's chapter "Frog." Feel free to edit and comment. As Thoreau would say, "Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!" Or not. It's your prerogative.
"Frog" is centered on Thoreau's Walden. Ulmer examines his relationship with the text, his own backyard pool and frogs to illustrate how individuals create themselves and interact with their object avatars through their external experiences.
Writing as LivingEdit
I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life...and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
-Henry David ThoreauEdit
Ulmer uses this section to examine the future of literacy. Electracy is illustrated in his attempt to remake Walden into an electronic text, not through changing the medium, but through a new encounter and new way of thinking. Instead of simply quoting Thoreau and agreeing or disagreeing with his arguments, Ulmer uses Thoreau as a stepping off place for a new synthesis of thought and experience. By relinquishing the firm grip on the material text, we are able to gain "the symbolic power of a new language" (180). By eschewing choosing one form of media over the other, but instead embracing both, we are able to learn. And this learning, why we write, is because we need to be able to think about how we have felt in living (181).
Ulmer reminisces about his father reading bedtime stories to him as a child. Before he understood writing, the simple act of reading, of finding a story from abstract characters, was magical. Our author's pre-literate stage reflected the mindset of an oral culture, where literacy is a kind of magic.
And now we're placed into placed into a similar position. Electracy and new forms of literacy are dawning. My mind is trained and limited by the conventions of traditional literacy: I'm left watching these changes with awe and some lack of comprehension.
Fetishized Frog of ForeshadowingEdit
(In which the author of this post gets alliteration-happy.)
The fetish power of the frog serves as an anchor in memory, an eddy around which scraps of information and thought whirl, being woven into a greater philosophy. It is "the organizing logic of electrate rhetoric."
Ulmer examines the amphibious nature of certain words (frog among them with its meaning as creature, railroad tie, and even coat fastening) and their potentiality from having multiple distinct meanings simultaneously. The fluidity and complexity of meaning is reflected in electrate rhetoric.
From Physical to MetaphysicalEdit
This chapter is grounded in the physical. Just as Thoreau started derived his maxims on human nature (He writes, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.") from his experience living in the woods surrounding Walden Pond, Ulmer grounds his discussion of electracy in his own physical experience. Learning from our surroundings, extrapolating from our models "is the challenge and opportunity of choragraphy in electracy." However, Ulmer encourages his audience to move beyond simply finding the stories within people and our surroundings. We do that already. Instead, we need to "add heuristics to hermeneutics, fabrication to interpretation." We make a figure of ourselves through interaction with our physical surroundings--"the world offers us a mirror in which to track the turns of our identity"--and through the medium of the internet (194). Our conception of identity is "augmented through the concept avatar whose skill set is flash reason organizing dromosphere information into a consultation on being (195)."
So "Explore your Neighborhood" (187). If Walden arose from Thoreau's experience in the woods, and Avatar Emergency from Ulmer's time cleaning his pool filter, who knows what brilliant works could arise from the inspiration found in your daily observations of your physical world? Go. Find your frog. And to steal a line from the esteemed Transcendentalist, "Suck the marrow out of life!"
Other sections where Frog is discussedEdit
If we're using Ulmer's final sense of "Frog" as a fetish, then nearly every other chapter utilizes such a frog. His diverse chapters address electracy and the concept avatar in numerous ways, and he often uses a material example to return back to in his discussion of philosophy and theory.
But did he use the frogs literally elsewhere?
Yugen is a mood described by Basho as the fit between the iinner feeling and sound of the frog leaping into the pool. The old pond--a frog jumps in,--water's sound. (Basho, Two Western Journeys) In a similar way, Ulmer uses this chapter to move from motion to stillness, to reflect on the movement and chaos of maintaining equilibrium in his pool and come to a place of being where he gleans new insights. (This process is one of emergence.)
Ulmer uses fetish as a "heterogenous assemblage of materials held together by a trivial contingent detail."
Chora is referred to as a "component zone," and frogs serve as a chorus that mediates his experience reading Walden, taking care of his pool to bring him to a new place of thought, an unknown space to explore.
Flash Reason is how the concept avatar's circular process of knowing works through the individual who organizes the "dromosphere information sprawl into a consultation on being" (195).