I am pointing a gub at you. Abt naturally.
The confusion over Virgil’s bank-robbing note in Take the Money and Run points at the necessity of interpretation as a pragmatic part of communication. He failed to rob the bank, because nobody could understand his handwriting. The primary flaw I see in Lanham’s reduction of things to levels of transmission (At / Through) is that it doesn’t begin to touch the problem of interpretation. This is a mistake that Ricoeur addresses. I’ll wander my way back there sometime soon. I’ve been dancing toward this stuff for a while. Turbulent Velvet posed a question in a comment:
When someone insists on “sincerity,” is this always a formal-stylistic-epistemological demand?
I think so. I’ve come to that conclusion because of my thinking about linking. Another way to view links (linguistically) is to think of them as deictic structures, or in philosophical language, indexical expressions. Conversationally, they are among the most problematic building blocks. For example, this is a sentence steeped in deixis:
I will be back in an hour.
An hour from when? Without face-to-face interaction, we must speculate on the “now” that the writer is referring to. The “now” must have some relative referent to be meaningful. In the case of a blog entry, if the post has a time-stamp, it is indeed meaningful in the time context. But what about space? When I say “back” it implies a “here” which the return will be consummated in. Does the writer mean he will write more in his blog, or merely be connected to the web, waiting for replies? What if a writer says:
I will be back soon.
Soon, for a rock, might be a thousand years. For a human, well, the entire concept is socially constructed and conditioned by appropriateness behaviors. The problematic nature of identity in writing often amplified by the web exists because the presence of an I implied in all statements constitutes a deictic expression. When someone links something, even with only an implied intention, an I is present as the epistemic, indexical context for the utterance:
[I think this is] Hilarious
It seems easy to index some qualities of intention behind my act of pointing— I must be interested in writing, or at least be in possession of a dirty mind, to find it funny. There is an inferred I at the core of all statements. Thus, the insistence on “sincerity” is an epistemic demand for clarification of the position of the speaker in relation to the utterance. Links are always deictic. They come from somewhere and they go somewhere, which can only be defined relatively. As Jill has noted, they are signs of value. Links are currently being “mined” in a relatively simplistic way creating a power dynamic that, though tangential to what I’ve been on about, is relevant. Identity, at least in most Western cultures, has its own sort of value, its own currency. And the “mining methods” surrounding identity are similarly flawed.
Questioning online identity is similar to questioning link economics because identity also involves a complex exchange between differing consensual levels of access. I blame Alex for getting me started on this. Questions of linking and questions of identity are not usually connected because the convergence of the deictic functions in electronic discourse is seldom noticed: what we point at and who we are have received attention separately, but not together. Expressions of identity, whether in the form of abstract links or expressive revelations, index the relative position of the speaker to the hearer, and are largely inferred rather than overtly stated. To request clarification of either (context around a pointer, sincerity from a writer) is indeed a formal-stylistic-epistemological demand. Indexical expressions are evaluated for “truth value” on the basis of both ends of the relation. However, conversational deixis is not conveniently reducible to pure semantic, truth-conditional analysis. This, perhaps, —as Frank Zappa would say— is the crux of the biscuit [‘].
There’s a lot more to think about in that fat comment. I don’t see the problem of emotion or “emotional scripts” as an “orthogonal vector” to conventional rhetorical theory, but instead a central cause for the vibrations. The oscillation between expressivist and social-constructivist praxis is a large case in point. I’ve got a paper on that subject I’m still working on. But I’ve already babbled on too long. Perhaps later.