Ordered Space

Ordered Space

[Language] enfolds the whole of literary creation as much as the earth, the sky and the line where they meet outline a familiar habitat for mankind. It is not so much a stock of materials as a horizon, which implies both a boundary and a perspective; in short, it is the comforting area of an ordered space. The writer literally takes nothing from it; a language is for him rather a frontier, to overstep which alone might lead to the linguistically supernatural; it is a field of action, the definition of, and hope for, a possibility. It is not the locus of a social commitment, but merely a reflexive response involving no choice, the undivided property of men, not of writers; it remains outside the ritual of Letters; it is a social object by definition, not by option.

Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero (9)

One of the most difficult concepts in Barthes’ first book is the idea of style. Style, for Barthes, is not a choice although it is individual. It is an organic entity, biological in nature, which is not chosen but given. In this, he refutes Sartre’s assertion that to write in a literary mode is to make a choice. A choice to promote freedom—a sort of freedom of surrender, in the case of the writer and a freedom of transport in the case of the reader. This biological process is not merely the sum of cultural constituents.

Style is a reflexive response to the place that we occupy in this world as human beings. In this, he agrees with Sartre’s assertion that writing represents a human relation; however, he disavows that style is a conscious choice. Style is a part of us. A vertical limit to match the horizontal limit of language. Style can only exist as a moment in time. A metalepsis, a personal perception of language’s social condition. An internal biological construction representing our place in the world which is not chosen, but given.

For Barthes, writing is a choice which reflects an inscription of possibility within limits. Language is the horizontal limit and style the vertical limit. Writing in a hyperlinked digital environment represents, I think, just an extension of style. Much has been made of the social nature of this style. But when I think about it, I believe we turn this aspect into a fetish, forgetting that it isn’t the style which is social, but language itself. Blogging presents new tools that amplify the social nature of writing. In and of itself, blogging merely provides new ways of ordering our discourse that highlight language’s basic sociality.

I think it was Kenneth Bruffee who said that writing was a public activity performed in private. Increasingly, writing is being transformed into a public activity performed in public through new modes. I am beginning to think of the mode of blogging as something akin to the concept of style asserted by Barthes. As it grows and spreads, it presents a sort of ground that we all draw from and though we do not choose what sort of “blogger” we are, we touch the edges of what it can do—at the current level of technology—as a sort of limit condition which operates on us unseen, and yet organically. Of course technology will grow and change, but we are fixed to a certain extent to the biological moment of our existence, in the style to which we press our possibilities into.

Blogging provides a sort of syntactic function, an ordered space in which to inscribe our possibility.

2 thoughts on “Ordered Space”

  1. I like your conclusion – it chimes with a relationship I’ve been churning over between how I perceive my blog to operate and this metaphor of self, http://www.metaself.org/, which examines the self in terms of a display case hung on a wall.

  2. Parallel Processing

    Halley’s been putting our brains together: If blogging is open source thinking, then that may be why it’s such a

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