The photo that saved my daughter's life.


This installation is a personal and cathartic engagement with my initial inability to cope with my daughter's cancer. [Note P] It details events that began in August of 2008 and concluded, in a sense, in February of 2009. I offer it with hopes of helping digitally-oriented rhetoric and composition scholars "determin[e] a should for a we" (Patricia Sullivan & James E. Porter, 1997, p.103). How should we approach pedagogy in the early 21st century? My tentative answer is to approach it less with aims of "constructing knowledge" and more with hopes of "negotiating encounters."

Given my suspicion toward traditional forms of rationality, this project, I hope, represents what Sullivan and Porter describe as feminist research in Opening Spaces. This is my first extended attempt to think through my own experiences and transformation. I share this engagement with you because I think it helps me theorize a dimension of rhetorical encounter preceding consciousness or knowledge production. Later in the project, I term this dimension "rhetorical support"—implicitly echoing Burke's paradox of substance—as the dimension upon which Being (be it identity, community, ideology, narrative) emerges. A digital-pedagogic practice dedicated to rhetorical support would place the quest for knowledge equally alongside values such as humility, courage, and risk.

I draw upon the work of Jim Corder and, to a lesser extent, Emmanuel Levinas and Alphonso Lingis. Such works speak to the dialogic potential of 21st century technologies, offering us robust theories that emphasize the human need for, and potential disruption caused by, others and their narratives. I want to use these theories and my own traumatic experiences—what Corder will identify as challenges to my narrative—to question what is fast becoming a commonplace among digital humanists: that social media sites, particularly Facebook, are fueled by and further fuel humanity's worst narcissistic tendencies. Where this critique locates narcissism as a cause, I will instead argue that digital technologies might awaken desire for something missing from atomistic modern life; they rekindle a desire for others. What might appear as narcissism could be attending to the abyss, and a new, distributed form of loquacious huddling.