The photo that saved my daughter's life.

A printable version of this installation (without images) is available here.


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[P] This installation was initially delivered accompanied by a Prezi at the 2010 Computers and Writing Conference. To maximize accessibility, I forewent transforming it into Flash and have instead used standards-compliant XHTML and CSS. In doing so, I fear I have lost some of the affective movement of the original presentation (unexpected transitions and zooms keyed to particular words and ideas). Such a fear was confirmed by my attentive reviewers, and I appreciate their feedback. Ultimately, my disdain for Flash's accessibility issues, concerns over bitrot, and the time restraints of academic publication led me to keep the project in standards compliant XHTML and CSS. I hope that the chronological progression of images help relate my experience, both trying and joyous, that I cannot reduce to mere words.


[1] From an interview with USA Today:

It wasn't easy for Madeleine Robb to send an e-mail to another mom warning that her baby might have a deadly form of eye cancer. But she's glad she did it - and so is the mother of 1-year-old Rowan Santos.

"I didn't want to scare her," Robb told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira from London on Thursday. "But then I weighed out the options. If something wasn't wrong, then no real harm was done. If something was wrong, I really had no option, so obviously I had to tell her" (Considine, 2008).


[2] Again, I would suggest that Carr's perspective on intelligence is overly determined by literacy and print. Thus, he feels comfortable reducing intelligence to the filtration of information between short and long-term memory (see Carr, 2010). His arguments on sensory overload are predicated on this reduction. Other scholars in digital studies in rhetoric and composition—I am thinking particularly of Gregory Ulmer—might look at the neurological evidence cited by Carr without lamentation; they might interpret it not as the "loss of intelligence" but rather as the transformation of intelligence that calls less for linear rationality (and memory) and more for a logic of assemblage. In fact, one of the assumptions of Steven Johnson's (2010) newest work, Where Good Ideas Come From, is that interaction and hyper-activity (my term, not Johnson's) helps stimulate invention, rather than cloud or overwhelm it.


[3] As so often happens, Madeline's particular courage reminds me of another project I am working on—one examining the relationship between Bruno Latour's interpretation of Callicles in Plato's Gorgias dialogue and Levinas's suspicions toward ontology. Latour highlights how Callicles' rejection of Socratic rationalism depends upon courage before the masses:

The superior people I mean aren't shoemakers or cooks: above all, I'm thinking of a people who've applied their cleverness to politics and thought about how to run their community well. But cleverness is only part of it; they also have courage, which enables them to see their policies through to the finish without losing their nerve and giving up (491a-b, qtd. in Latour, 1999, p. 239). (emphasis Latour's)

In simple terms, I would suggest that courage is as important, if not more important, than critical thinking.


[4] It might be interesting here for me to contrast my own difficulties coping with Rowan's cancer to my parents' experiences. Before I was born my parents lost their first child, Benilda, to infant leukemia (a curable condition were she born today). In some ways, they feel as if their loss contributed to the development of medical science—contributed to saving Rowan's life. So, while they have been very supportive and empathetic to our plight, they also perceive Rowan's survival as a kind of validation of their own daughter's death. Thankfully, my parents' story is not solely one of loss. I am learning to appreciate my story as something other than loss as well.


[5] In researching my own story, I have come across a number of websites that ridicule Megan and me for not realizing that something was wrong. I find a thread on (now defunct) revealing. As one of the interlocutors suggests, Rowan's eye looked perfectly normal except in particular photographs. The fact that Megan and I did not attend to these photographs earlier likely supports theories that we only see what we can handle seeing.

But I note the thread for another reason. The internet is a mass landscape. It does not necessarily promote ethical proximity. The people on Williamsboard were not in proximity with us (so they thought), and such distance encourages humor. Sure, it's insensitive, but funny too (who doesn't like laser beams shooting out of a squirrel's eyes?).

Social media, however, as I am attempting to use the term, speaks to localized groups engaged in particular ethical practices encouraged and facilitated by dialogic technologies.


[6] Here I would address the potential irony of critiquing literate-print dependencies on narratives in what amounts to be, despite its hypertextual mediation, a linear narrative. What I hope saves me from complete hyporcrisy is the tenor of my narrative; it is not meant to be certain of itself and foreclose questioning; but rather, through the tentative and conditional nature of its speculations, welcoming of other responses, angles, and stories. Please send those stories to marcsantos at usf dot edu, or share them on my blog at