e-Lit Resource
Mindful of Multiplicity

In her review of Michael Joyce’s collection of essays, Othermindedness: The Emergence of Network Culture, Linda Carroli dissects how Joyce employs terms such as “othermindedness” and “emergence,” leading to a changing conception of change in contemporary “network culture.”

Before embarking on her analysis, Carroli recounts the space and consciousness Joyce writes of and in. The title to his collection combines a three-part theory of textuality and narrativity in electronic space. In a network culture, the environment of textuality which is at once plural, dynamic, and nomadic, is brought by an othermindedness, a heightened consciousness of consciousness itself, constantly emerging and re-emerging into new forms. Crucial to the understanding of emergence is that “not only do the things change but change itself does,” Carroli writes, “Changing change ... constitutes emergence.” Because of the constantly emerging network culture, the narrated self is also constantly changing, emerging, subject to dissection. The self fragments, simultaneously becoming text and theory. Carroli draws from Haraway, reminding that any writing necessarily fragments, and this fragmentation is only amplified in network culture.

Spatiality, for Carroli, is a salient feature of electronic texts: “worlds will be made of words.” She affirms that in a network culture, “spaces for and of writing emerge,” and that any conscious, textual involvement in the network culture becomes a spatial and itinerant involvement. Carroli refers to Joyce’s electronic structures as the “grammars of space,” which depend on the varied interactions and collaborations that cyberspace demands. For the spatiality of the network culture to re-emerge continually and dynamically, Carroli touches on the necessary contours within these grammars of “the constantly changing text” of network culture. These contours, Carroli describes, are a sensual colonization of fragmentations, webs, and connections that are rendered and enforced by each interaction, whether written or read.

Symptomatic of these convoluted connections are the passive migrations from web to web, as simply consumers or voyeurs, prompting what Carroli refers to as Joyce’s “ethical imperative,” a call to arms against passivity in an ever present moment of emergence. Pleading to the intellectual participants of the network culture, Joyce asks to be dutifully mindful of the roles played in the network culture, to be aware of collaboration as an effort of co-creation and reciprocity. It is this consciousness that Carroli labels “mindful of multiplicity,” the othermindedness that renders each reader and writer consistently aware of concurrent emergences and contributions. In the fragmentations of self that result from conversations and interactions, all those implicated become segments of data, plural and inter-connected, parts of a new, ever-changing electronic form.

Appealing to the idea of self as collection, Carroli ponders whether autobiographical portraits offer any coherence of self-identification through othermindedness and emergence, or if uncertainty and multiplicity are the leading identifiers in the new, fragmented electronic form. As electronic literature bears the burden of temporal and sensory contradictions, so too will notions of self be understood as collections of data that are “simultaneously new and old, unfamiliar and familiar, possible and impossible.” Carroli’s review of Joyce seems to underline a deeper concern of identity in an ever-emerging network culture. Not only will electronic literature evolve, but electronic subjectivities and notions of self will constantly emerge in new and continually fragmentary forms and collections.