(a map)

Gregory L. Ulmer


1. A rhetoric for writing online (on-line, on line) bears the name choragraphy. To tell about choragraphy so that you might want to try it, perform it yourself... The difficulty is that this invention or discovery exists within my work and under standing in the phase of incubation, pre-illumination, without Eureka. Or rather, it is the name for the history or biography of calculating or simulating the feeling of Eureka.
Stories of inventions: usually they are told afterwards, even long afterwards, and not always by the one who signs the idea. One hears that Mendeleev, for example, produced the idea for the periodic table while trying to write a textbook on chemistry. He needed some principle to help him decide the arrangement of materials, the order of treatment. Taking a break from his work, he got out a deck of cards to play a game of patience. "He saw it was quick and easy to arrange playing cards on the desk, write the elements one to a card, fooled around for a while, and there was a good order of the elements" (Crovitz, 85). The happy moment is credited in part to a state of mind known as Zeitnot, applied to chess players having to decide on a series of moves in too short a time.

I am writing a textbook for electracy (which is to digital technologies what literacy is to print). This feeling I have of knowing what choragraphy is (the practice of electracy): I have seen it described many times, of being aware of a certain direction in which the solution might be found, but without yet being able to address it directly. Is it true that this state of mind, anticipating an insight, is like that of trying to remember a name that one has forgotten (87)? "When this stage has been reached in which one can verbalize some features of a solution--the solution lies 'at the tip of one's tongue'--the solution has already been made (as a lost name was once learned); the problem now is to release it from cognitive inhibition" (88).
Time, in time, Zeitnot, given time or out of time. I am not the one to say.

2. Freud could not recall the name of the master who made frescoes of The Last Judgment in the dome of Orvieto. Rather than the correct Signorelli all he could produce was Botticelli and Boltraffio, which he knew to be incorrect. His analysis of the displacement might be the basis for a heuristic device for generating illuminations, applied to the specific materials undergoing incubation during problem solving, especially if we consider the incident as a hypericon standing in for the entire apparatus of unconscious reasoning.

The setting for the incident was a journey by train to a station in Herzogovinia. Note: Freud based his insight into the dream as a rebus on a game of picture puzzles published regularly in the newspapers of his day. Trauma according to Freud occurs as an after-effect: something in the present triggers a recognition such that a past event snaps into a configuration of significance. Bosnia-Herzogovinia is the name of trauma. A traumatic place. A scene of ethnic cleansing. Chora?--a relationsh ip between a place and a state of mind, giving rise to a thought. Virtually, as a scene of writing, in a representation, now I have an emblem; a map of the direction (sens) of that feeling orienting my research.
If someone asked: choragraphy? I could roll out onto the table the map showing Bosnia-Herzogovinia, the paths connecting a constellation of syllables, a mass grave, Nuremberg trials. Then the question might be: where are we now, and at what scale?

Perhaps there is something more than writers block preventing me from finishing Electracy (a textbook-in-progress since 1994). Freud explains that his forgetting of Signorelli was motivated by a desire not to think about a recent disturbing event--the recent suicide of one of his patients due to an incurable sexual disturbance. "I repressed something. To be sure, I wished to forget something other than the name of the master of Orvieto; but this other thought brought about an a ssociative connection between itself and this name, so that my act of volition missed the aim, and I forgot the one against my will, while I intentionally wished to forget the other" (9).

3. A series is already underway. Does it deserve the name of proof? The proof of choragraphy. Email gives me this sense of movement towards discovery. Perhaps ensemble logic will have been at least the discovery of a poetics of email. For now that I have declared my intentions, the goal of making a new practice known as choragraphy, I am in no hurry to arrive at this destination. There is the suspicion that in any case choragraphy has little to do with anything I know Ensemble. We are doing something together. It may even appear to be a dialogue, (dialogue) even if email is to the Platonic dialogue what that dialogue was to oral conversation: an interface metaphor. Plato invented a way to reason within literacy and made it accessible by inscribing dialectic within a written simulation of a conversation. Today a way to reason within electracy--choragraphy--will have become accessible through an email simulation of a dialogue.
one often says of Phaedrus that people do not actually talk that way, not even in translation. It should be said of email that people do not actually write this way.

Appeal to theory of the dia as the logic of sense. Gilles Deleuze draws on the Stoic revision of the X, the crossing lines, the dia of dialogue.

The line of online. Theory anticipates me. It knows already, but so many things, too many things: it has no idea what it knows, but it has a way, meta + hodos. I worked for a time, and even now, with something called the X Tables, in hon or of Mendeleev's textbook. There are so many tables, not only those of furniture or truth, as any dictionary will confirm. What I have forgotten, what I cannot remember, and more, in a temporality of Nachtraglichkeit and Zeitnot (and thei r abandoned umlauts).
Note: how casually he drops the umlaut. Considering the map, one is alerted to an avoidance of diphthongs, those unsegmentable gliding speech sounds varying continuously in phonetic quality but held to be a single sound or phoneme; also: a digraph , a ligature.

A juxtaposition takes place along a certain line, forming an X, or a figure more complex, which we make ensemble, or which I simulate, but which in any case is a series, or a series of series: "The terms of each series are in perpetual relative displac ement in relation to those of the other," wrote Deleuze; and most importantly, a paradox emerges between the series without being reducible to either one.

4..Choragraphy began as an exploration of a rhetoric in which the Aristotelian tradition articulating the places of invention in terms of topos would be supplemented with chora. The Greeks had available the notion of a third kind of space/ place in the term to kenon, a substantivation of the adjective kenos (empty) (Algra, 39).

Plato's receptacle, of course, was an image for chora, so perhaps there is some circularity in this movement from one term to the next. In English I hear the void of avoidance (since I am trying to remember), as in the opening lines of Of Spiri t: "I shall speak of ghost [revenant], of flame, and of ashes. And of what, for Heidegger, avoiding means. What is avoiding? Heidegger on several occasions uses the common word vermeiden: to avoid, to flee, to dodge. What might he have meant when it comes to 'spirit' or the 'spiritual'? I specify immediately: not spirit or the spiritual but Geist, geistig, geistlich, for this question will be, through and through, that of language" (Derrida, 1989: 1).

y This question is posed to me and to you, for at least I have avoided that question, or it never occurred to me. Nor am I satisfied by what such a thing brings to mind. Spirit: if the term becomes geist so quickly, then it may continue its slide through and across languages, a series, a line to make X (dia), wondering how inventions come to mind. Bill Viola, for example (and you will have your own examples), started reading Rumi. There is much to be learned about choragraphy from Viola, not least of which is his exploration and evocation of states of being that are called spiritual (Room for St. John of the Cross). For now I just note this lesson in looking for models or relays outside of my own historical and even ideologically "authenticated" culture. This emptiness of the choral square may be such that no so-called Western notion may fill it.

5. Electracy does not replace literacy, but supplements it. Literacy is still the most powerful apparatus for the establishment of knowledge, for the content of knowing. Heuretics is concerned with that part of theory (the great achievement of literacy) that may be ported to electracy. The theorists wrote:

With such a definition theory gives permission to start a series: to make something. Choragraphy includes this new understanding of cartography. But choragraphy also takes up another dimension of knowing that was left out of account in the inst itutions of literacy, if not of individual experience (necessarily so in both cases). Jean-Francois Lyotard, in his study of Kant's Critique of Judgment, especially the Analytic of the Sublime, called attention to the aspect of mentality that I associate with "spirit" and that choragraphy brings into the range of theory in general and of method in particular.

Lyotard pursues the question, through Kant, asking: how can feelings orient a critique. Why should the latter have any need for them? (9). The answer that he evolves over an extensive reading is that the state of mind a fundamentally aesthetic nuance, constitutes the reflective dimension of judgment upon the object of thought. In literacy the apparatus split apart these dimensions of thought in the institutional practices, using the prosthesis of science to manipulate the object of thought, and the prosthesis of art to manipulate the state of mind. In electracy it should be possible in principle, through the practice of choragraphy applied to the digital technology, to support in the computer prosthesis what occurs as a unity together in the natural act of thought: the simultaneous emergence of knowing something within a specific modality or mood.

Or, to put it another way, a difference between the traditions of science and wisdom (should we say, between the directions philosophy took in the West and the East) could be understood as a disagreement or a preference for one part of thought over the other: the information or the state of mind, what is known or the feeling of understanding.

There is much more to be said, written, mapped, choragraphed, emailed in this direction. A question to be explored is: what is the mood of my thought, in which I think? the mood of my culture, my historical moment, the collective mood and the personal one? To what extent do have names for these states of mind? How adequate are the known or conceptualized states of mind to the moods produced by and evoked within entertainment media (cinema, television, news, advertising)?


Algra, Keimpe, The Concept Of Space In Greek Thought, New York: E.J.Brill (1995).

Cheng, Francois, Empty and Full: The Language of Chinese Painting, trans. Michael H. Kohn (Boston: Shambhala, 1994).

Crovitz, Herbert F., Galton's Walk: Methods For The Analysis Of Thinking, Intelligence, And Creativity New York: Harper and Row, 1970

Deleuze, Gilles, The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. (ed.) by Constantin V. Boundas (Columbia University Press: New York)1990 p 64

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: Minnesota, 1987

Derrida, Jacques, Of Spirit: Heidegger And The Question, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: Chicago, 1989).

Freud, Sigmund, Psychopathology Of Everyday Life New York: New American Library, n.d.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois, Lessons On The Analytic Of The Sublime, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg, Stanford: Stanford, 1994

Viola, Bill, in Bill Viola, David A. Ross and Peter Sellars, curators (New York, Whitney Museum, 1997).

ENSEMBLE LOGIC | Gregory Ulmer