4.01.2006

Yes or No? Redux

After posting a little note, found at an elementary school near my house, yesterday, I wrote some, read for class (at the gym), grabbed lunch, taught class, ran around to a few meetings, and then pooped out for the night. This morning, I was back at the writing and finished up a draft—at which point my mind immediately drifted back to that little found note.


The thing I love to wonder about, whenever I find vernacular forms such as this one (and in a sense formulaity expressed in everyday disposable writing), is How do these vernacular forms circulate? Of course, I can imagine a parent giving instructions on how to create such a text, or older kids instructing younger kids, or even a teacher defining the genre to a student or a group of students—but while those modes of disseminating the genre knowledge are possible, they would have to be robust and regular enough in practice to keep this form alive for decades.

Another possibly more generative source could be tests and quizzes, which create a context kids live in that could create the conditions for such a form auto-generating whenever there is need for a query of this kind. What's cool about this line of thinking is that it positions the student as appropriator of scholastic technologies for purposes of knowledge harvesting, mapping positivist informatics and yes/no simplicity onto affective relations. Ha! That is sooooo funny.

"Do you like Zane yes or no?" not, "How are your feelings toward Zane?"

Okay, just one or two more things I like about this found note and the conventions it is part of. I like the way it maps the way third parties get all involved in matchmaking, particularly at this age but also, I'm reminded, in just about every book by Jane Austen. It's not "Do you like me yes or no?"—and how could it be? This form harvests much too raw of a data set; who could take a circled-no response directly? Instead, interested or disinterested third parties are the authors, distributors, and collectors of the form ... and Zane gets to find out later, if at all.

Another potentiality in this form, and this is the last thing I'll say (that manuscript sits waiting on the kitchen table), is academic and appropriative. As in:
Dear Judith Halberstam. Do you like Judith Butler? Yes or No

Dear Tenure Committee. Do you like my work? Yes or no?

Dear Students. Now that this class is over, did you like it? Yes or no?

2 comments:

  1. Dear Spencer,
    Do you and B want to join me and John at the Lincoln Hotel Bar this Friday? Yes or No.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sorry, but this is a very _direct_ question. Shouldn't you have someone in our class bring me this note?

    (Joking of course: that would be a "circled yes")

    ReplyDelete