Kairos Web Text Winer: Delegrange’s Epistemology of Arrangement and its Implications for Composition Research


Delegrange, Susan H. Wunderkammer, Cornell, and the Visual Canon of ArrangementKairos 13.2 (Spring 2009). Web. 17 Feb. 2011.

Audience and Rhetorical Stance

Mainly written toward computer compositionist and rhetoricians, particularly those following classical rhetorics; composition and new media teachers.
Written from the rhetorical stance of the researcher as inquirer and  teacher, working with and reinforcing a critical tradition.

Method of Inquiry

Scholarship: Philosophical deduction based on critical theory, textual analysis/example, but also qualitative investigation of historical and physical artifacts (Wundermakers and Cornell’s Shadow  Boxes, student research projects).


That digital media presents the possibility of arranging visual arguments which invoke wonder–a state of learning which happens at the suspended moment between ignorance and first understanding. She suggests that the history of wundermakers (wonder-) offers us a rhetorical theory of arrangement, based on the assemblegde of evidence that will encourage epistemological discovery through associative-connections, which will in turn encourage ethical action. the reader/viewer to explore various perspectives and make epistemological connections not possible without the specific arrangement.

Theoretical Backbone/Critical Tools

Aristotle’s Rhetorical Cannons–Arrangement (Dispositio)
Greek term, techne (explored by Heidegger) indicating the productive arts

Barbara Maria Stafford’s Visual Analogy: Consciousness as the Art of Connecting (1999) –offers a cannon of literary tropes which can be used to examine visual argument
Nicholas C. Burbules’s Rhetorics of the web: Hyperreading and Critical Literacy  (1998)–offers several terms and criteria for evaluating online work

Cites Madeleine Sorapure’s “Between modes: Assessing students’ new media compositions” Kairos 10.2 (2005)

Epistemological Stance

Postpositivist: based on the belief that knoweldge is made through human interaction and construction. Seeks to find ways to promote learning and knowledge-making through “wonder”–traditionally defined as a mental state of suspension between ignorance and enlightenment that “marks the end of unknowing and the beginning of knowing.”

“Constructing digital Wunderkammer thus becomes an embodied pedagogical perfor-mance, a strong model for a postmodern understanding of multiple perspectives and subjectivities. Through multi-linear, multi-modal visual arrangement and manipulation, they shape a path to rhetorical action through a technology of wonder.” (“Mental/Physical”)


  • 16th and 17th c. wunderkammers: cabinets of wonder or curiosity.
  • Rooms were made up of naturalia, artificialia, and scientifica. Scientifica included insturments of measurement–such as telescopes, mirror boxes, distorting lenses, and microscopes–placed within rooms which would allow audiences to investiagte or explore other artifacts within the collection (“Manipulating”).
  • Linnaeus’s classification system, a taxonomy birthed out of a wunderkammer (“Cabinets”).
  • Joseph Cornell’s bricolage art work, made of often random, fond objects, placed in artistic order.They consisted of physical artifacts composed of  “fact upon fact upon fact—that he accumulated about people, events, places, and phenomena” (Hartigan qtd. in Delegrange “Repitition/Small Variation”); an example of techne’s making as knowing.

    Cornell often revised his works, even those owned by others. He also provided “instructions” for owners on how to interact with his works–showing the knowing by doing aspect of techne media (“Making/Showing”).
  • DVDROM The Magical Worlds of Joseph Cornell that accompanies the centenary celebration Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay, Eterniday; A multimedia exploration where you can rotate and take apart Cornell’s works, read his diary, listen to voices of friends or curates, and look through his collections of unused materials.

“…from a perspective that values the particularity of multiple voices and embodied perspectives, there is no definitive path through the material on this DVD, no overarching ideo-logical or interpretive scrim through which the viewer is asked to understand Cornell’s work. It is a stunningly, excessively rich, visual, auditory and verbal space, an exemplar for combinatorial, knowledge-making pedagogical performances in manipulatable, multi-linear, new media.” (“Pulverizing”) (emphasis added)

Praxis/Application/Case Study

Delegrange’s intermediate writing students at Ohioh State use the concept of techne to create new media projects which advocate civic participation and service

“Students investigate their own environment; they collect, arrange, and manipulate evidence to gain multiple perspectives on a single building in their post-industrial downtown area; and they use this evidence to compose nuanced proposals for the use of urban space. . . . Arrangement thus functions as both a method of invention and a means of intervention, situated squarely on the streets and sidewalks of their home town.” (“The Assignment”)

The assignment has 3 steps:

  1. Collect primary, archival data about their location–“photographs, postcards, maps, deeds, advertisements, newspaper clippings”–and compose a power point chronicalling the building’s history.
  2. Collect their own primary data about the building–their own photos, and interviews with owners, inhabitants, employees, and patrons–and draw a use-map of the building’s current use.
  3. Create a final new media proposal advocating civic involvement and future use of the space they investigated.
    They ask themselves the following questions about each argument they construct:

What are the predominant similarities?  differences?
What seems to “go” with what? why?
How are different media related?
What is unexpected in this arrangement?
What is missing?

Delegrange provides a student’s project as a case study/example: Austin Hart’s work on the Ohioh State Reformatory (prison)

Performance of Argument

Delegrange successfully structures her web text according to the principles she theorizes in her argument: the new media arangement juxtoposes text, images, animations and a video in such a way that they compliment, support, and reinterpret one another.

The trope of the shaddow box is what dominates the text’s overall structure/use-map as a digital text. She suggests in her introduction that the sections of the text may be read in order, but that the nature of her projects suggests other paths

The case study at the end, that is, her student’s own project, is what made this article come to life as research–because one realized that she was actually teaching research methods as a form of knowledge-making within communities/contexts; this strongly supported her epistemological claims and scholarly research.

Implications for Qualitative Reseach: My Own Conclusions and Thoughts

Many of Delegrane’s arguments about arrangement and new media could be similarly applied to the craft of qualitative research:

  • She suggests that tools of measurement can act as elements of inquiry and draws attention to the markedly subjective, yet productive perspective that they offered in the wunderkammens.

“…when we look at the early use of such technologies as microscopes, magnifying globes, and refracting lenses, we do not find the hard distinctions made today between scientific and personal exploration…” (“learn/play”)

“These devices served as the articulating link, the connection between macrocosm and microcosm, that constructed and transformed simple resemblance into generous understandings of the relationships of the cosmos.” (“Manipulating”)

  • She implies that arrangement can inspire invention (rather than only the other way around). This is similar to Brooke’s argument, that new topoi often emerge from qualitative data, as one tries to arrange the various observations and experiences into a meaningful whole.
  • Joseph Cornell’s work, which she points to as a case study for mixed media production, was built out of “found objects” collected over time, and often encouraged an epistemology which connected the micro and macro understanding of places or ideas:

“Many of Cornell’s constructions made use of the evocativeness of the partly-seen, using screens with holes, frosted glass, layered paper and wood, sand, bottled objects, and mirrors to provide multiple perspectives while never revealing all, insisting that the viewer both accept the ambiguity and continue striving to construct meaning in the gaps.” (“Partly Seen”)

  • While Delegrane focuses on the new media aspect of her Intermediate Writing assignment, we might argue that the assignment requires students to do ethnographic, qualitative research of a space; they use archival data, explore the spaces themselves, and conduct interviews, in order to assess the value and potential of that space to a community.