A Little Book of Probes


From “poetics on the warpath,”
The probe is a means or method of perceiving. 403

Probes belong to that less civilized and more ancient poetics that includes myth, magic, and aphorism. The essay aims to expound, explain, convince; the probe to reveal, prod, irritate, or provoke discovery. .. the probe is a contemplative’ instrument. More than simply a striking statement, the probe juxtaposes forms and situations that prod … the user into awareness and insight. Like myth or aphorism, each probe is an essay compressed into a few words. Decompression … calls for wit and agility and the patience to mull something over for hours, or days, or longer. A good probe is hard to exhaust. It does not surrender everything at first encounter any more than a line of poetry does. 413–414.

The brief

Demonstrate what you have mastered concerning writing, the book, and the mind over the last five weeks by constructkmg a little book of probes that spurs and guides knowledge making on topics you select. Adapt McLuhan's method and use it to explore our recent work.

The printed book, we’re seeing argued, limits perception, shape the psyche, and or by encouraging exposition, the argument, the extension by language. The probe pushes against that by revealing it.

You’ve got a sense of how probes with images tend to work: They are not idiosyncratic or personal or arbitrary. They are not in the first person: they probe external understanding. They talk about We and Us. They provide the stuff of contemplation w/o stating a precise claim. You’ve seen how they can be assembled and sequenced. How they are worded with paradox, brevity, rhythm, as aphorism. A probe is not restricted to a single sentence. Some are two, three, four sentences. They invoke time, space, media, civilization, the human. They push us to think in terms of history, time, change, perception, the mind, the past, the immediate, the mediate, the future. We and us in environments of media and culture. Conditions, space, resonance, tribal drums (429). A call to action (430). Playful (431). Reading fosters the habit of asking questions (435).

For more probes, read The new science of communication. Percepts : Fragments. 451–543.

As you re-read probes, focus in those that speak to our subject of the book, print literacy, et al.

Use Heim and McLuhan as starting points.

The project

Create a little book of probes using images and text together. Gather ideas from Heim and McLuhan. 8 - 10 probes, either as spreads or simgle page. Text can be culled from readings, with changes as you see fit. or your own written probes. Acknowledge borrowings.

Explain your thinking with a page of Afterword.

Determine a codex format: full page, half page. Can use spreads or individual pages. You might use a stitched notebook as a ground or armature. Fold in center and assemble.

You might handwrite, paste, print and paste. Use blocks. Use scanned, drawn, or borrowed images. The codex should be rugged enough for me to carry home safely.

Overall theme of Print and the Mind

Themes. Our overarching context is The Book. To delimit your thinking, mentally add “and the book” to the theme.

Some topics we have not touched on that you might



No meeting next Monday. instead, hand in your little book of probes physically by next Tuesday, by 2:00 pm. Drop box mext to office door at HS 314.



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