Time for Grammatology : Decoding the Grammar and the Grammatics of Life

Image Source: Raptis Rare Books

Derrida’s method of deconstruction has paid rich dividends in circles of critical thinking.   While its importance still remains, it may be important to enter his grammatology or the science of writing and examine its potency to critical thinking.  Given the communicative technologies and  the scope of the  internet in our life, a return to grammatology is perhaps the most important and urgent turn that we have to take. This does not mean that deconstruction has reached a point of exertion and there is no light nor emancipative insight within it.  While deconstruction has several fertile and critical applications, we turn to grammatology in order to deal with the play of signs in the world of digital images and the internet. To succeed in this effort, we have to turn to writing in its early stage.   In order to perform this task, we have overcome blindness that reduces all writing to phoneticization.  Derrida teaches that there is also non-phonetic writing.  We can come to this realisation only when we enter the early stage of writing.  We think that writing is associated with representation of the spoken word.  In fact this reduction of writing to spoken word and therefore is considered to be phonic in nature, actually limits the domain and power of writing.  Even as we are conditioned by this reduction, contrary to our conditioning, the dynamic play of digital images   in the internet has deconstructed this belief.   Thus, to some extent the world of the internet has crossed the limits of understanding of the role as well as a scope of writing.

In its early stages, writing was associated with drawing and the visual art and had a loose association with speaking.  It is the phoneticization of writing that transformed it into representation of the spoken word alone.  This means writing as representation repressed/ supressed its non-phonetic forms.  Moreover, there cannot be exact one to one correspondence between the spoken word and the written word.  This is because both carry ideographic/ cognitive forms as well as emotive/ affective inflections and hence are not merely verbal in nature.  Phoneticization has to linearize writing to make it carry its ideographic forms.  The world of the digital media has already contested the phoneticization as well as linearization of writing.  In many ways it has opened writing to its plural forms   and in doing so has broken the chains that constrained our thought.  Writing is enabled to embrace mythogram that is not subjected to successivity of the order of the logical time as well as irreversible temporality of the sound or the verbal language.  Thus, we have to not only set writing free from speech, we have to set it free from its entanglements with phoneticization. Thanks to the dance of the digital images in the world of the internet, we have already almost reached this stage.  But some of us may be still be thinking that the world is flat even after it is circumnavigated. 

Here we follow Derrida to expand the scope of writing so as to embrace the world of play of digital images.   The consideration of non-phonetic writings makes room for the dance of signs in the digital world.  We name as writing to all that gives rise to an inscription.  This means the embrace of writing includes cinematography, choreography as well pictorial, musical and sculptural writings.  We may include sport, military as well as political writings.  This means grammatology opens us to these multidimensional forms of writings and thus deconstructs singularized, logocentric phonetic writing.  Writing is a pro-gram.  It seems to inundate all writing forms. We have understand that  gramme or graphme is a trace that inhabits all forms of writings both phonetic as well as non-phonetic ones.  Hence, all of them can be studied by grammatology. This is why we have to accept that we have the challenge to understand and respond to the world of electracy through grammatology.  The play of signs in the digital media is a form of writing and can be decoded by following the principles of grammatology.  But to fully understand what this dance of signs does to us, we have to enter into the energetics of trace which Derrida radicalizes by introducing Freud’s slips of pen and tongue to full domains of writing.  This is why choreography of the signs in the digital world produces a surplus and leaves an impact on us through its trace. 

In several ways many of us lament the end of the Book. The habit of reading is dying among people. This is chiefly because of the reign of non-phonetic writings.  The libidinal investment in the form of reading has diminished and one can notice a great harvest of libidinal involvement of humans with the digital world. This is why grammatology has become an important key to understand how the new electronic media is writing us and shaping our life.  We can be often blinded by the dance of the signs in the digital world and fail to understand how we are made to dance to its tunes. Grammatology as a science of writing can reveal us the writing of the images in the digital world as well as how that writing is writing our life.  This means grammatology is a pedagogy. The fact that it manifests that the new media is writing our life, effectively enables us to wakefully resist it and take charge of writing our life.  There is a difference between being written and writing ones script of life.  To do this we have to not just consider the cognitive/ideographic but also the energetic/ affective side of the dance of the signs in the world of digital media. This means we have to overcome the logocentrisms of the digital world. The digital world therefore, is messenger, message and massager.  This means there is cognitive/ ideographic as well as emotive/ affective sides to the dynamism of the new media. What it does is important along with what it says. This is why we have to move from semiotic hermeneutics to productive hermeneutics. Grammatology includes both semiotic hermeneutics and productive hermeneutics.  The rise of the dynamic digital world has hasten the importance of grammatology.  To respond to this dance of sense, produced by the dance of sense, we have the challenge to embrace grammatology and see how it is at work everywhere writing the grammar of our life. Only once we move to grammatology, we will be enabled to take charge of not just the grammar but also the grammatics of our life.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao