In Essays in Material Culture, Haltman’s idea is that the best way to analyze material culture is the Prownian Analysis. The premise of this method is that when analyzing an object, one must first describe it with “technically accurate language” (Haltman). Then one must “evaluate” and “deduce” the different uses of the object (Haltman). The next step is mainly composed of “speculation” and “research.” Finally, this method calls for “interpretive analysis” which is the sum of one’s research with, as Haltman claimed, a persuasive argument (Haltman).
Meanwhile Charles Mather’s and Josh Lepawsky’s article A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube’s Strange Afterlife is about the life of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). It talks about the creation and death of this piece of technology.
Even though there were elements of the Prownian Analysis in A Terminal Condition, for the most part, the article does not seem to follow this method for analysis.
Some elements of the Prownian Analysis embedded within A Terminal Condition are the components of research and speculation. It is evident that the author extensively researched how the history and culture
surrounding the CRT.
Also, even though Mather and Lepawsky provide a short description, the main purpose of the article is to highlight the history and evolution of the CRT. Because of this, the Prownian Analysis method is not applicable.
The disconnection between these two texts is also apparent in the way the article is worded. Haltman explains that, when describing material culture, one must use descriptive, but active voice (Haltman).
Mather and Lepawsky, even though they are really explaining the history of the CRT, use a passive voice. For example, they use phrases such as “was introduced” or “has entailed” (Mather, Lepawsky).
The topics explained above were realized through the process of “deep reading” as we talked about in class. The interactive annotations with both texts helped deepen my understanding of the Prownian Analysis in that I was able to read a bit deeper into the message that both texts were trying to convey.
For example, the first time I read Essays in Material Culture, I did not realize the effect that material culture can have on people. However, after reading A Terminal Condition, and re-reading and annotating American Artifacts, I was able to understand the connection between material culture and emotions.
The connection became clear when I realized the emotional impact that the CRT had on families. As I mentioned in my annotations, the television, which contained a CRT, was a center piece for family rooms. The bonding that came from watching T.V. together most likely created an emotional connection.
Overall this assignment not only introduced me to and helped me explore a new method of analyzing material culture, it also taught me how to read more deeply and annotate texts.
Haltman, Kenneth. “Essays in Material Culture.” Michigan State University Press East Lansing, n.d.
Mather, Charles, Lepawsky, Josh
. A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube’s Strange Afterlife. 29 April 2014. <https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/a-terminal-condition/361313/>.