Friday, November 28, 2008

Clemson's RCID Gains Noteriety

Victor Vitanza accepts the thanks of the teh Conference on College Composition and Communication for the ground-breaking work done in Clemson's RCID program. This special presentation, included President-elect Barak Obama personally handing Vitanza the award on the campus of Clemson University. This brings the innovative doctoral program an unprecedented national recognition.
See the ceremonies below:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Eye of the Beholder...

Get your motor running...

Just because.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

He who does not write...

Text-centric composition has been privileged all my life. I speak here of the process of writing with letters that form words that form sentences, etc., and that can be (re)produced with ink on paper. From the time I was in grammar school with my Blue Horse Writing Tablet to the time I produced my first Five-paragraph essay, the "paper" has been to ultimate mark of scholarship - and of literary production.

However, a recent conversation with a colleague cast a new light on this "beatification" of writing. The conversation is represented by the following fragments:

Most famous, highly esteemed literary figure in the English language? Shakespeare.
Did he write? Yes. Was he famous because people read his writing? No. (Most of his audiences were textually illiterate.)
Shakespeare was known for his plays. He composed a product that was, at heart, multimodal. He incorporated aurality, visual rhetoric, pageantry, ritual, drama, evocative spaces, and high-tech (for 16th-17th c.) special effects to engage his "reader" who was no "reader" at all.

Through some forgotten seque, my colleague mentioned Jesus, who didn't write text, but rather presented his teachings in a sort of narrated 3D graphic presentation of sorts. Here's a sample lesson from the multimodal composition of Jesus:
"See the lilies of the field? (Cue real lilies as visuals.) God takes care of them.
See the birds? (Cue live birds as visuals.) God takes care of them.
You are more important to god than flowers or birds. God will take care of you, too." (Matthew chapter 6)

I noted that Jesus was "one who did not write." (His followers did - notably ones like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.) This reminded me of "he who does not write" - Socrates. Socrates teaching was not delivered in print, but live and in person. (Think Improv or Stump Speeches or Live Podcasts.) Transcripts and commentaries would be produced in print later, by others.

We didn't even touch on composition by asking who the greatest "composers" were. If we had, we might have brought up Bach or Beethoven or Mozart.
Did they compose? Yes.
In printed words? No.
Their compositions were not "read" by the audience, but rather enjoyed apart from the printed word.

Theologian Karl Barth said, "The word became flesh... and then through theologians, it became just words again."

Is it possible that "Composition" is more than ink on paper?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clear Cups: Making the Rhetoric Visible

In Science in Action, Latour makes the rhetoric of science visible, like Penn & Teller make the rhetoric of magic visible. The formation of "facts" in Latour's revealing treatment does not make science any less interesting, to the contrary, it encourages a fascination with the process of knowledge-making. (Just as "magic" becomes no less fascinating when Penn & Teller do the cups and balls trick with clear cups.)

If one views these resulting scientific "facts" as sausage, and science as sausage-making, Latour's work might be considered "bad," and Latour considered the Upton Sinclair of the Rhetorics of Science.

If one views the work of Latour as revelatory/apocalyptic, and sees the resulting understanding of "scientific knowledge" as new knowledge itself, then surely, Latour is the Penn & Teller of the Rhetorics of Science.

Penn & Teller's Cup And Balls Routine - A funny movie is a click away

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Persuasion, Propaganda, and Subtlety of Speech

As a University instructor of Accelerated Composition, I help students engage "texts" of all kinds: poems, editorials, cartoons, video, comics, ads, news photos, essays, sitcoms, etc.

I encourage them to "read critically," that is, to identify the context of the "text," and the rhetorical approach. As we engage such multi-modal "texts," we discuss logos, ethos, pathos, arrangement, invention, publication context, occasion, etc. We look for subtleties, and shadings, and angles, and nuances as we analyze each piece.

I'm not sure if the rhetoric of the following pieces wouldn't fry our "critical reading grids."

Maybe there's too much info for a critical reader (accustomed to handling more subtle material) to easily digest. Maybe I should add another element to the grid: YELLING!!! (The old saw goes, "If you can't raise your argument, then raise your voice.") I would posit that something approaching consensus might be reached on the question, "As a reader/audience, do you find this rhetorical approach persuasive?"

Then, again, it's very possible that persuasion is not the point of such rhetoric.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hold On There, Missy!

Oh, the enlightened age in which we live - where women can run for president, or vice-president, and be treated exactly the same as their male counter-parts.
Well, sometimes.
Or maybe not.

"There's also this issue that on April 18th, she [Palin] gave birth to a baby with Down's Syndrome....Children with Down's syndrome require an awful lot of attention. The role of Vice President, it seems to me, would take up an awful lot of her time, and it raises the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?" –CNN's John Roberts on the August 29th, "Newsroom"

"Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?...She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?" -ABC's Bill Weir on "Good Morning America," August 30.

"Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job?...Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make?" - Washington Post's Sally Quinn, in an August 29, online column.

I can't remember when a male politician was scrutinized for his ability to handle parental duties. Old habits are hard to break, I guess. The ruts of theatrical marginalization (in this case, women portrayed as belonging in the kitchen, baking cookies, changing diapers, etc.) run deep. Too deep for some wagons to escape them in favor of a new path. At least Obama and Cosby are talking about the duties of fathers in our communities.

(Theatrical Marginalization IS "the past coming at you from the future." Just watch for the comparisons between Biden and Palin as regards their hair, makeup, hugs, spouses, etc. And, did you notice that no one ever mentioned that Obama, McCain, and all other male politcians wear "Pant Suits?")

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mom, Make Mac Stop Making Fun of Me!

Microsoft is spending over $300 million dollars to help win more customers to their PC platform. What, you might ask, are they doing with all that money? Increasing online security for their users? Building a lean, mean, operating system that boots automatically and never crashes? Designing a voice-activated environment that recognizes every voice command perfectly, while using practically no memory?

Nope. They're spending nearly a third of a billion on... get this: Looking Cool. You know, being popular. The National Business Review ran an article entitled,
"Microsoft to Seinfeld: If We Give You $10 Million, Can You Make Us Cool?" and spelled out the plans to enlist Jerry Seinfeld and other celebs to combat the powerful cultural cache delivered by the visual rhetoric of the "Buy a Mac" ads.

It seems that, in this case, the medium is the message (of course) - but it seems also that the rhetoric is the product! If you doubt it - view again some of those Mac arguments fraught with ethos-implications:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Girl Behind the Curtain

A seven-year-old girl was good enough to sing during the Olympics, but not cute enough to be seen on the screen. Seems that the Chinese wanted to put their best face forward in the Olympics, but their actions left a less-than-beautiful impression. summed up the stink this way: Chinese officials acknowledged that 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, the girl who sang “Ode to the Motherland” at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, was lip-synching to the voice of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was deemed insufficiently cute for the occasion. The Windsor Star of Canada asks, "What does it tell us that the 'gap-toothed, chubby faced' Yang, who 'sang her heart out,' gets 'no recognition at all'?

Reminds me of the old Blues Traveler music video, Runaround.


  • Can a reader/viewer/audience appreciate Yang Peiyi for her talent without imposing an externalized (culturally constructed) sense of "beauty" of this little girl?
  • Blues Traveler were not a bunch of GQ models, but they were pretty good musicians, weren't they?
  • And the Boston Celtics of old with Bird, Parrish, DJ & McHale? Sure they were photogenically challenged - according to most fashionistas/"pretty police," but man could they play some basketball!
  • That Quasimodo dude in Victor Hugo's book - "ugly" outside, but not inside.
This is yet another example of why rhet/comp/comm/lit pedagogy should encourage "Critical Reading Across Media" (CRAM) to ex/plore, interrogate, invest-igate, the "texts" of society - whether these "texts" exist in/ouside the dominant culture - and whether the "texts" are in print, analog, digital, audio, video or other forms.