Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ah, rhetoric

Ah, rhetoric.

Light of my life, fire of my neurons.

No class can begin without rhetoric.


And so I directed the students in my Writing Web 2.0 class to the Forest of Rhetoric, Silva Rhetoricae, to learn of rhetoric’s wonders.

I wax poetic. I can’t help myself. I love rhetoric. Sweet rhetoric.

The challenge, then, is how to talk of it. What is it that I really want them to know, to be able to use, as we write web 2.0 together this semester?

I want them to know, I think, that when I talk about the rhetoric of a given text or site, I’m talking about what the text is doing. Not what it means, but what effects it might have. And who it might effect. And how.

According to Gideon O. Burton, the guardian of the Forest of Rhetoric,

for most of its history [rhetoric] has maintained its fundamental character as a discipline for training students 1) to perceive how language is at work orally and in writing, and 2) to become proficient in applying the resources of language in their own speaking and writing.

Yes, that’s basically it, isn’t? I want us all to be curious as we look at Web 2.0 applications and sites, to perceive how they work, and to consider how to apply them.

But there’s always more. Much more.

To some extent, I’ll be using the “canons” as jumping off points. I want to promote the virtues of Web 2.0 as a tool for invention, the first of the canons. Gathering, sharing, juxtaposing, mapping: these are all activities made easier with Web 2.0. But I also want to talk about arrangement and delivery, about the design of pages, about the viral travel of memes. And once we’re talking about memes, we’re talking about memory. And if Web 2.0 doesn’t promote experiments in style through web self-fashioning by way of blogs and social networking sites, well, then, I don’t know what does.

And, of course, I’ll want to talk about the persuasive appeals, with the caveat that they work together, that we can’t privilege logos as folks are sometimes wont to do.

Plus there's the whole situation/ecology thing to talk about. But that will have to be saved for later.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Work to do

This week marks the return of Lost, the beginning of Season 4. (I won't be watching it Thursday night, however, due to other obligations. I'll download it from iTunes the next day. So don't give it away, please!)

For the past 13 weeks, however, there have been these mini episodes, released first on Verizon phones and then over at ABC a week later. But the good folks over at the spoilers page of Dark UFO post the episode each Monday, prior to its being posted over at ABC the following Monday. I've been watching them, thinking they're ok, filling in a little bit of the plot here and there.

But today's, the last one: pretty freaky. Just go look, why don't you, and tell me if you don't think so. Someone has work to do. Just like John Locke in the final episode of Season 3. And someone has come back to say so.

And here's the title "So it begins." A glimpse just seconds before Jack's eye opens in Season 1. Just go watch. Before I spill all the beans.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Dalai Lama on economic systems

At a gathering at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), [the Dalai Lama} said: “I am a Marxist monk, a Buddhist Marxist. I belong to the Marxist camp, because unlike capitalism, Marxism is more ethical. Marxism, as an ideology, takes care of the welfare of its employees and believes in distribution of wealth among the people of the state.”


Of course, he was talking about ideology, not about actually existing communist societies. He noted, for example, that "There are very high degrees of exploitation in . . . China, similar to the exploitation during industrialisation of Western countries a century ago."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today on Facebook

I'm teaching a class called "Writing Web 2.0" this semester, and I'm beginning the class with a tiny little ethnographic assignment. Take a close, curious look at Facebook, as if you hadn't encountered it before. What do you see people doing with Facebook? To what use is it being put?

This, then, is a record of some of my observations.

Facebook is clearly a place to connect with people. Each member of Facebook has a profile, where he or she usually posts a photograph and has some information about him or herself (including birthdate, interest in men or women, relationship status, political affiliation, etc.).

It also seems to be a place for a kind of ritualized, low stakes competition. For example, I have received several notifications over the past few days, telling me that someone has fed a friend to my vampire, that someone has challenged my movie knowledge, that someone is playing a game of Scrabulous with me. As the last example suggests, this ritualized competition is a kind of play. So, in addition to connecting with people, Facebook offers a space to have fun without leaving your chair.

Facebook also allows people to join groups. One of my Facebook friends, for example, is a member of the following groups: Kill Beacon Now ▪ Computers and Composition Online ▪ Graphic Design and Adobe Photoshop ▪ 4Cs: Conference on College Composition and Communication ▪ H-DigiRhet ▪ Rhetoric ▪ Kairos: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy ▪ Laurie Anderson has it all figured out! ▪ Equality California (EQCA) ▪ What the Foucault ▪ Composition Community. Some of these groups are professional (4Cs, Kairos), some are political (Equality California, Kill Beacon Now), and some are "fan" groups or just for fun (Laurie Anderson has it all figured out). What they have in common is the goal of connecting people with similar interests. These groups also allow the people who join them to "brand" themselves as a certain kind of person. Facebook, then, is also a place to "build" and circulate an identity (or maybe identities).

And, lest I seem over serious here, let me add a link to "Crackbook," which I found via my Facebook (and f2f) friend Zac. Crackbook is a spoof of Facebook, claiming the mere illusion of connection.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

While I was away

Some things I've done since my last entry, lo these many weeks ago:

* Met up with my online writing groupies in Chicago

* Silently retreated in St Louis

* Re-viewed all of Lost, Season 3 on DVD

* Bought a new appointment book (half price after January 1!) and began filling it up

* Began a new yoga class because one just isn't enough

* Discovered a Columbia restaurant I might just be willing to love

* Listened to some wonderful jazz (the latest by Kurt Elling and McCoy Tyner), thanks to holiday gifts from C

* Made it to some amazing live jazz (also Kurt Elling, jazz singer extraordinaire) in KC, in celebration of our anniversary

Some other things, here and there. Some involving pumpkin dip. Some involving the possibility of a very big purchase, the like I've never made before. Classes begin in another week. Much left to do before then.