Posts Tagged ‘rhetoric’

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Multimodal Mondays: Using Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) to Teach Multimodal Literacies

posted: 4.6.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Today’s guest blogger is Eric Detweiler, a PhD candidate specializing in rhetoric at The University of Texas at Austin, as well as an assistant director in UT’s Digital Writing and Research Lab. His interests lie at the intersections of rhetorical theory and writing pedagogy, and his dissertation puts those two in conversation with the rhetorical ethics of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. He also produces a podcast called Rhetoricity and is a student and practitioner of odd puns. More details about his work are available at

 From 2011-12, I helped plan and implement Battle Lines, an alternate reality game (ARG) designed to teach multimodal literacies in an undergraduate rhetoric and writing course at The University of Texas at Austin. In most cases, ARGs require players to work collaboratively in order to solve clues and puzzles, shifting back and forth between digital and physical environments as they do so [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Audience, Guest Bloggers, Multimodal Mondays
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Multimodal Mondays: Re/Mixing Composition and Technical Writing with an Online Course

posted: 3.16.15 by Andrea Lunsford

As I wrote in my recent post, this semester has been a reflective opportunity for me, in terms of re/vising multimodal writing assignments and how we can apply multimodal composition across genres and contexts.  In keeping with my theme of re/mix, I want to discuss how a multimodal composition looks when applied to a graduate school context.  Most of us have taught or currently teach first-year writing.  Accordingly, we discuss our pedagogies that apply to those classes, which provides a wealth of sharable information for our peers. Too often, however, I think we anchor composition pedagogies to first-year experiences only. This week, I offer a re/mix of multimodal blogging, contextualized for an online graduate course in information design.   The re/mixed blogging project could also be easily re/vised to work in most writing or technical communication courses. [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Digital Writing, Guest Bloggers, Teaching with Technology
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Generalizing from the Headlines

posted: 10.3.14 by Donna Winchell

The headlines about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and the accompanying video of him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in an Atlantic City hotel elevator sparked national debate about domestic violence.  Rice is awaiting appeal of his indefinite suspension by the NFL. He has already been judged in the court of public opinion. Widely publicized events like this one, however, provide compelling examples that can be used in teaching argumentation. [read more]

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Categories: Donna Winchell
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Multimodal THURSDAY: It’s all Greek to me…until someone writes an e-mail

posted: 9.25.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Guest blogger Diantha Smith is a PhD candidate in English and the Teaching of English at Idaho State University. She teaches both online and face-to-face composition classes and loves incorporating a variety of media into both. In this post, Diantha offers a digital writing assignment to introduce students to rhetorical terms and concepts. [read more]

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Categories: Uncategorized
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Rhetoric Society of America, 2014

posted: 6.26.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Attending the Rhetoric Society of America meeting in San Antonio (May 22-26) reminded me of why I chose the field of rhetoric and composition some 40+ years ago.  Rhetoric, I soon discovered, is an art, theory, and practice that is infinitely portable, and scholars and teachers can apply it to a wide and diverse range of topics and questions.  Not so much a traditional discipline as a way of being in the world, rhetoric fit beautifully with my eclectic interests.  [read more]

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Reading, Writing, Multimedia—and Sisyphus

posted: 4.22.14 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

During a recent trip out of town, I assigned students an independent study project that combined writing, reading, and multimedia. The assignment reached the students’ inboxes via blackboard during a time when I was away from email and could not respond to questions. My absence from email was purposeful. [read more]

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What Chinese Students Told Me

posted: 3.28.13 by Andrea Lunsford

Flying in to Beijing from San Francisco, I wondered what I would encounter at Beihang University.  I had been invited to visit this large university in the fall of 2012 but had to postpone the trip because of back surgery.  I had hoped to learn a lot more about the university and its students in the months I gained by the postponement, but little information was forthcoming.  What I knew was that the College of Foreign Languages at Beihang has a new Department of Rhetoric and Communication and that the Dean, whose Ph.D. is in linguistics from Carnegie Mellon, wanted some U.S. scholars to visit to help establish the new department.  I was very excited about the visit, but also intimidated by the news that they wanted me to deliver two 2-hour lectures every day of the visit–and by the fact that I didn’t know my audience, a big problem to one who preaches the necessity of audience awareness!

Greeting me at the airport were two graduate students who shepherded me to the Beihang Training Center, the hotel on campus where I was staying.  Soon after, we joined a group for a quick supper in the dining hall, and then I was grateful to be able to go to bed.  The next day was my first lecture, this one to 600 first- and second-year students on why I believe rhetoric and argument are necessary to all of us today.  [read more]

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WAW for Occupied Campuses

posted: 11.30.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for BitsDoug

I don’t know exactly the place the UC Davis gassing might have in a writing-about-writing course, but I think it has one, and so I’m thinking about that moment as I write this post, four days after the event.

I’m thinking about it in the framework of Cory Doctorow’s young-adult novel Little Brother, which I’m also musing about finding a place for in my WAW courses. Its scene is a post-911 dystopia created by Department of Homeland Security uber-surveillance in the name of public safety. There are a number of chilling scenes, including a youth gathering being gassed for failing to disperse on command. (You can see why it came to mind.) Little Brother opens with the Bay Bridge being blown up by terrorists. The teenage protagonist is arrested because he was skipping school and was swept up by police in the chaos. Taken to a secret DHS detention facility, he refuses to divulge the password for his smart phone, which provokes a harsh reaction. His friends, also arrested, say, “’They really hated you… really had it in for you. Why?’”  They conclude, “It had been sheer vindictiveness….A mere punishment for denying their authority….They did it to get back at me for mouthing off.’” [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Writing about Writing
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Pre-Owned or Preposterous?

posted: 11.3.11 by Jack Solomon

Jay Dolmage’s recent Bits post on double-speak happens to overlap with a popular cultural phenomenon that I have long pondered: namely, the widespread cultural tendency to engage in evasive and euphemistic language.  This tendency is not limited to politicians and celebrities; it is well-nigh universal. When used car dealers find that they have a better chance of selling “pre-owned” cars than the “used” kind, and mass market grocery items are called “Private Selection,” something highly significant is going on.  And that’s yet another place where semiotics comes in.

The range of euphemism in America is vast. Painful subjects, like death and racial conflict, are euphemistically glossed over. No one dies anymore; people “pass.” And rather than refer to race, our common discourse prefers the more comfortable, but much different word, “culture” (I explain to my students that people of different race can share a culture, and that while “race” is a highly contested and problematic demographic category, to argue that it is determinative of cultural consciousness is to trod some very thin ice indeed). At the very least, this tendency to euphemism impedes sound critical thinking (we can hardly think clearly about something when we are unable to clearly identify what we are thinking about: I’m with Orwell). At the worst, it can backfire into backlash and nasty accusations of “political correctness.”

The cultural significance of these sorts of euphemism (there are many more, but the topic is so sensitive that it isn’t wise even to point them out) is fairly straightforward: a fundamentally optimistic people (please read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America), Americans are so ill-equipped to face the painful realities of their history and fundamental existence that they turn to euphemistic evasions that solve nothing but do make people feel better. [read more]

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Categories: Popular Culture
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Stasis, Movement, and "A Place to Stand"

posted: 12.1.09 by archived

In the spirit of recent posts by Barclay Barrios and Traci Gardner that described secret formulae and favorite lessons, I thought I would write about an activity that has become a favorite of mine.

I have used this activity to introduce the idea of stasis.  In argument theory stasis means a “stand,” from the Greek “standing still.”  In rhetoric, stasis calls for the rhetor to consider key questions that might clarify an issue.  In this way, a “stand” also calls for us to decide what might make an audience move in one direction or another.  When we are in a state of stasis, we might be sitting on the fence, we might be “standing still,” but we are also perhaps curious about where we might move next.  When we identify stases we see where and why people take a stand on an issue, why they disagree, and what might make them change their minds. The Sophists taught that identifying stasis was the best way to understand where an argument should begin.

I like to talk about stasis when teaching argument because I think stasis theory sometimes nicely frames the way I feel about an issue, and the way students may feel too: We aren’t sure yet exactly where we weigh in, we don’t have a “side,” but we are interested in knowing why others take a stand on the issue.  Looking for stasis is a way to value the process of questioning, exploring, and researching the aspects of an issue that lead people to argue or act.

Stasis theory and teaching based on it doesn’t devalue having a strong opinion or taking a strong stance.  Instead, this approach looks at why people take such stands, and what questions and arguments lead to changes in position.

Okay, so the above definition may still leave many wondering what exactly stasis is.  Maybe I haven’t defined it very well!  Or maybe it is just a tricky concept to explain.  Because of this, I try to illustrate the concept through active learning.  If you have an open classroom, then you’ll need to move some desks and chairs; I’ve also moved into the hallway to do this activity if I’ve needed more room.

I choose an issue that is contentious—but not totally divisive.  Issues like year-round schooling, or a four-day workweek might be good examples (the death penalty might not be the best issue for this activity).  Then, I ask students to arrange themselves in the space according to their opinions: take a “stand.”  If you are for year-round schooling, stand to the left of the room (or hall); if you are against it, stand to the right.  If you are really against it, move all the way to the farthest right; stand near the middle if you don’t have much of an opinion yet.  Then, each student states why they are standing where they are standing—what aspect of the issue makes them stand where they are?  Other students can then move if this reasoning makes them change their own position. If I say that I am against year-round schooling because I loved all of the freedom and I learned so much from just playing during my summers as a kid, this opinion may sway some classmates to move over in my direction, or it might not.  Another student might say that he or she is against year-round schooling because children forget much of what they have learned from year-to-year.  This may or may not cause others to move.  We can pay attention to small positional differences, too—why are we just slightly to the left or right of one another?

In this way, as a group, we see what the key questions are, and we see how opinions are formed and altered.  The “debate” is embodied through our movements.  We come to see where an argument begins, and what makes people form opinions.  Whether we call this stasis or not, this is an interesting way to reveal the complexity of an issue, and set students up to identify this complexity when they choose their own issues to research and write about.

Later, once students have begun working on their own research or argumentative essays, they can workshop their topics through this “place to stand” activity—the whole class can again occupy a range of positions, and the student can list key questions, considerations, and viewpoints while the class responds by moving and putting the issue into action.

If you want to go further with this activity, you could also use the true classical categories for stasis analysis. Dorinda Fox (in an awesome blog on comedy and rhetoric) also has excellent analyses of Chris Rock’s and George Carlin’s uses of stasis, for further reading.  Helen Foster’s article in Composition Forum also looks at how stasis theory can be used in the contemporary classroom.

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Categories: Argument, How to Write Anything, Jay Dolmage, Rhetorical Situation
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