From the category archives:


Rhetoric of Cool: Ch 4 Juxtaposition

by Dr Davis on April 16, 2014

Rice, Jeff. “Juxtaposition.” The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media.” Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. 73-92. Print.

As I was reading the highlights and notes I wrote in the book for this, I kept thinking of the digital presentations my second semester fyc course does. It seemed like juxtaposition would help make those more interesting. I may write about that more later…

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“Any object, feeling, odor, word, image in juxtaposition with any other object, feeling, word or image will be associated with it” (Burroughs qtd in Rice 73).

“Douglas Engelbart proposed that juxtaposition be the focal point of writing with computers” (Rice 73).

McLuhan thought composition should include juxtaposition, because it promised depth of involvement and expression (Rice 74).

“the idea that disturbances motivate new media writing” (Rice 74)
I noted Lauer’s preference for dissonance here–and many other places in the text.

Kaleidoscope clip ShD orig by Koperczak releasedkaleidoscope approach

We do not want simple. We want interesting. (Rice 76)
Juxtaposition helps create/provide/reveal that.

“Trimbur and George proceed to highlight the field’s declining interest in those elements that comprise communications studies, like media studies” (Rice 77).
We are definitely coming back to this, though.

[standard] research paper results from organization into linear argument (Rice 78)

outline organization contrasts with juxtaposition (Rice 79)

“layers of text and image, may be removed and added to at any given moment within the composing process” (Rice 79)

“The real job of the computer is not retrieval but discovery. Like the human memory, the process of recall is an act of discovery” (McLuhan, Hot and Cool, 294, qtd in Rice 81).

“notions of individual authorship belongs more to premises native to print” (Rice 82)

“New media extends writers’ sense and observations outside of self” (Rice 82)

“composition studies still legitimizes the sequentiality of thought” (Rice 82)

“[in print media] that which cannot be classified or categorized does not belong in the writing” (Rice 83)

“outline’s function is meant to situate invention” (Rice 83)
Really? Wow. Not for me.

“writing proceeds based on that initial vision or goal. Anything not initially conceived as relevant to one’s purpose should be discarded” (Rice 83).
That is not how I think of writing, but I do wonder if that is how my students think of writing. This belief/attitude may be one reason why I am willing to wait for a well-crafted thesis till towards the end of the writing process for a paper, rather than creating a “research question” thesis statement at the beginning. Or, of course, it could be that I misunderstand how crafting a thesis works for other people.

Regarding hypertext, Rice says it is a process that is “meant to forge associations” (83), as opposed to being preplanned.

“the nature of print is closed” (Rice 83)

“the link’s ability to join a variety of authorial positions” (Rice 83)
This caught my attention for T&P reasons. When you create a blog post, then linking others extends your own authority or adds to the ethos with credibility from other sources. I wonder how much of this is useful/usable in the T&P online portfolio.

When I was first reading the quote above, I thought of the students’ digital presentations. Now, I am having trouble remembering why I thought the authorial positions in particular was relevant. I will have to think about that and add it to the discussion on this chapter for digital presentations.

“print-based emphasis on theses or topic sentences” (Rice 84)
I do like/recommend these, for academic writing.

Rice says theses are “restrictive” and act almost like miniature outlines (84).
I call them maps to the paper, in case I get lost in the direction the student was intending to take.

“[t]he potential of opening up writing to discovery and invention” (Rice 84).
He is talking about Nelson on hypertext, but I think that this is what juxtapositions can offer the students and what–when they are done at the same time/together–digital composing with/for the research paper offers. It is part of why I fiddled again this semester with when the paper and digital presentations are due.

“When writers expand connections, when they begin to include a variety of material into the writing process…, writers begin as well to move beyond immediate controlling situations” (Rice 85).

He then says they often discover conflicts–what Lauer encouraged as dissonance, I think.

George Landow “The Paradigm Is More Important than the Purchase” argues that “new media shapes educational outlooks and pedagogical positions” (Rice 85).

“web of information one encounters in media where juxtapositions not only foreground conflict but make finding one conclusion to a situation conflicted as well” (Rice 86).

“[J]uxtapositions are meant to introduce conflict as a response to information and cultural overloads” (Rice 86).
This is Lauer again, but it was not comfortable for me and I am still unsure how I would go about teaching it. –I think it might be interesting, but I would work on this in an Advanced Composition course, rather than a freshman writing course, at least at first, because (one hopes) advanced comp writers already have a standard repertoire and can use a little shaking up without becoming totally lost. That way, if it didn’t work like Rice says, or I couldn’t figure out how to explain/teach/model it for students, we could throw it out without ruining the work of a semester.

“radical innovations proposed by Engelbart or by Nelson… conflicts Bourroughs suggests… are all central to new media rhetoric” (Rice 87)

Geoffrey Sic, English Composition p. 18 “pedagogy as dare” (Rice 87)

DJs and hypertext “strive to forge connections among disparate material through various types of appropriations and juxtapositions” (Rice 87).

metaphors, “importants of assemblages,” samples (Rice 88)

“tops of digital sampling” (Rice 89)
“digital sampling extends itself rhetorically so that the tops transforms into the remix” (Rice 89)

“Writing does reorganize and rework source material… yet writing also strings together found compositions based on the intricate ways each connects or doesn’t connect with the others” (Rice 89)

metaphor? “confusing whirlwind… inciting discomfort” (Rice 90)

“translate the theoretical principles of composition to a pedagogy appropriate for digital writing” (Rice 91)
“produce a writing composed of juxtapositions. It would be, therefore, performative” (Rice 91).


Rhetoric of Cool: Ch 2 Chora

by Dr Davis on April 14, 2014

Rice, Jeff. “Chora.” The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media.” Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. 30-46. Print.

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0“Chora,” as a chapter, begins and ends with example. The opening example is his attempt to understand 1963 outside of written texts on rhetorical history. He looks at iconic representations of 1963 and discovers JFK’s assassination (my main public association) and MLK Jr’s “I Have a Dream” (which I didn’t know was given in 1963), which he expands to include the cool of James Dean, James Brown’s music, and American Graffiti.

Basically, he took “cool” and looked for where and how it was used. The topos driven ad imagery of cool was young, fashion related, hip, popular, and rebellious (31). Rice takes Aristotle’s place and offers the internet as the organizing principle (is that right idea?). What things does he discover about cool by surfing around for it?

Looking at cool this way re-structures what is cool. He cites Gregory Ulmer’s Heuretics: The Logic of Invention and says that we can expand our writing by using all the meanings.

Chora teaches “how to make connections” (Rice 35).

Rice says both readers and writers are participatory within chora as it is created on the internet. Hypertextual links allow/require the reader to engage and linearity is limited. (This is the connection I was attempting to make with my Old English Readings course when we were reading the bestiaries, particularly the works online: Aberdeen Bestiary and the Book of Kells.)

I also noted in the margin that this is the practice/push for the new Tenure and Promotion packages scholars at my university must create; the T&P “binders of doom” have been replaced by a blog with links and images. On a related and somewhat discursive note, I wondered why they had not just adopted iBooks as our T&P production method. But iBooks may actually provide/force more linearity than they wanted. I guess I will find out as I work on my non-linear T&P portfolio online this summer particularly.

Through his embedded invention discussion, he prioritizes the digital because it was online that he sought and found the streams of competing and complementing ideas of cool.

Rice mentions (rather than discusses, because there is limited development) an assignment he has given his students. It comes, or has come, in two iterations. In one, he asks students to find a word in their discipline, their field of study, to research and see all the different ways that word is used.

Come to think of it, that is very much like what I am doing with this study.

The other option is to examine all the courses the student is taking that semester and find a single word that is involved in all of them and investigate that.


Rhetoric of Cool: Ch 1 History 1963

by Dr Davis on April 13, 2014

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Rice, Jeff. “The Story of Composition Studies and Cool.” The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media.” Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. 11-29. Print.

The first chapter introduces the history of Composition Studies, when it first began being written with a capital C. According to Stephen North, Eric Havelock, and James Berlin, Composition began in 1963, though Jim noted that it was a re-birth.

Rice delineates the factors which make most composition theorists choose 1963 as the renaissance of composition theory and practice. One includes McCrimmon’s 1963 textbook Writing With a Purpose, which focuses on writing as process. Forty years after the book came out, I was using it in a college classroom; we as practitioners have seen process as a focus. Another is the revival of classical rhetoric, a bit of neo-neo-classicism, spearheaded primarily by Edward P.J. Corbett. A third is the focus on empirical research, participant observation, with the student as variable and an emphasis on control.

So, what, exactly is Rice encouraging or focusing on or uplifting or point out? McLuhan mentioned cool. Weathers’ Grammar B is somewhat related to Rice’s ideas.

Rice says the focus is not on the tools of the trade, not on the computer and the fingers and the motions of hitting the keys, but on the practices that result from the technological means we use to compose. These practices or rhetorical principles he lists as:

Like Lev Manovich, Rice calls attention to “specific rhetorical features conducive to new media” (Rice 28).

Rice ends with the idea that movement, change, fluidity, and malleability are emphasized. Chora, his first rhetorical principle, focuses on the instability of rhetorical meaning–its inevitable, though not always slow, change.


Openness and Replicating Studies

by Dr Davis on April 11, 2014

Brian Keegan’s article argues for the need to have openness in data journalism by replicating a study by Walt Hickey on movies using the Bechdel Test.

Hickey says the study “analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits.”

Taken from Hickey's original article.

Taken from Hickey’s original article.

Keegan discusses a lot of different findings (and shows his data and programming runs). One of the most interesting findings is on when we can expect to see American movies regularly passing the Bechdel Test.

Extrapolating this linear model forward in time, on Tuesday, August 30, 2089, the average movie will finally pass the Bechdel test. Just 75 years to go even the average summer blockbuster will have minimally-developed female characters! Hooray!

This is a quote from an article on repeating analysis of published studies for data journalism. It specifically repeats research on movies that pass/don’t pass the Bechdel test.

His findings on movies that pass the Bechdel test:
Receive budgets that are 24% smaller
Make 55% more revenue
Are awarded 1.8 more Metacritic points by professional reviewers
Are awarded 0.12 fewer stars by IMDB’s amateur reviewers

In addition to replicating (as far as possible given inadequate information on methods) Hickey’s study, Brian Keegan added some analysis of the date regarding:
IMDB ratings
professional critic ratings

He also controlled for additional variables, including:

MPAA Rating. People dislike G-rated movies that happen to pass the Bechdel test more, perhaps.
Runtime. Instead of people hating “feminist” movies, maybe movies passing the Bechdel test are just longer and people don’t like 2-hour marathons.
Genre. Maybe some genres like romantic comedies or dramas have an easier time passing the Bechdel test.
Year. There may be a nostalgia effect of movies in the past that pass the test being rated differently than movies released more recently that pass the test.
Week. Summer and holiday blockbusters are different animals than awards vehicles that are released in the fall and winter.
English language. “Seriously, who likes strong female leads and subtitles? Get me a Bud Light Lime and let’s fire up Michael Bay’s magnum opus Transformers!”
USA. As bad as it may be here, other countries may have it worse.

Is this discrimination?

These four points point to a paradox in which movies that pass an embarrassingly low bar for female character development make more money and are rated more highly by critics, but have to deal with lower budgets and more critical community responses. Is this definitive evidence of active discrimination in the film industry and culture? No, but it suggests systemic prejudices are contributing to producers irrationally ignoring significant evidence that “feminist” films make them more money and earn higher praise.

This is an excellent and interesting article. I appreciate the time Dr. Keegan took to work on it and my husband for passing it on to me.


Future Depends on Reading

by Dr Davis on April 5, 2014

space_gas giantNeil Gaiman, famous fantasy author, says that the future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming.

He says fiction is “a gateway drug to reading.”

I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.


Never Quite What I Imagined

by Dr Davis on March 27, 2014

When I write a paper, I have a clear sense of where I want to go; however, I usually find that how I get there is different from what I envisioned originally. Sometimes the difference is significant and, I hope, means an improvement. Sometimes the difference is minor and I don’t know if it made any difference that I did it one way versus another.

When I created this project, research in the rhetoric of new media (RrNm), I envisioned a coordinated research project in which I read in large blocks of related materials.

Since theory is usually a bugaboo for me, I actually structured this project to begin with theorists and theories. These ranged from Burke; Bahktin; and Olbrechts-Tyteca to narrative theory; theories of identity, subjectivity, and intersubjectivity; authorship and agency; compositions studies; and design studies.

Originally I made a list of 23 books and articles that the project would include, but not necessarily be limited to. Some of these were grouped by topic and some by ownership (i.e., I already owned them).

male studying computerWhen I started reading, though, I didn’t follow a systematic schedule and –of course– I didn’t start with the theorists. I read whatever caught my interest and connected to the next thing I wanted to know. While that was not a coherent plan, it was a coherent study… It organized around the things I was most interested in, which kept me moving through the project.

I am going to be posting some notes on the blog–quotes from sources and my responses to them. Perhaps even a discussion of where those have evolved to or from.

I will also be posting annotated bibliographic entries, composed as I assign my fyc students to write:
reflection on its usefulness/usability
(maybe) quotes (either separately or within the body of the annotation)
These entries will be marked RrNm Ann Bib at the end, which would allow a search to find all the annotations. I will also be using an icon found on DeviantArt by yereverluvinuncleber. His work is also on Pinterest.

This will not be a systematic study, but it will be very focused–sometimes on a single idea and sometimes on a series of related notions. All of them, I believe, impinge on new media and relate to the rhetoric of new media. Some of them are more easily recognized as that than others.

I invite you to follow this journey of discovery that I have decided needs a more public venue than my bookshelf and a more permanent home than the hard drive of my computer.


Readings Suggested by Colleagues

by Dr Davis on March 11, 2014

Your Brain on Jane Austen

Book of Kells Hypertext

For Better Social Skills, A Little Chekhov

“The Night in Question” by Tobias Wolfe

photos of CS Lewis plaque in Westminster Abbey

Do Unpaid Internships Lead to Jobs?
My colleague wrote: “They have data to show that in accounting and engineering, yes, paid internships mean more and better job offers. In English, it makes no difference. In communication, unpaid internships left students worse off than no internship at all.

I’m not wholly convinced, but it’s worth dropping into our conversations.”

MBA students learn that all the world’s a stage

Are the Humanities Worth Studying?

Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires
My colleague wrote: “Why English majors rule!”

How does this relate to English majors? A University of Toronto study on the effects of literature on empathy shows that those who read fiction frequently have higher levels of cognitive empathy; i.e., the ability to understand how another person feels. Keith Oatley, one of the researchers, said the reason fiction improves empathy is because it helps us to “understand characters’ actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have.” This improves interpersonal understanding and enhances relationships with customers and business associates. When you hire an English major, you’re likely hiring someone who brings cognitive empathy to the table.

Best Paying Jobs for English Majors

Fear not, English majors have some well-paying career options, says Katie Bardaro, lead analyst for online salary database


To Read: On Learning and Creativity

by Dr Davis on March 10, 2014

Classroom Teaching Styles

My own thinking about styles of learning and thinking has been driven by my “theory of mental self-government,” which I first presented in book format in a volume entitled Thinking Styles. According to this theory, the ways of governments in the world are external reflections of what goes on in people’s minds. There are 13 different styles in the theory, but consider now just three of them. People with a legislative style like to come up with their own ideas and to do things in their own way; people with an executive style prefer to be given more structure and guidance or even told what to do; people with a judicial style like to evaluate and judge things and especially the work of others.

Interesting article. He talks about learning styles, but perhaps it is learning preferences. We certainly have those.

Uncertainty, Innovation, and the Alchemy of Fear

The ability to live in the question long enough for genius to emerge is a touchstone of creative success. In fact, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Creative Behavior revealed tolerance for ambiguity to be “significantly and positively related” to creativity.

The author gives strategies for building uncertainty scaffolding which allow a person to live with ambiguity (and thus potentially be more creative) without going crazy. Three different areas to modify are given and five more detailed examples used to show the application of these.


Bibliomania Reading

by Dr Davis on December 14, 2013

Gutenberg has a book entitled The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac by Eugene Field.

Photo by Lin Kristensen, WC CC2.

Photo by Lin Kristensen, WC CC2.

In the introduction, the author’s brother writes:

The determination to found a story or a series of sketches on the delights, adventures, and misadventures connected with bibliomania did not come impulsively to my brother. For many years, in short during the greater part of nearly a quarter of a century of journalistic work, he had celebrated in prose and verse, and always in his happiest and most delightful vein, the pleasures of book-hunting. Himself an indefatigable collector of books, the possessor of a library as valuable as it was interesting, a library containing volumes obtained only at the cost of great personal sacrifice, he was in the most active sympathy with the disease called bibliomania, and knew, as few comparatively poor men have known, the half-pathetic, half-humorous side of that incurable mental infirmity.

The chapter titles intrigue me.


WC CC3 by Twice25

WC CC3 by Twice25

It appears that it will be a delightful read. For example, chapter 13, “On the Odors which My Books Exhale” begins:
Have you ever come out of the thick, smoky atmosphere of the town into the fragrant, gracious atmosphere of a library? If you have, you know how grateful the change is, and you will agree with me when I say that nothing else is so quieting to the nerves, so conducive to physical health, and so quick to restore a lively flow of the spirits.


Weird books

by Dr Davis on October 31, 2013

Voynich Manuscript