Writing to the Moment
Monday, September 29, 2003
  Reading Assignment

Read Milon's Memory and reflect on how Lane uses the blog medium for a much different purpose than most writers. Also read my discussion of "blogging and the everyday" and follow some of the links to other bloggers who are writing about the same topic.

Amazing...I just used Blogger's spell check for the first time and "blog" and "blogger" aren't even in their dictionary. 
  Blogging and Identity

I came across an interesting discussion of blogging and identity on Localfeeds, a blog tracking system that records blogs published within a certain geographic area, in this case Atlanta. The discussion centers around the relationship between African-American identity and blogging. I haven't had time to follow the threads, but because I've been particpating in a much different identity meme, I wanted to reference this discussion and come back to it later.  
  Teacher's Guide to Bowling

Maybe I should teach Bowling for Columbine....Michael Moore has added a guide for teaching Bowling to his website. Looks pretty interesting. Stay tuned for more details, including links to Wednesday's assignment. Via CultureCat
Friday, September 26, 2003
  Creative Loafing: Best of Atlanta

As promised, Creative Loafing's Best of Atlanta lists. You get to learn more about Atlanta and to think about evaluation arguments at the same time. Enjoy! 
  Another Blogging Composition Class

I was just contacted by another composition instructor, Karl Fornes, who is using blogging as a part of his classes at the University of South Carolina-Aiken (he even assigned a rhetorical analysis of Daschle's blog). More details to come. 
Thursday, September 25, 2003
  Michael Moore Responds

Given some of our class discussions, I thought some of you might be interested in Moore's response to some of the criticisms that have been made of his film. I think his point that his film was thoroughly fact-checked because of the potential for lawsuits is an important one.  
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
  Blog 6

For your next entry, find a causal argument in an editorial or in a blog. Link to the editorial and analyze the author's argument. What method does the author use? Is this method effective? Why or why not? If not, what method would have been more effective? Be sure to post this entry by 12 midnight on Friday and to comment on the apporpriate blogs. 
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
  Course Update

Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be turning the Manovich essay in to the library tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. Also, please ignore the ads in the banner ad above my blog--they're advertising "non-plagiarized" research papers, whatever that means. I'll see everyone on Wednesday.  
Monday, September 22, 2003
  Slight Shift in Plans

Instead of reading Lev Manovich for Wednesday, you can now read Manovich for Friday, when your next blog entry will be due. For Wednesday, read Chapter 6 in Good Reasons. Barring a major catastrophe, I will be returning your papers on Wednesday as well.

Also, for thos students who could not turn their papers in to turnitin.com, I will update the due date so that you can submit your assignment. Hope everyone had a good weekend.  
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
  Wes Clark's Campaign

Because I think the information might be helpful: a quick link to an entry that includes material written by Wesley Clark, Jr., son of the most recent candidate to enter the primary for the Democratic nomination for President.  
  Anticipating Visual Arguments

We won't be talking about visual arguments for a while, but I thought some readers might enjoy these parodies of Apple ads on Something Awful. Be sure to flip ahead to page two. 
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
  Narratives and Blogging

Blogs for Friday:

All four of these blogs present interesting narrative arguments about the role of the US and the international community before, during, and after the war. As you read, be sure to identify carefully the arguments that the authors are making, the rhetorical appeals they use, their tone or word choice, etc. For Salam, Tables, and Smash, I'd encourage you to read what they were saying in February and March, during the stressful moments before the war began.  
  Narrative Blogs

Here are the blogs you'll need to read for Friday's discussion on narrative blogging and argument. Keep in mind that for your next blog entry, you should have comments appended to your blog. In order to fully complete the assignment, you should not only write your entry (250-300 words), but you should also comment on the entry of the blogger listed immediately below yours on the blogroll. The last person listed in each class should comment on the first person for your class (in other words, John Ussery should comment on Kathryn Abbott's post, etc). I'll also expect everyone to link to at least one blog (either the whole blog or an individual entry), using the linking feature on the Blogger toolbar.
Monday, September 15, 2003
  Narrative Arguments

I'll provide a more detailed post on Narrative Arguments later, but for now, I just wanted to remind you that your reading assignment for Wednesday is Chapter 8 in Good Reasons. Faigley and Selzer offer Leslie Marmon Silko's essay as an example of narrative arguments, and we'll spend a significant time in class talking about that essay, but as you read the chapter, I'd like you to think of other kinds of "narrative arguments" that you encounter in your daily experiences, including television shows, movies, and songs. As you think about those arguments, try to determine whether or not you find those arguments effective or not and why.

This discussion will provide an entrance to our second unit on archiving and memory, with our particular emphasis on how these concepts are changed by the emergence of digital technologies (or how our concepts of memory and archiving change the way we understand/use digital technologies). Hope everyone had a good weekend. 
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
  Rough Drafts

Just a quick reminder to my 1101 students that your rough drafts for the first major paper are due on Friday. We'll have a peer workshop on Friday and then your final drafts will be due on Monday at the beginning of class.

Next week we'll begin moving into a more systematic discussion of digital technologies and memory, using Benjamin's "The Storyteller" as a starting point. 
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
  Hannah's House

Given our discussion of fictional blogs, I thought you all might be interested in this fictional student blog, Hannah's House, authored by a group of students in Australia. "Hannah" is a communications student at a university in Australia, and her blog template looks remarkably like my personal one, which makes me feel a little dizzy. Looking around, I found some comments, making me wonder which ones are "real" and which are not....

Scroll down for links to comment programs and to the Benjamin essay. 
Monday, September 08, 2003
  One Last Time

Here is the comment functionality provider I'm using. Here is another comment source. See my previous warning about comment functionality. Squawk Box is particularly easy to use--I have had good luck with them in the past. 
  My Reflection on Benjamin

Now that everyone has completed their posts on Benjamin, I'll provide you with a link to my reflections on Benjamin's discussion of the unsteady relationship between narrative and experience. As I was working on some notes about my paper on blogging, I began reflecting on his discussion of how meaning ("authority") derives in part from death. My entry hints at that interpretive problem (although you'll certainly notice I don't specific mention what I mean by "later than that").

You'll also notice this entry explains in a little more detail the source of the title for this class. More broadly, Richardson's discussion of Pamela seems to hint at the rapid transformations of narrative that are taking place with the rise of print culture, and as we talk throughout the semester, we will have an opportunity to discuss how new technologies transform the ways in which we communicate and remember our experiences.

Note: In order to get credit for Blog 5, you will have to have installed comments into your blog. 
Sunday, September 07, 2003
  Interesting Comments on "The Storyteller"

Lyn Hejinian has an interesting comment or two about Benjamin's "The Storyteller" in this interview. Her interpretation of Benjamin's comments on storytelling and experience might be helpful if you're struggling with developing an approach to Benjamin for your blog. Scroll down a little for her comments.

Steven Johnson (blog), author of Interface Culture and Emergence, two of the more engaging recent books in the field of techno-criticism, makes some intriguing connections between Benjamin's comments on modern information society and contemporary digital culture.
Friday, September 05, 2003
  Blogging and Journalism: Another Viewpoint

For those of you who were interested in the blogging and ethics discussion, this article provides another point of view. On a quick glance, Matt Welch provides a nice overview of how blogging has evolved, giving special emphasis to September 11 (note his reference to Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit fame). He also highlights the important "filtering" function that many blogs serve. I'm off to class, so this is looking more like a link-and-comment post without much analysis. Hope everyone has a good weekend, and we'll be talking about Benjamin on Monday (when you'll turn in Blog 4). 
  Benjamin Questions

Scroll down for the link to the Walter Benjamin essay. As you read his essay, you might want to keep the following points in mind. First, recall that Benjamin was writing in Europe in the 1930s, during the time when fascism was gaining power in Europe, a political transformation that deeply disturbed Benjamin and many other academics. "The Storyteller" also responds to a transformed experience associated with (but not limited to) the overwhelming effects on mind and body of World War I, which many refer to as the first "mechanical war." Benjamin is also addressing changed social relations due to the rise of industrialism and mass production as well as transformed experiences of travel due to railroads. Finally, he also addresses a transformation of communications, specifically in his discussion of the novel and the newspaper. One thing to keep in mind uis that these changes are, in many ways, more gradual than Benjamin seems to imply in this essay (print culture underwent rapid changes in the 18th century, for example).

As you read, pay careful attention to Benjamin's tone. How would you characterize his word choice, his examples, and his arguments in general? How does he describe the past? The present? What are the qualities of "good" storytelling? How are they different than the communication style of novels? Finally, as you read, consider the context for this assignment. Why have I introduced this essay in a course that has, until this point, focused on writing in electronic formats?

  From the 'This is Kind of Cool' File

I just found out that Full Monty producer, Simon Beaufoy, is planning an Internet premier for his latest film, This is Not a Love Song, at 1 PM today (basically as I am composing this entry). Alas, overwhelming demand has caused the site to crash. 
Thursday, September 04, 2003
  Site Meter

This isn't required, but if you're curious to find out just how many people are viewing your blog, Site Meter is a great tool for tracking that information. Enjoy! 
  Walter Benjamin Essay

For Monday, we will be reading Walter Benjamin's essay, "The Storyteller," which is available here through the online reserves. For students who are having difficulty accessing electronic reserves, we'll address that in class. For Friday, be sure to read Chapter 3, focusing on Audience, in Good Reasons.

When you read the Benjamin essay, be sure to consider the social context in which he is writing, Germany in the 1930s, a period of rapid social transformation. Benjamin was, in large part, identifying and defining the existence of a new form of narration, one that was based in large part on the effects of mass production. Benjamin also notes in passing the devastating psychological impact of World War I on the soldiers who "returned from the battlefield grown silent--not richer but poorer in communicable experience" (84).

As you read, pay careful attention to the tone that Benjamin uses. Does he seem nostalgic for earlier modes of communication? How does he characterize the earlier form of communication he refers to as "storytelling?" Be very specific here: how would you characterize his word choice? His tone? What does Benjamin have to say about the emergence of print culture, specifically the popularization of novels and newspapers? Benjamin also discusses a "decline in communicable experience." This is prehaps the most nuanced point in the essay, but an important one. How does Benjamin describe this decline?

Keep in mind that you may find Benjamin's essay rather difficult (I still find it challenging in places), and try to read for his general arguments in terms of print culture, narrative, and experience.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
  Kaycee Nicole

In order to address some of the ethical issues we will discuss have discussed in class, I introduced the Kaycee Nicole story. Here are a few key references, including a Yahoo News Groups site dedicated to the Kaycee Nicole hoax and an FAQ at rootnode.org, a music site. Here is a reaction to the hoax by someone who was particularly close to the story.

Update 2:02 PM: I used strike-through beofre I read David Lorang's interesting critque of it. I do think it's a valid criticsm, and I tend to use it only in specialized cases (like complicated verb tenses). 
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
  Another Free Comment Source

I came across this comment service while blog surfing. For those of you who haven't added comments, it might be a good service. 
  Moore Spinsanity

Spinsanity is a terrific independent media website that offers a slightly different take on rhetorical analyses of the media. As you might imagine, I have mixed feelings about their motto, "Countering Rhetoric with Reason," given that most rhetoricians consider "good reasons," effective logic, to be an important part of rhetoric (as Aristotle's emphasis on "logos" suggests).

Given our class discussions, you might find their take on the Michael Moore controversy particularly interesting. The Michael Moore case offers an interesting limit, especially when we consider the difficulty of creating an objective documentary. Because the camera was at one time seen as an objective recording of reality, we now sometimes hold similar standards of objectivity for documentary films when in fact every cut, edit, subtitle, even camera movement and placement, are under the subjective control of the filmmakers. In a polemic film like Bowling for Columbine, these expectations are often placed under greater scrutiny, meaning that any apparent misrepresentations (or even misinterpretations) will face criticism--a pretty difficult challenge for any filmmaker who wishes to make an argument via documentary film.

Does this mean that film viewers should abandon their expectations for objectivity? To a certain extent, I would say yes; certainly most filmmakers (and televised news media broadcasts) distort and selectively represent what happens in order to promote a certain viewpoint, and it's important to be aware that all documentary images (news or film) are representations. In some sense, I think that the controversy around Moore's film might actually point to the fact that he's simply making "sloppy" arguments, that his argumentative techniques are too obviously misleading (as the edited NRA speech and the staged gun purchase suggest). His suggestion that viewers should "trust" him to provide us with factual information, as the Q&A from Roger Ebert's site suggests, is naive, given the politically charged claims that he makes. Moore might be better served acknowledging that his documentaries have a highly rhetorical function (in the best sense of the term); by making that move, I think he'd gain a lot more credibility as a filmmaker.

My criticsm of Moore might sound a little harsh, but I'm writing as someone who found Columbine to be quite powerful; I thought it was an interesting reflection on why there is so much violence in contemporary American society, but his claims that he is objectively presenting what he films undermine his credibility, and ultimately the film itself.  
Monday, September 01, 2003
  Remembering September 11

Because so many students wrote about Rachel Lucas' critique of the lack of planned media coverage of the two-year anniversary of September 11, I thought I would call your attention to an article in the New York Times(free subscription required) on the topic. The article speaks to the mixed feelings that members of the media have about revisiting these traumatic events. For the most part, they note that their audiences simply want to move on and aren't interested in revisiting this part of our very recent past.

These debates certainly speak to remembrance, the role of the media in providing framing narratives that guide our interpretations of historical events (as Rachel's post, implying a political bias in the media, suggests). But I think there are several other problems at stake. First: the question of profit. Advertisers have been reticent to buy advertising time for 9/11 commemoratives. Because of the profit motive that supports US media, these documentaries are likely to remain unproduced. Second: there are so many narratives out there (movies such as Spike Lee's 25th Hour, books, articles) that I'm not sure that it's even possible to "forget" these events. There is so much broadcast space (or, more precisely, time) available that it seems impossible to forget. I'm not sure that I have a clear insight here; I certainly wouldn't suggest that memorial shows are redundant or unecessary, but perhaps by reducing the amount of coverage, we can find new ways of remembering and understanding this moment from our past.

Update: Check out Dr. Andrew Cline's analysis on Rhetorica
Official Blog for Dr. Chuck Tryon's English 1101 courses at Georgia Tech. Opinions expressed are those of the writer(s), not Georgia Tech.

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