Tonight we have the following fun things to go over:
- Syllabus and course requirements
- Class Interviews
- Webpages (request access)
- Rhetoric of Technology and Cultural Studies
- Abstract Workshop with Center for Graduate Life (Friday, 1/12 from 1-2)
Tonight we will get to know each other and find out the course goals and requirements. I will go over the syllabus first, which will only be located online. We will use this website and Canvas to communicate course material.
After we go over the syllabus, I’ll highlight some important dates and assignments to come. Then, we’ll get to know our classmates.
Before moving onto the readings, let’s make sure any new classmates are on the same page as we are; then, we’ll go over the following fun things:
Syllabus and course requirements
- Define Rhetoric
I want us to get to know one another briefly tonight. Usually, I pair you up with a neighbor and have you answer the following questions, but, tonight, talk in groups of 2 or 3 for 15 min, and then each of you will report back to class about yourself. Ask the following:
- Year (don’t say “2018″; I mean your year in the/a program)
- Job/Future Job
- Favorite Book
- Favorite Movie
- Favorite TV Show
- Favorite Video Game
- Favorite Technology
- What technology do you use the most?
- What do you expect in “New Media: Gender, Culture, Technology”?
Asimov’s “A Cult of Ignorance”
Let’s discuss the article you read for tonight. Areas to start or get to…
- Right to know
- Credibility and trust
- Reading scores
- Drop in magazine readership
- “true concept of democracy”
Why not trust the experts? Also, what’s wrong with highway signs having pictures instead of words?
Charles Bazerman on Rhetoric of Science and Rhetoric of Technology
Important components of “The Rhetoric of Technology” (pages refer to article pages)
“rhetorical productions that surround a material technology ” (p. 381)
Scientists have biases and are products of a culture (p. 383)
“Science…produces symbols…as its end claims, sentences, sententia…those symbols are rhetorical” (p. 384)
“Technology…produces objects and material processes” (p. 385)
“The rhetoric of technology shows how the objects of the built environment become part of our systems of goals, values, and meaning, part of our articulated interests, struggles, and activities” (p. 386)
- The rhetoric of technology “is the rhetoric of all the discourses that surround and embed technology” (p. 387)
Richard Conniff: “In the Name of the Law: How to Win Arguments without Really Trying.”
This reading was more amusement, but, as you think about it, where (out there in the world) do you read/see/hear arguments that compare one group or another to NAZIs? If you’ve never noticed this, tell me what you think after reading David Mervin’s piece from yesterday.
“Godwin’s Law…holds that the longer an argument drags on, the likelier someone will stoop to a Hitler or Nazi analogy” (emphasis mine, para. 2)
Discussions of genocide…why don’t speakers go back further and point to the genocide of indigenous cultures in the Americas?
Prepackaged, ready-made arguments: “These little laws [e.g., Godwin’s Law] allow us to sound intelligent without having to do any homework” (para. 3)
What other prepackaged arguments do you hear?
If you’re expecting to find “database culture” in the reading, I assure you it isn’t there. However, it is written with elements that reflect database culture. We will talk further about this, but, as a preview, I’d like us to think about *New Media* as delivering information and entertainment by assembling packets together in (usually) coherent ways. In a way, you could consider these “pre-packaged” referents.
This is one definition (and I’m briefly explaining it), but what makes new media different from old media is that new media is assembled to produce the illusion of continuity (there are other principles–let’s just focus on this one). Take film for example, the sequences and sound tracks and CGI are all elements that comprise a film. Digital technology lends itself very well to new media delivery, but digital technology isn’t the defining aspect of new media. Again, this is debatable and, more importantly, an academic definition–you won’t get many people thinking about new media in this way. For a very detailed (yet dated) discussion of this, please check out Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001). It’s a difficult read, but he goes through the history of media to explain “new media.”
All of that is great, but what does that have to do with the article…
Well, think of Fricke’s article as a series of prepackaged ideas that carry his discussion of the Springsteen album. Phrases such as “pop stomps loaded with Beatlesque guitar jangle,” “1966-Beach Boys vocal harmonies,” and “pedal steel guitar a la Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline” (para. 3) are loaded with information–hypercompressed–and seem to be ideas from a database. Now, I’m not claiming the article is “new media” (not without more qualification than I’m willing to give here), but the article represents a text of database culture.
Think about all the search engines you’ve used. Our Information Age is dependent on, well, information. We consume sound bites, narratives, and ideas through our interactions with media. Below are some questions I’d like us to begin to answer regarding database culture:
- What do search engines produce?
- What does it mean to be a part of a database culture?
- What is cafeteriazation? In what ways are we a cafeteria-style culture?
Time permitting, we’ll look at a page and focus on the search engine part.
Ubiquity of Rhetoric
You’d think that with such a rich history, rhetoric would be introduced to students long before college. Well, it is, but not necessarily as a pillar of Western Civilization. The term comes up when politicians or their critics denounce an opponent’s speech as empty; therefore, “rhetoric” is often associated popularly with “empty speech,” non-contributing verbiage, or fluff.
But the study of rhetoric is much more complicated. Just as each discipline has its own epistemology–the study of knowledge, its foundations and validity– each discipline’s communication has a rhetoric. And rhetoric isn’t limited simply to disciplines: Movements, Social Norms, Technology, Science, Religion, etc. have a rhetoric. I often define such analyses into “rhetorics of…” as common factors surrounding the power or belief in a particular area. In other words, beliefs, attitudes, values, and practices are rhetorics of prevailing social ideology: One’s acceptance of cultural “truth” is based largely on one’s immersion into the culture’s myths and beliefs. Therefore, this definition of rhetoric requires us to recognize the relationship among sender-receiver-mediator. Of course, for our discussion, the “mediator” is culture. There is no concrete, definitive transmission of rhetorically pure communication. Sender and receiver filter the message(s) based on their experiences. Lucky for us, we can locate prevailing patterns in messages because culture mediates them. When doing a rhetorical analysis, you have to ask what are common ways particular ideas are conveyed in a culture. There are plenty of examples in new media.
For instance, what’s the rhetoric behind Hollywood movies that end in marriage and/or babies? Well, getting married and having children is a major cultural practice, so that gets “played out” in films. Additionally, women are often consider babymakers in search of a man to donate the necessary ingredient, so female characters in Hollywood films have traditionally not been *complete* until they marry and have children or somehow fulfill a woman’s socially constructed “proper” role according to prevailing attitudes. Because our culture (remember, this is a generalization) favors families as opposed to singles, the rhetoric of our entertainment–the power behind acceptance or enjoyments of a film–conforms to the cultural value of privileging families.
A brief Introduction of Rhetoric–From another class Web site.
Locating American Values
Because this course is a theoretical exploration of how we can locate a society’s values by “reading” its technologies, we ought to think about what those values are. This page asks you to think about American values–it’s from a different class, so don’t get too attached. The goal of this next exercise is to identify values that we might be able to “read” in technologies from American society.
Keep up With the Reading
You readings for the semester are on Canvas. If I haven’t shown you how to access them, let me do that now.
Also, you should begin reading Simon Malpas’s The Postmodern–don’t get too far behind on that.