weeks 2 and 3 in e-rhetoric

Weeks 2 and 3 in E-Rhetoric

We got stuck into method, with S&P’s chapters 2 and 3, with exercises in SeeingAsACritic. The in-class discussion focused on distinguishing between evaluative observatipns – like this

  • Swallowing observation in interpretation or evaluation. “The page is marred by an ugly logo.” Description is neutral. Describe the page, the logo, the placement.

and further refining observing by stepping outside of the rhetorical interaction. The mis-step occurs when you

  • Describe the viewer’s action rather than the object. “The viewer’s eye is drawn to the red logo.” This is not a description of the page from outside the rhetorical exchange but a description of a possible reaction by a viewer. “There is a bright red logo in the corner. This is the only spot of red on a page with a black background and white text.” That is a description. On analysis, you would consider how that design works to control attention.

My notes SeeingAsACriticDebriefing highlights a couple well-worked sets of notes.

Week three brought in theory in the form of Classical Rhetoric, S&P chap 9. FirstPassAtCriticalMethodExerciseis a trial run in describing, characterizing, and cataloguing the elements in a rhetorical message, in a set of notes.

This exercise doesn’t call for an essay. You’re not making an argument. You’re not being asked to come up with ideas or evaluate anything. You’re getting some practice in a method – describing the text and context – and in seeing rhetorical elements in that text

The text is a common one, and one that is often thought as having nothing rhetorical about it: The Tech Writing landing page at MSU Mankato: http://english.mnsu.edu/techcomm/

Of course, everything about this page is rhetorically active – which is why it makes for good practice in observing, note-taking, and cataloging. It makes you look twice, or three times, or more.

With this exercise, I also introducted notetaking-as-method full force by asking students to struture their notes under headings:

Description of page
Description of context

Then, from S&P Chap 9, the method asks students to cataloge the rhetorical devices they see operating in the page. A good description would provide some of these devices, but, even more a good description attunes the critic towards seeing elements of


What gets seen? The images. What gets missed? The relationship between the text and the images. What gets seen? The use of purple and yellow. What gets missed, at first: the use of those colors (with black) as an appeal to character: ethos, “regalia” as one student noted. What gets seen? The text in the central pane. What gets missed: The register of the text (part of style), the presence of headings (style, but how they are named is ethos again). Arrangement tends to be a problem because there are at least three:

-the page as a whole is arranged. We need to consider page flow. It’s not as simple as “this attracts the eye first.” There’s far more going on.

- each of the navigation bars (4, by my count) is arranged in its own taxonomy

- the text in the light central pane is arranged in three columns (it doesn’t flow from column to column) (look closely at how that text is laid out: each column is framed to create a block.)

Also up for discussion (which is why this is a good exercise): What elements do we place in delivery and memory? That the links on the page do not change color when followed tosses memory to the user. Delivery is going to include the colors, the need to use a light pane to hold text for legibility, the browser window and design of the page as non-flexible, how the side bar menus operate (the item selected unfolds to reveal the taxonomy, good for focus but also demands audience memory), presence and use of a sesrch field. perhaps placement of the large footer and placement of the social icons there …

And we haven’t even started talking about visual repetition, visual metaphor (although the observation that the colors invoke regalia is part of how the page creates a visual style), or metonymy (how the page stands in for the organization not of the physical campus but a conceptual campus).

What’s next? Week Four

For week four, we’re on to S&P chap 4, and the first project, a small one to start: TextAndContextInFourWebsitesProject. This moves into some serious description of both text and context. It asks students to find 4 web sites that illustrate the 4 ways that text responds to the context, as worked with in S&P, chap 4: conformity, non-participation, desecration, contextual reconstruction. Easy enough, except, I found as I worked through the problem, deciding whether a site engages in non-participation of the context or is engaging contextual reconstruction of the context is a matter of making a case, and making a case means describoing both closely enough that oyu can make the case. That is, I had to persuade myself that an artifact was not really reconstructing the context but simply engaging in non-participation.

I was trying to decide how the OK Go video of A Million Ways responds to context. I wanted to see it as reconstructing the context, but given my description of the video and context, I figureed it could be opertating as non-participatipn. To decide, I had to look more closely at the context of the period and the placement of the artifact as an independent video by an independent, not mainstream, band, and to consider who choreographed it. Tricky, and I’m still working on it.


on pinboard for September 11th, 2014 through September 13th, 2014

on pinboard for September 8th, 2014

  • Is “Incivility” the New Communism? – Locally, our admin has tried this move to silence opposition and try to control register. It's kind of interesting to watch, but is really is a little desperate. Sad, almost, because the label just doesn't carry enough power to silence the opposition. How do you condemn incivility w/o being yourself uncivil? W silence, of course. – (none)
  • something is rotten in the state of…Twitter | the theoryblog – Yeah, ok, if writ large. But it's not happening this way in my sphericule. Which is the point: the rot may be a function of lack of context, looking at tweets as floating free, like plastic beads in the ocean. But locally, exchange is contextualized and there are other social mores and practices at work. – (twitter erhet social_practices network_practices )
  • Peak StreamMode – StreamMode and StateMode as nascent stubs for more development. – (twitter ehret wcw weblogs )

on pinboard for August 29th, 2014 through August 31st, 2014

on pinboard for August 9th, 2014 through August 22nd, 2014

throat clearing

Time to get back to the classroom, and that means breaking in some new software, including an updated blogging app, Blogo. It was out orignally in 2009, if my old license key is accurate, but went dark for a while. It’s been released as v 2. It seems roughly the same as I recall it back in 2009: single window, with what seems to be a better image editor. It’s far more pleasent to work in than, say MarsEdit. I was going to say it’s more limited than MarsEdit in handling images, but it’s not: It just handles them differently. Embedding images from Flickr, for instance, is done by clicking on the image and selecting Send to Blogo from the service menu. The embedded image can be tweaked in Blogo, and it's done.

Reduced face time in three courses

I’m trying out reduced face time in three courses: Tech Writing. A&E, and E-Rhetoric. The last also has an online-only grad section – a design I’m also trying out. All the content I typically generate – aka lectures and my notes – will be online. Activities will be similar to what I’ve used in the past: no tests but lots of notes and making. Deadlines for work are firm to promote timeliness. The idea is to reduce face to face classtime to one session per week and to focus that session tightly on a seminar discussion, or class tutorial, or individual tutorial, depending on what we need that week. Sort of what I remember from attending UCL, crossed with activity and sharing techniques from cMOOCs. As at UCL, face sessions are voluntary: Attendance isn’t required. Rather than a final exam, however, weekly work will verify whether the student might be better off attending the weekly session. Students can use the other class session time to meet and work together.

This design might not sound novel, but it is to me, and I have some apprehensions about it that I hope to work out this semester.

What else? No discussion board. Instead, discussions or exchanges will be attached to wiki pages: Keep the exchanges close to the content. Some collaborative work probably in Google Docs. No video lectures from me: I find them too slow and dispersed for the purpose. Lectures are what students are not coming to hear, right? All reading, for the most part. Some step by step tutorials using Clarify 2. Perhaps some screencasts if absolutely necessary.

All of this places a lot of responsibility on the student for technical skills, so I expect to use a bootcamp approach in the first set of requred meetings (bootcamp borrowed from ds106). Those online only will have to google their way into the technology. Eg “Go to Google and use its tutorials to set up a Google Docs account. Whe you have a Google Document created, email me the link .…” And “Google the term rss. Find out what it is and how it’s useful to you. Sign up for an RSS account online or using an RSS reader on your own computer. From there on, add the RSS feeds to wiki pages for this course that you want to monitor or are working on.” And “Register with Twitter. Use #ENGL2152 to request help or feedback from others ….” I probably need a checklist.

It all adds up to dynamic syndicated learning:

[PDF] Discussion board: A learning objectK Harman, A Koohang – … Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 2005 – editlib.org… The discussion board thus may be used as a “context board.” For example, the concept of usingthe discussion board as a “context board” fits well within Downes' (2003b) recommendation forusing syndicated learning content: … Using syndicated learning content. …

Or will it be federated?

Existing online learning experiences lack the social dimension that characterizes learning in the real world. This social dimension extends beyond the traditional classroom into the university's common areas where learners build knowledge and understanding through serendipitous and collaborative exchanges both within and across traditional subject area boundaries. A next generation virtual learning environment (VLE) can address the limitations of current online systems by providing a richer social context for online learning. We describe the end-user properties of … VLE that fosters dynamic group learning experiences and the development of communities of practice. This proposed VLE provides the capacity to merge the institutional infrastructure for academic computing, enterprise-level networks, Squeak/Croquet-based content authoring, and the educational principles of constructivist pedagogy.

Or another model?And I will need a statement of openness, revised from this, which I’ve use regularly.

Most of the writing we all do for this course will end up on the wiki. Notes, notes on notes, my comments, more notes, group notes and projects. As the course progresses, you'll find that we can begin to link up these nodes, developing them into topics, and further developing topics over the semester and across semesters. The wiki becomes more valuable (to us, to the next group, and to whomever looks in) the more we develop topics over time.Writing the wiki is an integral part of this course and your learning for this course. As your notes progress, you will begin, I hope, to cross link to the notes and observations of others. University students and professors are now in the business of making their course work in progress available to those interested; it's another new rhetorical practice of digital space.

I would rather have students work in their own spaces, to set up and use their own PLEs, and then aggrgate their work by linking materials they are submitting for evaluation to a wikiname page. But that’s for later.

And, one final device for this design: A weekly update, in the form of a blog post or wiki page, as appropriate. Downes et al used these in a couple of cMOOCs I participted in, and they worked to highlight substantive work and directions for students. Much as a face to face lecture signals what the instructor sees as important, so the weekly highlights helps students define a focus.

And Blogo?

because I’ve used this post to evaluate it. It has a few idiosyncrasies – and so it should! – in how it imports from the web to the draft, but those became useful quickly. It may be my machine, but Blogo doesn’t seem to be spell-checking. Minor, really. I’m looking forward to using it this semester.

on pinboard for August 4th, 2014 through August 8th, 2014

on pinboard for August 3rd, 2014