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March 31, 2005


For slightly longer than I've been keeping this blog, I've engaged in another time-honored tradition, the mix tape. Partly this has been inspired by iTunes--when I buy a new CD, or download some music, if I like a particular song, I'll go ahead and throw it into a date-based playlist, which has left me with playlists for the last three years. And then, usually in Feb or March, I'll winnow the list down so that I can fit it on a CD, and burn a copy or three--one for the car, a couple for friends, etc.

I'm not especially intense about cut-off dates--my primary rule of thumb is that I acquire the music during the year in question, even if I don't end up discovering it until a little later. But even that gets bent a bit: I got Transatlanticism for my birthday last year, but didn't really listen to it until 2004, which is why a couple of songs landed here. The songs don't always all fit together into any category other than the most important one: I like em.

I've been putting off my 2004 CD for no real reason, and so I thought it might be the kind of project to drive away some of the doldrums. We'll see if it works. In the meantime, though, here's my playlist and what you'll hear if I give you a ride anywhere for the next few months:

my 2004 playlist

I always feel somewhat compelled to apologize for my music tastes, so I'll resist that here. I suppose it comes from having friends who know TONS more about music than I do, and from the fact that, at one point in my life, I would have described myself as someone who knew much more than I do now. Mostly now I just read Pitchfork and rely on the listening stations.

That is all.

March 30, 2005


And then there are weeks where the prospect of changing out of sweat pants is almost more than you can bear emotionally. There are all these things to do, and you have no idea where you might begin. There's that hill, and all those boulders, and you can't escape the feeling that every single one of them is rigged to roll just as you crest it.

It passes. It always does. You've been around this track often enough to know that there's an inevitable energy dip right around this time every semester, where the break was just long enough to get you longing for summer, where the distance between here and there is just long enough to encourage everyone into thinking that they can get just one more big project finished up (with your help, of course).

Invariably, April is paralyzing. Don't believe it? Check me out a year ago this Friday:

I must confess to having been more than a little depressed for the past couple of days. Whether that's the cause for my absence from cgbvb or a result of it, I don't know. I suspect a little of both. Work piled up, and I simply wasn't prepared (landing in Syracuse Monday night) to take on a heavy week of classes and meetings. At the end of the semester, it seems like every couple of hours adds yet another thing to the old to-do list, far faster than I can get things crossed off.

Ahhh, the good old days. That is all.

March 28, 2005

Taming my sidebar

Let it never be said that I can't be shamed into spending precious hours tweaking the code for my site. In addition to finally committing myself to a set of categories and adding them to the sidebar, I've added a toggle feature for several of those sidebar elements, so that I can make my page a little more manageable.

And over the next week or two, I'll probably add back some of the features I've dropped -- the media I'm currently consuming, a second blogroll for sites as opposed to people, etc. Now if I could just develop a toggle feature on my to-do lists, one that would make large sections of said lists disappear...

March 25, 2005


Imagine, for a moment, that there is a net meme circulating. And as part of its replicatory power, the final question of this net meme is "Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?" Now, you have been named as one of the three people. The person listed before you is named "because his response will be funny." The person after you? Well, she's named "because she has excellent taste." And you? What's your justification for passing it along?

"for no particular reason"

No particular reason?!?! That's not exactly screaming with inspiration. Setting aside for the moment that you have just suffered the indignity of being deemed neither funny nor possessed of good taste, how can you not feel an overwhelming sense of betrayal? After all, while you hadn't planned on campaigning and running for CCCC Chair for a few years yet, you'd already started collecting your campaign materials. And there must be a mole, a spy in your camp--how else would this person hailing you know that you'd just received an order of 10,000 bumper stickers with that very slogan on them?

I mean, it can't be coincidence, right? And now your chief of staff is scrambling around, trying to decide between one of two strategies: either you're going to simply have to run for some office entirely unrelated to your discipline, or you're going to have to find a new slogan, one that makes you a stone-cold lock for election, one so inspiring that it will set the tone for campaigns in decades to come. But rather than keeping it top secret, and running the risk once more of having it divulged before its time, perhaps you should just generate it publicly, and hope that the voting public internalizes it to such a degree that when they read your name on the ballot, they can't help but fill in the slogan. And so...

  • Collin Brooke, he's taller than average
  • Collin Brooke, his (last) name starts with B
  • Collin Brooke, he's never been to Belarus
  • Collin Brooke, what choice have you got?
  • Collin Brooke, because 2 L's are better than none
  • Collin Brooke, his pen is writier than the sword
  • Collin Brooke, aka Coconut Decaf Jesus
  • Collin Brooke, get him off your back
  • Collin Brooke, he's bigger than a breadbox
  • Collin Brooke, master of the semi-colon


March 24, 2005

DeLuca visit

The CRS and CCR programs here at Syracuse hosted a talk on Wednesday by Kevin DeLuca, and I've been meaning to throw my notes up here before I get too far away from it to do any good. Kevin's at the University of Georgia, and is the author of Image Politics: The New Rhetoric of Environmental Activism. Given that visual rhetoric is one of those things that I try to keep abreast of, I was pretty interested to hear what he had to say.

His talk was pitched at the level of an overview, which was cool by me. There were a number of undergrads in the audience, and I thought he did a nice job of meeting the citational expectations of the faculty while making it accessible to the whole audience. He began with an overview of the various ways that rhetoric has approached images:

  1. Not at all.
  2. Reading them as texts and denying the qualities that aren't textualizable.
  3. Domesticating them through the same vocabulary and frameworks that we use to write about textual rhetorics.
  4. Taking images seriously as images.

Obviously, he was more interested in the last of these options, and he cited Cara Finnegan and Robert Hariman & John Lucaites as some of the scholars doing this kind of work. He was particularly interested in work that examined how images appear in context, that offered close readings of various images, and work that didn't simply study "serious" or "aesthetic" images. A key distinction, repeated throughout, was that it was important to focus on what an image does, not just what it means.

Some of the issues that may be keeping us from this kind of work are an overreliance on context as a knowable factor. Our tendency, he argued, is to reduce the complexity of context into something that we can grasp, and this tendency can turn contexts into fiction. He was also critical of the kind of iconophobia that still persists today, particularly in academia, as typified by Sontag's now-classic critique of photography. Finally, he was a little critical of the work of Finnegan and H&L, for offering what he described as transcendent concepts, critical terminology that erases the singularity of the images under consideration.

His answer to these issues is twofold. First, he believes that the shift to focusing on what images do rather than what they mean is crucial. And second, he called for a new mode of criticism, one that was more appropriate to an image-saturated society. This latter is a little difficult to pin down, but Kevin offered several pairs of binaries that captured what he was after:

  • from gaze to glance
  • from public sphere to public screens
  • from a focus on originals to the possibilities of reiteration
  • from attention to distraction

This notion, of an image-based criticism, was pretty provocative, and he cited Barthes, Benjamin, D&G, and others throughout. His close, though, ended up turning in a different direction. He did finally make the turn towards creating images as an important critical practice, and he shared his experiences with the Warbus.

Part of this may have been the audience, so I'll be gentle. For me, there was a real disjunct between the theoretical tenor of the first part of this talk and the emphasis on advocacy in the conclusion. For example, Kevin was somewhat critical of H&L's concept of iconicity (images that are widely recognized, historically significant, reproduced broadly across multiple media, and that evoke strong emotion), and yet, it's hard not to see the images on the warbus as selected and presented precisely for their iconicity.

My other qualm was that Barthes' Camera Lucida was being used in an unusual way. Kevin never mentioned the term punctum and yet constantly referred to the excess, the ex-stasis of the photograph. For my part, I take Barthes' punctum to be singular and personal, and this makes that quality exceptionally unsuitable for public advocacy. In some ways, the punctum is the polar opposite of iconicity, and while this made sense in terms of the theoretical vector of the talk, it falls short in the application, and far shorter, I would think, than a text like Debord's Society of the Spectacle might. The one example of a punctum-based reading is Finnegan's claim that the "migrant mother" Depression-era photos "oozed sexuality," and Kevin was pretty flip in dismissing that reading, while I would have argued that F's response is exactly what RB is after in Camera.

Hey, but that's my take. Both pieces of the talk were clear and engaging, but I left really feeling the tension between them. My guess is that Kevin would have dealt with that in more detail for a more strictly academic audience. As it was, he made me think during the talk, and for a couple of days now afterwards. I can't ask for much more.

The Long Awaited Sequel...

This is my gripe, apropos of nothing I've been blogging about for the last week or so. I paid a visit to Borders tonight, and on three separate occasions, I found a book that looked interesting to me, only to discover that it was either a sequel or the second book in a series, and in none of the cases had Borders stocked the first book.

It is no coincidence that I bought none of these books.

Ahh, you say, but you could have just bought the book, and come home, and ordered the first one of the series through Amazon. Well, yes. But why wouldn't I just go ahead and order both of them, since I likely wouldn't want to read #2 until after #1. If I have to wait for the mail, I might as well just wait for both.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. This may happen more often to me than others, I suppose, since usually I don't pay attention to an author (and I'm talking sci-fi here) until they've got a couple of books out. But still. If I have my wallet with me, and I'm in a bookstore, I'm a sale waiting to happen. By stocking only sequels, they're not only losing the sale on that book, but they're losing a chance to sell the first one as well. If you're going to place a product whose consumption requires another product, why in the world wouldn't you stock them both?

That is all.

March 23, 2005

A final CCCC post, complete with podcast

Looking back on my CCCC experience this year, I can say two things with some certainty. One is that I think that we should have included the word blog in our panel title, since we ended up talking more about blogs as a site of creative computer literacy or network literacy than anything else. Two is that, if I choose to continue going scriptless, I'm either going to have to (a) learn to live with a certain level of incoherence, or (b) prepare my presentation even more than I did already. I'm not going to swear off reading, because I think I write a pretty snappy script--it's usually the delivery that I have to work on.

Anyways, for those of you who weren't able to "here" our presentation, you can now hear it, recorded in all its glory. You can hear me forget to click a couple of slides, then catch my slides up while I lose my train of thought in the process. That was a real gem. For my part, it went okay, but I felt like the threads of my talks were a little more loosely woven than I would have preferred. Ah well.

And yes, I am thinking about going into GarageBand, and futzing around a bit with my portions of the talk. Without further adieu, I present session D.24: The Aftermath of Access: From Critical to Creative Computer Literacies. Speaker 1 & 3 is Jenny Bay; speaker 2 & 4 is me. The whole session runs about 40 MB, so I've broken it into four pieces: Jenny, Collin, Jenny, and Collin.


Update: Clancy just posted her account of our session...

S.F. Conferential

Jenny has already mentioned this, but it's worth saying twice: the set-up for the conference was abysmal.


This year, many many panels were held in spaces on the edges of the big open exhibit room, separated from the exhibit space by curtains. In many of the largest rooms, the back walls were not walls, but curtains. On at least one occasion, I left a panel because I couldn't hear my own session over the sounds of another.


And this was the second year in a row where the conference was scattered socially. There was no central social space for people to hang out in, meet up with each other, or encounter each other serendipitously. On Friday, they set up tables in the upper level (for the party that night), and people flocked to them. Loud and clear, once and for all:

We would like a place where we can sit down.

I'm not talking about three tables near the coffee kiosk. Genuine social space, please. Please. Half of the fun is running into old friends, making spur of the moment plans, all the while having an anchor space where we can go with some assurance that we'll see someone we know. Two years in a row now that hasn't happened. And as a result, it feels disjointed, jumbled, and I feel like I missed seeing some people I wanted to see.

As expensive as I know it will be, I'm honestly longing for the old Palmer House. Sweet home Chicago.

That is all.

March 22, 2005

My Friday panels

One of the disadvantages of getting noticed is that, with the solidification of blogging as a Topic™, I found myself duplicating the experiences of other CCCC bloggers. In other words, I went to the Wednesday night session (A.15: Public, Private, Political: Social Theories and Blogging Practices) that Mike has summarized in far more detail than I could provide. And I went to the first half of B.26: Evaluating Academic Weblogs, mainly to see Derek present before I left to work on my presentation. And Mike and Clancy both have blogged that session. Since my own session was largely a haze (more on it soon), I thought I'd offer some quick thoughts on the two sessions I hit on Friday--I haven't looked around too much, but I don't think anyone's blogged them yet.

Thanks to the miracle of the Kensington wake-up system (the phone in the bathroom rings very loudly and the one by my bed was somehow not able to switch to the line where the wake-up calls came from), I was able to scrape out of bed early, and head to the Moscone for an 8am session. Despite my utter exhaustion, I didn't oversleep once.

Anyhow, I went to G.23: Rapping Down the Gate: Black Women and Hip-Hop. Two of my colleagues from Syracuse were part of the panel, and I'd met the third member of the panel last spring. Gwen Pough led off by talking about how third-wave black feminists might work to reconcile their own beliefs and attitudes with those found in the broader cultural movement of hip-hop, a movement that includes its own varieties of feminisms. My notes are sketchy, but one of the things that I remember most clearly about Gwen's talk was her insistence that we not fall into simple binaries, assuming that we can just pick and choose from a cultural movement the "good" things and critique the "bad." Elisa Norris focused more exclusively on pedagogy, and specifically attempts to draw on the resources of hip-hop in a writing classroom. One of the core moments of her presentation was an explication of a "unit" of paired readings, where through judicious footnoting, the editors clearly attempted to simplify hip-hop into good/bad and failed to question the entrenched racism of some of their so-called "explanations" of hip-hop terminology. Elisa also, I think, spoke to the rich complexity of hip-hop as a culture, a culture with a history, with varied forms of expression, and with contradictions (as there are in any culture). Elaine Richardson closed the panel by looking closely at what she called "lived experience as semantic domains." I didn't jot down the name of the novel, but she read to us a passage from a novel that highlighted the material dimensions of hip-hop as they penetrate into the everyday--hair, nails, clothes, shoes, et al. And in some ways, Elaine's paper functioned almost as an allegory for the panel itself in the sense that all three speakers brought together the often separated worlds of academia and hip-hop. In all, it was a really good panel, one that raised questions that can't really be answered in a conference session (if at all), and yet, at the same time, it felt like each speaker gave us some of the perspectives and conceptual tools to think about those questions.

And as a reward for waking up while it was still dark, I went to the MOMA. Nice.

Went back to the Moscone, and caught a 2:00 session, K.25: Researching Rhetorically: Conceptualizing and Teaching Research. I must admit, though, that the title was a little misleading. I'm the last person to push for "Monday morning" panels, but what the title didn't reveal was that the panelists were reporting on the data they'd collected about how research methodologies are taught in our field. The first and third speakers (both Carole Papper, as Becky Rickly couldn't be there) were basically Power Point driven--the data presentation in the first case, and executive summary in the third. Sandwiched between them was Clay Spinuzzi's talk, on viewing research methods as networks rather than nested category systems (paradigm -> methodology -> method -> technique). Clay argued for a much more non-hierarchical approach to crafting research, one that paid attention to rhetorical rigor rather than adhering closely to "methodological rigor." I won't repeat all of Carol's recommendations here (although I actually have pretty good notes for it--one of the benefits of PP), but I do have a couple of meta sorts of observations. Overall, I agreed with what she had to say--I still believe that we are not very good at teaching method in our field. And yet, much of the evidence that this survey seems to have marshalled doesn't actually ground the claims that they made. And the problem is that the relative absence of methodology courses isn't itself evidence for more. The shoddy quality of research in our field, on the other hand, is. But that requires us to call each other out--and I don't know who wants to do that. A few years back, I gave a paper on how problematic it was to use data gleaned from the CCCC program to make claims about the field--not that I expect anyone to have heard it, and yet, the paucity of panels in the Research Area Cluster was taken as evidence of our field's neglect of the topic. I'm probably sounding more snarky here than I mean to. But the proof of research methodology comes not from surveys, anecdotes, attitudes, or curricula. It comes in the actual research we do and the scholarship we publish it in. For all I know, that's a step that this group will take. And for all I know, they'll hold me up as someone who's not very good at research. All I know is that the difference will be found in our scholarship, and ultimately that's where the evidence for these claims has to come from.

And again, I say that as someone who agrees wholeheartedly with the claims this panel made--heck, I made some of them myself here a ways back. The one thing I disagreed with was the underlying scorn behind the claim that we were still "clinging" to methods inherited from literary study. I'd still like to see textual analysis recognized for the rigorous and at times difficult method that it can be. And it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if, one day, some course on methodology used D&G's What is Philosophy?

Went to the Bloggers SIG Friday night, and left at 5 am Saturday morning. But those were the other sessions I went to on Friday...

March 21, 2005


On Friday, after going to see an 8 am panel, my friend Lorie and I went to the SF MOMA, where I saw the 2004 Exhibition of SECA award winners. One in particular caught my eye, a guy named Simon Evans. His work is a funky combination of a Dave Eggers sensibility and perhaps an aesthetic close to New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, with a dash of Borges' Chinese encyclopedia thrown in:

Hard to read, I know, but I haven't found too many good reproductions, and his work is new enough that I couldn't find prints. There are a couple of good pages of his work at the gallery where he's currently showing. His work was the highlight of my MOMA trip this time out. While I appreciated a lot of the other work, Evans clicked for me.

You remember Borges' encyclopedia, right? Foucault cites it in The Order of Things. In "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins," Borges describes 'a certain Chinese Encyclopedia,' the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, that divides animals into the following categories:

those that belong to the Emperor,
embalmed ones,
those that are trained,
suckling pigs,
fabulous ones,
stray dogs,
those included in the present classification,
those that tremble as if they were mad,
innumerable ones,
those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
those that have just broken a flower vase, and
those that from a long way off look like flies.

For those of us unfortunate enough not to have a Celestial Emporium handy, I offer to you the new and improved Call for Proposals for next year's CCCC. Once upon a time, back in the day, we simply chose an "area cluster," one of 11 areas which would determine where (and by whom) our proposals would be considered.

Then they added the "level emphasis" which designates 2-year college, 4-year college, or cross-insitutional. Insofar as CCCC attempts to encourage participation from faculty at 2-year institutions, this seems okay to me.

Last year, they added the "interest emphasis," which named race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, and disability as interests from which we were to choose one. This year, there were supposedly 209 panels with an interest emphasis of race/ethnicity, a fact which (I'm sure) had nothing to do with the explicit mention of race/ethnicity in the call for proposals.

This year, another category, "major focus," appears on the proposal form, which allows us, if applicable, to check basic writing, two-year college, first year composition, WAC/WID, feminist studies, or cultural studies.


In advance of the 2007 Call for Proposals, I'd like to suggest that, in addition to area cluster, level emphasis, interest emphasis, and major focus, another category be added called Evidentiary Inclinations, from which proposers can, if applicable, select one of the following: careful observation, dictionary definitions, thinkers whose last names begin with vowels, elegies, and, as a nod to Borges, those included in the present classification.

After all, it couldn't get much worse.

Perhaps CCCC is indeed trying to do something with this data. What they are currently accomplishing, however, is exactly the opposite. By proliferating these categories on the call itself (instead of asking for, say, 5 minutes of our time when our proposals are accepted), they are influencing the proposal process itself, in a bad way. Last year, it was pretty obvious that people felt that naming race/ethnicity as their emphasis gave them a better chance of acceptance, and unfortunately, the numbers bore that out. We don't need a more complicated formula for determining acceptance rates, and if the data isn't being used that way, then there needs to be some type of explanation on the form itself of how exactly it's being used.

And it needs to be a helluva lot more nuanced than "check one." Panels are comprised of multiple papers--is an emphasis in one paper enough to qualify the whole panel? If so, then my panel was "about" gender this time out. Which "major focus" is appropriate for a paper on using WAC strategies to help basic writers enter FYC classes sooner? And so on and so on.

I realize that CCCC is us, and I realize that I run the risk of hurting some feelings when I say this, but this trend, towards increasingly arbitrary and unclear categories, is downright stupid. If we want actual data about the conference and the presentations, then make a brief survey part of the process by which we accept our invitations. And design it better than a bunch of "check one if applicable" lines that don't come anywhere close to actually naming the range of areas covered in CCCC presentations. The implication right now is that these are "favored topics," and if they're not, it needs to say so. If they are, then it may be time for me to spend my March next year doing something else. Because my work doesn't fit comfortably (or even roughly) into any one of them.

Oh, and if we hurry, we might be able to book Simon Evans to do the cover for the 2007 program.

That is all.

March 19, 2005

Home already?

Yes, it's true.

I'm back in Syracuse after spending the majority of my break in semi sunny San Francisco. Got off the plane a couple of hours ago, and am psyching up for the longest uninterrupted sleep I've had in a few months now.

Tomorrow, look for some post-dated CCCC observations, and in the meantime, safe travels to all of those who stuck around in SF today to close the conference...

March 15, 2005

CCCC: 8 kinds of stupid

I'm going to be throwing down some pre-dated entries here, mostly so's I can keep them relatively organized. Before I get to a few session notes, though, let me just provide the year-from-now-me with a little reminder:

Don't ever do that again!!!

Clever me, I thought that it would be nice to get into SF with a chance to do a little exploring on Tuesday. And so I went ahead and booked a flight that left Syracuse at 6:15 a.m. And since I'd probably need to get to the airport a little before 5, I should leave the apt at around 4:30, necessitating a wake-up at 3:30. So far so "good."

Compound my clever with the fact that I'm not really much of a morning person, and I decided that it was better to just stay up all night than to try and sleep a little and risk oversleeping (it's happened before). Since I wasn't really able to sleep on the plane (despite my foolish assumption that I would), I got to SF having been awake for roughly 27 hours straight. In other words, I got into SF with a chance to take a nap. Which I did. But it was a short one, and the end result was that at no time did I ever feel anything but bone-crushingly, mind-numbingly, personality-transformingly exhausted.

I never get enough sleep at CCCC. Rather than take this into account, I somehow talked myself into going there with a guaranteed sleep deficit, an energy hole that I only was able to dig deeper and deeper over the course of the next 4 days.

Yeah. That's smart.

A Final, Carnivalous Update

I want to thank everyone who commented, posted, tracked back, etc. in our discussion of The Rhetoric of Rhetoric. The post is going to be sliding down my slippery blogslope soon, and when it does, I'll add a link to it in my sidebar.

Lessons learned? It'd probably be useful to allow for a little more lag time between the announcement and the discussion itself. Several people missed the heart of the discussion because books were late in arriving. And if we weren't bumping up against CCCC and all the preparation that it entails, the tail end of the discussion would probably have been a little more lively.

In all, I was pretty happy with how this went. Anyone want to volunteer to host the next one? Chances are that we'll get to see some new books at CCCC, so maybe there'll be something there that peaks my/our/your interest.

March 14, 2005

Let the carnival commence

This entry is meant to serve a couple of purposes. First, below, I offer a quick chapter summary of Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Rhetoric. Presumably, when any of us engages his ideas specifically and closely, we'll provide citations, pull quotes, etc., but for those readers who are looking for the basic sweep of the book's argument, here it is.

Second, this entry provides a hub for the discussion. Please point your trackbacks at


or add links to your pages in the comments. Obviously, we'll be linking to each other as we build on and respond to each other's ideas, but ideally, this entry will collect it all. For convenience's sake, I'll leave this entry sitting at the top of my blog for a couplefew weeks. Any questions? I refer you finally to the house rules. And we're off...

Update: John has set up a hub over at jocalo for his own posts.
Update: Byron has responded to each of the eight chapters, and provides a hub of his own.
Timing Update: I've reset the date on this entry to π day (3.14), after which I'll be blogging from San Francisco at the CCCC.

Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication (Blackwell Books, 2004).

Booth offers a chapter summary in his Preface, but rather than simply replicate that here, I'll go chapter-by-chapter myself, and try to include as much in the way of keywords as I can. Also when I have the time, I'll try and work in links to specific entries as they show up here. Two quick prefatory notes. Booth defines rhetoric as "the entire range of resources that human beings share for producing effects on one another" (xi). And the claim that "unites" this book is that "the quality of our lives, especially the ethical and communal quality, depends to an astonishing degree on the quality of our rhetoric" (xii).

Part I: Rhetoric's Status: Up, Down, and -- Up?

Chapter 1: How Many "Rhetorics"?

The chapter opens with a survey of competing definitions of rhetoric and while Booth asserts that a certain amount of ambiguity is inescapable (9), he offers some additional distinctions. In addition to the rhetor/rhetorician distinction, he coins several terms: listening-rhetoric (LR), rhetrickery, rhetorology, and rhetorologist.

The chapter moves on to consider rhetoric's constitutive force. Booth outlines three "Realities": permanent truth, realities changed but not created by rhetoric, and finally, "contingent realities about our lives," which he subdivides further into Aristotle's deliberative, forensic, and epideictic. Finally, he coins "rhetorical domain" as a term that allows us to track the differences in rhetoric from one context to another. What is successful rhetoric in one domain may be completely inappropriate for another.

"The thesis of this book might thus be reduced to: Let us all attempt to enlarge the 'domain' of those who work to avoid misunderstanding" (21).

Chapter 2: A Condensed History of Rhetorical Studies

This chapter begins from the recent resurgence of interest in rhetoric, and then looks back at its "fall" as a central feature of education. Booth lists several factors, some of which he sees as causes for that fall, and some of which he is more cautious about defining that way: scientism, secularist humanism, reductionism, logicism, individualism, and historical determinism. A secondary list includes aestheticism, psychologism, economic determinism, the pedantic reduction of rhetoric to terminology, and possibly even democracy. The chapter closes with optimism for the continued "flowering" of rhetoric.

Chapter 3: Judging Rhetoric

Chapter 3 opens with a consideration of ethics, which underlies Booth's definition of rhetoric. or rather his definition of good rhetoric. Skillful rhetoric can be deployed in any direction, but defensible rhetoric strives for the kind of listening that Booth advocates (43). Much of the chapter is taken up with laying out an ethical spectrum of different types of rhetoric:

  • Win-Rhetoric (WR), subdivided into honest (WR-a); a justified, "by any means necessary" approach (WR-b); and mercenary rhetrickery (WR-c) (43-45)
  • Bargain-Rhetoric (BR), subdivided into dialogic (BR-a), compromise (BR-b), and incompetence (BR-c) (45-46)
  • Listening-Rhetoric (LR) is obviously privileged, and aims to "pursue the truth behind our differences" (46). It is divided into hope for dialogue (LR-a), dialogue despite the beliefs of the interlocutor (LR-b), listening as a strategy in WR (LR-c), self-censorship (LR-d), and dogmatic listening (LR-e).

The rest of the chapter attempts to trace out the difference between listening and thereby accommodating one's rhetoric on one hand, and simple spin or preaching to the choir on the other.

All good rhetoric depends on the rhetor's listening to and thinking about the character and welfare of the audience, and moderating what is said to meet what has been heard. To repeat again: the good rhetor answers the audience's questions before they're asked (54).

Chapter 4: Some Major Rescuers

Chapter 4 offers a quick overview of those thinkers, both disciplinary and extra-disciplinary, whom Booth sees as having rescued rhetoric, including Michael Polanyi, Susanne Langer, J. L. Austin, Charles Sanders Pierce, William James, John Dewey, I. A. Richards, Deirdre McCloskey, Steve Covey, Chaim Perelman, Lucie Albrechts-Tyteca, Kenneth Burke, Jacques Derrida, Richard McKeon, and Pierce Bayle. The chapter closes with a long list of other rescuers whose work goes uncovered in the chapter.

Part II: The Need for Rhetorical Studies Today
Part III: Reducing Rhetorical Warfare

Forthcoming soon

Heavy metal umlaut

{via Will]

Jon Udell has an 8.5 minute screencast that looks at "how pages evolve on Wikipedia." The page he uses? The page on the "heavy metal umlaut." As Will notes, it's a chance "to understand the inner workings of the collaborative construction of content revolution that we are watching."

Jon talks about the challenge of representing typographically the parodic Spinal Tap "n-umlaut," the speed with which vandalism is erased, and the development of a table of contents once the article itself becomes less manageable as a single document. He also talks about the "collective editorial sensibility" as it guides the development of the page from a single sentence to a full-blown, detailed entry.

A fascinating look at a medium and a site that too many "professionals" are dismissing far too quickly.

Tomorrow morning I leave for SF. So what am I doing blogging?

That is all.

March 13, 2005


For all you budding bracketologistas out there, some of my personal rules of thumb when it comes to the NCAA Tournament:

Rule #1: Love your #10 seeds

Makes it easy for me. Iowa is the #10 in the Austin quadrant. But keep an eye on NC State, Creighton, and St. Mary's. 10 seeds are often either the best of the mid-majors, or middle of the pack sleepers from the major conferences. This year, there are two of each. Can you guess who I'll be picking? Iowa beat Texas, Texas Tech, Louisville, and Michigan State on neutral floors this year, and they took Illinois to overtime, and played the Illini tougher than any team but Ohio State. They lost their top scorer (Pierce) mid-season, but have had plenty of time to learn to play without him. They've got a couple of good shooters, a workhorse power forward, and a young center, all of whom can play.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: for the past 9 years in a row (9 years!), at least one #10 has made it to the Sweet 16. Last year, it was Nevada.

Rule #2: Keep your eye on the #12 seeds.

Since the field expanded to 64 (65), there have only been two years where a #12 seed did not upset a #5 seed.

Last year, it was Providence losing to Pacific, and Florida losing to Manhattan. This year's crop of #12's includes Wisconsin-Milwaukee, George Washington, Old Dominion, and New Mexico, facing Alabama, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and Villanova respectively. Much as it pains me to say--because I think 'Nova's a Sweet 16 team--I think Georgia Tech is the only lock of the bunch. UWM, ODU, and UNM are all coming off tournament wins in their home conferences, and all 4 of these teams come from the "major" mid-major conferences, ones with a good history of upsets.

Rule #3: Watch for end of season trends

Last year, Xavier upset undefeated St. Joe's in the A-10 tourney, and then ripped through the tournament. As a #7 seed, they beat Louisville (#10), MississipI St. (#2), Texas (#3), and lost to #1 seed Duke by 3 points. They were 3 points away from the Final 4 last year.

Georgia Tech is low as a #5 (thanks to mid-season injuries) and Louisville is low as a #4 (thanks to ???? on the part of the selection committee)--either of those teams could easily go to St. Louis out of that region. But they meet in Round 2--that's a game that could make or break a bracket.

Syracuse played better defense in the Big East tournament than they've played all season, which is why they've trended up in the seedings. If they play Duke in Austin, that's another game that could make that entire bracket. Either team could beat Kentucky or Oklahoma.

Kansas lost 5 of their last 8, and somehow still managed to get consideration as a top seed, which is bizarre to me, I'll have to admit. With a #3 seed, I'm sorely tempted to pick Wisconsin as a #6 against them, but if I don't, I can't imagine that they'd get through Connecticut.

Rule #4: At least one thing that appears OBVIOUS to me will prove to be entirely incorrect.

Last year, I thought Providence was ripe for a 3 or 4-round tear. Silly me.

This year, the Chicago regional looks like an absolute breeze for Illinois and Oklahoma State. That probably means at least one of them will lose.

Let the bracketologisticalitizing begin. That is all.

March 11, 2005


I don't have a lot to say about this, but yesterday, I took a walk across campus to the SU Law School where, at the invitation of Wendy Scott, I took part in a workshop for some of the Law Faculty introducing them to blogging.

I spoke a little bit about making the decision to use blogs in a course, and then I showed them how I'm using Bloglines and del.icio.us in my course. And I answered questions. We were pressed a bit for time, so I didn't say as much as I could have, but I have to admit that it was nice to do a little blogvangelism--I was originally scheduled to do a university-wide workshop at the end of the month, but it looks like that'll be postponed until next semester...

March 9, 2005

Off the script

As time Marches along, and the CCCC gets closer, it's been a little surprising to me that I haven't heard more of our annual refrain: reading papers is so boring. Usually it's followed with a verse about the irony of academics (whose job it is to study and practice rhetoric in the case of CCCC) being so very bad at the very thing they study. Verily. Donna tips us over to Sean Carroll's Preposterous Universe where, among other things, you'll discover

Here's a simple way that academia could be greatly improved: humanities professors should stop reading their papers out loud, and start talking from notes like normal people. I will never understand why they do this in the first place. There is no reason why humanists, trained in the arts of rhetoric and communication, should be even worse at giving talks than scientists are.

I hadn't originally planned on responding to this, nor to some of the gems buried among the comments:

I think the reading-out-loud method is just objectively worse than extemporizing from notes.

but then I came across Scott McLemee's latest IHE column, about the dying art of the lecture. McLemee closes the column with an extended story about one of his professors at UT who was an engrossing lecturer, and while it's possible, I suppose, to blast the lecture as authoritarian, obsolete, blah blah blah, sage stage guide side, etc., I want to take a different tack here.

First, about understanding "why they do this in the first place." I was trained (and this was 15 years ago now) to believe that discussion was superior to lecture as a mode of instruction, and there were all sorts of arguments (about the social construction of knowledge, the empowerment of students, etc.) to support this move.

There is also the fact that teaching a writing class is substantially different from, say, a class in many other disciplines. There is no body of knowledge to impart. Writing is a practice that improves with writing and that depends so heavily on context that lectures are wildly out of place. When the decision was made on campuses across this country to make writing an official course, it was a category error. The traditional classroom is really not a very good space for learning to write, but insofar as that's what we've got, moving away from the lecture is one of the strategies we've used to make it marginally better.

Also, I taught my first class when I was 20. 20. I could. not. lecture. And this is where McLemee's essay comes in. The successful lecture is, in some ways, no different than the successful novel, play, or poem. It takes a lot of work, skill, and talent. The move in this country to deprofessionalize the academy and the turn towards non-tenureable, contingent faculty (including 20 year old grad students) makes it less likely that a given instructor will possess the confidence or experience to be able to lecture well.

Finally, follow the money. What are we rewarded for in our field? Publication. Writing. Not speaking. There's not a big market for 8-page papers, but double its length and send it out--that's what we tell our graduate students. We write seminar papers, comprehensive examinations, dissertations, journal articles, book chapters, and book manuscripts. At no point in our careers do we ever experience any sort of (a) training in how to speak well, (b) incentives for doing so, or (c) incentives against not doing so.

Now, having said all of that, I hate reading. But I experience tremendous stage fright, far more often and of far more intensity than anyone who's not me realizes. When I give a "talk," I'm scared to death. And so the presence of a script, something I can anchor myself to, is something of a relief. I like to think that I'm pretty good at writing in such a fashion that, when I read, it's not mind-numbing or sleep-inducing. I do asides sometimes, and I write for "talks" in short declarative sentences, signposting frequently and avoiding long quotes or excessive jargon. I like to think that I'm a pretty decent reader/talker, and I've heard from a lot of people that this is the case. And some of them weren't actually friends trying to make me feel better. Heh.

Having said that, though, this fall, when I went to that conference in NC, I didn't script my talk. It was more of an interactive session than a talk, and I did prep some slides to keep me organized, but no script. And somehow, I didn't die, not of fright nor of collision with hurled fruit.

And so, at CCCC this year, my plan is to speak from notes. Not read. And I'll still be nervous as all get out. And my hope is that my talk will be entertaining in the right way. But I'm "comfortable" doing this partly because I'm confident in my subject matter, and perhaps more confident in myself. We'll see.

Leaving aside the word "objectively," I guess I'd agree with Carroll to the degree that the upsides for giving an actual talk (that it can be as engrossing and energetic as the lectures that McLemee remembers) are indeed greater than the upsides for most papers that are read out loud. But they can both be done really poorly. Really. Enough so that I wouldn't say that one is necessarily better than the other, except maybe in the abstract.

Regardless of which option a body chooses, there's little question in my mind that the majority of "talks" I'll see in San Francisco will be underprepared, underpracticed, or both. And to my mind, that's more important than talking vs. reading...and why I've been working on my talk this week pretty steadily.

That is all. Get to work.

Addendum: Apropos of Mike's comments below, I found the following over at In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood:

I've heard others say that the Army makes equivalent efforts at molding how its officers perform in front of a classroom -- the press briefings we see from Generals in Iraq suggest these efforts pay off; I would bet an Army officer's presentation skills are better evaluated in his promotion process than any professor's.

In this area, as in others like conflict of interest rules on nepotism or office love-affairs, it seems to me that private industry, and even the military, are far ahead of the academic world, even in an area, teaching, where we ought to expect the academic world to have something to tell the rest of us. Apparently it doesn't. And a big reason, in my opinion, is that the academic world is intent on avoiding merit-based hiring and promotion to any extent it can get away with.

I'd say: right diagnosis, wrong conclusions. I realize that I'm blurring the boundaries here between teaching and speaking, but John Bruce doesn't quite have it right. Academic hiring is extremely merit-based in its hiring and promotion, if and only if you define merit in terms almost exclusively focused on research. And despite a national trend towards an emphasis on teaching (often melded with crappy "customer service" styled rhetoric), the fact of the matter is still that having a book and mediocre speaking/teaching skills will get you tenure while being a great speaker/teacher who's not published will get you gone.

I'm not talking about my institution here--I'm talking about the entire profession. And it will take a tectonic shift for it to be otherwise. Me, I just want to give an actual talk...

March 8, 2005

The magic #12

Championship Week on ESPN is actually two weeks or so, and we're smack dab in the middle of the best part of it. All of the smaller conferences have their championships right now, and for most of these teams, as the cliché goes, this is their national championship.

So props to the boys down at my old neck of the woods. Tonight, Old Dominion won the Colonial Athletic Association championship and secured a bid to the Tournament. For those of you who are looking for those possible upsets, look no further, especially if ODU manages to get a 12 seed (5 seeds have a lower winning percentage by about 10 points than 6 seeds, since the field moved to 64). Consider:

  • They have the CAA player of the year, Alex Loughton, a power forward who's a 20-10 threat every night
  • They have the CAA leader in assist-turnover ratio, and led the CAA in turnover margin
  • Over the past ten years, the CAA rep in the Tournament has more wins than double-digit losses

Last year, Wake Forest beat VCU (ODU's opponent tonight) by one point in the first round. So, if ODU gets an 11, 12, or 13, and goes up against a team that coasted in, they might not be a bad upset special. They've got a good inside game, and play a 3-guard offense that places ball control at a premium. And they're only graduating one player, which means that next year at this time, I'll be telling you about them again most likely, only I'll be able to say how everyone on the team has tournament experience....

That is all.

March 7, 2005

Stop me if you've heard this one before

Technically, I suppose, that means that you should have stopped reading with the title. I wasn't watching 24 that closely tonight, but much to my dismay, I did get a chance to see a promo for a new comedy erring airing on FOX in April.

And it sounds like the kind of utter dross that you'd hear at 2 am coming out of the mouths of a couple of drunk guys in a bar. Hey! You know what would be a cool show? We could do a comedy starring Pamela Anderson, and it'd be called "Stacked," cuz it'd take place in a bookstore! Get it? Stacks of books? Get it? That'd be soooooo cool!

Umm, yeah. Not so much. Honestly, is that all you got? And advertising it during 24? How bout you keep that weak shit to yourself?

That is all.

March 5, 2005

Visiting Days

There's not been a lot of blogging round these parts recently, in large part because we're right at the peak of activity for our graduate admissions cycle.

As part of that cycle, each year, we bring in several of our top applicants for a two-day event that we call Visiting Days. The program pays to fly them in, current graduate students volunteer to host the visitors, and we either cater or pay for meals. It gives these applicants a chance to meet the faculty and students that we will potentially join, and it gives us more information about each of them as we make our final decisions about funding.

I can say this without sounding immodest, because it wasn't my idea to start with: I think that this is an exceptionally ethical practice, and one that I'm proud to be a part of. I had hoped for better weather this week (it snowed every single day, I think), but other than that, we gave our top candidates a chance to ask a lot of questions, to learn what they'd be getting into if they came here, and to meet the people with whom they would conceivably spend the next 4-5 years of their life. Visiting Days takes a lot of the guesswork out of coming here, and we're able to do it in a way such that the students themselves incur none of the costs. We book the flights, arrange the stays, and pay for the meals.

(By the way, this is a constant source of amazement to me, that universities ever ask students to bear the cost of recruiting trips, particularly when that student is applying for a job. I refuse to believe that universities with budgets in the millions of millions need to force graduate students to bear the costs of such trips. If I were in the position to do so, I would blacklist schools that continue to require graduate student applicants to purchase their own plane tickets, and then reimburse them after they've incurred interest. Unacceptable.)

So anyway, Visiting Days was Thursday and Friday, and by all accounts, it was a success. A nice combination of formal and informal conversations, and as much access in both directions as we could manage.

Next year, though, I'm going to try to get more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night during the week leading up to Visiting Days.

That is all.

March 1, 2005


Courtesy of the Rasterbator, the internal windows in the graduate office are now a little less drab.

8 points

8 points

Amy would kick my ass if I didn't include a shot of the scrabble tiles she gave me at her defense last August. Thanks to some sticky mounting squares, they now rest securely above my secret Bat-exit...

Collin's big wall of books

Collin's big wall of books

I've been threatening for days to snap a picture of my shelves and blog it, but yesterday, I finally cleared out enough of the crap in my office to feel comfortable doing it. And the best thing? The shelves are thick, have rounded edges (no open head wounds!), and fresh cut, which means that my office smells like pine.

Very nice.

Alert ETS

I am no friend of standardized testing, although, ironically enough, it's been a pretty good friend to me. Nevertheless, I believe that I have found a test that I can support wholeheartedly. I present to you the Reading-Too-Much-Into-Things Comprehension exam, courtesy of the fine folk at McSweeneys.