Edbauer – Unframing models of public distribution: From rhetorical situation to rhetorical ecologies

Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 35.4 (2005): 5-24. Print.

In this article, Jenny Edbauer further expanded the theory of rhetorical situation by urging readers to rethink notions of public and location that had been thought of as static and fixed. She situated her own assertion that rhetorical scholars and pedagogues might benefit from using the framework of a rhetorical ecology as opposed to the traditional rhetorical situation among Lloyd Bitzer’s theory of rhetorical situation and its critiques. According to Edbauer, Bitzer and the critiques all work to “create a body of scholarship that stretches our own notions of “rhetorical publicness into a contextual framework that permanently troubles sender-receiver models.” Additionally, she drew upon scholarship on public communication to demonstrate the limits of oversimplified communication and rhetorical situation models that examine either sender- receiver-text, or rhetor, audience, context as discreet, objective elements.

Edbauer also drew on Louise Wetherbee Phelps to argue that rhetorics should not be read as elemental conglomerations, but as always in a state of flux. For Edbauer, there is no fixed location, but exigence is an amalgamation of processes and encounters. Contrary to Bitzer and some of his critics, like Richard Vatz, exigence is not located in any element of the model (8). Edbauer asserted that “indeed, that we dub exigence is more like a shorthand way of describing a series of events. The rhetorical situation is part of what we might call, borrowing from Phelps, an ongoing social flux” (9). Instead of using the terministic screen of conglomerate elements, Edbauer advocated for using a framework of affective ecologies that recontextualizes rhetorics in their temporal, historical, and lived fluxes: “While one framework does not undermine the other, I argue that this ecological model allows us to more fully theorize rhetoric as a public (s) creation.”

Edbauer explicated how this ecological shift can unframe or expand the way in which we understand rhetorical production. She highlighted how the Latin root of “situation”, situs, implies a “bordered, fixed location” (9) and the incompatibility with embodied and networked nature of rhetoric: “the social does not reside in fixed sites, but rather in a networked space of flows and connections” (9). Edbauer discussed Margaret Sylverson’s emergent ecological process of writing as an example of a rhetorical ecology framework applied to composition that doesn’t just focus on the “writer” “audience” or “text” at a time. For Edbauer, this also has real implications for the classroom:

“Bringing this logic into the realm of our own rhetorical pedagogy, we are reminded that rhetorically-grounded education can mean something more than learning how to decode elements, analyze texts, and thinking about public circulations of rhetoric. It can also engage processes and encounters. Not “learning by doing,” but “thinking by doing.” Or, better yet, thinking/doing—with a razor thin slash mark barely keeping the two terms from bleeding into each other” (22-23).

Perelman and Olbrechts-Tytecha – The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation

Perelman, C., and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, 1969. Print.

In this classic text on argumentation originally written in French by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tytecha, the authors presented a “new rhetoric” that reintroduced argumentation into rhetoric and reason. The two asserted their theory of argumentation by establishing its link to Greek rhetoric and dialectic in order to break with Cartesian concepts of reason and reasoning which they claimed had defined Western philosophy for the previous three centuries. The exigence behind their argument is that traditional logic and reasoning alone cannot help resolve all disputes (and they never have); to this end all available means need to be explored. Under Cartesian logic, claims that are not self-evident could/ would be considered false, but Perelman and Olbrechts-Tytecha argued against this reasoning and for the exploration of the plausible:

“…the post-Cartesian concept of reason obliges us to make certain irrational elements intervene every time the object of knowledge is not self-evident. Whether these elements consist of obstacles to be surmounted-such as imagination, passion, or suggestion-or of suprarational sources of certitude such as the heart, grace, “Einfuehlung,” or Bergsonian intuition, this conception introduces a dichotomy, a differentiation between human faculties, which is completely artificial and contrary to the real processes of our thought.” (3)

The consideration of these irrational elements, nor argumentation are “new” to rhetoric; however, Perelman and Olbrechs-Tytecha posited that these elements had been neglected to the detriment of rhetorical theory and criticism. They wrote: “The effect of restricting logic to the examination of the proofs termed ‘analytical’ byAristotle, together with the reduction of dialectical proofs-when anyone felt they were worth analyzing-to analytical proofs, was to remove from the study of reasoning all reference to argumentation” (509). Their text is an attempt to reduce and further reduction of proofs to formal logic.

In this treatise on argumentation, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tytecha put forth numerous technichal elements of argumentation which they said only scratched the surface. A major takeaway is that argumentation is audience-centered, not form-centered and as such:

  • has the goal of persuading a “universal audience” which is a construct of the author’s mind (the audience can legitimately be treated as universal because “for legitimate reasons, we need not take into consideration those which are not part of it” (31).)
  • is more influenced by ethos (18)
  • dictates that the presumption and “burden of proof” are dictted by the audience, not the question or rhetor (105-106)
  • relies on the “community of minds” or what Burke would call identification (14)
  • uses strategies associated with sophistry, like dissociation (the constant constantly detaching from or adding “appearances” to notions in order to appeal to their audiences) (412)

Perelman and Olbrechts-Tytecha acknowledged that their theory of argumentation and with these proofs that fall outside of formal logic sound sophistic, and would typically be dismissed as a “misleading form of reasoning” (512); however, they argued that “absolutist epistemology” has not served us as well as desired.

“Only the existence of an argumentation that is neither compelling nor arbitrary can give meaning to human freedom, a state in which a reasonable choice can be exercised. If freedom was no more than necessary adherence to a previously given natural order, it would exclude all possibility of choice; and if the exercise of freedom were not based on reasons, every choice would be irrational and would be reduced to an arbitrary decision operating in an intellectual void.” (514)

“The theory of argumentation will help to develop what a logic of value judgments has tried in vain to provide, namely the justification of the possibility of a human community in the sphere of action when this justification cannot be based on a reality or objective truth. And its starting point, in making this contribution, is an analysis of those forms of reasoning which, though they are indispensable in practice, have from the time of Descartes been neglected by logicians and theoreticians of knowledge.” (514)

Booth – Modern Dogma and Rhetoric of Assent

Booth, Wayne C. Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent. 5 Vol. Notre Dame Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1974. Print. Ward-Phillips Lectures in English Language and Literature.

In Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent,  Wayne Booth worked to deconstruct and show the incompatibility of motivism and the dogma of doubt with rhetoric and the finding of a common truth. At the core of the text is the centuries old tension between philosophy and rhetoric.  Booth analyzed a series of Bertrand Russell’s essays that illustrate the dogma of doubt to demonstrate its inability to bring people together because no reason can ever be “good” enough. Booth argued that based on motivism, where there are no experts because everyone has underlying motives that discredit them, and the requirement that Bertrand gives that the experts must agree on something for the opposite of it to be uncertain – there can never be sufficient grounds for a positive opinion.

“Russell had no place whatever for what traditional philosophers called dialectic, or sometimes rhetoric: the careful weighing of more-or-less good reasons to arrive at more-or-less probable or plausible conclusions — none too secure but better than would be arrived at by chance or unthinking impulse.” (59)

Despite Bertrand’s at times more rhetorical view on certainty, Booth asserted that Bertrand’s and other’s dogma of doubt and modernism has led to what Booth called a “befouled rhetorical climate” (99).

“…all three Russells in their different ways had told me that if they found it seeming right to do so, if their consciences told them that other men were flatly wrong and they themselves flatly right, if their visions of truth and justice were in conflict with those of other men, arbitrary decision about right and wrong could “rightly” be imposed upon others. This worldview of modernism has given support to self-righteous authoritarians of the right and to their spiritual brothers who use violence to attack the “rational establishment” from the left. A thoroughly articulated, seemingly impregnable system of dogmas has sliced the world into two unequal parts, the tiny domain of the provable, about which nobody cares very much, and the great domain of “all the rest,” in which anyone can believe or do what he pleases.” (85). (emphasis mine)

SN: A contemporary example of this climate can be seen in our current political discourse, for example, as  discussed by Karolyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson in their keynote at the 2012 Rhetoric Society of America Conference where Campbell stated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s assertions about his opponent, President Obama, depend on public assumptions of the POTUS. These arguments, she said, don’t rely on traditional forms of argument or rebuttal because they are not evidence-based, but based on “belief”. Note these are not beliefs that are gained through mutual inquiry from both sides, but by the pushing of preconcieved notions.

Booth offered an alternative:

“My goal is (once again) not to establish a philosophy… What we must find, I think, are grounds for confidence in a multiplicity of ways of knowing. Such grounds need not be what was sought by philosophers who based themselves in science: a theory providing fixed and proved principles from which all genuine reasoning could proceed. It need only be a revitalization of what we naturally assume as we go about our intellectual and practical business in the world: namely, that there are many logics, and that each of the domains of the mind (or person) has its own kind of knowing.” (99)

Booth used Aristotle’s three proofs of logos, ethos, and pathos to elucidate how his rhetoric of assent might change the way we view rhetoric and argumentation. Booth suggested that this shift would not lead to a clear distinction between the three types of proof but a hazier one where “emotional and ethical proof will often turn out to be ‘substantive,’ and logical proof useless and misleading” (145).

Booth asked readers to “entertain” the possibility of a “social test for truth” whereby “‘it is reasonable to grant (one ought to grant) some degree of credence to whatever qualified men and women agree on, unless one has specific and stronger reasons to disbelieve'” (101).

How does this play out, however, in an example like the 2008 Presidential campaign where it was asserted and believed by many that the then presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama was a Muslim and somehow anti-American. Even “qualified” elected officials have also intimated that they believed variations of this. Is there there a greater reason to disbelieve them because of their prejudices and motives to have “their” candidate win?

Booth would argue against his rhetoric of assent being used for deception and manipulation as he asserted the goal is not to talk someone into a preconceived view, but to engage in mutual inquiry or exploration (137). For him, it is the joint inquiry that is most important and productive:

“The process of inquiry through discourse thus becomes more important than any possible conclusions, and whatever stultifies such fulfillment becomes demonstrably wrong” (137). Even if a committed doubter did not accept the “valued fact” of all individuals rhetorical nature, Booth contended,  the doubter could not avoid illustrating it as she/ he argued against it – “we discuss our doubt together, therefore we are” (138).

This all sounds great in a “good” world as Booth claimed that “rhetoric is a supremely self-justifying activity for man when those engaged in it fully respect the rules and the steps of inquiry” (138). But, as Booth well knew, we are not inthat “good” world; therefore, perhaps more than anything else, a rhetoric of assent presses us to change the constraints that hinder its fulfillment:

“A rhetoric of assent does lead, generally but firmly, to important political conclusions. Some of them will seem conservative, at least in our society, though in most societies in the world’s history they would be revolutionary enough: traditions of free discourse, of respect for persons, of civil rights, of democratic process become defensible in this view not simply as traditions but as the very conditions for fulfilling man’s life as we have defined it. But some of them are radical enough: for example, “capitalist” forms of production and distribution, as now defined, must be discarded, insofar as they depend on systematic deception.” (footnote 201) (emphasis mine)

Biesecker – Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from within the Thematic of Differance

Biesecker, Barbara A. “Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from within the Thematic of Differance.” Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. Eds. Sally Caudill, Michelle Condit, and John Louis Lucaites. New York: Guilford Press, 1998. 232-246. Print.

In this essay Barbara Biesecker challenged rhetoric theorists and critics to further destabilize Lloyd Bitzer’s theory of rhetorical situation. While Richard Vatz inverted Bitzer’s hierarchy between the event and rhetor, but Biesecker questioned the potential for not “simply choosing sides” but using Jacques Derrida’s deconstruction and différance to upset the hierarchy altogether. Biesecker pointed out that deconstruction hadn’t been productively appropriated by critics working in Rhetoric. She, therefore, sought in her essay to do a reading of the rhetorical situation from within the frame of deconstructive practice in order to the possibilities  for useful analysis of rhetorical events. One example of the limitations of prior considerations of rhetorical consideration she gave is that rhetoric was seen as only having the power to influence, but not to form new identities (111).

After taking up taking up text as a constituent element of the rhetorical situation and fleshing out how Derrida’s différance as demonstrated in his essay “Glas” could be used to better understand how meaning can be made in rhetorical discourse, she then focused on “audience” as a constituent element of the rhetorical situation.

“It is in the middle or the suspense of the two previously unjoined texts that meaning can be said to have been made. In fact we might go so far as to suggest that the blithe proposition in Glas is: everything deliberately and unavoidably happens in its crease, in its fold. It is in the structural space between the Hegel column and the Genet column that Derrida’s text would play out its ‘meanings’.”

Biesecker’s application of différance can be understood in comparison to Bitzer and Vatz’s understanding of where meaning is situated in the rhetorical situation. For Bitzer, meaning is intrisic to the event and for Vatz meaning is derived from the creative act of the rhetor. Using Derrida, Biesecker argued that meaning is found in “the fold” or the differencing zone (119): “Derridean deconstruction begins by considering thè way in which all texts are inhabited by an internally divided non-originary ‘origin’ called différance” (120).

Biesecker asserted that use of this framework would lead to a deconstructive displacement of questions of origin to questions of process. In turn, this would free rhetoric theorists and critics from reading rhetoric discourses and their ‘founding principles’ (either seen as “the event” by Bitzer or the “rhetor” by Vatz ) as either the determined outcome of an objectively identifiable and discrete situation (Bitzer) or an interpreting and intending subject (Vatz) (121). “That is to say,” Bieseckers wrote, “neither the text’s immediate rhetorical situation nor its author can be taken as simple origin or generative agent since both are underwritten by a séries of historically produced displacements” (121).

This framework also challenged rhetoric’s understanding/ treatment of the subject and audience.  Biesecker argued that most scholarship, including Bitzer’s on the rhetorical situation included “audience” as a constituent element; however it is simply “named” it and not complicated it. According to Biesecker, the “subject” or “audience” had been discussed as a stable, rational, human being.

But once deconstructed, Biesecker explained that the identity of the subject then was/ is not stable, but deffered. It is deffered by “… virtue of the very principle of différence which holds that an element functions and signifies, takes on or conveys meaning, only by referring to another past or future element in an economy of traces” (125).

Biesecker presented implications for both the rhetorical situation and rhetoric as a field based on this treatment of “audience.”

For the rhetorical situation:

“From within the thematic of différance we would see the rhetorical situation neither as an event that merely induces audiences to act one way or another nor as an incident that, in representing the interests of a particular collectivity, merely wrestles the probable within the realm of the actualizable. Rather, we would see the rhetorical situation as an event that makes possible the production of identities and social relations. That is to say, if rhetorical events are analysed from within the  thematic of différance, it becomes possible to read discursive practices neither as rhetorics directed to preconstituted and known audiences nor as rhetorics “in search of” objectively identifiable  but yet undiscovered audiences.” (126)

For the field of Rhetoric:

“Simply put, the deconstruction of the subject opens up possibilities for the field of Rhetoric by enabling us to read the rhetorical situation as an event structured not by a logic of influence but by a logic of articulation. If the subject is shifting and unstable (constituted in and by the play of différance), then the rhetorical event may be seen as an incident that produces and reproduces the identities of subjects and constructs and reconstructs linkages between them.” (126)

Biesecker argued that the radical potential in this approach to work against essentializing and universalizing claims presented “one possible way to reivigorate the field, not as the first step towards renunciation of it” (127). Biesecker advocated not using deconstruction as a means to get to a singular “truth”, as Bitzer positioned his theory to do, but as a tool to produce more possibilites of rhetoric.

Vatz – The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation

Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. Eds. Sally Caudill, Michelle Condit, and John Louis Lucaites. New York: Guilford Press, 1998. 226-231. Print.

In this follow -up and critique of Lloyd Bitzer’s theory of rhetorical situation, it is clear that Richard Vatz also wants to see rhetoric recognized and valued as a discipline, but for different reasons and through different means. For example, Vatz concluded that “It is only when the meaning is seen as the result of a creative act and not a discovery, that rhetoric will be  perceived as the supreme discipline it deserves to be ” (161). Vatz argued that the notion that a single rhetorical situation can be found in a given event is a myth. He continued to go against Bitzer’s (1974) theory of rhetorical situation which relied on the understanding that the situation or event itself contained meaning and called the rhetorical discourse into existence.

Vatz main critique of Bitzer’s theory is that it reflected a Platonic worldview that not only assumed a “clear” meaning and exigence, but also a “clear” and “positive” modification that should be taken in a rhetorical situation. Vatz used Burke and sociologist Herbert Blumer to demonstrate the subjectivity in all rhetorical situations. Contending that the  world  was not  a  plot  of  discrete  events, he wrote, “the world is a scene of inexhaustible events which all compete to impinge on what Kenneth Burke calls  our ‘sliver of reality'” (156). In any given situation, according to Vatz, a rhetor must take two steps to communicate: 1) choose what facts or events are relevant and 2) translate the chosen material to make it meaningful (157). That being so, Vatz argued that “[n]o theory of the relationship between situations and rhetoric can neglect to take account of the initial  linguistic depiction of the situation” (157).

Vatz further distinguished his theory from Bitzer’s and explicated what the implications for rhetoric are:

“I would not say “rhetoric is situational,” but situations are rhetorical;  not “…exigence strongly invites utterance,” but utterance strongly invites exigence; not “the situation controls the rhetorical response…”  but the rhetoric controls the  situational response; not “…rhetorical discourse…does obtain its character-as-rhetorical from the situation which  generates it,” but situations obtain their character from the rhetoric which surrounds them or creates them.” (159)

Vatz contended that this distinction in the treatment of meaning and rhetoric would determine whether rhetoric was perceived as “parasitic” in relation to disciplines, such as philosophy and the sciences which make and/ or discover meaning, or thrived at the top of the disciplinary hierarchy as the creator of meaning.

Bitzer – The Rhetorical Situation

Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader. Eds. Sally Caudill, Michelle Condit, and John Louis Lucaites. New York: Guilford Press, 1998. 217-225. Print.

In this foundational text, Lloyd Bitzer made the case that rhetorical stuation had not been adequately attended to by theorists, including Aristotle. Bitzer asserted that prior theorists have focused on the method of the orator to address the rhetorical situation, or ignored it completely. He then unfolded his theory of situation. He stated that this essay, originally given as a lecture at Cornell University in November 1966, should be understood as an attempt to 1) revive the notion of rhetorical situation, 2) provide an adequate conception of it, and 3) establish it “as a controlling and fundamental concern of rhetorical theory” (3). Bitzer concluded by drawing comparisons between the role of science in an imperfect world and the need for rhetoric in an imperfect world. He provided the exigence for his own theorization and argument regarding rhetorical situation and argued for the importance  and relevance of rhetoric as a discipline beyond the understanding that it is merely the art of persuasion, which he asserted was necessary to warrant justification as a practical discipline:

…rhetoric as a discipline is justified philosophically insofar as it provides principles, concepts, and procedures by which we effect valuable changes in reality. Thus rhetoric is distinguished from the mere craft of persuasion which, although it is a legitimate object of scientific investigation, lacks philosophical warrant as a practical discipline. (14)

Bitzer distingushes rhetorical situation from context:

Let us regard rhetorical situation as a natural context of persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance; this invited utterance participates naturally in the situation, is in many instances necessary to the completion of situational activity, and by means of its participa-tion with situation obtains its meaning and its rhetorical character. (5)

Bitzer contended that rhetorical situation should be given priority because of the strong role of plays in a wide range of rhetorical discourse:

So controlling is situation that we should consider it the very’ ground of rhetorical activity’, whether that activity is primitive and productive of a simple utterance or artistic and productive of the Gettysburg Address. (5)

Prior to the creation and presentation of discourse, Bitzer said there are three constituents of rhetorical situation: exigence (an imperfection marked by urgency, an obstacle, something waiting to be done); audience (persons capable of being influenced – even one’s self); and constraints.

Bitzer also outlined six features of rhetorical situations:

  1. Are called into existence by a situation/ invitation (9)
  2. Invite a response that fits the situation (10)
  3. Dictate the purpose, theme, matter, and style of the response.
  4. Are derived from “real” situations and exigencies, not “sophistic” ones (11)
  5. Exhibit structures which are simple or complex, and more or less organized (11)
  6. Come into existence, then either “mature or decay or mature and persist — conceivably some persist indefinitely” (12)

Feminist Rhetorical Practices Adds Representin and Recognizin to its 3 Rs

Jones Royster, Jacqueline, and Gesa E. Kirsch. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012. Print.

Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies serves as a metaphoric Richter scale for the seismic shifts that have occurred in both Feminist Rhetorical Studies (FRS) and Composition and Rhetorical Studies over the last 30 years. Royster and Kirsch use the metaphor of tectonic plates to describe and document the shifts and shifting that has occurred and is still occurring within FRS in terms of theories, research agendas, and research methods and methodologies.

Recognizin/g and Representin/g

In this metaphor they emphasize that there is not a single fault line, but that scholars working within and across the lines of Feminist Rhetorical Studies have been disrupting and shaking the foundation of Rhetorical Studies which at its core has traditionally been centered of Greco-Roman and Western conceptions of rhetoric and androcentric. I appreciate this metaphor for the necessarily dynamic and fluid flow (or stream to mix metaphors) that Feminist Rhetorical Studies is and for also denoting a degree of physical energy and in-your-faceness or “wreck” as Pough (2004) might call it.

In doing so, Royster and Kirsch also add “recognizin/g” and “representin/g” to the three Rs of Feminist Rhetorical Studies – rescue, recovery, and (re)inscription. As Carmen Kynard (2010) states, in urban language “recognizing” is about “publicly acknowledging what is going on and who the central perpetrators are” (48). This text resonated with me in part because of both Royster and Kirsch’s efforts to make their audience “recognize” the oppression and challenges, the work that has been done, and the work that still remains. What was particularly logistically persuasive to me, and I imagine others in feminist and Black feminist studies, was the argument that it would/ will not be until the least valued in the field, those silenced and marginalized women such as those of African descent (10) were recognized and valued in the field that the field would grow and reach its full potential. In her narrative about how she began feminist rhetorical research and became involved with Feminist Rhetorical Practices she stated that Rhetorical Composition and Literacy Studies was in need of a reform.

Royster and Kirsch’s deliberate and careful efforts to recognize the efforts of so many scholars within Feminist Rhetorical Studies can also be seen as a way to “represent.” “Representin,” Elaine Richardson (2007) explains, is a Black discourse practice that enacts solidarity and a type of fictive kinship. In doing so they demonstrate their notion of strategic contemplation which foregrounds this recognition and they said shows “how [others] have enabled us to stand where we are today, and how their visions make it possible for us to imagine a future worth working for” (23).

Royster and Kirsch not only historicize and boldly present the collective (although not admittedly not comprehensive) work that has been done in FRS to the present date, but argue that these strides have not only benefited them and other scholars and teachers doing this work, but the field as a whole:

“…research and practice in rhetorical studies have changed – and to the benefit of the whole… We now see more about the nature , impact, and consequences of language use. We recognize the importance of contexts and conditions in performance. We understand more about how rhetorical actions function in the human enterprise.” (15)

The book represents an embodied argument for the value of Feminist Rhetorical Studies as a major component of Comp-rhet and a cornerstone in its advancement. As Patricia Bizzell states in the foreword, “anyone who wants to do research in rhetoric, composition, and literacy, in any subfield, from now on will need to read this book” (xii)

As Bizzell foreshadows, this text is likely to be a landmark text; in a sense it feels as though it is capping off one era and launching us into a new one. With that said, I wonder if this book and its recognition of FRS to this point will mark the end of a “first wave” of Feminist Rhetorical Studies and if so, how will the new “wave” or generation of feminist rhetorical scholars take up the mantle?

Questions of the horizon:

As has been noted by feminist scholars regarding the first, second, and third waves of feminism, the hard fought gains of one generation and the privileges of the up-and-coming generation always sparks new questions, challenges,
and responsibilities. What are some of these new concerns you see arising?

Royster and Kirsch name some possible challenges on the next horizon:

“…because of the broadening nature and scope of rhetorical subjects, sites, and scenes we have set in motion the need to renegotiate the terms by which visibility, credibility, value, and excellence are determined…in effect we are re-forming the discpline and re-endowing the vision of our rhetorical landscape as a globalized, multi-dimensional human asset and not just the exclusive possession of Western, elite, white males.” (133)

In the last month CCR 635 has read Cintron’s Angels’ Town and Berry, Hawisher, and Selfe’s Transnational Literate Lives in Digital Times both of which attempt to broaden the nature and scope of rhetorical subjects. What similarities do you see in their methodological approaches to Royster and Kirsch’s four methodological approaches of Feminist Rhetorical Studies, critical imagination, strategic contemplation, social circulation, and globalization, and how might they have employed them to more effectively broaden the scope?

Kynard – From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cypher: Narrating Black Females’ Color-Consciousness and Counterstories in and Out of School

Kynard, Carmen. “From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cipher: Narrating Black Females’ Color-Consciousness and Counterstories in and Out of School.” Harvard Educational Review 80.1 (2010): 30-53. Print.

In her article, “From Candy Girls to Cyber Sista-Cipher: Narrating Black Females Color-Consciousness and Counterstories in and Out of School,” Carmen Kynard, assistant professor of English at St. John’s University, takes the reader on a journey through time, place, and space. Kynard’s stated goal is to use multiple narratives that explore how digital technologies offer hush harbors for Black female college students’ social and literacy practices in what she describes as “digitized Candy Girls” (33). The phrase Candy Girls, originally adopted from the popular 80s New Edition song, described Kynard’s clique of African American girls that she attended school with and navigated various issues of Black girlhood with.

Kynard described her approach as an “unhushing narrative methodology” (48), rather than an ethnographic one, in her research because she was an active agent in the cipher’s (group’s) sense making, decision making, and survival making” (48). Kynard used narrative to “unhush” and disclose the ways in which the “hidey spaces,” or hush harbors that she and the Black female students in the cipher formed. These spaces contradicted and challenged traditional notions of literacy where the purpose of literacy is understood solely as a means to achieve money and power.

Kynard argued that her use of groups or ciphers also worked against “isolationism of Black women, and unhushing methodology works against the isolating of researcher and participant” (48). The unhushing narrative methodology “(re)values black radical female subjectivity” (48).

These methods serve a rhetorical purpose because by strategically making the private public, Kynard sought to move a deeper understanding of their hush harbor as a site for “new political lenses into, and therefore struggles against, schooling’s processes of ethnic cleansing” (48). This is no doubt necessary in light of the fact that the rest of the institution failed to “recognized” the cipher members or their activity. Kynard defined the urban, youth term “recognize” as being about “publicly acknowledging what is going on and who the central perpetrators are” (48).

“It is worth saying again: no one in the department where I met the sistas in the cyber cipher noticed their displacement or talent; nobody recognized. It didn’t have to be that way, and it can’t be that way if we intend to really dismantle the race, gender, and class hierarchies of educational institutions.” (48)

Through her unhushing narrative, Kynard shows the various ways that Black women in postsecondary educational settings assess their contexts and their positioning within them and seek to employ and/ or develop community literacy skills in order to survive and potentially thrive in in-school contexts.

Barton – Vernacular Writing on the Web

Barton, David. “Vernacular Writing on the Web.” The Anthropology of Writing :Understanding Textually Mediated Worlds. Eds. David Barton and Uta Papen. London; New York: Continuum, 2010. 109-125. Print.

This chapter, “Vernacular Writing on the Web,” from Anthropology of Writing: Understanding Textually Mediated Worlds examines characteristics of vernacular writing in online spaces, specifically the photo sharing site, Flickr. Vernacular writing, such as graffiti, has typically been identified and analyzed in face-to-face environments; however, due to increased technological development and globalization vernacular writing is also taking place in the form of computer-mediated-communication online.

David Barton provides the following definitions/descriptions for his reader:

Vernacular literacy practices: local, every day literacies, often “voluntary, self-generated and learned informally;” not under the governance of the formal rules and procedures of dominant social institutions and associated literacies. These practices can also overlap and be intertwined with dominant literacies. These practices draw upon and contribute to “local funds of knowledge” and are linked to self-education and local expertise.

Vernacular Writing: “that ‘which is closely associated with culture that is neither elite nor institutional, which is traditional and indigenous to the diverse cultural processes of communities as distinguished from the uniform, inflexible standards of institutions’ ([Camitta,] 1993:228-229)”. Not tied to a particular language.

Vernacular Language: local languages associated with traditional and indigenous cultures and can be seen in contrast to dominant, colonial languages, such as English and French.

Because of the ways in which technologies have changed the ways that people “can be” in the world, including writing, Barton is interested in examining the impact of the social media site Flickr on vernacular writing. In this care, the function of Flickr, primarily visual, is similar to that of graffiti, which allows for a focus on how the writing takes place instead of a sole focus on  the meaning of the text.

Barton had to adapt, or as Spinuzzi might say translate existing methodologies and develop new approaches to analyzing vernacular writing for the internet study. Barton describes the study as multi-method consisting of five “interlinked” sources of data: 1)the initial study of 100 Flickr members’ sites, 2-3) tw0-stage online interviews with 30 Flickr users (starting out general and leading to specific questions re: at least 100 of their photos), 4) sites of Flickr users of other languages, including French Norwegian and Greek, as well as, 5) autoethnographies from Barton and Lee  based on their own Flickr activities. Here we can see Barton’s desire to capture data related to global communication resulted in his focus on multilingual activity on Flickr.

The various sources of data in addition to the abundance of data within the Flickr sites themselves, such as: tags, titles, and photo descriptions provided a great deal of data for analysis. The examination of the specific features of Flickr also contributed to an understanding of how the medium also shapes the writing activity. Users:

  • developed new practices and carrying out older practices in new ways (in part due to the new medium of Flickr)
  • contributed to broader social practices; people relate to the world in new ways, i.e. seeking more”views” of photos

Barton found that vernacular writing on the web also contributes to  new understandings of vernacular writing:

  • Vernacular writing is not always self-sponsored, but can be sponsored by private companies like Yahoo, the owner of Flickr.
  • Vernacular practices online exhibit different values than dominant literacies do
  • Vernacular literacy practices on the web still learned informally and is integrated into everyday activities
  • Vernacular practices are typically valued less by society, but now they are valued more particularly by media professionals.
  • Vernacular practices have typically been seen as limited to the personal sphere, but are now public

These findings led Barton to conclude that not only is writing still central to daily life, but it is growing in importance due to the increase of multimodal activity on the internet.

In this chapter, we are only given the methodological approach, findings, and implications; Peter Smagorinsky might call this methods section superficial in some areas, i.e. data collection and reduction. However, I am not particularly distrustful of this study. Based on the best practices recommended by the authors we’ve read so far, I’m curious to know what you think Barton does well here? In other words, do you think this chapter “works” in explaining how vernacular writing on the web works? Why or why not?

Skilton-Sylvester – Literate at Home but Not at School: A Cambodian Girl’s Journey from Playwright to Struggling Writer

Skilton-Sylvester, Ellen. “Literate at Home but Not at School: A Cambodian Girl’s Journey from Playwright to Struggling Writer.” School’s Out: Bridging Out-of School Literacies with Classroom Practice. Eds. Glynda Hull and Katherine Schultz. New York: Teachers College Press, 2002. 61-95. Print.

In this chapter, Ellen Skilton-Sylvester, current Associate Professor of Education and Coordinator of ESL Programs at Arcadia University, uses ethnography to provide a contrastive analysis of a young Cambodian immigrant girl’s school and out-of-school literacy practices. This chapter was developed out of a larger ethnographic study of (Skilton-Sylvester, 1997) documenting the identities, literacies, and other educational policies that are part of the lives of several Cambodian women and girls in Philadelphia (65).

In “Literate at Home but Not at School,” Skiton-Sylvester focuses on the school and out-of-school literacies of Nan over the course of three years. The researcher’s fieldwork consisted of weekly tutoring sessions over a 3-year period with Nan and her cousins in either of their apartments (located in the same apartment building) focusing primarily on homework and structured around the needs of the girls in any given week (65). Over the course of time, Skilton-Sylvester says her relationship with the girls developed and their time together extended to include filed trips to local museums, parks, and Skilton-Sylvester’s apartment. The participants also gave her artifacts such as: drawings, painting, and writings as gifts, in addition to performing dances and skits, etc. for her. From these interactions Skilton-Sylvester took the themes that emerged from this data and later interviewed the girls about their points of view concerning  particular findings and issues. Skilton-Sylvester’s fieldwork also included visits to the girls’ school one year prior to beginning her study with the girls. These visits to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classrooms and grade-level classrooms continued into her research with Nan and her relatives. Skilton-Sylvester is clear about her rationale to focus on Nan as her primary subject; stating that Nan provided the most dramatic differences between her in-school and out-of-school writing identities and products (65):

“Nan interests me greatly both because the resources she brought to school were often invisible and devalued and because I can imagine other possibilities when I see her out-of-school writing. In the right classroom, her enthusiasm for making meaning through print, pictures, and performance could have been a resource to build on in learning to use writing as a tool to do the social work of school.” (65-66)

Many of Skilton-Sylvester’s findings are derived because her scope included both in- and out-of-school contexts. For example, Skilton-Sylvester is able to conclude that the reason for Nan’s successful facilitation in her out-of-school literacy practices are rhetorical in nature and depend on Nan’s various rhetorical situations, particularly exigency and audience:

“I believe that Nan’s experiences with school writing in home and school contexts can be understood in terms of investment, identity, and the right to speak… What her out-of-school writing shows is that she could be incredibly invested in using and learning about the written word when she was granted the right to write and knew that there were those who really wanted to listen to her thoughts, experiences, and ideas.” (84)

Skilton-Sylvester found that when Nan was provided a meaningful purpose and an attentive audience in her ESOL classroom, Nan was able to claim the right to write within the classroom context. Therefore, Skilton-Sylvester concluded that bridges between out-of-school literacy and in-school literacy need to be constructed where they do not exist, which unfortunately is the majority of grade-level classroom contexts. Skilton-Sylvester’s study also makes an implicit argument for the expansion of valued literacy skills in school contexts that includes visual, oral, and performative literacies in addition to standard writing literacy practices, because Nan did achieve a degree of success in ESOL classrooms that sanctioned these broader literacy skills; however these broader literacy skills were not recognized in the grade–level classrooms.

Skilton-Sylverster argues that it is educators that need to improve their literacy skills as well:

“Nan’s out-of school literacy resources — and those of many nonmainstream students in the U.S. schools — can be a foundation for school literacy if we are able to read the words and worlds that children bring with them to school and help them to engage in new and related words and worlds as they use writing to do the social work of school… we, as techers, have as much to learn from Nan as she from us.” (88)

If this is the case, and I agree it is, then this study also makes a strong case for critical pedagogies that can disrupt the uni-directional flow of knowledge.