CRC: Panel IV “Philosophy and Rhetoric”

Kevin Brock here. First attempt at liveblogging. Place all blame for errors on me!

Dawn Shepherd, NCSU: “Decorum and the Digital”

Note: “Digital” in this presentation = the internet.

Multiple sources of identification have varying levels of influence over sovereignty of individual/identity (Dawn uses the example of the Quebecois to describe this idea). Construction of a people is extra-rhetorical: it is an ideological trick of constituitive rhetoric – posing subject-positions as rhetorical effects.

12:10 Visibility/invisibility of identity and subject-position reflective of Lanham’s bi-stable oscillation. Stylistic self-consciousness is opposite to decorum. Electronic text allows this oscillation where more conventional text does not: object, viewer, reality, motive are all plotted between self-conscious and unconscious.

12:15 Bi-stable oscillation mirrored in social/natural poles? How can we understand appropriateness and decorum in digital text/media?

12:17 Self-consciousness of the symbolic “gets in the way of the work at hand” (circa Burke/Lanham). How do systems of orientation force us to reconsider what we might define as distinct entities (such as vulgarity vs. refinement through a lens of “piety”)?

12:20 In order to recognize a subject, when must we turn to impiety? Also, situations and social systems can both be affected by decorum/appropriateness and constituitive rhetoric. “Semantic latent indexing is what goes with what.”

12:22 Online dating sites as examples of online systems using such latent indexing to connect individuals with information. Predetermined index limits potential connections.

Paul G. Cook, USC: “Academic Labor and the Barriers to Collectivization”

12:24 What is the pedagogical imperative?: Everything we do must have some ramifications within the classroom. Two claims -> 1) we must work together collectively in order to get anything done or to change the system from within/without but calls for such action are under attack/criticism. 2) Practices of identity formation have become very privileged locations for struggle precisely to the extent that we have come to rely on identity as the only category/area through which we get anything done. How might we respond to these issues that does not simply reemphasize identity?

12:27 We must concern ourselves above all else with the institutional conditions in which we act/practice. Issues which disproportionately affect those who teach composition (NTT faculty and graduate students) is an overarching issue that we must address.

12:30 Claims to “market ourselves” in humanities are now axioms that offer advice which is calculated for economic rationale (a “savvy entrepreneur of yourself”). Every choice, no matter how small, can be seen as an investment decision to create capital in/for self. Corporations in the US have become more and more like individuals, especially given the recent Supreme Court decision to recognize them legally like citizens.

12:33 In academia, however, an individual has become more like a corporation: from a very early point in one’s education, an academic has the objectives of marketing his/her products to reach as large a market share as possible and to recognize stiff competition as the lifeblood that makes academia possible even as academics’ positions are continually devalued: “this is just the way it is.” Even books on advice for pursuing academic careers suggests this point and that one must accept such a mindset before being able to “succeed.”

12:37 “Independent academic contractor” may be the most appropriate term to describe a hopeful academic professional in our current environment; however, unlike other skilled laborers, such academics do not have much protection in regards to their jobs or insurance (and yet they are often not fired but simply do not have contracts renewed).

12:40 A strategic mechanism by which many humanities departments relieve themselves of this ethical quagmire is for such departments to be forthright with graduate students and NTT faculty about these situations. In these instances, we can see biopolitics in action, where powerful forces are extended into life itself (where life was formerly considered “personal”): a market-oriented ethos informs “personal” decisions being made about entering into the academic arena (such as “achieving our dreams of obtaining an advanced degree”).

Jordan Firth, NCSU: “Urban Rhetorics, Community Mapping as Tactical Response”

12:46 Focus will be on different mapping & location-aware technologies and how they affect a sense of place and an understanding of local communities. Place is a site of contestation; place & its meaning are never completely static nor mean the same thing(s) to all individuals/populations.

12:48 Little Big Horn & Custer memorials examined re: politics of space/place. Site became recognized as possessing meaning not just for national pride of manifest destiny but for memory of native Americans whose cultures had inhabited land before US’s push westward. Memorials existing side-by-side serve to demonstrate layers of meaning for (multi-vocal nature of) place.

12:51 Map technologies also define meaning for how we view the world (demonstrations of Mercator vs. Peters projections). “Every map choice is rhetorical.” However, no map can accurately demonstrate size AND shape, so the decision made informs how map “should” be read. Mapping is very technocratic, so decisions are made by the powerful rather than by the “general populace.”

12:53 GIS (Geographical Information Systems) was supposed to make mapping a more democratic process. Different types of information would be available to display makeup(s) of populations, geography, etc. However, GIS became a new technocratic system with falsely democratic rhetoric.

12:55 Google Maps Mashups demonstrate communally-composed mappings of certain areas (displayed example is Washington, DC snowfall). Such technologies allow for new rhetorics of connecting ongoing events or relevant information to an individual’s current location. Mobile device program “Urban Tapestries” allows community construction of place through the narration of stories connected to specific geographic points, thanks to map technology.

12:58 How effective can these technologies be, as they are inherently surveillance technologies that let/force a user to identify to authorities where he/she is at a given moment?


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