Session 5.8: Special Delivery: The Production and Distribution of Multimodal Public Rhetoric
Jim Ridolfo (Michigan State University), Anthony Michel (Avila University), David Sheridan (Michigan State University)
David Sheridan, Michigan State University: “Where Do We Draw the Line? A Framework for Deciding Which Technologies We Should Study and Teach”
In this presentation, Sheridan pushes the line of what should be considered as appropriate technologies for a first-year writing class. He points out that while classes have accepted the inclusion of web design and slide shows they haven’t dared to consider video game production or manufactured objects. Sheridan makes a very persuasive case for considering video games as a form of rhetoric, using the free online game September 12. The point of September 12 is to kill the terrorists roaming the streets. However, you cannot kill the terrorists without harming innocent pedestrians in the process. The game uses interactivity to drive home the argument that you can’t fight terrorism with war. While this rhetoric was obvious, Sheridan’s second example took a bigger stretch of the imagination. He discussed MIT’s new fab lab, which is a mini-factory that can be set up in the basement of any home for the cost of $25,000 (software, equipment, etc.), in relation to problems of distribution. In terms of rhetoric, a physical product is much more persuasive than a brochure.
Sheridan claims that right now first-year composition classes are made up of 95 percent writing. He asks the audience to consider a rhetorical education that is equally broken up into three categories: writing, game design, and the rhetoric of manufactured objects. His point being that we need to open up our conception of a first-year writing program and critically reflect upon it. In addition he raises the question of if the type of rhetorical work done by a student should be defined by their discipline.
Anthony Michel, Avila University: “New Media Technologies, Community Groups and Social Movements”
This presentation discussed the growth of the “True Blue Women,” a Kansas-based political group, and how that growth required negotiation of the group’s identity. The “True Blue Women” began as a small group of women unhappy with the results of the 2004 election and with Kansas’ conservative image as a whole. What began as a place-based group concerned with identity issues and family values quickly changed when the group went from simply having flyers and meetings to interacting in online discussions through a website. Suddenly, their discussions and concerns were resonating with individuals outside of their Kansas City community. Their organization became part of a larger progressive movement and entered the network of networks that exist online. At this point the group had to make a decision of how to maintain the community-based identity of their group while being connected to a larger whole. To avoid compromising their identity and to give stability to their group, the “True Blue Women” meet offline. Michel claims that groups like the “True Blue Women” raise pedagogical questions, such as “How do designers combine ‘old-fashioned’ technologies such as banners with high-tech mobile tools?” and “What is gained and lost in balancing the traditional and the new?”