Rhetoric

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Are a few queen bees enough?

Here's another take on the underrepresentation of women in op-ed positions. Sterrett says, "There are more male columnists than female columnists, just as there are more straight columnists than gay columnists, and more white columnists than black columnists." Yes, and ideally I'd like to see more African American, gay, lesbian, and working-class columnists. Not because it would be all PC and everything, but because just maybe it would be good to get a variety of perspectives on current events and issues. One's social location informs (doesn't determine, but does inform) one's perspective. Standpoint theorists didn't get it all wrong. Sterrett then writes, "Where [Susan] Estrich is wrong is in assuming that bare stats directly relate to an individual writer’s ability to inspire change." Okay...but then:

Consider the Newspaper of Record, every Republican’s favorite news organization. They have five regular males on Op-Ed (kind of), and one female. It’s Brooks, Friedman, Herbert, Kristof, and Krugman, versus Maureen Dowd. The reason that’s not as bad as it seems is that Dowd, the only woman, has all the power.

Ask anyone who regularly reads the Times’ op-ed page what Bob Herbert’s last column was about. A clever response would be “Iraq,” since that’s mainly what he busies himself with, but no one actually knows. Does Bob Herbert even remember? He’s a fine writer—despite having the foreign-policy IQ of a tubeworm—but his work is regrettably forgettable. Same goes for all the others, even the sole conservative, David Brooks.

Dowd is the only one that matters. That’s not to say that the others are completely without merit, but clearly she’s the star writer. She may be but a small slice of the Times’ sweet, maudlin, left-wing pie, but she’s what everyone’s waiting for.

It’s not enough to look at the statistical evidence. Percentages are good for grading tests, but rather ineffective when determining the place of women in editorializing. There are more men than women writing op-eds, but women are certainly equal to men in terms of prominence. Just ask Bob Herbert.

So one woman is okay, if she's a queen bee? Or "token," as Prof. B. said? In fact, just read her post, it's a lot better than this one.

CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus

John Logie began the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus with a tribute to Candace Spigelman, co-chair of the Caucus, who passed away last year. Candace never lost sight of students in the process of talking about rhetoric and intellectual property. Institutions are here for the benefit of students. He set up a Candace Spigelman Memorial Fund, which will benefit the Caucus. Directions on how to contribute to the fund will be on the web site soon. Then he reviewed the MGM v. Grokster case and explained why we, as rhetoricians, should take an interest in it. He held up two sheets of paper, one in each hand, that said, "THE INTERNET IS A PEER-TO-PEER NETWORK." The Grokster case, he argued, represents the threat of suppressing technologies that merely have the potential to be used for copyright infringement. Jeff Galin (I think) posed these questions: Can we engage our students to get active in this as well? Can we imagine ways that free use and fair use might intersect? What roles are we going to play to challenge Congress and the entertainment industry?

Because Charlie ended up not being able to attend the Caucus, I presented on the new CCCC-IP web site (I attached my transparencies to this post). Charlie and I moved the content from the old site to this fancy new Drupal site. Basically, I encouraged everyone to register with the site (looks like three or four people did register since then) and contribute content: posts about IP/copyright news, source annotations for the Resource Guide, etc. After that, I introduced the "Just Ask!" campaign. Prompted by a Kairosnews thread, four journals announced that they'd be offering authors the option to license their articles under Creative Commons licenses:

  1. Computers and Composition Online
  2. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy
  3. The Writing Instructor
  4. Lore: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing (not official, but nb the CC license here, granted me because I asked.)

All this happened because people asked. I also have it on good authority that Enculturation would very likely let an author CC license a work if he or she asked, as authors who publish there retain the copyrights anyway. So ask! Remember to ask. I think a lot of people tend to forget that there's another way to do this, and that asking doesn't constitute an ultimatum (do this or I won't sign!!). In fact, I think authors should ask for CC licenses, Founder's Copyrights, etc. especially when they're sure the publishers will say "no." That at least lets the publishers know that scholars want this option. I'd like to emphasize the need for senior scholars, who have a wide variety of choices when it comes to publishing venues, to choose these journals, and to note, either in the body of the article or in an endnote, that they published in this particular journal because they support open access and Creative Commons (Logie has also made this point).

Home Words: City Writing

I'm finally winding this CCCC blogging thing up, getting around to Jeff Rice, Jenny Edbauer, and Geoffrey Sirc's panel. I know several of you who couldn't make it to the session have been waiting to read my notes, and I hope I don't disappoint. If I misunderstood anything the presenters said, I'm sure they'll leave comments here to correct me. :-) Jeff started out with his paper, titled "Writing Detroit." He made several intriguing connections, the first one being the rhetoric of the city's parallel with the rhetoric of digital culture. Both are fragmented (and composition studies dismisses "fragment" as error). City writing embraces fragments, the fragment as place, without resorting to representation, problematizing representation. Writing in digital culture usually means taking snippets of sound, images, text, etc. and remixing them to form something new. He brought in Nigel Thrift's concept of "everyday urbanism," remarking that few cities are as "urban" as Detroit. Jeff defined "pedagogy" as he was talking about it as "generalized teaching," not limited to classroom instruction in particular. He called for the discovery of place as rhetoric: writing the city, writing myth. When we write the city, we're writing our own ideologies, not mimicking or re-presenting the city. Jeff then went into a sustained example using the history of Detroit, especially Henry Ford and Eminem, which was really interesting. I couldn't possibly do justice to it here, but maybe Jeff will post something about it. Anyway, he pointed out that when students are asked to invent the university, they are also being asked to segregate themselves from the city. In city writing, rhetors are like flâneurs, and appropriation is the guiding principle. The assembly line, to use a Detroit metaphor, is like composition: the combination and juxtaposition of elements. Making appropriation the guiding principle encourages ambiguity, a "mood-based grammar," attitude and bravado in writing, a pose of boasting, like one Eminem or Henry Ford might assume. (Let me be careful here. I got the impression that Jeff was saying this kind of writing fosters confidence in students and discourages passivity and timidity in student writing, not that he was making some kind of claim for braggart-as-ideal-rhetor.) He closed by saying that in city writing, you articulate positions, not arguments; you re-invent, rather than re-present. Geography inscribes difference, and difference becomes reinscribed in geography. (I had that last sentence in my notes, but I forgot what the connection between it and the previous sentence was...)

The Blogging SIG

The discussion at the CCCC Blogging SIG was, I thought, fairly productive. I didn't attend the one last year, but I'm told that a lot of the people who attended didn't know much about weblogs, so much of the time was spent on basics. This time, we split up into small groups and reported back to the larger group. Here are my notes from the small group presentations:

The first group discussed institution-wide blogging initiatives. UThink wasn't discussed, but I'm sure people will be talking about it next year, as researchers are compiling data about the uses of the UThink weblogs. Someone brought up possible connections with service learning and getting the community involved. Also, the group talked about the ways weblogs are being used in writing classrooms. The group concluded that we shouldn't just transfer what we already know about notebooks, listservs, etc. and think weblogs will make it better.

Transnational Feminisms: Rhetorical and Pedagogical Practices

"Transnational Feminisms: Rhetorical and Pedagogical Practices" was another panel I attended at CCCC (yes, I'm slowly but surely blogging them all!). As always, anything that sounds strange or wrong should probably be attributed to my misunderstanding, not their presentations. Because of a coffee craving, I got there late and only caught the tail end of Susan Jarratt's presentation, "Pathos Effects: Gender and the Regulation of Emotion in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Hearings." She was discussing trauma, loss, mourning, and psychological narrative among South Africans, and at the end, she said that rhetoricians have work to do; we must engage with the "emotional, juridical, symbolic, ethical, and political" aspects of this trauma, this "laboring in the realm of memory." The theme of the new issue of JAC is trauma, so it looks like the work is underway. Geographers and literary critics have been studying trauma and loss for a long time now, so rhetoricians would do well to look to the existing work (though I'm sure those who are studying trauma, loss, and mourning are already doing that). While I didn't catch much of Jarratt's presentation, what I did see prompted me to search for sources on the TRC and bookmark a few articles to read later:

Owning Knowledge

I chaired a session at CCCC titled "Owning Knowledge: New Intersections of Intellectual Property, Technology, and Academia," with Mike Edwards, Krista Kennedy (whose paper was read by John Logie), and Charlie Lowe presenting. I didn't take notes at this one, as I was watching my cell phone's clock to make sure no one went over time. I do want to point to Charlie's presentation, Open Source-Open Access as Social Constructionist Epistemology, and Mike's, titled How Much Should You Pay for a C+ Paper? The Production, Circulation, and Ownership of Student Writing. Luckily, they've provided their presentations, so those of you looking for that feeling of being there will hopefully find some of that. Maybe next year I'll have enough money for the necessary gadgetry (and hosting space) to podcast the whole thing...

Writing Not Allowed? Lessig's Address at CCCC

UPDATE: Janine has audio of Lessig's talk!

Everyone's been raving about Lawrence Lessig's featured address, and I'd like to chime in and do the same. When the IP committee announced that they were able to get him to come and speak, I was thrilled; one of my serious convictions about IP scholarship in the field of rhetoric and composition is that we need to do a better job communicating with other R&C scholars about how the current copyright system affects them, and how alternatives to the default copyright would benefit them. We haven't adequately explained what the stakes are. I wish someone who has more expertise in this area than I do would make a good, clear bulleted list that contains specific things composition instructors get to do now, no problem, that an unfavorable decision in the Grokster case or some proposed change in legislation would change. Something like, "If the Grokster case is decided in favor of MGM, this affects you because the decision's precedent will make it so that you are no longer allowed to..." Or, maybe a list of possibilities: "If the Digital Millenium Copyright Act had not passed, you (as a composition instructor) would be able to..." "If the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act had not passed, you would be able to..."

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