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Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca on Data Selection

Purrrr, that's a sexy title, isn't it? ;) Seriously, I'm finally posting one of today's struggles--getting through a chunk of The New Rhetoric is somewhat akin to hazing for me. Here's the question I chose:

“Only the existence of an argumentation that is
neither compelling nor arbitrary can give meaning
to human freedom, a state in which reasonable
choice can be exercised” (NR, 514).

Apply this binary between a theory that is “neither
compelling nor arbitrary” to the first section
assigned for Wednesday (115-42). Do Perelman
and Olbrechts-Tyteca show how the selection of
data is neither compelling nor arbitrary?

I don't know if my post measures up to Amy's or not, but it's my humble attempt:

In The New Rhetoric, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca identify a dilemma in contemporary thought: On the one hand is Cartesian logic--certain premises are rational, and one cannot deny them; if you are rational, you must accept such premises as true, and the alternative premises are automatically false and irrational. Such a logic allows no space for agency, choice, or freedom; you would be compelled to think and do certain things and not others. On the other hand is total disorder; nothing is rational, and everything is arbitrary. This may allow for choice, but it drains all choices of any meaning or value. They seek another way to think about reason and truth and find it in their theory of argumentation, which can yield "the possibility of a human community in the sphere of action when this justification cannot be based on a reality of objective truth" (514). Theirs is a fluid system in which ambiguity is taken as a given, and meaning is not fixed or closed; instead, it is continually being negotiated and reinterpreted as new situations and contexts present themselves. In this brief essay, I will show that Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca's thought on the selection of data, which emphasizes agreed-upon meaning, interpretation, and flexibility, is in keeping with their theory of argumentation, which allows for meaning and validity without a singular objective truth.

Must Do/Rather Do

Today, among lots and lots of other things, I must write a 500-word essay for my Rhetorical Theory class on The New Rhetoric by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca. I also have to do some work with the blog collection (for those of you who have been asking when the frell the collection is going live, we're aiming for mid-June). I should also be working on my final papers for my Rhetorical Theory class and my Women's Studies class, gah. For the former, which is intended to be a conference paper, I had been thinking about doing something applying the theory we've covered in class to blogging, but now that I'm all in a tizzy about taking the prelims this summer, I was thinking about doing something more like a prelim-style explication of Habermas and the public sphere. I figure a blog researcher ought to know her Habermas, since it's been linked to blogging by several people. For example, there's Invisible Adjunct's blogroll, and Andrew Ó Baoill has been doing some good work in this vein as well. I also need to be fine-tuning my CCCC proposal.

What I'd rather be doing: Knitting and exercising. I know it might be hard for you to believe, but for the past few weeks, I've been going to the gym nearly every day. I used to exercise all the time when I was in my late teens/early twenties, and I'm starting to get that kind of enjoyment out of it again. I do 30 minutes on the elliptical machine, and then I go to the weight room, where I do tricep presses, arm curls, the torso-twist machine that works your obliques, leg curls, leg extensions, and leg presses. Three sets, twelve reps each. It makes me feel great--lightweight and strong, like I'm made of titanium. :)

Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing Conference

Soon I'll be doing a little weekend jaunt to Fargo, at which I'll be presenting on the now-defunct Invisible Adjunct. I need to get my paper, which is now around 15 pages, into manageable, presentation-friendly chunks of information. I think I'll use the collaborative book module of Drupal for my presentation this time. Ah. It's Saturday night, and I'm sitting around feeling guilty over being so unproductive. I've been doing laundry and talking to long-distance friends on the phone, and now that it's after midnight, I've decided to go through the very helpful comments that Carol and Art gave me. I hope to be able to get some comments from IA herself too; I sent her the paper a few months ago but haven't sent a gentle reminder for some feedback yet.

Posting the Prelims

My colleague and friend Cristina Hanganu-Bresch is posting her prelims as she completes them. How cool is that?! Watch for mine this summer (**crosses fingers, hoping to pass**).

Negotiating Expectations: A Response

Dennis posted recently about students and assignment expectations, and Mikael responds with some pretty provocative thoughts:

What do you want us to write? (It bears pointing out that most of my students are juniors and seniors; FY classes really are a different beast.) I'm always a little taken aback by the question, particularly as I take pains to discuss with them that the assignments are in the book, in black & white. I tell them, on day one, that one challenge of the text I use for my Advanced Expository Writing classes is that part of the assignment is figuring out how best to design and execute the assignment. The implications here are both profound and elementary: it's an acknowledgement that each reader creates & locates meaning in text differently; each student's experiences and epistemological tendencies lead them along slightly different paths. The interesting thing is how the students negotiate the places where their individual patterns of understanding and ideas about how they go from the reading to a writing project that's an extension of the project started by "the expert", the "professional", the "academic" intersect with and diverge from those of their peers, instructor, even the original author.

Mike might say that this "What do you want?" tendency is a representation of our economic system--students see their work as having an exchange value; do this and you get a C, do that and you get an A. I admit that when I saw Mikael's post, I wondered how he demystifies his evaluation process for his students. What does he tell them, exactly? Then I read on:

The CCCC Post

Many have posted about 4Cs already, including Charlie with his notes on the CCCC-Intellectual Property Caucus, Collin with his well-linked notes on panels he attended, Mike's behemoth-like annotations here, here, here, here, here, and here, Arete's notes on blogging at 4Cs, and Samantha's March 29 and 30 posts. [Update: Jeff Ward blogs about the blogging special interest group, Kress's talk, and he has some nice photos of the Riverwalk. Another update: Answergrape also has posts here, here, here, here, and here.] What could I possibly add? Not much, but I'll try. First off, I attended the Intellectual Property Caucus with Charlie. We brainstormed and ranted, and all was well, but then the conversation took a turn from righteous indignation over the dwindling of the public domain to plagiarism in the composition classroom. I ask the following question oh so timorously: Why must our conversations about intellectual property inevitably take such a turn? I realize that we're still trying to get people mobilized for the copyleft/Creative Commons cause, and to do that we have to sell it and make it relevant to composition pedagogy, but I wish the people we're trying to persuade would approach IP issues with a more open mind, not so constrained by disciplinary blinders. Just my $0.02. I know it's informed by my interest in the public domain and free culture. I think we need a way to explain IP issues clearly while circumventing the plagiarism discussion, something like: I want to be able to use "Stairway to Heaven" in a documentary film, not tell you I'm the one who wrote it. :) Anyway, one of the highlights for me from the caucus was Andrea Lunsford's call for two types of research: detailed case studies of encounters with copyright law (especially hindrances it presents and the way these encounters with copyright law result in work that doesn't appear as well-researched and thorough as it actually is) and historical research on the concept of common knowledge. What is common knowledge? Is there still such a thing? I agree that the research is important; I'd read it.

New Listserv on Blogs

Late one night (early one morning) at 4Cs, Charlie started a listserv for bloggers and blog enthusiasts to plan a special interest group for next year's 4Cs. I've copied his post from Kairosnews here:

This past 4C's, there were a lot of events to related to blogging, among which was the special interest group event, “Calling All Bloggers: Academic Bloggers Sharing Strategies and Resources.” At that meeting, attendees decided to create the CCCC Blogging SIG listserv (blogs@kairosnews.org): "a list of comp/rhet/lit folk devoted to exploring the personal and professional applications of weblogs and wikis in teaching, writing, and research." The list is currently being used to share our blogsites with each other, discuss possible panel presentations on blogging for 4C's 2005, and work out future goals for the SIG and the list. But we also hope to initiate many other conversations about blogging and share other resources. Everyone is invited to come participate in the existing conversations as well as to start their own.

And don't be discouraged if you are new to weblogs and/or don't keep your own weblog. One of the many reasons for forming the list was to create a community for supporting teachers in their efforts to learn about and begin blogging.

You can subscribe to the list online through the list information page. Once subscribed, post your messages to the list at blogs@kairosnews.org.

Things I Need to Do *NOW*

I'm planning on taking my prelims in July. Shouldn't I already have submitted my customized reading lists in rhetorical theory, tech comm research and theory, and feminism and technology to my committee and gotten them approved?! Yeah. I thought so. It will be done no later than Friday, I'll tell ya that right now!

I also feel a need to brag on my students. We had the first round of persuasive presentations yesterday, and they all just hit it out of the park. I have seen a steady, significant improvement in all aspects of their public speaking skills, including but not limited to: introductions, transitions, emphasis statements, addressing and refuting opposing arguments, conclusions, vocal pace and inflection, eye contact, gestures, everything. I'm extremely lucky to have each of them in my class.

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