Revolution Lullabye

June 23, 2009

Anderson, Prescribing the Life of the Mind

Anderson, Charles W. Prescribing the Life of the Mind. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993.

Anderson offers his critique of the contemporary American university curriculum and offers his vision of an alternative that would bring the disciplines together under the pursuit of practical reason. Influenced by Dewey, Anderson believes that a unifying force in the university – one that brings together the disciplines – can only be taught through and by the disciplines, and so it is the duty of the faculty to create a core curriculum that threads together the different areas of intellectual and practical inquiry in a way that students will find coherent and meaningful. The free elective system, marked by a core curriculum where students take a wide variety of courses that don’t necessarily speak to each other, puts the onus on the students to find the coherence when they don’t even have a sense of the map of the breadth of university knowledge. Practical reason is characterized by ongoing, purpose-driven inquiry, self-reflexive thinking and the application of judgment – of deciding that some things are valuable and some things are not.

Quotable Quotes

Practical reason: “the activity of examinign a pattern of practice, and criticizing it, analytically, reflectively, with an eye to its improvement. Practical reason is a matter of distinguishing excellence and error. It also implies mastery, the effort to do something as well as it can be done” (97).

“The aim is not to fit the individual to the disciplines but to organize the disciplines so as to develop the capabilities of the individual” (90) – how does this speak to Latour?

“If we are going to teach something greater, we are going to have to teach it through the disciplines” (88) – the disciplines are instruments toward a larger goal

Practical reason: “being acutely self-conscious about our ideas of the purpose of a human enterprise and about the practices we institute to achieve them.” (4)

Notable Notes

the core of Anderson’s curriculum: civilization (how did we come to think as we do?); science (a theoretical framework for scientific reasoning); the human situation (social sciences); the humanities (beauty, form and function, elegant design, subtle ends, cultivate judgment); and practical studies (applied fields – what do you do and why do you do it.) all meant to go deep, to find connections and meanings

practical reason as an organizing principle teaches judgment – it is complex, not simple relativism or inclusiveness

goal of American university education – traditionally open to all to cultivate practical reason necessary for democracy; the goal should be not an all-knowing individual but a particular kind of craftsman, worker who brings good practice to a field, who has a particular habit of mind

contemporary university: teaches only a certain kind of critical, detached, observant knowledge

tension between the public function of the university (to educate the public) and the private function (inquiry by academics)

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

February 19, 2009

Lu, An Essay on the Work of Composition

Lu, Min-Zhan. “An Essay on the Work of Composition: Composing English agains the Order of Fast Capitalism.” CCC 56:1 (Sept. 2004) 16-50.

Composition scholars and teachers need to think beyond a static, global, monolith and capitalistic English and question how multiple “englishes” are being used by the students in their classroom. The English that we use is not static; rather, it is a dynamic, enlivened language that is constantly being negotiated, composed, and designed by its users. Lu brings in the New London Group concept of design, thinking of composition more broadly as design-oriented, showing how through extended examples (like the “Collecting Money Toilet” sign in China) how we might begin to see the use of alternate englishes not as mistakes, but as specific choices by an individual drawing on their discursive resources (their own language expertise, inheritance, and affiliation and their own vision of themselves and their relation to the community and power.) Lu challenges composition scholars to be responsible global citizens, keeping in mind that they have the unique opportunity to teach almost every member of the university community (required first-year course) and that the research, pedagogy, and methods of American composition are used as the benchmarks for the rest of the English-speaking and English-learning world.

Quotable Quotes

All users of English are “actively structuring the english they are acquiring, its relation to other englishes, and the relations of peoples invested in the competing englishes” (26).

“In every instance of discursive practice, all users of English are working with and on very specific, often complex and sometimes dissonant, discursive resources and for potentially complex and conflicting purposes” (26).

Call for “approaching writing as a matter of designing mediated by individual writers’ actual discursive resources” (36).

“English is best defined as an unstable process kept alive by the intense intra-and international struggle between and across English and diverse languages (peripheralized by the power of English under fast capitalism), and between and across diverse standardized englishes and their Othered, peripheralized englishes (variously labeled Dialectal, Creole, Pidgin, Indigneized, etc.)” (24)

Notable Notes

treat discursive acts as matters of design (26)

pull between assimilation of a language and exclusion

English has material consequences, must stop treating it as a commodity that can be attained, learned, exchanged – it’s dynamic

Chinglish, jiaos

even seemingly homogenous students have different discursive resources and dissonance in those resources

February 1, 2009

Miller, Expertise and Agency

Miller, Carolyn R. “‘Expertise and Agency’: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction.” In The Ethos of Rhetoric. Ed. Michael J. Hyde, U of South Carolina P, 2004. 197-218.
Miller explores the two complementary modes of human-computer interaction in the post-Cold War era: expert systems and intelligent agents. Using a grounding in twentieth century US history and an understanding in the computer systems and programs developed from the 1950s onward, Miller shows how the ethos in the human-computer interaction changes from an ethos interested in rational reliability (phronesis) to one concerned with interaction with the user (eunoia.) Ethos is not just a normative function; it is descriptive as well and can shed light on the kind of rhetorical community participants belong to. The shift from a rhetoric of domain-specific expert systems to one of intelligent agents happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when public trust in institutions and authority figures took a nose dive (Vietnam, Watergate) and when rapidly evolving technologies allowed for the development of a more complex, more diverse (in markets and knowledge), and more distributed world. Intelligent agents, as opposed to expert systems that are concerned with the accumulation of one domain of knowledge, are semi-autonomous, have choices, and interact with the environment. Their “expertise” and knowledge is collected in a distributed fashion. Miller argues that the ethos of rational reliability and that of sympathy are on two ends of a pendulum and must be balanced with virtues and moral reasoning (arete.)
Quotable Quotes
“A discourse…delinieates a rhetorical community and consequently an ethos – a sensus communis and a locus communis – a place where interlocutors abide, about which they contest, and from which they draw appeals. Those who dwell within a rhetorical community acquire their character as rhetorical participants from it, as it educates and socializes them. The community does this in part by supplying the Aristotelian components of ethos – the judgment (phronesis), values (arete), and feelings (eonoia) that make a rhetor persuasive to other members of the community” (198)
This is important because it’s about how the discourse that we create in turns creates the community – the hive. The writing that happens in blogs, del.ic.ious, GoogleDocs, tagging, etc. – imparts both a community and a shared ethos that is carried out in different projects.
Looking at ethos “can help us determine aspects of our community and our communal character” (198)
Notable Notes
Distrust in authority is historically and culturally grounded, leads to these bottom-up, more user-need sensitive human-computer interaction systems. People aren’t (usually) crazy domain experts. Their expertise is distributed and can be documented and used most efficiently in more of an intelligent agent system.
Ethos is normative and descriptive.

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