Revolution Lullabye

March 29, 2009

Cope and Kalantzis, Designs for Social Futures

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis. “Designs for Social Futures.” In Multiliteracies. Eds. Cope and Kalantzis. London: Routledge, 2000. 203-234.

Cope and Kalantzis foreground three important concepts or ideas in literacy pedagogy: 1. that literacy is a matter of design that depends on the exercise of human agency 2. that all literacy is multimodal and increasingly nonlinear due to digital 21st century technology and 3. that no one literacy is better than another; the many discourses and identities of cultures and subcultures  necessitate dialogues in literacy learning instead of dogma. Inherent in any act of designing are both the concepts of a unique individual voice and hybridity (synthesizing of many identities, discourses, and experiences), both concepts that are grounded in agency. They use an example of translating the Bible into an Austrailian Aboriginal language to showcase that naive multiculturalism, a multiculturalism that believes in simple translation without cultural or political ramifications, cannot take into account the effects of globalization on local cultural and subcultural diversity. Globalization and digital technology have simultaneously created spaces for countless small subcutlures but in that fragmentation, there is no common culture and in the “common” global culture left, there is no regional cultural distinctions.

Quotable Quotes

“There is just so much to draw from in the breadth and subltety of Available Designs that every Designing re-creates the world afresh” (205).

“Design is a process in which the individual and culture are inseparable.” (203).

“Culture is no more and no less than the accumulated and continuing expression of agency; of Designing” (203).

Notable Notes

the paradox of digital media – it is cheap and universal and gives space to small subcultures and groups, but it has created dromospheric pollution (no sense of distance between places – Virilio 1997), a sense of transitory and immediate culture, no distinction between virtual and real, fragmentation and loss of common culture, and does not take into account issues of access/bandwidths/disabilities

communication has always been interactive – not just a digital phenomenon

culture, meaning-making must always be shifting and changing – dynamic – because literacies and cultures are never static

three levels of designs – lifeworld (everyday lives, function); transcendental (analysis, reflection, depth, larger scope); universals (human nature, breadth, cross-cultural)

good chart 212-216 about five dimensions and modes of meaning

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 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.

Create a free website or blog at