14 May 2018
Summary/Synthesis Response 3
Chapters 9 through 11 of Scrolling Forward by David M. Levy examine the instability that digital documents present to our cultural community and continue to explore the implications of human fears of this change. Levy confesses that the human concerns of an increasingly digital world serve “as expressions of concern for the character and quality of our lives” (Levy 198). Documents construct the human world physically, socially, and culturally. The shift towards digital documents shifts this solid foundation of the world constructed by physical documents. This calls into question the merit and reliability of digital documents, as something so fundamental to our culture can be published instantly electronically without review or verification. The convenience of electronic documents allows them to pervade, thus bringing Levy to question the validity of this invasive document species while also acknowledging his own existential fears of cultural change.
Scrolling Forward questions the intellectual merit of publishing information online to be reviewed as scholarly. The debate between what knowledge should be deemed scholarly and acceptable is also explored in Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument, where the author, Barbara Tomlinson, explores the implications of the institutionalization of special knowledge and subjugated knowledge. Subjugated knowledges are described as “knowledges that have been disqualified, ridiculed, and dismissed” (Tomlinson 24), often dismissed because they embody a knowledge of an economically or socially inferior group. This allows certain knowledges and voices to be dismissed in conversations. While the digitalization of documents that Levy addresses makes it easier to gain access to a variety of perspectives that are typically dismissed from discourse, Levy notes that it also makes it more difficult to assess which documents could be reviewed as credible or scholarly (Levy 174). Tomlinson and Levy both advocate for close analysis of documents, digital or physical, particularly when considering academic and social discourse. Both assert the importance of not only focusing on “what authors create, rather…how they create it” (Tomlinson 25). By conducting a rhetorical reading on digital documents, scholars can embrace a variety of perspectives while ensuring that the creation of a digital document is credible.
Levy discusses the ability of digital documents to disrupt and change our culture as we know it, metaphorically comparing the rise of the digital age of documents to an earthquake (Levy 181). In Feminist Research in Theory and Practice, Letherby mirrors this idea by restructuring feminist discourse through the power of documents and research. By documenting the different cultural attitudes surrounding gender-effected events (such as a miscarriage), she reveals the instability of social gender roles. Letherby primarily focuses on inserting the self into research, thus “challenging traditional academic authorship” (Letherby 7) and reconstructing the way in which sociological research is conducted. Just as Levy notes the potential for an intellectual “earthquake”, destabilizing the modern documents and the sociocultural world, Letherby seeks to use documents to challenge the stigmas and traditions set by traditional research documents. Both authors agree that documents have the power to destabilize sociocultural discourse and identity as it exists.
Chapter 6 of What Writing Does and How it Does It by Anne Wysocki analyzes how the visual elements of digital media characterize and shape the document itself and how it grabs a reader’s attention. She primarily argues that “the visual elements and contexts of a text contribute to our overall experience of a text” (Wysocki 137), affected by elements from shapes to digital transitions. Levy makes a similar note of the “changes, both format and in the rhythm of publishing” (Levy 175) that have begun to appear, particularly in digital media. The inclusion of hyperlinks, “videos, simulations, and interactive displays” (175) are all forever impacting the way in which people absorb media and chose the knowledge they wish to attain. Wysocki advocates for readers to be conscious consumers of digital media, aware of the ways in which bold graphics, fonts, and shapes are used to attract reader attention, though they are not indicative of which sites or information is more or less credible. This re-presentation of documents designed to grab attention has the potential to lead media consumers to false information, a threat that Levy and Wysocki are both aware of and caution against.
Paul Prior explores how texts come to exist and the histories they carry in chapter 7 of What Writing Does and How it Does It. Levy takes a similar interest in the history that texts contain, using e-mail as an example of a text that contains the history of thousands of years of letters, contains layers of digital formatting and editing, and still promises more in the future of digital communication (Levy 164). Prior echoes this idea, stating that “writing moves forwards and backwards”, as “many texts…are produced across multiple moments of composing and inscription” (Prior 171). A previous reading of Levy’s own works, an introduction to Scrolling Forward, also alludes to this history contained in documents through the analysis of a simple receipt. Both authors clearly emphasize the importance of acknowledging the inconspicuous histories contained within documents. As documents create the social, legal, cultural, and economic structure upon which the world rests, it is critical to understand how to analyze documents and their histories, particularly as documents progress into the unstable, digital future.
Does the accessibility all populations are gaining to digital knowledge compensate for the natural unaccountability of the internet? How useful is the information posted digitally if it cannot all be verified?
Is it possible to maintain a stable economic, political, social, and cultural structure with digital documents? Is there a shift in our dependency on digital documents that could have major cultural ramifications?
Word Count: 936
Summary Synthesis Response 1
Summary Synthesis Report 2
In his book, Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric, LuMing Mao discusses the developing paradox that technology and globalization has created. As quickly as an interconnectedness grows, there is another expansion of resistance to cultural integration. People and cultures are eager to distinguish themselves from other peoples and cultures, “determined to reassert their rightful agency and to forge their own alliances and affiliations” (Mao 1). Chinese American rhetoric exemplifies this paradox and how it is both found in and shaped by the language and rhetoric people use. The clear binaries between European American and Chinese rhetorical practices create a clear conflict within Chinese American rhetoric. Still, Mao acknowledges that “Chinese American rhetoric does blur the boundary and does provide the potential for positive changes and transformations” (Mao 3). The human necessity to find both a sense of individual identity and a sense of global connectivity is critical to understand when examining both Chinese American rhetoric and the expanding, social, modern world.
The distinction between cultural rhetoric is explored in the excerpt of Voices of the Self by Keith Gilyard, analyzing the merits that Black English and traditional English hold. Just as Mao holds Chinese American rhetoric and European American rhetoric in distinct yet equal standing, Gilyard argues that black English needs to be viewed as equally respectable as traditional English in modern American society. Gilyard believes that common analysis of American language and dialects discriminates against the African American community, as “the odds have been stacked against many Black children” (Gilyard 64) who were raised speaking Black English rather than traditional English. It creates a psychological and an academic barrier, as some black students find it more difficult to understand a dialect they are not expected to practice at home and are then deemed inferior or less intelligent. This frustration over the decided authority of traditional English is echoed through Mao’s frustration over the clear social dominance of European American rhetoric, which can ignore the many other sociocultural rhetoric common in American culture. Both authors acknowledge that European American rhetoric is dominant in American society yet accepting it as the only viable rhetoric discriminates against the wealth and variety of cultures and traditions within the United States.
In Digital Griots, Banks discusses the modern DJs ability to link different “cultural practices, multiple literacies, rhetorical masteries, and knowledge of traditions” (Banks 13) to create a rhetoric of stories surrounding the black American culture and experience. This demonstrates Mao’s understanding of the impact that culture has on rhetoric, though his focuses on the dialectical. The DJ operating as Griot honors traditions of oral storytelling, which has been crucial to the history and survival of black culture. Chinese American rhetoric honors cultural and grammatic roots of Chinese and European cultures and language, crossing geographical and rhetorical “border zones”. By honoring yet combining traditions, Chinese American creates a unique identity akin to (but separate from) the unique identity that digital Griots embrace. Banks focuses on the discourse that emerges in a “remix culture” where “print, oral, and digital media” (Banks 24) are intertwined. The existence of remix culture and the sense of both community and identity that comes from it is what Banks argues allows “black students [to] see themselves reflected more genuinely” (Banks 14). Chinese American rhetoric demonstrates how the intertwining of different cultures on a global scale creates a sense of identity yet parallels the importance of Banks’s discussed need for self-identity. Chinese American rhetoric creates a unique identity that blends two contrasting cultures, just as digital Griots must blend various medias and traditions to honor an identity and a history.
The paradox of Chinese American rhetoric brings to light issues of face and reputation, which heavily impact the way and settings in which Chinese American rhetoric is used. Similarly, the teaching of English in schools is also profoundly affected by the reputation that the educational system wishes to uphold. In academia, American English is particularly notorious for its focus on the academic reputation it seeks to uphold. In A Teaching Subject, Joseph Harris analyzes the competing discourses centered around English education. The American school of thought places a particular emphasis on the reputation of English, “concerned with defining English as an academic discipline” (Harris 5). This desire to be taken credibly competes with the British school of thought, which focuses on the students’ experiences through language rather than the forms of language themselves (Harris 10). Still, scholars focused on the concern of the face and reputation of English as a subject. Similarly, Mao worries over the reputation that he portrays to his students and faculty, as the importance of reputation is ingrained in Chinese American rhetoric. Chinese American rhetoric and English educational rhetoric are both dictated by the appearance they seek to portray. The importance of face and reputation in both academic and cultural settings is critical to consider when analyzing any rhetoric or discourse, as it is an important drive behind any interaction or text.
Chapter five of What Writing Does and How It Does It discusses code-switching, “a phenomenon in which speakers switch back and forth between two separate languages or dialects…to portray a particular nuance or establish solidarity” (Buell 98). The text argues that code-switching is a key way to identify a speaker’s social identity (Buell 100). It is particularly relevant when analyzing how native and non-native speakers must adapt to certain rhetorical codes when speaking or writing in a second language. Mao’s observations of the complexities of the code-switching involved within Chinese American rhetoric emphasize Buell’s argument of the social implications of code-switching. The paradox surrounding Chinese/American code-switching is highlighted through Mao’s fortune cookie metaphor, explaining how both cultures are simultaneously blended and distinguished in Chinese American discourse. The particular code-switching involved in Chinese American rhetoric and the blending of two extremely separate grammatical styles demonstrates Buell’s note that code-switching distinguishes social identity. The code-switching involved in Chinese American rhetoric is unique, distinct from, for instance, the code-switching involved in Black English/Traditional English speech.
Chapter four of What Writing Does and How It Does It examines how texts reflect and impact other texts through intertextuality. Intertextuality includes the “using [of] recognizable phrasing, terminology associated with specific…groups of people” (Bazerman 88). Intertextuality has an ability to “echo certain ways of communicating” (Bazerman 89), linking separate ideas and documents in a way that is recognizable and engaging to the person being communicated to. It allows for an interconnectedness to emerge between texts and peoples, accompanying a basic knowledge of the topics being referenced. When examining the implications of Chinese American rhetoric as a metaphor for global connectivity and individualism, one must have a basic understanding of Chinese and American cultures. The intertextuality that emerges in Chinese American rhetoric alludes to the tradition of Chinese customs and structures, as well as European grammar styles and practices. These practices and differences sometimes conflict with one another, but the intertextuality creates the “togetherness-in-difference” that highlights both the sense of individualism and collectiveness that emerges from the globalization and merging of cultures.
SSR Question Responses (links)