teaching for democracy in first-year composition

Asao Inoue has a thoughtful post here revisiting James Berlin and the idea of composition as instruction in democratic citizenship. Undoubtedly there is a deep connection to classical rhetoric in this connection, though Berlin revitalized that link for the postmodern era. Like Inoue, I was also strongly affected by Berlin as a grad student in the…

identity and pedagogy in first-year composition

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Mark Lilla’s NY Times op-ed, “The End of Identity Liberalism.” As I noted then, I did not imagine many of my colleagues would share his views (and neither do I, as I think that post made clear, though perhaps I had different objections than other academics). Chris Newfield offers…

robot empathy and ethics in a jobless future

Perhaps this is a departure from concerns of distributed deliberation, fake news and such. Perhaps not. Here though I begin with the rhetoric of an emerging sub-genre regarding humanity’s slow, dismal apocalypse in the wake of intelligent machines. I offer two examples, one from the New Yorker, “Silicon Valley Has an Empathy Problem” by Om Malik…

consensual and competing media hallucinations

In Neuromancer William Gibson famously described cyberspace as A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations…

distributed deliberation: beyond echo chambers and fake news

If some Americans are slowly rousing to the realization that getting information via social media resulted in a distorted (and sometimes completely false) view of past election, perhaps they might be able to extend that epiphany to recognize that the distortion is ongoing and not limited to presidential politics. It is also not limited to…

pluralism and the nonmodern, nonliberal society

In a New York Times editorial, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Mark Lilla, a Columbia history professor, makes an argument that runs against much of the discourse I hear from the academic left. I am curious what others think of it. In part I’m writing this to work through my own thoughts on the matter. All…

The fantasies and limits of experts and elites

I went to see Arrival last night. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it fits into the subgenre of science fiction where scientists save the world in the face of aliens, panicked citizens, paranoid politicians, and trigger-happy soldiers. To be sure there are other kinds of contact movies (E.T. for example) where friendly…

friendship, encryption, and servers

Let’s side aside the partisan politics for a moment and consider these matters more broadly. I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, “Three men can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” It suggests a couple things. Perhaps a lack of self control come to mind, but I think of the sociality…

one new materialist rhetoric and its relation to object-oriented ontology

There have been some “conversations” on social media and apparently on a panel at the Cultural Rhetorics conference going on this weekend regarding object-oriented ontology and rhetoric. I’m not at that conference, but I have read some of the online discussion on Twitter and Facebook. I’m not interested in rehashing that here, but I thought…

populating threshold concepts in writing studies

In our Teaching Practicum, we’re reading Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an interesting texts with many contributors that seeks to identify some of the threshold concepts of our discipline where “threshold concepts” have some specific, though unsurprising, characteristics: Learning them is generally transformative, involving “an ontological…