Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back to this blog

I have been keeping busy elsewhere online, on research blogs and through my Twitter channels and such, so I've admittedly let this site go fallow (sorry!). But I do expect to return to it more in the coming months, as I move to the University of Hawaii (from Washington State University). ... Will post more this summer about the transition. I want to give people more information about what life in Hawaii (and at UH) is really like, since there seems to be very little reliable discourse online about it. I've basically only been able to find obvious PR sites, about tourism, or blogs/rants from cranks who have left and are complaining about it. In fact, I have been very surprised about the lack of information easily accessible on this issue, so I hope I can provide some new and fresh ideas to those either in a similar situation as mine, or considering a move to Oahu.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A short poem about stuff

This just sort of popped out of my mind today. Not sure what to do with it, so here it is:


a lot

twas not
for naught.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Infographic: The evolution of the smartphone

Students in my Com 101 class ran across this infographic; thought it might be worthwhile to share.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ingress ... destined to be the first Google goggles game?

The gaming industry (and academic researchers) have been looking for a great mainstream augmented reality game to appear. Is Ingress going to be it?

Here's the trailer:

From CNET:

"Last week we began to see the first hints of Google's first foray into so-called "alternate reality gaming," in which cryptic clues are strewn about the on- and offline worlds for the perusal of highly engaged fans. "What is the Niantic Project?" asked a teaser video. As of today, we know the answer: the Niantic Project is a game called Ingress.
As described in a teaser video, Ingress describes a world in which two shadowy sides are vying for dominance: the Enlightened, who are trying to establish portals around the world that will let them control people's minds, and the Resistance, who are trying to stop them.
The game takes the form of a free mobile app, now available on the Google Play store forAndroid devices. It is the second product from Niantic Labs, a startup accelerator within Google. Niantic is run by John Hanke, the former head of product management for Google's "Geo" division, which includes Maps, Earth and Local, among other divisions. Niantic's first project was Field Trip, an Android app for discovering the world around you. Released in September, Field Trip sends notifications to a smartphone whenever a person passes an area of possible interest -- a landmark, a park, a highly rated restaurant. In my use, it's been a fun way of exploring new cities and unfamiliar neighborhoods. ..."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Advice about scholarly publishing via infographics

Four professors in the Communication, Rhetoric & Digital Media program at North Carolina State University recently published on the program's student blog a series of infographics about academic publishing. Those were by Dr. Chris Anson, Dr. Susan Katz, Dr. Jason Swarts, and Dr. Carolyn Miller, and they offer several bits of important wisdom on this topic (via techrhet Digest):

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ideas for getting students involved in the election this year, via Paul Loeb

Paul Loeb, loeb@soulofacitizen.org

Here's a list of things you can still do to engage students in the election, created by our Campus Election Engagement Project. Please circulate, post, and pass it on however you can.
Paul Loeb, Founder Campus Election Engagement Project, author Soul of a Citizen and The Impossible Will Take a Little While
33 Things You Can Still Do to Engage Students in the Election
Created by the Campus Election Engagement Project

Here's a quick list of things schools can still do to get students engaged in the election, pulled together from all the good ideas that different campuses have come up with. We've broken them down by category, though some overlap. We hope these ideas will help you think of last minute ways to engage students in voter education, voter protection, getting out the vote, and finding ways to stay involved the election.

The key in these final weeks is to follow through on good ideas already begun and pick new ideas that will complement other activities. Most new ideas will need to be low-cost, simple and creative to pull off in this short time frame, but any of these could still make a significant difference. We hope you'll scan these ideas and pick some things to do that you aren't already doing. Also, take a look at the listed ideas that we got from you!


1.      Guerrilla theater! In 2008 the University of Colorado at Denver ordered Obama and McCain masks and gigantic boxing gloves and used them to hold mock fights and breakdancing contests all over campus. They were hugely popular with students, so if you want to order Romney/Obama masks they're $19.95 each, orderable here. And this is where you get the two pairs of $9.99 gigantic blow up boxing gloves. You can order either with two-day or next-day shipping. The possibilities with such approaches are limited only by your imagination: Hold amusing or serious skits about voting, publicize issues or debates, and gather crowds in visible places to interest students who might ignore tables or signs. Use these events to hand out voter pledges and voting information. Be creative and try to entertain as you engage and educate.

2.      Halloween activities: Trick or Vote canvassing on or around Halloween. Materials are available online so you don't need to start from scratch. Take advantage of parties happening on that day to spread your voter protection, voter education and get out the vote messages. Hand out candy messages: Get some bags of candy and stick or tie small message to them ("vote on nov 6", "bring ID to the polls", "what time are you voting?", "how are you getting to the polls?", "what kind of ID do I need?www.866ourvote.org," "election party, _____ dorm," etc.) Then put on a costume (or not) and hand them out on campus-having more information available can be helpful but people are much more likely to take a small piece of candy than a flyer.

3.      Plan parades to early voting sites or polling places and absentee ballot parties. University of Colorado Denver also did a parade of student voters to the nearby early voting site. Schools where sites are too far to walk can do this with carpools or school-sponsored shuttles. Early voting is key: It avoids the problems of jammed student schedules or long polling place lines, and gives students a chance to correct registration problems. On November 6th, you can repeat these efforts to make voting a community activity and celebrate having so many people turn out. Find creative ways to keep folks occupied (like providing some sort of entertainment or snacks) while people wait at the polling place for their friends to make it through the lines. Westfield State in Massachusetts held an absentee ballot party, where students could get their necessary ID info photocopied and have snacks while privately casting their ballots, addressing them, and stacking them to be mailed. Other !
 schools have given students stamps to mail back their ballots, so they won't have to hunt them down. And election night parties let students come together to watch the returns come in.

4.      Display posters, banners, signs and sandwich boards as permitted around campus with various messages encouraging voting, reminding people of absentee ballot request deadlines, and educating them about what to bring to the polls. Use existing templates, or create your own. Hand out iVote stickers, which can go on everything from book covers to water bottles to bicycles. You can also provide chalk for students to chalk campus walkways with various messages and images to encourage voting, share websites and announce activities.

5.      Write op-eds and letters to editors for newspapers about the importance of each person's vote and your campus initiatives to engage students. Encourage students to make time both to arrive at educated choices on issues and candidates and to figure out how and when they'll fit voting into their lives. Remind people to exercise their right to vote and be prepared in case the lines are long.

6.      Get students to sign a "Pledge to Vote": Create a generic card to sign or send them to various online pledges (e.g., Rock the Vote) and pledges to vote for candidates and issues of folks' choice. If you create a pledge card, you could also include on it places for people to make specific commitments to themselves about WHEN they'll learn about the issues and candidates and decide how to vote, HOW they'll cast their ballot (at their polling place, at home via absentee ballot or by early voting), WHAT TIME they'll got to the polls (or fill out their ballot), WHAT they'll take with them to vote (e.g., identification, sample ballot, directions to polling place, friends), OTHER ARRANGEMENTS they'll need to make to fit voting into their schedule and actually get to the polls, etc. Make sure to encourage faculty to distribute pledge cards in class and allow class time for students to make a plan and research the issues and candidates.

7.      Use social networking sites to carry your message. Use existing groups and causes and encourage students to post onto their sites so their friends will vote. Distribute the Election Protection Smartphone app via your campus IT department, and encourage students to use it to register, check registration and ID rules, and find out and tell their friends where their precincts are located. Consider placing ads during the last two weeks on Facebook, targeting students on your campus. Perhaps do a new ad each day with a slightly different message, including a countdown to remaining deadlines and to Election Day. After the election, continue with "what's next"-type messages to keep people involved. You can also register at www.Campusvotemap.info so other administrators, faculty and staff on your campus can contact you to help engage your students. People in every academic discipline and higher education professional network will hear about the project through their national asso!
 ciations. Our VoteMap lets them connect with you so you get valuable allies.

8.      Set up mock polling places, perhaps in the student union, with sample ballots for students to practice voting and consider how they'll vote. University of St. Francis (IN) conducted mock elections as part of their registration drives. Such dry runs now for new voters can help people assure they bring what they'll need with them if they vote at the polls and encourage them to learn about issues and candidates before they enter the polling booth on November 6th. Have written information available to help students both with the mechanics and the issues they'll need to know about to vote. You can also have stamps available so you can encourage absentee voters who complete their real ballots to send them in immediately. And set up computers with lists of informational sites like League of Women Voters, Votesmart.org, NY Times Election Guide, On The Issues, Public Agenda & Vote Gopher.com for issues and candidates and The Brennan Center for Justice &1-866-Our-Vote for voter pro!
 tection issues and local rules.

9.      Publicize polling locations near campus, including directions, hours and transportation options. Also, check state voter registration and ID rules, which should be posted on the election section of your state Campus Compact affiliate or other CEEP-affiliated state election engagement project sites. Many state rules have changed a lot since 2008, so it's critical to be on top of new rules and ensure you have accurate information to share. For instance, Pennsylvania schools now need expiration dates on student IDs for them to serve as IDs at the polls, but the new rules can be met if schools add expiration stickers. A new Florida law, for the moment invalidated by a judge, requires groups registering voters to register with the state and turn in registrations within a two-day window.


10.     It's not too late to ask faculty to give students extra credit for volunteering in the campaigns of their choice and reporting back through journals, papers or classroom presentations. If students get involved now, they're more likely to be involved in future campaigns. Many of the ideas in this list parallel campaign activities and faculty and staff can encourage students to participate directly, in ways that give them a chance to give voice to their own particular convictions.

11.     Volunteering at the polls or for initiatives and campaigns on Election Day is a great way to get more involved in the process. Students can knock on doors, make calls, or volunteer as poll-watchers with the candidates of their choice-playing a critical role in getting out the vote for the campaigns they support. They can also go to the national sites of their preferred candidates and make phone calls to key voters in other states or other areas of their own state. Finally, students can volunteer with local voter protection efforts through the existing campaigns. Law students can play a particular role volunteering with the non-partisan Election Protection coalition.

12.     Publish a list with campaign contact information (for all parties, candidates and initiatives) in the school newspaper and encourage students to volunteer in these ongoing efforts. Also include campus-initiated volunteer opportunities (like College Republicans or College Democrats or some listed in this document) that are in place so people can plug in easily.

13.     Students can also sign up (and even get paid) as non-partisan poll-workers.


14.     Display information on candidate platforms in the student union, blown up large enough so it's visible to passing students. Also, publicize information on initiatives, which are likely to be far less high-profile and therefore a source of far more confusion. You can find downloadable information on your state's initiatives here.

15.     Ask your election board or League of Women's Voters for the official non-partisan voters pamphlets for the area and place copies in key locations around campus. The League Guides may also have information on more local races, which are extremely important but often overlooked.

16.     Hold formal and informal debates and discussion sessions where students can discuss issues and candidates with other students and help decide how they want to vote. Screen election-related films such as Iron-Jawed Angels, The Young Candidate or Journeys through the Red, White and Blue.

17.     Post lists of good websites for learning about issues and candidates in libraries, study areas, dorms and places where students use computers.

18.     Make a fun Election Quiz for students to take in class, at lunch, at home. See a sample for Indiana.


19.     Work with the campus IT department to send reminder emails, voice-mails and text messages to every student on campus. Messages can include links to resources such as www.govote.org where students can find out where to vote and what they need to bring, and sites where they can verify registration. Make sure to check out the Campus Election Engagement Project website to view our latest resources, including new online tools. Encouraging students to make a logistical plan for how and when they'll cast their vote is helpful in addition to a simple reminder. Check that key campus websites have been updated to include links to such useful voter information sites and include a countdown to Election Day. If you distributed the Election Protection smartphone app, follow up with everyone who signed up. Ideally at least one message could go out before deadlines to order an absentee ballot as a reminder for those cannot get to their polling place or vote early, and a second message c!
 ould be sent on November 5th to remind all others to vote at the polls.

20.     If the prime polling place is off-campus, offer rides to the polls and encourage carpooling and going to the polls with friends. Some campuses have rented buses or vans to shuttle students from campus to their polling place, having worked out liability details.

21.     Ask faculty to let students miss classes, if need be, to vote. This is particularly valuable at community colleges, where students often have little time between work and school. In 2008, Virginia's Liberty University cancelled all classes on Election Day and scheduled shuttle buses to take students to the polls. Their 10,500 students' usual academic routine was replaced with an all-day campus concert that turned into an election party when the returns began to come in.

22.     Parades to early voting sites or polling places. University of Colorado Denver is doing a parade of student voters to the nearby early voting site. Schools where the sites are farther away can do this with carpools. Early voting is key, because it avoids the problems of jammed schedules or long polling place lines, plus it gives students a chance to correct any problems. Then on November 6th, it can be repeated to make voting a community activity and celebrate having so many people voting. Plan for entertainment and snacks near the polling place while students wait in line or wait for their friends to make it through the lines.

23.     Ask students to text their friends and send Facebook messages to their friends with voting reminders leading up to Election Day and on the day itself.

24.     Encourage "Take a Date to the Polls" and "Real Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Alone" concepts to foster support within peer groups, using posters, messages, Facebook ads, etc.

25.     Organize dorm storming on Election Day. Knock on doors and offer rides or company going to the polls to registered students blowing it off at the last minute. You'll have to coordinate between Residence Life, Campus Security and Student Activities to make sure student groups have access to the dorms. Make "I voted" buttons or stickers to give to people you find who have voted and invite others to get theirs once they do vote.

26.     Phone bank all registered voters whose numbers you have. If you did a registration drive you should have them already, or check with the county election board to purchase copies of voter rolls.

27.     Plan Election Night Parties to watch returns in student unions, dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other places where students gather. Distribute a list of campaign parties around town as well so students can join in the celebrations in the community as well, particularly with campaigners.


28.     Encourage students to verify their registration, and to address any problems before it's too late.

29.     Double-check state ID rules just before the election, and let every student know what they need to bring to the polls. In many states, ongoing court cases may change the rules a month or less before the election. If useful, issue appropriate issue zero balance utility bills or personalized letters from the president to provide ID for students who've registered at dorm addresses.

30.     Distribute the election info number 1-866-OUR-VOTE, which connects you to volunteer lawyers who can answer questions and correct misinformation from poll-workers, make posters with info such as voter ID rules and polling locations, and plaster the campus with them. Have student volunteers outside the polls with the election information number in case students have problems. If problems do occur (and with this many new voters and twists and turns of election rules, they may well), it's critical that any student whose vote is challenged knows to call this number for how to respond and cast their vote.


31.     Ask Faculty to keep students engaged post-election. This is especially important since most voters have no plans to stay engaged after voting. This could include reports from those who volunteered in election activities or pledges and planning to stay involved on issues they care about.

32.     Set up forums for students to discuss the "meaning" of the election results in the weeks after the election. Invite parties and issue groups to table so students can consider ways to stay involved. Student government and student groups can also convene town hall meetings, where students examine community needs, define local and national issues and explore on courses of action. These could also draw in existing student-engagement groups like the PIRGs.

33.     If your school increased its student participation and turnout from 2008, celebrate publicly. Make sure every student knows. Find out what methods worked best, and make plans for how to build on it and learn from the experience of other schools. Our Campus Election Engagement Project will be updating our website to incorporate the great new ideas that people have come up with, so check back for examples to help carry your efforts forward, and send any great stories or examples to CEEP staffers you've been working with or campuselect@gmail.com. Thanks for everything you've done!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Geospatial revolution video

Interesting visualizations of GPS data, uses of such data:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google glasses

Envisioning the end of smartphones already:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tech 101 presentation on March 2

Here are the videos I used to support that talk:

Media --

Glass (5 minutes) --

Tech integration (6 minutes) --

Augmented vision --

Nokia's vision of mixed reality (3 minutes)

Contact lenses (1:30 minutes)

Dystopian view of same subject (2 minutes)
The body as an interface (3 minutes) --

The Sixth Sense from MIT's MediaLab (8 minutes) --

The singularity (7 minutes) --

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fort Vancouver Mobile in The Columbian

My primary research project, based upon the Fort Vancouver Mobile app, was featured in a front-page and Sunday centerpiece of The Columbian recently, a story which covered many of the basics of the project and illustrates why we are so excited about the potential of the work. In short, we are the first group in the country working with the National Park Service on the creation of interpretive mobile apps, rather than wayfinding or expositional apps. We are creating all of our own media, doing all of our own coding, making new app designs, sharing our workshop with the public (through the FVM blog), and learning and having a lot of fun along the way. If you would like to know more, or to help us beta test in the coming months, as we prepare for the public launch in June, please contact me at fortvancouvermobile(AT)gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Glass, and how it could change our future technologies

Ignore the annoying product placement parts, and this is an interesting piece of futuristic thinking, that doesn't seem too far in the future:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dissertation defense: Oct. 19, 2011

Big day coming up! I'll be defending my dissertation: "The Fort Vancouver Mobile Project: Action Research in Net Locality" on Oct. 19 in Lubbock, Texas.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Public art at Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University's Spanish Renaissance-themed campus was described by James Michener as "the most beautiful west of the Mississippi, until you get to Stanford," and part of that appeal today is its public art collection. That artwork was deemed one of the Top 10 university collections in the U.S. by Public Art Review magazine in 2006.

For the past three years, during my annual residencies in Lubbock, I have been trying to find all of the pieces throughout the campus, which is Texas-huge, the second largest contiguous campus in the nation. This past May, I finally was able to locate all of them. Here are a few photos from my HTC Thunderbolt of several of them, plus other sights from my time on the campus:

Self portrait, showing the sun color and terrain type

This sculpture is in the courtyard of the English building, where I spent most of my time.

The Masked Rider is one of the two TTU mascots (the other one looks like Yosemite Sam).

Book person in front of the union building

A detail from the Tornado of Ideas sculpture

The Tornado of Ideas

Prometheus Bound

Driftwood horse

Bell tower

One of the large portal sculptures around

Another portal

Will Rogers

People, frozen in time ...

More people

More shapes

More patterns and shapes

Former TTU president

This is probably the most interesting piece on campus

Masked Rider again

Details from a building

The big neon Double-T on the side of the football stadium

Another wild horse sculpture

This is a mosaic inside the football stadium; really cool in person, but hard to photograph; the size of a stadium wall

These only can be seen as symbols from above, looking out the football stadium windows

The view from the president's skybox

I'm in the reflection of this one

This old barn is in the middle of campus, a reminder of the ag days

One of the hardest ones to find; these are gigantic, too

The seal at the entrance to campus

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Find the Future game at the New York Public Library

This looks like it will be an alternate reality game of some sort, connecting physical objects with an interactive expression of ideas, related to those objects. The trailer sure does make it look exciting:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

MIT-sponsored Start-Up Demo pitch session

This just came out on the Mobile Portland list, from Rob Wilcox, could be helpful to some:

"Northwest Demo is sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Forum and you will be demoing to the Alliance of Angels, Keiretsu Forum, Puget Sound Venture Club, Seraph Capital Forum, TacomaAngel Network, the ZINO Society, media and individual investors.
From the announcement You have two weeks left to submit your entry. Deadline is Friday, April 8th. Click here for more details. While this event can certainly help your chances for financing, it is primarily a DEMO event, not a financing pitch. Therefore, we ask that you adjust your summary accordingly by telling us WHY it will be a great DEMO. Based on your submissions, 10 to 12 companies will be selected to present to our screening committee. From there, the committee will select the companies that will demo their product or service at the Northwest Startup DEMO – Spring 2011 event to be held on May 12th. Here's the click here, sorry for breaking your analytics: http://www.mitwa.org/apply-northwest-startup-demo-spring-2011?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reacting to the Past games

The next step for the Fort Vancouver Mobile project and its descendants is to go beyond even interactive and immersive storytelling, at least as envisioned, and push users into this kind of broader experience, Reacting to the Past games, in which users can play different roles and respond in uniquely personal ways to a historic moment. That will take a lot more work, and much more grant money. But that is the vision I'm following.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TED talk by Layar co-founder

Found this short demo by Claire Boonstra, co-founder of Layar, just before its launch. Hard to believe that was such a short time ago (Layar seems like the old guard at this point), but the video is a good primer for those just starting to look at augmented reality interfaces.

TEDxAmsterdam: Layar from TEDxAmsterdam on Vimeo.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pilot study on media in The Village at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Here is a summary of my pilot study findings, comparing media exposure (a mobile app, a brochure, or wayside signs only) in The Village at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Not statistically significant but some promising potential appears.

The desktop presentation:

The raw PPT

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A thought about time and information

Had this moment of clarity today: There is no past. There is no future. There is only the present moment and the filtered reflections of bygone symbols mixed with projections of symbols and situations we might yet face.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tracing rhetorical "audience" through time

A podcast tracing the idea of rhetorical "audience" back through time, and across fields, including politics and education, and how I value this concept in my teaching.

Audience podcast

Friday, November 19, 2010

Consubstantiality, or finding common ground with words

Burke's concept of consubstantiality, covered in an earlier blog post, is inspiring a podcast from me in response to the darkening binary political environment in America today. Are we Democrats, or Republicans, ... or are we Americans? Even better, are we humans? Or the best: Are we inhabitants of Earth? Each label we apply to ourselves (or others) limits the whole, or screens the whole, as Burke might say, obscuring the Truth. It seems to me that we could divide ourselves in any number of ways that would easily rival or surpass the true differences that separate the big political parties, both of which, at their hearts, are corporatist and militarist.
Finding common ground, rather than wedging apart (dividing and conquering, I suppose) meant to Burke looking for words to end "warfare," literally and figuratively. I interpret this as finding the parts where we agree, focusing on those, and building a sense of togetherness, despite other areas of difference. Is this Pollyanna-ish nonsense that never could work in reality? What if, as an earlier commentator on this blog suggested, both sides don't want to get along, and one wants to wield a stick, rather than a carrot? These are issues facing the two big political parties today, particularly the Democrats. President Obama addressed this topic of binary discourse in his press conference after the recent elections, in which Republicans made large gains in Congress. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell's reply? The American people want our parties to work together "to put aside the left-wing wish list." That doesn't really sound like working together, now, does it? ... This upcoming podcast will include commentary on Burke's consubstantiality concept and the many similar ideas that have come before it in the history of classical rhetoric, as well as modern examples of powerful people, such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller, suggesting that maybe what the world needs now is a little less partisanship (when haven't we heard that cry?) and more efforts to find common ground among the people of our country, to rebuild trust in the government, which is, by the way, us, not a them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ways to get audio or video from YouTube.com

For various media projects I have been working on lately, I have needed to remix material on YouTube.

For video, I suggest trying YouTubeDownloader, which I think has a pretty good reputation for what it does, grabbing the YouTube file and producing an FLV file for download.

And, for audio, I just ran across an interesting site that seems to simply convert sound from YouTube. The site is called FLV2MP3.com, because YouTube files are stored as FLV files, and the most common audio compression is MP3. To get the MP3, then, you just copy and paste the YouTube URL into the box on FLV2MP3, press the convert button, and the mp3 pops right out. From there, you can embed it, download it, whatever. ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Foucault and Archaeology of Knowledge

Michel Foucault envisioned discourse as an artifact that could be dug up and examined, as from a particular period and place, a methodology of sorts that he called "Archaeology of Knowledge." From that, per James Herrick, he could determine what kinds of information could be known -- and said -- as "a matter of the social, historical and political conditions under which, for example, statements come to count as true or false."
Reading that recently inspired me to look again at the 2003 piece "Narrative Archeology" by Jeremy Hight, related to an emerging element of modern discourse: geolocation. Or, in other words, when a piece of discourse becomes directly connected to a place through a mobile device. That technological development seems to strengthen the Foucault metaphor, as Hight writes that "A city is a collection of data and sub-text to be read in the context of ethnography, history, semiotics, architectural patterns and forms, physical form and rhythm, juxtaposition, city planning, land usage shifts and other ways of interpretation and analysis. The city patterns can be equated to the patterns within literature: repetition, sub-text shift, metaphor, cumulative resonances, emergence of layers, decay and growth. A city is constructed in layers: infrastructure, streets, population, buildings. The same is true of the city in time: in shifts in decay and gentrification; in layers of differing architecture in form and layout resonating certain eras and modes in design, material, use of space and theory; in urban planning; in the physical juxtaposition of points and pointers from different times. Context and sub-text can be formulated as much in what is present and in juxtaposition as in what one learns was there and remains in faint traces (old signs barely visible on brick facades from businesses and neighborhood land usage long gone or worn splintering wooden posts jutting up from a railroad infrastructure decades dormant for example) or in what is no longer physically present at all and only is visible in recollection of the past." Digital historical interpretation that brings the past back to the present, flattens spacetime and allows history to be read fresh therefore seems to be an emerging extension of Foucault's ideas, worth juxtaposing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rhetoric as an end to warfare

Kenneth Burke considers finding common ground among people -- along the lines of consubstantiality, or identification -- as the only answer to our most pressing problem as humans, which is the alienation, or division, we feel from others.
In "A Rhetoric of Motives," per James Herrick, Burke writes: "If men were not apart from one another, there would be no need for the rhetorician to proclaim their unity. If men were wholly and truly of one substance, absolute communication would be of man's very essence."
As I am still feeling the bruises of yet another civil war-like political season, I wonder if Americans now have passed the point of no return in terms of consubstantiality. I don't feel hopeful at all that we can reach a period again in which we debate political issues together as Americans, trying to create the best country in the world, as opposed to Party A or Party B grasping for power and trying to dictate the ways in which the people in the other party live, which they really don't want to do.
It seems so long ago, in 2000, when a legitimate case could have been made that Republicans and Democrats were pretty much in the same place on many issues, arguing positions at least in the vicinity of each other. Ralph Nader made the case that the two parties were inseparable in ideas on the table, which was considered a bad thing. Of course, both parties at the time were concerned with a lot of negative matter, such as maintaining power and the two-party system, and feeding their corporate lamprey, and giving breaks to the rich, and a host of other slimy situations. But today, after about a decade of dramatically divisive rhetoric -- at first meant to separate the parties, but then manipulated as power grabs -- what are we left with in the ruins?
As Burke imagined, warfare! ... The bloody, bitter, hostile, horrible, hate-filled discourse of division. Unfortunately, mud-slinging, hate and character-assassination wins elections, and as long as it does, I suppose, politicians will go that route (they are, after all, politicians). But what do we as Americans get left with? Does anyone really feel good about the state of America right now? Does anyone feel like we are in this big community together?
Or do we feel divided? West Coasters versus East Coasters? City folk versus country folk? The intellectual elite versus the real people (who, apparently, are the ones you would want to sit down and drink a beer with)? War mongers / pacifists, who need to "man up." Capitalists / Socialists. Etc. Where is this getting us? Maybe instead we should be returning to Burke's suggestion of trying to find common ground, not as a form of pacifying "the enemy," which is us, by the way, but as a form realizing we are all working toward similar goals of creating a dynamic and fascinating place to live, where we can raise healthy and intelligent and happy children, and pursue what we want, when we want and how we want, and spend our lives enjoying each other, not dreading or hating each other. We don't live in two Americas. We aren't as different as we might feel that we are. We have differences, of course, but what would be the alternative, pure conformity? We all want a great country and great people and happiness. I think everyone should demand a resurgence of a rhetoric of unity from our leaders, not division. And vote out those who just continually tear us apart. That doesn't mean we eliminate debates, or differences of opinion, but we focus on the ground we share. We focus on rhetoric that brings us together. We don't focus on gaining power and leverage to boss others around. We focus on wielding words that unite us, and we return to Burke's noble effort "toward the elimination of warfare."