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

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, 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."

Platonic dialogue on a contemporary issue