Debriefing on Aspects on the Rhetorical Situation Exercise

Don't skim these notes. They are part of the materials for this course, and you can use them to develop your expertise. After the notes, two headings - The digital is physical and On kairos - comment on and develop Longaker and Walker's ideas in chapter 2.


My Notes on Your Notes

In these notes, I review some of your work on the AspectsOfTheRhetoricalSituationExercise as feedback on taking notes on digital artifacts. Your notes when taken together give us a sense of the complexity of the rhetorical situation the BCAC/Watermark web site has to address.

These are my notes on your notes of working with a rhetorical problem. They give us both a moment to consider what you're doing in detail and to extend that doing. Do not slight these notes! I expect that you'll incorporate what I present here into your further understanding and work with the materials in this course. They are not in place of what the text mentions, but in addition to the text.

My notes here are to point out good practices in rhetorical analyses. that's what we're all aiming for right now: good practice.

Example of handling options

1. Some of you viewed the rhetorical situation as extending to the Watermark Center as well as the web site. That's interesting for our consideration because it opens up ideas on how the rhetorical situation of the two inter-relate. Here's an example of handling the options that notes how the exigence and the issue are related - and extending that consideration into the kind of discourse. What I admire here is how the notetaker stays with the two sites - Watermark Center and web page - over several aspects. That's staying with the idea long enough to start to develop it.

One other interesting observation: the web page uses epideictic discourse - it's praising art - but the page itself embodies deliberative discourse.

Overall, these notes demonstrate how open ended early consideration in notes can be.

example of extending from observing to analysis: the nav bar as rhetorical

Some of your notes take the observation into analysis - not necessary at this point but it can't hurt.

What's notable in the notes that follow is that the notetaker is connecting her observations with specifics on the web page in places. In one note, she connects the terms in the navigation menu with the occasion:

The audience is being asked to learn "about" the art center. The audience is being asked to attend "exhibits" and "programs" or through noting upcoming events on the "calendar". The audience is being asked to "shop" and to "contribute".

That's a valuable insight that explains how the page attempts to persuade by shaping the occasion of the audience's visit to the page. The navigation bar signals that the page is an occasion for learning. Those menu items in the navigation are not just inert or neutral terms. They persuade visitors of values.

In the current digital era, every entity requires a digital space. This space is itself a call for speech. However, because the speech is itself visual in nature via a webpage, great thought must be put into the presentation of these ideas. For example, the choice to create a blue-green-white theme calls to mind several modern ideals. These ideals tend toward clean, natural, "green", and simple.

In this occasion, the entity, an art center, is persuading the audience to become engaged in community based arts in multiple ways. These ways are listed across the top of the home page as menu items. The audience is being asked to learn "about" the art center. The audience is being asked to attend "exhibits" and "programs" or through noting upcoming events on the "calendar". The audience is being asked to "shop" and to "contribute". But the audience is also being asked to view and feel something about this digital space which represents a real space. The virtual becomes a kind of reality that may, in all likelihood, be much neater and attractive then the actual real space. It should be noted that only two of the images are of the studio itself. Others are images envoking ideals like the diverse set of hands or the Minnesota maps, from which a white educated male is smiling back in his denim shirt and Harry Potter spectacles.

example of drawing on earlier notes to develop later notes

And here, the observer/notetaker is drawing on his or her earlier observations of exigence to consider the kind of discourse on the page. These notes are strong because the notetaker sees that the navigation text is deliberative text in this case, and because the context is kept front and center.

Given the exigence of the page, and the assumption that the rhetor and audience agree that art, support of art, and art appreciation are important and necessary to the individual and community as a whole, the discourse is obviously deliberative. [A little slip here: there are more than one kind of discourse on the page. The notetaker is going to look at just the deliberative discourse in the nav bar.]

The site lists ... options for action. For the audience member wishing to know more about the site, the About tab is readily available. The list of programs present the audience with the same number of decisions as to whether to attend or interact with that event beyond the site itself. Or if the audience values art enough to spend money, contribute and shop tabs both use imperatives that also take into account that the rhetor believes that art is more valuable than money, therefore the trade is fair and the audience should readily do so.

Advice on Notes

Use the heads I provide as heuristic guides to observing. I'm partial to this definition, from Google: "adjective 1. enabling a person to discover or learn something for themselves."a “hands-on” or interactive heuristic approach to learning"

In doing these notes, you are learning to read as a rhetorical analyst rather than a casual reader. That's the position we're working from: outside the rhetorical exchange, as observers.

Address in your notes the specific artifact you're looking at - both the specific artifact, and the specific occasion, and presuppositions. Rhetorical work starts by addressing specific occasions. This is to say that rhetoric doesn't address a general audience with a general message but places a specific artifact in front of a specific audience for specific purposes on specific occasion.

Address in your notes specific areas or objects on the page that you're looking at, and in your notes link those specifics to the terms you're using. There are three text boxes, is each one epideictic? What makes each one specifically so? From this kind of specificity you can develop more substantive analyses. Each text box is worth a consideration - as is the use of Read More ... In notes, note that it's there. For our concern, we have to ask, How does that Read More... command work rhetorically?

You don't need to attempt to explain how the artifact works or if it persuades at this point - although you can include that. Be careful not to close off possibilities yet, however. Analyses follows after good observation.

Analyses follows on good observation. Might even want to separate notes on observation of the aspects of the rhetorical sit from your analysis of those observations.

How detailed? The notes above suggest what kind of detail you need to work in. How much? 1 - 2 hours of active note taking of this page. Observation comes with practice, so give yourself time and opportunity to practice.

Take close note of the genre - in this case, there may be more than one at play - an observation that comes of presuppositions. It's a non-profit site that needs public support in bodes and $$. That is significant in driving the text, the choices of what to place on the page, and possibly other choices.

Don't short the presuppositions - the values, beliefs, ideologies - in doing notes. You infer them from considering the context, from drawing on your knowledge of the world, and so on. You do have to infer them, but you must.

Some observations from your notes

Many of the more significant observations came of using the heuristic. For instance,

elements of that page that are rhetorial

That the button is "Learn More" rather than "read more" is significant to note.

The digital is physical

We tend to overlook the physical aspects in digital rhetoric, but it's as present as a print artifact. Even texts on screens have physical presence. They appear on various screens on devices. On large screens, a text shows up in a window that it shares with others on the screen. It becomes one of many texts and images concurrently visible. Actual readers must scroll to read the texts, must click on links and buttons to get to texts. All invoke the physical. Scrolling, like turning pages in some kinds of books, may not be a rhetorical aspect in some pages, but it might be used that way on others. Clicking a link is surely a rhetorical aspect. Digital messages also have physical side in their creation: built in cameras, on-screen or physical keyboards.

On Kairos

Kairos is more complex than we're giving it notes. In the Longaker text, kairos specifies the occasion of the interaction. In a speech or oral encounter it's a little easier to see kairos. When it comes to digital artifacts, we extend kairos into the moments of the intended audience's encounter with the message. This means that there can be many kairotic moments in any encounter.

Kairos is cannot be completely controlled by the rhetor on a web page. Consider

However, kairos can be managed in part by the rhetor on the page. The rhetor has choices. In the site we looked at, current information is not on the front page. Instead - and this is important and you should note it - current information demands clicking the Learn More button on the exhibits text block.

Examples of web pages the foreground kairos

When you do notes, delve into consideration of kairos: how the rhetor and the intended audience control occasion.

On the textualized rhetorical situation of the BCAC web page

Some of your notes develop the idea of textualized rhetorical situation of the page.

This isn't very problematic in the case of a institutional web site, but it becomes more so when we look at a tweet.

- The real rhetors are those who were hired to write the content, choose the design, colors, specify the nav term, and so on. In this case, they are interns and directors who made the choices - as well as the invisible creators of the WordPress template created the overall design. We are not privvy to their personal values, but because this is an institutional site, their institutional choices tend to be available to us.

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