Todd Gitlin (1998) has advanced the idea of 'public sphericules', segmented spheres of assimilation which have their own dynamics and forms of constitution. He argues that 'a single public sphere is unnecessary as long as segments constitute their own deliberative assemblies' (Gitlin, 1998, p. 173). ... Gitlin's view accords with the thesis of Barbara Becker and Josef Wehner (1998) who argue that interactive media support the formation of 'partial publics' - 'discourses characterised by context-specific argumentation strategies and special themes' (p. 1). Becker and Wehner still subscribe to the idea that traditional mass media have the central role of mobilising and institutionalising public opinion, but argue that interactive media is growing in significance as a space for the formation of 'pre-institutional' forms of public opinion. http://www.cios.org/EJCPUBLIC/012/3/01238.html

Sphericules are self-forming 'partial publics,' as distinguished from targeted audiences or sub-groups selected by a mass media institution. Sphericules gather on their own motivation rather than being a community that pre-exists or is motivated by a mass media institution. The general argument is that interactive media - weblogs, wikis, twitter - allow sphericules to form on their own, without being mobilized or in some way sponsored by a mass media institution. A sphericule does not need an institutional participant, and does not rely on an institutional participant for its ongoing existence. This dynamic has been demonstrated repeatedly on twitter with the use of hash tags to create an ad-hoc communicative community around context-specific topic. #uksnow, or #change11.

A sphericule might include a mass media or institutional participant, and the status of that participant might be interesting to investigate. We might hypothesize that the control an institutional participant would have on a sphericule would be limited to that of any other participant - and dependent on the argumentative case it could make in the community. But does the mass media participant follow the same argumentation strategies and themes as the other members, or does that participant have special rhetorical status?

The idea is that a sphericule will have (or quickly develop? or import?) its own argument strategies. topical themes, register, stylistic moves, and even link strategies. Those are worthy of study for what they tell us about electronic rhetoric and how people act and interact.

Part 1

Select a weblog to work with. Describe the blog and rhetorical context.
Refer to Myers, chap 1 - 2, Longaker pp 12 - 14.

Find and link to three or four blogs (Google subjects you're interested in. On the results page, click on More, then on blogs.) I'd suggest looking for personal blogs rather than those kept by corporations or institutions. You might select them from the same or different sphericules: That's up to you. You'll be working with one or two of these for the next couple of weeks, so choose something you can sink your teeth into. Look each of them over before you commit.

Describe the blog you have chosen with a focus on elements typical of the weblogs, p 7. You're getting a sense of what seems to be common in the design of weblogs: elements and affordances. Refer to HandlistOfWeblogs for elements and terms.

In the course of your description, describe the weblog. You'll go into rhetorical situation of the weblog itself, and those situations that seem to (s) that drive posting. Use the concept of sphericules to do so. Start with

and move towards a pretty thorough description of the "partial public" that the blog addresses and, in part, forms.

In considering the content of the blog, describe a few elements of style:

In describing content, watch for general patterns of use rather than anomalies.

As usual, rough out this description with notes, quote, and include links to examples.

Continue with notes until you can write a few paragraphs characterizing

Part 2

Now turn to how the the blogger handles links. Myers, chap 3, sketches out his taxonomy of link strategies, as I've sketched out with notes below. Start with this, but we'll add to it and adapt as we need to.

linking to

Does the target
Use of wit
Wit is created by violations, flouts, and implicatures. Myers presents wit primarily as flouts. See GriceOnFlouts
Use of figure
Consider the relation of link to target as creating a figure or trope. Many figures and tropes should be possible.

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