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**3/31/2018 -- Midway (perhaps a little past the midpoint) Project Report **

Yes, it's been a little too long since my last post. Believe it or not, I do keep my eye out on a daily basis for interesting/viable rhetorical situations that deserve to be discussed on this wiki. However:

This project has proven to be more difficult than I initially assumed it would be in the beginning. This is mostly due to the fact that a great number of the online DIY labels I follow or have stumbled upon in the process of working on this project use similar rhetorical tactics when advertising their catalogues on social media--and they are so similar that it's hard to differentiate between them. There are some subtle differences, yes, and I have been doing my best trying to point those out. A little too often though, I feel like I'm stretching things too far. It comes with the territory, I suppose.

All that aside though, I do believe this project has (so far) ultimately been a success. Though my frequency of posts has been less than what I initially planned for, the posts themselves contain enough information/analysis to make up for that.

My plan for going forward is to both continue on with my current format (providing visual examples of different rhetorical situations on social media platforms and analyzing them as we have done before in previous rhetoric classes) and push further into the academic research realm of things (which I, for the most part, ignored thus far--minus my post on 2/24/18 regarding microblogging). Hopefully I will be able to find more articles that pertain to this type of study of online rhetoric. Including other perspectives on this subject will (I assume) provide me with more wiggle room, open up some doors that I haven't been able to see thus far.

**4/29/2018 -- Final Capstone Report**

This project was certainly more difficult than I orignally figured it would be. I outlined this realization in my midway progress report. My posts were not as frequent as I would have hoped, but I do believe the content that comprises the posts makes up for that.

That being said, I feel the most important thing to do at this point is to reflect on what I learned from this exploration of rhetorical situations in numerous DIY cassette labels’ social media accounts. Here we go:

As of writing this final project report, I have just released a third batch of cassettes via the Bad Cake Records Bandcamp page. It’s been a few days, and not a single person has ordered any tapes thus far. It’s a funny thing to consider when looking at an Instagram post (for instance) that denotes something important (in this case, the release of 3 experimental albums) and noticing the number of acknowledgments it has. It has 43 “likes” — some of which from people who run cassette labels just like mine who I frequently support by purchasing their batches when they release them. There’s a rhetorical situation that resides in this peculiar irony—perhaps a sort of private one (being that I am the only one who knows that not one single cassette has sold yet). It’s something that speaks to the overarching ethos of the Internet as a whole — and I don’t mean the metaphysical invention that we all utilize for almost every aspect of our lives day after day after day. No, I when I say Internet, I mean US. I mean the second collective unconcious. I mean all of our million reflections in the leviathan digital pool. What does this kind of acknowledgement mean — rhetorically? When you consider the truth of the matter (that none of these people have purchased any of the new cassettes [or even just the digital copies] but decided to “like” the post in which I present the albums), it could mean a whole lot of things. It could mean, “Good on you for trying” or “I’ll add this to my list of albums that I want/need to purchase but absolutely do not have the money for right now” or “Wow, you run your own cassette label? I might want to try my hand at that” or “Look at that cool album artwork” or simply “Cool picture of cassettes”. These are optimistic possibilities. The point, though, is that there is a massive amount of both uncertainty and insincerity in these “likes”. Note that I do acknowledge that this is not a ground-breaking epiphany. Hitting the “like” button for a plugged-in human being can be compared to a chicken pecking at seeds in the yard. There might be some micro-thought behind this action once in a great while, but for the most part, it’s as involuntary as blinking your eyes. However, this does not take anything away from the rhetorical situation I have been focusing on for the duration of this project—and that situation is vastly complicated.

With a social media account, the rhetorical situation is constantly changing. Feeds change every minute (especially if you’re following more than a couple hundreed people). People follow you or unfollow you. Lives change as time goes on. Viewpoints evolve or devolve. Time is a factor, but not in the same way it is in classical rhetorical situations (speeches, news conferences, TV advertisements, etc). Relevance takes on a whole new meaning.

We, in a way, have control over the rhetorical situations we encounter. A vast majority of them at least. Social media is not like cable TV. You only follow who you want to follow. If someone’s social media presence leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it can be remedied by the click of a button. Unfollow. A rhetorical situation can be ignored with the swipe of a thumb (but saved for later if you so choose—being that the post will remain in this digital plane forever unless it’s manually deleted by the content creator [all you have to do is scroll down for a good couple of minutes and dig into the past—which in Internet time is only a couple of days, really).

This leads me to my final thought on social media rhetoric. There is a duality here that cannot be ignroed. Two different kinds of rhetorical situations exist simultaneously in one place—that place being any singular social media account. The first is the “Immediate” — which accounts for the posts any user sees when first opening an app (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc). The breaking news. Hot off the press. Relevance is boiled down to frequency of posts—not the quality of content. The second is “Total”. When a user scrolls through his/her feed and stops on a post and clicks on the profile link to the person who posted it, something happens. The rhetorical situation changes. Everything else is tuned out. Now the user only sees the profile owner’s content—and the content stretches back to the beginning. If this is a faithful Twitterer, it could go back thousands of posts, thousands of days. Because everything is preserved (unless it is deleted by the account owner), it’s like looking at a mountain cut in half through the eyes of an experienced geologist. This sort of study/exploration has the power to change the first type of rhetorical situation (the “Immediate”). Now, with a clearer picture of who’s making these posts, the addressee can better understand the rhetor. The addressee can appreciate the rhetor’s sense of humor. The addressee can feel connected to another person without having met them.

Beneath all of this though, it’s most important to realize that we are all both rhetors and addressees in this digital plane. It’s all happening all at once. This is the ultimate duality. We are all hyper-aware of this fluidity. And we’re all, to some degree, addicted to it. What does this mean for the study of rhetoric in the 21st century? The answer lies within every post that’s every been posted, and every post that has yet to be posted.
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