On Social Bookmarking

The following is the text of a podcast given for Mike Lewis' JRN 350 Online Journalism course:

The first place I go for online news and information isn't Google or the New York Times. Instead, I go to Reddit, an online space for the sharing of news articles, op ed pieces, blog posts, videos and anything else others frequenting the site might find intriguing, hilarious or useful. Built on particular aspects of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, Reddit is a social bookmarking website, relying on user-generated and user-submitted content for its continued existence. There are many other similar social news sites, like del.i.cio.us, Mixx, Newsvine, Propeller, Stumble.upon and Yahoo!Buzz, but Reddit, and its dominant competitor, Digg, draw the most users and, thus, the most attention and influence.

In essence, such sites exist as a way for interested parties to share content and exchange information. But there are additional, valued elements of interactivity here. On Digg, this takes the form of digging and burying links; on Reddit, it involves voting up or down particular submissions. Positive and negative votes impact not only the visibility of a submission, increasing or decreasing the likelihood of hitting the front page, but also the user's overall standing on the site, in the form of particular stats on Digg and in the form of karma on Reddit. These stats and karma reveal to others a particular user's reputation, if they are simply a partisan spammer or someone honestly interested in providing good-quality material. In other words, Digg's stats and Reddit's karma are the direct results of active participation in the community, acquired through the submission of links and/or the offering of substantive observations on the submissions of others.

All content submitted to Digg and Reddit is organized according to subject. On Digg, predetermined subject headings include Technology, World & Business, Science, Gaming, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Sports and Offbeat, all of which include 3-5 more specific subheadings. With the exception of Gaming, such headings mirror how stories are organized on mainstream media websites, like that of the New York Times. On Reddit, however, there is one main heading and an incredible variety of what are called "subreddits." These subheadings range from the more familiar and general, like Music, Politics and Technology, to the more specific, like Apple, Beer and Cognitive Science. Created and moderated by users, each subreddit becomes a community as others subscribe to it. The most popular subreddits reveal what the Reddit community values overall, including Politics, Pictures and Images, Funny, Technology, Programming and Science.

The many choices presented by the likes of Reddit, Digg and other forms of social bookmarking are a large part of their appeal and success. As a Redditor, I choose only those subreddits which matter most to me. And while I could, for example, bookmark or set up an RSS feed for the Technology section of the New York Times, there's a greater diversity of news, information and commentary submitted to the Technology subreddit. These submissions are quite diverse, but I also have some say in their worth and usefulness. I could, as another example, provide a critical comment on a news item posted to the New York Times website, but there's little chance it would ever be removed. However, as a Redditor, I help in determining what others see on Reddit's front page. This greater participatory element is an additional value to me as a critical reader of information. For me, then, the value of Reddit, and social bookmarking in general, concerns not only the personal tailoring of news and information to my own needs and interests, but also the opportunity to exert some influence over what others read.

A Third Path

in reading sally miller gearhart, i found myself in a perpetual state of deja vu. i kept wondering, as i moved through her words on change and rhetoric, fantasy and common ground, just where i'd read these words before. only upon finishing the reading did i realize the similarities between gearhart and wayne booth and bell hooks (might have a final project idea finally!). for example, when gearhart writes of how "communication can be a deliberate creation or co-creation of an an atmosphere in which people or things...may change themselves" (244), i see this echoing passages written by bell hooks concerning an acknowledgement of the academy not being a paradise, but that "learning is a place where paradise can be created" (teaching to transgress 207). furthermore, while paramount for gearhart is the discovery of a third path (more on that in relation to booth later), hooks similarly seeks the creation of community in the classroom. of course, this is also a difference between gearhart and hooks, as the former appears to seek this on an individual level while the latter works toward this with many at once. then again, i could be wrong about this because, right now, my reading of gearhart's rather limited.

about this third path, though, i have to wonder if anyone else saw connections to booth's listening rhetoric, that searching for common ground. i think gearhart goes further than booth, though, taking the conversation outside the realm of even civilized debate as she looks for "the joining point, the place where we are the same, where we can meet each other as beings who share the experience of living together on this planet" (267). and she gives many examples of her search, including a logging experience (interesting to note here her, i would argue, greater understanding than some other feminists of just what they're asking men to give up) and conversations with a homeless man and a shoeshiner. within each of these experiences, there is a great range of topic discussion, from "hints on flea control" to favorite bible verses (269). and what does all of this reveal to me? the enactment of listening rhetoric, the search for that third path, the establishment of common ground, requires a great deal of effort, incorporating not only a rhetorical education and audience awareness, but the ability to recognize sameness as much as difference. it can be an exhausting endeavor, but perhaps less so than acting/reacting out of anger and surely more rewarding.

The Force Is Strong With This One

once again, i'm afraid i cannot get away from comparisons to star wars. of course, the other comparison i made this semester was in advanced pedagogy, and this current one doesn't involve yoda, but instead obi-wan. responding to luke skywalker's confusion about what happened to his father, obi-wan ultimately says, "luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view." the comparison i seek to make here is from sonia johnson's "who's afraid of the supreme court?" in which she says much the same thing, observing that "much depends on how we view the nature of reality" (282). she explains further:

..reality is what people expect to see in the harbor or on the front of their neighbor's house. Reality is what we believe we will see when we look there, what we think is possible, what we have been told to believe is true, very strong, inevitable, unchangeable, irrevocable. Reality is what we are conditioned to value, and therefore what we pay attention to. Reality is what we are taught to think god plunked down in front of us and we have no choice but to learn to live with the best we can. It is what is called "natural" (283).

in a sense then, the act of learning is as much about conditioning as it is actual learning. while luke skywalker's taking his first steps into a larger world (another obi-wan paraphrase, but from episode iv), sonia johnson's explaining a process of her first steps into a different world. and perhaps it is larger and more expansive than patriarchy, if only because of what this women's world allows for.

out of such observations, though, johnson ultimately says that resistance to patriarchy doesn't work. well, let me clarify that. outright, visible, public resistance to patriarchy doesn't work, at least in her mind, and so she opts to not be part of it anymore. but this leaves me wondering, for while sonia's resistant to resistance, she's also resistant to patriarchy. where does this put her? well, if we take bakhtin's notions of monoglossia and heteroglossia, sonia johnson exists outside of each; perhaps she's x-glossic, moving beyond not only patriarchy, but the more mainstream kind of resistance to patriarchy.

also, i came across an article earlier this morning. here's an excerpt:

Alan Moldawer's adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Mr. Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA
kit that he had heard could determine an individual's genetic ancestry.

The results, designating the boys 9 percent Native American and 11 percent northern African, arrived too late for the admissions process. But Mr. Moldawer, a business executive in Silver Spring, Md., says they could be useful in obtaining financial aid.

"Naturally when you're applying to college you're looking at how your genetic status might help you," said Mr. Moldawer, who knows that the twins' birth parents are white, but has little information about their extended family. "I have three kids going now, and you can bet that any advantage we can take we will."

i mention this article because it relates to another observation by sonia: "Men use the laws we get them to pass as daggers to stab us in the back" (287). the above article concerns how people, visually identified as white, are using dna tests to acquire affirmative action scholarships for college. perhaps this is just another instance of co-optation...

A Humble Reflection on Race

"The very act of writing or speaking about race is fraught with difficulty even when one attempts to go about it in a critical and self-critical manner [especially for] those who are not ‘people of color.’" (from Dominick LaCapra’s introduction to The Bounds of Race.

the following passage is my original response to gloria anzaldua after reading "la conciencia de la mestiza: towards a new consciousness" for a course in literary theory close to three years ago. i include it here to engage in a further dialogue with gloria as well as myself...

I fail to associate myself with the terms white, Anglo, Caucasian. I feel that such terminology fails to define the color of my skin, much less my attitude towards those visibly, politically, personally different from myself. I also feel that words like those do nothing more than propagate the current society, the patriarchy. If there is to be real change, shouldn’t the language change as well? I applaud your words with the exclusion of your terms to describe those of European descent. Nearly all oppression relates back to the inhabitants of the continent of Europe in some form or another, but I feel no association with those people. I feel no association with this culture, this society, even if those in power somewhat resemble me. I have the blue eyes, yes, but I shave my head, a purposeful distancing of myself from those in power. I feel such an act makes me all the more vulnerable to scrutiny by all. I acknowledge my confusion, my fears, my desires, and I engage them in struggle every day. I am envious of your self-identity, the sense of where you are, for I have none. I feel no connection to those around me unless I converse with them and find a common ground to stand upon. I want nothing more than to be understood, to be acknowledged as a human being, to not be called white, Anglo, Caucasian. You write of the “gross injustice” (770) in lumping males who deviate from the norm with man. I consider it a gross injustice to lump all those of European descent as any of the three adjectives I wrote above. Please, Gloria, work with me in the creation of something mutually beneficial by which I might be known to you and to myself, too.

when reading gloria anzaldua's words, i'm reminded of reading malcolm x's autobiography and his fiery deliveries on the blue-eyed, white-skinned devil. i felt guilt and shame then, yet i actively worked against feeling that when i first read gloria anzaldua. perhaps i was simply tired of feeling such a way. in retrospect, though, i see my initial response to anzaldua as ignorant (big surprise), for it is too similar to a request to be educated and taken by the hand. in other words, i endangered anzaldua to become "reduced to [a purveyor] of resource lists" ("speaking in tongues" 79). much better for me concerns endeavoring on my own, seeking to educate myself rather than requesting it of third world individuals and thereby tokenizing them.

and yet, the pedagogue in me questions, "how could this work in a composition classroom? am i merely tokenizing myself, endangering myself to become reduced to a purveyor of resource lists? how might i actively work against this? am i doing this already?"

RE Booth's Discussion of Audience & Rhetoric

"The media," Booth writes in Chapter 6, "have by now produced an inescapable expansion and multiplicity of audiences" (111), naming this as one of two major revolutions having complicated every moment of political rhetrickery, or P-Rhet. Booth goes on to write of a major result of this: "accomodation to specific audiences now becomes much more dangerous than it used to be" (111). Dangerous how? Well, Booth says it is easier for enemies to fact-check on last week's statements and declare the speaker's dishonest. Democrats do this, Republicans do this, the president does this, and Booth cites specific examples of George W.'s rephrasings concerning WMD's: "weapons of mass destruction" to "programs of mass destruction" to "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

However, I'm finding it difficult to believe in Booth's revolution and the supposed danger of it. Given the support George W. garnered for the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, it doesn't seem to me that there was any real danger involved. The rhetoric was broad and general enough to invoke not only patriotism but a sense of "this is the right thing to do." Furthermore, I'd say that speaking to an "anti-Republican" audience is much more dangerous than speaking to a "patriotic American" audience, if only because the former's more of a minority. Not once has the current president tried in any way to speak to any minority, and all of his speeches are evidence, including the one discussed weeks ago in class. Even while speaking to the U.N., George W.'s primary audience was the American people!

In this way, the Bush administration is primarily (if only) concerned with appealing to and reinforcing the current hegemonic system of thought, with remaining unmarked, remaining natural (bringing in Trinh T. Minh-ha here). There is a distinct lack of violation of expectations (although there's often struggle to rephrase the results of certain actions, like the invasion/occupation of Iraq) and a very near refusal of deliberate openness to multiple meanings.

(slightly unrelated) closing question: If we take Trinh T. Minh-ha's suggestion to "let difference replace conflict" (216), how might this impact not only current conflicts, but also rhetoric? Of course, Minh-ha's talking about this suggestion in relation to her films, but couldn't it apply to other situations as well?

Kairos & Feminist Rhetorical Theory

If Kinneavy is correct in defining kairos as "the right or opportune time to do something, or right measure in doing something" (80), I'm curious how this concept might apply to feminist rhetorical theories. For the purpose of this week, let's focus on Paula Gunn Allen, who appears rather self-centered, though not necessarily in a negative way, just primarily concerned with herself, her identity, how she helps the story progress.

Still, Gunn Allen's definition of feminism has to do with appropriateness, the need for it in any situation, rhetorical or not (although, to some degree, aren't all situations rhetorical? perhaps any place concerning communication/language is rhetorical). So, might we relate Gunn Allen's appropriateness with the kairotic principles of "right timing" and "proper measure" (Kinneavy 85)? Furthermore, if kairos has close relations to not only justice but also to epistemology, is it possible to connect it to Gunn Allen's notions of not only mutual respect but also story? Lastly, if, for Gunn Allen, "rhetoric is appropriateness" (220), what might else might this mean? Rhetoric is kairos?

Quick Reader Response to Villanueva

Similar to those who came before him, namely Aristotle, Villanueva embodies the rhetorical style described in this chapter from Bootstraps. Similar to how Aristotle emphasized the enthymeme and structured his On Rhetoric as an enthymeme, Villanueva explains how rhetoric has as much to do with history as identity and the construction of both, using his own history and identity as examples, showing how rhetoric is indeed "the conscious use" (76) and "the complete study" (77) of language.

With such an understanding of rhetoric, it is no surprise that Villanueva's very concerned about property, specifically "property that doesn't know of living rooms" (90). Such concern enters the classroom in the form of encouraging/helping students to see such property and perhaps change it, to realize more fully their own histories and identities, how they own it, how it owns them, discovering linguistic backgrounds and seeing those influences and acting on or in contrast to them. The shifting of perspectives is important in such endeavors and, again, Villanueva provides an example of this in his own work, moving from third- to first-person in his narrative, revealing the importance of self-reflection in such a process.

Needless to say, I found this selection by Villanueva to be not only more intriguing but also more illustrative of a new rhetoric. I understand what Perelman and Toulmin attempted in their respective works, but it just seems so theorectical, almost scientific, to instill little in me beyond boredom. This leads me to wonder then, which would be more effective in the composition classroom: having students read Villanueva or Toulmin?