Monday, October 3, 2011

Electrifying Rhetoric

Jackson, Brian and Jon Wallin. "Rediscovering the ‘Back-and-Forthness’ of Rhetoric in the Age of Youtube." College Composition and Communication 61.2 (2009): W374-W96. Print.

In “Rediscovering the ‘Back-and-Forthness’ of Rhetoric in the Age of Youtube” Brian Jackson and Jon Wallin argue that public forums are a great way to introduce the idea of oral dialectic to rhetoric/composition students. The paper begins with the example of Andrew Meyer, the University of Florida student who was tazed by police at a town hall meeting with John Kerry (W374). The authors note that this video received 25,000 comments in just over a month (W375) and that is why they chose it as a source for their research on dialectic.

Jackson and Wallin do not argue that teachers should be teaching students to write as individuals do in comment forums. Instead, they use it as a starting point to talk about where students are debating. The focus is that most students are writing and the writing they are doing is online. The debates they see are online as well: “one way we can anticipate and compliment students’ online literacies is to teach the back-and-forthness of rhetoric—the often informal, messy process of exchange that takes place when two or more people argue with each other over public issues” (W375). This is, for many students, a real life application of the theory taught in class and a much more realistic application of rhetoric than an academic paper for most students.

Jackson and Wallin spend a great deal of the article discussing the history and origins of back-and-forth rhetoric and arguing for the necessity of such study in the composition classroom. Because that history equates written rhetoric with the monologue (not participatory, not interactive) (W377), Jackson and Wallin argue that the composition class should work on creating writings that are dialectic in nature. An example of this would be to assign two students a theme that they would write back and forth to each other on over the course of a few weeks (W392-3).

This article gives a wonderful overview of the strengths/weaknesses of informal/dialectic and formal/monologue rhetoric. It makes clear why formal writing is not interactive and why informal writing should be taught at a college level. I will say that I was a bit misled by the title of the piece. I was instantly drawn to it because I originally planned on doing my paper on teaching with Youtube and I thought that the back-and-forthness that the paper was going to address was going to be either on the way that members on Youtube make videos in response to other videos or the intertextuality of Youtube and use of memes. Those would have both been interesting for my project. It took ten pages for me to realize that those topics were never going to materialize. This article would be great for those studying online written rhetoric, but right now I do not see how it fits into my paper topic.

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