Other rhetoric blogs

//rsa.cwrl.utexas.edu/ (Creative Commons)

Clip of header image from http://rsa.cwrl.utexas.edu/ (Creative Commons)

In this post I take an online tour of some other rhetoric blogs out there, engage in some click-by-click rhetorical criticism of their blogs, and write some thoughts about how I’d like to shape my own blog.

If we as bloggers are going to make anything socially useful and intellectually productive out of a blog, we’d better learn together how to do it well and what some of the pitfalls are. What will be my / your rhetorical approach to blogging?

Two Other blogs

A) Rhetoric Blog

I typed in “rhetoric blog” and found … ta da! Rhetoric Blog by Steve Weiss. Wow, it even has its own domain name! Here is a screenshot of the opening page.

Rhetoric Blog by Steve Weiss, July 2008

Rhetoric Blog by Steve Weiss, July 2008. Click to expand.

I first tip my hat to a fellow rhetoric blogger in respect. I see that like me, he posted a huge number of entries on November 7 and 8, 2006. I can sympathize with the initial flurry of enthusiastic posting.

But then there’s nothing till April 2007. And today it’s more than a year later. What happened, Steve? Did you start another blog elsewhere and leave this one behind?

In the upper right corner there’s a link to “comment showcase” and there are no comments. Under the calendar and the “subscribe” box there’s yet another “recent comments” box that lies empty. I am wondering if anything was done to promote this blog, like sending clips and links to friends via email, or listservs.

When I look at the content of the blog I see some things I will try to avoid doing. Sorry Steve, I did not have time to look within your entries — this is just a reading of your opening page.

  • The first entry is very specific to an episode of The Sopranos, which may be intriguing to people interested in that sub-topic. But how do you imagine this entry fitting within the larger scheme of a rhetoric blog? What kinds of topics might I, a reader, discover on this blog? Is it just about popular culture?
  • Without a link that tells me the rationale for the blog, all I have to go on is the “categories” list that is way down on the right hand menu. Those single-word category entries don’t tell me what you are trying to do with Descartes, Opinion, Rhetoric, Science, and Theory, and so I don’t know if I will benefit by linking there.
  • I look at the second blog entry title, “My 2006 NCA Paper.” Um, what is it about? Is this blog like an online file storage system where you have stored your whole speech? Maybe you put it here so you could direct certain individuals to it who asked you for a copy. What about viewers who don’t know what NCA means? ( Of course I do, National Communication Association )
  • Most of the entries do not have the first sentence or paragraph or couple of paragraphs, so all I have to go on are titles and subtitles. And they are obscure. Like “Hairston on Kuhn — my response.” I am guessing, without looking, that this is about a piece (I have not seen) by Maxine Hairston about Kuhn’s theories of paradigm shifts and innovation in science. But what is the gist of your response?

I feel some hope as I come across another entry saying ” rhet.net . You might want to check out my website rhet.net” SO — I go there… to find a page called “The Museum of Rhetoric” with two images that do not load. This looks ominous. Has he died or has he gone on to another profession? I get curious. I become an online detective.

I do a google to find Steve Weiss, and I add the word rhetoric because there are many Steve Weisses. I find this link http://steveweiss.org/rhetoric.htm — another unique domain name. It is a mostly white page, with 3×2 inches of text in the upper left corner. The word (in lowercase) “rhetoric” and then a list of six bulleted items that are links to webpages out there on rhetoric. This is even more obscure than the blog.

I’m having trouble finding his professional website if he has one, so I go back to the blog.

  • I open his NCA paper. It’s a word file that opens in my MS word program. It begins with a dialogue with Gorgias, and there is no introduction, and no header saying who he is.
  • So I open the file on Hairston. It’s a pdf of a scanned-in academic paper that was typed on a typewriter.

The clues are telling me that perhaps Mr. Weiss was just learning the new technology of the blog in 2006. Maybe he left it online because he got busy with other things and thought too little of it to bother taking it down. Maybe he is the Steve Weiss being mentioned online giving commentary on political and social events.

I wish you very well, Steve Weiss, in whatever venue you perform your work as a rhetorician.

B) “The Blogora” by the Rhetoric Society of America

I come to The Blogora with high hopes because of its official nature. I just presented at the RSA conference in Seattle a few months ago, and I know it’s a “happening” group of scholars!

Blogora, July 2008 Screenshot - click to expand

Blogora, July 2008 Screenshot - click to expand

In contrast with the previous blog I looked at, within the first minute of viewing this I am thoroughly, thoroughly impressed.

  • The top entry is “Who is an American?” (very catchy for an American audience) and it was posted YESTERDAY NIGHT by Adria. The one right under hers is “Opposing views” by Jim Brown, posted 2 days earlier. This is active! And it’s not just one person’s blog.
  • At the bottom of Adria’s and Jim’s summaries it gives a link to their own blogs. I hover my mouse over them and see that it’s got the same root URL as Blogora. I wonder — can I post to this blog and link to my own? If I did so would I need a page within The Blogora ? Hmmm… I will check out their policy & technology.
  • As I scan down the left purple column I see there have been 8 comments or so in the past 3-4 days. So it’s active in comments as well as in posts contributed by various people.
  • Who else has posted entries? Well, as I scroll down I see another one by Adria, then Adria again, Adria. Then aha! Jim Brown again. Adria. Then one by Jim Aune, etc. 3 people posted all those messages. All in the past 10 days. Maybe it’s run by three or four people.
  • As would be expected, it’s very American. In the Tag Cloud, the words “political rhetoric” are huge. Just as huge is “campaign rhetoric 2008.” I am so glad that the American rhetoricians are active in critiquing their own country’s political rhetoric. I think we should do more of this in Canada and we should also comment on other countries’ and global uses of political rhetoric.
I click on “About” to find out more about who runs this and why. I find this very enlightening and brief message:
The Blogora is a collaborative space for connecting rhetoric, rhetorical methods and theories, and rhetoricians with public life. The Blogora is an initiative of the Rhetoric Society of America and is hosted by the Computer Writing and Research Lab, part of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at The University of Texas at Austin.
Standard disclaimer: Messages on this site are those of the writers; they do not express the views of the University of Texas or the Department of Rhetoric and Writing.

Analysis :

  • I appreciate the “public life” mission of The Blogora. Anything published on the web should be there to serve the public, or some sub-public. And connecting rhetoric with public life — that’s a crucial part of what rhetoric is all about, though rhetoric is also about institutional/organizational life, academic life, and private life, and cultures. I wonder if they really mean “(mostly American) public life”? I guess in my own blog subtitle I really mean “(from a Canadian, Calgarian point of view) Higher Education and Society”
  • I find it interesting that it has the backing of the RSA and I wonder if any of the main posters and moderators is on the RSA executive. Note to self.
  • Good to know the institutional affiliation of hosting the site. From what I understand, this a gracious and dutiful statement that means “thanks for letting us use your server space.” I wonder to what degree those who post are affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin?
  • The location of the blog at the U of Texas makes the standard disclaimer relevant and ethical, no matter where the bloggers work. I guess I don’t need a disclaimer since my blog is not hosted at an institution’s website. However, if I ever hold a major official leadership role, I may want to make a disclaimer that these are my opinions and not those of “department or institution X”.
Next I want to know who the Bloggers are. They have a very appropriate menu tab titled “Bloggers” and so I click.

  • Wow, photos! How personal and interesting to look at. I enjoyed the sense of humor and humility in the bios. I started wondering how these intriguing people met each other… perhaps at U of Texas, or at least via the RSA ?
  • Adria and Jim are listed 2nd and 3rd as “Co-Bloggers” — and they are both PhD students. Aha! That is why they are posting a lot. It matters to them that they have this voice and venue. They are thinking about bloggy issues — especially Jim, whose dissertation is on Wikipedia and virtual communities.Maybe they even chat with each other to keep up the momentum of Blogging, since they are both at U of Texas. I think that is great that they are listed more pre-eminently, above the “Emerita” of the Blogora, a list of more seasoned scholars.

    I think they’d appreciate knowing how I reacted to their site. I will send them an email and invite them to read this. Hello Blogora friends! Hi from Canada ! Keep up the excellent work !

  • Most of these respected colleagues are from U of Texas. One is from Clemson, and one from Penn State. Nice to have several institutional / regional perspectives included in the web of authors.
  • In general the impression I get of this page is of the potential for collaboration and peer-review that enables the Blogora to have some scholarly weight. It’s not just the thoughts of some random rhetorical Wingnut — hey wait… am I a wingnut because I’m alone in hosting my blog ? Is each of them a wingnut? A wingnut can be a good thing … Wingnut Films produced The Lord of the Rings movies!

    I start wondering about who I might invite to co-moderate my blog. They’d have to be someone I could trust to some extent, someone with similar interests and aims within rhetoric in higher education since I’ve titled the blog that.

    Or Maybe… Maybe another option is to tie two or more Rhetoric blogs together in a consortium. A blog circle, like a Webring. Do those blog consortia already exist in reality? Or are they just as loosely affiliated as neighbors in a “blogroll” — the strange term for a list of links to other sites?

Okay. I now realize it’s 12:37 PM on a Monday and I have to write up some job descriptions and prepare for an administrative meeting tomorrow, and Fall course outlines are due this Friday… and I am supposed to be writing my scholarly book this summer.

But I am now feeling more “connected” to a community of Rhetoric Bloggers (well, I don’t feel connected to Steve Weiss, but I do feel solidarity with and admiration of The Blogora). I will no doubt visit some of those sites listed on their Blogroll.

I am starting to see myself as possibly playing a useful role in an online community “out there,” not just as a resource for academics and people in the public who happen to search for key terms that I use in my blog.


3 thoughts on “Other rhetoric blogs

  1. Thanks Kaitlin for this lead. I will check it out as soon as I can and leave a comment or a link to my thoughts on it here.

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