Kenneth Burke on Rhetoric & Economics


Kenneth Burke wrote an essay in 1973 essay on “The Rhetorical Situation” affecting the United States at that time in history. What he says about the Gross National Product, inflation, and taxation enlighten us about the power of rhetoric in the hands of economists, legislators, accountants, and lawyers.

The term “Gross National Product” identifies our whole economic structure in sheerly monetary terms. Probably, in the next few years, you will see many indications that here, too, is an essential aspect of the Rhetorical Situation in which we find ourselves. The very profusion of sheerly monetary transactions will force us to realize the ways in which the identifying of an economy in monetary terms can be illusory. (The most obvious example is the fact that mere inflation shows up as a corresponding increase in the G.N.P.)

In the meantime, among the most influential rhetoricians of our world today are surely our experts in the manipulation of monetary terms.

Thus, accountants can show things at their worst, if it’s taxes you would avoid. Or they can show things at their best, if you would promote stock sales on the basis of reports listing profits present and prospective.

High among such masters of unsung eloquence are those legalists who, on behalf of their clients, deliberately add loopholes to tax laws, a form of inducement so quietly persuasive that invention of this sort is totally alien to the stylistic excesses of what was once caused Asiatic oratory. Indeed, it is couched in language as severe as a medical diagnosis or a laundry list; yet when the address is over, lo! an individual or even a corporation with earnings up into the millions need pay less taxes (if any!) than the lowliest of wage-earners.

But hold! Once we started to track down the foibles of legal corporations in their roles as “persons,” we’d find a whole new set of persuasive marvels opening up. So I desist.

Thus we see that an entire economic structure can be collapsed into an intellectual synechdoche and logical fallacy; that quiet yet powerful persuasion may inhere in tax laws devoid of stylistic excess; that legal corporations employ the language of personhood in ways that are not merely metaphorical. Clients and governments convince themselves of what is financially bad or good, better or worse, based on economic professionals’ selective use of data.

Thus over time and use of this rhetoric a society builds up forms of persuasion and intellectual shortcuts and facades. The situation expects or even encourages such rhetoric from its professional class.

The fact that such communication is now formulaic or obvious does not mean it lacks rhetorical intent, function, meaning and power. On the contrary, it has become even more powerful because of its invisibility and normalcy.

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Supporting group research projects with free online communication technologies


Fall 2011 Student Hackathon CodingIn this blog post and an informal, face-to-face lunchtime “brownbag” seminar for faculty members held today on campus, I will present some principles and examples of free online applications that have worked well in my team-intensive professional communication and social research methods courses.

The main purpose of the workshop is to share instructors’ insights and specific experiences with communication technologies for student team research projects, starting with my own. Each technology has had its strengths and weaknesses, and some of these can work together or even be set up to function within or “through” the Blackboard course management interface we use at our university.

The relevance to rhetoric is that teams require appropriate forums for their collaborative everyday communication, and the forums can structure, enable and limit the kinds of informative and persuasive acts that learners and researchers need to engage in during a short-term university course.

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Call for papers: ISHR: Rhetoric and Performance, 2013


 

CassandraClip

The neglected prophetess Cassandra pulls her hair in frustration as the city burns

The Nineteenth Biennial Conference of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) will be held in Chicago, USA, from Wednesday, July 24 to Saturday, July 27, 2013. The Biennial Conference of ISHR brings together several hundred specialists in the history of rhetoric from around thirty countries. Continue reading

WordPress blogs as organization or association newsletters


Hey guys, I captured the mouse!A functional option today for an organization’s newsletter is to set up a free public blog on http://wordpress.com/ or to host a WordPress blog on your own website (if you have one).

Blogs are quite professional nowadays (no longer merely online diaries). They are respectable forums for academic associations. The Rhetoric Society of America has a blog (The Blogora) at http://rsa.cwrl.utexas.edu/

Blogs are even used by many nonprofit organizations as the basis for free websites. See this example of a website — the Trent Centre for Community-based Education http://www.trentcentre.ca/ — you wouldn’t even know it’s based on WordPress software unless you scroll down to the very bottom and see the notice “proudly powered by WordPress.”

The rest of the post explains how it can work for your association, why WordPress is a good choice, and how it can be used to automatically distribute content to members who may prefer to browse its content or stay up to date via Facebook or other social media platforms rather than (or in addition to) an email subscription to your blog. Continue reading

NSSE questions in Canada and the U.S.


NSSE_US_comparison

Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro PDF comparison

In my research today I compared the Canadian and American versions of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) instrument for 2010.

This is the survey that over 1 million university students across North America are invited to take in their 1st and 4th year.

The NSSE survey page calls the Canadian version the “Canadian English” version.  But the version is not just different in terms of its “Canadian English” vocabulary (such as “school/college” in the US versus “university” in Canada). 

The Canadian version is different in terms of its cultural content and rhetorical approaches.

This post provides comparative screenshots of survey content to help us ponder why these differences exist.

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Arts Peer Mentoring program @ U of C


Higher education innovation

Peer Mentoring featured on the front page of OnCampus, 2007

Peer Mentoring featured on the front page of OnCampus, 2007

As I complete a book on peer mentoring in undergraduate courses, this theme is quite fresh in my mind and well worth a blog post.

At the University of Calgary in 2005 I founded our Faculty of Arts Peer Mentoring program.  I still coordinate it, although others now teach our peer mentors.  I have just completed my 2nd year as the Director of our university’s SU-funded Curricular Peer Mentoring Network located at our Teaching and Learning Center.

What are peer mentors?

In a nutshell, undergraduate students become peer mentors who collaborate with instructors and teaching assistants to enrich peer-based learning within their courses.  They may also design and lead learning activities outside of class time and online.  Normally they return to a course they have already taken and work with a professor they are familiar with. They apply for this honor, and are supported and educated by taking a 4th year course in peer mentoring and collaborative learning.

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Canadian Society and the Study of Rhetoric


CSSR website screenshot, version updated May 21, 2010

As a Canadian member of the CSSR (Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric) who did not attend this year’s conference (I’m taking a year off all conferences), I appreciated David Beard’s Blogora article for his flattering and interesting analysis of what the conference was like.

In his posts on the Blogora of the Rhetoric Society of America, (see posts titled CSSR, I, and CSSR, Day 2, under his username syntaxfactory)  David writes,

“I’m fairly sure that, if every American rhetorician could experience a CSSR conference, it would change their expectations of what a first-rate rhetoric conference can accomplish.” (CSSR, I)

I know or am acquainted with many of the people he writes about so it was like seeing them all over again through another’s eyes, and I feel proud to know those are my colleagues being written about, several of them coming from my own department’s graduate programs. Many Canadian rhetoricians will appreciate what David has written.

In this post, I take up some of David’s thoughts on the comparison of rhetoric conferences and rhetorical cultures in the US and Canada, and add my own elaboration on several points of comparison:

  1. Interdisciplinarity
  2. Bilingualism and multiculturalism
  3. Academic community, culture and discourse.
  4. The rhetorical cultures of the surrounding societies in which we live and work

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