Readings, and Related Inspirations

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Parenthetical Visuality and Third Space – 8150

This week we moved into feminist rhetorics, and our featured readings are kind of brilliant:

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “A View From a Bridge: Afrafeminist Ideologies and Rhetorical Studies” – From Traces from a Stream


Licona, Adela. “(B)orderlands’ Rhetorics and Representations: The Transformative Potential of Feminist Third-Space Scholarship and Zines.”

taken from

taken from

Although I found a lot of worth in Royster’s piece, like the fact that she begins with a story to base her theory on, and the fact that she taught (teaches) here in Atlanta – I am so fascinated by some of the things that happen in Licona’s article, that I am going to focus there. This post plans to be a little off from my more traditional posts (the end of the year is getting to me) – so put on your blog-post-seatbelt and hold on.

First I want to address Third-Space. Licona defines Third-Space as “a location, third space has the potential to be a space of shared understanding and meaning-making” (105). And while I agree that there needs to  be a designation of space for ‘other’ people to gather and talk and make their voices heard, I can’t help but wonder if our country is founded on too many binaries. Why third space? Why can’t we have fourth and fifth space too? We have two political parties, and people only ever talk about getting a third. What of a fourth or a fifth? We talk about race in terms of black and white – but anyone who’s ever woken up in the morning knows that this binary is false. I have no solution for this term ‘third space’ – but I view it as problematic.

Here’s the crazy part:

As I was reading Licona’s article, I began to think about dystopian futuristic science fiction. It’s pretty much the most entertaining genre ever created. Licona’s use of parenthesis creates a visual break in many of the words she uses in this article. The parenthesis cannot be heard: only seen. Further, Licona discusses intersexuality and “how the biomedical profession has, historically, occluded feelings, expressions, and experiences of sexual ambiguity” (107), which is largely true (and I believe Haraway addressed that last week). And then right after this, Licona talks about Haraway (eureeka!) and talks about the hybridized cyborg…

This is where my brain went:

It’s the future – but not that far – 2113, let’s say. Humans have long since legalized gay marriage. In fact, they have legalized polyamourous marriage too. People have names that contain parenthesis – names that must be both seen and spoken – names that give their identities such nuanced meanings that almost everyone wears their name stitched onto their clothing (this is also a display of subject-specific-superficial consumerism). And while at birth, almost everyone is designated as either male or female, as they get older, they are given a number based on extensive psychiatric evaluations through social interaction and testing. The number indicates their placement on the sexuality scale. You may be a straight male who sometimes admires the physique of other men, but not sexually (M9) or a fully lesbian Female who is disgusted by men and does not even feel comfortable in the same spaces (F1). Or perhaps you have decided to surgically alter your biological sex from Female to Male, yet you are still mostly sexually attracted to men (TM3). These labels may also be monogrammed onto all your belongings as a part of your consumer identity, if you should chose to have this displayed. There is even an option for those who find themselves to be sexual chameleons – that’s why there is the LCD- identifier – allowing your sexual identity to be displayed as it changes.

The above system was designed through a conglomeration of government and corporate sponsoring that the people accepted gradually. Many thought it would be utopian. Many felt more comfortable being able to identify each other – parenthetical names indicate a longing for deep conversation, for example. But then the (M5) and (F5) designated humans began to form a coalition and prove that they – the most open and willing to move through the sexualities, were dominant – somehow better. Because humans love hierarchy. I’ll let you imagine what happens next.

— Anyway – that’s what I was thinking about as I was reading Licona. I am not a fan of Zines. I had a bunch of friends in zine culture, and I get it. I’m just not a fan. So I’ll leave you with the craziest response blog I’ve ever done. I wonder if it qualifies as non-linear. Or stream of conscious, maybe? Hm.

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Marking the Public Sphere – 8150

As soon as I began to read “Gangs and Their Walls” by Ralph Cintron (1997), I thought about my own experiences growing up on the West Coast, hearing about gang violence, knowing several gang members, and even having a couple of ‘tagger’ friends (tagging is a MUCH different practice than gang related graffiti). In his paper, Cintron discusses gang graffiti and its placement in public spaces – its “manifestations of desire and frustration” (164), and how gangs are an alternate sub-altern group that do not fit under the same systemically voiceless rubric as do women, as Nancy Fraser discusses  women as subaltern in her text “Rethinking the Public Sphere.”

I couldn't find one of the images from the text, so here is some random gang graffiti - taken from

I couldn’t find one of the images from the text, so here is some random gang graffiti – taken from

This week, we also read “Community Literacy: A Rhetorical Model for Personal and Public Inquiry” by Lorraine Higgins, Elenore Long, and Linda Flower (2006).  This paper is an interesting look at how local discourses can be fashioned so participants at a community level may have a voice in their everyday lives and ‘problems.’ In four parts, the authors define the problem(s), and discuss how to transform these problems into discourses where community members can take action for their own well-being, in their own lives, through writing and communicating among many embodiments of the levels of the hierarchical system.

It’s a little difficult to connect these readings to each other, though there are many ways this could be done. Even so, as usual, I’m going to take these off to play in the deep end of the pool and talk about something that has always been of interest to me: tattooing. In order to bring this into the conversation with some relevancy, I turn to the first section of the Higgins, Long and Flower piece: “Assessing the Rhetorical Situation” in which the authors claim that “problems are not empirical entities ‘out there’; they are, as so famously argued in the exchange between Lloyd Bitzer and Scott Consigny, interpretations” (6).

The first problem I seek to identify is the problem of the body as both public and private space. Like the wall of a building, or an underpass, or even the side of a cargo train-car, the body is both privately owned, and considered fit for public view, presumably while one is clothed. Like a wall, the body poses something of a problem area as it is both and neither belonging to public sphere. We see Fraser, for example, address women’s issues this way. When the body is marked in some way that is ‘other’ than what the dominant public sphere deems suitable, it may fall lower on the scale in  “societies whose basic institutional framework generates unequal social groups in structural relations of dominance and subordination” (Fraser 66) – societies like America. Like the problem of domestic violence, or women speaking in public, the marked body hovers somewhere not quite public, and not quite private.

This piece was done by Sammy Bockleman of Birch Avenue Tattoo in Flagstaff, AZ - taken from

This piece was done by Sammy Bockleman of Birch Avenue Tattoo in Flagstaff, AZ – taken from

Bear with me as I make all this up pretty much on the spot – feel free to provide insightful feedback:

Until recently, and still arguably today, people that are tattooed are generally viewed as rebellious, often drug users, or even violent. Women with tattoos are sometimes assumed to be ‘loose’, or otherwise tainted. Google “Tattoo Women” and you get an entire page of hypersexualized women with chest tattoos. Depending on the nature and degree of tattooing, people are denied jobs, asked to cover parts of their bodies (sometimes rather creatively), or assumed to be less than a contributing member of society. Bodies of Inscription, by Margo DeMello and Bodies of Subversion, by Margot Mifflin are both scholarly books entering a discourse on tattooing, anthropologically in American and Canadian culture, and gender specifically, respectively.

Another issue I face in being interested in the rhetorical space of talking about tattooing, is in my inability to uncover ‘why’ people get tattooed. Popular reality television shows like L.A. Ink or Ink Master spend much of their time discussing the deep meaning and/or memorialization behind every tattoo they feature. As a result, as common argument I have heard is that people with tattoos should not have got tattooed if they didn’t want to divulge all the inner (private) meanings of their tattoos. It is as though the ‘norm’ of the public sphere is somehow transformed into a public body with permissions to interrogate, gaze at, and even touch a person who has chosen to get tattooed. Further, it is not uncommon to hear phrases like, “What will you do when you are older?” ; “How will you find a job?”; or “Don’t you know you are stuck with that for life?” – as though the tattooed body is somehow now in a prison from which the marked cannot escape. Somehow, because their body is less private according to the ‘norm,’ is it more of an inescapable prison than it was before it was marked?

Unlike communities aimed at building a literacy for a perceived common good (though Higgins, Long and Flower tell us that common ground is very hard to come by), tattooed people do not automatically form a common culture based on their tattooed status. There is no ‘local public’ for them to seek out. What would be interesting however, is to find (or create) an empirical study based around how two tattooed strangers might approach and greet one another as opposed to how someone ‘normal’ and endowed with the right to interrogate, gaze, or touch, engages a tattooed person. Again, this likely varies depending on the degree and nature of tattooing involved parties possess. Is there a public code one tattooed individual adheres to with another tattooed individual? If so, is this code understood, as a covert gang sign, color, or graffiti symbol might be understood in Cintron’s article? Where does one learn this code? Is it transferable?

As you can see, I am unsure exactly how this all ties together, but I have yet to see much work done rhetorically on this topic, though there is a particularly interesting piece by Sonja Modesti called “Home Sweet Home: Tattoo Parlors as Postmodern Spaces of Agency” (2008) which addresses the parlor as the space of agency and Megan Jean Harlow‘s “The Suicide Girls: Tattooing as Radical Feminist Agency” (2008), which addresses reappropriation of the body via tattooing in a subcultural third-wave feminist group called ‘The Suicide Girls.’ Neither directly address the public paradox of the tattooed body, or the particular nature of the tattoo, though there is rather extensive anthropological work on both gang tattooing and prison tattooing available for your reading pleasure.

I ask then, if a local public cannot be identified, how do we develop a common rhetorical capacity for tattooed people to express the myriad reasons for inscripting their flesh? How does the larger public sphere, the dominant culture that determines the ‘norm’ negotiate all the varieties of tattooed individuals? Do we bracket tattooing and pretend like we can’t see the ‘neck blast’ on our poetry professor? Do we pretend like we are not taken aback by the knuckle tattoos on the manager’s manager in the customer service department of the phone company? Are tattooed people to be shut away and relegated to telemarketing so ‘normal’ people don’t have to look at them? What – in a quasi-public/private situation as the appropriately exposed parts of the body – are we supposed to do to direct discourse that reduces discrimination in this context?


Participant Pedagogy in Games

Hey all –

For today’s MOOCMOOC challenge, I would like to re-introduce the idea of gaming in the classroom. Some of us had mentioned this in the first #moocmooc discussion on Sunday.

Based on our readings, and some thoughts I have had about decreasing the grading load, especially for us composition teachers, I have come up with a game to play to teach my students rhetorical, audience, networking, community, online, blogging, google doc, and honor system skillz – all rolled into one.

I invite you to check out the game on my syllabus: What’s Making Me Happy. Please please please respect the spaces I have provided for my students and keep the Google Score sheet clean.

I welcome ANY feedback you might have about the game. It launches (in my classrooms) in about 3 weeks. It has never been attempted and I’m not sure what exactly to anticipate.


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Getting My Game On

Well – this blog is not longer for class readings, but it worked so well to keep some of my thoughts in line, especially in making connections among readings, and generating ideas, I will definitely be keeping it going.

So over break, I’ve been up against some interesting technological challenges (including the fact that the L key is not working particularly well on this computer). I went on vacation to visit my parents, and left my laptop AC adapter at home. No problem, I thought. It’s Phoenix. I’ll just grab up a new one. But would you believe that no one in the PHX area carries the adapter for my laptop? Sure, I could buy a universal adapter for $80 from Best Buy, but I’ve already sold them a piece of my soul for the laptop I love. And of course, my parents’ had JUST put their computer in the shop. The story goes on and one – I ordered an adapter from Amazon with 2 day shipping and had it sent to the wrong address… and so on, and on.

I freaked out.

I freaked out a lot – red in the face, hot skin… all the symptoms of an impending flu. Seriously.

So I sat down and re-evaluated my life.

And I realized that most of the work I had to do could either wait until after Christmas, or could  be done in a notebook.

So I did what any person currently obsessed with new media would do in my situation: I read a book about it. Well – I read Cathy Davidson’s Now You See It.

And then I sat down with my purple analog notebook and a pen… and I devised a rhetoric game for my students.

Because I know I will write about it, likely rather often, I will save you the gritty details and just link you to the rules once I get them up on my syllabus. But the short of it is this: instead of forcing my students to write an arbitrary essay identifying rhetorical concepts in some arbitrary reading, I am going to ask them to play a game, using tumblr and a google doc spreadsheet. I’m lifting the title of the game from Pop-Culture Happy Hour, hosted by NPR,  and calling it: “What’s Making Me Happy This Week.” My students will post something media related that is making them happy and then compete to convert each other to liking the thing they like. The learning part is in the writing about WHY they’re so happy about the thing they post. It’s also in the sharing, the community of the game, and the major presentation at the end of the 8-week game.

The great thing about this game idea is that if it royally fails, my students and I will both have learned some valuable lessons from the experience. And if it works really well, see above.

So stay tuned, and hopefully I’ll have some really cool experiences to report.


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Twitter, Zombies & Permanence

Last weekend I became undead. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was sitting at a coffee shop in downtown Decatur, Georgia.

I yelled.

I shouted. People at the coffee shop stared.

I called a friend to see if her friend could save me.

He was in California at a rock show. He was busy.

And so I turned.

This is how it went down:

I was bit by @myunnaturalself – and then

I pleaded for my life. I had dodged earlier, and my dodge was up.

But then:

I was saved… for the moment.

Little did I know – the zombies were stalking me.

They got me. And then they zombie high-fived. It was painful. I pleaded. I called others on my cellular telephone in real life. But there was no help.

And so I turned.

And I began to stalk others.

I lost several hours out of my workday dodging zombies and swiping them away for other zombies.
The rules were simple. There were only 5 steps:

1. If you are on twitter (anywhere on twitter) in the last 5 minutes, you can get bit, and you have 5 minutes to get saved.

2. If you get bit, you can #dodge 1 time an hour

3. If someone else gets bit, you can #swipe for them 1 time and hour.

4. If you become a zombie, you can #bite once every 30 minutes.

But like all things on the internet, these rules had little permanence, which is why I haven’t linked you to them.

Here is the twitter vs. zombies website.

There, you can see how the game is laid out. There is a scoreboard, and a rule sheet – all housed in google docs.

If you have ever used a google doc, you might know that they can be changed by anyone with permission. In our case, the google doc was open to the public. Anyone and everyone that landed on the page could change these documents. Their permanence was fleeting. The scoreboard changed any time someone used #dodge, #swipe, #bite, or turned into a zombie. The rules changed every 12 hours or so and became much more complicated, adding several other literacies in such as photographs uploaded to tweets, and the creation of storify narratives, such as this one by Lee Skallerup – #TvsZ A Love Story

Why is this important?

As I played this game, I had to juggle several digital literacies: tweeting using several hashtags, managing a google document scoreboard, and commenting to help develop the rules into more complex, and slightly more rigid, play. This is a brilliant idea to teach multiple digital literacies through play.

To get a brain-full of the discussion concerning the build, launch, and implications of this game, I leave you with the video below. Creators Pete Rorabaugh (@allistelling) and Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) delivered their experimental twitter game in a presentation at Duke University this past Monday. The video contains that presentation, and an extensive line of questions concerning the game.


For Your Consideration – Environment Matters

This morning I heard this story on NPR – A Lively Mind: Your Brain on Jane Austin – it’s only 4min36sec

The study finds some interesting things about how we read. I am wondering if the findings would be different if the participants were reading from an actual book with pages, versus a computer screen (like on a PDF or something).

I am also wondering if our brains act this way when we are writing, and if there is a neurological difference in our brain’s participation rate if we write on a computer, versus on a piece of paper.

If anyone has heard whether these studies have been done (as I’m sure people are studying typing versus hand-writing), it would be interesting to know – and also know what you think about these kinds of studies.


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Computers and Composition Greetings

Hello, my fellow composition comrades!

I’m excited to go back to course blogging – theorizing – and comparing ideas about mutual readings with like-minded people. Though if you read back in this blog, just a little, you’ll see I used it for a Massive Open Online Course about Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCMOOC) for a few entries. That was a lot of fun, and actually quite relevant to this Computers and Composition Course. Especially my entry called Collaboration and Group 6 Love at #moocmooc

But now that the MOOC is over, I shall return to this regularly scheduled blog response – and I will likely continue puzzling out things I read and think about well after this class is over too.

Now that we have established that – I would like to address my thoughts and goals for the course:

I am interested in exploring the Redefining/Remixing of the Canon – most specifically, the ways in which our currently growing-changing digital culture is affecting the way we invent and arrange. I see the lines of the canon as increasingly blurred as we composition theorists continue to discuss the implications of out digital practices on the processes of language, thinking and writing. Then, I would like to pair these ideas with multi-modal composition which may lead me into looking at some social media writing, and other topics. Of course this is preliminary, so… it could go anywhere.

In another course, I’ll be looking toward Bush’s ideas about early hypertext, and maybe a little Marshall McCluhan?? We’ll see about that. That’s another course, though.

So hello – and I’m happy to be here in this course with all of you, and learn about ideas and perspectives all of you bring to the table.