Learning boring but important stuff

Digital rhetoric can often add a visual element to non-digital rhetoric (here’s one example). In an educational setting, this can do two things:

1) Facilitate more learning of complex topics

2) Make complex topics less boring

An example to illustrate my point:

Does anyone really want to read a paper on how mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps, and collateralized debt obligations affected the global financial crisis of 2007-2008? These are not the types of words that make readers think “wow, I don’t understand those words but I’m really interested in learning about them.” Given the choice, most people would be more interested in reading the buzzfeed article “21 Emoji Comebacks You Should Start Using“. However, should people want to learn more about the recent global financial collapse? In my opinion: yeah, probably.

Let’s say I wrote an essay intending to explain the credit crisis of 2007 targeted to non-business or economics savvy readers. There’s pretty clear exigence for this rhetorical situation: the financial collapse decimated the value of many Americans’ homes, and caused others to lose jobs. When a certain event impacts everyone around you, it’s generally good to understand the how and why involved. The credit crisis itself is not a very approachable topic to those unfamiliar with financial concepts like interest rates and the banking system. Therefore, there is exigence to write a piece explaining this to non-finance oriented people. However, despite this exigence, this blog post would be really boring. Almost excruciatingly boring. So boring, that people probably wouldn’t even finish it unless it was assigned for a class. Also, in addition to being boring, the content would also seem dry and hard to understand. These issues are fixed with new media:

Unlike the paper I described, the video above isn’t boring or overly complex. The main reason is due to the use of graphics and illustrations. In a sense, the exigence is fulfilled in this video that might not be satisfied by somebody reading a paper on the same topic. In digital rhetoric, there are more opportunities to take advantage of visual learning (you can’t embed a video into a 5-page paper), and the example above really illustrates this well.

2 thoughts to “Learning boring but important stuff”

  1. Hi Jacob,

    I find this post really interesting. As someone who isn’t usually interested in the business world, I thought the graphics and visuals in the video you posted were essential in breaking down this situation. The idea of digital rhetoric ties in perfectly to this. By integrating new mediums and platforms, the author of a certain idea gets to engage with the audience on a closer level. Especially in arguments or topics that are not easily accessible to everyone, something like a video or even info-graphic can be immensely helpful.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I definitely agree with Anisha! There have been a good number of videos I’ve watched in the past year that I wouldn’t have been interested in if they were articles. Sometimes the visual effects of the video really help move the topic along, as well as make the connections between ideas easier to understand. As an example, I watched the documentary “Fed Up” this weekend, which used images to show what happens in your body when you eat almonds versus when you eat something with a lot of sugar. I’d never understood why sugar pretty much equals fat until I saw this image. It was something that reading couldn’t explain to me. Great insight and post.

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