An Exercise of First and Third Person Perspective

In our writing gateway class, we were writing two paragraphs for our repurposing assignment, one addressing in first and second person perspective and another in third person perspective. From this exercise, I noticed that by selectively choosing one perspective, not only the mode, style, and tone of the writings changed, but also the level of engagement of the writer and audience. By reflecting the experience, I also became more aware of my style of writing as I found myself struggled in writing in first person.

Writing in first and second person produced a very explicit relationship between the writer and audience. The tone was much more personal as it allows me to narrate instead of report. The mode is a mix of an argumentative and narrative paragraph. From the writer perspective, the “I” made me consciously address my opinions, experiences, and positions that became firmer than I expected. As a writer, I felt those sentences are explicit arguments in the writing and therefore, produce a high level of engagement and sense of ownership towards the writing. However, on the other hand, I noticed that “You” was rarely used in my writings and I realized that as a writer, I could improve on linking my positions to the audience by actively and intentionally engaging them as if they are co-writers. Therefore, writing in first and second person allows me to gain a hybrid of personal and objective position that may appeal to a wider audience as well as a higher level of engagement as a writer. On the other hand, it loses the specificity in contexts and audience position as there was not enough “You” as compared to “I”.

On the other hand, writing in third person developed a more objective tone and arguments towards my topic. Particularly, through minimizing the first and second person pronouns, a tone of formality and authority emerged. The writer and reader position seems to have more of a reporter-listener or a active-reactive dynamic. From a writer perspective, I engaged less during the writing process, as it was difficult to share personal experiences without utilizing “I”. By writing in third person, it seemed to achieve the opposite results of the first person perspective.

Overall, this assignment made me reflect on my writing experience and how I could improve by actively design the tone, mode, and styles with different rhetoric.

Arguments that We Grow Into

When I was a child, I used to see arguments as negative and attributions of individuals’ unfavorable personalities. For example, having the thought of “I should not argue over playing my favorite toy that was taken by my twin sister.” was not uncommon during my childhood memories. At least that was what I was told by my elementary school teachers and parents: Don’t argue and be a good child. Of course, like most of my peers, as I grew older and became aware and involved in more sophisticated arguments, a blurry line has gradually emerges regarding the nature and necessity of arguments.

Is there an instance in which an argument is necessary? I think so. In my mind, or perhaps likewise for others, I quickly associated arguments with conflicts. However, they are two different things. While conflicts imply different opinions and opposing thoughts, arguments could be constructive as discussions. I think the necessity of arguments come from the intentions behind having the arguments in the first place. They are particularly necessary when we need a breakthrough of the present, implying a change in the future. For example, Rebecca Solnit’s arguments of divesting and climate change are an issue that concerns the overall environment. To put it loosely, if the intention is issue focused instead of people focused, there are values in arguments.

Is there an instance when argument is a mistake? I think so if we are defining a mistake as in something preventable. As I see it, arguments are mistakes when personal harm is involved intentionally. When an argument is not surrounding an issue or context but the attributions of people, it is very likely that the discussion is not constructive and rather, would around a circle. However, I also think the responsibility is not only bared on the individual who initiates the arguments, but also their counterparts whom they argue with. Arguments require at least two people or two opinions so if there is a mistaken argument, both sides have the power to stop it.

Can we have a mistaken argument that is necessary simultaneously? I think it depends on the time frame we are looking at. At long run, it is likely that a mistaken argument serves as a necessity for the future. At times of arguments, there is always resistant. Arguments could easily escalate to heated debates involving both contextual and personal arguments. From a psychology standpoint, we as humans naturally have biases. For some of them, even if we are well aware of that, we are unable to reverse the biases. I think the nature of argument is not static but rather dynamic depending on the means and process instead of the topic.

Home on fire…or not.

In By the Way, Your Home is on Fire, Rebecca Solnit posed an argument for divesting in order to remedy the potential disastrous consequences of climate change. She used the analogy, “Your home is on fire”, to instill a sense of urgency and called for actions to all individuals. Yet, is my home really on fire? That is the question we asked ourselves during class. I guess it is debatable. That fact that another person sees his or her home on fire doesn’t necessarily translate to another person having the same image.

With this, my classmates and I came together and brainstormed another possible analogy. It was longer and more difficult than we imagined. We went from a Titanic cruise scenario to a hijacked airplane but eventually, we decided on this: a shark swimming towards a row boat in which two rows of people carry a pedal each and are vital to success of escape. If a single person drops out, the boat would not be balanced and instead of moving towards a desired direction away from the shark, it will simply go in a circular motion. In this scenario, the shark serves as an immediate recognition of urgency and like the debates surrounding climate change, there is a grey area of urgency. Most of us would perceive a shark as being dangerous (possibly from the replaying of Jaws over the years) but in reality, the type and habitat preference of the shark are not known. Yet, in order to escape, every single person on the boat needs to participate and collectively, all holds a common vision.

Well. At this point, there was a question raised: What if there is a person who simply doesn’t want to participate?

We dropped silent and more questions came to my mind: How likely is that going to happen? Fairly. It’s analogous to what we define as being “optimistic” and “pessimistic”. Is it moral if other people on the boat decided to abandon this person who preferred to be dropped? Hmm. That’s a question of free will and social moral standards. I’m not sure.

However, one thing I know is the fact that our analogy has an underlying assumption that the sense of urgency is large enough for all the people to react and even more so, react positively with the hope of escaping the potential danger, the shark. It is not perfect though but I learned that in a society in which we praised individualism and freedom, groupthink seems to be a requirement of this scenario and counterintuitive overall. Where our analogy is constructed is perhaps how each of us perceives the context of the argument at hand.

For now, we have a shark, a row boat, and people.