Digital Rhetoric Can Be Delicious

Cooking videos are prevalent on the internet, and they always grab my attention whether I’m on Facebook, Youtube, or a blog. Basically, this piece of digital rhetoric walks the viewer though how to make something in the kitchen. The way I think of it, these cooking channels are like modern day digital cookbooks, and they are incredibly compelling.

For one, just watching this banana bread being made makes me crave banana bread. I find this happens whenever I watch any type of cooking video, no matter the dish. Second of all the fact that I can watch this video in  three minutes, makes the viewer believe that the entire process is easy and fast. The chef walks the viewer through all the various steps, talking out the process as he goes. Sometimes, I find that it can be hard to follow all of the directions given in written instruction when you are attempting to cook something. Some directions can be lost in translation, and I have more than once found myself unsure of what Martha Stewart means by “ideal spreading texture.”

In using visual cues, the audience can actually see for example, what the consistency of the banana bread mix should actually be. I personally learn best through demonstration, so these cooking videos are a really good way for me to learn how to cook. Seeing someone’s technique helps me improve my own. Especially with cooking, I think the visual component really holds the audience’s attention and helps them learn.

It’s interesting to note that for this particular channel, SortedFood, they link their website where you can find all of the exact measurements used in the video. Why not just put the exact measurements in the video? One might argue that having too many details might bog down the video and take away from it’s entertainment factor. After all, some people view these videos as pure entertainment, rather than for pragmatic instructional purposes. Having the measurements in an external place also draws more readership to the SortedFood website, which benefits SortedFood.

Overall, I think these videos are not only practical and informative but also fun to watch, and that’s what makes them such  successful pieces of digital rhetoric.

 

Digital Rhetoric and the Traditional Classroom

My high school implemented a new program this year requiring students to bring laptops to class every day. This change in policy came as shocking news to me, considering my high school days were spent sneakily texting during class and sporadically using the computers in the library for projects. I wrote all of my papers at home on my family PC, and completed all online homework at home as well. Technology did not play a major role in my in-class high school education. So what provoked such a dramatic change in my old school’s policy this past year? The answer is clear. Such changes were made in correspondence with the ever-increasing availability of digital rhetoric, specifically that related to education. This includes everything from interactive textbooks to Microsoft Word to Khan Academy. By requiring student to bring laptops to class, the school is arming each and every student with the resources necessary to succeed academically.

Students with Computers
Students now utilize technology and digital rhetoric in the classroom setting.

Perhaps the newest and most powerful source of academic digital rhetoric can be found in websites such as Khan Academy. This website is a relatively new online resource that contains educational videos and interactive study tools for almost every subject. For example, I have used Khan Academy videos to prepare for Organic Chemistry exams, and often watch Khan Academy biochemistry videos when I find topics confusing or overly difficult.

Khan academy utilizes all 5 modes of communication to relay information to students, and well represents the beneficial nature of innovative multimodal resources. The careful spatial arrangement of the website makes navigation easy and fast. The linguistic mode may seem most obvious, but is surprisingly overshadowed by the aural and visual modes of communication used by the site. Videos are the primary source of information on the site. Most videos are 10 minutes or less and focus on specific topics, even within a particular subject. The gestural mode is prevalent in the interactive activities the site offers as practice following the videos. Khan academy exploits the benefits of digital rhetoric by using every mode of communication. This multifaceted approach to education offers students a clear and concise alternative to traditional classroom learning.

So what impact will digital rhetoric have on traditional classrooms? Let my old high school be an example. Multimodal resources such as Khan Academy are flipping school policies on end. Like a new technology, digital rhetoric is powerful and always advancing.

What happens on the internet stays on the internet…scary

Clark argues that the internet and more broadly, the computer, is a collaborative tool; I agree to some extent. On the one hand, it allows people to comment and share their thoughts on different pieces of writing instantly. I can publish a blog post or publicize a website and anyone with internet access can comment on my writing. Also, with platforms like Googledoc, writers have the ability to collaborate with people anywhere in the world without actually having to be near them. But as the internet continues to advance, individuals’ need for human contact decreases. Instead of asking my friend who has an obsession with polar bears how much they weigh, I’ll type it into google. This lessens our need to collaborate with other people in order to get answers because all the information we could ever need is a mouse click away.

While I don’t agree with all of the collaborate advantages Clark argues for, I do see the internet’s other benefits. For one, it allows anyone with access to get something published.  If I want to publish a blog or a website, I don’t need to go through a publishing company, I just press a blue “publish” button. I also agree with Clark’s assertion that ePortfolios provide a huge advantage to their paper portfolio counterparts. With the advancement of online portfolios, people can send their work out to an infinite number of people, and it takes almost zero effort. Maybe more importantly, creating a portfolio online allows people to constantly change, improve, and grow their repertoire of work.

While I enjoyed the majority of the Clark reading, her section on blogging stood out to me the most because in one paragraph, she encapsulated what blogging makes me feel: pressure.  I know for Writing 220, blogging gets graded more on completion than correctness of content and does not make up an overwhelming part of our overall grade, yet I feel my heart racing every time I read we have a blog post to complete. Clark’s reading helped me understand why: blogging is high-stakes. The second I press that blue “publish” button, my work becomes public. Anyone with internet connection could access it and hold me accountable for anything and everything I write. What if I wrote something when I was really tired one day and didn’t mean it? Tough luck, because as every adult has told every 20-something at one point in their life, once something is on the internet, it’s there for good.

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.

GIFS/PICS

Sorry for being late on this post, but blog posts that I find compelling generally don’t overwhelm a user with words. If I want to read lots of words, there are plenty of other mediums to go to instead of a blog.

For example, a sports blog: I want this blogs to have pictures and gifs of certain plays, coverage breakdowns or funny moments because a picture of gif can speak for 1000 words, right? It’s easier for the viewer to understand the context with a picture and gif.

Mgoblog.com does this perfectly. They found the right balance of word-to-picture/ratio. I think you’ll agree.

The “stumble” button

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about digital rhetoric is both broad and boring: the internet. Obviously the internet is a form of digital rhetoric; it can only be accessed through a screen (thus, digital) and contains infinite written words, pictures, and other forms of communication (rhetoric). So I decided to pick another form of digital rhetoric, a website that causes me to waste too many hours of my day on the computer: StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is a website that helps people navigate through all the rhetoric that is the internet.

You must make an account (for free) and then the site asks its users to “favorite” different types of websites. Once you’ve told Stumbleupon about all of your favorites things, the stumbling begins. The website takes you to every kind of site you could possible imagine–from fashion to cooking to serial killers (my favorite, obviously). It makes the overwhelming internet a little more manageable by sorting through things you don’t like, and handing you the ones you do with the click of a “stumble” button.

 

My "interests" on StumbleUpon. These are the websites stumbleUpon takes me to when I press the "stumble" button
My “interests” on StumbleUpon

When I’m really bored, I’ll stumble through every single one of my 53 interests at random. If I’m in the mood for one particular topic, say fashion, I’ll just stumble through fashion websites. StumbleUpon is a double edged sword: I learn so much from browsing through its database but at the same time, every time I use it I feel myself becoming progressively lazier. It has everything right there! No search bars are necessary when all I have to do is click “stumble” and I can look at any website I want. Use stumbleUpon when you’re bored or when you want to learn something new. But trust me from personal experience, it is addicting.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/about

Kahn You See Change?

Digital rhetoric.  My first thought that came to mind was Khan Academy.

I’ve read numerous articles and heard multiple arguments for and against it. Point blank: it is changing the way in which we learn and communicate certain subjects.

It is an interesting form of digital rhetoric in that students are able to watch videos and learn about various subjects they may be struggling with. I, personally, have benefited from watching a video here and there while struggling with math (which is definitely not my strong suit.)

The videos are structured for the audience. There are videos for elementary school kids, there are videos for other grade levels, and there are also resources for test prep.

This definitely changes the learning process. Instead of the need to sit in a classroom and learn a topic, students are able to do so digitally.  They can re-wind videos and also do practice problems to test their progress.  This completely changes the typical teacher-student dynamic.

The thought is that through these videos, students will be more interested in learning. There are graphics and drawings to aid in the learning, and providing the online service is a great way to measure knowledge on a subject.

I think as resources such as Khan become more readily available, there is a much greater chance that the way we learn in classrooms is going to change, too. In the last few years we have already incorporated laptops greatly into school curriculums, I am interested to see how this will continue to change in the future!

If you explore/use the Khan academy site, I am interested to hear your feedback and experiences!

Khan
Khan

Rhetoric and Digitalness…

It’s a terrible feeling clicking onto an assignment page only to find out you’ve already missed the deadline. I had a project and huge midterm today, so haven’t really been an actual human being for the past three days or so.  But it’s over now, so yay. But – on to digital rhetoric.

In one of the comments from Eymand’s article, somebody asked, “Is digital rhetoric just rhetoric that happens to occur in digital spaces, or is there some “native” digital rhetorical theory?” I thought this was such an interesting question and gets to the heart of this whole “digital rhetoric” thing. But, I struggled to really come up with a good answer to the question, so I naturally gave up and went back to my usual practice of surfing the web until I get super bored. And then I kind of realized something – I had been looking at digital rhetoric this whole time. Websites, blogs, videos, memes, video games – it’s all digital rhetoric. My example is from the New York Times website. I have check it every day for one of my classes and think it serves as a good illustration to just how much technology has changed the world of writing.

A screenshot of the New York Times website
A screenshot of the New York Times website

The New York Times has often been considered the top of journalism. For so many years, people would get their news from reading the daily paper that was delivered to their doorstep every morning. Oh, how the times have changed. With the recent rise in technology, younger generations much more commonly get their news from the digital world, such as websites on phone apps. Because of this, the world of news has adapted into the digital world. However, this has brought about certain challenges, like how to space stories not in pages, but on a website’s homepage. As you can see in the picture, newspapers like the New York Times have all shifted into the digital world. Newspaper subscriptions have formed into website accounts and half-page ads have converted to corner-page links. The rise of the digital world has certainly changed the game for pretty much everyone involved. And, as the digital world continues to change, the world must change with it.

Digital Rhetoric for Nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations are often a great source of digital rhetoric examples.

This video by The Girl Effect is one of the best examples of nonprofit digital rhetoric that I’ve found:

The video works because it takes the viewer on a journey, which seems to escalate in accordance with the music. It includes words rather than narration so that viewers are engaged and feel obligated to participate in reading the video.

A video such as this needs to be compelling in order to be successful — the exigence is quite clear; the organization is looking for people to support their movement, to donate if possible or even just to spread the word. Successful digital rhetoric for a nonprofit must be engaging, it must speak to the mission of the org itself, and it should probably be something that other people will want to share on social media platforms, so that as wide an audience as possible can be reached.

The way nonprofits communicate and market themselves has drastically shifted since the rise of social media; organizations today are inclined to create an online presence, and, in effect, to go where they can reach volunteers, donors, and members most effectively.

Digital rhetoric has huge implications for nonprofits. The Girl Effect has taken advantage of the opportunity and created an engaging video that has reached almost 2 million views, which translates to 2 million potential volunteers, donors, or advocates.

Digital rhetoric is no joke.

 

Same Love: A Powerful Example of Digital Rhetoric

I remember my friends and I all hovered around the computer to watch the much anticipated “Same Love” video, after being so impacted by the lyrics of the hit song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The song, the music video, and the conversation inspired by the nature of both, are all different elements of digital rhetoric.

The video was posted on Youtube, by Ryan Lewis, with the caption “We support civil rights, and hope WA State voters will APPROVE REF 74 and legalize marriage equality.” The video received over 350,000 views within the first 24 hours of its posting. Youtube is a wonderful example of a platform for digital rhetoric in that it presents a video, which is a piece of digital rhetoric itself, and then allows for commentary allowing others to play with, assess, and contemplate the ideas presented in the video thus including another element of digital rhetoric. The controversial nature of this video led many who felt passionately about the subject to contribute to the conversation that took place in the comment section. The deep and complex ideas regarding religion, homosexuality, feminism, and racism, are all discussed in multiple comments, sometimes in the form of ignorant racial, and homophobic slurs, sometimes in the form of profound and eloquent arguments on either side.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with the legalization of same sex marriage, or any other topics that the song and music video “Same Love” addressed, its viral media presence shed light on very important, and prevelent issues that are difficult to talk about. Thus, the digital rhetoric inspired conversation outside of the digital realm, extending it to the classroom, the dinner table, the church/temple pews.

“Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert