Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 1 Blog Introduction: Aaron.

Here’s some quick thoughts you'll want to keep in mind as we begin our work:

1. Welcome, everybody! During our morning sessions this blog, along with our classroom workshops, will act as one of our main forums of interaction. It's important that you push yourself to answer the questions, which will be posted here daily BY YOU, with as much intellectual and imaginative honesty as you can possibly muster. The quality of your posts will be judged not on grammatical precision but on brain power. We are all complex humans with complicated opinions, beliefs, and emotions. Your task is to reflect your own intellectual complexity in as much detail and texture as you can, period. This to say, if you want to pass Bridge, don't half-ass this or anything else.

2. Every morning in the computer lab two of us will post rhetorical questions that the rest of us will need to answer. These response questions should and will act as prompts that will extend our class discussions, your own reading of your text, our future reading group discussions, the lectures you’ll hear and the museums you’ll visit, and the afternoon post-lecture, post-museum discussions you’ll participate in with Katrina. The central task of college level analysis is to produce fruitful rhetorical questions that complicate what we believe we are sure of, that challenge us to take hard looks at our identities and the culture(s) that surround us, as both are filled with parts that we both love and hate. As we all will agree and disagree on those parts, the important point that we must always remember is that it is simply not enough for us to pose simple questions that yield simple answers. We will be working to pose rhetorical questions for one another. Rhetorical questions are open-ended questions. They are often irresolvable and only yield partial answers, but these partial answers can lead to what we call a line of inquiry, a kind of path of investigation, if you will. We follow such paths not knowing what word to type or sing next, what chord to play next, what computer code to write in or innovate, what fabric to choose, what lens or f-stop to select, where to block our scenes on a stage floor, track our camera shots, or how to say a line for an audience in a way that reveals a character to them in gripping and surprising ways. With college level inquiry your rhetorical questions will often only yield yet another question as an answer, but that new question will be sharper, less general, and more revealing than the question that preceded it. The best art, songs, video games, web and graphic designs, dress silhouettes, etc and so on, hold the following in common: they reveal endlessly urgent, necessary discoveries both to their creators and to their audiences. This in mind, many of the responses and prompts you’re professors will pose, along with every good paper you’ll write for your Writing & Rhetoric classes and other classes here at Columbia, will be born from complex rhetorical questions. Always.

To help you, here is an example of the type of rhetorical question you’ll basically be producing by the end of Bridge (notice how I’m basing my question in a connection from one of our texts. You’ll use whichever you’ll read.):

In Persepolis Marjane Satrapi offers us descriptions of numerous incidents that took place in her Tavanir neighborhood in Tehran, the capital of Iran. These descriptions center on how Iran’s oppressive Islamic regimes negatively impacted the lives and communities of many Iranians. In the chapter “The Trip” she describes the difference between “The Fundamentalist woman” and “The Modern Woman” by illustrating two styles of dress which are separated by vastly important differences (75). I’m thinking about one of our rhetorical lenses, local/global, when I ask if you can describe an incident or incidents, positive or negative, that occurred in your community which you feel are representative of how we as Americans need, practice, glorify, exploit, and/or use religion to either include or exclude others from our communities? Please explain through clear analysis just how and why you understand your own incidents, from any point in your life, as being representative of American culture in vital ways. Also, extend your thinking to include how and why your experiences are either similar or different from Satrapi’s in important ways.

3. Here are some important technical and stylistic points that you'll need to keep in mind for our postings.

a. You must click "New Post" up in the screen's top right hand corner before you may post a response question or answer. If "New Post" isn't there, you haven't signed in yet. To post a comment under a new post, click "Comments," which will always appear in super tiny font directly beneath the post, right next to the poster's name, etc.

b. If you are due to post a response question, title it as follows: “Day 6 Question: Aaron.” Obviously you’ll change the day, not to mention the name. You must type and post your question as soon as we enter the lab. Don’t waste time. Katrina will always be here to review your questions along with you before you post them.

c. Everyone will post a question on two separate occasions. Your questions should always reflect the rhetorical lenses we’ll begin discussing on Day 2: insider/outsider, personal/ political, local/global, individual/community, self/culture, all of which overlap each other.

d. If you are posting a response answer, a similar model to above is necessary: “Day 6 Answer: Aaron.”

e. Each day you must post an answer, within our allotted lab time, to one of the two questions that will be posted for you. You won’t need to state specifically which question. Those posting questions will post responses in the COMMENT SECTIONS of others’ answers during lab time, NOT AS “NEW POSTS.” Each of your answer posts must surpass a MINIMUM of 250 words. You cannot work on these outside of our lab time; however, feel free to comment on others’ posts whenever you like, just be sure to do so in the comment section only.

f. Lastly, though only after you’ve finished writing and revising, use Google image (or whatever) to find and add an image to your question and answer posts. Always do this, please. Think of this image as a text, meaning it’s “readable.” These images you’ll choose should display a deep connection between itself and your writing, a revealing association between the written and the visual that will enhance your analysis. Think of it this way –the two will be “read” together by others as comprising a single finished piece. ALWAYS spend your time writing first and then search for an image. Incomplete posts are a very bad thing.

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