Monthly Archives: March 2017

ENGL 829 3/29 Reflection

In response to the “consensus view” of composition studies, as reflected by the various position statements, outcomes, and frameworks, I have some concern with the lack of precise language or metalanguage about writing. The C’s position statement defines what makes “sound writing,” which brings up the question of who gets to define what writing is “sound” and how they define it. I also have a concern about the definition of genre, which I think leads many to believe that writing must conform to some arbitrary set of conventions as defined by “experts.” Instead of shaping writing towards some social context, it is the social context that shapes writing and determines the sets of values and criteria and types of legitimate knowers, who we call experts. I become concerned when genre teaching advocates following the conventions of experts in general, as that approach promotes a lack of critical awareness. Students do need to learn genre conventions but it is in the hopes that they can then become legitimate participants in the field in hopes of eventually transforming the field for the better.

In terms of transfer, I am concerned with courses that state they are specifically teaching for transfer because their methods may actually be inhibiting it. Although I think teaching rhetorical and reflective modes of awareness is certainly beneficial, I am not convinced rhetorical awareness promotes the type of high road transfer the field is striving for. I like to relate Bernstein’s notion of horizontal and vertical discourse to low road and high road transfer, respectively. Horizontal knowledge, such as learning to tie your shoes or ride a bike, is segmented within its specific, local context. The ability or skill required to tie your shoes or ride a bike is not transferred to other contexts, for instance learning to play an instrument. Vertical knowledge, on the other hand, such as in the sciences, is cumulatively built and operates at a high level of abstraction. The field of science continually moves forward by the creation of knowledge with greater explanatory power. So courses that focus exclusively on process, and not higher order critical analytic skills or in-depth knowledge content, may be segmenting learning within specific contexts. For instance, a course on the discourse of TED Talks, where students analyze the rhetoric of TED talks, remix a TED Talk, and finally create a TED Talk of their own, may teach students a lot about TED Talks, as well as some rhetorical theory and knowledge of software, but these skills may or may not be transferable in terms of high road transfer.

Finally, I have some concerns with the portfolio focus of the third wave of assessment, as Yancey calls it. I think first we need to consider what we want assessment to do. Is assessment about giving a student a grade, or is it about helping make students’ writing better? If assessment is meant to help guide students’ writing to make it better than the assessment of work must be ongoing with explicit criteria. Not to say all portfolio grading works this way, but waiting till the end of the semester to provide holistic feedback probably will not improve students’ writing. I would also be wary of handing evaluation completely over to students as a type of reflection. In general, we need to accept that symbolic capital is unevenly distributed within our society, and that some forms of writing hold more social power than others. By not providing ongoing and appropriate feedback, we are doing students a disservice by impeding their control over discourses of power.

ENGL 806 Create a Sign Activity/ Stratified Model of Language

Stratified Model of Language (Adapted from Martin, Hasan, Bernstein)

For this activity I tried to create a stratified model of language that maps the dialectical relation between social structures and the instantiation of texts. The stratified model of language was borrowed from SFL textual analysis and then adapted, following the work of O’Halloran and Kress, to images. The model maps the minutest elements of language, showing how each level of language is nested within or realizes the other. So, at the minutest level we have graphology/phonology or symbols/graphics, which are then formed into sentences or visual representations, which form a text’s meaning as a whole, which is influenced by the context of the situation (register), realized through the context of a culture (genre), influenced by ideologies, which are in turn shaped by one’s social positioning, determined by the codes generated by the social structure. As you can see, social structure ultimately generates the codes that shape texts instantiated in our culture, but texts, themselves, can go on to influence ideologies and in turn transform cultural codes and ultimately social structures. The connotative levels of meaning are parasitic, meaning they must use lower-level systems to instantiate their meaning.

I paid particular attention to mapping tenor, or interpersonal meanings here, which at the level of register forms the concepts of power and solidarity, which is instantiated as appraisal and involvement at the discourse level. Little work has been done in multimodal discourse analysis on the interpersonal aspects of visual rhetoric and ideology. I plan to further analyze how power and solidarity are conveyed within social activist memes. The model makes clear that ideological and political stances we instantiate through texts are in large part determined by our positioning within the class-based social structure.

ENGL 806 Bib #3 “Memetics—A growth industry in US military operations”

Prosser, M. B. (2006). Memetics–A growth industry in US military operations (Unpublished master’s thesis). Thesis (Master’). doi:

This thesis argues that contemporary warfare will need to involve non-linear warfare tactics, such as the creation and distribution of memes, to influence and combat the alternative ideologies of insurgent groups operating within the 21st century, networked media landscape. Following Richard Dawkins, the author defines memes as “‘units of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation’. Said another way, memes are bits of cultural information transmitted and replicated throughout populations and/or societies” (p. 1). The author argues the military will need to move past traditional models of combat—physical military incursions on the battlefield—and into the realm of meme warfare, if the military wants to succeed in curbing insurgent ideologies. The author argues that ideologies are inherently complex, transcendent ideas that are “difficult to eradicate kinetically” (p. 1). The author suggests that ideologies should be conceptualized from an epidemiological perspective, as a disease that “replicates and spreads” as an adaptive system. Memes, too, function as viral, replicable, adaptive systems that can counteract and persuade enemies’ beliefs in “the hotly contested battlefields inside the mind” (p. 3).

The author provides a case study of how the corporation 3M used an innovation meme to cultivate a culture of innovation within the company, which led to significant gains and financial growth. Although not directly related to military warfare, the author suggests that 3M’s corporate model, where the CEO and leaders of the company promote a meme as a “transcendent idea” that then filters down and influences employees and customers, serves as a useful model as to how meme creation can go on to “infect” stakeholders. The author suggests the development of a meme warfare center that would provide “the most relevant meme combat options within the ideological and nonlinear battle space” (p. 11). The meme center would be divided into internal and external branches. The internal meme center would be focused on generating a desired ideological climate within the military, while the external meme center would be more outward looking, promoting the cultural engineering of societies. Key to this project would be “meme engineering,” which entails “meme generation, targeting, and inoculations” (p. 14). Meme engineering is a complex and sophisticated operation, which the author believes would take an interdisciplinary team of experts in cultural anthropology, linguistics, behavioral science, game theory, cognitive scientists, and experts in warfare. Meme engineering is an iterative process that must include the continual cultural analysis of memes over time, as well as an understanding of how memes can be effectively transmitted and distributed through global media.

Although this thesis was written before the explosion of memes as we know them today, this paper still offers an eye-opening perspective on mimetic power and how memes can be used to shape and reshape ideologies. The author provides complex conceptual models of how ideologies and memes function as adaptive pathological systems. One aspect of global communication and memetic power that has certainly changed is the concept of contact. The author argues, “in the absence of contact, memes are not transmitted, replicated, or re-transmitted” (p. 4). This was obviously an issue back in 2006 when not everyone was globally connected through the internet. Now, even insurgent populations most likely have access to the internet, making contact no longer an issue: through contact, almost any ideology can be spread or combatted through social media. Also, through metadata the tracking of the propagation of memes is much easier. What I am not sure the military foresaw at this time was the bidirectional nature of mimetic warfare, where “insurgent” groups can just as easily spread and combat ideologies online.

The conceptual framework of ideologies and memes offered here will be useful to my research. I am also interested in exploring the concept of logogenesis—the evolution of signs and symbols over time— as it applies to the distribution and redistribution of memes. I find it useful that memes and ideologies are being conceptualized here within multidimensional and nonlinear space. Finally, the author provides a model of how ideologies influence behavior that I would argue is similar to Basil Bernstein’s model: “Memes influence ideas, ideas influence and form beliefs,” beliefs influence political positions, which in turn influence actions (p. 2).

ENGL 806 Timeline

For this timeline I decided to focus on the hardware and software that has been most influential in my life. My earliest memories of computing were back in computer class as a kid using an Apple II. What I remember most about using the Apple II was playing Oregon Trail and a typing game where if you spelled a word incorrectly a fly would splat onto the car windshield. The Macintosh Classic was much more user-friendly and design-oriented. This computer had an understandable desktop interface and user-friendly tools for actually creating images and products like greeting cards and brochures. Concurrently, I was even more excited about different gaming systems, such as Nintendo, Genesis, and Playstation. Although I debated whether I should include gaming systems in a timeline related to design, I cannot overlook the interactive interfaces of gaming consoles as well as the potential for user design. For instance, in the NES game Excitebike, users were able to design their own levels. There was also a capacity for hacking, such as using cheat codes, for instance the infamous code for thirty lives in Contra— up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.

When I started getting into recording music, a whole new set of design tools became accessible to me. The ADAT machine was capable of recording eight tracks of digital audio on a format that looked much like a VHS cassette. Doing this activity made me reminisce on all the various formats I was using to record data. For instance, my Alesis sampler could only hold sixteen seconds of audio on floppy disks. The Roland SP 808 sampler was a great advance, recording up to twenty-five minutes of audio on a zip disk. This sampler came with a screen to actually view data, and had some amazing functionality, being able to match sample tempos.

I then got into designing sound with software. The Pro Tools system I began using had almost unlimited potential in terms of audio-visual creation. Logic Pro has even more capabilities of integrating software instruments (VSTs) with audio. Max/MSP is a programming environment, where the user can actually build multimedia software. I recorded an album with Max/Msp created solely with software I built in Max and manipulated samples.

Some of my favorite design environments are open source software, some of it even intended for children. TuxPaint is a painting program intended for kids, but the environment is really fun and it actually produces interesting images. Sound Club is an open source audio sequencer for PC that I used for a number of years. It is extremely simple to use and comes with a cheesy set of sounds, from brass, to drums, and sound effects. Sound Club makes music that sounds like old video games, a sound I particularly like, growing up with the sound design of eight and sixteen bit gaming consoles.