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The pre-week 1 readings all discussed the rhetorical situation, while providing differing views on the role and place of situation, context, and audience. I read the articles in chronological order, so as Lloyd Bitzer (1968) wrote of the nature of the rhetorical situation, with the necessity for situation to precede rhetorical discourse, his argument seemed logical. In order for there to be rhetorical discourse on an event or situation, it first must occur and is based on five general characteristics: it is provided as a “fitting response” prescribed by the situation, that is also located in reality, exhibits structures and provides a level of maturation in that it comes into existence, matures and then decays or persists.

For Bitzer, “rhetoric is situational” (3) as he defines it contains three constituents: exigence, audience and constraints and can be defined as

A complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence. (6)

Rhetorical situations that persist become part of the body of rhetorical literature – those universal rhetorical situations, such as the Gettysburg Address, MLK’s “I Have a Dream” or Socrates’ Apology. In Bitzer’s view, meaning is always intrinsic to the rhetorical situation, situations must be persuasive and they must answer an urgent need.

Richard Vatz provides a response to Bitzer, pointing to what he calls the “myth” of the rhetorical situation. According to Vatz, Bitzer misses key aspects, that of the quality of the situation, the relationship between the rhetor and the situation, and the role of choice as a necessity for how a situation is communicated. For Vatz, there is no static individualized situation, instead rhetorical discourse is a form of translation of choices, communicating select aspects of situations, not a situation. Proposing an alternate to Bitzer, Vatz outlines how situations are rhetorical and utterances are what invite exigence. For Vatz, rhetoric is a cause, not an effect of meaning as no situation can be independent of the perception of the interpreter.

Vatz’ “essential question” is what is the relationship between rhetoric and situations (158) with Bitzer and Vatz offering opposite views. Vatz sees political motive in some rhetorical situations, with them being “created” rather than “found” (159), such as the case of the “Cuban Missile Crisis” as it was both an act of rhetorical creation, as well as a political crisis. This resonated with me having just finished a class in Cultural Affect and the ways that emotions can often be “sold” to a populace through the media or via authority, as a “culture of fear” or a “war on terrorism” can become part of a society’s fiber of action/response, as Vatz notes that rhetoric can “create fears and threat perception” whereby speeches are needed to “communicate reassurances” (160).

Barbara Biesecker offers a different position surrounding rhetorical situation, while drawing from Vatz and Bitzer, but counters the historical “exchange of influence” aspect of the rhetorical situation, focused on speaker and audience. Biesecker writes that a “rethinking “ is necessary as only seeing discourse as situation-exigence through influence or its “historical character,” or even through an “exchange between individuals” tied to an event is limiting. By reexamining symbolic action (the text) and subject (audience) using Derrida’s Différance, the rhetorical situation can be rethought as articulation. Through a lens of deconstruction, the “rhetoricity of all texts [can be taken] seriously” (111) by offering “a way of reading that seeks to come to terms with the way in which the language of any given text signifies the complicated attempt to form a unity out of a division” (112).

For Biesecker, audience is a part of the rhetorical situation as an “effect of différance and not the realization of identities” providing governance by a “logic of articulation” over influence. Rather than see situation or speaker as the point of origin and thereby forcing a who is right or wrong, viewed through différance, that “division within as well as between distinct elements” (115) can focus instead on the interrelatedness of signs

 …this interweaving, this textile, is the text produced only in the transformation of another text. Nothing, neither among the elements nor within the system, is anywhere ever simply present or absent. There are only, everywhere, differences and traces of traces. (Derrida, “Semiology and Grammatology,” Positions, 26).

Through the middle spaces, those that may be considered voids – the folds, are the places where meaning can be made. This stress on avoiding dichotomies or binaries also for me, is reflective of later affect and critical theory, as layered understandings and recognizing multiple voices and narratives replaces a strict hierarchy of either/or interpretations. In looking at a text from reception instead of production, the audience, while always a part of the rhetorical situation, often “receives little critical attention . . . simply named, identified as the target of discursive practice, and then dropped” (122). Audience within différance is viewed as an aspect of production or effect-structure (125). As the subject is destabilized, then the rhetoric becomes shifting and uncentered, constructing and reconstructing the linkages (126).

Biesecker’s article will take more time and application for me to really see its potentiality. Thinking about rhetorical situations through difference caught my interest as I like the idea of making meaning in the middle, rather than being directed by situation, but my understanding as she delved deeper into articulation remains a bit murky.

Thomas Rickert’s article draws from Bruno Latour, another new theorist for me, so as with Derrida and différance, on first read, clarity was not offering itself up. Rickert uses the example of wine tasting to illustrate how context can be elevated over the object, based on perceptions of what is thought about the object over the actual properties of the object itself. Latour, Rickert points out is critical of context, as he would rather look at the “things and objects—that make up an assembled entity” (135). Rickert applies Latour in looking at how context (what he notes is irrepressible) emerges “as an assemblage of complexly interactive variables (or actants)” (136). Latour uses dingpolitik— a politic of things—as he points to politics as rhetorical, with the social as “inseparable from its material infrastructure” (136). Rickert recognizes the benefits of Latour’s approach, but also points out its shortcomings, such as assemblage and how persuasion comes into play, as well as context, looked at as a “holistic notion of the ‘as a whole’” (137). Rickert argues that “context retains its holistic dimension but that this scope is neither stable nor the sole result of human doing” (137). Latour stresses writing and describing over context, but Rickert questions Latour’s criticism of context, viewing it instead as both a boundary and an element (141), rethinking context as “having a dual role” within two dimensions of 1) a holistic, material ecology; and 2) the relation of relations that looks at the “howness” of things.


Bitzer Vatz Biesecker (Derrida) Rickert (Latour)
Rhetoric is situational Situations are rhetorical Articulation over influence Objects become rhetorical as they are inseparable from what engage us
Exigence invites utterance Utterances invite exigence Rhetoricity in all texts through différance Dingpolitik – politic of things. Persuasion achieved through an assembly of actants (136)
The situation controls the rhetorical response The rhetoric controls the situational response Différance makes signification possible Latour critical of context / Rickert offers holism
Obtains its character as rhetoric from the situation which generates it Situations obtain their character from the rhetoric which surrounds them Différance is the nonfull, nonsimple “origin”; it is the structured and differing origin of differences (117) Rickert – holistic aspect as “howness” of things through assemblage

How Stuff Works is useful website as a reference tool. I tend to think of it as a technology information site, but in looking at its “About” page, it reflects a much broader range of how “the world” works – so definitely a source for me to remember as students are looking for quick and clear explanations.

My topic for reading is “Memory.” I first went into the main Memory topic, which focused on human memory and brain science. Once I went back and realized it was only the technology “Memory” section I was to read and comment on, I was actually glad to have read the others first, as I saw connections and a number of similarities in how both human memory and computer memory can be similar and also relate to teach other. Both can easily be viewed as networks – with the brain as part of the body’s network of organs, or even just within the brain, the network of thought and mind. Computers run on a network of individual pieces that come together to make things happen, but also are pieces of larger entities, as most home computers are now networked within a house, hooked to printers, each other, and the larger world through Internet connections. As I start to really think about the interactivity of how one piece of something interacts and affects the other pieces, the idea of assemblage (Rickert) and stepping away to see a holistic picture is intriguing.

Most gadgets in the 21st century have some form of memory. Memory can be either short or long-term, much like human memory. In a computer, it often refers to the amount of quick access storage available that includes RAM, virtual and caching. It is considered a form of temporary storage, but is one of the most important aspects in computer performance, especially for high graphics and gaming. As part of the “team” that runs a computer, it is a form of network, as it relies of the different parts to communicate, react and provides successful computing experience.

Computers can use both static and removable storage. ROM is a form of static storage, while floppy discs were the first removable storage. Today, storage can come from hard-drives, flash memory or light. Light has been a form of storing and reading data since compact disc (CD) technology—over thirty years ago. A CD Digital versatile disc (DVD) improved on this in the 1990s allowing for much greater density of storage.

Image of human brain memory

Mapping Memory from http://designcanes.com/

Holographic memory storage is the newest form, poised to improve optical storage by enabling 3D volume storage that goes beyond the current surface storage on CDs or DVDs. For size comparison, 1 TB (terabyte) could be stored on a crystal the size of a sugar cube in holographic memory, the contents of 1,000 CDs. Form of storage was first discovered by Pieter van Heerden, a Poloroid scientist, in the 1960s. While early on touted as the next storage breakthrough, it has not become popular, despite continuing research and testing. Online tech blogger, Sarishti Saha writes, “[a]lthough the technology boasts of revolutionary changes in the data-storage industry, a few more than one Achilles’ heels have always let it down in the past endeavors. We could only hope that if it shows up next time, it stays in the market for keeps.”

For the human brain, memory is the process of bringing what is learned and retained into the conscious mind. It is measured in two ways: recall and recognition and classified though either short-term—quickly forgotten, insignificant items that may be forgotten in a few seconds, or long-term memory, important items that may last through years or a lifetime. Skills are identified as memories that utilize motor responses.

Remembering is more effective if a person cares about the subject, can apply it to what is already known, and learns in small chunks with frequent breaks and recall sessions. Mnemonics can be helpful in remembering, as well as familiar stimulus, such as identifying a place with a song or smell. Retroactive inhibition—items too similar to previous memories, repression—exclusion from the conscious due to conflict and distortion—false or changed perceptions based on a possibly traumatic event are all barriers to remembering. People are much more likely to remember events in detail that are emotionally disturbing, as emotion and memory are connected in the brain. Fear is part of the amygdala and is a key facet of core memories. While people may not remember good memories as well, their recall can be beneficial as they release dopamine, a “feel good” neurotransmitter.

While some people may find it easier to not be as affected by negative emotions, others seem to intensify the negative. Clinicians can help to teach techniques for better dealing with emotions, while there are also individual ways people can manage difficult memories, including relaxation, writing down feelings, or using positive imagery. Strengthening positive memory recall can be done by focusing on them while they are occurring or to think more about them after they are over.

Memory begins to decline with age, but there are ways to help retain and improve memory:

  1. Foods rich in antioxidants, B12, omega 3 fatty acids, such as berries, walnuts, fish, dark leafy greens, turmeric, spinach and orange juice.
  2. Heart health, including no smoking, exercise, low blood pressure, less salt, sugar and alcohol.
  3. Sunlight each day.
  4. Plenty of rest and early rising, as part of a 6-8 hour restful night of sleep.
  5. Memory practice that can include visualization and writing down important lists or items.

Types of unusual memory include eidetic (photographic), hypermnesia (exaggerated detail), and amnesia (complete loss or repressed) usually due to a trauma or emotional event. The cerebral cortex houses the higher level intellectual processes. Within this is the lateral area that contains the hippocampus (places and facts) and amygdala (emotions and skills) that retain different types of memories. Learning is dependent on synapses in the brain that are strengthened by glutamates—chemicals that activate NMDAs neurons to boost memory. Yet, exactly how memory works and in what capacity people remember is not fully understood.

In looking at connections between the readings, Rickert’s example showing people’s gullibility and the unreliability in ascertaining an object and quality within different contexts is also frequently applied to memory and how time and situation – dependent on the intensity of the situation can affect how people remember events.

  Pre & Week 1 Readings

 Biesecker, Barbara A. “Rethinking the Theoretical Situation from within the Thematic of ‘Différance.’” Philosophy & Rhetoric 22.2 (1989): 110-130.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 1.1 (1968): 1-14.

Bonsor, Kevin. “How Holographic Memory Will Work” 8 November 2000. HowStuffWorks.com.

Cancio, Colleen. “Do we remember bad times better than good?” 4 October 2011. HowStuffWorks.com.

Crawford, Stephanie. “How Secure Digital Memory Cards Work” 17 October 2011. HowStuffWorks.com.

Memory.” 05 October 2009. HowStuffWorks.com.

Rickert, Thomas. “The Whole of the Moon: Latour, Context, and the Problem of Holism.” [Ch. 8]. Thinking with Bruno Latour in Rhetoric and Composition. Eds. Paul Lynch and Nathaniel Rivers. Chicago: Southern Ill. UP, 2015. 1435-150.

Saha, Sarishti. “Holographic Digital Data Storage: A Fad or Here to Stay?” 15 June 2015. Yaabot.

Tyson , Jeff. “How Virtual Memory Works” 28 August 2000. HowStuffWorks.com.

Tyson, Jeff, and Dave Coustan. “How RAM Works” 25 August 2000. HowStuffWorks.com.

Tyson, Jeff. “How Computer Memory Works” 23 August 2000. HowStuffWorks.com.

Vann, Madeline Roberts. “5 Memory Boosters” 10 September 2008. HowStuffWorks.com.

Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 6.3 (1973): 154-161.