Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs

Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs
Photo: Kristoffer Trolle (creative commons)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

On Microphones

When I started giving talks [small on-campus events, larger presentations to the public or even a very small number of invited presentations], I was big on not using the microphone. 
  • I thought that being able to move around made me more interesting.
  • I disliked the sense of traditional authority that a podium gave me.
  • I disliked the sense of filling or dominating a space that using a microphone gave me.
I would start by projecting, and my vocal levels would probably fall to my classroom voice.

I would start talks with the gesture that I now hate.  "If I don't use the microphone, can everyone hear me?"


When I am in a talk where someone opens with that question, I always say:  "No.  Please use the microphone."  I say it in my weighty, masculine voice, intentionally booming just a bit more than my everyday voice.


I recognize the irony of answering a question "Can you hear me without the microphone?" with "No."  I've been stared at awkwardly by speakers who connected my voice to the unexpected answer.  But that is kind of the point.  When you open with that question, the only people who will answer are the people who hear you.

The people who might hear you, but not comfortably, or barely, or with effort, are being asked to vocally self-identify as needing me to accommodate them.  "Hey, I need you to tell me that you have special needs for access to my talk." 

That doesn't seem like the spirit of accessibility.  We don't ask for people with wheelchairs to self-identify if they need a curb cut.


I get all of the reasons why I didn't want to use a microphone.  And every one of them was about me, about "who I wanted to be" in my relationship to my audience.  I wanted to be visually engaging, I wanted to destabilize power relationships [as if speaking without a microphone erased power], to be cool.

I'm less self-absorbed now.  Now, I want to be heard, and I want my audience to hear me, comfortably and without feeling called out. 

Please, just use the microphone.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Lonergan on Making Knowledge [Dialectic]

The Scissors-Like Nature of Inquiry 
from Ronald McKinney in The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review

In Insight, Lonergan refers to dialectic as both a" method" 1 and a "pure form with general implications." By "method," S.J. Lonergan in Insight is referring to a " set of directives that serve to guide a process towards a result."

The relationship between a " method " and a " pure form " is first established in Lonergan 's dissertation. Gratia Operans:" Here, Lonergan speaks of the " pincer " movement of inquiry: the going from both the general to the particular and from the particular to the general. The first movement, which is what Lonergan means by a " pure form ", is an a priori scheme which guides the " methodical " assembling of the particulars constituting the second movement .

In Insight, Lonergan generally substitutes the term" heuristic structure " for " pure form " and replaces the terminology of the two " pincer " movements with the "scissors " terminology of " upper and lower blades." According to Lonergan, every inquiry operates in a scissors-like manner. There is an upper blade, i.e., heuristic structure, and a corresponding lower blade of concrete techniques, i.e., a method. The heuristic structure of an inquiry provides an a priori, general outline which anticipates the nature of the phenomenon under scrutiny. It is the framework of background knowledge within which the inquirer is able to formulate the relevant questions that need answering. Hence, there exists a heuristic structure whenever an object of inquiry admits antecedent determinations of a general nature. It is the task of the lower blade of techniques to fill in the specifics of this general outline, to answer the questions raised by a heuristic structure.

A Rhetoric of the World Bank, Continued

A Linguistically Informed Analysis that is so close to rhetorical, I can taste it:
From https://litlab.stanford.edu/LiteraryLabPamphlet9.pdf

Semantic transformations: The first twenty years and the creation of material infrastructures
Nouns are at the center of World Bank Reports. During the first two decades, the most frequent among them can be grouped in two main clusters; the first, obviously enough, encompasses the economic activities of the Bank: it’s a world of loan/s, development, power (in the sense of electric power), program, project/s, investment, equipment, production, construction, plant; further down the list are companies, facilities, industry, and machineries, followed by a string of concrete terms like port, road, steel, irrigation, kwh, river, highway, railway— and then timber, pulp, coal, iron, steam, steel, locomotives, diesel, freight, dams, bridges, cement, chemical, acres, hectares, drainage, crop, cattle, livestock. All quite appropriate to a Bank which deals with loans and investments (the only explicitly financial terms of this long list) to promote a variety of infrastructural development projects. 
The second cluster is much smaller (just a dozen words), and describes how the Bank actually operates. Confronted with existing demands, its experts analyze numbers, but they also pay visits, realize surveys, and conduct missions to the field; the classical ingredients of a scientific approach to a complex situation, which requires the active presence of experts to collect and elaborate the data. Afterwards, the Bank proceeds to advise countries, suggest solutions, assist local governments and allocate its loans. Rhetorically, investment programs are defined by the needs of the local economy, according to the basic idea that investment in infrastructure will lead to economic development and social well-being. 
At the end of every cycle, the Bank specifies what has been lent, spent, paid and sold, and describes the equipment—dams, factory, irrigation systems—that has been put into operation. 
A clear link is established between empirical knowledge, money flows, and industrial constructions: knowledge is associated to physical presence in situ, and to calculations conducted in the Bank’s headquarters; money flows involve the negotiation of loans and investments with individual states; and the construction of ports, energy plants, etc., is the result of the whole process. In this eminently temporal sequence, a strong sense of causality links expertise, loans, investments, and material realizations. 
Apart from the Bank, three types of social actors appear in the texts: states and governments; companies, banks and industry; and engineers, technicians and experts. This social ontology confirms the standard account of post–WWII reconstruction as industrial, Fordist, and Keynesian. The protagonists of economic growth are businessmen and bankers, working with industrial companies, economists and engineers to implement projects within a national frame presided over by the state. What has to be managed is the economy—“the self contained structure or totality of relations of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services within a given geographical space”, as Tim Mitchell has put it—whose results are optimized by a “modern apparatus of calculation and government”. 
With the help of the Bank, governments adjust investments and financial parameters so ] as to modernize countries: that is to say, to industrialize them, beginning with basic material infrastructures. It’s the legacy of Walt Whitman Rostow—at the time, the authority on economic development, and a key policy advisor of the American administration. Development proceeds in stages, and its “take off” is triggered by the production of raw materials, the creation of infrastructures, and an agricultural sector oriented towards exports.

Friday, September 28, 2018

On World BankSpeak

From https://litlab.stanford.edu/LiteraryLabPamphlet9.pdf

A major metamorphosis has taken place. Here is how the Bank’s Report described the world in 1958:
The Congo’s present transport system is geared mainly to the export trade, and is based on river navigation and on railroads which lead from river ports into regions producing minerals and agricultural commodities. Most of the roads radiate short distances from cities, providing farm-to-market communications. In recent years road traffic has increased rapidly with the growth of the internal market and the improvement of farming methods. 
And here is the Report from a half century later, in 2008:
Leveling the playing field on global issues Countries in the region are emerging as key players on issues of global concern, and the Bank’s role has been to support their efforts by partnering through innovative platforms for an enlightened dialogue and action on the ground, as well as by supporting South–South cooperation. 
It’s almost another language, in both semantics and grammar. The key discontinuity, as we will see, falls mostly between the first two decades and the last two, when the style of the Reports becomes much more codified, self-referential, and detached from everyday language. It is this Bankspeak that will be the protagonist of the pages that follow.