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Emiliano Ramirez

ENC 1101

November 5, 2017

Final Draft

The Natural State of Infrastructure

I like to refer to infrastructure as the abstract of a discourse community. An abstract, is

a summary of the contents of a book, article, or formal speech. What Im trying to reach by

associating the definition of an abstract with infrastructure is to show that an abstract would

never be possible if infrastructure wasnt present. An infrastructure is the bone structure of any

discourse. An infrastructure is the sole reason of why the constituent of a discourse is able to

disseminate information effectively and the reason of why a discourse community is able to

remain in operation; obviously depending on how well built the infrastructure of the community

is. Now having said this; what makes an infrastructure effective? What are the components of an

infrastructure that factor in when information is trying to be disseminated within a discourse? For

the sake of answering these questions, I have chosen to analyze in depth the infrastructure of the

discourse community (AIAA, or American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) that I

currently am a member of to explain the concept of dissemination of information in a more

articulate manner. Let me, first of all, introduce to fundamental theories that were used during

this process, so the analysis becomes a lot more comprehensible.

Where it all begins


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Rhetorical analysis is one strategy that many people recur to in order to analyze the

behaviors of people and their purposes within communication. This type of analysis is ideal for

the extraction of the information with relation to the context in which it was written in. But what

about the other aspects of a situation? A lot of people often desire to know more of a situation

than just the goals of the author and the context it was written in. Fortunately, the Activity Theory

and Genre Systems ,developed by Elizabeth Wardle and Donna Kain, is able to further

knowledge into those unexplored areas of a discourse that rhetorical analysis itself wouldnt be

able to cover.

Discourse communities can be extremely big in size; therefore, it is vital to understand

how it operates, its motives for operation, the tools it uses to operate (and many other aspects

that will be covered in the essay) both from within the outside and inside of the community. Id

even dare to say that the Activity Theory and Genre Systems is so fundamental that it is

impossible to provide an accurate rhetorical analysis of a discourse without first analyzing it

through this theorys lens.

Another topic that is very worth noting is the concept of Intertextuality. This concept is

exactly what it sounds like the interdependence of texts. James Porter argues that no text is

completely original whatever you write about always has something borrowed from other texts.

For example, the situation used in Porters text about Thomas Jeffersons drafting of the

Declaration of Independence goes as follows: To produce his original draft of the Declaration,

Jefferson seems to have borrowed, either consciously or unconsciously, from his cultures Text.

Much has been made of Jeffersons reliance on Lockes social contract theory Becker) There

are traces from a First Continental Congress resolution, a Massachusetts Council Declaration,
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George Masons Declaration of Rights for Virginia, a political pamphlet of James Otis, and a

variety of other sources, including a colonial play. (Porter 546)

The point I am trying to make here by providing this example is to show that even some

of historys most skilled writers do not have original thoughts. It would be better seen as the

creative writer is the creative borrower. (Porter 547) Having now this explanation under my

belt, my main goal here is to demonstrate that the AIAA UCF chapter is nothing more than a

huge discourse community that can be easily broken down into smaller pieces by using Wardle

and Kains theory, while having in mind that the organization is just a chapter, therefore

applying the concept of Intertextuality.

The basics

Community

If it wasnt obvious enough, the AIAAs discourse takes on the discipline of engineering,

many applied mathematics, and handworks. Now, speaking on a more basic scale, the term

Community refers to all of the people (rhetors and audience) that take part in the discourse. It

expands much farther outside of the university into the Central Florida chapter (which is the

closest thing to a professional chapter right after the UCF chapter), and the national and

international professional organization. To make the analysis more comprehensible, I will

attempt to integrate (intertextuality) parts of the professional sections of the organization to base

my work on.

In this (UCF chapter) smaller part of the discourse community, the constituents are the

members of the organization (meaning the student members that dont occupy leadership

positions), its directors and subdirectors or project leaders (also students and members,
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however these do occupy leadership positions), and the sponsors (which could be individuals or

companies that promote the organization). Without the sponsors (about 3 faculty members) and

the officers, bringing this discourse chapter to the university would be impossible; and without

the members of the organization, the growth of the discourse would be impossible. This seems

fairly obvious, but the real question here is how is growth possible?

Every constituent of the community has to be engaged equally for the community to be

functional. For example, the current positions of Chairman (President), Vice Chairman (VP), and

External Affairs are held by only two officers. It is a lot of dedication that has to be put in by

these constituents. Say the position of External Affairs was to fail, then the community as a

whole would suffer because it does not have any way of linking the members of the organization

with the outside world (it will be expanded on later) and the main route of communication of the

directors with the sponsors would see affected. On the other hand, if for any reason the Chairman

realizes that he wont be able to carry out a task, then that task is fulfilled by the Vice Chairman.

But if the individual that is the vice president is not committed to his position, then the entire

organization might see itself affected because sometimes the task could be as significant as

linking up with professional companies for the benefit of every constituent of the discourse. For

this type of overwhelming situations is why a considerable load of the work is delegated to the

Secretary and the Treasurer, as well as other members that are helping out the officers such as

the Internal Affairs and the Social Media Director.

Obviously, these arent the only leadership positions in the organization chapter. There

are more roles than these that have to be fulfilled to make this community functional. So how is

labor divided up to prevent the sort of inconveniences described previously?


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Division of Labor and Rules

When talking about the division of labor, the directors of the organization are the only

people that usually come to mind. However, it is important to remind ourselves that handling a

community of this size requires a lot more than 4 people (executive officers) for it to be

functional. This is something to be taken extremely seriously, because it is not determined by

the directors but by a higher authority. Let me insert a note here: for purposes of simplicity, lets

call the Constitution of the organization (not of the chapter) the professional constitution.

As explained before, there are the executive officers of the organization, which would be:

Chairman (President), Vice Chairman (VP), Secretary, and Treasurer. Committee Chairs are

explicitly mentioned in the constitution, but they are not explicitly assigned roles. Section II of

Article VI of the AIAA UCF chapter constitution states that There shall be as many committees

with as many members as deemed necessary by the branch membership to carry on the work of

the branch. Committee chairmen are appointed by the branch Chairman with the approval of the

branch officers. This allows for a lot of flexibility within the manipulation on the number of

committees that must be created, also tying back to the Constitution of the United States, where a

Senate and a House of Representatives are specified but the creation of political parties isnt.

This hole as you would call it, serves quite useful today because there is better assortment and

representation of the beliefs of the people in the federal government, giving every political

affiliation a fair point of view with the election of senators and representatives, also reflected in

the election process of committee chairmen in AIAA UCF chapter.

Directors or more formally known as Officers - take care of the executive aspects of

the organization which would involve tasks such as networking, improving efficiency, carrying
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out fundraisers, and making sure that the members abide by both the constitution and the

universitys rules. This can be read in Section 1 of Article IX of the AIAA UCF Chapter

constitution, where it is stated that: The members of the branch shall, in all respects, be

governed by these by-laws, which are subject to the provisions of the constitution and the by-

laws of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Project leads (or Committee Chairs) serve as the medium of communication between the

plain student members and the Executive Officers. The roles of the project leads are to manage

and supervise the semester-round projects taking place which are: Aviation Design, Rocket

League, Hovercraft Design, and Quadcopter Competition. These committees are created mostly

for the interests of the student members, but also for the sake of showing off the variety of

projects that the organization holds. Apart from the Project Leads, there are Tutors; which still

fall under the Committee Chair umbrella. These Tutors host workshops about the principal

software used for designing and building within the organization, as decided by the Executive

Officers in company of the of the Committee Chairs. Being able to efficiently manipulate

software is fundamental to being part of a project, but I will get more into detail later on.

Committee Chairs also serve as tutors. This is a common trend that I spotted while

observing the Project Leads partake in the projects. Every single Chair is proficient in the use of

the fundamental software. For example, all of the leaders of the Rocket League are experienced

and able to smoothly manipulate SolidWorks and Open Rocket, which are the main programs

used in the designing of rockets for the competition.

Now you may be wondering why the subheading of this section is Division of Labor

and Rules. Well, the reason being is that from the roots, division of labor would not be possible
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if there wasnt an established outline for each section (chapter) of the organization, which would

be its constitution. The rules used to regulate the activity of the members are called the bylaws,

which form the basis of the constitution and shape the rest in accordance with them. Now, since

the UCF chapter cannot draft its official constitution because it is not an independent entity, its

constitution (found in the AIAA UCF website) is a modification of the official constitution;

avoiding some points such as the accreditation of research and Honorary members of the

organization for obvious reasons. Student members can, however, transition into becoming

affiliates of the professional organization and then abide under the rules of their own school

chapter, the universitys rules, and the professional organizations rules in the end, all

constituting the infrastructure.

How it all looks from the outside

Now that we have covered the essence of what the organization is, lets now on the

reasoning of why organization operates, how the organization operates, and what fuels its

operation.

Subject

The Subject of a discourse community as defined by Kain and Wardle, is the person or

people engaged in activity who are the focus of a study on activity. The point of view used to

focus the activity or form a more contextual setting, the interaction between the members of the

university chapter of the AIAA and their interactions. I am interpreting this discourse community

from the point of view of an active member for the student organization, which can provide a

more accurate description of the infrastructure.


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I am glad to say that this discourse community is mainly built on ambition and passion. A

lot of the members are part of the community not because they have to, but because they are

constantly seeking challenges and their desire to learn and explore new horizons. I believe that

the largest contributor to the success and the growth of this community is the geographic location

of where the university is located at. Central Florida is the host of great superpowers in the

aerospace and mechanical engineering industry such as Lockheed Martin, NASA, and the

Boeing Company. UCF students of aerospace and mechanical engineering (including myself)

couldnt be more fortunate to be part of this university that has such close ties with these

companies that partake in our same discourse community at a literally greater scale. Thanks to

this location, the discourse community can give fruition to important projects and advancements

in research because of the merging of the academic with the professional world.

Tools

Since the university chapter is a relatively massive community, my big question comes

up: how is it able to disseminate information to every member, and why dont we have enough

volunteers for such a busy leadership position?

Fortunately, technology has advanced enough to the point to that people are able to

access all sorts of information with only a tap of their fingertips. As mentioned in the AIAA UCF

chapter website, AIAA UCF's main activities include general meetings, build projects, social

activities, community STEM outreach, tours, workshops, and guest speakers. While we typically

only hold 3 or 4 general meetings a semester, we usually have at least one event each week.

(AIAA UCF) Having more than one event every week requires great use of communication

technology. Some of the tools used to disseminate this information are General Body Meetings,
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(which are just briefings of what the organization has accomplished so far and what is expected

for the future), E-Mails (this way the officers are able to disseminate mass information about

upcoming events and workshops), Text Reminders (which are only used to remind the members

about upcoming deadlines and fundraisers), and Flyers (which serve the same purpose as e-mails

but it is just another method to get information around). The Social Media Director plays a

crucial role in this field. As her name explicitly states she must maintain the organizations social

media websites up-to-date with the latest events. For example, just last weekend (11/11-11/12),

the Rocket League finished off the semester projects by launching the rockets. As a witness, I

could tell that she was there with us and she was constantly taking pictures of the rockets and the

teamwork that was taking place during the event. Her role really ties in with the motives of the

organization which goes hand by hand with what Kain and Wardle mention: As people

change the tools they use, or the ways they use existing tools, changes ripple through their

activity system. (Kain and Wardle 402) Springing off from this reference you may be

wondering, what sort of changes in the use of tools are being implemented and how can you

prove that it rippled throughout the activity system? The transition into social media publications

are already promoting your movement and your activities out of the network. And the ripples

that it leaves is just the main reason that people use social media nowadays to showcase what

they are doing. Consequently, this showcasing will get students more interested in the

organization and draw in more members for next year or next semester. Lets now take a step

back and analyze what the purpose is behind the use of all these tools, especially social media.

Motives and looking beyond

Ive described a lot about what the organization is and how it operates, but up until now,

Ive missed the point why the organization exists in the first place. Kain and Wardle list the main
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objectives of the activity theory that you can analyze from a discourse community in order to get

a clear sense of what its purpose is. These points are as follow (Kain and Wardle 402):

Accounting for aspects of a system to better understand the nature of activity.

Analyzing how the parts of a system work together to better anticipate participants needs

and goals.

Isolating problems to develop solutions

So far, weve covered just the superficial aspects of each one of the three goals. However,

when we go more in depth, we begin to see that goals arent that easily identified. According to

Kain and Wardle, there exists two types of goals, or motives: The Object, or the immediate

goals of the activity, and the Outcome, which are the ongoing and/or long-term purposes of the

community.

It is worth to note that even though the professional organization is separate from the

student university chapter, the main Outcome as a discourse community would be to have a

prominent impact on the community out of the boundaries of the organization, or in a more

direct manner: AIAA UCF's vision is to address the academic and professional needs and

interests of the UCF engineering student and to help advance their transition into industry.

(AIAA UCF website) This Outcome can work both in the benefit of the member and of the

organization. How? The organization can claim valuable alumni and the alumni can claim being

part of a community that is respected worldwide. As mentioned beforehand, the AIAA is a

wonderful place to acquire great networking skills and contacts within the industry and

moreover, having such a star on ones resume can catapult the member into higher paying and/or
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strict admittance jobs. The organization therefore, lives and will live up to its motto; Turning

students into Engineers.

The Objects of the organization and the student are to become an engineer in the

process. What does this mean? Through all of the projects that are available, the student is able

to acquire valuable hands-on experiencing by developing his/her soft skills (which is an

extremely important asset that engineers possess and is very sought after) and gaining invaluable

hands-on experience by manipulating the software of the industry and learning how these flight

structures function at the most basic level. The engineer who can have those fundamentals

grounded before getting a job is already guaranteed a fulltime position in the field. Another

valuable Object of the organization is to get in contact with professionals and learn about their

experiences in the industry and how their career path was shaped throughout their college years.

This contact is provided by the organization through the workshops and various networking

events that it offers.

Now that youve explored the many aspects of my discourse community through

Kain and Wardles Activity Theory, it is a lot easier to picture that its infrastructure is much

better described with this theory and resultingly, one can notice that every discourse is

interdependent of each other, such as the AIAA UCF chapter is dependent on the constitution of

the professional organization for its formation bringing in the concept of Intertextuality. The

main objective all along was never to exhibit to you my discourse community and encourage you

to join (you are more than welcome to do so if you feel persuaded), but to show how important

Kain and Wardles theory is to break down a community into its smaller pieces to be able to

extract its full potential.