Blogging in LA101 H Why Blog?
Many cultural observers of the past two decades have heralded the great democratizing possibilities of the Internet through which vast stores of information literally can be at the fingertips of individuals living in the planet's furthest reaches. And more so, those who were once silenced by power and resource inequities can, at least theoretically, have a voice and harness new means to organize and advocate. This is especially salient with the advent of Web 2.0, social networking, and blog sites. In this age of communication, rhetoric seems a powerful tool, indeed. Blogging is one such way rhetors can get their message out there, whether they are advocating for a certain way of life, for political change, to build interest communities, to share information and experiences, or just to have fun. Because most blogs are meant to be read by others, they have an implicit civic dimension, whether they are reports on human rights violations by a watchdog group of bloggers or weekly reviews by a film junkie who lets us know which movies are worth our time and money. Because blogging so intimately connects rhetorical practice to civic life, and because it brings together written, oral, visual, and digital media, we are going to be doing a lot of it in this course.
Blogging in LA 101H: Policies and Expectations
For LA101H, you will be setting up and maintaining two distinct blogs. You will be expected to post one or more entries to each of your blogs by the end of the day Thursday. We will spend part of most Friday classes reading and responding to one another's blog posts. Two-thirds of your blog grade will be a participation grade based on these questions: Did you do the blogs? Did you do them on time? Did you submit entries of the proper length? Did you comment on at least three other blog entries per week? Did you engage in ethical public communication? (Citing image sources, for instance.)
The final third of your blog grade will be reserved for the quality of the blogs. The quality expectations for each blog will be delineated beneath each blog description, and will be evaluated by blog entries you periodically select for closer reading by me. Above all, when blogging and commenting, remain respectful of one another and adhere to the Penn State Principles with regard to its policies on discrimination.
1. The Passion Blog
This blog will be on a topic of your choosing that has some kind of civic dimension, some niche audience, or some universal appeal. When you are choosing your passion blog topic, think carefully about how you might sustain this blog over the semester. How will you introduce new topics? How will you interest and inform your readers? How will you invite readers to comment? What is the function of this blog? Remember, there likely is already a conversation taking place in the blogosphere concerning your topic—how will you enter that discussion? You will want to name your blog something specific and engaging--don't name it "passion blog"! Before selecting a topic, consider what new perspective or information you will share with your intended audience. Can you find something useful to say about the topic for at least fifteen weeks? Can your experience or perspective be more than merely opinion, but also genuinely contribute to your readers’ understanding of the issue? Types of blogs you might consider: Political Blogs: You could advocate from the position of a particular political ideology, such as liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc. The topics of these blogs might be diverse, but feature news items and analysis that would reflect a certain political agenda. Examples of these blogs are The Center for American Progess Website and Reason.com. You might also advocate, analyze, or report about a single political issue, such as health care reform. Some blogsites also serve as watchdog groups, such as Fact Check.org, an organization that analyzes claims in politics and the media. Lifestyle Blogs: These kinds of blogs connect people to their interests and help readers live a certain lifestyle, well, better. For example, Hungry Girl serves as a resource for dieters and foodies alike, providing low-cal recipes, weight loss tips, and journals about weight loss
experiences. To engage the reader, this kind of blog might also offer narratives, reflection, and analysis of the blogger's own experience or "journey" that would be compelling and relatable to its audience. For example, a mom might write a weekly blog on motherhood, such as CAS Faculty Robin Kramer’s Pink Dryer Lint. Project, Experience, or Experiment Blogs: This genre of blog details an experience or project and varies somewhat from the lifestyle blogs in that they are experimental or experiential in nature. For instance, Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me and follow-up show Thirty Days function as video diaries of his various undertakings. The movie Julie and Julia is based on a real-life blogger's project to cook Julia Child's recipes for one year. A travel blog might also fall into this category. So might pledging a fraternity or sorority. As long as it is safe and not inappropriate, this kind of project blog (observing drinking culture, trying a new exercise plan, reading James Joyce's Ulysses), could work well for your passion blog. Entertainment and Pop Culture Blogs: These blogs provide news, summaries, and analysis of the world of entertainment. You might devote your blog to an episodic TV show, such as Lost or American Idol, literature, music, or film reviews, fashion, etc. The Entertainment Weekly Website has some fantastic entertainment blogs, most notably Michael Slezak's American Idol blog. A spin-off to this genre is The Colbert Report's fancreated blogsite The No-Fact Zone, a site humorously invested in snarky political satire, as its bloggers amplify and extend the faux politics and aggrandizement of Stephen Colbert's character. While all blogs should be written in a lively manner, entertainment blogs in particular need to be engaging. The blog prose and analysis should be crisp, entertaining, and insightful. Sports or Hobby Blogs: Sports and hobby blogs are written for like-minded fans who seek additional analysis, news, and speculation. An example of a sports blog site is the Steelercentric blog Behind the Steel Curtain. Hobby blogs may also provide expert or insider information on how to participate in a hobby more richly. Consider these: Just My Two Copper is a blog for World of Warcraft players, A Scribe’s Notes is a calligraphy blog, 101 Cookbooks chronicles the author’s exploration and adaptation of recipes—there are many possibilities. Academic Blogs and "Smart People" Blogs: An academic blog might take up an academic topic, such as the philosophy of mind, Irish studies, the history of local Native Americans, developments in bariatric surgery, etc., and write mini-treatises, essays, and reviews on those topics. A variation on this theme are the blogsites written by academics and well-established
social critics and writers. Sometimes, these bloggers are invited to become part of an exclusive blogsite, such as Crooked Timber. Some regular bloggers in Penn State's English Department are Michael Bérubé and Debra Hawhee. While this category of blog doesn't fit in well with the passion blog, it is still useful to identify.
Features of a Successful Passion Blog:
submitted in a timely fashion (by the end of the day Thursday) and are at least one full paragraph in length (300 words).
written in a lively voice and find ways to engage and provoke its audience into commenting and sharing by asking questions and/or by taking distinctive stances.
coherent in terms of its content or focus and address a particular topic, niche audience, or human interest angle.
engaging and interactive, including the use of relevant pictures, video or links; they may also tastefully solicit feedback.
situated within a larger conversation. attentive to grammar and correctness, but may be written in an informal or colloquial style.
2. Rhetoric and Civic Life Blog
This blog, titled “Rhetoric and Civic Life,” will relate to our course content and demonstrate that you are thinking about and applying the lessons, principles, terms, and strategies we are learning in class. In this blog, you will be an observer of the rhetoric surrounding you, identifying how it is used (well, poorly, interestingly, etc.) and analyzing its impact on civic discourse. One week, you might identify how pathos is used in a dog food commercial. The next week, you might blog about a commonplace you identified in the health reform debate (ex: government-run programs are inefficient). You might notice ironies in public discourse. Or you might comment further on something you caught on The Daily Show. You might identify
particular flaws or strengths in delivery for a speech. You might compare two news stories presented by different media outlets. Your blog entries need not be media driven. You might notice things on campus or in conversation with your friends and family. You could identify fallacies or consider how ideologies function. You might follow up a class conversation or discussion in our textbook by amplifying a point with another example or disagreeing with a particular premise. This blog will serve as a registry of rhetoric and how it is working in civic life. While your other blog might benefit from postings of video, images, and text, this blog particularly lends itself to a rich multi-media presentation and analysis. While I will suggest possible topics from time to time, I want you to be on the lookout for how rhetoric is practiced in civic life. That is, after all, one of the major goals of the course!
Features of a Successful "Rhetoric and Civic Life" Blog:
are submitted in a timely fashion (by the end of the day Thursday) and are at least one full paragraph in length (300 words)
are written in a lively voice and find ways to engage and provoke its audience into commenting and sharing by asking questions and/or by taking distinctive stances.
demonstrate an engagement and understanding of the course materials, principles, and themes.
provide incisive analysis of how rhetoric functions. are attentive to grammar and correctness, but may be written in an informal or colloquial style.