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Unit 3: Assignment #6
This American Place
A radio essay, told in three acts “Narrative arguments work in a way different from those that spell out their criteria and argue for explicit links. A narrative argument succeeds if the experience being described invokes the life experiences of the readers.” Good Reasons with Contemporary Arguments, p. 161
April 10 – Work on group projects in class: develop a topic, an argument, and draft a preliminary narrative outline for approval April 17 – Work on group projects in class April 18 – Audio Workshop in Landscape Architecture 1 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (stop by if you need help with recording, editing, burning, etc.) May 8 – Final version of audio recording (burned to a CD) and narrative outline (paper copy) due at the final exam, no exceptions
Throughout this semester—especially during Unit Three—we have been discussing different forms of argument. For this final group project, we will use the WOVE communication skills we have learned this semester to create an electronic, oral, narrative argument that explores the various ways in which people interact with a particular place. One of the best venues to examine narrative arguments at work is on the Public Radio International program This American Life. In preparation for this assignment, I will ask you to examine a few episodes of the show in an effort to understand how argument, identity, and place can intersect. We will also read some texts in class that will give you a feel for how to compose the genre. In this vein, I will ask you to identify complexities inherent in the narratives we listen to and read, and through this practice we will explore ways to explicate complexities in your own narratives.
Connection to WOVE
In keeping with the course objectives as defined by ISUComm, this assignment and the activities we do in class will involve the following: Written Demonstrate an ability to conform to usage conventions and to adapt expression to purpose and audience Construct arguments that integrate ethical, logical, and emotional appeals (ethos, logos, pathos) Oral Function as an effective team member in small groups as a contributor, listener, collaborator, and presenter Electronic Create an electronic composition Apply electronic communication principles related to layering, framing, and looping
2|P age WOVE Create a rich, interactive experience for the audience Ensure that all modes contribute to the primary message, purpose, and targeted audience Develop clear, purposeful relationships between the modes Exhibit a sensitivity to differences in modes and their cultural implications
Planning and Drafting
As a group, begin by democratically selecting a public place (local, in Ames) that is interesting and worth examining in some detail. For example, you could investigate a community’s attitudes about a popular restaurant or café, a commons area (in a dorm, office, or university space), a “natural” place (a park, field, or piece of art on campus), or place where students regularly congregate. This is by no means a comprehensive list of places that would be appropriate for this assignment, and I encourage you to think creatively about the subject you select for your project. Once your group has decided on a place, you should plan to visit this place at least once as a group. It might also be helpful to visit this place individually and at different times during the day. While you are visiting your place, be sure to notice how people are interacting in this space: What are people doing? How are they communicating? Who is invited to participate in this place, and what—if any—groups are being excluded from the place? After your group has spent some time thinking about the nature of the place you wish to examine, you should collectively design a line of questioning that you can use to collect “place” stories from people who are interacting with the place. For example, before you approach people and invite them to share a story, your group should have a working concept about the kinds of stories you want to feature. In other words, walking up to a stranger and asking them to “tell you a story” is somewhat off-putting and unfocused. Help your storytellers out by giving them an interesting, open-ended prompt to consider.
Component 1 – Narrative Outline of Your Radio Episode
To complete the first component of this assignment, your group will need to collaboratively compose a written outline of your audio recording. This outline should be a detailed account of the organization and content of your recording; as such, the outline should help you create a cohesive narrative argument that guides your activities for this assignment. Your narrative outline will also help me evaluate the overall success of your communication project. When composing the final draft of your narrative outline, keep in mind that this component should engage ISUComm design principles for visual and written communications: use effective grammar and a visually pleasing design aesthetic (lists, bullets, color, font, images, headings, etc.) The content of your narrative outline should adhere to the following guidelines:
Give your radio episode a title that accentuates the purpose of your narrative argument.
Purpose and Audience
Compose a paragraph that briefly introduces me to the nature of your project. Include a description of the place you are investigating, and the audience to whom you are directing your audio recording. For example, is your radio episode intended for ISU students? Briefly explain how your project is appropriate for your audience. Finally, briefly summarize the argument that your group is making about the place and how people interact with it.
Justification of Song Choices
3|P age You can begin to create a rich and interactive experience for your audience by weaving song excerpts throughout your radio episode. For example, you might begin and end your radio episode with portions of songs that accentuate the trajectory of your argument or highlight the nuances of your particular place. You might also use brief musical interludes to accompany your transitional narrations. However, it is important to think rhetorically about your choices. In this section of your narrative outline, list each song that you are using in your recording and briefly justify your decision. Explain how each song is directly related to your topic. Note: Do not include entire songs in your radio episode. Rather, you should use brief excerpts of songs—not to exceed 30 seconds in length.
Introduction to Radio Episode
Your radio episode should begin with an introduction in which you orally introduce your listeners to the theme, content, and purpose of your radio episode. This should not be composed extemporaneously; rather, write out your introduction before you record yourself delivering it. In this section of your narrative outline, provide a transcription of your radio episode’s introduction and note the group member (or members) who are speaking.
Acts One through Three
The main content of your radio episode will consist of at least three stories that you collect from three different individuals who are interacting with your place. This portion of your project will help you engage everything you have learned this semester about interpersonal communication. Your narrative outline should provide a brief summary of the content and purpose of each act. Remember to provide a creative title for each act.
Conclusion and Reflection
The stories that you will collect in Acts One through Three will not speak for themselves. Consequently, your radio episode should end with a substantive conclusion that revisits the theme and purpose of your narrative argument. What have we learned from the stories that you collected? How might your radio episode encourage your audience to think differently about the nature of our interactions with public places? In this portion of your narrative outline, provide a transcript of your narration and note the group member (or members) who is speaking.
Component 2 – Audio Recording of Radio Episode
The second component of this assignment consists of the audio recording of your radio episode. You should burn your project to a CD in a format that most CD players will recognize (a .wav file, for example). There are several ways to go about this; here are two: Use recording software (like Audacity) to create one .wav track that features your radio episode in its entirety. or Record your radio episode in portions and burn them to a CD as individual tracks. With this method, the “track listing” for your project might look something like this: Track 1 - Introductory song Track 2 - Introductory narration Track 3 - Transitional song and narration Track 4 - Act One Track 5 - Transitional song and narration Track 6 - Act Two Track 7 - Transitional song and narration
4|P age Track 8 - Act Three Track 9 - Transitional song and Conclusion
Sources for Recording Equipment and Software
Because this assignment is an electronic composition, you will need to obtain a few things: recording software, a recording device, and a computer. Here are some sources to get you started:
Audio Recording Software
Audacity, version 1.2.6 – A free, open source recording utility available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/windows
Laptops, Microphones, and Digital Recording Devices
As a student at ISU, you are allowed to checkout a laptop for educational purposes. The laptop checkout office is located in the Memorial Union, and you can find out more information at their website: http://www.mu.iastate.edu/services.php?page=laptop. However, be sure to return your laptop on time—or risk a high fee! IT services, located in the Communications Building, provides students with laptops, microphones, and digital recording devices. Find out more information at their website: http://www.it.iastate.edu/checkout/students.html. If you plan to use any of these services, make sure you reserve them ahead of time, and be mindful of due dates.
This American Life
The show you are modeling in the first place. Check out a few more episodes than what we discuss in class so you can get a better feel for what the show is up to. For sustained hilarity, type “David Sedaris” in the search line and listen to an episode that features his wit: http://www.thislife.org
Narrative Outline (paper copy) Relevant, concrete details that support your radio episode’s focus or theme A logical pattern of organization; transitions from one idea to the next that guide your reader through your material and use of headings; unified Paragraphs, language, and tone adapted to your subject, purpose, and audience A variety of sentence types (not short, choppy sentences) Few or no errors in correctness that distract the reader This American Place Radio Episode (digital recording) Clear purpose communicated to the audience Radio episode is organized in service of the communication’s argumentative purpose (using an introduction, transitions, and substantive conclusion) Sustains audience attention through language choices suited to the rhetorical situation Attention to volume and tone of voice meets the needs of your rhetorical situation Group Participation Team thinking, active listening, constructive commenting Equal contribution and equal effort toward an exceptional group project
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