Understanding Rhetorical Ecologies Through Batman

By Nathan Elam

Image capture from Adobe Spark article

In her piece “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies,” Jenny Edbauer-Rice puts forth the argument: “Rather than primarily speaking of rhetoric through the terministic lens of conglomerated elements, I look towards a framework of affective ecologies that recontextualizes rhetorics in their temporal, historical, and lived fluxes” (9). Arguments, in effect, do not live in a vacuum and are inherently affected by the world in which they were crafted and presented. With this article I hope to use Edbauer-Rice’s argument to aid in examining how the changing social and political mores of the 20th century shaped and reflected through the popular culture icon that is Batman. … …

Read full Adobe Spark post here.

Engaging with Engage: VR in the Classroom

By Kevin Gauthier

Generally, most universities conduct to two basic forms of classroom settings: online classes or in-person lectures — however, recent technological developments in the field of virtual reality (VR) have begun to makes these distinctions less clear. Bridging the gap between the two is Engage, a VR service that allows for virtual pedagogy in a more state-of-the-art fashion. What Engage allows you to do, either as a student or an instructor, is participate in virtual lessons in both realm-time and prerecorded sessions through its servers. Currently, this software can be downloaded through Steam for free, though it’s worth noting it’s still in an “early access” stage, meaning it isn’t a completely realized program yet.

via Steam

Essentially, Engage works through compatible VR headsets and gives students and instructors a virtual classroom to navigate through, along with 3D models available to interact with. Additionally, students have access to a virtual tablet that allows them to upload their own PowerPoint presentations, present a YouTube video, or even navigate through websites by uploading a URL. And of course, there’s an interactive blackboard included as well.

via Steam

While multimodal components to classroom discourse aren’t necessarily brand new, this certainly begins to deviate from multimodal composition in the classroom to creating a multimodal composition of the classroom. Beyond merely assigning students multimodal projects, students now have the opportunity to present their projects within a virtual, multimodal environment. So who’s to say eventually this won’t be normalized within a typical pedagogical setting? While the current iteration of the software might not provide an equitable substitute for in-person classroom meetings, or perhaps even online courses, there are ways in which Engage compensates for some of the disadvantages of either sort of traditional classroom conduct. In reality, students and instructors alike can “attend” class without ever having to leave the comfort of their homes, yet still experience a meaningful discourse within an academic setting, while engaging with their fellow classmates and instructors more personally than through online forum posts.

Telling Stories with Google Maps

We typically think of maps as a tool to get us from point A to point B—from where I am to where I want or need to be. Maps belong in our cars and on large signs at airports. But maps can also serve a more rhetorical function by making manifest where one place is in relation to another. Maps reveal relationships between places—between both physical/natural spaces and between social and cultural spaces. They reveal boundaries (natural or man-made), street patterns and names shaped by historical and cultural events, and voids where patterns (again, natural or man-made) break down.

Consequently, maps can be ideal for telling stories. Stories are, after all, about relationships. Relationships between characters and other characters, between characters and places, between characters and experiences. This is, perhaps, why so many authors include maps in their works. Readers like to be able to see the relationships between the places, events and characters they are reading about, and they like to be able to visualize those same places, events and characters in relation to their own lives.

Google Maps offers a feature called My Maps, which allows users to build and share personalized maps. Map-making storytellers can add pins to the map for readers to click on. Each pin can contain a video, photo, textual description and/or link for the reader. Using these various tools, the mapmaker can make visible the relationships between the people, events, places and experiences in the story he/she is trying to tell. The tools allow the mapmaker to develop a scheme to lead readers through the map in a particular order, or the mapmaker can allow readers to discover the sites along any path. The mapmaker tells his/her story by the places marked and by explicitly (and perhaps implicitly) revealing the relationships between them.

This feature of Google Maps provides a unique way to make a story visible and to emphasize the ways the spatial, social, cultural, and personal interact in ways that textual narrative may not make possible.

To learn more about how to create your own personalized Google map, visit this site or download brief instructions here.