Blog Post #10: What is exposition?

Blog Post #10: What is exposition?

The full title of this class, from the course catalog, is “History, Theory, and Practice of Exposition.” Over the course of the semester we have identified some of the formal and rhetorical characteristics of expository writing. In general, the purpose of expository writing is to explain, inform, and describe. Its organizational structure tends to be narrative or associative. Expository writing is often found in “essays,” a form or genre that, as Lynn Z. Bloom explains, often operates as a catch-all category for the heterogenous canon of short works studied in first-year composition courses.  Expository writing that describes or explains the author’s subjective experience and perception displays the markers of “expressive discourse,” that is writing through which the author develops and comes to a better understanding of her identity as a human subject in the world. In this blog post, you will offer your answer to the question presented in the title: What is expository writing? Or, in a formulation that includes modes of composition that employ more than alphabetic text: What is exposition? How is exposition different from persuasion? And what is the relationship between exposition, as a rhetorical activity, and material culture studies, as an interdisciplinary field of cultural study and analysis? What, if anything, can we learn about the history, theory, and practice of exposition from material culture studies? Or, how does material culture studies draw upon the theories, or reproduce the practices of exposition? Posting: Group 2 (and anyone else who feels like it and wants some extra participation credit) Commenting: Anyone who feels like it. Category: What is exposition? In your Blog #10 post, you should do...
Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

Over the course of the semester, one of the things we have circled around is the problem of desire. To what extent is our desire for things an intrinsic and necessary part of human existence? For example, according to Csikszentmihalyi and Belk we need objects to help us form a cohesive sense of self. And to what extent is our desire for things manufactured by what Bejamin might call the “dominant ideology”? For example, advertisers convince us we need stuff not necessarily because we need it to survive or even to be emotionally and physically comfortable, but because companies need consumers to buy their products in order to turn a profit. For this week, consider the different factors that influence human desire. What role does basic necessity play in shaping our desire for things? How do the intrinsic properties of the things we desire influence our consumption habits? How much of desire is socially constructed? Posting: Group 1 Category: Wanting Things In your Blog #9 post, you should do more than offer a list of answers to these questions. Rather, try frame your post around the description of a central experience or practice from your own life, or an interpretation and analysis of the information you’ve gathered in your research for the object analysis. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they’ve been outlined in the Blog Project Description. Feature Image: “CONSUMED” by Mark Colliton on Flickr....
Blog #7: Reading Things

Blog #7: Reading Things

For the first six blog prompts, I have taken charge of selecting the readings and focus of discussion. I’ve asked you to blog about the relationship between objects and writing, the sources and nature of cuteness, the uncanny lure of dead things, the histories we read in old things, how we sort tools from weapons, and what we might learn from thinking about smart things. Now it’s your turn.   Posting: Group 1 For the post, you will choose one text (it might be an article, a TED talk, a PBS documentary, a podcast, etc.–think multimodally!) you’ve encountered in your research for the timeline project that you think could add to our understanding of material culture studies as a discipline and expository writing as a material practice. In your post, which you can model on the prompts I’ve written, you should summarize the main points and significant unresolved questions raised by the text you’ve chosen. You should also identify two or three questions or threads for further thought that might be usefully explored in a blog discussion on the text you’ve chosen. For the comments, read through the posts of your peers, and weigh in on which texts, issues, and questions you’d like to explore and why. Featured Image Credit: “‘Your turn,’ she said. ‘Step up.’” by Peter Lee on...
Blog Post #6: Smart Things

Blog Post #6: Smart Things

When I was very young, I read the Raggedy Ann (and Andy) stories by Johnny Gruelle over and over again. My grandmother made a Raggedy Ann doll for me. The doll was exactly my size, and one Halloween, I borrowed her dress to go trick-or-treating as Raggedy Ann. I was fascinated by the idea that my toys might walk and talk and live when I wasn’t around. Now, I am rediscovering the Raggedy Ann stories with my daughter, who loves them, too, and while I still find them charming, I also find them a little bit horrifying. Because I remember the vague guilt I would sometimes feel when, after days of forgetting she existed, I would discover my Raggedy Ann squashed (trapped) in the bottom of a container of toys, and in a fit of remorse, I would throw her tea parties and take her everywhere for a week or two before forgetting about her once again. In her essay, “The Dream of Intelligent Robot Friends,” Carla Diana seems to welcome the possibility of smart objects that could respond to and interact with us: The tools for meaningful digital-physical integration are finally accessible, but it’s still a messy challenge to get them all to work together in a meaningful way. Dreaming about robots is a bit like dreaming about finding strangers who will understand you completely upon first meeting. With the right predisposition, the appropriate context for a social exchange, and enough key info to grab onto, you and a stranger can hit it off right away, but without those things, the experience can be downright awful. Since we’ve got...
Blog Post #5: Sharp Things

Blog Post #5: Sharp Things

Why are the most useful objects so often also among the most dangerous? Some objects, such as knives, fire, or chemotherapy drugs have inherent properties that make them hazardous to our health. In other objects, though, the danger stems not from the object’s properties (it’s sharp, it’s hot, or it’s toxic) but from how it is used. For example, one might argue (and some do) that there is nothing inherently dangerous about a gun; guns only become dangerous through the operation of human agency, through intentional use of a gun to cause harm or mishandling that results in unintended injury. How do we tell the difference between a tool and weapon, between poison and panacea? In his essay, “What Is a Machete, Anyway?,” John Cline implies the tendency of any object to oscillate between useful tool and dangerous weapon may be a function of its inherent characteristics, rather than the end to which it is employed by human actors: What contemporary object can be both a tool and a weapon, like the machete? Communication technologies like cell phones might serve as one candidate, especially in light of their application during the “Arab Spring.” But can the iPhone ever bear the same gravitas as the machete? Is silicon the new steel? Information has been a part of every arsenal, revolutionary or otherwise. Still, it’s hard to imagine driving a smartphone into a body “down to the Apple.” By contrasting the iPhone with the “gravitas” of the machete, Cline suggests that, although an iPhone might be used as a weapon, it’s not–unlike the machete–a weapon per se. Does that, though, mean that an iPhone...
Blog Post #4: Old Things

Blog Post #4: Old Things

What is the difference between studying objects to learn human stories and studying them to learn their own stories? Is there one? To an extent, Prown, Czikszentmihalyi, and Belk (“Possessions and the Extended Self,” reading for Week 5), although they draw upon knowledge and methodologies from a wide variety of disciplines, nonetheless seem to approach material culture studies as an avenue to learn about human culture and human histories through the study of objects. In another essay that we will read a bit later in the semester, “Parting Ways” by James Deetz, we will look at how histories that have been obscured by the written public record can be recovered through careful analyses of objects and archaelogical sites. As it begins, however, the essay, “A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube’s Strange Afterlife,” by Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather, seems to offer a different sort of teleology, or aim, for its analysis: “Rust in peace,” ministered the New York Times in its 2009 catalogue of obsolescence for the aughts. The obvious play on words conjoins an industrial mythos with a Christian burial rite in a requiem for an object that had, not long before, been the primary screen on which many of us experienced television, video, and computing. What does it mean that we think of the CRT as something with a life—something that was born, lived, died? In its title and with its three opening paragraphs, the essay promises to give us a history of the object itself. It provokes us with a question, about what it means to think of inanimate things as having a birth, a life, and...
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