A sobering footnote to the piece Matt Howard and I wrote for the issue #7 of Harlot on the rhetorical practices of GoonSwarm, a group of players in the EVE Online MMO: One of the casualties in the recent violent outbreak in Benghazi, Sean “Vile Rat” Smith, was a central member of GoonSwarm. The GoonSwarm community has been mentioned in news coverage of the event by several outlets, as guild members were among the first to confirm Smith’s identity as one of the State Department casualties. See The Huffington Post‘s coverage of the story here.
Not really a book review (because I haven’t read it, duh!), but more of a heads-up: political blogger Joe Romm (from ThinkProgress) has just released his book Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion From Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga. As you can tell from the subtitle, it’s more or less a pop take on rhetoric, partly a “what to look for” and partly a “how to” manual… Romm delves into politics (naturally), but also into areas like scientific discourse and popular culture. I’ve glanced at some blog posts about the book, and from what I can glean, it delves heavily into matters relating to style (lots of references to “the figures of speech”) and oratorical performance. Maybe worth a read?
I recently stumbled across Dotsies, a website promoting a brand new, dot-based font designed (according to the developer) for more optimized, efficient screen reading. At first blush, trying to decipher the mashed-together blips feels very alien, but if you follow the tutorial below the fold, you do tend to pick it up fairly quickly (or I did, at least).
Thought experiment: what do you think might happen to rhetorical practice (written, spoken, or otherwise) if we were to abandon the Latin alphabet we’ve all known and loved for centuries and adopt Dotsies instead? What unintended effects would such a change have on rhetorical style, the way we arrange ideas on the page or screen, on the integration of word and image?
PS–if the idea of communication systems with high signal-to-noise ratios interests you, might I recommend James Gleick’s excellent book The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood?
George Carlin, rhetorical critic extraordinaire. Hints of Foucault, echoes of Burke, with a dash of phonetic analysis thrown in for good measure…
From the latest issue of WIRED comes this dispatch on speech analysis research conducted at University of Michigan, which concludes that faster pacing, regular breathing, and control of pitch (less varied for men, more for women) is the key to persuading your listeners. And somewhere from the beyond, Demosthenes smiles…
Via PetaPixel comes this post linking to a short documentary by Ruben Salvadori on the techniques commonly used by photographers in framing, staging, and otherwise embellishing conflict photography. Those readers interested in visual rhetoric, citizen journalism, rhetorical ethics, and related topics will likely find this video a useful critique:
Here’s a fascinating video in which Italian photographer Ruben Salvadori demonstrates how dishonest many conflict photographs are. Salvadori spent a significant amount of time in East Jerusalem, studying the role photojournalists play in what the world sees. By turning his camera on the photographers themselves, he shows how photojournalists often influence the events they’re supposed to document objectively, and how photographers are often pushed to seek and create drama even in situations that lack it.
From ScienceDaily comes this report out of RPI, concluding that the tipping point of shifting public opinion is surprisingly low:
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.
The implications for rhetorical practice, teaching, and study are intriguing.
From the Disinformation website comes this post that illustrates the “micro” level of persuasion: two AP stories five decades apart reporting on two similar examples of unanimous parliamentary votes, using two different descriptors to characterize the event…
What institutional pressures determine these choices in diction?
Not an entirely new idea, but this Australian video explores the notion of “scripted disorientation” as a technique used in places like shopping malls, supermarkets, and even Ikea to subtly persuade (trick) you into buying things you didn’t intend to:
For all you staid and stodgy grammarians out there, take that: