Rhetorical Velo

Rhetorical velocity, or the derivative of rhetorical displacement for us science folks, is a strategic approach of the means by which your audience will receive your approach. Many factors come into questions such as speed, time, and distance your idea has to go. It is important to note that writer and the people that put these pieces out there for you to see, such as the media or writers, all have taken these factors into consideration. We see this a lot in politics, such as with press releases or news articles. Press releases are often middle afternoon, when the media is in full swing and able to fully report on it with all resources. Even media outlets, as spoke about in a previous class, release the better stories early in the week to allow for maximum coverage time. All of these follow a simple idea, getting the story to the audience as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Now that the author has released the idea to the crowd, there are an array of things that can happen, whether expected or unexpected. Sometimes the idea amplifies and becomes larger. In the world today, amplification comes in to play often due to the social media aspect. Although it is not mentioned in the reading, think about how many people, inventions, and new stories have “blown up” due to social media. People have become famous solely off of Vine or Twitter. This would not have happened fifty years ago. Therefore, amplification is an important aspect to reaching the audience. Another thing that could happen is recomposition, or as we like to call it, remixing. Chances are, when people release something, there are no intentions of remixing it. They plan to release their work to the audience, remixes can come from admirers or adversaries. These remixes can be simple or even more complex, either way it is the method of taking old work and combining to form new work. The example of Wikipedia is interesting because of the allowance of “remixing” the articles. Remixing allows for others to also amplify the message.

How can this help with our campaigns? Well, for my campaign, amplification will play a larger role in allowing the water crisis to reach all the millennials. Internet presence and amplification go hand in hand; therefore, hoping that it will allow my idea to expand quickly. Focusing on creativity and audience interaction allows for the idea to expand with the rhetoric velocity desired. The more that the audience is allowed to have fun and play with the idea, the more of the chance that they will amplify or remix it.

Both text and video have become so readily remixable with the invention of YouTube and Photoshop. These have given way to a new thing called “memes.” This has dramatically influenced the campaign of many large companies and could even improve our campaigns. The options are limitless to how you can design our campaign to allow for maximum coverage.

How are statistics best used in rhetoric?

In this article, Davies argues that statistics are neither an absolute truth, nor utter nonsense created by the government to sway public opinion, but rather something in the middle. I would agree with Davies in this regard. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to create a study that is 100% objective and therefore all statistics should be approached with at least a little bit of skepticism. It is very important that the data you are using is coming from as independent, unbiased source as possible, which can be difficult to find. However, I believe that unbiased statistics can be a very useful tool in making an argument or in a larger sense like a campaign. I believe the most effective way to use statistics in the context of a campaign would be to use them as additional information to back up the opinions and arguments within the campaign. For example, I argue in my campaign that in general, the public is relatively uneducated in the subject of autonomous cars and are therefore afraid of their arrival.  I found a study that I have referenced throughout the campaign that says that 60% of the people it sampled know “a little” or “nothing”, by their own admission, about autonomous cars. I think that this statistic is a strong addition to my argument and in adds some context to the point I am trying to make.

Unfortunately, people have begun to mistrust the validity of some sources of data, which makes rhetoricians jobs much more difficult. I think that you cannot completely denounce this line of thinking because some people are entrenched in this belief. But, the anti-statistics movement cannot influence you completely. As a public writer, you have to accept the fact that no matter how hard you try or how well you write, not everyone is going to agree with you. Once you realize this, you have to aim your focus at the people who are willing to listen to your ideas with an open mind. In order to convince these people that your views are the correct ones, it is best to be completely open with the reader and to used statistics from objective, independent sources.

Nothing But Stats

Statistics are a valuable resource when trying to convey a message to an audience. However, Davis points out the risks that comes with using these tools. The major point behind his argument is that statistics have become a mistrusted source of information because of the impact that emotion plays in portraying these statistics. In today’s world, we see statistics all around us: some that are beneficial to our beliefs, some that may conflict. Either way, statistics play a large role in our everyday lives. So why then, do we struggle with believing all statistics that we see? This is exactly what Davis was investigating. As seen through his history review of statistics, they were essentially made for the elite. However, he urges the readers to considers statistics as tools instead of unquestionable truths or elite conspiracies. As you may have dealt with yourself, statistics play a significant role in most campaigns, especially in scientific and factual based campaigns. In the case for my campaign, statistics play a key role. For example, in my first campaign piece (website) I give this set of stats:

  1. Water makes up about 71% of the Earth’s surface.
  2. A shocking 96.5% of that water is salt water, coming from the oceans.
  3. While 3.5% is freshwater, coming from lakes and frozen water in the polar ice caps.
  4. Of the 3.5% freshwater, 69% takes the form of ice.
  5. Therefore, 0.77% of the Earth’s water is drinkable liquid freshwater.

Sounds interesting, right? Well even those these statistics may seem “shocking” or “crazy”, how does one exactly define these and how credible can they possibly be? This is the dilemma that Davis focused on. Similar to his GDP example for people living in Welsh valleys, for the people like us who live in a “world” that water surrounds our every move and think nothing of it, why should we even take the statistics for half their worth. Of course, as opposed to someone in Uganda struggling to find water. Who do you would believe this statistic more? Who would this have more carry with, as an audience? Therefore, it is easy to see how statistics can be interpreted.

Considering that my audience is from the “world” I spoke of before, it may be possible that these statistics may be mistrusted. This is a common problem with statistics, especially in the world we live in today with all the “fake news” and media propaganda. How do I react if these statistics are not taken for their worth? Well personally, the way I would deal with it is allowing the audience to provide their possible statistics. If you do not think that .77% of the Earth’s water is drinkable, how much is? A little reverse psychology, maybe? This combatant method may force them into looking up their own statistics may be able to trick them into reading more about the subject. Who knows, they may be like, “Wow, this is really bad. I need to do something about this.” Either way, getting them to consider the matter can only be beneficial.

In summary, statistics play a large role in campaigning and many other aspects. That is why it is important to, not exactly take them at their face value, but to investigate them and form your own evidence whether or not to believe these statistics.

81% Of My Classmates Won’t Read This

I believe that the use of statistics in modern society is always going to bring about resentment in some viewers. William Davies writes that “statistics were designed to give an understanding of a population in its entirety . . .” This is what statistics do today as well. Within a statistic, there is always an inherent attempt to pursue the audience into seeing an “undeniable truth.” It is my opinion that this is unavoidable. Period. Davies acknowledges that these numbers are used to represent populations, but not every aspect or person within the given population can be accounted for. Take the United States for example. There are more than 300 million people living in the US; therefore, statisticians have to make decisions regarding representation of the population. If a researcher wants to know how the population feels on an issue, they can create polls, surveys, or other means to acquire data; still, the population is unfairly represented. Davies reiterates this point by stating that “there is always an implicit choice in what is included and what is excluded, and this choice can become a political issue in its own right.” Being straightforward with the collection method and the representation (demographic, age, race, sex, gender) is the only way to ease tension with those who feel resentment from statistics. Although it may help government officials to “understand the population,” I do not think people agree with being reduced to a number.

This article did a great job at introducing the evolution of statistics and the way that they have been used throughout the centuries. Today, it is not economically or physically feasible to monitor each and every citizen within a given society. Yes, people within the same region may have similar views on some issues, but to lump everyone together is just plain ignorant. There are local variations and extraneous factors that influence the actions, behaviors and opinions of the people within a community. I understand why people use statistics though. They are ways to relay a “general truth” about a population, without taking individual lives into consideration. To say that unemployment has decreased from 20% to 16% does not capture the whole story. Those who are unemployed will likely resent the statistic or the politician delivering the statistic. The only way to deal with this issue is to empathize with those still struggling and acknowledging that “it is not enough.” Highlighting the positive aspect of a statistic does not reinforce a point, but rather alienates the other end of the spectrum. Statistics of this nature should never be used to say “we as a society are improving” or “life for Americans is getting better.” Statements like these would make me angry and distrusting. Stating that we, as a nation, are trending in the right direction while empathizing with old coal miners, steel workers, and other unemployed persons would be better. Resentment will always exist with statistics: that is the inevitable truth.

KLOVE, I don’t love you when…

KLOVE, I don’t love you when…

I listen to KLOVE. It’s a Christian radio station that sometimes has talk show hosts…well…talk. They are theologically inept. I digress. More than once I have heard them talk about people who live with their parents. They throw stats around all the time, so for the sake of the post, let’s say they used a stat. When speaking of those who live with their parents, they seem to imply that these individuals are lazy buffoons. It really feels demeaning to someone who lives with his parents when s/he hears the hosts talk this way. When they give said stat and then demean everyone in that category, it is not right. To avoid resentment when giving stats, one should always qualify the stat with people who may be listed in the stat but may not be the stereotypical person that the stat seems to refer to. I am going to school and have been most of my adult life. I live with my parents to avoid debt and save for school. I don’t fit the lazy buffoonish types the KLOVE hosts seem to reference when they speak of the stat about those living with their parents.

A great way to avoid alienating people when you use stats is to tell stories of the exceptions in the stats. In my example above, when speaking negatively about people living with their parents, make sure to say there are some who do this out of necessity and not simply to be lazy. There are outliers in every statistic. Sometimes these stories will blow us away. Aggregation doesn’t account for these personal narratives that may stomp on the insensitivity of a sum so broad sweeping. Not everyone on welfare is lazy. Not every wealthy person got there by working hard. Narratives are so crucial in order to assault the broad brush of aggregation, a sum that does a poor job at showing the whole reality it represents.

Blog #4 post

A lot of time in my writings, I’d like to use some numbers including statistical results to help my writings be more persuasive to readers. However, before reading this article, I never realize the problem that a lot of times readers can find a wide gap between the numbers in the article and the reality in the real life, and therefore becomes doubtful to the article.

After reading this article, I start to think about what Davies mentioned in his article that “in talking of society as a whole, in seeking to govern the economy as a whole, both politicians and technocrats are believed to have lost touch with how it feels to be a single citizen in particular”. This is very true. Actually I believe the same problem happens to me and other people either when we try to use some statistical data in our writings to prove something. Using myself as an example, I tend to consider the readers of my paper as a whole group when I work on my paper, which can result in resentment of some readers when choosing a data to present. However, readers of one article can come from different places, encounter different kinds of lives, adhere to their own cultures, and certainly represent different opinions that people may have regarding the same issue. Therefore, I think it’s really a problem when we try to interpret a situation or an issue by just using one data. This kind of statistical result usually is the result of averaging a lot of diverse resources to present in a whole general level.

On the other hand, we have to admit that statistics, to a large extent, help simplify and analyze the society in a quantitative way. But the thing is, when politicians and governments want to use statistics to present something, it’s very important to find a balance between the “simplicity” and what a citizen feels regarding that simple number. One suggestion I can make is to consider carefully and try to divide the readers into different groups based on their locations, income level, or religious beliefs, and based on that to gather a few more specific statistical numbers instead of an “average” number. Also, try to use some other numbers to prove the idea. For example, when trying to present the progress about economic development, just focusing on unemployment rate can lead to resentment of people who earn very little. Instead of centering around the unemployment rate, also using some other numbers such the improvement in minimal wage, increase on salaries by looking into different industries, or even change on consumption behaviors. It doesn’t to be statistics only, but can be the combination of quantitative and qualitative evidences.

Statistikill: Death by Numbers

In his article “How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next”, William Davies argues that statistics are tools the government uses to simplify or quantify the intricate inner workings of the country. Two key statistics he points out are gross domestic product (GDP) and the unemployment rate. Politicians use these two numbers to summarize the economic climate of the United States. This is dangerous, however, as neither GDP nor the unemployment rate can accurately describe the economic health of an individual or of a small town. While the country as a whole might be prospering, a small steel or coal town is reeling from the decreasing opportunity in these industries. People start to feel alienated when they aren’t don’t feel like they are being properly represented.

“When macroeconomics is used to make a political argument, this implies that the losses in one part of the country are offset by gains somewhere else.” This idea summarizes the mistrust and contempt that people feel towards statistics. Politicians are very eager to craft a narrative about their superior performance based off one numerical figure. Whether this narrative is true or not does not matter though as it might not reflect an individual’s life experience. The article presents the case of immigration. While immigration has mostly been determined to improve a country’s economy, it will also have an adverse effect on certain people as they face more competition for employment. These affected parties’ come to not only resent statistics, but also the author behind them. This can be seen in a study conducted before the 2016 presidential election as 68% of Trump supporters said that they distrusted economic data published by the federal government.

To combat this distrust, it is pertinent for the author to understand their audience. In my research for my campaign piece, I found that white middle-class suburban families have become the majority of the recipients of school vouchers over urban black families that are more in need of vouchers. This was a statistic I chose to omit from my piece did not want to alienate the majority of my audience. Statistics are a powerful tool, but must be carefully tailored to suit the audience.

Statistics and Politics

In the quote used at the beginning of Prompt A, I think the author is trying to tell people that although statistics can show trends and basic figures, when they get specific, they may not always be completely accurate.  It is even harder to get completely accurate statistics than ever before.  This is because of the larger audience you can reach when trying to gather data.  For example, if you are trying to poll people about who they are going to vote for and 54% of the country is registered in one party and 46% is registered in another, it will be hard to poll those exact same proportions of people on the internet.  This depends on a lot of factors because more young people and people with money have access to the internet.  There are many other things that influence these results, and because of that, it is extremely difficult to very precise data.  Davies talks about the idea of “hiding” data due to fears that people will resent you.  I do not think that hiding these statistics is an entirely effective strategy.  I think that if it were my campaign, I would probably use statistics, but I would try to pair statistics with an emotional appeal.  I think that saying something that is emotional but can be backed up with facts is a good way to appeal to more people.  I think that the reason some people are starting to mistrust facts is not because they do not believe what people are saying, but because they have never been positively effected by a change in statistics such as unemployment rates.  If an old coal town in the midwest has had a rising unemployment rate since the 1970’s and politicians talks about how low the unemployment rate is throughout the country, the people living in the old towns will be much more likely to agree with someone that doesn’t talk about how low the unemployment rate is, but talks about how there are still people that are struggling.  I do not think the problem is that people don’t agree with statistics and facts.  I think the problem is that people are tired of feeling like since they are part of the 5% that are unemployed their opinions and experiences are not important.

Statistically Speaking

The following is in response to prompt A.

Using statistics founded in data can be an extremely useful tool for a government. Statistics try to summarize the over well-being of a society using quantitative analyses. This is apparent in statistics like gross domestic product (GDP), consumer price index (CPI), and unemployment rate. Each statistics attempts to model and gauge the status of a different facet of society.

One must be extremely careful when deciding to use a statistic. As Davies puts it, statistics are “neither unquestionable truths nor elite conspiracies, but rather…tools designed to simplify the job of government.” The writer must acknowledge how statistics are just tools. They are not undisputable facts that end all debates because the audience will have different ways of interpreting them. Many people will immediately view statistics as a writer’s or politician’s way of intentionally misleading their public. In a study conducted before the presidential election, it was found that about 2 out of 3 Trump supporters distrusted the economic data circulated by the federal government. Clearly there is a lot of suspicion present regarding these statistics.

Another reaction people can have towards statistics is contempt. Many people may not appreciate trying to summarize their lives in a quick number. Based on life experiences, one may not agree with a statistic and immediately question its accuracy and legitimacy. Also, it is impossible to capture all aspects of a population through statistics. Inevitably, some aspects will be excluded, either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, by excluding certain factors/people, using statistics may raise resentment towards the writer.

It is crucial to keep all these things in mind when presenting statistics in your arguments. You want to try to avoid alienating part of your audience through use of statistics. To accomplish this, I think it is necessary to thoroughly explain the method of data collection, how the statistic was formed, and who it applies to. If the statistic is carefully explained, I think it will be accepted by a greater audience.

Genre: The key to community action?

Image result for how to relay message to audience

Relaying a message to a target audience can be difficult. It’s even more difficult to evoke action from the individuals/groups who view your message. It’s key to struggle with the concept of genre. What does it mean to use genre or to write a specific genre of writing? I hope to build upon your prior understanding of the word ‘genre,’ while referencing Genre as Social Action by Carolyn Miller.

When I see the word ‘genre,’ I automatically think of classification. To me, this word can be further broken down into grouping compositions based on similarities in form, style, or subject matter. Carolyn Miller attempts to define ‘genre’ from the perspectives of rhetorical criticism rhetorical theory. After reading Genre as Social Action, it became apparent that the term ‘genre’ is just as convoluted as the other terms discussed in this course.

My previous understanding of the word ‘genre’ limits its definition to substance or subject matter. Miller emphasizes the importance of understanding how genre coincides with social contexts and how individuals/groups respond to the substance. Thus, it’s necessary to understand how the conveyed message will affect other people, regardless of the rhetor’s intent. Predispositions and societal values influence human behavior; therefore, reactions to the method of discourse will vary. I struggle with the idea of recurring forms (i.e. emails, speeches, eulogies, etc.) because of this idea of social action. I agree that “. . . comparable situations occur, prompting comparable responses,” but as stated previously, human action or reaction may still vary. If I choose to create a blog for my campaign piece just because I’ve only seen similar topics written in that manner, I may connect with my audience or mislead them completely. This is a tricky concept that I had not originally considered before reading the work of Carolyn Miller.

By addressing the implications of defining ‘genre’ through the criticism and theories of other rhetors and scholars, Miller helped me understand that genre is way more complex than my initial definition. When we learn what a genre is, it is much more important to “understand better the situations in which we find ourselves and the potentials for failure and success in acting together.” Simply put—making sense of the audience, their society and culture, potential successes/failures when addressing them, and having a clear call-to-action is more important than the form or substance. Genres can serve as a exploration tool for how to relay messages as well as “keys to understanding how to participate in the actions of a community.”