Writing for the Public-Summer2017

See here for the syllabus, rest of documents on CourseWeb.

Check this out for some digital writing resources.



Each date shows the course reading due that day, the writing due that day, and the theme of that day. Click on the date to see a more detailed lesson plan for that date. If there is no link there, then the lesson plan has not been published yet.

M, 5/15-

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: None

Theme: What’s a public? What is public writing?


W, 5/17-

Reading Due: Read Bowdon and Scott (2003), “A Rhetorical Toolbox for Technical and Professional Communication”

Writing Due (by 10am): Blog post- Bowdon and Scott throw out a lot of terms from rhetoric. Pick at least one (but more are encouraged) that you can begin applying to the topic you are going to write about for this semester. What does that term(s) mean to you? How can you use it? What types of texts might you create to address the topic and audience you have chosen for the semester? How might this term(s) be limiting to what you want to do? In other words, what are the limits to its usefulness?

Theme: Invention


M, 5/22-

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: 1. A Review and Campaign Proposal; 2. Comment on 5/17 blog post of another classmate. **Bring a printed copy of your Review and Campaign Proposal to class**

Theme: Working with images and thinking about design


W, 5/24-

Reading Due: Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel (2012), “Kairos and the Public Sphere” in Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric (pp. 5-22). You can access an ebook version here.

Writing Due (by 10am): Blog post- Who is the public you are writing to? How do you know? How can you reach them? Use “kairos”, as Sheridan et al. define and utilize it, to work through your initial answers to these questions. Don’t just restrict your use of their definition- extend further to the problems they see with terms like “public” and “public sphere,” and how thinking through those problems can bridge to thinking of your own writing problem: reaching the public that you are attempting to reach in your campaign.

Theme: Kairos


M, 5/29

Memorial Day, class canceled. Work on Draft of First Campaign Piece due on 5/31.

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: Comment on 5/24 blog post of another classmate.

Theme: Memory


W, 5/31

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: 1. Draft of First Campaign Piece; 2. Reflection

*Bring in an accessible copy of your First Campaign Piece so a partner can review for peer response*

Theme: Working with sound


M, 6/5

Reading Due: Miller (1984) “Genre as Social Action”

Writing Due (by 10am): Blog post-

We have been writing in various genres this term. It’s a good time to take stock and ask–just what are we doing when we choose and attempt to adhere to a genre of writing? In this lesson’s reading, Carolyn Miller, from the dual perspectives of rhetorical criticism (i.e., analyzing individual instances of rhetoric and methods of doing that work) and rhetorical theory (i.e., deductively working out concepts of rhetoric), attempts to back up and try to figure out just what a genre is. This is a very dense reading, but I want you to take notes as you go and try to get a handle on why she finds it so important to see genre as based in social action rather than firmly grounded in formal qualities like length, layout, organization of features of a text (e.g., intro, methods, results, discussion), or substance (e.g., supernatural elements in a horror movie). What does she mean when she says this? Can this help us think about how we write publicly? Definitely include quotes and passages and try to unpack what it might be saying, think with it. Do not feel the need to “get it right,” but to work with and against the text, roll up your sleeves, and try to make it useful for your ongoing understanding of what it means to use a genre or read a genre or write a specific genre of writing.

Theme: Genre


W, 6/7

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: Comment on 6/5 blog post of a classmate.

Theme: Collaborative writing


Saturday, 6/10, 11:59pm: 

Writing Due: 1. Draft of Second Campaign Piece; 2. Reflection


M, 6/12

Reading Due: Davies (2017), “How Statistics Lost Their Power–And Why We Should Fear What Comes Next,” click here for access

Writing Due (by 10am): Blog Post-

For our blog post, I am giving two options for the prompt because I just couldn’t decide which one might be more interesting to think about. So, choose one:

A) Davies writes that, “We need to try and see [statistics] for what they are: neither unquestionable truths nor elite conspiracies, but rather as tools designed to simplify the job of government, for better or worse.” What does that look like? What from Davies’ article supports how such a strategy can be used in the typical statistic in, say, a campaign piece you are writing for this course? If you were to use statistics in your own campaign, how would you approach such a task with Davies’ argument in mind? Do you have to “hide” expertise in certain contexts, and how is that possible when using quantitative appeals? What do you do when you assume your statistics will be mistrusted? Or, do you not buy his line of thinking? Does quantitative evidence hold as much sway as it always has, no matter the form it is expressed in? If room in your post, feel free to show an example of how to deal with that when presenting a statistic about your issue for your campaign.

B) How do you avoid resentment when choosing a statistic to present? For example, Davies writes, “so long as politicians continue to deflect criticism by pointing to the unemployment rate, the experiences of those struggling to get enough work or to live on their wages go unrepresented in public debate. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if these same people became suspicious of policy experts and the use of statistics in political debate, given the mismatch between what politicians say about the labour market and the lived reality.” How do you avoid potentially alienating an audience by a possible reductionism implicit in how you can communicate a given statistic? How do you pair lived realities at the local level with the power of what aggregation can tell us?

NOTE: the last portion of the article is about privatized data analysis which is super interesting, but not necessarily relevant to what we are doing, so don’t feel a need to get too much into that (though you are certainly welcome to do so if it makes sense to you).

Theme: Working with numbers.


W, 6/14

Reading Due: Ridolfo and DeVoss (2009), “Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery, click here for access (I updated the link so it starts at the intro on the webpage; click remaining links at bottom of page to navigate this webtext).

Writing Due (by 10am): 1. Blog post-

Writing for a public often means that you want your worldview and argument to circulate very widely; thus, rhetorical velocity can become an important concept to keep in mind when writing and revising. How can you “compose for strategic recomposition”? How can you compose your documents in such a way that readers can use them to make something else? What rhetorical choices can you make to encourage others to use your documents in such a way that it will contribute positively to the goals of your campaign? As Ridolfo and DeVoss ask, “what does it mean to compose with recomposition in mind?” How can you do that in your campaign?

You’ll want to do two things: 1) get someone to want to share and re-use your material and 2) craft your material in such a way so it is easy for someone else to lift and re-purpose your material in the way you want.

Use a passage (or more) from Ridolfo and DeVoss (2009) to work out some tentative answers to these questions. Then, start to sketch out an approach to a campaign piece (one you’ve already done or an imagined future piece) that takes the concept of rhetorical velocity seriously.


2. Comment on 6/12 blog post of classmate.


Theme: Delivery and circulation


M, 6/19

Reading Due: 1. Tufekci (2015), “Algorithmic Harms Beyond Facebook and Google: Emergent Challenges of Computational Agency,” click here for access; 2. Cadwalladr (2017), “Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media,” click here for access.

Writing Due (by 10am):  Comment on 6/14 blog post of classmate.

**Bring in an accessible copy of one of your campaign pieces or your proposal to share with a peer for feedback**

Theme: Agency


W, 6/21

Reading Due: None

Writing Due: None

Theme: Make it public


Saturday, 6/24 at 11:59pm:

Writing Due: 1. Final draft of First Campaign Piece; 2. Final draft of Second Campaign Piece; 3. Final Campaign Plan; 4. Final Reflection.