The Circle: Blog 2

The Relationship Between Data and Experiences

Data itself is essentially anything observable; therefore, within every situation there is data available for individuals to collect. The interesting thing about data that isn’t typically realized is the fact that data comes in all shapes and forms, from numbers recorded in a survey to sensory perceptions that occur when one sees, hears, etc., something in the exterior world. Data is the basic building block of information, a structure definable as some kind of data that has been given meaning. Every instant poses the opportunity to collect and analyze a piece of data to transform it into usable information, which is essential to enhancing one’s understanding of an occurrence or experience. An experience is meaningless without the interaction between data itself and a person’s ability to comprehend and apply that data to future circumstances.

For example, in The Circle, Mae left her job at the utility company because she did not enjoy the experience of being faced with the fact that her abilities were starkly underrated in that particular environment (Eggers 11). The data she analyzed to come to this conclusion included the tasks required of an employee in her position as well as her own skill level, which she realized after weeks of exposure in that environment was much higher than was necessary to perform her work.

After college, Mae kept in touch with her good friend, Annie, who often related her own experiences at the Circle (Eggers 3). Annie’s conversations with Mae became the data, the evidence, for Mae’s desire to work with and gain the same career experiences as Annie.

Another way to interpret the relationship between data and experience is the inverse idea that experiences may lead to data. In the Circle’s society, employees are encouraged to participate in “community” activities such as posting thoughts, comments, and personal experiences on Zing, the Circle’s form of social media, for all the other community members to read and share (Eggers 96-98). Either through ignorance or indifference, the users of this kind of social media are subjecting this information, their experiences, to become part of the Circle’s extensive database which holds information on all the users of the Circle products.

This is proven when Mae’s profile is used as an example for Francis and Gus’ new project, LuvLuv (Eggers 122). Mae’s personal data, which had been posted voluntarily years before on other social networking sites, is directly available for cross-reference and analysis by the new application, whose purpose is to do such research on the intended subject (Eggers 122-124). By posting about various life events, Mae, and so many others in contemporary society, allow her experiences to become pieces of data that are subject to further analysis and sorting by exterior sources with access to the main databases (Eggers 123).

The relationship between data and experiences force the observer to consider the idea that data is not only essential to create an experience, but in some cases, experiences can also be considered very descriptive forms of data.

Civic Artifact Speech Outline

The civic artifact I am choosing to explore rhetorically is the musical Les Miserable.

To begin the speech, I intend to show a short preview of the 2013 musical film Les Miserable to give the audience some background on the storyline and the music. I will mention the tone of the clip and briefly tie in some background about the original novel, the author, and the later adapted play, musical, and film versions of the story.

Then I will shift the discussion to the musical’s worldwide renown and ponder why it is so widely recognizable. I will talk about how people love to be entertained, hear a good story, and feel like they can relate with others on one level or another.

From that point, I will talk about how the true essence of Les Mis is the story behind the dance numbers, the emotions crashing within the ballads, the real issues conveyed through the dialogue, rather than it being just a “generic” musical.

In this part, I will discuss and develop the nature of emotional appeals within the story, paired with the entertaining aspect of music. I will talk about how much more effective it is for an audience to experience situations and really develop that empathy for the characters. When a musical is performed well, relationships are created between the characters and the audience during a performance whether the audience realizes it or not, and this connection is the basis of empathetic growth to the deeper issue being portrayed symbolically through the character.

In the news today, there are stories of wretchedness equivalent to those considered in Les Mis that so quickly get overlooked, and nothing is done by sufficient bystanders who can afford to give what they have to provide for the needs of others. This raises an interesting, but possibly far-fetched question that I will pose to my audience: does the audience watching the musical somehow represent real life individuals who are able to see the wretchedness of the world and who, by choice or ignorance, do nothing to ease the pain of those suffering? In any case, Les Mis functions civically by acting as a call to action for those of us who do “hear the people sing” in real life; therefore, it is our civic duty to respond to that call and react accordingly.

I will then shift to a second aspect of rhetorical analysis in which I will talk about how the storyline follows the lives of several main characters that are living in a world of poverty and injustice. This evidence serves to prove the legitimacy of their cries for justice, mercy, and political reformation. I will tie in the idea that the United States was founded on political beliefs that the people of France were striving to replicate in their own political system. The civic purpose of this aspect of Les Mis is to use the characters’ testimonies to remember that our freedoms as Americans are not something to be taken for granted. In other nations, social systems are so much worse than is even imaginable by someone who was raised in a country with a stable justice system, political leaders with good intentions, and a flexible social order.

Les Mis also functions civically by promoting the importance of justice in society as well as questioning the true meaning of justice.

Then again, what is justice? I will explore possible definitions and applications of the musical’s themes to those in the real world. Who among us has the true right to determine the extents or limitations of our justice system? Are there ever instances where something done illegally is justified? For example, in Les Mis, the character Jean Valjean is originally sentenced to serve in the galleys for 19 years for the crime of thievery. The circumstances surrounding this sentence were not taken into account: Valjean had stolen a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Once he served his sentence, he was placed on parole and could not hold a job because of the label his society had given him for a crime that had spared the lives of several individuals. To be able to earn a living, he broke parole, which was considered another legal offense, and many years later, he was still hunted down by Inspector Javert, who believed that the law is the final rule which must be obeyed at all times or else the world would be faced with nothing but darkness and chaos. Is there a right answer? Or does an individual’s network of interpretation ultimately determine the outcome or solution to an imposing issue? It could be that our civic duty lies in determining how to measure the scale when justice is being weighed – determining the balance between safety, consistency and empathy within society.

The evidence of the significant role Les Miserable plays in acting as a civic artifact is striking in the musical’s ability to relate with current societal problems, its subliminal call to action in addressing those problems, and its underlying question of determining societal power: who among us truly has the right to determine what is just?


Civic Artifact Idea

Excerpt from Something Rotten The Musical:

Nick (Spoken): What the hell are musicals?
Nostradamus (Spoken): It appears to be a play where the dialogue stops and the plot is conveyed through song.
Nick (Spoken): Through song?

Nostradamus: (Spoken) Yes.
Nick: (Spoken) Wait, so an actor is saying his lines and out of nowhere he just starts singing?

Nostradamus: (Spoken) Yes.
Nick: (Spoken) Well that is the (Singing) Stupidest thing that I have ever heard…

Throughout the course of civilization, there have always been certain instances in which words are simply not enough to convey a particular message about everything involved with the idea of being civic. Men and women alike have been bombarded with information in the form of speeches, written notices, and direct conversations, etc.; however, a wider range of audiences can be reached more effectively when a message is displayed almost subliminally through the entertainment factor provided by musicals.

Many people seem inclined to tune out as soon as the word “musical” is mentioned, but I ask you to consider some of the implications of real world issues that have gained the public spotlight simply because they were formatted into a three-hour long storyline sprinkled with vibrant costumes, heart-wrenching ballads, and connections that are formed between the excellence of the actors who bring the story to life and the importance of the issues themselves.

I intend to explore this idea of musical theater functioning as a civic artifact as I analyze various musicals based on their contents, styles, and diction as they pertain to the specific trends, key points, and social issues within the eras in which they were introduced.

For centuries, human beings have considered singing, dancing, and storytelling as a form of expression and entertainment; I pose the idea that these are merely instruments that serve to deliver the most crucial aspect of civic responsibility – using their appeals to shed the public light on imposing social issues.

The Circle: Blog 1

It is both eerie and interesting how similar the descriptions in the novel, The Circle, coincide with features present in the world in which we live today. As I was reading, I found that Mae, being a new employee, was given a tour and a brief run-down on how things worked at the Circle (4-6, 15-30), and that was much like how we, as new Penn Staters, are subjected to tours and lectures throughout our first few days here about the school’s expectations of us during our four years of collegiate education.

Also, Annie serves as the older, experienced guide who shows Mae the ropes and actually gives the tours (15-30), which correlates to any one of us as students who become involved in a mentoring program, who has an older sibling who also goes to school here, or who has been taken under the wing of an upperclassman. To extend that idea, Mae also gets paired with Josiah and Denise, who basically are her mentors for the beginning processes of her employment with the Circle (29). They help Mae become accustomed to her new workplace, and answer any questions she has, just as here at Penn State, teams and resources are available nearly 24/7 for any question a student might ask.

I found it interesting that the red cobblestones were engraved with inspirational words such as “Participate”, “Find Community”, and “Innovate” (1-2), which are ideals that are highly promoted at Penn State. I have heard the phrase, “Get involved,” more times that I can count since my arrival here, which, I’ll admit, was a little overwhelming due to the massive size of the population and the many opportunities for involvement.

One last thought concerning The Circle and its correlations to the Penn State lifestyle: Self-containment. In the book, there are literally courts, fields, buildings, groups, etc., for every possible interest which serves as the Circle’s effort to provide the most comfortable, productive atmosphere for their workers and to make those workers never want to leave. In a similar way, Penn State offers countless opportunities for community involvement, from clubs, to sports, to support groups, to restaurants, etc. However, in The Circle, while social interaction is basically required of its employees, here at Penn State, becoming involved is something to strive toward, but if one chooses to remain inactive in groups or clubs, there are no punishments for making that choice. Also, Penn State offers some of these great opportunities not only to its students, but also to the community of State College and alumni around the world. The ability to exercise our free will as to which activities to not become involved in, and yet still remain members of the Penn State Family is one very distinct difference between the lifestyle illustrated in the novel and that of Penn State University.

First RCL Blog Post!

Hellooo Everyone!

This is my first time blogging, so just try to bear with me while I get into the swing of things. That being said, writing is something I genuinely enjoy, and I’m really looking forward to using an outlet like this to express my thoughts and hear some feedback from all of you guys out there.

One of my greatest passions is history, which is why I chose to entitle my Passion Blog, “History is Happening”. (And yes, for all of you Hamilton musical fanatics out there, the title of my blog is the first of many references to the iconic Broadway musical.)

"My Name is Alexander Hamilton"

Look around, look around (what do you know, another reference) in today’s society, and you will surely see the incontestable emphasis that our education system places on taking courses involving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Although it’s obvious that those fields are imminent to society’s overall development, I feel that a significant number of people have become oblivious, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to the importance of history in their daily lives. History is what built our society into what it has become, and it involves every aspect of life as we know it.

So here’s the plan: I will determine the current date, research a few events that occurred on that exact day at some point throughout history, briefly describe the event(s), and relate the summary to contemporary things happening today.

Basically, my purpose in writing “History is Happening” is just to shed some light on the past events we may have forgotten, but that have truly molded our world into what it has become today.

Days aren’t just empty blocks on a calendar. They’re time capsules that hold the precious memories we can’t afford to bury.

For all you history buffs, get ready. This is right up your alley.

As for the rest of you, stay tuned, because you’re going to learn so much about the days we too often take for granted.

Feel free to comment; share your opinions, experiences, thoughts, suggestions — anything!

Free speech is one of the amazing things that the men and women of days gone by have given to us, and I’m not throwing away my shot to share my passion for history with all of you. (No apologies for all the Ham references. You’ll get used to it.)

**SPOILER ALERT** — Special Sneak Peek of my “History is Happening” Blog

September 2nd Quote of the Day:

“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President 9/2/1901

"Time to Get Shit Done"