Oct 13

Stasis Theory and Unit Three

When presenting a prolonged argument, it is important to take a systematic approach.  Stasis allows a speaker to better understand the argument that he or she is trying to make, and thereby the best methods for convincing others to agree.  When considering a paradigm shift, stasis can narrow an argument from generalities and broad concepts, getting a speaker to the heart of the matter.  Making a convincing argument is simply a matter of asking the right questions.

Stasis first raises the notion of the theoretical versus the practical.  A paradigm shift is, by its nature, not finite.  However, a strictly theoretical argument can never be definitively settled.  Therefore, it is best to argue any ambiguous concepts in terms of those things that are explicitly defined.  Using concrete evidence, such as statistics that have clearly changed over time, allows one to make a convincing argument about something abstract in terms of tangible, even quantifiable qualities.

This concept is closely tied to the questions of Conjecture and Definition, as it helps make the topic more specific and reveals more of its nature than a general claim can.  Arguments should, generally speaking, work toward increasing specificity in order to draw an audience along a thorough line of logic in favor of the speaker’s point.

The question of Quality, whether something is right or wrong, can be more difficult to maneuver.  Quality is often a subjective matter, and even more so when considering broad or undefined arguments.  However, it can often be determined without bias by examining an issue in terms of natural or widely accepted laws and moral standards.  By evaluating the issue on grounds that the audience is (almost) certain to share, a speaker can avoid alienating or offending his or her audience with unfounded opinions.

Finally, when it comes to Policy, or which actions should be taken in light of the argument made, a conclusion may not be necessary.  A course of action may be suggested or argued for, but none should be considered as definite for the same reason that opinion must be avoided in determining Quality.  Arguing too ardently for anything subjective risks losing the support garnered by the core of a speaker’s argument.


Oct 13

Unit Three Concepts and TED

Technological progress has changed many aspects of everyday life.  However, the paradigm that I am interested in examining is not technology itself, but the nature of interaction and socialization as it relates to technology.  Generally speaking, we have shifted away from a time when the communication standard was face-to-face.  With successive innovations, contacting one another has become increasingly easier.  However, it has also become less intimate and impersonal.

Particularly with the advent of the internet, human interactions have become more frequent but less meaningful.  Communicating via newer means of technology often prevents individuals from connecting on more than a superficial level or forming lasting bonds.  While it certainly has its advantages, technology has become a social hindrance when relied too heavily upon, with its effects clear in homes, communities, and businesses.  Furthermore, in areas where technology is not as readily available, social interaction remains largely the same as it once was everywhere.

Another social shift has occurred in the post-WWII generations; each has become more focused on the self and individual.  While those who endured the Second World War had struggled and fought together (and had ancestors who had endured similarly bleak circumstances), later generations slowly lost touch with the impact of this conflict.  The strong sense of national unity was gradually forgotten and, without any similar event in later years, has not returned.

The emphasis on one’s self can be seen in many areas.  Many politicians, no longer forced to work together by circumstance, now focus on public image and pleasing sponsors.  For the same reason, international relations have also lost the sense of greater good that came with reliance on foreign allies.  While every household sacrificed to support the war effort, modern households are usually centered on their own success.  Communal well-being is seldom a priority.

In regards to TED, one of my personal favorites is a talk by Sir Ken Robinson on the nature of education.  He has a very effective style of delivery and uses dry humor to address a serious topic.

TED – Ken Robinson


Oct 13

Unit Two Draft

Ignorance is bliss.  It is an age-old and widely abided-by axiom; for many, it is far easier to disregard issues that do not directly affect them.  However, a recent ad campaign by Amnesty International is attempting to change this stance.  The global human rights group has used shocking and brutal images in several similar campaigns, attempting to turn public attention toward injustices around the world.  This campaign takes a more subtle but just as startling approach.  In its International Flag Campaign advertisements, Amnesty International challenges viewers’ ideologies and national identities in order to garner support for reform.

Each of the ads portrays a violation of human rights; however, the images of cruelty are washed out by the flag of the nation that they are associated with.  Using the symbol that represents a nation as the means of camouflaging the injustices carried out in its name is an ironic but very powerful statement in and of itself.  This tactic reminds viewers to be wary, lest they become unwitting participants in national crimes.  Prior to World War II, many German patriots turned a blind eye when Nazi policies began violating the rights of their Jewish neighbors.  They were blinded by the idea of a new national identity and unity, but inaction would ultimately contribute to the genocide that was to follow.  Seeing prisoners and victims who have been similarly robbed of basic rights, including freedom and life itself, obscured by flags that should guarantee protection serves as a stark reminder that citizens cannot always ride on the national bandwagon with clean consciences.

Securing women’s rights has long been one of Amnesty International’s most difficult challenges.  This campaign addresses the issue as it relates to Pakistan, showing a female citizen shackled at the wrists, her freedom illegally denied.  In Pakistan, the biggest obstacle to equality is not the law, which places no restrictions on women, but rather a traditionalist mindset.  Society has long been male-dominated, and few are willing to involve themselves in the personal affairs of others.  A man’s wife is generally considered his property, and his judgment in regards to her is seldom questioned.  Amnesty confronts this issue by removing it from the privacy of the home and displaying an abused women in plain sight.  The use of the Pakistani flag reminds viewers of reality: while women are constitutionally promised equal rights and quality of life, few see these promises delivered.  The ad prevents those who would rather not concern themselves with a neighbor’s actions from ignoring the issue, and encourages Pakistani’s to stand up for those who cannot protect themselves.

Camouflaging Human Rights Violations

Angola borders the notoriously lawless Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in southern Africa, but its human rights issues receive far less attention.  Like the DRC and many of its other neighbors, Angola is home to a large number of child soldiers.  Having fought to secure the nation’s independence in Angola’s civil war, these boys are unable to enjoy life under its new democracy.  Instead, their lives as unofficial freedom fighters continue, entirely unchanged since the war began.  Just as they fade into the background in Amnesty’s advertisement, Angola’s child soldiers have been largely forgotten by a government facing the challenges of establishing itself.  In a nation with far too many problems to address at once, child soldiers were considered easily dispensable.  The ad brings these victims back to the forefront.  It shames viewers by reminding them of those they have chosen to forget.  Furthermore, Amnesty’s audience is forced to realize that the youth is an integral part of ensuring Angola’s hopes for the future, and that if their lives are not improved the nation cannot move forward.

Camouflaging Human Rights Violations

A third ad portrays what is largely considered to be the most blatant violation of human rights: the death penalty.  In Iran, public execution by hanging is a frequently employed punishment for a wide variety of crimes.  This blatant display of capital punishment is meant to dissuade would-be criminals; however, it robs those sentenced to this means of execution of not only life, but dignity as well.  While the sight of a lifeless, hanging body may have become common in some parts of Iran, the Amnesty International ad seeks to make this image disturbing even to the desensitized.  The deceased, covered by the colors of his nation’s flag, has lost his personal identity.  By stripping its subject of his individuality, the ad focuses its viewers’ attention on the dehumanizing effects of public capital punishment.  It quietly urges the audience to have sympathy for the condemned, even if it cannot change the nation’s practices.

Camouflaging Human Rights Violations

Arguably the most powerful ad in this series is that aimed at the American audience.  Considering the founding, Constitutional principles of the United States, Amnesty’s image is made even more persuasive.  Hooded and chained to one another, three Guantanamo Bay prisoners stand helplessly before an armed guard.  In a nation that prides itself on the security of rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” viewers are forced to reexamine this notion.  Many prisoners of the infamous prison were accused of being terrorists; consequently, they were denied due process and subjected to physical and psychological torture.  Just as the men in the ad are cloaked by the flag, the transgressions against Guantanamo Bay prisoners were justified in the name of national security.  Amnesty seeks to portray the irony in attempting to protect the rights of a nation by intentionally denying them to certain individuals.  It reminds viewers of the danger that lies in a double standard, and encourages policy changes.

Camouflaging Human Rights Violations

While these ads address several different issues, each component of the campaign has one distinct feature in common.  Displayed on each image is the slogan “No one will keep us from seeing.”  While Amnesty International challenges viewers to go against the crowd, it attempts to confront fears of alienation by giving its audience a sense of unity with fellow activists.  By using the pronoun “us,” Amnesty includes the viewer in its ranks.  This is a subtle attempt to reassure audiences in nations where swimming against the current can lead to one being an ostracized outcast; it reminds viewers that, although standing up for human rights requires them to leave a crowd that they are comfortable in, they will become members of a new union with greater purpose.

Finally, while the flag in each ad is used to represent the attempts to hide and ignore injustice, it also serves a second purpose.  Seeing their nation’s symbol juxtaposed with an act that goes against what it stands for can stir patriotic emotions within viewers.  Amnesty International utilizes a call that already exists within members of its audience to persuade them, the call to serve their country’s best interest.  It attempts to remind individuals of the principles that their nation stands for, and thereby move them to action in ensuring that those principles are upheld.

Oct 13

Unit Two Concepts

Advertising methods are constantly changing, trying to find the most effective way to persuade consumers in the least amount of time (viewers often only focus on an ad for a matter of seconds).  Most video commercials have been shortened from half of a minute to just fifteen seconds, and traditional ads (such as billboards and posters) have more competition and less interest, forcing advertisers to convey their messages concisely and effectively.

One of the most unique approaches in adapting to a decreased attention span was a series of one-second advertisements run during the 2009 Superbowl.  These short clips, ads for Miller High Life beer, were meant to catch viewers’ attention and show them the Miller brand in as little time as possible.  The ads were, by necessity, extremely simple.  They featured a Miller employee in front of cases of beer (with the Miller logo prominently displayed) who shouted a quick phrase before the ad ended, such as “Beer’s here!” or “High Life.”  The campaign allowed the company to save on airtime while still effectively marketing its product.


Recently, shock advertising has also increased in popularity.  Hoping to grab attention and generate interest, shock ads often push boundaries and frequently cross the line.  Some of the most effective campaigns utilizing this tactic have been run by Amnesty International, a group seeking to protect human rights across the globe.  They use startling images, apparent contradictions, and irony to convey powerful messages about issues regarding violence and injustice.  Likely the most persuasive of these campaigns for viewers was a series emphasizing ignorance as the greatest obstacle to change.  They feature an act of cruelty in the midst of a large crowd, every member of which has literally turned his or her back on the victim.  It is a striking representation of the power that lies with those in the crowd, and a very convincing argument that viewers must act.


Sep 13

Unit One Speech

Retrospect always tends to make things more clear.  Naturally, looking back on my Unit One Assignment, there are certain things that I would have done differently, both in writing and in delivering my speech.

When drafting my assignment, I tried to maintain a formal tone throughout.  However, with such a relatively small audience (and a very familiar one at that), it may have been better to use a more relaxed style.  Considering that I was speaking to classmates, I believe an informal approach may have allowed me to connect better to the audience and thereby convey my points more easily.

Furthermore, while I have never liked to use dramatic openings, beginning my introduction with more specific information about World War I may have garnered more interest in my speech and better held the attention of my audience.

Although practicing my speech was largely effective, I will probably do it somewhat differently next time.  To familiarize myself with my speech, I mainly performed read-throughs, rehearsing individual sections and gradually building up to the entire speech.  While this helped me remember the lines, it did not allow me to analyze how I was delivering them.  In the future, I would like to try recording my speech for review or having someone else give me feedback while I am practicing.

I also made the mistake of trying to make some last minute changes to my speech shortly before giving it, which made me less familiar with the version that I intended to deliver.  For the next speech that I have to deliver, I will probably stop editing at least one day in advance.

There are likely many more things regarding my speech that I will want to change and improve after reviewing the video of it.  While I have never been entirely satisfied with any speech that I have given (this one included), I have been able to learn something from each one.  As long as the Unit One Assignment helps me to improve, I will be glad for the experience.

Sep 13


Kairos, the opportune moment in rhetoric, is often an elusive element.  Very seldom do the circumstances of a situation coincide perfectly; however, certain times are certainly better suited for particular rhetorical arguments than others.  Such was the case in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States.

With the start of the twenty-first century came many changes, including changes in the nature of conflict.  Wars between well-defined nations were no longer common.  Instead, attacks on nations were originating not from other nations, but from multinational terrorist and militant groups.  These organizations had no borders; they operated in many areas, shifting constantly and evading detection.

Following the 2001 attacks on the United States homeland by the extremist group al-Qaeda, an extensive pursuit of the group’s leader (Osama bin Laden) was undertaken.  However, this manhunt embodied the new (and largely unfamiliar) nature of conflict.  Al-Qaeda operated throughout several countries, and even when its primary bases of operation throughout Afghanistan were attacked, many key leaders (including bin Laden) managed to escape.

Here is where Kairos played its part.  Americans had suffered from an unprecedented attack, and now had nowhere to turn for closure.  There was no enemy state to invade, no name on map that could be targeted; traditional warfare was innately expected, but could not be applied.  Politicians, however, would seize the Kairotic moment and use rhetoric to change the situation.

Iraq was painted as a target for Americans’ anger.  The nation and its leader, Saddam Hussein, were tied to al-Qaeda.  Iraq posed a potential threat with dangerous weapons; Hussein was known for using chemical weapons on his own people.  And a merciless dictator has never been looked on kindly by Americans.  Politicians found what the people wanted: an enemy country.  They presented a bordered nation where traditional warfare could be applied, and the people welcomed it as an alternative to the unfamiliar and unconventional war against al-Qaeda.

In retrospect, of course, opinions on the invasion of and subsequent war in Iraq vary much more widely.  Nevertheless, the situation preceding U.S. involvement there was a near-perfect Kairotic moment, a time when national attitudes and fears aligned to receive the rhetoric supporting an invasion.

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