Sep 14

Reviewing Some Speeches

I think the best speeches were the ones during which it was obvious the speaker had prepared and practiced their presentation. They talked smoothly and more confidently, and took less time to stop and bury their face in their note cards. The most impressive deliveries were the ones where presenters looked up and made eye contact with the audience. They used their hands and walked around as they talked, often gesturing to their visual aid. The spoke loud enough for everyone to hear them and for the most part didn’t trip over their words.

The most useful visual aids in my opinion were the powerpoints, in which the presenter was able to change the image every so often as they were speaking. This kept the audience more engaged–an alternating image is more interesting than one which never changes. Switching through images also provided the audience with more information and visual reference, depending on what the speaker used them for, and made him/her appear more thoughtful in their presentation.

One of the common problems I noticed was that some people didn’t understand the civic artifact assignment. They would bring in an artifact, but instead of analyzing how it promoted civic engagement, they would explain why whatever the artifact was promoting was civic. While these speeches weren’t necessarily bad, their content wasn’t what the assignment was calling for. When it came to presentations involving interviews, a common snag people ran into was spending too much time giving background information on the person they interviewed. In the end, they were only able to talk for about a minute on what that person thought it meant to be a good citizen–which should have been the meat of their speech. In fact, many people had issues where they over- or underestimated the amount of time they had–myself included.

Sep 14

Rhetoric Artifact Outline

If you look at my RCL post from last week, you’ll see the artifact I’ve chosen. It’s an advertisement, advising citizens to be careful on the road and watch out for children. The image is taken from the backseat of the car. A man is in the driver’s seat, talking on his cell phone, and a woman is in the passenger seat, holding a map. Neither of them are watching the road. Through the windshield you see a young boy just in front of the car, raising a hand and screaming. His eyes are blocked by the rear-view mirror, which is reflecting the eyes of an even smaller child sitting in the backseat.

I plan on talking about three things:

1. Time: In the caption, it says more children are involved in car accidents during school holidays, so if a holiday was coming up, it would be especially relevant.

2. The man using his cell phone. Most people can relate to this because they own a cell phone, and there’s been a lot of evidence which suggest it’s dangerous to be on them while you’re driving. So with that prior knowledge, the advertisers don’t have to prove to to their audience that what’s going in the car is dangerous. At the same time they’re offering an image of something the target audience probably does everyday: talking on their cell phone. This makes it seem more relevant to them.

3. I want to consider the audience itself and how pathos plays a part in the ad’s rhetoric. Everyone has a family, and pretty much everyone has a young child which they worry about getting hurt. So it’s easy for the viewer to imagine the fear invoked by the idea that it could be their young loved one about to get run over by the car, or their young loved one in the backseat during the accident. The fact that the child’s eyes reflected in the mirror are strategically placed over the eyes of the child in front of the car compound this effect.

Sep 14

Civic Artifact Analysis

As an example of rhetoric which takes notable advantage of kairos, I’ve provided the advertisement above.

If you can’t see the caption at the bottom very well, it reads, “The number of car accidents involving children increases during school holidays. Please be extremely careful!” And so we see the first mention of the rhetorical situation: A school holiday was most likely coming up when this was printed, and so a message like this would have been in perfect time to give drivers a head’s up.

The second way kairos is taken advantage of in this ad is through the image of the man driving on his cell phone. The conversation about how cell phones distract us from everyday life and what really matters has been going on for about a decade, and keeps getting brought up again with each new generation of smart phone. Another crisis revolving around cell phones is their increasing involvement in car accidents, which is why it’s become illegal to use them while driving in most states. The large majority of the audience this ad is directed to also own cell phones, and so showing the man on his phone is something they can relate to. They’re probably already aware of the risk based on recent conversation, so it takes less explanation for them to accept that something which they own and operate can be so deadly.

And finally we get to the kicker. Look at the picture, and look at the rear-view mirror. You’ve probably already noticed, but the eyes of the child they’re about to hit line up exactly with the child sitting in the backseat of the car. This is directed at anyone who’s ever cared about a young child. Subconsciously it’s saying to the viewer, “What if this was your son, daughter, little brother or sister, niece or nephew, grandchild or cousin, who’s about to get hit? What if this was your young loved one, sitting in the back of your car, while you hit that child?” In this case, kairos is audience-specific, and the emphasis in recent years on responsible driving really digs deep here. If the audience didn’t care as much about kids, this appeal to pathos wouldn’t work. But it does, and the fear this ad instills really hits close to home.

Sep 14

In Response to Ifemelu, the Immigrant Race Blogger from C. Adichie’s “Americanah”

Whether you believe it or not, race is a fundamental part of your identity. Being white does provide people with special privileges in America, the same way having brown skin becomes disadvantageous before its bearers ever say a word. These are things Ifemelu seizes on which her peers–if they ever notice them–are consistently tiptoeing around. It’s not surprising to me that she feels the need to speak out about it.

Ifemelu as a blogger writes about racial and social justice issues which have been defining her for years, but which Americans continue to ignore. I would say she does this partly out of civic responsibility, because America is supposed to be the land of equal opportunity, and it so blatantly is not. The brilliant place Nigerians always fantasized about is just that: a fantasy. She wants people to realize this.

The fact that Ifemelu is an immigrant is important though, because unlike Americans, she has not been cultured into thinking our racist culture is normal. As an outsider, what most Americans hardly ever consider–such as how we constantly racially profile people–is something she views as obvious. She is also able to take a mostly unbiased stance on “the American Black,” because while she is black, she has not been raised in the same society or been taught to think in the same way.

By portraying Ifemelu as an outspoken, intelligent, black immigrant, Adichie is able to tell a story through the eyes of someone who not only experiences American racism, but can also form opinions on it without the familiar baggage of what some might consider the “bitter, post-slavery views” of American blacks. To Ifemelu, everything is fresh and new, and the way she openly talks about these taboo topics makes what many Americans experience everyday fresh and new as well. And that is what finally makes the reader wake up and notice how our civic responsibilities (i.e. keeping people of color from being discriminated against in a society centered around “equality” and “freedom”) are being thoughtlessly shirked.


Sep 14

Ancient Rhetoric Activity 3

I’ve been trying to convince my friend to start donating blood for a while now. He’s a young, healthy man, with no anemia or other conditions preventing him from donating. I’ve told him this as part of my logos; he’s a prime candidate, and it’s quite unlikely donating will harm him. I also used my ethos as an experienced donor to assure him centers for giving blood are clean and safe, and that I’ve never incurred negative side-effects from donating. When he was still was unsure, I went for an emotional appeal: one donation can save up to three lives, and hospitals are constantly running low on transfusions. Less than one third of the population is eligible to donate, so as one of the few who can, I argued that it was his responsibility to give blood and help his community stay healthy.

Ultimately, I was unsuccessful in my persuasion, and I believe this is because of the context my friend had on the topic before I ever spoke to him about it. His mother had told him that the drives I went to were not clean or safe, which prevented him from even considering donating for several years. I’m also much more familiar with the positive impact community service can make–on both the community and the volunteer–than my friend is. I’ve been consistently involved in Girl Scouts and other youth service organizations since I was six; whereas he had only been in Boy Scouts until 7th grade. Lastly, my friend is afraid of needles, and so he likely imagines that giving blood would be an unpleasant experience. I look forward to one day proving him wrong.

Something similar happened to me when two friends were trying to convince me to become a vegan. Though I agreed with most of their arguments–that the vegan lifestyle is healthier, better for the environment, and more humane towards animals–the context I held ultimately made me turn down their suggestions. I come from a very Italian family, and I like to eat. Going vegan would drastically reduce my palette options, which, unfortunately, I’m just not excited about. Furthermore, food and family are very important in my culture–especially together. I want to be able to sit down to a meal with them and just enjoy their company, rather than stress over the ingredients of the sauce my mother cooked that evening.

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