Porqué Mi Retórica

By js, 24 April, 2008, No Comment

My concept of who I am as a rhetor stems from my first memories with language.

I grew up with four brothers so at an early age I retreated into the worlds which books offered me. Those stories (all traditional stories included in the canon) showed me the possibilities from which I could choose to form my identity, possibilities which were very different from what I saw around me in my own very traditional Mexican family and community.

My resistance to tradition, especially my feminism, stems from these early experiences. For example, since I knew education was important in my family, I used my parents incorrect concept of what was required of me in school to resist the “female” duties I had at home. So, I always brought home more homework (I was usually weeks ahead in homework) or reading (I would check out two books a day so I could read into the night), and I got involved in after school activities. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that by exempting myself from those duties, I was participating in the “oppression” of the only female left in the house, my mother.

My concept of myself as a rhetor, then, always includes a negotiation between what is expected, what I want, and how my choices will affect others. I feel an obligation, not only to resist ways in which others define me, but also to help articulate the perspectives which I think are ignored.

My love of language also included a love of writing. I started keeping a diary when I was very young. I would write poems and songs and daily happenings. Writing was personal and private, something that I could retreat to just like I could with reading.

My first memory of relishing an immersion in academic discourse involves writing a research paper. I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, notecards scattered around me. I can remember the physical act of laying the notecards on the floor, moving them from place to place, organizing them by topic, and seeing the ideas gain coherence right in front of my eyes. (I have to admit, though, that no other research paper has taken on the same surreal and pleasurable nature.) This experience taught me that I can control and manipulate language even when it seems foreign and disconnected.

When I started teaching after college, the two fiction classes I had taken earned me the priviledge of directing the newspaper and yearbook organizations (I did this for four years). While trying to teach students about journalism, I taught myself the importance of design and images, with text as the complement, to construct stories about others.

It was only recently that I have become even more aware of the self-construction of identity via my use of digital technologies. The first class I took at Tech required me to create a blog. Even though the technical task was easy and my choices in design were limited (I used Blogger), I still had to make certain choices which were going to reflect on me: the colors and layout of the blog, the title, the description, my picture, and my introduction.

I followed the blog with a website in which I could post my activities as a teacher, administrator, scholar, and mother. I had to negotiate between demonstrating my technical skills in my design of the site or using someone else’s more sophisticated design for my own purposes, and thus hide my novice status. For several projects, I have had to choose between the representation of myself via the content versus the design.

Currently, I am negotiating between constructing my identity by rhetorically using the tools that others have designed or learning to design the tools as part of my self-construction. I am grappling with the following questions:

–how does my use of certain tools affect others?
–how do predesigned tools limit my rhetorical choices?
–what affordances do predesigned tools provide?
–how can learning to design tools expand or limit my rhetorical choices?

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