Archive for September, 2008

CCCC Proposal Abstract

By js, 30 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Chicana/o Rhetorical Strategies: Decolonizing Cultural, Pedagogical, and Technological Spaces

Our panelists will present four distinct Chicana/o rhetorical approaches for Making Waves. In the 60 years since the CCCC has existed, few scholars within our discipline have engaged the rhetorics of Chicanas/os. Furthering the legacy of those who have done work in this Rhetoric of Color, our approaches break new ground and unearth old soils by bringing theoretical, material, institutional, and pedagogical approaches which have long been employed within Chicana/o communities. While our panel will focus on practical, pedagogical matters involving the teaching of writing, especially rhetorical uses of digital technologies in rhetoric and composition classes, we cannot just begin there. We believe a historical and multi-methodological basis for understanding Chicana/o rhetorics is first necessary. Because Chicanas/os come from different kinds of lived experience (racial, gendered, sexual, class, geographic, linguistic) with distinct origins and historical contexts, scholars working within these territories must find protocols of interaction, means of engagement.

Our panel’s final speaker will present rhetorical strategies for intervening into how Chicana/o students “interface” with cyber-technologies. Bringing together Critical Race Theory (Delgado, Matsuda) with ideas taken from Chicana/o Rhetorics (Yosso), this speaker analyzes the ways digital interfaces are developed and put into place on the Web, often in ways which prevent and/or adversely define the presence of ethnic “others” (Kolko, Nakamura, Banks). This speaker will present original qualitative research showing how Chicana/o Rhetorics are used by Chicanas/os to create a counter-discourse and thereby resist digital design mechanisms which work to constrain and/or exclude them from participating in online interactions. She employs an alternative paradigm of “cultural capital” coupled with Critical Race Theory to demonstrate the different rhetorical strategies Chicanas/os utilize to circumvent the limitations of interface design and therefore negotiate an ethnic identity in online spaces.

Our panelists, together, will thus present Chicana/o rhetorical strategies for Making Waves in both theoretical and pedagogical terms which advance our discipline’s understanding of the discursive spaces Chicana/o students and teachers enter inside and outside of academia.

Universal vs. Particular

By js, 27 September, 2008, No Comment

Laclau and Mouffe both discuss the concept of the particular and the universal.

This is something that has had me worried for some time. We get that push from all directions especially in working on the dissertation and any research project. We either start from a question-problem which  may be universal or we eventually have to look at our results and how they can or will be generalized.

I know that I want to focus on the particular and I think we should in order to make our research manageable. But then in order to create “interest” for the results and conclusions which you have created you have to connect somehow to the universal.

Choosing what strategy to take has been a struggle. Because so little research has been done on my topic specifically and what has been done has been looking at it in a more “universal” way, then I have several paths that I can choose.

I can choose to compare (as Rich suggested) the blogs that I have chosen with what has already been written about blogs. This does not seem like a viable option for me; at least, it is not a choice which aligns with the philosophical-epistemological choices which I have already made. For example, I have chosen to use critical race theory as one of my theoretical constructs. One of the tenets of CRT is that we start our study by looking at people of color rather than looking at a theory that has been created without critically engaging what people of color may be doing and then applying that theory to my work. I think doing something like this would be completey irresponsible. First, I would be assuming that the theory (which more than likely is being pushed as being “universal”) would apply at least in part to my population. This makes sense at least initially since all people must have something in common and we can begin with the commonality and then transcend to the difference. I think this is the process that Jaime took in his dissertation. He was looking at/applying certain concepts but in the process of doing the research he realized that it did not apply and he had to move beyond what he had started with. So in this case we can say “see this theory does not apply to this particular situation-context-population”; this is also what Pablo Vila did in his study of border identity. He took the theories of Laclau and Mouffe and others and he realized that they only applied to a certain extent but then he had to create a new theory which would explain what he saw happening with identity construction in the border people he studied. So he goes from the universal to the particular and then creates a theory based on the particular and in constructing the theory he goes back to the universal.

In my case, I wonder if beginning with the universal will taint what I find and that it will blind me to other things which may be there. For example, when I started and I thought I wanted to look at Yossos theory of cultural capital, then all I was going to do was going to apply that theory to the blogs. That seems like a pretty simple study. I could hope that I will find something more going on that Yossos theory does not account for; perhaps find what Yosso laid out but also find other things. The problem that I ended up having with this theory was that it seems to me that those things which Yosso points out are not necessarily just applicable to people of color. In fact, in reading the Massey book, many of those elements of cultural capital are present in the structures which cause inequality. Instead the difference is who is part of what group; different groups seem to manage the negotiation of the capital in different ways; it is not that the forms of capital are necessarily different but the way in which and the ends to which the cultural capital are gained and put to use are different. According to Massey, the structures are set up to give one group of people an advantage.

For example, if we think about navigational capital and social capital and apply those in the college environment, we can see how it works for the dominant group. Colleges are environments which need to be navigated in very specific ways, from the application process to the completion of graduation requirements. One doesnt inherently know how to navigate these structures; they are not set up in a way which is in any way “natural.” Instead, in order to be successful one needs something which helps one navigate it. Usually that something is really going to be a “someone”; this is when the social capital comes into play. We will know someone who will help us navigate. The way in which we learn to navigate those structures from the people can be from talking about it all your life if you have parents who went to college so that it becomes something that you “just know” how to do. If that hasnt been part of your conversation-life then you will be clueless when it comes to entering that structure. Then everything must be explained because from the outside there isnt necessarily any logic that can been in how this structure was created. For students of color who are primarily first generation students to attend college, then certain programs, if they are lucky, have been set in place to help them navigate. The main problem with many of these programs is that they only help with part of the structure rather than helping to traverse the entire structure from enrollment to graduation. All the knowledge that is “tacit” and natural for those who have the privilege of having generations who will contribute to their social and navigational capital is very difficult to make explicit especially when there are so many layers to the structure.

So I could decide to examine the blogs looking for these elements of cultural capital and how the blogs construct or negotiate those; but ultimately, I think that it would be more productive to go to the blogs to see what is there first. To go in with no preconceived ideas or theories to apply and see what I find there first.

Coming back to my decision of where to begin, the universal or particular–I am much more committed to starting from the particular, that is, starting from the blogs rather than the theory, to look to see what I find; then I can say that it applies to theory a, b, c or not which then means I will have to come up with something. I think the danger here, and one of the reasons why I am having a hard time taking the leap, is that I dont know what I will find–I  am not confident that I will find anything  which is worth finding (although this may just be my internal critic talking)–and if it does end up applying to theory a, b, c which I initially decided to ignore then what does that say about my epistemological and political choices.

I am also very reticent about saying that I want to look at what Chicana blogs tell us about Tech Comm. I have to come to terms with the fact that most of what I have seen about technology and people of color is all about how to “use” them/us; how to reach us in order to persuade us. I have written before about how I do not want my work to become part of the structure which helps to oppress. I have to think about how my teaching, administrating and my research may be doing this. Since my research agenda is just beginning then I have to keep this in mind as I design my work. The bad thing and what is very disconcerting is that much work that begins with good intentions ends up working in very different ways and for the detriment of one particular group.

Now am I going to be forced to think about Tech Comm first as I design my work or can I “get away” with only thinking about “rhetoric and technology”? I think I will resist this as much as I can and I will have to find my own way of dealing with/defining Tech Comm so that I am working against what I see as the oppressive tendencies of this field.


By js, 27 September, 2008, 1 Comment

I’ve been reading in Race, Rhetoric and the Postcolonial the interviews with Laclau and Mouffe; both talk about hegemony, and the universal and particular. Both of these seem very interesting to me right now.

First the concept of hegemony which they put forth seems very similar to Foucaults concept of power. Power can both be seen as negative and as positive; that is, power can be seen as repressive and productive. It is the results of the power which put it in one category or the other. So power is negative when it limits and puts controls on a certain type of people which we usually think of repressive; it is only one type of person which is receiving benefits from the way in which the power is exercised.

Hegemony works in much the same way. Hegemony is when a certain definition takes hold and which helps to order other things and include some things, definitions while excluding others; hegemony is always going to limit and control; according to Laclau and Mouffe we should strive to create a different hegemony which excludes less. So those who want to create a different hegemony than the one which is currently in control would then take advantage of the productive side of power to create an alternative to the current hegemony which if it takes hold will become hegemonic.

So like Foucault argues that one can never get away from the power struggle, then we can never not have a hegemonic structure. The issue according to these political philosophers is what is excluded and who benefits from a particular hegemony. We can see that the current hegemony is created by conservative and positivist perspectives which make it less democratic. According to Laclau and Mouffe academics have the responsibility to help to create an alternative vocabulary and structure which not only questions the current hegemony but which also makes possible a different hegemony with the use of the new vocabulary and structure.  According to both, this is currently NOT being done.

So the question is Why not? or is it that the way it is being done is not yet recognized? in order to have a new vocabulary, people need to be able to recognize what it means and it needs to have enough circulation so that people begin to talk and continue to talk and add to the vocabulary. So how do we give this new vocabulary a venue which would allow for momentum for it to spread.  I think the answer here has to be the internet, this new way of communication which is much faster than traditional forms of publishing and distributing ideas.

Moufee argues that academics should also be sharing ideas in other venues which are not so limited as the academic publication network; we need to be writing for newspapers, lecturing to more local audiences, etc. The problem with much of this is that these forms of sharing ideas are not valued by the academy so many academics just concentrate on what is going to propel them forward in the academy. So it seems that the academy itself has created a system which sabotages the difference which academics can make with the new “vocabulary” which they create. If they are only publishing in academic journals because that is the only place in which they will get credit, then the system itself creates a bubble in which ideas do NOT trickle down and thus make the difference-contribution-effect which is possible and productive to change.


Visuwords: Online Dictionary

By js, 23 September, 2008, No Comment

Cool Dictionary Online: Check it out


By js, 19 September, 2008, No Comment

Rich [to Janie]: what’s the question(s) to date?
Janie says, “” What rhetorical strategies do Chicana bloggers utilize in their blogs?”
Janie says, ” To what ends are these rhetorical strategies used? ”
Janie says, “that is the specific one I’m starting with”
Time says, “… subconsciously used, I suspect – ja?”
Rich says, “what if the strategies aren’t different than all bloggers?”
Janie says, “I’m not sure…that is part of what I want to find”
Janie says, “maybe there aren’t; but I’m counting that in asking the questions, I’ll find something ;-)
Rich says, “so do you have to study other blogs too then, to compare?”
Janie says, “that’s why it’s a pilot…”
Rich says, “or someone has already done that?”
Janie says, “no comparison done”
Janie says, “but compare what…”
Time says, “Foundational question that comes to mind… What is the rhetorical situation of the (Chicana) blog?”
Time says, “compare similarities in structure, style, topic/content”
Janie says, “I want to look at what they are doing and compare with literature that has been written about chicana identity,etc”
Rich says, “really interesting, actually”
Janie says, “so I guess the ‘research’ question I’m leading to is do the rhetorical needs/strategies discussed ‘offline’ translate to online spaces”
Janie says, “or are they different with different preoccupations”
Time says, “yes, that sounds quite interesting!”
Rich says, “So, possible to narrow that down to one question?”
Janie says, “but I really want to study and see what is happening first what I find before I start imposing categories”
Rich says, “thus the pilot”
Rich says, “so, what’s in the files you sent me just now?”
Rich says, “multiple pilots?”
Time says, “Yes, that makes sense, A sort of grounded theory approach (also what I’m looking at) will help form/code categores from what you find. The pilot would be good for this.”
Rich [to Janie]: are you thinking grounded theory?

So taking the questions above and turning them into one:

How do the rhetorical needs/strategies  of Chicana bloggers for identity construction translate to online spaces.
How do Chicana bloggers negotiate identity construction online.?
What rhetorical strategies do Chicana bloggers use to negotiate identity construction in online spaces?

What does this have to do with Tech Comm?  Hmmm..have to think about this.

Trying to Articulate a Theoretical Framework

By js, 15 September, 2008, 1 Comment

One thing that I have found as I work on the proposal is that I feel like I’m chasing my tail.

To articulate our questions, we must have some understanding of our theoretical framework; but to know what our theoretical framework is, we must have a sense of our questions.

I have to keep reminding myself that if I just keep going it will make sense eventually, but that isn’t much of a consolation when I’m in the thick of things.

So what I did was begin with the general topic; what is it that I am interested in? What does the research say about it? What do I believe to be true based on the research? What conclusions have I made based on the literature that I have read? Those conclusions really are not conclusions at all but what they do is lead you to a question that will guide the research. Once one has gone through that process it is much easier to articulate why our research is important; why we should care about it.

Once one has the question, then we have to start thinking about how we will phrase the qeustion and what the different phrasing implies about the research direction, the subjects and the methods we will be using. Because of the population that I will be focusing on and because of the argument that I am making that the population is understudied, then should I “test” out a theory that may ultimately prove to reify hegemony. Is it enough to argue that I will be using a particular methodology because of this danger. What if using that methodology ends up pointing back to the earlier theory?

My focus on a particular population not only fills a research gap but it also represents a political and ethical stance. How does one negotiate that in a proposal?

Media Literacy

By js, 15 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Lots to think about in this video/lecture


By js, 14 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Interesting post on identity:

When we speak about our identity I believe that we are referring to four different things: 1.) how we see ourselves as we relate to society around us, 2.) how we want others to see us, 3.) how others see us as we relate to society, and 4.) how we perceive others’ perceptions of who we are.

Teaching Chicano Literature

By js, 14 September, 2008, No Comment

The syllabus which Jaime sent me about his Chicano Lit. class really got me thinking about how other professors structure their Chicano lit courses.

Here are some Online Resources about Chicano Literature

Teaching Chicano Literature: An Historical Approach by Raymundo Paredes

Ph. D. Reading List Chicano/a Literature

Chicano Literature Syllabus

Technorati and Other Blog Ranking Tools

By js, 14 September, 2008, 1 Comment

One of the things that I have to articulate are the reasons for choosing the blogs that I choose to study.  Other studies that I have looked at which dicuss blogs have chosen their “subjects” by turning to blog indexing and blog ranking tools. I know that Technorati is one of the most popular ones.