On embeddedness; or, I wrote a thing

I wrote a thing. I called it “Embedded Together: Artists and Audiences and YouTube.”

It’s one of many responses to a bigger question on the thick, rich site MediaCommons: “What is the role of the digital humanities in transforming and responding to the arts?” (Was the word humanities always there? If so, I wasn’t thinking of it in my answer; I was just thinking of intersections between DIGITAL and ARTS. Oh well.)

You can read it if you want; I like it. But what I’m thinking about here is the effect of time on how we view revision. Because that piece went through a lot of revising. The original draft was probably twice as long as it was supposed to be, and then I worked really hard to get it down to a place where it was only 2/3 too long, and then I cut out my entire heart to finally get it down to where it is now. (I thought about counting the number of comments I went through with smart editor Alex Nielsen, but it’s too many to count. He’s a good editor; I’m perhaps too insistent on my rambly style. Good job, Alex.)


There was a lot of this.

So reading it this morning after weeks of actually forgetting it even exists (and prompting this post), I was wondering this basic question: does it feel empty, short, sad, in its final form?

Mostly, no. It holds together, even though it feels very different from the genre of the other answers to the question (which I’m fine with). I’m proud of it. Here, in this blog post, I’ll tell you all about it, look at me, not ashamed.

But the one thing that feels off: I’m not giving a lot of time/space here to my friend Ian Scarfe, who spend so much time on smart, long emails to me about these questions. He got cut a lot; in editing the piece, I edited him. And even with the distance of time, it’s hard for me to get a sense of if he sounds the way I want him to. Is he more of a soundbite, a quotable, a few links, then let’s move on to the other stuff? Or are there hints of the real human that speak up under my edit, the sounds of his piano drifting through the screen?

Of course, I ask because of other projects: I’m editing a longer piece (the introduction to an edited collection), which currently means editing out a lot of the voices that I’ve collected. Where do those voices go after I hit delete? Where do their ideas go after I’ve stopped listening?



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Oh, Soundcloud. Again?

Hoo boy. A few years back, I successfully disputed a file I legally uploaded to Soundcloud as part of my dissertation. And now, a file I uploaded around the same time is suddenly under investigation as well.

Here’s the short version: for the diss, I was reading a lot of David Burrows, my favorite music philosopher, and I wanted to explore a quote of his in a brief audio experiment. He writes, “Seeing is like touching, hearing like being touched” (Sound, Speech, and Music 21). So (according to my memory, which is a little awkward because I can’t actually listen to the file I’m describing, and I haven’t for a few years) I recorded myself reading Burrows over and over, with various effects and musical elements added and removed to enact the ideas I was writing about those days: the ways music and sound’s meanings are embodied in the complete context of their delivery and in the experience of the listener. It was a way to put into practice my scholarship. It’s nothing fancy, just a playful file–but of course, when you’re doing scholarship on sound, it’s not just play; it’s play toward a critical end.

But now, Soundcloud’s auto-search algorithms say I don’t have the right to use one of the short clips (“short” = less than 10 seconds, if my memory is right) I used: a piece from Bela Fleck’s collaboration with Luo Cultural Association, an African group he recorded and toured with. (I bought the CD at a concert in Orlando, had them sign it and everything.)

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Soundcloud has no problem with my use of the written Burrows quote, because the way we talk about and police short clips of writing is completely different from the way we talk about and police short clips of music. Sigh.

So I disputed the copyright claim, after being annoyed at how little respect their system seems to give fair use:

After I clicked “some other reason,” Soundcloud gave a big list of things that it warned me wouldn’t be good enough answers–things like “I only used a small amount” or “I own the CD” (those aren’t actual quotes; I don’t have the page open anymore). The thing is, a lot of the things on its list are things that actually could help a fair use case, even if you acknowledge that they’re not sufficient defenses on their own.

Here’s where Soundcloud and I agree: people really misunderstand the nature of fair use. I mean, that list could be useful for people who really think that having a single factor in their favor is good enough. But here’s where we differ: I think that walking people through real-world cases (say, when their upload is contested) is a way to teach them the way fair use actually works. I think that list could/should be given in the context of a fair use checklist, or links to successful fair use defenses people have used in the past, or even a short video on this stuff.

Soundcloud disagrees / doesn’t have time / isn’t interested / whatever.

So I disputed claim. Here’s what I wrote, for the record:

I believe my use of this clip falls under fair use. I’ll walk through the 4 factors using the checklist at the Columbia Universities Libraries (https://copyright.columbia.edu/basics/fair-use/fair-use-checklist.html#Fair Use Checklist), after providing a short background.

I’m a scholar of rhetoric and writing who studies remix, copyright, and music. (I’m happy to provide citations, if you’d like to see them.) The upload in question came from a time when I was reading music philosopher David Burrows’ work and writing about the ways music and sound affect humans in different ways depending on the context. But because of the nature of my work, it was important for my listeners to actually *hear* the effects I was discussing, not just read about them. That purpose leads directly to the first of the four factors:

My use of the copyrighted clip was to help me and others explore this scholarly, critical concept (the question of how music is or isn’t “like being touched,” in Burrows’ words, especially when the background music and vocal delivery changes). I therefore believe my use of the copyrighted work counts as transformative under U.S. copyright law: I took music that was designed for entertainment purposes and digitally altered part of it, transforming it for a scholarly, critical purpose. This factor weighs in my favor.

It’s true that the copyrighted work I used to help make my point was “highly creative work” (in the words of the fair use checklist I’m using). This factor weighs against me.

Despite Soundcloud’s point that using a small amount of a copyrighted work doesn’t make the use more likely to be fair, “amount” is in fact one of the four fair use factors. (Yes, I know that people have been found liable for using very short amounts of music–but it’s still one of the four factors.) In this case, I used a very small amount of the copyrighted song. I don’t have a copy of my uploaded file on this computer, but I believe I used fewer than ten seconds of the song in question–not that ten seconds is a magic bullet, but that it’s a very small percentage of the overall song. This factor weighs in my favor.

Following the fair use checklist, I see aspects of this factor that fall on both sides. On one hand, I did make this (very short) clip (with talking over much of it) available publicly on Soundcloud, which seems to hurt my case. But on the other hand, I’m using a clip that I legally own on CD (bought at a concert, actually)in a way that could not possibly have a negative effect on sales of this album. My belief is that this factor leans more in my favor than against it–after all, who could claim that someone would hear this clip and then be less likely to buy a copy? It seems more likely that the opposite would happen: the listener would think, “Ooh, that tiny bit was cool! I want to hear the whole thing whenever I want!”

Though the four factors aren’t always weighed completely equally by judges, it’s common for fair use cases that actually go to court to decide in favor of the side that has the majority of the four factors in their favor. (See the cases listed by the federal government at http://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/fair-index.html for examples of many music cases.) Therefore, since three of the four factors weigh in my favor, I believe I have a genuine fair use to use this work in my piece.

(And if you don’t mind my saying so, I believe that any human would agree with my judgment. This casts some doubt on the ability of Soundcloud’s auto-search algorithm to adequately understand the complexities of fair use. And that, in my mind, will lead to a chilling effect on thousands of today’s creative minds, who will opt to compose safely instead of learning about the reality of fair use law. It’s disappointing to me that a platform as revolutionary as Soundcloud would participate in that cultural silencing.)

UPDATE (5/26/16): They agreed. That’s nice!



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What I Remember from Meeting Mary Karr 15 Years Ago

Of her actual talk, not much. I remember liking her, and how her eyes thinned when she smiled. Worse yet, she couldn’t have spoken in the room I’m remembering (which is in Virginia, and I heard her speak at Rollins College, in Florida), and I don’t know who invited her or what she said.

I mean, let’s be honest: what I really remember is me: my question. “How . . . how accurate would you say your dialogue is? In The Liar’s Club?” I asked after her reading. “It, I mean you were just a child when those events happened.”

(Let’s note that I’m using dialogue here, too, now.)

She laughed. “It’s not like I had a tape recorder.”

That’s all I remember from the event. That and a manila envelope she handed me at the end. In it: a short story I had typed and printed, her comments handwritten on it.

I was a college student, taking a creative writing class that I suspected I didn’t much like, writing fiction I also suspected I didn’t much like. (I was probably a sophomore, which makes this a year after my class on the personal essay, a class where I was amazed to like everything I wrote, all of it, every opportunity for weekly essays a chance to say more about me, me, always me, and always beautiful and powerful and my favorite. Why was I even taking fiction?)

But however uncertain I felt about this fiction class, the professor said I would be the one student whose writing would go to visiting author Mary Karr in advance, for her to read and comment on and deliver lovingly at the end of her reading, like a present. I had read The Liar’s Club and liked it (even though I definitely threw it across my dorm room at one point, but it was a sympathetic sort of throwing, a horror at what she went through, you have to believe me here), so I was pleased at being chosen, but I think I was also kind of confused and didn’t really get it. That is, it was a bigger deal to be chosen than I really realized at the time, but I was too wrapped up in how my stories weren’t very good to notice.

When I looked through what I had to send her, I assumed I had to pick something I had written in this fiction class. (Is that true? Did the teacher insist on it?) So instead of giving her one of the essays I loved and wanted to work on forever, I chose a story–but, tellingly, one of those stories that was essentially 90% memoir with 10% fiction. That must be why I liked it: it was about me. (Shh!)

The 90%: someone who was essentially me was talking to someone who was essentially a friend from high school in a fake cafe on a real road by a real marsh. We talked about why our mutual attraction never quite turned into anything beyond friendship and how her later relationships complicated it. The 10%: the cafe didn’t really exist, and neither did the conversation (at least not all at one time, with those words). I called the story “Marsh Land” at the last minute and hoped that its lack of meaningful action or change (one long conversation in one marshy cafe) would make it feel modern or something, like overlong dialogue from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

What I remember from Karr’s feedback: only one thing: the moment, 3/4 of the way through the story, where I accidentally used “I” instead of “he” on a dialogue tag. She caught it, writing something like “A telling mistake?” in the margin. Mortified, I stuffed the manuscript back in the envelope. I never revised the story.

Next fall, I’m teaching creative nonfiction for the third time, and we’re reading Karr–The Liar’s Club, of course, paired with her new The Art of Memoir. While I eat lunch in my office these days, so much like the office of my essay and fiction professors, I’m reading Lit, her third memoir, chapter by chapter, each little chunk now associated with the salad or sandwich I brought that day.

So she’s on my mind a lot these days. And every time she shares something, here in her books, it has that feeling of a person honoring someone else with the truest meaning they have at their disposal, and I smile and nod in thanks, realizing that all I gave her was a cover-up, a not-quite-really-myself character who I couldn’t even bury as far as I thought I could, and I never even took her advice about how to make him work better.

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Blog-o-Versary 6.0 : Keep on Pushing (Our 400th Post!!!)

Honored to get a shout-out in this inspiring yelp of resistance–and glad they chose to include the Sabrepulse piece I suggested in the playlist.

Sounding Out!

Keep on Pushin5 Click here for Sounding Out!‘s Blog-O-Versary “Keep on Pushing” mix 6.0 with track listing

Happy 6th Blog-o-Versary Team SO!

This year was tough, y’all. We know it. You know it. 2014-2015 was a year of rolling up sleeves, raging against the machine, typing furiously into the night, blocking the trolls, crying tears of frustration and anger, organizing heated meetings, fitting shoulders uncomfortably to various wheels while questioning exactly why and for whom, hugging our folks closer while unfriending Facebook “friends” like mofos, facing the millionth revision—or worse, the next police shooting, and the next and the next.

side eye emojiAll of us have reeled at one time or another at what sometimes seemed like a Niagara Falls of quicksand: mounting challenges, unexpected setbacks, pay and budget cuts (if you had a budget to begin with), hashtag memorials, calculated attacks, haters far more malevolent than your basic Taylor Swift variety, general piling on…

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August 5, 2015 · 10:26 am

Things I’ve started writing but haven’t published

  1. A blog post about the anniversary of R.E.M.’s Green, because somehow this blog has become obsessed with R.E.M.
  2. A blog post in anticipation of my workshop on podcasting at the 2015 Computers and Writing conference–a workshop and conference that has now ended, with the post sitting there unfinished, unposted
  3. A scholarly webtext on the materiality of sound, vinyl records, and the crazy ways that these things can inspire composition pedagogy (few of which I’ve actually tried in the classroom yet), a text that I drafted last summer over 3 weeks of using 750words.com every day
  4. It depends what we mean here by writing, but maybe when I talk to a friend in the car about writing routines and relationships and kindness, maybe that’s a kind of writing and maybe saying good things out loud together is a kind of publishing
  5. A chapter from my dissertation on historical attitudes toward the rhetoric of music and how we can do better
  6. A chapter from my dissertation reporting on interviews with student music composers
  7. A piece of music, which I admit hasn’t even been started or considered until now, but a piece of music that tries to capture what it’s like to write but not quite doing so, sitting there, dodging it all by organizing your mp3s and reading good scholarship and tweeting good tweets–which are writing too, we can all agree on that, it’s the 21st century–and if you don’t know why a piece of music would be good for that, why are you even reading this list
  8. An bizarre, juxtaposition-filled audio essay that jams together the sounds of my favorite movies/TVshows/videogames with the words of scholars on the phenomenology of sound
  9. That one above actually exists, even though you’re starting to wonder if any of these things actually exist, and I don’t blame you, how could anyone have this much that they haven’t finished, how could anyone be so much like cookies that just went into the oven?
  10. This one doesn’t exist, but I wish it did: a blog post on Pearl Jam and aggressiveness, chronicling how intimidated I was by their first album and how I forced myself to like it anyway and then how they slowly came to just seem like nice guys playing rock music but when did that happen I mean don’t you remember “IT’S . . . MY . . . BLOOOOOOOD!!!!” and all that from the second album?
  11. A personal essay about the time in 4th grade when I stayed the night at Andy’s house and jammed a thumbtack through the face of a kid I didn’t like on his copy of our class photo, followed by the time in 5th grade when I pulled the fire alarm at school but before it started so that’s not as bad I think
  12. A personal essay about my youngest brother and our weird mutual aggression over our lives, if you can call it that, and I’m not sure you can, but don’t you think I should use the word aggression to echo #10 above?
  13. A personal essay about chaperoning a bunch of college student singers on a trip to Florida
  14. Episode nine of my podcast which is on teaching with podcasts kind of self-referential isn’t it podcast podcast podcast kind of a weird word when you say it too often
  15. Self-referential blog posts that–and you won’t believe me here–that actually help move these texts toward a public, which is really where they ought to go, so let’s get to it, folks

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SO! Reads: Daniela Cascella’s F.M.R.L. (Finding Materials for Remembering and Listening)

It’s not too often that you’re asked to review a book that entirely connects to the things you’ve been thinking about already lately, but that’s what happened here. Enjoy!

Sounding Out!

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Before I read F.M.R.L., I didn’t know Daniela Cascella or her work. I hadn’t read her first book or her blog or her Tweets; I hadn’t seen any exhibits she had curated or attended a reading. Instead, the words in her book introduced us.

Here’s how she was introduced, here in this exploration of how sound and writing intertwine:

  • A wanderer, traveling the globe to meet friends, attend conferences, read books (and more books, and more books)
  • An archivist, saving physical and digital boxes of sounds and words and quotes, all blended with her own notes and ideas
  • A listener, noticing the sounds of words as much as their meanings
  • A cave-explorer, digging ever deeper through layers of earth to find echoes of what has been buried—which is another way to say a wanderer, an archivist, a listener

How odd to meet someone through words alone…

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In Which I Write One Sentence about Each Song on R.E.M.’s Up Album

The other day, I had a delightfully lengthy conversation on Twitter about R.E.M. It all started with this:

I’ve written about R.E.M. on here before, but in that post, there was a bit of an edge of “here I am, blending my musical and scholarly interests, because I’m a scholar who writes about music.” This time, inspired by that tweetversation, I’d rather just drop any scholarly pretense. (What is this blog, anyway, these days? I have no idea.)

So: one sentence about every song on Up (1998), released in the fall of my senior year of high school. Just because.

  1. Airportman: It’s like listening to Brian Eno in a construction zone, with that mechanical, robotic bass crunch cutting through the rest of the beautiful production–which I suppose Eno would probably find interesting.
  2. Lotus: I promise I would like this song without the faux-scream vocal doubling.
  3. Suspicion: A good example of why this album is better with headphones and the spaces they create, as you hear these little door slams from the building next door, the quiet strings in the basement, and the band crooning in a posh hotel ballroom.
  4. Hope: If these lyrics were published in a book of poetry I’d take a picture and post them on Facebook.
  5. At My Most Beautiful: I totally forgot about those “Eleanor Rigby”-style cellos crunching into the silence toward the end, and while I like the piano alright, I’d like to hear an all-cello version.
  6. The Apologist: I counted Michael singing “I’m sorry” or “so sorry” at least 23 times, and that doesn’t count the quiet echoed versions that just about double it; I think that’s a bit much.
  7. Sad Professor: Prettier and sadder than I remember it; in high school I always tried to decide if the really good part of this album started at this song or the next one, but I usually decided it was after this.
  8. You’re in the Air: I put this on far too many mixtapes in 12th grade, mostly because most of my R.E.M. was on tape and I wanted CD quality on my mixes because a mix is serious business and this is the most obvious contender on the album for a mix oh I like it so much I mean listen to all that moody ambience (does this still count as one sentence?).
  9. Walk Unafraid: This is a song I’d like to hear on Song Exploder: what elements, exactly, add up to that that enveloping, escalating clump of sounds in the chorus?
  10. Why Not Smile: I don’t think it’s a real harpsichord, but is it a keyboard synthesizing a harpsichord sound or a guitar effect–and by asking this technical question am I ignoring the beauty of this song?
  11. Daysleeper: How did I never hear this as a carousing drinking song until today, or realize how much it sounds like it could have been on Automatic?
  12. Diminished: For an album called Up, there’s a lot of uncertainty and hopeless hope in the lyrics throughout–one example from this song: “I’ll consult the i-ching / I’ll consult the TV / Ouija, oblique strategies / I’ll consult the law books for precedents / Can I charm the jury?”
    1. I’m Not Over You: I have no memory of this little acoustic ditty living at the end of the “Diminished” track, which is weird given the number of times I listened to this CD in 1998.
  13. Parakeet: I always knew that the R.E.M.’s lyrics were a step above the rest, but this listen is reminding me how lovely and fresh they are on this album, and this track is a delightful example (if we ignore that “so sorry” business above).
  14. Falls to Climb: In a weird backward twist of history, this song would sound nice as an 80s synthpop remix–maybe Chvrches can cover it?

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CCCC 2015: A Story through Tweets

I woke up sweating in Tampa; I flew home to the Midwest; I went to bed shivering.

Using a few of my tweets as a guide, I want to share some of the things I sweated about while attending CCCC 2015; what made me fly; what made me shiver.

(I won’t try to be comprehensive–how could I?)


I’m thinking about the velocity of scholarly conversations, and all the agents that affect how and when our conversations get to our audiences.

Example: at CCCC 2014 I co-led a workshop on intellectual property in the classroom. The takeaway was a link to a Google Doc that we would keep up to date with resources for teachers wondering about copyright and fair use, especially when they’re teaching multimodal composition. We made a draft of the doc. We kept saying we would fix it up, make it better. And if I’m remembering correctly, we never really did get it to the level that we wanted. It sat on Google Drive, shareable but unshared. A lonely kitten named Potential.

But at the IP Caucus this year, someone mentioned that they wanted resources for teaching this stuff. Suddenly, that old draft of a document seemed pretty good–what was so lacking about it a year ago, I wondered?–so I shared it with my action table, tweeted a link to it. Suddenly, it seemed more ready than it did before.

What slowed me down? Not the technology; not the pace of scholarly publishing houses and journals–just me.

So in other contexts, how else do our ideas speed up, slow down, get stuck in alleys?–even alleys with fences so low that we could jump them easily, come on, just put your foot there, just hop a little bit, you’re even wearing the right shoes.


1. I’m thinking about how nice it is to be told things clearly and directly sometimes instead of having to figure them out. (Spoiler: this contradicts what I say later on in this very same post, so look out, please.)

2. I’m thinking about how different we are in this field, how many sub-groups there are.

A colleague, after returning from CCCC: “This is the first time I’ve really felt that I was missing out of something by not being on Twitter.” My thought: that’s how I felt in like 2010.

But that’s a reminder of my silo: at CCCC, I find myself in rooms with Computers and Writing people, especially sound-loving C&W people, over and over. Oh, hi, Jody/Jen/Wendi/Steven/Steven–what a surprise that we’re in the same room. It’s not a surprise, they say, and here are other fences you could step over Kyle, into all the other sub-parts of our field, if you would just reach out and learn more and more and more–they’re all here–so step into my interlaced fingers if you’re not afraid or busy, is that it are you afraid or busy?



I’m thinking about speed again.

Adam Banks’s chair’s address was the best that’s ever been. Just watch it, and be sure to shout at the right time, clap along, right there, I can see you, you don’t think I can but I can. I can fly.

And Banks can fly, too. That’s how Joyce Locke Carter introduced him: as personifying a mixture of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, flying up there in their Enterprise. So, fingers flying, I opened Photoshop (“I can do that!“) and made it happen. My most retweeted tweet ever.

But here’s what I was thinking, sweating there in my chair: “I didn’t remove the background from his head. I didn’t line the words up well enough. I could have made this more professional. Maybe I should wait a year until I get it perfect, and send it out then?”


My dissertation was probably influenced more than anything else by Steven B. Katz’s The Epistemic Music of Rhetoric: Toward the Temporal Dimension of Affect in Reader Response and Writing. Here’s a quote to make you shiver:

Perhaps time, and all it stands for, is the basis of the experience of language as sound, emotion a lump of time caught in the throat. Perhaps it is through time that we can know the affective experience of language as an indeterminate flux and flow. Perhaps it is in time that the essential unity, the oneness that oral cultures experienced in sound, exists. Perhaps we have not lost it. Perhaps it is still in the music of language.

So when I walked into A.31, there he was, Steve Katz himself, playing guitar and wearing a hat. I don’t have words.

And then: there was punkrock and crunchy beats and I swear this is true an entire presentation presented through rap:

Did I understand it all? I couldn’t. But did I make meanings that were both scholarly and non-scholarly (whatever that means)? I couldn’t help it.


This point, from early in Hammer’s D.23 presentation, is still ringing in my ears: what comes after? And after? And after?

Not just remix–what comes after knowing-what-I-know-and-telling-what-I-know-as-if-telling-was-the-same-as-teaching? (Don’t make me say post-pedagogy.)

What comes after waking up in the Florida heat, sweating? Isn’t it always flight? Isn’t it always shivers?


Now is when I will take one sentence to tell you (not teach you) that there are times when pre-panel marketing on Twitter is my favorite and times when it bugs me yet I can’t seem to tell when is which, but whatever here I am using sound to draw people to my very own panel (F.19), as if I were playing a flute to lure you into the room, yes you, or rattling a chain-link fence to get your attention. So there.

Here was my experience drafting my part of our 4-part, sound-filled presentation: I couldn’t make myself fall into the telling mode, the this-is-what-I-know thing. So, as a draft, as an invention device, I started writing in the voice of the twentieth century composers I was using to personify the main conflict I was exploring.

(Short version: Milton Babbitt stood in for folks who compose for specialized audiences, the few in his academic world who will understand his academic/musical moves; Elliott Carter stood in for folks who compose for a more general audience, those who keep in mind how difficult it is for non-specialists to understand complex musical moves.)

So instead of saying, “Milton Babbitt claims…” I just said, “I’m Milton Babbitt. I want you to realize that….” And I wasn’t at first going to stick with that first-person style the whole time, for the whole presentation, you have to believe me on this, but then I couldn’t get away from it, those voices were so compelling.

And when it was time to clarify, to sum up, to say to the audience, “You might not have understood everything I just threw at you, so let me make some sense out of it,” I realized 1) that I had dropped in so so many clues that they ought to have known already by then, and 2) that who was I to say what my own presentation meant?


Katz writes a lot about Cicero:

The central thesis of this book is that affect in reading and writing could perhaps be better (though not completely) described and understood by a phonocentric rather than a logocentric theory of response–one based on aural, temporal modes of experiencing and reasoning that we perhaps find in the theory of the ancient sophists and Cicero rather than the visual, spatial ones that currently dominate our scientific culture.


Copyright, IP policies, fair use–they seem so static, so certain, so arhetorical. (I mean, I don’t think so, and neither does G.44. But I hear you. I know they seem that way.)

But consider the way fair use really works: it’s fundamentally, purposefully fuzzy as a concept. Until a judge says so, no one can 100% say whether a use is fair or not. Not even you, or you. Or I.


In J.18, they made stuff: a dataset and its interpretation, and a visual/aural conversation with a murderer (that’s right), and a dataset and its interpretation, and a calming-yet-wild screencast which is another way of saying that it was Dan Anderson.

And why did all this making feel so, so good? I think it goes back, partly to the telling vs. showing thing. Yes, they told, but they showed. And I made meanings, and even experienced a lot of the good stuff on my own there in my own browser, what, did you think I’m always typing notes or tweeting or something no I’m also looking things up, even you, I looked up you, nice profile pic.

But eventually, I stopped typing and shut up for a bit:


I know you’re looking for another cue about the theme of this post so HERE IT IS, right in L.27 (where else?). Also here:

Yes, pleasure is the right word, the pleasure that makes you fly, that makes you shiver. And again, it came through making, not telling. Or, well, some of both. A brownie mix of making and telling. Which brings pleasure, ding! will you get that out of the oven for me?

You’ve guessed it by now, that I don’t follow for too long when there’s theorizing without making, and you don’t agree and that’s fine, it’s fine, and it’s my fault for not reading widely enough or understanding things I should understand, I really get that, but guys. Theory can be part of the making. The big words can help us move toward funk, and flight, and freedom. But we have to go there: we have to take the flight, make the things, work the big ideas into the creations, the art.

Jeff Rice (remember? I’m talking about L.27? Still? Still.) wove Jameson’s cognitive mapping into his narratives of fatherhood, travel, and scholarly authenticity. Jameson was a node in a network of ideas. It wasn’t, “AND NOW JAMESON JAMESON I WILL EXPLAIN TO YOU INSTEAD OF GIVING YOU TIME TO READ IT YOURSELF HERE’S MORE BIG NAMES I’VE GOT DOZENS, HA HA!” (And some presentations were like that. Not in L.27, though. Which we’re still discussing.) Instead, Jameson achieved an equality with beer flights, with pictures of children, with Stuart Hall’s coding/decoding, with William Least Heat Moon and Wendell Berry. It all spoke to each other.

As if you’ll believe me just because I told you so.


Two Ways to Confuse Your Audience, A Guide, by Kyle D. Stedman, PhD:

  1. Use big-theory words over and over without tying them to anything that we can see or touch.
  2. Carefully compose a pastiche of sources, meanings, and ideas, leaving it somewhat up to the audience to put the pieces together, resulting in a lot of meanings that are all in the same key, even if no one self-composed exactly the same mental song.
    • Corollary to 2: This may result in not so much confusion as pleasure.


My 2nd-most-popular tweet from the conference, I think. But I’m not sure it means what I think it might look like it means. (Which is ok. Which is part of my big point. You know that, right?) I’m not even sure what it means myself.

But as with all the best things, I figured out what it sort-of-means-to-me through conversation. On Saturday night, as people were rewteeting, I got into a delightful conversation with a few folks. Look: I can prove it:

(This is the conversation I was in before, during, and after I stopped at Bo’s for a peanut butter shake. Like, picture me sucking on a shake in a dark car, typing on my phone, in the midst of this conversation, trying to get it all in before I get in the car and respond at a stoplight, only at stoplights, I’m not one of those people. And a Bo’s peanut butter shake is both theory and art, let me tell you.)

You know how sometimes a tweet seems to be coyly making a statement through its rhetorical wondering? But sometimes it’s actually someone wondering, unable to land on an answer. In this 2nd-most-popular tweet, this was actually me wondering all the things that it says I’m wondering, not telling-by-pretending-to-wonder. That is: What kinds of changes do I want? When does the artfulness of making instead of explaining affect audiences in such a way that they are moved–emotionally, in time, in real, actual ways–to enact change in the world? And when is that not enough–when do our theories and terminologies and our tellings help cut through the confusedness and polyvocality of art, leading to even more and better action?

And here, dear reader, is me continuing to wo/ander. Hold my hand.

See you next year?


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Don’t Read the Comments: Teaching Fallacies

Yesterday I pulled one of those last-minute changes to teaching plans, and I think I need to think it through a bit here to figure out what I think.

My students in Rhetoric 102 (an argument/research course) are reading Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz’s Everything’s an Argument, and we’re scheduled to talk about fallacies this morning (in half an hour, in fact). Now, I’ve never liked teaching fallacies–it always smacks too much of memorizing terms that aren’t very useful (despite the usefulness of being able to spot fallacies in practice). In previous semesters, I’ve skipped this chapter, using a different textbook. But this is my first time with this book, so I thought I’d dig in.

Unsure of exactly what I would do, I tossed onto my schedule long ago that on individual computers in the lab, we would find fallacies on Daily Kos (liberal) and Instapundit (conservative), sites that the book recommended as places to find things to analyze. But when I actually sat down yesterday and spent time browsing the sites, I got distracted.

Specifically, by this: “Racists Respond to Article about Racism” on Daily Kos. Author UberGoober is responding to a couple of other articles discussing the use of the word nude as a default word meaning “the color of nude skin if you’re white.” Here’s how he links to the first article and responds to it:

Replacing the Fashion Industry’s Definition of “Nude”

At first, I found myself chuckling over the premise of the article. Of course the author wasn’t wrong, but… Really? Is that such a big problem? Silly college kids…  But finally the author got to her real point:

We aren’t trying to condemn the entire fashion industry or all manufacturers of commercial goods as intentionally racist. What we are saying is there are subtle instances of racism ingrained into our daily lives; instances so commonplace they often go unnoticed.

Wow. Bingo! The author is absolutely right.

But here’s where it gets nasty: when a conservative site later cites the OU story to make fun of it, UberGoober read the comments . . . and he says that every single comment was nasty. Here’s how he ends:

For some reason, I was surprised by this. I know not all conservatives are racist.  But it is so commonplace now that it goes unrebutted. Not a single person pointing out the inappropriate responses or suggesting the author may just have a point. Not one.

I’m disgusted. I used to respect the differences between liberals and conservatives (for the record, I used to  be a conservative). There’s nothing to respect here. They aren’t driven by viable alternative political views. They are driven by willful ignorance, bigotry and hatred. And they like it that way.

Ugh, I thought. Here’s an author who tried to dig into fallacious reasoning and just got disgusted by what he found. And I was feeling the same thing. So how was I supposed to deal with this in class–was there a way to work this into a lesson on fallacies? I don’t know. But here’s what I decided:

This morning (in 20 minutes, now), we’ll go to the computer lab. I’ll tell the story of my poking around and finding those articles. Then we’ll open a shared Google Doc that says this:

Practice Identifying Fallacies

I find that people are especially likely to use fallacies when discussing “isms”: qualities like racism or sexism that stir up passionate debate on both sides.

To explore the ways fallacies work in practice, follow these steps:

  1. Skim the list of “isms” from this page, run by the Social Justice Center at Washington University in St. Louis. Focus especially on ones you aren’t as familiar with.
  2. Pick one of the isms and search for it in Google News’s blog search, which is more likely to give you an opinionated point of view than a factual news story. (You may search for a related word if you like–so you can search ableism or ableist.) Here’s how to search:
    • Head to Google News at https://news.google.com/.
    • Search for your word. The results will include news sources and blogs.
    • Underneath the search bar, you can now click “Search tools.” That will make a new bar appear; on it, click “All news” and select “Blogs” instead.

screenshot of Google News

Now your results are all from blogs!

  1. Skim through the search results until you find an opinionated piece that interests you. It might be an article you agree with, disagree with, or aren’t sure about.
  2. Read the article in search of fallacies. Don’t forget to skim the comments! Use EAA ch. 5 for examples of things to look for. If you’re not finding anything, ask yourself, “Is there a part of this argument that I don’t agree with, or that I can imagine someone else not agreeing with?
  3. If you find some fallacies, report them below, under the horizontal line, following my example. If you can use the term from the book, that’s awesome–but if you can’t quite put your finger on how to name the fallacy, that’s okay too. Just describe it so the rest of us (who haven’t read your article) will know what you found. 

Copy the following template, paste it at the bottom of this document, and then fill it in with what you found.

Your name:
Link to webpage you read: [if you hit the space bar right after pasting, it will turn into a link]
Author and title of the webpage: [put the title of the page in quotation marks and capitalize all the big words]
Fallacies you found: [in your own words]

Your name: Dr. Stedman
Link to webpage you read: http://www.oudaily.com/opinion/editorials/replacing-the-fashion-industry-s-definition-of-nude/article_b1280ffc-376b-11e4-9332-0017a43b2370.html
Author and title of the webpage: By The Editorial Board (no author named), “Replacing the Fashion Industry’s Definition of ‘Nude’”
Fallacies you found:  The first commenter compares the article author to ISIS, essentially saying that these “rigid ideas about women’s clothing” are similar to conservative Islam’s requirements that women dress in a certain way. It seems like a fallacious comparison to me–criticizing the word “nude” in fashion is very different than actually regulating what people wear. If I turn to the book, it’s closest to the “faulty analogy,” I think (87-88).

[End of document, with space where they’ll fill in their findings]

Here’s language that I included at first but took out to make the document easier to use:

Side note: Why are fallacies more common on these topics?

My guess is that this is often because of a fundamental disagreement about how to define the “ism.”

An example: some people see racism as relating to a particular moral failure in a particular moment, kind of like saying that a statement was “hateful.” They might say, “A racist statement is one that was purposefully designed to hurt someone of a different race.”

But others see racism as a broad element that is built into a culture at the deepest levels. These people might say, “A racist statement is one that relies on the deep history of inequality that shapes our ideas and relationships and language.” Therefore, a racist statement might not be a purposefully hateful statement, from this point of view–it might be evidence of a deeper cultural problem.

So consider people with these two very different perspectives arguing about if something is or is not racist. How could they ever agree with each other? In that frustration, I think many turn to fallacious arguments.

So why am I telling you all this? I’m not sure. But it’s bugging me more than usual, our inability to have civil discourse, the disturbing nastiness that is lingering under so many of our facades. I mean, I’m a Presbyterian–I shouldn’t be surprised by disturbing nastiness lingering under facades; it’s part of my worldview. But when you see it come out in the comments, it’s a different thing somehow.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say: Kyle, don’t read the comments. Never read the comments.


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Contribute to a new podcast on pedagogy

Greetings! I’ve recently agreed to host and produce a new monthly podcast on pedagogy. Fun, right?

Though the podcast will focus on pedagogy, it will probably especially also cover the other things I’m interested in: digital technology, multimodal assignments, rhetorics of sound and music, intellectual property, fan studies, and kind of everything else, as long as it connects to teaching in some way.

What I Need

For my firstest episode ever, I need your help. I’d like to collect short audio clips from amazing post-secondary teachers around the country (world?) answering the following prompt:

What do you do online to prepare for your classes each semester? What digital tools do you use? What spaces do you set up for yourself and for your students?

Do you have something that you could share in a one-minute audio file (max)? (I bet you do. You think you don’t, but you do. You’re amazing.)

If you want to share, I’d love to get an audio file from you by Wednesday, August 6. Details below on how. But no matter how you choose to share, be sure that I know your name (both spelling and pronunciation) and your institution. If you submit something, I’ll assume I have your permission to include your words and voice–which may be edited for quality and concision–in a freely distributed podcast online; if you’re not okay with that, don’t submit.

Questions? I’m @kstedman.

How to Share

Option 1: You already know how to record a one-minute audio file. 
Excellent! Then all you need to do is email it to me at KyleDStedman [at] gmail. (Don’t miss my middle initial, D, in the email address. Kind of stupid of me to put it there, I know.) I prefer an mp3 at 192 kbps or higher quality, but I’ll really take whatever I can get.

Another way to share is through SoundCloud (an audio storing and streaming site, kind of like the audio equivalent of YouTube). My account there is kstedman. If you upload a track to your (free) SoundCloud account, you can then share it with me easily: go to my profile page, click the little message icon under my picture on the left, and in the message, click “add track”; you’ll be able to choose any file you’ve uploaded. There are also easy ways to share an uploaded file with people via social media and email; just click around (or ask me if you’re not sure).

Option 2: You need some suggestions for recording and editing audio files.
Hey, that’s fine. We all begin somewhere. Recording is easy; it all depends on how fancy you want to get. For instance:

  • You can record straight to SoundCloud if your computer has a built-in mic or if you have a microphone you can plug in (which sounds better, if you’ve got one). Plug your mic in, go to SoundCloud, and click “upload” in the upper right. There will be an option there to record your audio straight to the web, and when you’re done you’ll be able to share it with me (see instructions under Option 1 above) or email it to anyone you want.
  • You can also record straight to SoundCloud on their app (iOS; Android), which actually includes a bit of simple editing as well (so you can edit out false starts and coughs–though I can do that for you too).
  • If you want to get fancier (and who doesn’t?), there’s always Audacity, the powerful free audio editing software. I won’t bulk up this post with instructions, but you can read their Getting Started page. Essentially, you would install Audacity, use it to record yourself speaking, edit anything you want to edit, export to an mp3, and then send that mp3 to me through email or SoundCloud.

Option 3: This is complicated and I’m freaking out and will never help for that reason.
Thanks for your honesty! Take a deep breath, and then consider this possibility: leave me a voicemail with your contribution. I’ve used Google Voice to set up a voicemailbox at area code 815 and then 201 and then 2815. (Trying to avoid spam by writing it funny.) Leave a message there and I’ll be notified!

Now What?

After I get all your awesome contributions (by Wednesday, August 6), I’ll choose a few of the best and most varied, collect them into a podcast with some additional comments from me, and distribute it to my publishing team by the middle of August. When the final product is available, I’ll contact everyone who submitted anything so you’ll know how to access the finished podcast.

(And by the way, if you compose music or know someone who does, consider writing snappy intro/outro music for me!)

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