Friday, December 12, 2008

The End of My Semester.

It is the end of this semester. I cannot say that I will stop my learning and exploration of all things that fall under the realm of discourse and rhetoric.

In fact, it is the opposite. I have become captivated by the power that is held behind the philosophy of rhetorical writing. It is absolutely fascinating. It has made me more aware of my surroundings and how I directly impact those through my rhetoric.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Rhetoric Behind the Tenured

Having a teacher that is tenured is probably the most stressful process I have ever had to overcome. This semester, in catching up with a public university's curriculum I was forced to take a History course I had little to no interest in. I picked the time that was most convenient for me. It was a large class of about 100 students and the teacher was provided with two TAs.

In my new experience, I not only learned how the TAs became a buffer between me and my professor, but also how apathetic the professor was towards his own students. This alarmed me because while the lectures were given by the professor, the grading and understanding of assignments was provided by fellow students, or TAs. I haven't looked into UTEP's mission statement, but I am certain that this low interaction with professors is not part of what they profess. This impacts their image to students that are looking towards that sort of thing. Actually, I think that UTEP's mission statement is almost null and void and its image is right there with it.

This entry isn't about UTEP's lack of a narrative or decisive image as much as it is about the rhetoric of my professor. Midway through the semester, my professor defiantly proclaimed during his lecture that we could "complain but that it would do you no good because I am tenured and cannot be fired." Everyone laughed at that moment, as did I. I thought he was joking because in my experience it has been the goal of most teachers to teach their students and not mock their inability to have their complaints heard and acted upon.

It wasn't until my recent encounter with this professor over a discrepancy with my grade that I encountered exactly what the rhetoric of that statement truly meant. The narrative that he wrote was with that simple statement and through his apathetic nature built his image upon that narrative and furthered strengthened it. Thus leading him to believe that because he is tenured his authority cannot be questioned. I went into his office this past Monday to ask him what it was that he was expecting from a paper that I thought I had written at a higher level than college Freshman English that was the norm and had sufficiently answered the prompt to my best ability. It is with this that he looked at me through the corner of his eye as though I was somehow bothering him. It was before I had finished my questions that he berated me and said that I should speak to the TA that graded my paper. I completely understood his point, yet I felt that a TA that may have the same writing capacity as I had may not be able to objectively grade my paper to its full potential. This was not something that was wanted to be heard by my professor. Instead of obliging me and taking 15 minutes out of his time to read my paper and evaluate his TAs work he instead ushered me out of his office with no reply besides "Take it up with the TA."

As I reflect on this, I realize now that my approach wasn't exactly the most phenomenological approach as I worded my discrepancy, but it wasn't highly offensive either. My better judgment told me that this was not only a problem with image but with the rhetoric that was set up and enforced time and again mid semester. The structure of the class was created, and agency was stripped from each student over time.

This segued into his believing that his power was absolute and could not be questioned. I have a hard time believing that the University in whom I support through my tuition will not listen to the complaints of its primary financial backers. I am currently debating on whether I would be able to question this authority by writing a letter to someone that can help me make an impact. Power is not absolute.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Work and the Lack of Rhetorical Awakenings

As the semester has come to and end, I have realized exactly how much people are unaware of their own personal rhetoric. The story that they are telling through their language and discourse. As I have mentioned, I have become fully aware of rhetoric and what it means for me as both a person and a prospective employee in the workplace.

My part-time job as a secretary is one that I normally don't put too much effort into. Yet, with any job that I have, I try to identify myself with the company that employees me. The structure that the company I currently work for is disorganized and sends a mixed message not only to its employees but to its customers as well. I understand the problems of being a home business start up, but establishing their structure as an organization was essential before they began hiring. The structure has become weak, and they have lost several employees because of this. Having read Faber's analysis on MacKenzie College I know that change is possible. While change is not automatic, it is not completely unattainable.

I have taken the readings from Faber and have began to apply them to this current work situation. How can my agency influence the current structure of the organization? I know that it can, and because I am aware of this I have begun to take steps towards the daunting task of re-structuring of the organization. My agency overlaps that of the structure of the organization. I keep to what the basic structure is, but emphasize and build on this with my own agency thus impacting the overall narrative and image.

In other words, not only am I putting customers first, I am setting a precedent that wasn't there before. I am letting customers know that they are a valued part of this organization, because without them it wouldn't be an organization at all. I think the hardest part of this is that I am doing so under my boss who doesn't completely understand what I would mean by structure and agency. The way that I approach this is cautiously. I don't want my boss to think that I am trying to overtake their image and structure, but I also don't think that their current image is a sustainable one. I haven't devised a "plan" to implement these changes, I just continue to work with my customer service skills and ability to identify with customers. I have learned this while working with multinational corporations who have their own organizational culture and structure. The ability to assimilate to a new organizational culture and structure is one that should be valued in any possible candidate for employment. I find that this ability allows me to further serve the organization I work for.

This has been the basis of wanting to change my current employer's structure. I am not trying to "change" it completely. I am just trying to influence the image and narrative so that it is more completely able to serve their customers and employees without the interruption of inconsistencies.

How do you explain rhetoric to those that have no concept of it outside of a "rhetorical question"?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Rhetorical Thanksgiving

One of the most ironic things about taking this class is how much it has affected my perception of the outside world. I am constantly more aware of what is going on around me and often find myself evaluating people's words and trying to define their "governing gazes." While Emig's inquiry paradigm is meant to be applied to the workplace, I often find myself applying it outside of the workplace as I am currently unemployed.

One of these such occasions was at Thanksgiving with my family. I have a rather large family with 10 uncles and 1 aunt, all on my mom's side. Any holiday where a vast majority of the family gets together is a huge event. Personalities always clash and it rarely goes smoothly.

I began to look at my family as a business or organization. Thus applying the theories I learned to my family. First off, the structure that was created through the individual agency of family members was incredibly flawed. We had become a hierarchical organization in which the oldest were the most dominant, and the youngest had little to no agency. Agency in this context would be the ability to express an uncensored opinion to the group.

Of course, being one of the younger ones I was aware of this structure and aware of the agency that was inherently mine for the taking. I utilized Emig's theory of "governing gaze" and my ability to be phenomenological to accurately and efficiently communicate with my eldest uncles.

To my surprise, I wasn't rejected and more often than not, my opinion was respected. I was able to discrusively appeal to their idea of what the structure implied. In other words, I was no longer considered just a child, but my opinion as an adult was taken and valued. For me, this is something that I had never experienced. My opinion was heard and valued, not belittled. My family is the typical structure where males are seen as "smarter" than the women, with women's opinions meaning next to nothing. I wanted to change this, because in my opinion I had a more educated opinion than the majority of my elder male counterparts.

This is something that while it seems extreme is exactly how I view most families. Most families have elders that must be respected. If you are aware of your ability to manipulate structure through your discourse, then you are in control of your own agency. In this, I was able to actively apply several theorists to my personal life to further my own agency within the structure of my family.

It felt so good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Of Infinite Rhetorical Wisdom, Faber States...

"power is perhaps better seen to be a much more dynamic, productive, insidious phenomenon. Viewing power as an exclusively oppressive phenomenon does little to characterize the multiple ways in which power operates." (114)

Faber in this quote states the definition of power as it relates to image. On the recommendation of Professor Ramirez, I am going to take one of my favorite quotes in Faber's Communication Action and Organizational Change and hopefully uncover where it takes me in my writing.

As I read this, I thought of the power that is given to several authorities throughout our lives. Especially to government. Specifically the so called democractic government of the United States.

As Americans, we have become complacent in the role given to us by our own government. I won't begin to deny that I don't agree with everything the government has done. Yet, there is nothing that I have done to take on the power that the United States has created through its structure. They have created an image that is one of infallible rule over its people.

Throughout the times, citizens have questioned the validity of this power and have often wondered whether it is truly absolute. One such event is the World Trade Organization protests in 1999 that took place in Seattle, WA. The World Trade Organization is an organization that is meant to promote free trade throughout the world. A trend that leans towards globalization and the strengthening of societal divides, in other words the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Over 40,000 citizens stood up to peacefully protest this meeting of world powers on how they meant to stifle something they didn't believe in.

I watched a documentary years ago titled, "This is What Democracy Looks Like." It still makes the top 10 of my all time favorite documentaries. It chronicles the rhetoric that was used in mainstream media to turn the general public against the protesters of the WTO. This rhetoric was influenced by the power claimed by the United States and the World Trade Organization. It also makes mention of how a united front against power can take back its agency and affect the power that an organization may hold.

These people believed strongly enough in their ability to apply pressure on the government that they had elected to represent their best interests. They had agency in the face of structure, in the face of the phenomenon of power. They continued to hold their right to agency and directly influenced the turnout of the summit in Seattle.

If common people have the ability to influence the phenomenon and notion of power, then why is it now that we remain steadfastly silent? As the government continues to exercise its self-proclaimed power over us we sit and wait until someone else does something before we stand up and combat that power. Most of us aren't aware that the power of the government is held through their rhetoric and structure. This is our inability to effectively challenge that status quo and make changes for the better.

For me, Faber ultimately describes the absolute power that is held by the government and states that that power can be challenged through agency.

So, I ask. Why haven't we used our agency to challenge the invisible powers of government?

I also hope that this post doesn't put me on the FBI's most wanted list. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Questioning Rhetorical Questions

I am currently enrolled in a junior level English course, entitled "Workplace Writing." My initial expectations for the class was to learn to create resumes and memos. I was expecting it to be a class that would not challenge my mind and abilities. A breeze through class that so many people pray for. The exception to this rule, being me. I live for a challenge.

Unlike most students, I am at the stage in my life where I want to be challenged in something I know I can excel in. As a music major, I excelled in something I had no formal training in. My brain was fried, I had 3 semesters left and decided that I was done. It helped plant the seed for my deep love and appreciation for all types of music, but I couldn't continue on. I moved back to El Paso to start a new life and get my focus back. I am hungry for new life lessons, having just had the biggest one yet. Moving from your well established life isn't necessarily the way to deal with your problems, it is running. In the back of my head, I knew it was running, but I had myself convinced that I was doing it for me. I can't go back on my decision now, so I am pursuing a different degree at UTEP.

Which led me to take this junior level English course. The first day we were introduced to "rhetoric" and the theory of "rhetoric." My first impression was that this class was going to be incredibly difficult and not useful to a business degree. I quickly learned that the theory of rhetoric is implanted in our every day lives, we just don't face it with acknowledgment. The past three months that I have been learning about rhetoric and discourse, I have applied what I have learned to my every day life and work. I am more aware when the word rhetoric is tossed around. I analyze it differently, it no longer means "rhetorical question" it has a deeper meaning now.

Okay, so that is nice, but what is the reason for this blog?

This blog is not only to explore how rhetoric impacts my daily life, but also my daily life through my eyes. I think it is increasingly difficult to understand how one relates to certain events. We live in a time where it is possible to get an "inside" but censored point of view. I want to make my experiences public, to hopefully solicit objective opinions from strangers and friends.

Here is to blogging...