Digital Production

Reflections on the ARST Oral History Project

ARST OHP Interviewees

For some time, I have been meaning to write up a more comprehensive “behind-the-scenes” account of the Association for the Rhetoric of Science and Technology (ARST) Oral History Project (OHP). The ARST OHP is a collection of interviews of rhetoricians of science, technology, and medicine conducted at the 20th anniversary meeting of the organization at the 2012 National Communication Association convention. The organizing and technical dimensions of the project were challenging and educational–my goal here is to make those facets of the project more visible so that others might be able to conduct similar projects. (You might read that as a “too much detail” warning.)


Twitter Copia

John Muckelbauer captures perfectly my past frustration in teaching invention: it “cannot be explained representationally (as if it were a theme or an idea). Perhaps it can only be demonstrated performatively” (in his fantastic The Future of Invention: Rhetoric, Postmodernism, and the Problem of Change, SUNY Press, 2008, xi).

So, taking inspiration from Erasmus’s strategy of copia (but funneling that inspiration through a 140 character limit), my graduate Networked Rhetorical Theory class invented 100 definitions of invention in under ten minutes to perform inventional processes.
The prompt: “Define” invention Twitter style, in 140 characters or less.

1. Invention is the result of juxtaposition.
2. Invention: when collision becomes collusion.
3. Invention: the initial frontier.
4. New. Knew. Invention.
5. Invention is the process of reworking the tradition to address contemporary issues.
6. Invention…when =/ and =/ become =D and =/ and =(
7. Invention: a social reaction to “waves of agitation”
8. Invention is thoughtful novelty.
9. #invention is hermeneutical
10. Invention improves upon the wheel
11. Invention results in arrangement
12. Invention: where collisions create relations.
13. Invention: the result of unpredictable solutions
14. The ways by which arguments are brought into being.
15. Invention requires wisdom.
16. Birth of beginning
17. ?? ??????= invention
18. Making the wise sound appealing
19. Because even if nothing is new under the sun, we can damn well try.
20. Amalgamating that which is out there into a statement that reflects your desired position
21. Rhetorical Bricologe
22. “When two become one” – Spice Girls
23. Invention is the process of reconciling difference in pursuit of the common.
24. Invention is the process of reconciling the common with our desire to pursue the different.
25. Ulmer’s student’s invent MyStory
26. Invention is legos: make what you can imagine out of the things you have
27. Rhetorical Invention is composition
28. Instructions to rhetorical jenga
29. Invention: my enemy is my enemy, but I cannot pretend that he does not exist.
30. Invention is innovative, new, and old.
31. Invention occurs without citation, but hey. Who’s keeping track?
32. Wants an eclipse despite nothing new under the sun
33. Invention is basically your wedding; something new. something borrowed, or something blue.
34. Invention is fetishized. Invention is choosing what not to say
35. Invention is the first step
36. Invention: all the best parts of Scrabble
37. Invention is what happens at the point of articulation.
38. Tag you’re it, now you know we are playing
39. Invention comes from word vomit
40. Understanding of invention are narrow in composition
41. Invention is the means by which identification is fostered
42. Invention is an orgy of creative processes
43. The space between imagined and repeated
44. A mashup of disparate ideas
45. Invention is more than prewriting
46. Invention is collaborative
47. Invention is the toolbox of any spin-doctor
48. Invention: when tension demands mention and extension.
49. Invention apparently happens in silence!
50. Invention: when you subvert convention.
51. Invention is strategic.
52. Invention is like your grandma: inseparable from tradition.
53. double edged sword of religion
54. Invention is the argumentative remix
55. Invention: It’s what’s for dinner
56. Invention: it’s the reason why there’s “the other white meat”
57. Invention is dialectical
58. Invention is the toolbox of any spin-doctor and of the band the spin doctors
59. Hermeneutic invention relies on the sturdiness of a final object
60. Apparently, Invention is judged as well as leading to judgment.
61. Invention things outside the box and likes long walks on the beach.
62. Invention what is gained by noticing the fact there are two number 62s
63. the need to continue numbering
64. Invention is contextually bound
65. Invention is creative.
66. Invention is what we are doing right now
67. Invention would sure be helpful right about now.
68. Invention is why you don’t proofread first.
69. Invention created you and I
70. Invention is the juxtaposition of results.
71. Invention is intertextual
72. Invention created hip hop.
73. Hoping the dropbox can drop the mic
74. Superfluous if not tied to substance
75. Invention is NETWORKED
76. Invention expands the hermeneutic
77. Is the only probability I am interested in
78. Weirdly enough, audiences aren’t too stupid for invention.
79. Invention never ends
80. Because what is ‘naturalized’ is really the product of our terministic screens.
81. Invention is a tango sensemaking and reality
82. Invention is on purpose or by accident.
83. Because we still have so many to go before 147.
84. Because my invention may lead to your invention.
85. The internet affords invention
86. Invention is open source
87. Anonymous panda keeping us on track
88. Invention is pirating
89. Invention is free
90. ^^ But not free from outside interpretation.
91. Invention can be fashionable.
92. Invention drives the enthy-meme.
93. Invention is changing the borders on the map.
94. Invention: not in, not about vents. Discuss.
95. Trying to figure out if remix is a byproduct of reduce, reuse, recycle
96. Invention is not necessarily scientific
97. IS the process of encouraging or enabling a specific specific text
98. Invention is plagiarism
99. Invention is monkeys with typewriters, even if they don’t get to Hamlet.
100. Invention is grad students with typewriters, even if they don’t get to Hamlet.

The top 5 (ok, 6) as nominated by the class:

31. Invention occurs without citation, but hey. Who’s keeping track?
89. Invention is free
90. ^^ But not free from outside interpretation.
36. Invention: all the best parts of Scrabble
79. Invention never ends
48. Invention: when tension demands mention and extension.

Digital Production

Student Showcase

Perhaps the most impressive student project I’ve ever seen for my Visual Communication class:

Digital Production

When Tomatoes Polarize: A Student Documentary from COMM 189H

In the Fall of 2013, I had the pleasure of teaching COMM 189H, a course I titled “In Search of the Common: Rhetorics of Extremism, Moderation, and Polarization.” The course engaged in the study of a number of themes, from the history and virtues of moderation, to rhetorical scholarship in the wake of the tumult of the 1960s, to the impact of internetworked technologies on public discourse, and critiques of civility. Much like when I taught the course in the Fall of 2010, I worked with the students to research, write, storyboard, edit, film, and produce a documentary which ultimately was titled “In Search of the Common: When Tomatoes Polarize.” (The subtitle references a gonzo-style experiment in which we tried to polarize students outside the union against tomatoes–a cause near and dear to my heart.)

This year, in addition to the documentary, we maintained a blog which featured regular student writing on the course themes, and a podcast series where we archived interviews with various experts that helped us sort through some of these big ideas.


OkSoWhatNow Podcast Interview

I had the pleasure of speaking with Alexander Jerri, who produces a podcast in the style of This American Life called OkSoWhatNow. The topic of the conversation is comments on newspaper articles–what to do when citizens have greater tools to provide feedback on news stories. The whole podcast is fascinating, and I come in at the 37:00 minute mark. Although this is the second time I’ve been featured on a podcast; it is the first time where an extended part of the interview is aired. There’s something to be said for this genre!

Listen to it here.

Digital Production

Old Website, New Website

Thanks to the Web Committee’s hard work over the past year, we unveiled a new website. Design by Arboreal:


‘Like’ Isn’t What It Used to Be

Ain’t that the truth. I was recently interviewed by Kristi Gustafson Barlette of, about the dilution of the verb ‘like’ via Facebook:

The act of “networked liking” has diluted the significance of preference in the same way that the idea of “friend” has been diluted by the act of friending everyone and anyone through social networking sites, says Damien Smith Pfister, assistant professor in the department of communication studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. ”Whenever something becomes easier to express, it threatens to make that expression less significant. The more difficult communication is, the more significant it tends to be.”

The current trend toward “liking” is a rather unbalanced reflection of the human ability to like and dislike, says Pfister. There has been a demand to produce an official “dislike” button of Facebook for some time, which has been resisted by Facebook executives.


“Probably because Facebook recognizes that cycles of ‘liking’ produce positive feelings that further embeds people’s communicative lives into the site. ‘Disliking’ might turn the site more negative and ultimately cause people to tune out one more point source for cynicism and negativity,” Pfister says. “At the same time, more dislike buttons would allow people to express a slightly wider range of reaction. Right now, it’s ‘like’ or nothing — but wouldn’t our conversations be enriched more by knowing what people don’t like as well?”

Those of you who know me, or have been in my class, may recognize this riff: I’ve maintained for some time that the notion of ‘friend’ has faded to the middle distance as a meaningful term that organizes our intimate lives; similarly, I’ve made the point several times that the presence of a like button instead of a dislike button signals the knowledge of the Facebook hierarchy that positive affect keeps the eyeballs glued.


The Unbearable Nachoness of Interbeing

Summer 1997, Bethlehem, PA. I went up to Moravian College to work as a teaching assistant for the Center for Academic Achievement, an offshoot of the Center for Talented Youth run out of Johns Hopkins.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

I knew that I was going to be the assistant to a more seasoned teacher. The course was Public Speaking. The audience was gifted junior high school students.

The more seasoned teacher was Nathaniel Cordova, a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland. He was known as “Nacho.”

I found out that Nacho died this past Monday. It has hit me pretty hard. Nacho had an enviable perspective on life and death, as recounted by Darrel Enck-Wanzer. He was ordained into the Order of Interbeing, and so had many variations on the theme “we are connected in death, in this endless cycle of being and becoming and hopefully transformation, always not knowing.” Although I am shaken by grief, I want to honor Nacho by dwelling on a few memories and observations in the hope that I can move my own sorrow, and perhaps others’ sorrows, into something more transformative.

Digital Production

From Public Sphere to Public Screen

Digital Production

Digital Ways of Seeing

Last semester, my Honors Visual Communication class researched, wrote, edited, storyboarded, filmed, edited, and produced a documentary called Digital Ways of Seeing. This hour long documentary attempts to illustrate how visual culture has been changed by digital media. I had a very light directorial hand in this effort–the students really took the baton and ran with it. Fairly amazing what you can do as amateurs these days to create artifacts that outlast the class…

You can watch the individual segments at our channel on YouTube.