writing: October 2004 Archives

we being Brand

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-new; and you
know consequently a
little stiff

Couple of weeks ago, Clancy posted an inquiry about Cluetrain, whether anyone in the field was picking it up or not, and that question has been bouncing around in my head ever since. It came at a time where I was thinking about excerpting it for my class next semester, and at a time when I've been adding people like Hugh MacLeod to my aggregator (having already aggregated the Cluetrain principals).

This morning, I came across an entry at Doc Searls's site, on the issue of branding, and that set me to thinking even more. (good set of followables there, that I won't simply repeat here)

The gist of Doc's remarks is that there is an inverse relationship between company-sponsored or -encouraged blogging and the strength of that company's brand. In other words, companies that have a high-intensity brand (like Apple, e.g.) need to exercise a great deal of control over the information that leaves the company. Hence, they're not likely to be as blog-friendly, which would require a certain amount of relaxation of control over information flow.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the corporate metaphor for education--I think it was Anne Balsamo who said once that education needs no metaphor--but in this case, I've been thinking about how compatible blogging will prove to be in composition classes. Actually, that's sounding a lot more philosophical than I mean it to--maybe I'm just responding belatedly to this thread from Kairosnews.

Anyhow, the connection for me among all of these things is whether or not we've basically treated the type of writing we profess as a brand--Academic Discourse®, perhaps--one that we find ourselves engaged in what Hugh calls egofriction, or as GaryM notes in the comments to that post, "a subconscious desire to have their side win." In other words, we hold on very tightly to what we do in our courses, particularly when it comes under fire from people in other disciplines, the general public, New Yorker columnists, whoever. And I'm as guilty of this as anyone--there are plenty of times where my interaction with these constituencies is more about "winning" than about anything particularly educational.

I'm not suggesting that we start reducing what we do to corporate-speak, but rather that we ask ourselves honestly if that isn't already what we do. If so, if we're involved in protecting our brand of writing, then it's hard for me to see how blogging is going to find a comfortable home in our departments, and I say that fully aware of the colossal overgeneralization I'm offering here. I'm not sure, however, that it's any worse of an overgeneralization than the ones we take for granted in the establishment and protection of our brand.

No grand conclusions or answers here--that's just what I've been thinking about this morning. That is all.

The final deconstruction

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Jacques Derrida passed away last night, according to the BBC, succumbing to cancer at the age of 74.

News coverage will describe his obscurity, the controversies over his work, the difficulty of understanding deconstruction, etc. For me, though, JD was one of those once-in-a-generation thinkers whose work has become so diffuse across disciplines that there are literally hordes of writers who owe a great deal to his work without even realizing it. As I was working on my book this summer, I was amazed at how many times his work peeked through my own, and I don't really consider myself especially Derridean in my approach to things.

Two years ago, I taught Of Grammatology in my 20th Century Rhetoric course, and I remain convinced that Derrida, who is identified primarily as a philosopher, is one of the most important rhetoricians of the past century. He will never be recognized as such, I suspect, because his work is so difficult to encapsulate into keywords or simplistic patterns. Language is difficult, and Derrida's writing both attempts to understand and to perform that difficulty. But to see him simply as "difficult" underestimates one of the most important thinkers of our lifetime.

more on shortcuts

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I wanted to write a little more about the idea of "shortcuts," because I shouldn't assume the self-evidence of the way that I'm using it. I'm working from an idea that Ball talks about in Critical Mass, and specifically from an article that I downloaded, from Joshua Epstein, who's at the Brookings Institution.

Epstein, Joshua M. "Learning to be Thoughtless: Social Norms and Individual Computation." Computational Economics 18 (2001): 9-24.



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This page is a archive of entries in the writing category from October 2004.

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