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Idea for Rhetoric Paper October 9, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5364, Kemp, Rhetoric, Writing.
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Finally nailed down a topic for Kemp’s 20th Century Rhetoric. Found an African American orator/feminist from the 19th century that interested me: Maria W. Stewart; I’m always interested in “the firsts” – those people who seem to be a voice for a generation of others to come along and promote an agenda. Stewart was one of the first – if not the first AA woman to speak out on women’s rights.  As I did preliminary research on her, I noticed that there wasn’t much on her. Some, but not a lot. Decided I wanted to do a rhetorical analysis on one of Stewart’s speeches, but the key is I have to frame this paper within 20th century rhetoric. What does this mean for me? Reading and delving into more Woolf, Foucault, Burke, and others to get my grounding for the paper.

Last night, while in 20th Century Rhetoric, I was skimming through our textbook when I noticed that Stewart was in the book. Kemp mentioned something like, Well, we at least know she’s known if she’s in this book. Which of course, made me worry. One of my biggest issues has been not wanting to reinvent the wheel with projects I do.

So I skimmed the introduction of “19th Century Rhetoric” in the textbook and it speaks of Stewart, briefly. What I found interesting was that she and other women of color were lumped into “The Development of Women’s Rhetorics” section of the introduction; whereas, men of color received their own section: “The Rhetorics of Men of Color.” Significant? Probably not, but it’s something that makes me go, Hmmm.

My worries of reinventing the wheel, somewhat, have been abated. In reading the introduction leading into Stewart’s work in the textbook, there is still not a lot of work done on Stewart, so I’m sure I can lend my voice to the discourse on this extraordinary woman.


Chapter 35 ~ “The New Forms of Control” by Herbert Marcuse October 7, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
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Chapter 35 ~ “The New Forms of Control” by Herbert Marcuse (1964)

“A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress” (405).

In the earlier stages of industrial society, according to Marcuse, rights and liberties were an extreme importance; but now, they are losing their traditional rationale and content.

When Marcuse states, “Independence of thought, autonomy, and the right to political opposition are being deprived of their basic critical function in a society which seems increasingly capable of satisfying the needs of the individuals through the way in which it is organized” (405), I can’t help but to wonder if this means society is now “creating” a pseudo-independence for people.

At a time, it seemed as if autonomy could be realized through technology; if technology could be harnessed to take care of people’s needs, then people could move beyond necessity toward a freedom that enveloped autonomy.

Marcuse asserts that actually the opposite of this occurs; “the apparatus [technology, machine] imposes its economic and political requirements for defense and expansion on labor time and free time, on the material and intellectual culture” (406).

Talks of the political world and its stronghold on technology, a stronghold that mobilizes society over any one individual or group, but this can be reversed, creating a potential basis of a new freedom of man. This freedom requires us to redefine traditional terms of economic, political, and intellectual liberties.

In Marcuse’s discussion on true and false needs, he realizes there is a need to figure out what exactly are false needs and what are true needs. If Man must be “free” in order to give his or her distinction, how do we free ourselves in order to differentiate?

Marcuse states “as long as they [man] are kept incapable of being autonomous, as long as they are indoctrinated and manipulated (down to their very instincts), their answer to this question cannot be taken as their own” (407).

So, how do those who have been manipulated and dominated for so long create conditions of freedom for themselves?

For Marcuse, this comes from the “replacement of false needs by true ones, the abandonment of repressive satisfaction” (407), but I wonder if that can even be done. Would be this individually based? Feels like, at some point, even true needs of one could ultimately become false needs of someone else.

Advanced industrial societies, by their nature, suffocate liberation. The ability to choose disintegrates because those in control select the choices as oppose to the individual deciding “what can be chosen and what is chosen” (407). If the choices are connected to the sustainment of society control, then they are not really choices FOR the individual.

This domination has been so enforcing that to even think outside of societal norms is to seem “irrational,” and even though Marcuse makes note of the idea of “inner freedom,” even that he says “has been invaded and whittled down by technological reality” (408).

This consuming of individual thought is a disturbing one…but not a new one. In some ways, I liken it to Foucault’s thoughts on the Panopticon. Everyone who is a part of the Panopticon plays a part in its running, from the warden to the prisoner to the society who watches it all. The Panopticon is a framework to which all its “participants” actively play a particular role. In the society Marcuse discusses, there is a similar “play.” Society, with its technological progress, blankets individuals with a way of living and after being indoctrinated into that way of life come to see it as “normal.” Once you have been trained to see society’s thoughts as your own thoughts, how can you possibly break away from that?

Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault September 27, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR.
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Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault (1978)

Foucault begins with a discussion about the plague and what happened in a town when the plague arose.

1- strict spatial partitioning
2- ceaseless inspection
3- strict purification

It is a town of segmented discipline. The chaos and uncertainty of the plague demanded a power structure be developed that secured society…and the plague itself.

Foucault then mentions lepers and illustrates a distinction between the leper and the plague-filled town; the leper initiated separate societies; however, the plague called for disciplined societies.

Foucault likens this disciplined society to Bentham’s “Panopticon,” in which visibility is a trap.

Individualizing the surveillance, which is done in the Panopticon, helps to avoid the angry mob syndrome, keeping individuals from coming together as a group to fight against “the machine.” In doing this, the “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” (592).

So, unlike the plague, in which its effects have a top-down mentality of power, the Panopticon works as much as the people being watched work (within the minute exertions of discipline). Because no one person, like a king, controls it, this mechanism can be utilized in various ways – the prison system, the health system, the school system, and the work environment system, to name a few.

I’m not entirely sure, but in the right column of 593, it seems as if Foucault is implying that even those at the top of the Panopticon mechanism become trapped within its casing.

Foucault spends a few pages comparing the system derived from the plague and the Panopticon mechanism, one of which is that with the plague “an exceptional situation” occurs that mobilizes power against its extraordinary evil; whereas, the Panopticon is “a generalizable model of functioning” (594).

A great deal of manipulation occurs in both, but that manipulation seems to be finessed in the Panopticon as if each movement is tested and analyzed and reconfigure to increase power, disabling the ability for it to break down. The mechanism – unlike most power structures in which those in power keep the knowledge strictly among themselves – is transparent, allowing outsiders a glimpse into how it works, making the power not so much about one person but about the society as a whole. This connection of society also illustrates that the individual is not disconnected from social order but “fabricated in it” (596). Makes me wonder, in this scenario, if something does go wrong all we all to blame because we are about the knowledge that makes and generates this power.

The Panopticon, with its efficiency, has the ability to make power more economic. It doesn’t seem that its ultimate goal is to develop humanity despite outcomes such as the spread of education and of public morality.

I read this and take things such as power, the “gaze” mentioned early on, and the individualistic coercion and think about the classroom as a sort of Panopticon. There is a structure that’s intrinsically connected to a classroom, very transparent, but when the one person stands before a classroom of students, line of power are almost immediately drawn and understood. And though there might be the chance of a mutiny against the teacher, the classroom is very individualistic as each student knows he/she is being watched and analyzed by the instructor.

In regards to technology, I wonder if the Internet is the Panopticon…if that’s what we’re supposed to get from this reading. Does the internet individualize us? Does it exert a sort of power of us that conforms us in so subtle a way that we fail to realize our part in the development? And if we are to like the Internet as the Panopticon, then how is this power structure spreading education, public morality, the economy? I can see education and economy, but public morality? No.