You break it, you own it!

If a football team were this dysfunctional the owner would fire the coach. If a company ran this ineptly it would be out of business.  The country is broke, both literally and figuratively.  The national debt is in the trillions and the animus among our elected officials is not only palpable it is destructive.  Elections are held, promises are made, results are tabulated, yet nothing changes.  The ranker continues with the only visible difference being who is holding the gavel in the United States House of Representatives.

A football coach that not only allowed but also in many cases manifested a level of divisiveness between offensive and defensive players would be out of a job.  A businessperson who made decisions based on their own self-interests instead of what was in the best interest for the company would fail, leaving employees and investors to pick up the pieces.

On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention.  They chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. During his acceptance speech, Lincoln famously uttered the words, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” to advocate his position against slavery. While respectfully repeated today, at the time these words were not well received.  Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, thought that Lincoln was morally courageous but politically incorrect.

“Morally courageous but politically incorrect” is a perfect definition of the word “statesman.”  Although Lincoln lost that Senatorial election, he stayed true to his words and later won election to a much higher national office.  No matter what your political leaning is, what present-day politician do you believe merits the designation, statesman/women?

The day finally arrived, after eighteen long years you turned eighteen.  Upon turning eighteen, every American is bestowed the equal right of ownership—of a nation.  You are now officially part of the “We” in “We the People.” Remember when you were young going into a store with many breakable items in arms reach?  The storeowner posted the same sign on almost every shelve to warn adults, “You break it, you own it!”  Congratulations, you are now legally an adult, the country is broke, and you own it.

The above context leads into the topic of the empowerment of the nation’s newest ownership block.  It is painfully obvious that those in my generation have done enough, thank you.   In a reasonably short period, we have ineptly and selfishly ground the nation to a financial, moral, and ethical malaise.  When statesmanship was needed, we devolved into partisan bickering, name-calling, and division.  When you hear, pundits say, “We are spending our grandkids money,” you need to take it personal because they are talking about your children.

How can you make a difference?  Certainly you can live up to your obligation as a citizen by voting every two years.  That would be a start but consider, if what is happening to the nation was happening in your daily life (and it is) would you only voice an opinion every two years?  What will spur you into action?  Consider the following situation and, after reading the unbiased facts commissioned by and sent to the members of the U.S. Congress see if you agree with their decision.  Keep in mind they will be spending your kids money.

  • The Department of Defense (DoD) Manual 4165.63-M titled “DOD Housing Management” clearly states, “Communities near military installations are relied on as the primary source of housing for DoD personnel.
  • In no fewer than seven reports since May 2001 the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) has criticized the DoD for their failure to comply with their own policy of military members utilizing off base housing.
  • The DoD Inspector General reported that the services use inaccurate housing market analysis when determining the need for military housing.
  • After meeting with each of the services to discuss the methodology for determining housing requirements, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) concluded that a primary goal of the services seemed to be to protect their current family housing inventories.
  • In a report, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Rand Corporation found that, “On the margin, members and the military services would both benefit from higher housing allowances and less military housing.”
  • Studies by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and DOD have shown that compared to the cost of providing military housing, the government’s cost is significantly less when military families are paid housing allowances and live in private housing.
  • Over a five-year period, beginning in 2000, Congress authorized taxpayer dollars to be used to increase military housing allowance by 66% so that military members could afford to live off base without any out-of-pocket expenses.
  • The overwhelming preference of military service members is to live off base

In spite of the above facts and warnings the Republican controlled Congress, responding to a request from the DoD created legislation authorizing the Military Housing Privatization Initiative.  This legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.  The authorization was made permanent by President George W. Bush in 2005.

This is a relevant and timely example of how self-centered motivations and the failure to take advantage of all available facts on the part of decision makers can lead to the indebtedness to which your children will be subjected.

The answer to this type of misuse of taxpayer’s dollars by government officials is by the citizenry being more engaged in the process.  The decision you must make is whether you will focus your efforts on social issues or political issues.  Although, it was during a political campaign Lincoln’s, “A house divided” was directed at the social issue of slavery.  Dr. Martin Luther King fought against the social issue of segregation.  Both these American heroes were involved in politics but their focus was on what was right for the country not what was politically expedite.  The social issue drove the politics not the other way around.

The best example of social verses politics was evident during the last presidential campaign.  Barack Obama was lampooned for only being a community organizer by the same people who advocated limited federal government and lower taxes to facilitate small business based on their long held principles and values.  The disconnect in this thought process was telling.

At their core a community organizer is to local social issues as small businesses are to the local economy.  Both most react to a constantly changing environment, acknowledge and address their customer’s needs on a daily basis, and are immediately held accountable for the decisions they make.  Some opponents said that although his work was admirable he lacked administrative experience.  This would lead one to concur that his naysayers believed that the principles and values successfully used on the local level could not be applied at the federal level.  Unfortunately, it would appear that on this supposition they were correct.

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Audio Project: Your Life Flashes Before Your Eyes

The concept for this sound project is that just before you die important times and the memories they engender flash before your eyes.

The audio begins with sounds of the chaos of the battlefield, a warning of imminent danger, and punctuated with one rifle shot.  An approaching helicopter, heard in the background just as the report of the rifle is fades, now takes over simulating a medical evacuation mission to remove the wounded soldier from further danger.  The helicopter sound will remain in the background to give the passing of real time as the soldier’s life passes in memory time.

An EKG is heard to set the scene of the severity of the soldier’s wounds.  It is at this time, with the reality of impending death almost certain, that the soldier’s life begins to pass before his eyes.  Sounds of his birth fade into sounds of his childhood and then sounds of his wedding precession concluding finally with the laughing of his newborn child.

With the helicopter still in the background the laughs of his child is joined by the playing of taps.  These three sounds paint the story that the solider succumbed to his battlefield wounds while on the helicopter and that as taps, signifying his passing, are played his child continues laughing, signifying that her innocence and life go on.

The purpose of the piece was to give audio context to the following obituary:

Army Staff Sergeant Edward Smith died as a result of a gunshot wound

suffered while leading his squad against insurgents in Afghanistan.  SFC

Michael Jones said, “Sergeant Smith was in the lead and exposed himself

to enemy fire to warn us of enemy forces approaching on our left flank.

It was then that an enemy sniper round hit him in the chest.”

Smith died while on a medical evacuation helicopter transporting

him to a field hospital.  Staff Sergeant Smith, 24, from Peoria, Illinois is

survived by his wife Vicki and their six month old daughter Sarah.

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Project Idea

Of the three choices available the only one I can relate to is that offered by Jennifer Sheppard.  Sheppard stressed the importance of “targeting your audience”.  In “The Rhetorical Work of Multimedia Production Practices: It’s More than Just Technical Skill” she argues that the increased prevalence in the use of multimodal communication necessitates a better understanding of capabilities and the limitations of multimodal communications and what goes into a multimedia production.  She went on to say, “the primary approach to any multimedia project should always begin with highlighting the needs, interests, and technical resources of the intended users”

As a student I am part of an audience.  It has become apparent that I needed greater computer skills to successfully participate in this course.  It also appears it was assumed that I had such knowledge.  It is difficult to integrate technology with rhetorical composition when you don’t understand the capabilities and/or the limitations of the technology.

Therefore, I will argue from the perspective of an audience member who knows what it is like to be overwhelmed and frustrated because of their technological limitations.  I will argue that the most well intentioned attempt to impart information using multimedia presentations will fail if you don’t know, and more importantly, acknowledge the “needs, interests, and technical resources”  of your audience.

There is an unfortunate symmetry between the argument I will make and the reason I enrolled in this class.  My hope was to learn the technology skills needed to incorporate them with the reams of written information I have compiled and tailor them in a multimedia presentation based on the needs, interests, and technical resources of multiple audiences.

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Responce #3

Making multiple and painful forays into getting through Frances Wysocki’s “The Sticky Embrace of beauty” led to an initial conclusion that it may have been helpful for the author to read, and more importantly comply with her apparent opinion on the importance regarding “form verses content” .  The quality of the copy (the form), combined with fifty-seven year old eyes (audience limitations), only exasperated the mind-numbing experience of trying to understand the content.  The page from the New Yorker, on which she initiated her commentary, was completely unreadable, save the picture she directs the reader’s attention to.

The first flaw detected centers on credibility—specifically a lack of credibility.  Who is Frances Wysocki, what were the “notions of beauty, developed in the eighteenth century,” and what justifies using one or the other as either an expert on the subject of “the fields of visual composition, graphic design, and visual communication” or as a benchmark for comparison to the present day (149)?

Throughout the piece Wysocki frequent use of the first person pronoun “I” does nothing to aid in establishing her credibility, it only serves as an underpinning for the need for it.  In an apparent attempt to offer support for her position Wysocki references Robin Williams (apparently not the comedic actor) and Johanna Drucker.  This fails to help establish her credibility by the means of associated credibility because there are no credentials presented for either one of these individuals either.

The essence of Wysocki’s position is that in a perfect world the form used in conjunction with the content should focus the reader on the content, so “that form does not override content,” therefore enhancing its understanding (149).

The importance of content over form is undeniable and therefore the studies of multimedia concepts are equally important.  The disconnect appears to be in the application.  In an offering by an supposed expert on the importance of content over form it was unexpectedly tedious to navigate through.  The other critical factors involve the realization that we don’t live in a perfect world and that the criteria used to making decisions regarding multimedia presentations is, at best, subjective and based on individual perceptions.

While some may use eighteenth century notions of beauty others, most certainly, will not for; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Additionally, stated opinions on likes and dislikes are not always trustworthy.  An example of this is the use of negative political campaigning.  While the majority of those surveyed state their dislike for such form used to express political positions, alleging that it is devoid of substantive content, their use continues—because, contrary to public opinion, they work.

Wysocki states, “In neither case is the designed object conceived as something made to establish relations between me and others; in neither case is the object conceived to exist in a circuit social and cultural relations (157)”  The primary determinate on whether form compliments content or overwhelms it is the audiences preconceived perceptions.  Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too can other visual or audio stimuli provoke individual emotions and reactions.

How many times has merely hearing a song taken you back in time, bringing back past moments and the personal emotions they engender?   Take the national anthem as an example.  For some it signifies that the game is about to start, for others it’s simply background noise requiring them to raise their voices to continue their conversation.  Still others will just stand quietly while others will sing along.  A veteran, remembering brothers lost in battle may tear up.  The words are the same for everybody yet, the feelings they create are heard differently.

The assumption is that when form overrides content it means the presentation was a failure.  This assumption ignores the reality that often times the goal was intended for form to mask content.  This is often a strategy of criminal defense attorneys.  These lawyers go to great lengths to get there client out of their orange prison jump suit and into a conservative suit and tie.  They ensure that appropriate personal grooming is taken care of and work with their client on how to sit and act when they are in view of the jury.  The focus on form supersedes content at this point.  It’s an attempt to establish a visual statement before any words are ever spoken.  If the defendant is innocent this form will enhance and compliment the content of the case.  If needed, another visual form, say a pair of tight gloves the defendant cannot seem to wear along with the words, “if they don’t fit you must acquit” work well together to put needed doubt in the mind of jurors.

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Sheppard Summary

Phil Stuckwisch

Justin Jory

English 3020

30 August 2010

Sheppard’s Summary

Jennifer Sheppard argues that the increased prevalence in the use of multimodal communication necessitates a better understanding of capabilities and the limitations of multimodal communications and what goes into a multimedia production.  It is not as she contends many outside the field view multimedia production, “as simply a matter of imparting technical skill” to information sharing.  Rather, she asserts facilitating the development of diverse and significant illiteracies involving complex choices “regarding audience, content, technology, and media” requiring “careful attention to both traditional and technological rhetorical considerations”.

Sheppard strengthens her argument regarding the lack of understanding the complexities of this new form of communication when she states, “I found a lack of resources bridging practice and theory” as it applied to the proper use of multimodal communication.  Once again she highlighted the importance of considering multiple factors to reach the “target audience.”  To better explain her position Sheppard takes the reader through the actual multimedia process she participated in with the U.S. Forest Service to design an interactive multimedia production intended to engage sixth- to eighth-graders in forest service related material.

It is critically important to reemphasis the factor of “targeting your audience”, not only in securing government funds for a project, but throughout the whole process.  To be clear on this matter is the following quote from Jennifer Sheppard’s, “The Rhetorical Work of Multimedia Production Practices: It’s More than Just Technical Skill”:

In requesting funds for this project from regional Forest Service administrators,

my FSRL (Forest Service Research Lab) colleague and I argued that because

children will one day be the primary stakeholders for our forests, it is vital that

they learn early on about the environmental value of forests and natural resources.

We reasoned that engaging these users in activities that are both educational and

fun would help them to build a foundational understanding of how their choices

and those of forest managers can impact the environment.  We further argued that

interactive multimedia technologies would help us to accomplish these goals [reaching sixth- to eighth-graders] because content could be created and delivered through

multiple modes and media.

The failure in fully satisfy the stated goal of engaging young children was not because

Sheppard and her forest service colleagues were unaware of, “the primary approach to any multimedia project should always begin with highlighting the needs, interests, and technical resources of the intended users” but, because the needs of the intended audience were superseded by the hidden self-interests of forest service scientists.  By losing sight of whose interests the multimedia production was intended to serve the fruits of their labor would suffer.

The specific situation involved the scientists conflicting agenda to reach a broader audience—“namely regional administrators in a fairly contentious government agency.”  This caused the scientist’s to press for “an advanced level of accuracy in the terms and concepts used” in the production that had the likelihood of overwhelming the intellectual abilities of the intended audience leading to their disinterest in the subject matter.

In any multimedia production the needs of the intended audience must not only be the starting point but, must permeate the entire process.

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Sooner or later the sponge will explode

I read Nietzsche’s words.  I am reluctant to use “ideas” or “thoughts” since thoughts can become ideas and I got the sense that he’s not big on having ideas.  My motivation in becoming part of his audience was inspired by Justin (thanks) though I am not sure I was his intended audience.

His idea is that ideas are bad and I now have a headache.  If there were to be people who supported his premise would they not became susceptible to becoming exactly what he is against?  The absence of belief in something is a belief in and of itself of something else. People of religious faith and atheists may disagree about the existence of a God yet, they both have an opinion (based on their ideas) on the subject.

Nietzsche submits that there are injustices in the world (news flash), “From lynching, to forcing a democratic policy on foreign nations through warfare, to self-immolation for protest” and concludes, “They all stem from beliefs in ideologies.”

Short of “lobotomizing” all of mankind (I have a list of individuals perfectly suited to participate in a pilot program) implementing his idea or as he says, “anything that is thought up” (the headache has returned) would require willing supporters which is exactly what he identified as the problem in the first place.

Ideology is not the problem, the inconsistent application of ideology is.  I would rather confront an enemy whose idea is to kill me and who is consistent in that belief then someone who states support for me but, who is inconsistent in actually offering it.

In final analysis understanding Nietzsche, in keeping with Nietzsche, means being devoid of any skills or ability because skills and abilities are gateway thoughts to ideas—and as we now know, ideas are bad.

I then watched “The Machine is Us/ing Us.”  This effectively showed the power of new information technologies.  The fact that before I could access the internet to view it I had to go downstairs and have the IT department help me to simply log on to the internet shows the distance on the road of technology that I have to travel.

It appears that simply having ideas that are supported with facts are no longer enough to initiate a discussion.  Simply informing people is no longer enough you must first and foremost entertain them.

Maybe Nietzsche was right after all.  We should all just “shut up and color” taking in the world around us (as long as we’re properly entertained) like a sponge only soaking up water without ever ringing out our intellectual ability to think or have an idea.

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