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The PWR Internship: How Rhetorical Strategy Enriched my Experience

Guest Blogger Jordan Stanley ’17

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.56.55 AMA hallmark of the college experience is hunting down and securing the perfect internship. Well, maybe perfect isn’t the best word, but hopefully one that either informs the direction of your professional development or enriches a particular skill set. The value of an internship extends far beyond getting a test run at your dream job. Sometimes the most important internships are the ones that you realize are a poor fit. In other cases, you might gain experiences during your internship that you wouldn’t have expected to like. These discoveries can be equally significant in informing your career path.

This is why—though it is not required in all disciplines—as a Professional Writing & Rhetoric major, you must have completed at least one PWR related internship in order to graduate. I had the privilege for the past two academic semesters of working under Dr. Jessie Moore for CarolinasWPA, an experience that has both improved my skills as a web writer and complicated my views of applying rhetorical theory to technical writing.

Carolinas Writing Program Administrators (CarolinasWPA) is an organization that strives to facilitate the communication between a diversity of universities across North and South Carolina on writing program related matters. This can include writing centers, first-year writing programs, professional writing pedagogy, hiring and budgeting policy, and more. My role as an intern for the organization consisted mostly of web writing—composing across a variety genres— from long-form articles and to shorter blog posts, to informational e-pages for the Council of Writing Program Administrator’s 2016 Conference website, which CarolinasWPA is helping to host.

While I certainly gained meaningful experience from my long-form writing tasks for the CarolinasWPA blog, the more technical tasks I completed for the CWPA Conference site most shaped my takeaway from the internship. Since the conference is in Raleigh, it was my job to compile information on what dining options, city attractions, and North Carolina destinations conference goers can check out in their spare time. I will be frank: this work was tedious. One page might take four hours of sitting at my laptop, collecting information on a restaurant’s location, cuisine type, contact information, its proximity to the Raleigh public bus, etc.; rinse, and repeat. While I was formatting the layout for the pages, and inputting the information, I was not fully aware of the rhetorical strategies I was implementing. In retrospect, however, I am surprised at how rhetorically informed my process actually was.

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In any internship, there will be tasks you are excited about and other tasks you are less excited about. In my case, it turned out that the latter was the most informative. In fact, after I conducted a rhetorical reflection of my work, I was extremely interested by it. In my Multimedia Rhetorics class this semester with Dr. Lindenmann, we explored the organizational logic of written text and the image. I combined this with the concepts of the rhetorical triangle that I learned in my Understanding Rhetoric class with Dr. Pope-Ruark. Within the professional context of the conference website, the information I was compiling was supplementary to the proprietary focus on conference details. So, keeping in mind the purpose of my work in relation to the audience—conference goers—my goal was to compile the large quantity lower stakes information in a way that was easily accessible to readers. I accomplished this largely through utilizing the strict reading pathways I could create using text and incorporating images when could communicate meaning in a more succinct way than the written word.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 11.57.52 AMHaving the rhetorical strategies from my PWR classes in my back pocket turned what may have seemed to be a mundane task, into an opportunity to exercise my ability to create theoretically informed design and composition. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Moore and Dr. Pope-Ruark throughout this internship, finding a crossover between my academic and professional work.

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Coming Soon – The Scroll

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a lot about The Scroll – the newly designed social media presence of the Department of English at Elon. Nine students in the Spring 2015 section of ENG 282 CUPID Writing and Design Studio spent the first half of the semester re-imagining the department’s Back Cover newsletter into a social media publication, encompassing Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a blog.

Students will be posting about their experiences with the development of The Scroll, from several talking about our creative brainstorming strategy to others examining the logo creation and goals of social media platforms.

Stay tuned for the The Scroll itself which will launch over the summer when we hire our first department social media coordinator intern!

RPR

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Designing a eBook Cover

Emily Hill ’18, guest blogger

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.14.11 AMThis week I wanted to talk about the process I went through for developing a cover for our eBook in the Winter Term class ENG 311 Publishing. I never really considered the importance of visual rhetoric before this assignment. Originally, I did research on books with the same topic. One of our textbooks for class, The Case for Books by Robert Darnton,  really stood out to me, and I wanted to think of a way to incorporate an eBook theme into our cover.

I originally thought to do an iPad, but my project partner Tim  suggested I shouldn’t do that after I had already used that idea for an infographic within the book. After much more brainstorming, I was finally inspired to put our title, subtitle, and author credit text on the eBook bookshelves.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.12.13 AMIf you refer to the image on the left, I originally just had the text, but then in class we discussed the concept of white space. White space is such an important element when it comes to design. After looking at this image without the book covers pictured below, I knew that something needed to be done. In addition, I needed to add some kind of color to the page.

Tim and I both brainstormed on how we could rhetorically appeal to our audience while staying relevant to the theme of the book. That is when we discovered the idea of creating our own eBook templates on the cover to fill the space. We purposely used books with different genres and areas of study to appeal to our intended audience of Elon undergraduate students. Our purpose for this decision was to show students that they can write and self publish about anything they are interested in.

In a chapter called “The Future of Books,” Duguid talks about the idea that anyone can steal other people’s information now that they have full access to it online. That is why Tim and I wanted to work hard in developing an original idea. It is interesting though, to consider his argument that since this idea was inspired by something previously created online, it can’t be completely original. The idea of eBooks filling shelves is a widely known concept and, therefore, isn’t completely original. This is a very controversial issue in the publishing industry nowadays.

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Print Text isn’t Going Anywhere

Cadence Dingler ’16, guest blogger
ereader-library1For the past 3 weeks, AKA the entirety of our short time here in ENG 311 Publishing  this Winter Term, our class has read about and discussed nearly 1,000 years of book history and publishing as a whole. A resounding theme we talked and read about was the fate of print books now that eBooks and other sorts of technological advancements to reading are coming about.

It is oftentimes assumed that print books are on their way out of our heavily technology-centered culture, simply because this technology is providing new ways in which to read. Many assume that because technology has many “advantages” compared to Books, that now all of a sudden print books will begin to disappear from our bookshelves and libraries.

However, print books really aren’t going anywhere, and I’ll tell you why. As I wrote in my last blog post for class, we as a race of knowledgeable, free-thinking, creative people have the ability to choose what we like and don’t like. If we, as a whole, really didn’t like printed books, I think that they would be gone by now. But honestly, many people would be up in arms if books disappeared from our society.

Not only do we get to choose what to keep and what to get rid of, but there would be hundreds of people around the world that would have nothing to read. As noted in our textbook, An Introduction to Book History, “developing countries cannot afford the new media” (120). Simply, print books are still widely used, not only in 1st world countries, but in 3rd world countries as well.

Again, I believe that if we really wanted print gone, it would be gone. But I think the majority of the world has no desire to see it go. For an interesting perspective as to why print books aren’t going anywhere, check out this link.

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Scrum Boards for Organization

Kelley Dodge ’16, guest blogger

IMG_1712 IMG_1710While the pictures on the left may seem like a jumbled mess of sticky notes, I have found the Scrum Board to be a great way to organize project management. Throughout Winter Term, my ENG Publishing class has been using a Scrum Board to monitor the progress of our long-term project – writing and publishing an eBook.

To begin making our Scrum Board, the class created sticky notes of every task that would need to be accomplished to complete the eBook. This ranged from stages in the writing process, to choosing a software program, to editing content. All of the initial tasks were placed in the “To Do” column of the Scrum Board. Next, we chose a select number of tasks to move into the “In Progress” column. These IMG_1722were the tasks that we focused on immediately, moving them to the “Complete” column before adding more to “In Progress.”

It is important when making a Scrum Board that the “In Progress” column is the smallest. Only place tasks in the “In Progress” column when they are truly attainable at that moment in time. The largest column should be the “To Do” column at the beginning, and eventually the “Complete” column towards the end.

While the board may be a little overwhelming to begin with, the satisfaction of moving sticky notes to the “Complete” column is so rewarding. It is especially exciting when the “Complete” column begins to fill up as you near the end of a project. Overall, I found the Scrum Board to be a logical and worthwhile approach to project management. Just look at all we accomplished by the end!

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Is Print Dying like Blockbuster?

Emily Hill ’18, guest blogger

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.53.39 AMWe have been conducting several class discussions in ENG 311 Publishing about how eBooks are affecting the print industry. In our most recent assignment, we were asked to read I Economist essay, “From Papyrus to Pixels” which was as an eBook. I couldn’t help but recollect a different media platform transformation. Advancements in technology have completely taken over original ways of accessing movies or television. Obviously there are still televisions with live segments of shows, but there are now programs On Demand that you can access at your convenience. Technology creates convenience, which inevitably takes over tradition.

I’m sure most of you remember the time that Blockbuster used to be such a popular company. Kids and adults would make the drive out to the nearest store and rent a few of their favorite DVDs for the weekend. It was an experience to go with your family, significant other, or friend and spend so much time sifting through all the different genres and titles. Similar to a library of books, these DVD rental stores were created an element of surprise coming across movies you had never seen. You didn’t have unlimited options and would have to settle for the two best discs you could find.

Technology has now invented ways to browse these rental DVDs from the comfort of your home. You can now watch over hundreds of movies with the click of one button. Although Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Netflix all make our lives easier, it completely transformed our movie watching experience. No one ever expected or believed that this would change, similar to how everyone believes that eBooks will never fully overtake print books. However, it is important to consider that there are instances where we see traditional experiences getting overtaken by technological advances.

This idea is similar to the concept we noticed in the different media platforms used for The Economist essay eBook. It had three different formats, the eBook version, scroll version, and audio version. All of these represented multiple ways in which information could be interpreted and designed. A lot of these versions came from the writer’s main priority and goal: producing user-oriented content. Their main purpose is to get as many readers as possible. They adjust and adapt their content across these different platforms for that overarching goal. The image below is an example of the scrolling version that offers more interactive features for the audience and is easier to read.

blockbuster-store-closingThis parallels how Blockbuster went out of business because owners of the rental store had to adapt to the technological advances that allowed for online movie rental. No one was going to go to a store when they could have a plethora of options in the comfort of their own home. Adaptation is a key skill that a writer must attain. Relating to our own eBook creation we constantly had to adapt our writing, design styles, and interactive features to fit our audience’s needs. I remember designing the pull out quote templates with the maroon and gold colors since we are targeting Elon’s student body. The Economist Essay talks a lot about the idea of how print books are never going to go extinct, but the idea of movie rental stores going out of business because of the online advancements makes me question how likely it really could be for eBooks to replace print.

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Rhetoric and Group Projects – A Reflection

Guest post by Liz Van Hise ’16

Throughout college, it is inevitable that you will have at least one class per semester that has a group project that contributes to a significant part of your grade. Group projects are notorious in college and often seem to bring up repressed memories. Our minds start to swirl with questions – do we have to choose our partners? Do I trust anyone in this class enough to contribute to my grade? Will I have to take all of the work upon myself?

I just finished a semester-long group project for my senior seminar and, as it turns out, it was one of the most successful group projects that I have ever been a part of. We started the class by learning about project management skills, and the importance of communication between all parties involved quickly became evident.

My particular project was an ethnographic study of people associated with the Haw River and its watershed. We interviewed people with high and low association to the Haw River and researched extensively into the history and background of the river itself. Having this knowledge of the river and of the people living around it before performing the interviews helped us to develop our ethos with the community members. This, along with the information gathered and analyzed from the interviews, helped to increase our ethos among our class members – we became the experts in our field.

We utilized logos in our final paper and presentation, including statistics and information from other primary and secondary sources that we gathered. This helped us to score a higher grade on our project. We established pathos with our audience during our final presentation and in our final paper by including quotes from the people that we interviewed. These quotes were able to show the importance of the Haw River from first-hand experiences and personal accounts.

My group, and group projects in general, have a certain structure and flow to them, especially if they are to be done in an effective manner. This flow follows the five rhetorical canons rather closely.

Invention. The first canon, invention, was a group process. We were given very few guidelines for our project, and it was very much up to us to decide what our process for gathering information and final product would be. We met with many parties involved, including our professors and community partners.

Arrangement. Once we decided the details of our project and gathered the necessary information, we arranged our information in a cohesive structure. It had the structure of a typical research paper, with sections for introduction, methods and materials, results, discussion and conclusion.

Style. Since this was a group project, we had to decide on one style in which we were going to write and convey the necessary information. This had to appeal to both the community partners, our environmental science professors, and classmates.

Memory and Delivery. The last two canons came into play when it came time to give the presentation. We practiced our presentation many times so that we could explain our project, process, and results to our audience in an effective and informative way. We worked together to perfect our delivery and were rewarded by our practice and hard work throughout the semester.

Group projects, when approached correctly, can yield very rewarding results. It is important to consider the rhetorical canons and concepts mentioned in the paragraphs above to make your group project as successful as it can be.

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Reflection: My Time in CUPID Studio

This semester has been a wild one. Starting my third year in college has started off at a fast pace, as I attempted to balance a full course load, a job, a social life, and (not enough) visits to the gym. In retrospect, though, I am so glad that I took the Advanced CUPID Studio course. Amidst all the crazy academic presentations and projects, I was given the opportunity to work on jobs that have a real-life impact. Through developing blog posts, a conference program, and a multimedia presentation for senior English majors, here’s what I learned:

Having no official deadlines can be hard. As a procrastinator by nature, I’m used to overwhelming myself with work the day before it’s due. But when I was given suggestions on when to turn in my work, I struggled. This taught me an important lesson about time-management. In my future job, my assignments may not have deadlines, but they still have to get done. Planning and working ahead is everything.

It’s an entirely different experience writing in a non-academic setting. I found myself not working to meet a rubric’s requirement, but instead working to analyze my audience. For the case of the conference schedule, I had to ask myself how I could organize the given information so that my target audience would understand it. It brought about a different way of looking at a situation, and it was pretty refreshing to write for someone other than a professor.

A lot of work goes into researching a rhetorical situation. OK, I already knew this in theory from the majority of my Professional Writing and Rhetoric classes: you have to know your message, your purpose, your audience, etc. But I found in this course that I was having to look intricately at all parts of good old Aristotle’s triangle before I had an idea of how to direct my projects. This was particularly important for the blog posts, as I connected most of my topics to rhetoric. I found the experience to be eye-opening and helpful in building up my ever-expanding identity as a PWR major.

 

To all Elon students reading this post, I cannot emphasize the importance of taking a course like CUPID studio that differs from the typical grading experience. Too often, we get stuck in the process of working for a grade and forget about taking pride in the quality of our work. I leave this class feeling more prepared for a real job and the real world.

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The Power of Buzzfeed and Other Social News Sites

They’re probably every other post in your Facebook news feed. And blog posts titled things like “Why You and Your Roommates Will be Best Friends For Life,” or “An Open Letter to My Cat” are pervasive not just on Facebook but pretty much every social media site you visit. Websites like The Odyssey, Buzzfeed, and Total Srat Move seem to be everywhere online. So why have they become so popular? I think it can be universally agreed that the content isn’t usually academic or particularly substantive (although once in a while it addresses important issues- I’ll talk about this later).

The thing is that these articles are almost universally appealing to our age group, especially college girls. It’s all about how good they are at knowing their audience to relate to them. In some cases, the authors themselves are college girls, making it much easier to relate to their audience. The more “shares” their articles get, the better the website is promoted. This makes a lot of the writing very similar in the way that they can get more shares by being applicable to the majority of people’s lives. Therefore, posts like “12 Things You Wish You Could Be Eating Right Now” are more prevalent than say posts from CNN or National Geographic.

I think there’s a mix of good and bad when writing to a large subset of an age group. On the one hand, it can bring people together. An article that talks about the struggles of friend relationships is relevant to the majority of college girls, and as an extension, they can feel closer to both the author and the target audience because they also relate to the material. On the other hand, I would argue that some articles can become exclusive in their audience. The people who, for example, are not part of a sorority or don’t go to college parties may feel alienated because they do not relate to the material. They are in a position where they are the minority, and that can be a bad experience.

Of course, as social media becomes the primary way people our age get their information, I think that these sites have a huge value. They have the ability to promote social issues in a way that the news cannot do for us- because they have become established as relatable sources. Once in a while, I come across a Buzzfeed article that brings up an important way. Back in October, they came out with this interesting post that discusses the appropriation of Native American culture.

In the end, while you may feel a pang of annoyance that your news feed is cluttered with things like “20 Movies That Will Make You Cry Every Time,” never forget that these sites have the power to get noticed and through that to influence the public. They have the potential to cause major change within our generation, and hopefully in the future we will see them make more change for the good of our society.

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Communication in Client Projects

If you are a PWR major, you either have completed client projects or you will in the coming semesters. Communication can be difficult and even frustrating when working with clients that have a lot going on. If you have a client who is slow to respond to emails or who seems to fall off the grid sometimes, consider these three tips about communicating with clients and remaining professional.

  1. Remember that, while your work is valued, your client has other people and projects to keep track of. They may take longer to respond to you, but that is most likely because they receive more emails and have several important tasks going on at once.
  2. If your client is slow to respond to emails, be patient, but don’t be afraid to send gentle reminders that you’re waiting after a few days or a week. A great piece of advice I have received is to call your client if you have already emailed two or three times without response. Even if they are not available to speak at that time, you can ask to set up a time to call again, or simply remind that you sent them something that they need to look at or respond to.
  3. Keep emails professional, concise, and on topic. Reply promptly, even if your client doesn’t. This will give your client more time to back to you, and you will appear responsible and on top of your work. For more email etiquette advice, read this article that covers everything from subject lines and professionalism to writing to people from different cultures.
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