RHE 309 K Remixing Rhetoric

Initially this syllabus was part of an entire Drupal installation devoted this class. The Drupal installation was used as a Learning Management System where students did everything from reading the syllabus to uploading assignments.

Times, Dates, Places

RHE 309K - Topics in Writing, Spring 2010
Topic: Remixing Rhetoric
Unique: 44975
Class: 2-3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, PAR 6
Office Hours: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, PCL 5.533, 11:30 to 1 p.m. Thursday, PCL 5.533, and by appointment

Virtual Places

Course Drupal site. (This site. Think of this as our virtual classroom.)
PB Works Course Wiki. (Document your work using The Learning Record.)
Blackboard. (Send an e-mail to the class.)
Course Facebook page. (Become a fan.)
Twitter. (Use #RemixingRhetoric.)
Your blog. (Create your own blog where your work will be "published." You can set the permissions however you want, as long as the class and I can read it.)


In addition to being the spot where I hold office hours, PCL is an amazing resource. Go here. But PCL isn't the only library. The University of Texas Libraries System has several buildings full of special collections like the Harry Ransom Center and the Fine Arts Library.

University Writing Center

You are strongly encouraged to visit the UWC both in person and virtually. The handouts on their Web site are particularly helpful for specific issues like trouble with commas or making the transition from high school to college writing. I will be referring to these.

Course Description

Remixing Rhetoric will focus on rethinking traditional rhetorical concepts in relation to new media. In the spirit of remixing, students will find and remix rhetoric with artifacts from their own lives. We'll be using online resources like BYU’s Silva Rhetoricae, Robert A. Harris' A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices, and the University of Kentucky's Glossary of Rhetorical Terms. But we'll also be using books. Lots of them. Piles of them. Although there is no required rhetoric textbook, a lot of readings will be required. Students will be asked to think rhetorically about mundane artifacts. We will be working toward a collective intelligence about what rhetorical education is becoming.


While the Units structure the class in terms of time, the perspectives structure the class in terms of ideas. Everything you work on for this class should be developed from personal, rhetorical, and social perspectives. You will be asked to practice keeping in mind these perspectives throughout the semester. The goal of this practice is to facilitate perspective shifting.

Personal Perspective

The personal dimension of this class will be illustrated by way of personal artifacts. You will be asked to critically "read" something from your personal life. You should be asking yourself these types of questions about your artifact:

  • Why do you find this artifact engaging?
  • How is your personal history bound up with this artifact?
  • What (if anything) does it say about you as a person?
  • What does it say about your family, your culture, your upbringing, your class?
  • What positive associations do you have with this artifact?
  • What negative associations do you have with this artifact?
  • What do you hope to gain by studying it?

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should help you get started thinking about your artifact. (Hint: it is probably best not to do this about something you love and do not want to look critically at. Same thing goes for something you hate. The thing can be anything, but it should jump out at you. It should be something you have a complex relationship with.) At first you will be writing explicitly about this artifact. But use it as an object to think with. As you progress through the semester, you may find that the personal dimension can be expressed without referring to the actual artifact.

Rhetorical Perspective

This being a rhetoric class, we will spend considerable time talking about rhetorical concepts. Most of the things you do have a rhetorical dimension to them. I hope you will start to see and understand the rhetorical aspects of life. While the personal perspective is illustrated through an artifact, the rhetorical perspective can be illustrated through engagement with rhetorical terms and concepts.

Social Perspective

From the social perspective, you will be asked to consider how a social issue is being remixed. Since our class topic is remixing, you may take, as your starting point, subjects that are related to this emerging concept. While remixing emerged along with the advent of recorded sound (especially with magnetic tape), it has gained widespread use as a social and cultural concept. Broadly construed, a remix is an alternative version of some original work. (At some point, the line between original and alternative may blur.)

Evaluation and Policies

Evaluation will be done via The Learning Record. The Learning Record is designed as a way for you to track your performance over the course of the semester. At the midpoint, you will point to your work samples and observations as evidence of your learning. Based on those work samples and observations, you will assign yourself a grade estimate. The instructor will review your work samples, observations, and grade estimate and give you feedback as to where you stand. Should you be in doubt, revisit the course strands, your observations, and your work samples. Look for spots where your activity is low and put a bit more effort into that particular strand.

Dimensions of Learning

This text comes from the Web site on The Learning Record.

Learning theorists have argued that learning and development are not like an assembly-line which can be broken down into discrete steps occurring with machine-time precision, but an organic process that unfolds in complex ways according to its own pace and rhythm. Teaching and learning occur in complex ecosystems, dynamic environments where teachers, students, materials and supplies, texts, technologies, concepts, social structures, and architectures are interdependently related and interactive.

Using the Learning Record, teachers (and students) are actively searching for, and documenting, positive evidence of student development across six dimensions: confidence and independence, knowledge and understanding, skills and strategies, use of prior and emerging experience, and critical reflection. These five dimensions cannot be "separated out" and treated individually; rather, they are dynamically interwoven. Our goals for a particular class should describe a trajectory of learning across multiple dimensions, and our measurements should be able to identify the paths taken by students and their progress from their individual starting points along that trajectory. Individually, learners can expect to make progress across these six dimensions:

Confidence and Independence

We see growth and development when learners' confidence and independence become congruent with their actual abilities and skills, content knowledge, use of experience, and reflectiveness about their own learning. It is not a simple case of "more (confidence and independence) is better." In a science class, for example, an overconfident student who has relied on faulty or underdeveloped skills and strategies learns to seek help when facing an obstacle; or a shy student begins to trust her own abilities, and to insist on presenting her own point of view in discussion. In both cases, students are developing along the dimension of confidence and independence.

Skills and Strategies

Skills and strategies represent the "know-how" aspect of learning. When we speak of "performance" or "mastery," we generally mean that learners have developed skills and strategies to function successfully in certain situations. Skills and strategies are not only specific to particular disciplines, but often cross disciplinary boundaries. In a writing class, for example, students develop many specific skills and strategies involved in composing and communicating effectively, from research to concept development to organization to polishing grammar and correctness, and often including technological skills for computer communication.

Knowledge and Understanding

Knowledge and understanding refers to the "content" knowledge gained in particular subject areas. Knowledge and understanding is the most familiar dimension, focusing on the "know-what" aspect of learning. In a psychology class, knowledge and understanding might answer a wide range of questions such as, What is Freud's concept of ego? Who was Carl Jung? What is "behaviorism"? These are typical content questions. Knowledge and understanding in such classes includes what students are learning about the topics; research methods; the theories, concepts, and practices of a discipline; the methods of organizing and presenting our ideas to others, and so on.

Use of Prior and Emerging Experience

The use of prior and emerging experience involves learners' abilities to draw on their own experience and connect it to their work. A crucial but often unrecognized dimension of learning is the capacity to make use of prior experience as well as emerging experience in new situations. It is necessary to observe learners over a period of time while they engage in a variety of activities in order to account for the development of this important capability, which is at the heart of creative thinking and its application. With traditional methods of evaluating learning, we cannot discover just how a learner's prior experience might be brought to bear to help scaffold new understandings, or how ongoing experience shapes the content knowledge or skills and strategies the learner is developing. In a math class, students scaffold new knowledge through applying the principles and procedures they've already learned: algebra depends on the capacity to apply basic arithmetic procedures, for example.


Reflection refers to the developing awareness of the learner's own learning process, as well as more analytical approaches to the subject being studied. When we speak of reflection as a crucial component of learning, we are not using the term in its commonsense meaning of reverie or abstract introspection. We are referring to the development of the learner's ability to step back and consider a situation critically and analytically, with growing insight into his or her own learning processes, a kind of metacognition. It provides the "big picture" for the specific details. For example, students in a history class examining fragmentary documents and researching an era or event use reflection to discover patterns in the evidence and construct a historical narrative. Learners need to develop this capability in order to use what they are learning in other contexts, to recognize the limitations or obstacles confronting them in a given situation, to take advantage of their prior knowledge and experience, and to strengthen their own performance.

Creativity, Originality, Imagination

As learners gain confidence and independence, knowledge and understanding, skills and strategies, ability to use prior and emerging experience in new situations, and reflectiveness, they generally become more playful and experimental, more creative in the expression of that learning. This is true not only in "creative" domains such as the arts, but in nearly all domains: research, argumentation, history, psychology. In all fields the primary contributions to the field are the result of creative or imaginative work. This optional dimension may be adopted by teachers or schools to make explicit the value of creativity, originality, and imagination in students' development and achievement. Among other things, it recognizes the value of creative experimentation even when the final result of the work may not succeed as the student may hope.


You should make roughly two observations per week about how your learning is progressing. (I'll remind you on the schedule and in class. But take the initiative to make these part of your learning process in this class.) Your observations will be made in your PBWorks wiki for only you and the instructor to read.

Work Samples

Your work samples will be showcased on your blog. To set up your blog, you will find a blogging platform of your choice and invite me and the class to read it. You may share it with the world, although you aren't required to.

Grade Criteria

A Represents outstanding participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed on time, with very high quality in all work produced for the course. Evidence of significant development across the five dimensions of learning. The Learning Record at this level demonstrates activity that goes significantly beyond the required course work in ALL of the course strands.

B Represents excellent participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed on time, with consistently high quality in course work. Evidence of marked development across the five dimensions of learning. The Learning Record at this level demonstrates significant activity in ALL of the course strands.

C Represents good participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed, with OK quality overall in course work. Evidence of some development across the five dimensions of learning. The Learning Record at this level demonstrates activity in SOME of the course strands.

D Represents uneven participation in course activities; some gaps in assigned work completed, with inconsistent quality in course work. Evidence of development across the five dimensions of learning is partial or unclear. There is little activity in few of the course strands.

F Represents minimal participation in course activities; serious gaps in assigned work completed, or very low quality in course work. Evidence of development is not available. Course strands were ignored.

+ / - Grades

Plus and minus grades will be assigned at mid-semester and again at the end of the semester. There is no A+ and there is no F+.


“The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-6441 TTY.”

Mechanics: Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation

You should probably know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. (If you do not, the UWC can help.) But, hey, we all make mistakes and typos. More importantly, new technologies are radically altering our conventions for the mechanics of writing, including grammar, spelling and punctuation. But now we're faced with how to proceed in this area. My approach is to let the genre dictate the conventions. So if you decide to write a business letter, the genre suggests you conform to professional grammar, spelling, and punctuation standards. If you are writing a comment to a YouTube video, the standards are different. If you are writing a traditional paper in an English class, you must conform to MLA style. If you are writing an e-mail to a friend, no such style exists. Personally, I like my prose to be polished when public, so I'd appreciate it if you would kindly inform me of any typos, spelling, punctuation errors you see in my work.


Attendance is required. You cannot pass the course with more than four absences. Please come to class on time.

Course Strands

Shifting perspectives: Everything you do in this class can be considered through a social perspective, a rhetorical perspective, and a personal perspective. You can certainly choose to emphasize one or more of these perspectives, while de-emphasizing others. Just make sure you use your learning record to document the mix you are aiming for.

Learning about rhetoric: My aim in this class is not necessarily to teach you rhetoric, but to teach you how to learn more about rhetoric. Rhetoric can be seen as an encyclopedic type of knowledge. (It can also been seen as something that can't be contained in an encyclopedia.) In any case, it is impossible to teach rhetoric in one semester or even in several years. (It may be possible to teach over a lifetime, but we don't have that kind of time.) Still, I suspect that, over the course of your lives, you will run into situations that require certain rhetorical concepts, skills, and techniques. Sometimes, it is useful to know the names and history of those skills. Sometimes it's enough just to practice them adeptly. My goal is to give you a framework for understanding what rhetoric is, what it has been, maybe where it is going, and what it can do for you. Your challenge is to figure out how to learn and apply the rhetorical concepts and skills that you need.

Writing with technologies: You will be required to experiment with new and old writing technologies including, but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, and a blogging platform of your choice. You are also encouraged to use this course time to experiment with whatever additional technologies (audio, video, presentation software, etc.) you would like to use. Whichever technologies you choose to "write" with, you should display knowledge of the genre in which you are "writing." You should also conform to the conventions of the genre in which you are "writing." The exception to this conformity is if you are taking an anti-conformist stance, in which case you will probably need to write a manifesto to explain your stance. The manifesto will likely take more work than the conformity (but if you are up to it, go for it).

Remixing: You will be learning about remixing (very broadly construed). You will also, to some extent, be learning how to remix. Your willingness to be open-minded about remixing as a concept, and to engage with this concept will be crucial to your success in this class.

Researching: You will be required to develop a research project through several stages, as noted below:

  1. Select a controversy.
  2. Compile a list of sources.
  3. Do a rhetorical analysis on one source.
  4. Remix the rhetorical analysis.
  5. Craft a final project proposal.
  6. Present your final project.

This strand requires a more step-by-step approach. For more explanation of each step, see the pages below.

Select a Controversy

This assignment is designed to focus your research. It's a good idea to start with a controversy that you want to explore. Your controversy should be examined from three perspectives:

  • a personal perspective
  • a rhetorical perspective
  • a social perspective

One way to get a handle on your controversy is to choose an artifact that you come across in your daily life that illustrates the controversy. Then, you can begin writing about the controversy beginning with the artifact. In other words, your assignment should establish in detail why you, personally, think a particular controversy is culturally significant at this moment. But you should also explore it from a rhetorical perspective, using rhetorical terms and concepts. Finally you should examine how these concepts are at work as this controversy plays out in society.

Compile a List of Sources

Your annotated source list will consist of 10 sources, three of which should have print equivalents. The sources should evenly cover the perspectives. Each source should be cited correctly according to MLA style. Up to five of your sources may come from the assigned class media. These should not be the first 10 sources you find. Because selection is so important to remixing, you will be evaluated, to some extent, on how and why you select your sources. Therefore, your annotation should:

  • explain how and why you selected the source
  • explain if there is an explicit or implicit rhetorical connection
  • summarize the main argument or cultural significance of the source

Do a Rhetorical Analysis of One Source

The rhetorical analysis will be a traditional five paragraph essay on the rhetorical dimensions of one of your sources. You must have an introduction, a conclusion, and three supporting points. This paper will be peer reviewed before you turn it in. In your introduction, you should briefly outline the your analysis. Your paper should summarize the argument made by your source, explain how the argument is constructed, and make an argument about the construction of your source's argument. There should be an evaluative component, but it should be framed in terms of the effectiveness of the argument, not whether you like it or dislike it.

In your supporting points, you should summarize the argument made by your source in greater detail. Use evidence from the text to illustrate your summary. This is mainly a textual analysis. You should also explain how the how the argument is constructed. This paragraph will answer mainly contextual questions like "Where was it published?" "Who is the audience?" and "What technologies were used?" Then you should make an argument about your source's argument. Based on your textual and contextual analysis, is the argument effective?

Your conclusion should re-summarize your source's argument, summarize your argument, and suggest other possible interpretations or opportunities for further research and development.

Remix Your Rhetorical Analysis

In your remix of your rhetorical analysis, you must re-imagine the original five paragraph essay. While I gave you explicit instructions on the essay, in this assignment, I will give you mostly questions. If you could do anything with a source besides analyze it, what would you do with it? Where should the content be expanded? Where should the content be contracted? How can you mix this source with another one? What would be the effect? What are the benefits of the five paragraph essay? What are the drawbacks of such a structure? You should (re)consider the media used, how it is organized, and how it is disseminated.

Create a Project Proposal

Now that you have done a traditional essay and a remix, you should start thinking about the way sources have been used in the past in academia and new ways they might be used. Your thinking should start to congeal into an idea for a final project. This assignment is to focus your thinking, and your instructor's expectations, about the final project. To do this, you will write a proposal.

This should be an incredibly well-crafted proposal argument for your final project. Your final project can include multimedia and take whatever form you choose, but your proposal must:

  • Clearly state the problem
  • Propose a very specific solution
  • Consider other proposals
  • Explain your project's feasibility
  • Explain how you will create your final project

Clearly State the Problem

Even though your proposal is arguing for an innovative, creative project, it should still seek to solve a problem. The problem should be specific and well documented. You should use evidence to establish the problem. You should at least try to identify the causes of the problem.

Propose a Solution

Once you establish a problem, your proposal should solve for the problem that you established. It should not solve for another problem, even a related problem, unless that problem has been clearly linked to the original problem in your problem statement.

Consider Other Proposals

This is an iterative process. Your consideration of other proposals should not just be an exercise in rebuttal. It should inform the solution that you propose. You should explain how and why some other proposals have failed or might fail. However, the goal is to learn from both those that you think will work and those that you think will fail. Examine in detail why a given proposal might or might not work. As you examine other proposals, see if there is one that you could modify. How might you improve on another proposal? Does your proposal more efficiently use resources or time? Is the final product likely to be an improvement?

A note about research: Other proposals are unlikely to come to you fully formed in a formal Project Proposal like the one your are working on. You might have to suss out the proposal by reading accounts in the newspaper or in other sources.

Explain Your Project's Feasibility

As you examine other projects and other proposals, you should start to get an idea of what will work and what will not work. You should base your feasibility on the success and failure of other similar projects. You should also consider your resources. Resources include (but are not limited to) time, money, technology, and peer support.

Create Your Final Project

This will be the creation of the project you argued for in your proposal. It will be evaluated in terms of problems, solutions, feasibility, audience. You will present this project to the class.

Date Topic Assignment Due
1/19 What is rhetoric? What is remixing? Introductions, Syllabus, e-mail
Read excerpt from Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. Watch John Stewart on Crossfire.
1/21 Introduction to The Learning Record, introduction to the rhetorical canons. Read the Introduction to Teaching Multiwriting.
Set up learning records (in class).
1/26 Introduction to decorum. Research strategies.
Controversies and artifacts.
Read the Introduction to Convergence Culture.
Log onto Facebook, Twitter (in class). Set up blogs (in class).
1/28 Introduction to the appeals. Introduction to the topics. Complete Parts IA and IB of your learning record.
Make an observation about any rhetorical concept for your learning record. (Use the classroom books in class.)
2/2 Originality and remixing. Read chapters 1-3 of Remix. Research and post your controversy to your blog.
2/4 Invention (traditional rhetorical invention) Read Scientific American article on creativity. Make an observation about invention for your learning record. (Use the classroom books in class.)
2/9 Invention (traditional rhetorical invention) Read "The Triumph of Tinkering", Make an observation about invention for your learning record. (Use a found artifact.)
2/11 Invention (traditional rhetorical invention) Read selection from Internet Invention.
Make an observation for your learning record.
2/16 Invention (remixing traditional invention) Read "Old Growth Media and the Future of News."
Make an observation about invention for your learning record.
Turn an observation into a blog post (in class).
2/18 Invention (remixing traditional invention) Complete and post your annotated source list to your blog.
Make an observation for your learning record.
2/23 Arrangement (traditional rhetorical arrangement) Read "The Long Tail"
Make an observation about arrangement for your learning record. (Use the classroom books in class.)
2/25 Arrangement (traditional rhetorical arrangement) Post your rhetorical analysis to your blog. Comment on peers' rhetorical analyses.
3/2 Arrangement (traditional rhetorical arrangement) Midterm Learning Record Due.
3/4 Arrangement (remixing arrangement) Post your remix of the rhetorical analysis to your blog.
3/9 Arrangement (remixing arrangement) Audio remixing workshop, part I.
3/11 Style (traditional rhetorical style) Audio remixing workshop, part II.
Make an observation about remixing and arrangement for your learning record.
3/16 Spring Break!
3/18 Spring Break!
3/23 Style (traditional rhetorical style) Video remixing workshop, part I.
Make an observation for your learning record.
3/25 Style (remixing style) Video remixing workshop, part II.
Make an observation for your learning record.
3/30 Style (remixing style) Read "Economists of Attention."
4/1 Style (developing your own style) Read "Immediacy, Hypermediacy and Remediation."
Work on project proposals.
Make an observation about style for your learning record. (Use the classroom books.)
4/6 Memory (traditional rhetorical memory) Read "The Medium is the Message."
4/8 Memory (traditional rhetorical memory) Class Rhetoric Project Workshop.
Make an observation for your learning record.
4/13 Memory (collective remixing memory) Post your project proposal to your blog. Comment on peers' project proposals.
4/15 Memory (collective remixing memory) Class Rhetoric Project Workshop.
4/20 Memory (collective remixing memory) Class Rhetoric Project Workshop.
Make an observation for your learning record.
4/22 Delivery (traditional rhetorical delivery) Class Rhetoric Project Workshop. Delivery tips.
4/27 Delivery Final Project presentations.
4/29 Delivery Final Project presentations.
5/4 Delivery Final project presentations.
5/6 Delivery Final project presentations.

Required Texts

You are not required to buy any books. However, we do have a classroom set of old books on writing and rhetoric that we will be using quite frequently. The texts listed in the schedule above are required reading, and you are required to download Lawrence Lessig's book, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. This book provides the social, cultural and economic framework for the class. You can download a copy of Lawrence Lessig's book, here:


or here: