What are its downsides?

Published by Jeannie R. Ferrell

Dec 8, 2022


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Among people who worship the objects of their own invention, money chief among them, technology is the knack of so arranging the world that one need not experience it. Better to consume it, best of all to buy it, and to the degree that information can be commodified (as corporate logo, Facebook page, designer dress or politician), the amassment of wealth and the acquisition of power follows from the naming of things rather than from the making of them. The future is a product to be sold, not a story to be told. – Lewis Lapham
Lewis Lapham’s article “America and the Rise of the Stupified Plutocrat” is a lament against the changes which he says the internet has brought to democracy. Postman’s The Judgment of Thamus makes a similar argument, albeit one with a wider lens. In this paper, your final, your job will be to explore the various rhetorics that are used to persuade us of the benefits of one particular technology that you believe has changed society for better or ill. In the paper, you will formulate a rhetorically-grounded argument of your own about the importance of this technology, the changes that it is bringing to our world, and what those changes may mean. How have we been persuaded to consider this technology as ‘good’? What are its downsides?
To begin, you will need to choose a technology that has changed the way we live: the telephone, the automobile, the atomic bomb, birth control pills, cloning, twitter, or facebook – it’s your choice, but it should be significant. According to Postman, new technologies are both a blessing and a burden; they make winners and losers, changing not only our lives, but our language. He also reminds us that new technologies always involve a loss. They make us “tools of our tools.” Think hard about the technology you’ve chosen. Who are the winners and losers? What changes has it wrought, and why are those changes either good or bad? How have they changed language?
Make sure you frame your paper using Postman text. That means: quote from it.
In addition to helping you to think critically about a text, the assignment asks you to consider what is “at stake” regarding some of the technologies we use every day. Ask yourself what kinds of rhetorics about this particular technology have been invoked for it to gain acceptance. How is it being presented to the public? Ideally, this paper should consist of description, research, and your own voice or argument.
In terms of rhetorical strategies, you will need to think about anecdotes around the subject or technology in question (pathos), facts about the technology (logos) and reliable sources on which to rest your own ethos. (Note: it’s possible that you yourself may provide some kind of reliable, credible, anecdotal evidence. For example, if you were defending the invention of guns, and your evidence was, a gun had saved your life.)
Step one: Choosing a technology consider.
While you are free to choose whatever you want, please choose a technology that lends itself to this paper, i.e. ones that have easily recognized blessings and burdens. Please stick to a technology, rather than a product – i.e. ‘smart phone,’ NOT, ‘iphone’, “self driving cars,’ NOT, “tesla.” The best papers look at technologies that have societal consequences AND are disputed, so, if you are interested in medical breakthroughs, think about the birth control pill, rather than penicillin. Don’t get too broad: ‘the computer” is a bit broad and has a three hundred year history. “Social Media” is broad: rather, pick a single app (twitter, Instagram OR tiktok). And so on.
Appliances, like refrigerator, etc. don’t make the best topics. Your paper will have a small portion devoted to the history of it and its invention – that is, setting it in time. But please don’t bog down in that – it’s not the point of the paper.
Once you have chosen your subject, you will need to think about the following things. What are the larger issues surrounding this issue? Why is it happening at this time? (That is, what is its context, or kairos?) What is the significance of it to society at large? How has this significance manifested itself in the news, how has it been countered, and most importantly, what do you, the rhetor and writer, think that this means?
For example, if you choose twitter as your technology, you will need to discuss the pros and cons of tweeting. Tweets have alerted people to protests in Iran and helped pinpoint terrorists in hostage situations. But they can also track and expose people in negative ways, can be used fraudulently and may even change the way people think about information. Twitter is a surveillance technology, and surveillance is, as Michel Foucault reminds us, about power management. Is twitter a good technology or a bad one?
Think of this paper as a conversation at a dinner party. Everyone at the table has a different opinion. For the paper’s purposes, you should confine yourself to opinions uttered only by respected writers and thinkers. This will build your credibility. You will need to summarize these opinions, before weighing in with your own. Hence, you will not simply be telling us how great (or awful) twitter is, but grounding us in the issues around it, and then taking a position. Your paper will rely upon research found in articles, books, interviews, surveys and any other secondary sources you can find in the short time available to us. Please choose a topic that will engage both you and us, your audience: in other words, make sure it is an issue you care about.
Remember, this paper is a persuasive argument, NOT merely a report of your research. Thus, the best way to approach it is to pose your topic in terms of a normative question that your paper will explore. Your thesis is the answer to a question: “Is technology X helping society or hindering it?” In order to be persuasive, your argument would need to make reference to the historical and societal context that your subject resides in – which you will have found about through your research – and it will need to martial all the rhetorical forces that we have learned about in our rhetorical analysis to make its claim. You will need to use your own intuition and insight, a strong writerly voice, and a clarity of purpose to drive home your argument persuasively.
NOTE: his paper doubles as your final exam and is worth more than all your other papers. Therefore, please pay attention to grammar, syntax, and punctuation. Please get started early so you can proofread it many times. Please reread the prompt so that you know what I am expecting. Please pay special attention to due dates.
Grading: An A paper will be a persuasive, well researched, and well-spoken essay with few to no grammatical errors. It will contain an original, persuasive and nuanced argument which argues its own position unassailably.
A B paper will have the same qualities but with some flaws, errors, or missed opportunities, either grammatically or in other ways.
A C paper will be weak in logic or research, or be otherwise unpersuasive, it will be poorly written and/or or it will show an absence of critical thinking in some way.
A D paper would be one which missed thesis, bibliography rough draft deadlines or final deadlines, and showed evidence of shoddy or last minute work.
An F paper is one which I didn’t receive.
Plagiarism Policy: PLAGIARISM WILL RESULT IN AN F GRADE AND DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES WITHIN THE UNIVERSITY. Plagiarism is intentionally using the words or ideas of other people in your papers, without due credit. This covers copying from your neighbor to buying papers on the Internet and everything in between. It will result in an F grade and will be reported to the Dean of Students to be placed in your student record. Remember: Plagiarism is theft.
* I want to choose the topic of how social media has changed life and how people now present themselves onewayon social media and another way in real life.
Also, would you be able to provide me with a rough draft of the thesis by nov 30?
thank you,


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