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The Works in Progress

Hello! I will post all of my works in progress under this title, as well as any reflections on my writing or similar projects I’ve “completed”.

12/2/16
Reflective Portfolio game-plan

At present I have begun analyzing two of my three articles, but I have not yet produced a “working argument”.
Plan:
– Connect all four articles with learning outcomes
– Develop working argument (today)
– Complete Spinning Sci Revision (Saturday)
– Finish two late blogs (Sunday)
– Complete Website (Sunday)
– Compose all article page rough drafts (Monday, 5th)
– Revise working argument
– Outline Reflective Essay
– Get advice
– Write up Essay draft (Mon, 12th)
– Revise, get advice, complete


11/2/16
Blog Entry Revision Exercise

Original (from “Calling all Heros”, paragraph #3):
So she had to maintain her readers’ attention while growing it into something a little more noble and actionable. The goal isn’t just more readers, it’s more people willing to take some action. Schulz illustrates the danger with both current science and accounts, and scientific prophecy. She pulls no punches in describing the potential (guaranteed) devastation and the exact amount of pain and damage it will extract from those defenseless against it. She records personal anecdotes of interviews with persons of authority on the subject, and their message is surprisingly grim.  “We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.” Lines like these are shocking, and intentionally so. They’re meant to open our eyes to something hard to accept.

Revision:
So Schulz must maintain her readers’ attention while growing it into something a little more noble and actionable. The goal isn’t just more readers, it’s more people willing to take some action. Schulz illustrates the danger with both current science and accounts, and scientific prophecy. She pulls no punches in describing the potential devastation and the exact amount of pain the earthquake will extract from those defenseless against it. She includes quotes from interviews with persons of authority on the subject, and as each new voice is heard the prophecy becomes darker and darker.
“Twenty-nine per cent of the state’s population is disabled, and that figure rises in many coastal counties. ‘We can’t save them,’ Kevin Cupples says. ‘I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, “Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.” No. We won’t.’ Nor will anyone save the tourists. Washington State Park properties within the inundation zone see an average of seventeen thousand and twenty-nine guests a day.” (Schulz)
Lines like these are shocking, and intentionally so. But she includes them for much more then dramatic effect. They’re meant to open our eyes to a message that’s hard to accept- something violent and frightening- but at the same time all the more impossible to ignore because of the authority of the speakers.



10/29/16
“Curious” by Kim Todd

  1. What is her argument?
    Curiosity in humans is inherent but usually also inherently damaging. The way we can tend to objectify the things we are curious about can cause us to devalue them and leads to all sorts of mistakes.
  2. Quote or passage supporting my claim that 1 is true
    Her example of Bluebeard, his “collection—of women’s heads, which he could study without having to contemplate their subjectivity, their humanity.”
  3. Interpretation of 2, how do you understand it?
    Todd is pointing out how things we are curious about become much easier to mistreat when we objectify them. She’s using an extreme example, but the connection between curiosity and wickedness is clear.


10/28/16

Emily Graslie

1. What is her argument?
Emily Graslie decides what goes on display in the field museum.
Things usually on display generally include experiences people haven’t had, and mysterious items such as, diamonds. Those that are stored and tend not to be displayed are those that are too complicated or not immediately formidable to be easily enjoyed.

She concludes these examples by saying that curiosity is valuable, but it can’t be explored solely through technology or the internet because those things are finite. Thus “curiosity correspondents” are essential, because people are the only real mediums for the furthering of exploration and curiosity to a limitless degree.

2. Quote or otherwise from Graslie supporting my claim that 1 is true
She states the at technically (or at least ideally) everyone is a curiosity correspondent.
3. Interpretation of evidence in 2, how do you understand it?
I think what she’s saying is that humans, as the source of curiosity, are therefore really the source of exploration. Nothing is new without someone to understand it and pursue it.



9/26/16
Why does our Transforming Science Topic matter?

Our products provide a renewable and independent energy source to satisfy a growing need for robust, portable electricity.



9/21/16
Differences In Presentation: Two Articles on the MuddyBot

The Georgia Tech Article:
-More detailed, lists specific contributing researchers and institutions.
-Gives quotes and dialogue from the researchers.
-Extensive video including interviews.

The Popular Science Article:
-More confined to general ideas, mostly just about ancient invertebrates.
-Much shorter, geared toward the populous.
-Very short “video”, gif comparison at the start, the full video is less important, at the bottom of the page.


9/17/16
Learning from Peer Review

My classmate had some very helpful input. One important note was about keeping a balance of content. I tend to run on tangents that stretch my topic out of focus. Following in the same lines, I must maintain some formal consistency of purpose throughout my work, particularly in coordination of the introduction and conclusion (where I could have done better in this case).

As far as revisions:
-All of my writing could be improved upon. The sentences communicate, but most do not do so in the most succinct, effective and pleasing way I think I could manage.
-I think my classmates comment about lack of reinstatement was perhaps a bit understated. This is a key aspect I can improve upon.


9/16/16
Evaluation of Josh’s Spinning Science Project

Rhetorical Awareness: Competent. A clear purpose to the article, fulfilled by the rest of the content. Very explicit argument, but the incites I read were mostly predictable, not as much unexpected.

Stance: Mature. Many different implications to each part of the project. Everything pointed back to your assertion that L’Occitane had an intricate and very effective ad strategy.

Development of Ideas: Competent/Mature. The ethos idea was very well thought out and described, as well as the logos example.

Organization: Competent. Partitioned well. The 3 sections did not seem to build upon each other as much as relate individually to your argument. Transitions were pretty smooth, nice.

Conventions: Competent. A solid groundwork. Combing over it a little more you could get rid of some errors (like “proven” instead of “proved” etc.). Basic edits, just a read through to get rid of them.

Design for Medium: Competent. All pictures of the add were relevant to their section. Some more variety could be had in terms of formatting to add interest to the photo essay, making it even more engaging.


9/12/16
Spinning Science Project: Gaming Hardware (Intro)

Gaming culture at present in the Western world is at an interesting stage. With the main focus being on immersive entertainment, little thought is given to anything outside the gaming world. In fact I would argue that gamers in today’s world game primarily as an escape from  the rest of their lives. Not as damaging an escape as something like alcoholism, but nonetheless a complete separation from community, their  work and their environment. It follows suit that gaming advertising has followed a similar pattern, hailing more from space and futuristic technologies than anything solidly grounded here on earth. In 2015 gaming hardware giant NVIDIA announced a new series of Graphics Cards Called the “Pascal” or “10 Series”. It was a massive step over their previous series, and NVIDIA was already well known for beating out the competition. Thus most of their rhetoric seems to center around the logical presentation of very cold, hard facts. It’s very interesting to note the undertone assumptions about gaming culture inherent in the visual representation of their flagship model. Humanity, the Earth, and people all seem very distant from NVIDIA’s plans for it’s consumers.


8/30/16
“Common First Week Video” 

Here’s the video itself:

CFWV Reflection
1. Describe the processes and their effectiveness.
Most effective: Writing ideas as they came to me, ie. not only sticking with the intro if I had an idea for another part. It was much easier to rehears with the video when I made the decision beforehand that what I captured that first time would not be published. I could do my best with less pressure and videoing helped me iron out a few things that were hurting my presentation.
Least effective: Writing to much. I ended up with a lot more content than I needed. If I’d been more structured with an outline and planned lengths I could have saved time. I like what I produced, but when efficiency is key I won’t be able to realistically pursue each facet as far as I like.

2. Which part of the project worked?
I’m fairly happy about my delivery of the writing. Even though it was rehearsed it felt relaxed and genuine on my last run through. This was my first time presenting in such a way and I like the way it turned out.
It actually helped me think about improvement in writing. That’s new.

3. What would you do differently and why?
Instead of writing in depth for every idea that came to mind, I could instead write an outlineish, condensed version that still contained everything I wanted to say. Then after brainstorming and writing some more ideas I could then fit them into an outline and write them out more fully. All that would avoid the excess of material I ended up with when I didn’t use an outline.

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Your friend Atlas

In the article “Running Is Always Blind” by Sam Schramski (for Nautilus), we meet a two-legged robot named Atlas. Now robots aren’t the primary object of this article -in fact they are only one of a few focuses- but the way this particular robot is portrayed to and understood by us (the readers) is a testament to the powers of personification and empathy in scientific writing. Do note how I named the robot Atlas. This decision was based on my personal relationship with said robot. Now the article on Nautilus simply introduces him as “the Atlas robot”, but over the course of the article I began to see myself in this plasticy, fumbling, beautiful mess of silicon and aluminum that, at least at first glance, seemed to have earned this distinction solely of his own merit.

Leading up to Atlas’ introduction, the article first introduces human locomotion and the immense complexities of movement on two legs, coupled with the delicate conscious and sub-conscious perceptive faculties that we humans use to accomplish our quests between couch and fridge. Then in a linear, matter-of-fact fashion, we are introduced to our robot friends:

“When a robot runs, it doesn’t split the processing work between its conscious and subconscious self. It has neither. That doesn’t mean that robots haven’t taken great strides, in every sense of that term. But they are still flummoxed by environments that humans maneuver without a second thought, failing in many ways because they don’t have the natural elegance to deal with complexity.”

How do you feel? Personally I’d like to start a lobby to give conscious and unconscious selves to some of the most noble, steadfast and deserving entities on planet earth, but maybe that’s just me. The awesome thing about this bit of text is that it sets robots up as idealized forms of ourselves who simply can’t perform as well as they’d like to. And the effect is so subtle we’re right on to Atlas’ intro before we even realize what a warm welcome we’re ready to give him. … It.

Atlas is introduced on video in a very amicable way, unsteadily exploring the wilderness, shelving boxes, and getting shoved to the ground only to rock back to his feet and continue on his intrepid journey. At the conclusion of the video (after we watch it again) we read on as Schramski capitalizes on our emotion by connecting the essential dots. We are, at a basic level, graceful robots. As they improve, we improve.

Go like Atlas on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlas-robot/487462181339564?ref=br_rs

“Running is Always Blind”: http://nautil.us/issue/38/noise/running-is-always-blind

Atlas on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVlhMGQgDkY

Of Mice and Malignment

Image result for lab mouse

“The conversation” on the world wide web is quite a thing to observe- particularly when it concerns issues at the intersection of ethics and science. In this case we see the fascinating dialogue on the issue of scientific research via animals. The two accounts I was given to read were hosted on the sites of two researching giants with polar opposite opinions on the ethical implications of using mice and rats for research benefiting humans. Both articles are linked here, the first by the Jackson Laboratory (JAX), and the second by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS):

https://www.jax.org/genetics-and-healthcare/genetics-and-genomics/why-mouse-genetics

http://www.navs.org/what-we-do/keep-you-informed/science-corner/animals-used-in-research/mice-and-rats/

Both organizations are to some degree at the mercy of the masses for their validation, due to a democratic system that reflects the public’s opinion. Thus both employ very active strategies of rhetoric to sway the people in their favor, and get some monetary support on the side. Obviously neither one of the organizations is a psychopathic scientific machine of research- both undoubtedly do have some faith in the idea that what they are doing is right. However vivisection of the statements of each reveals questions unmentioned and questions unanswered that emphasize the manipulative qualities of their rhetoric. I’ll be examining the way each organization presents the comparison between rats and humans rhetorically to combat one another in their bids for popular support.

The Jackson Laboratory is both a research organization and a business. As such, they are not only trying to sell a cause, but also a product: research mice. The implied parallel between mice and humans is introduced in a not-so-subtle way at the very beginning of the article in the figure. Here a mouse and a man are presented, unified by a giant looming “98” in the background, and separated by two near-identical double-helix strands of DNA. They have the same pasty-white uniform shade, are nearly of equal size, and share the same chunky, simple artistic representation of bodily structure. The number 98 represents the upper end of the 95-98% range of shared mouse-human DNA in the body of the text and is the first concluding point at the end of the article:

“Mice are biologically very similar to humans. We share 95 percent of the same genes, and our immune systems are even more compatible. Mice and humans get many of the same diseases, for the same genetic reasons.”

This except of convincing logos operates on the established moral purpose of bettering the human condition without sacrificing humans in the process. Although this statement definitely has a trusty scientific tang to us (the general public), it isn’t followed by any explanation of exactly why this percentage matters- in spite of the fact that that number is the central point of the text’s argument. Here the text is geared towards a less prying audience, those who require only a reference to science to be convinced of its valid application.

The National Anti-vivisection society is not without it’s share of dirt. However, instead of using shallow logos to substantiate it’s argument, the NAVs article uses a combination of both “down to earth” ethos and logos to claim that mouse-human similarities are insubstantial. NAVs is a society working to support a cause, and requires donations and public support to conduct it’s research. Thus since the article is in part geared towards donors, it is remarkably less scientifically numerical than the JAX article (which attempted to sell a product). After introducing mice and rat research as operating under the “questionable hope” that rodent research applies to humans, NAVs introduces a short quote and their own brief interpretation of what it implies:

“Perhaps Johns Hopkins toxicologist Dr. Thomas Hartung stated it most succinctly when he said, “We are not 70 kg rats.”  Nature did not intend for these animals to be standins for people, and it is not safe to assume that what occurs in rodents will predict what happens in people.”

The article then launches into the history of mice in research without any scientific discussion validating the claim they drew from their selected quote. We definitely aren’t 70 kg rats, but that’s really the only solid claim we can infer from Dr. Hartung’s quote itself. NAVs thus relies heavily on the ethos and trust associated with a “Johns Hopkins toxicologist” in the mind of any average reader to substantiate their own stance without getting into any of the specifics of what he himself was arguing.

Every scientific publication uses rhetoric to suit and satisfy its audience. But in a discipline such as research, where truth is so essential to progress, rhetoric that plays more on the emotions and stigmata of its audience -instead of attempting to argue its claims with actual scientific fact- can be very damaging to scientific progress. But such is the nature of scientific debate.

Calling all Heros

Kathryn Schulz’ biggest objective in her article “The Really Big One” is to make a threat genuinely threatening. Her purpose seems to be genuine: she actually wants the pacific northwest to make changes that will reduce the damage from an incoming disaster. As she demonstrates, pressure from the scientific community alone has not resulted in much real action at all from government or the public. Thus with her article in the New Yorker, Schulz is attempting to drive the point home to a general public that they are in unquestionable danger, and that action must be taken.

There are several challenges when it comes to genuinely alarming the public. The first is in snagging people’s attention. And here, Schulz is fairly set. “Devastation in the Northeast” and the bold claim that “it’s not if, its when” are sure to rope in all sorts of readers. Of these intrepid literary adventurers however, even potential future activists (which is sort of everyone) have consigned themselves to the role of click-bateists (which is also sort of everyone) by their simple reasons for initially choosing to read the article. Most readers read for entertainment. It might be self-improving entertainment of some sort, but it’s rarely intended (at least by the reader) to produce action. In that department Schulz was attempting to beat out several pressing social movements, any prominent news at the time of her publication, and every donation-seeking client that might be attempting to extract attention from the limited supply that is “the public”.

So she had to maintain her readers’ attention while growing it into something a little more noble and actionable. The goal isn’t just more readers, it’s more people willing to take some action. Schulz illustrates the danger with both current science and accounts, and scientific prophecy. She pulls no punches in describing the potential (guaranteed) devastation and the exact amount of pain and damage it will extract from those defenseless against it. She records personal anecdotes of interviews with persons of authority on the subject, and their message is surprisingly grim.  “We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.” Lines like these are shocking, and intentionally so. They’re meant to open our eyes to something hard to accept.

All this fire and brimstone is juxtaposed with a very creative style of wry humor. “Wineglasses, antique vases, Humpty Dumpty, hip bones, hearts: what breaks quickly generally mends slowly, if at all” is an exemplary excerpt. You laugh, and then you realize that you shouldn’t be laughing at all. Suddenly the author is looking right at you with disapproval for your gross indiscretion. It’s adds a lot to her writing as a popular piece, but perhaps it’s biggest effect is the way it brings gravity to her message. By that initial mirth, Schulz takes you from tangentially observant to amused to ashamed to suddenly concerned and genuinely interested in the message at hand. It’s almost like a guilt trip, but without it we can all too easily disconnect from the real weight of the situation. The article hits like a truck, and deserves its Pulitzer Prize for brilliant delivery and a genuine message. The question is whether people can bring themselves the last mile, and respond to this potential arbiter with action.

How to Human

ape-and-kid-aww

In the documentary “Project Nim” we are introduced to not only a scientific project, but to a narrative of human behavior. In my opinion the most interesting facet of the film is not the story and fate of the chimp, Nim, but the complex nature of the humans that surrounded him- the give and take of emotion and logic that dominates our own behavior.

For the people who raised and trained Nim, it seems that every action Nim took had to be justified. Once they had given themselves to the idea that the Chimp was at some level human, there was no way to justify his very animal nature except to say that they were to blame for his actions. Many times in the film his “mother” from an early age and his teachers seem to extend the apparent logic behind Nim’s decisions in order to avoid cognitive dissonance in their own minds.

I think part of this reaction is a sort of “buyer’s remorse” idea. “If I put so much work into this, how can it possibly not deliver?” If I actually raised a chimpanzee as my child I’m sure it would be nigh impossible to accept it as entirely animal. Another thing to consider is how jaded, complex and deeply empathetic most domestic felines seem to be. If we can humanize something as mentally basic as a cat, imagine how much easier it would be to do the same for a much more convincing animal like a chimpanzee.

The major conflict between the “human” and “animal” perceptions of Nim arises later in the story, when Nim begins to mature and reach a much higher level of  brute strength. He’s still not human, so he neither fully understands nor feels any motivation (other than the avoidance of pain) to follow human morals and social constructs. So when he breaks these constructs out of his animalistic nature, his care-takers and sympathizers are forced to create humanish excuses for his behavior which seem logical, while those who still see Nim as a defined beast are penalized for wanting to respond to his animalistic behavior by treating him like any other animal.

The film seems to empathize most strongly with the perspective of the people most devoted to Nim’s alleged humanity. Those who act based on the idea that Nim is “just a chimp” are villianized by the score and delivery of the documentary, while those that have built relationships with him and attempt to “fight the system” and treat Nim as more of a human are made heroes. They’re relatable, they seem healthy and fun, and they represent “caring people” much more readily than the machine-like, cold, logical researchers.

So a huge part of the rhetoric in the film takes the form of pathos. It uses the genuinely heart-felt views and opinions of Nim’s caretakers and teachers to build those views and opinions in its audience. “Project Nim” doesn’t really focus on concluding the original question of Nim’s life, which was “can a chimpanzee communicate like a human”. Rather it seems to focus on the much more subjective science of “can believing in something deeply make it true”. And it’s answer is yes. Nim’s humanity is defined by the perceptions of those who can’t accept that he isn’t human in nature at some base level. Thus “Project Nim” defines truth as subjectivity defines truth – as a combination of emotion and opinion.

Project NIM

10/21/16

“Waiting for Help”

“Waiting for Light” by Jake Abrahamson is a uniquely genuine scientific article on the subject of bringing light and electricity to rural India. A moving combination of logos and subtle pathos put the readers in the Indian villager’s shoes, and make them want to help. Since the article appeared in the Sierra magazine, those readers are fairly wealthy western middle and upper-class citizens with some interest in the natural environment and in helping other people. Abrahamson leaves with the idea that helping is not only simple and potent, it’s our duty, and we really don’t have an excuse not to care.

Growing up as the kid of community development workers in rural east Africa, I was introduced to the whole aid-and-development-in-the-third-world scene at an early age. My parents spent 15 years in east Africa helping people to change and to help themselves. One of their biggest points and one of my more memorable takeaways from growing up is that people have to change themselves in order to change. Opportunities, encouragement, and aid (monetary or otherwise) are all short-term. Nothing changes until people do. That’s definitely not to so say that aid doesn’t help facilitate change- that it doesn’t open the door for opportunity. But aid is complicated, and it’s never as simple as just throwing money at organizations.

Corruption in the third world is also extremely prevalent. When I was a kid we had an oven that ran on gas canisters. One time when purchasing these “gas bombs” my parents discovered upon weighing their purchases that they actually couldn’t even hold their advertised volume. Corruption was so ingrained in the system that it wasn’t even the end seller’s choice whether or not to swindle his buyers- manufacturers had already made that decision for him. You might say my trust for third-world businesses has been strained.

Thus, the most distracting question for me is how to place the OMC and other innovative businesses we keep hearing about in the article. Are they really the benevolent gods of the morning star, not a thought of selfish gain or manipulative profit in their well-lit craniums? Or are they verging on psychopathic, mad with desire for profit, tantalizing the poor with visions of modernity, and manipulating foreign interest into unquestioning donations, guilt tripping as they go? The OMC is probably pretty removed from both of these extremities. But there are precedents for both conditions throughout humanity- particularly in the third world, where poverty intensifies kindness and wickedness.

So while it’s amazing to see a first world article intent upon really putting westerners in rural India’s shoes and inciting genuine compassion, I still wish it could have introduced the solution with less tunnel vision. If you’re compelled to help people, do it! But be careful to first understand their setting and appreciate the intricacies of their lives. Throwing money at a problem will have a lasting effect only if it produces a genuine change in people.

10/14/16

Myself

I am Ben. Welcome to me. lol

This is a what you call a “blog” site, so let me introduce myself in the context of how I’ll be getting things across.

Words! Thank God for those, I’m glad we have them. Unfortunately I’m not exactly as snappy as I’d like to be with them. I am usually a slow writer. Like really freaking slow. It takes a while for me to formulate sentences I deem worthy of writing, and I tend to get ahead of myself thinking about what I want to write before I write it. Of course that’s the more vindicating of my options for self-representation, and although it’s true, its not quite the whole truth. The origin of much of my writing difficulty comes not from traffic jams in my brain, it comes from the way I value my writing- at the pace I can channel it into understandable words. 

So while I’m searching for just the right way to start off my further explanation of exactly how I value my writing, every time an idea is doubted it’s ruled guilty and guillotined  before it can even hit the page. Then I’m stuck waiting for the next little spark of text, all the while feeling progressively less capable of  creating such a thing. The possibilities loose their shine as they come to mind and I’d frankly rather take a nap bye.

I’m back. I’m such a good writer wow! I’ll stop there. Obviously fueling my writing productivity strictly off of emotion produces exactly “not much”, and sketchily at that. SAT essays shouldn’t be coin flips. And now we get to the part of this that’ll make you happy you finished it, and me happy I wrote it. I’m actually getting better at composition! I know that like any human I pose the ability to write things that are beautiful as well as the ability to create the verbal essence of cringe. It’s a nice thing to be sure of, because it means that every idea I have stands a chance. That said, I’m absolutely psyched to actually write whatever I want about stuff. Hope you enjoy reading it, but if you hate it let me know, either way it’s a capital distraction. .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhetoric

This week in my composition class we talked some about the concept of rhetoric, with the Union of Concerned Scientists website as our subject matter. As discussion progressed it became evident that people tend to think of “rhetoric” as deceitful, divisive, and run by an agenda. The third of these of course isn’t technically a bad thing at all, despite the fact that it’s often seen that way. If someone has an opinion, they have an agenda. And I’d hope that anything I read would have an opinion and would be trying to convince me of it.

The trouble comes when the person with the “agenda” isn’t supposed to have one. This happens all the time in democratic politics. When we elect someone we expect them to represent exactly what they espoused in their campaign- what we elected them for. When individuality gets in the way, and the politician begins exposing and acting upon their own heretofore unseen motives, then we become upset. We didn’t elect them to have that opinion, that’s not why they’re there. I don’t think we have a right to be upset. If we cast our votes based on merely what they said and not why they said it, then we could predict that in a little while we’d wish they were gone. People change, they convince each other of things and are convinced of things, and their convictions are far more telling than their opinions.

So rhetoric’s not a bad thing. Rhetoric is simply relevant presentation, and should be taken with as many grains of salt as any other presented opinion you might come across. Anyways that’s all the foul, seditious, wicked filibustering I’ve got for now but do check back for more!

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