Digital Argument: Rogerian Response in the Public Sphere
As we’ve discussed in class, one theory of understanding digital arguments proposes that the more inflammatory an idea (or argument, or meme), the more likely it is to spread. Another important element of this theory is that social media allows us to, more or less, choose the kind of arguments we want to surround ourselves with. The result of these conditions (both theoretically— and many of us will recognize—in practice) is a rhetorical situation in which like-minded groups largely argue among themselves, in inflammatory ways, about opposing groups, rarely arguing or communicating directly with such opponents. On that same note, many of us may have seen the argumentative results when such confrontations do occur between opposing groups online: particularly fallacious, partisan, unfair, and emotionally-charged exchanges that do little to persuade opponents, but, instead, do much to confirm initial beliefs, and often further alienate opponents.
In an effort to subvert this situation, this assignment asks you to identify one digital argument that you find particularly inflammatory, and respond to it based on the tenets of Rogerian argument. The argument to which you respond might be a blog post, a Facebook post, a video, a response to a video, or any other digital genre that your ancient instructor may not be familiar with. There are two things you should keep in mind when selecting an argument to respond to: 1) the genre has to be in some way digital, and 2) because this project isn’t meant to be huge, or in any way a traditional essay—think around 200-600 words—it may be in your best interest to choose an argument that is of comparable size.
After you’ve chosen an argument you find particularly inflammatory, you will craft a response roughly based on the principles of Rogerian argument. Your response, however briefly, should include the four parts of a Rogerian argument:
a discussion of the problem from both points of view that uses value-neutral language
a discussion of your opponent’s point of view, the conditions in which it might be valid, and a selection of facts or assertions that you might be willing to concede to your opponent
a discussion of your point of view, the conditions in which it might be valid, and a selection of facts or assertions that your opponent might be able to accept about your point of view
a thesis that establishes a compromise between these two points of view and represents concessions from both you and your opponent
The format of your response will largely be dictated by the digital genre of the argument to which you will respond. You will submit two arguments for this assignment: the argument to which you are responding and the Rogerian response you craft. Please submit both to Canvas, by Wednesday of Finals Week.
To submit the argument to which you are responding, you can screenshot the argument, and save the image file as a .pdf, before submitting (Important: Canvas does not support .jpg or .png or other image formats. Please save the image as a .pdf before submitting.) The second option is to copy and paste the text a Word or pdf document. You may submit a link ONLY if the argument is a video or audio piece.
To submit your Rogerian Response you must publish/post your response by making it public in your digital genre, and submit a screenshot. (Important: Again, you must save the image as a .pdf file before submitting. Canvas does not support .jpg, .png, or other image files!)
Your digital, Rogerian response should:
Make a concerted, good-faith effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
Include—however, brief, and in no prescriptive order—the four parts of a Rogerian argument above.
Present a response that, genuinely, has the ability to open communication, invite response, and prevent alienation. This goal is more valuable than “persuading” your audience in a more classical sense.
Be written in a style that accounts for the conventions of the digital genre in which you are responding. Is the genre stylistically formal or informal? What do citations look like in this genre? Are citations even expected? What does your audience expect from you? This is not to say that your argument must match these conventions exactly, but rather, navigates between these conventions and the purposes of your own argument.
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