Essay Assignment

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Breneman, GWRTC 103
Fall 2009

Paper 3: Looking Forward: Arguments off the Page (Visual Rhetoric and Multimedia Literacy)

Select one of the following prompts to help you discover ideas you would like  to develop into a 4-5 page (1250 word minimum) essay. No matter which topic you choose, you must establish an appropriate audience and specific purpose for your essay. While the essay must be argumentative in nature, how you craft your argument is up to you. One goal of this course (and assignment) is to help you develop strategies for thinking and writing in your personal, academic, and civic lives.   In this essay, you will once again be using argument to seek change and resolve problems, working with your reader to discover the best solutions  for the entire community. 
Since this is a relatively short essay, be sure to select a topic that is narrow and specific enough to fully explore in four to five pages.  The content of your essay must reflect more than superficial thought on the subject. Follow all paper and research guidelines, and keep the grading criteria in mind. Use the checklist posted on Blackboard to help.  For this paper, you must cite at least five sources.  Use proper MLA documentation.  In addition to the usual requirements, you must also include at least two visual elements to help support your argument; consider using photographs, illustrations, charts, graphs, diagrams, or any other visual element  You might  consider presenting your text in an electronic format and including  multimedia content; if you choose this format, we will need to make arrangements for turning in both a print and electronic version of your text.  For more on citing and incorporating visual elements into your work, see the readings from the textbook, OWL, or other online resources.  

As always, this must be an original essay written in response to this assignment. The honor code applies to this and all work done in this course. Due dates and other policies appear on the syllabus.  Please see me with any questions or concerns.

1.  Visual arguments can be powerful, but they can also be misleading.  They are also ubiquitous.  Whether we are surfing the Internet, watching our favorite shows, or riding the bus, we cannot escape visual arguments. As such, we must to be able to analyze them.  Select a specific ad, website, video, cartoon, or other form of visual argument. Use your critical thinking skills to analyze, evaluate, and conduct research on the argument. Now, using your analysis and research, craft your own argument about the visual argument you selected.  Identify a specific problem, and work with your audience to seek truth (that is, the best solutions to the problems facing us). You may choose to make any argument you wish about the visual argument you have selected.  Just remember to select an appropriate audience and purpose for your essay, and make sure you support your focused argument with appropriate evidence.   Go beyond the obvious, and make an original contribution to the discussion.   Remember to use your argument to seek change; your purpose should involve changing the way the reader thinks, feels, or acts in response to a specific issue. 

2. In "More than Words," Peter Monaghan notes the way students and professors alike are using multimedia presentations and new technology to enhance education.   While Monaghan identifies some important and effective uses of such technology, he also recognizes the sometimes "empty" use of technology and multimedia instruction.  As the professors in the essay argue, building a website or crafting interactive projects isn't enough; substance, flow of argument, and depth of thought also matter.  Identify a use of technology or multimedia format you've encountered that seems empty, pointless, extraneous, or even harmful.  You can write about something in the classroom, the career world, or everyday life.  After carefully researching and analyzing your specific example, craft an argument about it.   As always, be sure to select a specific audience and purpose, and to focus your essay.   (Please note that some topics are overdone, such as Facebook or video games; however, if you have compelling personal experiences, unique insights, or innovative solutions to offer, feel free to make your unique contribution to the conversation).   Use your argument to seek change. 

3. New technology brings with it all sorts of changing trends.  Think of a growing trend that many people embrace, but you can't stand.   Or, you might consider defending a trend that most people seem to bash.   Either way, after researching the trend, craft an argument about it; be sure to support your claims with reasons and evidence and to include ample acknowledgment and response.   Establishing ethos and building a strong connection with the audience will be a difficult, but vital, task.   Remember to use argument to seek change. 

4. Fred Guterl explores the transition our culture is making away from the written word toward visual media in "It's the End of the Word As We Know It."   Think of a transition you have experienced, are experiencing now, or will experience soon.   Or, think of a social or cultural change.   Is this transition good, bad, ugly, or all three combined?  Should we embrace or fight against this transition?  Is the transition really happening, or is there much ado about nothing?  As you answer these questions through research and analysis, consider what sorts of conversations are taking place, and what unique contribution you make to those conversations.  After considering all perspectives, craft an argument about this change, selecting a specific audience, purpose, and focus for your essay.   Be sure to express what it is you want your readers to do/change/think/feel after reading your essay.   

5. In consultation with me, craft a topic of your own within the broader issues of visual rhetoric, multimedia literacy, and changing technologies.   As with the last essays, feel free to adapt one of the above prompts, or to choose your own adventure. The most important thing  about this assignment  is to help you write the best paper possible, so if that means deviating from these prompts, feel free to do so.  You, and your reader, will be happier if you select a topic that interests you. Consider making a list of things that matter to you, such as hobbies, extracurricular activities, family, something you learned in this or another course, and so forth, and brainstorming from there. Or, you can choose a subject you know very little about, but have always wanted to explore. After selecting an interesting and appropriate topic, select a specific audience and purpose for your essay. Be sure to narrow your topic into a specific arguable thesis. If you need additional help or have any questions, please contact me.


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