Floating Clouds and Flowing Water? The Difficulty of Convergence Culture amid Cyberimperialism

There is a Chinese saying “floating clouds and flowing water” to praise good writing and thoughts, but here it occurs to me suddenly that the convergence culture through new media is just the same. Owing to the liquidity of information and ideas, people from different cultural and ideological backgrounds can now easily access each other’s most private thinkings by reading blogs, posts, and so on. However, the highly public and sharp differences can probably cause conscequences even the authors would have never imagined. So, maybe it is much more difficult to arrive the level of “floating clouds and flowing water” in cultural convergence. Maybe I should not overly exaggerate the difficulties, but the good side can turn bad if the situation is worsened by people who use rhetoric to fight wars, not making friends, am I right?

The example in the introduction to Convergence Culture immediately reminds me of the film that mocks Muslim prophet not long ago. Even the fresh news reported by New York Times on Chinese Premier Wen and his family is now in the spotlight online and in China. While the freedom of speech on the Western side can explore interesting stories on anyone anywhere, I cannot help suspecting the validity of the news and its purpose of releasing such a seemed horrible news just before the big conference in China. It seems to me that the NYT, one of my favorite news resources, has chosen a completely wrong target this time. One who is deeply loved by the people in China by his charisma and his idea to fight against corruption, to cooperate internationally, and even to change the Chinese governmental systems. Who does not know that politicians all over the world make a lot of money?! If such kind of non-friendly reports goes on and on, how can the convergence of culture happen if people just wage wars against each other openly and fiercely. Does it mean that US will convert all the other nations?

Each person has a specific memory of history that is rooted in the specific culture, and it changes or even shatters when new media era demand one to converge to another system of belief. Clashes and conflicts either openly or secretly is not necessarily bad, for they prompt one to learn and search for the specific information on the “other” for a more holistic literacy—a worldwide literacy that can embrace different histories, beliefs, experiences, and practices. In the popular culture circle, people debate with each other by commenting to a certain piece of news, by daily dialogues on certain topics that they cannot possibly understand within the limitation of one culture, and by blogging and other means of social networks. In the academic circle, through multinational collaboration and cross-national communication.

However, when bad things, such as the anti-US protests happened in Egypt and Lybia, when anti-Japanese protests happened in China, who is to blame? Should someone who has always been bullied feel sad and say a word? Can the internet wake up one day and say, “Hey, don’t look at me today. Your heart will break if you see other people playing with your faith now!” I love the internet and all new media stuff because I use them as a tool to learn, to share, and to communicate with friends and family. But sometimes, I woke up and was made sad because of tons of negative or bad news that would literally give me no mood to go to school. I wonder why people just cannot understand that politics are politics, when you play with the politicians, consider the feelings of the civilians also. They suffer a lot because of your games! All the world is now learning and adoring the American idol(I am thinking of the copied Hollywood in India, and many other cloned things), but whether they will continue to do so depends on what their Godly idol does to them, I guess.

Back to my title, I think the cyberspace environment is highly imperialist and pushy because the wind that blow the clouds and waters, or the trend of some important agencies really decides which direction the world will go to. Trying to understand each other thoroughly is just in vain and pointless if people do not calm down and make efforts to learn from each other and really sit down to talk. Because history has proven that wars and hatred cannot save problems once for all.

Once again, the power of rhetoric in such a “convergence culture”, whether true or false, has frightened me. I wonder when will a genuine democracy of culture come into being.

I have some links for my dear professor, classmates, and blog followers below:

The first one tells how imperialism and the foreign invasions happened in Asia. It has an audio version just ahead of the text.

The second one talks about an American Chinese journalist’s struggling with his dilemma of identities.

The third one is a link of the Chinese Exclusion Act, it will also take you to the National Archives.

Imperialism Asia

The Olympics, China, and Me

Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

Persuasion in Sound: Reaching to the Speaking and Listening Aspects of Composition

Sonic Persuasion: Reading Sound in the Recorded Age

When I was in high school, I heard from my mother that if you read things loud, you can memorize things faster and practice your speaking at the same time. Great! A one stone two birds thing! I personally found the method quite useful and it helped me a lot to memorize new words in my textbooks and other readings. Later, I found reading loud helps me to do proof-reading much more efficiently. Sometimes it helps to correct words and sentence structures, sometimes it helps to change some words into ones that sounds better. The “tone and style” thing happens all the time.

Reading “Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies” really makes me excited on how students’ ability to enhance their words, sentence structures, and voice can become more persuasive to their audience (Introduction). Their mentioning of using film studies, music, psychoacoustics, and audio technology is fascinating. Through the use of sound tracks, students write texts, combine verbal with visual and sonic elements to compose multilayered writings.

I think reading out loud and the sonic way of composition have something in common: they both use aural dimension to help students’ learning. While it is important to native speakers, it is more important for second language learners to practice aural and oral ability. Meanwhile, to use sound to learn is also important. For example, I used to have a habit of recording what I heard while listening to songs. I found my hobby quite conducive to my later listening ability. Then when I became a teacher, I asked my students to make changes to classics, write their own adapted lines and act them on a stage. I found students who participated in such acting activities became aware of their Chinese accent as they work to compare their own drama with that on the screen. This is also true for my own literacy story.

“Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies”, the authors talk about the relationship between voice and its representation of gender and culture. I think it is peculiarly latent for second language learners. in the process of acquiring a foreign language literacy, we not only read and write, but more importantly, we have to practice listening and speaking. The listening and speaking skills are emphasized in the English departments in China to a certain degree that students are asked to imitate the accent of both English and American accents. We practice this by following to tapes and recording our own sound tracks to discern whether or not we have mastered the foreign accents.

When I was a translation and interpretation major, I practice translation and record my own sound track every day and night. Somehow, I really believe the kind of drill helped me. Or else, you would have to tolerate a much more worse accent of mine. Even that much practice, I think is not enough for me to communicate efficiently here. I still have a long way to go. I am a living example of the voice and culture relationship. And my friends from the United States, Britain, New Zealand, and the Philippines, they are all walking embodiment of voices and cultures in our foreign language department. Sometimes, I do think having one’s voice is a good thing to kind of preserve culture. I mean, when I saw an Asian face on TV who speaks fluent American accent English, my true feeling is creepy! I’d rather seeing people with certain faces speak differently. Yet, here is the States, where immigrants occupy certain percentage, so I’d better get used to the diversity and unity here.

“Literacy=Identity: Can You See Me?” piece is quite interesting. I will do my final project from the perspective of literacy, too. I love the idea of discovering the factors that influence students’ lives and experiences and the inspiration that we can become responsible and productive instructors and scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition. The practice of paying attention to students can also nurture our pedagogical trend in the future.

“Old Wine in A New Bottle”—Literacies, and the Intertextuality Between the Print and the Digital

My response this week is on Kathleen Blake Yancey’s “Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key” because I had a headache with Cheryl Ball’s “Show, Not Tell: The Value of New Media Scholarship”.

The latter mentions the growing difficulties for teachers in our field to gain tenure position through limited publication possibilities, which is also true in China because you have to get well-known first to be able to publish. Besides, you have to spend your own money to get any book published unless you are really a big potato and publishers grab your name as an advantage to boost their business. Although the concept of “tenure” does not exist in Chinese universities, public universities do give their employees the right to prolong their contracts as long as they are willing to do so. Private universities, however, only give such a priority to those executive celebrities and famous professors or experts because they need their fame to run the business. However, publication of books and papers with big publishing houses and big magazines remains a huge challenge to teachers in the humanities, especially in the Departments of English. We have fewer professional magazines in China that can be seen as the “right places” that will make you a professor. Most teachers cannot become professors before their retirement. Competition is fierce, and a high percent of university teachers end up with associate professors or even lecturers.

Yancey’s “new key” for rhetoric and composition at this “moment” is to embrace multi-literacies that have been enabled by digital revolution. She tries to search a definition of composition in this new world permitted with multi-literacies. She suspects school education’s function on composition because her own experience is one that proves the unfruitfulness of classroom writing assignments(297-299). Her nineteenth century example illustrates the similar change today brought forth by digital revolution as compared to the what drastic changes the Industrial Revolution brought to novel writing and people’ life(299-301). She believes that the future of education is connected to the future of the English Departments because composition is a vital component of higher education(302-305) owing to its broad connection to global and social concerns. Situating the development of English Departments and the discipline of rhetoric and composition, she traces history while envision the future of writing(305-306), which, according to her opinion, will be a future that increasingly combine print and the digital technologies to enable multi-genres(307).

While facing such a future, Yancey lists three changes in our field: “Develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric”(308). She claims that the broadened arena of rhetoric and composition embraces mani-fold writing possibilities rather than compartmenting knowledge(308). Her model of composition: “Circulation of composition, cannons of rhetoric, deicity of technology”(311-312) because they easily help us on an epistemology that both inherit the canons and corporate technological advantages. Peer review is important to our composition process because students are the living literature. Her original citation is “on-going compositions”(312). The combination of technology and the canons can be seen as “ole wine in a new bottle.” When emphasizing multi-genres, Yancey also encourages instruction of registers and genres to students by a comparison between journal article and newspaper writing (313). I think this is brilliant because most of the time students’ writing fall into the latter category, an obvious influence of mass media on writing. This task of teaching students proper genres and registers is urgent. I still remember in one session of our discussion Anderson talked about students’ unawareness of curtesy in emails, which is highly relevant to their digital life: instant messages, tweets, etc.

I found the interrelationship among the five canons fascinating. I was thinking about this these weeks and I finally found the authoritative quote here! This will be helpful to my study on comparative rhetoric(316-317). Whereas delivery is considered as the core of the five cannons in text, instruction, public extra-curricula, each one of the other canons also play the role of the leader under certain and different circumstances.

Yancey’s “deictic” definition of literacy(318) reminds me of thinking interface as a transformer. They both are, which reminds me of the context that relates to the theme of next ATTW conference—the myth of “high-context” and “low-context.” Yancy mentions Selfe’s connection for technology and literacy that technology should be paid due attention to because it teaches us new literacies(319). This is an idea at the beginning of our readings that constitutes the foundation of our course. I really like her idea of “writers use technology rhetorically” and “writing, by its very nature, encourages abstraction”(319). She incorporate other evidences such as “new composition includes rhetoric and is about literacy”(320) to elaborate that our challenge of multi-literacies, expertise with technologies, and so on demand us to recognize the intertextuality between school education and social education both in the print and on the screen(320). Such an unprecedented cross-disciplinary possibility for teachers, students, and other people alike pushes us to learn more and try to adapt the changes rather than dreaming to reverse history. When she mentions “global, educational, technological changes” at the end of her paper(321), I feel huge pressure as a reader although I know what I should do. It is really a long way to go. I mean, people are having double majors, there are even IT experts with a degree in English. How do I survive the rest of my life?

Form and Content in Interface Designing: the Seen and Unseen Transformer (Reading Response 4)

Anne Frances Wysocki and Julia I. Jasken’s “What should be an unforgettable face…” inspires me most among the three readings, although Cynthis L. Selfe and Richard J. Selfe’s attitude that interface can be the agent for the exertion of power in electronic contact zones. Because interface automatically enforce the ideology of the designer, then we as rhetoric and composition folks should pay attention to it and enable our students to design personal interfaces that will express themselves in a powerful way.

Page design, screen design, and web design are all closely related to visual rhetoric, through which we enforce our hidden desires. I agree very much with the idea of “good user interfaces are invisible.” I really wish that there will be a good interface on wordpress so that I will not try so hard just to find out the suitable background theme for my blog. After secretly blaming the designers for having been so lack of creativity for a little while, I suddenly realized that if I were allowed to design one of the themes on my own, it will be utterly difficult.

I think the title “What should be an unforgettable face…” is rhetoric itself, for it implies what an interface should be like in order to be useful. The tile also has dural meanings like a pun. “Unforgettable” can mean a great cohesion of composition which after reading its content, only its spirit, its core remains in our mind. We are completely not aware of its form any more because the content is so impressive. “Unforgettable” can also mean the experience of using certain interfaces. I think this should be why the authors want to emphasize the powerfulness of interface design when visual rhetoric is engaged.

Wysocki and Jasken do not agree with compositions instructors’ over emphasis on the form of interface, rather, they prefer the content of the interface, which is often unseen and quite influential to users because interfaces such as writing softwares are ideologically loaded(32-33). But it really strikes me when Wysocki and Jasken give a thorough analysis on how software designers can manipulate the users in terms of their design and rules of using that software(34), which means the classical idea of rhetoric’s function as “leading the souls” is hidden behind the curtain of interface design. Designers actually decide who they design for and how to lead their users to their designing expectations(35).

I was not aware of the interfaces of softwares the authors mention, and I never thought of interface as far as textbooks are concerned. However, I think I might have considered the issue for a while when the textbooks in China change a lot and I have to try to adapt to those new textbooks and new ideologies. Now I know that the hardships are caused by interface design and a planned shift from teaching ideologies to ideologies. Wysocki and Jasken also think that the interface of textbook is important, but often neglected by writing instructors and textbook designers(37-38). Therefore, maybe instructors should consider some of the aspects that the textbook designers overlook. Or, textbook designers should consider some of the interface problems when they make a shift in the first place.Wysocki and Jasken think that the technics we use to design interfaces are rhetorically neutral whereas the product they create are highly rhetorical(39-40). My own experience of using both HTML design and DREAMWEAVER makes me more than satisfactory on this argument. I do think that the latter will allow us more space to consider the rhetorical effects our designs are likely to trigger, rather than the process of learning how to use our functional literacy on codes and codes design in a writing classroom. Nevertheless, before we approach and understand the unseen, we have to get sufficient and necessary functional literacy. Form and content is after all intricately intertwined.

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