Understanding cultures of critique

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“How dare you? I’m almost twice your age.” I received this response from a student in my early days of teaching. I often taught at a community college where at least half my students were twice my age. Middle-aged adults don’t always take criticism well from a freshly-minted college graduate.

In this case, the institution gave me the power to critique student work, but we don’t always have this luxury. In the business world, how do you critique a potential client without losing their business? As a writer, how do you interpret various styles of critiques in productive ways? …

Try subtracting the cats

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To many of us, this question seems preposterous. 2+2 = 4. Right? How can that be racist?

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about this myself until a family member shared a quote from a Fox News story about a new teacher training initiative in Oregon. Presumably the link was meant to send me into a fit of rage against the liberal education machine. The quote went like this:

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics” and argues, among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on…

An exercise in finding real discussion

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No matter what political party you support, logical fallacies don’t really change. In the past week, I’ve seen several posts attempting to “bookmark” the status of our economy for our future selves. This will show up in four years as a Facebook memory, so we can compare just how worse things became under the new president. This is not new. Obama’s supporters posted the same thing in 2017 (most of which look remarkably similar). These posts go something like this:

Remember this day. No wars in 4 years. Job security. Oil independence. Gas is under $2.20. Stock market is above…

An analysis of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Twitter speech

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Soon after the events of January 6, 2021, Arnold Schwarzenegger posted a video on Twitter that quickly received over a million likes. What strikes me most about this 7 minute speech is that Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be offering an alternative masculinity that starkly contrasts with what Donald Trump has weaponized for the past four years.

As James Knight notes in Toxic Masculinity Explains Trump’s Support Among Many Men, Trump’s masculine image has been a key to his success, and he works hard not to betray that image (even to the point of not wearing a mask).

In my writing classes, I always assign reflective essays or self-assessments for finals. This is perhaps a fourth reason for doing a "final exam." To allow students a moment of reflection, where they can connect what they have learned with previous experiences and their future professional goals. This really is quite natural in writing instruction, and we've been doing it for decades. I love thinking about this for other classes where it doesn't seem so natural. I particularly like the idea of mind-mapping the course or rewriting the catalog description. Very low stakes, but we could learn some interesting things!

Thinking about open technology policies from a math perspective is interesting (since I don't teach math). I teach writing, and using technology to cheat is really not a thing. I suppose some teachers might consider grammar-checkers cheating, but I think it is just another learning tool (that I even sometimes use). Technically, I have no restrictions on what technology students use to create a writing project ...

Except perhaps the writing and collaboration tools I require. For example, I do require students to use specific software. Adobe to create designs. Microsoft Teams to collaborate and discuss ideas. Or Notion to…

I amost exclusively use this on my desktop, and I think some of the best features of Craft are a bit hidden. Personally, I've been really into backlinks and trying to create a "Zettlekasten" or note-taking system. Roam convinced me of the usefulness of backlinks, but I was not really happy with the lack of structure. I found Obsidian too clunky. Craft is a nice balance. I can have some file structure, but also create a system of backlinks that can create connections across the file structure.

Craft's outward-facing features outstrip all the competition. Roam and Notion have great features…


A short form smart note

Author’s own photo of smart note

Transcreation is the act of translating rhetorical context … which goes beyond the cultural contexts around language and text. To transcreate a text, you must know the exigency in multiple cultures and be able to adapt all textual and cultural elements to these new contexts. Transcreating a text requires a complete revision or “re-developing” of all content, not just words. This means adapting images, color, tone, style, and voice. This may even require a change in intent or meaning. How a text performs in one culture can work completely different in another culture.

Trancreation requires empathy for relating to the…

A Primer

Tips for writing in collaborative spaces like Slack and MS Teams

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Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are the new collaboration spaces emerging in many workplaces today. Applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams are replacing email as an informal place to efficiently discuss new ideas and collaborate on projects. If you haven’t already, chances are you’ll run into one of these eventually.

New employees or users often approach these spaces in the wrong way. While interviewing technical writers for a research project, I heard stories about inital missteps. For example, one employee added the phrase “at your earliest convenience” to her Slack message, trying to sound formal … and it came off as…

Lance Cummings PhD

writing professor & rhetorician — where philosophy, communication, technology intersect.

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