Published on December 13th, 2012 | by Thompson0
Reading Past Gonzo Rhetoric in New Media
Since the previous two blog posts in this series, “Gonzo Rhetoric in New Media,” were strictly examples of Gonzo rhetoric’s existence, it’s about time I help you navigate through the rhetoric to make meaningful meaning. Collin Gifford Brooke contends in Lingua Fracta that “one of the defining missions of rhetoric and composition is its insistence on the social, cultural, and contextual position of the writer; the participation of readers and audiences in the construction of meaning; and the necessary imprecision of language – all positions that refute the traditional notion of the author/inventor,” and I believe the model I’ve created accomplishes all of this (62).
The Subjectivity Cycle: Or, How Meaning is Made utilizes Robert Pirsig’s Quality and Interactionism to help you swim through the waves of subjectivity, because like Doug Downs, I too “want to banish the philosopher’s rhetoric that concerns itself with formal logic people don’t actually use, absolute truths that aren’t actually accessible, objectivity which is not humanly attainable” (8).
As Stanley Fish tells us “becoming aware that everything is rhetorical is the first step in countering the power of rhetoric and liberating us from its force,” (136) which is why the Subjectivity Spectrum is now a circle that “surrounds us” so to speak. Plus the objectivity/subjectivity binary was not an ideal representation that allowed for an explanation of Quality’s effect on making meaning. I wasn’t in love with the idea that objectivity was only present on one side of the spectrum, and subjectivity on the other. Just about any composition is sanctioned by both objectivity and subjectivity. “Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist,” said Hunter S. Thompson in an Associated Press interview. “You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.” So, to divide objectivity and subjectivity as if they never come in contact is unrealistic, but useful when graphing the types of rhetoric and the specific modes that use that rhetoric.
The spectrum remains unchanged minus the technology axis, which I removed to avoid confusion. It is no coincidence that the diagram resembles a “Q” for Quality. That’s what I was going for, plus the “Q” allows for Interactionism to play its inevitable and necessary role, because Charles I. Schuster’s “Mikhail Bakhtin as Rhetorical Theorist” states people “change as a result of the association, for they are just as affected by the hero as they are by their close association with each other” (596). “Quality Input” represents any information that we read, watch, or hear. Burke’s terministic screens (or Wertsch’s mediational means), go to work on the information as we take it in. The goggles through which we see the world, or the cultural, institutional, and historical contexts in which we live, are inescapable. That “screened” information is processed through interactions with people and other information the reader is familiar with, which sheds the information of its rhetoric.
In his essay “Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm,” Walter R. Fisher quotes Angel Medina saying, “The meaning of my whole life is communicative” (386). The process of Interactionism never ends, of course, which is why the Quality input and output valves are always open. As Jim Corder so eloquently put it in “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” “Argument…is not something we make outside ourselves’ argument is what we are” (415). The “Quality Output” represents the meaning we make in that time and place. That meaning may not be the same tomorrow, but it’s what the reader believes to be true in the now. That meaning must pass through our conscience before it is shared, so we don’t share something we can’t live with afterwards.
So there you have it. If you’re ever confused by a book, television news broadcast, or an online text, refer back to the Subjectivity Cycle for high Quality meaning, because “Quality (the aesthetic) is possible only when traditional categorical distinctions are broken down, when classical and romantic conceptions of reality are fused” (Schuster 602). I think the Subjectivity Cycle effectively fuses classical and romantic thinking, and I believe it stays true to Pirsig’s definition of Quality in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that “Quality is not a thing. It is an event” (Pirsig 233). The Subjectivity Cycle is a useful cycle for those having trouble identifying their personal truths and how those truths come to be, but remember, “[t]he real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be ‘out there’ and the person that appears to be ‘in here’ are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together” (417). Robert Pirsig certainly says it better than I can.