Monday, November 6, 2006

Kaufer and Butler, Rhetoric and the Arts of Design

Kaufer, David and Brian Butler. Rhetoric and the Arts of Design. Mahwah, N.J.: Earlbaum, 1996.

Interested in the "betterment of rhetoric" (305), Kaufer and Butler spell out an involved model for a modularized verbal rhetoric. They seek to distinguish (and recuperate) rhetoric understood as a design art from more pejorative designations (i.e., rhetoric of antirhetoric and rhetoric as a practical art (23), menial, or simple). In arguing for this particular understanding of rhetoric, Kaufer and Butler frame written argument as an original design art. Given an explicit focus on verbal rhetoric (words alone (9)--grounded in Austin and speech acts), it's not clear where they stand on materiality (^things are designed in language). Rhetoric, for them, involves the design of abstractions (9), and the "design art" reorientation opens rhetoric to a complexity beyond handbooks and procedurally reductive how-tos.

Goals in Rhetorical Design

While the structure of their model seems rigidly executed at times, holding apart, for example, the rhetor from the environment (58), Kaufer and Butler emphasize its suggestive quality rather than pitching it as a prescriptive serum to perfect all rhetorical encounters. They describe the model as diagnostic at one point (305; diagnostic because of modularity), but it is equally useful as a set of heuristics which can be deployed to stabilize public, civic discourse (the application throughout Rhet/Arts of Design is the Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates). In pursuit of coherence, Kaufer and Butler characterize the model as asituational (i.e., portable, generalizable).

The second half of the book, chapters 5-9, is devoted to explaining and applying each of the modules: 5. Goals, 6. Structure, 7. Plans, 8. Tactics, and 9. Events. Goals and Structure are higher order modules, while Plans, Tactics, and Events manifest in the design space. Tactics tend to be opponent-directed and combative; Events are audience-directed and cooperative (67). Further, each of the modules is coordinated with other modules (including the Strategic module (268) and Presentation module (273)). The modules are, in effect, alive; they are rather like Latour's hybrids to a degree. Kaufer and Butler explain that they partially anthropomorphic (dynamic, agentic conditions). Also called "experts," the modules are entangled in a symbiotic orchestration.

^materiality, role of genre, rationalism.

Rhetoric: "Let us define rhetoric as the control of events for an audience. To be more specific, let's say that rhetoric is the strategic organization and communication of a speaker's version of events within a situation in order to affect the here and now of audience decision making" (12).

Design arts: "Design arts highlight a distinction between an agent's naked intention, the goals outside of and motivating the design, and the goals of the designer, that reside in the design. The goals of the design (e.g., fame, wealth, glory, power) and the goals in the design (e.g., balance, symmetry, restraint) coevolve. The defining conditions of a design art are that (1) the goals of the design are perceptually distinct from the goals in it; (2) the artifact produced by the design depends on the coevolution and convergence of these systems of goals; and as an unavoidable consequence, (3) the actor requires considerable effort and skill to bring about this evolution and convergence (29).

Key terms: probability (xv), antirhetoric (2), novelty (3), absence (3), archivability (3), boundedness (4), speed (4), axiomatic science (7), design knowledge (7), verbal rhetoric (8), audience and opponent (10), event and situation (12), canonical event-telling (14), noncanonical event-telling (16), rhetorical situation (19), ancillary events (20), practical arts (23), dialectical argument as contrasted with rhetoric (26), material and symbolic artifacts (33), quasi-real (33), module (37, 39), topics/topoi (49), goals (59), structure (61), knowledge representation (61), public space (64), predictiveness and adaptiveness (76-77), public (95, 124), entity classes (109), modeling a public (129), experts (267), strategic module (268), presentational module (273), media (296).

"The cultural stereotype for rocket science applies, in more muted and modest shades, to the arts in the family of arts we associate with design--engineering, architecture, graphics, musical composition. The principal argument of this book is that rhetoric belongs in this family of arts as well" (xiii).

"As rhetoric has tried to prove itself in the modern academy, it has had to reshape itself to look more like an organized body of analytical knowledge and less like a form of productive knowledge, the latter considered more craft-like and heuristical than principled and lawfully regular. Yet as rhetoric has 'succeeded' in remaking itself to fit the modern standard, it has lost its bearing as an art of production" (xvi).

"Through these three material properties [archivability, boundedness, speed], print made it possible to foreground novelty as a new paradigm for the cultural dissemination of ideas" (4).

"Work in the rhetoric of inquiry and writing in the specialized disciplines tries to show, in sum, how rhetoric, assumed to be a loosely knit and relatively unstructured bundle of practices, finds its way into disciplines considered too highly structured to need rhetoric" (6).

"We argue that rhetoric has remained institutionally unstable as an indigenous knowledge because the academy has failed to place it where it deserves to be placed--in the family of the design arts" (7).

"Design knowledge is the knowledge associated with the architect, engineer, and computer specialist. It is standardly described as (a) modular, able to be broken down into parts; (b) cohesive, allowing the parts to be related back into a working whole; and (c) problem-focused, allowing persons with the knowledge to apply it to do so for pragmatic ends. Our thesis is that rhetorical knowledge, whether practiced in civic communities or by schooled professionals, is a type of design knowledge" (7).

"Within a construction of consciousness, the past, present, and future are integrated as overlapping horizons of time that unite intention, action, and reflection. This gives each event in a noncanonical presentation the look, not of a semantic island, but of a dispersed mass spread across sentences and paragraphs with no clear boundaries" (18).

"It has been difficult to reconcile the dignified universals of the humanities with the interestedness, practicality, and localness of rhetoric" (21).

"Given the local, tactical, and applied nature of rhetorical knowledge, it was and has remained impossible to defend rhetoric against the earliest charges made by philosophy that rhetoric has no intrinsic interest in the universals of truth and morality" (22).

"An ethical consideration more intrinsic to rhetoric is whether the audience is empowered to see the design behind the events constructed" (30).

"To summarize, for an adequate conceptualization of rhetoric, we contend that it is necessary to leave behind the practical arts and associate rhetoric with the arts of design" (35).

"A central contention of this book is that rhetorical design exists as an entity much larger and more encompassing than the textual implementation of rhetorical discourse" (45).

"The Tactics module presupposes a viewpoint different from Plans. Although Plans only knows about truth and falsehood in the social world, Tactics knows only about a world of gaming between a speaker and live opponents in a specific rhetorical situation. Plans knows nothing about the particulars of rhetorical situations. Plans stays somewhat aloof from the actual details of any specific situation of rhetoric. Tactics and Events are the modules that actually 'forage' rhetorical situations, modules that directly manipulate situational inputs that can change with design structure" (65).

"[The Events module] forms the basis of language we call rhetorical performatives, like adaptations, nondeclaratives, indirection, emotives, and reflexives like wit, humor, and irony" (67).

"We acknowledge a partial anthropomorphizing, that is, anthropomorphizing within a module. Within a module, we have relied on an anthropomorphic intelligence to provide the mechanism by which a specific module, within the limits of its own knowledge and action potential, 'decides' or 'does' something" (263).

"Plans, Tactics, and Events operate concurrently, as independent 'experts' that look for opportunities to change a design as the state of the design changes" (267).

"Conservatively, training in the studio arts is anywhere from 5 to 20 times more expensive per student than training in the humanities. To avoid the expense, it is easy to keep rhetoric the lowly practical skill of the humanities, taught to freshman as a rite to passage to the college curriculum. But that is to reduce rhetoric to freshman composition and to miss rhetoric's potential as a member in good standing with the arts of design" (298).

"We have argued that the complexity of rhetoric evinced by these debates shows rhetoric to be much more than a practical art, an art comprehended or captured by a handbook tradition. It is rather a modular art of design, fulfilling all the essential definitions of such an art" (305).

Related sources:
Simon, Herbert. The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.
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