All posts by kdawley1

Blog Post 10 – Expository Writing: An Unspoken Argument

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What is exposition? I think even as English majors it is difficult for many of us to produce a precise definition for any category of writing. I think that different forms of writing blend together. For example, some people may say that expository writing is any writing that does not convey an argument. Truly, though, informative writing can serve as a rhetorical argument simply by the way the way the words are organized on the page.

This class opened up my eyes to the vastness of the category called expository writing. At another college, I took a course called Expository Writing 101. There, we practiced writing narratives, explanatory, and exploratory essays. I began to realize then that I thrive in this writing environment. My satisfaction in writing comes from telling people the facts, potential reasons, and then let them draw conclusions for themselves.

I think that is what expository writing is - stating the facts, providing evidence for these facts, and offering possible reasons/explanations. Unlike most forms of academic writing, expository writing allows us to state what we know while offering multiple explanations, instead of only one right answer. I personally hate that in most of my papers I feel "forced" to take a drastic position on a topic I could go either way with.

Throughout this course, I felt as though I could allow the audience to participate in my investigative process through my writing. Sometimes it was almost as if I was talking out my thoughts through my writing. That is what I appreciate about this form of writing - I am able to take my audience exactly through what I am thinking. While writing, we are able to discover so much... It is a learning process. I think that is where expressive discourse has such a place in life and academia.

As mentioned earlier in the post, although expository writing does not typically strive to produce an argument, and argument can be made "unspoken." I will give an example. In my object analysis, I did not come right out and say what I thought the reader should conclude about my doll head. I am sure I did, however, influence the reader's viewpoint in the way I presented the evidence and explained the evidence. I believe expository is linked to persuasion, but in a more indirect way than other forms of writing.

Through our object studies we are able to see the connection between material study and exposition as a rhetorical activity. In our class, we not only found out about our objects, but also composed writing to share findings and explanations to influence the way others think about these objects. As we have discussed in class discussions, objects have stories that do not always align with cultural interpretations. Through our writing, we held the power to try to clear up some misconceptions by offering a new story for our objects.

My main point is that expository writing allows us to inform without having all of the right answers. Through this type of writing we are essentially able to learn together, writer and reader. I think there is something so real about such a personal form of writing, where the rules don't always have to be followed. Importantly, expository writing can make a loud statement with an unspoken argument.

Picture credit:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2004-02-29_Ball_point_pen_writing.jpg

Blog 9 – Striving For More: What We Own is Never Enough

While my sister was growing up she wanted a puppy so bad.  It took her seventeen years to persuade my dad to have a pet in the house.  My dad always said that a pet is really exciting for the first couple weeks, but then the reality of the huge responsibility hits.  I think several parents have this conversation with their kids! Exactly what my dad said would happen is actually happening.  My dad has all of the responsibility for caring for the dog because the "newness" wore off.  Thankfully, my dad absolutely adores this dog.

I believe there are primarily three reasons why we desire things: all of which are socially constructed, which Karina asserted in her post.  The three reasons I have concluded are:

1. a longing to obtain something that seems out of reach, a feeling of success

2. a hope to improve ourselves

3. to fit in

A Desire to Attain

I am not sure if my sister fell in love with the idea of having a puppy or for attaining something that seemed without reach.  I think that's one aspect of desire:  the longing to obtain something that seems out of reach: something that will make us feel accomplished.  Once we have it set in our minds that we want something, we develop a fixation and obsession to obtain this item.  Once the item is obtained, though, it often does not seem as exciting as we always imagined.

In an article entitled  "The Unattainable Urge to Always Want What we Can't Have" poses that we long for things we can't have in all aspects of life.  Whether it be a car, a job, an object, or even in a relationship, desire is present in our every day lives.  An American educator is cited in the article, named George Loewenstein.  His explanation for the desire for seemingly unattainable things is as follows:

"According to Loewenstein, something significant happens when we feel a gap between what we know and what we want to know: curiosity hatches. As a result, we often feel the need to take action, to do whatever it takes to bridge that gap."

I certainly see where this curiosity Loewenstein mentions could lead people to purchase, but I believe there are other reasons as well, such as self improvement and fitting in.

An Attraction to a Product for Self- Improvement

I am guilty of this... guilty of thinking that a product can do something for me that I am not capable of doing myself.  'I will start working out.  I just need something to kick start my motivation.  Maybe some new, cute work out clothes will help,' I think to myself.  Another product that has sparked my interest are activity watches, such as The Fit bit, tracking aspects of health and activity levels.  Since I cannot seem to become motivated to exercise without a product, maybe a product like this will motivate me, I consider.  Here is an ad for The Fitbit:

Every one in this video seems so happy.  They are out doing active things that, let's fact it, we would all love to be out doing.  I think people see this ad and want that to be their lives.  While none of us are naive enough to believe a watch with transform our lives, I think a part of our subconscious associates happiness with a product like this.

A Desire to Belong in a Social Circle

Lastly, we seem to desire to fit in.  If the people we associate with on a regular basis have a certain item, we feel the need to buy what they have in order to fit in.  Again, it is a social thing.  An article entitled "Why "Retail Therapy" Works" describes the story of a woman who moves to a larger city for a new job.  She realized that her coworkers at the new job had nicer clothes than her, so she immediately went out and bought nicer clothes.  Desire can be largely connected to the attempt to fit into a social circle.

Can you think of examples when you bought something to feel succesful, to fit in, or to improve yourself?  Are there other reasons why someone may desire an object?

To conclude, I found an advertisement that incorporates the aspect of desire into its content.  I found it interesting, but I am still sure that a Mercedes owner would get bored of the car and try to aspire to the next step of the success ladder.

 

Featured Image Credit:  https://flic.kr/p/8fDscU

FitBit ad link:  https://youtu.be/K0qVi_nF6y8

Mercedes ad link:  https://youtu.be/SKyj2Gb4u0M

 

From Germany to Atlanta? Doll Head Timeline

From Germany to Atlanta?  Doll Head Timeline

In the 1970s, over 100,000 objects were excavated with the construction of the MARTA rail lines.  Georgia State University, more specifically the Archaeology Department, took over the study and preservation of these objects.  I have been studying one of the objects, a doll head.  There was not much information about this doll head, but I was determined to find out as much as I could.  I was actually able to find out more than I had originally expected.

I learned that any writing on an object can speak lead to more information, even if the lettering seems random and meaningless.  For instance, the doll head had an engraving which pointed to the manufacturer of the doll, which guided my research.  Something as simple as the material of the head also spoke volumes about the time period and affordability.

My goal in this timeline is to guide an audience through my research findings.  I have given some insight into my speculations, but I also want each person to draw his/her own conclusions about what the research may say about the object.

 

Less Toys for More Gains: Blog 7

As many of you know, my object is the creepy doll head - the doll without eyes.  Although my object is missing eyes, it is in surprisingly good shape.  According to my research, it appears that this particular doll head was likely made in the late 1890s or early 1900s. It is amazing that something this old can still be in one piece!  The material it is made of is not particularly durable either.   It is made of bisque, which I learned is easy to break.  Since a doll is a toy, we can infer that this doll could very well have been owned by a child.  Since several of us in the class are researching doll heads and/or toys, I thought it would be useful to discuss how children treat and see objects and how this has changed with time.

How Many Toys do Children Need?

I have heard so many people claim that their kids have so many toys, they do not know what to do with them.  While it seems like it would be positive for kids to have so many toys, is it really beneficial to their learning about how to respect and treat objects?  Keeping in mind that all adults start as kids, I sometimes wonder if the way we view objects starts during childhood.  If children have so many toys growing up that they seem limitless will they find it necessary to care for these materials?

Back in the day...

Children didn't have as many toys as they do now!  While I was doing my research, I came across an article by Susan Brewer called "Armand Marseille Dolls & Other Bisque Dolls."  In the article Brewer points out something really interesting that sparked my idea for this discussion.

"As the heads were made of fine china they were extremely breakable, and the fact that there are so many still around today just goes to show how much little girls treasured their dolls in those days. They probably only had a few, unlike today’s children who might own dozens of Barbies or baby dolls which are played with for a short while before being discarding. Bisque dolls were loved and cherished – just think of all the stories they could tell us today."   -Susan Brewer

Susan points out the potential effect of owning more toys.  She implies that back in the times when children had very few toys, they took care of them better than children today who have toys that seem limitless.  Girls likely knew that if their doll broke, they probably were not going to get another one.  This point makes it clear why the bisque doll head I am researching is still in tact.

doll

Other Potential Benefits of Children Possessing Less Toys

I was curious about the benefits of children owning less toys, and I found an article entitled "Why Fewer Toys Benefit Your Kids", by Joshua Becker.  I encourage you to take a look at the article to speculate about all of the potential benefits, but I would like to highlight a couple.  Becker explains that when kids have less toys, they learn to be more creative.  He also claims that children with less toys will be more resourceful and will find a love of activities outside of picking out and being rewarded by toys.  Above all, the house will be more clean!

So How Does this Transcend into Adult Life?

When children are given every toy they want, they do not have to worry about going without.  Since they know there is always a replacement, they do not worry about caring for objects.  Perhaps that habit carries over into adulthood, which could explain why most adults own so much.  I even think the imagination aspect applies to adults.  Most of us will be extremely bored if we do not have some technology to keep us entertained.  Many people reward themselves with shopping, a habit that is considered undesirable in adulthood, yet adults reward their children with toys all the time.

Questions to Consider. What do you think?

1.  Do children today have too many toys?  What is a reasonable number of toys?

2. Is it important that children learn at a young age to care for objects?

3. Does the way that children treat their toys have an impact on the level of respect they have for materials as they become adults?

 

Image Credit:

Featured Image:  http://www.zeroatthebone.com/2005/11/yet-another-post-about-toys.html

Doll Image:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polish_Doll.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blog # 6: Robots With Values

I consider myself to be very considerate and sensitive to human and animal needs, but inanimate objects are a different story.  For example, when I drop my phone I check to make sure the screen is not shattered, and then I shrug my shoulders and go on my way.  It is not that I do not care about my phone- I certainly care that it functions, but I know it does not have feelings, so it is treated on a completely different level than that of a human or an animal.

I cannot imagine how stressful and demanding it would be if some of our objects had feelings and social intelligence.  I have a difficult enough time worrying about the feelings of humans in my life, let alone the feelings of objects.  Objects that are most often associated with truly "knowing" the personality of their owners are robots.  The question is:  Do robots need a conscious to provide the most effective services for humans and if they do have a conscious, do we have the capacity to respond to their needs? 

The Benefit of Humanlike Robots

As the science of robotics improve, robots are going to start replacing more and more of human jobs.  If robots are going to become part of everyday life, wouldn't it make sense that they aligned with our values?  I would argue that objects that are robots 2programmed with pure scientific data will lack compassion, and thus values.  In "Why We Should Build Humanlike Robots," David Hanson purposes what may happen if we end up with robots that lack compassion.

"Simply put: if we do not humanize our intelligent machines, then they may eventually be dangerous. To be safe when they “awaken” (by which I mean gain creative, free, adaptive general intelligence), then machines must attain deep understanding and compassion towards people. They must appreciate our values, be our friends, and express their feelings in ways that we can understand. Only if they have humanlike character, can there be cooperation and peace with such machines."  (Hanson)

Although the quote is a bit lengthy, I think it is important to capture the entire message, so that we can truly imagine a world where we interact with robots.  Hanson brings up a useful point when he states the potential of robots use their creative intelligence.  I think most of us would agree that a truly "smart" robot would have a level of creative intelligence, adapting to a given situation.  But what would happen if a robot did not react in the way we, as humans found acceptable?   Would the world become dangerous?  Although one could argue humans are already dangerous, I would assert that human compassion and values keep most people on their best behavior.

Let us consider the Google smart car.  You all probably know by now that the prospect of this object fascinates me, as I have mentioned it in other posts as well.  If the car seems pedestrians as a code in the system, and not as people, doesn't that make it dangerous?  Without values, the smart car may not see a difference between a trash can and a human.

Humanlike Robots Create an Increased Sense of Responsibility

Although robots with humanlike characteristics will provide more realistic, efficient services, they will be as complex as humans.  We will have to worry about their feelings and will have to devote attention to these machines.  Creative robots will be smarter, and we will want them to react based on our accepted values.  Although we are able to see the value in compassionate robots, can the world handle so many more "humans" or should we forget technology and focus more on improving our selves?

My Final Position

In my opinion, if robots are going to be replacing jobs, they need to be humanlike to adapt to human situations.  But before we produce these robots, we need to decide if we can handle catering to their emotions.  What are your thoughts?

Image Credit:

Featured Image:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/2360360/softbanks-humanoid-robot-pepper-knows-how-youre-feeling.html

"Robots Have Feelings" Picture:  http://www.layoutsparks.com/pictures/sad-0

 

 

Blog # 4: Even a Lifeless Stone Speaks Volumes

Old Things

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"It is only in the world of objects that we have time and space and selves."    - T.S. Eliot

As Eliot's quote implies, Objects certainly tell us much about the history of people. Is it unfair that we have an anthropocentric attitude toward our view of objects?  Absolutely not!  Objects do not have their own stories without human intervention.  Here is why:

1.  Most objects are man-made 

Yes, there are objects that existed before humans, but I will argue that most of the objects we come in contact with on a daily basis are man-made, and these are the ones that tell stories about humans. The "life and death" of objects are determined by humans.  Since humans decide how objects will progress, we are able to examine objects to read human intentions.

2. Objects exist only to fulfill human purposes

A reason for an object's existence depends only on if there is human utility for it.  Without human need for an object, it becomes irrelevant.  According to "The Cultural Biography of Objects," "as people and objects gather time, movement, and change, they are constantly transformed, and these transformations of person and object are tied up with each other."  In other words, changes in objects are a result of changes in humans.

3.  Objects are not altered on their own 

How can objects posses their own story when they cannot be altered without human interference? Objects do not make decisions - humans decide their fate.  For example, "A Terminal Condition: The Cathode Ray Tube's Strange Afterlife" depicts what happened after the "death" of the cathode ray tube. The article states that CRTs are no longer manufactured. But they continue to shape the world, even after they are discarded. They multiply as they are repaired and reused, as their parts are harvested for different devices. . . " Humans actually did not let the device die, but rather selected parts to utilize elsewhere. The identity of the object changed, but it was not only the story of the object.

 

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With the above three explanations of object's dependency on humans in mind, let us discuss an example of an object that can tell us something about humans.  "The Story of Humanity Told Through '100 Objects' " discusses how the Rosetta Stone serves as an access point to significant historical information.  The interview describes how objects mean something different as time goes on.   At first, the stone merely symbolized a Greek tax agreement, later a French invasion, and finally a way to read ancient Egypt hieroglyphics.  More information is found in the interview's dialogue, but the main point is that the one object described several groups of people in several time periods. Neil MacGregor, British Museum Director summed it up nicely when he said:

". . . Nobody making the stone ever thought, to start with, that they were going to provide the code for hieroglyphics, never crossed their mind. And that is what is wonderful about objects. They mean different things as time goes on"

In other words, humans do not always know what the future of objects bring, but the future of objects depend on humans.

The Rosetta Stone is just one example of the progressing and changing nature of objects.  As humans change, objects change along with us.  Although objects have a story, the story exists only as long as humans are involved.  Objects simply cannot have stories on their own.  Knowing about objects provides us with a cultural insight that we may not have otherwise, and therefore we should greatly value the preservation of objects.

One final thought and question to ponder... If someone hundreds of years from now examines objects now in your possession, what will 0it say about you?  Do you think it will be an accurate representation? of you?

Photo Credit:

Featured Photo:  http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/a_history_of_the_world.aspx

Rosetta Stone:  http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/19400/19491/rosetta_ston_19491.htm

Blog Post 2: A Cute Stapler to Escape Routine Life

cute image

Have you ever thought to yourself: 'Woah that baby is ugly?'  I didn't think so!

My friend recently had a baby, and while meeting the new baby I repeated similar phrases of "aww, so cute, adorable, precious," etc.  No one would argue that babies provoke a universal, joyful response.

What makes objects cute and desirable?  Whether the size, color, or design,  it seems that any object that takes us away from the average, mundane circumstance is classified as fun, and thus desirable.  Am I the only one that can be motivated to do schoolwork by purchasing cool supplies?

I was intrigued to research what exactly made things cute and what effect cuteness has on individuals.  Through my research I discovered that cuteness comes in multiple types, but they evoke different responses.  One form of cuteness provokes a selfish response, while another encourages a care-taking emotion. Regardless of the reason for desire, the responses are biological and inherent in all humans.

Plenty of research exists to support that seeing a baby provokes  biological response in humans with or without children.  An article called "Viewing Cute Images Increases Behavioral Carefulness" supports "that tendency to respond emotionally to infantile physical features may promote the provision of care, especially to infants, who are otherwise helpless due to their physical and neural immaturity" (282).  Humans instinctively want to help those who appear helpless, and therefore are seen as desirable - cute.   This article suggests there is more to learn about the behavioral effect of helpless images, and presents studies I recommend viewing.

A really interesting article entitled "So Cute I Could eat it up,"  by Nenkov and Scott, argues that there are two kinds of cuteness that impacts consumer behavior:  kindchenschema and whimsical cuteness.  According to the article, cuteness refers to the "collection of cute features in newborns (e.g., bulging forehead, large eyes, rounded cheeks)" (326).  Whimsical cuteness is the less discussed, "associated with capricious humor and playful disposition" (327).  I found it interesting to discover that there are two distinctions of cuteness that elicit opposite responses in shoppers.

The same article presents studies to determine how the type of cuteness influences consumers. Amazon gift cards were compared, proving that when shoppers see kindchenschema objects associated with infancy, their caretaker, vulnerable instinct steps in and allows them to think of others before themselves (338).   Various ice cream scoopers and staplers were presented to consumers to study the effect of whimsical cuteness.  The out of the ordinary objects dominated because they activate the consumers "reward" center of the brain, thus provoking a more selfish, indulgent desire (338).   We all have inherent need for reward and fun, which explains the psychological attraction to such objects. Like whimsical items provoke a selfish desire,I believe the talsmic items that Marovich presents in also represent the selfish desire of good luck and success, although natural.

The article by Nenkov and Scott suggest that people choose to indulge in whimsical products because they feel they deserve an escape from the reality of responsibilities (340).  In other words, they become indulgent to reward themselves for performing so well in other aspects of life.  We all have inherent need for reward and fun, which explains the psychological attraction to such objects. Like whimsical items provoke a selfish desire, I believe the talsmic items that Marovich presents in "The Powerful Authority of Cute Animals" also represent the selfish desire of good luck and success, although natural.

These responses that objects provoke are surely biological as they trace back to the feelings humans have been experiencing for as long as we have known.  Interestingly enough, items that are both labeled as "cute" can have opposite effects.  Next time you are in the store, ask yourself why you are attracted to a particular item.  Is it for a selfish reason?  Is it out of thought for another person?  Until then, watch this super cute YouTube video!

 

Image and Video Credit:

Baby Photo:  http://sleepy-bug.com

YouTube video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc