All posts by tyfenelus

Expository Writing

Expository writing is a completely different realm of writing that is unique because it is also creative and persuasive. In a way, expository writing encompasses all the skills and all the rhetoric learned in both of these different fields of writing.  This semester, we were able to learn expository writing by learning and reading about material culture and I believe that, by writing about objects, we were able to come close to discovering the definition of expository writing.

That being said, I think that expository writing is writing about objects and facts. It is using words, pictures, videos, etc. to present everything that you can about an object using factual information. That does not mean that expository writing cannot be creative. it takes a special kind of creative person to take an expository writing assignment and make it beautiful. They turn facts and random, seemingly irrelevant information into stories. They imbue theory and ideas into every aspect of their exposition and by doing so, become a creative writer as well. One can say that exposition writing is also creative writing.

An expository writer also wants to reveal things to the reader and by doing so, they become an expert researcher. Like a detective, someone creating an expository piece finds the facts and then brings these facts together to create a story. They do not overlook the small things and understands that each and every aspect of the subject if relevant in finding out the entire story. Expository writing is researching and finding clues to relate to the subject of the piece.

Learning how to use your persuasiveness in an expository piece can be difficult but if one considers that almost every single object in this world is already an argument, exposition writing becomes a whole other ballpark. Exposition writing requires one to pay attention to detail, even to the smallest things. In each and every little detail, one can see the "arguments" that are represented. For instance, one can consider a trash can to be an argument because it is arguing for whoever happens to be in its vicinity to throw out their trash and keep the surrounding areas clean.

Argumentative, sassy trash can

That just being one example, there are so many  ways that one can make an expository piece of writing an argument for something. Whether it be an argument for the environment, for social change, etc., expository writing is becomes so much more than just writing about things.

Although I do not believe that it is possible to give an absolute, final definition on what exactly exposition writing is, I think that it is a combination of many things. Researching, creative writing, critical thinking and persuasive writing embodies expository writing. It is all those things and so much more. One can safely say that expository writing is one of the most relevant aspects of writing that we have today.

Feature Photo Credit: www.jocelyndrake.com

Photo Credit: http://www.newgrounds.com/art/view/linhishyra/free-detective-die

https://bigstickcombat.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/johnny_automatic_trash_can.jpg

Do we really know Value?

I don't know if there is any intrinsic Value to anything. I am still under the belief that people assign value (importance/significance) to others. In a Hegelian sense, I do acknowledge the fact that a consciousness exists because of the consciousness of another - a person assigns meaning to another person. If we think about what assigns value to a human life, I think it will always be other people who deem that this life is important.

As Alex mentioned in his post, there are some that do not bestow the same value on a human life and those cases must be considered too. If there is no intrinsic value to a human life then what does determine value? Now we're back at square one.

There is also value theory. Value theory is actually a branch of philosophy that studies evaluative characterizations or what exactly the act of valuing an object or person is. Value theory suggests that there are many different reasons why people come to value things and they are all dependent on psychological, sociological and economical reasons. Keeping that in mind, there may be more than one reason as to what determines the value of objects. It can be the culmination of cultural, economical and individual reasons as well.

The value of education is a difficult subject to cover. Because if we were to ask everyone what they believe the value of education to be,  then almost everyone would have a different answer. The study of value theory is significant in showing that there are many different factors to what determines the value of something.

And it could be that there really is no value to anything. If all value is assigned by other consciousness, and consciousness does not have any value in the grand scheme of things then does value really exist? If the value of money, societal and personal beliefs are all assigned by others, and these others do not mean anything in a larger context then really, what is value? Nothing?

I'm afraid I'm getting too philosophical for my own mind. In the end though, I don't think that we do really understand what determines the value of things. We just listen to what others believe and then determine the value of something for ourselves from there.

So, it could be that we are the determining factor to whether or not something is valuable and if that's the case, then I'm okay with that.

Feature photo courtesy of Linda Mckinney

 

The History of the Chain Mail Purse

Found abandoned underneath the buildings of downtown Atlanta is an object that one would never think to find. In 1970 a vintage chain link purse was discovered amongst the dirt and rubble. Although the chain-link purse is not seen often in modern society today, this artifact is rich in history and cultural meaning. Worn and rusted from time past, this purse still is held together from many chain links intertwined with each other. The contents of the purse? Nothing. No tag, no personal objects - just a delicate, beautiful purse rescued from a forgotten time. In order to understand the unique-ness of this object, the history of how it came to be must be explored and pondered. Therefore, this timeline contains the brief but significant history of the chain mail purse and its origins. The story this object tells may have begun in the year 1700.

What’s In and What’s Out

I really like my artifact, a chain link metal purse found in 1970. I like it in a way that I never expected I could. I became fascinated with this delicate, small object that was lost under mysterious circumstaces. I wanted to find a way that would allow others to be as  eager as I am to find out more about a lost chain link metal purse. Before I began that step though, I started wonder why I liked this purse so much.

My object - a chain link metal purse

Was it aesthetically pleasing? Did it serve a specific function? Or is it just because it was made popular by association. In short, what is the value of my object and who decides such things anyway?

My object is chain link metal purse. A strange object that one would find buried in the dirt but a very interesting object nonetheless. In my research, I found out that these types of purses were created by a company named Whiting & Davis. Starting in the 1940s, Whiting & Davis made the chain link purse a fashion staple. It continued to be in and out of style from WWII era all the way up to the 1990s. These special purses gained a huge spike in popularity in the 50s when famous movie stars and actresses were spotted with them.

My question is, what is it about celebrities that make objects so cool? Are they the ones that decide the value of something?

One article that I stumbled upon while conducting my research was George E. Newman's article on Celebrity Contagion and the Value of Objects.

In this article, Newman and other authors discuss the phenomenon of consumers attributing more value to something that a celebrity possesses. I think that we see this all the time in modern-day consumerism. We believe that the grass is greener on the other side and therefore, we want what our richer neighbors have.

Ever see the movie, The Joneses?

It's all about consumer society and wanting what the "cool" people have.

Anyway, one important and very interesting theory that Newman states is that we want to acquire what famous film stars or musicians own because they serve as an emotional connection to memories and our own sense of self.

That explains why we want posters and memorabilia objects connected to these celebrities but then there's the practical reason. Newman suggests that celebrities carry objects that are generally seen as "one-of-a-kind" and by definition makes these particular objects a scarce commodity and therefore more desirable to the general public.

So celebrities matter and it seems like they do have a fair say on what is in style and what is not. It's an interesting idea to keep in mind that objects that seem like they may not have any practical value or even any sentimental value to you may be a very different scenario for someone else. It is not just you who attributes value to an object but society as a whole.

Like it or not, it looks like Kim Kardashian and Beyonce will be attributing value to common objects for quite a while.

Photo Credit: pictures.drippic.comhttp://www.bagladyemporium.com

Objects: Functional or Murderous?

unbreakable-umbrella-vs-knife_1000x665-400x266

Can we tell the difference between a tool and a weapon? To me, it seems as if any tool or object can be used as a weapon. We see things like this happen frequently where people use all sorts of objects in order to defend themselves, inflict pain on others,or unintentionally injure themselves.

In John Cline's article entitled What is a Machete, Anyway?, he suggests that an object's inherent nature  is what enables one to imagine its violent potential. In other words, he believes that the practical value that any object has to become a weapon is what allows one to consider using it as such. I disagree.

I believe that human agency is behind what makes an object or tool a weapon. We tend to think of contemporary objects or devices as objects with purely useful and convenient functions. The inherent nature of these modern objects is to provide an easier way to access and publish information. The practical value of Facebook is to connect with family, friends, and co-workers while sharing information about the happenings in one's life. There is nothing in the inherent nature of Facebook that would suggest it to be used as a weapon but people do so regardless.

We have all heard of or witnessed some instance of cyber bullying through digital platforms such as Facebook, email, Twitter, and text messages.

blog_cyber_bullying

In these cases, a digital object is used as a weapon by a user. It is the users choice to use this digital object and turn it into a weapon intended to hurt. Therefore, I believe that human agency has a lot to do with whether or not an object is a weapon.

Then there are the cases of unintentional injuries and hurt, where we use our objects in a way that unbeknownst to us, is harmful and detrimental to our health. I believe that in these instances, it can be hard to discern whether or not human agency has anything to do with the fact that an object was used and the effect was harmful.

We are constantly learning about the increasingly negative effects some objects we have used for years are beginning to have on our environment and our health. With our knowledge of how objects can sometimes be detrimental to our lives, learning to true inherent nature of objects seems to the be first step in figuring out whether or not an object is a weapon or a tool.

 

 

The Dead and Their Things

security-guards-protect-funerals

When death comes to mind, arguably the second thing that comes afterwards is what will happen to one’s physical body – the funeral or cremation. What has always interested me, is the process of a funeral and how we go about commemorating and honoring a person who has left this earth. That being said, I have never personally experienced a funeral, but I believe that the way that we handle our dead has to do with the way that we care about our objects as well.

In a way, we still mummify the body and preserve its outward appearance in the way that the Egyptians did. Let's think for a minute about the process of embalming. In traditional American open-casket funerals, we have bodies brought to a funeral home where they are embalmed, given cosmetics, put in their best dress and then presented in an elaborate ceremony. I think it's interesting that we treat the dead in such a way. Although it is obvious that our loved one is truly "gone", we still uphold their memory through objects, or rather, making them an object.

I like the idea that Fidler poses in his article entitled, Impressions From the Face of a Corpse, that the things we keep to remember the dead should be full of their imperfections in order to retain some aspect of their "soul" while they were living.

The thing is though, we usually do not have this approach when concerning the dead. Realizing this, I took some time to do some research about how cultures deal with death. From the healing website, MyWayForward.com, it is discussed that all cultures from all over the world have these three things in common:

"1. There is a ritual or ceremony associated with the funeral

2. The Deceased is placed or handled in a specific often sacred way

3. There is some sort of memorial ritual involved."

cremation-urn-funeral-ashes

Every culture treats the dead in a sacred way that is often ceremonial with expensive urns or caskets, or at least an elaborate ritual or ceremony with objects important to the deceased. I think, in a way, these objects serve as the closest thing that a family member or close friend has to the memory of a loved one. Therefore objects associated with the deceased become an extremely significant thing once the loved one has passed.

I think that the reason why most people use expensive and elaborate ways to honor the dead is because they believe that this is the best way to honor the memory of the deceased. We adorn them with the best objects because they have value. It is an interesting thought, that we do not really allow the dead in our life to have any "imperfections", in the way that they are allowed in death masks. They are perfect in the way that we want to remember them.

Regardless, our objects are more than simply things we use to help us function but they are our way of remembering a life.

Just Write About Things

In John Maguire's essay, The Secret to Good Writing: It's About Objects, Not Ideas, he proposes a new technique to help new beginning writers learn how to write - simply write about objects. As a writer myself, I understand how easy it is to succumb to the trap of abstraction. As Maguire states in his essay, "Assigned to write about some idea, students can't think of examples easily and get caught in the sphere of ethereal ideas and stay there." So, how does writing about objects cause one to stop being abstract?

By going back to the beginning. One of the reasons why Maguire believes that writing about objects not only solves the problem of abstraction but also can create better writers is because it forces writers to think in terms of concrete objects rather than ideas. By utilizing this method, Maguire believes that students are better able to make connections from tangible objects to the "bigger picture". He states that this connection, between the real and ideas associated to it, is what prompts students to understand the origins of ideas and their connection with real, tangible objects.

In a way, Maguire's thinking is comparable to Mihaly Csikszentmihalya's line of thinking in his essay entitled, Why We Need Things. Both authors agree that objects are extremely important in a human being's life - that any object has an association or meaning attached to it as well. In his essay, Csikszentmihalya writes that, "...things stabilize our sense of who we are; they give a permanent shape to our views of ourselves that otherwise would quickly dissolve in a flux of consciousness." So not only do objects hold value for us but each and every object in one's possession gives one a sense of self and has an association to it that prevents one from dealing with too much abstraction. Maguire and Czikszentmihalya both understand that value of objects and how the associations that come with these objects embody ideas and thoughts that could be fodder for focused and clear writing.

While Maguire introduces a great point about taking the focus of writing to concrete objects instead of abstract ideas, one fact about the essay that I, personally, did not agree with is Maguire's depiction of student writers. One could almost say that the tone he takes with student writing is condescending and too general. I especially do not believe that student writers in these times "lack certain skills that were common among college freshman 40 years ago". Although he did not specify what these skills were, I would venture to say that college freshman forty years ago probably still struggled with abstract ideas instead of tangible writing topics. I do not believe that this problem is dependent on the time and the willpower of students during a particular decade - I believe that any writer of any age could benefit from this idea and that there are still people grappling with this concept of how to write clearly today. In short, I agree with Maguire's assertions that writing about things certainly can be an extremely helpful exercise in helping students better analyze and create ideas but I believe that this can be applicable to all writers - not just students.