Righting the Writing

For this week’s readings, I was able to discern a number of similarities and differences between the readings for this week; however, it was Concept 1 which has had the most impact on my perspective as a rhetor. In this concept, the author discerns what they believe to be an identifiable process for understanding rhetorical work, which is based upon three primary factors. These factors include: identifying a writer’s main ideas, identifying the translation of those ideas into words, and lastly, identifying a reader’s interpretation of the work.

In spite of this seemingly simple mode of synthesis, the author is careful to note that rhetorical meaning is most commonly lost during the final phase of interpretation (i.e. reader’s translation of work). This is most likely due to the fact that rhetorical work is often filtered through the previous experiences of a reader, the reader’s ideas about the author, implicit and explicit understanding of the work in regards to word choice, etc. While the author emphasizes that merely acknowledging the abovementioned principles will help a writer tp make purposeful and careful decisions when choosing words, he also adds the caveat that “vagaries of meaning may become a resource for us as writers” (23). To me, the notion of a writer purposeful ambiguity or vague choices is a concept which I have never before considered, yet still something I can foresee being potentially advantageous. To drive the point home, the author provides examples of a poet evoking personal memories and a lawyer manipulating word choice to gain advantage in the courtroom.

While I understand the value of dissecting the dynamic aspects that affect readers’ reconstructions of my work, this notion has certainly made me more aware of the creative decisions I will be making throughout my Senior Seminar project. However, even in light of this, I feel as though I am at an advantage with my project as the whole idea is to shape a common language/philosophy through which Spring & Sprout operates on a cultural level. As a result, I am in a similar position as Vershawn Ashanti Young, who does not appear to have taken a particular interest in reader interpretation. In a sense, this thought process recalls to me the idea of audience invoked in which authors aim to invoke a particular audience response based on their choice of language.

Overall, I think these ideas will prove incredibly useful to me throughout the semester as I craft work directed at invoking a particular audience response. For me, this is a novel concept as I have been trained throughout a large majority of my academic career to tailor my work to my audience via determining what they want to read. Nonetheless, in my Senior Seminar project, I will be able to develop work which is largely intended to serve as an educational tool to various levels of the Spring & Sprout Network.

Senior Seminar: The Performance

As I attempted to conceptualize my Senior Seminar project, I immediately found myself drifting towards a classic research paper. A research paper is both familiar and academic; concrete and reliable. Nonetheless, as I sat in class listening to my peers discuss their initial ideas about their own projects, I had an epiphany! While I have taken care not to tread into territory that is completely unfamiliar to me (e.g. creative writing), I realized choosing a research paper would severely limit the impact of my final project.

Just as author Gloria Anzaldua describes stories as “acts encapsulated in time, enacted every time they are spoken aloud or read silently,” I think of my video project as an in-the-moment representation of Spring & Sprout’s culture. Recognizing that culture is fluid, I think this will be a perfect example of what Anzaldua is describing as my ultimate goal is to preserve facets of the Spring & Sprout culture in a manner that can be “enacted” at the click of a mouse.

Knowing from the start of this course that I want my work to live on, far beyond the classroom, it did not take much to convince me that my instincts to shift away from a traditional research paper are in the best interest of the project. A digital project—namely a video—allots me the freedom to go beyond text on paper. in this regard, I will be able to rely on a myriad of other facets of communication to convey the story I am telling such as nonverbals, visuals, and so much more! In site of the many benefits associated with digital media projects, there are still several factors which could play an integral role in my final project which I must be conscious of—including “deconstructive awareness.”

According to Bell Hooks (found in “Remembered Rapture: Dancing with Words”), “[d]econstruction is a useful critical tool to use…because it makes essential understanding the multilayered structures that underlie particular discursive formations.” In this regard, I now realize a digital media project could prove to be more difficult than any research paper as it becomes increasingly imperative to consider the choices I make from a dozen different angles in order to ensure the message I am creating comes across in the closest way to what I desire. As attested to by Hooks, this may entail a change in the way I am writing given what I am saying and whom I hope to address; however, Hooks cautions, attempting to craft rhetoric which reaches a large diverse audience can pose a great deal of problems. The primary problem which often arises is a limitation of discourse in which language is diluted so much that the central focal point may be lost.

This concept is particularly relevant to my project as my first task at hand this semester has been to help Spring & Sprout develop a working “playbook.” According to author Patrick Lencioni in his book, “The Advantage” a playbook is integral to creating clarity within an organization and achieving organizational alignment. Deconstructive awareness plays a crucial role in the development of the playbook (which will later inform the video project) as what I may understand the book to be saying may not be the same thing Todd or one of the network’s offices understands it to be saying. In this way, it becomes incredibly important to consitently pause to deconstruct what is being conveyed through implicit and explicit communication. For this reason, I am certain I will be referring back to the Bell Hook’s piece throughout the semester.

Audience Invoked

As a rhetorician, audience is an integral component in the praxis of rhetorical devices. Accordingly, Ede and Lunsford’s discussions on the relationship between a rhetor and a their audience proved extremely intriguing; however, as I contemplate both of the works I read, I find myself circling back to the idea of an audience addressed and an audience invoked.

Looking back on my development as a writer and rhetorician, it has become increasingly apparent that a large majority of my writing has been driven largely by the idea of audience addressed. Beginning as early as grade school and continuing well into my first few years of my undergraduate career, my writing was dictated largely to the audience I intended to deliver my work to. In this regard, my drafting process aimed at addressing my audience. As attested to by Ede and Lunsford, this school of thought assumes the audience is situated in a static reality in which their attitudes or beliefs are known to the writer. In this regard, the audience is situated in a position of theoretical power over the rhetor, as depicted in Mitchell and Taylor’s “Audience-Response Model.” In one sense, this train of thought certainly sounds appealing as it allows rhetors to “adapt” to their audience in hopes of delivering more “successful” work; however, at what cost?

Presumably, Mitchell and Taylor’s model fails to address the ethics of semantics as it does not define the extent to which a rhetor could or should tailor their work to their audience. It could be argued that this poses an ethical dilemma of fact versus creative liberty. As a result of this discrepancy, Ede and Lunsford suggest that, rather than focusing on facets of a work (e.g. the audience, the rhetor, etc.) working independently, emphasis should be placed on synthesizing these factors so that they work interpedently. This school of thought is referred to as audience invoked.

Audience invoked takes the position that rhetors can never truly know their audience on an intimate enough level to write for them, but instead, should aim to invoke (i.e. imagine) them so as to provide deliberate rhetorical cues. When embedded into a piece, these cues direct the audience to a particular mindset as determined by the rhetor. In this way, the rhetor is situated in a position of power over the audience. Nonetheless, Ede and Lunsford admit this approach is not a perfect template for all rhetorical situations, as some rhetorical situations require more concrete audience awareness than others. While Ede and Lunsford seem to prefer a combined approach to the two schools of thought, having spoken with my site supervisor at Spring & Sprout, I can foresee an invoked audience playing a large role in my final project.

After spending the last week getting caught up at Spring & Sprout, I’ve spent a great deal of time considering how to tie my work in Senior Seminar to my professional work in a meaningful way, and much to my delight, I believe I have devised a way to do just that. Having spoken directly with my site supervisor (Todd), my current plans are to turn the branding work I am doing with the team at Spring & Sprout into a video project which could be utilized internally as a means of translating the company’s overarching philosophy into an accessible culture at all levels. Oddly enough, to do this, I will not be relying on an addressed audience (as this is what the team has been doing thus far). Instead, I will be helping to craft a product which relies upon an invoked audience. By relying on rhetorical cues, the marketing team and I will be able to craft a project which sets the foundation for the type of culture Spring & Sprout fosters in their corporate world in a way that makes it accessible to the teams at an office level.

As explained by Todd in a recent team meeting, this is especially crucial to the future of Spring & Sprout because they are growing so quickly. As a result, their offices are becoming more and more spread out which has posed a greater need for a common core of understanding. The greatest challenge, Todd notes, is that Spring & Sprout wants offices to pick this culture up of their own volition rather than being forced to conform. Moving forward, I hope to gain a better understanding of a form through which this can be accomplished. Undoubtedly, this is where my time with Zingtrain in the upcoming week will be particularly crucial in the development of this project.

Narrowing the Scope: Exploring Sample Projects

Unsurprisingly, the sample projects I explored for Senior Seminar existed on a broad spectrum in topic. Not one project was the same as another—something I have always found particularly beautiful about the Writing, Rhetoric, & Communication program. Unlike other programs which operate on a more linear thought process, the WRC projects tend to have a much broader scale of thought. With topics ranging from fashion to travel and design going from a full scale magazine to a more typical research paper, the WRC program offers students an opportunity to explore the depth of their creativity in a manner that is academically and personally beneficial.

For instance, Elaine Bailey’s project (“Wanderlust“) was intriguing in nature and content for various reasons. To begin, her project was interesting in nature as it took the form of a travel magazine—an A-typical approach to capstone projects. This creative decision seemingly allowed her more freedom than a stereotypical research paper. Secondly, Elaine’s content proved especially intriguing as it worked to tie her personal interests into her academic interests in a professional, yet interactive way. In this regard, I can see a potential point of comparison for my own project as I anticipate it being a stark representation of my own interests. Ideally, this project will work to incorporate theoretical material (Zingerman’s principles, work from credible rhetoricians, etc.) with my own experiences as an intern with a company whose culture reflects these principles. In this regard, I think my project has the potential to mirror the balance between content that Elaine’s project displays.

Another project I perused was by Laura Miller (We the People Envision This Place:  A Rhetorical Analysis of the Owensboro, Kentucky Placemaking Initiative). In particular, I found this project to be of use to me in the planning stages of my own project, as a rhetorical analysis is an avenue I am currently considering. Having finished my work on a separate rhetorical analysis in recent months, this is a genre which I am growing increasingly familiar with. As a result, I find myself looking at many facets of my day to day life through a rhetorical lens. It is fascinating to me (as I imagine it was to Laura) that so much of what we see and do now relates directly back to the works of classical rhetoricians such as Aristotle and even more so to the works of contemporary rhetoricians such as Ernest Bormann.

By referring back to the work of reliable rhetoricians, Laura is able to found a sense of credibility within her project, thereby, giving her a solid foundation for analysis. In one way, this school of thought allows me to avoid having to “reinvent the wheel,” as I have countless reliable sources to consult. In another way, it still allows me the creative freedom to determine the scope of my project. As it stands, this is the greatest point of question for me for a number of reasons. First, can a Senior Seminar Project be comprised of majority personal experience? If so, what “proofs” do I need to provide for my readers for my work to be credible and well received? Does my work need to pull on the theoretical framework of notable rhetoricians or can I rely on other sources as a credible point of reference?

Senior Seminar: Write from the Start

Coming into Transylvania, I knew writing was going to be the lens through which my undergraduate education was shaped; however, what form that would take, I had no idea. Even upon discovering how stimulating the WRC program is, I still found myself hesitant to commit to a major at the peak of my sophomore year. It wasn’t until the spring semester of my junior year that I finally realized why that was—I had no idea who I was.

As a writer identity is an integral component to one’s work. It determines audience, style, genre, and so much more. While I was able to perform well as a writer in the time preceding my junior year, looking back, it seems largely without purpose and merely a fulfillment to a credit requirement because I was merely writing. It wasn’t until junior year of my undergraduate career that I was finally able to uncover my identity as a writer and begin to delve into what that means for me as a rhetorician. Although seemingly interchangeable, the terms I use to define myself have become increasingly clear in my own mind. As solely a writer, I was adept at crafting works that were of sound grammar and content; however, as a rhetorician, I am able to go beyond academic assignments in a way that reflects a philosophy of civic responsibility. It is this framework which has shaped my writing significantly in the last year.

The first instance I began to make this realization began with my enrollment in Classical Rhetoric. This course challenged me to engage with the most fundamental principles of rhetoric—most notably, those originating with Aristotle. Throughout this course, I engaged with a variety of contemporary and classical texts in a way that allowed me to view them both independently and interdependently. Independently, I was able to appreciate these texts as any other writer would. Interdependently, I began to develop a greater understanding of the rhetorical devices at play that seemingly transcended time and context. In this regard, the piece I crafted throughout the duration of the semester (titled: “Stand with Planned Parenthood: A Reflection of Rhetorical (Re)Invention”), became more than another thing crossed off of my task list. Now, nearly a full year later, it exists as a living piece of work in multiple forms including my original report, a presentation, and even an interactive digital text. This particular project has had a profound effect on my identity as a writer because it was accompanied by my first opportunity to present my work to fellow scholars (outside of Transylvania). Since this time, I have been fueled by my growing desire to make contributions elsewhere—be they academic or professional.

Although an admittedly selfish end, it was my time spent as an intern at Spring & Sprout which has fostered a greater sense of ownership over my professional skillset—more so than any other experience before. Accordingly, as I have looked towards crafting my senior seminar project, it comes as no surprise that Spring & Sprout is taking center stage as a focal point. As I continue my work with the team at Spring & Sprout this semester, I anticipate a great deal of excitement as the company is undergoing some incredible changes! The opportunity to bridge the divide between my academic and professional endeavors is without a doubt the most exciting prospect of Senior Seminar.

Through this course, I hope to develop a project through which I am able to feasibly market myself for employment after graduation. Most of all, I want this piece to represent the summation of my time at Transylvania.  Although I do not yet have a clear idea of what form this will take (perhaps a professional portfolio of-sorts), I want to create a work which encompasses my identity as a writer and a rhetorician. A project which simultaneously draws upon my academic foundations of rhetoric as well as my more practical experiences, with particular emphasis on my time spent with Spring & Sprout. In the coming weeks, as I delve back into my work at Spring & Sprout as well as my course work for Senior Seminar, I have no doubts that my vision will become much more clear in terms of actual logistics.

 

Spring & Sprout: Week 11

Wow! In spite of all of the wonderful feedback I have received throughout my internship (both internally and externally), this week was undoubtedly the point of culmination for my time at Spring & Sprout this semester. Listening to the final, digital versions of the voice queue projects rendered me speechless. While I remain conscious of the fact that no one will know—let alone question—were these voice messages came from, this project was a personal victory for me for two primary reasons.

First, while I recognize this is an admittedly selfish mindset, I hold this project as a personal victory because it represents one of my first “published” pieces of work, intended for public consumption. While my other projects this semester (including the social media calendar, dashboard metrics, etc.) have been released to the team at large, the voice queues are the first project(s) to be released for consumption by communities outside of Spring & Sprout; the thought alone is mind blowing to me. Moving forward with my endeavors, not only after my time at Spring & Sprout but also after Transylvania, I am eager to be able to present these queues as viable, professional work that I am proud.

Secondly, and most importantly, the final voice queues represent a victory as they are a “tangible” representation of my positive contribution to the team’s vision for their role as a dental management company. In particular, I find this project aligning with Spring and Sprout’s mission which reads:

We strive to positively affect the lives of our patients, their families, our employees and our communities. We accomplish this by treating all parties with respect and empathy. We support our patients and their families through multiple locations and specialists, patient education…and access to superior dental care…

Having spent the past six months dealing with my own phone calls to insurance providers and doctors for a myriad of reasons, I understand all too well the festering frustration that builds as you are put on hold more frequently and for extended periods of time. In light of this, I have strived to harness my own experiences for the benefit of the Spring & Sprout patient experience in every perceivable way available to me.

In conjunction, my own experience as a patient alongside my rhetorical background have allowed me to critically examine the work I produce in relation to Spring & Sprout’s mission. Accordingly, the following ideals played an integral role in the drafting of the phone queues I produced:

  • Respect, Empathy, and Ethos. Spring & Sprout’s mission is largely centered on respecting their patients in a manner that acknowledges parent’s concerns for their children via validation of their worries and concerns. In turn, this facilitates an ethos-based appeal on behalf of the team as a trusted, credible resource for pediatric dentistry needs. My phone queues were crafted in accordance with both ideals as they work to balance patient education of operations and procedures to facilitate transparency between patients and practices.
  • Support and Pathos. From inception, the phone queues are intended to emphasize Spring & Sprout’s role as a support system to parents. Through patient education, Spring & Sprout is able to more easily exhibit their support to patients in a manner that establishes an appeal to emotions via reassurance and support. This connection is integral in developing and maintaining a strong patient-base. Accordingly, the phone queues serve as an excellent means of opportunity for patient education in areas of establishing good oral hygiene habits, regular care, and frequently asked questions.
  • Superior Dental Care and Logos. While Spring & Sprout’s primary function is to educate and support parents in caring for their children, at the end of the day, they are still a growing business. In this regard, it is still important for the team to be able to highlight what makes them competitive in the industry in terms of state-of-the-art technology and services. By doing this, the team is better able to show parents that choosing to place their trust in Spring & Sprout practices is a logical decision.

Overall, I think the queues are one of the works I am most proud of. They were the perfect opportunity to tie together my personal, academic, and professional experiences in a manner that is befitting of the team’s mission and vision for Spring & Sprout. As my internship comes to a close for the semester, I am shifting my focus to Spring & Sprout’s social media usage. I aim to garner a foundation for the team moving forward by identifying audiences, mediums, and messages that will be most beneficial to their efforts in the future as they continue to develop their own brand.

Spring & Sprout: Weeks 8-10

In the week leading up to and immediately following Spring Break, I found most of my work to be focused on minor tweaks to the macros and voice queue projects I have been working on. These tweaks included various alterations to formatting and wording in order to better align the finalized products with their intended purpose. In keeping with the Zingerman ideas of servant leadership, I have largely utilized my role in these projects to make the patients’ and scheduling team’s experience more enjoyable/efficient.

In the week prior to break, I was able to focus heavily on the Patient Support Center (PSC) macros. As a reminder, these macros are intended to create a more personalized experience for patients through intentional language aimed at developing a personable voice for the call center while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of the team’s patient interactions. That in mind, I have worked to embody the role of both the scheduling team and the patients they work with. As a team member, I recognized the need for macros to be efficient in terms of clarity and conciseness. As a patient, I recognize the need to accommodate all patient types (e.g. returning patients, new patients, orthodontic patients, pediatric patients, etc.).

In terms of team member experience, I strived to create enough macros to encompass each of Spring & Sprout’s offices as well as the “typical” questions the team receives in order to increase the efficiency of the team. As explained by Laurel, the scheduling team often receives online requests for new patient scheduling, existing patient scheduling, office location, and appointment rescheduling.  Prior to the implementation of macros, each team member would type out a full response to patient questions. In this way, having preset macros for each office based upon commonly asked questions allows the scheduling team to increase their  overall efficiency in terms of patient contact as it allows them to hit a series of buttons and send a fully developed response, rather than having to type out the same response to five patients in a row.

An example of a new Spring & Sprout macro in action.

An example of a new Spring & Sprout macro in action.

Pertaining to patient experience, I have had to be especially mindful of the rhetorical choices I have made in terms of the responses I crafted. As emphasized by Todd, patients are more likely to return to a practice they feel respected at. As a result, patients who receive “personalized” contact with the scheduling team as opposed to a generic, system-generated response, are more likely to build a relationship their practice, and consequently, Spring & Sprout; thereby, contributing to their loyal patient-base.

To ensure these goals are being accomplished, I have had regular contact with Laurel in her role as Office Manager) and Tiara (in her role as a member of the scheduling team). While I knew my work was valuable in theory, I still had internalized fears that the end product might not live up to the expectations that I had set for myself. Little did I know, these fears would quickly vanish with one email from a member of the scheduling team which read:

I just wanted to take a moment and tell you THANK YOU for the wonderful tweaks you made to Zendesk [Spring & Sprout’s scheduling software]. The macros are amazing and help tremendously! I’m not a big word person so having those responses are great!…[Y]our help and insight is so appreciated!!!

Comments such as the one above from every member of the team ranging from Todd as VP of Marketing to individual members of the scheduling team are what continue to drive me and acknowledge that my work is meaningful to Spring & Sprout’s mission.

Another source of encouragement for me has been my work on the voice queue for the PSC. In the last week, I received feedback from Todd on my initial draft. He was incredibly pleased with my first draft and sent me to work on two additional scripts to target Spring & Sprout’s offices which reach outside of direct pediatric dentistry (e.g. Orthodontics, dentists which focus on, but do not specilaize in children, etc.). Upon completion and review of the two additional scripts, I was able to work alongside Todd to select the music track for the message and then Laurel put me in contact with the team’s voice talent, “Chloe.”

Chloe was incredibly responsive to our scripts and worked alongside me diligently to tackle any concerns we had about the voice queue. After receiving an e-mail over the weekend from Chloe notifying us that the messages were ready for delivery, I cannot wait to get back into the office to hear the final products! Although relatively small in comparison to the work of seasoned professionals, these messages will be some of my first work to be projected large scale as opposed to the work I typically submit for a formal grade. While I imagine I’ll be preoccupied with replaying the voice recordings over and over for a bit, after I’m able to curb my excitement, I intend to jump back into the social media project mentioned in my earlier post.