Project Report: Post-Writing Groups

At this stage in my senior project, I am primarily focusing on the written companion piece to my research, primarily because I am still in the process of collecting footage for the video component. While the video is the focal point of my project, the written piece will serve as a great way to contextualize the work I am doing by allowing me the space to respond to thoughts, concepts, and ideas relating to larger discussions on the theories which influenced my work. Surprisingly, when I began drafting my companion piece, I found that it quickly took on a life of its own. What started out in my mind as a piece that would be between 8-10 pages, has quickly turned into a document which is well over 10 pages and only about half way finished. What was even more surprising to me was the amount of energy and enthusiasm I still have for my project in these later stages of the drafting process.

Typically, working on a project with the concentrated effort I have put towards senior seminar would have resulted in a feeling of boredom; however, with this project, I have found that that my level of interest has only grown. In particular, the written piece has provided a vehicle through which I can expound upon the knowledge I have garnered while composing my project. Moreover, it has helped to give me a sense of purpose for the work I am doing by allowing me to truly contribute to existing scholarship in my discipline. Personally, my writing group session was incredibly beneficial as it was the first time since beginning this project that I have been able to present the written component of my project to an outside reader. For this reason, the writing group session marked a positive marker as I work towards moving forward with my draft as it provided reassurance that I was on the right path with my organization and use of visuals.

As the project continues to progress, I do have concerns about the length of my companion piece, something that was briefly addressed in my writing group, and ensuring that I provide the proper cues to my readers to keep them interested throughout the entirety of the piece. Ultimately, my goal is to provide all of the information necessary to contextualize my project in the minds of readers who come from relatively different backgrounds. For instance, Kerri and Scott (my primary and secondary readers) are both communication/rhetorical scholars, whereas Todd (my outside reader) comes from a business and marketing background. By composing a piece which addresses the gaps in knowledge both sets of readers may have, I feel I will be in a better place to introduce my video during my final defense.


Project Report: Post-Bibliography

Having now completed one of the more significant components of my project (an annotated bibliography), I am feeling both more and less confident in the direction I am going. While reflecting, it seemed natural that my enthusiasm has grown, considering that I now have confirmed academic sources which speak to my overarching topic of organizational communication; however, the perplexities this project poses have also grown. Because so much rhetoric exists on the topic of organizational communicationmore specifically, organizational managementit indicates to me that a gap in conjecture is not what has created a discrepancy in theory and success. Instead, it appears to be a matter of complication within the praxis enacted by organizations.

Although I entered this project recognizing that Spring & Sprout was by no means proposing a novel idea in terms of approach, I did not fully understand to what extent this idea of “anti-corporation” has been explored. Nonetheless, when I broached this subject with my site supervisor (Todd Boak), without prompting, he launched into a discussion which helped me to understand that the Spring & Sprout is not blind to the discussions around “tall” and “flat” organizations. Instead, he and I are moving forward with the shared knowledge that Spring & Sprout is determined to not reveal a “novel” concept, but instead to uncover ways to overcome the failures others have experienced. Like Zingerman’s, Spring & Sprout is working to adopt a vision in which team members across all departments are situated in a way that allows them to see where the organization at large is headed while simultaneously empowering them to amend course as deemed appropriate. In essence, the sources I gathered for my annotated bibliography help to establish a foundation for the development of individual team members into ambassadors of the Spring & Sprout brand. Ultimately, this philosophy will take the forefront of my focus in the coming months.

Moving forward, I will be working to draft the companion piece to my project. Additionally, I will be reviewing footage for viable materials to incorporate into my video. From this point, I will be able to identify what footage will need to be obtained in additional shoots and can begin to schedule those appointments. Overall, I anticipate the remainder of the semester will progress quickly, but I am confident that my project is set to come together quite nicely.

Project Report: Initial Questions

As my project moves from conception to action, I have begun to compile a series of questions for my second reader (Dr. Scott Whiddon) as well as my outside reader (Todd Boak). Through these questions, I hope to garner insight on my project that only a reader can answer. Thus far, I have a limited scope of inquiries for my readers as I myself, have only just begun to truly dive into the content of my project.

For my second reader, I have the following questions:

  • Is my research design/research method sufficient for the goals I have identified?
  • Does my research strategy seem achievable in the time I have available?
  • How involved would you like to be in the revision process?
  • What do you expect of me as a student and what can I expect of you as a second reader to this project?
  • What might I need to prepare in order to make my work a feasible submission to SSCA?

For my outside reader, I have the following questions:

  • What is your vision for this project?
  • What questions or concerns do you have for me as we move forward?
  • Do my objectives seem clear?
  • Do my objectives align with your vision in a constructive manner?
  • Would you like to be included consistently throughout the creation of the video project or would you prefer to be presented with rough drafts from time to time?

Although these questions only touch on the surface of my project, I have no doubts that they will offer me a great deal of clarification as I move into the next phase of my project.

Project Report: Post-Prospectus

With Zingerman’s training under my belt and my partnership with Spring & Sprout fully underway this semester, I will be reflecting on what has been accomplished thus far, including my communication with Spring & Sprout, my individual progress, and any lingering questions or concerns I have encountered.

A picture of the group I worked alongside during my 2016 Zingerman’s experience.


Communication with Spring & Sprout

As always, the team at Spring & Sprout has been incredibly helpful in the organization and development of my Senior Seminar project. From the CEO (Michael Scwartz) and VP of Marketing and Communications (Todd Boak) to Spring & Sprout’s Office Manager (Laurel Cooksey-Stauber) and the Patient Support Center Agents, communication has been an integral component to the initial development of my project. Through regular meetings with various team members, I have been able to develop a more cohesive vision for the message the team hopes to convey through this project. This has been largely accomplished by utilizing tools such as those found in “The Advantage,” which have guided us in creating our vision and playbook. We intend to have a working version of this document available Friday, October 7th.

Individual Progress

Once the playbook is released as a working document, I can utilize it in my individual work to further my own vision of a final project. This document includes everything relevant to my project including the team’s vision for why Spring & Sprout exists, how they behave, the type of culture they are actively attempting to foster, and what they do. In conjunction, the answers to these questions will undoubtedly serve me well as I work towards definitive storyboarding.

Once I have a clearer concept of what I will be conveying in my final project, I intend to schedule a meeting with my second reader, Dr. Scott Whiddon, to provide him with an update on where I stand by mid-semester in order to solicit additional feedback from someone not currently invested in the project.

Lingering Questions

  • What does the team make of the paradox this project poses as they attempt to develop culture outside of top-down management?
  • What footage do I have at my disposal from previous shoots?
  • How explicit should the video be in regards to our defined culture?

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.