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If-Then-Else: An Introduction to Procedural Rhetoric

English 550: Digital Rhetorics // Spring 2013

Jim Brown

on 28 March 2013

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Transcript of If-Then-Else: An Introduction to Procedural Rhetoric

if ( ) {

else Persuasion and Procedural Authorship Interactive = Procedural + Participatory "Authorship in electronic media is procedural. Procedural authorship means writing the rules by which the texts appear as well as writing the texts themselves. It means writing the rules for the interactor’s involvement, that is, the conditions under which things will happen in response to the participant’s actions." (Hamlet on the Holodeck, 152) "Game designer and scholar Ian Bogost considered it a washout election cycle for political games. McCain had his 'Pork Invaders' arcade gimmick, and Obama bought ads in Xbox Live (largely an indulgence). But I would argue that 2008 represents a watershed moment for video games, a moment when the medium showed that it can, indeed, change the world. My.BarackObama.com (“MyBO”) didn’t just communicate ideas. It encouraged people to go and do something.

-Gene Koo "This campaign is built on the belief that everyday Americans, when organized and focused, can change their country.
Now you can have an even greater impact on your community. Start today by logging in to our new voter contact tool to find voters near you to reach out to. You can go door to door or make calls at any time that’s convenient for you. There’s no one who knows your community better than you do, so help us build support for Barack Obama and this movement for change by beginning in your own neighborhood.
When you log in you’ll see that we’ve prepared all the resources that you need, including:
A list of voters in your neighborhood who we need to reach out to
A script you can use in your conversations
A customized flyer you can distribute
Easy interfaces to report back the results of your efforts to the campaign"

MyBarackObama.com, September 8, 2008 <?php
Boolean $volunteer;
string $name;
string $phone;
string $email;

if ($supportObama==TRUE) {
print (“Great! Would you be willing to Volunteer for the campaign?”);

if ($volunteer==true) {
$name = $_GET(‘name’);
$phone = $_GET(‘phoneNumber’);
$email = $_GET(‘email’);

else {
print (“Okay, no problem. Please remember to vote on November 2!”);

else {
print (“Thanks for your time. Have a great day.”);

?> "Today we’re unrolling a new way to measure your impact on the campaign: points in the My.BarackObama network. Just about every action you can take on My.BarackObama now will give you points to make it easier to see all the hard work you’re putting in to make this campaign succeed."

-Chris Hughes, BarackObama.com, August 27, 2007 "I'll start off by saying that I'm a guy, so I obviously can't speak from a woman's point of view. I too would love to get some perspective. That said, when I was making calls in my precinct this Sunday I noticed the same thing. Here's how I noticed it, what I did about it, and the result that I got.

I have my own script at this point that I just kind of vamp with when calling. On Sunday I had thrown in a line saying that 'Obama has the right kind of experience to address the challenges we have at home and abroad. Challenges like our economy, our health care system ... etc.' I wanted to get at the heart of Clinton's argument. Out of six or seven women, five that I spoke with were polite and were totally with me until I said that bit about experience, and then interrupted me and said they didn't want to talk with me and hung up. It wasn't happening with the guys.

I wondered if it was the new line? So I tried calls without it. I replaced it by saying that 'I'm spending my time reaching out to my neighbors on Obama's behalf because I believe that he's the only candidate running in either party who can genuinely bring us together to get things done at home and abroad. I'm calling because I believe in him.'

It was a total 180. Suddenly, the women I was talking weren't hanging up on me, and some were asking 'why do you say that?' Boom. I was in."

-Dave C. "The Activity Tracker allows you to measure your impact on the campaign. It displays a record of all your past activity using our online tools but calculates your activity level (1-10) based only on recent actions. Stay engaged to keep or raise your activity level! You need 10 points to go up one activity level."
-MyBO Dashboard "By writing a letter to the editor, you can help educate decision-makers and the public about the urgent need for reform. Remember, you don’t need to be an expert. We’ll provide information to get you started, but the most powerful message is your personal story about why health insurance reform is so urgent in your life and the lives of those you know."
-MyBO "Letter to the Editor" instructions "An example:

Joe: Oh, I'm planning on voting for Edwards because he's against the war.

Me: I completely understand your frustration (if that's how they sound - or maybe anger? Depends on the call) with the war. Actually, this is one of the reasons I chose Obama over Edwards. I really like Senator Edwards, but did you know that he actually co-sponsored the resolution that gave President Bush the blank check to take us into war? Senator Edwards had a lapse in judgment here, and for me, it was an awfully large mistake. Senator Obama has been against the war since back in 2002 when he was running for Senate in Illinois."

-Elise, Daily Kos Blogger Software and Procedurality Immersive = Spatial + Encyclopedic Political Rhetoric, Procedurality, and MyBarackObama.com "I have to believe there's more difference between any two candidates than the image on the front of a brochure or the name on a sign. And if there isn't, or if this game leads people to believe that there isn't, won't it have the opposite of its desired effect? If handing out leaflets for Dean is the same thing as handing out leaflets for Kucinish, why should I vote for either of them?"

-Sean Trundle, Popmatters.com Phone Banking: The Procedural Rhetoric of a Script Developing Procedural Literacies Procedural rhetoric:

"the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures' (Bogost, ix) playing political games can "allow players to embody political positions and engage in political actions that many will have never previously experienced...[this] is precisely what is missing from current uses of technology for political and civic engagement" (Bogost, 135) "The procedural rhetoric in support of grassroots outreach was sound, but it inadvertently exposed the underlying ideology of the campaign..." (Bogost, 139) Bogost: "To write procedurally, one authors code that enforces rules to generate some kind of representation, rather than authoring representation itself." (4) Software enacts processes rather than merely describing them. It uses processes to represent processes. Procedural Figures Rhetorical Figures Graphical logics: moving, jumping, firing projectiles

Textual logics: text parser, natural language processing metaphor, allegory, hyperbole Rhetoric beyond oratory Visual Rhetoric "Procedural rhetoric is a subdomain of procedural authorship; its arguments are made not through the construction of words or images, but through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models." (29) set of graphical logics = game engine = sonnet? "Digital rhetoric typically abstracts the computer as a consideration, focusing on the text and image content a machien might host and the communities of practice in which that content is created and used." (25)
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