Adventures in Rhetoric

I’m venturing in to an experiment in discipline and perhaps torture. I’ve ventured to follow a UC Berkeley Rhetoric 10 class. Specifically, it is a class taught by Daniel Coffeen from Spring 2008. Rhetoric is one of the oldest disciplines of Western Education (see Aristotelean Rhetoric).

Through some quick googling, I found the UC Berkeley webcast of the course, plus the accompanying blog (with syllabus) and the course reader (See links below).

Rhetoric has been something I find readily applicable when trying to shift to the current landscape of media (production and consumption) and as someone in the field of Marketing. When I attended the Strategic Decision Marking & Risk Management courses at Stanford, we did a lot of framing and seeing situation not in trying to find “the truth” or coldly ambivalent, but rather multi-bivalent. Indeed, for me, this very well relates to Rhetoric.

As far as what is Rhetoric, I will take from Coffeen’s description of the course as the definition:

Picture a lawyer: he or she must heed a complex confluence of factors before speaking—the law as it reads, legal precedent, available evidence, the make up of the jury, the disposition of the judge, public opinion, etc. The lawyer does not enjoy the luxury of the philosopher; the lawyer cannot meditate in solitude discovering eternal truths. The lawyer, the rhetorician, must reckon a truth that is local, that changes as the world changes.

I’ve listened to the first two classes and while I’m very much a visual learner, Coffean’s energy and style translates well to a mere, simply podcast. There are 30 podcast (~1hr in length), so it means I should be able to “complete” the class in 2-3 months, reading and essay writing aside.


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Daniel writes on foresight and explores new economic systems. He has over 15 years of experience in technology & digital marketing and has worked with clients in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Daniel is currently part of the University of Houston's Foresight Program.


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