RHETORIC AND PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION
A Dialogue in the STyle of Plato
This dialogue was a requirement for the Rhetoric and Professional Communication seminar. Students’ were asked to create a myth similar in style to the myth Plato crafted and told in Phaedrus about the opposing views of Egyptian King Thamos and the old god Theuth on the necessity and virtues of the art of written letters. In addition, the myth was to be integrated into a classical Platonic style discourse that argued the affordances and limitations of an individual digital writing technology of our choosing, such as, a social networking site, email or other messaging software.
Rhetorical Situation and Goals
This dialogue was a requirement for the Rhetoric and Professional Communication seminar. Students’ were asked to create a myth similar in style to the myth Plato crafted and told in Phaedrus about the opposing views of Egyptian King Thamos and the old god Theuth on the necessity and virtues of the art of written letters. In addition, the myth was to be integrated into a classical Platonic style discourse that argued the affordances and limitations of an individual digital writing technology of our choosing such as a social networking site, email or other messaging software.
To examine and discuss a contemporary form of communication and technology by using a classic rhetorical form of discourse that was preferred and employed by Plato, and by implication, to include thematic and philosophic arguments addressed by Plato.
The audience for this dialogue was Dr. Scott Barnett, instructor of the seminar Rhetoric and Professional Communication, English 852.
The style of the paper must be in Platonic discourse form and include an original myth. The topic of the myth must be the proposed introduction of a digital writing technology. The paper could be no less than five single-spaced pages in length and must include a request to Thamos for the digital writing technology.
Prior to beginning the writing process I printed all of Phaedrus beginning with the commencement of Plato’s myth, and carefully read it again. During this phase of the process I analyzed the text and marked the passages that most revealed the themes and topics which most concerned Plato in relation to the unwelcome introduction of the art of writing. After I became well acquainted with the format, content and themes in that portion of Phaedrus, I conducted research on the characters in Greek mythology as a way of approaching the crafting of my own myth. The integration of known Greek mythological characters into my not-yet-crafted myth would serve multiple purposes. Rather than inventing an entirely new cast of mythological characters, I chose to include a few fairly well known ones to serve as a foundation upon which I could expound. This would, hopefully, create ethos by initiating in the mind of the audience that the mythological foundation is credible and the author is worthy of trust. It would also awaken my creative processes regarding the invention of a myth that would successfully launch and sustain the discourse. This lead to the decision to include a romantic attachment between Iris and Hermes as the basis for the perceived need for the Facebook digital technology of writing.
Through out the discourse I have Socrates and Karen allude to or discourse about topics that Plato and Phaedrus discussed in Phaedrus. Socrates believes that writing will cause the loss of memory and that it is only a “drug not for memory, but for reminding” (85) and that because no writing can entertain discursive feedback between the author and the audience, no real learning can take place. The writing is exposed to criticism that it cannot defend, and the knowledge contained therein, truthful or not, is always the same because no discourse assists with its development (85). Socrates sees the dialectic art as a compounding or compositing of knowledge that brings one to “know the truth of each of the things that he speaks or writes about” (88). The other topics from Phaedrus I discussed or alluded to in the paper are as follows: love as a sickness; writing as a mere reminder of memory; the comparison of a painting to writing and the subject in the painting to the speaker; the belief by the ignorant that a superficial acquaintance with the subject in a writing is equivalent to knowledge of the subject; the metaphor of knowledge as a plant and seed. To describe the uncontrolled nature of the reach and scope of the internet and the inability of the user to predict the ultimate destination of the shared information, I expanded on Plato’s seed as knowledge metaphor and used wind as the symbol of the internet. As the paper concludes and Socrates and Karen discourse about the merits of Facebook, I integrated the definition of “merit” and its individual terms into the discourse and used the definitions as tools to examine some of the common uses and, sometimes, careless practices I have repeatedly seen on Facebook.
This paper was written more than a year before the topic of my publishable paper was decided. Yet, the discourse touches on similar themes of knowledge acquisition processes that appear, in hindsight, to be somewhat prophetic. I feel that the paper satisfied the requirements outlined by Dr. Barnett. Some of the primary affordances and limitations, and the logos of the argument regarding the Facebook digital writing technology were examined and revealed in the paper. My attempt to write in the Platonic discourse style and craft an original myth was reasonably successful. Only the audience can know if pathos was present. Perhaps other more persuasive arguments against Facebook could have been discussed such as social media addictions, negative public self exposure, security risks, bullying, cyber crime, alienation from loved ones, and many other negative effects. However, with the exception of the “sickness” of a social media addiction, and the possible alienation of a lover through the excessive use of Facebook, these other contemporary issues were not suitable in tone and character for a discourse in the Platonic style. Because Plato’s Phaedrus explores universal themes of love, truth, knowledge and communication by proximity, I chose not to discuss the many positive aspects of Facebook such as social connectivity, information sharing, the ability to communicate with any friend regardless of their location, social activism and the creation of individual and group empowerment and agency.