An Inkling of C. S. Wyatt
the online portfolio of a…
I am a writer, that species of storyteller reliant on written words to plan and compose works that others read, hear, and view. What begins as words on a page or screen might come to life as a short story, a novel, spoken poem, a play, a film, a painting, or a sculpture. Ideally, my stories entertain audiences because persuasion begins with capturing the attention of readers and viewers.
Stories teach us and attempt to influence us. As children, the fairy tales we hear convey morality and reinforce ethical systems. As adults, anecdotes persuade us more effectively than data. Narrative and literary techniques make science and technology understandable to general audiences. To educate and persuade, learn the art of effective storytelling.
My creative works reflect a fondness for the writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Industrial Revolution, the quickening pace of scientific discoveries, and two World Wars led to a paradoxical period of hope and doubt writers captured for future generations. The writers I admire offered needed social critiques through brilliantly crafted stories. Calls to science justified racism, sexism, and eugenics. Technology does not improve human nature; it amplifies the best and worst of humanity.
Digital content creation removes barriers to the circulation of content. Technology now allows an artist to write, publish, film, record, distribute… all with minimal effort. As the essayists of the past relied on newspapers, I embrace blogs, podcasts, and video streaming technology to reach an audience. Media arts overlap and intertwine, with a handful of writers embracing transmedia productions. Plays feature video, and performances live-stream. Instead of fixed on a page, writing changes in real-time to reflect the moment. Social media make performances interactive events.
The future marks a return to the past. Storytelling was once an oral event, with people gathered around and interacting with the artist. Technology brings us full circle, but without the limitations of the past.
I began writing long before I understood the power of words and stories in society. Few first graders realize that a story about forest animals at Christmas represents cultural values. By fifth grade, though, I recognized that my stories embodied a value system. Then, I discovered the ancient Greeks and Romans in a set of hardcover secondhand books. The concept of “rhetoric” entered my consciousness.
In 2010, I completed my doctoral studies in rhetoric, complementing a master’s degree in composition theory and rhetoric. Despite assumptions that rhetoric focuses on speech and public policy debates, the discipline offers ways to analyze all communication including creative writing, alongside all the arts and humanities.
As a scholar drawing on the traditions of classical rhetoric, I search for the shared characteristics of works that persuaded their intended audiences. This search for patterns combines qualitative and quantitative research methods. What I discover through analyses of creative works might help other writers seeking social change. The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth inspired me to pursue these questions. Later, I discovered The Rhetoric of Economics by Deirdre McCloskey, a text exploring the power of literary techniques in academic writing and public policy debates.
Because I primarily write stage plays and screenplays, the rhetoric of stage and screen offers a natural specialty for my research interests. In these arts, definitions of success change based on the desired outcome of the creative team. Success might mean reaching the largest possible audience. Success might mean impressing award committees. Research should determine the patterns associated with the desired result for a creative work. The question that I find compelling is: does a work intended to promote social change achieve that result?
Publishers and producers hire individuals specializing in story analysis to help refine creative works based on the outcome desired. Could this reduce stage and screen productions to models? When you strictly adhere to statistical models, new works resemble past works. Quantitative analyses alone, without testing new options, lead to bland predictability. Qualitative analyses also lead to models in rhetoric. Yet, rhetorical scholars understand moment of evolutionary and revolutionary change exist. That’s the art of rhetoric, informed by modern research methods.
Technology and creativity coexist. I began programming computers during elementary school as my desire to write continued increasing. I recognized computers were going to change writing as significantly as previous technologies had revolutionized communications. At the time, eight-bit home computers seemed like little more than glorified office equipment, but the revolution was coming.
Programming is a form of creative writing. Computer languages feature words, phrases, and precise syntaxes. Coding requires learning to express complex ideas as a series of simple steps. As some scholars suggest, elegant computer code resembles poetry, sometimes by coincidence and sometimes by intent.
During junior high, I developed a word processor for Commodore computers. In high school, I created TextRite, a word processor with more capabilities than the software available in our computer labs. I learned to override the built-in fonts of the IBM PC and the dot-matrix printers. I could write and edit more efficiently, plus the output looked better than standard Epson FX printing.
My interest in programming began with a desire to write more efficiently and generate aesthetically pleasing output. In college, I helped code a PostScript interpreter and became fascinated by digital typography. The appearance of words shapes their meaning effects their engagement with readers.
I continue to develop code to assist with writing. Humans are predictable; we develop and follow patterns when we speak and write. Technology helps detect those patterns. To improve my writing, I use code to identify and revise my weaker habits. Applying those tools to the works of others, I bridge rhetorical analysis and technology.
Certain that transformation of communication continues as technology advances, I wish to mentor students from marginalized communities who seek to promote social change. Teaching these students to use technology means appreciating the need for appropriate pedagogies.
How can we best use technology to help students? Too often, politicians, administrators, and educators rushed new technologies into classrooms without clear pedagogical purposes. Often, well-intentioned technologists promised unrealistic improvements in student learning outcomes. Sometimes, companies sought profits without concern for educational outcomes. Experts and researchers failed to identify the lasting value of teaching fleeting, temporary technologies. My graduate research explored how and why to use technology in classrooms. Though I love computing technology, that passion fails as justification for using new technologies in our courses.
We should teach students to critically analyze new media, as we have taught students to be critical readers of the printed word. This includes demystifying technology. Programming is writing. We should teach introductory programming skills to all students, which improves analytical skills. Learning the effective use of technology improves math, science, and reasoning skills.
Special Needs Advocate
Among the marginalized groups I seek to assist are those with physical and cognitive differences. I did not intend to research special needs when I entered graduate school. However, I discovered that the science and technology fields I love attract many people with cognitive differences, including autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
When gifted people, including some savants and geniuses, cannot explain their ideas to others, we risk losing the benefits of their insights. Helping these people approach writing and other forms of communication as they might solve pattern-based problems, offers these individuals a path towards intellectual and financial independence. Meeting brilliant men and women who struggle to communicate socially and professionally forced me to consider what personal traits society values.
At This Moment…
A doctoral degree in the arts and humanities prepares one to apply theories to analyses of the works of others. A master of fine arts degree prepares one create works of art. For that reason, I am completing an MFA in film and digital technology. Instead of teaching theories about the rhetorical potentials offered by technology, I want to create those revolutionary works of the future.
I continue to write poetry and fiction in longhand on legal pads. I enjoy putting pen or pencil to paper. I recognize the digital future, the digital present. I am there, together with my students and clients. As writer, I embrace the latest technologies, appreciating their power through one of the original academic disciplines.
I revised this introduction and the structure my website to demonstrate my academic focus within the field of rhetoric. I find it impossible to focus my interests as narrowly as some scholars do. I remain many things, although some colleagues in education are unable accept that these aspects of me interconnect.
Few academic fields fail to interest me. I considered pursuing other degrees and other career paths, but decided to unify my interests with rhetoric because of the discipline’s breadth. In the Western tradition, rhetoric begins with public speech and persuasion. Over time, rhetoric expanded to include the written word. Visual rhetoric emerged as a field in the 1970s and 80s. Today, rhetoric scholars explore digital media, where all forms of communication come together.
Yes, I am a writer, a teacher, a scholar, and a programmer. Philosophy, psychology, history, and economics fascinate me. Those interests make me a better rhetorician.
- Tameri Guide for Writers — I know this project will never be done, but it is probably the most interesting and challenging. My goal, starting in 1997, was to convert any class I taught about writing to Web content.
- The Existential Primer — The project that started it all. In an age of Wikipedia, blogs, and other forms of community editing, I still retain editorial control of The Existential Primer. It is important to me that the site be easy to read and appreciate, while being as accurate as any text on philosophy can be.
- 2016 July
- Revised personal web pages to reflect new academic coursework and projects.