A Summative Analysis On The Field Of Computer Science
Most academic fields will generally utilize a healthy dosage of pathos, logos, and ethos. Computer Science, however, is a unique exception to this. While studying the field, I have come to the conclusion that Computer Science is centered around the rhetorical strategies of logos and ethos, while rarely giving pathos any attention at all. Though this is a science derived purely from human invention, Computer Science thrives through hard facts and logic. Writers of this field aim to elaborate on their material rather than tell a story.
One example of this is evident when analyzing Professor Phillip McKinley’s “Harnessing Digital Evolution”. In this article he explains to his audience how scholars in the field would be able to use biological evolution as a model for making improvements to software. He begins establishing his credibility by citing a former experiment of his involving pieces of code being treated in a way similarly to biological organisms by giving them limited resources and designing them to improve on their own. After giving his audience a very in-depth description of what this program accomplished, Professor McKinley then goes on to describe what this means for the field of Computer Science and how to apply it to designing software moving forward. Though a rhetoric of pathos is utilized in a very minor way towards the beginning, he describes the world of computing as a ”…dawn of evolution…” in order to get his audience interested in the material. This kind of rhetoric is not common throughout the rest of the paper given the nature of this field. Although Professor McKinley’s work consists of a more complex vocabulary that might discourage those unfamiliar with the field, there are writers for this field that sometimes direct their work towards a more general audience.
Professor Alan Winfield is an example of a writer that creates work a more casual readership can understand. On his October 20th post, Professor Winfield describes a situation in 1985 where he actually got to meet with some of the individuals working on the jet propulsion systems for the Voyager 2. During his recounting of events, Professor Winfield takes care to elaborate on vocabulary terms such as “phosphor” and “CRT” by giving his audience links to Wikipedia pages for each of the two. Taking great care to ensure no one is left in the dust, this level of elaboration is consistent with other posts found within his blog as well. Another post found ten days later cements this fact when Professor Winfield describes what he refers to as “An ethical pandora’s box”. Presenting his audience with the dilemma between building moral robots out of obligation or continuing to build robots without emphasis on morals, this philosophical monologue is followed by a 41 slide power-point presentation rife with images and examples. In order to further simplify this, however, Professor Winfield goes on to describe to his audience what the slide contains in three paragraphs labeled parts one to three. He even bolds the main ideas of each paragraph! Even when appealing to a broader audience, however, pathos remains quite the rarity. While pathos is seldom stumbled upon, scholarly writers in this field aren’t necessarily writing to one extreme or the other. In some cases, the writing may branch out to other scholarly fields.
One great example of this is a paper on sexism within the field of Computer Science written by Professor Tahany Gadalla. I found this scholarly article to be a happy medium between Professor Winfield’s blogs and Professor McKinley’s scholarly article regarding the audiences they address. Aimed towards those attempting to bring more people into computer science as well as women considering the field, Professor Gadalla focuses less on simplifying her evidence and more on elaborating upon it given the formal nature of her paper. She begins her argument by citing the emphasis on bringing women into the field expressed by businesses and post-secondary institutions beginning in the 1980s. Next, Professor Gadalla explains how female presence has been improving at a lower rate over the last couple decades while male interest in the field has remained steadily growing. Using this evidence she suggests that there may be factors influencing this stunting of growth and leads into this topic with evidence supporting why females are growing less and less interested. In her paper she mentions that some individuals have proposed that computer science’s emphasis on math may be a factor. Professor Gedalla proceeds to refute this theory by citing the 40% enrollment rate of women in mathematics at the bachelor level during the 1990s, which is when this stagnation seemed to begin for women. Once again, logos and ethos remain supreme in the writer’s rhetoric. There is no emotional appeal regarding why this exclusion of women from the field is unfair. Professor Gedalla does not describe her own personal emotions pertaining to whether or not this might frustrate her. She simply enumerates a list of evidence explaining what the problem is, and then proposes solutions to this issue.
The writing of Computer Science may have a dynamic audience as many fields are prone to possessing, but the general idea remains the same. Regardless of who you are adapting your writing for, strong ethos coupled with a vast array of information presenting a rhetoric of logos is essential to the work produced by a Computer Scientist. Pathos may have its time to shine in certain situations, but such writing is often treaded warily by these writers. Without evidence, there is just no paper. Computer Science is a hard science, and this label is flamboyantly displayed by the type of writing such a field calls for. Whether you are writing for a casual audience unfamiliar with such a field, a scholarly audience that may be unfamiliar with the field, or a scholarly audience that regards this field as their life’s passion, the only thing that seems to change is the level of simplification. It is simply fact that logic is the oxygen that gives the writing of computer science its life.
Gadalla, Tahany M. “Are More Women Studying Computer Science?” Resources for Feminist Research 27.1 (1999): 137-42. ProQuest. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.
Winfield, Alan, Prof. “Alan Winfield’s Web Log.” Alan Winfield’s Web Log. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://alanwinfield.blogspot.com/>.
McKinley, Philip, Prof., Betty H.C. Chang, Prof., Charles Ofria, Prof., Benjamin Beckmann, Prof., David Knoester, Prof., and Heather Goldsby, Prof. “Harnessing Digital Evolution.” Cse.msu.edu. Michigan State University, 2008. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cse.msu.edu/~mckinley/digital-evolution.pdf>.
Remix Proposal Sheet—PLEASE RETURN IN CLASS NO LATER THAN NOVEMBER 14!
November 7, 2013
- Please describe the paper that you want to remix for this assignment and a short explanation (2-3 sentences) that explains your inspiration for this remix:
Since this project involves combining previous work in the course and bringing it into one greater whole, I think it would be a good idea to combine the cultural artifact analysis as well as my summative analysis. Not only would this be an interesting challenge, I also believe there would be a certain synchronization with the two since my field of study is computer science and my cultural artifact is the personal computer.
- What rhetorical situation do you have in mind? Fill in the following:
- Purpose – To present my cultural analysis of the laptop, and bring it into a presi format appropriate to the field of computer science
- Stance – will reflect my views on the personal computer’s contribution to society.
- Audience – those in the computer science field or who enjoy reading an analysis of the computer
- Genre – Non-fiction
- Design/Media – I’ll be using presi for this
- Expand on the medium indicated above. Why are you choosing this medium? Why is it ideal for this particular audience and genre?
I’ll be using presi because it will allow for a more organized format. I think compressing the cultural artifact assignment into a work more centered on logos would be best demonstrated through a powerpoint format such as presi. I’m also not as familiar with presi as I am with powerpoint, so this will be an even greater learning experience for me.
- How are you planning to submit your final work? You will blog it, but if you are not creating a digital remix, then there are other some other options (ie. Class performance/display, YouTube podcast, etc.) How will you get your project into circulation within your discourse community?
I would like to present to the class if possible. The presi could also be made public with a link to my blog at the end.
Your proposal has been