SSR #3

Austin J. Hill

ENGL 300-01

14 May 2018

Summary and Synthesis Report #3

Summary:

In Chapter 9 of Scrolling Forward, the speaker discusses documents, what each type of document is tailored to do in a certain sphere of life, and what documents are doing for us as a whole. The speaker states, “while each [document] has its unique place and role, all of them together are helping us make and maintain the world” (Levy 159). Levy continues on by talking about how humans could not do such astounding things, such as, creating a material, social, symbolic, and spiritual environment in which humans inhabit, without documents and using them for their designed purpose. In retrospect, documents help humans create culture, ultimately, “virtually all the cultural institutions and practices that help us make order, that help us bring meanings and intelligibility to our lives, draw heavily on documents for support” (159). Documents are what help us create such a life that gives us endless amounts of comfort, pleasure, and the feeling of being content. The world we live in is heavily saturated with documents, to the point where we are dependent and rely heavily on their designed purpose so that everything runs smoothly.

 

Synthesis:

In Chapter 10 of Scrolling Forward, the author discusses a monumental earthquake that occurred on the West Coast in the late 80s, one that he so happened to experience first-hand. This earthquake put life into perspective for the speaker, asking himself questions such as, “where does our stability come from? Where can we find solid ground…what can we really rely on?” (Levy 182). The speaker turns to the Bible, stating that it is a source of answers to questions that we all have about life, especially for people that have lived through drastic times, like earthquakes, divorces, illness, war, and various other forms of human suffering. Most people found comfort in the Bible, “Not just the words, though, but the physical volume – solid, substantial… handed down from generation to generation – has itself served as a symbol and a reminder of cosmic safety and security” (182). The Bible, and various other religious texts, have provided a sense of identity and stability for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. These texts have helped a lot of people over a large period of time through extremely tough times, and even help them answer questions that could not find the answer to elsewhere. In relation to Levy’s quote from chapter 9, the Bible is also a tangible document that serves a purpose in regard to human relation, inhabitance, and creating culture. The Bible, and various other religious texts, served a purpose the same way many other documents do that we use on a daily basis, such as a receipt, a billboard, accounting firms, etc. The Bible’s designed purpose, like many other documents, at the end of the day, is to help make and maintain the world for religious people.

Furthermore, in Chapter 11 of Levy’sScrolling Forward, the speaker discusses the transformation of documents into a faster, digital world. Because of how fast-paced the world is today, “we want (and have come to expect) that our new documents will deliver to us, as quickly as possible, just the information content we need to satisfy the next item on our agenda: to make a stock trade, to schedule a meeting, to respond to an urgent business or personal message” (Levy 196-197). Levy, here, talks about humans in the modern world seeking to achieve a greater speed than years prior, increasing efficiency, thus being able to get more done at a faster rate. In relation to Levy’s quote in chapter 9, with the ability of humans to be able to create a technological infrastructure allowing us to produce documents at a higher rate and releasing them to their destined location (anywhere in the world) in a flash. With the ability to take documents and convert them into a digital platform, their designed purpose can be done in a faster, more convenient way.

In conclusion, in Chapter 11 of What Writing Does and How it Does It, the speaker, Charles Bazerman, discusses the form and flow of texts in genre and activity systems and how they can help one understand how to disrupt or change the systems by modifying a type of document. This provides the tools for thinking about social creativity in making new things happen in news ways. Bazerman gives the example of sitting around with a group of friends after dinner and the possibilities that you have in order to rid yourselves of boredom. There’s looking for something good to watch on TV, discussing an article in a newspaper, looking at photos from a recent vacation, or browsing the Web. Bazerman states that, “by introducing these different texts not only are you introducing different topics, you are introducing different activities…The choice of a [document] my influence whether you make bets…over a football game, debate politics…Once one of these patterned activities are taken up they can shape opportunities of interaction until the mood is broken and a new activity is installed” (Bazerman 311-312). When relating this quote to Levy’s in chapter 9 of Scrolling Forward, this shows the power that documents have even on the simplest level. When we think of documents we think of their power and ability to assist us when trying to get things done faster or more efficiently, but in this example, documents can even help create boring situations into lively ones. Documents have the power to help people engage in learning, social situations, and leisure activities. Without documents and texts, some would say that we would go insane with the extreme amount of boredom in our lives.

 

Questions:

  1. In what ways do documents assist you personally in your daily lives? Does the advancement in technology make these tasks more efficient, or could they be done the same with a tangible document?
  2. There is an ongoing discussion of whether or not digital documents, the internet, email, etc. will replace books, paper, and other tangible documents? Do you think that this can/will happen, or do you think these two platforms can coexist?

 

Word Count: 1,027

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Paradigm Shift: Designer Babies

Script
Designer Babies: Something unknown to society at large, but will soon become a social norm. Parents all across the world worry about the potential outcome for their child, including physical and mental health, hair color, eye color, height, weight, etc. But, with the growing accessibility for scientists to mutate the genetic outcome of children in various ways, parents are taking full advantage. Because of this, in the near future we will see a large impact on how beauty and health is perceived at a societal level. This unhealthy obsession with image was thought to be at its peak in the modern era, but we will see more of it in the years to come.

Designer babies would not be fully identified in terms of what it means for society without first acknowledging its roots. The idea of manipulating the population and its genetics in order to bolster a more superior gene pool has its roots definitively within eugenics. In manipulating the decisions people make instead of their actual genes, the public believed that deviance could be bred out. Eugenics was birthed from Darwin’s theory of evolution in the fact that Darwin identified how if one trait is more useful, it will be passed on. With eugenics, mankind could take an active role in evolution, producing a population that they saw fit for life in their society.

This course of action was considered proper in the time that it manifested and currently there is much more support in the area of designer babies. The manipulation of genes for personality were identified and heavily disparaged on the creation of the first “test tube baby” in 1978. Today, however, many are starting to come around to the idea of altering a human’s character before they’re even born. With the success of genetic manipulation in regards to suppressing genetic disorders, many are wondering how far we can go from there.

In knowing this history that genetic manipulation has, it’s hard not to compare it with how we see the current climate of designer babies. Eugenics was greatly involved with race and how some races are not as worthy to pass on their traits as others are. This was generally directed towards African Americans due to many stigmas that still pervade today. The price tag on genetically manipulating a child before it is born is very much a key indicator in how this may continue into the next generation. Due to systematic oppression, many African American communities are stuck in poverty. As designer babies become more and more utilized, many people in poverty will not have access to this medical practice. This could serve to further entrench poverty disparity when someone can put on a resume that they were genetically modified to have a superior trait.

Much like designer babies stems from the growing ability to manipulate biology. It would be ill advised not to harken back to its positive roots in birth control. As D’Emillio states in his book Intimate Matters on birth control that “biology proved less and less to be destiny” (233). In terms of designer babies, biological predetermination is becoming a reality that will allow us to combat biology for our own purposes or even gains. Is society moving closer to a new problem, or is it simply progressing medically in order to meet the demands of a world that is progressively becoming more and more controllable or safe.

Though designer babies remain a highly controversial topic, the surge in interest demonstrates a shift in scientific attitudes. Designer babies are not used to create the “perfect child” with looks selected as if a parent was constructing an American Girl doll, but for health reasons. Researchers in Oregon used embryo editing to “repair a single gene mutation on a single gene…known to cause…heart disease” (Belluck). Heart disease is sometimes fatal, and this genetic editing has potentially saved a child’s life. Belluck concedes that editing embryos for normal human traits, such as eye or hair color, would be much more difficult. This emphasis on designer babies, therefore, is far more indicative of the advancement of modern medicine than an aspiration towards science fiction.

Some, however, feel that the idea of tampering with genetic makeup is dangerous and poses disasterous consequences. Throughout history, stories of superheroes and monsters have made people both cautious and excited with the idea of editing DNA. However, the National Institute of Health (NIH) stands by the older belief that designer babies pose “safety issues [and] ethical issues” (Fecht). The American government has long held a conservative stance on embryonic research (Fecht). This major health institute’s hesitance towards genetic editing demonstrates the uncertainty and fear surrounding this paradigm shift. There is an understandable fear that a line has been crossed, as designer babies are technically unnatural. It is still within the interest and nature of scientists to push the boundaries of the natural world with hopes of improving human life, which is why despite warnings from the NIH, scientists continue to dabble in the field. This crossing of what the NIH terms “ethically questionable lines in research” is particularly prevalent in China.

Chinese scientists appear to be taking the lead on genetic editing. Chinese researchers created a technique called CRISPR/Cas9 designed to edit human embryos (Maldarelli). It is so far the most effective technique in embryo editing. China is showing a clear shift towards valuing medical advancements over the ethical issues cited by the American government. However, as genetic editing is becoming more popular, this shift favoring scientific progress over ethical concerns shows that this will become an increasingly popular trend. Though the modern focus is on medical research, one day people may be able to use this technology to affect trait characteristics. This seems to be the science fantasy of many. The obsession with designer babies in the public eye is not about medical interest, but rather indicative of a growing obsession with image

When it comes to modifying chromosomes and selecting a baby’s genetic makeup in order to avoid particular defects, or to ensure that a particular gene is present, it is necessary to understand that many complications or health problems can occur because of how relatively new the process is. Also, because the process is uncommon and still being tested globally, the biggest health risk would be that many of the outcomes are still unknown. At this point in time it is hard for doctors to predict the exact outcome with certainty. Doctors say that it is easy to control some traits but controlling other traits can be an extreme risk because they are controlled by dozens to hundreds of genes. For example, modifying the height requires the alteration of 50+ genes, while changing the sex of a baby is much simpler. Because of this, a mistake in just one gene could potentially change the entire outcome of the desired baby. Altering these chromosomes and genes gives an increased risk of mutations and genetic complications for the child, thus causing a lot of disappointment for the parents.

​Furthermore, because of how fairly new this process is, it is unknown to doctors and parents as to what will happen to them 10 to 20 years down the road, whether or not they will maintain a healthy life as a normal human being. There is a close watch on a select group of designer babies around the world that could one day be the answer to these worries. One thing that has occurred when creating designer babies is affecting personality traits during the process of gene modification. For example, if the parents want a kind, generous, upstanding citizen, due to the altering of many different genes there is a risk the baby may come out to be mean, disrespectful, and morally skewed. Further research has showed that designer babies tend to suffer socially due to their altered genes, also, the baby may become an outcast and feeling rejected because of the thought of their parents changing them instead of the parents accepting them for who they are. This could affect them on a psychological and emotional level, as well as potentially becoming a harm to society. Finally, the biggest complication or concern with this process is that parents who have decided to create a designer baby may not necessarily receive the baby they asked for. Because of how risky and complicated this process is, the desired traits may be completely different than expected.

Being able to select the traits of unborn children may seem like an abstract idea to some, but it may soon become a reality because of CRISPR-Cas9. According to the Broad Institute, CRISPR-Cas9 is a unique form of technology that enables researchers to “permanently modify genes in living cells and organisms and, in the future, may make it possible to correct mutations at precise locations in the human genome in order to treat genetic causes of disease” (BI). Emily Mullin of the MIT Technology review previously announced that CRISPR Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will be using this gene-editing technology to fix a “genetic defect in patients with beta thalassemia, which is an inherited blood disorder” (Mullin).

In just the past few years, advances in CRISPR have been happening consistently around the world. According to Mullin, various companies have been trying to commercialize the technology in the US and Europe. However, China has already taken advantage of CRISPR technology. According to Rob Stein, a journalist for NPR, “at least eight other Chinese studies of CRISPR for various forms of cancer are listed on a U.S. government website that serves as a clearinghouse for biomedical research worldwide. The list includes studies of CRISPR as a treatment for cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix and prostate” (Stein).
The hope is that CRISPR can be used to cure numerous types of disorders and cancers that do not have treatment options. The goal of the CRISPR technology is to be able to fix genetic errors in a sick persons DNA so that we can actually see where the problem is coming from. Although a lot of people would agree that this all sounds like a great plan, the reality of the situation is that the process of this coming into complete fruition is going to take some time.

That might be the dream, but the reality is far different. Already, investigators have delayed the start dates of clinical trials in the US and Europe. Alexey Bersenev, director of the Advanced Cell Therapy Lab at Yale-New Haven Hospital, says that “2019 could see a dozen or so submissions for clinical trials” (Mulin). Until then, upcoming studies will treat only a small amount of patients with rare diseases.

​People across all cultures and times have cared about image and physical appearance. In many cultures, it has been normal to attempt to physically manipulate the traits of young children to appear more subjectively “attractive”. The obsession with designer babies is taking this idea and fascination to new heights. People are now examining the implications science may have in creating the “perfect child”. Yet if history has taught us anything, it is that perfection does not exist. It is to be striven for but never attained. Parents will always want the best for their children, but society is facing a new temptation with the growing ability to determine the genetic outcome of a child before it is born. Though designer babies are in their early stages, the future implications of this technology could have a major impact on how beauty and health is perceived. The fascination people have with image is becoming more and more radicalized in the modern world. Designer babies reveal both societies greatest current health and scientific capabilities, as well as an unhealthy obsession with image.

Works Cited
Designer Babies. (n.d.). Designer babies. Retrieved  from http://designerbabiesjtcc.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-designer-baby-you-may ask-it-is.html

Designing Your Baby. (n.d.). MSN Healthy Living. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from http://healthyliving.msn.com/pregnancy-parenting/advice/designing-your-baby-1

How have the risks and benefits of designer babies created a ethical controversy? [5 lines, 5 dots,1 curve]. (n.d.). BEAUTIFUL BIOLOGICAL QUESTIONS. Retrieved from http://sites.jmu.edu/gbio103/how-have-the-risks-and-benefits-of-designer-babies        created-a-ethical-controversy-5-lines-5-dots-1-curve/

Suter, S. M. (2007). A BRAVE NEW WORLD OF DESIGNER BABIES?. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 22(2), 897-969.

DEmilio, J., & Freedman, E. B. (2012). Intimate matters: A history of sexuality in America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Belluck, Pam. “Gene Editing for ‘Designer Babies’? Highly Unlikely, Scientists Say.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Aug. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/science/gene-editing-embryos-designer-babies.html./Fecht, Sarah. “Citing Ethical Issues, U.S. Will Not Fund Embryo Editing.” Popular Science, 1 May 2015, http://www.popsci.com/nih-director-says-hell-no-editing-human-embryos.

Maldarelli, Claire. “Are We Ready for Designer Babies?” Popular Science, 21 Mar. 2016, http://www.popsci.com/are
we-ready-for-designer-babies.

Kurzgesagt. YouTube, YouTube, 10 Aug. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAhjPd4uNFY&t=34s.
YouTube, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, 5 Nov. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pp17E4E-O8&t=22s.

Group Writing Prompts:

  1. Many readers invalidate many characters in “The Great Gatsby” due to their personal disdain for who they are. This doesn’t take into account how the themes are affected by these characterizations. The characters are vain and vapid while most readers may not perceive themselves as so. In reading that the so called “hero” in the book is seen through all these negative aspects makes him more of a villain than anything else. In dodging the aspect that the luxury and materiality of the era is forgotten as a major theme of the novel.
  2. Vegans as a collective activist group for animal rights are often forgotten because of their vehemence and anger. Vegans are a very vocal minority which causes them to be seen as others that are pretty much only a nuisance. This immediately sedates their claims by seeing them as just extremely loud gripers. The sheer fact that they are so vocal makes the majority see them as invalid in their opinions.
  3. In relation to some rebuttals used to avoid an entire argument, I would begin to think about how this works in the Black Lives Matter movement. Those against the movement will state “All Lives Matter” instead of engaging with the fact that many more African Americans are killed per year in the United States than any other racial group. Instead of staring a dialogue that identifies the problems through argumentation, the “All Lives Matter” arguer uses emotional pandering to invalidate the argument that goes along with Black Lives Matter.

Paradigm Shift: Designer Babies

 

Works Cited

 

 

4/30 Group Questions:

  1. Many people invalidate “The Great Gatsby” because the characters are unlikable rather than evaluating the book’s themes and message.
  2. The “Spot the Vegan” game on Tumblr dismisses vegans and their arguments for animal rights, instead focusing on their anger and frustrations.
  3. The “Not All Men” argument dismisses feminist frustrations over sexual inequities, because it is impossible to prove that all men treat women with sexual inferiority.

SSR #2

Austin J. Hill

ENGL 300-01

18 February 2018

Summary and Synthesis Report #2

Summary:

In Chapter 1 of Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric, LuMing Mao defines “rhetoric” in a global context and in his own words, then relates it to the distinct cultural idea of Chinese American rhetoric. Mao states that, “one may want to devise for Chinese American rhetoric a core set of discursive features that could be viewed as internally coherent and that could be realized by different forms of enunciations or representations in particular contexts…one may expect Chinese American rhetoric to be able to show its own unique characteristics – that are consistently different from other rhetorical traditions…in order for it to achieve both visibility and viability” (Mao 13). Mao argues that Chinese American rhetoric, in order to stand alone as its own rhetoric, must be substantially distinct from various other forms of rhetoric in tradition, identification, coherence, style, etc., ultimately to create its own unique identity.

 

Synthesis:

In Chapter II of Villanueva’s Bootstraps, he discusses cultural bias in a linguistic and rhetorical way and how it relates to standardized testing. He discusses the idea that most test-takers assume that words have fixed meanings, though he cites numerous scholars from the past, and himself, stating that he, “see[s] language tied to time and place and culture and even ideology. So do kids who are bilingual”, thus, “the code-switcher is a rhetorical power player. He knows language isn’t fixed, has a relativistic perception of language…and for the bilingual there are words seeming the same in both languages, derived from the same sources, but nevertheless having undergone change through time and place” (Villanueva 23). This connects to Mao’s point about Chinese American rhetoric trying to distinguish itself from various other cultural forms of rhetoric around the globe. Villanueva believes someone who is bilingual, or who speaks various languages, can use the knowledge gained from various discourses to separate himself from speakers of only one language. Being able to differentiate, to communicate, and to understand different languages and forms of rhetoric, the sources in where they originate, and the culture, thus grants a bilingual speaker a better understanding for language as a concept.

Furthermore, in Chapter 1 on Rhetorical Listening, the speaker, Krista Ratcliffe, defines rhetorical listening, states its purpose, and how it relates to various cultures. She states that rhetorical listening, “is defined generally as a trope for interpretive invention and more particularly as a code of cross-cultural conduct…[it] signifies a stance of openness that a person may choose to assume in relation to any person, text, or culture.” Rhetorical listening, “may be employed to hear people’s intersecting identifications with gender and race (including whiteness), the purpose being to negotiate troubled identifications in order to facilitate cross-cultural communication about any topic” (Ratcliffe 17). Similarly to Mao discussion of Chinese American rhetoric and how it differentiates itself from other forms of rhetoric, Ratcliffe believes that rhetorical listening can assist in communicating within one’s own culture or form of rhetoric, as well as, communicating across cultures to be able to see distinct differences and similarities between the two (or more than two). Through rhetorical listening one can coherently see differences from other cultural, racial, and ethnic rhetoric, thus being able to identify which is which, as well as, understand a rhetoric that isn’t one’s own.

In the passage, Do You Speak American?, the writer discusses foreigners coming to the United States and having a unique perspective, or even an advantage when learning English, also, American English being a language influenced by various cultures. The speaker introduces John Simon, an essayist who spoke Serbo-Croation, German, Hungarian, and French before learning English in his teens. Simon, “believes that coming to a language late can be an advantage, because one brings better credentials, linguistic, cultural, and emotional” (11). The speaker also introduces another perspective, Jesse Sheidlower, saying he thinks that, “American English has always been very inclusive of new terms. We have a great deal of immigration from around the world…So terms from all the different cultures, or from different ethnic groups, or from different social groups, have a way of getting into the language in a way that you don’t see because of cultural mixing” (26). In relation to Mao’s point about Chinese American rhetoric, from what I understand this speaker believes that having an understanding for rhetoric in different cultures, their language, traditions, etc., it gives someone learning English an advantage. Being able to differentiate between various forms of rhetoric is what can carry on that language and its form, ultimately maintaining its form as a whole.

Finally, in the writing, Voices of Self, by Keith Gilyard, he discusses Black English as an official language and its importance in being a living form of commemorating African-American history. The speaker talks about the important case of 1979 where Judge Charles W. Joiner rules, “that Black English is indeed a distinct linguistic form” (Gilyard 10). Furthermore, the speaker discusses the importance (and reasoning) of Black English being deemed an official linguistic form when he says, “a pedagogy is successful only if it makes knowledge or skill achievable while at the same time allowing students to maintain their own sense of identity” (11). Continuing on, the speaker introduces Smitherman to give a general definition of Black English, “Black Dialect is an Africanized form of English reflecting Black America’s linguistic-cultural heritage and the conditions of servitude, oppression and life in America” (27-28). In conclusion, I believe that what Mao and Gilyard are saying about their own respected forms of rhetoric, though different, are very similar. Both are clearly differentiated when compared to other types of rhetoric, whether it be through tradition, rich history, ideology, norms, etc. Both define themselves in their sense of uniqueness and in relation to other discourses.

 

Questions:

  1. In what ways do various forms of rhetoric clearly differentiate themselves from other discourses?
  2. How is it possible that some discourses can blend with others with intentionally doing so?

 

Word Count: 1,003