Seas’ text is one I’ve encountered before, in Digital Rhetoric. In the context of digital rhetoric, Seas’ ideas about viral “stickiness” and an “ecology of writing” apply to the spread of messages within the digital sphere (such as with memes or viral videos). In the context of Writing for Change, Seas’ message applies to the systems through which ideas (ideas about changes) spread and are adapted into the discourse of the system (Transylvania), shaping the system itself. In Digital Rhetoric, I asked the question of the class, “How is a meme like a biological virus?” I will now ask the same question of the proposal and presentation that our group will deliver to Dean Bryan on May 16.
Transylvania’s networks and hierarchies of power and administrative organization might be seen as parts of an organismic whole. Living organisms keep growing and changing all the time. Ideas that create this change must work their way through the hierarchy until they’ve “infected” the entire organism. Our proposal is like a virus that we are attempting to spread throughout this organism. Seas offers a plethora of strategies for going about this effectively. For one, it involves making a message memorable: structuring attention (such as in a sit-down meeting) through education and repetition, and giving the audience a chance to participate in the message.
Second, this involves diffusion. Our idea needs to make “the biggest leap… from the early adopters to the early majority, whose acceptance then makes the innovation not only suddenly popular but eventually normative” (57). Rogers suggested we need to frame our innovation “to make it more legitimate to the skeptical early majority” – make it sticky, as Gladwell says (57). This line in the text made me recall Lakoff, whose descriptions of Republican frames in “Don’t Think of an Elephant” opened my eyes to trope-filled worldviews that can repel any idea negating that worldview. Another way Seas explains this is “lowering a person’s threshold” to make them “more susceptible to influence for that particular contagion.” We need to remember that “what spreads is the rhetoric,” not the practice (58).
When our message is conveyed to Dean Bryan, we need to find a way to make it “stick.” I believe our idea on its own would be harder to make stick because we are approaching a single administrator who is not already invested in the idea of recorded meetings. However, what ALL administrators are already invested in is the wellbeing of students and the (perceived) transparency of Old Morrison. The existent “rhetorical frame” within which we can weave our proposed “practice change” is the idea that transparency and a culture of trust are paramount administrative concerns. We must demonstrate that this culture is currently weak or does not exist, which is why our next step is to collect anecdotes and evidence. If we can picque Dean Bryan’s interest by emphasizing her pre-existing participation in that rhetorical frame, and demonstrate how our tangible offered solution fits within that frame, then schwop – it’ll stick.