ECU’s Human Library as a Narrative Method for Creating Space for BFT & FDS Narratives

While reading, I started thinking about how ECU’s Human Library reflects and could be enhanced by many of the ideas from these chapters. The connections to Jones and Walton’s chapter seem obvious.  As the Human Library event website explains, this is a space for storytelling: “It is meant to a open up a dialog about stereotypes on campus, showing that we are all humans with a special story”. It is open to all as you don’t have to be an ECU student or staff member to participate, which could be a possible answer to Moeller’s push for tech comm’s attention to public rhetorics (p. 309). The Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.07.52 PM.png(de)constructive, social justice aspects of the event align well with Moore and Moeller’s texts as the library is meant “to basically ‘label’ that person and then have the person break down that stereotype during their conversations with people”. These authors emphasis on bodies also reflects one the more important (and obvious) aspects of the event: the presence of actual bodies

One contribution TPC could offer to an event like this is encouraging participants’ everyday experiences as rich in narrative possibilities. The site includes examples like experiences when one was othered, like with health-related issues, family matters, religion, globl understanding, or being a part of a minority group (email from Kathryn Webb). Including an option of one’s workplace as setting for stories and the textual artifacts found within them could also be possible starting places life stories. As Jones and Walton indicate, written documents and records “undergo a process of legitimization… that is inextricably connected to” historicity (p. 351). In this context, the event reflects how Moeller’s FDS is a way to “augment the terms and confront the limits of the ways we understand human diversity, materiality of the body, multiculturalism and the social formations that interpret bodily differences” (from Garland-Thomas 2004 p. 75 in Moeller on p. 307) and opening possibilities of new epistemological horizons (p. 265).

The Human Library already reflects some of Moore’s tenets of BFT and can offer new or different ways to (re)think about the event. This event values lived experience as a criterion of meaning making in its focus on storytelling. The human books are not asked to site their sources, only to speak from their experiences. Additionally, the use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims (275) reflects the Human Library’s values as the website directly states, “This event is meant to open up a dialog about stereotypes on campus, showing that we are all humans with a special story”. Event coordinators and participants could also use BFT as a new framework for understanding traditional problems and reseeing conventional relationships (p. 282). Also, this theory’s ethics of caring and personal accountability could be used as strategies for including a broader range of voices, including those of black females, and new kinds of stories.

A useful way to frame the event for students who come to “read” the human book could come from one of “technical communication’s primary concerns” as articulate by Moeller: helping students negotiate the varying rhetorical waters in and outside of the university (p.311). Such approaches could encourage students to go into the “library” with rhetorical questions and/or reflect on the interactions they participate in through a rhetorical lens.

Overall, the Human Library could be a space to encourage reflexivity for ethical merit of actions (p. 343) and consider issues like how knowledge is created and legitimized from a cultural-historic perspective (p. 350-351). I am continuing the think about how Jones and Walton’s heuristic could be used to develop a heuristic for “human books” to develop their narratives. To do so, I am also considering how it could be applied to on my own story (below).  I would also encourage everyone in class to identify their story and sign up to be a human book.

[I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to fit in this post. I had to end somewhere, so I hope this makes sense. 🙂 ]

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 4.09.03 PM




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