We have an idea and a project this week in class. The idea is empathic argument, the project is podcasting. My father returned to the idea of empathic argument in Monday’s lecture to try to make it a bit more concrete. And he certainly did that with his main example: the battle rap scene from 8 Mile. He argued to our students that Eminem made a masterful empathic argument in that scene. How did he do it? He started off his argument by clearly and fairly stating the case for his opposition in a way that even his opposition wouldn’t disagree with. He says, with much obscenity that I’ll leave out, “Yes I live in a trailer park. Yes I’m white. Yes he slept with my girlfriend. etc. etc. But I’m still standing her in front of you, still being a good rapper.” And then he goes on to make his argument for why his opponent is not good. By doing this, he leaves his opponent without anything to throw back at him. There is nothing his opponent can say that he hasn’t already said.
So how does this demonstrate empathic argument? The idea is that if you want to persuade someone of something, you first have to make them understand that you understand their point of view. And you can do that by stating the facts of the situation and the issues at stake in the dispute in a way that they can agree with. Once you’ve done that, you can argue against their point of view from a common ground of understanding of the dispute.
We went on, in Tuesday’s class, to put this idea into practice by having 4 very brave students volunteer to make their own empathic arguments about the projects that they’ve chosen to do for the class. They did this in 2 and half minute oral statements that we recorded and put up as podcasts. I won’t link to them now because we’ve given all the students a week to produce a 2 and a half minute podcast that empathically argues their positions and these 4 students, like the rest, may wish to put some finishing touches on their work from class today. If you are looking for some discussion of empathic argument or a really good tutorial on how to make a podcast yourself, check out the lecture.
Tonight in office hours in SL we did it again. This time we did it live by role playing various arguments where students, Gene and I wrestled with what empathic argument is and how to do it effectively. The transcript of tonights office hours is available here.