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Archive for the ‘About RAIL’ Category

A lot has changed since RAIL was launched in December of 2009. I can’t believe it has

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Review, revise, keep rolling!

been almost a decade! With a little extra time on my hands I’ve been doing some thinking about how RAIL can best serve the argumentation and critical thinking research communities going forward.

One of the most important changes is that I’m working on strengthening the critical thinking side of RAIL. To that end I’ve recently launched the Critical Thinking Research Gateway, a page of links and research starters to help researchers find current work on critical thinking across the disciplines. I will also be looking to run more critical thinking-oriented content. That doesn’t mean that argumentation will no longer be featured on RAIL, however. The RAIL Resources page, as well as the Study Argumentation and People pages are still active and will remain so. (If you or your program is listed there, you could help by reviewing the information that’s there and making sure it’s accurate.)

What’s not there anymore is the ArgEvents Calendar. In the early days of RAIL there weren’t many other common places online where it was easy to get the word out about conferences and symposia in argumentation, apart from a couple of listservs. There are now thriving communities for argumentation across the web, including LinkedIn and Facebook, where this information is shared–more often than not by the organizers themselves.  The number of events–especially regularly recurring events–has grown exponentially too. This is an awesome development! It is however, also one that makes it hard for one person to keep up with. For this reason, although CFPs are most welcome and will still be posted at RAIL, I’m letting go of the attempt to keep a comprehensive calendar of argumentation-related events going.

One thing I’m considering adding is a page devoted to job postings (PhD studentships, research positions, and faculty positions) where critical thinking or argumentation are central to the work to be done. I’m curious to know what the community thinks. Is this a good idea or are folks happy to use other means to find candidates/positions for academic work in argumentation and critical thinking? Post here in the comments or drop me a line at railargumentation[at]gmail.com and let me know. As always, comments and suggestions for how to improve RAIL are more than welcome!

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It’s been slow around here, yeah?

On and off, for the last couple of years I’ve been heavily involved in the effort to keep Marygrove College going. I am (or rather, was) one of the senior faculty there and so spent a lot of time in various forms of service to the College, including being a Department Chair, a Division Chair, and most recently a Criterion Team Leader for our last accreditation effort. Didn’t leave a whole lot of time for ol’ RAIL here. Sorry about that.

That brings me to the point of this post. It’s kind of a good news/bad news deal. The bad news? Despite our best efforts, the Board and administration at Marygrove decided to close all of our undergraduate programs and hand pink slips to nearly all of her faculty, regardless of rank or tenure, including yours truly. The good news? I’ve got a whole bunch of time on my hands now! Ergo this post. Of course I’m job hunting, but I’m also (quite happily) back to writing and research, and one consequence of that is that RAIL is back in business.

Wish us luck! And watch this space!

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It’s true, not much has happened here this summer. What gives?

Well, we had a little trouble. We had some illnesses, shifting burdens at work that included some heavy, important, and unforeseen tasks, and to top it all off, a flood that put most of the the RAIL home office out on the curb for the trash man. It was an eventful couple of months.

Things are looking up though. I’ve a place I can work set up again, and I’ll be clearing the backlog of announcements and ArgEvents calendar updates over the next couple of days and, with any luck, we’ll be back up and running as usual thereafter. In the meantime, please accept my apologies for late and delayed postings!

Happy Arguing!

SP

My notes are in here somewhere...or are they?

My notes are in here somewhere…or are they?

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In the wake of the recent OSSA conference (which was great–thanks again to all the folks in Windsor who made it happen!) I’ve made a couple of updates here at RAIL. (more…)

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Steve and I have had an extended discussion about the subversive potential of art since the (latest) Hendricks scandal broke.  The case of the public library in Troy, Michigan is a good case in point, I think, of how hiding the artistic quality of a communication can aid in critical thinking, foster political dialogue, and be constitutive to the art itself.

When the library was in danger of closing, supporters enacted a reductio ad absurdum on those pushing for the closure to save on taxes.  The supporters posted false publicity of a book burning party, a campaign that enraged so many people that the nature of the discourse shifted away from taxes and back to books; eventually the library was saved.

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This is actually a pretty accurate representation of my mental picture of how these things work.

Just a quick update to let everyone know that I’ve done some things to make RAIL easier to follow on different platforms. I’ve set up a long-overdue Twitter account: @RAILBlog and I’ve created a Google Plus page you can follow as well.  The G+ page can be found under “RAIL Blog“–creative, yes?  Once I figure out how to do it I’ll get all these things all synced up for you all, but for the time being at least they now exist. 🙂

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Welcome to RAIL

Welcome to RAIL!

This is a blog for scholars engaged in the study of reasoning, argumentation theory, informal logic, rhetoric, and critical thinking.  It is intended to be as inclusive and interdisciplinary as is the field of argumentation theory itself.

I chose the name ‘RAIL’ not only for its convenience as an acronym, but because I like the sense of motion and direction it conveys. I am optimistic about the future of argumentation theory: I think it is going somewhere as a field of study, and that it has a lot of promise.  There’s also something suggestive of travel in the name ‘RAIL’ which I like, as it rings true to the international and interdisciplinary nature of the study of argumentation. Argumentation theorists do a lot of traveling across physical borders to attend each other’s conferences and workshops, and we do a lot of border crossing of a different kind as we collaborate across academic disciplines in the work that we do. I’m hoping RAIL will be at least some small contribution to that work.

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