American culture & post-truth: Conspiracies

Front matter

  • Group conferences tomorrow: look at schedule
  • Response #1

Andersen, social annotations, and

Chemtrails (the idea that the water vapor that leaves airplanes as they fly are part of a government plot to test chemical and biological agents) are one popular conspiracy theory that Anderson notes in “How America Lost Its Mind”

At this point most of you have created a Hypothesis account, installed the Chrome extension, and contributed comments to our PSP19 group. As you may have noticed, the key difference between holistic and social is that social annotations have an external audience (that is, someone other than the reader herself).

Go to Anderson’s “How America Lost Its Mind” and open in our group, PSP19. Find an annotation written by a classmate that resonated with you. Paste the original quote by Andersen and the students’ response in a doc and respond to it. Edit for smoothness and clarity (For example: “At one point in the middle of the essay Andersen says… // Albina’s response to this was.. // I feel…). Once you are finished, paste this ¶ into our lingering freewrites document.


Sometimes authors compose by moving from claims to evidence. That is, they might feel strongly about something, and they build an argument about why based on the facts and experiences at hand.

But the opposite is often just as true, especially when writing in the university. In those cases, professors and scholars write by working from evidence to claims, and that often involves engaging a process called synthesis: directing a reader’s attention to patterns you notice across texts. To synthesize means to make meaning by building connections, helping readers along the way by contributing additional guidance by way of composing and arranging summaries, quotations, paraphrases, and interpretations.

Relating sources to each other can take shape in a number of ways. Some of these include:

  • Comparison/contrast: X is like Y in some ways, unlike Y in other ways. For example: “More than eighty of the one hundred freshmen I surveyed noted that the major drawback of living in the dorms is cost; however, a recent article in The Cornell Daily Sun indicated that the University is working on making dorm-living cheaper by 2006.”
  • Exemplification: X is an instance or example of Y. For example: “According to Dr. Joan DiFrancisco, a professor of sociology at Cornell, the most common way Greeks are misrepresented on campus is through media such as television programs, newspapers, and popular film. Recent examples of this can be found on MTV through shows like “Fraternity Life” and “Sorority Life,” both of which perpetuate Greek stereotypes.”
  •  Cause and effect: X is a cause of Y. For example: “According to Officer Tom Smith, an Ithaca cop who has patrolled near campus since 1995, it is relatively easy to buy alcohol underage in Ithaca because many store-owners get away with it. If this is true, perhaps it explains why Cornell and IC students are twice as likely to become alcoholics than students at SUNY Cortland, as a recent state report has indicated.”

Reading + pre-writing + writing = synthesis

To begin the process of synthesis, it is essential to review all of the individual and collaborative pre-writing we’ve done so far with the four texts from this unit: Cloud, Roberts-Miller, The Daily, and Andersen. These include:

  • Your marginal annotations from Cloud & Roberts-Miller
  • Our pulled passages from Roberts-Miller [link]
  • Lingering freewrites from The Daily & Anderson [link]
  • Holistic annotations chart from The Daily [link]
  • Social annotations from Anderson []


Share two quotes [link]

Some tools to help you along

  • Language for synthesis: [pdf]
  • Examples [docx]
  • More on what synthesis is [link]

Homework for Tuesday’s conferences

Response #1: Draft a 500-750 word personal essay that synthesizes our two or more sources so far in this unit. Rather than start with an argument, think of this essay as more of an analysis that points to patterns you’ve noticed — patterns that Cloud, Roberts-Miller, The Daily, and/or Andersen have helped you to notice.

Homework for Wednesday

Read and annotate Beck’s “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind” (The Atlantic) using Add 3-5 annotations, aiming to balance your timing (that is, first to the document ⇆ last to the document) with the above list of possible ways you might contribute.