So what *is* a Statement of Goals and Choices?

After reading your responses to the question I posed in class on Wednesday, September 18, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  1. A lot of you simply didn’t read the assignment very carefully, for a lot of different reasons (some better than others).
  2. A lot of you didn’t have a very good sense of what I was looking for in the SOGC.

#1 isn’t something I can help with; either you read the assignment or you don’t.

But #2 I can address. That’s what this post is about.

Background of the SOGC

The term and idea for a Statement of Goals and Choices came from Dr. Jody Shipka, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She asks her students to compose multimodal pieces that go far beyond digital spaces: they paint and sculpt and design things, all for the same reasons any rhetor does: to strategically affect an audience in a purposeful way. (Her students’ work–and their SOGCs–are up at this site.)

But of course, you can imagine the question she gets asked a lot: “What do those crazy projects have to do with rhetoric?” And to answer that, her students compose an SOGC: a statement that explains what goals they had as they composed their work and what choices they made to make those goals a reality.

And of course, that’s exactly what you’re doing. When you created your audio file, I wanted to know what you wanted to achieve and what you did to make that happen.

Writing a SOGC

Though different professors ask for different things in the SOGC, for me they essentially need to include only two things (unless I say otherwise): a description of what goals you had and a description of what choices you made to make those happen. This description can be written informally, but I need to clearly get understand your ideas.

For the goals part, I could imagine you writing something like one of these:

I don’t think of my voice as very strong, so I had the goal to come across sounding powerful and certain of myself in my recording.

(Or this:) I know that some people automatically assume that people from my hometown aren’t very smart, so I was determined to sound intelligent.

(Or this:) I wanted to sound inviting and friendly, like someone who you would actually listen to if you heard me on the radio.

For the choices part, then, you would say what you actually did in the assignment to make that goal a reality. Using the three examples of goals above as a starting point, possible choices might include:

To make myself sound strong, I purposefully read a lot of shorter sentences, with repeating words that emphasized my point. I think this choice made me sound a bit like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! I also read with a slower, emphatic tone of voice.

(Or this:) To make myself sound intelligent, I had to find a balance between words that were academic but not stuffy. So they had to be words that I was already comfortable using, but on the upper limits of what I already know. So for example, toward the beginning of my piece you can hear me saying multitude and semiotic domain. That was on purpose.

(Or this:) To make myself sound friendly, I made sure to modulate my voice a lot–that is, the tone of my voice went up and down, almost sing-song-like. I also noticed that when I recorded it the first time, the poor quality of my microphone took away from the warm, friendly feeling I was going for, so I borrowed a friend’s headset mic to rerecord.

Any of those sentences would work perfectly in an SOGC. My favorite ones are the most specific ones–the sentences that say, “You can hear me doing this in this specific spot.”

SOGCs and Grading

When I ask for an SOGC and don’t get one, I simply can’t grade the assignment. It’s impossible. Here’s why:

I judge the effectiveness of the choices you made to achieve your goals. Here are two common scenarios:

  • If you wrote in your SOGC that you wanted to sound intelligent and the only choice you made was to use big words, I might think to myself, “When I listen to this piece, I actually don’t think this student sounds very intelligent. Sure, he’s using big words, but I think he ignored a few other things he could have tried as well.” So that student would lose points.
  • But say I listen to your piece cold, without reading your SOGC, and I think, “Okay, that was pretty good, but not the best.” It’s possible that reading your SOGC would then point out things that I missed, allowing me to reward you for those things! So maybe you made a choice to purposefully read slowly because you wanted to sound strong. Your SOGC is a place for you to tell me what you were doing, which in turn helps me notice it, which in turn allows me to reward you for those choices!

I hope this helps! We’ll keep talking about these in the future when we do more multimodal work.