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SkeptiCamp Denver & ‘Pragmatic Rhetoric for Idealistic Skeptics’

SkeptiCamp Denver 2012 was fantastic! I really enjoyed spending time with lovely dear friends, meeting new people, and hearing some great talks. And, speaking of talks, my friends (the Cool Colorado Kids, particularly (the inventor of SkeptiCamp!) Reed and Rich) were kind enough to let this out-of-towner participate in their event, and I’m very grateful for that. Be sure to check out SkeptiCamp5280‘s Lockerz photo gallery for some great photos from that day (and some of my photos can be found here).

Speaking in a new context is challenging. I’m quite comfortable in front of a classroom, but I’d never before spoken at an event like this, and the dynamic is definitely different. I knew what I wanted to talk about, but couldn’t quite figure out exactly how I should talk about it in this context, particularly because I was up first and didn’t really know how the other speakers would be structuring their talks. So, long story short: 1) I was more nervous than I expected to be, 2) I was quite sick (mostly allergies), which made me feel a bit out of it and not as quick-on-the-uptake as I like to be, 3) because I’d never before spoken at an event like this, I wasn’t quite sure how to pace myself, so I ended up getting through only about half of what I had planned to discuss, 4) I move around way too much and use too many filler words (note to self: don’t do that next time! :) ), and 5) although I know that I could have done better, I’m very happy that I did it, grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, and plan to keep working on improving my skills and on becoming more comfortable speaking at these sort of events, as I’d love to continue doing so in the future (and am super-excited to be on the “Skepticism and the Humanities” panel at TAM 2012!)

Also, in the days leading up to SkeptiCamp, I wrote about 3,000 words on this topic (“Pragmatic Rhetoric for Idealistic Skeptics”) and plan to use that content to craft a longer and more in-depth and thorough version of this talk at some point. Additionally, I’ll soon post either a summary of what I talked about and/or an overview of everything I had planned to talk about.

I really love this topic and find it to be so inspiring and exciting. I love the idea of expanding the definition of rhetoric and of “taking back” rhetoric, so to speak, of thinking of rhetoric as something that any idealistic and/or active skeptic can and should have in their “toolkit”, of understanding how frequently we utilize rhetoric, of valuing and prioritizing one’s audience, specifically by embracing and utilizing the principle of clarity and the principle of charity, of modeling the evidence-based decision making and critical thinking that we want others to adopt, of remembering that it’s not about us and that it’s not about how we can “win” or “conquer” or “beat the other side into submission”; instead, its about discovering the most effective ways to inform and persuade our audience, of encouraging idealists to see the value of and the usefulness of pragmatism, of illustrating how pragmatic rhetoric helps us to change the world for the better and to actually do something, instead of just congratulating ourselves for holding certain beliefs and having certain ideals, etc., etc., etc. Anyway, I’m excited to improve upon and expand this talk and to also discuss the topic in other ways/contexts.

(And, for anyone who’s interested, I referenced and/or made use of two sources in my talk: Daniel J. O’Keefe‘s “News for Argumentation from Persuasion Effects Research: Two Cheers for Reasoned Discourse” (PDF) and Ray Hyman‘s “Proper Criticism“)

So, onwards we go. First, here’s a picture of goofy-faced mid-word-me during my talk, taken by my friend Reed :) :


And the video! Many thanks to Michael Clifton for filming the entire day (the schedule can be found here). I tried my best to set the embedded YouTube video to start at around 7:20 or so, but I’m not exactly sure if that will work or not. If it doesn’t work, fast-forward to roughly 7:20 to see my talk. I encourage you to watch the other talks, too. There were some fantastic ones (I especially enjoyed seeing Bryan & Baxter). Anyway, voila!:


(Update: here’s another video of my talk)


& Lastly, here’s a group photo, taken by Stu Robbins:

Yay SkeptiCamp!


More soon! ♥

  1. Inaudible.

    May 11, 2012
  2. The audio is just fine for me.

    May 11, 2012
  3. VERy cool.

    May 11, 2012
  4. INTP #

    Hi Miranda :)
    A “Skepticamp” meeting is held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on an annual basis. I attended last year and it was pretty cool. CFI Canada was able to bring in James Randi as well.

    Given that Idaho isn’t too far away from Alberta, would you be willing to visit? :-) I’m not certain if they’ll organize it this year or not, but I could suggest you as guest speaker if you’re interested. :-) I’m not an organizer, but I’m acquainted with people who were involved last year.

    May 24, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Video of my SkeptiCamp Denver talk | miranda celeste
  2. More on the intersection of rhetoric and skeptical activism (the first in a series) | miranda celeste
  3. TAM 2013! | miranda celeste hale

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