Ways of Knowing & Doing in Digital Rhetoric: A Primer


Hart-Davidson: Yeah, how I define digital
rhetoric probably has changed this weekend. It’s a moving target. Yancey: The question of the hour is whether
it’s simply another episode in a continuous history of rhetoric or whether it marks some
kind of rupture. Beck: I tend to say that it’s studying discourse
in digital spaces. Hodgson: What I typically do when I talk to
students about this is I say rhetoric itself is concerned with discourse–however you want
to look at it–so if we think about the digital as just a new form of discourse–and so digital
rhetoric is inherently tied with the forms of transferring discourse back and forth for
communacative purposes. Arola: I’m just gonna go Aristotle on this
one. It’s discovering the available means of persuasion
in, around, through digital spaces. Hart-Davidson: I think about it maybe in a
fairly traditional sense in that I think about digital rhetoric as a field of study as wanting
to contribute to a set of scholarly conversations about rhetoric–using digital means to kind
of explore those boundaries, to maybe push them back a little bit, maybe to reinforce
some things that we’ve known for some time. Rieder: For me rhetoric is a process of creating
immersive suasive environments, based on data from the world that then feeds back onto one
or more participants within a space or who are engaging with an object. Demers: Moving images, text, discursive, non-discursive,
sound, cut-and-paste, you name it, and can we figure out some kind of rigor, rules, guides,
to help us use it more effectively. Losh: I think that the rise of ubiquitous
computing is gonna require some rethinking–particularly our theoretical frameworks–and when technology
becomes an actor, how do we understand rhetorical activity differently. Brown: The electronic literature organization
uses this definition that talks about the computer being sort of essential to the meaning-making
process. I think digital rhetoric could maybe think
along these terms as well. Yancey: It’s an art, a practice, a theory,
a phenomenon that can be researched, so it assumes a public, it assumes an audience,
it assumes a rhetor, it assumes some agency. Brooke: Ideally what happens to the digital
is that it eventually just vanishes off the name–that everyone who practices humanities
is practicing digital humanities. And I think you could say the same thing about
digital rhetoric. Rivers: A rough distinction that might not
necessarily be fair: digital humanities is sort of more hermeneutic–so it’s more sort
of analytical–whereas digital rhetoric seems to be more interested in production. Holmes: I think rhetoric historically has
always been interested in not just using the tools to analyze–digital humanities to analyze–big
swaths of texts but to also like produce new arguments through them, to make new things. Hart-Davidson: I think digital humanities
is an attempt to sort of frame a moment–that is to understand that all the processes of
making are kind of happening all around us, that we don’t only study the artifacts of
those things but maybe the practices too. Wargo: There was this nice visual at Cs that
someone did about, oh, well under the circus tent everyone, because everyone can do digital
humanities work. And then the other tent was like oh actually
no, only those who code, and like the coders, can do and be digital humanists or do digital
humanities work. So I think that like I’m somewhere in between
there, trying to understand what that story is. VanKooten: So I think we do the same types
of things. We study digital texts, we make digital texts,
we use digital texts to get at new research questions. But it’s sort of two different conversations
happening that overlap a little bit, is how I would characterize it. Eyman: I don’t want to sound flippant about
this, but it’s not a particularly interesting question to me because i don’t think digital
humanities is a field, but I think digital rhetoric is a field. Digital rhetoric is a core, a central theory,
and a central method–we have a place that we can say this is where digital rhetoric
starts and works from. Digital humanities is kind of an agglomeration
of methods applied to digital products, but there’s no core there, right. It’s just a way of describing new ways of
thinking about methodology across a broad range of humanities subjects or humanities
disciplines. Brown: I think actually we get a bit too hung
up on this sort of distinction between digital rhetoric and the digital humanities. And I think it sort of ends up in this cul-de-sac
conversation. I also think its bound up with lots of discussions
about the difference between rhet-comp–rhetoric and writing–and literature. And I’m not really invested in re-fighting
all those fights. So I basically–my argument, and I will sort
of make a piece of this argument today during my presentation is to just stop trying to
distinguish digital rhetoric from the digital humanities. Ricket: That’s a really interesting question
because it really depends on what emphasis you want to place on rhetorician. Are you talking about simply people who are
practitioners? Or are you talking about practitioners who
attempt to understand the practice, theorize, discuss its issues? Aguayo: You know this is really funny because–this
may be my thing–like, I always kind of thought it was funny when people call themselves rhetoricians
because to be a rhetorician assumes that you’re engaging in some kind of practice of rhetoric,
and when you look at people who call themselves rhetoricians, they most often are just scholars. So, when you say what is a digital rhetorician,
for me, that assumes one is engaging in the connection between scholarly thinking and
practice. Brock: Interest in seeing the kinds of rhetorical
inquiry or study that we can apply to digital media is really where I think we can have
the most productive discussion for what digital rhetoric can be and then the kinds of individuals
involved in exploring that space. Rice: I guess you just say I’m a digital rhetorician
and become one. I don’t know, it’s kind of magic. Yancey: Last night, Justin made the observation
that there were three rhetoricians that helped define this area of inquiry if you will: Lanham,
Zappan, and Losh. Warfel Juszkiewicz: I would probably use Liz
Losh’s Hacking Aristotle chapter from Virtual Politic. Eyman: I suppose if I had to pick just like
one, then I would say the sections of Liz Losh’s Virtual Politic that talk about digital
rhetoric. Losh: I’m very excited about Doug Eyman’s
book on Digital Rhetoric. Boyle: The one book I keep coming back to
is Collin Brooke’s Lingua Fracta. Yancey: We’re reading Collin Brooke. Brown: I would pick Collin Brooke’s Lingua
Fracta. Boyle: I think it does a fantastic job of
taking classical rhetoric and folding it right into new media technologies. Wargo: I’m a fan girl of Jody Shipka, so I’ve
told everyone to read Toward a Composition Made Whole Rivers: I quite like something like what Jody
Shipka does with composition made whole. Brooke: Benjamin, Heidigger, McLuhan. Hodgson: The one book I would always have
them read is McLuhan’s Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man. Rice: I’m very influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s
work. Rivers: I had my students read about half
of Jeff Rice’s Digital Detroit. Arola: If I really had to choose one the person
that keeps coming to mind, which is odd, is Lisa Nakamura Arroyo: Victor Vitanza and Craig Saber just
came out with a collection called electracy. It came out a couple months ago and it’s a
compilation of Ulmer’s works Demers: It has to be the work of Greg Ulmer. Beck: I would choose Claire Lauer’s What’s
in a Name. Brooke: Borges’s Labyrinths.

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