Conception of Rhetorical Analysis

My conception of rhetorical analysis borrows ideas from my reading in literacy studies and my observation of the moves people make when producing and creating digital composing genres. Essentially, my framework complicates conceptions of author, text, and audience in a world digital writing technologies. I think much of what we read in this week’s readings still apply

Composers/Co-composers/Prosumers–I use “composer” instead of “author” to get away from misconceptions of what author entails. Namely that author dredges up the romanticist notion of the individual genius, which persists in composition pedagogy, especially in questions of plagiarism. I emphasize co- composers because, as Paul Prior has pointed out in his research, hardly any text is ever put together by a single mind. The text has a history that’s rooted in the composer’s conversations with other people and observations of his, her, or their environment. These little pieces–the larger context–plays apart in the text’s creation.

Users/Mixers–Includes intended and unintended audiences. This goes along with the textualized rhetorical situation, but I also include co-composers here because the widespread availability of digital also includes remix culture, retweets, quoted tweets, the “share” button. In these ways, other users participant in the ongoing creation and re-creation of original content. This reminds me of rhetorical velocity–how quickly digital creations are taken up and sent out across the Internet, leaping into new contexts (GIFs, are a good example of this). What within the original content inspires audiences to remix and share it? What does the text do to garner respect (or hate) that leads to retweets, quoted tweets, shares etc.  Is the amount of views or shares an accurate measure of a text’s persuasive success?

Materiality of Texts–My conceptual map of rhetoric includes the materiality of digital texts. I think there’s a popular notion that we have to choose between the digital and the analog, that the two are against each other. But digitality relies on analog. For example, my flash drive USB connector broke. The digital files are secure and safe, but the physical damage of the flash drive cuts me off from accessing that information. In what ways does the physical design of the digital technology and the way it functions invite and/or discourage users from engaging with a message? This question comes into play especially when we considered how technology and digital texts work across cultures.

Interface Design(or Text)–Digital texts include multiple modes of communication and ways of navigating those digital texts. This aspect of rhetoric considers how not just the content but also the form informs audiences’ sense of the argument, how design feeds into the argument itself. For example, what makes Angry Birds a successful rhetorical video game? What makes using your finger to pull back on the slingshot as opposed to any other move a successful rhetorical act that invites millions of users to participate?

My conception of rhetoric is limited: What am I missing or what should be included in thinking about rhetoric and digitality? (Note: Doug Eyman’s Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice would be a useful resource). How do we analyze the physical attributes of digital technologies as a method of persuasion?

Published by aabyrd

I'm the instructor for WCATY's Media Studies in a Digital Age course for Summer 2015.

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