Methods

Following our initial interests in identifying and understanding better ways of knowing and doing in digital rhetoric, and through several rounds of reiterative invention and feedback, we generated an interview template of ten questions designed to elicit definitional responses and maintain uniformity in our data-gathering. Our hope was that these questions and the corresponding responses to them could reasonably approach an answer to what digital rhetoric is and what it does.

The Set Up

Against this backdrop and in order to investigate the theme of the symposium, we invited all 32 of the IDRS presenters to sit down with us. Counting ourselves, 25 total scholars accepted, and—with IRB approval and consent forms signed—25 were able to answer 10 questions about their research, pedagogy, and scholarly influences in digital rhetoric. The questions, interviews, and analysis—as well as the arguments about digital rhetoric that emerge from them—are the foundation for a project whose multiple phases are in ongoing development, beginning with the overview/introduction video for enculturation, moving ahead with this webtext and a focus on pedagogy, and proceeding from here with a larger work that hopes to articulate the conjunctions (and disjunctions) that structure digital rhetoric. The overarching goal of the project is to

inquire into the ways digital rhetoric scholars in Digital Rhetoric define, teach, theorize, assess, support, experience, and engage in digital rhetoric and how these practices and ways of thinking are similar to yet different from work in Digital Humanities and Rhetoric and Composition more broadly. (Davis, McElroy, & Lee, 2016)

The Process

With generous logistical support from Indiana University and the conference organizers, Justin Hodgson and Scot Barnett, we video- and audio-recorded each interview at either an on- or off-campus location. In addition, we shot b-roll footage during conference downtime. Using Google Docs and Sheets as a platform, we then transcribed each interview and began the laborious process of timelogging and clipping each response. We coded each interview inductively, looking for patterns, themes, resonances, rifts, and disjunctures that could be organized into thematic clusters. As we found and explored those clusters, we presented small slices of our preliminary findings at several conferences: Rhetoric Society of America, Computers and Writing, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

The videos themselves, which were shot on a Canon HD camera and then compiled and edited in FinalCut X, are each approximately 10–12 minutes long and are divided into segments in accordance with our inductive synthesis of the responses. In composing these videos, each one of us went through the responses to the four questions on pedagogy and identified key moments that seemed to speak not only to the trends and themes that we saw emerging across the responses but also to the main thrust of each individual's approaches in the classroom. For the webtext itself, we used Adobe Dreamweaver to create a responsive-design site using the bootstrap framework. HTML, CSS, and Javascript were employed to create an interactive user experience that merges video, transcript, and scholarly commentary with the use of YouTube’s API.

The Webtext

Many of the challenges of crafting this webtext are accurately characterized by Cheryl E. Ball’s (2004) division between scholarly projects about new media and projects with and in new media. Scholarship about new media, which Ball has lamented in multiple venues, is work that uses print conventions to work through new media questions in online venues. Scholarship with and in new media uses the affordances of new media itself as a way of taking up questions in the field. This approach, according to Ball, requires attention to argument and persuasion (as usual); however, scholarship with and in new media also requires attention to argument and aesthetics as ways of re-training readers (if indeed reading is even the right word). For example, an audio-visual project like this needs to “signal itself as a scholarly text” while simultaneously providing ways for “readers” to infer meaning from non-linear, juxtaposed, multimodal bits of text (p. 405). In creating scholarship with/in new media, there are start-to-finish challenges both technological and logistical: from the time-consuming process of attempting a cross-institutional IRB process, to making captured video and audio available for multiple contributors across geographical and technological spaces.

Another challenge is in navigating genre hybridity—a challenge for some print texts but an even greater one for multimodal texts. In “Low Fidelity in High Definition: Speculations on Rhetorical Editions,” Casey Boyle (2015) specified the differences between critical editions, which are geared towards authority and fidelity, and rhetorical editions, which are dynamic editions geared towards growth, participation, and invention. These two kinds of editions form a polarity between fidelity and something like blasphemy: critical editions focus on faithfulness to originals and argumentation, and rhetorical editions provide kaleidoscopic, multivocal possibility. Thus, one ongoing tension in this project is striking a balance between fidelity—such that the project might be considered scholarship at all—and blasphemy, in the hopes of pushing against, or at least framing differently, some of our beliefs about what scholarship is and does.

Thinking about circulation was another challenging aspect of this project. At its inception, the project did not have a scope that lent itself to traditional publication, at least not if one wanted, say, to make all 14 hours of audio-video interviews available to others while also hoping for meaningful analysis and insightful synthesis. Like many multimodal projects, this project does not fit into the familiar and rigid academic structures: it is certainly too large and varied to be an article, yet it does not feel like a complete book, either (if there is indeed such a thing lurking here). In cases like this one, new avenues for circulation seem tempting, though these are fraught with additional challenges like hosting, curation, and sustainability. Our navigation of these challenges thus attempts to strike a paradoxical balance within the tension Boyle identified: On the one hand, we hope to be faithful to the subfield of digital rhetoric and create arguments that are reliably representative of its pedagogical activity; on the other hand, we want to capture its somewhat chaotic multivocality, and do so both digitally and multimodally, thereby opening spaces for new voices.

Participants

(Click name to see bio)

Angela Aguayo
Steve Holmes
Angela J. Aguayo is an associate professor of cinema and photography at Southern Illinois University. Her teaching, research, and media practice reflect a strong interdisciplinary focus on digital documentary studies and production, rhetoric, and critical and cultural studies. She has published book chapters and essays focused on the civic potential of the documentary genre to engage the process of social change. Aguayo is currently writing her second book, Activist Documentary and Media Cultures. Aguayo also produces activist documentary video shorts utilized in local political struggles, which have screened at various festivals including the Cinematexas International Film Festival, Spark Film Festival, and the New York Underground Film Festival.
Steve Holmes is an assistant professor in the department of English and a faculty affiliate in the cultural studies Ph.D. program at George Mason University. Holmes studies and teaches all kinds of digital writing, rhetoric, and communication. His current research agenda reflects an interdisciplinary approach by exploring connections between material rhetorics and emerging philosophical conversations related to vitalism, media ecology (and archaeology), assemblage theory, new materialism, and actor-network theory. He is the author of two books: Procedural Habits: The Rhetoric of Videogames as Embodied Practice and Rhetoric, Technology and the Virtues with Jared S. Colton.
Kristin Arola
Rory Lee
Kristin Arola is an associate professor of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures at Michigan State University. She positions herself as a scholar of American Indian rhetorics, multimodal composition, and digital rhetoric. She is deeply committed to making visible and working to disrupt colonial practices within theoretical frameworks and pedagogical practice. As such, she works to interrogate and encourage pedagogies that allow us ways of understanding digital composing practices within larger social and cultural contexts.
Rory Lee is an assistant professor in rhetoric and composition who specializes in digital rhetoric; multimodality; digital literacies; undergraduate major programs in rhetoric and writing; composition history, theory, and pedagogy; and rhetorical history and theory. He also teaches courses in the rhetoric and writing major, the professional writing and emerging media minor, and the graduate program in rhetoric and composition. In addition to conducting research and teaching, Lee serves as the associate director of online tutoring for the writing center, and he directs the recently launched digital writing studio.
Sarah Arroyo
Elizabeth Losh
Sarah Arroyo is a professor of English at California State University Long Beach, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on theories and practices of composition, critical theory, digital rhetoric, and video/participatory cultures. She also co-directs CSULB's First-Year Composition Program. Her research explores the intersections of rhetoric, writing, electracy, and video/participatory cultures, and offers both theories and practices that operate as alternatives to traditional, literate-only conceptions of writing. Her book, published in 2013 by Southern Illinois University Press, is titled Participatory Composition: Video Culture, Writing, and Electracy.
Elizabeth Losh is an associate professor of English and American studies at William & Mary. The author of Virtualpolitik, she writes about institutions as digital content-creators, the discourses of the virtual state, the media literacy of policy makers and authority figures, and the rhetoric surrounding regulatory attempts to limit everyday digital practices. She has published articles about videogames for the military and emergency first-responders, government websites and YouTube channels, state-funded distance learning efforts, national digital libraries, political blogging, and congressional hearings on the Internet.
Estee Beck
Stephen McElroy
Estee Beck is an associate professor of professional and technical writing/digital humanities in the department of English at the University of Texas at Arlington. She holds a Ph.D. in English, with a specialization in rhetoric and writing from Bowling Green State University. Her research engagements span computers and writing, rhetoric and composition, digital rhetoric, surveillance and privacy, professional and technical communication, and digital humanities. She has published in Kairos, Computers and Composition, Computers and Composition Online, and Hybrid Pedagogy. She currently serves as a member of the 7Cs (Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication).
Stephen J. McElroy is assistant professor of rhetoric and composition and director of first-year writing at Babson College. He specializes in composition theory and pedagogy, multimodal production, digital composing, and assemblage theory. His work has appeared in Computers and Composition, Kairos, and enculturation, among other venues. His 2017 collection, Assembling Composition, co-edited with Kathleen Blake Yancey and published in the Studies in Writing and Rhetoric series by NCTE, examines the relationship between assemblage and composing in theory, in the classroom, and in the world.
Casey Boyle
Jeff Rice
Casey Boyle is an assistant professor in the department of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas in Austin and director of the Digital Writing and Research Lab, where he researches and teaches digital rhetoric, media studies, and/as rhetorical history. He is a co-editor (with Scot Barnett) for the essay collection Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things, (with Lynda Walsh) Topologies as Techniques for a Post-Critical Rhetoric, and (with Jenny Rice) Inventing Place. His first book, Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice, explores the role of practice and ethics in digital rhetoric.
Jeff Rice is a professor of writing, rhetoric, and digital studies at the University of Kentucky. His research interests are in new media, critical theory, pedagogy, rhetoric and writing. He was previously a faculty member and writing program administrator at University of Detroit—Mercy, Wayne State University, and the University of Missouri.
Kevin Brock
David Rieder
Kevin Brock is an assistant professor in the department of English language and literature at the University of South Carolina. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in composition, technical writing, business/professional writing, composition pedagogy, rhetoric and technology, and experiments in digital composing. His book, Rhetorical Code Studies: Discovering Arguments in and around Code, explores how software code serves as meaningful communication through which software developers construct arguments.
David M. Rieder is associate professor of English, faculty member of the communication, rhetoric, and digital media Ph.D. program, and co-director of the Circuit Research Studio at North Carolina State University. His research interests are at the intersections of digital media theory, digital rhetoric/writing, and digital humanities. Recent scholarly and creative works include Suasive Iterations: Rhetoric, Writing, and Physical Computing; the co-edited collection, Small Tech; and essays and 'born digital' works in Kairos, Computers and Composition Online, Hyperrhiz, Present Tense, Itineration, and enculturation. Rieder is a programmer and maker whose work includes digital media collaborations for public audiences.
Collin Brooke
Thomas Rickert
Collin Brooke is an associate professor of writing studies, rhetoric, and composition at Syracuse University. The obvious answer to the question of theme in his work is technology, but that spills over into literacy theories, visual and kinetic design, rhetorics of science, network studies, and touches on more disciplines than you can shake a stick at. In many ways, hypertext serves a heuristic purpose for him—he’s compelled by connections (and what Greg Ulmer would call "conductions"), and much of the work he does feels to him as though he’s just tracing out connections, some new, some forgotten.
Thomas Rickert is a professor in the English department at Purdue University. His areas of interest include histories and theories of rhetoric, relations between rhetoric and philosophy, composition, cultural studies, music, and digital culture. His first book, Acts of Enjoyment: Rhetoric, Žižek, and the Return of the Subject, was published in 2007. His second book, Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being, was published in 2013 and awarded the 2014 CCCC's Outstanding Monograph of the Year. He has begun a new book project that addresses the prehistory of rhetoric in light of recent work in moral psychology and neuroscience.
Jim Brown
Nathaniel Rivers
James Brown, Jr. is an associate professor of English and director of the digital studies center at Rutgers University, Camden. He teaches courses on digital studies, and literature and video games. Brown conducts research in the areas of digital rhetoric, electronic literature, and software studies. His book Ethical Programs: Hospitality and the Rhetorics of Software examines the ethical and rhetorical possibilities of a number of networked software platforms. He’s currently working on another book about how software design contributes to the problem of online harassment.
Nathaniel Rivers is an associate professor in the department of English at Saint Louis University, where he coordinates the Computer Assisted Instruction Lab. He is a managing editor at enculturation: a journal of rhetoric, writing, and culture. Rivers earned his Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition at Purdue University. His research articulates rhetorical activity beyond the model of rhetoric as discrete, autonomous human individuals and addresses new materialism’s impact on areas of rhetorical theory such as environmentalism, technology, and public rhetoric.
Matthew Davis
Crystal VanKooten
Matthew Davis is an associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he directs the Center on Media and Society. He is the co-editor of Composition Studies, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Computers and Composition, enculturation, South Atlantic Review, WLN, and several edited collections.
Crystal VanKooten is an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at Oakland University. She completed her Ph.D. in English and education at the University of Michigan in 2014, specializing in new media, audio-visual composition, and writing pedagogy. She is an avid video composer herself, and she has used and developed many audio-visual, digital, and multimodal assignments in the writing classroom with students. Her current writing and research interests include new media rhetorics and pedagogies, audio-visual research methods, and transfer in first-year composition.
Matthew Demers
Jennifer Warfel-Juszkiewicz
Matthew Demers is an architectural designer and theorist in Chicago, and the founder of ARCHODOS. He holds a Ph.D. in design, construction and planning (2013) and master of architecture (2007) from the University of Florida. His research articulates cyber-history and the use of historical precedents in problem solving. His professional experience includes hospitality design, preliminary designs and master planning of large urban developments in China, India, and Florida and developing design and construction methods for housing in India and Florida, as well as some freelance design and rendering work in Chicago.
Jennifer Warfel-Juszkiewicz specializes in composition theory and spatial rhetoric, and her dissertation focuses on simultaneously virtual and material public spaces for writing. She is in the composition, literacy, and culture program with a minor in pedagogy at Indiana University. Her academic specialities are composition and rhetoric, pedagogy, spatial rhetorics, 19th Century British literature, and institutional history. Her non-academic work includes industry and non-profit copywriting, copyediting, independent documentary film production, and voiceover work.
Doug Eyman
Jon Wargo
Douglas Eyman is an associate professor of English and director of the Ph.D. in writing and rhetoric, the MA concentration in professional writing and rhetoric (PWR), and the undergraduate professional writing minor at George Mason University. His current research interests include investigations of digital literacy acquisition and development, new media scholarship, electronic publication, information design/information architecture, teaching in digital environments, and video games as sites of composition. Eyman is the senior editor and publisher of Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. His most recent publications include Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice.
Jon Wargo is an assistant professor of teacher education, special education, and curriculum and instruction at Boston College. He is committed to education equity. By exploring the intersection of language, culture, literacy education, and technology, he endeavors to understand how new media alter the lives of contemporary youth—particularly those belonging to historically marginalized populations. As a core faculty member in the TESpECI department at the Lynch School, Wargo teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literacy education, technology, and qualitative research. He also serves as the Literacy Research Association’s program area chair for literacy, media, and technology.
Bill Hart-Davidson
Kathleen Yancey
Bill Hart-Davidson is an associate professor of writing, rhetoric, and American cultures, and the associate dean of graduate education at Michigan State University. He earned his Ph.D. in 1999 in rhetoric and composition from Purdue University. He is a senior researcher in the Writing in Digital Environments Research Center and associate dean of graduate education in the College of Arts and Letters. He has published over 50 articles and book chapters and is co-inventor of Eli Review, a software service that supports writing instruction.
Kathleen Blake Yancey is the Kellogg W. Hunt professor of English and a distinguished research professor at Florida State University. Her research focuses on composition studies; writing transfer; everyday writing; writing assessment; and the intersections of culture, literacy and technologies. She has authored, edited, or co-edited 14 scholarly books, 2 textbooks, and over 100 articles and book chapters. Her current work includes a co-edited collection, Composition, Rhetoric, and Disciplinarity; an edited collection, ePortfolios as Curriculum: Diverse Models and Practices; and The Way We Were: A Cultural History of Everyday Writing in the 20th Century United States.