Transcript

Arola: I've been thinking at this conference about who I would ask students to read or engage with in a course on digital rhetoric. Rickert: There's so many good ones. That makes it really difficult. Yancey: This, I am teaching rhetoric this term, a graduate course, and next week we're looking at an article by [Andrea] Lunsford and [Lisa] Ede that's actually, I don't know, 15 years old or so, that argues that, to use the terminology of continuation or rupture, that actually all of this "new" (air quotes) stuff is really more continuation… And then we're reading Collin Brooke that suggests it's actually rupture. Boyle: I've taught a number of digital rhetoric classes and the one book I keep coming back to is Collin Brooke's Lingua Fracta. Brock: likely it would be Collin Brooke's Lingua Fracta. Brown: I would pick Collin Brooke's Lingua Fracta. Boyle: I think it does a fantastic job of taking classical rhetoric and folding right into new media technologies. Being able to provide students with an introduction to the classical—the canons, right—is an extremely important heuristic. Brock: I find it exponentially more interesting than maybe a reading that looks at some of the more end-user interfaces that students are likely to encounter, but don't necessarily tell us as full of picture for me of what the digital technologies they're using do or work or how they influence the kinds of rhetorical activities the students are going to engage in. Brown: It's the method that he uses to talk about the canons to use sort of the… the received terms of rhetorical theory and then remake them for these digital environments and if… I think that model is really useful for for the field in general. Wargo: I'm a fan girl of Jody Shipka's so probably… I've told everyone to read Toward a Composition Made Whole and a lot of her work in Kairos and Enculturation with Paul Prior and a lot of the remediation work that they've done there with digital texts. Her new story "Inhabiting Dorothy" is one of the most sort of interesting projects I've seen that sort of thinks about archives and these pop-up archives in really new and interesting ways, so that's where I would start. Brown: What I like about Jody Shipka's work is that it doesn't depend upon anything being digital. Davis: Same thing goes for Jody Shipka, so the multimodal task-based framework is like really where I'm at in terms of assignment design and even assessment, so I know that they're going to understand that you have a sort of open task and that part of the task is not just completing it, but making certain purposeful choices along the way and being able to account for those choices, right. Rickert: I really like Sarah Arroyo's new book on participatory media. And I really like Jody Shipka's book. Both those books, I think, are both practical and theoretical in attempting to really work with what digital or new media forms make available and see where that leads us into innovative pedagogical forms. Rice: … very influenced by Marshall McLuhan's work. Hodgson: The one book I always have them read is McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Brooke: McLuhan. Hodgson: He legitimately gets you to question the act of mediation and to think about what that means not only in terms of technology as we think about it, but in terms of material culture, in terms of all these other ways in which we think about how we interact with objects and artifacts in the world and how that interaction is shaped by the various containers or messages and models that sort of shape that sort of lend to this representation. Rice: And then coming up later through Roland Barthes who embraces contradiction as far as how meaning systems work, makes McLuhan sound even more sensible because everything that seems to contradict each other, McLuhan's taxonomies or binaries of what is hot/what is cool, or how does print work, or how does… how do media massage us over etc. etc.… Its a put on, it's a joke, there's something that's kind of not to be taken so so seriously all the time about this in terms of understanding, and so I get the McLuhan a lot. Rickert: I also really like Greg Ulmer's work. Greg Ulmer was one of the first to try to extract the logic of digitality and in extracting that logic apply it to new forms of writing. Demers: It has to be Greg Ulmer and almost certainly his book Heuretics: The Logic of Invention, because my work, which I call Cyber History, is a direct application of Heuretics. Arroyo: Victor Vitanza and Craig Seiper just came out with a collection called Electracy. It came out a couple months ago and its a compilation of Ulmer's works—you know, selected works, not everything of course. Yancey: And last night, Justin made the observation that there were three rhetoricians that helped define this area of inquiry if you will. [Richard] Lanham, [James] Zappan, and [Elizabeth] Losh. Eyman: I suppose if I had to pick just like one, then I would do the sections of Liz Losh's Virtualpolitik that talk about digital rhetoric Warfel Juszkiewicz: I would probably use Liz Loch's "Hacking Aristotle" chapter from Virtualpolitik. Vankooten: I'd have them probably read some of the definitional work that we've been talking about at the symposium, so Liz Losh's definitional work… Warfel Juszkiewicz: Not only because it's incredibly readable and it's one of those seminal texts, but because those list of four different ways to do digital rhetoric can be debated back and forth… I think it's great because it can not only start a conversation, but also give a framework from which everyone can work. Vankooten: … and Doug Eyman's new book, just because that—those works are, you know, already making efforts of trying to say who are we, why are we that way. Losh: We're entering a great time for there to be books in digital rhetoric courses that are devoted to digital rhetoric, so I'm very excited about Doug Eyman's book on digital rhetoric because you know Doug has that context of having been in the field for a while. Lee: I think the two… for me, the two more important theories in digital rhetorics are [Jay David] Bolter and [Richard] Grusin's Remediation and then kind of the notion of remix in general. Yancey: Bolter and Grusin, they're definitely, I don't see them at all as rhetoricians. But I'll say that this term in particular, some of the students in the class are finding remediation very compatible with the work that they want to do in digital rhetoric. Lee: So like, how new media identify themselves according to what's pre-existing, how old media refashion themselves to stay current when their status is challenged by new media, and how that operates as texts, too. Arola: If I were to really choose one, the person that keeps coming to mind, which is odd, is Lisa Nakamura… she approaches digital representations and affordances in a way that deals with culture so directly in these concrete case study sorts of ways that I could then bring in some of the rhetorical stuff to just get them seeing how those acts are rhetorical. Hart-Davidson: One thing I've been assigning a bunch is this piece by Jason Swarts. And it's all about the way today many writers are working in distributed environments in which the texts are also highly distributed. And they never see the outcome of their work as a coherent, whole text. They're really just composing bits and pieces and somebody else's schema are assembling those into a whole document… that is how CNN.com works. Nobody sits there and hand-picks all those stories. At any given time, an algorithm is going to do that. And there are content providers all over the world putting information into their CMS. … People don't get that intuitively. Davis: In terms of non-print texts, uh, there are a couple… RiP! A Remix Manifesto is a video I like to… I like to watch that. Girl Talk videos, uh, so if we're talking about digital culture, Girl Talk opens up all kinds of avenues for talking about art and its function, talking about remix and compositional practice and its function, and talk about the effects that those things have on people, right? Talk about fair use, talk about copyright. Beck: I would choose Claire Lauer's "What's in a Name" from Kairos. There's a few reasons—it's both form and content. One, the content actually explores the histories of new media, multimodality, digital spaces, But then also in form, she discusses at the very beginning that how it starts off as a Prezi, and then Flash, and then it goes into HTML, so then there can be layered onto the discussions of content about how to create a webtext. McElroy: The web documentary [Welcome to] Pine Point… it combines text, and video, and images, and interaction, right, so like you can do things with the mouse on the screen and move stuff around and it's a narrative but you can also access the different chapters in different ways… It's a fascinating glimpse of how the affordances of the web can be used. Brooke: The one book that I have been having students read in digital rhetoric classes, since I started teaching them in the late '90s, is Borges' Labyrinths Borges' short stories reimagine the world in ways that are strikingly resonant with what's happening in digital rhetoric, and so I've used his work for probably twenty years thinking about this stuff, and that's a totally left field sort of answer, but that would be the one I would choose.
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Question Two:
What one scholar or reading do you assign in digital rhetoric and why?

In response to our question about the scholars and readings that interviewees believed to be integral to their teaching of digital rhetoric, there were seven points of agreement as well as a variety of singular responses. Across these common and distinct responses, we witness an overwhelming emphasis on readings that outline and develop theoretical frameworks—in other words, readings on theory—and relatively few mentions of texts that emphasize or could be used to emphasize production, such as models or examples of digital rhetoric in action. Furthermore, interviewees pointed more often than not to print works rather than digital works. Part of the reason for these trends could be the wording of our question, but if we look across the responses to this question and those to the question on assignments, we can see the axes of continuation/rupture, theory/practice, and text/network mapped across both texts and tasks.

Consensus: Books of Theoretical Rupture & Continuation

The first point of consensus in terms of scholars/readings was Collin Gifford Brooke’s (2009) Lingua Fracta. Casey Boyle favors Lingua Fracta because it “does a fantastic job of taking classical rhetoric and folding it right into new media technologies” by introducing students to the rhetorical canons as a heuristic, demonstrating their value, and remediating them in the digital era. Kevin Brock and James Brown concur, and Brown in particular notes that Brooke’s “method” of taking “the received terms of rhetorical theory and then remak[ing] them for these digital environments” is a useful model for students and for the subfield in general. So, although Brooke himself sees digital rhetoric as a rupture, some of those who recommend his work tend to do so for its potential to frame digital rhetoric as continuation. Kathleen Blake Yancey, on the other hand, suggests that Brooke’s book makes a case that digital rhetoric represents a rupture from traditional rhetoric, and as a whole, these conflicting perspectives on Brooke’s work capture well the tension between continuation and rupture that is present in the Outcomes video between Brooke and Thomas Rickert.

The second point of consensus was Jody Shipka’s (2011) Toward a Composition Made Whole. Jon Wargo, Brown, Matt Davis, and Rickert each see Shipka’s work as capacious in its treatment of new media. For them, Shipka highlights that multimodality, in its creation and dissemination, is not limited and confined to the digital realm—a point Brown expands on in the Outcomes video. In addition, Davis emphasizes the pedagogical usefulness of Shipka’s multimodal task-based framework as a lens to design assignments and their assessments: the multimodal task based framework is really where I'm at in terms of assignment design and even assessment. So I know that they're going to understand that you have a sort of open task and that part of the task is not just completing it but making certain purposeful choices along the way and being able to account for those choices. The pedagogical practice of having students defend their compositional and rhetorical choices is also an evaluative model that resurfaces and is discussed in more detail in the Assessments video. Speaking to the book’s theoretical and pedagogical value, Rickert draws comparisons to Sarah Arroyo’s (2013) work, Participatory Composition: Video Culture, Writing, and Electracy, noting that the books “are both practical and theoretical in attempting to really work with what digital or new media forms make available and see where that leads us into innovative pedagogical forms.” Overall, then, and in addition to the way Shipka’s book forefronts materiality and proposes innovative assignment and assessment designs, interviewees feel compelled to single out and laud her work for its pedagogical benefits, ones that we might contemplate critically along the axis of theory/practice and that might signal a rupture in classroom composing practices and evaluation.

Repeated references of Marshall McLuhan’s work was the third point of consensus among interviewees. Brooke, Jeff Rice, and Justin Hodgson in particular identify McLuhan as being influential to their work and essential to their teaching of digital rhetoric. Hodgson says that his students read Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) because of the ways in which it prompts students to question the act of mediation and to think about what that means not only in terms of technology as we think about it, but in terms of material culture, in terms of all these other ways in which we think about how we interact with objects and artifacts in the world and how that interaction is shaped by the various containers or messages and models that sort of shape—that sort of lend to this representation. In explaining his understanding of and appreciation for McLuhan, Rice says Roland Barthes’s work helped him to see McLuhan through the lens of “embrac[ing] contradiction,” which reminds him that “there's something that's kind of not to be taken so so seriously all the time about this.” Thus, and as was the case in part with Shipka, interviewees credit McLuhan for his theoretical eye toward materiality, one that asks us to consider not only the impact that the medium has on the message but also the extent to which a new medium might mark a rupture in the ways in which and the effects of how we communicate .

The fourth point of consensus was the importance and influence of Greg Ulmer’s work. Multiple interviewees frame Ulmer as a helpful scholar for teaching digital rhetoric, while others commend his work for its engagement with invention and electracy. For instance, Rickert notes that Ulmer “was one of the first to try to extract the logic of digitality and in extracting that logic apply it to new forms of writing.” Matt Demers cites Ulmer’s (1994) Heuretics: The Logic of Invention as being paramount to his own work, while Arroyo points to a collection of Ulmer’s selected works, Electracy, edited by Ulmer, Craig Saper, and Victor Vitanza (2015), as one she brings into the classroom.

The mentioning of work that is explicitly about or in dialogue with digital rhetoric constituted the fifth and sixth points of consensus. Jennifer Warfel Juszkiewicz, Doug Eyman, and Crystal VanKooten all acknowledge the importance of Liz Losh’s definitional work in digital rhetoric, while Yancey links it to the opening address of the Symposium as a means to underscore its historical and scholarly contribution: last night, Justin made the observation that there were three rhetoricians that helped define this area of inquiry, if you will: [Richard] Lanham, [James] Zappan, and Losh.

In particular, the interviewees recommend Losh’s (2009) Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes, specifically her “Hacking Aristotle: What is Digital Rhetoric?” chapter in which she provides four distinct definitions of digital rhetoric:

  1. The conventions of new digital genres that are used for everyday discourse, as well as for special occasions, in average people’s lives.
  2. Public rhetoric, often in the form of political messages from government institutions, which is represented or recorded through digital technology and disseminated via electronic distributed networks.
  3. The emerging scholarly discipline concerned with the rhetorical interpretation of computer-generated media as objects of study.
  4. Mathematical theories of communication from the field of information science, many of which attempt to quantify the amount of uncertainty in a given linguistic exchange or the likely paths through which messages travel. (pp. 47–48)

Although these definitions don’t explicitly address pedagogy, Losh’s work is considered foundational for teaching digital rhetoric because it offers ways to define digital rhetoric and potential content areas to address in teaching digital rhetoric.

As for Losh herself, she and VanKooten, as we do in the introduction, consider Doug Eyman’s (2014) Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice to be an important recent addition to the subfield: we're entering a great time for there to be books in digital rhetoric courses that are devoted to digital rhetoric, so I'm very excited about Doug Eyman's book on digital rhetoric because you know Doug has that context of having been in the field for a while. Together, both Losh’s and Eyman’s books act as examples for the types of work we might anticipate from a subfield in its inception, works that—like this one—inquire into and attempt to define the subfield and delineate its contours and best practices in ways that recognize and grapple with the tension of continuation and rupture.

The seventh and final point of consensus, which Yancey and Rory Lee cite, was Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media. Yancey mentions that her graduate students have found Remediation to be “compatible with the work that they want to do in digital rhetoric.” Put otherwise, the theory of remediation offers a rich lens that lends itself to work in both scholarly and pedagogical contexts. In unpacking this theoretical lens, Lee articulates how remediation provides insight into how new media build upon and are defined according to their predecessors and how those media produce texts that intersect and are intertextual. For both, then, Remediation is useful for scholarship and pedagogy for the ways it historically positions and unpacks the digital as a continuation of technological and textual developments and of the media logics that inform them.

Dissensus: Idiosyncrasy and New Media Texts

The remaining answers interviewees shared represent an eclectic corpus of scholars and texts well suited to the teaching of digital rhetoric. Kristen Arola references Lisa Nakamura for her approach to “digital representations and affordances.” Bill Hart-Davidson discusses a piece by Jason Swarts (2008) on the distribution of content across environments, sites, and users and on the role that algorithms play in how content is selected. Davis points to RiP!: A Remix Manifesto (Gaylor, 2008) and the musical act Girl Talk. Estee Beck extols the value in Claire Lauer’s (2012) Kairos piece “What’s in a Name?”, and McElroy cites the web documentary Welcome to Pine Point (Shoebridge & Simons, 2011). Finally, Collin Brooke, with an answer he considers “out of left field,” defends his selection of Jorge Luis Borges’ (1962) Labyrinths.

Observations

In concluding this discussion of scholars and readings to assign in teaching digital rhetoric, we would be remiss if we did not make a few observations about the set of texts referenced here. First, and perhaps problematically, there is an absence of racial diversity in terms of representation: very few of the texts are written by scholars of color. It also suggests a need for us in digital rhetoric to increase our efforts to be more inclusive in the voices we teach and privilege in the classroom. If we don’t list texts by scholars of color as influential, we (unwittingly) suggest to our students that they are not.

Second, and perhaps paradoxically, most of the texts recommended for teaching digital rhetoric are not digital. Outside of RiP!: A Remix Manifesto (a documentary), “What’s in a Name?” (a webtext), and Welcome to Pine Point (a web documentary), most texts are print. In some ways, this both speaks to the nascency of the subfield of digital rhetoric and is symptomatic of the academy’s reluctance to embrace and encourage digital publishing, which accentuates as well the presence of the axis of continuation/rupture in terms of what we consider to be digital rhetoric (or at least foundational to it).

Third, and also somewhat unexpected, is that some of the texts—for instance, Shipka’s (2011) Toward a Composition Made Whole, the work of McLuhan, and Bolter and Grusin’s (1999) Remediation—are not ostensibly focused on rhetoric: Shipka’s book is keyed toward multimodal composing, pedagogy, and materiality, while McLuhan’s and Bolter and Grusin’s respective works attend to logics of and relationships between and among media. However, given that a common outcome in teaching digital rhetoric is fostering critical thinking about medium and mode, the inclusion of texts covering media and technology is both understandable and warranted. Moreover, and as is evident in the ways of thinking suggested via the axes of continuation/rupture, theory/practice, and text/network, the affordances of digital technologies—and their capability to complicate, challenge, and even transform our traditional notion of text—appear to underpin and permeate much of the pedagogical knowing and doing in digital rhetoric. These textual choices also suggest that, at this point in its development, digital rhetoric is, to some degree, outward facing: we look outside of the subfield for new, productive ideas, and work to make them applicable to both teaching and scholarship.

Overall, however, these scholars and texts attend to a diverse set of issues within digital rhetoric, such as the extent to which the digital is different and the degree to which traditional rhetorical concepts transfer (or not) into digital environments (i.e., continuation/rupture); the importance of materiality, technology, and media in composing and in the teaching of composition; and the means by which we define digital rhetoric and demarcate the best practice of the subfield.