rhetoric and technologies


section one

Redrawing Borders
and Boundaries


section two

Constructing Discourses
and Communities

section three

Understanding Writing &
Communication Practices









Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication. Editor: Stuart Selber. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010. Rhetoric and Communication series. 230 pages.

The link between rhetoric and technology emanates from both being arts of design “in the business of balancing innovation with tradition, or initiating change and then compensating for it” (Carolyn Miller, x). This connection unfolds throughout Selber's collection in relation to various discourses: pedagogical, economical, ethical, political, biological, corporeal, and cultural. The link between rhetoric and technology is developed in a way that invites scholars to advance comparable insights in new contexts.

By developing the connection between rhetoric and technology, current rhetorical scholarship will become more equipped to define the changing scope of authorial needs in an encroaching digital society. This is because technological innovation calls on rhetorical scholars to rethink disciplinary needs in equally innovative ways. This perceived need is not isolated to one disciplinary conversation, but informs the changing technological context of most disciplines. Therefore, the focus offered by Selber is not seen as specialized, or as a separate category of concern. Instead, his collection provides various approaches that many scholars can use to make further connections between rhetoric and technology.

To organize this project, Selber establishes three sections that all build on each other. The first section, “Redrawing Borders and Boundaries,” specifically redraws the conventions of communication by negotiating the borders between tradition and innovation. This provides key insights into how we might approach innovative communication practices from a rhetorical perspective. The second section, “Constructing Discourses and Communities,” links rhetoric and technology by detailing the changing shape of authorship and agency in online communities. The third section, “Understanding Writing and Communication Practices,” anticipates several wide-ranging implications of this growing connection between rhetoric and technology. In the end, researchers are more equipped to develop similar connections in relation to their own disciplinary context.

At times, the variety of perspectives tends to obscure the strand woven between them, but in many ways this allows scholars to envision the number of potential connections between rhetoric and technology. It is noted that this link is nothing new, at least to the extent that “Rhetorical activities have always taken place in technological contexts" (1). However, the constant need to revisit this connection, and to negotiate potential disconnections, is central to the success of Selber’s collection.

After the final section, I draw further conclusions.


reviewed by pearce durst