Rhetoric by Elizabeth Losh
As Andrea Lunsford has observed, there are many
definitions of rhetoric. Interpretations of rhetoric that are
the art of persuasion often
look to some of the first comprehensive guidelines for effective
communication established in Aristotle's Rhetoric. In the
tradition, many other thinkers believed that rhetoric was integral to
good governance and a process of discursive interactions in public life
that encouraged collective practices of critical
Analyzing digital rhetoric has
obvious pedagogical value.
like "Digital Rhetoric
and the Digital Arts" (1993), Richard Lanham
alerts decision-makers in higher education to the importance of
providing training for composition in new digital media. Hawisher
and Moran (1993) similarly argue that teaching e-mail as a vital
genre should also not be overlooked by instructors; they emphasize
using an "apprenticeship
model" for learning these skills. More recently, James Paul
Gee (2003) has claimed that video games not only represent the
acquisition of new forms of literacy in virtual worlds but also offer a
paradigm for more effective teaching.
Digital rhetoric also matters
rapid communication via networked
channels can avert disasters
Just as Edward
Tufte argues that the
Challenger space shuttle crash could have
been averted with a better visual display of data (and the Columbia
disaster was helped along by a defective PowerPoint demonstration), I
electronic miscommunication plays a significant role in many public
policy mistakes and scandals.
Digital rhetoric includes many new genres,
such as webpages and e-mail. These new genres often have
developed specific conventions for discourse, as the emergence of web style guides
or guides to netiquette shows (and parody websites and
bad slides that display a multiplicity of rhetorical and design
gaffes). Still newer genres are developing
with their intrinsically rhetorical character in mind, as webpages about the design principles of wikis or the rhetorical analysis of blogs seems to demonstrate. (See this
talk I gave on blogs and wikis for more.)
PowerPoint presents an
for competing rhetorical analyses.
argues that PowerPoint has its own aesthetic value, while skeptics
like Tufte disagree. How can such a pre-packaged
form of presentation replace the traditional arts of oratory,
by the Gettysburg Address? Certainly Peter
Norvig's satire and John
Raffensperger's elegy use PowerPoint with the Great
Emancipator's famous speech to radically different ends.
is also an important component of digital rhetoric, because networked
communication in digital
media provides a new forum for debate and dissent. For example, digital artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin are interested in how
virtual crowds generate political speech in chatrooms. My own research on political
theater focuses on political
websites and on the ideological constructs of "speaker" and "audience"
There are many hoax
websites and wiki pages are
subject to vandalism,
so it can be
difficult to locate an "authentic"
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that we are a long way from teledemocracy. Even the
status of of the Internet as a
site of the public
sphere or of virtual
community is open to debate (M. Poster, 1995).
Back to Virtualpolitik